Life Business Lessons

A Case for Time Docketing – Does it Make Sense?

Tag Heuer Stopwatch

Tag Heuer Stopwatch

In business, relationships between the client and vendor are not only built on trust, but also transparency. Thus, when providing time-based services for a client, time docketing or recording is essential.  Time docketing isn’t perfect, but it is what it is to ensure proper client billing. The docketing system has been designed so that clients don’t take up too much time from the vendor and vice versa.

Which time docketing system is ideal? The two most common systems are the quarterly, 15 minute dockets and the 6 minute dockets more commonly seen in law firms. I’ve personally been in work situations where the docketing system has been in quarterly increments and in 6-minute increments, where ten of those equal an hour. Over time, I’ve realized that both systems are fallible. In the quarterly method for example, if one is looking at a client file, just to ensure that everything is operational, which is more accurate, the 15 minute system of 6 minute system? On the flip side, if every task is a 5-6 minute task and one doesn’t feel it’s worthwhile to docket each incident, won’t it eventually add up, leading to lots of lost revenue? And, if each 6 minute task is recorded, at what point is it considered micromanaging?

There is no clear answer as to which is better. The 6 minute system works for lawyers since they charge more per hour. At an average of $500/hour, every 6 minutes translates into another $50 dollars. Did you just think of a cool idea to win a court case while in the washroom? Bam! That’s another $50 right there.

One thing is certain: time docketing in any form is essential. I’ve also been in situations where there was no system at all (as it was based on trust) and clients took advantage of that trust. In one project there were “one last thing” changes that turned into 6 months of unbillable changes. This was a travesty that should never again happen as it can easily ruin a business relationship from growing.

So, whether you are telling a client you are keeping a docket or not, make a personal one so that, in the event that things get “out of hand” you can show the client what changes have been made in order to demonstrate that anything else constitutes going “above and beyond.” In this manner you might be able to save some otherwise-interesting business relationships, as well as ultimately save yourself.

How To Deal With Clients Who Refuse To Pay

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Here’s a sample contract, courtesy of Sample Magazine, that should be used for every client. In addition, here is an OpenOffice document with the sample contract (.zip).


Client: ________________

Primary Contact: ________________

Project: _______________

Date of Project: _________

Project Deadline: ________

Purchase Order #: _______

Your Name: _____________

Invoice #: _____

Creative brief: [Include the approved creative brief that you wrote. This is an important part of the contract!]

Fee: [This is where you lay out all terms of the sale, even if it is repeated in the contract terms below: how much, how many hours, what rights are sold or transferred, how many revisions, the hourly rate for those revisions, etc. It doesn’t have to be in legalese, just as complete as possible so that you don’t have to sue to get paid for something you didn’t have in writing.]

1. Payment
All invoices are payable within 21 business days of receipt. A $50 service charge is payable on all overdue balances for reissuing each invoice at 45, 60, 75 and 90 days from the date of original invoice. The grant of any license or right of copyright is conditioned on receipt of full payment.

2. Default in payment
The Client shall assume responsibility for cost outlays by designer in all collections of unpaid fees and of legal fees necessitated by default in payment. Invoices in default will include but are not limited to fees for collection and legal costs.

3. Estimates
The fees and expenses shown are minimum estimates only unless an hourly fee has been agreed upon. That fee will be ________ per hour and the designer shall keep the client apprised of a tally of hours within a reasonable period of time. Final fees and expenses shall be shown when invoice is rendered. The fees and expenses shown are minimum estimates only unless the quote and/or invoice is clearly marked Firm Quote, otherwise the below stated hourly fee will be payable on all time over that which was quoted with a minimum in 30 minute increments.

4. Changes
The Client must assume that all additions, alterations, changes in content, layout or process changes requested by the customer will alter the time and cost. The Client shall offer the Designer the first opportunity to make any changes.

5. Expenses
The Client shall reimburse the Designer for all expenses arising from this assignment, including the payment of any sales taxes due on this assignment, and shall advance the Designer for payment of said expenses, including but not limited to Stock Photography, Artwork and/or material needed for the project.

6. Cancellation
In the event of cancellation of this assignment, ownership of all copyrights and the original artwork shall be retained by the Designer, and a cancellation fee for work completed, and expenses already incurred, shall be paid by the Client. Cancellation fee is based on the hours submitted, if the project is on an hourly basis or a percentage based on the time estimate for the entire job. A 100% cancellation fee is due once the project has been finished, whether delivered to the client or not. If the project is on an hourly basis and the project is canceled by the client, the client agrees to pay no less than 100% of the hours already billed for the project at the time of cancellation plus a flat fee of $250 or 50% of the remaining hours that were expected to be completed on the project, whichever is greater.

7. Ownership and return of artwork
The Designer retains ownership of all original artwork, whether preliminary or final, and the Client shall return such artwork within 30 days of use unless indicated otherwise below. If transfer of ownership of all rights is desired, the rates may be increased. If the Client wishes the ownership of the rights to a specific design or concept, these may be purchased at any time for a recalculation of the hourly rate on the time billed or the entire project cost.

8. Credit Lines
The Designer and any other creators shall receive a credit line with any editorial usage. If similar credit lines are to be given with other types of usage, it must be so indicated here.

9. Releases
The Client shall indemnify the Designer against all claims and expenses, including attorney’s fees, due to the uses for which no release was requested in writing or for uses that exceed authority granted by a release.

10. Modifications
Modifications of the terms of this contract must be written and authorized by both parties, involving the implementation of a new version of the contract as a whole following standard procedures of documentation and approval.

11. Uniform commercial code
The above terms incorporate Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

12. Code of fair practice
The Client and the Designer agree to comply with the provisions of the Code of Fair Practice (which is in the Ethical Standards section of chapter 1, Professional Relationships).

13. Code of fair practice
The Designer warrants and represents that, to the best of his/her knowledge, the work assigned hereunder is original and has not been previously published, or that consent to use has been obtained on an unlimited basis; that all work or portions thereof obtained through the undersigned form third parties is original or, if previously published, that consent to use has been obtained on an unlimited basis; that the Designer has full authority to make this agreement; and that the work prepared by the Designer does not contain any scandalous, libelous, or unlawful matter. This warranty does not extend to any uses that the Client or others may make of the Designer’s product that may infringe on the rights of others. Client expressly agrees that it will hold the Designer harmless for all liability caused by the Client’s use of the Designer’s product to the extent such use infringes on the rights of others.

14. Limitation of liability
Client agrees that it shall not hold the Designer or his/her agents or employees liable for any incidental or consequential damages that arise from the Designer’s failure to perform any aspect of the project in a timely manner, regardless of whether such failure was caused by intentional or negligent acts or omissions of the Designer or Client, any client representatives or employees, or a third party.

15. Dispute Resolution
Any disputes in excess of the maximum limit for small-claims court arising out of this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration before a mutually agreed-upon arbitrator pursuant to the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The Arbitrator’s award shall be final, and judgment may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. The client shall pay all arbitration and court cost, reasonable attorney’s fees, and legal interest on any award of judgment in favor of the Designer. All actions, whether brought by client or by designer will be filed in the designer’s state/county of business/residence.

16. Acceptance of terms
The signature of both parties shall evidence acceptance of these terms.

Designer: __________________

Date: _____________________

Client: _____________________

Date: ______________________

16a. Acceptance of terms
The action of the sending and receipt of this agreement via electronic method will hold both parties in acceptance of these terms. The Designer as sender and the client as recipient will acknowledge acceptance of these terms either through an e-mail noting acceptance or acceptance is acknowledged at the beginning of any work on said project. Electronic signatures shall be considered legal and binding.

This contract is held accountable to the legal system of [country] and any applicable statutes held therein.

Disclaimer: the inclusion of this template does not imply any legalities or responsibility on the part of the writer or Smashing Magazine. It is included solely for information purposes as an example of one professional’s contract. The laws in your state/country/dictatorship may differ. Check the Web for more information on your local laws.

The Proper Way to Quit a Job

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by: Michael Spiro

Quitting a job in the midst of this historic economic downturn??? Seems like a crazy topic for a blog aimed at job-seekers, eh? Well, the fact is many job-seekers find new opportunities BEFORE they leave their old jobs. From a recruiter’s perspective, that is the traditional goal of a “Head Hunter” – to get someone to leave one job and go to another. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.] And it goes without saying that a candidate who is still working is perceived in a better light than an unemployed job-seeker by most potential new employers. So naturally, it’s a really bad idea to quit a job without having another job already lined up – unless the circumstances are pretty drastic at your current company. That said, people choose to switch jobs for all kinds of reasons: they find a better opportunity that pays more money, offers better chances for advancement, is a better fit for their skills, is with a company with a better culture, etc. There are also the typical negative reasons why people would be looking to leave a job in the first place: feeling underpaid and/or under-appreciated, conflicts with the boss or co-workers, poor company culture or morale, company is in financial trouble, dead end job with no possibility for advancement, etc. Whether the economy is up or down, lots of people are still working, and still switching jobs. In fact, the total number of job changes the average person will have over their lifetime has risen dramatically in recent years.

As a recruiter, I’ve counseled many candidates through the process of giving notice to their employers – and I know it’s something that scares a lot of people. It’s been said that quitting a job may be the second most emotional time in a person’s life next to a death in their family. The actual act of giving notice to your employer is not something that most people have a lot of experience with. So here are some tips and some advice on how to leave on the best of terms, in as professional a manner as possible, and without burning any bridges. [Read “The Golden Rule: Don’t Burn Bridges” for more detailed explanation of why this is so important.] Typically, what causes a bridge to be burned is what the employer does when hit with the news of a resignation, and how the employee reacts to that.


A Resignation Letter Template:

Dear (Supervisor’s Name):

This is to inform you that today I am submitting my resignation of employment which will become effective as of (Last Day of Employment).

I appreciate all that (Company Name) has afforded me, but after careful consideration I have made an irreversible decision to accept a new position. I am confident that this move is in my best interest, as well as that of my family and my career. I know that you will respect my decision.

I wish all the best for (Company Name) in the future. I will use the remainder of my time with the company to have all my work in order by my last day of employment.


(Type and Sign Your Name)

Giving Notice:
The best time to give notice is on a Friday afternoon. That gives your boss less time to react, ask questions or to argue, and gives everyone the weekend to calm down, absorb and accept the news. Use the resignation letter shown above, address it to your immediate supervisor, sign it and make a copy for your records. In addition, prepare a list of projects and activities that you are currently working on, and their status. Hand the letter to your boss and tell him/her that you are submitting your resignation effective on the date indicated (typically 2 weeks from the day you give notice) and that you have prepared a list of your projects and activities and their status. Say that when they feel it is appropriate, you are prepared to discuss what you can complete in your final 2 weeks and who you should turn certain projects over to, etc. Your objective will be to make the transition as smooth as possible.

By the way … giving 2 weeks notice is a standard professional courtesy that is not actually required in many cases. In the United States¹, most people are employed “at will” – a legal term which means that they can quit any time for any reason (or no reason at all) with or without giving advanced notice. Of course, the reverse is also true: they can be fired at any time for any reason (or no reason at all) with or without advanced notice. I’ve seen cases where a person gave their 2-week notice, only to be told to clear out their desk and leave the premises that day! While not a very common response by a company, it’s not unheard of … and certainly within the company’s rights. They would then only have to pay that person up through the last day they actually worked. The much more common responses (especially if you were considered a valued employee) are what follows:

What may happen:
Do not expect your boss to be supportive. It is not in their best interest for you to leave and they probably don’t have a contingency plan for your departure. Be prepared for a wide range of emotions, from anger to remorse. Your boss may try to flatter you for the good job you’ve done, promise you things to get you to stay … and when all else fails try to make you feel guilty. (“We’ve done so much for you, and this is what we get in return?!”) The best thing you can do is talk as little as possible. Let them vent. Don’t get drawn into the emotion … that’s how you unintentionally burn bridges. Simply remain calm, and stick to your guns. As the resignation letter says, your decision is “irreversible.”

The Questions You’ll Get:
Your boss will probably ask you a lot of questions in an attempt to gather information that they can use to cast reasonable doubt on your decision, and possibly get you to change your mind. Remember that your objective is to not burn your bridge. Answer the questions professionally but in a general (vague) way, and without sharing any details. The more details you provide, the more likely it is that you will get into a debate. If you win that debate, you will not only have resigned but you will have rubbed their noses in it. Not a good idea! Here are the most typical questions you’ll get from your boss:

  • Why do you want to leave the company? The best way to handle it is to say something like: “I appreciate all the opportunities you have afforded me however I have accepted an opportunity I cannot turn down and that I feel is good for my career.” Do not say anything negative about your current job, the company, or any of the people you worked with there!
  • Where are you going to work? Never tell your current boss where you are going to work! There are many reasons for this rule, but they all boil down to this: nothing good can come from them knowing where you are going … and without spelling it out, I’ll just say that it’s entirely possible that bad things could happen from them finding out who your new employer will be. The bottom line is that they simply don’t need to know. All you have to say is: “While I appreciate your curiosity, I would like to keep where I am going confidential.” That may end the questioning. If they continue to ask, just say: “For my remaining time here I’d like to concentrate on my work and help make the transition as smooth as possible – and I know that if we get into all these side issues, we’ll be rehashing this for remainder of my stay.”
  • How much money did they offer? Simply say: “I appreciate your asking, but that is a confidential matter between me, my new employer and my family.” Do not allow money to become a bargaining point, or open yourself up to a possible counteroffer. That almost never ends well!
  • How did you find this position? Whether you found it through answering an ad, through networking, through a recruiter, or they simply found you … again, it’s really none of their business. A good answer, which is truthful but vague, is: “I found it through a personal contact of mine.”
  • What can we do to keep you? This is the biggest trap of a question! Your immediate response should be: “Although I appreciate your asking, there is nothing you can offer. I am committed to my decision.” If you hesitate when asked that question, it might be interpreted as an invitation to convince you to stay. Then they will keep hounding you relentlessly! Assuming that you ultimately turn them down anyway, you will have then probably burned your bridge. Conviction is important here. If you’re not sure about your decision, then you shouldn’t resign to begin with.


The most typical response by any boss who doesn’t want to lose an employee who is quitting is to come up with a counteroffer (more money, a promotion, etc.) That is a topic for another blog [“Counteroffers: Just Say No”] … but suffice it to say, accepting a counteroffer is almost always a REALLY BAD IDEA! 80% of all people who accept counteroffers are no longer with their company six months later.² It’s best to keep repeating that your decision to move on is final and irreversible. Remain firm, stay confident and move forward with a positive attitude. Leave in as professional a manner as possible, so as not to burn a bridge. You never know when or where the people from that former company will re-appear in your future!


¹ As many astute readers have pointed out, employment laws, the “at-will” status and requirements for giving notice may vary outside of the United States.

² As reported in the Wall Street Journal:
1) Business Week published a set of statistics that revealed that nine out of ten candidates who accepted a counter offer were back on the streets looking within six months.
2) Statistics compiled by the National Employment Association confirm the fact that over 80% of those people who elect to accept a counter offer and stayed, are no longer with their company six months later.


See this and other posts by Michael Spiro on his blog, “Recruiter Musings.”

See more:

Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers

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Originally seen here:

(borrowed from

(borrowed from

I spent almost all day unmotivated to do anything. I moped around, slowly fed the dogs, slowly shoveled eggs into my mouth, avoided any productive task. Then I remembered that I could motivate myself. I busted out my Motivation Toolkit and dug up that energy reservoir that was waiting to be tapped.

Motivation is talked about too much. It seems like twice a year there’s a scientist that comes out with the new secret to motivation that will forever keep us motivated to do the things we want to do. You buy their books every time and read the motivational message about the secret to motivation. Damn they’re motivating! You’re excited all the way through the book! “HELLO WORLD! I AM MOTIVATED!”

Then you wake up the next morning extremely unmotivated.

You don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t see the point in moving on. You eat too much sugar and crash into immobility. You stop caring about your passion.

Sometimes being unmotivated is just ‘meh’ and sometimes it’s the deepest, darkest corner of hell. Either way, nothing is being built. We’re builders! If we go too long without constructing something then we die.

At a certain point you get motivated enough to go read something motivating. That works for a second, a minute. You soak in every single one of the greatest motivational ideas in the world.

Then you exit the Window of Motivation and realize nothing happened. You read everything about motivation – you know all there is about the thing, why isn’t it hitting you!?

You didn’t do anything.

Without action, knowledge only leads to frustration.

You don’t need to go read lists of “50 Ways to Motivate Yourself” or look at pictures with exciting quotes on them. You don’t need to find the perfect Tumblr picture to find that motivation. You don’t need to read the right book. You don’t need anything external to get motivated right now.

You don’t need this blog post.

I’m going to show you my 7 Motivation Murderers and then I’m going to give you the tools I use to kill them.

We can often get to where we want to be (in this case, a motivated state of mind) by taking away what’s holding us back. We simplify our situation to open it up to where we want to be.

By the time we’re through here you will have a heightened awareness for those things that are killing your motivation and you will have a set of tools to eliminate them immediately.

This is a long post so go ahead and skip to the Murderer currently tormenting you. Here is the list of them in order: Ingratitude, Envy, Impatience, Overwhelm, Inaction, Loss of Meaning, and No Skin in the Game.

Enjoy and Godspeed!


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie

This guy is a bitch to shake. Every day I have to kill him. When Ingratitude is around it’s hard to get anything done because it’s stuck in the past. All it sees is everything that isn’t here that ‘should’ be. When I do finally get some work done it’s with a grudge and so it sucks. Work becomes a grudge instead of a source of optimal experiences.

If this single Murderer is killed you will have done enough. If you can live in a constant state of gratitude your life is going to be rosy as hell. Imagine feeling grateful all the time! That’s like falling in love with life. Amor fati!

The godfather of lifestyle design, Tim Ferriss, once said that making a list every morning of the things you’re grateful for is the single most powerful thing you can do to make your life better as a whole. This is coming from a guy whose expertise is in finding the most potent piece of any system.

Becoming grateful for your life – as it is right now – is the most important thing you can do to productively move forward. It’s easier to work towards making money when you’re grateful for the money that let you eat (read: live) today.

How do we cultivate this? Make lists! I would be a piece of shit if I just recommended you make a gratitude list. Every fool (and non-fool) has already done that. I think I’ve found some unique ways to find gratitude that you’ll like.

1. Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Let’s get the standard out of the way. It works. If you sit and write all the things you’re grateful for right now then you’ll see that feeling of gratitude begin to deepen. You’ll feel better about what you have right here and right now. You’ll begin to see that your situation isn’t so dire. It’s important to break past the point of being obvious. Make a list of 50 things you’re grateful for and you’ll find appreciation for things you never would have noticed before. One Thanksgiving I made alist of 500 things I was grateful for and it blew me away how easy it became after realizing how many awesome little things there are in our world.
2. The things surrounding you right now that you’re grateful for. We are constantly surrounded by things that are making our life possible, comfortable, or better in some way. Right now I see an amazing machine that I can type thoughts into a spread to thousands of people in a blog constructed on the internet. There’s my phone sitting right next to me that’s speaking to a satellite in space right now. There’s a book of poems, Antifragile, Mastery, and The 4-Hour Chef all written by authors completely dedicated to great knowledge. There are an assortment of pens and paper that I can use when I want to stop looking at a computer monitor. My fingers are healthy enough to type these words out to you. My brain is functioning enough to make them worth reading. What’s around your screen? Your eyes seem to be working well. Maybe you’re in an office paying you what you need as you plan your great escape. Maybe you’re at home in a couch designed by someone to be comfortable to you. Maybe your air conditioner is working well. Maybe it’s the heater.
3. Make a list of lists of things to be grateful for. Create a list of categories of things to be grateful for. What relationships are you grateful for? What people in your life? What are the best moments of your life? What skills are you happy you have? What books are you happy you read? What habits are you happy you have? Make your own list – then dig in and expand them!

4. Make a list of the worst happening to you right now. Then find the good in them. I know, this doesn’t make any sense at all. Aren’t we trying to starve Ingratitude? Wouldn’t this be feeding it? Well, if we stopped at the first part we would be, but the second part brings us back up into gratitude. What are the worst things that have happened to you recently? Did your partner cheat on you? Did you lose a bunch of money? Did you get food poisoning? Did you fall into depression? Did you forget to sign up for the StartupBros newsletter? Did somebody flake on you? Did you get rejected? Find one miniscule things about each that ended up being a good thing. If you need to go back farther to get more perspective then do so. It’s hard to say, “I’m grateful that I lost money in my business.” It’s easier to say, “I’m grateful I learned X about my customers, in the long run it will be worth having lost X because of it.”

5. Write a “thank you” note. It doesn’t even need to officially be a “thank you” note. Just write a letter (or email) to somebody with a sense of gratitude. Maybe it’s writing to them about a recent meeting you had while holding the idea of gratitude.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – JFK

6. Saying “Thank You” to nothing. All of these things are designed to do one thing – make you feel grateful. It’s not always necessary to target your gratitude though. You can just feel grateful for no reason. This is the end-goal anyway. When you can feel grateful for no reason then you have found amor fati. Your default state is a love for your fate. That’s a place worth getting to.

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Pick your weapon and slay Ingratitude before it drowns you in an unproductive, stress-inducing swamp of suckery.

Gratitude and motivation are close. As soon as you’re grateful for the things around you it will become easy to motivate your actions. Remember while you do any of these exercises that the whole point is to feel grateful. If you’re not feeling it then it’s useless. Notice what happens to your motivation when Ingratitude as been slain – it’s right here.


Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate. – Goethe

When Envy has you in it’s grasp you’re blind to everything you have (and, OMG – ungrateful! – you’ll notice a lot of overlap in the Murderers) or you see it as worthless. You are only aware of the greener grass that’s never on your side of the fence. The most peculiar thing is that once you get to the other side of the fence the grass is pretty dull and you discover you left your own green grass in search of somebody else’s. Most people die without realizing that they were the ones coloring the grass. They were the ones killing the grass they stood on by neglecting it and, in most cases, shitting all over it (not in a fertilizing way).

I’m envious every day of those people who like they’re having more fun. I’m envious of those people who are smarter than me. I’m envious of Nassim Taleb that he has developed a mind that is so great he could produce a book like Antifragile.

We love to make stories. Humans thrive on the narratives we create. Sometimes we don’t treat ourselves well in our stories though. We assume that a highlight somebody shared represents their entire life. We assume that their creation is better than ours because they have talent we could never have. We assume people like them because they were born likable. We want their things, their partners, their experiences, their lives.

Envy will make you forget that the only life worth living is your own.

Indeed, it’s the only life you will ever live. Envy poisons desire so that we can’t trust it. Envy will focus your energy on being a victim of ‘not having’. Envy will take so much of your attention that you forget to do what’s important. You forget to see the progress that you’re making and so you lost motivation. How can you be motivated to build in your own life when it’s so hopelessly inferior to those lives?!

Envy is dumb. Let’s kill it.

1. Notice your reactions to the successes and failures of others. If your friend scores a win and you cringe, you’re envious of them. If they suffer a loss and you feel relief, you’re envious of them. Be honest with yourself. “I would never!” Yes, I know. Me either. Let’s detach a bit. Look at people in the news. How do you react to bad things (the only things reported in the news) happening to people? How do you feel when you see a car you want driving down the road? If you admire the car that’s fantastic. If you admire the car and then find a dig on the driver it’s not. Who are the people you like to hate on?

When you spend time being envious of people for having more (money, peace, happiness, perspective, intelligence, ‘time’, family, anything) than you then you certainly aren’t focusing on creating more of that into your own life. When you notice your reaction to others you can begin to shift it.

2. Kill Facebook. Facebook is a place for people to go and yell about the highlights of their lives. It’s great, I love sharing things I’m doing with friends and family that wouldn’t otherwise know about it. By spreading my ideas on my Facebook page I find friends who connect with me on different levels than I normally would have. It’s a great tool.

But it’s a tool and should be treated as one. As humans we need to be careful to use tools to make our lives better.

Facebook is a dangerous tool because it’s a breeding ground for Envy. Your friend that’s married with a kid and a fulfilling career won’t stop posting about it. Your other friend who has seen the entire world has you convinced your a loser for not being in all those places. That girl who is partying with every celebrity in the world won’t stop typing in caps about poppin bottles. Everyone seems to be on a a grand adventure while you’re alone at home.

Understand: Facebook is a highlight reel.

Monotony doesn’t often make it to the front page (unless it’s ironic). Of course we are going to tell people about the most exciting things in our life. To test this I just looked at the photos of myself on Facebook and was amazed at how adventurous my life is. This is what I found:

-Visiting my baby niece in Seattle.

-Holding a bird at a zoo (is it weird I think this is adventurous?).

-Directing a film in a donut shop.

-Wake boarding in Maine.

-Me talking on TV about politics.

-Me at a friend’s book launch.

-At an exclusive beach in Rhode Island

-In Boston

-At the top of something in Yosemite

-Trecking around Europe with my sister.

-Tracking around Europe with Will

– A road trip across the US .

All this happens in a couple pages of photos. And it’s exciting! It triggered all sorts of great memories. But by no means is it representative of how I spend my life. If my Facebook album “Photos of Me” were to represent how I spend most of my time right now it would be 70% of me in St. Petersurg, FL doing one of three things: reading, sitting at my computer typing and clicking into the Internet, or experimenting with something I read. That’s pretty much what I do. Then I sleep the other bit. And it’s awesome. I love reading. I love experimenting with ideas and then bringing you the results. It’s in no way what my Facebook looks like though.

Realize that everyone manages their Facebook the same way. Correction: most people do. Some people think it’s the perfect place to yell about their breakup or some other fight they’ve gotten in. Thanks for not being on of them. But go look at your Facebook page. Look at the photos of you. What a life! You’re as exciting as those Kardashians I keep hearing so much about! You’re a jetsetting culture-icon hobnobber of massive scale!

I once had a friend in college tell me, “My goal is to make it look like I have the most epic life imaginable” as he handed me the camera to take a picture of him being absurd. At first I was taken aback. Then I realized that he was just being honest about the game that everybody is playing – consciously or subconsciously. Instead of having the best experiences possible people want to make their somewhat experiences look like the greatest things in the world.

Going back to the original idea: Kill Facebook. I have done experiments where I killed Facebook for months at a time and it’s been amazing. A few of the benefits:

I read more books. When Facebook is gone it’s easier to stay away from the black hole that feeds can create.

I was more focused on productive work. I didn’t have that distraction of, “I wonder what they’re up to” to steal my time.

I stopped being envious of my friends. I wasn’t bombarded by the highlights of everybody else’s lives to make me feel worse.

I felt free. I didn’t feel obligated to report anything to Facebook.

I made stronger connections. When you’re forced to email people you get a stronger connection to them than commenting or “Liking” their stuff.

I’ve gone as far as killing the Internet for months at a time. That means only essentials – email, WordPress, Wikipedia in certain circumstances. It’s great, but killing your Facebook is a huge start.

Maybe you “need” Facebook. Then limit your usage of it. Try setting an hour at the end of the day to do all your social network stuff. I use StayFocused ( to limit my use of Facebook and Reddit to 20 minutes a day. Pick your biggest time-drains and cut them off for yourself.

Oh wow that went longer than expected.

3. Focus on your work. There are always people who are better than you at the thing you’re trying to do – or at least more well-known. There are people producing work inferior to yours making more money than you. As a writer, it can be tremendously difficult to read a masterwork and then go back to your own work.

While writing this I’ve been reading Robert Greene’s Mastery and it threw me into a feeling of helplessness. I’m eons from approaching his ability to so concisely and powerfully express the inner workings of achievement. It’s difficult at times to realize I don’t want to be Greene and I could never be. I haven’t dedicated two decades to deconstructing what makes a Master, he has. Instead, I can let his brilliant way with words make me work harder on this post to make it the greatest thing I can make right now.

Every person is at a different place in their work. We rarely realize that the exact place we are in our work is our most valuable asset. In that way I have been able to transform my paralyzing Envy for Greene into a driver for my own work.

4. Realize that Envy is separate from it’s chosen object. If I am envious of a millionaire’s money and subsequently become a millionaire then my Envy will be pushed onto billionaires. Even billionaires envy the wealth and power of other billionaires. This is possible because Envy tricks us into thinking that it wants something in particular. It will never be satisfied though. Envy is a feeling in itself that tricks you into believing that the next step will make you happy. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve seen this in your life time and again.

The goal isn’t to never want anything again, the goal is to notice your envy and see it for what it is. When you’re feeling jealous of a person because of their car or wife then notice it and realize that taking his wife and car isn’t going to get you where you want to be.

Envy is no fun at all. It’s the thing that tricks you into thinking you’re never enough. It tricks you into wanting everything but the things you have. It makes you want all the talents but your own. Envy will have you think that some other person is doing it all right and you should feel bad about yourself because you haven’t done what they have.

If I’m Envying the intellect of somebody else I can’t think of anything creative. If I’m Envying the things of others my own belongings will go unused. If I’m Envying the life of somebody else then I’m wasting my own.


If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life. – Oscar Wilde

Some people find impatience a virtue. “Wow, he really gets it done now!” But if you’re driven by impatience then burnout is just around the corner. If you’re impatient you won’t take the time required to make anything worthwhile.

Being patient does not mean that you have no sense of urgency or that you can’t get things done quickly – you must! Impatience is the insidious thing that creeps up when we hurry. Impatience is what makes us fumble the ball because we’ve already moved on to the next task. It’s what causes us to half-ass work.

When I’m rushing out the door – Impatiently leaving – I’m guaranteed to leave the tickets to the show or my keys. When I’m Impatient completing a task it will definitely suffer. Quality and Impatience can’t coexist, it just doesn’t make sense. You can’t be doing your current activity well when you can only think of being done with it or, worse, the next activity.

Impatience scatters our brain and disorganizes our thoughts because it’s scared of the present. It’s scared that at every moment you should be further along. You should have that other task accomplished. You’re right here though.

Even as I write this I have a feeling of impatience. There are other projects that need my attention, Imptatience is creeping in to divert my attention to those things. But I see it, take a breath, and remember that this is the only task that matters now.

Don’t lose motivation to the unorganized rushing mind of Impatience.

Here are my favorite techniques for killing Impatience:

1. Have a map. I was getting Impatient with every task I was doing. This was just yesterday. When you work for yourself there are always an infinite amount of things to do. There are endless to-do lists that only get longer – and there are multiple lists like this for every one of the endless projects underway. It’s madness.

Unless you write it down. Right now make a list of every project you’re working on. Now break every project into tasks. Now map each of those tasks on a shared calendar (I use Google Calendar). This might take you twenty minutes or it might take two hours. Either way it will be well worth the time.

When you have your tasks planned then it’s easier to focus on the current one. It’s easier to forget about that project you’re supposed to do later when you have actually scheduled time to do it later.

2. Focus on the current task. The most important step is this one. I think some ancient sage said that. If you find your mind wandering while working on a current task then notice it and bring your mind back to your task.

When an idea pops in your head and won’t leave take a break to record it in your phone or on paper. When you get the idea out of your head it’ll stop bothering you. This is one of my favorite things to do. I have notebooks (digital and physical) full of papers of mostly terrible ideas that let my brain be free to do whatever it was supposed to be focusing on at the time.

3. Faith in the Process. If you’re practicing a skill and at a plateau then you will suffer severe Impatience. It will make you doubt everything about your abilities. If you’re an entrepreneur and have suffered several failures then Impatience will begin to whisper in your ear that it’s not working, that you aren’t cut out for it. Oftentimes people listen and quit.

This is why it’s imperative to work with a process that you know works. If you’re going to attempt something difficult you will experience severe growing pains. There will be moments where you feel like an impostor or that you aren’t ‘cut out’. Impatience has tricky ways to make you think you’ll never make it.

You have to have faith in the process that you’ve chosen. Focus on this step. Learn from your failures. If these aren’t possible now with the process you’ve chosen then adjust your process – but do it carefully.

4. Study the Masters.  Anybody who has achieved great things has had to fail a lot first. Quentin Tarantino has to go through of eight solid years (almost an entire decade, and that’s short in comparison to others) of nothing working out. The entire time he just kept plugging away, getting better, deepening his knowledge, and learning from his failures. Then “out of nowhere” he made Reservoire Dogs and became every movie-lover’s hero.

5. Take a break. Sometimes we get impatient because we’ve been stuck in a task for too long and our brains are getting pissed about it. Take a break. Go for a quick run or (very) slow walk. Go watch an episode of South Park. Do something unrelated to give your brain 20 minutes to stop thinking about the same damn thing.

This story of massive failure before success is universal.

Remember this when you’re impatient after six months of failures. Study your own personal hero and remind yourself that they probably went through the same frustrations. The key is to keep going.


I’m getting impatient again. I want to type faster and I want my ideas to come better and faster. They’re better than last week which was better than the week before. I better keep going. Right now is going to make next week even better.

I can’t let Impatience rob me of the creativity available to me now. I can’t let Impatience for this thing to be done ruin the quality of the thing! So I’m refocusing. I’m going to go play with the dogs and when I come back I’ll have the patience of a saint.


Usually once a week Overwhelm takes over my entire life and I can’t do anything. I get pretty much zero done on days of Overwhelm. There’s no motivation to do anything when there’s EVERYTHING to do!

I’ve sat in bed for hours thinking about the amazing amount of things that needed to get done. Then when I got out of bed and found my way to the computer I was so overloaded with tasks that the only thing I could do was go look at Facebook. Then it’s time for dinner. Then sleep. But I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about the EVERYTHING that I didn’t do today.

What a cycle!

Overwhelm comes from us putting too many projects on our plate then losing track of them.

These are the ways I get out from Overwhelm:

Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness. – Titus Livius

1. Subtract. Most problems can be fixed by taking something away instead of adding something else. When there are too many plates spinning then they’re all more likely to come crashing down. How can you simplify your life? What responsibilities can you get rid of? What trips can you get out of? What websites can you stop visiting? What mediocre books can you stop reading?

2. Organize. This goes back to the first recommendation to escape Impatience: “Have a map”. Organize your life so you can see all your major activities – professional and personal – on a single sheet of paper. When it’s all in front of you then it becomes much easier to digest. Break every project down into pieces small enough pieces that you understand everything that needs to be done to complete the thing (or at least get to the next step).

Schedule time to complete every one of these tasks. You’ll instantly see your overwhelm dissipate.

3. Lower the bar. One of the most universal feelings of our generation is, “I should be doing more.” Nobody is happy with where they’re at. There’s a massive gap between where you are and your ideal place in life. Same with everybody else. It’s not a bad thing to want to have ambitious goals but sometimes those goals can actually get in their own way. If you’re just setting around feeling bad for not having reached your goal then you probably won’t be working hard to get to it.

Lower your bar a little bit. Give yourself a little leeway and realize that you’ve been doing a lot of the right things. The goals were probably harder than you thought. You can still get there but it will take more work. Remember: Patience!

Overwhelm is one the most insidious Motivation Murderers but also one of the most straight-forward to get rid of. If you are paralyzed by being Overwhelmed then you have to externalize your life. Get all your activities somewhere you can see it. This isn’t a one-time deal.

Just like your desk, your mind needs to be cleared constantly.

Burnout is the kissing cousin of Overwhelm. If you are Burning out then “Subtract” and “Lower the Bar” are imperative. You have to get some rest before your creative mind is destroyed totally. Take a break. Quit your job and do something lower-stress for a while. Exercise. Ease up on yourself!


The longer you spend in Inaction the easier it is to sit there. It’s comfortable to get ideas and think about them long enough that it’s exciting to tell people about – then you lose motivation to make that idea a reality. Notice what happens to your motivation when you spend a day not taking action – it’s gone.

This is a universal problem we face as humans. There are a million people online who post articles every day about how you will finally beat procrastination. You are promised magic bullets and methods that will completely eliminate procrastination in your life. Of course you are procrastinating by reading the article. Then you continue to procrastinate afterwords.

This is how you kill Inaction:

1. Action is everything. Inaction is killed instantly by action. Action is like a light turned on in a dark room of inaction. Every action you take, no matter how small, will build momentum. Soon you will find yourself in the habit of taking action and it will actually be HARDER not to act.

2. Lowering the bar: Part 2. Make it so easy to begin a task that you can’t not do it. A study showed recently that the best way to get in the habit of flossing your teeth regularly is to commit to flossing a single tooth. You make it so easy that you have to do it.

Once you floss a single tooth then it becomes amazingly easy to floss the rest of your teeth. Once you sit down and write the first word it’s easy to write the next thousand. Once you sit down and answer the first email it’s easy to answer the rest.

Trick yourself into beginning tasks by making the commitment so miniscule you HAVE to do it.

3. Appreciate the wisdom of action. Our best tool for procrastination is over-thinking and rationalization. Action is the only way anything gets done, but it also offers you a wisdom that’s not available through thought. When you practice something you get a true feel for it. When you do something new you learn things that you couldn’t have unless you tried the thing.

Before embarking on the journey of writing a book I researched quite a bit about the writing process but nothing could prepare me for actually doing the thing. You run into all the nuances of making a book when you actually have to make it. The same goes with everything else. Once you do the thing you will run into nuances and pre-thought knowledge that you can’t find in written text.

4. Don’t stop. For me it’s best to make progress every day. Even one day of inaction can create a resistance to acting. For exercise, do at least two minutes a day. For writing, do 50 words. You don’t need every day to be a big one but you do need to keep the motivation alive by keeping the chain intact.

Take action on your idea today. Even just a tiny one. You will begin to build momentum. That momentum will only grow and soon taking action will become a habit. You will no longer sit on good ideas and let them die, you will build them out and take them to fruition.

Begin now. What’s something you’ve been wanting to do forever? Get it shape? Do one tiny thing to be healthier today. Tomorrow do another. Soon you’ll be so far along you will have forgotten what that kind of inactive sloth is like.

Don’t let Inaction continue to rule your world. Don’t believe it when it tells you taking action is hard. Baby steps!

Loss of Meaning

If you feel like what you’re doing has no purpose then you are guaranteed to have zero motivation to do it. Without meaning we feel lost. And as we search for meaning we realize it’s not really there. Without the motivation to do something we can fall into the stagnation of an existential crisis or worse.

This is a huge problem for my generation and the one before. Our grandparents were proud to do their work because they enjoyed the work itself. We believe we need to have some overflowing passion for everything we do at all times and it’s causing a lot of people to fall into what’s being called the “Quarter Life Crisis” which is a lot like – you guessed it! – the famed middle life crisis. But we’re only a quarter way through our 100 year-or-so-probably-less lives.

People are getting depressed because they thought life was supposed to be something different. They thought they were going to go on adventures but instead they’re in a cubicle or selling knives – and those are the lucky ones.

I have existential crises at least once a week. If you could be an expert at existential crises I would be one. Unfortunately, the nature of the thing doesn’t allow for a lot of understanding. There are ways I’ve found to get out of my own however, I hope you find them useful.

1. Adopt the craftsman mindset. Focus on your work. When you are worried about being passionate about something or whether is “means” anything you end up asking questions like:

“Is this what I’m passionate about? Why am I not feeling passionate about it right now?”

“Shouldn’t I just switch crafts again?”

“Does this mean anything to the world?”

“If the world is going to end anyway why should I even bother?”

“Is this pleasing to me?”

Notice the obsession with your own self in that mindset. Instead a craftsman focuses on the work he/she’s doing. When you adopt the craftsman mindset you end up asking questions like:

“How can I be better?”

“How can I provide more value for others?”

“Why did they respond that way to my work?”

These questions are centered around making better things for other people. For making other people’s lives better. The secret here is that you end up doing a lot more good for yourself by holding this focus.

This kind of thinking has deep roots in eastern philosophy. Consider the quote, “Zen is not to think about god while peeling potatoes, it is only to peel the potatoes.” (Paraphrasing.)

Try focusing on your work and getting better and notice how much better and more productive you become.

2. Meaning is created in work. If you find anyone with a deep feeling of mission and purpose in life you will find someone who loves their work. You don’t find meaning in a sentence or anything like that. You find it in the flow of work. After the initial stages of learning a skill you begin to be able to do it without thinking to hard about it. When you enter “the zone” you are in a flow state of mind. The people who feel most meaning in their lives are the ones who spend the most time in this kind of state.

3. Aim bigger. If you’re no longer excited about your work you may be playing too small. Somebody wrote a book called “The Magic of Thinking Big”, I’ve never read it but I imagine that one of the magical things about thinking big is how exciting is. It’s not very exciting to say, “I’m going to write a blog post on motivation”. It’s much more exciting to think, “I’m going to write a blog post that covers every one of my major Motivation Murderers that I can go back and reference whenever I’m feeling unmotivated.” Believe me, I was there.

StartupBros wouldn’t be exciting if we only wanted to make some money online. What makes StartupBros such an exciting thing for me is that we are aiming to disrupt the traditional course of education. I hate that so many of my friends think they must follow a prescribed path. I want to explore other options and show what’s possible. We’re entering a world where self-reliance is imperative and we need to face the scary ideas that presents.

Try bulking up your mission. It may help infuse every little task with a little more meaning.

4. Express yourself. It may be difficult to express yourself through your work – so find another outlet. Go paint or draw a picture or write a poem. Express yourself in some raw way that gives meaning to your life. It’s easy to forget about art when we’re focused on profits – and it could take a while for you to feel like your craft is actually an art – so sometimes you need to go to art directly.

5. Realize that your life already has meaning. Your life, right now, is already meaningful. You’re a part of this universe. You interact with people every day in one way or another and so you create relationships with them. Just by the way you carry yourself through the world your meaning is understood by the people around you. You are made of the same stuff as stars. You probably share molecules with a star that exploded millions of years ago. Your human body is a miracle in all that it can do. Your life is already amazing, sometimes you just need to take a moment and see it.


Notice that the answer is almost never to “find a meaning”. That’s not how it works. You need to focus on the things that create meaning. Creating meaning in your life doesn’t mean giving yourself a story that infuses your life with some purpose. Instead, it means that your actions create the meaning of your life.

Maybe one day later you will find your “aha!” moment of finally understanding your definite mission in life and maybe you won’t. The good part is that you don’t need to have a one-sentence mission to lead a meaningful life

No Skin in the Game

Do you know why poker games without money in the pot suck? There’s no stakes! You can bet like a jackass if you don’t have anything to lose – and you should! It’s the same thing with motivation. The less you need to succeed the less motivated you become to do so.

I’m not talking about mortgaging your house and putting your family in danger. You can get to pain long before then.

Earlier I talked about how Quentin Tarantino had to go through eight years of nothing working out for him before he made Reservoir Dogs. He attributes his ability to do this to the fact that he didn’t set up a plan B. Plan A was going to work or he would continue working in movie stores. It had to happen.

Some ideas to force your skin in the game:

1. Be responsible to someone. It’s easier to stay motivated when someone else is there to push you along. We all need support every once in a while. So share your deadlines with somebody who will slap you hard if you don’t meet them.

2. Set yourself up for pain. You need to set yourself up so it will hurt to not finish what you said you would. The website StickK ( can help you do this by using anti-charities. You set yourself up to donate to a charity that you hate. Would you rather not complete your goal or donate money to a charity for Nazis (or something slightly less terrible)?

You need to create an environment that supports action in the direction you want to go. One way to do this is to use the above tools to make it painful to not follow through.

Poor Health

If you are a physical wreck it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated. Greasy fast-food will not provide you with any kind of inspiring energy. Every time I go a week or more without working out my motivation plummets because I have no energy. The same happens when I eat terribly. Our brains need good food to work like we want them to. Our bodies need to be used in order to hold themselves in an energetic manner.

Get healthy!

1. Sleep. If you’re not sleeping well then you’re not functioning well.

2. Exercise! Even if it’s only five minutes, do something. 

3. Stop eating shitty.

4. Caffeinate. This one actually isn’t healthy at all. However, some days a cup of coffee is pure liquid motivation.

There’s nothing I can tell you about nutrition and health that you don’t know. You know your brain works better when it’s well fed, when you work out, and when you sleep well. You know what’s good for you. Respect yourself.

Epilogue: When Motivation Speaks

There are an infinite amount of things that are waiting to grab on and suck your motivation straight out of you. You need to kill them at every turn. Sometimes they come in the form of shitty people, sometimes they come as failures, sometimes they are something as sneaky as the absence of action.

Motivation feels great but sometimes being unmotivated is a tool.

I just wrote 7000+ words about how to stay motivated and now I’m telling you that it can be good to be unmotivated.

If you try to get motivated to really get into your job but you can’t. If you go through and try all these strategies I’ve offered up and still aren’t motivated then it’s probably time to switch things up. Your inability to get motivated about a certain project could mean that that’s not the project you should be working on.

The most important thing you can learn to do is trust yourself. Our body gives us all sorts of signals that aren’t as clear as, “Quit this job with that jackass boss ya dummy!” but can be just as loud.

There have been points in my life where motivation dried up completely. I couldn’t muster any excitement for my job or the project that I was working on. After trying all possible routes of getting excited and still feeling numb about the work I was doing it became obvious: it was time to leave. 

It’s the scariest thing in the world to change your life in a dramatic way for no real “reason” other than you’re not “feeling” it. People may judge you harshly. You may judge you harshly. But if you learn to trust in it, that voice will take you to the places in life that matter more than any of the others.

That’s the voice that told me to start writing. It’s the one that energized me to begin working on StartupBros. Every time I’ve listened and jumped into the darkness I’ve been rewarded handsomely with awesome experiences and an infusion of energy that doesn’t come by following what others think you should be doing.

Listen to yourself. Observe your motivation. When are you most motivated? What activities are most motivating to you? What people around you motivate you the most?

Watch intently and support your motivation in any way you can.

Kill the Motivation Murderers and realize that the only person who could ever rob you of your motivation is you.

Originally seen here:

Making Money Comes from Gd – With Or Without College

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The following comment comes from someone, “Val,” that didn’t attend college and got to where she did. Kudos!

I had a child when I was sixteen. I got kicked out of high school because of all the absences. My family and community pretty much wrote me off. But right away I got a job at a sporting goods store. Soon I was able to get a job as a receptionist at a tax company, and they gave me enough responsibilities that I learned how to do taxes. Eventually I learned enough to become an associate. Then I got offered a job at a smaller company, and even though it was a pay cut, they offered me responsibility over all the books– accounts payable, accounts receivable, everything. It was less money but I wanted that experience so I took the risk. And I’m so glad I did, because six months later, the controller of that company left and I was given that position. They told me they couldn’t officially call me the controller because I didn’t have a college degree. So I finished my degree 5 months ago– just to make it official! So after having a child at sixteen, I made it all the way to controller of a company, without even having a college degree. Can you believe that? Honestly, I’ve been waiting to tell that story so long that I told it to a customer service representative on the phone last week. She was nice about it and pretended to care.

I’ve personally seen lots of people go to college and not being able to get a job. Then there are those that never stepped foot in a college campus, learned everything on the job, and are doing nicely. What’s wrong with this picture?

Cuurtesy: Humans of New York

Job Hoppers Aren’t Failures

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job-hopperThis is in response to Kelly Blokdijk’s article “Are Job Hoppers Flakes & Failures?

It works both ways. I personally have been let go from various jobs when I was younger for a variety of different reasons. When I listed those jobs on my resume every prospective employer’s concern was the same: how do I know you won’t be job-hopping on us anytime soon? It wasn’t because I was a bad guy, just that luck was against me from holding a job for a long period of time, and in the process I learned so many different ways to get let go.

When I was fortunate to find a company that would invest in me, I stayed on for a few years. Now the excuse I get told all the time is, “Oh wow, you were at your current job for a while! How do we know you’re not just feeling us out?”

I’m telling you, you can’t satisfy anyone!


Below are a couple of humorous Dilbert comics on the topic of job hopping.




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tal-fortgangHe’s 20, white, and a freshman at Princeton University.

According to the ethnic and feminist studies college students and professors who consistently complain that this country is steeped in racism/sexism and only favors white, heterosexual males – he is the poster child for “White Privilege.”

Tal Fortgang is just eight months into his Ivy League experience, and has been told many times to “check his privilege” – a phrase that has been quoted ad nauseum to prove this point.

It’s meant to remind white, heterosexual males that they “have it so good” because they’re white, heterosexual males. They haven’t faced tough times, they don’t know what it’s like to be judged by the color of their skin. (thanks

However, the fact that this is being repeated only shows how ignorant other communities are. “White, heterosexual males” have had unique challenges to face as well.

Those sick and tired of being labelled seem to be the very same ones doing it to others, and Tal Fortgang has a powerful message for them:

There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege,” the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year. The phrase, handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness, and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung. “Check your privilege,” they tell me in a command that teeters between an imposition to actually explore how I got where I am, and a reminder that I ought to feel personally apologetic because white males seem to pull most of the strings in the world.

I do not accuse those who “check” me and my perspective of overt racism, although the phrase, which assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it, toes that line. But I do condemn them for diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness who places it out for me before I even arrive. Furthermore, I condemn them for casting the equal protection clause, indeed the very idea of a meritocracy, as a myth, and for declaring that we are all governed by invisible forces (some would call them “stigmas” or “societal norms”), that our nation runs on racist and sexist conspiracies. Forget “you didn’t build that;” check your privilege and realize that nothing you have accomplished is real.

But they can’t be telling me that everything I’ve done with my life can be credited to the racist patriarchy holding my hand throughout my years of education and eventually guiding me into Princeton. Even that is too extreme. So to find out what they are saying, I decided to take their advice. I actually went and checked the origins of my privileged existence, to empathize with those whose underdog stories I can’t possibly comprehend. I have unearthed some examples of the privilege with which my family was blessed, and now I think I better understand those who assure me that skin color allowed my family and I to flourish today.

Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labor in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.

Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures, one of just a handful to survive, only to be put in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she would have died but for the Allied forces who liberated her and helped her regain her health when her weight dwindled to barely 80 pounds.

Perhaps my privilege is that those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other; that my grandfather started a humble wicker basket business with nothing but long hours, an idea, and an iron will—to paraphrase the man I never met: “I escaped Hitler. Some business troubles are going to ruin me?” Maybe my privilege is that they worked hard enough to raise four children, and to send them to Jewish day school and eventually City College.

Perhaps it was my privilege that my own father worked hard enough in City College to earn a spot at a top graduate school, got a good job, and for 25 years got up well before the crack of dawn, sacrificing precious time he wanted to spend with those he valued most—his wife and kids—to earn that living. I can say with certainty there was no legacy involved in any of his accomplishments. The wicker business just isn’t that influential.Now would you say that we’ve been really privileged? That our success has been gift-wrapped?

That’s the problem with calling someone out for the “privilege” which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming they’ve benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now.

The truth is, though, that I have been exceptionally privileged in my life, albeit not in the way any detractors would have it.
It has been my distinct privilege that my grandparents came to America. First, that there was a place at all that would take them from the ruins of Europe. And second, that such a place was one where they could legally enter, learn the language, and acclimate to a society that ultimately allowed them to flourish.

It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.

It was my privilege that my grandfather was blessed with resolve and an entrepreneurial spirit, and that he was lucky enough to come to the place where he could realize the dream of giving his children a better life than he had.

But far more important for me than his attributes was the legacy he sought to pass along, which forms the basis of what detractors call my “privilege,” but which actually should be praised as one of altruism and self-sacrifice. Those who came before us suffered for the sake of giving us a better life. When we similarly sacrifice for our descendents by caring for the planet, it’s called “environmentalism,” and is applauded. But when we do it by passing along property and a set of values, it’s called “privilege.” (And when we do it by raising questions about our crippling national debt, we’re called Tea Party radicals.) Such sacrifice of any form shouldn’t be scorned, but admired.

My exploration did yield some results. I recognize that it was my parents’ privilege and now my own that there is such a thing as an American dream which is attainable even for a penniless Jewish immigrant.

I am privileged that values like faith and education were passed along to me. My grandparents played an active role in my parents’ education, and some of my earliest memories included learning the Hebrew alphabet with my Dad. It’s been made clear to me that education begins in the home, and the importance of parents’ involvement with their kids’ education—from mathematics to morality—cannot be overstated. It’s not a matter of white or black, male or female or any other division which we seek, but a matter of the values we pass along, the legacy we leave, that perpetuates “privilege.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Behind every success, large or small, there is a story, and it isn’t always told by sex or skin color. My appearance certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, and to assume that it does and that I should apologize for it is insulting. While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life. But that is a legacy I am proud of.

I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.

Tal Fortgang is a freshman from New Rochelle, NY. His column originally appeared in The Princeton Tory on April 2 and had been reprinted with permission in its entirety.

What Happened with USA Today Sports Weekly’s Cartoonist Mike Ricigliano?

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Picture courtesy of the New York Times

Picture courtesy of the New York Times

Years ago (mid-’90’s), I used to be a baseball fanatic and avidly read Mike Ricigliano’s USA Today Baseball Weekly’s comics portion. I loved the originality of the comics and looked forward to each upcoming issue.

Fast forward to today. I grew up and (thankfully) had other obligations that ate into my sports time, and gradually stopped buying issues of Baseball Weekly. I found out a couple of years ago that Baseball Weekly changed to Sports Weekly as it combined all sports issues into one publication. Right away, that registered as a warning sign for me that USA Today was struggling in a market where practically everything is readily available online for free. The problem is that “free” doesn’t pay the bills, let alone the hard-working writers that need to get paid to support their families. I remember hearing in the past that online media meant the death of newspapers but was initially sceptical as to how soon that was becoming a reality.

I recently decided to look up my favorite sports cartoonist, Mike Ricigliano. It turns out that USA Today’s Sports Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and Buffalo News all let him go due to financial reasons. It also turns out that Sports Cartooning is a rapidly dying art. It’s sad, but it makes sense. When an industry is experiencing a rapid decline, the “nice to haves” go first. Cartoons provide humor (potentially educational) but can easily be replaced by a news piece that has more meat in it and is considered more relevant to a newspaper. It’s a hard truth that all of us will sadly need to face one day.

The article I referenced noted that one of Mike’s sons built him a website 2 years ago to help bring in revenue. However, upon visiting the site, I saw that it has a total of 6 comics as of April 2012. Not very promising.

Noting the above, it indeed looks like that sports cartooning has no future, as fun as it looks. It’s very fast-paced, extremely time sensitive, has little job growth and apparently is under-appreciated. There seems to be more of an industry in online comics that are more general and therefore have a longer shelf life. Websites like The Oatmeal, for example, have proven to be very successful in creating comics readily available for free, then creating books out of many of those comics and selling them.

All that said, here’s to a cartoonist that provided sports humor for millions of sports fans over an extensive period of time.

14 Business Lessons to Learn from Marissa Mayer’s Biography

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Marissa Mayer taking notes

Photo courtesy of Techcrunch

I recently came across a Business Insider article on Marissa Mayer’s unauthorized biography. It actually made for an interesting, yet very long, read. From that biography I picked up a number of lessons that can pertain to anyone’s business or employment situation. Here are some.

While Marissa Mayer Was at Google

1. Don’t Make it Too Much Like School

We all know and love Google and it’s campus-y, fun work place. However, that’s as much “school” as it should get. Don’t make it where you come across as a principal/teacher with set visiting hours at 5 minutes at a time, then applying this policy for underlings, but co-workers and higher-ups as well. There has to be a way to deal with the stress or managing too many people. This leads to:

2. Learn to Delegate to Underlings

This supposedly was Marissa Mayer’s strength and weakness at the same time. Someone who could function on 4 hours of sleep and work 100 hour workweeks doesn’t learn to delegate work as s/he does everything already. However, as a company like Google grows this is not a scalable trait.

Delegating responsibilities to underlings is a trait that makes a good one great. This also applies to many different aspects of life. For example, I have seen large families with more than 10 children successfully manage such an operation by having the older children manage the younger ones. While every family dynamic is different and each child is unique, this actually also builds valuable leadership qualities for the older children at a very young age.

Biblically, the character Moses actually got to the point in the desert where he in fact was overwhelmed by the numerous questions the Israelites had for him. His father-in-law Jethro had to step in and advise Moses that this system is designed to wear him out, and that it’s better to establish a system of Rabbis, one for every thousand people, one for every hundred, and one for every ten. This allowed Moses to go from great to greater.

Learn to delegate and in many cases, get the job done in a manner where you don’t need to work 100 hour shifts.

3. When You’re Invited to Meetings, You’d Better Attend Every One

This was  allegedly one of the reasons why Marissa Mayer was passed up for promotions. She would attend the meetings with respect to Search, but not attend the business-oriented meetings as they disinterested her. Being that Google, like all tech companies, are a business first, Marissa should have been present so that at the very least, her face would have been seen and perhaps she would have been more sooner promoted than not. That’s not to say that this was what did it, but from this article, it seems like this was a factor.

4. Try to Not Put Yourself in a Conflict Situation

Let’s face it: we all run into situations of conflict at work. However, there’s conflict where someone else causes it and then there’s conflict where you argue against a consensus simply because you may be right.  Marissa Mayer did that and she eventually got pegged as a troublemaker by not being able to work with others that saw Google from the business side of things. Sometimes, admitting that not everything is ideal and perfect, and that setting aside your ego for other sensible options will help advance your career in a company without having to risk possibly “moving on to greener pastures,” where you might grow or fall flat doing so.

5. Try Focusing As Much as Possible On The Business Side and Less on Minute Details

As per the point before, in a business your value is based on how much money you can potentially bring to the company – very little else. What’s interesting about Marissa Mayer is that she  appeared early on to not possess that trait, focusing too much on the pixel size of a graphic. This actually caused employees to quit on her. Later on at Yahoo, utilizing that trait to redo Yahoo mail for mobile devices brought in money to Yahoo as she recognized that the smallest detail in a widely-used application can make a difference of millions of dollars.

6. Don’t Out-Talk the Next Person

One of Marissa Mayer’s quirks is that she has the propensity to talk fast. Not just fast, I mean Speedy Gonzalez fast. Watching a sample lecture of her teaching at Stanford should give some idea on how fast she talks. On one hand, this makes sense as nerds with tons of info and no time want to spit out as much information as possible. I get that.

Her ability to out-talk the next person was also a trait she learned in high school as a successful member of the debate team. Her quick thinking/talking helped her advance in that and many other endeavours, which in turn looked so good on paper that she was a shoo-in to being accepted to the 10 finest universities in the country.

However, when this translates into the workplace, it can potentially mean disaster. People don’t want to feel inferior, and Marissa Mayer made many people feel just that. In an industry dominated by men, many began to feel emasculated by her presence and unwillingness to share the floor. A number of Google executives got fed up to the point of saying “it’s either her or me.”

Bottom-line, don’t place yourself in such a position. Sometimes it’s better to be wise than to be right.

7. Most Decisions Can Be Solved With a Spreadsheet

Believe it or not, some of the worlds’ billionaires got to where they were because they analyzed difficult decisions using a spreadsheet for data. Seymour Schulich for example mentioned in his book “Get Smarter” that what he would do was to weigh the pros of each decision and attach a number to it, from 1 to 10. In the end, adding the numbers up would make ones decision much easier to make. This is best solved with a spreadsheet. In Marissa Mayer’s case, she would use a spreadsheet for EVERYTHING, from choosing the university to attend to the minute design of a logo.

8. Expect to Hit the Glass Ceiling Down the Road If You Date Your Boss and It Doesn’t Work Out

It’s not actually proven, but Business Insider mentioned that Marissa Mayer’s failed date with Larry Page may have eventually led her to be “out of his L-team” when he re-took the role of CEO at Google. The reason some have that  she wasn’t added to his team or reported to him simply was because it “would be unethical and show favoritism.” Zing!

9. Don’t Flaunt Your Wealth

During Google’s early years, when employees/stakeholders became overnight millionaires, the official policy was to fire someone on the spot if they came in with flashy, expensive items one day. The message to convey was that Google was above simply making more money and more about helping the world at large (while making money). Marissa Mayer seemed to have ignored that lesson when she started wearing designer suits, dresses and clothes. This also may have contributed to her not being promoted.

While Marissa Mayer Was Switching from Google to Yahoo

10. Nothing is Guaranteed

Just ask Ross Levinsohn. Mr. Levinsohn was apparently a shoo-in for the job of Yahoo CEO, only for it to slip from him when his final vision clashed with other Yahoo bigwigs.

Also, look at former Google executive Michael Barrett. He thought he was a shoo-in for a the position of COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Yahoo before Henrique De Castro, “the most interesting man in the world,” practically stole the job from him without any notice from Marissa Mayer (he found out through a website, Michael Barrett ended up looking for new work shortly afterward, though he left with a severance package worth millions of dollars.

11. Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Take a lesson from Marissa Mayer’s seeming demotion from Google Search to Google Maps, which was a much more inferior product. Marissa focused on the management side of things where her management staff dramatically increased, and this was what in some ways “sealed the deal” in her move to Yahoo CEO.

During Marissa Mayer’s Tenure at Yahoo

12. Lateness Doesn’t Count So Much (Surprisingly)

This is something I hold dear. It seems to be that the richer you are, the later you can afford to be. Marissa Mayer has been reputed to arrive at meetings and calls at least 45 minutes to an hour late, and at times even later than that. I have personally met millionaires, billionaires, and keynote speakers do the same thing. I guess that means…

13. Nobody Used to Be Held Accountable: People Used to Work From Home and Take Advantage

I worked for a certain internet marketing company in 2008-2009 where a few of the co-workers were present were ex-Yahoo executives looking to jump ship and stay at a small company until better-paying work could be found. I found one to love taking credit for himself when things were going his way, and for the most part blame others for when things didn’t go as planned, since it never was his fault. In business this is called CYA (covering your ass[ets]), yet it seemed to be exercised more often than not.

This apparently was the culture at Yahoo until very recently. Now that Marissa Mayer has taken the helm there is a new system where everyone is accountable. For example, a while ago Marissa Mayer revoked the privilege of working from home since she found through intelligent data that when people were surfing the web, they were navigating through more personal sites than business-related sites. She also monitored the times people were logged in through the company’s VPN system and found that too many people weren’t logged in for the better part of the workday. Those that took advantage of an iffy system at best can no longer get away with that -er, that’s assuming that they’re still employed at Yahoo.

14. The Larger The Company,  The More The Smallest Thing Matters

Marissa Mayer made it even more of a point to focus on the tiniest pixel of an image when her data proved that this made the difference of millions of dollars. Say what you will, but if you can prove that focusing on such minute details brings in lots of money, then go for it. This especially applies to large companies where every little thing makes a huge difference.

Reality 101 Rantings – At Work

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reality101-flag1Work is a very different world than anything you’ve ever been exposed to. Hopefully the following will save you from future pain and headache.

Don’t Expect it to Be Like School

It’s like night and day. Very simply, when you go to school, you pay someone to put up with you. When you go to work, someone has to pay you to put up with you. Get the point?

Maybe 5% of  What You Learned in School Will be Applied to the Workplace

Remember the point I made earlier about those job listings and what you learned at school? Well, the converse is true as well. You will find that much of the on-the-job training has nothing to do with what you learned in school. You likely will forget 95% of it, anyway.

It’s also sad to say that employers are becoming increasingly wary about hiring new college grads.

Grades in School Rarely Matter

More often than not, it’s how you perform at work that matters. Usually you’re asked what your last job was rather than how you scored in English Literature 101 a few years ago. It only matters when applying for a teaching job or going for higher education.

To Save Your Job, Justify Making Your Employer at Least 3-4 Times What You’re Getting Paid

It’s all about business when working in a business. An employer hires you for money so that you can somehow make him more money. If you are costing the employer money, then you are a liability to the company, not an asset.

A sad reality is when you sometimes need to justify your job when a company is downsizing due to an economic recession.

Be Young, Single, and Even Less Educated When Starting Out

Let’s face it: Employers want someone without experience to be able to be pushed around. While you shouldn’t every put yourself in that position, it helps to make the employer think that if he wants to, he can do so. The way to do so is to start working for minimum wage, or interning for no pay, while being young, single and still waiting to get your degree. Employers LOVE getting more work for less pay.

Small Mistakes are Big. Consider the Consequences

At work, when you make mistakes you may perceive as minor, they may actually be major when you consider the consequences. For example, a downed computer server means that many people, not just one, cannot do their job when their work is stored there. When you open an “incident” or “case” with a 3rd-party provider, remember that the company is paying money for that. Also, every second somehow magically feels like a minute or hour when the effects of the mistake are being realized.

As someone once mentioned, “50 attaboys (pats on the back) doesn’t amount to 1 oh-s**t.”

Micromanaging Generally Means a Company is Losing Money

When a company is micromanaging an employee’s work, it’s trying to analyze if/why an employee is costing the company money. Generally such an employee’s days are numbered and one of the main reasons an employer is doing such an exercise is to make sure that your replacement doesn’t exhibit the same mistakes as s/he thinks you are making.

Most Bosses are Pressure-Cookers

Nobody’s happy with their boss. There’s a reason why saying somebody’s “acting bossy” is not a good thing. The most commonly-used way to get employees to make money is to apply pressure – tons of it – to produce results.

Got Fired?

Prepare to be fired, laid off and embarrassed moreso than promoted. I still remember being fired from my first paid internship after 4 days, and while I moved on, it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. It was a traumatic experience. Sadly I found myself out of other various positions for different reasons. Some were because I “wasn’t technically up to par,” “lacked confidence,” “didn’t fit in,” that the “company was going bankrupt” or that it simply was an “at will” decision. In one case it had to do with my taking off for a religious holiday while I was within the first three months and they completely forgot about my religious requirements! And there are a million other ways or reasons why someone would get fired or laid off.

If you have a great place to work without any of these issues, consider yourself lucky (for now).

Promotions and Raises Aren’t for the Faint of Feart

Many people stay at their same salaries simply because they are afraid to ask for more money. It’s tough to ask for more money for doing the same job you were doing until now. Unless the demand for your job goes up overall, expect to stay at the same pay rate until you take on a new role, and even then…

Also, from past experience, salaries aren’t always directly proportional to the person’s skillset, rather, the balls one has when asking for money.

The only ways to negotiate a raise is (and this is a sample):

1. Justify your past performance and accomplishments, as well as hours/week spent in the office

2. Show that you are ready to grow in terms of past work experience and updated educational/certificate achievements

3. Look for another job, get a higher offer, and see if your current employer can match it (note: this may lead to getting fired within the next 3 months, so be absolutely sure you are ready to leave).

Sometimes it may be out of your control. Family/health circumstances can change a lot of things in a heartbeat.

However, if you do get that raise, expect to work much harder than before.

To Make Significantly More Money, Apply to Another Company

Drawing on the previous tidbit, in terms of a raise you will only get so much. In a normal job, 4% is standard, and a 6%-8% increase is considered a “good” raise. Unless you are able to do items 1-3 in the previous point, expect to only make so much while working for someone else.

Beware of Nepotism

Most companies as a rule don’t allow hiring family members in order to separate business from personal. However, it’s inevitable when a boss at a small company is trying to help out a family member who cannot otherwise get a job elsewhere. What’s frightening is when one soon realizes why the person had a hard time with previous jobs (personality, performance, etc.).

Nepotism can come in many different forms. For example, you might get passed over for a promotion in favor of the boss’ cousin. On the other hand, the other person can be a real disturbance but can never get fired, while a small screw-up by you can land you in unemployment by tomorrow. It’s a tough situation where there’s really no sound advice other than to be firm and do what you can to boost yourself irrespective of the company or such employees.

Don’t Think, Unless You Are Paid To

Unless you are in a position of power to make and argue decisions, your role is to follow orders in order to maintain the flow of the organization. People that second-guess their managers/superiors which disrupt the work flow are forever deemed as troublemakers ready for the chopping block. If you feel that your opinion is to be voiced, either schedule a 5-10 minute meeting TOPS to pass on suggestions, or send an email. Emails today are the least intrusive option to send messages without disturbing someone’s work schedule.

Most Full-Time Employees Will Earn and Top Out Between $25k-$60k

Unless you are a top executive at a company, or at a company destined to fail, expect yourself to earn between $25k-$60k/year. A surprising very few individuals earn more than that. People don’t like to think about that and would like to earn more, but that’s one reason why one’s salary is very personal. Another reason why ones salary is personal is because everybody wants to make more than the next person – that’s human nature. If person A hears that person B is making more than him, person A will be brimming with jealousy. Believe me, that’s what it is.