“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
There are important lessons here about Career, and Art, and Life…
When Leonard Cohen was twenty-five, he was living in London, sitting in cold rooms writing sad poems. He got by on a three-thousand-dollar grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. This was 1960, long before he played the festival at the Isle of Wight in front of six hundred thousand people. In those days, he was a Jamesian Jew, the provincial abroad, a refugee from the Montreal literary scene. Cohen, whose family was both prominent and cultivated, had an ironical view of himself. He was a bohemian with a cushion whose first purchases in London were an Olivetti typewriter and a blue raincoat at Burberry. Even before he had much of an audience, he had a distinct idea of the audience he wanted. In a letter to his publisher, he said that he was out to reach “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.”
Cohen was growing weary of London’s rising damp and its gray skies. An English dentist had just yanked one of his wisdom teeth. After weeks of cold and rain, he wandered into a bank and asked the teller about his deep suntan. The teller said that he had just returned from a trip to Greece. Cohen bought an airline ticket.
Not long afterward, he alighted in Athens, visited the Acropolis, made his way to the port of Piraeus, boarded a ferry, and disembarked at the island of Hydra. With the chill barely out of his bones, Cohen took in the horseshoe-shaped harbor and the people drinking cold glasses of retsina and eating grilled fish in the cafés by the water; he looked up at the pines and the cypress trees and the whitewashed houses that crept up the hillsides. There was something mythical and primitive about Hydra. Cars were forbidden. Mules humped water up the long stairways to the houses. There was only intermittent electricity. Cohen rented a place for fourteen dollars a month. Eventually, he bought a whitewashed house of his own, for fifteen hundred dollars, thanks to an inheritance from his grandmother.
Hydra promised the life Cohen had craved: spare rooms, the empty page, eros after dark. He collected a few paraffin lamps and some used furniture: a Russian wrought-iron bed, a writing table, chairs like “the chairs that van Gogh painted.” During the day, he worked on a sexy, phantasmagoric novel called “The Favorite Game” and the poems in a collection titled “Flowers for Hitler.” He alternated between extreme discipline and the varieties of abandon. There were days of fasting to concentrate the mind. There were drugs to expand it: pot, speed, acid. “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God,” he said years later. “Generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”
Here and there, Cohen caught glimpses of a beautiful Norwegian woman. Her name was Marianne Ihlen, and she had grown up in the countryside near Oslo. Her grandmother used to tell her, “You are going to meet a man who speaks with a tongue of gold.” She thought she already had: Axel Jensen, a novelist from home, who wrote in the tradition of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. She had married Jensen, and they had a son, little Axel. Jensen was not a constant husband, however, and, by the time their child was four months old, Jensen was, as Marianne put it, “over the hills again” with another woman.
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.
One of the start-up world’s favorite words, in addition to disrupt, pivot, and on-demand, is community. Kickstarter identifies as “a community of people committed to bringing new things to life.” “The heart and soul of Etsy,” begins the About Etsy page, “is our global community.” Airbnb calls itself “the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.” You’re not, in other words, just joining a platform where you can fund your screenplay, or hawk your hand-knit iPhone koozies, or rent your apartment — no, you’re belonging to something bigger than yourself.
But back in 2009, perhaps before the word had lost all meaning, a small-time-invention start-up called Quirky built a community that really acted like one. It told the first-world-problem solver in all of us — the one who thought up single-serve French-fry-makers and foldable coffee mugs and musical footballs while out walking the dog — that she no longer had to innovate in a vacuum. Anybody could join. On Quirky’s website, users would assess and workshop each other’s inventions. The most successful ideas, as determined by a vote, would be designed and built by the company. In some cases, the inventors made a lot of money. And it is for that tiny dreamer that the company’s recent death spiral feels like a true loss.
It all came to a head on what seemed like a typical Thursday evening this July, during the weekly Quirky ritual known as Eval. A studio audience of about 100 people gathered in the company’s former-rail-car-terminal headquarters in Chelsea. Lit by webcams from above and a bank of futuristic equipment behind, Quirky’s 28-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman, stood at a lectern in his usual black V-neck tee and announced a panel of product-evaluation experts by nickname: Anna “Make a Buck” Buchbauer, Justin “J-Bomb” Seidenfeld, Aaron Dignan, a.k.a. El Presidente. Ideas submitted and voted on by the Quirky community — watching the livestream from their living rooms — were presented via pitch videos and commentary from Kaufman: a voice-activated lightbulb, a paper-thin Bluetooth speaker that fits in your back pocket, an on-the-go beverage carbonator. The masterminds who won majority approval would hear the rallying mantra “Congratulations, you’re a Quirky inventor!” and have the chance to be like fellow Eval winner Garthen Leslie, a 63-year-old IT consultant from Columbia, Maryland. Leslie came up with the idea of a smart air conditioner during his morning commute, uploaded a rough diagram of the idea to the Quirky platform, and found the community waiting to help him refine it, suggesting additional features and weighing in on the sizing, specs, and the name, which would be Aros. And keeping with Quirky’s leave-the-rest-to-us business model, the company then patented, manufactured, marketed, and sold the unit into Walmart and Amazon, returning 10 percent of the profits to the inventor and those that played Watson to his Graham Bell (in this exceptional case, that’s amounted to more than $400,000 for Leslie and more than $200,000 for the community).
But this Thursday, July 16, it would turn out, was not an ordinary Eval. In fact, it would be the next to last one Kaufman ever did. Following the broadcast, he tacked on what he called an “after-party” — a.k.a. a crisis-management session aimed at addressing recent bad press that the company had gotten. In June, in a sweaty interview onstage at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, Kaufman admitted the company was all but “out of money,” which had once amounted to $185 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and GE. In July came the news that nearly the entire New York City staff would be laid off. By August 1, Kaufman would officially step down from the company he started at age 22. It so happened that for every Aros-type success, the community had waved in many more duds like the Beat Booster, a wireless speaker with a built-in charging station that by one account cost the company $388,000 to develop but only sold about 30 units.
It’s not surprising that Kaufman used the word transparency no fewer than three times in the first five minutes of that after-party, the bottom line of which was that he frankly didn’t know if the company would survive — Quirky’s fate was in the investors’ hands. Because, for all the aspirational, rarefied Bushwick-bar vibes telegraphed by the Evals, Quirky was, of course, all about being real. Its cluster of a million members included folks like — to cite some of the most recent inventors featured on the website — Tony Lytle, a welder and proud grandfather from Larwill, Indiana, who’d dreamed up the Pawcett, a step-on drinking fountain for dogs; and Hadar Ferris, a licensed cosmetologist in Oceanside, California, responsible for decorative muffin-top molds called Bake Shapes; and Pennsylvania-based Navy veteran Jason Hunter, who gave birth to the Porkfolio app-enabled piggy bank. (In the age of artisanal everything, just as we want to know where our pickles were brined and our former-church-pew coffee tables were carved, here, too, was the meaningful personal backstory behind your magnetic bottle opener.)
A few weeks after he was ousted, Kaufman emailed with me from his first-ever personal email account: “It’s weird waking up one day and not even having an email address,” he later said on the phone. “This had been my whole life.” He was a small-time inventor himself at first, for a range of iPod accessories he started in high school that went on to become the company Mophie. At the 2007 Macworld Expo, he handed out pens and sketchpads and asked people to help design Mophie’s 2007 product line (sound familiar?) and then held a vote for the top three ideas. That same year, he sold Mophie, reappropriated the Macworld crowdsourcing schtick, and tried to launch a similar concept to Quirky. What helped Quirky finally get off the ground in 2009 was the recession-driven push for alternative incomes (no coincidence that Kickstarter as well as the entrepreneur-competition show Shark Tank, another bastion of scrappy innovation, also launched in 2009). Plus, there was more of a universal comfort with the practice of online sharing: We were now very used to telling our Facebook friends what we ate for breakfast, and by extension, we might as well tell the Quirky forum about our concept for a better egg-yolk extractor. Our notion of community, then, was evolving, and Kaufman — Mark Zuckerberg wrapped in a teddy-bear build, with the mischievous smile of your son or younger brother (depending on where you fell in Quirky’s wide-ranging age demographics) — was a relatable leader.
On the consumer end, seeing these ordinary tinkerers immortalized on the shelves of the Container Store (a big Quirky perk was that inventors’ names and faces appeared on their products’ packaging) was like watching the Spanx lady on QVC for the first time in the early aughts — a humble fax-machine salesperson from Clearwater, Florida, who just wanted to wear control-top pantyhose without the hose. Inventors were just like us! And now everybody could be the Spanx lady (albeit for only a tiny fraction of the profits), because unlike her, we didn’t have to side-hustle all alone. Next it could be my cousin in Westchester, who had four kids but no one to help her prototype her idea for a mother-baby bath towel. Next it could be my semi-retired father, who was in a private war with his never-shuts-properly pantry door and needed a constructive, supportive outlet for his aggression. Next it could be my friend Sarah, who was full of lightbulb moments — an Oreo-dunking robot claw, a universal key for all your locks — but was too stoned to sort through the mechanics by herself.
Quirky was catnip for the press: The Sundance Channel produced a short-lived reality show on the company in 2011. Kaufman appeared on Leno. This magazine featured it as a Boom Brand of 2013, noting, “It’s a pretty rare company that’s so hippieish — Let’s have everyone get a say! — yet so purely free-market.” The Times devoted several thousand words to a piece called “The Invention Mob, Brought to You by Quirky” just last February (by then its financially unsustainable business model had given way to a pivot — a smart-home subsidiary called Wink — that was too little too late).\
Another Times piece, from this past April, cited Quirky as a springboard for the realest of all Real People: older people. “There’s a boom in inventing by people over 50,” John Calvert, the executive director of the United Inventors Association, told the paper. And indeed, Quirky had plenty of them in its hive — like 59-year-old Lorin Ryle, a full-time caretaker for her dementia-stricken mother. When her clip-on baby monitor for the elderly won at Eval, she says she cried, watching from her Hutto, Texas, home. It never actually made it to development (in fact, only about half of the Eval winners ever do), but for Ryle that didn’t take away from the experience of “working with people to make something work,” she says. “I’ve made lifelong friends on there.” (Another Quirky boomer, Marc Rumaner, who came up with a nifty little wine-bottle anchor called Vine Stop, has even gone so far as to host barbecues for fellow community members in his Chicago area.)
Of course, the inmates didn’t always like running the asylum. There was much talk in the forums that the Eval system seemed too democratic. “I failed to see how any of us could know what a product scout from a company like GE or Mattel could know,” says one community member. And indeed, when you look at misfires like the Drift, a $200 wooden balance board that simulates snowboarding and surfing, or the $80 Egg Minder, an app-enabled egg tray that signals to your smartphone when you’re running low on eggs, it would appear that the company’s raison d’être was also the reason for its downfall, a colony of amateurs green-lighting unscalable solutions to nonexistent issues. Quirky brought more than 400 products to market in just six years.
Yet Kaufman points out that the community had much less say than all the high-pressure voting would suggest; the real decisions were made when the cameras stopped rolling and he and the actual experts did the math on a product’s marketability. (So, maybe not so much power to the people, after all.) But, he adds of Eval, “There had to be a thing to look forward to on a regular basis — otherwise how are you going to keep the community engaged?” Quirky steered the ship, you might say, but the community was still the North Star.
Steering the ship — handling all of the engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing, even when you’re taking 90 percent of the subsequent profits — was ultimately too expensive of a proposition, especially in comparison to other, less-handholding-oriented start-ups. “The reason why Kickstarter makes a ton of money is they don’t have to do anything besides put up a website,” Kaufman notes. After that, the failure (and let’s face it, many Kickstarter-funded products go on to fail) is all on the individual. Which is not meant to be a dig, Kaufman clarifies. He won’t confirm his next venture but says, “I love Kickstarter.” And: “I will likely use it.”
Not that I don’t think this process would yield valuable results, especially the fact that he reviews books while his heart rate is up, etc. (his data absorption process) but my information preparation and absorption process is extremely simple by comparison.
I simply take a book, go through it as he said early in the video and highlight everything that is useful and practically applicable. Then I distill each highlighted chapter or section or paragraph or item into a single sentence which contains an actionable premise or instruction set. In this way I can distill a single book down to a Single Plan of perhaps 8 to 12 Actionable Points (sometimes also containing some side-notes explaining the most relevant new information). I also tend to place each plan in Chronological Order so that each plan can always be followed in the most logically progressive manner. See this entry for more detail on what I mean: 8 to 12 Point Plan.
In this way, over the years, I have created literally hundreds of Plans of various types of information, processes, and actions (derived both from my own experiences and from information obtained from books and other sources) which when they are all combined together in a single source I call my Book of Plans. (Again, as I have aged I have become far more interested in how information can be practically and usefully and profitably applied than in “information” as a principal or principle or component in and of itself.
I also sub-divide my Book of Plans into chapters relevant to what most interests me in a given Field. For instance I have chapters on Business, Art, Invention, Technology, Science, Religion, Exploration, etc. and each chapter may have 30 pages (or more or less depending on the subject matter) of plans in it with each page being a separate plan on a particular subject.
That is my method. It is simple, fast, data-targeted, actionable, inexpensive, and when necessary it is extremely easy to review each plan in order to follow my Plans or to pick back up again from where I had previously left off operations.
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.
I am in immediate need of the following things:
A brief word of explanation on the above:
Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.
Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.
Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.
Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.
Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.
Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.
Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.
Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.
Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.
If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.
Here’s a quick and fun way to enrich your business knowledge: streaming documentaries on Netflix.
The online movie and TV service has a vast cache of business and tech documentaries that anyone with a subscription can watch instantly. The topics range from profiles of great tech innovators like Steve Jobs to deep dives into industrial design.
Each of these 12 documentaries offers an entertaining storyline, as well as valuable insights into business success.
Alison Griswold contributed to an earlier version of this article.
“Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” profiles Jiro Ono, a Japanese sushi chef and restaurant owner who is widely revered for his skill and $300-a-plate dinners. It follows the 85-year-old master as he works with vendors to secure the finest ingredients, manages and mentors his staff, and prepares his son to succeed him when he retires. The movie brings viewers inside the dedication, obsession, and decades of hard work it takes to achieve perfection.
“TED Talks: Life Hacks” is a collection of 10 popular TED lectures that offer tips and insights for success in life and business. You’ll learn body-language secrets from Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, research-backed productivity tricks from positive psychology expert Shawn Achor, and more.
Screenshot from Netflix
“Inside: Lego,” a short 2014 film by Bloomberg, takes viewers inside one of the greatest turnaround stories in recent history. Lego, the Denmark-based toy maker, was in trouble in the early 2000s. It had overextended, lost its identity, and was bleeding money. After executing CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s strategy to refocus on the core business, Lego rebounded to become the world’s fastest-growing toy company.
“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” takes viewers deep inside the business of the late Joan Rivers. After following the comedian for a year, filmmakers reveal the highs and lows of Rivers’ decades-long quest to stay relevant. What does it take to get to the top and stay there? From meticulous organization systems to her willingness to take any job to make sure her staff got paid, the movie shows the fierce determination necessary for success.
Few people know pressure better than Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and the US Secretary of the Treasury during the height of the financial crisis. “Hank: 5 Years from the Brink” explores the momentous task Paulson was handed in September 2008 — saving the global economy — and how he dealt with it.
The items you think the least about may have the most effective designs, according to the 2009 film “Objectified.” Take the Post-it note. Have you ever considered that someone put a lot of time into its appearance? The movie explores the unconscious but influential relationship we have with the objects around us, and why the smallest tweaks in design make an enormous difference.
If you’ve ever thought about starting a restaurant, Danny Meyer knows a thing or two about success in the business. “The Restaurateur: How Does Danny Do It?” offers a behind-the-scenes look at Meyer, the New York City restaurateur and man behind Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern. The movie shows how Meyer’s philosophy of putting great food first launched his career.
“Something Ventured” portrays some of the most successful and prolific venture capitalists, who through genius or luck made big early-stage bets on tech companies like Apple, Google, Atari, and Intel. For a crash course in venture capital or a modern business history lesson, this 2011 documentary shows how entrepreneurs partnered with investors to build some of the greatest American companies.
Screenshot from Netflix
The 2005 documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” is a cautionary tale. It’s a deep dive into the fall of Enron, the energy company that was at one point valued at $70 billion but filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It’s become one of the most well-known cases of financial corruption and accounting fraud, and this film explores the psychology behind and fallout of the collapse of an empire.
Screenshot from Netflix
The 2013 PBS documentary “American Experience: Silicon Valley” chronicles the beginning of the modern technology age. It follows a group of eight technologists who took a risk and decided to start their own company in 1957. It’s a telling look at the history of the Valley and the birth of a culture characterized by openness, innovation, and idealism.
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 can attest, from personal experience, both the powerful bias effects of some of these items listed below, and to their disastrous effects on the behavior and psychology of certain people…
In my experience, as well, not all of these biases are equally dangerous or even problematic, but they can all be barriers to success at one time, or in one set of circumstances, or another, if you allow them to be.
Especially when such biases become habitual and completely unexamined. Bias is bad when it comes to critical and acute assessment, but it can also be catastrophic when habitual and stubborn.
We like to think we’re rational human beings.
In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we’re rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.
The study of how often human beings do irrational things was enough for psychologists Daniel Kahneman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and it opened the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics. Similar insights are also reshaping everything from marketing to criminology.
Hoping to clue you — and ourselves — into the biases that frame our decisions, we’ve collected a long list of the most notable ones.
People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear.
In a salary negotiation, for instance, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. Any counteroffer will naturally react to or be anchored by that opening offer.
“Most people come with the very strong belief they should never make an opening offer,” says Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that’s completely backwards. The guy or gal who makes a first offer is better off.”
We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions — one of the many reasons it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation about climate change.
A cousin of confirmation bias, here our expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations. That’s why the “double-blind” experimental design was created for the field of scientific research.
Failing to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.
Notably, Princeton psychologist Emily Pronin has found that “individuals see the existence and operation of cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves.”
This is the tendency to see patterns in random events. It is central to various gambling fallacies, like the idea that red is more or less likely to turn up on a roulette table after a string of reds.
Where people believe prior evidence more than new evidence or information that has emerged. People were slow to accept the fact that the Earth was round because they maintained their earlier understanding the planet was flat.
This is the tendency of people to conform with other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things, as shown by the following experiment by Solomon Asch.
Ask one subject and several fake subjects (who are really working with the experimenter) which of lines B, C, D, and E is the same length as A? If all of the fake subjects say that D is the same length as A, the real subject will agree with this objectively false answer a shocking three-quarters of the time.
“That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern,” Asch wrote. “It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”
When people who are more well-informed cannot understand the common man. For instance, in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s difficult for scientist Sheldon Cooper to understand his waitress neighbor Penny.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
A phenomenon in marketing where consumers have a specific change in preference between two choices after being presented with a third choice. Offer two sizes of soda and people may choose the smaller one; but offer a third even larger size, and people may choose what is now the medium option.
People are less likely to spend large bills than their equivalent value in small bills or coins.
When the duration of an event doesn’t factor enough into the way we consider it. For instance, we remember momentary pain just as strongly as long-term pain.
When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them.
For instance, a person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy on the basis that his grandfather lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day, an argument that ignores the possibility that his grandfather was an outlier.
Where people in one state of mind fail to understand people in another state of mind. If you are happy you can’t imagine why people would be unhappy. When you are not sexually aroused, you can’t understand how you act when you are sexually aroused.
This is where you attribute a person’s behavior to an intrinsic quality of her identity rather than the situation she’s in. For instance, you might think your colleague is an angry person, when she is really just upset because she stubbed her toe.
Where we take one positive attribute of someone and associate it with everything else about that person or thing.
People tend to flock together, especially in difficult or uncertain times.
Of course Apple and Google would become the two most important companies in phones — tell that to Nokia, circa 2003.
Tony Manfred/Business Insider
The tendency for people to want an immediate payoff rather than a larger gain later on.
Where an idea causes you to have an unconscious physical reaction, like a sad thought that makes your eyes tear up. This is also how Ouija boards seem to have minds of their own.
The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action. More information is not always better. Indeed, with less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.
We view people in our group differently from how see we someone in another group.
When people make irrational decisions based on past rational decisions. It may happen in an auction, when a bidding war spurs two bidders to offer more than they would other be willing to pay.
The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones. People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation.
Psychologists argue it’s an evolutionary adaptation — it’s better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.
Speaker Pelosi via Flickr
The tendency to prefer inaction to action, in ourselves and even in politics.
Psychologist Art Markman gave a great example back in 2010:
The omission bias creeps into our judgment calls on domestic arguments, work mishaps, and even national policy discussions. In March, President Obama pushed Congress to enact sweeping health care reforms. Republicans hope that voters will blame Democrats for any problems that arise after the law is enacted. But since there were problems with health care already, can they really expect that future outcomes will be blamed on Democrats, who passed new laws, rather than Republicans, who opposed them? Yes, they can—the omission bias is on their side.
The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich.
Judging a decision based on the outcome — rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment. Just because you won a lot at Vegas, doesn’t mean gambling your money was a smart decision.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives.
When we believe the world is a better place than it is, we aren’t prepared for the danger and violence we may encounter. The inability to accept the full breadth of human nature leaves us vulnerable.
This is the opposite of the overoptimism bias. Pessimists over-weigh negative consequences with their own and others’ actions.
Where believing that something is happening helps cause it to happen. This is a basic principle of stock market cycles, as well as a supporting feature of medical treatment in general.
Alex Davies / Business Insider
Making ourselves believe that a purchase was worth the value after the fact.
Priming is where if you’re introduced to an idea, you’ll more readily identify related ideas.
Let’s take an experiment as an example, again from Less Wrong:
Suppose you ask subjects to press one button if a string of letters forms a word, and another button if the string does not form a word. (E.g., “banack” vs. “banner”.) Then you show them the string “water”. Later, they will more quickly identify the string “drink” as a word. This is known as “cognitive priming”
Priming also reveals the massive parallelism of spreading activation: if seeing “water” activates the word “drink”, it probably also activates “river”, or “cup”, or “splash”
Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
When a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations. Sound familiar, Silicon Valley?
The desire to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do, in order to prove your freedom of choice.
The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data.
People take action in response to extreme situations. Then when the situations become less extreme, they take credit for causing the change, when a more likely explanation is that the situation was reverting to the mean.
Overestimating one’s ability to show restraint in the face of temptation.
This is where your willingness to pay for something doesn’t correlate with the scale of the outcome.
From Less Wrong:
Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2,000 / 20,000 / 200,000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved — the scope of the altruistic action — had little effect on willingness to pay.
Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider
Everyone shares their successes more than their failures. This leads to a false perception of reality and inability to accurately assess situations.
Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual. This explains the snap judgments Malcolm Gladwell refers to in “Blink.” While there may be some value to stereotyping, people tend to overuse it.
An error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we haven’t heard of all of the entrepreneurs who have failed.
It can also cause us to assume that survivors are inordinately better than failures, without regard for the importance of luck or other factors.
We overuse common resources because it’s not in any individual’s interest to conserve them. This explains the overuse of natural resources, opportunism, and any acts of self-interest over collective interest.
This plays to our desire to have complete control over a single, more minor outcome, over the desire for more — but not complete — control over a greater, more unpredictable outcome.
Wise advice when referring to such enterprises.
In my opinion references are not only a two way street, they are a multi-lane overpass leading in so many possible directions that you never know where the road might eventually end. If it does end.
References should be looked upon the same way you look upon clients and employees, as Human Capital.
I have read Buffett’s books as well as several books about/with/sponsored by Buffet, including The Intelligent Investor. Which I have in my personal business and consulting library.
I do not consider Buffett either that brilliant, or that great of a man, except when it comes to investing. When it comes to investing and how to maximize the inherent capacities of any given business he supports he can be, and is indeed, far more often than not, quite incredibly brilliant.
Therefore I found the letter Bill Gates spoke about in the article quite interesting. I downloaded a .pdf copy to study.
Bill Gates is a big Warren Buffett fan.
Gates’ charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was gifted shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, worth almost $30 billion back in 2006, and Buffett serves as a trustee of the foundation.
In a YouTube video posted Sunday, Gates talked a bit about why he liked this passage from the letter so much — it’s about the history of Buffett the investor and Berkshire the company.
In the video, Gates says what works about what he calls the “Berkshire system” is that it maximizes the potential of businesses by giving them autonomy as well as the explicit support of the whole Berkshire organization, even if mistakes are made.
Gates added: “What really struck me this time about the letter was the value of experience. [Buffett] is better today than ever because he’s seen so many businesses and he understands business profitability so incredibly well.” Gates says this is the most important annual letter Buffett has ever written.
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.
I thought about posting this to my literary blog, but… then I thought to myself, no, this story contains so many of the lessons I’ve learned in business and regarding corporate espionage that I’ll put it here, on Launch Port.
I’ll continue writing the story in sections and then serialize it here on Launch Port. Enjoy.
End-Over placed his luggage at the foot of the bureau. The important thing about a bureau in his mind, if you were going to have one at all, was that it be tightly arranged and well ordered. Most people didn’t understand this, even those who made much use of bureaus. Then again, most people started at the over, and not at the end. He had been born breeched. The end as the logical starting place was natural to him.
It also struck many people as either odd, or humorous, or both, that he would bring so much luggage to a Nudist Camp. But to him, if you were going to camp, the important thing was to always be prepared. Being naked in the face of being nude was to him a very different thing than being both naked and nude. The nude part he had worked himself up to without much trouble. Truth was he had always preferred being nude. The being naked though, that was another matter. They didn’t mesh well in his mind with the other parts of himself. Nude was just another form of camouflage, and another form of gregarious sociability. Naked was, well, it was being naked. You either got that, or you didn’t. End-Over got it, and because of that, he avoided naked.
Everyone at the colony, for he preferred to call it a Colony rather than a Camp, called him John. Or Tule. Because he told everyone his real name was John Tuli. It wasn’t of course, and it wasn’t the only alias he employed. After all real names left one naked, and considering that he was a businessman and considering his business, he was satisfied to let everyone else see him nude rather than naked. His name didn’t interfere with his time at the Colony, it didn’t interfere with his fun, it didn’t make him any less likely to be what he was or to do what he’d do, it was just a name. A corporate structure. He wasn’t attached to it. He wasn’t even attached to his real name. It implied certain things about him, helped clarified aspects of his past. Like all names though it was self-limiting, wasn’t really descriptive at all, other than the meaning others attached to it. Public names, real, or imagined, or created, were like terms to him. Something you could hang an idea on, not something you could develop a solid, working description from. He had a secret name for himself, something no-one else knew. Well, no-one else except maybe God. But it wasn’t a naked name, and it wasn’t a nude name, and it wasn’t a public name, and it wasn’t even a private name. It was a name he used when he talked to himself. Which was often enough that he was respectful of it. So he never used it otherwise, and never spoke it in vain.
He turned from the bureau and examined the room he stood in. It was part of the same cabin he always stayed at when he visited the colony. The floors were stained hardwood, dusty and warm, it seemed to him, no matter what time of year he visited. The furniture was typically resort issue. Standing floor lamps, warm yellow bulbs that shed very little light. That was perfectly fine by him.
The bed was low slung, with no headboard. The mattress was new, and the sheets clean and well tended. On his pillow lay a single wrapped chocolate and with a white rose topping a crisp, bright, white envelop with gold, calligraphic insignia cut to conceal a card rather than a letter. The card was no doubt the typical greeting he always received whenever he visited.
The small kitchen would be clean, swept, dry, and sterile. The floor tiles black and white, the polished faux granite counters would gleam dully. The sinks would shine, the faucets would be scrubbed. Dishes would be neatly stacked and put away in their proper places. The silverware would look as if just purchased. The white-frosted, spherical, enclosed light fixtures would hang halfway between the roof and the floor of the vaulted kitchen ceiling. The refrigerator and freezer would be completely empty of anything but ice, which would be plentiful, and the cabinets would be entirely bare. This didn’t matter to him though; he would stock his own larder. He preferred it that way.
The single bathroom of his cabin would be spotless, the toilet almost pristine, a large shaving mirror would hang above a sink free of all traces it had ever been previously used, and a full length door mirror would decorate the inside door of the bathroom. The bath would be part programmable Jacuzzi, part rounded tub, and would conceal a detachable, multi-pulse showerhead. He liked the set up and looked forward to a few long, relaxing soaks at night while he listened to opera and dozed in the warm water. Which he would salt and pour white wine in for the smell, and because it would relax him all the more…
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.”
Wealth and Weal for the Soldier: as some of you might know I’ve been outlining the idea behind several books, which involve teaching business, economic, financial, investment, and money management principles to people who usually get little training in this regard, or who have little exposure to such ideas, concepts, and principles (maybe because they have little time for it). In any case some of the audiences I have targeted to address my books on Wealth and Prosperity Training to include Wealth and Weal for Black Folks, Wealth and Weal for Poor People, Wealth and Weal for Immigrants, and Wealth and Weal for College Students.
Yesterday I was laying in the sun working on an invention when God suddenly said to me, “you know, those books on Wealth and Weal are pretty good ideas, but you know who else really needs that kinda training? A lot of Soldiers, and Police, and Firefighters.” And He was right of course, because that’s the way He is.
So I went inside and started jotting down chapter ideas. These would be chapters specifically targeted at these audiences. Such as:
Business Projects for the Soldier/Policeman
Inventions (triggered by where they serve)
Service Capabilities (developing and profiting from new ways and capabilities to serve)
Operational Improvements (how to suggest and profit from advancing operational methods of service)
Business and Career Idea Generation
Hazard Pay (how to profit from and invest your Hazard Pay)
Developing Supplementary methods and means of Income
Preparing for and Pre-Developing Your Post Service Career
Business, Career, and Employment Planning
Spiritual Development and Religious Life
Psychological Health and Development
Networking – in and out of Service
Contacts – military, civilian, political, and among your Service Zones
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.
He’s absolutely right. Too many Chiefs, not enough Braves. But you can’t win a war with only the Chiefs fighting, too few of them to matter, and most aren’t good fighters anyway… the Braves win the war. Or not.
Back before founding a company was cool, it was a lot easier to get a lot of smart people in a room. Rock stars were hireable because they weren’t forging their own paths. That led to powerhouse teams like the “PayPal Mafia” seen below.
Alongside the future founders of LinkedIn, YouTube and Yelp at PayPal was Keith Rabois, now of Khosla Ventures. Today at the Postseed Conference in SF, Rabois explained how PayPal was lucky to start at the right stage of the talent dilution cycle.
According to Rabois, during down times when there’s not a lot of funding or fever to start companies, it’s easy to hire great talent. With enough intelligence centralized on a few startups, they grow. With time and success, hype builds around the idea of entrepreneurship and being a founder becomes a full-blown fetish.
Eager to coin on the success of the ecosystem, funding becomes plentiful and smart people found their own companies rather than join others. It becomes tougher to get a critical mass of talent on the same team. These companies raise money but don’t have the skills to win big and deliver returns. The bubble deflates, hype around startups cools off, and it becomes easier to hire strong people again.
But what should startups do if they’re unlucky enough to be getting off the ground when there’s a ton of recruiting competition and everyone wants to start their own company? You know, like now?
Rabois laid out four strategies for founders facing a tough hiring climate:
The tactics might seem time-consuming, but early hires set the tone for the company, and mediocre recruits can be toxic. It’s worth the effort for founders to enlist lieutenants they can trust to inspire the rest of the troops.
Compassion is only ever effective if it produces a real solution to the problem which caused you to feel compassion in the first place. Everything else is not real compassion; it is merely deception, distraction, and self-delusion.
If someone says they’ll do for me
What only I can do
I always say to them, “My friend –
You’ve thought your offer through?
That’s a lotta work to do for me
What you say you will,
But if you’re game
It’s all the same,
To me, so better still.”
“Oh no, I meant,” they often say
You’ll do all the work
I’m just here to show you how
So you won’t be a berk.”
“Oh, I see,” I say to them,
“Your expertise you sell –
And how did you a maven make
If you will say, pray tell?”
“Why, I learned by doing,
Work and toil, I often struggled long,
I gained my expertise because
I laboured all along.”
“Oh,” I say, “you expert are
Because you did the work
The efforts you made shaped yourself
You did not duty shirk.”
“Yes,” they say, “that’s what I mean
I worked to learn my trade,
Now if you’ll buy my expertise
I’ll do for you the same.”
“No thanks,” I say, “I like your way,
I’ll do it all myself,
And if I do one better, then
My book will be for sale.”
(At a discount of course.)
In 1980, Ron Shaich was just a 20-something kid looking for a way to draw customers into his single cookie store in downtown Boston.
Today, he is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co., which has nearly 2,000 locations in the US and Canada, 80,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.
Through a series of ah-ha moments and happy accidents, Shaich took a simple idea — sandwiches, soups, and salads that people feel good about eating — and built it into a dominant American brand.
It wasn’t always easy. The company started as Au Bon Pain, and Panera was just one of its divisions. In 1998, Shaich made the difficult decision to sell off most of the business and bet on the little-sister brand Panera. He also stepped back from his role as CEO four years ago. The time away made him realize all the ways the company was vulnerable, and he wrote a 20-page memo about how he would destroy Panera if he was a competitor.
Shaich sat down with Business Insider to talk about how he got here, the single most important strategy in Panera’s success, and what’s next for the business.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Business Insider: When did you first want to be an entrepreneur?
Ron Shaich: In college, I was the treasurer of the student body and came up with the idea of launching our own nonprofit convenience store. We ended up building it, and for a kid who couldn’t dance or sing, I found the creation of this store the most creative thing I ever did in my entire life. I loved it. I began to realize that business was creative and a way to make a difference in the world.
BI: How did Panera get its start?
RS: I went to business school. I tried to figure out my life. I ended up in D.C., running a chain of cookie stores for a large company. I established that this is the food I want to eat and created a single cookie store in downtown Boston in 1980. By late ’80, I had 50,000 people a day coming in, but no one bought cookies before noon. So I decided to put in French baked goods, and I became a licensee of a classic French bakery called Au Bon Pain.
They were the most screwed up vendor I ever dealt with — sometimes they delivered, sometimes they didn’t. I went to them with a proposal to merge the businesses. In February of ’81, I took on their debt, their three stores, and my one. And, after a number of iterations, that became Panera today.
BI: What was the moment when everything clicked for Panera?
RS: In 1984 I had an epiphany. I’d been working in the bakery, and people would walk in and say, “I want that baguette. Slice it from top to bottom.” So I do and hand them the loaf, and they pulled out a bag of deli meat and some cheese and made a sandwich out of it. You didn’t have to be a marketing whiz to recognize it was an opportunity in sandwiches.
We said, “Let’s be the platform to sell soup, salad, and sandwiches.” It took off from Day 1. In 1991, we took it public, and by 1996, we had evolved to a thesis that I call “decomodification,” today called “fast casual.” Then, the contemporary paradigm of fast food was a lot of food for not a lot of money. We recognized that there was a large niche, say 30% to 40% of the market, that wanted something more special. It was not simply how much food they got for the money, but the quality of the food and how they felt about themselves eating there.
Then I had another epiphany. I was sitting on the beach in 1999 and thought, “Wow, for every 100 guys who talk about having a dominant brand, one makes it. Maybe one out of 1,000.” It’s so hard. Panera was one of four divisions. Somebody said to me: “What would you do if Panera owned Au Bon Pain and not the other way around?” I said, “This thing is a gem. If I had any guts, I’d take myself and the very best people we had, and I’d let it fulfill its destiny.” So I did it.
BI: Just like that? How did it feel to say goodbye to most of what you’d built?
RS: The next few years of selling everything else off but Panera were the most horrible years of my life. Au Bon Pain was my first child. It’s only in retrospect that these decisions feel OK. When you’re going through them, if you’re honest, they’re horrible and difficult. Bottom line, I did it. We made the bet on Panera.
BI: If you could pinpoint one strategy, what do you think made Panera so successful?
RS: What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does. Because what is does is a byproduct of how it thinks. Panera in its core comes from a view that competitive advantage is everything. If we don’t have a reason for people to walk past competitors and come to Panera, then we don’t exist. Losing competitive advantage is the greatest risk in business, and that’s where our focus is.
BI: How do you stay ahead of the curve?
RS: I view my role as CEO as protecting those that discover ways to build competitive advantage. Often, when businesses first start up, they’re driven by people who discover new ways of doing things. They’re able to best the competition because they’re clearly disruptive and better. Then they get larger, and behind Discovery People come Delivery People, and they speak a different language.
Discovery is the language of what could be, of where the world is going. Delivery is the language of what happened yesterday, of limited risk. And in most companies that scale, you eventually wake up and realize you have tremendous delivery muscle and no discovery muscle, no ability to regenerate competitive advantage.
Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith, making sure the company is there when the future arrives.
BI: After being CEO for decades, you stepped down from the role about four years ago. Why did you come back?
RS: I didn’t step down; I stepped back. I became executive chairman. Instead of six days a week, I spent three days a week on Panera.
My mind started racing one weekend, and I sat down at the typewriter and wrote a 20-page memo about how I would compete with Panera if I weren’t Panera. I undertook this vision and, after a year, found myself working 60 to 70 hours per week on it!
Panera has 80,000 employees and serves 10 million people a week. I’m back as CEO because I ultimately concluded it’s the most powerful platform I have to make a difference in the world.
BI: A lot of leaders talk about the need to carve out time to think about the big picture. How do you do it?
RS: I go to the beach every Christmas, and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.
BI: What’s an example of one?
RS: In my 50s, having never really exercised, I realized if I don’t do it now, I never will. I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.
BI: Is that how you approach business strategy? You have annual think sessions?
RS: That’s exactly how it works! We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years. How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to ensure we feed the growth monster that goes with being a public company? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.
Good strategy is continually changing. Strategy begins with where we think the world is going. Innovation begins with understanding what job you’re trying to complete for whom, and then determining what matters to that audience, looking for patterns, and trying to understand it. That’s hard work; that’s in the details.
BI: Tell me about the Panera 2.0 initiative.
RS: We’ve been working on it for four years. It brings together a range of technologies, and it’s meant to change the guest experience. If you’re coming to eat in, you simply walk in, sit down at a table, and use your phone to place an order. That order goes up into the cloud and comes back down to our kitchen, goes to our production systems, and the food is delivered directly to you.
Alternatively, if you want the order to go, you can place it from your office, from a kiosk in the café — anywhere you like — you just walk in and that food is waiting for you at a designated time. We’ve made this major commitment to technology.
BI: Panera was among the first retailers to integrate Apple Pay into stores. Why did you decide this was something you wanted to be a part of?
RS: Anything that offers convenience to our guests would only be good. We already have a very significant digital presence, and we’re moving aggressively in that direction.
BI: Is this something your customers have shown an interest in?
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
RS: What customers want are things that add joy and value to their lives. They don’t want another app; they don’t want more technology. What they want are things that make their lives easier.
Apple Pay offers the potential to be significantly easier for those carrying their iPhone 6s. All you have to do is tap it and you’ve paid. It also offers a very high level of security, since there is no transfer of the credit card number. On both of those fronts, it offers the potential for ease and joy and a reduction of friction, and those are positives for the guests.
BI: What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?
RS: If you can do something to get somebody excited — not everybody — but if you can be the best for somebody, then you can win. What it’s all about is figuring out what you can do for somebody that nobody else can do better.
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?
No man should pay for my misfortune and incapacity. Instead I should learn from them both, adapt to overcome them both, and turn them both into profit for the good of the whole world.
I promised you a story. Here it is my friend. It may be a little bit hoary, But if you get it, then... You'll be way ahead of the game.
A guy decides to go into business for himself. Not really knowing how to start he goes to a local “business start-up expert-consultant.” She tells him everything he’ll need to know about all of the technical aspects of getting started, what local offices to visit, bureaucracies to speak with, etc, etc.
So after taking copious and careful notes he goes the next day to the local government offices and begins his trek to start his new little enterprise. First he goes to get a business license but they tell him that he will need to make sure he’s zoned properly first. So he goes to the zoning office and they tell him that they cannot help him until he gets a business certificate. He goes to get a business certificate and they tell him that in order to get a certificate he will have to be approved for business by the local business council. He goes to the council who tell him they cannot approve of his business until he pays his business taxes in advance. He goes to the office of the tax assessor who tells him that before he can pay his taxes he must first have a business certificate.
Thoroughly bewildered, disgusted and angry he starts to go home thinking he’ll just give the whole thing up, so stupid, useless and illogical is the procedure for even getting started. On his way out he passes a little glass door which he had not noticed before, with a sign which read: Office of Doing Business. Curious and with nothing to lose he knocks to announce himself and then walks into the office. Behind a little desk sits an old man in a causal shirt with a desk clear of anything except a battery of telephones and a glass of water.
“What can I do for you?” asks the old man in a friendly and helpful tone.
The guy starts to unload about all of his problems, how he was passed from office to office and bureaucratic desk to bureaucratic desk and how no one would help him actually get started in his business. Then he tells the old man how he did everything right according to the consultant and how he had tried to follow every procedure of every official he encountered and how that only led to disaster. The old man listens patiently and with great sympathy and then bursts into laughter.
“Son, you might know a lot about how business is supposed to work but you haven’t learned anything yet about how it really works.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean business is not a game of rules kid, it’s a game of people who know what the rules really are. If you know the proper people and play them in the best way possible then even the wrongest of rules can be made right as rain. Because business is all about people, and those people are either standing in your way, or standing beside you going your way.”
With a sudden look of understanding spreading over his face the guy asks the old man, “So suppose you help me set up my new enterprise…?”
“Yes…” asks the old man.
“Then what can I do for you in return?”
To which the old man replies with a smile, “Son, pull up a chair, because now you’re talking real business.”
Very well observed…
President Obama made a monumental mistake in appointing a political hack, Ron Klain, as the Ebola czar. He must undo his error now and give the job to someone of stature and genuine ability. For all the Administration’s what-me-worry posturing and the President’s obvious indifference and annoyance with the crisis, this strain of Ebola could still become a catastrophic pandemic of historic lethality. Hopefully authorities will succeed in containing the disease, except for isolated cases, to West Africa, and then eradicate it there and globally. Even if this becomes the outcome, we should be better prepared for future mutations of Ebola or other lethal viruses. As for this strain of Ebola, read the sobering post of Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former deputy commissioner of the FDA: “We don’t fully understand this Ebola strain…In short, we are treading on uncharted ground.”
In alphabetical order, here are three individuals the President should consider immediately for this crucial post:
article continued on Forbes link.
It has been my personal experience that profits wisely shared with Wise Employees only serve to multiply profits.
Equally impressive is the fact that he’s done all that while paying his retail employees nearly twice the industry average.
According to Tindell’s book, “Uncontainable,” the average Container Store retail salesperson makes nearly $50,000 a year compared with what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is a national average of just above $25,000.
In an interview with Business Insider’s Jenna Goudreau, Tindell says the secret to the company’s high wages is what he calls “the 1=3 rule,” meaning that one great employee will be as productive as three employees who are merely good.
As a result, Tindell feels he gets ahead by receiving three times the productivity of an average worker at only two times the cost.
“They win, you save money, the customers win, and all the employees win because they get to work with someone great,” he tells Business Insider.