TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Behaviors That Will Hinder Your Success

darts-around-dartboard
Getty Images

Success is not a matter of characters or habits—it's about your behaviors

When you spend decades working with executives and business leaders, you really can’t help but observe what works and doesn’t work over the long haul. One thing I’ve noticed, it’s not intrinsic characteristics or personal habits that determine whether you’re successful or not. It’s your behavior.

What do I mean by “behavior?” How you react under long-term stress. Whether you meet your commitments or not. How you interact with others. Your attitude toward customers. How hard you’re willing to work to do the job right. Whether you’re focused and disciplined or scattered and distracted. That sort of thing.

Now, I admit to having known some pretty dysfunctional founders and CEOs who did well for themselves for a time. But sooner or later, usually when the pressure is on and things aren’t going so well, they exhibit self-destructive behavior that bites them in the behind. Sadly, they often take their businesses down with them.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Quit Being So Positive.

If you want to make it big over the long-term, you might want to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see if any of these career-limiting behaviors describe you.

Naivety. Granted, we all start out sort of wide-eyed and gullible, but the sooner you convert that to savvy and skeptical, the better your chances of coming out on top. The reason is simple: suckers and fools don’t win. Learn to question everything you read and hear and always consider the source.

Panic. High-pressure situations are common in the business world. Things almost never go according to plan and oftentimes they go terribly wrong. It comes with the territory. If you can’t override your adrenaline response and remain calm in a crisis, you’re sort of screwed.

Fanaticism. Passion is a big success driver, but when you cross that line and become over-the-top fanatical, that works against you. I’ve seen it time and again. It leads to a skewed perception of reality, flawed reasoning, and bad decision-making.

Laziness. Those who are driven to achieve great things also know one fundamental truth: It takes hard work over the long haul. That’s why they’re always so focused and disciplined. Most people are slackers. That’s why most people don’t achieve great things. Simple as that.

Quick-fix mentality. Steve Jobs said, “Half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance” and if you’re not passionate about what you do, you won’t stick with it. Too many people want instant gratification these days. That’s not going to cut it.

Related: Considering an Online Business? Read This First.

Acting out. Whatever feelings you have trouble dealing with – jealousy, shame, inferiority, entitlement – transferring them to people you work with and acting out in anger won’t just make you and everyone around you miserable, it’ll kill your career, too.

Selfishness. If you act like the world revolves around you, you’d better have the talent to back it up. Even so, being overly self-centered will diminish your effectiveness. Business isn’t about you; it’s about business. It’s about your customers’ experience with your products. Remember who serves whom in the relationship.

Living in the past or future. Granted, we can learn from the past, but dwelling on it is self-destructive. Likewise, you can plan for and dream about the future, but if your actions aren’t focused on the present, you’ll never achieve your plans or your dreams.

Lighthearted indifference. You hear phrases like “whatever works,” “it’s all good,” and “no worries” a lot lately but you’ll rarely hear them from highly accomplished people. They may be a lot of things but apathetic is not one of them.

Oversensitivity. If you’re so thin-skinned that any criticism makes you crazy and every little thing offends you, you’re going to have a rough go of it in the real business world. There’s a good reason why business leaders usually have a good sense of humor and humility. It’s sort of a requirement. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

One last thing. If any of this offends you enough to want to write an angry flame comment, you’ve got at least two or three issues to work on. Then again, look at the bright side. At least you’re not indifferent.

Related: You Don’t Need a Cause to Do What’s Right

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Guaranteed Ways to Gain a Mentor

businessmen-boardroom
Getty Images

Remember that mentoring relationship is a two-way street

startupcollective

Question: What’s one thing you can do now to encourage older/more experienced entrepreneurs to WANT to mentor you?

Don’t Just Be a Taker

“Find a way to give back to the more experienced entrepreneur. Also, when you ask for 30 minutes, only take 30 minutes. They will appreciate your attention to their time.” — Andrew Howlett, Rain

Remind Them of Themselves

“Every week I receive emails from individuals wanting to have coffee or ask questions. The ones I tend to meet with often remind me of a younger self. Whether they went to my college, hail from my hometown or have the same passions I had in college, I (like most people) gravitate toward like-minded people. Showing an entrepreneur that you have a common thread can go a long way in securing a mentor.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Add Value to Their Business

“I’ve found it’s easier to start a new relationship by giving rather than taking. Do research on your perspective mentor, and find out what they’re working on. Study their process, and come up with an innovative way to improve it. Then, share your findings with them. This will demonstrate that you are worth their time, and it won’t become just a one-way relationship.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Don’t Come Empty-Handed

“Show that you are capable of executing to some degree on your own, whether that is by gaining some traction, some buzz or just building a great product. The worst is when someone comes to me with nothing and expects me to do too much of the work for them. I only want to surround myself with A-Players, and that goes for mentors and mentees alike.” — Danny Boice, Speek

Find Similarities in Your Situation

“People will want to help you if they understand and trust you and see a little bit of themselves in you. Older, experienced entrepreneurs almost feel a need to reinvest back into the karma that has made them successful. As people grow older and acquire everything they think they need, they figure out that life is about giving. Ask Bill Gates about that one.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

Be Professional

“No one wants to help someone who isn’t professional. Keep your emails (especially those with requests) brief. I don’t want to see more than a paragraph when you’re asking for information. Respond when my assistant emails you to confirm an appointment. Be prompt and friendly, and it doesn’t hurt to take notes. Afterward, send a thank-you email or, even better, a handwritten note!” — Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

Give Them a Reason

“As with any investment, older/more experienced entrepreneurs are looking for an opportunity with promise. If you want someone to mentor you, show them why they should, and demonstrate to them that their efforts will not be wasted.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Be Available

“Make yourself available, and be humble and teachable. The men and woman who have gone before us have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so we need to sit at their feet, listen and learn. However, it’s not enough just to listen to them; it’s about acting on the advice. When mentors see their advice impacting your business, it encourages them to keep teaching and the student to keep learning!” — Adam Degraide, Astonish

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like a German

mother rushing son to school
Getty Images

An American mom finds some surprising habits

The first time I went to a playground in Berlin, I freaked. All the German parents were huddled together, drinking coffee, not paying attention to their children who were hanging off a wooden dragon 20 feet above a sand pit. Where were the piles of soft padded foam? The liability notices? The personal injury lawyers?

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents I’ve met are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility. Those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a “free range parenting” movement because free range is the norm.

Here are a few surprising things Berlin parents do:

Don’t push reading. Berlin’s kindergartens or “kitas” don’t emphasize academics. In fact, teachers and other parents discouraged me from teaching my children to read. I was told it was something special the kids learn together when they start grade school. Kindergarten was a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.

Encourage kids to play with fire. A note came home from school along with my excited second grader. They were doing a project on fire. Would I let her light candles and perform experiments with matches? Together we lit candles and burned things, safely. It was brilliant. Still, she was the only kid whose parent didn’t allow her to shoot off heavy duty fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Let children go almost everywhere alone. Most grade school kids walk without their parents to school and around their neighborhoods. Some even take the subway alone. German parents are concerned about safety, of course, but they usually focus on traffic, not abductions.

The facts seem to be on the Germans’ side. Stranger abductions are extremely rare; there were only 115 a year in all of America, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Justice study. And walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” as the researchers call it, is good for kids.

Party when school starts. One of my Berlin friends once told me that the three biggest life events are Einschulung (starting first grade), Jugendweihe (becoming a young adult) and getting married.

In Berlin, Einschulung is a huge celebration at the school—on a Saturday!—that includes getting a Zuckertute—a giant child-sized cone filled with everything from pencils to watches to candy. Then there’s another party afterwards with your family and friends. Einschulung is something children look forward to for years. It signals a major life change, and hopefully, an enthusiasm for learning.

Jugendweihe happens when a child turns 14. It involves a similar ceremony, party, and gifts, marking the next stage of growing up. With all the negativity heaped on adolescents, there’s something to be said for this way of celebrating young adulthood.

Take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious on Berlin’s numerous playgrounds. No matter how cold and grey it gets, and in Berlin it gets pretty cold, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own.

Which brings me back to that dragon—since moving here, I’ve tried to adopt some of the Berlin attitude, and my 8-year-old has climbed all over the dragon. But I still hesitate to let her walk alone in our very urban neighborhood.

I’ve taken one small step. I let her go to the bakery by herself. It’s just down the stairs and one door over. The first time she did this, she came back beaming, proudly handing me the rolls she bought herself.

I figured there was no need to tell her that her American mother was out on the balcony, watching her the whole time.

Parents Newsletter Signup Banner
TIME

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Read next: Christians and Spanking Culture: How and Why to Stop It

TIME advice

How to Learn From the Mistakes You Make in Your 20s

upside-down-ice-cream-cone
Getty Images

Because some problems can be fixed, and some you can learn from

Your twenties are a time for finding your passions, your values, and your way in this world. At least, as much as you’re able to while also balancing friendships, dating, learning to manage your finances, and finding that dream job. Sometimes, things can go awry, and you can feel as if you’ve made a massive blunder of it all. Luckily, there are some problems that can be fixed, and some that you can learn from. Here are a few mistakes in your twenties that don’t really matter:

Finance

1. Buying that overly expensive trend piece for your wardrobe that isn’t even flattering.

The problem: We’ve all been there. You get a tax refund, you’re flush with cash, and suddenly that designer leather peplum top is calling your name! Before you know it, you’ve dropped $300 on a top that doesn’t accentuate your waist in the right place, and you never know what to pair it with.

The fix: Sell that baby on one of the many popular clothes-hawking sites available nowadays, and remind yourself of the time and money lost the next time you need the brand name. H&M and Forever 21 have fantastic trend pieces you can try that keep you on budget. Live and learn, my fashionistas.

2. Not opening up a savings account.

The problem: The interest rates are so low that you probably don’t think you’ll actually make any money. But even .08 percent is better than 0 percent.

The fix: Do some digging to find out which savings account is best for you. And word on the street is that interest rates are going up since the economy is doing so good and all, so now’s your chance.

MORE 4 Mistakes to Avoid Making at Work

Love

1. Texting that one ex too many times.

The problem: You’re a little too prolific when it comes to writing cell phone love letters after those happy hour margaritas.

The fix: We’ve all been there. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but try really hard not to let that be your first step once you’ve imbibed. If you know you’re feeling weak-willed about it, give your friend your ex’s number (so you don’t feel like it’s gone forever) and delete it from your phone for a night. Or two.

2. Saying yes to dates you don’t really want to go on.

The problem: The dating pool is limited, and sometimes being a single girl in the city means you think you should accept any and all offers of dinner, drinks, wining, dining, the lot.

The fix: This isn’t true–in fact, it can mess with your head if you try to be too open minded to people who just aren’t going to be a good fit in the long run. Try to figure out a good balance between people you should give more time to, and those who just aren’t going to be right as a partner. And don’t forget to give yourself a night off to relax and rejuvenate at home once in a while!

Friendship

1. Getting too upset when a friend cancels on you for coffee.

The problem: Your friend bailed on you. Again. What gives? Who cares–your time is valuable, and you’re seeing red.

The fix: It probably has nothing to do with you–and in your twenties, that’s a big, big lesson to learn! Before you take things too personally, step back and see if there’s a pattern evolving. Is there something going on in your friend’s life? Is this a friendship you need to re-evaluate? Try to let cooler heads prevail–it’s easier to have a talk later about your friend being rude than to try to take back angry words.

2. Being too vocal about hating your friend’s boyfriend.

The problem: You hate him. Period. Game over! And you may have let your friend know it…

The fix: Realize that this is a losing battle. Barring serious circumstances of abuse or illegal activity (and I hope none of you have to address these issues), friends are going to see their boyfriends through rose-colored glasses. Anything you say against them will be seen through, well, opposite colored glasses. Try to keep your comments to a minimum for the sake of your friendship, and just be supportive if things don’t turn out well for your friend.

MORE 3 Ways to Learn From Your Career Mistakes

Career

1. Leaving that job from high school on your resume.

The problem: Your resume is cluttered, disjointed, and includes everything from your three-semester interest in Finnish culture to that summer you spent lifeguarding at the Y.

The fix: Streamline that puppy! Figure out what “theme” you’re trying to present to each job, or in each situation, and cultivate a resume that best represents that theme. If you haven’t been doing this up until now, well, it’s never too late to start.

2. Taking a job for money, not for the skills you can learn.

The problem: You were at a crossroads and picked the road most traveled; that is, you followed the money, not the potential growth. And now, you’re regretting it.

The fix: Luckily, you’re never locked in to a job. You could begin looking at other job trajectories, those that might mean a pay cut, but that would give you transferable skills for your field. You could ask around your office for side projects that teach you the skills you need for your ideal career. Or, you could even search around at local colleges to find classes giving you extra knowledge in your area.

Everyone makes mistakes, and this adage seems disproportionately true during the formative years of your twenties. Thank goodness these common missteps have solutions!

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways to Transform Yourself Into a Leader

penguins-jumping
Getty Images

Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t

The Muse logo

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

After months of effort, you finally land the promotion you’ve had your eyes on. On paper, it’s your dream job: You have a bigger team under you, more exciting responsibilities, a direct line of communication to the big boss, a salary that’sactually competitive, and of course, the highly anticipated corner office.

But the day-to-day reality isn’t unfolding quite as you’d hoped.

You’re getting apathetic vibes from your employees, and you don’t know why. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing—managing projects, directing traffic, juggling deadlines and budgets. You’ve even tried bringing cupcakes to the office, but your team’s energy seems to evaporate as soon as the sugar high wears off. You’re left wondering: What more could they possibly want?

Data tells us that today’s employees want a lot more out of their jobs. In our increasingly educated workforce, employees are no longer satisfied to punch a clock and collect a paycheck. They don’t want to blindly follow instructions handed down from the manager; they want to feel empowered. In fact, recent research shows that teams managed by motivators perform better than those that are too heavily controlled by a designated supervisor.

In short, employees want a Tony Robbins, not a Donald Trump.

No one is saying you need to convene a daily kumbaya circle, but there are some practical steps you can take now to up your game and elevate yourself from a manager to a leader.

1. Leaders Know How to Listen

Leaders listen to everyone, even those who might not have as much “experience” as other people in the room. In my last corporate job, I worked for the CSO of a Fortune 100 company. At team meetings, he would sit back quietly while the VPs jockeyed loudly for his approval. He would let them monopolize the forum for a little while, and then he would turn his attention to someone who hadn’t bothered to try to compete with the dog and pony show. “What do you think?” he’d ask, giving that person all of his attention. It brought out the best in the quieter people, and it humbled the louder ones.

The best leaders treat brainstorming as a democracy of ideas. One way of getting more invested participation from your employees is to introduce a weekly team meeting where new ideas are solicited from each person. This is a great way to strengthen the team mentality, showing your employees that you want and welcome their brilliance. (Here are a few more strategies for listening better.)

2. Leaders Know the Difference Between an Amateur and a Pro

Leaders earn their stripes through consistent displays of professionalism, not by taking the shortcuts we so often see from amateurs. According to Steven Pressfield, author of Turning Pro, “the difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.” The amateur calls in sick when he’s had too much to drink the night before; the professional shows up early and does his best work, even if his physiology is hating him. If it means he has to give 150% to get the job done, that’s what he gives it. The leader takes full responsibility for his actions and, by doing so, imparts the message to those around him that they need to do the same.

3. Leaders Leave Their Egos at the Door

A true leader does whatever is required to get the job done. If that means manning the copier, making the midnight coffee run, or assembling folders, that’s what the leader does, even if his paycheck and title suggest such jobs are “beneath” him. This approach not only guarantees that the work gets done; it also does wonders for the energy levels on the team.

One way to implement this is to pay attention to the unique brilliance of each employee on your team. If you see that people are exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. If you’re coming up blank on ideas for them, ask them what they’d like to do more of. They will respect you for getting your hands dirty, and they’ll appreciate you for making them feel seen and heard.

4. Leaders Live Outside Their Comfort Zone

Playing a big game doesn’t always feel natural or comfortable, but it’s a choice that true leaders make again and again. As kids, we are often conditioned to go with the grain and to avoid disrupting our environment. We often keep ourselves from really being seen, and from being different. The problem here is that this encourages us to grow into very average adults who only feel comfortable when we’re playing small.

I’ll never forget the moment I stepped backstage at TEDxBerkeley. As the least seasoned speaker at the time (hello, I went on after Guy Kawasaki), I thought I’d definitely be the most nervous in the room. Boy, was I wrong. The whole group backstage—best-selling authors, innovators, serial entrepreneurs—were all panicked. Nothing this rewarding can possibly exist in your comfort zone, and it’s the leaders who are willing to wake up daily, stepping outside of theirs.

5. Leaders Have Emotional Fitness

Emotional intelligence—the ability to read and connect with just about anyone in the room—is great, but it doesn’t sustain you in times of uncertainty and instability. It wasn’t until I became a career coach that I learned the importance of emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is your ability to flexibly endure the ups and downs of business and life. The difference between managers and leaders is the way they react to and process the failed deals, the lost clients, and even the busted refrigerator in the break room. Managers freak out, sending tiny ripples of panic and chaos through the rest of the team. Leaders tap into an inner Buddha, an unwavering stillness that empowers them to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

If I could impart one final insight on you, it’s this: Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t. In exchange for giving more of themselves, they reap much bigger rewards.

They are also patient. Pressfield says, “our work is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days is nothing.” If you are committed to becoming a true leader, don’t be discouraged if the situation doesn’t change overnight—leadership, like all forms of self-improvement, is a journey, not a destination. True leaders understand that it’s not about where they go; it’s about who they become.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Toxic Beliefs That Can Hinder Your Success

businessman-sitting-alone
Getty Images

Success starts with thinking differently from everyone else, because then you can achieve differently from everyone else

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

It’s hard to think differently and be able to dream new dreams. We’d all like to be visionary thinkers like Bezos, Buffett, and Branson (the Three B’s of Bold Thinking) and achieve great things.

But most of us aren’t bold visionaries. (I’m definitely not.)

And that’s OK, because while you and I might never come up with the next big thing, we can decide to think differently from other people–and in the process, achieve differently from other people.

Here are five things people think that ruin their chances for success… and more importantly how you can think differently:

1. “I never get the right opportunities.”

Hey, join the (very large) club. No matter how it looks from the outside, no one is given opportunities they don’t deserve. Opportunities are earned. (And even if someone else did get an opportunity you feel you deserved, you can’t change that fact, so why dwell on it?)

Maybe, years ago, you did have to wait: To be accepted, to be promoted, to be selected… to somehow be “discovered.”

Even if that was once, true it’s not true anymore. Access to opportunity is nearly unlimited. You can connect with nearly anyone through social media. You can create and sell your own products, develop and distribute your own applications, find your own funding….

You don’t need to wait for someone else to give you the opportunity. You can give yourself the opportunity–which, by the way, is what successful people have done for centuries.

The only thing holding you back from seizing an opportunity is you–and your willingness to try.

Don’t think about opportunities you need to be given; think about opportunities you need to take.

2. “Someone is always holding me back.”

Maybe someone else has ruined opportunities or blocked ideas or taken what was rightfully yours. Maybe suppliers didn’t come through. Maybe your partner wasn’t committed. Maybe potential customers weren’t smart enough to recognize the value you provide.

Doesn’t matter. You can’t control other people. You can only control yourself.

When you fail, always decide it was your fault. Not only is that a smart way to think, but it’s also almost always true as well. While occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail, most of the time it really is you.

And that’s OK. Every successful person has failed numerous times. Most have failed a lot more often than you have; that’s one reason why they’re so successful today.

Embrace every failure. Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time you’ll do what it takes to make sure things turn out differently.

Never think it’s another person’s fault; when you do, you’re guaranteeing it always will be.

3. “I just don’t have enough time.”

Sure you do. You have the same amount of time as everyone else. The key is to decide how you will fill your time.

For example, anyone can create a schedule. But most people don’t ensure that every task takes only as long as it needs to take. Most people fill a block of time, either given or self-determined, simply because that is the time allotted.

Don’t adjust your effort so it fills a time frame. Instead, do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your “free” time to get other things done…just as quickly and effectively.

Never think about how time controls you–instead, think of how you can best control your time.

When you do, you’ll quickly realize you have a lot more time than you think.

4. “Sure, I would do that… if I knew it would be worth it.”

Ever heard someone say, “If I knew I would get a raise, then I would be willing to work a lot harder”? Or, “If I knew my start-up would succeed, then I would definitely be willing to put in more hours”? Or, “If I knew there would be a bigger payoff, then I would be willing to sacrifice more”?

Successful employees earn promotions and higher pay by first working harder; in other words, they earn their success. Successful businesses earn higher revenue by delivering greater value first; they earn their success.

Successful people, in all areas of life, earn bigger “payoffs” by working incredibly hard well before any potential return is in sight; they earn their success through effort and sacrifice.

Most people expect to get more before they will ever consider doing more.

To succeed, think of compensation not as the driver or requirement for exceptional effort, but as the deserved reward.

5. “But there’s just nothing special about me.”

It’s easy, and tempting, to assume successful people have some intangible entrepreneurial something–ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, etc.–that you simply don’t have.

That’s rarely true. Talents typically reveal themselves only in hindsight. Success is never assured; it only looks that way after it is achieved.

Sure, other people may have skills you don’t have (at least not yet), but you have skills other people don’t have. You don’t need a gift. You just need yourself–and a willingness to put in a tremendous amount of hard work, effort, and perseverance–because that is where talent comes from.

Never think about what you don’t have. Focus on what you do have–and more importantly, what you are willing to do that others are not.

That is your true gift–and it’s a gift we’ve all been given.

You just have to use it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Bad Habits to Abandon for Increased Productivity

man-holding-binders
Getty Images

Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive

startupcollective

Question: We talk a lot about daily habits and productivity. But what’s one thing entrepreneurs should STOP doing every day?

Talking About Themselves

“Entrepreneurs tend to get so wrapped up in the pitching, convincing and selling of their day-to-day life that sometimes it becomes all they ever talk about. Being well-rounded and conversational will help you have rapport with others around you. While talking about yourself and your business is important, doing so constantly comes off as being self-centered and oblivious to the world around you.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Focusing on a To-Do List

“The best leaders I know focus on building the right culture and energy in the office. Sitting in a corner and pounding out to-do items may feel productive, but don’t forget about doing the things that aren’t fully quantifiable. Helping teammates who may be having a bad morning or struggling with a project could be the single most valuable thing you do all day!” — Tyler Arnold, SimplySocial, Inc.

Eating Pizza

“When you head into the startup phase of your company, everything you used to do that was healthy is going to stop. You are going to put on weight. You are going to end up with too much stress and a back that is in constant pain. Don’t eat pizza. It will make it easier to get back in shape when you’re out of that phase.” — Andrew Angus, Switch Video

Using Social Media Distractions

“Shut down all your personal social media distractions during the work day. Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter will all be there after you complete your daily tasks. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize just how much time they waste reading and engaging on these mediums and also just how much it decreases their daily productivity. To succeed, use your time wisely.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Multitasking

“Multitasking has its place in the business realm, but there are also times when it should be avoided. If you multitask two separate and very important projects, you can end up with two sets of dismal results. Know when to multitask and when to focus on a single task.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Waiting for the Right Moment

“Stop waiting for the right time, and just get things done. Define the one thing you can do today that will help grow your business and not just keep you busy.” — Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

Attending Management Meetings

“Admittedly, management meetings are sometimes necessary and useful beasts. But a culture of meetings is ultimately just a time suck. Everyone has had that experience of waiting for a meeting to end so that real work can resume. To increase productivity, reduce management meetings and time in meetings in general. When you must meet, have a clear agenda and stick to it.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Letting Interruptions Happen

“Interruptions are just a part of life, but I take steps to prevent them. It is so hard to refocus after multiple interruptions. I don’t even want to calculate how much time I lose to redirecting my attention several times a day. If it gets to be too much, I go into do-not-disturb mode. I close the door, only take scheduled calls and tell my staff that they can email me and I’ll get to them later.” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

Going out for Lunch

“The lunch hour is one of the most active times of the day and a great time to get work done. After work is when most socializing should be done. Instead of worrying about getting back to the office or getting work done before you dip out, meeting at the end of the day takes off the edge. You can drink without a conscience, leave the office behind and invite others to join to optimize your time.” — Rameet Chawla, Fueled

Working on the Fly

“One habit to break away from is working on the fly rather than with an agenda. With a startup, things will happen, and you can be pulled in different directions. Don’t make it a habit to make that the way you operate. Make it a point to be proactive rather than reactive.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Pleasing Others First

“If you are allowing your time and energy to be diverted from your priority tasks simply to make professional acquaintances (e.g., individuals not in your inner circle) happy, then you’re not investing your time well. Focus on the people and activities that really matter, and you’ll be better off in the long run.” — Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

Emailing Coworkers

“The biggest breakthrough at ThinkImpact has been the realization that we don’t need to email each other. We can use different tools to communicate. Our new favorite is called Slack . It allows you to communicate in one of three ways: via office-wide messages with a related subject, a direct message with a colleague privately or a private group of colleagues.” — Saul Garlick, ThinkImpact

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The One Crucial Trait All Successful People Possess

flower-growing-desert
Getty Images

Often other people make it difficult to maintain this trait, but that's why you need it even more

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Anyone can succeed without capital, without a business plan, without a marketing plan, and even without a great idea.

But no one can succeed without one essential ingredient.

Think about the keys to business success: plenty of capital; a comprehensive business plan; a thorough market analysis; remarkable employees.

Each is definitely important. But there is one trait every successful entrepreneur possesses:

Irrational optimism.

Why? To be successful you must embrace belief, which means pushing aside all those self-doubts: Feeling you aren’t smart enough, dedicated enough, adaptable enough, or simply that, in spite of your best intentions and best efforts, you won’t succeed.

Often other people make it even harder to maintain that belief. Family and friends tend to shoot multiple holes in your ideas, not because they want to bring you down but because they care about you and don’t want to see you fail.

That’s why people rarely say, “Hey, that’s a great idea. You should go for it!” Most people aren’t wired that way. Most people—myself definitely included—are a lot better at identifying and listing potential problems. We like to play devil’s advocate because that makes us seem smart.

And that’s why you need to be irrationally optimistic: Not because the odds are stacked against success, but because irrational optimism helps you succeed in ways capital, business plans, and marketing savvy can’t.

Of course you can take irrational optimism too far—but then again, maybe you can’t.

Think about sports, the ultimate zero-sum game. Only one individual or one team can win, but great athletes still go into every game believing they will win—because if they don’t believe they can win, they’ve already lost.

Is complete self-belief irrational? Sure. Is it also a requirement for high-level athletic success? Absolutely. Great athletes push aside doubt and disbelief.

So do great entrepreneurs.

If you listen to the naysayers you’ll never start a business, never expand, never work and struggle and overcome—and never succeed. If you don’t believe in yourself, however irrationally, you will not succeed.

Although no amount of self-belief is enough to ensure success, the smallest bit of doubt can ruin your chances.

In Bounce, Matthew Syed quotes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, one of the most successful football (soccer) coaches in the English Premier League, on how athletes must approach competition:

To perform to your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked this capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.

The same is true for entrepreneurs—and, really, for everyone. Be smart, be logical, be rational and calculating, and never stop trying to improve your skills. But most important, be irrationally optimistic.

Belief in yourself will take you to places no external forces ever can.

TIME advice

Warren Buffett on Scorecards, Investing, Friends, and the Family Motto

Warren Buffett at a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses event in Detroit on Sept. 18, 2014.
Bloomberg—Getty Images Warren Buffett at a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses event in Detroit on Sept. 18, 2014.

Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Hang around with people better than you

This website is named after a street located in Omaha, Nebraska. An amazing place, Omaha is famous for being the home of Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men. The headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway — and his house — just happen to be on “Farnam Street.” The name of this website is a homage to both Buffett and his business partner Charlie Munger.

While Buffett is famous for his investing acumen, he’s also full of sage wisdom on life and living.

In October 2009, while the housing crisis was still in full effect, his authorized biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life hit the shelves.

Here are some of his lessons on life and investing.

***
Three Early Lessons in Investing

Having bought three shares of Cities Service Preferred at the age of 11, Buffett learned a valuable lesson. After the stock plunged from $38.25 to $27 a share. His sister Doris reminded him daily on the way to school that her stock was going down. Buffett felt “terribly” responsible. When the stock recovered he sold with a slight $5 profit. Almost immediately after, Cities Service quickly soared to $202 a share.

Warren learned three lessons and would call this episode one of the most important of his life. One lesson was not to overly fixate on what he had paid for a stock. The second was not to rush unthinkingly to grab a small profit. He learned these two lessons by brooding over the $ 492 he would have made had he been more patient. It had taken five years of work, since he was six years old, to save the $ 120 to buy this stock. Based on how much he currently made from selling golf balls or peddling popcorn and peanuts at the ballpark, he realized that it could take years to earn back the profit he had “lost.” He would never, never, never forget this mistake. And there was a third lesson, which was about investing other people’s money. If he made a mistake, it might get somebody upset at him. So he didn’t want to have responsibility for anyone else’s money unless he was sure he could succeed.

***
The Scorecard

This is an important one to keep in mind. If we place too much emphasis on what the world thinks, we end up with an outer scorecard.

I feel like I’m on my back, and there’s the Sistine Chapel, and I’m painting away. I like it when people say, ‘Gee, that’s a pretty good-looking painting.’ But it’s my painting, and when somebody says, ‘Why don’t you use more red instead of blue?’ Good-bye. It’s my painting. And I don’t care what they sell it for. The painting itself will never be finished. That’s one of the great things about it.

The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way. I say: ‘Lookit. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?’ Now, that’s an interesting question.

This has implications if you’re a parent: What you put emphasis on matters.

If all the emphasis is on what the world’s going to think about you, forgetting about how you really behave, you’ll wind up with an Outer Scorecard.

***
Hang Around People Better Than You

After graduating from Columbia University, Buffett returned to Omaha to live with his parents. He spent part of that first summer fulfilling his obligation to the National Guard. While he wasn’t a natural, it sure beat going off to fight in Korea. Part of his duties in the guard required him to attend training camp in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a few weeks. That experience taught him an incredible lesson that he’d carry forward for the rest of his life.

“It’s a very democratic organization. I mean, what you do outside doesn’t mean much. To fit in, all you had to do was be willing to read comic books. About an hour after I got there, I was reading comic books. Everybody else was reading comic books, why shouldn’t I? My vocabulary shrank to about four words, and you can guess what they were.

“I learned that it pays to hang around with people better than you are, because you will float upward a little bit. And if you hang around with people that behave worse than you , pretty soon you’ll start sliding down the pole. It just works that way.”

***
The Buffett Family Motto

As simple as it is powerful.

“Spend less than you make” could, in fact, have been the Buffett family motto, if accompanied by its corollary, “Don’t go into debt.”

***
On Why he Wanted Money

Even when he was little he was always fixated on money. He wanted money. Why?

“It could make me independent. Then I could do what I wanted to do with my life . And the biggest thing I wanted to do was work for myself . I didn’t want other people directing me. The idea of doing what I wanted to do every day was important to me.”

***
Principles

In July of 1952, Susie Buffett, having been married only a few months to Warren, went to Chicago with her parents and new in-laws for the Republican convention. The convention was covered on television for the first time in history. Warren, who stayed in Omaha, watched eagerly — “struck by the power of this medium to magnify and influence events.”

The front-runner was Senator Robert Taft, known as “Mr. Integrity.” He wanted three things: (1) small government; (2) pro-business; and (3) eradicate Communism. Taft’s friend and Warren’s father, Howard Buffett, was the head of his presidential campaign. Taft’s main opponent was the moderate and popular war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

While it might have been the first convention covered by television it still lives in the history books as one of the most controversial Republican conventions. Eisenhower backers pushed through a controversial amendment to the rules that handed him the nomination on the first ballot. Taft and his supporters were, of course, outraged.

But Eisenhower soon made peace with them by promising to combat “creeping socialism.” Taft insisted that his followers swallow their outrage and vote for Eisenhower for the sake of regaining the White House. The Republicans united behind him and his running mate, Richard Nixon; “I Like Ike” buttons sprouted everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except on Howard Buffett’s chest. He broke with the party by refusing to endorse Eisenhower.

This was an act of political suicide. His support within the party evaporated overnight. He was left standing on principle— alone. Warren recognized that his father had “painted himself into a corner.” From his earliest childhood, Warren had always tried to avoid broken promises, burned bridges, and confrontation. Now Howard’s struggles branded three principles even deeper into his son: that allies are essential; that commitments are so sacred that by nature they should be rare; and that grandstanding rarely gets anything done.

***
Still Curious?

While reading about Buffett won’t make you as smart as he is, you might learn something in the process. Pick up a copy of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life and give it a shot.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

Join over 50,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

5 Types of Friends That Everyone Has

friends-walking
Getty Images

Because life is a journey we walk together through

The Comic Relief

Recently a close pal and I were both coping with very ill parents. There’s nothing funny about disease and dying, but for a whole year we compared notes in a humorous way. We each used hyperbole to describe our plights and made dark jokes about whose family situation was more depressing. We made fun to relieve our sadness (albeit temporarily), and that ability to make each other laugh helped us both get through the tragedy. Another good thing about a friend with a great sense of humor? She usually has warmth and compassion to spare.

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including The Pretty One ($26, amazon.com) and I’m So Happy for You ($14, amazon.com). A former friendship and advice columnist for Slate, she lives in New York City.

The Life Coach

Because of our busy lives, I hardly ever speak to one of my closest friends. But it doesn’t really matter. When we do connect, without fail, she reinvigorates me. Her pep talks make me feel more hopeful about myself and my future. What’s more, my energizer friend is strong and tough, with a vigor for life I can feed off of. Through her example, she makes me more eager to achieve my goals or just keep tackling my everyday. Talking with her recharges my emotional battery until the next time we have a minute to pick up the phone.

Courtney Macavinta is the author of Respect ($16, amazon.com) and a cofounder of the Respect Institute, a nonprofit that offers youths the tools to build self-respect. She lives in New York City.

The Risk Taker

We all need an adventurous friend who nudges us out of the status quo—someone who introduces us to new ideas, philosophies, and activities that we might have otherwise not been exposed to or feared to explore on our own. I’ve long been inspired by a world-traveler friend whose preschooler’s passport has more stamps than most adults.’ She has helped me become less intimidated and more excited about traveling. In fact, thanks to her, my husband and I drove an RV across Canada two summers ago with our three children, who were all four or under. Scary? Yes. But we had so much fun, we’re going again this year.

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and the author of The Friendship Fix ($16,amazon.com). She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Challenger

One characteristic we underrate in a friend is the ability to be brutally honest. That’s why I’ve always admired the friendship of the women’s rights leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They led very different lives. Anthony was single; Stanton, a married mother of seven. And they continually and vociferously argued about temperance, abolition, sexual rights, and suffrage. But because they were able to challenge and educate each other, they accomplished much for females in the United States. It’s also why they remained close, trusted friends for more than half a century.

Mary Ann Dzuback, Ph.D., is the director of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Washington University, in St. Louis.

The Loyalist

Every woman needs a “hot mess” friend—by which I mean a friend you can be a complete wreck in front of. This pal can drop in unannounced when you’re looking your worst. You haven’t showered and the house is a total disaster, but she won’t judge you. More important, she’ll let you be emotional when you’re at a low point. Recently I was at dinner with a friend when I got the call that I hadn’t landed a big acting job. I tried to pretend that it was no big deal, but she didn’t buy it. She said, “I’d rather you talk about being bummed than wear a fake smile all night.” And so I vented my frustration at not getting the job, and she really listened. We all need a friend who hangs in there even when we’re not at our best.

Ariane Price is a member of The Groundlings, a famed improv troupe in Los Angeles. She blogs about her life at Tales of a Real Hollywood Mom.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser