Tag Archives: Ideas

Status Anxiety

Do You Suffer From “Status Anxiety?”

By Alex Green

In 1759, Adam Smith inquired in his Theory of Moral Sentiments about why we seek wealth. Is it to meet our basic wants and needs?

No, he concluded. “The wages of the meanest laborer can supply them.” The point of all our striving, he argued, is “to be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation.

William James, the father of American psychology, echoed this sentiment a century later when he declared that the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

We don’t like to admit it, but most men and women are in a near-constant pursuit of higher status.

Psychologists have even identified a new malady, one that afflicts millions. They call it “status anxiety.”

Throughout history and around the world, men and women have always sought status and recognition. But in the modern era, the yardstick is almost always the same: economic success.

More bluntly, money.

The benefits of money and status are obvious: freedom, resources, comfort, time, attention, and deference. A lack of status, on the other hand — even if it is only perceived — can lead to sadness, anxiety, and even depression.

Our capitalist system thrives on the pursuit of status. Entrepreneurs take elaborate risks in the pursuit of great rewards. Consumers buy superfluous products — especially luxury brands — they believe confer prestige. The pursuit of status motivates us to develop our talents, work hard, demonstrate excellence, and achieve worthy goals.

In today’s increasingly affluent society, however, our ideas about what are “essential” constantly change.

For example, consider the percentage of Americans who believed the following items were necessities in 1970:

  • More than one phone – 2%
  • Second television set – 3%
  • Dishwasher – 8%
  • Car air conditioning – 11%
  • Second car – 20%
  • Home air conditioning – 22%

If these were nonessential to Americans 45 years ago, why do hundreds of millions consider them necessities today?

It’s not just that these things make our lives easier and more comfortable. Many folks would feel embarrassed or ashamed to be without them.

Our sense of happiness is based on comparing ourselves to others. Unfortunately, that is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.

The problem with making economic success the foundation of personal happiness is that a) you cannot control the economy and b) most companies eventually fail. Needless to say, this undermines job security and financial well-being.

While life will always be uncertain, there is a simple and effective cure for status anxiety: changing the way you think.

Every time we feel satisfied with what we have, however little that may be, we can count ourselves rich.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted there are two ways to make a man wealthier: Give him more money or curb his desires. Or, as Socrates declared as he passed the expensive goods on sale in the Athens agora, “How many things I can do without!”

As for other people’s opinions, whether you get the recognition you believe you deserve is out of your control. But if you haven’t done anything that deserves contempt or disrespect, what difference does it make what someone else thinks?

An obsessive pursuit of status may not just be a waste of time. It could be a waste of a life.

About the Author: Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters, and Beyond Wealth, that show you how to lead a “rich” life during trying economic times.

Introvert’s 9 Secrets to Leadership

“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” —Farrah Gray

An Introvert’s 9 Secrets to Leadership

By Brenda Savoie

Leadership is not reserved for extroverts.

Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind the social media giant Facebook is an introvert. How’s that for a paradox.Some of the most acknowledged leaders are introverts.

You don’t have to be outgoing, crazy communicative, and incredibly charismatic to achieve greatness in this life.

A leader’s strength comes from creativity and ideas; not from social skills. But when you’re afraid to come out of your protective shell, you’re missing out on an opportunity. Introverts can be great leaders if they leverage their strengths, and cultivate some of their flaws.

Claire Donovan, a team leader at EssayOnTime, explains that being an introvert doesn’t make it easy for you to established yourself as a leader:

“As an introvert, it’s not easy for me to act natural in front of an audience. I’ve had my awkward moments in meetings, and it wasn’t easy. But guess what, no one has it easy. Can you name someone who woke up one day and became a leader? No, it takes a lot of effort for everyone, especially those who are willing to invest that effort. Introverts are just as capable for leadership as extroverts are.”

Here’s a guide for introverts to cultivate their leadership efforts…

1. Acknowledge the Strength of Empathy

The force of empathy is strong with introverts. Extroverts may be the better speakers, however, introverts are great listeners. An introvert leader is able to see a problem from another person’s POV. They understand how people feel in a certain situation, and can take proper action to calm them down. When it comes to misunderstandings and conflicts, introvert leaders are exquisite at solving them.

2. Communicate One-On-One

Most introverts don’t like speaking in front of an audience, but they’re good at making connections with fewer people. One-on-one talks are their forte, since they don’t waste words and listen carefully before giving a response.

You can use this skill as a leader by welcoming face-to-face meetings with your employees; this should also give you the reputation of being approachable. (A major win.)

3. Don’t Throw Away Me-Time

An extrovert gets his strength from socializing. That’s why extrovert leaders are so appreciated in their organizations. They’re always inviting people for lunch and dominate the conversation at office parties. Introverts, on the other hand, feel exhausted after spending a lot of time among people. They need time alone to reconnect with their inner peace. Don’t cut yourself short from that necessity. Whenever you need time for yourself, take it. As a leader, you have a responsibility to interact with other people, but that won’t be 24/7.

Recharge while still growing your skills as a leader by taking a daily 20-minute break to read in your office. Start with The Perfect Day Formula, which can help you hone any anxiety associated with leading more employees. The book itself comes with an interactive kit ($199) that includes journals and worksheets.

Apply now

4. Lay Your Cards on the Table

Most teams are used to working with extrovert leaders. Your employees might be surprised by your quiet approach. The first thing you need to do is make your leadership style known. You’re not the guy they worked with; you’re a completely unique person with a different approach. As long as you prove yourself to be a good leader, the style shouldn’t be a make or break.

Continue to No. 5 and learn how to best leverage technology as an introvert leader

About the Author: Brenda Savoie is a productivity coach, private English tutor, and desperate dreamer. She is currently writing her first novel and seeking contentment through mindfulness….

How to Turn Procrastination into Productivity

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” ― Mark Twain

How to Turn Procrastination into Productivity

By James Altucher

When I publish this, many people will respond, “I’ll read it… later,” or some variation of that.

First, that’s a funny joke. I get it.

Second, while I was writing this, I procrastinated pretty heavily. No surprise.

And what’s even better, I employed almost all of the techniques below to get over the procrastination. In fact, one of the techniques I mention below is to start in the middle.

It’s worth mentioning then, that the words I am writing now I am writing after finishing the article.

So here are the 11 ways to make your life more productive via procrastination.

1. Make a list (AKA, Plan B).

Make a list right now of 10 things you can do that will make you feel “productive.”

When you’re procrastinating, go down the list and do the tiniest thing you can do for each item on the list.

For instance, if I am procrastinating writing on a book I can take a break and start sending emails to potential podcast guests.

I procrastinated on writing this post. I even responded to emails from six months ago (that I procrastinated on responding to then).

The respondents appreciated it and I kept those business connections alive.

It doesn’t even have to be something related to “business productivity.” I can exercise, for instance. That will improve my ability to focus better in the long run.

2. Play.

Whenever I’ve been deeply unhappy in my life, I play games.

Games are actually good for you. They make you strive to improve. They improve various brain functions (spatial reasoning, problem solving, etc). They improve your ability to deal with failure (since often you will lose) and learn from your mistakes (if you study what you did wrong in lost games).

But games can also be escapist.

I was afraid to get married in my first marriage. I was scared I was too young. Twenty minutes before I was supposed to be at my own wedding, I was at my office playing one-minute chess against the Swiss Chess Champion. I figured, “I can’t stop doing this. I’m winning!”

That was bad.

Escapist gaming is no good. Try to do productive gaming instead. As long as I focus on improvement, it will make me better able to focus on the task at hand. I try to play in some way. I recommend Charlie Hoehn’s book on play (Play it Away), to see how he used it to decrease his anxiety and become more productive.

3. Experiment.

Everywhere I look I’m reminded of the importance of this.

A great example is Chris Rock. He goes on stage, does his act, and everyone laughs. Again and again.

But that’s not how he starts. He goes to “The Laugh Factory” in my hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and takes some crumpled notes and just starts reading them out loud in his regular voice.

If people laugh at a joke, he knows he has something that can be developed. If people don’t laugh, he throws that joke away.

He experiments with thousands of jokes before he has an hour of material he can use on an HBO special.

If I am working on a project that is stagnating, I try to back up one step, try a different direction — experiment to see if this excites me more.

When I first started a company, we weren’t sure the best way to make money. So we experimented. We made software to see who would buy it (nobody). We started a record label (we almost signed one act and then they disappeared). We thought about starting a database for people in the entertainment industry (then IMDB came along).

We thought about making an automatic website developer but it was a lot of work (think WordPress). We even thought about making a tea company but we knew nothing about distribution.

But it wasn’t bad to experiment. Learning about each of these businesses gave me useful information.

Ten years later the lessons learned from how to start a tea company were useful in making a fund of hedge funds (you send out your tea/money to distributors/other funds and once a month you collect information from everyone and compile the data. Similar risks occur in each business.)

The ways we explored making money on the Internet in 1996 helped in 2009 to figure out what were the best things to invest in with the sharp rise of social media.

And even experimenting with a record label enabled us to land the job of doing the websites for many record labels (Loud, Bad Boy, Interscope, Jive, etc).

When I am less productive with writing, I try to experiment with the form a bit more. Or be creative in some other way.

While I was procrastinating on this article I wrote the first and second draft on a children’s book, an experiment I have never done before.

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4. Consider that smaller is better.

When I am procrastinating on a book I take a step back and stop thinking about the whole book. I just try to outline what I want to accomplish with the exact page I’m working on.

The process is:

  1. Find a smaller task within the bigger task;

  2. outline it;

  3. set a mini-deadline for doing it;

  4. drink coffee;

  5. do.

When writing this I worried whether or not I really had ten things. Finally I said, “do one thing.” And BAM!

5. Don’t allow anxiety to take over.

It’s important to remember: anxiety will never solve tomorrow’s problems and will only steal away energy from today.

6. Surprise yourself.

If something is not interesting to me, I have a hard time finishing it. So I try and surprise myself.

If it’s a writing project I try to think of the most outrageous thing that has happened to me recently and put it down on the page. And when I put it down on the page I try to start with a word that is a surprise to me.

If you can surprise yourself, it’s a guarantee everyone else will be surprised — hopefully in a good way.

7. Start in the middle.

Starting a new project is often the hardest part.

Start in the middle so you don’t have to worry about the “official” start.

This reminds me of a Neil Gaiman graphic novel, “Black Orchid.” There’s a superhero, the Black Orchid, which “stars” in the comic book. BUT, right in the first few pages she is shot and killed.

What a genius thing. To create a pseudo-climax right in the first few pages. It’s almost like he started at the end.

I started this post with the list. Then I will go back and write the beginning.

And, by the way, the last line I wrote in this post was this one.

8. End in the middle.

Ernest Hemingway would anticipate his own procrastination when writing.

He would sometimes end a writing session while in the middle of a sentence, or paragraph. Then he would be more excited (and be more aware) of starting up again when he came back.

For instance, if you are a programmer, end right in the middle of an “If” statement before putting in the “Then” part.

9. Redefine the project.

This is similar to the breaking it down into smaller chunks, except… actually change the project so it is smaller.

When I was building the website, Stockpickr, which I eventually sold for significant money to thestreet.com, I launched with only a few features.

I had planned for many more. But it feels good to “launch,” and I wanted that good feeling.

The same thing can happen now with other types of projects. For instance — books. The definition of a “book” used to be mandated by the big publishers and big bookstores, i.e. 200-250 pages and 60,000 – 70,000 words.

Now this is out the window. Amazon and the rise of self-publishing have thrown out the definition of what a book is. I was just looking in the Entrepreneurship category where my 270-page book, “Choose Yourself” is #2. I sweated over that book for years.

At #1 is a 24-page book probably written in a week. Power to him. He had a solid idea, he wrote it up, he published it, and now it’s #1 in the category. A person can do that every month and write 12 books in a year and make a living that way.

Another time I was moving into a house I had bought (the last one I will ever buy and has long since been sold).

The construction workers wanted six more months to work on it. I said, “no” and moved right in. They felt so awkward with me right there that they finished up in a week.

Launch first, then finish.

10. Read.

I often get inspiration in the middle of writing by reading.

I’ll go back and forth between inspirational, informative, or well-written books. One will inspire me back to what I’m doing.

I can never underestimate the ability to absorb someone else’s life by reading about it. I’m a vampire sucking out their knowledge and making my brain more powerful.

11. Give up.

Not every project is meant to be finished.

You might be procrastinating because your body and mind might know that the project is simply no good but they have neglected to tell you that yet.

One time I started a company, built a site, and raised $500,000 for it. But it was a bad idea. I woke up the day after raising the money and I was shaking. I literally didn’t want to get out of bed and start to work on the site.

All I kept thinking was, “this is a bad idea and a year from now I’m going to have to explain where all the money went to all of the investors.”

So I ate the cost I had already put into building the website, I wired back all of the money, and shut down the business.

There’s a cognitive bias called “The Sunken Cost Fallacy” that applies to procrastination.

When we put time (or money) into something, our brains feel like, “Now I have to finish this.”

But it’s just not true. We don’t have to finish anything.

Often it’s good to take a step back and wait a long time (months or years), or simply give up.

It’s always good to have about five projects (no more and no less) going on at the same time. This gives you constant fuel as you go back and forth. You won’t create your way into a hole with just one project and you won’t feel overwhelmed with too many.

“Giving up” is often the most productive and efficient thing we can do to move onto the things that are more rewarding in the short amount of time we have.

I procrastinate on everything. On all 18 of my books. On all 20 of the businesses I’ve started.

In fact, this post is the result of procrastination on another post I’m writing on FAQ on quitting your job.

This post was my “Plan B.”

Sometimes I procrastinate calling people back and then I end up feeling guilty and never calling them back.

And there are things I am mid-procrastination on right now that I might never finish.

Who cares?

When I die those projects will remain unfinished forever.

But when I die my kids and loved ones will be crying for other reasons.

Or not.

About the Author: James Altucher is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, chess masterand prolific writer. He has started and run more than 20 companies and is currently invested in over 30. His writing has appeared in major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer,Tech Crunch, The Financial Times, Yahoo Finance and others. He’s followed up his WSJ Bestselling book Choose Yourself with the Rich Employee to share daily practices that can lead you to be rich, without quitting your job. It’s available on Amazon for only $0.99.

How to Find the Big Money Idea

How to Find the Big Money Idea

By Mary Ellen Tribby

Everyone has plenty of ‘ideas.’ In fact, you may have a great idea right now that you’ve been itching to get started on. But, wait!

The real problem isn’t coming up with a great idea. It is recognizing when you have a good one. My friend, Joe Polish, calls these “Elegant Ideas”. I call them “Big Money Ideas”. Because all it takes is one good idea and you can make a fortune.

So, how do you know when you have that one good idea? You know, the kind that you can start or grow a business around. First, you come up with lots of ideas and sift through them to find the best one. That’s the first step in coming up with great ideas – brainstorming.

To help get you started, answer the following questions:

Idea Brainstorming Made Easy 

1. What are my hobbies and interests?
2. What are some of my life experiences and achievements?
3. What problems, big or small, have I solved in my life?

You may be thinking, “Gosh, that’s cute, that’s quaint. I would love nothing more than to have hobbies and interests. But, I work so hard that I don’t have time for any of that.” If so, let me ask you, “What would you like to do if you did have more time?”

Maybe you don’t get to these things right now. But, don’t limit yourself by not thinking of them. You might be saying, “I would love to have my own business and one of my favorite hobbies are kites. I love flying and building kites, and I would love to teach others how to do the same. I would love to do an inbox magazine (yes, the exact business model we use here at Working Moms Only.com) on everything about kites.

“But who would want that?” Well the answer is that plenty of people would want to ready that. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people search on the term “building kites” each month? That’s right. So go ahead… put down every idea you have to start out. Later I’ll tell exactly how you can determine whether your idea might make a good business or not.

Your Life Experiences are Worth Big Money

When you think about your life experiences and achievements, don’t overlook anything. No matter how simple or obvious you may think it might be it constitutes as a worthy experience. Did you raise children, start a business, stay married for 50 years, plan your own wedding, learn a complicated software program, home school your kids, or fly airplanes?

Whatever you did, that’s something someone else would want to know about, so put that down too. These are all good life experiences and achievements. You don’t have to have climbed Mount Everest. Just think about the little victories in life.

I knew a student who started a business that, literally, explained how to get your child into an Ivy League school. She had gone through every step of this with her own child – from teaching the right way to study for the SAT test to preparing for the in-person interviews. Because she had already gone through that process, she wrote her first special report and sold it online. Later, she turned her idea into a working business.

Now think about some significant problems you might have solved in your life. Did you lose weight, help a loved one through an illness, find a great job, rebuild your home after a natural disaster, survive bankruptcy, or start over after divorce?

Maybe you just know how to solve seemingly minor problems like getting rid of rodents from your house or garden. There may be some painful memories, but those areas in life where people feel the most distressed is where you can make the most money. Plus, you can help the most people by doing the most good.

Turn the Negative into a Positive

Often times when people have been beaten down by life they may feel negative and say, “What? Are you kidding me? I don’t have time for hobbies and interests. Life experience? Achievements? I haven’t been able to do anything and that’s why I’m so frustrated. Problems big or small? I’ve got problems, but I haven’t solved them.”

I knew a woman who kept resisting these ideas of writing down her hobbies or achievements. Finally, I asked her, “Who is someone in your life that you really respect? Somebody in your life that you truly admire and love?” After much thinking, she finally told me about her friend, Cindy.

Then I said, “Okay, tell me something about Cindy, what are her hobbies and her interests? What are some of Cindy’s life experiences and achievements? And, what problems big or small has Cindy solved?”

Suddenly this lady started going through this exercise by thinking about other people in her life. Just by going through this exercise, she soon realized that ideas are limitless.

While you may not always like to give your friends credit, you probably know some pretty smart people. You might know somebody who is a really good salesperson, realtor, or mortgage broker who has survived this most recent down turn, and are still making money despite all of that.

Maybe you know someone who got divorced or lost one hundred pounds. What process did they go through and what is their life like now? As a matter of fact, most people have already forgotten their great ideas until they make a conscious effort to recall them.

Ultimately, most businesses are about someone else, so it doesn’t always have to be about you too. When this lady started thinking about her friend, Cindy, she started thinking, “You know what? I’ve done something like that as well!”

So try to get out of your own head and think of someone else. Often, that can get you thinking a lot bigger. Pretty soon, you will have several ideas to choose from.

And, that will be the first step in starting your own business.