Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lack of sleep is killing your productivity. Here's how to fix it

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https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/not-getting-enough-sleep-is-killing-your-productivity-this-is-what-you-can-do-about-it?utm_content=buffer8502e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Travis Bradberry
Delegates rest during a break of the plenary session at the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 13, 2014. U.N. talks on slowing climate change were threatened with collapse on Saturday after China clashed with the United States and led emerging nations to reject a compromise outline of an agreement.   REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil (PERU - Tags: ENVIRONMENT POLITICS) - RTR4HWPGSkipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board.Image: REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

The next time you tell yourself that you'll sleep when you're dead, realize that you're making a decision that can make that day come much sooner. Pushing late into the night is a health and productivity killer.

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

Why You Need Adequate Sleep to Perform

We've always known that sleep is good for your brain, but new research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep (and sleep the right way—more on that later). The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you're awake. 

Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you're asleep. So when you don't get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix.

Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity.

What Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Health

Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It stresses you out because your body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol when it's sleep deprived. While excess cortisol has a host of negative health effects that come from the havoc it wreaks on your immune system, it also makes you look older, because cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. In men specifically, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and lowers sperm count.

Too many studies to list have shown that people who get enough sleep live longer, healthier lives, but I understand that sometimes this isn't motivation enough. So consider this—not sleeping enough makes you fat. Sleep deprivation compromises your body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and control food intake. When you sleep less you eat more and have more difficulty burning the calories you consume. Sleep deprivation makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and makes it harder for you to get full by reducing levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin. People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 30% more likely to become obese than those who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to feel sufficiently rested. Few people are at their best with less than 7 hours, and few require more than 9 without an underlying health condition. And that’s a major problem, since more than half of Americans get less than the necessary 7 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

For go-getters, it's even worse.

A recent survey of Inc. 500 CEOs found that half of them are sleeping less than 6 hours a night. And the problem doesn't stop at the top. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of U.S. workers get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, and sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion annually in lost productivity.

Doing Something about It

Beyond the obvious sleep benefits of thinking clearly and staying healthy, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence (EQ). These individuals are skilled at understanding and using emotions to their benefit, and good sleep hygiene is one of the greatest tools at their disposal.

High-EQ individuals know it's not just how much you sleep that matters, but also how you sleep. When life gets in the way of getting the amount of sleep you need, it's absolutely essential that you increase the quality of your sleep through good sleep hygiene. There are many hidden killers of quality sleep. The 10 strategies that follow will help you identify these killers and clean up your sleep hygiene. Follow them, and you'll reap the performance and health benefits that come with getting the right quantity and quality of sleep.

1. Stay Away from Sleeping Pills

When I say sleeping pills, I mean anything you take that sedates you so that you can sleep. Whether it's alcohol, Nyquil, Benadryl, Valium, Ambien, or what have you, these substances greatly disrupt your brain's natural sleep process. Have you ever noticed that sedatives can give you some really strange dreams? As you sleep and your brain removes harmful toxins, it cycles through an elaborate series of stages, at times shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams). Sedation interferes with these cycles, altering the brain's natural process.

Anything that interferes with the brain's natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep. Many of the strategies that follow eliminate factors that disrupt this recovery process. If getting off sleeping pills proves difficult, make certain you try some of the other strategies (such as cutting down on caffeine) that will make it easier for you to fall asleep naturally and reduce your dependence upon sedatives.

2. Stop Drinking Caffeine (at Least after Lunch)

You can sleep more and vastly improve the quality of the sleep you get by reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that interferes with sleep by increasing adrenaline production and blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life, which means it takes a full 24 hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at 8 a.m., and you’ll still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at 8 p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be near 50% strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.

When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates most. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with a cognitive and emotional handicap. You’ll be naturally inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel more alert, which very quickly creates a vicious cycle.

3. Avoid Blue Light at Night

This is a big one—most people don't even realize it impacts their sleep. Short-wavelength blue light plays an important role in your mood, energy level, and sleep quality. In the morning, sunlight contains high concentrations of this "blue" light. When your eyes are exposed to it directly (not through a window or while wearing sunglasses), the blue light halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel more alert. This is great, and exposure to a.m. sunlight can improve your mood and energy levels. If the sun isn't an option for you, try a blue light device.

In the afternoon, the sun's rays lose their blue light, which allows your body to produce melatonin and start making you sleepy. By the evening, your brain does not expect any blue light exposure and is very sensitive to it. The problem this creates for sleep is that most of our favorite evening devices—laptops, tablets, televisions, and mobile phones—emit short-wavelength blue light. And in the case of your laptop, tablet, and phone, they do so brightly and right in your face. This exposure impairs melatonin production and interferes with your ability to fall asleep as well as with the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. Remember, the sleep cycle is a daylong process for your brain. When you confuse your brain by exposing it in the evening to what it thinks is a.m. sunlight, this derails the entire process with effects that linger long after you power down. The best thing you can do is avoid these devices after dinner (television is okay for most people as long as they sit far enough away from the set). If you must use one of these devices in the evening, you can limit your exposure with a filter or protective eye wear.

4. Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Consistency is key to a good night's sleep, especially when it comes to waking up. Waking up at the same time every day improves your mood and sleep quality by regulating your circadian rhythm. When you have a consistent wake-up time, your brain acclimates to this and moves through the sleep cycle in preparation for you to feel rested and alert at your wake-up time. Roughly an hour before you wake, hormone levels increase gradually (along with your body temperature and blood pressure), causing you to become more alert. This is why you'll often find yourself waking up right before your alarm goes off.

When you don't wake up at the same time every day, your brain doesn't know when to complete the sleep process and when it should prepare you to be awake. Long ago, sunlight ensured a consistent wake-up time. These days, an alarm is the only way most people can pull this off, and doing this successfully requires resisting the temptation to sleep in when you're feeling tired because you know you'll actually feel better by keeping your wake-up time in tact.

5. No Binge Sleeping (In) on the Weekend

Sleeping in on the weekend is a counterproductive way to catch up on your sleep. It messes with your circadian rhythm by giving you an inconsistent wake-up time. When you wake up at the same time during the work week but sleep past this time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired because your brain hasn't prepared your body to be awake. This isn't a big deal on your day off, but it makes you less productive on Monday because it throws your cycle off and makes it hard to get going again on your regular schedule.

6. Learn How Much Sleep You Really Need

The amount of sleep you need is something that you can't control, and scientists are beginning to discover the genes that dictate it. The problem is, most people sleep much less than they really need and are under-performing because they think they're getting enough. Some discover this the hard way. Ariana Huffington was one of those frantic types who underslept and overworked, until she collapsed unexpectedly from exhaustion one afternoon. She credits her success and well-being since then to the changes she's made to her sleep habits. "I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night, until gradually I got to 7 to 8 hours. The result has been transformational," 

Huffington says, adding that, "all the science now demonstrates unequivocally that when we get enough sleep, everything is better: our health; our mental capacity and clarity; our joy at life; and our ability to live life without reacting to every bad thing that happens."

Huffington isn't the only one. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Sheryl Sandberg have all touted the virtues of getting enough sleep. Even Bill Gates, an infamous night owl, has affirmed the benefits of figuring out how much sleep you really need: “I like to get 7 hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.” It's time to bite the bullet and start going to bed earlier until you find the magic number that enables you to perform at your best.

7. Stop Working

When you work in the evening, it puts you into a stimulated, alert state when you should be winding down and relaxing in preparation for sleep. Recent surveys show that roughly 60% of people monitor their smartphones for work emails until they go to sleep. Staying off blue light-emitting devices (discussed above) after a certain time each evening is also a great way to avoid working so you can relax and prepare for sleep, but any type of work before bed should be avoided if you want quality sleep.

8. Eliminate Interruptions

Unfortunately for those with small children, the quality of your sleep does suffer when it is interrupted. The key here is to eliminate all the interruptions that are under your control. If you have loud neighbors, wear earplugs to bed. If your mother likes to call at all hours of the night, make certain you silence your ringer before you go to bed. If you had to wake up extra early in the morning, make sure your alarm clock is back on its regular time when you go to bed. Don't drink too much water in the evening to avoid a bathroom trip in the middle of the night. If your partner snores . . . well, you get the idea. If you think hard enough, there are lots of little things you can do to eliminate unnecessary interruptions to your sleep.

9. Learn to Meditate

Many people who learn to meditate report that it improves the quality of their sleep and that they can get the rest they need even if they aren't able to significantly increase the number of hours they sleep. At the Stanford Medical Center, insomniacs participated in a 6-week mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy course. At the end of the study, participants' average time to fall asleep was cut in half (from 40 to 20 minutes), and 60% of subjects no longer qualified as insomniacs. The subjects retained these gains upon follow-up a full year later. A similar study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that 91% of participants either reduced the amount of medication they needed to sleep or stopped taking medication entirely after a mindfulness and sleep therapy course. Give mindfulness a try. At minimum, you'll fall asleep faster, as it will teach you how to relax and quiet your mind once you hit the pillow.

10. When All Else Fails: Take Naps

One of the biggest peaks in melatonin production happens during the 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. time frame, which explains why most people feel sleepy in the afternoon. Companies like Google and Zappos are capitalizing on this need by giving employees the opportunity to take short afternoon naps. If you aren't getting enough sleep at night, you're likely going to feel an overwhelming desire to sleep in the afternoon. When this happens, you're better off taking a short nap (even as short as 15 minutes) than resorting to caffeine to keep you awake. A short nap will give you the rest you need to get through the rest of the afternoon, and you'll sleep much better in the evening than if you drink caffeine or take a long afternoon nap.

Bringing It All Together

I know many of you reading this piece are thinking something along the lines of "but I know a guy (or gal) who is always up at all hours of the night working or socializing, and he's the number one performer at our branch." My answer for you is simple: this guy is underperforming. We all have innate abilities that we must maximize to reach our full potential. My job is to help people do that—to help the good become great by removing unseen performance barriers. Being number one in your branch is an accomplishment, but I guarantee that this guy has his sights set on bigger things that he isn't achieving because sleep deprivation has him performing at a fraction of his full potential. You should send him this article. It just might shake something loose.

After all, the only thing worth catching up on at night is your sleep.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

10 ways smart people handle negative people

http://www.businessinsider.com/10-ways-smart-people-handle-negative-people-2017-3?IR=T&r=US&IR=T
friends clasp hands
Build a bridge. Flickr/Mathias Klang

Difficult people defy logic.
Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people's buttons.
Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all, stress.
Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain.
Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus — an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory.
Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success — when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.
Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you're bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It's the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.
Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions — the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with difficult people — caused subjects' brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it's negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome or just plain craziness, difficult people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.
The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we've found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize difficult people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep difficult people at bay.
While I've run across numerous effective strategies that smart people employ when dealing with difficult people, what follows are some of the best. To deal with difficult people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can't. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

1. They set limits

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don't want to be seen as callous or rude, but there's a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.
You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You'd distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

2. They rise above

Difficult people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps.
Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they're a science project (or you're their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don't need to respond to the emotional chaos — only the facts.

3. They stay aware of their emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can't stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don't recognize when it's happening. Sometimes you'll find yourself in situations where you'll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn't be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.
Think of it this way — if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he's John F. Kennedy, you're unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it's best to just smile and nod. If you're going to have to straighten them out, it's better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

4. They establish boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn't be further from the truth. Once you've found your way to Rise Above a person, you'll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand.
This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don't. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn't mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.
You can establish a boundary, but you'll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you'll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

5. They don't die in the fight

Smart people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you're able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

6. They don't focus on problems — only solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you're facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.
When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you're going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.
You can establish a boundary, but you'll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you'll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

7. They don't forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn't mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what's happened so that you can move on. It doesn't mean you'll give a wrongdoer another chance. Smart people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others' mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

8. They squash negative self-talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There's nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

9. They get some sleep

I've beaten this one to death over the years and can't say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed.
Your self-control, attention and memory are all reduced when you don't get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. A good night's sleep makes you more positive, creative and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

10. They use their support system

It's tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation.
Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can't because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing it all together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you're going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.
Read the original article on Entrepreneur. Copyright 2017. Follow Entrepreneur on Twitter.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Married Couple Built a $30 Million Company--Selling Fancy Bedsheets to Millennial Hipsters

http://www.inc.com/emily-canal/brooklinen-millennials.html?cid=sf01001&sr_share=twitter
Rich and Vicki Fulop built Brooklinen by understanding who their customers were and what they wanted


Rich and Vicki Fulop, co-founders of Brooklinen.
 CREDIT: Courtesy of Brooklinen

Rich and Vicki Fulop, the co-founders of Brooklinen, have a leg up when it comes to understanding who their consumers are and what they really want. Like their core consumer base, they are also Millennials who can spend a little more on high-quality products.
That knowledge has helped the husband-and-wife duo build Brooklinen, a startup that sells luxury bedding and other home accouterments like candles and blankets--all under $200, and only purchasable online. On Thursday, the company announced it has raised $10 million in series A funding from FirstMark Capital, an investor in Airbnb. Since it's inception in 2014, Brooklinen has generated more than $30 million in sales.
The Fulops, both 31, came up with the idea for Brooklinen after trying to buy a set of sheets they liked at a hotel. The bedding cost about $800, a price way out of their budget. As they searched online for other alternatives, they discovered older chat forums where other folks faced the same dilemma. The couple soon realized that when it came to bedding, there were only two purchasing options: High-quality and pricey, or low-quality and cheap.
"We were 20-something Millennials who had our own apartment, and no one was making cool and chic bedsheets that were both awesome quality and affordable," says Rich, who is also CEO of Brooklinen. "We knew there were enough people out there looking for the same thing."
Rich and Vicki began building out their startup plan with a rigorous amount of research. They wanted to know exactly who their customers would be, and how to appeal to them. As it turns out, they are Millennials with a steady income who prefer to shop online. Through email campaigns and in-person surveys, the couple asked about 500 of their target consumers what they wanted in bedding and how much they would pay. The two looked into which blogs these people frequented, what magazines they read, and even what coffee shops they visited.
Once they had a physical product and price point, they rented a van and delivered sheets to editors at multiple publications. Each included a hand-written note that asked them to try the products and write an article if they were impressed. The reception was positive, the Fulops say.
Early in Brooklinen's development, the Fulops approached investors that Rich met through connections at New York University Stern School of Business. But they didn't take the idea seriously. To prove their concept, the couple decided to launch a Kickstarter in 2014, with an initial ask of $50,000. Instead, they received $236,888 in pre-orders.
In 2015, Brooklinen's subway ads filled a station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a well-known hipster haven. Vicki, who had previously worked in public relations, wanted the ads to be creative and show the product in a real way. The advertisements featured people eating, snuggling, and lounging in bed.
The bedding industry may have similar companies fighting for business, but the market is large: the home textiles industry is a $22 billion market, according to Home and Textiles Today. Brooklinen isn't the only startup hawking sheets. Similar companies, like Parachute and Casper, also sell luxury bedding within the same price range. However, Parachute offers additional goods like towels and Casper also acts as a mattress company. But Brooklinen considers retailers like Bed Bath and Beyond, Bloomingdales, and Macy's as their competition. 
As business continues to grow, the Fulops make a point to stay connected to their clients. The company continues to collects feedback, suggestions, and complaints to come up with new new product ideas and improve existing items.
"We bank everything they are saying and asking for and implement changes quickly," says Vicki, adding that these requests have included "long side" or "short side" tags on sheets or bigger buttons. "Everything our customers say, we really listen to. It's a community-driven brand."

Learn from the Navy SEAL

Monday, February 20, 2017

If You Do These Things Every Day, You’ll Become Smarter

https://medium.com/the-mission/if-you-do-these-things-every-day-youll-become-smarter-a19ae21bdfcb#.yjjknfyw0
Thomas Oppong

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Getting smarter takes time and genuine commitment. You need to work hard at it. Knowledge builds up, like compound interest says Warren Buffett. And he couldn’t have said that any better. You get to cash in when the time is right. All of us can build our knowledge but most of us won’t put in the effort.
We all differ in our abilities to solve problems, learn, think logically, understand and acquire new knowledge, integrate ideas, attain goals, and so on. But when you put your mind to it, you will work better, smarter and faster.

Intelligence is always work in progress so you are never too late to add to what you already know.

The good news is, you don’t have to learn everything in hours, days or even months. The focus should always be on progress.
The simplest, most direct way to be smart is to build deep knowledge about things you care about. Building knowledge of an area improves your memory, thinking, and decisions about that topic. You can gain knowledge faster about a topic you care deeply about than a random topic.
But if they are not really the kinds of things you are interested in, then you will be hard pressed to devote time and effort to learn much. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that reading is near the core of how to be smart. Don’t get in the way of your own learning. Most people don’t really think much about how they learn.
The world is changing fast and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. It pays to crave and keep an open mind. Incredibly smart people aren’t always born that way, but rather are constantly working to improve their intelligence.
You have every opportunity to improve and enhance your way of thinking. Choose smart and stay curious.

Start getting curious about almost everything

Some people are naturally curious and others are not. Your learning should not stop at school, college or your job. Life-long learning has a lot to do with your success than you think.
Nothing beats a curious mind!
The number one way to expand your mind is through questioning everything. It’s certainly much easier to accept information that comes to us, instead of questioning it and being susceptible to having to think. Have you ever wondered why a flower is a certain color, why someone said they like us, where someone got a percentage from.
As is usually the case, asking ourselves questions, leads to more questions, and then some more. Sometimes we do get reasonable answers, but it’s important to note that the mere act of asking expands our minds and allows us to try on an infinite number of paradigms.
A new question, brings a new outlook, which potentially changes everything we know about the world.
“Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.” — Albert Einstein

Be willing to try new things

Here is a short fascinating story of Steve Jobs’s youthful calligraphy class. After dropping out of school, the future Apple founder had a lot of time on his hands and wandered into a calligraphy course.
It seemed irrelevant at the time, but the design skills he learned were later baked into the first Macs. The takeaway: You never know what will be useful ahead of time. You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,”.
In order to have dots to connect, you need to be willing to try new things.It pays to break some of your routines sometimes. Try consciously breaking one of your habits, just for a moment. Eat a different breakfast. Take a different route to work. Sleep in the opposite direction. Read fiction.
Get out of your comfort zone once a while. You will always get the same results if you never push the boundary. If you expect something different, change things. Change how you work. Don’t do what you’ve always done.

Expose yourself to different world views

Be genuinely curious about other cultures, languages or how things are done differently by others. Different cultures could have a big positive effect on your own ideas. Read about other industries. Find out how work is done in different markets. Get out of your own perception for once. Be open to discussions that does not share your world view.
Read books on topics you usually ignore. Unconsciously, you are are more likely to search, find and read about everything you know something about. It’s a way to protect and reinforce your beliefs, perceptions and opinions.
The only way to get out of your own world view is to step outside your perception and embrace new knowledge.
Get fascinated by a lot things. If you can’t get fascinated, you won’t care enough to really learn something. You’ll just go through the motions. How do you get fascinated? Often doing something with or for other people helps to motivate me to look more deeply into something, and reading about other people who have been successful/legendary at it also fascinates me. Allow yourself to wander.

Reflect on your learning by writing

You soak up a ton of information and patterns, and you can put that into action, but when you sit down and reflect on what you’ve learned, and try to share that with others (as I’m doing right now), you force yourself to think deeply, to synthesize the knowledge and to organize it, much as you do when you teach it to others. Blogging is a great tool for reflection and sharing what you’ve learned, even if you don’t hope to make a living at it. And it’s free.
Writing expands our vocabulary, which has been shown to be directly correlated with success. Any career that involves people (that’s all of them isn’t it) is based on solid communication with a firm grasp of vocabulary and knack for self-expression.

Commit to lifelong learning

One of the best ways to gain knowledge is self-education. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. As long as you are genuinely interested in what you are studying, don’t stop. Make the most of your time and get the best education you can can offer yourself.
People who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world. Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.
Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.
Lifelong learning will get most of your questions answered.
You don’t even have to commit long hours everyday to learning. Whatever time you decide to put in your own education, stick to it.
What are the most interesting topics you wish to know more about. The goal here is to find as many sources of ideas and knowledge as possible. Brain Pickings is a good place to start. It’s one of my favourites. And it’s free. Go subscribe and you won’t be disappointed.
Find other blogs blogs, websites or online courses that can broaden your horizon. Read expert opinions about topics of interest on Quora. It’s a game-changer in the world of question and answer websites. Look for answers to some of your most important questions at places people normally ignore.

A curiosity exercise

Write down 50 questions if you can. You can try hitting 30 if 50 is way too much. They can be anything from “How can I become rich?” to “Does the Universe have an edge and if so what is beyond it?” Just write down all the questions that come to mind, all the things that you would love to know the answers to.
Don’t stop until you’ve got the 50 or whatever number you settled on. Look through the questions and notice if any dominant themes emerge. Are there any areas of life that you seem most concerned with? Such as money, work, relationships, love, or health?
Pick your top 10 questions. The ones that seem the most important to you. You don’t have to answer them right now. It’s enough that you have organised them and know that they are important to you. Use the “Top 10 questions” technique on any area of your life where you are looking for improvements.

Embrace the genius in you!

Be productive. Make a dent in the world. Break rules. Ask lots of questions. Have fun. Love life. Start. Move, make, create, do. Just start something. Sometimes it is something big. Sometimes it is a big failure. Either way, you made a step.
Genius is much less about genetics and much more about mindset, ridiculous amounts of hard work, self-belief, focus and perseverance in the face of any setback.