“The only thing that should ever be for sale in a man is his own soul – in a good cause.”
from the Business, Career, and Work of Man
Do not seek permission to undertake any Great Enterprise. Let the High Quality of your Work be your True Qualification.
I have been experimenting with a new way of Working that is succeeding quite well. I have narrowed down all of the really important things I do every Work Day plus on my 3 Sabbaths and reduced them to 4 (or less) Essential Items. I therefore get up every day and do these 4 Essential Items every day first thing.
Then, and only after these 4 Essential Items are done do I go on to the rest of my schedule and whatever else I have to do. This assures I do the most Essential things first and foremost without excuse or interruption or interference.
This system has worked out extremely well for me… I highly recommend it. This is my Personal System (below). Of course develop one of your own to cover what is most essential to achieve for you.
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Site Commenting and Sharing
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Songwriting and Composing and Poetry
Idea and Invention and Investment Generation and Mental Sabbath
Meetings and Networking and Travel and Field Trips
Sharing and Reblogging
Recreation and Psychological Sabbath and Rest
Spiritual Sabbath and Church
Prayer, Study Bible, and Theurgy and Thaumaturgy
Successful people often exude confidence—it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.
Think about it:
No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove that barrier of self-doubt.
Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. With proper guidance and hard work, anyone can become more confident. Once you pass a certain point, you’ll feel it from the inside.
Here are eight bulletproof strategies to get you there.
Johnny Unitas said, “There is a difference between conceit and confidence. Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.” In other words, confidence is earnedthrough hard work, and confident people are self-aware. When your confidence exceeds your abilities, you’ve crossed the line into arrogance. You need to know the difference.
True confidence is firmly planted in reality. To grow your confidence, it’s important to do an honest and accurate self-assessment of your abilities. If there are weaknesses in your skill set, make plans for strengthening these skills and find ways to minimize their negative impact. Ignoring your weaknesses or pretending they’re strengths won’t make them go away. Likewise, having a clear understanding of your strengths enables you to shake off some of the more groundless feedback and criticism you can get in a busy, competitive work environment—and that builds confidence.
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode confidence. Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their nos clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
A troubled relationship with the boss can destroy even the most talented person’s confidence. It’s hard to be confident when your boss is constantly criticizing you or undermining your contributions. Try to identify where the relationship went wrong and decide whether there’s anything you can do to get things back on track. If the relationship is truly unsalvageable, it may be time to move on to something else.
Related: 5 Habits of Mentally Tough People
Confident people tend to challenge themselves and compete, even when their efforts yield small victories. Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.
Nothing builds confidence like a talented, experienced person showing you the way and patting you on the back for a job well done. A good mentor can act as a mirror, giving you the perspective you need to believe in yourself. Knowledge breeds confidence—knowing where you stand helps you focus your energy more effectively. Beyond that, a mentor can help educate you on some of the cultural inner workings of your organization. Knowing the unwritten rules of how to get things done in your workplace is a great confidence booster.
A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, and your confidence will stay up.
Like it or not, how we dress has a huge effect on how people see us. Things like the color, cut, and style of the clothes we wear—and even our accessories—communicate loudly. But the way we dress also affects how we see ourselves. Studies have shown that people speak differently when they’re dressed up compared to when they’re dressed casually. To boost your confidence, dress well. Choose clothing that reflects who you are and the image you want to project, even if that means spending more time at the mall and more time getting ready in the morning.
Aggressiveness isn’t confidence; it’s bullying. And when you’re insecure, it’s easy to slip into aggressiveness without intending to. Practice asserting yourself without getting aggressive (and trampling over someone else in the process). You won’t be able to achieve this until you learn how to keep your insecurities at bay, and this will increase your confidence.
Your confidence is your own to develop or undermine. Confidence is based on reality. It’s the steadfast knowledge that goes beyond simply “hoping for the best.” It ensures that you’ll get the job done—that’s the power of true confidence.
You may live as the King Fish in a small pond for as long as you wish but one thing you will never do is cause the pond to grow any larger. Therefore if you would truly reach your real mass you must swim for the sea.
When you engage in proper money management even the seemingly impossible often becomes certain in time. When you engage in improper money management even the probable becomes impossible in time.
For inspiration, motivation, and amusing historical anecdotes about the lives of famous people, we turn to the biographies of others.
But according to Aliza Licht, SVP of global communications at Donna Karan International and author of “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media,” there’s an essential biography that never makes the best-of lists — and it could be the most critical for your future success.
There’s just one caveat: you have to write it first.
A few years back, Licht needed a bio for something, and the process of writing it actually changed the way she saw herself. Now, it’s one of the exercises she recommends to everyone — and recent research suggests she might be onto something.
In one study from Stanford, married couples who wrote about conflicts in their relationship as though they were neutral observers showed “greater improvement in marital happiness” than couples who didn’t reflect in writing.
In other words, the way we tell ourselves our stories matters — and Licht isn’t alone in thinking so.
To be clear here, she’s not saying you should be writing a 300-page retrospective of your life and choices — at least for the purposes of this exercise — and she’s also not talking about a high-concept version your three sentence LinkedIn blurb. Imagine you’re a journalist writing a profile, Licht advises. It’s just that the subject of that profile happens to be you — and you’re the only one that needs to read it. (That’s why it’s a “biography” and not an “autobiography” — as much as possible, you want to be outside yourself.)
“It’s such a great lesson in self-reflection, and I think it can really help a person get outside of themselves for a minute.” In the book, she describes it as an “out of body experience,” key to taking stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you might be going.
Here’s how it’s done:
1. Write in the third person. Not only is it more effective — pretending you’re not yourself gives you something much closer to an outside perspective, she says — it’s also more comfortable. “It is so awkward to talk about ourselves,” Licht acknowledges. Switching from “I” to “she” can be freeing.
2. Be thorough. You contain multitudes (and so should your bio). Things to cover: education, career path, jobs and titles, hobbies and passions, talents and awards, affiliations (charities, societies, groups), personality, physical attributes, and family status. The total effect should be an “aerial view,” she tells Business Insider.
3. Read it back to yourself. Evaluate the person you’re reading about like you aren’t you. Do you like you? Would you hire you? Is the story you’re telling about yourself the same story someone could piece together by Googling you? Is that the story you want told? The goal is to get an honest assessment to help you figure out what you’ve got — and what you might be missing.
“The best thing that can happen is you don’t like it,” Licht says. “Because if you don’t like it, you have the power to change it.” That’s why she thinks the exercise is especially critical for people who are “consistently getting the door shut on them when they apply to places.” If doors keep closing, then something isn’t working. The bio can help identify what that something is.
And if it feels a little unnatural? That’s fine, she says. “I don’t think it’s natural to constantly think ‘how am I doing? What do people think about me?'” Licht points out. But then, that’s the point. “You kind of have to make yourself sit down and do it.” The effort is worth it, she says.
I concur with this assessment.
Some people get more done than others — a lot more.
Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. (While “smarter, not harder” is fine, smarter and harder is way better.) But they also possess a few other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:
1. They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.
Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd… and the average person resents you. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to dial it back and fit in.
Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something highly productive 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. (Which is really all that matters.)
2. They accept that fear is an expected element in 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. That’s just how he is.
So right before he goes onstage he takes a quick shower, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down, and does a little shadowboxing.
Sure, he’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. But he accepts it as part of the process — and has developed a process to deal with it.
Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.
Productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize dwelling on fear is paralyzing, but action naturally generates confidence and self-assurance.
3. They can do their best even on their worst day.
Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”
Extremely 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.” (Because once you give in, it’s rarely just one time.)
4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.
Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity somehow 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.
5. They view help as essential, not a weakness.
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.
Highly productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength — and the key to achieving more.
6. They start…
At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — and success.
Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to totally 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.”
(That’s no surprise; it’s always easier than we think.)
Highly productive people try not to think about the pain they will feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.
So they get started…
7. …and they finish.
Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.
I’m always thinking about Work (not just business, though that’s part of it, but all of my Work – business, careers, inventing, writing, etc. which short of God and family are my most interesting and vital concerns), and I constantly go without sleep.
The rest of these to a slightly lesser degree, but I know exactly what the man is saying and why.
Every entrepreneur starts out with big dreams and excitement.
As an entrepreneur, you control your own destiny, and with the right ideas, the right skillset and unflinching dedication, you can build wealth or establish an enterprise to serve as your legacy.
This is the bright side of entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, there’s also a darker side.
The rigors of entrepreneurship demand sacrifices, and if you don’t make those sacrifices you’ll never be able to succeed. Business is, at its core, a give-and-take process. The more you invest, and the more you’re willing to part with, the more you’ll reap in rewards in kind.
These are the five sacrifices that every entrepreneur needs to make:
You’re starting a new venture, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to succeed. The foundation of your company, even if your idea and plans are solid, is rocky at best, and there’s no telling which direction your business is headed until you’re several months, or often much longer, into running things. If you haven’t already sacrificed a comfortable, well-paying, stable job to follow this route, odds are you’ll have to sacrifice some other kind of stability before you can move forward.
Entrepreneurship is, by nature, an unstable path to follow. Don’t be surprised if you encounter multiple, unpredictable shifts in your fortune as your work progresses. It’s natural and part of the process. Eventually, if you work hard with a clear vision, things will stabilize.
When you become an entrepreneur, the lines between your working life and your personal life will blur. You’ll start thinking about business even when you’re away from the office, sometimes because you want to and sometimes because you can’t help it. You’ll also get calls and emails urgently needing your attention because you’re the boss and there’s nobody else to answer them.
Your downtime will become “light” business time, but the flip side is that your time in the office will feel more like personal time because you’ll want to be there. Remember, it’s still important for you to balance your work priorities and your personal ones — always make time for your family and your mental health — but the firm split between personal and professional time is going to go away no matter how you try to handle it.
This goes along with the stability sacrifice, but for the first few years of your business, you’re probably not going to be making much money. In most businesses, entrepreneurs and their families end up investing heaps of their own money to get the business going. If this is the case for you, you’ll be making even more of a sacrifice since your potential safety net will be gone.
Since you’ll be deciding where the money goes, you can set your own salary, but many entrepreneurs don’t even take a salary during their first several months of operations, at least not until there’s a steady line of revenue backing them up. Be prepared for this. You’ll need a strong marketing plan to overcome barriers to entry and gain a share of the market in your industry.
Sleep is vitally important, but no matter how hard you try to preserve healthy sleeping habits, you’re going to sacrifice some sleep in order to run your business. In some cases, you’ll be pulling all-nighters to get that last proposal together. In other cases, you’ll be getting up super early to make a meeting or get all your tasks in order. In still other cases, you’ll be lying awake at night, restless and wondering about the future of your company.
Whatever the case may be, your sleeping habits are going to change when you become an entrepreneur, and you’ll have to make the best of them no matter how they end up.
Being the boss of your own company means the buck stops with you. You’re going to have to wear dozens of hats, make decisions you’ve never made before and delve into subjects you’ve never before considered. Part of being an entrepreneur means stepping out of your comfort zone, often multiple times every day.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who approach uncomfortable situations with confidence and a degree of excitement. Learn to thrive in uncomfortable environments, and you’ll find yourself much more at peace with your job.
Don’t think of these sacrifices as literal sacrifices. You’ll be giving something up, sure, but try to think of it as a type of investment. You’re giving up intangible luxuries in exchange for something better down the road. You’re paying for the opportunity to find success in your own enterprise, and your sacrifices will be rewarded many times over so long as you stay committed in your chosen path.
Remember, as an unidentified student of Warren G. Tracy said, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people cant.”
A very interesting perspective and one I agree with to a large extent. Actually I think one should set out to create a Brand – with a certain type of Vision, and adapt accordingly as one meets particular circumstances in and through the world. (Which is basically what he says later in the article.)
In other words one begins with a Vision and then discovers and develops as one goes along. It is not either/or, but both…
Writer & Consultant
April 15, 2015
Over $500 billion is spent on advertising each year. The average American is exposed to an estimated 3,000 ads per day. Fifteen minutes out of every hour of television programming is devoted to commercials.
That’s a lot of marketing. And a lot of marketers. With six million companies in the United States alone, that’s a lot of people competing to get their message out. How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get noticed?
This is where branding comes in.
What is branding?
Branding is the art of distinguishing a product or service from its competitors. It’s the term for creating a recognizable “personality” which people will remember and react to.
A company with poor branding is throwing away marketing dollars. Why? Because without a focused message, companies weak in branding are invisible. Nobody remembers them and they blend in. They become just another leaf swirling in the wind, amid all those marketing messages consumers see each day.
In marketing, the point is to actually reach someone, to connect. The way to do this is by focusing attention, not dispersing it.
Discovering your brand
Too often, people try to “dream up” a brand for their company. However, a brand isn’t something you dream up — it’s something you discover. Specifically, it’s something you have to discover about yourself.
True branding must be based solely on the mission and culture of the organization. When people try to create branding separate from the company itself, the result may be pretentious, clichéd or ambiguous marketing. It waters down the company’s message.
Instead, a brand should reflect the company’s business plan, its mission and values. It has to be authentic. Therefore, when you brand a company (or anything else for that matter), you’re trying to capture its core identity. You have to look past the clutter and opinion and distill its true essence. This is what you convey to consumers — your brand. And your fonts, your design, your writing — all aspects of your marketing — should all align with that central concept. Now, you have focus. Now, you have penetration, because you’ve conveyed your company’s identity by first discovering yourself.
While there is probably no foolproof formula for discovering a company’s brand, there are pathways to accomplish that. Consider the following points the “ingredients” that go into making an authentic brand:
Company mission. This is the most important element of branding. Your mission is the spirit of your company, it’s the beating heart of what you do. In fact, your brand can be thought of as the outward expression of your company’s internal mission. Think of it this way: Why does your organization exist? What is it there for? You have assets, employees, vendors, relationships and internal systems. . . but why?
Values. What’s important to your company? What do you stand for? Every company has certain ideals that define what it is and does. These ideals could be environmental, social or ethical or could be standards of quality Whatever your company’s values are, they’re the very center of why you’re unique and are a crucial part of your brand.
Culture. Each company in the world has its own ethos — a particular style or panache. Whatever you call yours, embrace it. There may be a million competitors in your market space, but there’s only one you. Your company’s group culture is part of the fabric of who you are.
History. Your history tells a lot about you. Look to the company’s founders to help define your identity today. What were their values? What were they trying to accomplish? Every company came from somewhere. Your roots are an integral part of your company’s brand.
Plans. When you look at your next 10 years, where do you see yourself going? Your business plan and marketing strategy both influence how you present yourself and should be included in your branding. If you’re going after an entry-level market segment, don’t position yourself as a luxury brand. Your brand must encompass your real-world objectives.
Consumers. This is really what it’s all about. Your customers are the reason you exist. What are their needs? What do they think? Understanding your customers is a vital part of branding. Because if you don’t know whom you’re talking to, why bother to say anything at all?
It might take a bit of soul-searching to get at the essence of what makes your company special. The trick is to take a clear-eyed look and see what’s actually there. Because every brand is beautiful, every brand is inspiring.
Each just has to be discovered.
An interesting article.
But this is exactly why I have harmonized my Business (as a non-fiction writer and copywriter and inventor) enterprises and my Career (as a fiction writer and designer) ventures.
By having my Business and Careers complimenting each other I avoid the “I hate this job syndrome” (actually I very much enjoy everything I do) and I expect this will inevitably advance and accelerate both my Business and Career successes.
Whereas both sets of markets may by separate by nature, and operate differently to some degree, both are complimentary and entirely cross-fertilizing in the long run.
I used to worry about this, but the truth is, I’ve always needed very little sleep. As a kid (a teenager and in my twenties) I got by with as little as three or fours hours a night, and sometimes as little as two. When I was a boy this aphorism/line of verse by Longfellow hung on my bedroom door, as many of my friends can probably recall:
The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Nowadays, unless I overtrain (physically overtrain – I rarely mentally overtrain, it happens but I rarely really tire mentally or psychologically), I still need relatively very little sleep. About 5 to maybe 6 hours at most. And despite aging I’ll often have to make myself sleep that much.
I do not like sleeping in the daytime, unless injured or sick, so that becomes unavoidably necessary, and have always been nocturnal by nature. Often even when I am actually in bed (supposedly sleeping) I am making notes, writing, inventing, composing, developing new business projects, working cases, etc. The bed and the dark are good stimuli for my creativity, and since my wife can sleep anywhere and sleeps a lot my bedside lamp doesn’t bother her (she tells me). So I’m free to work in bed too. Additionally I will often wake from dreams or during the night to make notes on things that have occurred to me in my sleep. People often tell me I am prolific, and that may well be true. Often however I am simply awake and working far more than they are. I have always been this way and it is natural and enjoyable to me to walk outside at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and hear the silence of the world long ago asleep around me and know I am just finishing up or about to restart at my Work.
I also rarely take stimulants, except I’ll drink a cup of coffee sometime during the day. I do take supplements and drink a lot of water. Watch my diet and exercise frequently (and that is my real problem with rest, either physically overtraining or becoming dehydrated – I have to guard against both things).
As I get older I do tend to rest more, as in relax more and recreate more and take more breaks from Work, but as far as sleep goes, I still seem to need very little.
And this both greatly affects and effects my level of productivity. As in I can get far more done with little sleep and by instead concentrating upon my Work.
Unless, of course, I drive myself to injury, sickness, or exhaustion. Then I know I have overextended myself. At those points I force myself to rest and to sleep until I return to normal.
While most people don’t function well after an extended stretch of four or fewer hours of sleep a night, there may be a very small percentage who can thrive under these circumstances. In a landmark 2009 study, researchers discovered a genetic mutation in a mother and daughter who seemed to need much less sleep than the average person — the first time any mutation relating to sleep duration had been found (while the sample size wasn’t huge, the effect was replicated in mouse and fruit fly studies). A more recent study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, revealed a variation in that gene, and other researchers are currently observing the sleep patterns of research participants who claim to function on very little sleep.
Nobody knows exactly how many true “short sleepers” exist, but estimates put it at one percent of the population. They wake refreshed and energized after just a few hours of sleep, and those who have been studied tend to pack their lives with tasks that they perform well unaided by stimulants or other crutches. For instance, the very productive Thomas Edison may have been a short sleeper. “Cells don’t sleep,” he said in his most quoted anti-sleep rant. “Fish swim in the water all night. Even a horse doesn’t sleep. A man doesn’t need any sleep.”
Recently, Science of Us spoke with Jenn Schwaner, a 43-year-old short-sleeper from New Port Richie, Florida.
How much sleep do you usually get each night?
On average, I get about three or four hours, and I never feel tired.
Have you always needed so little sleep? What about when you were younger?
When I was a little girl, I’d wake with my father at 5 a.m. I can remember getting up with him that early from when I was about 3 years old. He worked as a computer programmer at Fort Hamilton. On average, we’d get about four hours sleep a night, but we didn’t know that there might be a medical reason for why we didn’t seem to need much.
When we were up, we had to be quiet, because we had a very small house and we didn’t want to wake the rest of the family. My dad would go on the computer or we would watch TV together: old movies like Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, or Shirley Temple. He moved to Florida when I was around 7, but when I was older I had a computer, so I taught myself programming.
Did your lack of sleep impact your performance at school?
I went to a private Catholic school and I was always a very quick, sharp student. But I was also very bored in school, and looking back, I should have pursued so many other things but instead I studied to become a court reporter. I was so bored that I wasn’t looking forward to another four or six years of study. My mother told me about court reporting, which you can do at your own pace.
What did you do when you finished that course?
I got married the very next day — I was only 20. I had my first child when I was 26. Then I had a son in 2000 and another daughter in 2006.
What was pregnancy and nursing like for you? Did you get tired then?
Not really. In fact, with my third child, I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was 20 weeks in. I wasn’t trying and I was very busy. I was coaching sports, sitting on community boards, and I was president of PTA. I couldn’t even remember when I last had a period, I was running around and doing so many things like a chicken without a head.
But I always said I was made to have children. It never bothered me when I got up in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter if it was every two or three hours, and I nursed all my kids. And then I started taking in foster children. A lot of the babies were born addicted to drugs — meth or prescription meds — and they need somebody to cuddle them and hold them in the middle of the night when they are going through withdrawal. I felt like I didn’t sleep at night anyway, and I knew that these kids really needed someone who wouldn’t get frustrated being up with them all night.
When I had my first baby, my husband was working nights, so he’d sleep during the day. I couldn’t make noise in the bedroom, so I was up doing all the things I normally did during the day while I was also nursing the baby at night. I breastfed her for 18 months. It was just the way it was. It never bothered me.
Was it just the fact that you didn’t need sleep that drew you to foster care?
I worked as a court reporter in dependency court for 23 years. One of my first jobs was in a very small town where everyone in the court system knew each other. I remember one Friday afternoon a 4-year-old kid came in — he had just been taken away from his parents and there was no place for him to go. They were arguing about where he should go. It totally sickened me. Here we were fighting over where a child needs to lay down for the weekend.
So that was my first experience of it, but I didn’t start taking in kids for long-term care until my kids were a older. I’d been hosting foreign-exchange students and I didn’t feel like that was a help. They were all so privileged and I wanted to do something for kids that needed it. And also, it’s not that my parents were hippies, but I was kind of a Peace Corps “I want to make the world better” person.
What’s it like sharing a bed with you? Do you bother your husband in the night?
I was married 22 years, but we are now divorced. My sleeping was an issue for him. He was a very light sleeper, so I slept on the couch for a number of years, probably for about the last eight years of our marriage. It definitely put a strain on our relationship, because he’s the type of person who has to sleep either eight or nine hours a night, and if I walk into the room at one in the morning, I would wake him up and he couldn’t go back to sleep. It caused issues.
You know, when I got divorced, it was kind of a relief. It was like, “Oh my gosh, I can walk around my house without waking anyone.” We had a one-story house for the majority of our marriage. I would think nothing of vacuuming at 2 a.m. and of course that would wake everybody, but now I didn’t have to worry about that. And I have a two-story house so everybody is asleep upstairs and I can vacuum all I want downstairs.
Are you single at the moment?
I have a boyfriend who understands it, and he’s not a light sleeper, so we can share a bed without a problem. There are some nights when he turns around and is like, “You have not slept all night.” And I’m like, “I know. I’m sorry.” He asks, “How do you function?” And I say: “it’s just the way I am. It doesn’t bother me.”
Can you talk me through a typical day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed?
It really depends on which children I have at my house. At the moment, I have my kids plus three foster kids — a 13-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 17-month-old. So the babies sleep through the night. I don’t use an alarm clock. I generally get up between 3 and 4 a.m. and I will start to do some work or laundry or cleaning and then I’m usually taking kids to the bus stop starting at 6:30 in the morning. Then I come back and wake up the others who get ready for school for 7 a.m., and then I start the rounds of dropping them off at different bus stops.
I drop the babies off at child care at about 8:30 and I start court calendar at 8:30 or 9 a.m. and I work until between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Then I start picking kids up again. The babies first, usually at about 3 p.m.; my 8-year-old gets off the bus at 4 p.m. and then the other kids usually get home between 4 and 5 p.m.
It’s softball season right now, so it’s crazy. We go five days a week at about 6 p.m. One of my morning rituals is cooking dinner. I’ll crock pot so everybody can grab something to eat before their evening activities. And we do homework in the car, then we come back home and the kids shower. If you walk into my hallway, there’s charts everywhere: the rules of the house, who gets showers at what time (to avoid any bathroom collisions).
My oldest is in by 11 p.m.; on the weekends, she’s in by midnight, but that doesn’t mean she shuts down because her friends come to our house and they stay up until about 2 a.m., and they sleep through to 10 a.m. The babies and little kids are asleep by 9 p.m. and the older kids are asleep by 11 p.m.
I don’t worry about my oldest too much anymore, but she can still keep me up. Her curfew is midnight and because I sleep when I’m tired — I don’t fight sleeping — I might sleep from eleven until two. If she’s not home yet, I have to wait for her. My house has always been the hang-out house. I am a big cook and she has a very large room with a fridge and a couch in there, which is the hang-out room for all her friends.
But I usually go to sleep close to 12 and then start all over again. It’s crazy. My life is extremely hectic.
Do you ever feel tired?
If anything gets me tired, it’s stress, and it’s more that I get stressed than tired.
Can you describe what that feels like?
You know, I think as I’m getting older — I’m 43, so I feel it more in my muscles, but my mind still doesn’t shut down. I’ll sit at the computer for an hour. I’ll do a load of laundry. Then I’ll go back to the computer for 45 minutes. And I’ll start making dinner and then go back to the computer and start doing something else. I’m not a very sedentary person. There’s always something to do: laundry, dinner, clothes in the dryer. It never ends.
How did you learn that you are a short sleeper?
I only found out I was a short sleeper about a year and a half ago. My father was working at FSU and he had heard of a study that was being led by a geneticist at the University of Califonira, San Francisco, so he contacted them. When the media heard about it, he was interviewed and he said, “Well, if anyone has this worse than me it’s my daughter.” So ABC came and followed me for 24 hours. My father was characterized by researchers as having features in common with other short sleepers. They think it’s caused by a variation in a gene, but they don’t know a whole lot about it — for example, if it’s more likely to be passed on from men to their daughters or if we even carry it.
Do you think any of your children are short sleepers?
I don’t think so, but if there is a candidate, it might be my youngest … She’s nothing like I was at her age, but she does come through to my room all the time in the night. She’s a light sleeper. She could fall asleep in a wheelbarrow and then be awake after 15 minutes.
When I found out that “short sleepers” were a real thing, it relieved me. I wish that I had looked at it the way the reporters saw it. They thought it was so great, that I was so lucky because I had so much more time in my life to accomplish things. Even though I always had an instinct to fill that time, I didn’t really cherish it and I should have from a much younger age. I fought it for so many years. I would lie in bed and tell myself go to sleep, go to sleep. Shut down! I did everything possible with the exception of medication. I tried meditating and nothing did it. I’ve embraced it a lot more seeing how jealous other people are of me. I have overfilled my life with things, but it’s what I enjoy doing.
You work as a court reporter. I bet that requires a lot of concentration and attention to detail?
It does. I mostly do high-profile criminal cases — first degree felonies. I do death-penalty cases and I have to write real-time, verbatim reporting of everything everyone is saying in the court room. We do it on a steno machine. You can only touch ten keys at a time and you make a language based on phonetics. I’m certified at 235 WPM on the steno machine.
Given that your job deals with such heavy subject matter, do you find it hard to switch off from that? Do you think about the court in the middle of the night?
Very rarely now do I dwell on my work. But when I was young, I would come home and I would be really bothered by the divorce cases. It was terribly hard to see people who had once loved each other treat each other so horribly. I used to joke to my husband, “Don’t ever try to divorce me because I will take my chances in criminal court before I take my chances in divorce court.” We had a very amicable divorce since I didn’t want to do anything that would hurt my kids. But very rarely did the criminal cases bother me.
What happens when you’re sick. Do you find it hard to take to your bed?
Yes, I find it hard to lay still, but it’s actually very rare that I get sick. It actually stresses me out to have to be sick, even just the thought of it, because I can’t imagine being stuck in my bed and recuperating. Who is going to look after all the kids? Who is going to take care of them? Who is going to make dinner? Some of them are getting old enough now that they can function, but they don’t function well. I have to come downstairs and spend three days cleaning after I have been sick for a day, so being sick really stresses me out.
What’s air travel like for you? And are you impacted by time difference?
I never get jet-lag and it annoys me when I travel and I see people asleep on the plane. I don’t sit still. In any relationship I’ve ever been in, they ask me to please sit still and watch the movie and I can’t, it’s like I have laundry to do or this other task to do, so being on a plane just drives me absolutely crazy. I feel like I need to get up and jog or something.
I’m happy to go on very long road trips — I’ve driven very, very far. I’ve taken my softball team to Louisiana, to Tennessee, to North Carolina. I’ve driven from Florida to New York a few times, and California. I usually take the kids and go straight through the night, so there’s about six to eight hours of everyone sleeping. I just keep on driving.
Does drinking impact your sleep?
I don’t get hangovers. If I overdo it and I get a headache, that’s saying a lot. Most people in their 40s are sick for a day and a half. If I drink too much, then I may go to bed at two and get up at six — maybe I get an extra hour’s sleep!
What happens when you take stimulants? I’d imagine things like a 5-Hour Energy or recreational uppers would have an extreme effect on you?
I have one cup of coffee a day, usually in the morning. I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts junkie — I love my iced coffee, so I usually have a medium whatever their specialty coffee of the month is and that’s my thing. I do think I need the caffeine.
What would you say is the best thing about being a short sleeper?
The best thing is that I have so many more hours in the day to get things accomplished. I still say I wish I had more hours in a day, and I have more hours than most people.
Do you get annoyed with people who count how much sleep they have had and complain about being tired?
Yes. Even when my kids sleep crazy amounts of hours I get annoyed. Teenagers can sleep probably for 12 hours straight, and I get so annoyed because I think they are wasting their lives. Why are you wasting your life sleeping? There are so many things that you could be doing. That’s how I see it. So, I don’t like them sleeping for longer than necessary because they are wasting their lives. That’s always been my thing. You have plenty of time to sleep when you die. You might as well embrace life.
This interview has been edited.
All men are, and should be regarded as, equal in public consideration and general value, but not so in personal behavior, character, and nature.
Equality as a universal concept is psychological and sociological in origin; behavior and character are entirely individual properties and pursuits.
You can make a man equal under the law, but you can make no law that will yield equals, great or small. You can declare a man equal in potential, but not so in action, ambition, or achievement. What a man eventually becomes, high or low, is entirely his own enterprise.
If you understand that then you will attempt great personal enterprises, if you do not apprehend this then no great enterprise will ever yield a profitable you.
The Solution to all such problems as this then is very simple: toss away your bad habits and your bad training and replace those immediately with good habits and good training.
The mind is its own place, and if you will not discipline your own mind and behavior, no one will.
Last Updated Aug 26, 2011 7:55 AM EDT
If you aren’t happy in your job, and weren’t thrilled with your last job either, you may want to think about whether your parents loved or hated their work. A small body of research on twins has found that job satisfaction is at least partially inherited. It is part of the larger field that’s investigating genetic markers for all personality and psychological traits. Now, a new study from the National University of Singapore and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has homed in on two genes that may play a role.
In the study, job satisfaction was significantly associated with two genetic markers, a dopamine receptor gene and a serotonin transporter gene. The dopamine receptor gene is associated with risk taking behavior, weak impulse control and ADHD. Those with this genetic variant had lower job satisfaction. Those with the serotonin variant, which has been linked to lower rates of depression and higher self esteem, had higher job satisfaction. In a yet unpublished study by the Singapore researchers, they found that those with the dopamine gene tend to take jobs with less decision making latitude, which further explains their lower job satisfaction.
The authors warn that the relationship, though significant was small, and that many genes are likely involved in the complicated process of what makes people love their job, including the genes of their boss.
A past study of twins estimated that genetic factors explained about 27% of the variance in the measurement of job satisfaction. If in fact job satisfaction does run in families, some of it could also be explained by attitudes that parents express about their jobs around the dinner table. If your parents constantly griped about their boss or complained about going to work, some of that is bound to rub off on you.
How can this help you?
Understanding deeper influences on your behavior may help change your perspective. “We have to understand and respect such innate tendencies and try to find ways to accommodate them instead of trying to change them completely,” says study author Zhaoli Song of the National University of Singapore. “Those with certain genetic profiles may be happier with jobs that fit their innate tendencies,” she says.
For employers, the authors write, “Managers should be mindful that situational factors such as working conditions and leadership style do not completely modify employee job satisfaction. Instead, very stable individual differences associated with genetics partially drive employees to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs.”
Many business writers and especially a great number of business bloggers seem to have a lot of problems writing well in English. Even those who are native speakers of English. In other words many native English speakers seem to write and blog at a level well below their oral or spoken capabilities.
But your writing is a fundamental aspect of your brand, the very scripted expression of your business acumen, and the historical record of all your ventures and enterprises in this world.
If you cannot master the language, or your writings within the language, then others will overmaster you, and your lack of capabilities will forever limit your ascent in anything you attempt.
With that in mind here is a potentially helpful guide for you to consider. Although nothing ever really substitutes for study, reading excellent writing, habitually imitating it, and then practicing with the intent of becoming a truly good writer.
The one piece of advice I would add to this guide – learn to master and memorize your vocabulary base, and employ it correctly. No matter how superb your technical skills without a proper Word Hoard, or Vocabulary Cache, both your oral and written expression and your intended meaning will be severely limited by the poverty of your terminology and language.
Accumulate a vast and wealthy Word Hoard. It is a Business and Career Investment without equal, and a treasure without measure.
You’re a creative thinker, not a nitpicky grammar geek.
When you sit down to write you like to write, not dither around with mechanics. So when the words start flowing, you don’t want to get in their way by thinking about all those little details.
Not to mention the time factor. As in you can barely find the bandwidth to write as it is, let alone edit for grammar.
But you also care about being perceived as intelligent and credible. And you’re smart enough to know that for your writing to be taken seriously, it needs to come across as polished and correct.
The problem is, it’s been a long time since Mrs. Pendergast’s sixth-grade English class. And you were pretty hazy on the rules even back then.
Searching the Internet can quickly turn into a dive down a black hole of barely remembered terminology and examples that don’t really fit.
So what’s a blogger with good intentions but limited time and resources to do?
Well, here’s the good news. Language evolves, and as it does, so do our notions about what is “correct.” You might be surprised to learn that some of what Mrs. Pendergast taught you is now considered outmoded.
Of course there are still rules to follow, but read on, and you’ll find they’re no longer quite so intimidating.
And with a little repetition, applying many of them will soon become second nature.
Ready to rock and roll?
Let’s start with a quick and painless (promise!) review of the parts of speech. Not because you’ll ever need to spot a transitive verb in the present subjunctive at fifty paces, but simply because we need some common terminology for talking about the basic building blocks of language.
Yes, there are subcategories, exceptions, and sometimes even controversies about the parts of speech (you ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve seen grammarians duking it out over the finer points of language), but for our purposes we’re going to keep this simple.
If you grew up in the United States, you probably remember the old Schoolhouse Rock song: “A noun is a person, place or thing.” Just remember that things can be abstract concepts as well as physical objects, and you’ve got it.
Verbs are the action words which describe forms of doing and being.
Adjectives “modify” (further describe) nouns.
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.
Pronouns replace nouns. They shorten and simplify sentences that would otherwise be far too long and cumbersome.
A preposition shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another element in the sentence.
A conjunction shows the connection between the elements of a sentence.
Interjections are stand-alone exclamations that act as conversational fillers, often expressing emotion.
Determiners are sometimes considered parts of speech and sometimes not. In either case, they are small words that introduce nouns.
When you’re building a house, you don’t just drop one brick on another—you need to cement them together with some mortar. When you’re writing, if the parts of speech are your basic building blocks, then punctuation is that mortar.
See how that’s like just stacking bricks with nothing to connect them? Add some punctuation and the wall is now firmly constructed:
Punctuation gradually evolved in different forms across cultures as a way of helping people figure out where to pause, and for how long, when reading out loud. The problem was, everyone did it differently, This was understandable when all writing was done by hand, but once movable type was invented the need for standardized punctuation became clear.Even so, we’re still arguing about it. Grammar school might have led you to believe that we’ve successfully standardized things . . . but in a language as fluid as English, there is still a lot of room for interpretation. Let’s go over the main points of confusion, and you’ll see where the hard-and-fast rules are and where you get to decide how you want to punctuate things.
No form of punctuation sparks more controversy than the poor comma.
It’s a horribly overworked symbol to begin with, struggling with a full schedule as a conjunction splitter, quotation clarifier and phrase definer while also moonlighting as a separator of list items. It tries so hard to please everyone, but sadly, we all disagree on its exact job description.
So let’s give the comma a little love here and appreciate it for all that it does.
A comma will mysteriously appear whenever one main action happens at the beginning of a sentence, and then even more happens after a conjunction like or, and or but.
Commas also cheerfully separate lists of more than two items, such as a bunch of blogs, a parade of posts, a set of sentences and a party of paragraphs.
Of course if you’re using what is known as the serial comma or the Oxford comma, that would read “. . . a set of sentences, and a party of paragraphs.”So should you use the serial comma or not? Either is fine. Just be sure you’re consistent about it one way or the other.
In fact, the best general rule of thumb for commas overall is that there is no general rule of thumb. Even the old guideline that says to “use a comma wherever you would pause in speaking” is misleading, because we all speak so differently. (Imagine where the commas would fall, for example, in Morgan Freeman’s speech as opposed to Christopher Walken’s!)
One final note. Don’t overuse commas, but keep in mind that sometimes you really do need them to make your meaning clear.
reads very differently than
The colon is used to signal that some very specific information is coming—most often a list. Sometimes it’s a bulleted or numbered list . . .
. . . and sometimes it’s a list right there in a sentence.
The semicolon indicates a pause that’s a little longer than a comma but not quite as long as an end-of-sentence period. It’s an elegant way of joining two phrases or sentences that might otherwise stand alone. This can be desirable when you’re at the editing stage of a post and you want to vary the pacing between shorter, crisper sentences and longer, flowing ones for the sake of variety and interest.
Just don’t overuse semicolons; it will make you look slightly pretentious.
Apostrophes are very often used to indicate the omission of letters.
But the primary use of the apostrophe is to show possession. You already know the basic rule for this—use ’s when the possessor is singular and s’ when the possessor is plural.
However, if the plural form of a noun doesn’t already end in the letter s, you should add ’s rather than s’.
Here’s a common sticking point—what about when the singular form of a noun ends with an s? Editors wielding opposing manuals of style argue about this one all the time.The truth is, both of the following forms are acceptable, although the first is generally more preferred:
To show possession by more than one singular person or thing, an ’s on the last one is all you need.
Finally, be careful not to imply possession where there is none.One of the best examples of this is what Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, famously bemoans as the “greengrocer’s apostrophe” because of its frequent appearance on produce signs—that tiny bit of punctuation which turns simple, unwary nouns into raving mutants of unnecessary possessiveness.
Kids’ eat free all day!
These are all, quite simply, clueless mistake’s.
The three types of horizontal punctuation marks are:
(The en and em dashes are so named because in the days of fixed-type printing presses, they were the width of the capital letter N and the capital letter M, respectively.)
Most people use the hyphen only, and most of the time that’s fine when blogging. However, if you want to be scrupulously correct, you should use the en dash between date ranges and page numbers.
And you should use the em dash when you want to indicate a sudden shift in thought or tone, give more information, or lend some extra emphasis.
Many bloggers get confused about when to hyphenate compound words (groups of words that act as a single part of speech) and when not to . . . and why the rules seem to change from one sentence to the next. Let’s take a quick look at that.When the compound word is a noun, hyphenate it when it’s clearly naming one single thing:
Compound adjectives can be trickier. Here’s the rule—when it comes before the noun it modifies, hyphenate it. When it comes after the noun, don’t.
but . . .
(Note the exception that when the first word of a compound adjective ends in “-ly,” no hyphen should be used. So in the sentence “It was a beautifully written poem, ” “beautifully written” would not be hyphenated even though it comes before the noun. Hey, what would English be without annoying exceptions?)Finally, use a hyphen for clarity when there might otherwise be confusion.
Quotation marks serve a few important functions.
They are used, of course, to show when someone’s words are being directly quoted or spoken . . .
. . . but they can also indicate technical jargon, slang, or otherwise unfamiliar or non-standard terms.
Quotation marks are used around the titles of short works such as poems, songs, book chapters, articles, short stories, and program or presentation titles (but not long works such as entire books or series, which are italicized).
Incidentally, when it comes to dialogue, you should start a new paragraph every time there is a change of speaker—even if the new speaker says only one word. This helps the reader keep track of who is saying what.
The biggest confusion about quotation marks is usually over where the punctuation at the end goes—inside or outside?In the United States, at least, here’s how it works:
Periods and commas go inside the quotes.
Colons and semicolons go outside the quotes.
Question marks and exclamation points depend on the context. If the question or exclamation is part of the quote itself, it goes inside, but if it relates to the larger sentence, it goes outside.
British English is different. Those who “speak American” use double quotation marks, but those who ‘speak British’ use single quotes. British writers also place the comma or period outside the ending quotes rather than inside them.A bit barmy, eh, mate?
These are the three spaced dots or periods used to show that something has been omitted from a quotation. (They are sometimes also used in a creative sense—but that’s a different story.)
The formal rules can get pretty technical, but unless you’re blogging in the legal or literary field, just remember this. If the part just before the omitted section is the end of a sentence, you should use a period as usual, then the ellipses.
And if the missing section occurs mid-sentence, just use the ellipses.
Note the spaces between the ellipsis points—this is technically the right way to do it (and if you were being excruciatingly proper you’d use something even thinner called a “hair space”), but it’s also fine to run them together instead (like…this) as long as you’re consistent about doing it all the time.
Parentheses tell us that something helpful but not absolutely necessary is being added.
But where does the punctuation go?
But If the parenthetical phrase is a sentence all by itself, the ending punctuation goes inside the parentheses. (Like this.)
Sometimes you can have both, which is correct even though it looks pretty weird (like this!).
Parentheses are often used as formatting devices to make information visually clearer.
Square brackets are used to show when clarifying information within a quote is not part of the quote itself . . . or around the Latin term sic to show where a mistake really is part of the quote.
Square brackets have a handful of other specific uses, such as in dictionary definitions, but they can also be utilized as visual or stylistic devices in the same way as parentheses.What about brackets inside of brackets?
Finally, as a blogger, you are freer than writers in the more traditional forms of media to have a little fun with punctuation.
So don’t be afraid to use it in creative ways that lend flavor and tone.
“Those dashes are also great for showing when a speaker gets cut off in mid-conver—” she said.
Many bloggers (perhaps too many of us) use emoticons made out of punctuation. 😉
You can even invent your own ways to build . . .
you know . . .
Just use creative punctuation like this sparingly. Be sure that it enhances and clarifies your message rather than needlessly muddling it.
Abbreviations are useful (and sometimes colorful) devices for shortening common words and phrases, but using them correctly can be a bit confusing.
Do you abbreviate the United States of America as USA or U.S.A.? (I strongly favor the latter, but different strokes for different folks.)
Should you start a sentence with an abbreviation like FYI? (In formal writing this is traditionally frowned upon, but in a blog post it’s usually fine unless it looks clunky.)
What does FUBAR stand for, anyway, and should you spell the whole thing out? (I’m certainly not telling you here, and it entirely depends on your audience.)
If you’re blogging for an organization that has a style guide, go with whatever it says. If not, look up the abbreviation in the dictionary for guidance on how to spell and use it properly.
If you’re still in doubt after that, it probably doesn’t matter too much anyway (depending, of course, on your audience). Just pick one way and use it consistently. For example:
While we’re on the topic of abbreviations, let’s talk about these two Latin terms. They are very often used interchangeably, but they actually mean two different things.
I.e. stands for id est, or “that is.” It’s used to further explain or restate something in different words.
E.g. stands for exempli gratia, or “for example.” It’s used to do just that—give one or more examples.
Here’s a memory aid for recalling when to use each of these two phrases. Instead of worrying about the Latin translations, just remember:
Also note that a comma is used after the final period in each of these abbreviations.
To introduce the abbreviation, in most cases you can use either a comma, a semicolon, a colon, an em dash, or a set of parentheses. Again, just be sure you’re consistent in whatever choice you make.
He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables: e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.
He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables—e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.
He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables (e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale).
The only caveat here is that if the text that follows the i.e. or e.g. could stand as an independent sentence:
. . . you should not introduce the phrase with a comma—use any of the other punctuation methods. My own personal preference is the semicolon, as above, but any of them except for the comma would fine.
Foreign words are another bone of contention among editors and other professional wordsmiths. The general consensus, though, is that if a term is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, italicize it.
But if the word has become a commonly accepted part of English, there’s no need to italicize.
These same guidelines apply to common Latin abbreviations such as etc. and our buddies i.e., and e.g. from just above—they are now so common that they don’t require italics.But expect to run into people who will argue that ad nauseam.
Ah, numbers. So many questions about them, and so many ways to be inconsistent. Let’s take a look.
Opinions on this differ widely. In general, spelling out numbers comes across as more formal, but possibly a little bit snooty. Of course, depending on the context (She lived at Eighty-Eight Kensington Road, where she routinely inspected the brass railings for dust using her spotless white gloves), that may be exactly what you want.
One common convention is to spell out any numbers from zero through ten and numerals for 11 and higher. But visual consistency should override this, so make exceptions where numbers are close together.
Don’t begin a sentences with a numeral, even if it’s a small number.
Numbers in titles are another point of contention. Should your new list post be titled “10 Ways to Be a Kickass Knitter” or “Ten Ways to Be a Kickass Knitter”? Many bloggers use numbers in headlines because they’re more quickly readable, but it’s up to you.
Format dates however you like, but be consistent about it. If you start off writing 8/16/99, don’t switch to 06/23/72 later on. If you spell out January 1 when blogging about your New Year’s resolution, don’t update your readers later in the year by sticking letters at the end of the date on May 31st.
Years should be written in numerals, and when they’re abbreviated, the point of the single apostrophe should face left.
When referring descriptively to a decade, don’t include an apostrophe between the numbers and the letter s.
He’s a child of the 80s.
He’s a child of the 1980s.
He’s a child of the 80’s.
He’s a child of the 1980’s.
Century names can either use numerals or be spelled out, but should not be capitalized.
The rule here is pretty much “no rules.” It doesn’t matter if you write 6:30 am, 6:30am, 6:30 AM, 6:30AM, 6:30 a.m., 6:30a.m., 6:30 A.M. or 6:30A.M., as long as you do it the same way everywhere.
(In some countries a period is used in clock times rather than a colon—e.g., 6.30 A.M.)
It’s better to write “noon” and “midnight” rather than “12:00 p.m.” and “12:00 a.m.” (which make people have to think too hard.)
Use the percent sign (27%) or spell it out (27 percent)—either is fine. Pick one way and use it.
The main mistake bloggers make here is doubling up the currency symbol and the word. If you write $1 dollar it’s like saying “One dollar dollar.” A simple $1 (or 1 dollar or one dollar) is the correct way to go.
Same thing with larger ranges. If someone is already a millionaire, don’t inflate their wealth even further by giving them $10 million dollars. Either $10 million or 10 million dollars is just fine, thank you very much.
In general, any number range, whether dates (1785–1802), pages (pp. 23–38), or some other type, gets that medium-length dash, the en dash, between its numbers.
When giving number ranges within text, don’t mix up words and symbols. People often make this mistake by writing things like They were married from 1975–2010 instead of They were married from 1975 to 2010.
Now let’s move into some of the typical areas where bloggers get confused. You know the ones I’m talking about—those tricky cases where you just know there’s a rule, but you can never remember what it is.
The “subject” of a sentence is whatever person or thing is doing the main action—what you might call the primary noun (or nouns). The subject should “agree” with the verb about whether they should both be singular or plural.
To mix them just sounds wrong. If I were to write “You and I is smart,” you’d know that one of us wasn’t.
But subject/verb agreement gets trickier with vague-sounding pronouns and more complex sentences.
The word and makes a subject plural (i.e., there is more than one main actor), so the verb should be plural too.
With the word or, it depends on the actors. If they’re both singular, the verb should be singular.
But if one is singular and the other is plural, the verb should agree with the one closest to it.
In the case of “indefinite pronouns” (so called because they refer to somewhat vague numbers of things), you should determine whether the noun the pronoun refers to is singular or plural.
None of them are going to the movie.
(“them” indicates multiple people, so use the plural verb “are”)
Anybody here want seconds?
(“anybody” refers to any one body/person, so it’s singular—use the singular verb “want”)
Most of my guest posts were quickly published.
(“most” refers to a number of individual posts, so use the plural verb “were”)
But amazingly, neither the post about the mating habits of the Brazilian termite nor the one on different types of postage stamp adhesive was accepted anywhere.
(both “neither” and “nor” refer to one single post, so use the singular verb “was”)
Don’t get confused by interrupting phrases and clauses. Like newly infatuated lovers, the subject and verb will always agree with each other no matter what comes between them.
This is an old problem with a surprisingly easy solution. Look at the phrase or clause you’re considering and ask yourself, “If I take it out, will the sentence still have the same basic meaning?”
If the answer is yes, use which.
If the answer is no, use that.
Another way of looking at it is to consider whether the clause is, or could go, inside a pair of commas. If so, use which. If not, use that.
Both sentences tell us that the map in question is in the glove compartment, but mean different things.In the first sentence, what the people used the map for is incidental. It’s as though the writer is saying, “The map is in the glove compartment. Oh, yeah—by the way, they used it to drive cross-country.”
The second sentence, on the other hand, refers to the specific map they used. (There could be other maps, too.) “Where is the map they used to drive cross-country? It’s in the glove compartment.”
First case, extra information. Second case, central to the plot.
See the difference?
Running a close second behind “that vs. which” in the confusion competition is the “who vs. whom” conundrum. This is another tricky dilemma with a simple solution.
If you could substitute “he or “she,” use who.
If you could substitute “him” or “her,” use whom.
If this is unclear, switch the pieces of the sentence around first and then see which word works better.For example, is “Who do you think will win?” correct, or should it be “whom”?
What about this one? “I wonder who I’ll be paired up with for the scavenger hunt.”
In casual conversation, though, sometimes whom sounds a bit stilted. “Whom should I cheer for?” (or, for complete sticklers, “For whom should I cheer?”) is technically correct, but the people next to you at the big game may look at you strangely, and not just because you don’t know which side you’re on.
So when it comes to your blog, know which way is correct, but don’t be afraid to bend the rules a bit here for the sake of sounding more conversational.
I’ve saved this one for last because, frankly, I don’t agree with the rule.
I strongly feel that writers should always refer to people as “who” rather than “that.” However, my research indicates that my strong opinion on the matter has become outdated.
I flinch whenever I read (or hear) sentences like “Kobe Bryant is the athlete that inspired me to play basketball.” Not that Kobe needs my help, but to my ear, referring to him as “that” instead of “who” dehumanizes him.
Apparently, I’m old-fashioned in believing that people are people, not things. But for the record, it is now apparently permissible to refer to people as either “the folks who” or “the folks that.” (Ew.)
I’m pleased to say, though, that a thing is still always a “that.”
You can’t say “the company who patented the Giant Gizmo” because a company (the opinions of corporate lawyers notwithstanding) is not a person. It’s a non-living entity (the opinions of some science fiction writers notwithstanding). So you need to say “the company that patented the Giant Gizmo.”
We bloggers are living in tough linguistic times. The lines between formal written language and the more casual spoken word have blurred tremendously with the explosion of personal computers, e-mail, and the Internet.
So how do you successfully walk those lines? How do you ensure that your posts are conversational yet correct, compelling yet credible?
To return to our “building blocks” metaphor from earlier in the post, you need to take a step back from the level of the individual bricks (what we’ve been discussing up until this point) and consider the overall construction of your building.
Your goal as a blogger isn’t to simply heap up ramshackle stacks of words. You want to move people. Inspire them. Educate them. Persuade them to think differently. To take action.
To do that, you need to look at the larger issues. Are your walls straight and attractively laid out? Does your building look inviting? Can you construct its rooms so that visitors are naturally led from one to the other in the sequence you’ve designed?
Much of this ability comes with the study and practice of effective writing techniques, and is outside the scope of a single post on grammar, no matter how long. What I can show you today, though, are some of the common ways bloggers leave stumbling blocks scattered around the floors of their word-rooms.
Clean those up, and you’ve gone a long way toward leaving a clear path through your writing.
Humans love patterns. We key into them to help us make sense of the world . . . and you can use them to help your readers make sense of your writing.
I’m not saying you should make your writing so robotically regular that it becomes predictable and monotonous.
But if you want your readers to roll smoothly along from one idea of yours to the next, using parallel structure is like laying parallel train tracks.
Both of the following sentences essentially say the same thing. Which is easier to read? Which packs a stronger punch?
It’s the second sentence, of course. Why? The first one uses a mixture of noun forms–gerunds (“persuading,” “thinking” and “presenting”)—in which “-ing” is added to the verb to create a noun—and “organization,” a more regular, though abstract, noun. You can follow the sentence, but you have to work a little too hard at it. The parallel verb forms in the second sentence (“persuade,” “think,” “organize” and “present”) make it much easier to comprehend quickly.Note that you could also re-cast the sentence this way: “Persuading others comes from a mixture of thinking through your ideas, organizing them thoroughly, and then presenting them clearly” (using gerunds throughout). In general, though, simpler verb forms result in clearer writing.
[Bonus credit if you realized you could make the structure even more parallel by adding an adverb (such as “carefully”) after the word “ideas”! It would then have the form “. . . (VERB) through your ideas (ADVERB), (VERB) them (ADVERB), and then (VERB) them (ADVERB).]
Here’s a so-called grammar rule that seems pretty basic on the surface—every sentence should be complete. Meaning, traditionally, that it should have a subject (the main actor/actors), verb (the main action) and, if applicable, an object (what the action happens to).
Anything less is called a sentence fragment.
Except . . .
Remember earlier, when I told you that some of what Mrs. Pendergast taught you back in English class is now considered outdated?
This is one example. Unless the context in which you’re writing is very formal (sorry, corporate and legal bloggers), sentence fragments are perfectly fine in blogs—and a lot of other writing—these days.
With one caveat.
Your meaning must be clear.
See what I did above with except . . . and with one caveat? You understood what I meant because the text flowed. So what if they were technically fragments?
In fact, as a blogger you should probably make it a point to introduce sentence fragments every now and then, depending on your personal style (sorry, Mrs. Pendergast). They let you spice up your writing by playing with pace, tension and emotion.
One more caveat. Fragments? Use them sparingly. Like a condiment. Even though they’re legit. Because why? Using lots of them feels choppy. Not wrong, precisely. Just hard to read.
The opposite of a fragment is a run-on sentence, in which you will find more than one complete thought, each of which really deserves its own sentence, but there’s just too much going on at once and it gets really hard to keep track of all the players, which happens a lot when a blogger gets really excited about her subject matter and goes on at length without adding a period for quite a long time and the sentence ends up sounding quite flustered and out of breath.
Unless you’re deliberately using a run-on sentence for dramatic or illustrative purposes, like I just did, don’t use them.
One way of avoiding them is to read your posts out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself literally running out of breath before running out of sentence, look for ways to break the run-on sentence into more than one.
It’s all about developing a listening ear with regard to your own writing. And about keeping things clear and simple for your readers.
Misplaced modifiers—often called “dangling modifiers” because of the way they just sort of hang there, not being clear about what they’re modifying—are some of the most amusing mistakes in all of Grammaria.
Check these out:
Here are some much clearer re-writes (though not the only possible fixes for them):
Here’s another area in which you can gleefully waggle your finger at old Mrs. Pendergast and say, “You were wrong!”
An infinitive is the form of any verb which starts with the word “to”—to go, to dance, to have written, etc.
It is supposedly a grammar faux pas to split an infinitive by sticking extra words between the “to” and the rest of the verb. However, this is now considered outmoded thinking . . . and it certainly never stopped Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise from heading out into space, to boldly go where no man had gone before.
In fact, the split infinitive is often clearer than the alternative. Which of these sounds better to you?
You’ll be glad to know it’s finally considered okay for you to boldly go and split some infinitives, too.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here—thank you for sticking with me! Clearly, you are a tenacious soul.
I’d like to leave you with one closing thought.
One word, really.
We are a pattern-seeking species—something that is hard-wired into us for basic survival reasons. Our nervous systems are keenly attuned to inconsistencies in our environment.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s the subtle striping of a tiger through the bushes or a set of square brackets instead of the usual curved parentheses—our primitive brains don’t register relative importance, only difference. They simply flash the signal, “Something is wrong here.”
Whether this response is conscious or unconscious, that is not the feeling you want your readers to have.
That’s why I’ve stressed consistency throughout this post, and why you should aim for it in your writing. Here’s one great way to ensure it.
Ever wonder how professional copy editors can catch a misspelled name on page 549 of a manuscript when it hasn’t appeared since page 23? They use a nifty little device called a style sheet.
I suggest you do the same.
A style sheet is a quick-and-dirty list of your key editorial decisions, all in one place so that you can check it easily. Whenever you reach a new decision about how to handle something, it gets added to the list. This personal set of editorial standards helps you write more consistently over time.
Jot it down or type it into a running document. When you need to check because you’ve pulled another all-nighter and you can’t see straight, let alone remember such mind-numbing little details, they will be there for you.
Your time is your most valuable resource. It’s the only thing you have that can’t be renewed.
Obviously this means you want to spend as much of it as you can on high-level activities, creating and sharing the things that only you, of all the people in this world, can contribute.
But you also want to be sure that you’re doing that clearly and convincingly through each and every blog post you publish. And that means a certain amount of time spent on grammar. It’s simply a part of crafting your message.
But now you can minimize the time you spend on this in two ways:
Both of these resources will help you become a faster and more efficient self-editor, freeing up more time for the creative work that is at the heart of what you blog about . . . and why you blog in the first place.
Go get ‘em, you creative thinker, you.
The goal should not be to degrade, lessen, or sabotage the ranks of the 1%. Much less to abolish the ranks of the 1%.
Rather the goal should be to create so many wealthy persons that they become the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth. But to do this the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth must become truly ambitious, industrious and productive. They must also become real risk-takers.
It is for immediately obvious reasons (to anyone who bothers to observe) that the vast majority of one-percenters are consistently ambitious, industrious, and productive. And habitual risk takers.
They are not dependent-minded people with a constant desire for indulgence and security. They are rather the makers of manners. And the shapers of self-effort and worth.
If you would be in the 1% you must become the 1%.
It is not indecipherable magic, it is good and well-practiced habit.
I thought most of his points were excellently and wisely made.
I have spent decades “being educated” — in college, graduate school, numerous professional certifications, and now a Ph.D. program. All of that schooling and training helped shape the person I am today, but at no point in my life has there been a more profound education than my time working for Enver Yucel and Oprah Winfrey.
Enver and Oprah are two extraordinary people. And on top of that, they’re both billionaires. On the surface, they appear to be totally different people. They are in different industries, have different family structures, practice different religions, and speak different languages. However, once you get past their written biographies and dig deeper, you will notice they possess many of the same successful habits.
I had the opportunity to work with both Oprah and Enver for six years collectively and those were, hands down, the best professional experiences of my life. I worked my ass off for them and in doing so absorbed everything I could.
It’s my honor to share with you what I learned from them. Here is Part 1 of the 20 successful habits I learned working for two billionaires:
1) Invest in Yourself
This is a very simple concept, but something you would think someone who has “made it” would stop doing. Not at all for these two. I saw them both spend a significant amount of time dedicating their resources to self-development (whether it be a new language, exercise, social media classes, etc.). The moment you stop investing in yourself is the moment you have written off future dividends in life.
2) Be Curious… About Everything
What the average person sees as mundane or overly complicated is not viewed the same way with a billionaire mindset. I once had a 30 minute conversation with Enver about the height of the curbs in Washington DC versus Istanbul, Turkey. Billionaires are incredibly curious; what the rest of the world thinks is a problem and complains about — that’s what these people go and work on.
3) Surround Yourself With “Better” People
I hope this is why they kept me around. Seriously, I never knew my bosses to keep anyone less-than-stellar in their inner circle. There were many times I thought to myself, “Damn, they have dream-teams built around them.” Jim Rohn had it right, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
4) Never Eat Alone
The last time I had dinner with Enver, as well as the last time I ate dinner with Oprah, there were easily 15 people at our tables, respectively. Coincidence? While most of us derive our key information from blogs or the newspaper, power players get their information from the source (other power players), directly. However, just because you can’t call up the Obamas and break bread with them doesn’t mean eating with others in your circle doesn’t carry value. In one of my favorite reads of the last few years called Never Eat Alone, author Keith Ferrazzi breaks down how you can identify “information brokers” to dine with you. I’ve seen first hand how enormous the benefits are of this strategy.
5) Take Responsibility for Your Losses
I was working for Oprah during the time she was taking heat from the media about poor network ratings. I was also working for Enver during the closing of one of his prized divisions. What I witnessed them both do in response was powerful. Opposed to covering the losses up with fancy PR tactics, both stepped to the stage and said in essence “I own it and I’m going to fix it” and dropped the mic. Guess what? They sure did fix things (It’s widely noted Oprah’s network is realizing ratings gold and Enver’s assets have probably doubled since the division closing).
6) Understand The Power Of “Leverage”
This is something that was quite a shock to me. From afar, a billionaire appears to be someone who is a master at everything. But, in truth, they’re specialists in one or a few areas and average or subpar at everything else. So, how do they get so much done? Leverage! They do what they do best and get others to do the rest. Here’s a great article on leverage. Keep in mind I see this done with wealthy people and their money all of the time — they use OPM (other people’s money) for most or all of their projects.
7) Take No Days Off (Completely)
I recall going on vacation with Enver several times, yachting up and down the southwestern coast of Turkey (also known as the blue voyage). Sounds ballerific, right? No doubt we had a great time, but mixed in with all that swimming and backgammon was discussion of business, discussion of strategy, planning and plotting. The best way I can describe this habit is thinking about your business or your idea like your literal baby. No matter your distance, you don’t stop thinking of him/her (and after just having a second son, I can attest to this).
8) Focus On Experiences vs. Material Possessions
When you have money, your toys are big. However, the vast majority of money I saw spent on their “leisure” was on actual experiences versus the typical car, jewelry, and clothes we’re familiar with seeing in music videos and gossip blogs. I recall one time at dinner with Oprah, I spotted a table of about 20 girls off to the side. I later found out Ms. Winfrey was treating some of her graduating girls from her school in South Africa to dinner in NYC. Experiences create memories, and memories are priceless.
9) Take Enormous Risks
This is another one of those successful habits every entrepreneur can attest to. A matter of fact, Entreprenuer.com created a great infographic outlining commonalities of the world’s billionaires and one of the most prominent was this characteristic: billionaires are not adverse to risk. What intrigues me even more about Enver and Oprah was that even at their high financial status and success level, they still possessed a willingness to risk their most precious asset (their name and legacy) on new and bolder projects. If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves!
10) Don’t Go At It Alone
Nothing great in life is achieved alone. Especially in business, success isn’t a solo act. This character trait is akin to “surrounding yourself with better people.” It takes teamwork to make the dream work.
Read Part 2, here!
The very idea that a college degree, of any kind, will assure you do anything at all worthwhile in life is every bit as juvenile and ridiculous a notion as the idea that a job will assure you will become wealthy.
This does not mean that you should necessarily eschew either degrees or jobs, what it does mean is that you must understand their very limited influence on your real achievements in life, and upon your true personhood.
Neither you, nor anyone else, can anymore “degree” you a great achievement, than you can “job” your way into being a meaningful person.
This week I gave a final exam to 29 undergraduates in my “Foundations of Entrepreneurial Management” class at Babson College.
But a final exam is not the true test of what they need to know. They need to learn how to think and act to find and capture opportunities to make the world a better place.
This may sound overly rosy, but in my experience startups must make the world better in order to survive. To succeed at that, entrepreneurs must consider and do the following six things:
1. Find customers and feel their pain.
A passionate founder is often so determined to realize a vision that he or she can lose sight of other perspectives. Before going too far with plans, an entrepreneur should think about how the outside world would view the new product.
What are the different groups of people it could help or hurt? Which group of potential customers might it make better off?
Which talented people could the vision inspire? Which partners would want to work with the venture? Which investors would want to bet on it?
In a recent interview, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey tells me that empathy is the one word he invokes in almost all interactions with customers, employees and partners of his San Jose, Calif.-based company that combines the functions of servers, storage and networking.
“By empathizing with our employees, customers and partners we believe we can build a company that will create value for our investors because we solve their problems instead of dictating to them what we think they ought to have the way our competitors do,” he says.
2. Imagine and build a prototype.
Find an inexpensive way to build a model of a product.
Let’s say an entrepreneur has the idea to build an app that will make it easier for college friends to arrange an evening out on the town. A prototype might be as simple as a series of drawings of the app’s screens. If the drawings are clear, save the time and money of hiring someone to write code until after the next step in the process.
An example of this can be found in Ben Kaplan’s development of the Who is Going Out (or WiGo) app. As the former student at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., tells me, “I was on campus my freshman year and trying to make social plans — figure out who else was going out at night, where and what time.”
But there were no easy way to do it, he says. “You could text other people or put a post on Facebook but you often wouldn’t get an answer.”
So he came up with the idea for WiGo and mocked up some screen shots on paper for how the mobile app would work. He found a systems developer who built the app in the fall of 2013 for his new company.
3. Receive feedback to adapt the product.
Next imagine the characteristics of the individuals who might eventually buy the startup’s product. Based on that, find individuals who fit that description. Show them the prototype and inquire whether they would buy it. If so, how much would they pay? If not, ask them to say what’s wrong with it or missing and what they would they change.
Repeat this process until a majority of potential customers say they are eager to use the product and want to know how long it will be until it’s delivered.
WiGo is an example of a product that launched in January got good feedback almost from the start, founder Ben Kaplan asserts, saying, “It became very popular within three weeks. Many of the people using it were friends on sports teams at Holy Cross.” Adds Kapan, “I started getting emails and Facebook messages from people at other schools like University of Florida and University of Southern California where I had friends who wanted to use it.”
If consumers say the product looks interesting but it’s not good enough or solves the wrong problem, change the vision or find customers who need the product now — or give up.
4. Build a team of people.
After receiving a positive reaction from from potential customers, think about the skills required to turn a prototype into a product with the benefits expected by customers. What type of sales, engineering, operations and service people are needed to operate the business well?
Figure out values to unite the team and use them to screen candidates and create an interview process and compensation package to hire the best people for these key jobs.
Kaplan, a visionary and salesperson, lacks programming skills. But he was able to use his skills to secure the ones he lacked. For example, he met with Jim Giza, executive in residence at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Giza introduced Kaplan to Kayak co-founder Paul English, who was opening the Blade startup incubator in Boston. “I gave him a demo of WiGo and he immediately got it,” Kaplan says, adding that he now has three or four employees and three to four Blade employees dedicated to WiGo.
English also led to Kaplan’s enlisting programmer and MIT grad Giuliano Giacaglia to be a WiGo co-founder.
5. Raise capital to achieve goals.
To accomplish all the preceding steps, a startup needs money. Give thought to the ways the startup capital could be used and how potential investors will receive a return on the investment. Then find people who will understand the venture and have the capital to invest in it.
The process of raising funds becomes more time-consuming and difficult as capital requirements increase. Bring in investors who will help the company achieve its vision rather than fighting to take control.
WiGo raised capital by bringing in investors who understood its market and could help attract others. The company brought in “about $700,000 from the founders of Kayak, Rue La La, and Tinder, and from professional athletes, including Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots,” The Boston Globe reported.
6. Perceive and adapt to change.
Monitor all the changes to the startup’s environment. The entrepreneur must distinguish between signal and noise when it comes to considering new technologies, customer needs and upstart competitors.
The founder must decide how to respond — whether to alter the existing product line, add new items, change the organization’s structure, bring in managers or create more formal systems to manage people and finances.
Adobe Systems is an example of a company that has adapted to change. Since 2011, its CEO has led its transition from selling packaged software (to its 12.8 million users of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) to providing software as a service, whereby customers pay a monthly fee and get the latest version from the cloud.
Adobe decided to sell Creative Cloud, a monthly, cloud-based subscription service. On Dec. 11, Adobe reported far more subscribers to its Creative Cloud than Wall Street expected and its shares gained nearly 10 percent on a day when the Dow plummeted.
Thinking and acting in these six ways can make the difference between startup success and failure.
He’s absolutely right. You shouldn’t just market and “get on people’s radar” after you fund and start operations, you should do that to get funded and to start operations. As a matter of fact you should market continuously and at all times.
December 15, 2014
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Q.: G’day Richard. I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an entrepreneur. I think I’ve got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little money to pursue commercializing my novel product. I fear that potential investors will not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea? — Jordan Gruber, Australia
My friends and I came up with the name “Virgin” one day when we were 15 years old, sitting around in a basement. I was keen on the name “Slipped Disc” for our new music venture, but then one of my friends pointed out that when it came to business, “we’re all virgins; why don’t we call it that?” In our case, inexperience proved to be a huge asset — if we’d gone with the safer option, I’m not sure that many people would be working out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs or banking at Slipped Disc Money!
Innovation and entrepreneurship thrive on the energy of people who are dipping their toes into the water for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs with fresh outlooks have the freedom to think quite differently, which is tremendously exciting to potential collaborators. However, as you’re finding out, Jordan, translating a new concept into a product can be very daunting.
While you might not yet have the right connections or an “in” with major investors, other people out there do — experienced businesspeople, in your sector or in others, who were once in your shoes and went on to be successful. These people are potential mentors who can help you on your way.
Mentoring is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Virgin; I myself have benefited from many mentors throughout my life. However, don’t consider mentoring as a quick way to gain useful contacts. A good mentoring relationship is based on more than that — it’s a way to learn valuable lessons from the mistakes someone else has made.
Additionally, I noticed in your message an emphasis on convincing “seasoned investors” to back your idea. While securing huge sums of money from major business figures might seem like the ideal way to propel a business forward, the reality is that very few ventures win this kind of funding. A better alternative might be an online crowdfunding platform. Websites such as Indiegogo not only have the potential to fund the creation of a prototype to get your business up and running, but they also can result in significant publicity.
Another option is taking out a small business loan. In the U.K. we launched Virgin StartUp, a program that provides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to companies trying to get their ideas off the ground. It is well worth your time to look into similar initiatives in your area, and decide whether a loan is the right step for you. As an added benefit, both crowdfunding and small business loans will mean that you can retain full ownership of your business — you won’t have to give any equity away to investors.
Here are three steps that can help you discover which approach is best for you:
1. EVALUATE AND RESEARCH.
Always be honest with yourself about your abilities, the work you’ll have to put in to get your company up and running, and the amount of money you’re hoping to raise. Research all the options that are available, and evaluate how they would affect your end goal.
Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding target realistic? How much of a stake in your business are you willing to give to potential investors?
And if you want to find a mentor who can help give you direction and guidance, make sure you find a suitable one. Find out what they do, whether they’ve mentored others before and which sectors they are interested in.
2. GET ON PEOPLE’S RADAR.
Attend industry events such as seminars and conferences. Talk to as many people as possible, and do not immediately launch into a pitch of your product. Be sure to listen and learn from what people have to say.
Networking doesn’t stop at face-to-face contact, either; interact on social media, join LinkedIn groups and keep the relationships going online. When you do approach potential mentors or investors, or if you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll have a degree of visibility.
In fact, the more proactive you are in building your profile, the more likely it is that potential investors will feel confident enough to put their faith in you — and their money in your company. Remember that the more relationships you build, the better the chances that your network will put you in touch with the people who can help your business.
3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.
Remember to be flexible. While winning investment might look like the best option now, don’t discount any other opportunities that come your way. For example, crowdfunding might not have the prestige of an investment from a big-time entrepreneur, but it will connect you directly with future customers, and you will have more control over the process.
Keeping an open mind is especially important when it comes to mentoring. Don’t see mentorship as a quick fix for problems, and do not brush off advice. Consider your connection with a mentor as a long-lasting business relationship that can teach you lessons and reduce the potential for failure. But also remember that, as with anything else, you’ll get out of mentoring what you put in.
Making sure that your potential business is a success is not contingent upon gaining a large investment. Many successful companies — including Virgin — started with modest funds. Right now, investors might seem like they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream, but the one person who can make your business succeed is not an investor, or even a mentor. It is you.
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Isuama Kennedy from Facebook8 hours ago
the one person who will make your business to succeed is not an investor or your mentor but YOU
Meg Columbia Walsh
Meg Columbia Walsh from Facebook9 hours ago
Great Mr. Branson, then tell me a time to pitch my business that is doing well!!! Woman and gay owned…
Silvia Khouzame from Facebook12 hours ago
Samantha Binetter from Facebook17 hours ago
Chandé Dusina from Facebook20 hours ago
Maria Petromanolakis21 hours ago
Thank you very much Sir Branson!
Alexandra Ferrer from Facebook2 days ago
Ryan Poh from Facebook2 days ago
Duc Hoang from Facebook2 days ago
one story for strategy 😀
Peachy Keen from Facebook2 days ago
Wont work in the south. These old geezers aren’t giving up their money unless its for an oil well!
Kiều Công Bình
Kiều Công Bình from Facebook2 days ago
Duc Hoang Nguyễn Trung Kiên 😀
Jason Lobo Sedillo
Jason Lobo Sedillo from Facebook2 days ago
stephen hardacre 2 days ago
O.K. THE RICHSTER DID YOU EVER WATCH JERRY MCGUIRE WELL RUMOUR HAS IT THAT IT WAS FICTIONAL CERTAIN GUYS ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ABOUT THEM BUT WHAT I AM ABOUT TO ACHIEVE IS REAL TIME AND WHILE I AM AT IT THE PLAN IS TO BRING THE CRIME RATE DOWN IN MY ALREADY ROUGH AS TOAST AREA YOU SEE IT IS NOT BRAINS I NEED IT IS BRAWN AND A FIGHTING HEART BASICALLY I WONT THE KIDS WHO THE TEACHERS SAY HAVE NO HOPE AND I WAS AND LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY ALL MY LIFE I KNOW THE KIDS THAT ARE DESTINED FOR A LIFE OF CRIME AS I WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THEIR PARENTS THE ONLY REASON THEY GO TO CRIME IS BECAUSE THEY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL JUST BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS ARE A WEE TAD ROTTEN BUT THAT COMES HAND IN HAND WITH BEING POOR IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO STEER CLEAR OF THESE FUTURE CRIMINALS AND THATS THE WAY IT IS I HAVE NOT “THROWN A BEVVY ON IT ” THAT IS HOW IT IS THE PLAN IS TO PAY THEM WHAT I CALL A ” WOW WAGE ” BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN LOOK AFTER THERE WAYWARD PARENTS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN CHANNEL THEIR KNOWLEDGE FOR ME THIS IS WHERE THE DIAMONDS ARE IN THE DIRT PEOPLE SAY I AM CRAZY BUT AS IT SO HAPPENS IT WOULD BE A SIN NOT TO PUSH FOR IT WITH THE FORWARD MOMENTUM I FEEL AROUND ME last but not least i must say it when i was a kid”I USED TO WANT TO BE YOU BUT I DON’T NO MORE I WANNA BE ME “IF YOU GET TO THIS WEE MESSAGE THINK OF US AND YOU WILL GET INTO HEAVEN THANKS
JDGO 2 days ago
Great advise sir,
RadoslavVujaklija 2 days ago
Yeah kick it sir Branson!!!
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Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but these 4 steps can help you cut down on it dramatically.
Learning disabilities like dyslexia aren’t typically regarded as advantages, but for some entrepreneurs, being dyslexic has been a key part of why they succeeded.
That’s according to New Yorker writer and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, who, while researching his last book, David and Goliath, spoke to roughly two dozen dyslexic entrepreneurs.
“Their stories are all the same,” Gladwell says. “They don’t think they succeeded in spite of their disability. They think they succeeded because of it.”
While learning disabilities present unique challenges for individuals from an early age, they can also serve as what Gladwell refers to as “desirable difficulties,” or challenges that force people to learn new skills that prove extremely helpful later in life.
“They’re learning delegation, how to communicate with other people [and] motivate other people,” Gladwell says.
Successful dyslexic entrepreneurs that Gladwell points to include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, JetBlue founder David Neeleman, and longtime movie producer Brian Grazer, whose dyslexia forced him to learn how to negotiate his way to getting better grades in school, according to Gladwell.
“By the time he hits college he’s brilliant at it, and then what does he do? He becomes a Hollywood producer, [which is] about negotiation, among other things, and he’s been practicing his entire life,” Gladwell says.
“In order to learn the things that really need to be learned we require a certain level of adversity.”
To hear more from the conversation, watch the video below.
Certain obstacles that seem undesirable at first may ultimately help you get ahead.
Indeed. I practice this habit every day. I walk and/or run 2 to 5 miles per day.
In recent years, walking has gone from a generally healthful mode of transport to a public health crusade. Why? Lately, science has shown sitting all day to be the newest public health menace, right behind Big Macs and cigarettes on the list of things that will shorten your life and damage your body. The silver lining to this evolving line of research is that fighting back seems to be as simple as getting up and wandering around for a few minutes every hour or so (standing desks are another option).
An occasional stroll, therefore, has become akin to a morning vitamin or regular cancer screening–something you know you really ought to do. There’s no denying the truth of the necessity of adding a bare minimum of movement to our days, but there’s another side to walking that may be getting lost in the rush to remind people of its salutary effects.
Walking might save your life, but that’s far from all a good wander has to offer.
Traveling by foot isn’t just medicinal. It’s also a meditative pursuit with a long and storied pedigree that can lift your mood, improve your creativity, and give you the space you need for life-changing self-reflection.
The first couple of items on this list are the simplest to prove. Again we can turn to recent studies that reveal being outside in natural settings is powerful anti-anxiety medicine. Blog Wise Bread summed up the new findings this way: “The sounds of birds chirping, rain falling, and bees buzzing are proven to lower stress and evoke a feeling of calm.”
Similarly, science attests that getting out for a walk can spur creative thinking. Stanford News, for example, reports on studies out of the university showing that “the overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting … creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking.”
It’s clear, then, that walking has short-term utilitarian uses–if you need an idea to finish that work project, a spin around your local park might help shake one loose. But there’s also lots of anecdotal evidence that longer walks can yield a deeper sort of creativity. The mental space created by long rambles offers the stressed and scattered the time and brain real estate needed not only to solve specific problems, but also to gain perspective on their own lives and rebalance out-of-whack lifestyles.
When blogger David Roberts decided to fight his profound burnout with a year-long digital detox, for example, he soon settled into a daily rhythm of long hikes. “Reliably, after about a half-hour of walking, ideas start bubbling up,” he reports in a fascinating writeup of the experience for Outdoor magazine. The wandering had other effects, too. “I spent hours at a time absorbed in a single activity. My mind felt quieter, less jumpy,” he says.
Roberts is far from the only thinker to notice these deeper effects of longer walks. On Medium recently, writer Craig Mod composed an ode to long walks, unearthing a treasure trove of historical figures and great thinkers who celebrated and dissected the benefits of walking. The common thread running through these accounts isn’t just that experiencing a place on foot offers a unique perspective and plenty of unexpected details to delight the walker, but also that “walking moves or settles the mind–allowing for self discovery.”
If you’ve lost touch with the art of the long ramble, it’s a must-read piece. And it begs the question:
Will you take time for a long walk this week?
Indeed. You begin when you need to begin, not when you or anyone else is ready…
In 1966, a dyslexic sixteen-year-old boy dropped out of school. With the help of a friend, he started a magazine for students and made money by selling advertisements to local businesses. With only a little bit of money to get started, he ran the operation out of the crypt inside a local church.
Four years later, he was looking for ways to grow his small magazine and started selling mail order records to the students who bought the magazine. The records sold well enough that he built his first record store the next year. After two years of selling records, he decided to open his own record label and recording studio.
He rented the recording studio out to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. In that small recording studio, Oldfield created his hit song, Tubular Bells, which became the record label’s first release. The song went on to sell over 5 million copies.
Over the next decade, the young boy grew his record label by adding bands like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued starting companies: an airline business, then trains, then mobile phones, and on and on. Almost 50 years later, there were over 400 companies under his direction.
Today, that young boy who dropped out of school and kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is a billionaire. His name is Sir Richard Branson.
Two weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.
At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:
I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time. At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do. Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night. —Richard Branson
I took this photo right after he told that story. A few moments later I stood shoulder–to–shoulder with him (he’s about six feet tall) and thanked him for sharing some time with us.
Completely concur… and God is the very best and Wisest Business, Career, Entrepreneurial, Success, and Work partner I have ever had.
I want to say upfront that I believe in God and that there is design to the world and the people in it. For those of you who don’t believe this, I am asking you to allow me to hold these assumptions temporarily for specific reasons that will hopefully become clear. The purpose of this article is not to convert anyone; it is to build some logic into why, for me, the Bible is the best business book I have read.
Suppose it were actually true that God existed and sent his Son to us. If it were, then it would likely follow that the guidance He gave to us would help us deal effectively with people since people are part of His design. The biblical story is that God sent His son Jesus with a mission and message of reconciliation to mankind. If it is true that God created us, then looking at the invitation that He gives through Jesus tells us a lot about what people will respond to, and gives us a model for effective relationships.
Since working with people is most important in business, then, a by-product of following the Bible would be becoming more successful in working with others. Like the law of gravity, there would be basic things that work or do not work with people. For example, when dealing with customers who cheat us, if our first move is to punish the customers in some even small way, on average that would yield a set of outcomes. Rather, if our first move is to forgive the customers, that would also probably have a different set of outcomes.
When Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who attempted to capture Christ, Jesus admonished Peter. (John 18:11). If we go about our daily lives judging people in a harsh way, then this would likely come through in some intangible way in how we are perceived by others. As much as we try, it is difficult to hide who we really are over a long period of time. In the Bible, when the mob was about to stone the woman convicted of adultery, Jesus asked that the person guilty of no sin come forth to cast the first stone (John 8:7). If we align our goals with those of a power much greater than ours, we are swimming with the current, not against it. I also believe it helps with leadership since people end up following, not really individuals, but the ideas those individuals stand for.
The best business book I have read is the Bible. Specifically, the New Testament contains rich instruction on relationships, both descriptively (how Jesus treats us) and prescriptively (how we treat each other in response). Ideals such as directly confronting people over offenses, working without garnering praise, and acknowledging that we have a limited ability to change people, are all emphasized in the context of His teaching. If you follow the guidance in it, I believe that, while your worldly success is not guaranteed, your chance of success will be higher. (For those of you reading this who are Christians, my intent is not to convey at all that we follow these principles for an outcome: it is to state what I have seen in my business life. God does not promise us any earthly reward for our submission to His principles).
Now, to end where I began, I want to say a few other things. I realize there are people who are very “successful” in business who do not believe in God or in a design, perhaps do not give it much thought, and have discarded these things. However, if you look closely at the majority of them, they were or are more or less following the guiding principles of the New Testament. Also, there are probably some very successful “bad” people who just go about and do as they wish with no reverence for anything other than themselves; however, I believe this case is much rarer than the popular media would make us believe.
I realize that not everyone shares these views and thoughts, and I, of course, respect people’s right to disagree. However, I am trying to convey what has been helpful to me– and in my professional life, I’ve found that the best lessons, whether they’re spiritual or related to business, have come from scripture.
I have a great deal of research and Work to do today.
But that’s okay by me. I often like research and I love my Work.
Have a good day folks.
Without genuine failure as a mentor it is impossible to pursue real success as an occupation.