TIME Business

4 Important Pieces of Life Advice for New Grads

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Think of your career path more like a climbing wall than a ladder

LinkedIn Influencer Roger Ferguson originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Roger on LinkedIn.

At 22, the world is your oyster. The possibilities seem endless, and you’re eager to make an impact on the world. Here are my four top tips for how to go about it.

1. Develop – or continue developing – your human capital. It’s the key to your success.

Don’t listen to those who question whether a college degree is “worth it” anymore. The student debt challenge is serious, but it has not made a college degree any less relevant. Consider that the unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher is nearly half that of people with just a high school diploma. Moreover, jobs requiring a graduate or professional degree will grow faster than all other jobs through 2020 – so don’t be deterred from pursuing a graduate degree if your research tells you it’s a wise investment. (If you need help in making a cost/benefit determination, check out gradsense.org.)

2. Even when you have a diploma in hand, commit to being a lifelong learner.

To thrive in this time of rapid change, you must never stop learning and growing. But that doesn’t mean you have to be in a classroom forever. It’s more about the state of mind you bring to your work.

When you start a new job, see yourself as a student of the organization. Immerse yourself in the details, ask questions, and raise your hand for assignments that will expand your knowledge. Work hard to develop an expertise about the organization, its history, its challenges, its people, and its directions. Learn about your competitors and the wider industry you’re in. That kind of broad knowledge will enable you to make an impact on your organization – and advance in your career.

3. Think of your career path more like a climbing wall than a traditional “career ladder.”

Sometimes you need to go sideways to make progress. You may even have to move down the wall at certain points. The key is to keep growing and learning.

My career path has been anything but straight. I started out practicing law, and then joined the consulting world for 13 highly rewarding years. When I had the opportunity to serve as a governor on the Federal Reserve, I did not hesitate to accept. Since 2008, I have had the good fortune to lead TIAA-CREF. I have loved applying my talents to such a diverse array of positions and organizations. It’s been extremely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. But if I had started out with rigid notions about getting from point A to point B in my career, I would have missed out on many opportunities that have enriched my life.

4. Give your financial life the same kind of focus you give your work and social lives.

Your goal should be to achieve financial well-being, because without it, you’ll have a tough time making any kind of impact on the world. You can’t change the world if you’re worried about being able to make the monthly payments on your student loan.

Financial well-being is not about the size of your paycheck; it’s about having a clear vision for the future and confidence in your ability to get there. It requires a healthy dose of “financial literacy” – understanding the concepts of personal finance, knowing how to use credit wisely, and having a long-term financial plan. To boost your knowledge, take a look at startingout.tiaa-cref.org – a financial education site that TIAA-CREF developed to help young people build financial well-being.

To be sure, today’s 22-year-olds face some unique financial challenges, including student debt levels topping $1.2 trillion. But you can face any challenge and thrive with careful planning. Make sure that when you enter the working world, you have long-term financial goals, even as you deal with short-term goals like buying a car or taking a vacation. Most important, start saving when you’re young – because saving even a little bit on a regular basis can have a huge effect on your financial well-being. And if you truly want to make an impact, that’s probably the best advice of all.

LinkedIn Influencer Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Roger on LinkedIn.

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

15 Phrases You Should Say to Yourself Every Day

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"I'm not perfect—and that's OK"

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Everybody wants to get more done, but unfortunately all the time management tips in the world can’t help you overcome one of the biggest issues affecting your productivity—your attitude. Fortunately, it’s easier to change your mindset than you might think. All you have to do is change what you say to yourself.

Be honest–most of us have a constant negative monologue playing in our heads all day. You tell yourself how tired you are, how disorganized you are, and how much you hate what you have to do. But what if you told yourself something different? Whether you say it out loud or in your mind, what you say to yourself matters.

With that in mind, here are 15 phrases you should say to yourself every day to help you meet your goals:

1. “I’m going to succeed at _____.” When you tell yourself you’ll succeed at a specific task, you’re contradicting the self-doubt that could otherwise hold you back.

2. “I’ve been successful in the past.” Rehearsing specific past successes helps build self-confidence when you need to stretch yourself and try new things.

3. “I can overcome my fear.” Acknowledging your fear is very empowering, and making a choice to overcome it will give you strength and confidence as you face it. Remember, fear only has power if you let it.

4. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought.” Many times, the things we fear aren’t all that bad—even when they actually happen. By reminding ourselves of this, we empower ourselves the next time we’re afraid.

5. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Big or small, there’s something you’ve done that no one else was willing to do. By patting yourself on the back for it, you strengthen your ability to maintain good habits.

6. “It’s my fault.” Taking responsibility for the things we did empowers us to apologize and make the situation better. Just don’t blame yourself when it’s not your fault!

7. “I got started!” The first step is always the hardest, and celebrating it is something we all do too little of. Congratulate yourself on getting started—every step from here will be easier.

8. “You’re awesome.” No one hears this enough, but it’s true of absolutely everyone. We all have different ways that we’re awesome, so take the time to remind yourself of yours!

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” The truth is that most people think about you far less than you’d assume. So, every so often, remind yourself that other people’s opinions don’t matter. Be true to yourself.

10. “They’re no different than I am.” When you start to judge others to lift yourself up, you’re giving yourself a false sense of pride. Instead, admit that everyone is more like you than you realize, and you’ll find yourself feeling less isolated and alone.

11. “I can do this!” Right before you step into a difficult situation or take on a challenge, tell yourself you can do it. Because if you believe you can, you’re right!

12. “This time is an appointment with me.” Many people don’t make enough time for themselves. Instead, find a time you can set an appointment with yourself—to look over goals, hit the gym, or just rest. Then keep it!

13. “I’m not perfect—and that’s OK.” Feeling like we have to be perfect before we can launch our business or take our next step in life holds many of us back from success. Take a second today to admit that you’re not perfect, and that that’s perfectly OK.

14. “That’s not my job, but who cares?” Being willing to step above and beyond your specific role is a great way to stand out and get noticed in your work and life. Even if no one knows it but you, you’ll feel great knowing you made a difference.

15. “You’re good enough, right now, just like this.” We all want to improve, move forward, and accomplish more. However, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we’re good enough, right now, today. You’ll feel relief and a sense of peace as you accept yourself for who you are.

Talking to yourself may sound like an odd thing to do, but it’s extremely effective. Most people have an ongoing monologue in their minds already—success is just a matter of making yours more positive. By saying these 15 things to yourself every day, you’ll be well on your way to being successful, accomplishing your goals, and getting more done.

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

6 Fail-Proof Ways to Give Yourself the Leverage to Succeed

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Work on your greater vision and you’ll find a way to succeed

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By applying the power of leverage to business, you can (with less effort) accomplish a lot more. Without it, you increase your risk of burnout and frustration, and limit your rewards.

Put simply, leverage is all about multiplying gains and making money work for you. In this challenging new economy you need every advantage you can get, especially in entrepreneurship and business. Gaining the competitive advantage isn’t easy. Chaos is almost guaranteed, but the upside outweighs the tough times. Here are six fail-proof ways to give yourself the ultimate leverage.

Position Rather Than Prospect

Everybody is looking for prospects, clients and customers. This never-ending search process will eventually burn you out, and is tough to scale on a consistent basis. An easier way to approach your business is to position yourself as the leading authority — the expert, specialist or the trusted advisor — on your subject. This takes very strategic and intentional action, but the rewards are exponential.

When you’re perceived as the expert, people will start coming to you. Be more elite and exclusive. Define what makes your business different. Once you figure out what makes you unique, get more attention. Start leveraging your experience through other peoples proven platforms. Whom could you connect with that already has influence and impact within your target market? Some examples include publications, podcasts, features, magazines, speaking events and sponsorship opportunities. You will expand your reach a lot faster.

Know That Plans Fail, But Movements Don’t

Reposition your business and make it about something. Think about Disney; it’s not about movies or about amusement parks or about cruises — it’s about being part of a brand where dreams come true. Or think about how Subway went from being a fast-food chain to a weight-loss program. Most companies, whether startups or billion-dollar corporations, don’t have compelling stories or visions behind them. The entrepreneurs on a mission bigger than themselves are always attract top-tier talent. Life becomes much more fulfilling when you’re involved in a movement or a cause greater than yourself.

Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and you certainly don’t need to figure everything out yourself. Find something that is already working and make it better, or find your niche and do what the best are already doing. In an interview I did with Gary Vaynerchuk, he said, “A penguin cannot become a giraffe. So just be the best penguin you can be.”

A smart person learns from their mistakes. Those wanting world-class results learn from other peoples’ mistakes so they can shorten their learning curve. Nothing will make a bigger impact on your future than the people you associate with on a daily basis.

Become a People Developer

As a young entrepreneur, I had to realize I couldn’t do it all by myself. You not only need a solid team around you, but you need to know how to develop and lead that team. When you watch sports, you’ll find the most successful teams are the ones that play very well together. They complement each other, and they all have one single focus: winning.

The same goes for business and life. The people you have in your inner circle are your team. Who needs to be on that team to make sure it’s a “dream team?”

Create Raving Fans and Advocates

Business is the management of promises, and if you can consistently deliver and exceed the promises you make to all your customers, you’re ahead of the game. It’s much more expensive to get a new customer than it is to take care of the ones you already have. The purpose of business is to create raving fans and advocates who will go out of their way to promote what you do — not because you asked them, but because they want to. Every person in your organization should be responsible for outstanding client support and service, from the reception to the mail room to the CEO. You must create a culture where people are passionate about meeting clients’ needs.

Work on the Business, Not Just in the Business

One hour every week, work on your business as opposed to in your business. Most people get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of making everything work properly that they forget about working on the vision. So once a week, every week, work on your strategy for the year and where you want to be a year from now. Plan your long-term strategies before you plan your tactics: where you plan on going, who you want to be, and what types of clients you want to attract.

Peter Voogd has been running businesses since he was 15, and is labeled the Leading Authority for Young Entrepreneurs. He built an 8 million dollar empire by age 27 and has trained close to 5000 entrepreneurs. He’s the founder of the prestigious Game Changers Academy, author of the international bestseller 6 Months to 6 Figures, and runs one of the top podcasts on iTunes, The Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle.

StartupCollective is a virtual mentorship program powered by America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners, including the members of FounderSociety.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Culture

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Game of Thrones

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones."
HBO Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones."

“Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king”

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

1. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. — Eddard Stark.

Don’t shy away from making tough calls. And just as importantly, do the unpleasant work to follow through. As Ned reminds us, “He who hides behind executioners soon forgets what death is.” Leaders who spend time in the trenches, doing the tough work, will take making tough decisions more seriously.

2. “A Lannister always pays his debts.” — Tyrion Lannister

In the workplace, the quickest way to lose respect, and power, is to promise things you can’t deliver. The surest way to get people to do things for you is for them to trust that you will do what you say you will in the future. Leaders follow through on their word. When they say they are going to do something, they do it.

3. “Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king.” — Tywin Lannister

True power comes from where people believe it comes from. Not from where you say it comes from. The best leaders are followed based on the collective will, not because they say, “I am the boss.” Power and influence, often come from unexpected places.

4. “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” — Littlefinger

Chaotic times reveal a leader’s strength. When times are good, it’s easy to be the leader. Only when chaos reigns, do many leaders rise. Effective leaders aren’t thwarted by challenges. They use challenges to foist them higher. As Littefinger, highlights: “Many who try to climb fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them.” Leaders are not broken. They continue to climb.

5. “Winter is coming.” House Stark

Leaders remain vigilant. The world is uncertain. The best leaders always innovate, stay strong, and plan for the future. Being prepared for the unexpected is essential. Embrace winter, especially when everyone else is distracted and basking in the sun.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the best leadership lessons you can learn from Game of Thrones?

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

TIME Business

How to Achieve Extreme Success Like Richard Branson and Elon Musk

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Do not fear failure

Answer by Justine Musk, (@justinemusk), blogger and fiction writer, on Quora.

Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider ‘success,’ so know that you don’t have to be Richard Branson or Elon Musk to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle. Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point. These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you (and make no mistake, you will need them). That “something bigger” prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t. Don’t pursue something because you “want to be great.” Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an insane work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.

Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge, a big meaty challenging problem that impacts as many people as possible, that you feel hellbent to solve or die trying. It might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots and then connect and complete them.

It helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible. There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the Significant Other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that. Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.

Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people.

Don’t follow a pre-existing path, and don’t look to imitate your role models. There is no “next step.” Extreme success is not like other kinds of success; what has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you. They are individuals with bold points of view who exploit their very particular set of unique and particular strengths. They are unconventional, and one reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life. They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork. But they transform weaknesses in ways that create added advantage — the strategies I mentioned earlier — and seek partnerships with people who excel in the areas where they have no talent whatsoever.

They do not fear failure — or they do, but they move ahead anyway. They will experience heroic, spectacular, humiliating, very public failure but find a way to reframe until it isn’t failure at all. When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.

They are unlikely to be reading stuff like this. (This is not to slam or criticize people who do; I love to read this stuff myself.) They are more likely to go straight to a book: perhaps a biography of Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great or someone else they consider Great. Surfing the ‘Net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth — even back in the day when technically it was not worth that — they can’t afford it.

I could go on, it’s a fascinating subject, but you get the idea. I wish you luck and strength and perhaps a stiff drink should you need it.

Disclosure: The author is the former spouse of Elon Musk.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?

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

TIME psychology

36 Life Lessons for Success

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Ask for what you want

I turned 30 last week and a friend asked me if I’d figured out any life advice in the past decade worth passing on. I’m somewhat hesitant to publish this because I think these lists usually seem hollow, but here is a cleaned up version of my answer:

1. Never put your family, friends, or significant other low on your priority list. Prefer a handful of truly close friends to a hundred acquaintances. Don’t lose touch with old friends. Occasionally stay up until the sun rises talking to people. Have parties.

2. Life is not a dress rehearsal—this is probably it. Make it count. Time is extremely limited and goes by fast. Do what makes you happy and fulfilled—few people get remembered hundreds of years after they die anyway. Don’t do stuff that doesn’t make you happy (this happens most often when other people want you to do something). Don’t spend time trying to maintain relationships with people you don’t like, and cut negative people out of your life. Negativity is really bad. Don’t let yourself make excuses for not doing the things you want to do.

3. How to succeed: pick the right thing to do (this is critical and usually ignored), focus, believe in yourself (especially when others tell you it’s not going to work), develop personal connections with people that will help you, learn to identify talented people, and work hard. It’s hard to identify what to work on because original thought is hard.

4. On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work. Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that you choose to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by. Aim to be the best in the world at whatever you do professionally. Even if you miss, you’ll probably end up in a pretty good place. Figure out your own productivity system—don’t waste time being unorganized, working at suboptimal times, etc. Don’t be afraid to take some career risks, especially early on. Most people pick their career fairly randomly—really think hard about what you like, what fields are going to be successful, and try to talk to people in those fields.

5. On money: Whether or not money can buy happiness, it can buy freedom, and that’s a big deal. Also, lack of money is very stressful. In almost all ways, having enough money so that you don’t stress about paying rent does more to change your wellbeing than having enough money to buy your own jet. Making money is often more fun than spending it, though I personally have never regretted money I’ve spent on friends, new experiences, saving time, travel, and causes I believe in.

6. Talk to people more. Read more long content and less tweets. Watch less TV. Spend less time on the Internet.

7. Don’t waste time. Most people waste most of their time, especially in business.

8. Don’t let yourself get pushed around. As Paul Graham once said to me, “People can become formidable, but it’s hard to predict who”. (There is a big difference between confident and arrogant. Aim for the former, obviously.

9. Have clear goals for yourself every day, every year, and every decade.

10. However, as valuable as planning is, if a great opportunity comes along you should take it. Don’t be afraid to do something slightly reckless. One of the benefits of working hard is that good opportunities will come along, but it’s still up to you to jump on them when they do.

11. Go out of your way to be around smart, interesting, ambitious people. Work for them and hire them (in fact, one of the most satisfying parts of work is forging deep relationships with really good people). Try to spend time with people who are either among the best in the world at what they do or extremely promising but totally unknown. It really is true that you become an average of the people you spend the most time with.

12. Minimize your own cognitive load from distracting things that don’t really matter. It’s hard to overstate how important this is, and how bad most people are at it. Get rid of distractions in your life. Develop very strong ways to avoid letting crap you don’t like doing pile up and take your mental cycles, especially in your work life.

13. Keep your personal burn rate low. This alone will give you a lot of opportunities in life.

14. Summers are the best.

15. Don’t worry so much. Things in life are rarely as risky as they seem. Most people are too risk-averse, and so most advice is biased too much towards conservative paths.

16. Ask for what you want.

17. If you think you’re going to regret not doing something, you should probably do it. Regret is the worst, and most people regret far more things they didn’t do than things they did do. When in doubt, kiss the boy/girl.

18. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Get out into nature with some regularity.

19. Go out of your way to help people. Few things in life are as satisfying. Be nice to strangers. Be nice even when it doesn’t matter.

20. Youth is a really great thing. Don’t waste it. In fact, in your 20s, I think it’s okay to take a “Give me financial discipline, but not just yet” attitude. All the money in the world will never get back time that passed you by.

21. Tell your parents you love them more often. Go home and visit as often as you can.

22. This too shall pass.

23. Learn voraciously.

24. Do new things often. This seems to be really important. Not only does doing new things seem to slow down the perception of time, increase happiness, and keep life interesting, but it seems to prevent people from calcifying in the ways that they think. Aim to do something big, new, and risky every year in your personal and professional life.

25. Remember how intensely you loved your boyfriend/girlfriend when you were a teenager? Love him/her that intensely now. Remember how excited and happy you got about stuff as a kid? Get that excited and happy now.

26. Don’t screw people and don’t burn bridges. Pick your battles carefully.

27. Forgive people.

28. Don’t chase status. Status without substance doesn’t work for long and is unfulfilling.

29. Most things are okay in moderation. Almost nothing is okay in extreme amounts.

30. Existential angst is part of life. It is particularly noticeable around major life events or just after major career milestones. It seems to particularly affect smart, ambitious people. I think one of the reasons some people work so hard is so they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about this. Nothing is wrong with you for feeling this way; you are not alone.

31. Be grateful and keep problems in perspective. Don’t complain too much. Don’t hate other people’s success (but remember that some people will hate your success, and you have to learn to ignore it).

32. Be a doer, not a talker.

33. Given enough time, it is possible to adjust to almost anything, good or bad. Humans are remarkable at this.

34. Think for a few seconds before you act. Think for a few minutes if you’re angry.

35. Don’t judge other people too quickly. You never know their whole story and why they did or didn’t do something. Be empathetic.

36. The days are long but the decades are short.

This article originally appeared on Sam Altman‘s blog.

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

How Successful People Go From Good to Great in Anything They Do

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Make an 'accomplishment' folder to file positive feedback from others

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We’re in the second quarter of 2015, and for many people, this means that the year’s first batch of performance reviews are coming soon.

Ironically, the experience you want most from your review is often the hardest to prepare for: Positive feedback. Just like the grade school days of gold star and “A+” stickers, it’s so good to hear “You’re doing great! No issues! Keep it up!” on the job. But you absolutely cannot let your good work stop there.

My boss at MTV Networks had an approach to reviews that has been tattooed on my brain for the last nine years. He was one of those “40 Under 40” types who had performed well at every stage in his career, including having been one of the youngest-ever partners at a major consulting firm. One day, I asked him how he stayed motivated to get better and he said, “I want a win every quarter.”

I took that to mean that he wanted to look at his work every three months and make a strong case for the value he had contributed to his company. He must have been hearing “good job!” along his path, yet he committed himself to turning that “good” into “great.”

If it’s worked for him, it can work for all of us. Here are three easy steps you can take to make the most of positive feedback—at your review or anytime.

Document It

As you receive positive feedback from your managers, team members, and clients, be sure to keep track of it on an ongoing basis. Make a “brag” folder to file accolades in your inbox (more on that here). If you got the feedback in conversation, jot down what the person said and email it to yourself.

The benefit of documenting good feedback is that over time, you’ll start to notice what your specific strengths are. You can use them to make the case for raises and promotions, but more importantly you’ll see where to invest more energy to become great. For example, you may have a knack for writing. Push yourself to become a master by taking a course in copywriting, grant writing, or something else related to your field.

Connect It

When you’re filing your brags, keep an eye on how your company is performing overall so that you can align your performance to corporate progress. For example, if your company set goals around efficiency and accuracy, make sure you’re the one who’s consistently finishing your projects on time. It shows that you’re not just interested in doing good work, you’re interested in doing the right work—work that will impact the company’s bottom line.

Better yet, ask your manager about longer-term goals that may not have been shared with your whole team yet, then aim your performance at those metrics. Like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “skate to where the puck is going to be.”

Beat It

Once you get good feedback, ask yourself “WWJD”—or, what would (Michael) Jordan do? The best basketball player in history could have stopped after his first championship, or his first three. But he pushed himself and his team to six championships, the most wins in a season, and 10 individual scoring records. What would it take for you to do your tasks faster, better, or with bigger impact?

As a personal note: At Bureau Blank, my team is responsible for writing the project briefs that that we use to understand the challenges our clients face. When I first started writing them five years ago, it would take me up to two days to complete one and feel good about it. I was getting good responses from my team and my clients, yet I knew briefs shouldn’t always take that long to do. I challenged myself to find ways to make the writing process shorter. One improvement was to develop templates. Now, for me or any member of my team, a strong brief can get wrapped in about two hours.

In an era when companies’ needs are evolving so rapidly, it’s important to be your own motivator. If you use positive feedback to push yourself to peak performance, not only will you beat complacency, you’ll always be prepared to answer “What have you done for me lately?” and crush it.

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

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This Is Why Successful People Get Ahead Faster Than the Rest of Us

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"Look forward and drive forward"

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Racecar drivers say that the trick to managing speed at 200 miles per hour is to drive for daylight. They don’t focus on the lines on the pavement or their competition—they are going too fast. Instead, they focus on the horizon. Their hands follow their eyes.

Creative business minds do much the same thing. They navigate around immediate obstacles by keeping their long-term mission in view. They drive for daylight.
“You’ve got to look forward and drive forward,” Kevin Plank says about his company Under Armour. “You’ve got to dictate the tempo.”

Like each of the 200 leading entrepreneurs I interviewed for The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Plank executes in the moment with a laser-like focus on what lies ahead. These entrepreneurial professionals don’t benchmark themselves against the competition or evaluate success based on industry norms.

This kind of forward focus is distinctive. Psychologists at the University of Chicago conducted a study that shows that people who are committed to a goal have two ways of thinking. “To-go” thinkers like the entrepreneurs I studied are motivated by what remains to be done. “To-date” thinkers focus on how far they’ve already come.

To frame it another way, let’s say you’re running a marathon and you’re at mile 18. Labored breathing and exhaustion kick in. But you’re determined to finish. How do you stay motivated? Are you thinking of the 18 miles you’ve completed, or are you thinking of the 8.2 to go?

Creators who turn small notions into big businesses fall into the latter category. They stay focused on the horizon, and the challenge ahead propels them forward.

Here’s how they do it—and how you can do it, too.

Scan the Edges

Like racecar drivers, creators also constantly scan the periphery. This allows them to detect new concepts as soon as they arise.

“Good entrepreneurs are always looking around the edges to see if there’s any signal out there that says an original assumption is aging, becoming obsolete, or losing its appeal,” says Gilman Louise, founder of the venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.

If senior executives in the car rental industry had been scanning the edges, they might have seen Robin Chase coming in 2001.

Chase saw that mobile technology could be used to challenge the conventional wisdom that you could only buy, lease, or rent a car. Why not share it? Sure, there was a negative connotation around sharing something as personal as a car. But we don’t consider hotels as bed sharing or gyms as treadmill sharing. Surely, then, the social obstacle could quickly fall away.

Her pay-as-you-go model took off. Avis purchased Chase’s company, Zipcar, in 2013 for $500 million.

Chase was an early pioneer of the sharing economy that today includes companies such as Airbnb, Uber, and Rent the Runway. Her ability to identify a fringe idea and take it mainstream is available to all of us.

Avoid Nostalgia

Racecar drivers can’t spend energy obsessing over their last race; likewise, my research revealed that creators avoid nostalgia. They don’t get caught up in “what could have been,” or “what might have happened.” They avoid what academics call counter-factual thinking. This means they quickly learn from mistakes, but they don’t fret over past failures or glorify past successes.

Don’t look back. Chipotle’s Steve Ells strives to make “the world’s best burrito” even better. He doesn’t allow managers to display awards for “Best Cheap Eats” or “Best Burrito” on the walls of Chipotle restaurants. “Yes, someone thought that we were best burrito, but that’s now irrelevant because we need to be better than that,” he said when we sat down at Chipotle’s New York City office. Those able to create and scale new ideas willingly abandon a legacy, even a powerful history that brought them to where they are today.

Focus on the Horizon

Elizabeth Holmes founded medical laboratory services company Theranos to fulfill her vision of beating disease by hastening its detection. The way we conduct blood tests has not fundamentally changed since the 1950s. A technician draws blood and then sends samples off to a lab; results arrive three to seven days later. By contrast, Holmes has designed a technology that uses DNA profiling and electronically sends physicians results within two to four hours.

This kind of speed can make a huge difference in the treatment of even relatively ordinary ailments. Imagine a patient waiting seven days after a blood test and then finding out she has anemia. She then undergoes another test and waits several more days to determine what kind of anemia it is. Returning to see the doctor a third time, she is told that the results show that she does not have anemia at all, but rather an iron deficiency. The problem is solved. But the entire process wasted a lot of time and money and caused needless suffering and worry.

Holmes cuts through all of these steps. It took Holmes 10 years of focused driving to advance her technology far enough to win a deal last year putting it into the giant Walgreens drugstore chain, and she still has her eyes fixed on the horizon. Think of the ramifications of extending Theranos’ speedy and readily available testing to the early detection and treatment of heart disease or cancer.

Focusing on a long-term mission makes it easier to navigate around immediate obstacles. For those who want to turn ideas into enterprises, don’t benchmark yourself against industry norms. To set the pace in a fast-moving global marketplace, focus always forward on shaping what comes next.

That’s how creators work. They seize the wheel, their eyes focused ahead, weaving around the potholes of naysayers and distractions. They have one objective: Success. And nothing gets in their way.

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

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TIME psychology

5 Techniques to Improve Your Luck

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

While we can’t control luck, we can improve it

It isn’t enough to be good. You need luck.

We tend to think that smart people make good decisions and stupid people make bad decisions and that luck plays very little role. That is until we’re one of those smart people who has a bad outcome because of luck.

You can’t ignore luck and you really can’t plan for it. Yet much of life is the combination, to varying degrees, of skill and luck. This continuum is also what makes watching sports fun. The most talented team doesn’t always win, luck plays a role.

However elusive, luck is something that we can cultivate. While we can’t control it, we can improve it. In How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks, Max Gunther shows us how.

It turns out that lucky people characteristically organize their lives in such a way that they are in position to experience good luck and to avoid bad luck.

Technique 1: Acknowledge The Role of Luck

When losers lose, they blame luck. When winners win, it’s because they were smart.

Via How to Get Lucky:

If you want to be a winner, you must stay keenly aware of the role luck plays in your life. When a desired outcome is brought about by luck, you must acknowledge that fact. Don’t try to tell yourself the outcome came about because you were smart. Never confuse luck with planning. If you do that, you all but guarantee that your luck, in the long run, will be bad.

When you see that luck plays a role, you’re more likely to be aware that the situation can change. You don’t expect things to continue, no that’s for the people who don’t acknowledge the role of luck because they mix up planning and luck.

Via How to Get Lucky:

The process begins when a good result occurs once or a few times. The loser studies it, ascribes it to planning, and concludes that the same planning will produce the same result in the future. And the loser loses again.

The lucky personality avoids getting trapped in that way. This isn’t to say he or she avoids taking risks. Quite the contrary, as we will see later. What it does mean is that the lucky personality, entering a situation and perceiving it to be ruled or heavily influenced by luck, deliberately stays light-footed, ready to jump this way or that as events unfold.

[…]

Planning may be more important than luck in much of what you do. The trick is to know what kind of situation you are in at any given time. Can you rely on your own or others’ planning, or will the outcome be determined by luck?

Technique 2: Find the Fast Flow

The idea here is to be where things are happening and surround yourself with a lot of people and interactions. The theory being that if you’re a hermit, nothing will ever happen.

Via How to Get Lucky:

The lucky personality gets to know everybody in sight: the rich and the poor, the famous, the humble, the sociable and even the friendless and the cranky.

When you meet these people, use these tips to quickly build rapport.

You never want to become isolated. Make contact with people and get involved. Never sit on the sidelines.

Via How to Get Lucky:

Eric Wachtel, a New York management consultant and executive recruiter, has watched literally hundreds of men and women climbing career ladders. In his observation, people who get dead-ended are very often people who allow themselves to become isolated.

… The worst thing you can do is withdraw from the network of friendships and acquaintanceships at home and at work. If you aren’t in the network, nobody is ever going to steer anything your way.”

People make things happen. Not necessarily friends, just contacts. But for this to happen people need to know what you’re trying to do – or where you want to go. Few things make us happier than helping others with lucky breaks.

In the words of Eric Wachtel, the consultant recruiter mentioned above: “It really is very pleasant to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, Charlie, there’s a job opening that sounds as if it might be your kind of thing.’”

Via How to Get Lucky:

Consistently lucky people are nearly always to be found in the fast flow. I never met one who was a recluse or even reclusive.

Technique 3: Risk Spooning

You have to invite things to happen. This means you have to stick your neck out.

Via How to Get Lucky:

There are two ways to be an almost sure loser in life. One is to take goofy risks; that is, risks that are out of proportion to the rewards being sought. And the other is to take no risks at all. Lucky people characteristically avoid both extremes. They cultivate the technique of taking risks in carefully measured spoonfuls.

Here is what generally happens in life. Some person sticks their neck out and the speculation pays off. They become rich and famous. Newspapers interview the person, asking them “how can we do the same thing you did?” And the newfound sage replies not that he got lucky, no, but rather that he was smart and hard working and those sorts of things. And we eat this stuff up.

In part this is because culturally we hate the gambler. Largely because we don’t like that we can’t take risks ourselves. The gambler represents what we are not. It’s this motivated reasoning that makes it easy to find ways to dislike him.

Via How to Get Lucky:

It is essential to take risks. Examine the life of any lucky man or woman, and you are all but certain to find that he or she was willing, at some point, to take a risk. Without that willingness, hardly anything interesting is likely to happen to you.

[…]

[T]he need to take risks extends into all areas of life. Falling in love, for instance. If you want to experience the joys of such a relationship, you must be willing to take the possible hurts, too. You must be willing to make an emotional commitment that has the capacity to wound you. But it is exactly like playing a lottery: If you don’t bet, you are not in position to win.

Risk — smart risk — is a key element to getting lucky. Going to the track and betting on the 99-1 payoff is just stupid.

Technique 4: Run Cutting

“Don’t push your luck.” My parents used to repeat that ancient maxim after I scored a 30-minute curfew extension and rather than be happy with that, I tried to push it longer.

Via How to Get Lucky:

As nearly all lucky people realize instinctively or learn through experience, runs of luck always end sooner than you wish. Sometimes they are long runs; much more often they are short. Since you can never tell in advance when a given run is going to end, the only sensible thing to do is preserve your gains by jumping off early in the game. Always assume the run is going to be short. Never try to ride a run to its very peak. Don’t push your luck.

The key here is to always assume that you’re in the average case.

Via How to Get Lucky:

The simplest way to illustrate this is to calculate the mathematics of probability in tossing a coin. If you toss it 1,024 times, the odds are there will be one long run in which heads comes up nine times in a row. But there will be thirty-two short runs in which heads comes up four times in a row. Which is the way to bet?

On the short runs, of course.

[…]

Always cut runs short. Sure, there will be times when you regret doing this. A run will continue without you, and you will be left enviously watching all the happy players who stayed aboard. But statistically, such gloomy outcomes are not likely to happen often.

One of the problems is that long runs of luck are available.

Via How to Get Lucky:

One problem is that long, high runs of luck make news and get talked about. If you go to a racetrack and have a so-so day, you will forget it quickly. But if you have one of those days when every horse runs for your benefit, you will undoubtedly bore your friends with the story for a long time. We hear more about big wins than about the vastly more common little wins. This can delude us into thinking the big wins are more attainable than they really are. We think: “Well, if all these stories are true, maybe there’s a big win waiting out there for me.”

Casinos publicize big wins that are usually the result of long runs of luck. They do this for two reasons. First, it’s a good story and we think that we can win more than we actually can. Second, it encourages people who are winning, to keep those bets riding so they can be one of the big winners. Of course, the odds are with the casino so the longer you play the more likely luck goes to odds. And the odds favor the house.

We never know how long luck will last but we do know that short runs of luck are much more common than long runs of luck.

Technique 5: Luck Selection

At what point should you “cut your losses?”

Via How to Get Lucky:

As you enter any new venture – an investment, a job, a love affair – you cannot know how it will work out. No matter how carefully you lay your plans, you cannot know how those plans will be affected by the unforeseeable and uncontrollable events that we call luck. If the luck is good, then you stay with the venture and enjoy it. But what if the luck is bad? What if the bottom drops out of the stock market? Or the seemingly limitless promise of that new job vanishes in a corporate upheaval? Or your love affair sours when a rival suddenly appears?

The lucky reaction is to wait a short time and see if the problems can be fixed or will go away, and then, if the answer is no, bail out. Cut losses short. This is what lucky people habitually do. To put it another way, they have the ability to select their own luck. Hit with bad luck, they discard it, freeing themselves to seek better luck in another venture.

The inability to cut losses is one of the traits of the born loser according to psychiatrists Stanley Block and Samuel Correnti in their book Psyche, Sex, and Stocks.

Sunk costs are hard to overcome, in part because it often involves confessing that you were wrong.

Via How to Get Lucky:

It is hard because it requires a kind of pessimism, or unsentimental realism, that doesn’t come naturally to many. What makes it still harder is that there are times when, in retrospect, you wish you hadn’t applied it.

How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks goes on to explore 7 other techniques to cultivate your luck.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Ways to Have a Successful Career

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Try not to look sideways, but ahead

Our MOGUL team recently sat down to discuss the best advice we have ever received when it comes to career. Whether you are just getting out of college or looking to make a job switch in the new year, we’ve got you covered when it comes to tips you will want to know prior to submitting that application or heading to an interview.

1. Include the cover letter in the body of the email. Being in the midst of the digital age, the times of opening and printing an attachment are fading. Save HR’s time (and yours) by inserting the cover letter into your email and only attaching the resume.

2. Send thank you notes after an interview. Handwritten notes are dying and it says a lot to go the extra mile to thank someone for their time. The extra effort shows how much you care about the job in which you are applying for, and could help you get a second interview.

3. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. We love this quote because we all know that when you feel good about yourself, your confidence increases. This rule is a definite for when you are going to an interview and also applies for when you are seeking employment. If you are currently in a job that you dislike or are unemployed, it helps to dress in a way that will boost your self-esteem and keep you motivated to reach your goal of landing your ideal position.

4. If you do not get a job at your desired company, analyze why and keep trying. History is full of stories about people succeeding after trying multiple times. When not hearing back from a job, really examine the whys and figure out how you can improve your chances the next time you apply.

Is there a typo on your resume? Do you lack the appropriate experience? Did you apply to the position too late? Do all within your means to figure out how you can improve. For example, if you applied for a manager position and realize you might need a few more years of experience, try applying for a coordinator or assistant position to get your foot in the door. Chances are the company will notice your hard work and you will eventually get a promotion to a management position. When you are starting out, it is really about gaining experience and just getting within the company’s door. Whatever you do though, DO NOT GIVE UP, and just keep trying. A wonderful quote to live by — “Don’t get down. Get busy.”

5. If you are in college, apply for multiple internships. Yes, definitely target companies that you dream of being a part of someday, however, apply to a wide array of companies in the same way you did for colleges. While in an educational setting, it is key to gain some sort of work experience and it is a good idea, given how competitive internships are, to give yourself as good a chance as possible to lock in an opportunity that you can put on your resume. It might not be the top company you applied for, however, it is definitely better than being without a real world opportunity to develop your skills and build contacts.

6. When starting a job, do not be afraid to ask questions. There are no dumb questions and it is much better to ask for clarification on an assignment as opposed to making a mistake. Obviously, you do not want to be asking questions every minute, but there is no harm done in wanting to do your job in as clear a way as possible.

7. Maintain a positive attitude and look at every assignment as one of the most important in your career. Whether you are getting coffee for your supervisor or giving a presentation to the board, you never know where your actions will take you on your professional journey. Even if it is a task you are not thrilled about, such as making copies, remember to keep your goal in mind and trust that the task is a stepping stone to get you where you ultimately want to go.

8. Network, network, network. And network some more. Our team believes hugely in building your professional contacts through networking — and this starts in college, hence why internships and career fairs are very important. If there is someone you look up to within your desired industry, reach out to them and introduce yourself. LinkedIn is an invaluable tool to build your network, and there is no harm done in taking the initiative to make a connection. The only harm that can be done is to yourself if you do not take the step to try. Plus, you never know, the person you connect with might just be the one to help you land a job.

9. Do your research. Prior to an interview, be sure to have done your investigation work about the company and, if possible, who you will be interviewing with. Companies want to employ those who are passionate and knowledgeable about the company’s mission. Definitely have questions in your pocket as well, and make sure they are ones you genuinely want to ask, due to that HR can more than likely read if you are not being genuine.

10. Have a role model. Whether it be your mom, your cousin, Sheryl Sandberg or Oprah, have someone that you look up to and aspire to be like someday. Having someone in mind who can help you see a path to follow will bring clarification and guidance on how to make a career happen.

11. Try not to look sideways, but ahead. Lastly, it is very easy to get dragged down by peers who might be getting certain opportunities you want. However, firmly remember and trust that everyone is on their own path and things happen at different times for each individual. Turn the negative energy into positive and keep persevering forward. Your hard work will eventually pay off.

This article originally appeared on MOGUL.

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