MONEY Sports

Why NFL Players Are So Likely to Declare Bankruptcy

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp wipes his face as he is inducted into the team's Ring of Honor during half time in an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.
Brian Blanco—AP Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp wipes his face as he is inducted into the team's Ring of Honor during half time in an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.

Retirement is supposed to represent one's golden years. But for former NFL players—who are typically out of the game by age 30—retirement is often accompanied by a slew of problems.

According to a new study in the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), former NFL players go broke at an alarmingly high rate considering how much money they make as pro athletes.

The median NFL player is in the league for six years and during that time earns $3.2 million in 2000 dollars—more than a typical college graduate makes in a lifetime, noted this Quartz post. And yet, nearly 16% of the players included in the study—everyone drafted from 1996 to 2003—filed for bankruptcy within 12 years of retirement.

A 2009 report from Sports Illustrated found that “78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce” after they’d been retired only two years. Some of the stories of pro athletes losing their fortunes, chronicled in the ESPN documentary “Broke” and elsewhere, are astonishing. Warren Sapp, the seven-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame defensive tackle, earned $82 million during a 13-year career that ended in 2007. By the spring of 2012, however, he filed for bankruptcy, even though he was still pulling in $116,000 per month at the time as a TV analyst.

What is it about so many professional athletes—and football players in particular—that causes them to go broke in swift and dramatic fashion, despite their lofty salaries? Here are some the key factors–several of which can potentially screw up the retirement plans of anyone, not just a pro athlete.

NFL careers (and peak earning years) are short. The average annual salaries and career lengths for NFL players are smaller than their counterparts in other big-time sports. A 2013 study showed that the average (as opposed to the median noted above) NFL player earned $1.9 million per year and was in the league for 3.5 years. Both are much lower than the averages in Major League Baseball ($3.2 million annually, 5.6-year career) and the National Basketball Association ($5.15 million, 4.8-year career).

Not only do NFL players tend to earn less overall, their careers are over much more quickly. The typical NFLer is out of the game and done with his peak earning years well before he’s even turned 30. This is when the typical worker’s earning potential is just taking off.

They ignore sound investing advice. “If they are forward-looking and patient, they should save a large fraction of their income to provide for when they retire from the NFL,” the NBER study explains. But many NFL players are neither forward-looking nor patient, and they don’t save much, if anything. That goes even for players with good careers, per the study: “Having played for a long time and having been a successful and well-paid player does not provide much protection against the risk of going bankrupt.”

In the opening anecdote of the Sports Illustrated story, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, the Notre Dame superstar who played in the CFL and NFL and earned as much as $4.5 million per year, recalled how impervious he was to financial advice early on in his career. “I once had a meeting with J.P. Morgan,” he said, “and it was literally like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.”

They get bad advice and make bad decisions. Ismail blew money on a wide range of sketchy investments, including a religious movie, a music label, and various high-risk restaurant and retail endeavors. Many players have sued their advisors after allegedly being scammed out of millions. In one suit filed in 2013, a group of 16 former and current NFL players claimed they were collectively bilked for more than $50 million based on the actions of an advisor who had allegedly invested the money in an illegal casino.

“Regulated or not, shady advisors have made quite a mark on the NFL financial scene,” the authors of the 2014 book Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL wrote. “Before closer scrutiny was instituted, at least 78 players lost more than $42 million between 1999 and 2002 because they trusted money to agents and financial advisors with questionable backgrounds.”

More recently, seven-time Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney sued Bank of America for $20 million, because a former adviser from the bank supposedly defrauded him by (illegally) wiring millions of dollars out of Freeney’s account. In another recent case, it is a former NFL player who is himself being accused of operating a sketchy investing scheme. In early April, the SEC filed a federal fraud complaint against former NFL player Will Allen and a business associate, who together allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme, using money from some investors to pay off others. The operation was supposed to be loaning money to athletes who were short of cash, but the suit claims roughly $7 million raised from investors was used instead for personal expenses of Allen and his associate.

They get used to a certain lifestyle. Warren Sapp reportedly had 240 pairs of collectible sneakers, including 213 sets of Air Jordans, which wound up selling for more than $6,000 at auction. Former standout wide receiver Andre Rison famously blew $1 million on jewelry and routinely walked around clubs with tens of thousands of dollars in cash in his pockets, he recalled in the “Broke” documentary. Troubled cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones has said that he once dropped $1 million in a single weekend in Las Vegas.

Extravagant spending is ingrained in NFL culture, insiders say. “Around the locker room, players’ cars, clothes, houses and ‘bling’ are constantly scrutinized. If they’re not up to par, they’re ridiculed,” former Green Bay Packers’ George E. Koonce, Jr. and his fellow authors explained in Is There Life After Football? “Players don’t see their bills or keep track of their payments. They’re in the dark about taxes. They lose touch with their own money.”

Once they retire and the millions stop flowing into their bank accounts, many players find it impossible to dramatically shift gears and adapt to life on a limited fixed income. It’s all the more difficult because they’re still relatively young and aren’t anywhere near ready to embrace the sensible, low-key, downsized lifestyle of the typical 70-year-old retiree.

They’re often crippled, mentally and physically. The consensus is that of all the major pro sports, football takes the largest toll on the minds and bodies of its combatants—making it exceptionally difficult to make a living once their (short) athletic careers are over. Studies show that players suffer concussions at disturbingly high rates, and that the frequent brain injuries of players cause a wide range of neurological problems down the road. The high level of former NFL players committing suicide (Junior Seau among others) has been tied to concussions in football games as well.

Even if players retain their cognitive skills, they often live with chronic pain in knees, hips, and joints. Debilitating pain, debilitating brain disease, or both obviously hamper one’s ability to make a living outside of football.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story included widely disseminated information regarding the likelihood of lower life expectancy among former pro football players. Harvard researchers working on a multi-year project with the NFL concerning the medical risks of playing football say the information is outdated and inaccurate. The NFL disputes the data indicating that its players have shorter life expectancies as well, pointing to a 2012 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study in which researchers “found the players in our study had a much lower rate of death overall compared to men in the general population. This means that, on average, NFL players are actually living longer than men in the general population.”

The same study also found that NFL “players may be at a higher risk of death associated with Alzheimer’s and other impairments of the brain and nervous system than the general U.S. population. These results are consistent with recent studies by other research institutions that suggest an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease among football players,” though the report noted that the “findings do not establish a direct cause-effect relationship between football-related concussions and death from these neurodegenerative disorders.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

How You Can Boost Page Views on LinkedIn

LinkedIn
Bloomberg—Getty Images

Strike up a conversation—in a group

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In one week, I increased the number of people looking at my LinkedIn profile by 425%. And that’s pretty exciting—more views means more potential job opportunities, more connections, and more visibility in my industry.

Also exciting? The only thing I did differently in those seven days was start and participate in a few group discussions.

Now that I’ve discovered how beneficial it is to be an active contributor, I’m making it my goal to join group discussions at least once a week. Here’s how to do the same, so you can make your profile views soar.

1. Find the Right Group

If you’re already a member of several groups relevant to your industry, profession, or interests, great. If not, let’s fix that.

Go to the search bar at the top of the page and enter some keywords. If you’re a content strategist, try “content strategy,” “content marketing,” “creative content solutions,” and the like; if you’re into cloud computing, try “cloud computing,” “cloud storage,” “cloud services,” “cloud computing and virtualizations,” and so on. Then, in the left bar, click “Groups” to filter your results. You can also do a “blank search” (press Enter without typing anything) and let LinkedIn show you the groups it considers most relevant to you.

Groups range from the broad (like “Content Strategy”) to the ultra-specific (like “Women in Marketing, Chapel Hill, NC ”), and each has its merits, but don’t limit yourself to one size. If you’re just starting out, join one small group (less than 100 members), one medium group (less than 1,000 members), and one large group (anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 members). This strategy lets you be a big fish in a small pond, a medium fish in a medium pond, and a small fish in a big pond.

One characteristic all the groups you join should share? They should all be active. If there hasn’t been any discussion in the group within the last week, pick a different one.

2. Get the Lay of the Land

Don’t do what I did, which was immediately post a discussion without looking at anything else on the group page. After getting zero responses to my question, I scrolled down to see that someone else had asked the same thing just a couple days prior.

Now, when I join a group, I’ll read through everything posted in the last week (or month, if it’s a less-active group). I note the average conversational style (casual? formal? somewhere in between?), the most successful posts (open-ended questions? discussions about industry news? requests for advice?), and the types of responses (long? short and snappy?).

This process might sound time-consuming, but it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, tops. Plus, not only do I generate ideas for my own posts and comments, I also learn valuable information about my field.

You don’t want to overwhelm yourself, so go to your smallest group first and spend some time getting comfortable with the vibe. As you read, jot down any thoughts you have. These will become the jumping-off points for your first posts.

3. Join a Discussion

I like to contribute to a couple of threads before I start a new one. That’s because if LinkedIn groups are like dinner parties; you don’t want to be the obnoxious guest who shows up late and then tries to dominate the conversation.

The discussion you comment on doesn’t have to be active. Say you find one from a couple weeks ago that’s come to a halt, but it’s on a topic you know stone-cold and you’d love to point out something the other members missed. Feel free to revive the discussion! However, I’d simultaneously add to an ongoing discussion to make sure you don’t end up talking to yourself.

When commenting, keep a couple things in mind:

  • Statements like, “I agree with Joe,” aren’t valuable unless you expand on what Joe said, back up his point with your own experience, or in some way add new information.
  • Disagreeing with people is fine, but you should remain super polite at all times. There’s nothing worse than an over-aggressive group member.
  • You can promote your company, your product, or yourself, but only if it feels natural. For example, if a group member asks if anyone has read any ebooks on sales techniques, you can link to yours. If people are just talking about good techniques, don’t jump in with, “Read my ebook!”
  • Relevance is key. If your comments are random, people will ignore you.

4. Start Your Own Discussion

For my first post in “LinkedIn for Journalists,” I asked the group members whether they’d invested in a personal website. This was a great post for a couple of reasons: It invited people to share their expertise, it was broad enough that anyone could contribute, whether they had a personal site or not, and there were multiple sub-topics, like whether you should pay for a site and how you can use one to promote yourself. Try to think of an open-ended question like this pertaining to your own field. (If you need inspiration, go back to the notes you took!)

You can also share articles or sites that the group would find interesting. For example, in “LinkedIn for Journalists,” I could post an article about how most people now use their phones to read the news. Using questions will increase the responses you get, so I’d add, “Has your writing changed to reflect the size of the mobile audience; and if so, how?”

Bonus: LinkedIn allows you to share your discussions on social media, so if you really want to start a healthy conversation, post the link on Twitter and Facebook.

Once you’ve commented on or started a discussion in a group, your job is technically done. Even though my website post got tons of comments, none of them were mine: I just sat back and watched the conversation unfold. However, my next goal is to take on an unofficial moderator role. I’m confident my page views will really take off!

This post is in partnership with The Muse. This article was originally published on The Muse.

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TIME Video Games

Meet the Guy Who Saved Final Fantasy XIV from Total Disaster

Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida talks to TIME about redesigning a troubled icon

Final Fantasy XIV might not be around today if not for Naoki Yoshida.

The original Final Fantasy XIV MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) that launched in September 2010 received widespread criticism for poor quality, threatening to become a black spot in the history of the beloved Final Fantasy game franchise. Yoshida was given the unenviable task of fixing one of the greatest failures in Square Enix’s history. He was made both producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV in December 2010 with a mandate to revamp the title.

An avid MMO gamer himself, Yoshida undertook to simultaneously create content for the original Final Fantasy XIV while developing a brand new MMORPG from the ground up to succeed it. The result was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, launched in August 2013, a streamlined MMO that has been praised for its solid gameplay and numerous quality of life features.

More than a year and a half since later, A Realm Reborn now boasts more than 4 million accounts worldwide and is gearing up for the release of its first expansion, Heavensward on June 23. TIME caught up with Final Fantasy XIV producer and director Naoki Yoshida to talk about Final Fantasy XIV, its upcoming Heavensward expansion and the numerous challenges posed in designing a MMORPG.

Square EnixNaoki Yoshida, Producer and Director of Final Fantasy XIV

What are some key lessons that you have learned from creating Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn that you have incorporated into Heavensward?

To recover from the failure of the original version of Final Fantasy XIV, we had to come up with a long-term plan for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. So we worked frantically on designing detailed game mechanics and content within a very tight schedule. Throughout the different updates we were making for A Realm Reborn, we were gradually able to incorporate elements stemming from player feedback as well as improvisations that weren’t necessarily in our original designs. We are applying this experience to Heavensward, and are open to receiving even more feedback than before to challenge ourselves even more—while keeping a “long-term plan” in mind. Other than player feedback, we have gathered very valuable information, including the ever-diversifying tastes of our players, as well as log-in patterns based on lifestyle choices. We are considering all these factors to deliver an even more exciting experience.

Square EnixA flying mount in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

What feature(s) in Heavensward are you the most excited for?

As producer and director, I look forward to seeing all of our players enter the land of Ishgard. I get the same kind of feeling when we release a patch update, but it’s truly a wonderful and happy moment to see excited players run around in a field or area that we’ve created. As a player of the game, I’m looking forward to new actions that will be added to my main job, the black mage, and the raised level cap! I’m also looking forward playing as a dark knight and flying around using the new flying mounts. There are just so many things to do! (laughs)

Were there any real life locations that inspired the architecture and landscape in Heavensward?

There isn’t a specific thing or location we can reference, but we focused on “gothic high fantasy” as the central theme for the artwork and in-game modelling. We also made sure to visually accentuate the dark and light areas with pronounced contrast to come up with a novel look. As for the storyline we moved towards dark fantasy which is reflected in each scene. That is another new challenge we’ve put forth for ourselves. All in all, this is a very unique realm created through the interpretations and imaginations of a core development team that is located in Japan. I hope everyone has the opportunity to get their hands on this new Final Fantasy.

Heavensward will launch on PC, Mac, PS3 and PS4. What were the main challenges you faced when creating a game for so many different platforms and did it affect or limit design decisions in any way?

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was designed to be on many platforms so that many different people can play. On top of that, we focused on ensuring that the gameplay experience was uniform across these platforms. This can be seen implemented through many different facets, including support for both keyboard and mouse and controllers. At the moment, I don’t think of this as a limitation, so it didn’t really affect or limit design decisions. Of course, hardware will evolve over time, so I believe we will eventually have to modify our target specs and evolve the gameplay experience based on the evolution of the hardware.

On another note, working with this many platforms simultaneously with language support, simultaneous updates, and simultaneous master submissions was an extremely challenging undertaking for all of us.

Not only do I want to thank each of our First Party and corporate partners for their undivided support, but I also want to thank and praise all of the efforts of my development and operation/management teams—as well as the managers—who have worked tirelessly. Last but not least, I want to extend the biggest thank you to the players and fans out there who motivate us to keep moving forward!

Square EnixThe new Dark Knight job introduced in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

The three new classes introduced in Heavensward, the Dark Knight, Astrologian and Machinist maintain the concept of the MMO holy trinity of a tank, healer and dps. Are there any plans in the future to branch out from this paradigm to include hybrid classes, such as the dps/healer Dancer class from Final Fantasy XI, or other non-traditional roles?

Of course, I won’t say that it would never happen in the future, but in party situations, hybrid roles can become either be too overpowering or very difficult to use, and it can lead to imbalance. Final Fantasy XIV’s core concept is to have the freedom to play each role through the Armoury System, so we may explore new directions through a skill tree, in which the player’s job will be determined by what actions have been obtained. Needless to say these won’t be immediate changes, but we will continue to work on creating jobs that are in line with Final Fantasy in a system that is very much like Final Fantasy. The red mage is one of my favorites, after all…

Patch 2.55 introduced a significant plot twist to the final storyline of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. How far in advance was the final storyline for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn planned out and how much of the future storyline has already been written?

First and foremost, thank you very much for enjoying the storyline!

The final storyline of A Realm Reborn was finalized before the release of Patch 2.1 (December 2013). We needed a solid plot from the start so that we could create a story that wouldn’t fall apart. We introduced characters in each patch update every 3.5 months, and created the dialogue to establish these characters and/or build tension and excitement in the story.

Also, Final Fantasy XIV supports Japanese, English, French, German, Chinese (and Korean, in just a short while), with voice overs in many of the cut scenes. In order to accomplish this we need to record in the various languages well ahead of time, which naturally requires that the script be finalized much earlier than that. For Patch 2.55 (“Before the Fall, Part 2”) we recorded the voice overs in between the release of Patch 2.3 and 2.4. (This is about a 6 month lead time). I take my hat off to our script writers, localization team, and sound team.

In terms of future storylines, we’ve already determined a general outline of the next expansion pack (Version 4.0) after Heavensward. Of course, the details may potentially change, and depending on our players’ reactions, there is always a possibility for adjustments, too!

Square EnixA dragoon suits up in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

What’s your favorite fantasy story and why is it your favorite?

Considering recent works, I’m into Game of Thrones, but what holds a special place in my heart are The Legend of King Arthur and The Lord of the Rings. (I think anyone around my generation will think so too!) Then there’s Star Wars, Dragon Quest I through III, and Final Fantasy I, which impacted me in terms of storytelling and world creation. As for “why” – all of these titles have a strong foundation in their settings and a sense of reality in a fictional world. Not only are they very entertaining, but they leave room for the imagination of the people who enjoy these titles to run wild.

I’ve read that Dark Age of Camelot is one of your favorite games. What other games, either past or present, have been the most influential to you as a producer and director?

As an avid online gamer, I can’t go without mentioning Diablo and Ultima Online. Diablo taught me about the joys of playing online with other players, and how to add value to an item so that players would obsess over it. I don’t even want to think about how many hundreds of hours I’ve put into that game (laughs). As for Ultima Online, the thousands of people sharing one world, the thrill of player killers, and role-play that is very free, were all very impactful to me. There are many other games that fuel my passion, but I would list these two as must-haves. I can still talk through the night about all of the episodes I had in-game.

With a game as wide-reaching as Final Fantasy XIV, how do you design for both hardcore and casual MMO players?

In recent years, the MMORPG genre has become more geared towards hardcore players. In order to attract experienced MMORPG players, games tend to be more action-oriented, or visually flashy. As a result, I feel that casual gamers find it difficult to continue playing MMO games. Having said this, from a business standpoint, it is more effective to cater to core MMORPG gamers, so titles are faced with a very difficult decision.

With Final Fantasy XIV, we deliberately targeted those who have yet to play an MMORPG, and made certain that the first part of the game wouldn’t require players to recruit a party of other players. Also, the speed at which players need to react is intentionally slower at the start of the game. For hardcore MMORPG players, this may seem boring (and admittedly this is an actual piece of feedback we receive), but if we don’t attract new MMORPG players, then we can’t expect this genre to expand. Based on this concept, we took a story-driven approach, where the battle content becomes progressively harder while the story motivates the player to continue. At the same time, we introduced non-combat-focused elements such as player housing, the Gold Saucer and its attractions, and the Triple Triad mini-game for players to enjoy. We also added other content that mitigates the more casual player’s fear of not being able to catch up to high-level players, such as easing the difficulty of obtaining gear over time. For high-end content, the stages are very difficult at first, but through subsequent updates, their difficulty level is toned down so that casual players will be able to clear the older content. These little touches can be seen all throughout Final Fantasy XIV.

Square EnixThe Triple Triad card mini-game in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Are there any plans in the future to incorporate additional mini-games from other Final Fantasy titles such as Chocobo Hot and Cold from Final Fantasy IX or Blitzball from Final Fantasy X given the popularity of introducing Final Fantasy VIII‘s Triple Triad to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn?

For readers who are unaware, the Manderville Gold Saucer is an amusement center located in the world of Eorzea which houses content like the Triple Triad card game, chocobo racing, and other mini-games. We are already creating a new attraction for Patch 3.1, and looking to introduce more attractions in the future that hearken back to popular mini-games found within the Final Fantasy franchise. In addition to this, we are looking to create many Final Fantasy XIV-original attractions so I don’t intend to imply that we will only have one or the other.

By the way, it seems there’s a big demand from our players for “snowboarding” in the Gold Saucer (laugh). Outside of video games, I love snowboarding, so it would be great if I can make that a reality. I may have players start with crafting their own snowboards first, though.

Last question — can we ever expect to see a Yoshida Triple Triad card?

Ha ha ha, thank you for the suggestion! In all seriousness, though, I believe we shouldn’t take a real-life character or person and put them in a game. There is a special character, known as the “Wandering Minstrel,” that exists in the game, but he is an exception because the scenario creation team really wanted to have a character represent the development team so that we could thank the legacy players who remained committed through the original (Version 1.0) Final Fantasy XIV. Eorzea is “another reality” created in the digital world. Wouldn’t it be awkward if I showed up in that fantasy world? (laughs) But it is an honor as both a game developer and as an individual to hear many players ask “What about a Yoshida card? Or a minion?” and I am very happy to hear it. Your continued support for Final Fantasy XIV is greatly appreciated!

Square EnixNaoki Yoshida’s “Wandering Minstrel” character in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
TIME Startups

Snoop Dogg Just Invested in a Weed Delivery Startup

2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards - Arrivals
Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images Snoop Dogg arrives at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on March 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Eaze promises to deliver medicinal marijuana in less than 10 minutes

Snoop Dogg is one of several investors helping to fund Eaze, a California-based startup that promises to deliver medical marijuana to your doorstep in less than 10 minutes.

Eaze has raised more than $10 million in funding from DCM Ventures, Fresh VC, 500 Startups and Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, Quartz reports. Founded by former Yammer employee Keith McCarty, Eaze raised $1.5 million of seed funding in November and became one of the first pot companies to get international investors, perhaps because the business only provides the technology, not the marijuana itself. In the nine months since its launch, Eaze has made 30,000 deliveries, and now the startup is looking to expand its team by hiring 50 people in the next 50 days.

The legal marijuana industry is growing fast: Alaska, Washington D.C., Colorado and Washington state have all legalized recreational marijuana, and 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. And other pot companies are also getting in on the action—according to CB Insights, weed businesses raised a total of $104 million in 59 deals over the course of 2014, with Privateer Holdings (the company selling Bob Marley-branded weed) raking in a $75 million investment from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

[Quartz]

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Million-Dollar Habits of the High Achievers

businessman-writing-notebook
Getty Images

Productivity success starts the night before each day

Do you remember the first time self development became important to you?

I do. I was 7 years old and I was in love with basketball. My mother had bought me a book called Rare Air, the autobiography of Michael Jordan.

Through this book, Michael Jordan brought me into his world. He shared stories of what inspired him, the emotions he felt, how he handled the failures and rejections and how he discovered his passion.

I was absolutely blown away and fired up after reading his book. It felt like my childhood hero was right there with me, teaching me about the importance of working on yourself and becoming the best you can possibly be.

I read this book every morning before school to be highly motivated for the day ahead.

Once that book was finished, I continued to read other books like 20 Ways to Make Pocket Money and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. As I made this motivation session part of my morning ritual, I noticed my belief, confidence and passion skyrocket.

I wanted to be just like these high achievers so I started waking up early, setting my goals and learning as much as I could about new skills and life each day. Little did I know that I was hard-wiring a series of positive unconscious actions that eventually led me to a life of multiple successes: Hosting radio shows, signing record deals, promotions to higher paying salaries, training with world-class experts, meetings with my idols, creating one of the top self-development websites in the world, being offered millions of dollars for my business and being featuring on the cover of magazines.

I became infatuated with the idea of growing and evolving as an individual so much so that over the past four years I’ve committed to interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs, authors, celebrities, coaches and multimillionaires to find out what separates the super achievers from your every day “Average Joe.”

What I’ve come to discover is that a good 90 percent of the interviewe’s credit their success to the persisting energy bolts of action that we call “habits.”

So being the curious cat that I am, I decided to go a little deeper and squeeze the juice out of this new discovery.

I started asking each high achiever what their daily habits are that keep them on top. I then averaged their answers out to break it down into these 7 million-dollar habits:

Habit 1: Write Your “To-Do List,” The Night Before

The high achievers would write their to-do’s every evening before dinner or bed so they were prepared for the following day.

Prioritizing your “To-Do” list is the key to productivity success.

Action step: The super-successful make it a habit of numbering their to-do lists and you can do this, too, by simply ordering the “Most Important” first, placing a BIG Number 1 or a Star next to the activity, marking the importance of getting the task done first thing in the morning.

They then follow with the rest of the numbers, based on importance as they work their way down the list.

Habit 2: The Mind, Body & Soul

Ninety percent of the super-successful practice some form of physical concentration time or health focused activity at some point in their day.

Meditation seems to be a popular habit on the rise between the highly successful.

I was speaking to Deepak Chopra a few days ago and he was explaining to me why meditation is so important. He said that meditation increases the amount of rest you would normally achieve through sleep and is almost twice as effective as taking a nap.

Action step: Here are some of the most common practices listed below:

05 – 10 Minutes* – Breathing Exercises
15 – 20 Minutes* – Meditation
20 – 30 Minutes* – Eating Healthy
20 – 60 Minutes* – Exercise (The Gym, Skipping, Running, Swimming, Cycling, Yoga)

*Time on average

Related: 5 Lessons on Being Wrong

Habit 3: Goal-Setting and Visualization

Ninety-five percent of the successful achievers I have interviewed practice writing down their goals, plans, or vision for success on a regular basis.

They usually practice this first thing in the morning to set their intentions and to prime their mental state to prepare them for a day of challenges on the road to success.

Multi-millionaire entrepreneur Grant Cardone even mentioned to me that he writes his 10X goals out multiple times during the day to stay focused on the massive outcomes he desires.

Action step: Deepak Chopra told me to keep in mind when you are setting your goals to:

– Stretch for more than you can reach.

– Make everything measurable.

– Get agreements from your team and supporters.

– Record your progress.

– And set time limits.

Habit 4: Gratitude and Positive Self Talk

Being grateful and focusing on the positive seems to be a common priority in the lives of the highly successful.

Something truly amazing that the best-selling author and neuroscientist Joe Dispenza shared with me is:

“If you’re saying affirmations like, ‘I am abundant, I am wonderful, I am unstoppable,’ but your emotional state is in fear, then your body is in opposition.

Thoughts are the language of the brain and feelings are the language of the body. Those thoughts will bounce off because they aren’t equal to the emotions of fear.

If a person feels gratitude, and has practiced it over and over authentically and they say affirmations like, ‘I am wonderful, I am incredible, I am unstoppable’ and so on… and it aligns with their autonomic nervous system then this is where the real power comes into play.”

Gratitudes are powerful, and a lot of people nowadays are catching on to this.

Actions step: Practice three gratitudes a day between you and a friend or partner, or just by yourself. Whatever helps you to stick to this positive habit.

But….here’s the key with sharing your gratitudes: You must justify why you are grateful, this strengthens the affect. So when you say your gratitude, do it this way: “I am grateful for having my partner in my life because, he/she always supports me and encourages me to follow my dreams no matter what.” This reminds you why and has a deeper affect in you than just a surface level statement.

Related: 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick

Habit 5: Self Development

The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.

During a conversation with the best selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, he said:

“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything.

There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”

Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, that roughly equals more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge. Wow! (I learned that one from entrepreneur and habits coach James Clear.)

Habit 6: Networking

The high achievers know and live by the saying, “Your network determines your net worth.”

So they make it a habit to work on building new bridges, collaborating, helping others, attending social events, getting back to people and being a man (or woman) of their word.

Action Step: Make it a habit to meet at least one new person a day or making one follow up/catch up a day.

Habit 7: Meetings and Accountability Sessions

Last, but not least, the seventh habit that was highly practiced by the uber successful was holding accountability calls each week and/or a coffee catch up with a mentor or business partner to hold each other accountable.

Action Step: Find someone who is on a similar level to you in life and make a commitment between you and your accountability partner to hold a catch-up call or meeting once a week to share your achievements, struggles, new goals and what you have learned from the previous week.

This is a great way to stay motivated, knowing that you will have to come clean to your accountability buddy if you haven’t been sticking to your goals and habits.

As you can see there isn’t just one key habit that plays it’s part in the life of a successful high achiever. Many daily actions are in play.

If you are new to these habits then I would recommend starting with two to three habits and making them easy, short sessions so you don’t shock yourself out of the commitment. Just know: Naturally this will feel uncomfortable to you until you can solidify it as a hard wired habit in your unconscious.

The key is to commit to at least two to three months of continuous implementation as your body adjusts to the new life you are creating and the habits you are conditioning.

Enjoy the process and make sure you throw in some fun habits, that focus on your mind body and soul also as balance is key to staying sane during this process.

Related: What You Can Learn From Albert Einstein on Creativity and Work Ethic

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME

Here’s Why Tuesday Is the Best Day for Job-Seekers

And find out which three hours are your golden window of opportunity

If you’re looking for a new job, you might just find yourself saying, T.G.I.T — thank goodness it’s Tuesday. A new study of more than 270,000 job listings by the site SmartRecruiters.com finds that Tuesday is the most popular day of the week for companies to post jobs, and it’s also the day when companies extend the most job offers to prospective employees.

“Mondays are busy and tend to get away from people before they have a chance to extend offers,” says SmartRecruiters founder and CEO Jerome Ternynck. “By Tuesday things are back to normal and they can focus on extending job offers.” Tuesday also is the most popular day to apply for a job, which means you’ll have more competition, but it still pays to jump on a promising ad as soon as you see it, since almost 60% of applicants submit applications within the first week of a job being posted.

“As a job candidate, take the weekend to get your ducks in a row, update your resume, get your references lined up and watch the job boards for new postings during the beginning of the week, specifically on Tuesdays,” the company advises in a blog post about the findings on its site.

The most popular time of day for companies to post jobs is 11 a.m. “Most hiring managers and recruiters come in and need to take time to catch up or get their days started,” Ternynck says. “By 11 a.m., they’re caught up and can post jobs and they can still catch the group of candidates that might be searching during their lunch break.”

Ambitious candidates who want to get a jump on the competition should hit those job boards before lunch, though. The data shows that 2 p.m. is the most popular time of day for people to apply for jobs, leaving a three-hour window of opportunity for the people who want to get their foot (or resume, as the case may be) in the door first.

After Tuesday, the second-most-popular day for job offers is Thursday. Ternynck explains why this is the case, saying, “I find that employers are eager to make offers before the weekend starts and people are thinking more about weekend plans,” he says. Thursdays also give the job-seeker a weekend to think about the offer before accepting it.

Almost 60% of jobs are posted between Monday and Wednesday, SmartRecruiters finds. In particular, if you’re looking for an office job or corporate position, concentrate your job search to the workweek. “Corporate-type jobs are not as common and typically don’t have the success on weekends that they do earlier in the week,” Ternynck says. If you’re looking for an entry-level or hourly job, though, the weekend might hold some potential for you. “In my experience, the types of jobs being posted and applied for on the weekends are typically hourly positions and hospitality-type positions,” he says.

TIME Workplace & Careers

Seattle Business Owner Will Pay $70,000 Minimum Wage to All Employees

CEO will take nearly $930,000 pay cut to help fund the raises

A Seattle-based company will pay a $70,000 minimum wage to all employees, regardless of their job title, after the CEO read a study that found pay hikes up to that threshold led to significant improvements in emotional well-being.

Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, a credit card payment processing firm, stunned his employees with the generous minimum wage plan, which will ratchet up salaries over the next three years, the New York Times reports.

Thirty of Gravity Payment’s 120 employees will see their salaries double over the next three years, while Price himself will take a pay cut from $1 million down to $70,000 a year, or minimum wage by his standards.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME cybersecurity

Cyberattacks Against Big Companies Surged by 40% in 2014, Report Finds

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Rafe Swan—Getty Images/Cultura RF

New malware threats crop up at a rate of 1 million a day, according to annual survey of cyberthreats

The number of cyberattacks against large companies rose by 40% last year, according to a new report, which finds hackers have honed spear-phishing and fraudulent email campaigns to focus attacks on larger targets with more precision.

Five out of six companies employing more than 2,500 people were targets of cyber attacks last year, according to Symantec’s annual Internet Security Threat Report. Even as the number of attacks surged, analysts found that the hackers were waging more efficient campaigns, deploying 14% less email to infiltrate an organization’s network.

The authors estimate that in addition to targeted attacks, non-targeted malware continues to proliferate online at a rate of 1 million new threats a day.

TIME real estate

Why Your Rent Will Rise Again This Year

Condo Towers Rise From Boston to Los Angeles in U.S. Rebound
Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images The EVO condominium building stands in downtown Los Angeles, California, on June 23, 2014.

More people than ever are apartment hunting

(LOS ANGELES) — Living in an apartment? Expect your rent to go up again.

Renting has gotten increasingly expensive over the last five years. The average U.S. rent has climbed 14 percent to $1,124 since 2010, according to commercial property tracker Reis Inc. That’s four percentage points faster than inflation, and more than double the rise in U.S. home prices over the same period.

Now, even with a surge in apartment construction, rents are projected to rise yet another 3.3 percent this year, to an average $1,161, according to Reis. While that’s slower than last year’s 3.6 percent increase, the broader upward trend isn’t going away.

“The only relief in sight is rents in the hottest markets are going to go up at a slower pace, but they’re still going to go up,” says Hessam Nadji, chief strategy officer at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial real estate services firm.

The main reason: More people than ever are apartment hunting.

Young people who have been living with their parents are increasingly finding jobs and moving out. Rising home prices are leading many long-time renters to stay put.

In addition, most of the new apartments coming on the market are aimed at affluent tenants and carry higher-than-average rents. That’s especially true in cities where new buildings are going up in urban core areas, which means builders need to recoup higher land and development costs.

Consider Denver, where rents have increased more than 5 percent a year since 2010 — 9.2 percent in 2014 — according to Marcus & Millichap. Of the 9,400 new apartment units added last year, 23 percent were in urban core areas.

Competition for apartments means renters are less likely to be able to negotiate with landlords, or win concessions such as a free month’s rent.

Here’s a closer look at why apartment dwellers will probably see rents go up for a sixth straight year.

—MORE JOBS, MORE COMPETITION

During the last recession many workers who lost their jobs moved in with relatives or took on roommates. About 32 percent of U.S. adults were living with roommates or adult family members in 2012, up from 27.4 percent in 2006, according to Zillow, an online real estate firm.

Stepped-up hiring has begun to reverse that trend. About 2.8 million more Americans have jobs than 12 months ago.

“The share of young adults with jobs has climbed in the past year, and that will help many of them move out of their parents’ homes,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at online real estate firm Trulia. “Most of them will be renters first.”

More people vying for apartments helps drive rents higher. And metropolitan areas with faster job growth are generally seeing higher-than-average rent hikes as well.

The three metro areas with the biggest annual increase in rent in January, according to Trulia: Denver (14.2 percent), Oakland, California (12.1 percent), and San Francisco (11.6 percent).

Job growth in each of those cities also eclipsed the national growth rate of 2.3 percent over the 12 months ended in January. Employment grew 3.7 percent in Denver, 2.7 percent in Oakland and 4.5 percent in San Francisco.

—HOMEBUYING DELAYED

Traditionally, renting has been a stepping stone toward homeownership. When rents rise, tenants are motivated to buy sooner, especially when interest rates are near historic lows, as they are now.

But these days, renters are taking longer to buy. The U.S. homeownership rate ended last year at a 19-year low of 64.4 percent.

Between higher rents taking a bigger bite out of the bank account and sharply higher home prices, potential buyers are having more trouble saving for a down payment and qualifying for a mortgage.

And many millennials, or 18- to 34-year-olds, simply prefer renting.

That’s true for Alyssa Hankins, a marketing and social media strategist in Los Angeles. She moved in February to a newly opened complex where rents range from $2,325 for a studio to $5,920 for a two-bedroom unit. She wants to be able to move quickly if a job opportunity comes up.

“It’s less about affordability and more about flexibility,” says Hankins, 29.

When renters stay put, fewer apartments are available for new tenants, which in turn drives up rents.

—NEW APARTMENTS ARE PRICEY

Developers added 238,000 apartments nationwide last year, a 14-year high, with another 210,000 expected this year, according to Marcus & Millichap.

In theory, more apartment construction should help bring down rents because landlords would compete for tenants. But 80 percent of new complexes, Nadji estimates, are high-end projects aimed at renters willing to pay a premium for amenities like gourmet kitchens and concierge service.

How much of a premium? The average rent for apartments completed last year was $1,721. That’s 46 percent higher than the average apartment rent for older units, according to Marcus & Millichap and data provider MPF Research.

“There’s very little new supply being added anywhere else,” says Nadji, “so that’s why there’s so much pressure on rents and very little choice for the average renter.”

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