TIME Careers & Workplace

It Only Takes 5 Minutes to Become a Morning Person

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Seriously, try these tips and see for yourself

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

How you start your day sets the context and your mindset for the rest of the day.

Yet, most people start the day with procrastination by hitting the snooze button, telling their subconscious that they don’t even have the self-discipline to get out of bed in the morning, let alone do what’s necessary to be happy, healthy and successful.

Stand-up comedian Demetri Martin’s humorous take on the subject sums it up well: Hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, “I hate getting up in the morning so I do it over and over and over again.”

When the alarm clocks starts beeping in the morning, consider it to be akin to life’s first gift to us. It’s the gift of time to dedicate to creating the life you want and working toward your goals and dreams while the rest of the world is asleep.

If it weren’t for the following strategy, I’d still be snoozing through my alarm clock every morning and clinging to my old limiting belief, claiming that I was not a morning person.

How do you give yourself the motivation to rise up early and create an extraordinary day, when your wakeup motivation level is only a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 10?

Follow this five-step strategy, which is so incredibly simple and easy to do, you’ll have no excuse to forgo being an early bird and win the day.

Related: How to Become More of a Morning Person (Infographic)

Step #1: Set intentions before bed.

Your first thought in the morning might be the same as the last one you had before you went to bed. Many people have nights, whether it’s Christmas Eve or the prelude to a vacation, when they can hardly fall asleep because they’re so excited about waking up the next morning. Then as soon as the alarm clock sounds, they open theigr eyes with enthusiasm to skip out of bed and embrace the day.

On the other hand, if your last thought before bed is something like “Oh man, I can’t believe I have to get up in six hours; I’m going to be exhausted,” then your first thought when the alarm sounds is likely, “Oh my gosh, has it already been six hours? I just want to keep sleeping!”

So the key is to consciously decide the next-day’s intentions every night to actively and mindfully create a positive expectation for the next morn.

Related: Take Back Your Mornings (Infographic)

Step #2: Move the alarm clock across the room.

If you haven’t done so already, move the alarm clock as far away from the bed as possible. This forces you to rise from bed and engage in movement. I find that movement can energize me. But if you keep your alarm within arm’s reach, you’re likely to hit the snooze button every time.

Step #3: Brush your teeth.

Give your body time to wake up. After turning off your alarm clock, go directly to the bathroom sink to brush your teeth and maybe splash some warm (or cold) water on your face. Simple activities like these can increase your wakeup motivation level from a 1 or a 2 to a 3 or 4.

Step #4: Drink a full glass of water.

This is crucial. After six or eight hours without water, you may be mildly dehydrated, which can cause fatigue. Often when people feel tired what they really need is more water, not more sleep.

When you drink a glass of water and hydrate yourself, your wakeup motivation level goes from a 3 or a 4 to a 5 or 6.

Step #5: Get dressed in your workout clothes.

Dress in your exercise clothes, so you’re ready to leave your bedroom. Some people prefer to start their day by jumping into the shower. But I believe people should earn a morning shower by first breaking a sweat.

In my experience, morning exercise helps me maximize my potential by putting me in a peak mental, physical and emotional state to win the day.

Related: Take Back Your Mornings (Infographic)

TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are the 10 Best Business Books of 2014

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These 10 business books were the real eye-openers for entrepreneurs in the year 2014

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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.

Every year, I select 10 books that, IMHO, provided the most value to their readers. Some of these may already be on your radar, but others you might have missed. Enjoy!

1. How to Be a Power Connector

Author: Judy Robinett

Subtitle: The 5 50 100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network Into Profits

Why I like it: As somebody who is often overwhelmed by people who want to “connect” with me, Robinett’s system of differentiating between levels of contact was truly a revelation. It’s one of those books I wish I’d been able to read two decades ago.

Best quote: “For you to become a master of strategic relationship, you need to do more than just connect, care, and add value (although those elements are the most basic requirements of any relationship). You need to 1) pinpoint the relationships you will pursue and nurture; 2) reach beyond just friends, family, and profession and build a wide network of connections; 3) use a system for adding value to those contacts regularly; and 3) become the connector between connections–the person who can help people reach a resource they would never know about and could never reach if it weren’t for you.”

2. The Ambitious Woman

Author: Esther Spina

Subtitle: What It Takes and Why You Want to Be One

Why I like it: Unlike last year’s Lean In, this book is written from the viewpoint of a successful woman who didn’t ride the fast track to high-tech riches. Spina is a self-made woman who succeeded at commissioned sales, which is probably the world’s most difficult job.

Best quote: “If you want to be successful, then you must choose to do what ambitious people do. How about the stay-at-home mom who knows how to handle her kids and keeps her home running smoothly–she’s successful. What about the woman who can balance her career and family–she’s successful. The woman who is determined to earn her degree, the woman who is a visionary and is making her dream a reality, the woman who is consistent in character and the way she lives life–they are all successful. Why? Because they are Ambitious Women.”

3. Money: Master the Game

Author: Anthony Robbins

Subtitle: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom

Why I like it: I’ve been a fan of Robbin’s for many years, since it was during one of his seminars that I decided to quit my corporate job and become a full-time writer. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him personally and discovered that, unlike his slightly scary stage persona, in person he’s actually low key and easy to talk to. In any case, it’s been a while since Robbins has written a new book, and this one is particularly relevant for people struggling through today’s difficult economic times.

Best quote: “The secret to wealth is simple: Find a way to do more for others than anyone else does. Become more valuable. Do more. Give more. Be more. Serve more. And you will have the opportunity to earn more–whether you own the best food truck in Austin, Texas, or you’re the top salesperson at your company or even the founder of Instagram.”

4. The Gen Z Effect

Authors: Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen

Subtitle: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business

Why I like it: This book’s thesis is that technology, rather than separating the generations, actually brings them closer and that this is part of a larger shift in how people think about business and life. It’s an easy read but has depth, so that you learn a great deal and, more important, start seeing things in a different way.

Best quote: “The generational divides have stood in our way for so long, undermining our ability to innovate in what is quickly becoming a post-generational world. Post-generational thinking requires that we not only change our individual perceptions of the boundaries between generations, but also build organizations that can do the same.”

5. Scrum

Author: Jeff Sutherland

Subtitle: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Why I like it: I get really tired of people insisting that to get more done you have to spend more hours doing it. That’s simply not true. You want to work smarter rather than harder, and this book gives you some real-world techniques for making this happen.

Best quote: “Traditionally, management wants two things on any project: control and predictability. This leads to vast numbers of documents and graphs and charts … Months of effort go into planning every detail, so there will be no mistakes, no cost overruns, and things will be delivered on schedule. The problem is that the rosy scenario never actually unfolds … Every project involves discovery of problems and bursts of inspiration. Trying to restrict any human endeavor of any scope to color-coded charts and graphs is foolish and doomed to failure. It’s not how people work, and it’s not how projects progress. It’s not how ideas reach fruition or how great things are made.”

6. The Soft Edge

Author: Rich Karlgaard

Subtitle: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success

Why I like it: In my view, companies spend far too much time worrying about the “hard” stuff, like finances and technology, and not enough about the “soft” stuff, like how people feel about what they’re doing and where they’re working. This book shows how that “soft edge” is not only as important as the “hard” edges but arguably more important.

Best quote: “Innovation in companies is very much like a healthy immune response in living organisms. People who enjoy long-term health don’t have episodic bursts of health. They are healthy nearly all the time. Their immune systems routinely fight off most threats. Can the same be true of companies? The analogy fits. In great companies, innovation is a natural response to threats.”

7. The Carpenter

Author: Jon Gordon

Subtitle: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All

Why I like it: Unless you’ve had your head stuck in the sand, you’ve probably run across the numerous best-selling books by Gordon. I like all of his work, and his new book, The Carpenter, is truly a must-read. It is an engaging parable of a high-powered entrepreneur who recaptures his sense of purpose through working with (and learning from) a blue-collar artisan.

Best Quote:

  • I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity;
  • When I am surrounded by pessimism, I will choose optimism;
  • When I feel fear, I will choose faith;
  • When I want to hate, I will choose love;
  • When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better;
  • When I experience a challenge, I will look for an opportunity to learn and grow;
  • When I experience a setback, I will be resilient;
  • When I meet failure, I will fail forward, toward future success;
  • With vision, hope, and faith, I will never give up and will always move forward toward my destiny;
  • I believe my best days are ahead of me, not behind me;
  • I believe I’m here for a reason and my purpose is greater than my challenges;
  • I believe that being positive not only makes me better, it make everyone around me better;
  • So today and every day I will be positive and strive to make a positive impact on the world.

8. Scaling Up Excellence

Authors: Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao

Subtitle: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Why I like it: Entrepreneurs naturally want their company to grow and be more successful. However, many of them discover that once they’re successful as a startup, it’s very difficult to “level up” into a larger company. This book explains the specific challenges that entrepreneurs face, and therefore should be required reading.

Best quote: “Savvy leaders know that just bombarding employees with a quick PowerPoint presentation, a few days of training, or an inspirational speech won’t cut it if they want to spread some goodness from the few to the many. Certainly, there are junctures in every scaling effort when it is wise to choose the easier path or secure a quick victory. Yet as we dug into case after case, and study after study, we saw that every allegedly easy and speedy scaling success turned out to be one we just hadn’t understood very well. Scaling requires grinding it out, and pressing each person, team, group, division, or organization to make one small change after another in what they believe, feel, or do.”

9. Creativity, Inc.

Authors: Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Subtitle: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Why I like it: By examining Pixar and its relationship to Steve Jobs and the team of people he recruited, this book makes clear that creativity must be built into the corporate culture and is not an attribute of its leadership alone.

Best quote: “The best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know–not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur. I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear. Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don’t know can we ever hope to learn it.”

10. Business Without the Bullsh*t

Author: Me (plus the readers of this blog)

Subtitle: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know

Why I like it: Readers kept telling me they needed a “survival guide” to the corporate world, so I wrote this book. Many of the readers of my blog contributed to the writing by reviewing early chapters. Since I’m obviously biased, here’s what some others have said about this book.

Best quote: “Conventional wisdom is that business is complicated and its principles difficult to master. However, while every industry and every profession requires specific expertise, the business of business tends to be rather simple. However, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of management consultants, industry analysts, and corporate trainers depends on keeping things complex–because, after all, once you realize the business is simple, why would you hire them? Beyond your own area of expertise, all you need to be truly successful in the business world is a handful of secrets and shortcuts. And that’s what Business Without the Bullsh*t is all about.”

MONEY sex discrimination

Everything Working Women Need to Know About Pregnancy Discrimination

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The high court is hearing arguments on Wednesday on a case in which a UPS worker was forced to take unpaid leave when she got pregnant. Here's what every woman should know about this case and her rights in the workplace.

Any woman in the vicinity of her child-bearing years will want to pay attention to a case that’s being heard by the Supreme Court today.

The high court’s findings on Young v. United Parcel Service should address the gray areas of what workplace protections are guaranteed for pregnant women.

The least you need to know:

What’s the case about, anyway?

The plaintiff in the case is Peggy Young of Lorton, Va., who had worked as a delivery truck driver for UPS.

As part of her job description, she needed to be able to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. But when she got pregnant, her midwife wrote her a note that said she should not lift more than 20 pounds.

Young asked for a temporary “light-duty” assignment, but the company’s occupational health manager determined that she was ineligible.

Young says the division manager then told her she was “too much of a liability,” and she was not allowed to return to work until after she had given birth. So Young had to take an extended unpaid leave of absence, which caused her to lose her health coverage.

Wasn’t that discrimination?

That’s the question the court has to answer.

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which clarifies that discrimination against pregnant women is a form of sex discrimination. That means your employer can’t fire you or deny you job benefits because you’re pregnant, you might become pregnant, you’ve given birth, or you have any related medical problems. Your employer has to treat you the same as people who are not pregnant but similar in their ability to work.

To prove sex discrimination, however, Young needed to show four things.

First, that she was a woman. Second, that she was qualified for the job, or the job benefit. Third, her employer denied her the job or benefit she wanted. And fourth, a similarly situated man received the job or benefit that she wanted.

The fourth presents a particular challenge: Since men can’t get pregnant, which men are in a similar situation?

Young says UPS did give some other workers—employees who were injured on the job or had their drivers’ licenses were temporarily revoked—the light duty she wanted. Therefore, Young says UPS owed her the same accommodations.

However, lower courts disagreed with Young.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that UPS’s policy was “pregnancy-blind.” UPS wouldn’t have offered light duty assignments to, say, a man who threw his back out by lifting his kid or a woman who injured herself during a volunteer firefighter shift. Since UPS didn’t give all its temporarily-disabled workers light duty, the court found that UPS didn’t have to give light duty to Young.

Many women’s groups, health providers, labor advocates and even pro-life activists strongly disagreed with that ruling.

“If at some point during her pregnancy, a pregnant worker needs a minor adjustment to her job duties in order to continue doing her job safely, the employer has an obligation to provide that,” says Liz Watson, director of Workplace Justice for Women at the National Women’s Law Center.

What happens next?

Young appealed. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Wednesday and issue a ruling sometime before the end of this term, in late June.

But in a “friend of the court” brief, the Justice Department argues that it might be a moot point.

In 2008, Congress passed a law amending the Americans with Disabilities Act that should make it even easier for pregnant women to qualify for accommodations like the one Young sought. Now, injuries that temporarily limit your ability to lift, stand, or bend should also qualify you for accommodations under the ADA.

And UPS has already reversed its policy. “While UPS’s denial of [Young’s] accommodation request was lawful at the time it was made (and thus cannot give rise to a claim for damages), pregnant UPS employees will prospectively be eligible for light-duty assignments,” the company’s brief says.

In the meantime, what are my rights if I’m pregnant or plan to become pregnant?

You are afforded the same protections as Young through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. So you can’t be fired or denied benefits. Also, depending upon the size of the company, you may be entitled by law to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Additionally, under Obamacare, employers are required to allow mothers reasonable break time and a private space to express breast milk, Watson says.

I think an employer violated my rights. What can I do?

You can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a complaint, Watson says.

You’ll have more company than you might expect: From 1997 to 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 74,000 complaints of pregnancy discrimination.

You can also contact your state’s fair employment practice agency. Some states and municipalities have even stronger protections for pregnant women in the workplace. In the past 18 months, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, West Virginia, Philadelphia, New York City, Providence and Pittsburg have all passed new laws, Watson says.

Or call a lawyer. “We unfortunately speak to women a lot who have suffered pregnancy discrimination,” Watson says. “What happened to Peggy Young, being forced off the job because she brought in a doctor’s note, is happening to women all across the country.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Things Supremely Confident People Never Do

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Having good networking and speaking skills are key, as others’ impressions of you will in turn influence how they feel about your product or company

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to bleed confidence. Starting something on your own takes tenacity, faith and determination to make it work. To have a business that makes it past the first 18 months, these qualities of poor leaders are certainly going to be on your list of things to avoid:

1. Second guess themselves and their employees

True confidence comes from being able to trust your team and yourself. Make sure your hiring process is long enough to find and keep the right people, as this can make or break your company. Many employers are now offering pre-cations or hiring employees for an initial first project to make sure they are a good fit before hiring them full time.

Offering a fun and secure work environment with great benefits, profit sharing and new technology can let employees know you appreciate them while also helping them become more emotionally invested in the future of the company.

Related: Ever Notice the Similarities Between Toxic Business Leaders and Politicians?

If you find yourself second guessing yourself or your employees, take the time to fix it before your confidence becomes too shaken.

2. Compromise their priorities

When you are building a business, great employees are key, but many entrepreneurs get so tied up in making their business work that they forget about what else in their lives are important to them. Building a business is their main concern, but relationships with friends and family can slip through the cracks if they don’t make it a priority to schedule time for them.

This also goes for hobbies and “self-care” time: meditation, exercise, reading and other things done for enjoyment (even if it’s just browsing on ESPN or some other news site for a few hours) deserve to be scheduled just as much as work projects or meetings. It has been shown that hobbies make people more happy than money, according to the Portland Psychotherapy Clinic. Confidence is boosted when stress is reduced through hobbies and time with loved ones.

3. Refuse to learn new skills

The confident and successful entrepreneur has to adapt to their business’s current needs. While you may need a programmer or designer to make website changes, it may not be in the budget, or they might stuck working on a different project. Instances like this require the confident entrepreneur to put aside any trepidation at learning something new, such as coding or graphic design. Websites such as Skillshare, Lynda, CodeAcademy, UniversalClass and Treehouse (or local community colleges) can help entrepreneurs learn new skills without a high monetary cost.

4. Focus on external validation

It can be endlessly satisfying to hear positive feedback from the media or others about your company or products, but confident entrepreneurs and companies shouldn’t take it less (or more) seriously than negative feedback.

Focusing on internal goals and ideas is what built the company in the first place, so while external feedback is a great way to improve a product, it shouldn’t have the power to completely overhaul how you work or ruin your day. Too many business owners focus on what others are thinking and it ends up impeding their creative process, which in turn causes their products to suffer.

Related: 6 Skills Remarkable Leaders Execute Better

5. Worry about competitors

There’s a difference between worrying about competitors and knowing what they are up to. It’s smart to see what products and services are available in your current market, but just like external validation, if you get caught up in trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” it doesn’t leave much room for actually outpacing your competition.

If you want to stay on top, think of all the ways the customers in your market aren’t being served, and focus on solving that need.

6. Avoid networking and public speaking

When it comes to finding out industry needs, it’s a cold, hard truth for introverts and other shy people that being able to communicate confidently and well is key to building a business.

For most entrepreneurs, having good networking and speaking skills are key, as others’ impressions of you will in turn influence how they feel about your product or company. If you aren’t good at networking or speaking, try joining Toastmasters or attending free events by your local chamber of commerce.

7. Be ignorant of trends or current events

There’s a quiet confidence that comes from staying up to date with the latest technology, national and international news and other trends that are popular in mainstream culture. Society has a huge effect on businesses, no matter the industry or niche, and knowing what’s popular now can help influence and improve products and businesses.

While it’s important to look to the future to solve upcoming needs, current trends can help predict what’s happening next. Subscribe to blogs and websites such as CNN, The New York Times, Wired and Reddit to see what is new and part of current pop culture.

Whether you are networking in a room filled with potential customers or working with your trusted employees on a new, innovative product, confident entrepreneurship means trusting in your brand, business and yourself.

Related: 4 Blunders That Can Damage Your Executive Presence

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Rules Entrepreneurial Employees Swear By

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The best employees are more than just smart and self-motivated

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Purpose is the engine that drives elite performance. Clearly defined goals are the tools that make achievement of purpose possible. Elite employees can tell you where they are going, how long it will take them to get there and what steps they will take along the way.

After managing a couple hundred people, I’ve noticed that elite employees are hard to find. This may be because elite employees have the mentality of elite athletes, even from their first endeavor. They know what they want and they shoot for the stars.

But in life we don’t get what we wish for. We get what we work for. To be successful, you must pursue your goals relentlessly, regardless of what others may think. To try is to risk failure — the greatest hazard you will face. The safe path would be to risk nothing. But the athlete who risks nothing, does nothing, learns nothing and has nothing.

I’ve experienced both good and bad employees, and how their actions towards work differ. Here are some rules that elite employees follow — mostly intuitively — on their journey towards goal attainment:

Rule 1: Live the Journey

This is the process of becoming who and what you want to be. You will appreciate things you achieve in your life in direct proportion to the price you pay for them.

As you travel this road, you learn much about who you are and how you can continue to achieve certain goals throughout your life. This journey is about the growth of you as an individual, not about the firsts, seconds or thirds. These will come as you remain focused on attainment. It’s something far more inwardly rewarding.

Rule 2: Defeat Doubt

Defeat doubt through belief. Action cures fear. Imagination and thoughts determine your future reality.

As Bryce Courtenay says in his book The Power of One, “The Power of One is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the employee. The body is simply the means it uses to run faster, jump higher or perform better. Only a sustained and invincible belief in yourself will allow you to maintain your integrity and achieve the goals you have set for yourself.”

Don’t hold yourself back because you haven’t done something before. If you believe you can do something, you probably can.

Rule 3: Don’t Get Stuck in the Muck

Quite simply, this means staying focused. Once you begin the journey, see it through to the end. Show grit. Three important factors to consider:

  • Attraction: Focus on what you want and move towards it with drive and determination. Exhibit an unwavering work ethic.
  • Distraction: Know what you don’t like and move away from it.
  • Reflection: Objectively assess what you have to change to reach the top.

Rule 4: Embrace Problems

If you don’t have any problems, then your goals might be too small. Realize that if what you are trying to achieve was easy, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be special. The problems you will face represent opportunities in that they identify areas for you to grow. In the end, you will appreciate your victories substantially more due to the work you put into overcoming them.

Rule 5: Lead Rather Than Follow

If you are doing what everyone else is doing, you will end up where everyone else is going. Elite employees are willing to do what most other employees are not. In other words, it takes someone special to be someone special. Ask yourself this question: Are you doing enough to “just get by,” or are you actively investing in getting better?

Rule 6: Find Champions for Your Cause

Realize that in order to reach your pinnacle you need help along the way. You need direction, reassurance, resources and maybe even someone to light your path. You must surround yourself with people who believe in you. Find individuals who will champion your cause.

Although goals provide the motivation — and form the reason and incentive — that directs our activity, it is the work we put in that makes us great. The best employees know this, and invest in themselves to move step by step closer to their goals.

TIME advice

How to Follow Your Passion Even if You Don’t Know What It Is

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Take note of what has consistently fascinated you for months, years, or even since you were a kid

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

I, personally, am tired of people giving advice like, “just follow your passion,” or “do what you love and the money will come.”

If you’re one of the (very few) Millennials out there who knows exactly what you want to do with your life, and you’re taking conscious, consistent steps toward it… then by all means, continue to follow your passion!

But most of us aren’t in that boat. If you’re like the majority of Millennials, you’re still struggling to uncover what it is that you’re actually passionate about. So what’s intended as an inspirational phrase turns into one more thing to stress about and judge yourself for.

How are you supposed to follow your passion if you don’t even know what it is?

I’ve been there… and it’s not fun.

(MORE: Build Your Career Around Passion)

The (Short) Backstory

I’ve always been so inspired by people who have created something amazing and impactful at a young age. I’m fascinated by college students who created successful start-ups. I’ve always been drawn to read bestselling books by people in their early 20s (or younger). And for years I’ve followed tons of blogs by other Millennials with an online empire.

As much as I admired these young entrepreneurs, it never really occurred to me that I could become one. “Normal” people don’t do things like that.

So after college, I did what I was “supposed” to do: I got a stable, decent-paying job in the field that I majored in (professional writing).

I knew I liked writing (I’ve always proudly been a huge book nerd), so I thought maybe that was my passion. And I figured, as long as I was in a job where I could write all day, I’d be happy, right?

Wrong.

Turns out your passion isn’t limited to a singular activity… it’s something much deeper.

Whenever I was bored or frustrated at my old 9-to-5s, I found myself pulling up those blogs or articles about the young entrepreneurs that inspired me so much. They seemed to have so much freedom in their lives and work–they got to make their own rules, be completely themselves at their job, and spend their time doing something worthwhile.

I was so jealous!

Then one day it finally occurred to me that, (duh) there was nothing stopping me from creating that kind of life for myself.

That’s when it hit me that I was in the completely wrong job category.

I had tried over and over again to be happy working at a company as an employee, when it was just never going to work for me. I was craving the autonomy and freedom of entrepreneurship.

It didn’t even matter that my jobs allowed me to write all day, which is something that I loved (and still love). The fact that I didn’t get to choose what, when, and why I was writing sapped all the intrinsic joy right out of it for me.

When I finally embraced the fact that I would never be truly happy unless I was working for myself, then I was able to get clear on what I actually wanted to do for my job. And I surprised myself by realizing that I only wanted writing to be a part of what I did. Mostly, I wanted to help people become the director of their lives, instead of the passenger, which is why I became a life and career coach for Millennial women.

I’m certainly not saying that entrepreneurship is the answer for everyone. In fact, I know several Millennials who tried to start their own business and quickly burnt out (even though they were supposedly “living their passion”) because they realized that what they actually wanted was the stability and collaboration that comes with working at a company.

The takeaway: Until you first know how you want to express your passion, it can be hard to get clear on what your passion is in the first place.

So how can you start getting that clarity now?

1. Take note of what has consistently fascinated you for months, years, or even since you were a kid. Upon first glance, these things might seem trivial or silly, but if you give them a closer look, I guarantee there’s some valuable information there to help your clarify your passion.

2. Figure out how you want your passion to show up. It’s time to be honest with yourself: When it comes to your job, how important is collaboration and teamwork to you? How well do you deal with authority? Do you need your passion to be a part of your day-to-day work life, or would that sap all the joy out of it? If you’re still not sure how you want your passion to show up, you might want to take a simple quiz I co-created to help you figure it out: It’s call the Passion Profile Quiz, and within 5 minutes it’ll pinpoint exactly how you want your passion to intersect with your career.

If I’d paid attention to what had drawn my attention and fascination for years, I may have 1) become an entrepreneur and 2) discovered that I wanted to become a coach much earlier and saved myself several years of frustration.

Trust me, it’s a lot easier to figure out your passion (and then “follow your passion”) if you first know how you want to express it.

(MORE: How to Support Your Passions After College)

TIME Business

Should You Choose Your Passion as a Career?

question
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Answer "what do I want to do?" in terms of career

Answer by Charles Tips on Quora.

“What do I want to be?” is a different question from “What do I want to do?”

According to Carol Dweck and some other psychologists, there are two kinds of people in this world–the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. For Virginia Postrel this was the stasists and the dynamists. The first mindset represents the be-ers. They say things like, “I’ve got to be true to myself,” “I’ve got to be me.” Naturally, these are the people who know and follow the passion that is their true calling, right? Wrong. Well, they may follow their inclinations but seldom to a higher level.

It is the growth/dynamist mindset who are the becomers. “I’ve got to be all I can be” or “the best I can be,” is their mode in life. You’ve got to follow your inclinations to higher and higher and higher levels to turn them into your passion. You’ve got to imbue your passion with a spirit and mastery easily recognized by others in order to turn it into a career. And then you can enjoy a quite lovely career. It is about self-actualization (The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

Recognize that “what do I want to do?” poses a less threatening question than “what do I want to be?” Answer it first and let things fall into place. Answer “what do I want to do?” in terms of career, and then you are free to turn “what do I want to be?” into a more meaningful question… what do I want to be in terms of know-how, skills, morals, relationships with others and so on.

I hope my youngest son Keaton Tips will not mind me using him as an example. What did he want to do as a child? Watch TV. This actually caused me a good deal of anguish as I’d had a younger brother who escaped into a TV set every day after school. I barely got to know him. I personally don’t much care for TV. But Keaton watched it with a difference. The second time he’d watch a show, he’d recite the dialog ahead of the actors. Pretty soon his knowledge of children’s cartoons was encyclopedic. At 10 and 11 he’d say things like, “Oh, that’s the music playing in the background in that scene of Brave Little Toasterwhere…” or “Hey, they stole that line from The Simpsons in the episode where…”

As a kid, Keaton would try to tell us stories. But he was legendarily bad, the butt of many family jokes. Then, in his teens he learned to animate, and what a storyteller he was! It turned out his mind was so choked with details that he could not simply tell a story; he needed to lay out the whole sound and imagery for you.

And so now, just turned 26, he’s been a partner and creative director for three years in a San Francisco animation and motion graphics studio. He graduated college with six credits as special effects supervisor on feature films, including the Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). He has met many of the most famous animators and graphic artists around, who are flattered at his thorough familiarity with their work and who recognize him as a peer.

All this because he watched TV like a sponge. Figure out what you love to do, and then do it with passion. You’ll be better for it.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Should someone choose their passion as a career?

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TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Your Thank You Note Could Lose You the Job

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You might think that going through the motions and sending a generic thank you note is better than sending nothing, but you’d be wrong

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

Let’s be honest: When it comes to applying for jobs, the “it can’t hurt” benchmark is often the deciding factor over whether or not to do something. Sending a cover letter? It can’t hurt. Finding your interviewer on LinkedIn? It can’t hurt. Sending a thank you note? It can’t hurt.

Or can it?

Actually, yes, it absolutely can. Here are just a few scenarios in which sending a thank you note might hurt your chances of landing the job.

1. It’s Full of Typos

If you’re really serious about a job, you probably had your resume and cover letter reviewed by a couple other people before you hit submit. But, even the most careful job seeker can make mistakes during the high that comes after a successful interview. Don’t blow your carefully crafted image, and double check to make sure that your thank you note is typo-free. (Here are a few tips for editing your own work.)

2. It’s a Week Late

Another good impression killer is sending your note in late. Thank you notes are the most effective when you send them ASAP or at least within 48 hours of your interview. If you want to leave the impression that you’re only mildly interested in the position, then go ahead and take your time. If not, then send it immediately. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

3. It’s Generic

You might think that going through the motions and sending a generic thank you note is better than sending nothing, but you’d be wrong. Hiring managers get excited when they find exceptional candidates who are really excited about the job. And sending a boring thank you note that could have been addressed to anyone? That’s an easy way to shatter your image.

Oh, and don’t think you can just write one spectacular thank you note and send it to all the different people you interacted with during the interview. Many companies request that thank you notes get forwarded to HR so they can be attached to a candidate’s file. Having the same five notes on file probably won’t help you land the job, so take the time to actually personalize some aspects of your message. It’s worth it.

(For a truly exceptional thank you note, check out communication expert Alexandra Franzen’s method.)

4. It’s Just a Way to Talk About Yourself More

Did you forget to mention that one time you did something that was extremely relevant to the job you’re interviewing for now? Think the thank you note is the right place to share this relevant experience? It might be okay to mention it briefly, but it’s definitely a mistake for you to transform your thank you note into a take two of your interview. Thank you notes shouldn’t be long, so you don’t really have a lot of space to, you know, thank your interviewer—let alone share another story. If you must do it, make it brief.

5. It’s Inappropriate

You don’t have the job yet, so don’t get too chummy in your note. No matter how sure you are that you nailed the interview, your best bet is to remain professional throughout the process. (That means no nicknames, no sarcasm, and definitely no cursing.)

I’ve gone on and on about the various ways sending a thank you note can hurt your chances of getting the job offer, but naturally the biggest thank you note blunder would be to not send one. So, please send a thank you note after your interview—just make it great.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How a Little Gratitude Can Help You Get Ahead at Work

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I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a donut or a cup of coffee

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

Thanksgiving is just days away—and in between thoughts of casserole recipes and how to navigate your annual family dinner, you’re probably also thinking about all you have to be grateful for.

According to Alison Green from Ask a Manager, this is the perfect time to let your co-workers know how much you appreciate them—and why. “Showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger relationships and help you get better results in your work,” Green writes.

Just think: When a co-worker has shown appreciation for something you’ve done to help him or her, you’ve probably been more likely to help that person again in the future. And when he or she hasn’t shown that gratitude, you probably haven’t gone out of your way to lend a hand again.

Plus, showing thankfulness helps improve the quality of the relationship as a whole. “People tend to feel warmly and positively toward people who appreciate them,” Green says, which can have a positive effect on future networking, references, and your interactions at work in general.

Feeling thankful for your cube mate or project partner? Try these four ideas to show your appreciation.

1. Give a Straightforward (and Specific) Compliment

A standard thank you may not be extraordinarily creative, but it works—and that’s the important thing.

You want to make sure your co-worker knows you appreciate her? Walk up to her desk or office and give her a genuine, straightforward thank you. To make the most impact, mention what you’re specifically grateful for (“Christine, thank you so much for jumping in and helping me with my presentation yesterday. I know it was a late night; I really appreciate you taking the extra time to make sure it was perfect. I couldn’t have done it without you!”).

Face-to-face, specific, and full of appreciation—it’s a thank you that anyone would want to hear.

2. Speak Up in a Team Meeting

An individual, face-to-face thank you is personal and effective, but there’s also room for more public appreciation—and a team meeting is the perfect place to recognize someone who’s helped you out recently.

It doesn’t have to be big and flashy. Try working it in naturally, like as part of a project update that you were going to give anyway: “The project is right on track, thanks to Joe, who reviewed it and helped me adjust the intro and conclusion—and I think it really hits the nail on the head now.”

The public (but not over-the-top) recognition will make your colleague feel extra special—and it’ll help boost his or her value within the team.

3. Bring in a Treat

I know. It seems a little silly—and perhaps a tad reminiscent of your elementary school birthdays when you brought in cupcakes for the class.

But then again, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a donut or a cup of coffee that’s not from the lukewarm pot that’s been sitting idly on the break room counter for the past two hours. Simple as it may seem, a treat with a quick “Just wanted to say thanks for your help with the Smith account. I couldn’t have done it without you!” goes a long way to make a co-worker feel appreciated.

If that still seems a little awkward, swing for enough for the entire team, then throw in a personal note: “Hey everyone, I brought in some doughnuts to say thanks for your hard work this past week—especially Sarah, who really came through in the 11th hour for me on a big client account.”

4. Email the Boss

Part of your job as an employee is to make sure your boss knows how awesome you are—but it’s even better if your co-workers do that for you.

One of the most meaningful thank yous I’ve ever received came when a co-worker emailed my boss (and copied me), explaining how I’d been a huge help to him with a client situation over the past couple days and that he wanted to extend his gratitude. He forwarded it to his supervisor, and all of a sudden, my good dead was known throughout the department without me having to say a word.

So if you want to thank a co-worker, consider sending an email to his or her boss. The compliment on its own will make your colleague feel appreciated—but knowing that the boss also knows what he or she has done makes the gratitude even more meaningful.

A thank you to your colleagues doesn’t have to be a big show—but displaying your appreciation will help your relationships, your quality of life at the office, and your ability to continue receiving your co-workers’ help in the future.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Ways to Rock the Intro Call With a Recruiter

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You absolutely must show—early on—that you’re a strong cultural fit

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

Congratulations. Your resume (or LinkedIn profile) just captured the attention of a recruiter. Take a moment to high-five yourself, for real. You done good.

Now what?

Now, you will likely be invited to participate in a screening interview—via phone, Skype, or Google Hangout or in-person—with the HR person or recruiter who just found you. Wowing this person is very important, because if you fail to, you’re not going to have the chance to dazzle the hiring manager with your mad skills at all. Your goose, as they say, will be cooked.

So, how do you stack the odds in your favor and ensure that you sail through this critical stage in the hiring process? By understanding what the recruiter’s role is, what he’s looking for, and what he stands to gain by finding the right candidate, and then strategizing accordingly.

Here are four ways to rock the screening call with a recruiter.

1. Demonstrate Quickly That You Cover the Basics

More often than not, HR people or recruiters aren’t going to be looking for nitty-gritty details about your technical aptitude. They’re more trying to see if you meet the baseline requirements for the job. That said, you should study the job description closely or talk with people working in the department, and then (before the interview) list out the things you think are the most important deliverables for the role. Be sure and touch on your strengths in these specific areas during the conversation.

2. Show That You’re Truly Interested (Assuming You Are)

Recruiters love when they realize a candidate is a strong match skills-wise for the role they’re attempting to fill. However, being a skills match means little if you give off the impression that you’re only so-so interested in the company or role. If they pass you through to the next stage of the interview process, recruiters want to feel confident that you’re enthusiastic and eager to learn more, not just wasting everyone’s time. And so, assuming you are reasonably interested in the opportunity, you’ve got to make that instantly clear to the recruiter during the screening call.

(Hint: Here are three steps to answering, “Why do you want this job?”)

3. Exude an Air of “Strong Culture Fit”

Companies hire candidates based on three things, not just one. Number one is the obvious, “Can she do the job?” This must be a “yes,” no matter what. But what typically clinches it for the candidate who lands the job is that she’s also a “yes” to these questions: “Do we like her?” and “Do we think she’s going to fit in around here?”

You absolutely must show—early on—that you’re a strong cultural fit. Thus, if you’re interviewing for a role within a company you know little about, you should study the organization’s online presence—the company website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, you get the picture—and figure out its brand personality, its tone, its vibe. And then, assuming you line up with that? Make it clear throughout the screening call.

4. Understand the Recruiter’s Role and Stake in This Process

By understanding the role of the recruiter in the hiring process, you will likely be better able to strategize this first interview. Most of these people are compensated—either entirely or partially—based on their ability to find and place people into open positions. That said, when they call you, they already want you to win. They want you to sail through the screening call because, if you win? They win. And if they fill this position quickly, they can also move on to another position (and make more money).

So, never be afraid to ask for the interviewer’s input on how you can put your best foot forward with the hiring manager or for clarification on any questions you don’t understand. Again, this person wants to send you through to the hiring manager. Make it easy to do so.

Interviewing is part art, part science. The art part requires you to bring forth your personality, enthusiasm, and interest. The science part? Requires you to study the process and the players and then strategize.

This article? Well, consider it your cheat sheet for getting to the “real interview.”

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