TIME psychology

How to Be a Genius: 5 Secrets From Experts

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Want to know how to be a genius? There are five things you can learn from looking at those who are the very best.

 

1) Be Curious And Driven

For his book Creativity, noted professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did interviews with 91 groundbreaking individuals across a number of disciplines, including 14 Nobel Prize winners. In 50 Psychology Classics Tom Butler-Bowdon summed up many of Csikszentmihalyi’s findings including this one:

Successful creative people tend to have two things in abundance, curiosity and drive. They are absolutely fascinated by their subject, and while others may be more brilliant, their sheer desire for accomplishment is the decisive factor.

 

2) It’s Not About Formal Education. It’s Hours At Your Craft.

Do you need a sky-high IQ? Do great geniuses all have PhD’s? Nope. Most had about a college-dropout level of education.

Via Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

Dean Keith Simonton, a professor at the University of California at Davis, conducted a large-scale study of more than three hundred creative high achievers born between 1450 and 1850—Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Beethoven, Rembrandt, for example. He determined the amount of formal education each had received and measured each one’s level of eminence by the spaces devoted to them in an array of reference works. He found that the relation between education and eminence, when plotted on a graph, looked like an inverted U: The most eminent creators were those who had received a moderate amount of education, equal to about the middle of college. Less education than that—or more—corresponded to reduced eminence for creativity.

But they all work their butts off in their field of expertise. That’s how to be a genius.

Those interested in the 10,000-hour theory of deliberate practice won’t be surprised. As detailed in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, the vast majority of them are workaholics.

Via Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

“Sooner or later,” Pritchett writes, “the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.”

In fact, you really can’t work too much.

Via Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

If we’re looking for evidence that too much knowledge of the domain or familiarity with its problems might be a hindrance in creative achievement, we have not found it in the research.

Instead, all evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. The most eminent creators are consistently those who have immersed themselves utterly in their chosen field, have devoted their lives to it, amassed tremendous knowledge of it, and continually pushed themselves to the front of it.

 

3) Test Your Ideas

Howard Gardner studied geniuses like Picasso, Freud and Stravinsky and found a similar pattern of analyzing, testing and feedback used by all of them:

Via Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi:

…Creative individuals spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what they are trying to accomplish, whether or not they are achieving success (and, if not, what they might do differently).

Does testing sound like something scientific and uncreative? Wrong. The more creative an artist is the more likely they are to use this method:

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

In a study of thirty-five artists, Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi found that the most creative in their sample were more open to experimentation and to reformulating their ideas for projects than their less creative counterparts.

 

4) You Must Sacrifice

10,000 hours is a hell of a lot of hours. It means many other things (some important) will need to be ignored.

In fact, geniuses are notably less likely to be popular in high school. Why?

The deliberate practice that will one day make them famous alienates them from their peers in adolesence.

Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

…the single-minded focus on what would turn out to be a lifelong passion, is typical for highly creative people. According to the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who between 1990 and 1995 studied the lives of ninety-one exceptionally creative people in the arts, sciences, business, and government, many of his subjects were on the social margins during adolescence, partly because “intense curiosity or focused interest seems odd to their peers.” Teens who are too gregarious to spend time alone often fail to cultivate their talents “because practicing music or studying math requires a solitude they dread.”

At the extremes, the amount of practice and devotion required can pass into the realm of the pathological. If hours alone determine genius then it is inevitable that reaching the greatest heights will require, quite literally, obsession.

Via Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi:

My study reveals that, in one way or another, each of the creators became embedded in some kind of a bargain, deal, or Faustian arrangement, executed as a means of ensuring the preservation of his or her unusual gifts. In general, the creators were so caught up in the pursuit of their work mission that they sacrificed all, especially the possibility of a rounded personal existence. The nature of this arrangement differs: In some cases (Freud, Eliot, Gandhi), it involves the decision to undertake an ascetic existence; in some cases, it involves a self-imposed isolation from other individuals (Einstein, Graham); in Picasso’s case, as a consequence of a bargain that was rejected, it involves an outrageous exploitation of other individuals; and in the case of Stravinsky, it involves a constant combative relationship with others, even at the cost of fairness. What pervades these unusual arrangements is the conviction that unless this bargain has been compulsively adhered to, the talent may be compromised or even irretrievably lost. And, indeed, at times when the bargain is relaxed, there may well be negative consequences for the individual’s creative output.

 

5) Work because of passion, not money

Passion produces better art than desire for financial gain — and that leads to more success in the long run.

Via Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:

“Those artists who pursued their painting and sculpture more for the pleasure of the activity itself than for extrinsic rewards have produced art that has been socially recognized as superior,” the study said. “It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.”

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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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 Business

This Is What It’s Like to Work in Silicon Valley as a Teen

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It can be socially isolating — and I've struggled with impostor syndrome

Answer by Alexandr Wang, Performance Engineer at Quora, on Quora.

I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for a few hours writing an answer to this question. The short answer is that it’s not that different from being a 20-something-year-old working in Silicon Valley. Only a few years separate an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, and in most respects, they’ll have a pretty similar experience working in tech. But, for this answer to be interesting and meaningful, I’ll mostly be focusing on the differences. Of course, I’ll mostly be speaking from my own experience, which could be very different from other teens working in Silicon Valley.

As with most things, it’s not easily describable with the adjectives taught in school. It’s exciting, interesting, challenging, rewarding, confusing, and 20 other words I could rattle off for you which all seem meaningful and meaningless at the same time. But, bear with me, and I promise it’ll all make sense.

First off, working in tech immediately out of high school was liberating and forced me to change my perspective on a number of things. All of a sudden, I gained a large amount of optionality by getting a full-time job in tech. I could afford to travel at my own discretion and make my own financial decisions, and in general I had much more freedom than I would at college. I was asking myself questions like “What would I gain out of college?” and “Do I need to attend college?”, when before it was obvious that I needed to go to college, at the very least for the sake of my career. It forced me to examine my motives more carefully and make much harder decisions than before, rather than just following the default path. (See my answer to Should I take a gap year from MIT? for an example)

Additionally, working in tech, and at Quora specifically, has given me the chance to have a pretty significant impact and scope, probably at least as much as any other opportunity I could’ve had at my age. And by impact, I mean both impact within the company and impact on the world in general (this might seem like a bold and somewhat nebulous claim, but Quora is becoming more and more ubiquitous in a way that I’m confident saying this). Coming out of high school, where I was doing things for the sake of doing things, it was pretty incredible to be working on something which actually has the potential to change the world. It’s both invigorating and frightening at times; on the one hand I’m basically helping to build the internet, on the other I’m inexperienced and young, and I have the ability to screw everything up.

One thing I’ve personally struggled with while working in Silicon Valley has been impostor syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically this feeling that you don’t really deserve what you’ve accomplished, and your achievements have only come as the result of luck. Before working in tech, I had essentially no experience in computer science other than competitive programming (at which I was good, but nowhere close to being the best). It was hard for me to believe that I actually deserved the offers and opportunities I was getting, especially compared to thousands of other applicants who certainly had more experience and knowledge than me. On the other hand, it was easy for me to believe that I simply got lucky on the interviews and was able to slip by, naiveté and inexperience undetected. Oftentimes people expect a young person who’s “succeeded” in tech to be haughty and pretentious, but we’re just teenagers, and we face the same internal struggles as our peers (MIT students, for example).

Unlike a college setting, though, tech can be pretty socially isolating as a teenager, especially when it’s not the summer. Essentially all of my coworkers are 21 or older, many of them married and some have children. Because of the age and maturity gap, it was difficult to relate to my coworkers initially, and even harder to socialize with them. Over time I was able to be more integrated within the company, but even then, it’s hard to build friendships as strong as those from high school or college. I initially tried to overcome this by spending time at Stanford or Berkeley, but it was sometimes equally difficult to relate with students because I was not also a student. I fit imperfectly between two worlds, making it near impossible to latch onto any social graph.

Closely related to impostor syndrome, it was sometimes frustrating to be an unproven teenager in a workplace of adults. You’re constantly fighting against the default and almost subconscious expectation your coworkers have of you, which is an inexperienced and risky teenage hire. You won’t have any ethos to begin with, and the only way to overcome the initial teenager stigma is to perform much better than people expect you to. Even then, if you make a mistake, it can hugely affect how coworkers perceive you because the implicit expectation is that you’re not as experienced or knowledgable as an employee with more schooling or experience. The magnitude of this effect varies between companies, and I’m thankful to say Quora doesn’t suffer much from this because many of the teenage hires have been really successful.

I’ll close with a few realizations I’ve had from working in Silicon Valley over the past year:

  • You (and I) are not special. Working in Silicon Valley as a teenager doesn’t make you special. It doesn’t matter if you were a wunderkind who managed to get offers at 12 companies and start a startup at 16, your age is only relevant to the headlines. Your success will be determined by what you accomplish, independent of your age. Being a teenager in Silicon Valley doesn’t entitle you to any special attention or treatment. The bottom line is you’re not too different from everybody else working in tech, unless you prove it through your actions and endeavors.
  • Tech isn’t Wonderland. After reading about Silicon Valley in the news, and maybe after one’s first few onsite interviews, one might think that Silicon Valley is this glamorous place where thousands of incredibly smart people come together to solve some of the most interesting problems humanity has ever faced. In some sense, this is true; Silicon Valley does have a lot of very smart people, and there are a lot of interesting problems being worked on. But, just like any industry, there are also incompetent people, arrogant people, and malicious people. Sometimes these people are even very successful. You should expect to encounter these people, and you should be prepared to realize that many companies and projects are not actually interesting, innovative, or revolutionary.

Overall, being a teenager in tech can be extremely rewarding or frustrating depending on the opportunities you have. I would not say that it is always glamorous or exciting as is sometimes portrayed, and one should be aware of the trade-offs and caveats of working in Silicon Valley as a teen.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What’s it like to be a teen working in Silicon Valley?

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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 Careers & Workplace

7 Lessons on How to Hack Your Own Brain

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How you can make yourself more confident, more generous, and less likely to succumb to stress

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Would you like to be smarter, more confident, kinder, more resilient under stress, and more successful? Of course you would, and you can. In a fascinating series of TED Talks, social psychologists describe ways we can trick our own brains to make ourselves better in almost every way. Here are some of the most compelling.

1. Stop fearing stress.

A couple of years ago, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal made a disturbing discovery. For years she’d been warning people that stress kills. And it does, new research showed–but only if you expect it to. People who experienced a lot of stress and believed that stress was harmful were indeed much likelier to die than those who experienced little stress. But those who experienced great stress but believed itwasn’t harming them were in no more danger than the stress-free, she explains in atalk that may change your whole relationship with the stressors in your own life.

2. Recognize your own optimism.

How do I know that you’re an optimist? Because we all are, as cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot explains. Being optimistic makes us happier and more resilient–and without a heavy dose of optimism, no one would ever start a business. However, problems arise when we make bad decisions out of excessive optimism, as happened before the financial crisis, for example. The solution? Stay unreasonably optimistic–but keep in mind that you are.

3. Use body language to increase your own confidence.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how in this moving talk. Besides communicating confidence to others, when we adopt confident body language we fool our own brains into actually being more confident. Something as simple as going someplace private and adopting a confident stance (legs apart, arms extended) for a few minutes before going into a meeting or making a presentation can make a big difference. Try it and see.

4. Remind yourself to be generous.

A rigged game of Monopoly shows what many have observed in life: The more fortunate and richer you are, the more entitled you feel, and the less likely you are to offer help to those who need it. But, social psychologist Paul Piff tells us, it doesn’t have to be that way. A small reminder, such as a 46-second video on child poverty, is enough to reverse that nasty piece of human nature. So provide yourself with those reminders and you’ll remain a good person, no matter how rich and successful you become.

5. Don’t put too much faith in your own memories.

The number of eyewitness accounts and identifications that have been proved wrong by DNA or other evidence is only one example of how unreliable human memory is, as psychologist Elizabeth Loftus describes in her TED Talk. Not only that, it’s surprisingly easy to implant false memories in people, as some psychologists have unintentionally done when they thought they were unearthing repressed memories. So think twice next time you’re “sure” about something you remember.

6. Surround yourself with people you want to emulate.

Everybody cheats, at least a little, at least some of the time. An elaborate series of experiments explores just how much and when, as described by behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a thought-provoking talk. One intriguing finding: People are more likely to cheat if they see someone doing it who they consider part of their own group, such as someone wearing a sweatshirt with their school’s logo. If the cheater is wearing a different school’s logo, it has no effect. On the other hand, people are less likely to cheat if they’ve been asked to recite the Ten Commandments–whether or not they are religious, and even if they can’t remember most of them.

Obviously, our ideas about right and wrong are not as fixed as we think they are. We’re highly suggestible, and easily influenced by the people around us. We should select those people carefully.

7. Learn to delay gratification.

In a Stanford experiment, 4-year-olds were left alone in a room with a marshmallow. If they could resist eating it for 15 minutes, they were told, they’d be given a second one as well, speaker and author Joachim de Posada tells the audience in this short and entertaining talk (complete with hidden-camera footage of the kids).

Only about a third of the kids had the self-discipline to resist. When researchers followed up more than a decade later, those who had were significantly more successful than those who had succumbed. There’s a lesson here for us all.

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

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TIME Careers & Workplace

50 Inspiring Quotes on Leadership for Everyone

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“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Every entrepreneur knows that the success of their business ultimately rests on their shoulders. Yes, the product you build and the team you hire are important, but your ability to lead is what carries your company.

With that kind of pressure, it’s easy to feel stressed, lonely and overwhelmed at times. Every great leader has faced a challenge that defined their greatness, which is why we often turn to their advice when needed.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, or team leader, here are 50 inspirational quotes on leadership for when you need a little pep talk.

1. “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” –Rosalynn Carter

2. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

3. “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” – Adlai E. Stevenson II

4. “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell

5. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max DePree

6. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

7. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

8. “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” – Nelson Mandela

9. “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” –Aristotle

10. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

11. “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

12. “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” – John Maxwell

13. “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” – Brian Tracy

14. “The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” – George Orwell

15. “I start each day by telling myself what a positive influence I am on this world.” – Peter Daisyme

16. “Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan

17. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” –Jack Welch

18. “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” – Peter Drucker

19. “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” – Steve Jobs

20. “The led must not be compelled. They must be able to choose their own leader.” – Albert Einstein

21. “Great leaders find ways to connect with their people and help them fulfill their potential.” – Steven J. Stowell

 

22. “To have long-term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.” – Pat Riley

23. “If you think you are leading and turn around to see no one following, then you are just taking a walk.” – Benjamin Hooks

24. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn

25. “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado

26. “To do great things is difficult; but to command great things is more difficult.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

27. “It is absolutely necessary…for me to have persons that can think for me, as well as execute orders.” – George Washington

28. “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” – Vince Lombardi

29. “A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.” – Stephen King

30. “A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.”- J.P. Morgan

31. “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” – Chinese Proverb

32. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

33. “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

34. “Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” –Orrin Woodward

35. “Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob.” – Oscar Wilde

36. “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

37. “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

38. “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dolly Parton

39. “I am reminded how hollow the label of leadership sometimes is and how heroic followership can be.” – Warren Bennis

40. “In this world a man must either be an anvil or hammer.” – Henry W. Longfellow

41. “It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself. (Absurdum est ut alios regat, qui seipsum regere nescit.)” – Latin Proverb

42. “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” – Thomas Carlyle

43. “A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” – Ovid

44. “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader” – Henry Ford

45. “Rely on your own strength of body and soul. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty, and industry. Don’t take too much advice — keep at the helm and steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Fire above the mark you intend to hit. Energy, invincible determination with the right motive, are the levers that move the world.” – Noah Porter

46. “Don’t blow off another’s candle for it won’t make yours shine brighter.” Jaachynma N.E. Agu

47. “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” – Herbert Swope

48. “He who has learned how to obey will know how to command.” –Solon

49. “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou

50. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Bonus:

“Screw it, let’s just do it.” – Richard Branson

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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The 9 Traits That Define Great Leadership

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Extraordinary leaders are accountable to everyone's performance, including their own

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Many leaders are competent but few qualify as remarkable. If you want to join the ranks of the best of the best, make sure you embody all these qualities all the time. It isn’t easy, but the rewards can be truly phenomenal.

1. Awareness There is a difference between management and employees, bosses and workers. Leaders understand the nature of this difference and accept it; it informs their image, their actions, and their communication. They conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from their employees–not in a manner that suggests they are better than others, but in a way that permits them to retain an objective perspective on everything that’s going on in their organization.

2. Decisiveness All leaders must make tough decisions It goes with the job. They understand that in certain situations, difficult and timely decisions must be made in the best interests of the entire organization, decisions that require a firmness, authority, and finality that will not please everyone. Extraordinary leaders don’t hesitate in such situations. They also know when not to act unilaterally but instead foster collaborative decision-making.

3. Empathy Extraordinary leaders praise in public and address problems in private. a genuine concern The best leaders guide employees through challenges, always on the lookout for solutions to foster the long-term success of the organization. Rather than making things personal when they encounter problems, or assigning blame to individuals, leaders look for constructive solutions and focus on moving forward.

4. Accountability Extraordinary leaders take responsibility for everyone’s performance, including their own. They follow up on all outstanding issues, check in on employees, and monitor the effectiveness of company policies and procedures. When things are going well, they praise. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek solutions, and get things back on track.

5. Confidence Not only are the best leaders confident, but their confidence is contagious. Employees are naturally drawn to them, seek their advice, and feel more confident as a result. When challenged, they don’t give in too easily, because they know their ideas, opinions and strategies are well-informed and the result of much hard work. But when proven wrong they take responsibility and quickly act to improve the situations within their authority.

6. Optimism The very best leaders are source of positive energy. They communicate easily. They are intrinsically helpful and genuinely concerned for other people’s welfare. They always seem to have a solution and always know what to say to inspire and reassure. They avoid personal criticism and pessimistic thinking, and look for ways to gain consensus and get people to work together efficiently and effectively as a team.

7. Honesty Strong leaders treat people how they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They embody these values so overtly that no employee doubts their integrity for a minute. They share information openly and avoid spin control.

8. Focus Extraordinary leaders plan ahead and they are supremely organized. They think through multiple scenarios and the possible impacts of their decisions, while considering viable alternatives and making plans and strategies–all targeted toward success. Once prepared, they establish strategies, processes, and routines so that high performance is tangible, easily defined, and monitored. They communicate their plans to key players and have contingency plans in the event last-minute changes require a new direction (which they often do).

9. Inspiration Put it all together and what emerges is a picture of the truly inspiring leader: someone who communicates clearly, concisely, and often, and by doing so motivates everyone to give their best all the time. They challenge their people by setting high but attainable standards and expectations, and then giving them the support, tools, training, and latitude to pursue those goals and become the best employees they can possibly be.

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

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TIME Family

This Is What It’s Really Like to Be a Work-at-Home Mom

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Your lunches leave a lot to be desired

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When you’re trying to balance working at home and caring for a baby, lots of things piss you off. Anyone who dares to ring the doorbell while your little one is napping. Your husband who gets to shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning.

But as for me, nothing pisses me off more than those angelic stock photos of work-at-home moms. Stock photos of work-at-home moms piss. me. off.

You’ve seen them. The baby sits quietly on the mom’s lap, smiling into the camera, while the mom grins at a computer screen like she just found out she won the lottery. Or the mom talks into a cell phone, flashing her pearly whites into the receiver smiling at some invisible business partner while her toddler plays contentedly at her feet.

I even saw one where the baby wore the same oversized glasses as her mother, holding a pen and scribbling on a notepad.

Allow me to burst your bubble. This is a lie. An evil, terrible, self-esteem deflating lie.

I’m not sure what photographer set up the placement for these photos, but here are 10 reality checks about what it’s really like to work at home with a baby:

1. That notebook the baby in that photo was cheerfully scribbling on? In real life, that’s your wall.

And trust me, the fountain pen you gave her to stop her screaming is not washable. Apologies to my landlord.

2. She thinks your body is an amusement park.

Remember when your college boyfriend told you that and you thought it was so sexy? It’s not anymore. It’s really distracting, and usually painful. She’s not just sitting on your lap. She’s sticking her fingers up your nose, pulling your hair, and — crap, why did you decide to wear those dangly earrings today?

3. You will send e-mails that makes you look like an incompetent weirdo.

There’s a reason the baby in that photo has such a wide grin. It’s because she just did something devilishly hilarious. “Dear Prospective New Client, attached please find my proposal fjd;nvskfjnvrjvntrvnwrv 540gvo3fnekvnfv.” Good luck with that new business.

4. You’ll be blind half the time.

Give me my glasses, sweetie. Sweetie, give Mommy her glasses back! Pleeeeease, darling, Mommy needs her glasses to see how pretty you are! Oh, forget it. I’ll just squint and guess.

5. The dog will never forgive you.

Darling, Mommy needs some time. Why don’t you go chase the dog around the house?

6. Your lunches leave a lot to be desired.

While your hubby is getting Chipotle or Chop’t, you’re scarfing down last night’s leftover casserole during the first five minutes of her nap because you’ve got no time to waste! Should you warm it up in the microwave? Nah, that 30 seconds will cost you!

7. You spend half your playgroup time convincing stay-at-home moms that you feel just as much guilt as they do.

Because let’s face it, moms and guilt are just a zero-sum game. When you’re not working, you feel guilty. When you’re working, you feel even more guilty. You need a drink just thinking about it.

8. In spite of what your friends and neighbors think, you don’t have it all.

But what you do have is a whole lot of grit, a ton of talent, and, hey, a PAYCHECK! You go, work-at-home mom!

Jessica Levy wrote this article for xoJane

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 Careers & Workplace

6 Tricky Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

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"What are your salary requirements?"

Have you ever walked into a job interview feeling totally prepared, only to be stumped by a tricky surprise question? You’re not alone.

Two recent Quora threads discussed the questions, “What is the toughest interview question thrown at you, and how did you answer it?” and “What are some examples of great interview questions?” To help you tackle your next interview with confidence, we pulled together some of the most surprising Qs being asked behind closed doors—as well as Quora users’ interpretations and real-life answers.

1. “Do you think you’re a lucky person?”

There are two things you want to avoid here: attributing all of your successes to luck and coming across as cynical. “I thought about this for a few seconds and came to the conclusion that they must be gauging whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist,” Quora user Philemon Onesias says. “I decided to show them I’m the former, but still quite realistic.”

2. “If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you change?”

If you think this sounds like a spin on the classic “greatest weakness” question, you’re right. “Professionally, I answered, ‘I don’t think I’d change anything,’” Erin Millano says. “‘I’ve learned a lot in the past 10 years and [it’s] all helped me grow.’”

3. “What are your salary requirements—both short-term and long-term?”

Talking salary is tricky, but talking salary for both the present and future is even trickier. Kate Ross Myers took an open and honest approach with her answer: “I just truthfully said, ‘I did not expect this question.’ I guess it worked, because I’m still working for the same company.” Our take: Give a short-term range, and keep the rest vague. Something like, “I think starting in the range of X and Y is fair—and of course I’d expect an appropriate increase after my annual performance reviews.”

4. “Tell me about a time in your life when you actually failed at something.”

The best way to answer this toughie? ’Fess up about your failures. “After interviewing over a 100 people in my career, this is the question that literally separates contenders from pretenders,” James Hritz says. “It’s interesting how many candidates are loath to admit they have ever failed at anything!”

5. “What can you teach us?”

This question can be pretty illuminating for both the interviewer and interviewee: When Divya Prabhakar was asked, “What can you teach us?” in a job interview, she realized she actually wasn’t a great fit for the company. “It showed me the company valued an interactive and mutual working environment, and if I wanted to have a positive experience there, rather than feel inferior, I should be able to answer this question easily,” she says.

6. “Tell us the most effective approaches for managing you.”

What management style helps you work best? This question, from Quora user Branko Marusic, forces you into the shoes of your potential superiors. “The company wants to ensure that every new employee has the best chance of succeeding,” he explains.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

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TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Steps to Go From Employee to Entrepreneur

One step at a time

If you’re fed up with your job, it may seem like there are only two steps to becoming an entrepreneur. The first is to quit your job, and the next step is to start a company. While it is possible to transition successfully from employee to entrepreneur, it’s a little more complex than that.

Here are the 12 steps you’ll need to take to become your own boss.

1. Determine what you’d like to do.

Some people call this finding your passion, but it’s more than that. Think about your skills, abilities and experience. Consider what you can realistically see yourself doing for hours each day, for weeks and years.

2. Think about what others will pay for.

A viable business is the intersection between what you’d like to do and what others will pay for. Remember the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” from the movie Office Space? Todd loved building it, but no one was going to buy it. It wasn’t a viable business opportunity.

3. Interview ideal customers.

Find a few people that you think would be your ideal clients. Ask them about their biggest needs, fears and aspirations related to the business idea you plan to pursue. Are the benefits of your product or service in line with their real needs? Also, make a note of the words they use, as they’ll eventually help make your marketing more authentic.

4. Design your marketing and business plans.

Today’s marketing involves content creation, social media, email outreach and more. Make sure you know how you’ll approach each of these alternatives to introduce your idea to customers. At the same time, lay out a business plan that details how you intend your business to function. It doesn’t need to be super formal, but it does need to cover your operating structure, product, delivery systems and expansion plans.

5. Set up your business on a small scale.

If you can, test your company idea by launching on a small scale on the side, while still working your day job. This gives you a no-risk opportunity to test your ideas, get your first clients and see if the business will hold up over time before you leave the security of your current position.

6. Assess feedback and adjust.

Running a small-scale operation will help you determine which parts of your idea are great and which ones need adjusting. Take customer feedback seriously and make any necessary changes before you begin scaling up.

7. Assemble a team.

If your idea seems viable, determine who you’ll want on your business leadership team when you eventually launch full time. Depending on your personal experience, you may need help in areas such as finance, marketing, customer service and production.

8. Secure financing.

For a small venture, this might mean saving up some money to get through the first few months or taking cash from your 401(k). If your aspirations are a bit larger, you may need to think about how to procure venture capital or other outside investment.

9. Set up the structure of your company.

At the same time, you’ll also want to decide what kind of company structure to register. Do you want to incorporate, form an LLC or create a partnership? Get this taken care of legally and carefully define the roles and investment of each of your leadership team members.

10. Leave your job.

When you’re ready, leave your day job. This may feel like an amazing relief after all the work you already put in, but trust me, more work awaits. Although it may be tempting, be sure not to burn any bridges as you leave — you never know when you’ll encounter former bosses and colleagues again, and you may need to work with them in the future.

11. Set up a working budget.

With your full-time schedule now devoted to your business, set up a company budget. This should include payments for marketing expenses, salaries and other important purchases. Just be sure not to waste money on frivolous expenses!

12. Scale up your business according to your marketing plan.

Finally, all that’s left to do is to work the plans you’ve carefully laid out for yourself. Of course, that plan may change over time as you encounter and overcome obstacles. But, this is it — you’re a full-fledged entrepreneur. Congratulations!

As you can see, becoming an entrepreneur requires a lot of work before you even consider quitting your day job. However, if you follow each of the steps listed above and your idea still seems viable, you can leave your life as an employee and become an entrepreneur instead.

There are still many challenges you’ll face, but for most entrepreneurs, the benefits of meaningful work and self-direction are much more important.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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TIME psychology

7 Ways to Be More Inclusive

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Stop saying 'Hey guys'

I believe in the power of women to build inspiring careers in all types of fields.

At least, that’s what I thought I believed. It’s what my conscious mind thinks, at least.

My unconscious mind, however, favors traditional Western gender roles: men focusing on careers while women focus on family.

I learned about this dichotomy from taking an implicit association test, a social psychology test designed to measure a person’s unconscious or automatic associations between types of people and specific concepts or ideas.

And I’m not alone: The results of more than one million tests suggest that most people have these unconscious associations.

So I thought I would search for a few ways I could begin to correct my implicit biases and bring my unconscious mind on board with what the rest of me believes.

The book Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People (the authors are the inventors of the implicit association test) has a ton of fascinating science on this topic. One bit in particular stood out to me:

“Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University who received a Nobel Prize for his work on memory, was once pressed to say how much of the mind works unconsciously; he gave an estimate of 80 to 90 percent…

The actual number isn’t important or even possible to derive. The point is that experts agree that the ability to have conscious access to our minds is quite low.”

So it’s especially important to focus on inclusivity in our conscious minds, because our unconscious has already put most of us (me included!) in quite a deficit.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are a few things I discovered that might help us to counteract our own unconscious and get closer to the people we truly want to be.

1. Use inclusive language

One thing we’ve been working on lately in Buffer’s virtual workplace, where most communication is written, is to be mindful of the language we use and make sure it’s as inclusive as possible.

For example, many of us have been cracking down on our use of the colloquial “hey guys” greeting as we address the team. It was, of course, never meant to exclude the women on the team and has always been intended as a general greeting.

But we value clarity in communication at Buffer, and this greeting, friendly though its intentions might be, can be easily misconstrued.

Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou rightly gave us a little nudge on this recently, and we really appreciate it:

It’s a great reminder to keep going on this improvement, and being aware of all our language choices. Plus we occasionally get to reference this awesome flowchart from Tech Lady Mafia.

group-of-women-flowchart
Tech Lady Mafia

2. Expose yourself to counterstereotyping imagery (as simple as a screensaver)

Even the creators of the implicit association tests still “fail” them.

Blindspot co-author Mahzarin Banaji came up a simple and unique solution to combat some of her own “mindbugs:”

“She created a screensaver for her computer that displays images of a diverse array of humanity. She assumes that these images may do little more than keep her alerted to the actual range of diversity in the world, as opposed to that of the more limited set of humans she encounters in her daily experience. She also favored images that represent counterstereotypes. Short bald men who are senior executives is one of her favorite counterstereotyping images. Another is a drawing from a New Yorker magazine cover, of a construction worker with hard hat on, breast-feeding her baby.”

3. Consider your office furnishings

If you have a physical office that you want to make more inclusive for both genders, this study might be of interest.

At the University of Washington, Sapna Cheryan demonstrated that adding more feminine decor to computer science classrooms strengthened women’s associations of female gender with the possibility of computer science careers.

By changing out the objects in a computer science classroom from things like a Star Trek poster and video games to objects not considered stereotypical of computer science like a nature poster, the experiment boosted female study participant’s interest in computer science to the level of their male peers.

The study concluded:

“Environments can act like gatekeepers by preventing people who do not feel they fit into those environments from ever considering membership in the associated groups.”

4. Empower mentors for underrepresented groups

The researcher Buju Dasgupta has lots of interesting studies going on about implicit prejudice and stereotypes. One I really like is the Stereotype Inoculation Model.

This is her theory that successful people in your group who look like you, like teachers and peers, can function as a “social vaccine” that inoculates you from some of the self-doubt or alienation you might otherwise face in such a situation.

So far she has found a strengthening of “female = leader” and “female = math” associations in women college students after they received sustained exposure via their college courses to women faculty members.

“Results from several lab and field studies revealed that exposure to female STEM professors and experts enhanced women’s positive implicit attitudes toward STEM, increased their identification with STEM, their confidence in STEM, and effort on tests and exams.”

This could means that having even a few visible members of underrepresented groups on your team could have a compounding effect, if your organization can encourage and support mentoring relationships.

5. Use social media to amplify new voices

Did you know, in its analytics section, Twitter will tell you the gender split of your followers?

I was a bit surprised to discover my followers are majority male (though there is a bit of uncertainty about how Twitter figures out those genders).

 

I was even more surprised by my results from Twee-Q, a tool that analyzes the gender of the voices you amplify through retweets. I have a lot of work to do in amplifying smart female voices!

Of the 107,966 Twitter accounts that have been input into Twee-Q, there’s an immense tendency to amplify men more often than women:

twee-q-totals
Buffer

After discovering that he followed a nearly equal ratio of women and men, but retweeted men three times as often as women, the blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash tried an experiment.

For a year he attempted to amplify different kinds of voices than he normally would by retweeting women exclusively. He ended up enjoying the experiment and recommending it to others:

“If you’re inclined, try being mindful of whose voices you share, amplify, validate and promote to others… we spend so very much of our time on these social networks, and there’s so much we can do to right the wrongs we’ve seen in other media, through simple, small actions. This one’s been a delightful and fun place to start.”

6. Find members of underrepresented groups that you admire

This is a really fun and simple one. What if you could fight your brain’s unconscious bias simply by admiring others?

Another study from the very busy Dr. Buju Dasgupta found that when people are exposed to admired members of disadvantaged groups (African Americans, gays and lesbians, elderly, women), they express less implicit bias against these groups.

In this study of racial implicit bias, participants revealed less bias after being shown “black examplars”—pictures of famous and admired people like Martin Luther King Jr., Colin Powell, Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington.

This means one easy way to work on unconscious bias could be to simply seek out more admired members of underrepresented groups and focus on those people’s work more often.

7. Use your imagination: Counterprogram your brain

Possibly the simplest way of all to retrain your unconscious mind? Use your imagination.

At the University of Colorado, researcher Irene Blair discovered that simple imagination exercises were enough to weaken some implicit stereotypes.

She asked a mixed-gender group of college students to “take a few minutes to imagine what a strong woman is like, why she is considered strong, what she is capable of doing, and what kinds of hobbies and activities she enjoys.”

The participants came up with all sort of images, from bosses to athletes:

srtrong-woman-study
Irene Blair/University of Colorado

No matter what their image was, participants who engaged in the mental imagery exercise produced “substantially weaker implicit stereotypes” compared with participants who engaged in neutral mental imagery or no mental energy.

So if you happen to be challenged by a particular implicit bias, discovered either through taking a test or your own intuition, you can try counterprogramming your brain with some simple visual exercises like this one.

Over to you

Being empathetic and inclusive to those of all walks of life is a skill it seems that most of us could work on for a lifetime.

I’m looking forward to putting these strategies into practice to see if I can move my unconscious mind in the right direction.

This article originally appeared on Buffer

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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 Careers & Workplace

The Surprising Secret That Can Make You Happier at Work

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You might achieve more when you care less

Inc. logo

The number of hours in the day stays constant, but your to-do list is ever expanding.

You start the day worrying about how you’ll get everything you need to do finished, and end it by worrying if everything you’ve accomplished is up to your standards.

Your daily stress is only interrupted by occasional spikes of anger at your colleagues, boss, or employees and their unreasonable expectations or inability to take some of this mountain of work off your plate.

Does this sound like you? If so, author and blogger Kelly O’Laughlin has some advice for you. Recently on the blog Quiet Revolution, which accompanies Susan Cain’s hit book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, O’Laughlin shared the story of her friend who, like many entrepreneurs, found herself utterly overwhelmed by her work–so overwhelmed, in fact, that she was seriously considering quitting.

O’Laughlin had another suggestion, however. Don’t leave; just care less.

You are probably trying too hard

Wait, what? How could phoning it in be good advice?

O’Laughlin points out that if you’re the type to be so stressed about your work in the first place, your phoning it in is probably the same as others’ measured consideration of the right level of effort. “If you relate to this story [of her overworked friend],” she writes, “I’m willing to bet that your 80 percent of effort is most people’s 100 percent. So, by caring less, you’re actually caring just enough.”

Perfectionism, she goes on to say, isn’t just bad for the perfectionist herself (though it can, of course, be miserable for those afflicted). Counterintuitively, it’s also often bad for your work.

“It’s great to want to be helpful and make a difference at work, but you have to take care of yourself first,” O’Laughlin explains. “You aren’t helping anyone if you burn out and quit. Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.”

She adds: “And here’s a bonus: You might achieve more when you care less. When you reduce the pressure on yourself to attain perfection, you can flow more quickly and easily through your tasks. Trust that your intuition and experience will guide you. Freedom from the weight of perfection can be creatively liberating.”

What’s your ‘minimum effective dose’?

O’Laughlin’s prescription might seem heretical to some stressed-out strivers, but she’s not the only expert urging those overwhelmed by work to take a long, hard look at whether their intense levels of effort are really necessary. Dr. Christine Carter, an author and happiness expert, has pushed a similar idea, the ‘minimum effective dose.’

“We need to accept that more is not necessarily better,” she has written. “The first step in dialing back the busyness of everyday life is to figure out your minimum effective dose of everything. Figure out how much time you actually need to spend on your email, going to meetings, driving your kids to their activities, etc., in order to be effective at home and at work.”

Are you brave enough to try simply caring a little bit less?

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

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