TIME Careers & Workplace

Top 5 Reasons You Should Still Believe in Email

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These five research-backed stats will convince you to start sending email content

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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.

When the Internet was new to consumers, everyone loved email. One of the best parts of logging onto AOL was the knowledge that after minutes of agonizing squeals, you’d be treated to that wonderful phrase, “You’ve Got Mail!”

But after a couple decades of Nigerian prince schemes, Spanish lotto scams, and mountains of unsolicited spam (which is never a good marketing tactic), how do people feel about email now? Is it still a worthwhile tactic for small-business owners and marketers to pursue?

The simple answer is yes. But you came here to learn, so here are the Top 5 research-backed reasons email marketing is vital for businesses of all sizes:

1. Email is an easy way to reach mobile customers.

One reason email marketing has value for business owners is that it’s an easy way to start reaching consumers on mobile without investing a lot in new technology or software. According to an April report from Pew Research Center, 52 percent of US cellphone owners access their emails from their phones. Email marketing also works with other mobile devices. In July, Forrester Research released a study that found 42 percent of retailers’ email messages were opened by consumers on their smartphones and 17 percent were opened on tablets. This means that nearly three out of every five email marketing messages doubles as a mobile marketing message. Using email is better for mobile marketing than SMS because:

  1. It works on mobile devices other than phones
  2. Emails are free for the consumer, whereas texting may incur a charge
  3. Emails have far more space for content than text messages, allowing for better marketing pieces.

2. It’s an effective way to keep customers informed.

Email marketing isn’t something marketers do just because they can and it’s easy. The tactic is very effective at helping business owners and consumers stay connected. In fact, consumers often seek out email marketing campaigns from their favorite brands and local stores. This goes beyond coupons (which we’ll discuss next). Nielsen reported that 28 percent of US online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to stay informed. A study from Loyalty 360 stated that 59 percent of US moms would sign up for email updates from brands if rewards were offered. And email marketing can be used as a way to deliver content to consumers. A 2013 study by the Relevancy Group noted that marketers who add video to their email campaigns see an average rise in revenue of 40 percent. There is a real value to staying connected to customers and email marketing makes that easy to do.

3. Email coupons drive online and in-store sales.

The Nielsen study mentioned above also found that 27 percent of US online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to save money. This conclusion is backed up by recent data from Deloitte that found 65 percent of consumers say email coupons are important when grocery shopping online. Similarly, Shop.org reported 64 percent of US Internet users have printed a coupon from an email. Though consumers are looking to save money, it can turn into increased revenue for the retailer. E-coupons are big business, and email marketing is at its heart. The number of mobile coupons used is estimated to double over the next five years to reach 1 billion people. Email marketing is a good way to start reaching the growing number of online bargain hunters. The big brands are already using this tactic for that purpose. BIA/Kelsey reports that 36.6 percent of national businesses use email marketing for local promotions.

4. It’s easy to customize and integrate into other marketing tactics.

The versatility of email marketing is another reason marketers should keep the tactic in their marketing toolbox. Depending on the depth of the email database and the skill of the crafter, email marketing messages can range from simple to very complex. Emails can be personalized to include the name of the user and even more. A small study of 139 marketers from Retention Science found that websites use several kinds of personalization tactics that can easily be applied to email. Nearly half of US online retailers used personalized product recommendations (44.9%), about a third added the customer’s name and/or a unique welcome message (31.5%), and a quarter of the respondents reported adding shopping cart reminders (27.6%) to cover all of their personalization bases. Email marketing can also be utilized with just about any other marketing tactic, which makes email an important part of any integrated marketing campaign.

5. Email marketing is inexpensive.

To sum up the best reason to use email marketing: It’s easy, effective, and inexpensive. Email marketing allows business owners to reach a large number of consumers at a rate of pennies per message. For small-business owners on a budget, this makes it a better choice than traditional marketing channels like TV, radio, or direct mail. You don’t have to take my word for it. A joint study from Shop.org and Forrester Research found that 85 percent of US retailers consider email marketing one of the most effective customer acquisition tactics.

The point of all this is that email may be an old tactic, but it remains a vital one. It’s relatively easy to get started with email marketing, so there’s no excuse for business owners to not be taking advantage of the tactic. Understandably, business owners may be too busy to handle the email marketing on their own, but this is something that any Web marketing professional (wink, wink) can help with. For more information on email marketing, read 10 more stats that show email marketing is still worthwhile and 5 stats that will make you a better email marketer.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Justifiable Ways to Be Completely Ruthless

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Want to get to the top? You can't be nice all the time

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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.

It’s often said that even the most respected leaders are considered by many to be ruthless, even brutal at times. Of course, often when leaders are perceived as merciless, that hard perception belongs to those who did not deserve any mercy.

Great leaders have to be tough and decisive. Often their decisions will displease many, but they can’t effectively lead if every decision is the result of democracy or consensus. This is the difficult path for the leader. It’s easy to stay popular when you appease everyone, but rarely will that drive a large organization to success. They must make the best decision taking all the needs and wants into account. Ultimately, they have to lead the way or step aside.

Here are five ways a leader must be uncompromising and perhaps ruthless in order to benefit a loyal following. See if you have the strength to be tough when needed.

1. Drive the vision.

Despite the arguments from proponents of flat management, most companies can’t move forward without strong vision and a leader ready to move the organization forward despite the risks and stress. Great leaders know when to push or pull the team down the road in order to break the inertia.

2. Protect the team.

Not everyone is a great fit on every team. Well-meaning people can be disruptive and difficult given the wrong set of circumstances. A great leader understands when dysfunction is beyond repair and must make the cut so the team can survive despite individual consequences.

3. Weather the storm

Business can be unpredictable. Just when you think things are calm, something like the financial crisis of 2008 comes along and destroys every bit of safety you built over decades. Great leaders know that this is the time to make decisions that may hurt the few in order to save the many. They must maintain strength at the expense of collateral damage so that all don’t perish.

4. Maintain morale.

Great leadership requires strength, structure, stability and decisiveness. When a team is surrounded by chaos, inaction and indecision productivity drops along with morale. Strong leaders know that running a tight ship allows for the team to be more carefree and opens the door for enjoyment and, ultimately, the kind of innovation that breeds genuine excitement making small personal sacrifices of freedom worth the price.

5. Preserve the culture.

Not every team can survive a wide variety of personality traits. Companies that scale tightly define their culture and use it as a tool to weed out those who may cause growth to slow. Great leaders continuously define and refine the culture to reward those who can conform and excel while ruthlessly eliminating those who won’t be a fit for the long haul. On the bright side, those people will be free to find an environment where they can thrive and be happy rather than living in frustration and mediocrity.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Horrible Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

Author Tim Ferriss suggests some common bad habits you should definitely add to your not-to-do-list


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.

For the full list, click here.

MONEY Careers

The Best Way to Come Out to Coworkers and Bosses

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks on stage during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California.
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Inspired by Apple CEO Tim Cook's announcement that he's gay? These strategies can help you open up with your colleagues.

On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook came out to his entire customer base.

In a column for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook wrote: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

The Apple chief’s column continued to say while he had wanted to maintain “a basic level of privacy,” he felt that this was holding him back from helping others.

“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” Cook wrote. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Coming out to anyone is a big step. But for many LGBT individuals, informing professional relations of one’s sexuality is just as challenging—if not more so—as telling friends and family.

Despite rising public support for LGBT rights and the increase in state laws recognizing those rights, a majority (53%) of LGBT workers in the U.S. hide this part of their identify at work, according to a study released this year by the Human Rights Campaign.

According to the survey, the reasons for not being open at work range from feelings that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is “nobody’s business,” to fear of being stereotyped, to concern that bias could have a negative effect on one’s career and professional relationships. What many don’t realize, however, is that remaining in the closet can itself have negative effects: Many LGBT workers report feeling exhausted and distracted at work from all the time and energy they spend hiding their identities, according to HRC.

“Often fears are overblown in our minds,” says Sarah Holland, an executive coach who formerly headed the Visibility Project, a national organization that helped corporations address issues of sexual orientation in the workplace. “The world is more receptive to LGBT individuals than it’s ever been before. More often then not your colleagues have already made assumptions about your sexual orientation, especially if you never say anything about your personal life.”

There’s no need to share your orientation if you don’t care to, experts say. But if you decide that it’s finally time to let your guard down—as Cook did—here’s the best way to go about it:

Assess the Risks

Before doing anything, you want to make sure that you won’t put your career or personal security in any kind of jeopardy by saying something.

Start by checking whether your state has a non-discrimination law that would protect you from being fired, harassed, or discriminated against. Currently 21 states have such laws in place regarding sexual orientation, and 17 of those for gender identity as well. (No workplace protections exist in federal law.)

While it’s a reassuring backstop if your state is among those that offer protections, it’s arguably more important to assess your company and department culture to get a sense of how your news will be received, suggests Deena Fidas, director of workplace equality for the Human Rights Campaign.

Does your employer have a written non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and/or gender identity? The vast majority (91%) of Fortune 500 companies have workplace protections in place on the basis of sexual orientation and 61% on gender identity. Does your company offer domestic partner benefits? Is there a support or affinity group for LBGT individuals, or is anyone in your department openly gay? (If so, you might want to talk to people to learn about their experiences coming out and for their insights.) Is your company ranked highly on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index?

On the other hand, have you heard anyone at work make derogatory comments about LGBT people?

Should you get the sense that it wouldn’t be comfortable to come out, you might want to rethink your corporate affiliation, says Holland. “Consider why you want to be at that company. Do you really want to spend your work life being closeted for fear?”

Start with Your Closest Colleagues

Once you determine that your workplace is LGBT friendly, begin by sharing more details of your personal life with a trusted coworker whom you know is LGBT-supportive, recommends Fidas.

Having an ally will make you feel more comfortable opening up to the rest of the workforce, and can help you deftly handle any conversations that get awkward or too personal.

For the other folks in your social circle, “use the Monday morning coffee talk as a chance to be more forthcoming,” suggests Holland.

Chances are, you’ve been ducking out every time the social chatter turns to relationships or dating—and 80% of straight workers say that these conversations come up weekly or even daily, according to the HRC survey. But now use them to your advantage: “When asked how you spent your weekend, don’t change the gender of your partner,” says Holland. “Say if you went to a function for gay rights.”

By speaking about your LGBT identity casually, you can help coworkers to follow your lead and treat it the same way.

Let Everybody Else Figure it Out

While coming out to family and friends often happens with a discrete announcement, “in the reality of the workplace, coming out is more of a daily process, not an announcing that one is gay,” says Fidas.

In other words, you need not go around to everyone from the IT guy to the mail clerk to formally and awkwardly inform them about your sexual orientation. There are many subtle, discreet ways you can clue in coworkers with whom you’re less likely to talk about these topics.

For example, putting photos of your partner on your desk or having your loved one pick you up at the office allows coworkers to make the discovery themselves without you hiding any aspect of your identity.

Fidas also recommends using an opportunity to correct a coworker’s mistaken assumption as a way to make your sexual orientation or gender identity clear: “If you’re staring a new job, and a coworker asks if you moved from Boston with your husband, you can say you moved with your wife, rather than saying your spouse moved with you.”

Remember most of all that “you do not need your coworkers’ approval,” says Judith Martin, author of Miss Manners Minds Your Business. “You only need them to be respectful of you, which your workplace probably already obligates them to do.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Productivity Hacks You Can’t Afford Not to Know About

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Don’t multitask

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

My field of integrated communications is a service business that by definition must be productive. People’s deadlines must be met with deliverables executed on a critical path, with many layers of dependencies: Clients depend on teams to launch products, time financial news and outmaneuver competitors.

Companies like mine must produce before others can deliver and produce well, staying creative, insightful, accurate and proactive, even under pressure.

It’s a tall order. But over the decades I’ve had insights about what makes a team productive at its core. I’m sharing a few proven productivity hacks here in the hopes they’ll also help you.

Related: 5 Simple Low-Tech Hacks for Boosting Your Productivity

1. Set clear expectations with the company’s culture.

Create a positive work environment that supports professional development. Arm employees with the tools they need to build and expand their expertise and create productive workspaces accommodating different work styles.

Encourage people to step up and take chances. Make it clear how success will be measured. My first productivity hack begins at the ground floor, in building a culture that is all about setting goals and getting the right things done.

2. Apply design thinking.

Productivity doesn’t simply happen. It comes from a constant focus on building it into processes and work flows as the organization evolves. Look at end results (measurable goals, timelines, success metrics) and set process in place even before pressing the “go” button.

It saps productivity to figure all this all out in real time. Designing it right into work flows from the very start can make the difference between achieving the goal or looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong.

3. Delegate.

The more you hand off to others, the more productive you’ll be. If someone else can do a task, if you can show someone else how to do it or if somebody on your team can show someone else how to do an activity, then don’t do it yourself. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you have to do things because nobody else knows how.

If you feel that way, stop before you slide down a nonproductive slippery slope. Step out of your comfort zone and find someone else who’s willing to do the same — and give him or her the job. Let the person know you’re there if needed.

And then be productive on something that’s a step up from what you’ve done before.

Related: The One Question Successful Business Owners Always Ask Themselves

4. Don’t multitask.

People refer to multitasking like it’s a good thing. It’s not. People’s brains aren’t designed to do concurrent things well.

Flitting between tasks means flitting between brain modalities, and there’s always a switching cost as individuals move from one to another.

Schedule your time to minimize distractions or interruptions. Turn off your email. It’s an easy (and easy to rationalize) productivity suck.

Close your computer in meetings unless all you’re (really, truly) doing is taking notes. More and more people’s lives are about interruptions and short bursts of attention. But real productivity comes from doing one thing at a time, doing it well and wrapping it up before moving on to the next thing.

5. Take a break.

The brain can grow weary with too much of the same sort of work; that’s why people sneak off to check email. When you finish something, reward yourself. Take a walk around the block. Check Twitter to see what’s trending. Go get that excellent cup of coffee. Head to the ping-pong table with a teammate and brainstorm while you hit the ball back and forth.

These aren’t wastes of time. They’re ways of refueling and reorganizing for your next deliverable. When you come back, sit down, turn off your email and envision what you need to do between now and the next break. A breath of fresh air may be more than a cliché. Weave one in and see what happens next.

6. Challenge assumptions.

Remote teams and virtual workers are the norm in today’s workplace, as team members often collaborate across different geographies and time zones. “How does that affect productivity?” people ask. My answer: “It’s a boost.”

Multioffice teams can script work flows that put time differences on the company’s side.

When team members on different coasts are working on the same project, processes can begin in New York so handoffs are ready when Silicon Valley turns on the lights.

And New York staffers can count on their West Coast counterparts when they sign off. If productivity is the goal, challenge your staff to design processes to optimize for it. Old ways of doing things, like dinosaurs, sometimes need to evolve.

7. Optimize for meaning.

If you’re not getting a sense of making an impact, a sense of satisfaction, even fun in your work, it’s hard to sustain productivity. Being productive isn’t about working harder and harder in the hope that you’ll eventually get there. It’s about hitting a flow state, mastery or something that brings a sense of a job well done.

If you really want to boost productivity, design your work to let you do things that you genuinely enjoy.

Many of the hacks above flow like a waterfall to this point: Creating a culture, designing work flows, delegating and the other tips all point to processes that help people match themselves to work that matters.

Build your teams with people who care about what they do and create an environment that makes it easier and more efficient for them to get that work done. Then enjoy the results as you watch productivity rise.

Related: 5 Things You Should be Doing to Have an Insanely Productive Week

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Tips for Running Meetings That Aren’t Totally Terrible

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Here are a few ways to ensure your next one is both productive and organized

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: What’s one best practice for running a successful Meetup-style group for entrepreneurs?

Plan in Advance

“The best practice to run a successful meetup group for entrepreneurs is taking time to plan the event in advance. I’ve found that it is best to plan at least three to four weeks in advance so there is enough time to work out all of the details, find a venue and ensure every entrepreneur attending the meetup-style group is able to make arrangements for the day.” Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery

Set the Tone Immediately

“Create the culture you’re hoping to have for your group at the first event. Do this by stacking the room with your contacts who know what you have in mind, and let the word spread from there. I run several such events, and by doing this very thing, I’ve been able to grow them exponentially both locally and around the country — all true to the same values and mission. ” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Focus on Relationships

“Entrepreneurs are excited to be part of something that is growing and becoming grand, so tap in to those desires by helping us create relationships with other dreamers, people we can share with, learn from and with whom we can explore new possibilities. Focus less on being cool and more on being human.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Make It Exclusive

“Make your group invite-only so it’s more exclusive and to ensure quality control. Many of the best entrepreneurs I know in London don’t bother with general meetups anymore, and by creating an invite-only group with a strong core, you will generate a lot of interest from those aspiring membership. Plus, knowing your niche is very important in today’s crowded landscape.” — Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me

Lay out Helpful Assignments

“The hardest part of a meetup is the first 15 minutes. You want to balance structure with freedom so that people don’t run to the bathroom to avoid the exercise. Lay out a couple challenges that have clear personal benefits for attendees but no deadline. A goal could be to learn about three new valuable apps or find two people for whom you can make introductions. Make it about helping one another.” — Heidi Allstop, Spill

Get to Your Venue Early

“Get to your venue early, and make sure everything is in order. This includes making sure enough seating is available and ensuring that all audio/visual equipment works properly. One of your goals in running a meetup is to impress, and if the meeting encounters a hitch, you’re unlikely to achieve that goal.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Get Startups to Demo

“It’s the best way to invite someone to see what your meetup is all about. Plus, it’s a nearly instant way to make it valuable for them. The audience hears what they’re working on, wants to hear more, and suddenly, there’s a family of people there every time.” — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Give Everyone a Name Tag

“I love meeting people, but I’m horrible at remembering names. If everyone has a name tag, then it’s much easier to make introductions and build relationships. Bonus points if you encourage everyone to include his or her Twitter handle, business name or ‘I’m interested in…’ as well.” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Create Clear Goals and Expectations

“Many people join communities because they attend an event from that community. Once they do, the organizer needs to work to keep them there. Providing a clear mission statement and adhering to it is essential in growing and maintaining the community. If the goal is education events, don’t just do happy hours. People join because of what you offer up front, and keeping that as a baseline is key.” — Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC

Organize Specific Discussion Topics

“There’s nothing worse than having a meetup with no direction. Groups that don’t have focus will fizzle and die very quickly. This can be through the form of talks, events, etc. If you give everyone something to talk about, it creates an environment of learning and meaningful connections, which is ultimately the purpose of a meetup.” — James Simpon, GoldFire Studios

Be Confidential

“Start every meetup with an explicit statement that everything shared within the group should stay within the group. Knowing that the discussions are confidential can help founders open up and share their real problems, such as running out of cash or dealing with a difficult employee. And they can learn from the entrepreneurs who have gone through these situations before.” — Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 8 Indispensable Elements of Real Wealth

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Health and family are important for one's success

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

What’s the purpose of life?

That’s a powerful question that deserves your attention. My answer has drastically changed the past five to 10 years, and will continue to evolve. Success is part of life’s purpose but I know that on the other side of success is the quest for more success, more milestones, more achievements, more people to help and learn from, more money to be made. That’s great. Life becomes mundane and boring without goals and dreams to reach for but I believe there is more to life and real wealth.

Don’t get me wrong. Becoming a millionaire is a valid desire for everyone, but there is no higher success than building and maintaining a world class life with meaning and significance. Awareness precedes choice, and your choices determine the quality of your life. I’ve put some serious thought into what makes a world class life. Here are the eight forms you must adapt and start improving if you want to live an exceptional life with no regret.

Related: Find Your Purpose

1. A world-class inner life.

Your outer world, who you are and the quality of your life, is 100 percent determined by your inner world. Your inner world consists of your peace of mind, the quality of your thinking and living authentically. Are you living your true values or doing things based out of fear and worry? Your inner world determines your self worth and how connected you are to your core.

2. World-class health.

Your health is a very important part of wealth. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. At the end of your life, the things you now perceive as the big things might be the little things. When we are young, we will compromise our health for wealth, but when we are old we will gladly sacrifice all of our wealth for just a little bit of health.

It’s extremely important to put health first, if you really want a world class life. We take our health for granted until we lose it, then we spend all our waking time trying to get it back. Those who don’t make time for exercise must eventually make time for illness.

3. World-class family life.

Having loved ones around you, and being able to see your family whenever you choose, is a crucial part of success. Gary Vaynerchuk told me his business is extremely important, but a distant second to his family. The greatest support system in the world is good family and friends. You can’t be careless here, you need great relationships and those who make you better. Remember, you can’t change your family, and trying to do so will cause you endless stress and frustration. Love them and appreciate them for who they are.

4. World-class profession/career.

The attitude you bring to your days determine your destiny and it’s extremely hard to carry a great attitude when you don’t enjoy what you do. According to the new Gallup survey “71 percent of employees are activity disengaged at work.”

Be patient and figure out your strengths. Purposefully choosing (or creating) your ideal professional is crucial to a world-class life. When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s important to get to the end of your career knowing you gave your best. Yes, unexpected circumstances do happen but you are in control of your own future through the choices you make. Life is not easy nor promised, but it’s how you adapt and adjust that determines what happens next. Never settle.

Related: 7 Steps to Find Meaning in Your Work

5. World-class financial freedom.

Less than 5 percent of our society will be financially stable by age 65. WTF? Money is extremely important and makes the world go round. It also gives you one of the most important aspects of a world-class life — freedom.

Money allows you the choices to do what you want, when you want, wherever you want, so you can live on your own terms. What’s your game plan to assure a financially free future?

6. World-class circle of genius.

You become who you spend the most time with. Are the people you’re associating with holding you to higher standards and challenging you? If you spend time with people who are playing at a world class level, you drastically increase your chances of doing the same. Their ways of being will rub off on you. You’ll adapt their philosophies and perspectives.

Start surrounding yourself with people whose lives you want to emulate. Keep company with those who are thinking and acting at an extraordinary level.

7. World-class experiences.

Ultimately, life is an adventure. Experiences and memories are what separate the elite lives from the mediocre. I’ve recently started focusing more on producing instead of consuming, and valuing experiences over material things. I like both, and appreciate the finer things in life, but after studying countless world-class people, it’s clear they are constantly creating memorable experiences. What’s the point of doing something if you’re not having fun?

8. World-class impact and legacy.

The worthiest aim of life is service to the world around us. How much difference are you making in the world around you? Are you adding consistent value that improves the lives of others?

Generosity the key that unlocks happiness. There is no greater feeling than when you help or give to others, asking for nothing back. Whether it is a compliment or a small gift, do something nice for somebody every day. Realize every tweet, every blog post and every conversation you have is part of your legacy.

I challenge you not to postpone your life. Most say “when I have more time I will take time for myself” but the reality is life waits for no one. Don’t postpone travel or chasing your dreams. Nobody knows when their time is up, so make the most of it by focusing on these eight forms of real wealth.

Related: 4 Simple Actions to Lead a More Meaningful Life

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why You Need to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

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Seeking comfort will never enable growth

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

I absolutely love my job. I almost feel like life isn’t real. That’s how much I love it. I have fun, flexibility and I’m working in the industry of my dreams.

Yet I just accepted a new job. Let me elaborate. A few weeks ago, I was invited to interview for a new position. Several days later, I was offered the job. This unleashed a world of struggle inside me because I love my current job.

I’ve been at this company for a little over a year now, and it’s been an amazing experience. I have learned a lot and grown as a person. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a mentor who has guided me and propelled me along. And I’ve had flexibility: I can, for the most part, work the schedule I set for myself. There’s something invaluable about that.

So when I was faced with the decision of accepting a new job, I had to take a really hard look at my options. I kept thinking, Well, I have fun at work. I have a flexible schedule. I like the people I work with. There are certain perks I’d be giving up.

And then I examined my new choice: longer hours, potentially less exciting work. But there was a network to be gained. I’d been given an opportunity to expand and grow my network with people who’ve worked in a different part of my industry or another market — one I’d eventually like to explore.

I weighed my options, oscillating back and forth. Emotionally, I felt inclined to remain right where I was. But rationally, I knew what I needed to do.

Related: When Working on Personal Goals, Competition Is Beside the Point

This was an extremely difficult decision for me as I value comfort. I don’t think I’m alone in this. People like to be comfortable. They enjoy the familiar. Even when the familiar is far from optimal (even horrible), people still resist change. Although a workplace might be tiring and frustrating, they know at least what level of tiring and frustrating to expect. They think, Why knows what the result would be if they were to move, change or try something new? They might be in for entirely new levels of tiring and frustrating.

While I was in the process of making this difficult decision, I sought feedback from a few trusted friends. One friend, a self-proclaimed workaholic, bluntly told me, “I don’t understand why this is difficult!” She saw the opportunity for what it would do for me professionally and set aside any emotional component. Another trusted friend shared a painful insight: “I think you’re too comfortable.”

Seeking comfort, however natural it is, will never enable growth. As my fifth-grade teacher instructed, “There can be no amount of learning without a certain level of discomfort.” Think back to your greatest moments of growth: What was the process like? Was it easy?My guess is no. Growth rarely is.

It would have been much easier for me to stay where I was. I know the ropes at the job. I know (for the most part) what to do to excel at the tasks given me. I know the people. I know the office dynamics. I even know my co-worker’s Starbucks order. How am I supposed to learn a new Starbucks order? I know that changing jobs will mean abandoning the familiar, and that’s scary.

But in the quest for growth, people have to allow themselves to be a little scared. Complacency is dangerous. People must constantly work to challenge themselves, acquire new skills, meet new people and say yes to new experiences. Financial advisors often encourage young investors to invest in higher-risk assets.

When someone is young with few attachments is the optimal time to take this chance. This high-risk, high-reward mentality applies to job opportunities. This is the time to take calculated risks. The magic truly does happen outside of the comfort zone. Here are a few tips for getting there:

Related: What I Learned From Being a Broke, Unemployed Graduate

1. Identify strengths and weaknesses.

To step outside of your comfort zone, first understand what makes you comfortable. What’s your security blanket and what do you shy away from? Perhaps it’s people. Perhaps you have a best friend who you do everything with. Perhaps it’s a certain skill set that you frequently use or a job you’ve stayed at out of familiarity. Identify things you cling to and what makes you nervous.

2. Seek opportunities to improve skills.

You’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses: Now, and you’re not going to like this, you have to have to head toward the thing that makes you most nervous. For me, it was leaving the comfortable job. Maybe for you it’s public speaking or taking a class. Or maybe, it’s inding a new job. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable. That’s the only way to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Babying a previously broken limb only weakens it more. It needs use.

3. Reach for goals.

People can set immediate, intermediate and stretch goals, all in varying degrees of difficulty and time range for achievement. This is the time to keep longer range goals in mind. Often to achieve these goals, people have to step outside of their comfort zone. Keep in mind what you’re aiming to achieve. This will motivate you to take chances. Don’t be intimidated by hard work: That’s how you score results.

4. Remember nothing is permanent.

In the search for the right decision, people often paint their options as being the “final decision.” But almost nothing is final. Always remember that no matter what you do, you’re not stuck. Even certain contracts can be voided. And if a decision means you are committing to doing something for several years, that’s OK, too. That stretch of time is just a drop in the bucket.

Keep perspective. Very few decisions are permanent. Keeping this in mind helps alleviate some of the pressure brought to the decision-making process. I also don’t believe in mistakes — only learning experiences.

Everything serves to teach you something. Whatever choice you make will be the right choice for that moment.

5. Have a good support system.

I have friends and family in whom I can confide. I have trusted them and their opinions, and they have served as good sounding boards for me. They were able to be rational when my emotions were flaring. They helped me to weigh the pros and the cons of my decision objectively. Don’t deploy an army, but a few trusted advisors can really help provide perspective and give you the motivational push you need.

Related: Mentors Can Fill in Any Yawning Gaps as Your Startup Integrates New Grads

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 25 Absolute Best Workplaces in the World

The Google logo is seen at the company's offices on August 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Adam Berry—Getty Images

Levels of employee trust, camaraderie and pride rise within top-performing companies

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Of 6,200 companies across the globe boasting 11.9 million total employees, Google has been named 2014’s best workplace in the world.

For the third year in a row, the search giant topped the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces List unveiled today by global consulting firm Great Place to Work (GPTW). Other notable performers included Microsoft and Marriott (numbers 6 and 7, respectively), as well as eBay, 24, and Coca-Cola, 25.

While an employee survey regarding workplace culture comprised two-thirds of each company’s ranking, the other third was determined by a third-party assessment of company policies and practices. GPTW says its study is the largest of its kind.

Overall, the firm reported that levels of employee trust, camaraderie and pride had risen within top-performing companies — all of which are crucial factors in determining employee engagement and business success. “The best are getting better,” GPTW said.

Related: How to Be the Best Boss (Infographic)

Read on for the full list:

1. Google

2. SAS Institute

3. NetApp

4. W.L. Gore & Associates

5. Belcorp

6. Microsoft

7. Marriott

Related: Richard Branson Announces Unlimited Vacation Policy for Virgin Staffers

8. Monsanto

9. Cisco

10. American Express

11. Scotiabank

12. SC Johnson

13. Autodesk

14. Telefonica

15. National Instruments

16. Fedex Corporation

Related: The 10 Biggest Motivation Killers and How to Fix Them (Infographic)

17. Atento

18. EMC

19. Daimler

20. Diageo

21. Hyatt

22. Mars

23. Accor

24. eBay

25. The Coca-Cola Company

Related: Why Peter Thiel’s Philosophy on Hiring Is Hurting Silicon Valley

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