TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Behaviors to Avoid for Happiness and Success

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Learn to get out of your own way for greatness

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What’s the secret to happiness and achievement? Sometimes it’s not so much what you do as what you stop doing. That’s the lesson behind some of the talks in TED’s playlist Counterintuitive Career Advice. The whole playlist includes 12 great talks, but the ones I love the most tell you what not to do–and show how most people hold themselves back from greatness.

Spend a little time watching these great speakers and you’ll learn some priceless lessons about getting out of your own way:

1. Stop making excuses.

Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career,” by economics professor Larry Smith, may well be my favorite TED talk of all time. He tells the audience what he tells his students–that instead of reaching for greatness, they will find excuses for failing to pursue their dreams. From “I’m not a genius” to “I value my relationships too much,” he demolishes every one of these excuses and then some. And he will leave you feeling extraordinarily inspired.

2. Stop being so agreeable.

Going along to get along is a powerful, deep-seated human instinct, explains Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness, in the thought-provoking talk “Dare to Disagree.” But resisting is well worth it, because agreeableness can literally be lethal. Heffernan uses real-world examples to illustrate the danger of staying silent when you believe something’s wrong, and the good things that can happen when we accept conflict and disagreement as the valuable tools they are.

3. Stop expecting to succeed all the time.

Success is only momentary, argues art historian Sarah Lewis (pictured) in “Embrace the Near Win.” And even the most talented and skilled among us only achieve success some of the time. She learned this from looking at an artist’s early–and not-quite-satisfactory–paintings, and by watching an archery team work hard for three hours and only sometimes hit the bull’s-eye.

“Success motivates us, but a near-win can propel us in an ongoing quest,” she explains. So celebrate your near-wins and your almost-achievements. They’re an important part of the journey to where you want to be.

4. Stop giving up too soon.

What’s the best predictor of success? It isn’t talent, skill, or intelligence. It’s grit–that enduring ability to get up and try again after you’ve failed, and to continue believing that you can always do better next time. That observation comes from psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth in her talk “The Key to Success? Grit.”

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” she says.”Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.” How do you build grit? The best answer so far is something called a “growth mindset”–the recognition that our ability to learn and grow isn’t set but can improve with our effort. Next time you fail, keep that in mind and know that, if you keep working at it, you’re certain to do better next time.

5. Stop looking for quick answers.

“It is striking to see how big of an overlap there is between the dreams that we have and projects that never happen,” declares Brazilian entrepreneur and educator Bel Pesce in “5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams.” We kill our dreams, she explains, when we expect to succeed overnight, when we look to others for answers or blame them for our failures, and when we slack off after achieving what seems like enough success.

But there’s one other way to kill our dreams, she says–focusing only on the dream and not on the process it takes to get there. “Yes, you should enjoy the goals themselves,” she explains. “But people think that you have dreams and whenever you get to reaching one of those dreams, it’s a magical place where happiness will be all around.”

It doesn’t work that way, she says. Achieving a dream is only a momentary sensation, much like when mountaineers work hard to reach a mountain peak, only to start back down a few minutes later. “The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of the journey,” she says.

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

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The 1 Thing to Avoid If You Want to Be Successful in Life

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Don't let the looks of skepticism get to you

It is the mid 1980s, and I am 27 years old. For the last six years, I’ve been selling my handmade soft sculptures on the street, at state fairs, and eventually, in a retail store. I’ve been learning how to create products people want. But it’s still been a tough way to make a living. And I’m beginning to feel like I may have hit rock bottom.

My friends and family have begun to side-eye me. In their eyes, it’s time for me to grow up — time to get with the program, time to get a “real” job. They are very kind, but I can tell they think I’m a loser. They have good jobs and they’re getting married and buying houses. I’m chasing my dream. At the moment, I also happen to be sleeping on a friend’s couch and my car has just broken down.

They couldn’t envision how my future was going to turn out, but I had faith. I knew my path was never going to be as straight as theirs. I believed deep down that what I was learning would be important later on. I felt sure of one thing: If I could create a living working with my hands, I’d be the richest man in the world. In my eyes, I was simply experiencing a bump in the road — a small detour.

We all hit rock bottom, don’t we? Thankfully, I met someone who believed in me. Susan thought I was talented. She saw something in me that others could not. She let me live with her so that I could start over, and for that I will never be able to thank her enough.

Susan’s apartment in Fremont was brimming with stuffed animals. She had teddy bears of all different sizes as well as farm animals like cows and sheep. She loved the soft sculptures I had created and collected those as well.

One day, Susan asked if I could design a bear. I told her no, I wasn’t a patternmaker — all soft sculpture was done by hand. “Try,” she implored.

So I did. I started studying the dimensions of one of her teddy bears. I needed to teach myself how pattern pieces could be sewn together to create 3-D objects. I took its measurements. Then I reached for paper, started cutting shapes out of it, and began taping them together. It struck me that I could just as easily sculpt in paper.

Inspired, I quickly moved on to color construction paper and built a fish modeled after the character Cleo, the goldfish in Pinocchio. To my delight, it looked absolutely amazing! I stuffed it with paper tissue to give it more dimension. Later that day, Susan took apart the fish and laid out the pieces of paper I had used to create it on shimmering fabric. Together, we created the first plush animal I had ever designed. I was hooked.

My world changed that day. Companies had been selling plush animals forever, and all of a sudden, I had a marketable skill.

For the next month, I created paper sculptures of everything from ducks to dogs to bears — you name it. Working with paper was extremely satisfying, because it was so forgiving. If I made a mistake, well, I could simply keep trimming and then tape the pieces together again to get closer to the right shape. I could shape, cut, tape, reshape, cut again and tape over and over again. I was working with my hands, and I loved being able to transform an idea into a product so quickly. It was magical.

One day, Susan suggested that I contact Dakin, one of the largest and oldest producers of plush animals. Conveniently, the company was located just across the San Francisco Bay.

To my surprise, when I picked up the phone and asked if they needed any freelance work done, they invited me to come in right away. I can remember taking the elevator to the top floor, somewhat in awe. I brought a few photographs of my work along. They’re weren’t much, but they must have been good enough, because they handed me a swath of fabric and told me I had two weeks to design a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever.

When a door opens, stick your foot inside. For me, “fake it ‘til you make it” has always been a bit of a motto. Had I ever designed anything like a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever before? No. But I took a chance.

First, I started studying the structure of a golden retriever. Then I went to the library to make life-size Xerox copies. Next it was time to starting cutting paper and taping it together. If I could make the dog look good in paper, I knew it would look good in fabric. And there it was: A beautiful life-size plush version of America’s favorite dog.

Dakin couldn’t believe how good it looked either. When I held the $1,500 check they handed me, I grinned.

Having the courage to make a change is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur. What my friends and family didn’t understand is that I had realized my handmade soft sculptures could never be mass-produced. I didn’t want to keep selling my ideas on street corners — I wanted to grow my audience. So I needed to learn about manufacturing techniques. I needed to reevaluate where I had been in order to move on.

Dakin mass-produced my Golden Retriever, which the company named Sandy. The following February, I flew to New York for Toy Fair. After the show, I stopped by FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the U.S. It was cold and rainy. Inside, there was Sandy.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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Advice for 20-Somethings From Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Geniuses

Warren Buffett at Squawk Box interview on May 4, 2015.
Lacy O'Toole—CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Warren Buffett at Squawk Box interview on May 4, 2015.

"Help your community, help other people"

If you’re young and your career is in its early days, you’ve likely been privy to plenty of career truisms and clichés.

But if “follow your passion,” “give 110%,” and “be true to yourself” just aren’t cutting it for you anymore, perhaps advice like, “don’t work too hard” and “relax” are more up your alley.

These successful people have offered some of the best — and oftentimes unconventional — advice for people in their 20s:

Warren Buffett: Exercise humility and restraint.

In a 2010 interview with Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said the best advice he ever received was from Berkshire Hathaway board-of-directors member Thomas Murphy. He told Buffett:

“Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don’t give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow.”

During this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, Buffett also told a curious seventh-grader that the key to making friends and getting along with coworkers is learning to change your behavior as you mature by emulating those you admire and adopting the qualities they possess.

Maya Angelou: Make your own path.

In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer Maya Angelou:

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, ‘If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to you place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.’

Richard Branson: Never look back in regret — move on to the next thing.

Richard Branson’s mother taught him that.

“The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,” The Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. “I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

J.K. Rowling: Embrace failure.

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling children’s book series “Harry Potter,” knows a lot about achieving success — and failure.

“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling recently told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” show. “It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'”

Before Rowling became one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was a single mom living off welfare in the UK. She began writing about her now famous character, the young wizard Harry Potter, in Edinburgh cafes, and received “loads” of rejections from book publishers when she first sent out the manuscript, The Guardian reports.

“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.

She went on to say that she considered her early failure a “gift” that was “painfully won,” since she gained valuable knowledge about herself and her relationships through the adversity.

Eric Schmidt: Say yes to more things.

In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as advising:

Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”

Marissa Mayer: Pick something and make it great.

In a 2011 interview with the Social Times, current Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer revealed the best advice she ever received:

My friend Andre said to me, ‘You know, Marissa, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I’ve gotta be honest: That’s not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great.’ I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.

Steve Jobs: Don’t just follow your passion but something larger than yourself.

In a recent Business Insider article, Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” referenced Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who recalled an exchange he had with Jobs shortly before he passed. Jobs reportedly told Isaacson:

Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.

Suze Orman: With success comes unhelpful criticism — ignore it.

In a LinkedIn article about the best advice she ever received, motivational speaker, author, and CNBC host Suze Orman wrote that success has often made her a target of nasty criticism “entirely disconnected from facts.” At first these attacks made her angry, but she eventually learned to ignore them.

“A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking,” she wrote.

“The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.”

Bill Gates: Keep things simple.

In a 2009 interview with CNBC, Microsoft cofounder and chairman Bill Gates admired Warren Buffett’s ability to keep things simple.

You look at his calendar, it’s pretty simple. You talk to him about a case where he thinks a business is attractive, and he knows a few basic numbers and facts about it. And [if] it gets less complicated, he feels like then it’s something he’ll choose to invest in. He picks the things that he’s got a model of, a model that really is predictive and that’s going to continue to work over a long-term period. And so his ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.

Arianna Huffington: Don’t work too hard.

In a LinkedIn post last year, The Huffington Post president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington revealed that she’s often asked if young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends?

“This couldn’t be less true,” she writes. “And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”

She says she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.”

Stewart Butterfield: Have an ‘experimental attitude.’

Stewart Butterfield, the cofounder of Flickr and chief executive of Slack, one of the fastest-growing business apps of all time, recently shared his best advice for young people with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:

“Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low,” he said. “I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”

George Stephanopoulos: Relax.

“Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow,” “Good Morning America” coanchor George Stephanopoulos told personal finance website NerdWallet.

“Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.”

Maria Malcolm Beck: Remember that you won’t end up where you start.

Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of Bluemercury, said in an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times that she always reminds students that “nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you’re interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.”

Her other piece of advice: Go into tech. “If you look at all the skill sets companies need, they involve a comfort level with technology,” she told Bryant.

T.J. Miller: Work harder than anyone else around you.

T.J. Miller, comedian and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet this is truly the formula to success. “It worked for me, and I have mediocre talent and a horse jaw.”

Alexa von Tobel: Get up, dress up, and show up.

What Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and the author of New York Times bestseller “Financially Fearless,” means is that it’s important to wake up excited for what’s coming, dress the part, and always show up ready to go.

“As a new hire, you will likely find yourself in tons of new situations, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate them,” she wrote in an article for Business Insider.

“Remember that your manager is strapped for time, so know when to ask questions. Are you unsure of the objectives for an assignment? Asking her to clarify is crucial, since it’s pretty hard to make the mark if you don’t know where it even lies.

“On the flip side, avoid bombarding your manager with petty questions that could be answered by your peers or a quick Google search.”

Mark Bartels: Map out a timeline for yourself when you start a new job.

“We talk about budgets; we talk about planning your finances; but what a lot of people don’t do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers,” StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels tells Business Insider.

He says that lack of planning can be costly, both professionally and existentially, while having an agenda provides a metric for evaluating your success.

Hermione Way: Start your own business.

“There has never been an easier time to start a business,” Hermione Way, founder of WayMedia and star of Bravo’s “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet.

“There are so many free online tools. Just start, and if you fail you can always go and get a normal job, but you will learn so much along the way it will be a great experience.”

John Chen: Being a ‘superstar’ can hurt your career.

“Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a LinkedIn post earlier this year.

“While it’s important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your coworkers.” It can also turn off your boss, he warns.

“Trying too hard to show you’re a superstar tells me that you only care about what’s best for you, and not the company as a whole.”

Salli Setta: Never eat lunch alone.

Red Lobster president Salli Setta tells Business Insider it’s important to get out from behind your screen at lunchtime because lunch is a prime networking opportunity.

The benefit of always having lunch plans with someone are two-fold: You can get information that will help you “think about your job differently,” and you also get on your companion’s radar.

“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports,'” Setta says. “It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind” and going in armed with “a couple of things that you want to ask, and a couple of things you want to share.”

Deepak Chopra: Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty.

In a LinkedIn post last year, Deepak Chopra, popular author and founder of The Chopra Foundation said he wished he embraced the wisdom of uncertainty at a younger age.

“At the outset of my medical career, I had the security of knowing exactly where I was headed,” he wrote. “Yet what I didn’t count on was the uncertainty of life, and what uncertainty can do to a person.”

“If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty — it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,” he wrote.

Cynthia Tidwell: Be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks.

Cynthia Tidwell, CEO of insurance company Royal Neighbors of America, told Business Insider her favorite piece of advice for young people is be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks. “I encourage taking risks,” she said. “What is the worst thing that can happen? You can go back and do what you were doing before.”

Brian Chesky: Don’t listen to your parents.

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said in an interview with The New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.

“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,” he told Bryant. “I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”

David Melancon: Ask 3 important questions at the end of every interview.

When a hiring manager turns the tables at the end of an interview and asks, “do you have any questions for me?” David Melancon, CEO of btr., a corporate-rankings platform that focuses on holistic performance, says there are three questions far more important for you to ask than what the salary is or what the job requirements are.

The questions are:

1. What qualities will a person in this role need to be successful in your company culture — as an individual and as a worker?

2. What’s the company’s position on education and development, including student-loan reimbursement and tuition assistance?

3. How does the company keep employees excited, innovative, and motivated?

Diane von Furstenberg: Keep it real.

In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg says she has learned that trusting yourself is the key to success.

“In order to trust yourself, you have to have a relationship with yourself,” she told Bryant. “In order to have a relationship with yourself, you have to be hard on yourself, and not be delusional.”

Rick Goings: Be nice to everyone.

Rick Goings, CEO of home-products company Tupperware Brands, which brought in $2.6 billion in revenue last year, shared his favorite pearls of wisdom for young people with Business Insider. One of them was be nice to everyone when you go on a job interview.

“I like to check with the driver, our receptionist, and my assistants on how the candidate interacted with them. How you treat others means the world!”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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This 3-Hour Morning Routine Can Set You Up for Success

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Jessica Alexander—Getty Images Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, speaks onstage at 'What It Really Takes To Win In Business' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center on March 14, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Use every second you get in a day

I wake up at 6 a.m. Literally. Every day.

For me, every minute counts, so my schedule is planned down to the second.

And I’m not kidding: I’ve had, and continue to have, three- and four-minute meetings.

The first thing I do when I wake up is grab my cellphone and take it to the bathroom with me, where I start my day by consuming quite a lot of information.

I go to TechMeme and check out the headlines. I read Jason Hirschhorn’s email newsletter, MediaREDEF.

Then I hit the news outlets, primarily Business Insider and ESPN. But the main site that I focus on during this time is Nuzzel, an aggregator of headlines and links that my circle is sharing. It’s a tremendous tool, and I recommend everyone look into it if they feel they don’t have time to properly focus on every website individually.

After those sites, I head to Twitter, my No. 1 outlet for communication with the public. I search my handle and try to find anything I might have missed from the night before, or even that morning, considering my European and Asian bases. I respond to as many people as possible.

Twitter is becoming a listening platform; there is such a volume of information on the platform now that you need to pay attention and listen more than you tweet out. So I spend a significant amount of my morning responding to people and starting conversations.

Lastly for my phone, I open Instagram and look at photos from my friends. It’s a nice way to start the morning — seeing all the cool stuff your friends are up to.

After all this comes my workout with my trainer Muscle Mike. I usually work out for 45 minutes to an hour. The specific workout routine varies depending on the day of the week, what I ate, how much I’ve been traveling … There is no one big secret GaryVee workout.

After the workout, I head back home to say bye to my kids before they go to school. I hug them for five minutes, give them a kiss and they’re off. After getting myself ready, I’m off to my first meeting of the day, which is often before 9 a.m.

This is where, I think, one of the more original aspects of my morning routine happens. In the car to the meeting, I call my mom, dad, or sister, depending on who I called last.

I catch up with them. Talk to them. Just learn what they’re up to. I really value those small moments.

You have to use every second you get in a day. For example, later, when I’m in the car, I’ll use the travel time for phone meetings or talking with my team.

The last call of the morning is to Brandon Warnke at Wine Library, who is the vice president. We review the Wine Library strategy for the day ahead.

By the time I step into that first meeting, so much is going through my head already. The day started the minute I opened my eyes.

A lifelong entrepreneur and longtime tech investor, VaynerMedia cofounder and CEO Gary Vaynerchuk has counseled and invested in more than 50 startups, including Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Birchbox, Uber, and Venmo. Read more from Gary here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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The 7 Biggest Financial Mistakes to Avoid

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Missing a student loan payment

As author and leadership guru Dale Carnegie once said, “discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

So, naturally, one of my favorite questions to ask guests on my daily podcast So Money is, “What was your biggest financial failure or mistake?”

Not because I want to embarrass them, but because those missteps inevitably reveal invaluable lessons and, in many cases, pave the way towards big wins.

Since launching the show, I’ve had the honor of interviewing everyone from top entrepreneurs to bestselling authors and entertainment personalities including Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, and Margaret Cho.

Here’s what they — and four others — had to say about a personal financial failure.

David Pottruck: ‘Investing in startups.’

David Pottruck, the former CEO of Charles Schwab and now chairman of HighTower Advisors, says that after leaving Schwab, he began investing in small startup companies without any prior experience.

For example, remember Eos Airlines? Pottruck says investing in it was a big ol’ fail.

“… A good idea does not necessarily create a good business and a good business does not necessarily translate into a good investment,” Pottruck told me. “So, you have to look at something in terms of its idea value, its value as a business and then its value as an investment. All of those are different, and so I didn’t know that, and I had to learn that.”

Listen to the full interview with David Pottruck.

Tim Ferriss: ‘Failing to find my market.’

“You should not make a product and then find your market,” says Tim Ferriss. “You should choose your market and then make your product. You should know exactly who you’re making something for and not get stuck as a lot of engineers do, creating something with a bunch of features and then attempting to figure out who you’re going to sell it to.”

The multiple New York Times best-selling author learned this lesson the hard way, confessing that after teaching his speed-reading seminar he was eager to create a product that allowed him to offer seminars without always having to be physically present.

So, he created an audio-book, “How I Beat the Ivy League,” and invested in the project using most of his savings and a lot of his time. Ultimately, he sold only two copies — including one to his mom, he joked.

Listen to the full interview with Tim Ferriss.

Margaret Cho: ‘Not buying an apartment.’

Award-winning comedian Margaret Cho shared with me that one of her biggest mistakes was saying no to a friend who offered her a really great real estate deal back in 1994.

A friend had offered her the apartment in New York City from the movie “9 ½ Weeks” for less than $400,000. She declined the offer at the time, even though she had the money. Now she estimates it’s worth between $8-9 million.

Although it would have been a great real estate investment, Cho doesn’t look back. She says, “I was really scared to buy a house. And I really remained scared to buy a house until I bought a house … But to me, I live very, very comfortably now and really never took those kinds of risks.”

Listen to the full interview with Margaret Cho.

Rebecca Jarvis: ‘Missing a student loan payment.’

“When you don’t pay a student loan, it is a very big deal. And it can, in a very significant way, change your credit and have a major impact on your life moving forward,” ABC News chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis recalls.

Jarvis says her biggest financial fail was missing a payment on her student loans. The missed payment not only affected her credit, but her parents’ credit as well.

“Everything ultimately worked out,” Jarvis says, “but to me, that was a pretty significant lesson, and I know it sounds, maybe to some people it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. It is.”

Listen to the full interview with Rebecca Jarvis.

Dave Asprey: ‘Losing $6 million in 2 years.’

By age 26, Dave Asprey, author of “The Bulletproof Diet,” had earned $6 million dollars in equity at his company, Exodus Communications.

It was a $36 billion dollar company, and Asprey was the youngest person to attend board meetings. But $6 million wasn’t enough.

He was eager and hungry to make more. He wanted to reach the $10 million mark, so he pursued investment deals without seeking professional help. By age 28, he lost the $6 million and ended back at zero.

Looking back, he says, “… What I should have done was quit my job, [sell] all of my shares, and [retire].”

Listen to the full interview with Dave Asprey.

Ryan Holiday: ‘Applying for a mortgage while self-employed.’

Best-selling author and media strategist Ryan Holiday regrets initiating the home-buying process after he left his post as director of marketing at American Apparel.

“If I had just looked … two months earlier it would have probably saved me the biggest nightmare of my life, which was applying for a mortgage as a self-employed person,” he says.

The process involved mountains of paperwork and was incredibly arduous and time consuming. The bank was very demanding due to the fact that he was self-employed (i.e. “risky”) and they wanted more paperwork than usual.

He goes on to say, “When you’re self-employed … and then when you apply for a loan or you’re setting a business up … all of a sudden now your internal system is now being subject to somebody else’s system and those don’t match very well.”

Listen to the full interview with Ryan Holiday.

Dan Price: ‘Not being prepared for the recession.’

Dan Price, the 30-year-old CEO of Gravity Payments who raised his company’s minimum wage to $70,000 per year (and slashed his own from $1 million to $70,000), says that in 2008, the small nonprofit he was running was ill-prepared for the financial crash.

This resulted in him having to — ironically — give drastic 80% pay cuts across the board.

“We almost didn’t make it. And so, I promised myself that the next time I faced a recession, I would be prepared for it …” he says.

Listen to the full interview with Dan Price.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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TIME psychology

This Is the Top Predictor of Success in Life

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Increase self control to increase success

Self control predicts success even better than IQ.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success… Students who exerted high levels of willpower were more likely to earn higher grades in their classes and gain admission into more selective schools. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework. “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”

Conscientiousness is the fundmental personality trait most closely tied to self control and it tracks with nearly every type of success across your lifespan.

It’s pretty crazy really:

Money and job satisfaction? – Check.

“Measured concurrently, emotionally stable and conscientious participants reported higher incomes and job satisfaction.

Finding a job? – Check.

“…the personality traits Conscientiousness and Neuroticism have a strong impact on the instantaneous probability of finding a job, where the former has a positive effect and the latter has a negative effect.”

Long marriage? – Check.

“…our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.”

Healthier life? – Check.

“Among adults over age 45 (n = 2,419), Neuroticism and low Agreeableness were associated with metabolic syndrome, whereas high Conscientiousness was protective. Individuals who scored in the top 10% on Conscientiousness were approximately 40% less likely to have metabolic syndrome…

Long life? – Check.

“Conscientiousness, which was the best predictor of longevity when measured in childhood, also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood.

And let’s not forget good grades and staying out of jail.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

…conscientiousness was the trait that best predicted workplace success. What intrigues Roberts about conscientiousness is that it predicts so many outcomes that go far beyond the workplace. People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer – and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

So maybe you’re not the most conscientious person. Maybe you can be impulsive and often lack self-control. Me too.

This does not mean either of us should be shopping for a cardboard box on skid row.

Unlike IQ, self-control can easily be increased. Here’s how.

 

How to increase self-control

“…the very true beginning of wisdom is the desire of discipline…” — Wisdom of Solomon 6:17

I interviewed Roy Baumeister, the leading expert on self-control and author of Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength to learn about how it works.

Willpower is like energy — using it burns it up, and you have to replenish it. Anything that involves self-control draws on that one willpower fuel source: so dieting takes energy away from your ability to hold your tongue in a conversation — and vice versa.

(SNEAKY TIP: Want to persuade someone? Offer them something tempting they’ll say no to. Resisting urges uses up willpower, leaving less for them to fight persuasion with.)

Like a muscle, exerting willpower makes your self-control ability stronger over time.

I’ve posted many scientifically supported willpower tips over the years but I’m just going to focus on my favorite ones here.

1) Use willpower to build willpower.

Just a little bit of practice every day can increase self-control and improving self-control in one area of life tends to improve all areas of life.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Those in the fitness program got fitter; those working on study discipline got more schoolwork done; the people in the money-management program saved more money. But—and here was a truly pleasant surprise—they also got better at other things. The students who did the study-discipline program reported doing physical workouts a bit more often and cutting down on impulsive spending. Those in the fitness and money-management programs said they studied more diligently. Exercising self-control in one area seemed to improve all areas of life.

2) Automate your behavior.

When something is a habit and you don’t have to make decisions or even think about it, it doesn’t use much willpower.

The more you can make something habitual, the less self-control you burn.

And you can further improve your self-control by planning.

Decide ahead of time how you will respond when willpower is taxed and you’ll be much more likely to default to that. Without a clear plan in your head you’re more likely to succumb.

Via Christian Jarrett at BPS Research Digest:

When your willpower levels have been drained by an earlier test, that’s when you’re most vulnerable to temptation. One way to protect yourself is to form so-called ‘if-then’ plans… willpower depletion had no such adverse effect on students who followed the additional, more detailed plan: ‘…And if I have solved one anagram, then I will immediately start work on the next!’.

3) Pre-commit to good behavior.

Daniel Akst, author of We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, explains how we can use “precommitment devices” to rein in desire:

How can you use precommitment to keep yourself from giving in to unwanted desires? You’re probably already doing so—for example, by asking your significant other, on the way to a restaurant, not to let you order dessert when you get there. Dan Ariely, that tireless student of human irrationality, has collected several interesting precommitment anecdotes from regular people, including one who placed her credit card in a container of water in the freezer, thereby requiring a cooling off—er, that is, warming up—period before use, and another who, before a date with a guy she knew she shouldn’t sleep with, wore her “granniest” underwear—presumably to deter herself from disrobing…

So give a friend $500 and tell them to keep it if you don’t follow through with your goals.

Need more willpower for the day? Simply making decisions burns willpower so reducing the number and difficulty of decisions you make is an easy way to conserve it. That’s what President Obama does.

Need to quickly replenish willpower? Eat something. Yes, it’s that simple.

In fact, kids who skip breakfast misbehave more than kids who eat their Wheaties. Give them a snack and they’re little angels again.

Via Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

All the children in a class were told to skip breakfast one morning, and then, by random assignment, half of the children were given a good breakfast at school. The others got nothing. During the first part of the morning, the children who got breakfast learned more and misbehaved less (as judged by monitors who didn’t know which children had eaten). Then, after all the students were given a healthy snack in the middle of the morning, the differences disappeared as if by magic.

 

A Final Note

You’re not a machine. And the goal here isn’t to turn you into one.

There is a powerful human element underlying self-control that should not be ignored.

Willpower improves relationships:

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

And relationships improve willpower:

Which recruits pass Hell Week and go on to become Navy SEALS? They’re not necessarily the ones with the biggest muscles but they’re often the ones with the biggest hearts.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

…self-control is not selfish. Willpower enables us to get along with others and override impulses that are based on personal short-term interests. It’s the same lesson that Navy SEAL commandos learn during a modern version of Stanley’s ordeals: the famous Hell Week test of continual running, swimming, crawling, and shivering that they must endure on less than five hours’ sleep. At least three-quarters of the men in each SEAL class typically fail to complete training, and the survivors aren’t necessarily the ones with the most muscles, according to Eric Greitens, a SEAL officer. In recalling the fellow survivors of his Hell Week, he points out their one common quality: “They had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear, and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the ‘fist’ of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others.”

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Culture

Erin Brockovich Writer: Success Doesn’t Make You Better

Screenwriter Susanna Grant (R) and Rachid Bouchareb, a French-Algerian director at the Foreign Language Award Directors reception in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 25, 2011.
Jae C. Hong—AP Screenwriter Susanna Grant (R) and Rachid Bouchareb, a French-Algerian director at the Foreign Language Award Directors reception in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 25, 2011.

It may feel better, but it doesn't necessarily make you a better writer

Hollywood, I’ve found, is a very interesting town.

The best description I’ve ever heard of it was said by Martin Mull, who said, “Hollywood is like high school with money.”

By that assessment Pocahontas would be my freshman year.

Here’s what I remember about freshman year in high school — lying in bed the night before school started, completely panicked thinking everyone else is going to know their way around, the secret handshakes, the lingo, and I’m going to be sitting there, like a dud, probably dressed all wrong.

This is how my job on Pocahontas started.

I got a call from my agent on Saturday saying, ‘You got the job. You’re expected in a meeting tomorrow morning with Jeffrey Katzenberg at 7 am, Sunday, Mother’s Day.

I found myself lying in bed, completely panicked, sure that everyone else was going to know their way around, the secret handshakes, the lingo and I would be sitting there like a dud in all the wrong clothes.

As it turned out, being a writer on Pocahontas was exactly like being a high school freshman.

In animation, the writer commands about as much respect as a pimply-faced 14 year-old does on a high school campus.

A lot of live-action writers complain about the lack of respect they get, but believe me, walk a mile in a feature animation writer’s shoes and you will have new respect for your station in life.

I don’t know how much you all know about Disney, but they’re very, very big on their little Mickey name tags there.

This is back when animation was housed in a bunch of warehouses in Glendale and they wouldn’t let you into any buildings without one of these Mickey nametags, but for some reason they wouldn’t give any to the writers.

So, whenever we had a meeting in another building, which was often, or wanted to get lunch at the commissary, which was daily, we had to borrow a nametag from our producer who was given about 30.

So, the two other writers and I spent a year-and-a-half wearing Mickey nametags that said ‘Jim’ on them.

Eventually, people took to calling us Jim collectively as “Jim, one third of Jim is here. Where are the other two thirds?”

And then there was the work, which was constant. There isn’t any scene in that movie that was rewritten any fewer than 30 times.

We wrote and rewrote and rewrote, often addressing notes from people who hadn’t even read the scene on which they were giving notes.

We wrote, literally, until we ran out of time.

And it sounds kind of hellish, and it was kind of hellish, but here’s the thing: Much like freshman year, despite all it’s frustrations, it was a fantastic experience. I wouldn’t change for anything.

I learned more in my year-and-a-half as one-third of Jim than I would have on 10 live-action development deals.

I learned how to throw something out if it isn’t working. Or if someone very powerful doesn’t think it’s working.

I learned to trust that I’d come up with something just as good or better.

I learned when to shut up in a meeting, which is a very valuable thing to learn.

I learned that I’m not always right, which is a very painful thing to learn.

But most importantly, I learned how to have a good time.

A lot of unpleasant things are going to happen to you in your careers and they will be infuriating.

Believe me, taking script notes from a Transylvanian artist whose only words of English were, “Script should be more like Witness. Make likeWitness.’” — I know frustration.

But if you can remind yourself that you’re getting paid to write, that you’re making a living as a creative person and remember what a privilege that is, those frustrations will be a lot less burdensome.

So that brought me to sophomore year and Ever After.

Shortly after I finishedPocahontas I got a call from a guy at a studio saying they wanted a Merchant-Ivory Cinderella and was I interested.

I was and he was happy. I went in and pitched. Oh, he was happy.

I wrote a script. Everyone was happy. I rewrote the script. Everyone was happy.

The star signed on.

The director signed on and I never heard from anyone again.

The director and his partner rewrote me.

Everyone went off to shoot in Prague and I stayed in LA feeling kind of sorry for myself.

Here I had put my heart, mind and soul into a script, it was turning into a movie and everyone was off having the party without me.

I kind of held on to that put-upon feeling until I saw the movie and then everything changed.

Because every single thing that I hoped the movie would be, it was. The rewriting had only improved the script and all the important elements of my work were right there on the screen and that was remarkable.

And it reminded me that the work is the point.

Not the perks, not the prestige, not where your name is on the poster or whether the director knows you from Adam — the work.

If the work turns out well, there’s really nothing to feel bad about.

I’d still like to see Prague someday, but I guess I’ll do that on my own steam.

I actually have an interesting postscript to my experience on Ever After.

I was called in to be one of the umpteen writers on Charlie’s Angels. I was brought in specifically to work with the actresses on giving their characters some character.

So, I drove down to the studio and I got on to the elevator and Drew Barrymore was on the elevator with me.

I had never met her. And she was by the buttons and she said, “What floor?”

I said, “Actually, I’m here to see you.”

She dropped everything she was holding, burst into tears and wrapped me in the tightest hug I think I’ve ever had.

She went on to tell me how much Ever After had meant to her, that she keeps my draft of the script in a special box she has for all the things that mean the most to her.

It was very sweet and very like Drew.

Don’t think your work hasn’t had an effect, just because no one has told you.

If someone is playing the part, and someone is directing the movie, and someone is spending a lot of money to make the movie, you can rest assured that you’ve touched someone.

So, junior year.

After Ever After I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. The one thing I did know was that I wanted to write characters who weren’t quite as delicate with language.

A producer friend of mine happened to tell me about a woman whose life rights she just optioned named Erin Brockovich.

The moment I heard about Erin, I knew I wanted to write the script.

“Yes, please,” I said. “Sign me up, I’ll do it, whatever.”

She said, “Well, we’d love to, but we’re out to Callie Khouri right now.”

A few weeks later I called her up and said, “Hi, how are you doing? Heard from Callie?”

And she said, “Yes, Callie passed. Now, we’re out to Paul Attanasio.”

A few weeks later, I called her up and said, “Hi, heard from Paul?”

It went on like this. I’d call, she’d mention an A-list writer, we went back and forth.

Finally, they all passed and I think she just got tired of hearing from me and she said she would introduce me to Erin.

As long as she approved, I could have the job.

Bless her heart, Erin did approve. We got along great.

A lot of things about the experience of Erin Brockovich the movie were great, but I think researching the script was probably the best part.

Getting to know Erin and Ed, meeting the plaintiffs from Hinkley and seeing the amazing end result of her dogged determination and her just plain human decency was nothing short of a privilege and it was fun.

My God, it was so much fun.

Erin has a way of living the full spectrum of emotions in every single moment and if you’re with her, it’s impossible not to do the same.

Here I was, researching this really dreadful, tragic story, talking to people about the single worst experience of their lives, completely taking it in and somehow laughing so hard every day, that I would almost break a rib.

But when it came time to write the script, the laughter came to a screeching halt.

Up until then, all the characters I had written had been fictional. I’d sit down to write them, completely confident that I knew them better than anyone else did.

I was their maker.

But obviously, that wasn’t the case here. There was a real Erin and she knew herself far better than I ever would.

So, suddenly the act of putting words in my main character’s mouth seemed presumptuous.

I felt like, rather than creating a fictional person, which I’d done up until then, I was being reductive of a real one. I struggled with it for a few days and then finally decided, okay fine.

For my purposes there are two Erins. There’s the real one, the one I know who is nothing if not her own boss. And then there’s the fictional Erin and that one I’m the boss of.

It was the only way to win back that feeling of omniscience that, for me at least, is essential to writing a good story.

And let me tell you, if you think turning a script into a studio is nerve wracking, try turning it in to the person on whom the person is based.

The silence of my phone while I waited for Erin’s reaction was one of the most deafening sounds I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how long it took her to get back to me.

It felt like a month and a half. It was probably two days.

I came home one day and saw that little light blinking on my machine.

There had been an exchange in that draft which, ultimately didn’t make it into the movie, in which one of Erin’s coworkers is giving her a hard time about the length of her skirt.

The coworker says to her, “Erin, for God’s sake, I can see your panties.”

And Erin says back to her, “Liar, I’m not wearing any.”

So, I got home. I pushed the little button on my machine and the only thing I heard was Erin’s voice deep and low saying, “I always wear panties.”

She was incredibly good-natured about the whole thing. She wasn’t vain. She wasn’t paranoid.

She didn’t suffer about how she would come off. In fact, she didn’t even really care.

She said to me more than once that even if she came across badly, it would be worth it as long as people found out what PG&E did to those people in Hinkley.

And then what can you say about a movie in which everything goes right?

Except that it never happens.

It never happens that the best actress for the job is: a) available; b) interested; and c) the biggest star in the world.

It never happens that the best young director around wants to do the movie, as well.

It never happens that nothing goes wrong during production, that the movie wraps early, that it’s under budget.

It never happens that you go to your first preview and the movie scores a 98, that every demographic loves it and that there were virtually, no negative comments on the cards.

Or, actually, there was one.

An older man wrote on a card, “The 100th time I saw Julia Roberts’ breasts was too many. One through 99, though, were fantastic.”

One dear friend of mine said an interesting thing to me after seeing the movie.

“Erin reminded me a lot of you. Only she said to people’s faces what you say behind their backs.”

I chose to take it as a compliment, although I know it’s a stretch.

So, junior year was junior year. It was great. You get to play the Varsity squad.

Suddenly, people know you. You walk around campus in your letter jacket.

I went sailing into my senior year, 28 Days, with enough clout to get what every writer wants — total involvement in the process.

I wrote the script about a recovering addict and Betty Thomas signed on to direct.

To say that Betty kept me involved is an understatement. She made me her true partner in turning the script into something she really wanted to shoot.

She dragged me everywhere. She dragged me to rehabs. She dragged me to therapy. She dragged me into her brain, which is a very lively place.

But I must say this, this falls into the “careful what you wish for” category.

I was very, very pregnant at the time and much as I wanted to love all the involvement, the day I found myself sitting in the middle of a dusty horse corral in the blazing sun at a rehab center in Arizona, trying to get a horse to read my mind, while Betty watched from the sidelines, made me rethink all of that.

The horse thing was a therapy technique.

Ideally, the theory goes, if your mind is clear, the horse will come to you telepathically when you ask him.

Well, my mind wasn’t clear. My mind was yelling, “Hey! I’m hot. I’m pregnant. I want to go home. This is bullshit. Why don’t you hire someone else and let me go home?”

Needless to say, the horse did not come.

28 Days was, ultimately, a very interesting movie. I think the polite term is box office disappointment.

I personally think it succeeds on some levels and fails on others.

I feel my work in it succeeds on some levels and fails on others. And here’s the thing — that has to be okay.

Even better than okay, that has to be good.

Because, believe me, you learn so much more from your failures and disappointments than you do from your successes.

Success feels better. It’s more fun.
But it doesn’t necessarily make you a better writer.

Failure, like senior year in high school, prepares you for the complexity and real work that lies ahead of you for the rest of your life.

Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned in my short time in the business.

You must write what you want to write.

Don’t listen to people who tell you you shouldn’t write something. Or if you do write something, it will never get made.

I’ve been told that a movie about toxic waste would never get made.

I’ve been told that a movie about someone in rehab would never get made.

I was told that if that someone was a woman, it would definitely never get made.

And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told that a movie with a female lead will never get made.

There are no rules. Write what you want.

Write what moves you. Write something beautiful and unique to you.

Write something that no one else could write.

This article was originally published by The Academy on Medium. This is an excerpt from Susannah Grant’s keynote speech at the 2000 Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting awards

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

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is Warren Buffett’s Best Investment Advice

Warren Buffett during an interview in Omaham, Neb. on May 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Warren Buffett during an interview in Omaham, Neb. on May 4, 2015.

Go all-in on this amazing asset and you will see returns beyond anything you could dream of

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Warren Buffett is considered to be one of the greatest investors that has ever lived and is consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world with a net-worth north of $72 billion. He is well known for his commitment to value investing, and when he gives recommendations, people listen.

The other day I came across a quote from him where he was advising people to invest as much as possible in something that everyone has access to, something , he says, in which we can never invest too much.

What is this amazing asset he’s so bullish on?

It’s you.

“Invest in as much of yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.” — Warren Buffett

You will never get a better return on life than when you truly invest in yourself. Here are some ways to help you make the most of your investment.

Stay healthy on all three planes: mind, body, spirit.

“You only get one mind and one body. And it’s got to last a lifetime. Now, it’s very easy to let them ride for many years. But if you don’t take care of that mind and that body, they’ll be a wreck forty years later, just like the car would be.” — Warren Buffett

It all starts here. You need to be firing on all cylinders, or else you won’t be able to get the most of out your life.

This doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Just be mindful about improving yourself. Here are some simple ways to do it:

  • Mind: read a book (even if it’s just one page a day), journal, come up with ideas.
  • Body: exercise (even if it’s just for 7 minutes), eat good food, drink plenty of water, get a good night’s sleep.
  • Spirit: pray (it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not) or just says ‘thanks’, be kind to people, write a gratitude list.

Cultivate positive habits and stick to them with a daily routine.

How much better do you feel on the days that you do something good for yourself? Perhaps it’s the days that you exercise or maybe when you are really focused at work. Your days just seem to go smoother, don’t they?

You can have that every day. It’s just a matter of deciding what you want to do and following through with it.

Start small. Decide on one positive habit that you can start doing today, and then do it. Then do it again tomorrow. Once you’ve mastered one habit, you can put that momentum toward building a way to have the best day ever (every single day).

Never stop learning.

One of the greatest secrets to Warren Buffett’s success is that he is continuously learning. Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, once said this about his legendary colleague:

“Warren Buffett has become one hell of a lot better investor since the day I met him, and so have I. If we had been frozen at any given stage, with the knowledge we had, the record would have been much worse than it is. So the game is to keep learning, and I don’t think people are going to keep learning who don’t like the learning process.”

Most people think that real learning ends when school is over but they are selling themselves way short. Life should be about continuous learning, and there are many ways for you to do this:

  • Attend conferences, seminars, and meet-ups.
  • Take a free online course.
  • Talk to people and ask them questions (listen more than you talk).
  • Research something you are interested in.
  • Travel.

Surround yourself with excellence.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” — Warren Buffett

It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. In other words, who you spend time with influences the person you become.

Take a look at the people in your life right now and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they making you better or are they bringing you down?
  • Are they mostly positive or are they typically quite negative?
  • Do you feel better when you are around them or do you feel worse?

If someone is a negative influence on you, then you have to kick them to the curb (or severely limit your time spent with them). This can be very hard when it’s a family member or co-worker, but if you want to become the best version of you, you are going to have to take action.

Spend time getting to know yourself.

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. so I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” — Warren Buffett

Your time is extremely valuable and precious. Spend some of it getting to know yourself better. These practices can help you find out who you truly are:

Do what you love to do.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffett

You only have one life to live, why not live it to the fullest?

Invest as much as you can in yourself starting right now, and you will see returns beyond anything you could dream of.

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

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6 Reasons Richard Branson Is the Most Popular Entrepreneur in the World

Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.
Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg via Getty Images Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.

He smiles and laughs — a lot

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Richard Branson may be the most popular businessperson alive. Employees, peers, and even strangers seem to love him. With more than eight million followers, he is by far the most popular Influencer on LinkedIn-almost doubling the next figure (Bill Gates’s 4.4 million followers).

I’ll admit, I had never heard of Branson before I started working for myself some years ago. I quickly found out that his status among entrepreneurs is legendary.

So what makes Sir Richard so darned likable?

In a 2007 interview at the famous TED conference, conducted with curator Chris Anderson, Branson spoke about the ups and downs of his career:

Here are some traits and quotes from the interview that I feel help explain his extreme popularity.

1. He smiles and laughs. A lot.

Generally speaking, we like people who smile and laugh. Their joyful spirit is contagious, and they make us feel better about ourselves.

Add to that the fact that Branson appears totally unpretentious, humble, and unable to take himself seriously. Beginning at the 16:00 mark, you’ll find a potentially awkward exchange in which Anderson makes a joke at Branson’s expense. Branson simply laughs it off and keeps going.

Watch Sir Richard for a few minutes, and it’s hard not to like the guy.

2. He touches others.

Not just figuratively. Literally. (Check out point 1:34 in the video.)

Fellow Inc. columnist Dr. Travis Bradberry points out that when you touch someone while conversing, you release specific neurotransmitters in the person’s brain that make him or her associate you with trust and other positive feelings. (Of course, unwanted or inappropriate touching will produce the opposite effect.)

It’s safe to say that Sir Richard hasn’t given us any literal pats on the back lately. But watching how he deals with others makes him appear down-to-earth and relatable.

It’s almost like a subliminal message flashes across the screen, telling your subconscious: I’m trustworthy and genuine, and I sincerely like people. Now follow me on LinkedIn.

3. He values his employees. Really.

In his opening comments, Sir Richard opines: “I learned early on that if you can run one company, you can really run any company. I mean, companies are all about finding the right people, inspiring those people, you know, drawing out the best in people.”

That attitude has led to a reputation as a leader who puts employees first.

How can you not love that?

4. He’s not afraid to try new things. In fact, he thrives on it.

On coming up with the idea for Virgin Airlines: “If I fly on somebody else’s airline and find the experience is not a pleasant one, which it wasn’t 21 years ago, then I think, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can create the kind of airline that I’d like to fly on.’ And so … got one secondhand 747 from Boeing and gave it a go.”

Sir Richard has been known to try his hand at, well, almost anything. The Virgin Group has current or past companies in the music, hospitality, and space-exploration industries, among many more.

Not every venture has been a success. But as hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

5. He hated school.

Branson states in the interview that he suffers from dyslexia and as a child had “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever.” He left school when he was 15 years old, and never pursued a university degree.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t continued the learning process. As he puts it: “I just love learning … I’m terribly inquisitive … I’ve seen life as one long learning process.”

Branson’s alternative road to billionaire-ship holds out hope for dreamers and individualists everywhere.

6. He’s the anti-typical business hero.

In a world where people generally get rich by stepping on others as they climb the corporate ladder, Sir Richard seems different. His philosophy:

“I think if you treat people well, people will come back for more … All you have in life is your reputation and it’s a very small world. I actually think that the best way of becoming a successful business leader is dealing with people fairly and well. And I like to think that’s how we run Virgin.”

***

At the end of the interview, Anderson sums up how most people feel about Branson after a few minutes of observation:

“When I was starting off in business, I knew nothing about it … I thought that business people were supposed to just be ruthless and that was the only way you could have a chance of succeeding. And you actually did inspire me. I looked at you and thought, ‘Well, he’s made it. Maybe there’s a different way.'”

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

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TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Ways Productive People See Life Differently

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They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days

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Some people are more successful than other people — a lot more successful.

Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. But they possess other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:

1. They see disapproval as fuel.

Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to reel it in to ensure you fit in.

Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something the most successful people don’t worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.)

They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility — and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.

And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve.

2. They see fear as part of the process.

One of my clients is an outstanding — and outstandingly successful — comic. Audiences love him. He’s crazy good.

Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he’ll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach, and all the rest. It’s just the way he is.

So, just before he goes onstage, he takes a quick shower, puts on fresh clothes, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down and does a little shadowboxing, and out he goes.

He’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. He accepts it as part of the process. Pre-show fear is like lunch: It’s going to happen.

Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.

Truly productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize fear is paralyzing while action creates confidence and self-assurance.

3. They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days.

Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”

The most successful people don’t make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in — even just this one time.

4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.

Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.

And they wait… and wait… and wait.

Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… the work itself results in inspiration.

The most productive people don’t wait for ideas. They don’t wait for inspiration. They know that big ideas most often come from people who do, not people who dream.

5. They see help not as a weakness, but as essential to success.

Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you’re lost and a little scared. Would you ask for help?

Of course. No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.

Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.

The most productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength-and the key to achieving more.

6. They see starting as important…

At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re all easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — or even success.

Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to completely overcome any of those shortcomings.

Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.

But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then, once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”

It never is.

The most productive people try not to think about the pain they’ll feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.

And they get started. And then they don’t stop.

7. … and they see finishing as everything.

More than anything, successful people finish — no matter how high the barriers, how many the obstacles, how great the challenges… they see things through when others would have given up.

(Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.)

The most successful person know they can’t always be first but they can always be last: the last to stop, to quit, to give up.

And in that way, they win.

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

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