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better

Provocative articles on how to think, work, and live…better!

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By
Gian Fiero
About better
I n 2009, I decided to develop my writing skills.

I didn’t have any particular goal in mind. I simply wanted to get better. I knew I would have to do the one thing - the
only thing - that writers must do to accomplish this: write, and write a lot. So for one year, every week, I wrote new
articles.

I quickly developed a routine and the discipline that was necessary to reach my self-imposed deadline, which was every
Friday at 5 p.m. Once I got into the flow of writing, and learned the art of re-writing, I was producing two to three
articles per week.

The result? Over 100 articles written and published within a one year period.

Soon, my articles received over 5 million reads and were frequently cited by professionals, authorities, organizations,
universities, and authors. By all accounts, I had reached my objective. I put down my pen and took a break from writing.

Then something unexpected happened.

I started getting emails from all over the world by people who
read my articles and said that they were both enlightened and
inspired by them. These weren’t just emails expressing kudos;
these were sincere emails from individuals of all backgrounds
who felt that what they read had planted the seeds for professional
and personal growth. The feedback I received made me realize that
we are all united by our desire to have a better life experience.

At the core, all of the articles in better are connected by that theme, and serve that purpose.

I have combined and edited the best of these articles from this development period; some revised, but most in their
original form, to present as the collection that you now have in your possession.

My real accomplishment in writing better is not the improvement of my writing skills, but the influence my writing has
had on the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that enable people to be of better service to each other in a professional and
personal capacity.

Can you imagine how a mindset that motivates us to know better, do better and be better would impact work, schools,
governments, marriages, parenting, friendships, relationships, and the world in which we live? I’m obsessed with that
question, and apparently, so are millions of my readers.

As a result of the research put into these articles, I stumbled upon the impetus for a new career focus; one in which my
goal in every role I assume, is to examine and challenge common perspectives, and help others re-frame possibilities that
emerge from having a better mindset.

Thanks for joining me on my official journey as a writer, and growth expert. I’m excited about where my continued
efforts to get better will take me in the future. I hope to see you there.

Gian Fiero
Growth Expert

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Comments from readers
Hory Sankar Mukerjee on The Art of Empathetic Listening:
“I am currently writing a text book on “Business Communication” with Oxford
University Press. The book is primarily targeted at Indian Students, who are
doing their course in business administration. The books that are currently
available in India only speak of business communication from a theoretical
standpoint. But, I firmly do believe that it is a subject of practice. The Art of
Empathetic Listening would give a very practical approach to the chapter of
listening. It would also help the students understand the subject better from a
practitioner's standpoint. I’m requesting permission to reprint the article in my
book. The article will be attributed to you as the author.”

Josey Johnson on A Question Of Value: Understanding Your Worth:
“Excellent article. It's right on point. I'm ready to ask for a raise now. Thanxs!”

Marguerite F. Miller, Editor, Almanac, University of Pennsylvania on The Difference Between Being Smart, Educated
and Intelligent:
“I came across your article online and the section about your great grandmother resonated with me, and it is true that
people can be wise without an advanced degree and not necessarily prone to common sense just because they are
educated. This is a well-conceived, and well-written article; one that should be widely circulated in academic arenas. I
will do my part to promote it.”

Rod Wynn on Afraid of the Dark: Working With Black Men In Corporate America:
“Thank you so much for posting this article. This is so true. I have worked in corporate America for about 12 years
myself, and am very aware of how whites subconsciously act around blacks in the office. It's reassuring to know that it's
not all in my mind, and that other have experienced this.”

Jason Cooper on What Black Men And Peacocks Have In Common:
“Fantastically written and very educational for breaking down the racial barriers. From a fellow Peacock!”

Pernell Washington on How To Impersonalize Criticism:
“Cool article. Very beneficial for young people. Keep the great insights coming.”

Shirey Blake on Sexy Panties: Why Men Love Them
And Women Need Them: “I will be adding your
article to one of my websites. I liked the intellectual
and controversial tone of the article, i.e., the men’s
vs. women's point of view...great for discussion.”

Cynthia Boots on The Challenge Of Letting Go:
“I desperately needed to read the article you wrote on
'letting go.' I was in a very one sided relationship
with a man that is obsessed with his former fiancé
that he broke up with over a year ago. I could not
continue to compete with this 'idealized' woman and I
found it remarkably hard to let go due to my genuine
love for him…until I read your article. Thanks for
the food for thought.”

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Article Index
Chapter I: think Chapter III: live

What It Really Means To Be True To Yourself ............. 5 The Challenge Of Letting Go ....................................... 48

The Difference Between Being Smart, Educated, and The Benefits Of Reciprocity ......................................... 50
Intelligent ........................................................................ 8
The Art Of Empathetic Listening ................................. 52
What Teachers Learn From Teaching........................... 17
The Power Of Observation ........................................... 54

Chapter II: work Debunking The Myth Of Not Having Enough Time .... 56

How To Cure The Monday Morning Blues .................. 20 Taking The Time To Think About Time ..................... 57

What To Love About The Job You Hate ...................... 22 Girlfriends & Wives:
Why Men View Them Differently ............................... 58
How To Leave A Job Gracefully .................................. 25
10 Things That Men Find Sexy .................................... 60
Getting Under The Overqualified Dilemma ................. 26
Bringing Sexy Back:
The Upside Of Being Downsized: How To See The A Man’s Perspective On Sex Appeal ........................... 62
Bright Side Of Layoffs ................................................. 27
Sexy Panties:
A Question Of Value: Understanding Your Worth ...... 28 Why Men Love Them And Women Need Them ......... 64

To Be, Or Not To Be, An Entrepreneur ........................ 30 What Black Men And Peacocks Have In Common ...... 68

Inspiration & Motivation: Similar But Different .......... 32 Afraid Of The Dark:
Black Men Working In Corporate America ................. 70
The Importance Of Standards ....................................... 33
The Repositioning Of The Black Male ......................... 72
Excuses, Excuses: What They Reveal About People ... 35
The Proper Care & Maintenance Of Black Men .......... 76
How To Impersonalize Criticism.................................. 37
Babes & Babies:
The Need For Face-To-Face Communications ............. 39 How They Influence & Impact Black Men .................. 78

Anticipation: The Real Key To Being Prepared ........... 41 Rethinking Love, Marriage & Divorce ......................... 80

How Your Appearance Impacts Yours Success ........... 42 Bonus Articles .............................................................. 90

Making Personal PR Work For You ............................. 45 Acknowledgments ........................................................ 99

Nurturing Your Network .............................................. 46 About The Author ....................................................... 100

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think

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What It Really Means To Be True
To Yourself
So what does it really mean to be true to yourself? It’s a difficult question
for many. Every day, people attempt to make decisions based on what they
believe is the correct answer to this question. For some, being true to who
they are is a way of life. For others - many others - it’s only an aspiration.
This article explores this phenomenon and its challenges.

I chose to write this article from the opposite end of the spectrum: being false (in behavior, action, or choice) to your true
self. In doing so, I realized that when people make the claim of being true to themselves, there is an automatic
assumption that they know who they are - which has to be a prerequisite to recognizing when you are being true to
yourself, right? If this is not the case, you have the basis for self-deception. Psychologists define self-deception as the
act of deceiving oneself or the state of being deceived by oneself.

Most people simply do not know who they really are.

We have all deceived ourselves at some point in life. Sadly, many marriages, friendships, and careers are sustained by
self-deception. People subconsciously employ self-deception as a survival strategy. Teenagers use self-deception to get
attention, win affection, and gain acceptance. So in essence, we lie to ourselves for our own benefit, but as you continue
to read, you will discover those benefits are only short-term.

The longer a lie is told to one's self, the more that lie becomes credible. It also becomes necessary in order to continue
reaping the benefits that are associated with it. Before long, the true self is supplanted by the deceived self - which must
be nurtured - and the lie gets perpetuated. This often results in confirmation bias which aids self-deception.

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is a tendency to search for, or interpret new information in a way
that confirms one's preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. In other
words, we seek information to support our beliefs because we believe what we want or need to believe.

Michael Shermer stated in the September 2002 issue of Scientific American: “Smart people believe that biases are some
of the non-smart reasons we have for arriving at beliefs; the confirmation bias is perhaps worse than most because it
actively keeps us from arriving at the truth and allows us to wallow in comforting falsehood and nonsense. This bias also
tends to work closely with other biases and prejudices. The more emotionally involved we are with a belief the more
likely it is that we will manage to ignore whatever facts or arguments might tend to undermine it.”

Just to be clear on this: Self-deception is strengthened by confirmation bias and is unintentional because one is not aware
of it. Many confuse it with deception which is not the same thing. Deception is willful and starts with knowing the truth.
It is marked by the careful construction of a facade (a false, superficial, or artificial appearance or effect) that is used to
deceive and manipulate others for some selfish gain.

The deception of others is typically regarded as a moral flaw; self-deception is usually treated as a reasoning flaw. And
what are the causes of self-deception? Why is it so difficult to be yourself? Why do people lack authenticity? What
motivates us to do what we do? And most importantly, what does it really mean to be true to yourself?

Motivational psychologist Edward Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do, supplied many
of the answers that I was seeking. He writes: “Many modern psychologists and sociologists
view the self as socially programmed, which means that people's concepts of themselves are
said to develop as the social world defines them. The development of self is significantly
influenced by the social world, but is not constructed by that world. Instead, individuals play
an active role in the development of self, and true self develops as the social world supports
the individual's activity. True self begins with the intrinsic self - with our inherent interests
and potentials. False self begins when we attempt to gain contingent love or acceptance.”

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Why is that so important? Because when someone is only willing to give us love under certain conditions (set by them)
or accept us based upon rules (set by them), that's contingent love and acceptance. These are external rewards that
compel us into action. It's a common theme that pervades almost every area of life - especially work and relationships -
which are the two arenas in which self-deception runs most rampant. They are also the greatest causes of stress.

Work and relationships represent the greatest challenges for us to be true to ourselves because they inspire us to think,
"How much of my true self can I reveal before jeopardizing my acceptance, or risking rejection?" These are the
undercurrents. The intrinsic self needs to be free - or at least afforded more freedom - without consequence.

Either way you slice it, not being accepted, or being rejected has the same end result: the withholding of coveted rewards
and benefits. As long as people are motivated by contingent love and acceptance, they are susceptible to their controlling
effects which influence their ability to be true to themselves. Deci references this occurrence in his book as introjection.
He describes introjects as powerful motivators which relentlessly cause people to think, feel, or behave in a certain way.

One of the most powerful introjects is fear. In particular, fear of losing something. Since we are more motivated by what
we fear we may lose, than by what we may possibly gain, it’s a crucially important introject to reckon with. Employers
thrive on wielding the power which is ascribed to them by employees. The fear that people have of losing their jobs is
palpable. Insurance salesmen make an easier sale when you have a greater fear of losing your life. In relationships,
partners threaten the withdrawal of some resource, reward, or benefit for control. The fear of losing respect, money,
friends, status, beauty, etc., can facilitate the emergence of a false self. It's a controlling process through which people
often lose contact with who they really are, while pursuing what they think they really want.

This brings us back to contingent love and acceptance on which Deci writes: “When controlled, people act without a
personal sense of endorsement…their behavior is not an expression of the self, for the self has been subjugated to the
controls. In this condition, people can be reasonably described as alienated. To the extent that a behavior is not
autonomous it is controlled.”

At this point, it all started to make sense to me, as I hope it does to you. This crucial information put me one step closer
to answering the question: what does it really mean to be true to yourself? Once again, I referred Deci to bring it all into
focus. Deci claims that we all have three needs that form the basis of our fulfillment: the need for autonomy, the need for
competency, and the need for relatedness.

It's important to fully understand the definitions of these three vital needs, so a brief description of each is in order:

Autonomy means to act freely with a sense of volition and choice, and to act in accordance to one's self. It means feeling
free and volitional in one's actions.

Competence is when a person takes on - and in his or her own view - meets optimal challenges and feels effective as a
result. At the very core, people need to feel useful, as if they are making a contribution, or that they are a part of
something. Studies show that there's a direct correlation between employee job satisfaction and recognized contribution
to the success of their company.

Relatedness is a sense of belonging. The need to love and be loved, to care and be cared for (more on this in a moment).

Of the three needs, autonomy may be the most important because it fuels growth and allows people to experience
themselves as they really are. Studies have shown that the person who feels competent and autonomous, who directs his
or her own life, is immeasurably better off than the person who does not. When autonomous, people are fully willing to
do what they are doing; they embrace the activity with a sense of interest and commitment. Their actions emanate from
their true sense of self, so they are being authentic.

According to Deci, authenticity necessitates behaving autonomously - acting in accord with one's true inner self. The key
to understanding autonomy, authenticity, and self is the psychological process called integration, which is the integration
of all aspects of person’s core self being brought into harmony.

This is the fertile soil in which the seeds of your true self are planted. It's imperative to integrate all
of the aspects of your true self into your life. Failure to do so results in alienation from your core
("true") self. When this happens, people begin to make statements like, "I've lost touch with myself"
or "I've forgotten who I am."

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Some will assert that losing yourself, or forgetting who you really are, is actually worse than not knowing who you really
are. When you forget who you are at least you've had the opportunity to be true to yourself (for some length of time),
whereas those who have never known who they are, will only have the superficial pleasure of being true to their false
selves - which to them will seem real.

As people grow older, they change. This core self that Deci writes about makes absolute sense in the realm of marriage,
which by its very design, requires concessions to be made. One of which is the honoring of the true self at the expense of
appeasing a spouse. When concessions do not reflect an authentic decision, they indirectly have a controlling effect.

It is my opinion that fifty percent of marriages fail because half of the people getting married choose the wrong person.
Another twenty-five percent fail because one of the spouses is giving their true self to the false self of their mate, and
over a period of time, they eventually discover it. The remaining twenty-five percent (and yes, I'm being extremely
optimistic and generous with this percentage) are comprised of individuals who are being true to themselves - in life and
in their marriages. The research which supports this belief is found in my article Rethinking Love, Marriage & Divorce.

As long as we continue to adhere to this romantic (albeit foolish) notion that commitment is an obligation instead of a
volitional promise, divorce will continue to be on the agenda of far too many married couples. Marriage promises can
only be as authentic as those who make them. Women should not seek Mr. Right, but Mr. Authentic, and have the
patience to allow his authenticity to emerge because that’s who you will be marrying. Ditto for men seeking a wife.

Deci writes on this subject: “In these mature relationships, people freely give and they freely withhold giving. There is a
balance of getting what one needs for oneself and giving to the other. Giving is not at the expense of one's self but is
wholly endorsed by the self. What characterizes the most mature and satisfying relationships is that the true self of one
person relates to the true self of another.” This is what is meant by the phrase, "Someone I can relate to."

I focus on professional and personal growth because work and relationships are the leading causes of stress that stem
from the challenges of being true to one’s self. With the proper perspective and attitude toward work and relationships,
people can learn to define and liberate one's true self; ultimately giving birth to a better self.

Inevitably, work and relationships will expose you to inauthentic situations that can be used to claim and verify your
authenticity. You can turn away from the controls that engender the rise of one's false self, and embrace your true self in
the process. Those are defining moments.

So how do you become true to yourself? And what does it really mean to be true to yourself?

Paying attention to who, what, when, where, and how you feel most authentic is the first step.
Establishing your values and boundaries will get you half way there. Your ability to be
intrinsically motivated to do what you want based on desire - not obligation - will move you
farther along. Integrating your principles and beliefs into your life, on a daily basis, so that they
are consistent with your behavior, actions, and choices will bring you home to your true self.

Once you arrive at this place that is foreign to so many, you will inherit the job of staying true to yourself; a full time job
that requires the strength to fight for what you believe in, and a voice with which to express your truth and beliefs. Being
true to yourself will allow you to create the conditions and the rules by which you live, and free you from the control of
others because you will no longer yearn for, or need their acceptance, approval, or validation.

It will create acceptance of who you are, and who you are not. Most importantly, you will be able to find love and
acceptance of your true self, which in turn will grant you - the real you - the inner peace that eludes so many.

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The Difference Between Being Smart, Educated, and
Intelligent

I’ve always been intrigued by the subject of intelligence. As a child my
mother would refer to me as "smart," but I quickly noticed that all parents refer
to their children as smart. In time I would discover that all children are not
smart, just as all babies are not cute. If that were the case, we'd have a world full
of beautiful, smart people - which we don't.

Some of us are smart; but not as smart as we think, and others are smarter than
they seem, which makes me wonder, how do we define smart? What makes one
person smarter than another? When do "street smarts" matter more than "book
smarts"? Can you be both smart and stupid? Is being smart more of a direct
influence of genetics, or one's environment?

Then there are the issues of education, intelligence and wisdom.

What does it mean to be highly educated? What's the difference between being
highly educated and highly intelligent? Does being highly educated
automatically make you highly intelligent? Can one be highly intelligent
without being highly educated? Do IQs really mean anything? What makes a
person wise? Why is wisdom typically associated with old age?

My desire for answers to these questions inspired many hours of intense research which included the reading of 26
books, hundreds of research documents, and countless hours on the Internet; which pales in comparison to the lifetime of
studies and research that pioneers in the fields of intelligence and education like Howard Gardner, Richard Sternberg,
Linda S. Gottfredson, Thomas Sowell, Alfie Kohn, and Diane F. Halpern, whose work is cited in this article.

My goal was simple: Amass, synthesize, and present data on what it means to be smart, educated and intelligent so that it
can be understood and used by anyone for their benefit and growth.

PRENATAL CARE

With this in mind, there was not a better (or more appropriate) place to start than at the very
beginning of our life journey: as a fetus in the womb.

There is mounting evidence that the consumption of food that's high in iron both before and
during pregnancy is critical to building the prenatal brain. Researchers have found a strong
association between low iron levels during pregnancy and diminished IQ. Foods rich in iron
include lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, seafood, nuts, dried
fruits, oatmeal, and fortified cereals.

Children with low iron status in utero (in the uterus) scored lower on
every test and had significantly lower language ability, fine-motor skills, and tractability than
children with higher prenatal iron levels. In essence, proper prenatal care is critical to the
development of cognitive skills.

COGNITIVE SKILLS

Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities we use to think, study, and learn. They include a
wide variety of mental processes used to analyze sounds and images, recall information from memory, make associations
between different pieces of information, and maintain concentration on particular tasks. They can be individually
identified and measured. Cognitive skill strength and efficiency correlates directly with students' ease of learning.

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DRINKING, PREGNANCY, AND ITS INTELLECTUAL IMPACT

Drinking while pregnant is not smart. In fact, it's downright stupid.

A study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that even light to
moderate drinking - especially during the second trimester - is associated with lower IQs in
offspring at 10 years of age. This result was especially pronounced among African-
American rather than Caucasian offspring.

"IQ is a measure of the child's ability to learn and to survive in his or her environment. It predicts the potential for
success in school and in everyday life. Although a small but significant percentage of children are diagnosed with Fetal
Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) each year, many more children are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy who do not meet
criteria for FAS yet experience deficits in growth and cognitive function," said Jennifer A. Willford, assistant professor
of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Paul D. Connor, clinical director of the Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit and assistant professor in the department of
psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, has this to say about the subject:

"There are a number of domains of cognitive functioning that can be impaired even in the face of a relatively normal IQ,
including academic achievement (especially arithmetic), adaptive functioning, and executive functions (the ability to
problem solve and learn from experiences). Deficits in intellectual, achievement, adaptive, and executive functioning
could make it difficult to appropriately manage finances, function independently without assistance, and understand the
consequences of - or react appropriately to - mistakes."

This is a key finding which speaks directly to the (psychological) definition of intelligence which is addressed later in
this article.

ULTRA SOUNDS

Studies have shown that the frequent exposure of the human fetus to ultrasound waves is
associated with a decrease in newborn body weight, an increase in the frequency of left-
handedness, and delayed speech.

Because ultrasound energy is a high-frequency mechanical vibration, researchers
hypothesized that it might influence the migration of neurons in a developing fetus. Neurons
in mammals multiply early in fetal development and then migrate to their final destinations.
Any interference or disruption in the process could result in abnormal brain function.

Commercial companies (which do ultrasounds for "keepsake" purposes) are now creating more powerful ultrasound
machines capable of providing popular 3D and 4D images. The procedure, however, lasts longer as they try to make 30-
minute videos of the fetus in the uterus.

The main stream magazine New Scientist reported the following: Ultrasound scans can stop cells from dividing and make
them commit suicide. Routine scans, which have let doctors peek at fetuses and internal organs for the past 40 years,
affect the normal cell cycle.

On the FDA website this information is posted about ultrasounds:

While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term
effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known. In light of all that remains unknown, having a
prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons is not a good idea…

NATURE VERSUS NURTURE...THE DEBATE CONTINUES

Now that you are aware of some of the known factors which determine, improve, and
impact the intellectual development of a fetus, it's time for conception. Once that baby is
born, which will be more crucial in the development of its intellect: nature (genetics) or
nurture (the environment)?

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Apparently for centuries, scientists and psychologists have gone back and forth on this. I read
many comprehensive studies and reports on this subject during the research phase of this
article, and I believe that it's time to put this debate to rest. Both nature and nurture are equally
as important and must be fully observed in the intellectual development of all children.

A recent study shows that early intervention in the home and in the classroom can make a big
difference for a child born into extreme poverty, according to Eric Turkheimer, a psychologist
at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The study concludes that while genetic makeup
explains most of the differences in IQ for children in wealthier families, environment - and not
genes - makes a bigger difference for minority children in low-income homes.

Specifically, what researchers call "heritability"- the degree to which genes influence IQ - was significantly lower for
poor families. "Once you're put into an adequate environment, your genes start to take over," Mr. Turkheimer said, "but
in poor environments genes don't have that ability."

But there are reports that contradict these findings...sort of.

Linda S. Gottfredson, a professor of educational studies at the University of Delaware, wrote in her article, The General
Intelligence Factor, that environments shared by siblings have little to do with IQ. Many people still mistakenly believe
that social, psychological and economic differences among families create lasting and marked differences in IQ.

She found that behavioral geneticists refer to such environmental effects as "shared" because they are common to
siblings who grow up together. Her reports states that the heritability of IQ rises with age; that is to say, the extent to
which genetics accounts for differences in IQ among individuals increases as people get older.

In her article she also refers to studies comparing identical and fraternal twins, published in the past decade by a group
led by Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. of the University of Minnesota and other scholars, show that about 40 percent of IQ
differences among preschoolers stems from genetic differences, but that heritability rises to 60 percent by adolescence
and to 80 percent by late adulthood.

And this is perhaps the most interesting bit of information relative to genetics and environment.

With age, differences among individuals in their developed intelligence come to mirror more closely their genetic
differences. It appears that the effects of environment on intelligence fade rather than grow with time.

Bouchard concludes that young children have the circumstances of their lives imposed on them by parents, schools and
other agents of society, but as people get older they become more independent and tend to seek out the life niches that
are most congenial to their genetic proclivities.

BREAST-FEEDING INCREASES INTELLIGENCE

Rsearchers from Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand studied over
1,000 children born between April and August 1977. During the period from
birth to one year, they gathered information on how these children were fed.

The infants were then followed to age 18. Over the years, the researchers
collected a range of cognitive and academic information on the children,
including IQ, teacher ratings of school performance in reading and math, and
results of standardized tests of reading comprehension, mathematics, and
scholastic ability. The researchers also looked at the number of passing grades
achieved in national School Certificate examinations taken at the end of the
third year of high school.

The results indicated that the longer children had been breast-fed, the higher
they scored on such tests.

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TALKING WITH YOUR CHILDREN MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Thomas Sowell, author of Race, IQ, Black Crime, and facts Liberals Ignore uncovered some fascinating information that
every black parent should take note of. He writes:

There is a strong case that black Americans suffer from a series of disadvantageous environments. Studies show time and
again that before they go to school, black children are on average exposed to a smaller vocabulary than white children, in
part due to socioeconomic factors.

While children from professional households are typically exposed to
a total of 2,150 different words each day, children from working class
households are exposed to 1,250, and children from households on
welfare a mere 620.

Yes, smart sounding children tend to come from educated,
professional, two-parent environments where they pick-up valuable
language skills and vocabulary from its smart sounding inhabitants.

Mr. Sowell continues: Black children are obviously not to blame for their poor socioeconomic status, but something
beyond economic status is at work in black homes. Black people have not signed up for the "great mission" of the white
middle class - the constant quest to stimulate intellectual growth and get their child into Harvard or Oxbridge.

Elsie Moore of Arizona State University, Phoenix, studied black children adopted by either black or white parents, all of
whom were middle-class professionals. By the age of 7.5 years, those in black homes were 13 IQ points behind those
being raised in the white homes.

ACCUMULATED ADVANTAGES

At this juncture in my research it dawned on me, and should be fairly
obvious to you, that many children are predisposed to being smart,
educated, and intelligent, simply by their exposure to the influential factors
which determine them long before they start school.

An informed mother, proper prenatal care, educated, communicative
parents, and a nurturing environment in which to live, all add up to
accumulated advantages that formulate intellectual abilities. As you can see,
some children have unfair advantages from the very beginning.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of top-selling book Outliers, wrote that "accumulated advantages" are made possible by
arbitrary rules...and such unfair advantages are everywhere. "It is those who are successful who are most likely to be
given the kinds of social opportunities that lead to further success," he writes. "It's the rich who get the biggest tax
breaks. It's the best students who get the best teaching and most attention."

With that in mind, we turn our attention to education and intelligence.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE WELL EDUCATED?

Alfie Kohn, author of the book What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated? poses this question: Does the phrase well
educated refer to a quality of schooling you received, or something about you? Does it denote what you were taught? Or
what you remember?

I contend that being well-educated is all in the application; the use of one’s education.
Until that occurs, education is really just information. In order to become knowledge,
the information must be understood and utilized to achieve something. Many would
agree that’s when knowledge becomes power.

Most people are aware of the floundering state of education in this country on some
level. We tell our children that nothing is more important than getting a "good"
education, and every year, due to government budget shortfalls, teachers are laid off,
classes are condensed, schools are closed, and many educational programs - especially
those which help the underprivileged - are cut.

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The painful reality is we don't really value education. We value it as a business, an industry, political ammunition, and as
a means to get a “good” job, but not for what it was intended: to make us better people and citizens.

According to an April 2011 study by the Pew Center on the States, spending for prisons quadrupled over the last two
decades, making it the second fastest growing area of state budgets, behind Medicaid. California allocates and spends
more of its state budget on its prison system than it does on its educational system, and to add insult to injury, students
have faced steep fee increases annually for the past five years at public state universities. Meanwhile, the amount we
spend each year to house and take care of inmates has been raised from $40,000 to $50,000 per year.

Can teachers get a raise? Why should they? The public perception is that teaching is an
“honorable profession” that “special” people go into who are not (i.e., should not be) motivated
by money. There is some truth to that. The best teachers don't go into the education profession
for money; they teach because they want to make a difference. It’s not a job or a career for
them; it's a calling. Most were influenced by a really good teacher of their own who mentored
them. Many students are not able to cultivate the mentoring relationships because so many
teachers are leaving the profession - voluntarily and involuntarily - within an average of three
years. Lack of adequate compensation and budget cuts are the primary reasons. But there are others…

At the high school level, where I got my start, the emphasis is not on how to educate the students to prepare them for life
or even college, (all high schools should be college-prep schools, right?) it was about preparing them to excel on their
standardized tests. Then the controversial "exit" exams were implemented and literally, many high schools were
transformed into testing centers. Learning has almost become secondary.

This mentality carries over into college, which of course, there's usually a test one must take in order to enroll (the SAT
or ACT). This explains why so many college students are more concerned with completing a course, than what they will
learn from it. They are focused on getting "A's" and degrees, instead of becoming degreed thinkers. The latter of which
are in greater demand by employers and comprise the bulk of the self-employed. The "get-the-good-grade" mindset is
directly attributable to the relentless and often unnecessary testing that our students are subjected to in schools.

Alfie Kohn advocates the "exhibition" of learning, in which students reveal their understanding by means of in-depth
projects, portfolios of assignments, and other demonstrations.

He cites a model pioneered by Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier. Meier has emphasized the importance of students having
five "habits of mind," which are: the value of raising questions about evidence ("How do we know what we know?"),
point of view, ("Whose perspective does this represent?"), connections ("How is this related to that?"), supposition ("How
might things have been otherwise?"), and relevance ("Why is this important?").

Kohn writes: It's only the ability to raise and answer those questions that matters, though, but also the disposition to do
so. For that matter, any set of intellectual objectives, any description of what it means to think deeply and critically,
should be accompanied by a reference to one's interest or intrinsic motivation to do such thinking...to be well-educated
then, is to have the desire (as well as the means) to make sure that learning never ends...

HISTORY AND PURPOSE OF IQ

We’ve always wanted to measure intelligence. Ironically, when you look at some the first methods used to evaluate it in
the 1800s, they were not, well, very intelligent. Tactics such as subjecting people to various forms of torture to see what
their threshold for pain was (the longer you could withstand wincing, the more intelligent you were believed to be), or
testing your ability to detect a high pitch sound that others could not hear.

Things have changed...or have they?

No discussion of intelligence or IQ can be complete without mention of Alfred
Binet, a French psychologist who was responsible for laying the groundwork
for IQ testing in 1904. His original intention was to devise a test that would
diagnose learning disabilities of students in France. The test results were then
used to prepare special programs to help students overcome their educational
difficulties.

It was never intended to be used as an absolute measure of one's intellectual
capabilities.

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According to Binet, intelligence could not be described as a single score. He said that the use of the Intelligence Quotient
(IQ) as a definite statement of a child's intellectual capability would be a serious mistake. In addition, Binet feared that
IQ measurement would be used to condemn a child to a permanent "condition" of stupidity, thereby negatively affecting
his or her education and livelihood.

The original interest was in the assessment of 'mental age' -- the average level of intelligence for a person of a given age.
His creation, the Binet-Simon test (originally called a "scale"), formed the archetype for future tests of intelligence.

H. H. Goddard, director of research at Vineland Training
School in New Jersey, translated Binet's work into English
and advocated a more general application of the Simon-Binet
test. Unlike Binet, Goddard considered intelligence a solitary,
fixed and inborn entity that could be measured. With help of
Lewis Terman of Stanford University, his final product,
published in 1916 as the Stanford Revision of the Binet-
Simon Scale of Intelligence (also known as the Stanford-
Binet), became the standard intelligence test in the United
States.

It’s important to note that the biggest fallacy about IQ is that
it is fixed and can’t be changed. The fact is that IQ scores are
known to fluctuate - both up and down during the course of
one's lifetime. It does not mean that you become more, or less intelligent, it merely means that you tested better on one
day than another. Studies show that academic intelligence decreases, while tacit knowledge increases during one’s
lifetime.

One more thing to know about IQ tests: They have been used for racist purposes since their importation into the U.S.
Many of those who were involved in the importation and refinement of these tests believed that IQ was hereditary and
are responsible for feeding the fallacy that it is a "fixed" trait.

Many immigrants were tested in the 1920s and failed these IQ tests miserably. As a result, many of them were denied
entry into the U.S., or were forced to undergo sterilization for fear of populating America with "dumb" and "inferior"
babies. If you recall, the tests were designed for white, middle class Americans. Who do you think would have the most
difficulty passing them?

Lewis Terman developed the original notion of IQ and proposed this scale for classifying IQ scores:

000 - 070: Definite feeble-mindedness
070 - 079: Borderline deficiency
080 - 089: Dullness
090 - 109: Normal or average intelligence
110 - 119: Superior intelligence
115 - 124: Above average (e.g., university students)
125 - 134: Gifted (e.g., post-graduate students)
135 - 144: Highly gifted (e.g., intellectuals)
145 - 154: Genius (e.g., professors)
155 - 164: Genius (e.g., Nobel Prize winners)
165 - 179: High genius
180 - 200: Highest genius
200 - higher ?: Immeasurable genius

*Genius IQ is generally considered to begin around 140 to 145, representing only 25% of the
population + 1 in 400.
*Einstein was considered to "only" have an IQ of about 160.
*Leonardo Da Vinci’s IQ was estimated to be around 220.

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DEFINING INTELLIGENCE

Diane F. Halpern, a psychologist and past-president of the American Psychological
Association (APA), wrote in her essay contribution to Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid
that in general, we recognize people as intelligent if they have some combination of these
achievements (1) good grades in school; (2) a high level of education; (3) a responsible,
complex job; (4) some other recognition of being intelligent, such as winning prestigious
awards or earning a large salary; (5) the ability to read complex text with good comprehension;
(6) solve difficult and novel problems.

Throughout my research I came across many definitions of the word intelligence. Some were
long, some were short. Some I didn’t understand. The definition that is most prevalent is the
one created by the APA which is: the ability to adapt to one's environment, and learn from
one's experiences, which include one’s mistakes.

How about that? There's the word ‘environment’ again. We just can't seem to escape it. This adds deeper meaning to the
saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It means recognizing what's going on in your environment, and having
the intelligence adapt to it - and the people who occupy it - in order to survive and succeed within it.

There are also many different forms of intelligence, most notably, those cited by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of
education at Harvard University.

Dr. Gardner believes (and I share his belief) that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and
logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner
says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists,
architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which
we live. He believed that it’s not about how smart someone is, but how they are smart.

He also felt that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, was far too limited and created the Theories Of
Multiple Intelligences in 1983 to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.

These intelligences are:

Linguistic intelligence ("word smart")
Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
Musical intelligence ("music smart")
Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")

Not associated with Dr. Gardner, but equally respected are:

FLUID & CRYSTALLIZED INTELLIGENCE

According to About.com, Psychologist Raymond Cattell first proposed the
concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence, and further developed the theory
with John Horn. The Cattell-Horn theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence
suggests that intelligence is composed of a number of different abilities that
interact and work together to produce overall individual intelligence.

Cattell defined fluid intelligence as "...the ability to perceive relationships
independent of previous specific practice or instruction concerning those
relationships." Fluid intelligence is the ability to think and reason abstractly and
solve problems. This ability is considered independent of learning, experience, and
education. Examples of the use of fluid intelligence include solving puzzles and
coming up with problem solving strategies.

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Crystallized intelligence is knowledge gained from past experiences and learning. Situations that require crystallized
intelligence include reading comprehension and vocabulary exams. This type of intelligence is based upon facts and
rooted in experiences. This type of intelligence becomes stronger as we age and accumulate new knowledge and
understanding.

Both types of intelligence increase throughout childhood and adolescence. Fluid intelligence peaks in adolescence and
begins to decline progressively beginning around age 30 or 40. Crystallized intelligence continues to grow throughout
adulthood.

SUCCESSFUL INTELLIGENCE

Then there's Successful Intelligence, which is authored by intelligence psychologist and Yale
professor, Robert J. Sternberg, who believes that the whole concept of relating IQ to life
achievement is misguided. He also believes that IQ is a pretty miserable predictor of life
achievement.

His Successful Intelligence theory focuses on 3 types of intelligence which are combined to
contribute to one's overall success: Analytical Intelligence; mental steps or components used to
solve problems, Creative Intelligence; the use of experience in ways that foster insight
(creativity/divergent thinking), and Practical Intelligence; the ability to read and adapt to the
contexts of everyday life.

With regard to environment, Dr. Sternberg writes in his book Successful Intelligence: Successfully intelligent people
realize that the environment in which they find themselves may or may not be able to make the most of their talents.
They actively seek an environment where they can not only do successful work, but make a difference. They create
opportunities rather than let opportunities be limited by circumstances in which they happen to find themselves.

As an educator, I subscribe to Dr. Sternberg's Successful Intelligence approach to teaching. It has proven to be a highly
effective tool and mindset for my college students. Using Successful Intelligence as the backbone of my successful
intelligence driven curriculum really inspires students to see how education makes their life goals more attainable, and
motivates them to apply their education, and develop their expertise.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

In his best-selling 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reported that research shows that conventional
measures of intelligence - IQ - only account for 20% of a person's success in life. That’s pretty low. For example,
research on IQ and education shows that high IQ predicts 10 to 25% of grades in college. The percentage will vary
depending on how we define success. Nonetheless, Goleman's assertion begs the question: What accounts for the other
80%?

You guessed it...emotional intelligence. What exactly is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence (also called EQ
or EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Many corporations now have mandatory EQ
training for their managers in an effort to improve employee relations and leadership efforts.

TACIT KNOWLEDGE aka "STREET SMARTS"

You've heard the phrase, "Experience is the greatest teacher..."

Knowledge gained from every day experience is called tacit knowledge. The colloquial term is "street smarts," which
implies that formal, classroom instruction (aka "book smarts") has nothing to do with it. The individual is not directly
instructed as to what he or she should learn, but rather must extract the important lesson from the experience even when
learning is not the primary objective.

Tacit knowledge is closely related to common sense, which is sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception
of the situation or facts. As you know, common sense is not all that common.

Tacit knowledge, or the lessons obtained from it, seems to "stick" both faster and better when the lessons have direct
relevance to the individual's goals. Knowledge that is based on one's own practical experience, will likely, be more
instrumental to achieving one's goals, than knowledge that is based on someone else's experience, or that is overly
generic and abstract.

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BEING BOTH SMART AND STUPID

Yes, it's possible to be both smart and stupid. I'm sure someone you know comes to mind at this precise
moment. But the goal here is not to ridicule, but to understand how some seemingly highly intelligent, or
highly educated individuals can be so smart in one way, and incredibly stupid in others.

The woman who is a respected, well paid, dynamic executive who consistently chooses men who don't
appear to be worthy of her, or the man who appears to be a pillar of the community, with a loving wife
and happy kids, ends up being arrested on rape charges.

It happens, but why? I found the answer in the book, Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid. Essentially, intellect is
domain specific. In other words, being smart (knowledgeable) in one area of your life, and stupid (ignorant) in another is
natural. Turning off one's brain is quite common especially when it comes to what we desire. A shared characteristic
among those who are smart and stupid is the difficulty in delaying gratification.

Olem Ayduk & Walter Mischel who wrote the chapter summarized: Sometimes stupid behavior in smart people may
arise from faulty expectations, erroneous beliefs, or merely a lack of motivation to enact control strategies even when one
has them. But sometimes it is an inability to regulate one's affective states and the behavioral tendencies associated with
them that lead to stupid and self-defeating behavior. Bill Clinton is one of the central characters in this book regarding its
lessons regarding “being both smart and stupid.”

WISDOM & CONCLUSION

My great grandmother, Leola Cecil, maybe had an 8th
grade education at the most. By no stretch of the
imagination was she highly educated, but she had what
seemed like infinite wisdom. She was very observant and
could "read" people with startling accuracy. Till the very
end of her life she shared her "crystallized intelligence"
with whoever was receptive to it.

She died at the age of 94. I often use many of her sayings
as a public speaker, but most importantly, I use her
philosophies to make sure that I'm being guided spiritually
and not just intellectually. Many of us who are lucky
enough to have a great grandparent can testify that there is
something special about their knowledge. They seem to
have life figured out, and a knack for helping those of us
who are smart, educated and intelligent see things more
clearly when we are too busy thinking.

What they have is what we should all aspire to end up with if we are lucky: wisdom.

The best definition of wisdom that I’ve come across happened while I was studying Human Development. In the third
edition of the text by Robert K. Vail and John C. Cavanaugh, it states that wise people have empathy, and are able to get
to the heart of the matter rather than being caught in the superficial aspects (Wink & Helson, 1997). They know a great
deal about how to conduct life, interpret events, and what life means. They are able to integrate thinking, feeling, and
acting into a coherent approach to problem.

How true. Information is abundant; wisdom is scarce. Aspire to wisdom and all the love that it will bring you.

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What Teachers Learn From Teaching

M y freshman year in high school was my worst year academically in
any grade level. It's not that the work was hard, or that the workload was
heavy; I was simply having difficulty adjusting to my dramatically new
life at a Catholic, all-boys, college-prep school after spending more time
dancing than studying the previous year while in the 8th grade.

My mother's decision to divorce me from the public school system (and
my wayward friends) ensured that I would spend more time in the books
than on the dance floor. Because of my apathetic attitude, I failed some
courses and barely passed others.

One day while reviewing homework assignments (which I didn't complete), my Spanish teacher and eventual mentor,
Mr. Pacheco, looked me straight in the eye with a stern gaze and said, "When are you going to stop pretending to be a
muchacho bruto?"

Roughly translated that means stupid boy. I took offense to the question.

He told me to stop wasting my mother's money and take advantage of the opportunity that I had been blessed with. I was
still offended. After class he talked to me about my "attitude." It was during this conversation that my academic fortunes
changed (I ended up winning Spanish honors), and little did I know, it planted the seeds for my personal growth.

Fast-forward many years later...I'm now a college professor.

I'm the one dealing with students who have attitude issues. Because "higher" learning is voluntary, you would assume
that the apathy that I blatantly displayed as a freshman in high school would not be an issue for university students...
guess again. The sad reality is that most college students are more concerned with completing a course and getting credit
for it, than they are in what they can learn from it. For many of them, there is no difference between a "B" and an "A."

I once asked my students what they felt was the difference between the two grades and a student replied: "More
paperwork." What a profound statement.

Marty Nemko, a career counselor based in Oakland, California, writes in his book, How to Get an Ivy League Education
at a State University, "Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, are
lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today's workplaces." Apparently avoiding
"more paperwork" is habit forming.

Mr. Pacheco once told me that the real purpose of school is to learn how to learn, and how to think - not what to think.
Many of today's students aren't being challenged to think; they are merely being graded - and passed - based upon their
ability to regurgitate or recall information on a test, which more than likely is multiple choice or true/false (which
students overwhelmingly prefer).

What teachers learn from teaching is that those types of exams only test the short-term memory and deductive reasoning
skills of students. It's because of this fact that I was never in favor of multiple choice or true/false tests. Constructing tests
or projects that demonstrate what a student has actually learned, or not learned, is both diagnostic, and constructive.

It also allows us to accurately gauge their ability to think in a solution oriented manner. After all, education does not
become knowledge until it is applied through experience; therefore, it behooves us to simulate the circumstances that will
be encountered in real-life situations. Sadly, this is the exception, not the norm for underpaid and overworked teachers
who often recycle the same exams used year after year for convenience.

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What teachers learn from teaching is the student who takes an active interest in a subject, and has a plan to apply their
newfound knowledge to some endeavor in the immediate future is the one who excels both academically and
professionally. Their personal interest compels them to dig deeper and fully wrap their minds around subjects. This
purposeful engagement is what gives birth to degreed thinkers. Students who are degreed thinkers are in short supply.
They are also in greater demand than those with college degrees.

It's this very point that today's teachers must speak to - especially when you consider that the marketplace is now
saturated with workers who have degrees. Entrepreneurs rise from the ranks of degreed thinkers, and employers love
(and reward) them once they've met the challenge of demonstrating the depth and breadth of their thinking abilities.

What teachers learn from teaching is that degreed thinkers are also happier people.

Statistics show that those with college degrees earn more (by some accounts it's 50% more depending on the job and the
degree). In terms of dollars, it's about $23,000 more per year. Colleges use these stats to promote higher attendance at
their campuses.

The correlation between obtaining a degree and having a more fulfilling life as a result of opportunities created through
the use of education is not trumpeted enough. Teachers need to do a better job of teaching students about that correlation.
What teachers learn from teaching is that our educational system is designed to maintain the status quo of our nation's
discontented workforce.

Students mirror the nation's apathetic workforce with their mere preoccupation with survival (survival; defined as
vocational and economic complacency), while only a minority is driven enough to succeed (succeed; defined as
fulfillment through vocational and economic gratification).

This apathy is at the root of the reason why far too many people hate their jobs. What's even worse is that so many
people accept and live with their hatred. This hatred stems in part from being misemployed or underemployed; resulting
in your passions being neglected and your true talents not being utilized. Somehow people have been conditioned to
think that if they compartmentalize the disdain they have for their jobs, it will make their dissatisfaction easier to ignore.
Those with demanding and time consuming jobs predictably offer the outward, prosaic justification of money as an
excuse while they inhale and suffer in silence. To them I offer these simple facts:

There are 8,760 hours in a year. You spend 2,555 hours per year sleeping (a modest estimate based on 7 hours of sleep
per night). You have 2,496 hours of weekend time each year. We spend 2,080 hours (or more) at work each year, based
on an 8 hour work day. Is 2,080 hours a lot of time to spend doing something that you hate? If you find out what you
love to do as a student before you graduate, you will be able to breathe freely every day once you join the workforce.

What teachers learn from teaching is that students take time for granted. Time spent in college is prep time; time to
prepare you for life. The classes you take, the activities that you are involved in, and the people you spend time with
represent investments that you should seek a return on. Bad investments are tough to overcome. They result in money
being squandered (bachelor's degrees are estimated to be $50,000), and most importantly, time lost.

Mr. Pacheco would occasionally have us put away our textbooks so that we could talk about "real life." It was during
these talks that we got a chance to share our life experiences with him, and he in turn would bestow his wisdom upon us.
In retrospect I realize that he was getting to know us better while seeking opportunities to educate us in different ways
while breaking down the barriers of resistance. He made sure that we saw how the subject matter was relevant and useful
to the lives and pursuits of every student in the class.

What I've learned from teaching, perhaps most importantly, is that the real difference between being good and being
great is putting forth extra effort; which is also the difference between a "B" student and an "A" student - not paperwork
(though there is more work involved).

Mr. Pacheco always said that "the key to being outstanding in anything is to demand more from yourself than you allow
others to." It's a proven formula for success that teachers can use to maximize their effectiveness so that struggling or
average students who are - in Mr. Pacheco's words - pretending to be “muchachos brutos," can start to really learn what
they are being taught. May he rest in peace.

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How To Cure The Monday Morning Blues

It's Monday morning. In any office, in any given city, you can find employees who are
suffering from the dreaded condition called "Monday morning blues." The exact origin of this
condition is unclear. Does it start the moment we open our eyes on Monday morning? Or does it
slowly overcome us as night falls on Sunday? More importantly, how do we cure it?

This article will offer some helpful tips on how to cure your Monday morning blues so that you
can become a more productive and happier worker.

1. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Professor Charles Areni conducted research led by a team of psychologists from the University of Sydney who collected
mood information from hundreds of people, asking them for their worst and best morning and evening of the week and
had this to say about the Monday morning blues:

"The Monday morning blues and 'Thank God it's Friday attitude' are largely inaccurate theories of how moods vary when
they actually don't," he reported in News.com.au. "Mondays are not actually blue at all, but we persist in the belief that
they are." Areni says.

In offices all around America people approach Monday with the mindset of "getting through" the week. In that scenario,
Monday becomes the first stepping stone in an uphill battle. If you hold that perspective, then you inevitably begin your
week feeling down. Sure there is work that is awaiting you - some of which you may not be looking forward to; projects
that need to be completed; assignments that you dread; and co-workers that you don't like. By focusing on what you want
to accomplish in the upcoming week, instead of merely getting through it, your mindset will inevitably change.

2. ADDRESS YOUR BASIC NEEDS
Professor Areni's research indicates that the real low point of the week was Wednesday (commonly referred to as “hump
day”) not Monday, and that mood change and attitude was only slight for other days. He said the day-of-the-week
stereotypes stemmed from a cultural belief that people were generally happier when they were free to choose their
activities compared to when they were sitting at a desk.

Research indicates that those who are less susceptible to the Monday morning blues are those who have jobs which fulfill
their most basic needs which are: autonomy, the need for competency, and the need for relatedness. Seeking more
freedom in your job and being empowered with the ability to make choices regarding how your work is done, is a major
component to job satisfaction.

Feeling good about doing your job to the best of your ability is also key. Finally, finding people who can relate to you
and your work challenges is crucial and underestimated. If there is no one within your organization who fits this
description, befriend someone similar at a neighboring company who does.

3. GET OVER HUMP DAY - LITERALLY
"Monday morning is remembered and predicted to be the worst part of the week
because it is the first work day after two days of free time, and because four work
days follow before the next period of free time," he said, "Likewise, Friday evening is
the best part of the week because it marks the beginning of an extended period of free
time,” he added.

It sounds obvious, but on a subconscious level, this thinking undermines and disrupts
our focus and ability to be "in the now". It would make sense that Wednesday is referred to as "hump day" since most
workers, as previously stated, are merely trying to get through the week or climb some long, steep, imaginary hill that
they long to "get over". Hump day symbolizes the peak at which point the climb gets easier because in theory, it's all
downhill from there. When you effectively focus on reaching goals for the week, you will find that hump day all but
disappears when you are humping your butt off while trying to accomplish your goals.

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4. MAXIMIZE YOUR WEEKEND DURING THE WEEK
Most people dread Sundays because they know that Monday is just around the corner. This leaves
Saturday as the only true weekend day. Recent surveys confirm this. A whopping 72 per cent of
those polled spend up to four hours doing chores on a Sunday, which includes 31 percent
attempting to get through the laundry, 24 per cent cleaning the kitchen and 14 per cent changing the
bed.

Not only is this counterproductive in terms of preventing the Monday morning blues, but it also
decreases weekend enjoyment. By executing mundane household chores during the week, you free
up valuable weekend time which can be spent in a more productive or leisurely fashion - right up
until Sunday night.

5. SLEEP LESS, PLAY MORE
A new study has found that lazy Saturday and Sunday lie-ins can disturb your body
clock, leaving you fatigued at the start of the week. Flinders University sleep expert
Leon Lack said people often used the weekend to catch up on sleep lost during the
week. He notes: "We've discovered that these sleep-ins are actually putting your body
out of whack enough to change your Sunday night bedtime and set you up for Monday
blues," Professor Lack told AAP.

His research team tested the theory by tracking 16 people over a weekend, asking them to go to bed a little later than they
would on a weeknight but sleeping-in an extra two hours. By comparing saliva samples and hormone tests he found
participants' body clocks had been delayed by 45 minutes.

"That might not sound like a lot but it means that you're not quite as sleepy on Sunday night at the normal bedtime and
you'll be much sleepier the next day," Prof Lack said. Questionnaires completed on Monday and Tuesday showed much
higher levels of self-reported fatigue and tiredness compared with non sleep-in days.

This was because the subjects' circadian rhythms - which determine patterns of alertness and tiredness - had been
disturbed, creating an effect similar to jet lag. By mid-week (hump day) most people manage to get back on track but
then they start staying up later, getting into "debt" once again and perpetuating the cycle. If the weekend is a time to play,
get up early and do it. You will keep your body's clock attuned to your "normal" wake-up time, and get the maximum use
of your minimal free time.

6. BALANCE OUT YOUR MONDAYS
If you ride public transportation you know that it's a much less gregarious atmosphere on your
train, bus, or carpool on Mondays. People don't engage in conversation as readily as they do
on Fridays. It's no surprise that people smile less on Mondays than they do on Fridays. We all
know that smiles invite friendliness or at least friendly interactions.

Put an activity on your Monday schedule (yes, regardless of how hectic your Mondays are)
that will afford you the opportunity for some friendly interaction. Whether it's mentoring a
younger colleague, or having lunch or dinner with a friend - do something that balances your
work demands against your personal needs. It will give you something to look forward to at
the beginning of the week.

Using these tips should give you a better perspective to take into Mondays, and make work, and your work week better.

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What to Love About the Job You Hate
It's a fact: Most people don't like their jobs.
There are tons of articles on the Internet that help you to analyze whether your
dislike of your job is actually misdiagnosed hate. This is not one of them. Besides,
if you really hate your job, I doubt that reading an article would be necessary to help
you confirm it.

This article starts with that assumption that you hate your job. It's written with the
objective of helping you change that situation.

Changing the situation is not always synonymous with changing jobs. That's the easy and often misleading remedy. The
situation that this article focuses on is changing how you look at, approach, and do your current job - the job you hate.

So how do you look at your job? As an 8 hour prison sentence from which you are eager to escape at the end of the day?
Or as time spent temporarily in an insane asylum? If you can vaguely relate to either analogy, it's time to do something
about it right now.

The stress related illnesses that result from hating your job have been well-documented, but just
in case you are unaware of some of the physical manifestations of mild stress they include chronic headaches and
increased susceptibility to colds. More serious conditions include depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease,
hyperthyroidism, obesity, obsessive-compulsive or anxiety disorder, ulcers, and sexual dysfunction.

Clearly there are tremendous health benefits to “doing what you love."

But that's more idealism than realism in America. According to The Conference Board, a market information company
that also puts out the Consumer Confidence Index and the Leading Economic Indicators, Americans hate their jobs more
than ever before in the past 20 years, with fewer than half saying they are satisfied.

For workers under the age of 25, less than 39 percent reported being satisfied with their jobs. Workers age 45 to 54 have
the second lowest level of satisfaction (less than 45 percent).

This echoes a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com which found that four out of five U.S. workers do not have
their dream jobs.

So why does so much rampant hatred exist in the workplace toward jobs?

The specific reasons vary from person to person. Some reasons are petty. Some are substantial. But from what I have
observed, it really comes down to just one thing: Perspective - a healthy perspective.

If you view your job as an 8 hour prison sentence from which you are eager to escape at the end of the day, then chances
are you also feel like a prisoner. Consequently, if you view your job as time spent in an insane asylum, you will
inevitably drive yourself crazy.

Is it worth it?

The issue of a healthy perspective comes into play when you lose sight of the meaning and the role that your job plays in
your life.

Let's start with the meaning. For many, jobs are merely a means to an end; a financial means of paying the costs of
living. Many people employ the strategy of emotionally detaching from their jobs. For others, their jobs play an
identification role; it's what they are and how they want to be recognized in the world.

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Whether we are placing stock in titles, salaries, or the prestige of the companies we work
for, the tendency is to offer a piece of ourselves in exchange for a paycheck. This is why
we become susceptible to the mental and physical perils of stress when that exchange
leaves us unfulfilled, disenfranchised, or rife with indignation.

The way to circumvent these negative emotions is to fine-tune your perspective by
focusing on what really matters.

I was in my twenties when I first saw Billy Crystal in the movie City Slickers. The whole premise of that movie was
about finding the one thing that matters most to you. For most of us, it's our families - which are supported by our jobs.
How you can hate something which affords you the opportunity to sustain the one thing that matters most to you is
fundamentally incorrect, and very ironic.

Because so many people hate their jobs, it's only logical that they would want to leave them. But like the droves of
people who are unhappy with their spouses, they will stay; whether it's for the money or other benefits. The key to
prevailing in both situations is to change how you chose to look at your situation, and undertake the actions to support
your new perspective by paying closer attention to your bottom line - which is what makes you happiest - without being
distracted by the challenges that make them seem unattainable.

In business, CEOs constantly pay attention to their company's bottom line. That's what cutbacks such as streamlining,
downsizing, re-organizing, and outsourcing are all about. They are made to achieve greater efficiency and increase
productivity. You can remedy a lot of your unhappiness at work by cutting back on your negative thoughts, and guess
what? You will achieve greater efficiency, increased productivity, and reach your bottom line as well.

For example, a receptionist who hates answering phones will inevitably come to dread every call that comes into a
switchboard. The dread will manifest itself in unpleasant interactions with the public; the very people that the company
has hired him or her to have a positive and professional interface with.

If the receptionist approaches their job from the perspective that each phone call is an opportunity to leave positive
impressions upon the members of the public and strengthen the brand of the company, they will undoubtedly view their
role in the company as significant. So you see, merely answering phones and being the trusted ambassador of a
company's brand are two totally different responsibilities that are brought about by two different perspectives.

Money has nothing to do with it. Using money (or the lack thereof) is a cop-out. Work is personal and
it reflects on you. How much of a dollar value can you truly place on the satisfaction that comes from
knowing that you do your job well? What dollar amount equates to high self-esteem? Even if you are
one of the millions of underemployed or misemployed people in America, doing your job well,
regardless of what it is, gets you - and keeps you - in the practice of doing quality work. You are
paying yourself with improved skills and increased confidence - which lead to higher self-esteem.

High self-esteem (not to be confused with cockiness) will get you another job - a better paying job. Employers love it.
They are attracted to high self-esteem like sharks to blood in the open sea. Having high self-esteem is a byproduct of
having perspective; a healthy perspective.

This is not to say that a healthy perspective on the job you hate is going to change things for all jobs.
Some jobs really suck and should be abandoned like a burning building. Those jobs are rare, and
usually, it's not the job in and of itself, but un-supportive managers and co-workers who are ego-driven,
lazy, dumb, insecure, or just downright evil that add a layer of complexity or difficulty to your job. All
of the above can threaten your productivity and quality of work.

This brings me to some of the genuine reasons why someone should quit their job.

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If you are confused about whether or not you should quit your job (and by quit I mean
find a new job to replace it with), here are some guidelines.

First, if you are being mentally or emotionally abused in your job by anyone (especially
your boss), you should quit.

If your job does not afford you the opportunity to fulfill the vision you have of living
your life - or will not lead to it - you should quit.

If your job leaves you weak and weary at the end of the day, you should quit.

If it doesn't matter if you show up to work, you should quit. If you show up to work and your efforts don’t make a
difference, you should quit. If your contributions are routinely ignored or credited to someone else, you should quit.

Most importantly, if your job doesn't offer you a sense of purpose and add to your self-worth, you should quit.

At the end of the day when you go home, realize that you have a choice to either spend, or invest, 8-10 hours a day of
your life in your job. Are you getting the kind of return you want on that investment? Or did you merely go to work and
the time counting down the hours until you were "off", as if you are a prisoner spending time counting down the days
until you are set free from jail?

The reality is that hating your job is time consuming and demands more work, so you are never
“off,” and you are certainly not (mentally) free - not even on the weekends.

You carry your perspective and resulting feelings about your job with you all the time. The
weight of that perspective gets lighter to carry the more positive it becomes. With constant
monitoring and gradual adjustment, you can develop the focus required to see - directly, if not
indirectly - things to love about the job you hate.

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How To Gracefully Leave A Job

Every job is temporary. Whether you leave your job voluntarily or involuntarily, a proper good-bye will be in order.
If you are leaving under your own volition, a proper notice of intent to terminate your employment is your first order of
business. In most cases, a two week notice is still standard; however, depending upon your role within an organization, a
longer notice might be necessary.

During the period in which you are "on notice" to leave, you should get a letter of recommendation before that period is
up. Getting one after you've left the company can be difficult. This is also the time to ask how they prefer to be contacted
for future employment references.

If you are being laid off or fired, the initial shock can be devastating. It often immobilizes people. The level of shock that
you experience upon getting laid off, or fired, will be in direct proportion with how out of tune you were with your
company. Getting the rug pulled from under your feet only happens when you don't pay attention. If you are aware that it
might be pulled, you can brace yourself for the fall, or better yet, jump off before it occurs.

Once you are able to pull yourself together emotionally, update your resume while you are still on the job. It's amazing
how much we forget that we do in our jobs on a daily basis when we are removed from them. In updating your resume,
think in terms of accomplishments. Merely listing job duties and requirements does not paint an accurate picture of what
you are capable of.

As much as people will tell you that they will miss you and they'd like to stay in touch, they won't and they don't - at least
for the most part. Sure they will notice that you are gone, but the reality is, your absence, while obvious, only serves as a
reminder to them that they too could suffer the same inexplicable fate if it stems from the unexpected.

Since most workers think that the grass is greener on the other side (i.e., any place of employment other than their current
one), those who leave under their own terms are actually looked upon with envy. They did something that all of those
who constantly complain about work, compensation, work conditions, etc., were not willing to do: they became
accountable for the quality of their lives and took actions to make it better.

Despite the superficial gestures such as pledging to "stay in touch" or "have lunch," there needs to be a genuine effort put
forth in orchestrating a conscientious PR campaign that will cast you in the best possible light, and leave a positive
impression upon those who may serve as allies in the future.

To that end, thank all of your supervisors/managers for the work experience - regardless of the conditions that engender
your departure. Offer to assist them in the transition if your voluntary departure will result in the creation of a vacancy.
Also, let them know that you'd be happy to conduct an exit interview.

Many employees are so anxious to close the chapter on their present employment that they fail to take care of loose ends
in the process. An exit interview affords you that opportunity. Not only does it give you the chance to help tie up loose
ends, you can position yourself as an employee who made a contribution to your company, even upon your departure.

Exit interviews can also help the employee mentally unload (in a diplomatic way), and educate the employer on the finer
nuances of the position which they may not be aware of. This will surely aid them in their efforts to find the right
replacement.

Leaving a job gracefully is not easy, but it's certainly beneficial for you to do so.

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Getting Under The Overqualified Dilemma
The concept of being "overqualified" is intriguing. Job
seekers who are desperate for employment rarely agree with
this assessment when being denied jobs. If you've ever been
lumped into the "overqualified" category, you are not alone.
In fact, you join the ranks of an ever increasing pool of
candidates who have a combination of experience,
credentials, and/or education that will make you stick out
like a sore thumb in the position for which you are applying.

But to whom?

Hiring managers and supervisors are like match-makers:
they try to place the right person in the right position. Their decision-making process is based upon a myriad of factors
such as your work history, skill-set, educational studies, and personality.

They are then matched against the job responsibilities and duties, company culture, and yes, gut feelings - which include
whether or not you will be bored, difficult to manage, and/or a potential flight risk who will abandon ship once a better
job comes along.

The result: 33% of American workers feel that they are overqualified for the positions they have, 65% feel they are
appropriately qualified, and only 3% feel under qualified, according to a recent PlusPoint survey.

From the perspective of a company's clientele, employers could never hire someone who is "overqualified" to cater to
their needs. Conversely, the employee who is under qualified (which we all know is much greater than 3%) is often the
one who sticks out like a sore thumb, causing us to shake our heads and wonder "how did they get the job?"

Not all employers shy away from so-called overqualified employees. The downturn in the economy has created an over
saturation of qualified employees in the marketplace which allows employers to do some robust cherry picking.

Sixty-four percent of workers who were laid off over the last 12 months said they have applied for positions that were
below the job level they had held previously, according to a survey by Career Builder.

In a buyer's market the employer has tremendous leverage, and the sellers (the prospective employees) must make
concessions. It's just that simple. For some it will include reducing salary expectations, for others it may mean acquiring
new skills and transitioning into new roles.

If you feel that you are overqualified for a job you are seeking, address that concern in your cover letter upon submitting
your resume. The key is to allay the employer's concerns that you may not be "challenged" (i.e., bored) in the position.
The key is to communicate awareness of your potential "overqualified" status as an asset, not a liability.

When that fails, lie. Well, not lie exactly; just become more guarded with the truth. Eliminate parts of your history which
paint you as an overqualified candidate. Temp agencies do it all the time. Trumping up resumes (making candidates
appear more qualified than they actually are), and stripping them down (making candidates qualifications more
compatible with a position by not highlighting accomplishments which make you look overqualified), is a standard
business practice.

Once you demonstrate your understanding of what the position entails, your sole responsibility is to articulate how the
value of your experience will translate into success in the position. Doing so will resolve the dilemma of being
overqualified and get you back to work.

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The Upside Of Being Downsized –
How To See The Bright Side Of Layoffs

Employees who find themselves suddenly out of work due to layoffs, usually think they are out of luck as well.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the vast majority of those who get downsized often come to view it as
the push they needed to undergo a career transition, or find a better job. But before they arrive at that particular juncture
in their lives, they must first deal with the emotional and potentially devastating financial aspects of unemployment.

The key is to be optimistic in the face of the stress you are facing. The real
challenge will be maintaining optimism (once they've established it)
on a daily basis. After all, when you are employed, there are 8 hours out of
the day when you don't have to think about what tomorrow will bring.
When unemployed, uncertainty is what you begin and end each day
with.

This uncertainty is punctuated by the lack of a paycheck; however,
certainty (i.e., security/stability) is just an illusion in today's economy.
Companies are trimming fat like overzealous butchers. Anyone who
understands business knows that most companies carry too much overhead.

The 80/20 rule (which stipulates that 20% of the input results in 80% of the output), holds true in the vast majority of
businesses. In other words, within every company, 80% of the profits received will be generated by 20% of the people.
Most of us just go to our jobs and do the work that is expected or required of us. But is the work necessary? The 80/20
rule provides clues to employees on how "secure" their jobs really are. If your job and its activities do not consist of the
20% of the work which comprises the input that creates the 80% of the output (profits), there is no job security.

When companies downsize, they do so precisely for that reason. This means that one any given day, most jobs are
expendable. Yes, some companies need support (administrative, legal, etc.) for the people or departments which provide
the key 20%, but those people can be replaced by cheaper employees; employees who will do the work of several
employees for a fraction of the cost. Or the supplemental work can be outsourced altogether.

The bottom line is that security, in today's work world, is merely an illusion. Now the bright side.

Using the 80/20 rule, you can also deduce that 80% of your enjoyment in your last job came from 20% of your duties.
While unemployed, you can now focus your efforts on finding employment that consists primarily of that 20%.

Start with your resume. Use it as a script. Career minded actors choose roles that enable them the best opportunity to
display their talents; roles that will lead to more work. An unemployed person has a fresh opportunity to cast his or
herself in a role that suits their skills and talents as well. Are the skills and talents on your resume reflective of your
capabilities to successfully play the role for which you are applying?

The key to job satisfaction is to know your strengths and values. Think about what you did best and the skills and work
that others often complimented you on. Amplify those activities on your updated resume so that your strengths become
more pronounced to future employers. Eliminate the activities that you did not do well, or were dissatisfied with.

The real upside of being downsized is that you are afforded the opportunity to choose new work and a new life that's
more congruent with your values by asking yourself questions such as these: Did you have good relationships with your
past co-workers? Did you have the flexibility/freedom/autonomy/respect that you desired or needed? Did your last job
meet your life's financial obligations? Was there room for growth? The answers will lead to better employment at a
different company, and greater fulfillment in your life.

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A Question of Value - Understanding Your Worth

W ith the marketplace becoming increasingly
competitive for professionals, service providers, and
contractors, more people are focusing on their
marketing efforts than ever before. While marketing
seems to be the logical answer to the complex
problem of creating greater awareness of your
products and services, it's not an all-encompassing
solution.

At the heart of every marketing issue is value.

Understanding value starts with understanding what
it means. For that we consult Merriam-Webster and
its various definitions.

1: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
2: the monetary worth of something: market price
3: relative worth, utility, or importance
4: a good value at the price
5: the value of base stealing in baseball
6: had nothing of value to say
7: something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable sought material values instead of human values

When doing business, we tend to think about profits. After all, so many companies have a singular
focus on achieving their bottom lines. The companies that are surviving and succeeding are the ones
whose business models emphasize value; the value that they provide with the creation of products
and/or services which they offer.

No matter what business you are in, the food chain ends with the consumer of the products/services created. Basic
marketing knowledge will help anyone target the right consumers, but it takes more than basic knowledge to understand
what those consumers really value.

For example, clothes sold at Target appeal to those who are budget conscious. This is not to confuse Target
clothing with cheap clothes. What Target shoppers really value is not inexpensive clothes, but quality
clothing that's inexpensive. The value of the clothing is that it's affordable and fits into their budget.

Understanding where the value lies in your business functions is crucial.

Up and down the spectrum, I'm seeing more and more that value is being underestimated and overlooked. In the industry
in which I spent the majority of my life, the music business, I see that there's an alarming amount of music artists who
have not embraced this mantra.

As tempting and convenient as it is to think that talent reigns supreme and content is king in the
music industry, it’s simply not the truth. Those fallacies are indicative of prehistoric thinking.
The music industry is not suffering from dwindling CD sales; it's suffering from the lack of value
that music fans are experiencing in their CDs, and the lack of value in their relationships with the
music artists who are making them - not the talent or the talent levels.

Even with Michael Jackson, arguably the greatest entertainer of our time, talent did not reign
supreme; the quality of his immense talents were at the core of the value that enriched and
heightened the entertainment experience of his fans via his music, videos, and live performances.
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His relationship with his fans held tremendous value to them.

Value is the single factor which launched the sales of his album Thriller into the
stratosphere. It still holds the record for the most albums sold.

In business, merely having knowledge of the product/service you are selling is not enough
to understand its worth to consumers. The correlation between value and worth is too often
understated. When you truly understand marketing, you move away from the selling of
products and services, and begin to focus on the selling of your unique value proposition.

People emotionally relate more to value than they do to price, and it's a larger factor in
purchasing decisions.

Take for consideration designer clothing. People place value on them, which increases their worth monetarily. Many
designer brands consist of the same fabrics sold at Target, but people do not get the ego boost, adulation, or improved
social status from wearing clothes from Target that they get from wearing designer brands.

People value the ego boost experience of designer brands and what they can (possibly) accomplish by
wearing them. That's where the value gets translated into status and the style points. How much do people
value that? An amount that's equal to the worth that's reflected in the price of such items. Ditto for cars
and other luxury (i.e., status) items.

Life insurance, which was once called death insurance, was more difficult to sell because the insurance companies
misplaced its value. When trying to interest families to purchase insurance policies, what they placed an emphasis on was
death, and the financial ramifications of it for families. Since insurance salesmen went door-to door, an unannounced
visitor reminding families of the certainty of death put many people off. They were not emotionally receptive to the value
of it.

Shift the value of the policy from the morbid thought of dying, to the peace of mind that can come from knowing your
family will not be left in financial ruins in the event of your untimely death. Suddenly, you not only can recognize the
value of having life insurance, but associate its purchase with having peace of mind. How valuable is that?

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of value is recognizing our own. Since businesses are created to make
money, the necessity and benefit of value can be easily grasped for them in most cases. But what about
individuals?

Our value in relationships varies from person to person, in the same way that designer clothes hold value to different
people. It's your responsibility to know your values (see definitions 3 and 7 above) in order to effectively communicate
them to others. The worth that they add to your value as a person with whom others have relationships with, is what
yields dividends, and gives you the leverage to get paid what you are truly worth (see definitions 1 and 2 above).

If you are not being paid what you are worth, it's because the person who is paying you does not value
the product or services that you render as much as you believe they should.

This is why positioning yourself (putting yourself in a position to be viewed in a favorable way in the
minds of those who may pay you) is the most important work that you can do. It's work of the highest
importance and should be done even when you have a job, or a large clientele. It never stops.

We are valued for our aptitude to solve problems and fulfill needs. The worth of your value will always be related your
ability to make meaningful contributions in these areas. How you do it is up to you. How others perceive your ability to
do it effectively, is what increases your value, and ultimately determines your worth.

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To Be, or Not To Be, an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is challenging. Of course, that's an understatement.
Ask anyone who successfully runs their own operation and they will probably tell you
that it's the most demanding and rewarding undertaking of their life.

While many entrepreneurs recognize characteristics such as knowledge, passion, and
perseverance as being prerequisites for success, many don't take the time to define what
success is, and how they will measure it. This results in unrealistic expectations, or
worse: measuring their success against the successes of others.

It's estimated that over 60% of new businesses fail. With a staggering and eye-opening statistic such as this, one should
seriously ponder the question...to be, or not to be, an entrepreneur?

Often overlooked at the outset of entrepreneurial endeavors are the requirements for success, which can be viewed as
"phases" of development.

While they may vary in accordance to endeavor or industry, the first, and perhaps most critical phase, is market research
- which has one purpose: to help you thoroughly understand the market that you are attempting to achieve profits in.

Too often, would-be entrepreneurs make an emotional decision to take a product or service to the marketplace without
evaluating its viability. It's always a mistake. Once met with the daunting task of differentiation and marketing, they
buckle under pressure, and eventually fold.

In order to find your place, and your success in any marketplace, you need to not only understand the history, conditions,
trends, and status of your market, but your competitors. In doing so, you find your target audience (those who will most
likely value and purchase your services or products), and your niche (a particular product or service that you're distinctly
able to provide).

It's not uncommon for novice business owners and upstart entrepreneurs to be delusional about
the novelty of their products or services. This type of delusion breeds false confidence which can
hinder your progress, and is detrimental to the life your new business.

You may not know of competing entrepreneurs and businesses offering similar services and
products, but your target audience does. So does the bank from which you may attempt to secure
a loan. It's almost a guarantee that you will not be given a loan if you state in your business plan
that you have "no competition.”

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Even though market research and the information uncovered while conducting it may be
vital, so is the need for start-up capital. Businesses need money to go - just like cars need gas;
undercapitalization is cited as one of the top reasons for business failure, according to the
United States Small Business Administration (SBA).

Once you've cleared the market research and start-up capital hurdles, the management
hurdle looms just as large. Properly managing the day-to-day operations of your business is
just as consuming, and should be done by someone who has skill and experience in doing so.

While market research enables you to discover if there is a market for your products and
services, your marketing plan will influence their purchase upon people discovering them.

Many business owners allocate the lion's share of their operational budget to marketing efforts. It makes sense: you get
back what you put out, right? Not necessarily.

Marketing always comes down to perceived value and desired benefits.

The real value of what you have to offer - product or service - should not be incongruent with how good it really is, and
how good you made it seem with your marketing efforts. Studies show your success will be short-lived when that’s the
case. Eventually, such practices will come back to haunt you because word of mouth is very powerful.

If you successfully clear the research, management, and marketing hurdles, you need to be very mindful of business laws
and taxes. I always recommend consulting with established business and tax attorneys about this aspect of your business.
It's worth it, and it pays for itself in the long run.

Finally, there are the other miscellaneous items that while small may loom very large in the grand scheme of your
success and happiness as an entrepreneur. No sick, vacation, or holiday pay; no 401K; unstable monthly income; and
longer work hours (maybe 12 hours per day). And this is before considering common issues with slow client payments,
vendors, and employees. Factor in the impact on your personal relationships due to time constraints caused by the
increasing demands of your new business, and the question of to be, or not to be an entrepreneur becomes very serious.

In the end, it really does come down to your passion and confidence in taking risks. If you are passionate about whatever
product or service you have to offer, and passionate about your belief that it solves problems, fulfills needs, or caters to
desires, you can overcome many hurdles with limited resources.

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Inspiration & Motivation - Similar But Different

O ne of my favorite movies of all time, Jerry Maguire, features Tom Cruise as an
agent with a major sports management firm. He's enthusiastic, successful, a great
negotiator, and people like him. But it begins to dawn on Jerry that there's something
wrong with the way he does business. Shortly after a troubling encounter with the son
of an injured athlete he represents, Jerry has an epiphany.

In the midst of a sleepless night Jerry becomes inspired to write a mission statement
(that others refer to as a memo), which challenges himself, and his colleagues, to think
more about the long-term welfare of the clients they represent, and less about
immediate profits. He wants to motivate them to change their approach to doing
business.

While everyone around him applauds the sentiment, Jerry's superiors think his ideas are bad for business. Consequently,
Jerry is fired. Rather than standing in solidarity with him, his colleagues scramble like sharks to claim Jerry's clients. At
the end of his last day, the only people who are motivated to join Jerry as he strikes out on his own are the staff
accountant, Dorothy (played by Renee Zellweger), a single mother who is secretly in love with him, and Rod Tidwell
(played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), a football player whose pride and arrogance have become an impediment to him getting a
new contract. Jerry is able to inspire Rod to play with more heart, and consequently, he gets the new contract. He in turn
is able to motivate Jerry to lead his personal life with more honesty and conviction, and as a result, marries Dorothy.

We often confuse inspiration with motivation. They are similar in nature, but originate in separate places. Motivation is
external and is born from circumstances. Jerry was personally touched - and thus inspired - to give more personal service.
Jerry’s inspiration gave him the motivation he needed to write a mission statement that he hoped would motivate his co-
workers to change. It failed because they didn’t share his inspiration, and were clearly more motivated by the prospect of
large commissions.

Most people are motivated to work because they have bills to pay. This is external. But there are those who quit their
jobs and pursue what they love because meaningless work costs them their happiness. This is internal. After seeing Jerry
Maguire I was motivated to tell others about what a good movie it was, but I was inspired by Jerry's conviction in his
altruistic beliefs and commitment to personal service. The film motivated many people I know to write mission
statements of their own, and it inspired others to pursue careers as sports agents.

Motivation is concerned with the achievement of an end result. It requires action. Inspiration is concerned with sparking
a mental process that stimulates you to feel or do something. Inspiration and motivation tend to work in tandem; with
inspiration being used as the ignition which starts the engine of motivation.

Many people are "inspired" to do great things, but often lack the motivation to capitalize on that inspiration.

In Jerry Maguire, Jerry's dismissal motivated him to start his own firm where he was forced to put his mission statement
into action. We often hear the expression "self-motivated" without giving much thought to what it really means. People
who are self-motivated are merely those who are personally motivated to get things done. Rarely are rewards, gold stars,
money, or other material goods the driving force. Self-motivation (or intrinsic motivation) requires the ability to be self-
directed in putting forth actions that bring about a desired end result; often yielding a greater sense of personal
satisfaction.

Studies show that the world’s greatest achievers are self-motivated individuals who find passion and purpose in their
pursuits. Armed with deeply rooted intrinsic motivations, they find a way to break free of limitations, overcome
obstacles, and achieve regardless of the odds. Many driven people can look for motivation and find it. Inspiration on the
other hand, finds you. And when it does, it strikes you like lightning, and consequently, motivates you to do something
which may just change your circumstances, if not your life, the way that it did for Jerry Maguire.

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The Importance of Standards
At a recent Christmas party I found myself engaged in
a stimulating conversation with a group of friends and
their spouses which included a manager from UPS.
Somehow we got on the topic of customer service and
Safeway came up.

We all talked about how Safeway's management team
has done an excellent job of creating a customer oriented
culture in our neighborhood stores - a noted difference
from several years ago. I then remarked how several
other Safeway stores, particularly those in economically
oppressed areas, are still catching-up.

The UPS manager then said that those stores should not
be held to the same standards as the stores in "good"
neighborhoods because they can't attract the same quality
of employees.

Interesting.

I'm sure that many managers share his point of view. I'm also certain that those same managers make the mistake of
placing too much stock in the talent of their employees, and not enough emphasis on standards they are held to.

Standards are defined as: something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model for example; a
criterion or something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or
quality.

I shared my perspective with the UPS manager that a company's standards are set by its president, CEO, or general
manager. These standards, when thoughtfully conceived and assiduously applied, result in quality work, which creates
quality employees.

But many executives and managers are enamored by "The Talent Myth," which according to
author and sociologist, Malcolm Gladwell, is the widely-held belief which assumes that people
make organizations smart, when more often than not, it's the other way around. "The Talent
Myth" is predicated on the perception that the more stars you have, the greater your company or
organization will perform. Those who have faith in this myth are likely to have "the talent mind-
set": the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your
competitors.

Simply put, this is a fallacy.

Every year in sports, no matter what sport you are into, there is bound to be a team full of (highly paid) stars who fail to
deliver on expectations that are based upon their individual and collective talents. It happened to the 2008 Dallas
Cowboys: A team loaded with talent in every position…but in the end was undermined by the lack of standards set by
their coach. The lesson taken from their futile season is one that my new UPS manager friend, and proponents of "The
Talent Myth," should take heed to: Standards influence performance more than talent.

If you are thinking that a sure-fire formula for excellence is to hire the best talent and hold them to the highest standards;
that would be a logical inclination. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the 2008 Dallas Cowboys who experienced dissension
and a litany of personality conflicts, inner standards are just as important as company standards. Inner standards are what
make a person teachable, coachable, and manageable. It enables them to take direction and receive guidance.

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It also makes the step from good to great possible, if not easier. But of course, one must become better in the process.

Many talented people rely solely upon their talents and fail to develop crucial "intangible" qualities in the process. John
C. Maxwell, author of Talent Is Never Enough states that talent - in the absence of intangible qualities such as discipline,
character, and integrity - is insignificant. This is where management or coaching comes in. Their job is to get maximum
output from the talent(s) that they manage.

Michael Jordan credited his initial rejection from his high school basketball team with being the
impetus for his greatness. Because he didn't make the team (something he thought he could easily
do), he worked extra, extra hard to accomplish something he didn't imagine he would achieve
(becoming the greatest basketball player of all time). It happened as a result of his own inner
standards (practicing long after the team had quit) and complying with the standards set by his
coach (who emphasized team play and defense). Michael Jordan, like many employees, had a
short but attainable list of requirements to flourish: opportunity and some guidance to reach their
full potential. Both of which were made possible with standards and his adherence to them, which
ultimately made him accountable as the team leader of the six time champion Chicago Bulls.

The greatest ability any talented employee or player can have is accountability, which is trust placed in them to uphold
standards of work, and quality of performance that breed results.

Hopefully, the next time my new UPS manager friend goes into an impoverished neighborhood and receives
unsatisfactory service, he will be able to properly identify that the real problem is not the talent pool, the hiring decisions,
or the managers, but the lack of recognition in the importance of establishing standards within the company; standards
that the managers should express to employees in both their expectations and policies.

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Excuses, Excuses –
What They Reveal About People

Parents are well-acquainted with excuses and reasons. After all, they get
exposed to plenty of them while raising their children. Some children become
adept at making excuses from the time they learn to talk. Left unchecked, the
pattern becomes habit forming and lingers into adulthood. It also prevents
children from becoming responsible adults.

The difference between adults and children is developed cognitive (reasoning)
skills.

Underdeveloped cognitive skills produce an immature thought process. Those
who lack such maturity often prove adept at offering excuses for why they did,
or did not do something.

For such people, excuses (which free them from responsibility and behaviors), and reasons (which are used to justify
actions and inactions) are effortlessly formed.

Instead of internally looking for ways in which they can manage responsibility and meet expectations, they instinctively
look for external ways to avoid it; thus giving birth to any number of prefabricated excuses which they seem to have
readily available.

When people are accustomed to making excuses, they often aren't aware of it. It comes as natural to them as blinking.
What's also natural to them is going on the defensive about the excuses they make. This is often where values and
character (or lack thereof) gets revealed.

While the underdeveloped, irrational mind is busy offering what they think are legitimate, acceptable reasons, the
mature, rational mind, hears excuses.

But how do you distinguish between excuses and reasons? Look no further than your dictionary.

Merriam Webster offers this definition for excuse:

1a: to make apology for b: to try to remove blame from 2: to forgive entirely or disregard as of trivial import: regard as
excusable: 3a: to grant exemption or release to.

And this definition for reason:

1a: a statement offered in explanation or justification b: a rational ground or motive c: a sufficient ground of explanation
or of logical defense; especially: something (as a principle or law) that supports a conclusion or explains a fact d: the
thing that makes some fact intelligible.

It's simply not possible to offer legitimate reasons for doing, or not doing something, when one lacks the cognitive skills
to conduct such reasoning. In other words, those who are prone to making excuses are not capable of recognizing their
irrational thought process.

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Parents will agree that this is the area - and greatest source - of contention with
teenagers.

Daniel Amen, M.D., and author of the article, The Incredible Brain, states that during
late adolescence and into the mid - 20s, the front third of the brain, called the
prefrontal cortex (PFC) or executive brain, continues to develop. Even though we think
of 18 year olds as adults, their brains are far from finished. Myelin continues to be
deposited in the PFC until age 25 or 26, making the executive part of the brain work at
a higher and more efficient level.

So don't expect your children to be able to effectively rationalize their behaviors and decisions until they reach 25. If it
happens before then, know that your child is "mature beyond their years." In the meantime, excuses, excuses may
abound.

Like parents, supervisors and managers can also distinguish between an excuse and a reason. They hear both on a daily
basis. Employees are late on occasion, and they have reasons. Employees, who are habitually late, have excuses.
Employees who meet expectations overcome obstacles which could provide reasons to come up short. Employees who
underachieve succumb to obstacles which are then used as excuses.

The same holds true for personal relationships. Without cognitive skills, problems
can't be resolved. In fact, problems can't even be identified and agreed upon. The
irrational mind offers reasons about why actions/inactions, decisions, or behaviors
are undertaken, and the rational mind hears excuses, excuses.

The thing to remember is that those who are prone to making excuses are thinking within the parameters of their
cognitive skills. Unfortunately, for those who are mature, these excuses reveal character flaws; flaws which are difficult,
but not impossible to fix. Someone in the relationship (usually the one with the more developed cognitive skills) realizes
that changing the way someone thinks, is even more challenging than changing their behavior. Coincidentally, one
doesn't take place without the other.

Knowing what an excuse is, why they are given, and the profile of the people who
frequently use them, will create greater awareness in all areas of your life. Should you
find yourself in a situation where you are explaining your actions, decisions, and
behaviors to others, you will now know if the person you are talking to is hearing
(legitimate) reasons, or just excuses, excuses.

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How To Impersonalize Criticism

Criticism is tough for most people.
When we are criticized we often develop a reaction to what is
being said, which makes us feel as though we are under attack. It's
natural to impulsively defend one's self under such circumstances.

Granted, some criticisms are malicious and unwarranted, but not
all are without merit. Because of the fragile nature of the ego,
psychologists encourage people to carefully phrase and present
their criticisms as "constructive feedback."

Constructive feedback is defined as criticism that has a "kind"
goal of improving some area of another person's life or work. It
originated from the critique of someone else's written or artistic work, in perhaps a teacher/student setting. It was meant
as a way that would allow the person receiving feedback to further improve their work or to improve their approach to
future endeavors.

Constructive feedback can also apply to a critical reasoned analysis of a person's behavior, as in a patient/therapist setting
or a group therapy setting. Parents also try to employ constructive feedback to help their children improve their lives.

Experts agree that whether or not feedback works largely depends on how it's presented.

Constructive feedback is a very effective method of reducing the alienation of employees and co-workers who have a
propensity for political correctness, but on a personal level, it's harder to implement with people outside of that sphere.

In either arena, egos are accompanied by emotions that dutifully protect and preserve them. Outside of a professional
environment, we are more likely to get unfiltered criticism from those who do not have a high regard for sensitivity. And
most likely, the criticism comes unannounced.

While we can't control when or how criticisms may befall us, we can control how we respond to them. Yes, it's tough to
do, but it's also beneficial to do it.

When you are open to the message behind any criticism, you are open to learning about your
behavior, efforts, or work - all of which you can improve upon. It's important to recognize this
because that’s ultimately what criticism is about.

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It doesn't matter whether we call it criticism or feedback. What matters is that it feels like criticism. This is why we must
emotionally diffuse ourselves from our egocentric tendencies, which make us defensive and turn a deaf ear to it.

Coaches, managers, supervisors, teachers, and parents are routinely placed in positions
where they have to be critical. The nature of the relationships that they have with others
makes it appropriate and expected. Many of the aforementioned willfully, and
successfully, embrace their power to influence and impact others by offering criticisms
that draw attention to efforts.

Efforts (or lack thereof) are the root cause of most criticisms. Some may say it's a lack of results. But what results can
you achieve without effort? When the person being criticized learns to separate his or herself from the criticism, full
concentration can be placed on the efforts (or lack thereof), which caused the criticism in the first place.

Typically, greater effort exerted, or properly directed, to eliminate a counterproductive behavior, or to increase the odds
of succeeding in a particular endeavor, activity, or undertaking will silence both criticism, and the critics.

A random sampling of successful people reveals that when they received both criticism and support, in the early stages
of their lives and/or careers, they experienced the greatest influence on their development. People grow as a result of
being pushed. Criticism provides that push.

When criticism is withheld - especially in the early stages of life or in professional pursuits -
people operate under a cloud of delusion, and false confidence occurs. It quickly turns to
despair (or even depression) when they are confronted with the truth about their deficiencies.
Withholding criticism from others may be the "polite" thing to do in the moment, but it proves
not to be a caring or supportive act in the long term.

If you are a person who reacts (with emotions), instead of responds (with receptiveness) to criticism, try to be still (and
quiet) when it's aimed it you. Thank the person who gave it to you and ask them to elaborate on the criticism. Then sit
with it for hours, days, or weeks if necessary to embrace its truth. Then go to work to correct it. You will have taken the
first step toward creating a better you; one who is adept at impersonalizing criticism and using it to improve the quality
of your work, or character.

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The Need For Face-To-Face Communications

We live in a fast paced society. Everyone is
constantly on the go. Whether it's in pursuit of survival
or success, time just seems increasingly limited. The
consequence of this time crunch is the tendency to
engage in touch-n-go-communications.

That's sparse communication that you have with
people while on the run. Some of us sustain
relationships with people in this manner for years; an
email here, a voice mail there, and before you know it,
your entire relationship is predicated on rushed and
abbreviated cell phone conversations, endless phone
tag, and/or, sporadic text or voicemail messages.

Everyone does it, and everyone is victimized by it.
Sadly, it has become the norm and its practice is not
called into question. But it should be. So let's take a
minute and put down our cell phones and ultra-modern
communication devices and ask ourselves this
question: Are these devices really helping us
communicate?

At best, they are wonderful technological tools, but like all tools, they were created for the purpose of helping us build,
achieve, or accomplish something with their use - not because of their use. Relaying and confirming information via text;
setting up or confirming meetings; getting directions; and a "quick" hello, are just some of the more constructive and
conservative ways to use a cell phone.

They are a prelude - if not a prerequisite - to face-to-face communications when possible, but we all know people who
appear to have a cell phone permanently attached to their ears, or are more comfortable "reaching out" via email, or who
can't fight their incessant compulsions to frantically send or check text messages.

I've always said that over the phone we talk, in person we communicate. The same applies to the Internet. Recently I
stumbled across data which supports my perspective.

Researchers have discovered that 7% of the information we receive
is from what people actually say, 38% of information we receive is
from the tone, inflection and speed of our voices, and a staggering
55% of the information we receive comes from our body language.

''Non-verbal body cues are more immediate, instinctive and
uncontrolled than verbal expression, bringing genuine attitudes and
feelings smack into the open,'' stated Dr. Joy Davidson in a 1998
Men's Fitness article.

The benchmark is how an individual reacted to preliminary questions of a relatively innocuous nature. This is similar to
the technique used in performing a polygraph or lie detector exam. “Microexpressions” is what Paul Ekman, a University
of California psychology professor who researches emotional expression and lie detection, calls the quick, involuntary
''flashes of emotion'' revealed by a person concealing the truth. Microexpressions last one-fifth of a second or less.

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For example, among the gestures indicative of lying are touching one's face, placing a hand over one's mouth, ear-
pulling, downcast eyes, glancing at the questioner, seat shifting, and looking down and left. Eye movement is also
indicative of right-brain activity corresponding to falsification, rather than the left-brain activity associated with memory
and recall. Similarly, an agreeable listener will close papers, place a pen down, and lay their hands flat down on the
table...but you can't see that on a cell phone.

In case you need additional motivation to consider a reduction in the time you spend on your cell, mobile phone use is
dangerous, according to a recent 2008 report on Mobile Phones and Brain Tumors -A Public Health Concern by Vini
Gautam Khurana Ph.D.

His 14 month report revealed that there is a significant and increasing body of evidence, to date, which reveals in at least
8 comprehensive clinical studies internationally, and one long-term meta-analysis, a link between mobile phone usage
and certain brain tumors. Taken together, the data presented in this report compellingly suggest that the link between
mobile phones and brain tumors should no longer be regarded as a myth.

What happens when we as a society become more comfortable interacting with each other online or via cell phones than
we do in person? We under develop our communication skills - our true communication skills - that require attentive
listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

As a college professor, I'm encountering an alarming number of withdrawn and socially inept students that are more
comfortable with online interactions than face-to-face communications. Many will wait for class to end and then go
home to email questions rather than engage in real-time communications in the presence of their classmates. It's less
threatening, but it's also normal for many of them.

Unfortunately, those are the ones who don't know when it's abnormal (i.e., inappropriate) to not communicate directly
(face-to-face). Yes, due diligence and old fashioned respect dictate that bad news, things of a deeply personal or
confidential nature, or major decisions, are best made face-to-face. These virtues are often suspended in cyberspace and
trivialized by the electromagnetic waves of a cell phone, or digital transference of email.

Curiously enough, I’ve checked some of my student's names in Google at the beginning of each semester to get
background information that may help me to modify my curriculum to better serve their needs and interests, and I'm
amazed at the sharp contrast between the online personalities that many of them portray on social networking sites, and
how they are in person.

Dr. Avner Caspi of the Chais Research Center for the Integration of Technology in Education says that online
communications thrive because of the visual anonymity and virtual component of the users on both sides who render
misleading and untruthful information relatively easy, although some say that the anonymity enhances self-disclosure
and honesty, with some users revealing some truths.

So what are people lying about on the Internet? 44% about their residence, 27% about their age, 21% about their marital
status. As an aside, people who lie about their residential status tend to be women who do so as a means of protection.

It's not the lies or the half-truths that concern me (though single people certainly have cause for concern), it's the
distortions and exaggerations that are more troubling. Whether we are communicating online, or in person, the purpose
of communication is to exchange information that breeds a relationship which is based on honesty and yields dividends
for both parties. Anything less will be short-lived.

When we rely upon emails and text messaging for communication, they only tell half the story. Make it a point to
periodically engage in face-to-face communications with people to get the other half of the story which they may not
verbalize, but will express in a myriad of aforementioned ways. After all, there is truly no comparison to seeing a real
smile to looking at : ) or reading "LOL" to hearing someone do it in person.

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Anticipation - The Real Key to Being Prepared
S o often we mention the importance of preparation without discussing what it means
and what it entails. That's a mistake.

The definition of preparation varies from one person to the next; therefore it is possible
to lack preparation from the very beginning of any process in one person's view, and to
be totally prepared in another's. It happens all the time and it shouldn't - especially in
team situations where individual preparation is key to the success of the team.

Merriam-Webster defines preparation as the following: 1 a: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later
action b: the act of looking forward; especially: pleasurable expectation.

Looking forward is anticipation. Because we are conditioned to think of preparation in terms of "levels," anticipation is
often overlooked as a major component to being fully prepared. According to George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at
Harvard, anticipation is an "adaptive mental mechanism." He defines anticipation as "the capacity to perceive future
danger effectively as well as cognitively and by this means to master conflict in small steps" (Vaillant, 2000).

The concept of being fully prepared, for many, means the amount of time that you spend in preparation; physically,
academically, or experientially. What about mentally? Great anticipation is envisioning what is likely to occur, or what
we are likely to experience, in any conceivable situation or scenario.

From professional sports teams that spend hundreds of hours studying film of a competing
team's tendencies in order to better anticipate what they may do when they play them, to
companies who conduct exhaustive background checks on executives to examine their
past behavioral tendencies in an effort to anticipate how they will perform in a new
position in the future, anticipation is the crux of preparation.

Though many reports say that 9-11 could have been prevented, the reality is that it
occurred because it was not anticipated. Experience and imagination is the key to
anticipation. The 9-11 attacks were both heinous and unimaginable. We were not prepared
to defense such an attack simply because we could not imagine it. After the experience of
9-11, we are better prepared to prevent and defend such an attack because it is now within
the realm of our imaginations, and thus can be anticipated. Our focus should now be on
anticipating the next unimaginable attack.

Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, said that the most important part of coaching is getting the
players prepared to anticipate any and every scenario that can arise in the scope of a game. No wonder his quarterback,
Tom Brady, has been so effective at engineering wins in the waning moments of football games: he practices those
scenarios. But it was the New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Plaxico Burress who put in more
time anticipating a last minute drive, which won the game for them in the 2007 Super Bowl, effectively ending hopes of
the Patriots completing what would have been the first perfect season of any sports team . Announcers showed footage of
Manning and Burress rehearsing the winning play over, and over, and over again before the game. The Patriots did not
get out played in their historic Super Bowl run; they were out anticipated.

Whether we are preparing for an interview, our first day on the job, a proposal, a presentation, a project, a venture, or
athletic competition, being able to anticipate any and every scenario that can arise, which may pose a threat to our
success is vital. If you lack experience, tapping into someone else's experience will enable you to better anticipate what
you may encounter in a given situation or scenario. If you have experience, think imaginatively. What types of questions
are least likely to be asked? Prepare for them. What type of circumstances are you least likely to face? Anticipate what
you will do if you find yourself facing them. Once you make a habit of doing this you will enter a different dimension of
preparation altogether.

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How Your Appearance Impacts Your Success

L ook the part. That's what people from my grandmother's generation used to
say. It meant looking like the professionals who belonged to the group that you
wanted to be a part of. It also meant carrying yourself, through your demeanor, in
a manner that's consistent with the expectations of the role you play in business.

Over the years, things have become, in a word, relaxed; too relaxed for my
grandmother's generation. Casual or dress down Fridays have permeated the work
week, creating a blur between casual and business attire, and bringing with it a
casual attitude toward professionalism.

I remember wearing ties during my interviews with small companies after
working corporate jobs. Depending on the culture of the company, ties were
either applauded or frowned upon. You often don't know this information prior to
interviewing and most recruiters will tell you to error on the side of being
overdressed, rather than being underdressed. I was turned down multiple times on
the basis of "not fitting in."

They didn't need a 30 minute interview to figure that out. All they needed was 5 to 7 seconds, according to Lesley
Everett, author of the book Walking Tall: Key Steps to Total Image Impact. He writes: In those first 15 seconds we have
got key clues into how somebody operates, into their business approach, their attitude, their personality.
So when we get to 30 seconds, we are given more than enough time to make that impression subconsciously.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink, he makes reference to this in what psychologists refer to as "the power of thin
slicing," which allows us to see the most essential components of a situation, object, or person.

My prospective employers were able to see that my tightly knotted tie (proof of my rigidity), my sparkling cuff links
(stylistic value), and my polished Stacy Adams shoes (personality) revealed a potential culture clash. I looked the part of
a slick corporate player - not someone who was similar to the “relaxed” staff that was referenced in my interview as
being "like a family."

I look back on that job hunting experience and I'm forced to agree with those who turned me down:
I did not fit in. I had, and still do have, a corporate mentality - even though I prefer the
collaborative, intimate atmosphere of a small company. I like the structure, policies, and financial
layering of the corporate machine; my first impression gave that appearance and I'm sure the
ensuing interview just confirmed it.

While it's true that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, you do get 20 chances
to make up for it - if you are lucky. Research shows that it takes another 20 further experiences with
somebody to change a first impression. Subsequent experiences are of course largely determined by
that first impression, so it behooves you to know how to capitalize on that 5-7 second window of
opportunity.

The advantage someone has in getting what they want if they are in touch with what their appearance communicates to
others is sizeable. What people see during that quick 5-7 seconds of scanning formulates a perceived truth that they
subconsciously seek to match against additional information that you involuntarily provide, or that they soon discover.
This is called a confirmation bias; their suspicions are confirmed through any bias that they first perceive.

On a subconscious level, we are all aware of this. We put on our "Sunday's best" for church, we put our "best foot
forward" when meeting the friends and parents of our significant other, and we "dress to impress" when going to social
events. Clearly, the awareness, if not the importance of appearances is instilled in all of us to some degree.

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It's common for people to mistake appearance for looks. Looks are what you were born with; appearance is how you
manage and present those looks - however ordinary or extraordinary they may be. From that perspective, it really doesn't
matter what you look like in terms of constructing and presenting a winning appearance. Or does it?

A famous study by economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle uses survey data to examine the impact that
appearance has on a person's earnings. In each survey, the interviewer who asked the questions also rated the
respondents' physical appearance. Respondents were classified into one of the following groups: below average, average
and above average.

In other words, a person with below-average looks tended to earn 9 percent less per hour, and an above-average person
tended to earn 5 percent more per hour than an average-looking person. For the median male working full time, the
respective penalty and premium ranged from $1,400 to $2,600 annually. The corresponding penalty and premium for the
median female worker ranged from $1,100 to $2,000 annually.

Hamermesh and Biddle found that the beauty premium exists even outside of occupations that require frequent
interpersonal contact. Interestingly, the wage differential for obesity seems to be limited to white women. There were no
wage differentials among fat women of other races. It's consistent with society's view that white women are "supposed"
to be life-sized Barbie dolls. When they do not meet those physical requirements, they face repercussions.

Research confirms that beauty (physical attractiveness) is not only in the eye of the beholder, but is also the ticket to
getting paid more. Countless studies reveal that society affords many benefits and privileges to the beautiful, including
what scientists call the "halo effect," which results in the granting of favors, random acts of kindness, more popularity,
higher perceived levels of intelligence, and preferential treatment when it comes to hiring and job promotions.

In my first corporate job for a major magazine publisher, I had a running bet with my co-workers on who the owner
would hire when women came in for marketing interviews. They would look at copies of the candidates' resumes which I
distributed to those involved in the interviewing process, and I would just look at the candidate. If she was blonde with
great symmetry, I knew she would be hired.

At the time I did not know the rationale behind symmetry, I just knew his preferences. Charles Feng
of the Human Biology department at Stanford University explains symmetry preferences in his
article, Looking Good: The Psychology and Biology of Beauty: Symmetry preference in both humans
and animals is that symmetric individuals have a higher mate-value; scientists believe that this
symmetry is equated with a strong immune system. Thus, beauty is indicative of more robust genes,
improving the likelihood that an individual's offspring will survive.

For men, height appears to be the ticket for favoritism.

Economists Nicola Persico, Andrew Postlewaite and Dan Silverman tried to explain the origin of the "height premium."
They found that for white men in the United States, a 1.8-percent increase in wages accompanies every additional inch of
height. Men's wages as adults can be linked to their height at age 16. For a given adult height, Persico, Postlewaite, and
Silverman found that increasing height at age 16 by one inch increased adult wages by 2.6 percent, on average. For two
adult men of the same height, the one who was taller at 16 would most likely earn the higher wage.

Gladwell reports in Blink that researchers who analyzed the data from four large research studies, that had followed
thousands of people from birth to adulthood, and calculated that when corrected for variables like age and gender and
weight, an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary.

That means that a person who is six feet tall, but who is otherwise identical (in
qualifications) to someone who is five foot five, will make on average $5,525 more
per year. If you are a man who is vertically challenged (i.e., born short) don't
despair; men's elevator shoes (which can give you up to an additional 5 inches in
height) are a top selling item on the Internet.

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In conclusion, your appearance offers a glimpse into who you are (personality, temperament,
disposition, mentality, and values) based on perceptions held by others. There are many
factors that contribute to those perceptions such as beauty, symmetry, and wardrobe selection.
Your appearance sends these messages to an employer who uses them to screen you out of a
job, or to envision you in a new position.

Some researchers have even linked appearance to productivity in ways that are not as easily measured (or as obvious) as
are other characteristics, like education or experience. Appearance, for example, can affect confidence and
communication, thereby influencing productivity. This is readily evidenced in sales and marketing positions, and seems
to be a prerequisite for real estate agents. With the appropriate attention to these details you can use them to your benefit
to increase your chances of getting a new job or a promotion.

Needless to say, most people have average looks; make-up helps to embellish those looks. For women, a $50.00 make-
over is a worthy investment that can teach you how to properly and proficiently enhance your looks to better manage
your appearance.

Symmetry is really about how your body is proportioned. Altering a lopsided body through the illusion of clothing is
something that most stylists are good at. They also provide objective feedback on wardrobe selection for an optimal
professional presentation.

By controlling the aspects of your appearance that are controllable, you can positively influence the impact that your
appearance has on your success.

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Making Personal PR Work For You
P ublic relations is defined as: Positive communications and interactions between a person,
organization, or company and the public on whom its success or failure depends.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always engaged in public relations. From the time you
step out of your house and greet your neighbor, until the time you say good night to the parking
attendant when you leave work, public relations are inevitable.

Who you are as a person, and how you are as a professional is delicately intertwined. There is
seldom a total disconnect.

Simultaneously (and subconsciously) we communicate messages about ourselves in the way that we dress (visually),
how we talk (verbally), and the things we do and don't do (actions). In fact, communication is involuntary and we are
always conveying something about how we feel, what we value, and who we are - without knowing it.

The key to making personal PR work for you is to become adept at managing your own communications, and accurately
reading the personal PR messages of others.

As a professional, you have a public that you are accountable to. By public I mean group or community of people whose
approval, support, assistance, or patronage you rely upon for success.

This is the group who you need to put your best foot forward with; however, be cognizant of the fact that anyone you
meet could potentially migrate into this group so it behooves you to engage in positive public relations with everyone at
all times.

Yes, it's tiring, but it can also be fun, and it’s definitely worth it.

The following are some examples of visual, verbal and action-driven communication
messages that can instantly improve your personal PR efforts whether you are an independent
contractor, employee, or business owner:

Under promise and over deliver; inquire about customer satisfaction with a sold product or
service; give random gifts; give compliments often; offer a discount; make a referral; don't
take calls while with a client; arrive early; stay late; say 'thank you' more frequently; write
and send thank you notes; greet people enthusiastically; become an empathetic listener;
sponsor an event or charity; verbally express appreciation; take someone to lunch; plan an
appreciation dinner or lunch; overhaul your appearance; upgrade your wardrobe; send
birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards.

Once you begin to consciously conduct yourself and your business affairs with mindfulness of the impressions that you
leave, and the involuntary communications in which you engage your public, it changes your behavior - for the better.

This is not about pretending to be something or someone you are not; it's about becoming the professional that people
want as a business associate, and the person that people prefer to maintain a relationship with. Every encounter and every
interaction you have with someone gives you this opportunity.

Making personal PR work for you is all about awareness and practice, and it can be practiced every day until it is
mastered.

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Nurturing Your Network
If you are fortunate enough to have a network of indispensable allies who contribute to the welfare
of your company or the prosperity of your career, taking the time to nurture the relationship will
strengthen the bonds you share. Listed below are some surefire ways to nurture your network.

MAKE REFERRALS: When you send someone in your network a prospective paying client, what
you are in essence saying is: I had a choice of where to send this person and I chose you because I have trust in your
expertise and your ability to deliver the results that the client is seeking. It also says that I trust you with upholding my
reputation. After all, a referral that ends up being a bad experience for the client reflects negatively on both parties.

GET IN TOUCH WITH THEIR NEEDS: When is the last time you asked one of your allies what new projects they
are working on? What challenges they are currently facing? What future goals they are trying to reach? Or better still,
what can you do to help? In a thriving network, no one is too busy to do occasional outreach. The best allies stay in touch
and take care of the needs of those who take care of them.

OFFER SOLUTIONS: All of us have challenges that we face on a daily basis. Whether it's marketing a new service;
promoting a new product; improving operations; reducing overhead; or expanding into other areas. Why not offer
solutions to someone who you know is wrestling (or may soon be wrestling) with an issue that you've already dealt with?
Benefiting from the experience of others is what builds communities and keeps them strong.

SEND A THANK YOU NOTE: It's becoming increasingly rare to find hand-written letters, thank you notes, and cards
in your mailbox these days. Everyone likes to receive them. Why not send a note to thank someone for something they've
done for you? Whether it's a note expressing how much you value them as an ally, or a card to wish someone well, it will
create a personal connection and add a human touch to your networking efforts.

HAVE A MEAL TOGETHER: Breaking bread is a universal phenomenon (if you are a carb watcher break salad). No
matter how busy people are, they have to take time out of their day to eat. Even those who are accustomed to eating on
the run will welcome a lunch or dinner invitation offered at your expense. As a tip, when relationships are new, probe
people for their favorite restaurants or cuisines. They are more likely to share a meal with you when you suggest meeting
at such-and-such restaurant that they love.

SHARE RELEVANT ARTICLES: Every industry has trade publications, websites, and newsletters that contain
information and activities that take place within it. If you happen to know someone’s passions and pursuits, send them an
article that will be of use or interest to them. Better yet, subscribe to a trade magazine which captures their interests (and
you will pay for). It's relatively cheap (about the price of a meal) and it's a thoughtful way of showing that you are dialed
into their interests.

INQUIRE ABOUT LOVED ONES: Most of us are motivated to work so that we can take care of ourselves and our
loved ones. When you make a simple inquiry about someone's significant other, or their children, it indicates that work is
not the only thing you think about (though it may very well be the basis of the relationship). Showing sensitivity and
concern for family members (and family matters) further humanizes the relationship and creates an acknowledgment of
the people who carry the most significance in your, and the lives of your allies.

STAY IN TOUCH: We're all guilty of losing touch from time-to-time, but not recognizing when it's time to get back in
touch is a serious professional oversight that will result in you getting overlooked for future opportunities. Along the
same lines, don't commit the social offense of only coming around when you need something from an ally; keep the lines
of communication open by engaging in the aforementioned activities listed in this article and you will put yourself in a
much more favorable position to serve the needs of others, while getting what you need and want in the process.

Hopefully these tips will help you nurture your network and strengthen your alliances for years to come.

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The Challenge Of Letting Go

There comes a point and time in everyone's life when they need to
let go. It's easier said than done, and even when most recognize the
need to let go, they can't do it.

Letting go is about freedom; freedom that can only be experienced
through the disconnection of the things, situations, or the person(s)
that cause your mental anguish. It's about clearing a path that will
take you from where you are, to where you want to go. It's about
stepping out of the shadows of negative experiences and emerging
as a victor, instead of a victim. It's about setting yourself free to have
more of you to offer.

Because we are all creatures of habit we find comfort with the familiar. We have a natural tendency to be accepting of
adverse people, situations, habits, and feelings that linger in our lives. We accept the unacceptable, and become
comfortable with it because we hope that it will get better. It rarely does - especially on its own. This can be noted in
many areas of our lives: work, home, and in the various types of relationships that we have with others.

These areas of our lives should be nutritious, rewarding, and fulfilling. Life is just too short to accept anything or anyone
who does not meet these criteria. The challenge of letting go is being conscientious enough to know what clutter exists in
your mind, and in your heart, and finding the motivation and courage to remove it.

Mental and emotional clutter is like dust: resting in places that you can't see. It piles up without you knowing it. This dust
represents the residual feelings that linger from adverse experiences in key moments of your life; feelings that you must
let go of.

The person who was mercilessly teased as a child will need to let go of
adverse feelings which may negatively impact their self-esteem and
confidence. The person who has experienced pain as a result of a betrayal,
deception, or their partner's simple change of heart, will need to let go of the
adverse feelings associated with these emotions in order trust and love again.
The person who experiences continued rejection in their job search will need
to overcome feelings related to lack of worthiness in order to demonstrate
their value to a prospective employer.

It’s simple: You cannot take your past into your future. Attempting to do so prevents you from being in the present. My
great grandmother used to say that every day is an opportunity for a new beginning. Indeed, what greets you every day
with each sunrise is an opportunity for a new beginning; you just have to choose to view it that way. Yesterday doesn't
count (if you don't allow it too). You need to make today count by choosing to let go.

Yesterday does hold lessons. Before you can move on from anything or anyone, you must first truly embrace the reality
of where you are and how you got there. Was it due to poor judgment? Bad decisions? Impulsiveness? A shift in values?
Was it an unhealthy or unproductive relationship? A non-reciprocal friendship? Whatever the case, it's imperative that
you know where you are so that you can avoid a return trip to this place of adversity in the future.

Of course some things are easier to let go than others.

All smokers know the adverse health effects of smoking. Organizations
spend millions each year making them aware of it. For smokers, it's not
about being informed of the dangers of smoking, it's about weighing the
damaging long-term effects against instant gratification; that's where the real
addiction lies.

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There is scientific evidence of a link between emotional problems and depression in smokers which typically arise from
low self-esteem and unhappiness. Nicotine releases a chemical called dopamine to the prefrontal cortex of the brain,
which is our pleasure center. Once it's received, it makes smokers feel better - but only temporarily.

For smokers, letting go of a smoking habit means relinquishing a reliable method of experiencing a sense of well-being.
When there's nothing else in your life (e.g., alternate activities that make you happy which can trigger the release of
dopamine in your brain), the habit of cigarette smoking becomes increasingly difficult to let go of.

But not impossible. When a habit or association imprisons you to an undesirable fate,
or clouds the brightness of your present and future, it's time to let go. Your motivation
to do so is directly correlated with your desire to be free; free from the adverse
conditions that your choices have, or will create.

Letting go is sometimes a challenge, but it's always a choice.

While working in an engineering firm, I noticed that architects like to make
renovations. They like taking existing structures and re-shaping them. Engineers often
prefer to tear things down completely to insure that a building has a strong foundation.

People are like architects when it comes to relationships. We are constantly trying to
remodel people by trying to get them to do things that they are just not cut out for. It's
really like caging a bird...a bird that will always want to be free. Let it go.

Wisdom says that it's best to love people as we met them, or leave them as we found them. When our relationships run
their course, we must view them in terms of what was gained, instead of what will be lost by letting them go.

Knowing when it's time to let people go - acquaintances, business associates, friends, lovers, husbands or wives - is a
delicate matter, but there are psychological health benefits to doing so sooner, rather than later.

Carol Masheter, of the University of Utah, sought to discover the difference between healthy and unhealthy post-divorce
relationships, and found that preoccupation was the key. She gave participants a questionnaire that measured, first, their
feelings of hostility toward their ex, and second, their level of preoccupation, or how much they still thought about their
former partner. She also assessed the individuals' overall psychological well-being.

Not surprisingly, people who had high levels of both hostility and preoccupation weren't doing too well, but neither were
those who felt friendly toward their former spouse and were still emotionally involved with him/her. They were often
dependent on their exes, and sometimes harbored unrealistic fantasies of reconciliation.

People with low hostility and low preoccupation enjoyed the greatest
well-being, but those with high hostility and low involvement weren't
far behind.

Masheter says that these hostile but uninvolved exes may actually use
their anger adaptively, to invigorate themselves and ward off a
potentially paralyzing depression. "Mid-range anger may help people,
particularly women, differentiate from the spouse and get on with their
lives," says Masheter. "They turn their anger outward in constructive
ways."

In other words, constructive ways that build freedom of mind, which
will release you from the imprisonment of unwarranted and unnecessary
adversity.

Just remember that the challenge of letting go is not nearly as daunting as the stress of hanging on to anything - or
anyone - that doesn't impact you in a positive or healthy way.

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The Benefits of
Reciprocity
Recently, I severed a business relationship that I once valued. It
was not something that I did impetuously; on the contrary, I had
been contemplating this decision for quite some time. The delay
was not in the deliberation, but in maintaining the hope that things
would get better - which they did not.

At the heart of the matter were my deeply entrenched feelings of
being used (i.e., taken advantage of). We've all been in similar
relationships - personally or professionally - where we feel this
way; it’s a tell-tale sign that reciprocity, or a lack thereof, is
missing.

When I first entered the business world, I was greatly inspired by Dale Carnegie who once said, "You can have
everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." That became my mantra as
a professional.

Many years later I incorporated Zen into my life. One of the basic tenets of Zen philosophy is giving without the
expectation of receiving. As a person, and as a service-oriented business professional, my path and mission were clear:
give much and expect little.

While munificence may go a long way toward building good will and being liked in business, it will have an adverse
effect on the bottom line. Psychologically, it's important to note that people rarely give without the expectation of
receiving something in return. It's just human nature. Zen practice attempts to make you aware of that so that you can
give freely (mentally) without expectation.

In business, this is where there is an abrupt departure.

Robert Cialdini, a Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University elaborates on what he calls "the Rule of
Reciprocity" in his book Influence:

The Rule of Reciprocity requires that one person try to repay what another person has provided. By obligating the
recipient to an act of repayment in the future--the rule for reciprocation allows one individual to give something to
another with the confidence that it is not being lost.

This sense of future obligation - according to the rule - makes possible the
development of various kinds of continuing relationships, transactions, and
exchanges that are beneficial to society. Consequently, virtually all members of
society are trained from childhood to abide by this rule or suffer serious social
disapproval.

Cialdini's Rule of Reciprocity may be misnamed if reciprocal thinking is human
nature, and business relationships - and business itself - depends on it. Instead of
viewing this as a give/take situation, we should focus on the benefits of reciprocity.

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These benefits are not only experienced when we receive, but also when we give. They are
predicated upon reciprocal actions, and interactions which have a positive domino effect. It's
true that in a community in which we take care of each other, everyone will be taken care of.

But when the benefits received on behalf of one party far outweigh the benefits of the other,
or elude you altogether, you feel short-changed. Such an imbalance will ultimately result in
discord, or as was the case in my situation, dissolution.

To avoid this situation, and to prevent others from experiencing it, you must think proactively about present and future
benefits (e.g., what's in it for them, what you have of value to offer, and how they can profit). This is the foundation for
the proverbial "win-win" scenario.

Often people don't see or realize what reciprocal benefits there are to be offered to others because they are instinctively
focused on their own. It's best to be up-front about these matters in the beginning, and during the course of any long-term
working relationship. The phrases "I owe you" and "I can't wait to return the favor," are checks that you can cash at a
later date.

In the end, you have to be able to hold people accountable to the benefits that they advertise to you with diplomacy and
tact. If they are not advertised and are only perceived (by you or the other party), then they must be articulated. This
serves as a form of documentation that can be acknowledged and measured at a later date, if necessary.

By learning to be mindful of reciprocal actions, you inevitably increase the abundant benefits of reciprocity for yourself
and others in a way that Dale Carnegie would surely be proud of.

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The Art of Empathetic Listening
Listening is such a simple process. One person talks, the other person listens. Or do they?
We often confuse hearing with listening. The two are different, though both are done with our ears. Hearing is a natural
function of the ear which involves the reception of sound. It's one of your senses. Listening is an acquired skill which
involves the processing of words for the purpose of understanding communication messages from other humans. We hear
music, we listen to lyrics.

Listening is not something we are taught, and short of
getting direct feedback from those we communicate
with, we don't have a way of measuring our proficiency.
Due to this fact, most of us have an exaggerated sense of
how well we listen. Studies show that the development of
your listening skills is crucial to the overall success and
fulfillment you will experience throughout your career, and
life, because it dramatically improves your ability to
relate to and connect with others.

Are you a good listener? Maybe. Can you become a better
listener? Definitely. We all can. Any skill that can be
practiced can be improved. Is it difficult? Yes, but the
difficulty lies in learning to apply the skills consistently. In
order to truly appreciate the significance of proficient
listening skills, you must first recognize that verbal
communication is a two-part process; comprised of both
listening and speaking. We've established that listening is
the part that most people underdevelop, what we
haven't established is why?

After reading a plethora of information on the subject of listening it seems that the top reason that people get distracted
from the task of listening is quite obvious: they simply aren't interested in the subject matter, the person, or both. How's
that for scientific study and research?

This forces us to revert back to the natural function of the ear as a hearing device. When we have no interest in what we
are hearing (or who we are hearing it from) we process the sounds differently and pay less attention; thus preventing us
from listening. Studies show that people who have a natural curiosity tend to be better learners. Better learners also make
better listeners because they take a genuine interest in other people (think Oprah). Listening, as you recall, is the
processing of words for the purpose of understanding communication messages from other humans.

When you listen with the objective of understanding both the content and the emotions of another person - that's
empathetic listening; which enables you to pay attention to another person with empathy (emotional identification,
compassion, feeling, and insight). Those who habitually employ empathetic communication techniques experience more
satisfaction in their daily interactions with people (again, think Oprah).

Empathetic listening is very similar to what psychologists refer to as "active listening," whereby you repeat back to the
person what you think she or he said to make certain you understand, and to show that you are indeed listening. Some
techniques used to help other people listen empathetically include asking how the person feels about what you are saying,
or making statements that demonstrate your comprehension of what the other person has said.

Empathetic listening is characterized by a genuine desire to understand the words and the emotions of the messages
communicated by others.

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When these messages are
insufficiently received, there
are usually several factors
which prevent it. Judgment and
thinking - or rather thinking too
much - is the most common.
The usual scenario is thinking
about what you are going to say
in response to what someone
just said, rather than thinking
about what they are saying.
What causes us to do so much
thinking while we are
communicating with someone?
Ego and emotions.

The negative impact that ego has on listening skills is major because ego dictates the perspective from which we listen.

Those who are egotistical, highly educated, opinionated, or hyper-analytical, are better at sending off information (about
themselves and opinions), than they are at receiving and processing information (about others). Ego blocks motivation
for achieving empathy and creates a barrier in establishing a meaningful connection between two people.

While some may say that communication styles are what determines your ability to effectively communicate with
someone else, your emotions (or emotional state) is more likely to erect filters which affect your ability to engage in
empathetic listening.

If you are a naturally cynical, oppositional, negative, critical, insecure, close-minded, pessimistic, or self-absorbed
person, you will listen to others and process the messages they send you from the base of those emotions. Needless to
say, such emotions will strain attempts at empathetic listening if left unchecked.

People have different filters rooted in their culture, upbringing and gender. Men and women often have different kinds of
filters, and that causes listening problems. Just by becoming aware of your own filters (even without changing them) you
will improve your listening. This is where interpersonal skills come in to play. Interpersonal skills are all the behaviors
and feelings that help us to understand ourselves and others. They also influence our interactions with others.

In order to unlock the key for empathetic listening, find common ground in the conversation which enables you to go
from spectator to participant without cutting off the person who is speaking. By encouraging them to talk more, you
allow a natural flow which will inevitably take the conversation in different directions; directions that will give you the
chance to gain deeper understanding.

This eliminates the threat of you becoming a non-listener who "drifts" in conversation. Be aware that
eyes (glancing elsewhere or no eye contact) and body language (arms folded, yawning, etc.) can
create or amplify feelings of resistance and boredom. An empathetic listener remains engaged by
giving feedback and driving the conversation forward with open-ended questions (questions that can’t
be answered with a simple yes or no).

Always remember that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is because we are supposed to do
more listening than we do talking. A little (genuine) concern in your listening efforts will go a long
way and pay big dividends in your personal and professional relationships.

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The Power of Observation
If experience is the greatest teacher, and hindsight is 20/20, then
what can be said of observation?

Observation is defined as: 1 a: an act or instance of observing a
custom, rule, or law b: observance 2 a: an act of recognizing and
noting a fact or occurrence often involving measurement with
instruments b: a record or description so obtained 3: a judgment on
or inference from what one has observed.

No matter which definition one may choose, employing the power
of observation is a choice.

What derails us in this choice? Our preoccupation with how we are
being perceived. When watching ourselves we don't - or can't -
observe others with the deliberate focus that will provide us with
valuable information and insight into a person's character, values,
and motives.

By being self-absorbed we miss obvious clues that reveal the truth.
Egocentricity also mutes intuitive ("gut") feelings that would
otherwise be heard, but unfortunately get ignored.

Only when we overcome our urge to be understood and accepted,
can we fully engage in the process of understanding and accepting. People tell us what they want us to know, not what
we need to know about them. The power of observation cuts through smoke screens and delivers clarity.

To activate your powers of observation, two things are required. First, you must shut-up. That's right, stop talking - both
to yourself (in your mind) and to others. When your mouth is closed, your ears and eyes magically open wider.

The second step is to gather verbal and non-verbal information without thinking about it. This is easier said than done,
but can be mastered with practice.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell refers to this process in his book Blink as "thin-slicing."

Thin-slicing calls upon the use of limited information to come to
conclusions. He says that by thinking without thinking (too much),
sizing up situations and determining how we feel about someone or
something based not on voluminous new information, but rather on
our accumulated experiences, is a good thing.

Both "thin-slicing" and using the power of observation, are concerned
with the challenge of identifying and focusing on only the most
significant information.
Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell was quoted in an interview saying: "We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly
related to the time and effort that went into making it," he writes. "And what do we tell our children? Haste makes waste.
Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don't judge a book by its cover."

The power of observation does not give you the ability to judge a book by its cover; however, it does give you a very
strong indication as to what the book is about.

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Through the observation of people and their surroundings, you will be able to pick up on key messages about who they
are, what they think, what they value, and how they really feel, all without you ever having to ask a question - if you pay
attention to the clues and the cues.

How does your boss dress? Meticulously or slovenly? Studies reveal that there is a direct correlation between how
business owners dress and the way they run their companies. A boss who dresses meticulously is more likely to be
organized and pay greater attention to the details of running their business. A boss who is disheveled in their appearance
is more likely to overlook details and lack vision for the future of the company.

Does your new love interest sit back in his chair while you are talking? Or does he lean forward? Leaning forward means
he's drawn into the conversation; leaning back means he's withdrawn and disinterested. Does your boyfriend listen to you
with his arms closed? He's sending a clue that he is closed off to what you are saying and is not receptive. Crossed arms
also convey protection when a person feels they are under attack and feel the need to take a defensive stance.

These are just some of the non-verbal clues that provide us with honest information during our interactions with others,
but the power of observation is not limited to real-time involvement with people. It happens most, and perhaps best,
when the person you are observing isn't aware of it or is not even present.

What would someone know about you just by
visiting your house when you are not there? What
does your office reveal about your personality and
work habits? What does the interior of your car
say about how you live your life?

An insightful article entitled A Room With a Cue:
Personality Judgments Based on Offices and
Bedrooms by Samuel D. Gosling and Sei Jin Ko
of the University of Texas at Austin examines
how people spend many of their waking hours in
their personal living and work environments.

They found that everything from the choice of colors, patterns, motifs, and de´cor reveal not only personal taste and
aesthetics, but self-directed identity claims intended to reinforce self-views which intentionally communicate attitudes
and values to others. These statements might be sincere and intended to convey truthful messages about what the
individual is really like, but they may also be strategic, even deceptive statements intended to portray the individual in a
certain light.

Their research reveals that personal environments, such as offices and bedrooms, are good receptacles of such interior
behavioral residue (Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, & Sechrest, 1966) where individuals spend a great deal of time, and
certain behaviors are performed repeatedly in these environments.

The term behavioral residue to refer to the physical traces of activities conducted in one's environment. Although most
cues will reflect past behaviors, there may also be some clues to anticipated behaviors; for example, an unopened bottle
of wine and a set of beanbag chairs arranged in a circle on the floor may indicate a social occupant who is planning to
entertain guests.

So in other words, your office space communicates volumes about you, so does the condition in which you keep the
interior of your car - as well as the items you keep in it. These are all indicators of who you are, what you do (have done
or will be doing), and how you live.

With consistent practice you will soon learn that it's not what people say, but what their non-verbal messages
communicate to you through the power of observation, that truly matter.

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Debunking The Myth Of Not Having Enough Time

We often hear people say that they are busy. Some people repeat it so much that
they sound like a broken record. But are they really that busy? Or do they suffer
from faulty time management skills? In the majority of cases, it's the latter.

Time and money are two commodities that we have the strongest desire for. They
are also the two that we waste the most. People who claim to be "super busy" will
tell you that they wish the day consisted of 25 hours or more. The inference is that if
they had an additional hour, they could get more done. But it’s not true. An hour, or
even several more hours will not yield increased results. Here are the reasons why:

First, people who live in a vacuum make the choice to do so. Sure we can point to
counterproductive habits such as procrastination, which can rob people of time, but
it does not tell the whole story. Procrastination is not the real problem; it's the
symptom of a greater problem - lack of discipline.

Secondly, most people who fit this profile are addicts. Not drug addicts, but
adrenaline addicts. They like the "rush" that comes with waiting till the last minute to do things. They get excited when
frantically plowing through tons of details to complete tasks, assignments or projects.

Richard Koch, author of the 80/20 Principle, says that 80% of the execution of a project gets done with 20% of the
remaining time available to complete it. From "cramming" for exams, to submitting million dollar proposals, many
people function in this manner. Knowing that they are not as organized as they should be - and may still be able to
achieve their objectives in spite of it - heightens the drama and reinforces the behavior. This leads to the final personality
trait of those who are perpetually time challenged: egotism.

Once people manage to achieve desired results with a fair amount of consistency they no longer question their process. In
fact, they often develop pride (if not arrogance) that they can continue to operate under the cloud of chaos and disorder
that hovers above them. It becomes their modus operandi. When this occurs, there is no incentive to change.

People who fit the above descriptions may actually like being busy, but chances are, they like the appearance of being
busy even more. It makes them feel important. Never mind the disarray and melodrama that accompanies them.
There's plenty of time in the day: how we use that time is the real issue. We are sure to feel pinched for time when
deadlines approach; especially when we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to work methodically toward the
completion of a project.

Distractions are a part of life. Discipline helps to minimize both distractions and procrastination. There are two areas in
which a constant battle with distractions and procrastination are being fought: social networking sites and television.
Nielsen Media Research reports that the average American watches 142 hours of TV in a month. Americans aged 65 and
up watch more than 196 hours per month. When Americans are not watching TV, they are watching videos.

People who are truly interested in getting maximum productivity in the minimum of a 24 hour span might be interested
in conducting a time management analysis. This is a simple documentation of how you spend every minute, of every
hour, of every day. The adage that math doesn't lie holds true here. If you add up the time spent on all of your daily
activities, you might be surprised by how and where your time is spent.

Everyone can benefit from improved time management skills. Time management skills are your abilities to recognize and
solve personal time management problems. But like any problem, you have to first acknowledge that there is one before
it can be solved. Make no mistake about it; you are never going to get 25 hours out of a 24 hour day. It's not possible.
Your best alternative is to debunk the myth of not having enough time by learning how to make the most effective use of
the time you do have.

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Taking The Time To Think About Time
Time can barely be managed, and it can’t be caged because time flies...
From the time we are born, time surrounds and engulfs us. Our time of birth marks our first introduction to the
significance and power of time. The final documented information that is recorded in the story of our lives is time
of death. The beginning and the end stand at opposites sides of the time continuum, but they often overlap;
whenever something ends, something new begins…it's a cycle that sustains both life and opportunities.

Time passes you by whether you move slowly or at full speed. Time never stands still - it's too fast and tireless,
which is why time waits for no one. You can make time for things and people, but you can’t make time. Some
people try to save time, but time can't be saved like money - money can be added; time can only be subtracted.

Life is finite. Time is infinite. The fact that we don't know how much time we have makes it all the more
intriguing. Some people take note of the average life expectancy in the U.S. to gauge how long they might live
(around 77 for women and 71 for men). But it’s said, you should not count the years, but rather make the years
count. In other words, have the time of your life…whenever time permits.

When opportunity knocks, it means that your time has arrived. When you were better in the past than you can
possibly be in the future, your time has passed. No matter how strong, swift, beautiful, or smart the day finds us,
time ushers in a change of season for all. Lovers know that love takes time, and time will reveal true love, and in
the end, when time marches on, they discover that time heals all wounds.

We may not know how to change things in our lives, but we know when it’s time for a change. We harbor our
deepest resentment toward those who we feel have wasted our time…those we have given the time of day. After
all, time is our most precious and elusive commodity. But the truth is that we waste more of our own time than we
allow others to. We can't stop the clock on today, and we can't go back to yesterday...time turns the page whether
we are ready or not…

Society has always been obsessed with time travel; going backward or forward in time. The concept of the time
machine captures the imagination of many. It's a quixotic notion. Going backward would allow you to erase
mistakes, but shifting events around in time would have a devastating domino effect, which would alter your
growth and life. So timing is everything…

Those who respect time make the most of it. They know that time is not an onerous foe, but a motivational friend.
They know that at any time, life could change. It’s the time spent with loved ones that make it all worthwhile.
When you take time to think about time, appreciate the moment in time that you are blessed to have.

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Girlfriends & Wives:
Why Men View Them Differently

A friend of mine announced his plans to get married recently. It came as somewhat of a surprise considering that he
once vowed to never get married. We talked about the reasons and the motivations for his about-face, and in doing so,
embarked upon an ongoing dialogue in which we weighed the pros and cons of having a girlfriend, versus the pros and
cons of having a wife. It was the kind of revealing conversation that women aren't usually privy to...until now.

Since the foundation of marriage is commitment, it's
only appropriate that I start there. My friend is not
commitment aversive. In fact, he has tried - and failed - in
previous attempts to have committed relationships. But
so have most men. During our conversation he expressed his
fear of failing in a marriage. This fear is not the same as
failing in a casual or short-term relationship where there's no
cohabitation or commitment. It's a deeper, greater fear of
failure. The kind that everyone (friends, families, co-workers,
distant relatives, and anyone else you may invite to your
wedding) will know about.

When men fail in relationships with their girlfriends, they can,
in many instances, salvage their friendships with them. When
men fail in their marriages, they rarely remain friends with
their ex-wives. The continued exposure is a painful reminder of what once was, and will never be. Any friendship that
existed is soon replaced by contempt and resentment. Not exactly the ingredients for friendship.

Men like having girlfriends. Women acquire this position in different ways; sometimes starting out as acquaintances, co-
workers, or friends. Sometimes they are officially given the title of girlfriend, other times they "assume" the position
based on their interactions and emotional connections with men. No woman could ever assume the position of being a
wife. Wives are always chosen by the man. It's akin to the way that a woman always chooses her lovers. This is the
balance of power between the sexes.

Girlfriends (the assumed ones) eventually want an official acknowledgment over a period of time. And just so you
women know, if a guy does not officially offer you the position and title of his "girlfriend," it's because he does not want
to commit to you...but he does want to continue receiving the unofficial benefits you offer as a friend.

A recent study revealed that two-thirds of college students have been in a "friends with benefits" relationship, citing the
lack of commitment required as the main advantage to such an arrangement. More than half of those who had sex with a
friend said they had engaged in all forms of sex; 22.7 percent said they had intercourse only, while 8 percent said they
did everything but have intercourse.

My friend is not a college student, but he was in this situation. It led to him receiving an ultimatum. His assumed
girlfriend threatened to cut off his "benefits." As a result she got a promotion from assumed girlfriend, to fiancé in just
one night. With this decision, he was forced to confront his greatest fear - the greatest fear of all men:

Choosing the wrong woman as a wife.

Women have similar fears, but because they tend to be fantasy-
driven, they turn their focus to their "big day" after such a
monumental decision. It distracts them from the possibility of
making a big mistake. The women who are less emotionally
distracted seem to manage and rationalize their fears much better; at
least better than men do.

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Men are more fearful of choosing the wrong woman to commit to, than they are of commitment
itself. Yes, men fear being "locked" down - legally or logistically - when the woman that they
really want finally comes along. The logic among men is simple: it's hard to find the love of your
life…when you are already married.

When men aren't ready to settle down with a long-term girlfriend, it's because of one reason and
one reason only: they don't have confidence in their choice of girlfriend as a potential wife. After
all, with the assumed girlfriend, men can always say, "I never said you were my girlfriend." With
the official girlfriend, you just break-up, even though it may be painful for her or you. And ending
things with your wife? That's drama - and expensive.

A girlfriend becomes a low-risk proposition in contrast. But choosing not to get married for fear of it "not working out,"
is like choosing not to play your favorite sport for fear of getting hurt; the risk is always present. My friend took this
attitude, and with it, decided to take his once assumed girlfriend, as his new wife.

During our conversations about girlfriends and wives, I was reminded that for men, there is a stigma associated with
marriage that many women are not aware of: men fear that sex changes both in quality and frequency during marriage.
Men also fear that their wives won't pay as much attention to their appearance as they did when they were once a
girlfriend.

While these may seem like trivial fears to most women, they are real and very substantial ones
for men. So much so, that they immobilize men in their efforts to move forward with a
decision to "settle down." For men, being "stuck" with a woman who loses her "hotness" -
sexually or visually - makes them feel like they have indeed, settled - which is an unsettling
realization. Men are visual, sexual creatures. Girlfriends don't have to be reminded of that.
Men also fear that wives may change in terms of attitude, demeanor, and values over time;
causing them to fall out of love.

These are all fears. Some are legitimate. Some are not. All are to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. I wish my friend
well. He is my best friend after all, and you can't help but have guarded optimism when someone you love makes one of
the most important decisions of their lives. Hopefully this article, inspired by his sudden marriage, will help other men
realize that the difference between a girlfriend, and a wife, comes down to perception.

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That Men Find Sexy

Over the years I've had numerous conversations with my male friends about what they find sexy in a woman, and I've
been keeping a running tab on the comments.

The list below, and its accompanying explanations, may surprise you. Remember, this is an aggregate list, presented in
descending order, and derived from men with diverse personalities and backgrounds.

10. Physically attractive: This is probably not a surprise. The surprise is that it's
number 10 on this list. Being physically attractive is apparently the golden ticket to
being sexy. How is "physically attractive" defined by men? In the stereotypical way
that you are thinking of: good hip-to-waist ratio, girlish facial features, and nice
symmetry (how well-proportioned a woman is). These physical qualities still reign
supreme in an idealistic sense.

9. Approachable: Ironically, the more physically attractive a woman is, the less she
gets approached (by their ideal long term mates). Many beautiful and/or successful
women will agree. It's not that men prefer flawed women; they are just more
comfortable approaching a woman who does not appear to be "perfect," and thus;
may be more receptive to them...and their own flaws.

8. Cool personality: While it's true that men grow up wanting the
cheerleader/model/stripper, they also appreciate the "girl next door," who has
wholesome, down-to-earth qualities. While spending time with her may feel like time
spent with "one of the guys," she will always remind us that she's a woman - and a
sexy one at that.

7. Open-minded: There are several reasons why men want a woman to be open-minded.
The first is that it means she will entertain different ideas and perspectives which could go a
long way toward building and maintaining a relationship. It also means that she may
consider a threesome - no matter how remote of a possibility.

6. Competitive: Women are competitive with each other when they are single. They need to
retain that same competitive spirit while in a relationship. The type of competitiveness that men find sexy is when our
women can identify another sexy woman, and best her sexiness. In other words, know what we find sexy about another
woman and not be threatened by it.

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5. Confident: Being with an insecure woman is like being in a boat with a slow leak;
eventually it will fill with water and sink. So will the relationships that men try to have
with such women. Men find confidence sexy - especially in the bedroom.

4. Good hygiene: Sexiness is healthiness. It's also cleanliness. From clean smelling hair
and breath, to every crevice of a woman's body, extremities should be clean and edible
during intimate moments. Scents (which are scientifically known to linger a lifetime)
should arouse and endear.

3. Orgasmic: Simply put: nothing is more intoxicating to a man than the vivid memory of his orgasmic lover during his
last sexual interlude...except the interlude he's going to have with her in the next 30 minutes. Women who know how -
and expect - to have orgasms during each sexual encounter are placed in our sexual hall of fame where they can only be
displaced by...a woman who is more orgasmic.

2. Strong sex drive: Considering that most men feel that women don't want sex as much as they
do, it only makes sense that women who want sex would be second on this list. For a man, a
woman who likes sex is sexy. A woman who likes sex - and wants it frequently - is a keeper.

1. Comfortable with her sexuality: A woman who is comfortable with her sexuality tends to be
comfortable with all things sexual. She can discuss sexual desires, experiences, and needs. She
has rare, sexual enthusiasm and is not concerned with her man's past lovers because she is
competitive (see number 6).

In fact, she feels sexy all by herself, but she loves the sexual attention that her man gives her, and her man loves the fact
that she does not have sexual hang-ups. She's comfortable making love in a bed, or having sex in public, and she's not
interested in having a philosophical discussion about the differences between the two.

She is sexy as hell, and her man loves her more because of it.

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Bringing Sexy Back - A Man's Perspective on Sex Appeal
So what is sexy? How do we define sexiness? Is there a
difference between the two? And how do they differ from
sex appeal? Let's consult the Merriam-Webster dictionary
for distinctions:

Sexy: 1 - sexually suggestive or stimulating; erotic.
Sexiness is defined as: sexually suggestive or stimulating;
erotic...ok...let's define Sex Appeal: 1 - personal appeal or
physical attractiveness especially for members of the
opposite sex.

Most women know that men are visual creatures and have sex on the brain. Contrary to popular belief, we don't really
think about sex every 7 seconds as Alfred Kinsey once reported. A recently conducted survey found that 54 percent of
men think about sex several times a day, according to the National Academy of Scientists.

These stats are interesting, but not important because all men need to know is this: women don't think about - or want -
sex as much we do. What would be interesting to know is how often women think about their own sex appeal? Probably
just as much - if not more - as men think about sex.

While men want sex (in general), women want to know that they are sexually appealing (in particular) to the man of their
choice. While single, their sexiness gives them an advantage in attracting men in the singles marketplace over their
competition. The sexiest girl in the club is often the one who gets the most attention, but her true sex appeal is not readily
known.

More primitive men think of a woman's sex appeal in terms of who they'd most like to have sex with. That form of sex
appeal lacks distinction and discrimination. It's also biological. Men are not hormonally wired for monogamy. The area
in the brain (the hypothalamus) which regulates sexual impulses is two and half times larger in men, and serves a
biological function in the procreation process. Selection conflicts with that process. As a result, our criterion is mind-
numbingly simple.

Contrary to what men think, women (even those who are promiscuous) are selective (at least more selective than men).
The costs of having sex (and the potential results thereof) are much greater for women. Richard F. Taflinger had this to
say on the subject in his popular article The Biological Basis of Sex Appeal:

“In most species, females bear the brunt of the cost of sex in both time and energy. Among mammals, she must not only
produce the young, she must rear them to the point of self-sufficiency. Thus, unlike the male, she doesn't have the choice
of promiscuity, of creating as many offspring as possible as quickly as possible; she can’t abandon offspring as soon as
they are born, or her genes die with the infant.” (Daly 1983).

All this means she must be highly selective in her choice of mates if she wishes to
produce the highest quality offspring in her reproductive lifetime. If she selects
just any male that comes along, she could waste all the time and energy that
pregnancy and rearing require on a possibly weak or non-viable offspring. Her
criteria thus are aimed at getting the best possible male. What is important is the
quality of genes he brings and the help, if any, she will have while carrying,
bearing and rearing her young.

Her criteria, therefore, are more complex than the male's. Not only must he be
physically acceptable, but should satisfy other factors that may contribute to her
and her offspring's welfare. These can include leadership, status within a group,
and fighting skill. The sex act, and his participation, being so brief, doesn't have to
be of any great interest to her. He need merely be able to achieve orgasm.

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Darwinism aside, sex appeal plays a major role in the context of a relationship. The
"personal" aspect of sex appeal is a dual process: 1) relating to one's self in a
personal way that speaks to your belief in your physical attractiveness which makes
you feel more desirable and 2), relating to one's lover in a way that makes him feel
physically attractive. Two people who feel inner attractiveness and find each other
to be highly desirable are very sexy.

Before any of that happens, a huge hurdle must be overcome. A hurdle that often
proves to be insurmountable for many women, but is absolutely necessary in
achieving true sex appeal: comfort with one's body (including self-diagnosed
imperfections) and a healthy attitude about one's sexuality, and sex in general. It's
truly a rarity. It's also truly sexy.

Ask any man you know who has experienced this type of sex appeal and they will probably describe it one word:
irresistible. It's also elusive. There are many women who are sexy, but many lack sex appeal. Tight pants, form-fitting
dresses, high skirts, abundance of cleavage, it's all...titillating but it's no indicator of sex appeal; it's merely an attempt at
being sexy with the use of skimpy clothing.

At the end of the day (especially at night) evolved men know that women who have sex appeal don't need the help of
sexy clothes to showcase it. Their sex appeal emanates from within and comes through - clothed or not. That type of
sexiness never leaves...or has to be brought back.

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Sexy Panties

Why Men Love Them and Women Need Them

There's a difference between women's underwear and sexy panties. Underwear is functional. It is worn for sanitary
purposes. Sexy panties are about femininity, self-expression, and style. Sexy panties are perhaps the only item of clothing
that can influence the mood of both women and men.

While panties may have evolved over the years as the embodiment of female
sexuality, they did not start out that way. Their original purpose was to cover-up
and minimize a woman's feminine features.

The first "panties" were the brainchild of Elizabeth Miller, but Amelia Bloomer
revised them during the 1850's. They were essentially long, baggy pants ending at
the ankles (a.k.a. "bloomers"). In the late 18th century bloomers got two other
nametags - knickers and knickerbockers.

When the roaring 20s arrived, signaling the end of World War I, young women
began wearing shorter skirts for greater comfort while dancing. With all of the
high leg kicking that was taking place undergarments went from being a private
article of clothing, to potentially being a public display of intimate fashion
apparel.

As a result the first pastel panties were designed and the word "lingerie" first appeared in public. The term lingerie
derives from the French word 'lin' which means linen. During the beginning of the 20th century it was still being called
underwear and was worn mainly for hygienic purposes. It was at this time that bloomers began to shrink in size.

FREDERICK'S of HOLLYWOOD

In the 1940s, Frederick's of Hollywood opened shop in Hollywood and began turning out
prettier undergarments, lingerie, and corsets. Many viewed these more fashionable
undergarments as "hooker" attire. After all, why would a respectable woman need raunchy
panties?

Thus, any pretty and/or fashionable garments worn under clothing were deemed as lingerie;
which was associated with bad girls who did bad things...that men liked.

Frederick's of Hollywood still carries this stigma today and as a result, has been
overshadowed by Victoria's Secret as a more "respectable" undergarment retailer. Colorful,
bright, sexy, and flashier fashions of women's lingerie were becoming available. More fabrics
such as cotton, satin, lace and silk were now being incorporated into the makeup of women's
lingerie, making them more desired by females and more sensual to males.

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SEXUAL REVOLUTION

This is perhaps the great turning point when panties became more than
simple hygiene products and were viewed as a symbol for sexuality and
eroticism worldwide.

During the 1960s, there was a stir about the old, traditional views of
women's undergarments, which some people wanted to look more like
females' anatomies. Female anatomy was largely misunderstood due to
censorship of the subject. Some feminist women were complaining that
traditional women's undergarments were created to impose control and
distort the appearance of women's figures (which it originally did).

This movement caused many females to have a new outlook on their undergarments. Soon, underpants were designed
more like women's anatomy, as designers experimented with different cuts and fabrics. The underpants got smaller and
skinnier and began to be more openly sexualized.

Then the 70s and sexual liberation arrived. Inhibitions diminished and so did the tolerance for grandma panties (which is
what bloomers were now called).

THONGS

While many credit Rudi Gernreich with introducing the first modern thong back
in 1974 (in this country) it was actually the Egyptians, conceptually, who were
one of the earliest people to wear them. The loincloth, worn thousands of years
ago by them, is likely to be the first undergarment worn by humans and it
evolved into the thong over the years. So, ironically, it was first worn by men in
ancient times before it evolved into part of women's lingerie in modern times.

The thong, originally called a V-back, are a special type of underwear that ride
high on the hips and leave the bottom almost completely exposed. They were
also worn for many years by exotic Brazilian dancers during festivals. Thongs
also grew in popularity during the 80s in South America and were used as
swimwear at the beaches. The popularity of the thong spread to various parts of
the world in the late 80s.

In the US, the thong had to gain acceptance before it gained popularity. In the
early 90s R&B vocalist Sisqo and his famous "Thong Song" helped with both.
Today, the thong is one of the best selling styles of undergarment in the world.
The size of the lingerie industry is said to be over $2 billion a year. The rest is
history.

Because most articles of this nature are written by women, I thought it would be nice to offer a male point of view on the
sex appeal of various types of panties and why men love them.

G-STRINGS

Commonly referred to as "butt floss" because they are made with the least amount of
material, G-Strings are a woman's best defense against panty lines. They are virtually
invisible under snug or tight fitting pants. G-Strings look best on the woman who has a
rounder, more well-defined ass.

For women who lack plumpness in that area, a G-String with a triangle back will add more
definition to your buttocks and make them appear rounder in the way that thongs do.
Thongs are best for visually enhancing and adding definition to less defined buttocks.

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MICRO G-STRINGS

This is a relatively new G-String. It has a low front panel, which makes it smaller
than a G-string. While I like the concept and the visual, Micro G-Strings seem very
impractical and slightly uncomfortable, but very, very erotic. Perhaps best for
"situational" use.

T-BACK THONGS OR T-STRINGS

This thong has a wide waistband going around the back. The T shape is made by the
juncture of the waistband part merging into the back material of the thong. This
version of the thong is perhaps the least favorite among men. It looks and feels like a
belt. The material in the waist seems excessive.

C-STRINGS

A C-String is a type of thong that has only a thin string connecting the front piece covering
the vagina. Unlike the more popular G-String, V-String, and T-String, the C-String does not
contain a waist band. It is held in place by a flexible frame which "clamps" onto the body. It
looks more like a space age medical device, but clearly it's easy to remove...which can have
its benefits.

BOY SHORTS

Boy shorts, also known as boy short panties, boys' cut, booty shorts, shorties, tap panties or boy-
leg briefs are a sort of lingerie that goes all the way down the hips. Some stop short of the length
of the hip to reveal a portion of a woman's "cheeks" for titillation. They are similar in style to
male boxer shorts - but are tighter and of course, much sexier. Men like them because they are
fun, flirty, and sensual. If you have nice, plump, round buttocks, boy shorts will accentuate your
assets.

BIKINI BRIEFS

The classic bikini is still sexy - subtle, but sexy. They come in many variations. Bikini underwear can refer to virtually
any undergarment that provides less coverage to the midsection than traditional underwear, panties or knickers. As much
as men love the aforementioned panties, bikini briefs tend to outnumber most panties in a woman's undergarment supply.

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INTERESTING TRENDS...THE ASS BRA?

The ass bra allegedly enhances the lift, shape and volume of the ass while also
flattening the lower tummy and shaping the thigh. That's quite a lot to deliver on. My
research revealed their average price to be $64.

How does it work? According to one website:

"Constructed of 3 high-tech layers...an inner and outer silky-soft layer made of a
Nylon/Spandex blend creates a smooth seamless look under clothing. A high-
compression latex middle layer provides breathable and flexible slimming of the tummy
- a creative solution for those who want the illusion of slim and trim thighs, a tummy-
tuck and a butt-lift without the use of padding."

BUTT CLEAVAGE PANTIES

These are Bikini-style panties with either a peephole or a lace-up in the back, so named
for the "cleavage" view they create. They don't do much for men; though they seemingly
provide women with more air, should they desire it.

BACKLESS PANTIES

These are…interesting panties which do away with backside fabric completely and are held up
by a tight band underneath the buttocks which make them appear to be falling down.
Hmm…can’t see the point of them.

On the Flirty Lingerie website I read the most powerful and intelligent statement about sexy
panties…which was written by a woman:

"When a woman passes a mirror she may pause to see if she is all put together. That includes
her hair, makeup, teeth and so on. Never is the focus on the panties she is wearing and perhaps
rightfully so. I don't advocate that a woman should check out her underwear throughout the day
for obvious reasons. On the other hand...the clothes a woman wears make a statement about her sense of style, fashion
sense and personality; therefore the choice of panties can, and does, make a difference in a woman's wardrobe."

I couldn’t agree more.

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What Black Men and Peacocks Have in Common

The interesting thing about being the only black man, and black person, in an office
is that I have this unique opportunity to educate white people about black culture.

For me, and many black men in similar positions, we find that once the initial barrier
of resistance is overcome and a rite of passage is granted, a competent and
professional black man can go about the serious business of shattering stereotypes.
This includes representing the entire black race and engaging in the refined behaviors
that engender trust from our colleagues. Though it’s hard to believe, that in this day
and age, many of the whites that we are exposed to, will have had very limited
intimate contact with other black men.

Yes, trust is the key that opens up the door to comfort and intimacy with our white
corporate colleagues. That's why, when one of them makes a naive or ignorant
remark, we are quick to dismiss it. Such remarks are considered innocuous by
cultivated and mature professional black men. It's only when they consistently recur
that we become agitated, offended, or pissed.

Such was the case when a former co-worker asked me one day about the loud (i.e.,
colorful) clothes that black men wear. As I recall, the conversation went like this:
"Gian, I've noticed in our building that black men wear the loudest colors. You wear
pretty bright colors too, why is that?" he asked with a quizzical tone.

After I inhaled and exhaled deeply, I made the decision to seriously engage him. But before I could respond, I needed
confirmation that he was making a serious inquiry and not just instigating some lighthearted office banter to pass the time
on a Friday afternoon. I replied, "How long have you been thinking about that?" His response was firm, "Since I started
seeing more black guys working in the building," he said. "Whenever I see them they are kind of flashy and they stand
out...like peacocks."

Peacocks?

No, I didn't launch into a Paul Mooney tirade, nor did I succumb to any violent impulses which would have caused me to
spend the weekend in jail. I pondered what he said and made an effort to make sense of it. I could not, and I abandoned
the conversation and went back to work.

Looking back on it (with no emotion and more analyzation) I can now say - many years later - that I can see, on a surface
level, how a white person would draw that comparison. Since my co-worker made that statement, I've come to realize
that my reaction to it was based as much on my ignorance of peacocks, as his ignorance about black culture.

To say that black men are like peacocks is a very colorful use of simile, but it also has merit beyond the obvious
flamboyant inference.

Peacocks, like black men, are fascinating species. I only recently learned that only the males are called peacocks and
females are called peahens. While the peacock is a wild bird by nature, they have been domesticated in many countries.

When many people think of a peacock, the first thing that comes to mind is their resplendent and colorful tail feathers
which only the males have. These tail feathers (which do not come into full bloom until the peacock is about three years
old) spread out into what is called a "train" when they are on full display. A train covers more than 60 percent of the
peacocks total body length.

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The train boasts colorful "eye" markings of blue, gold, red, and other
hues. They also have a crest, or crown, on top of their heads, making
them appear even more regal.

The large train has one purpose: to attract females for mating. Peahens
choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of these
outrageous feather trains. A train that lacks vibrancy indicates
infestation and lack of vitality.

The bigger and healthier the train appears, the greater the chances are that the peacock will be chosen by the female over
its competitors with smaller, less healthy appearing trains. Peahens choose their mates based on who is most desired by
other peahens. This confirms their perception that the peacock can produce healthy offspring that will have the
characteristics of their dominant peacock fathers who will pass along qualities that will ensure their survival and success
in life.

Since the time I was a young boy, I've witnessed black men in my family, in my church, and in my inner circle, wear
fancy, colorful clothing. Eventually, I would adopt the same practices. As a teenager I noticed that I received attention
from the females - much like the peacocks - as a result of my flashiness. It provided positive reinforcement to continue
wearing them.

As a young man armed with a credit card, I had more expensive, but equally as flamboyant clothing. I continued to
receive attention, but like most young black men who are not subconsciously aware of it, I, like the peacocks, was trying
to outshine my competitors and create the outward appearance of status.

In black culture the men are often desperate to be positively acknowledged in a society that is still plagued with so many
negative perceptions of them. Status obtained through sports, talent, academics, and other professional pursuits all
require significant effort.

Like peacocks, the appearance of status entitles one to privileges,
benefits, and a greater selection of women. In black culture, focus by
black men is often misplaced, and as a result, too much effort is expended
on the acquisition of status symbols instead of the actual status itself. It's
a trap for living above one's means.

Clothing, jewelry, cars, and other material items communicate false
messages of worth (not self-worth) to onlookers. They do not fill the
deeper void. In fact, they only divert from the real issue: black men who
feel displaced, disadvantaged, and discouraged - and try to compensate
for it, like peacocks, by building and displaying a pretentious "train"
which includes, but is not limited to clothing.

When I joined the workforce I toned down my colorful attire; opting for the incorporation of colors instead of excessive
colorfulness. I did this because I wanted to "fit in," and also because I no longer felt the need to draw attention to myself
in the manner, or for the reasons, that I did earlier in my life. Yes, I still have flair, but it's more of my personal style than
"flash."

Ironically, I've met many white men in corporate America who have a penchant for fine dressing and designer labels, but
they are driven by the pursuit of real status that's not defined or easily detected by the quality or appearance of their
clothing. In addition, the cost of their attire is proportionate with their income.

So even though considerable years have passed, I hope that I have sufficiently answered the question of what black men
and peacocks have in common, and more specifically, why black men tend to wear loud, colorful clothing for my former
co-worker, wherever he may be today.

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Afraid of the Dark –
Working With Black Men in Corporate America
I 've worked on-and-off in corporate America for 20 years as a
consultant, independent contractor, and employee. In that time, I've
had the dubious distinction of being the only black man, and many
times, the only black person in an office setting.

The thing about being the only black person in the office (i.e.
“token black”) is that it comes with psychosocial responsibility.

Many times, I, and other black men in similar situations, represent the lone intimate contact that our white colleagues
will have with other black people - and black men in particular. The extent of these interactions will be largely
determined by their comfort level and acceptance.

While many (white people) find it shocking that a black man can still be the sole representative of the black race in any
workplace, others (black people) know the phenomenon of the "token" black employee is still alive and well - especially
in geographical regions where there is not a high preponderance of blacks who work in executive or corporate positions.

Corporate environments are not for everyone; this seems to hold especially true for black men.

Because of the obvious absence of black men in the offices and corridors of corporate America, one can draw the
assumption that black men don't have a predilection for corporate jobs. That's not true. They just don't like them, and in
many cases, cannot handle their superficial nature.

Entry into the corporate environment for black men is especially rigorous. Qualifications and racism aside, there are high
barriers to entry which many of us simply are not aware of, and too often, are not qualified to meet. These barriers, which
also serve as filters, are predicated on the fears of those who create them.

On an executive level, hiring managers base their decisions on answers which revolve around questions such as: "Can I
see him bringing strong leadership to this company?" or "Will the other directors/managers/supervisors get along with
him?" and “Can we trust him?" and perhaps most importantly, “Do I feel comfortable working with him?”

From what I've seen, and what I've been told by people in HR who have spoken to me in confidence, is that for black
men, the real question is this: Does he fit in… while standing out?

Every company has its culture. When black men show up for an interview they are often unfamiliar with that culture.
Fitting in - or the perceived ability to fit in - is a major consideration in hiring decisions.

But it doesn't end with the obvious. On a deeper level, fitting in can also mean upholding
someone else's agenda.

Sometimes black men are hired because they will be less of a threat for advancement (i.e., less
likely to take someone's job), and less expensive because they tend to lack executive
opportunities, and thus executive experience for competitive executive pay, or because they
make a positive statement about a company's "commitment" to a diverse workforce.

Whatever the case, the office dynamics between black men and their white co-workers are truly something to behold. It's
common knowledge among black men who work in corporate America that white people get PR points for being
politically correct; therefore it behooves them to act as if they don't notice color.

But they do.

You can see it in their eyes when black men show up for interviews (especially when they don't have a "black" sounding
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name (it’s now well-documented that discrimination takes place on that level as well). Once hired, black men have to
quickly put people at ease with the hiring decision by making co-workers feel comfortable, or by overtly proving that we
are qualified for the jobs they have been given.

The Kellogg School of Management recently conducted research which showed that black
men who had what they describe as a "Teddy Bear" face (chubby-cheeked cuteness) or a
"babyface" (youthful, warm, innocent) are preferred in these settings because such faces are
disarming.

The lead conductor of the research was quoted as saying: "To function effectively as an
African American male in the U.S. it helps to have a disarming mechanism."

They noted that a disarming mechanism is a physical or behavioral trait that eases perceptions of threat—it signals to
whites that they do not have a reason to fear this particular black individual. “Babyfaceness" is but one example: political
conservatism, style of speech or dress, smiling behavior, or even a Harvard education might also serve a similar
disarming function.

Interesting.

This is why so many black men who work in corporate America fit a particular profile: educated, articulate, cultured, and
non-threatening. When these characteristics are on full display, they contribute to the comfort level of whites.

Once some level of comfort is achieved, it has to be reinforced with positive interactions over a period of time. Each
interaction with our white co-workers will either confirm, or dispel pre-conceived notions that they have about us. Yes,
we are in a delicate position to alter perceptions.

Kinship is very important in any sphere of life. It creates a sense of belonging and relatedness that psychologists say is
key to work and career happiness.

Regardless of what type of face we have, there's always the presence of a palpable racial dynamic; in spite of our efforts
to ignore it. We can sense it just in the way we are greeted (or not greeted), the content of the conversations that we have
with others, body language, enthusiasm, etc. These actions or inactions often leave us feeling disconnected, if not
alienated.

If you are a white person reading this, just know that the token black guy in your office is well aware of it. He is also
aware of the fact that you are aware of this too. Working with us doesn't have to be awkward. All any of us want is
inclusion, full participation, equal treatment, and respect.

Some would call that a reasonable and realistic desire.

Surveys have shown that the best companies view their diversity (what little of it
there may be) as an asset; therefore, the presence of black men is to be applauded.
So let's focus together on the task at hand, and what we have in common. In doing
so, you will realize that being afraid of the dark is not only senseless, but an
individual choice.

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The Repositioning of the Black Male

In the first presidential debate, Senator John McCain repeatedly accused
former Senator Barack Obama of lacking experience, being naive, and most
ironically, not knowing the difference between a tactic and a strategy. It was a
portentous allegation.

On Super Tuesday, after watching the Maverick and war hero (a.k.a.) McCain
go down in defeat, state after state, one thing was abundantly clear: "that one"
(a.k.a. Obama) not only knows the difference between tactics and strategies, but
has mastered them. It proved that you don't have to be a former prisoner of war
to effectively use tactics and strategies to accomplish your goals.

This article focuses on how black males can use the same tactics and strategies
employed by President Obama to reposition themselves to achieve success in
their professional endeavors and add momentum to the black male movement.

First, let's define terms to ensure that we are on the same page and are speaking the same language:

Tactic: a device for accomplishing an end. Strategy: a careful plan or method; a clever stratagem b: the art of devising or
employing plans or stratagems toward a goal. (There are many war references made in its alternate definitions; thus the
reason for McCain's arrogance.)

The commonly used and often misunderstood term "position" was created by marketing pioneers Al Ries and Jack Trout
in the 70s. According to them, position simply means to occupy a unique mental position in one's mind. We are all
positioned in one way or another. Positioning is the deliberate effort of establishing and controlling one's position. To
reposition is to change or improve one's original position. The act of positioning and repositioning should be thought of
and used as an element of strategy.

Now let's move on to the specifics of how the repositioning of black males can be accomplished through lessons
provided by President Barack Obama's historical campaign run.

First, I have to say that while both blacks and whites adroitly handled racial issues in this election with stunning
diplomacy, we all know - whether we care to admit it or not - that race, like sexuality, is always an issue. It's the big
elephant in the room that we are aware of, but try to ignore, as I try to ignore the fact that I now have over a decade of
experience working in corporate America and have yet to work alongside another black male. With the election of our
first black president.

No doubt we've crossed an epic racial barrier - but we still have many battles to be fought. We can't
be naive; racist issues (not to be confused with racial issues) still exist and they will undoubtedly
surface during Obama's Presidency. Many of the racial issues which pertain to and specifically
effect black men, can now be dealt with openly and politically since they were eclipsed by
universal concerns during the election. Focus upon them would have created the appearance of an
imbalanced perspective for Obama. After all, black issues are esoteric.

Obama's campaign team, lead by David Plouffe, and his chief strategist David Axelrod, have acknowledged that one of
the key tenets of the campaign was, in fact, to avoid discussions focused on race. From polling and interviews, the
campaign concluded from the outset that it was imperative to define Obama's candidacy in terms that would transcend
skin color. Who were their first efforts aimed at? Blacks.

Apparently, they deemed it imperative to get blacks to move beyond their "natural" skepticism that one of their own
could indeed become president. They knew that Obama would have to position himself to be chosen as a leader because
leaders don't choose their followers; followers choose their leaders - regardless of race.

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In a report on MSNBC.com by Adam Nagourney, Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny, Obama's campaign team made the
following quote, "The biggest race problem we had to solve was not with the white voters," Mr. Axelrod said, "but with
African-American voters, a deep sense of skepticism that this might happen."

How about that?

These are called intraracial issues. They offer a window, if not a measurement, into just how
long the roots of negativity and its insidious effects can have on the psyche of an oppressed
people. Were we really skeptical? Yes, initially, but we were not doubtful of Obama's
competence; we were doubtful of his chances based upon our system, and our individual and
collective black experiences.

After identifying the hurdles to the White House, Obama's camp had their agenda, a mission,
and a message. They were all set to execute a textbook course on repositioning Obama, and offer
America's black men invaluable lessons that they could use to transform their lives and achieve
greater success in their professional endeavors.

This brings us to lesson 1 in repositioning the black male: Remove skepticism - primarily your own - and identify
the hurdles to your success.

With Obama's campaign mantra of Change you can believe in, and Yes we can!, they created a strategy that would enable
them to fuel hope and engender allegiance at a time when our nation is at war and in dire economic straits, while
simultaneously instilling optimism into the psyches of African Americans, and the vast majority of Americans, in the
process.

The strategy was brilliant, but not surprising when you consider that Obama wrote a book entitled The Audacity Of Hope,
in which he wrote: "Hope is that thing inside of us that insists, despite evidence to the contrary, that something better
awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it." The tears that flowed so copiously
during his acceptance speech were tears of hope. He clearly understands that one cannot have hope without optimism. He
may want to entitle his next book The Benefits Of Optimism.

Lesson 2 in repositioning the black male: Understand the mental and emotional state of the people you will serve in
order to inspire optimism. Build a bridge from them to you (not the other way around).

Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of the book Learned Optimism, says that optimism has been defined by some
researchers as simply seeing the silver lining and suggests that your explanation for why something happens has a major
impact on how you will act in the future and what result your actions will bring about. This in turn has an eventual
impact on your self-esteem and self-image. Optimists expect the best outcome, even during setbacks, and they're more
motivated to bring it about.

This is the reason why a record number of blacks, youth, and first time voters shed their apathy and zealously headed to
the polls in record numbers which accounted for 13 percent of the electorate.

The significance of optimism is not to be understated. Since studies show that black men live 7.1 years less than other
racial groups, have higher death rates than women for all leading causes of death, and experience disproportionately
higher death rates in all the leading causes of death, they'd be interested to know that increased optimism has health
benefits. The May 2008 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch explores possible reasons for this connection.

Among the report findings: Highly pessimistic men were three times more likely to develop hypertension, and people
who display positive emotions had lower blood pressures. In one study, the most pessimistic men were more than twice
as likely to develop heart disease compared with the most optimistic. That's welcomed news since 40% of black men die
prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 21% of white men.

The report concludes: These results argue persuasively that optimism is good for health. It is possible that optimists enjoy
better health and longer lives because they lead healthier lifestyles, build stronger social support networks, and get better
medical care. In addition, optimism itself may have biological benefits, such as lower levels of stress hormones.

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Because I know that many black men are church-going folks, they are sure to revel in the fact
that the Bible also contains scripture on optimism and its effects. (Matthew 8:25-27) Pessimism
results from lack of faith. Pessimism is born of doubt; optimism is born of faith. The
repositioned black male will have more faith in himself and will prove to be adept at garnering
the faith of those who were once reluctant to give it. Being extraordinary will be the norm.

Cornell Belcher, a pollster who worked for Obama's campaign and studies racial voting patterns
said to the press, "It would be difficult for an African-American to be elected president in this
country; however, it is not difficult for an extraordinary individual who happens to be African-
American to be elected president." Obama made mention of this in his acceptance speech when
he said, "I was never the likeliest candidate for the office." But he ran anyway. And he ran unlike any other presidential
candidate in history because he had to. Analysts say he ran a perfect campaign that was extraordinary in its execution.

Lesson 3 in repositioning the black male: Understand that being qualified begins in your mind with your own self-
image; the least likeliest candidate can still get the job. Also, you are no longer the least likeliest candidate.

Like Obama, you must make it your mission to get employers to become comfortable with you and the role in which you
will play in their company by demonstrating your ability to handle the challenges within that role. If your values are
aligned with theirs, all you have to do is effectively manage expectations and deliver - which is what the world is waiting
for Obama to do next.

It was obvious from the outset that Obama was a proficient politician, but he got better during the election in the same
manner that any talented and driven athlete gets better as their season progresses. He became superlative during the
playoffs of politics, the election run, and was simply indomitable in each of his debates. He didn't just win the election,
he restored faith in the integrity of the presidency while repositioning himself and showcasing solid character.

Lesson 4 in repositioning the black male: Showcase solid character at all times.

Where does the process of building character begin? At the very beginning of your journey: at home with your parents
and in college. It intensifies when you are pursuing the experience and skills necessary to successfully navigate through
your career when entering the workforce. It doesn't matter where you want your vocational journey to take you because
most people can't imagine where they are going to end-up; they just need to be prepared to succeed when they get there.

Chances are Obama didn't imagine being president when he was working with victims of housing and employment
discrimination. That experience, along with teaching at the University of Chicago Law, and landing a spot in the senate,
clearly helped him to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to navigate the slippery slopes of the
political process without getting tripped up - despite the disproportionate lack of experience he had in comparison to
McCain.

Lesson 5 in repositioning the black male: Lack of experience does not equate lack of opportunity unless you allow
it to.

As previously stated, for many Americans, character takes shape in college. For black men, college attendance - on the
community college and university level - is dwindling. According to the spring 2006 Integrated Postsecondary Education
Data System survey (IPEDS), Black, non-Hispanic male students had the lowest three-year graduation rate - 16 percent -
among all minority male community college students.

In an article published in 2007, Disappearing Acts: The Vanishing Black Male On Community College Campuses,
Lorenzo I. Esters and Dr. David C. Mosby write: What is most alarming about the current state of the Black male on
America's community college campuses is that those who are in positions of leadership have been slow to recognize the
situation as a state of emergency and have been almost reluctant to own up to their responsibility to take corrective
action.
Research on the subject of Black male student retention may be a source for community colleges to gain some insight as
to how they may appropriately respond to the epidemic.

Over the past 33 years, black women have enrolled in four-year colleges at higher rates than have black men, according
to the results of a new study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA's Graduate School of
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Education & Information Studies. In 2004, black women comprised 59.3 percent of all first-time, full-time black students
attending four year institutions, compared to 54.5 percent in 1971.

With this type of research and data, why haven't there been any special initiatives or greater outreach from colleges to
address this issue? My research found a potential answer: Black male enrollments are shockingly low at many colleges
and universities, even those with good track records at attracting a diverse student body. While some demographers have
noted this situation for years, many colleges have shied away from dealing with the issue head on, fearing that doing so
could reinforce stereotypes, offend women, or draw conservative criticism.

Perhaps Obama will put this on his ever growing list of priorities. He's well aware of the problem and has referred to it
on several occasions, the first in his Democratic National Convention speech when he stated: "Yes, we must provide
more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs
alone can't replace parents (and) that government can't turn off the television and make a child do his homework...that
fathers must take more responsibility to provide love and guidance to their children."

Last year, at the NAACP forum on July 12, 2007, he was also quoted as saying: "We have more work to do when more
young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America." That is incorrect. The media
has perpetuated that myth by reporting the total number of incarcerated black males, in comparison to the total number of
college-age (18 - 25) black males. Accurate statistics reveal that since 2005 there are, in fact, more college age black
males enrolled in colleges and universities than there are incarcerated in the same group.

Lesson 6 in repositioning the black male: Increase and expand your education with the goal of becoming smarter.
That includes, but is not limited to, enrolling in school. Education builds character and is a crucial tactic in our overall
success strategy. Education shapes values, alters perspectives, and fosters altruism. Studies show that there is a direct link
between increased education and decreased levels of crime and violence - even within the prison system.

Education is also the fountain from which the tactical resolutions to the previously stated problems and those which have
plagued us for centuries will be spawned. The repositioned black male must encourage the next generation of black men
to take interest in pursuits other than sports and entertainment at a younger age. We need to deepen our talent pool of
future policy makers who can instigate and sustain change. A generation of young men, who like Obama, will be
efficient at using tactics and strategies to get results.

That's the crux of President Obama's success. Success is within closer reach for the repositioned
black male who comprehends that positioning is an art, a psychology, and a science. It's not just
for the artful, the psychological, or the scientific; it's for determined visionaries who want better
lives and a greater share of resources for their families, their communities, and themselves.

And while we have reached our most significant milestone as black men, we must now look
ahead to the future and prepare for it in the present, the way Obama did when he contained his
emotions, less than 30 minutes after being elected, and had the presence of mind during his
shining moment, to take the opportunity to manage soaring expectations by remarking in his
acceptance speech:

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America --
I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get
there...there will be setbacks (see paragraph above on optimism and setbacks) and false starts. There are many who
won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."

Final lesson in repositioning the black male: Always see the big picture and your place within it.

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The Proper Care & Maintenance of Black Men
The woman who loves a black man has a special challenge. She will have to be
diligent in her efforts to understand a man who often has difficulty understanding
himself. It's not that we black men are being purposely or intentionally elusive;
many of us simply don't know how not to be that way.

It's part conditioning, part programming, and part choice. Black men enter
relationships with many complex emotions which are often intertwined with
unresolved childhood issues, unique socioeconomic obstacles and the cumulative
effects of racism.

By the time we are ready to "settle down," our decision to do so is usually accompanied by trepidation. It's not that we
don't want to commit; many of us just don't know how to. Yes, we know conceptually what commitment means, but its
definition is not reinforced by examples that we can see and emulate in our homes, our communities, in most of our
friend's relationships, or in our churches.

A random sampling of any urban radio station also reveals a subtle, yet insidious cultural affliction which undermines the
value and respect for committed relationships: a gluttony of songs about being a player.

When black male teenagers inculcate these messages in their brains, it alters how they think about women, and how they
view relationships with women. But they are not discouraged from listening to these types of songs. No one can do that;
not even their parents who are usually trying to establish romantic relationships of their own, but more on that in a
minute. At the very least, parents should encourage their young men to think about the misogynistic lyrics that they can
recite better than the star spangled banner.

My many conversations with older black men about music in the 60s and 70s confirm one thing: the love song was alive
and well back in the day. It was an integral part of the courtship strategy that black men used to "woo" women. Smokey
Robinson, Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, and Luther Vandross supplied the soundtrack and the lyrics which
influenced the romantic aspirations and psyches of young black men.

Babyface carried the torch in the 80s. After that, "booty calls," "hook-ups," and "friends with benefits" became - and still
is - what the majority of Hip-Hop and R&B songs are about. You'd be hard-pressed to find a song which extols the
virtues of being a family man, the love for one's children, or a song that mentions the word "wife."

Women have to view black men as computers. When they consider getting involved with a black man, they need to find
out what programs the model of their computer comes loaded with. Ideally, you want a computer that's equipped with the
programs that cater to your needs, enable you to execute your daily functions, and fulfills your desires.

That's not usually the case. Most women will have to add some programs, or do some reprogramming.

Because a successful relationship is really about having ongoing successful relations, the first area of concern - and
undoubtedly the greatest challenge - is communication. "Black men don't talk." I've heard this before. I've never been
accused of it, but I'm aware of it. What's interesting is that women don't say that black men don't talk before they get into
bed with them. Chances are he talks just as much now as he did before you became lovers. The only difference is that
you are listening to (and viewing) him differently. With your new level of intimacy, you have a stronger need (and
desire) to connect with him verbally, not just sexually.

He doesn't feel the same way.

Yes he pursued you. Yes he expressed his desire efficiently and convincingly in the beginning, but once in a relationship,
black men tend to retreat to safety. It's part of our conditioning. The vulnerability that we feel is juxtaposed with the
strength (a.k.a "swagger") that we superficially display. Unfortunately, we don't know when to drop it, or display it in a
different manner (e.g., with compassion, tenderness, or empathy). Have you ever heard someone say, "He's got a
compassionate swagger?" Of course not. Swagger is all about confidence and strength. It protects us from other men, and
makes us desirable to women. We just have to be programmed to know when it's appropriate and safe to be swaggerless.

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Because black men don't talk openly and freely about the issues that affect them most (with
their women or anyone else for that matter), they internalize a great deal of rage, anguish,
and fear. Some manage it better than others, but we all have it to some degree. It stems from
fragmented or non-existent relationships with our fathers, constantly being treated as
perpetrators, and having to work two to three times harder than our white male peers to
achieve the same success.

Unlike black women who benefit from the mental and emotional support of girlfriends,
relatives, networks, or even co-workers, black men tend to be isolated - personally and
professionally. On the surface, it seems that black men are the kings of the jungle giving
"pounds," handshakes, and random hugs to random people. To any onlooker it would appear
that they know everyone.

Nothing is further from the truth. We thrive in the area of social status because we often lack status in other areas; the
areas that count the most. Publicly, our social persona helps us maintain the appearance of being someone, and being
liked. It also fortifies the illusion of our swagger.

Privately, we go through it. Black women have their mothers to call for reassurance and direction which they can draw
strength and exemplification from on a wide range of topics. Black men have a longing for their father's guidance, and a
desire to be connected with other men to receive emotional support, but it's not to be.

Presenting one's self in a weak, needy, or distressed light to another black man obliterates the perception (a.k.a "a front")
which we black men work hard to create, and even harder to uphold. It makes the creation of a black male support
system exceedingly and unnecessarily difficult. So we suffer alone to avert judgment.

For the black woman who is in a relationship with a black man, know that he does not
experience - nor does he see - the world the way that you do. You were embraced both
socially and professionally before we were. You've never been considered a threat, and
you've received more opportunities as a result. The world that your black man lives in
can feel like an uphill race. A good woman (i.e., a woman who understands her man and
how to positively motivate him) can help a black man embrace his struggles, and not
feel victimized by them.

Statistics show that black men are lagging far behind black women in education, professional accomplishments, starting
businesses, and executive advancements. Yes, in the words of Aretha Franklin, "sisters are doin' it for themselves," but
they are doing it alone.

African-Americans have the lowest marriage rate out of all demographics. African-American women are three times as
likely to never marry as their white counterparts - which has to be a contributing factor in 70 percent of black children
being born out wedlock. Black men often feel displaced. They don't see their place or their role in their homes when their
women achieve the level of self-sufficiency that they have in the last decade.

The black men who do marry are apparently a special breed. According to published reports by the U.S. Census Bureau,
45 percent of black men and 42 percent of black women have never been married. Of the black women who do get
married, 52 percent of them marry by age 30, compared to 81 percent of white women who are married at the same age.

In spite of that, 65% of never-married black women have children, double that of white women. 22% of never-married
black women with incomes over $75,000 have children, which is 10 times that of white women. 85% of black children
do not live in a home with their fathers. With the reality of these statistics, the magnitude of the problems concerning the
proper care and maintenance of black men can't be overlooked by the women who love them. These problems also can't
be overlooked by the black women and families that are plagued by them.

At the root of so many of the problems which afflict black men is self-love. From self-love comes
self-respect. From self-respect comes honor and pride in who you are; not what you do or how
much money you make. Self-love and self-worth are delicately intertwined. Women can love their
black men to death, but if they don't love themselves, they will never feel deserving and worthy of
the love and the life they are blessed to have. Black men must be reprogrammed to use self-love as
a foundation upon which a greater love of life, and love for others can be built. Self-love and
swagger may look the same from afar, but one emanates from the inside. Now you will be able to
tell the difference when up close.

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B a b e s & B a b i e s
How They Influence & Impact Black Men

In the movie I Think I Love My Wife, comedian and actor Chris Rock
plays a sexually deprived husband and loving father who develops a
crush on an old college friend (played by Kerry Washington).

They start hanging out and his rekindled friendship awakens some
romantic desires which create a disruption in both his marriage and his
job.

When he becomes dizzy with lust and starts to lose grip on his
responsibilities at the prestigious investment firm for which he works, his boss has a heart-to-heart with him and delivers
some profound advice: "You can lose a lot of money chasing women...but you can't lose women chasing money."

If only young black men would take heed to this advice as they are growing up. Such focus would prevent the
underdevelopment of potential and values which cause them to go astray and seek validation in other ways.

Culturally, black boys (especially those who have modest or above average looks) hear how many girlfriends they are
expected to have, how many hearts they are going to break, or what a "lady killer" they are going to be before they learn
to tie their own shoes.

With the seeds of distraction planted so early in their fertile minds, and predictions of being a future "heartbreaker,"
black boys formulate subconscious achievement motives that entail the validation, edification, and prioritization of
“babes.”

The validation confirms that they do indeed appeal to the opposite sex. The edification is what allows them to elevate
themselves above the male competitors in their age group; further allowing the boosting of the ego and feelings of self-
worth. The prioritization is the rank of importance that they place upon the expenditure of time used in the pursuit and
conquest of women.

Combined, they form the roots for many of the problems that plague black families. I call it the babes and babies
syndrome: black men who are driven by the pursuit of babes and shun the responsibility of taking care of their babies in
the process.

For many of these young boys that become young men who suffer from this syndrome, it's hard to change their
mentality. After all, if you are constantly asked how many girlfriends you have as you are growing up, it creates an
unconscious expectation. Coupled with the fact that many of your peers are engaging in, and thereby endorsing the same
behavior, our black teenage boys are more likely to get their player's cards before getting library cards.

Despite the fact that friends and family members tell them to "settle" down when they get older (now full-grown men), it
takes time (and usually some drama) before they develop a sense of consciousness about their lecherous ways. It's not
that they can't help it, they often simply don't know how - especially after spending most of their lives as virile men
whose self-worth and self-esteem is tied to the validation they receive from the sexual conquest of women.

Breaking habits and changing the way we think is a tremendous challenge for all of us, but for the players of the world,
it's exceptionally difficult. It doesn't happen simply because they feel "it's time," or because they feel like they're "getting
older," it happens when the conquest of babes no longer holds the allure, power, validation, or meaning that it once did.
Then - and only then - can there be a true shift in values.

Some do make the successful transition from boys to men. They are the ones who either never bought into the "player's
mentality" because they were guided or focused from an early age by parents, had off-setting values, or they played the
field and their conscious made them change their ways; thus avoiding the babes and babies syndrome.

Those who cling to the predatory mentality of using women to build, feed, or sustain their egos well into their adulthood
comprise the bulk of the perpetrators who contribute to the demise of the socioeconomic plight of today's black families.

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It's a very serious problem.

How serious? SAVE AMERICA Ministries published A Portrait of the Black Family 2007: Descent into Destruction! in
which the following statistics were documented:

-70% of all black children are born out of wedlock.
-62% of black families with children are headed by a single parent.
-85% of black children do not live in a home with their fathers.
-Only 15-20% of black children born today will grow up with 2 parents until age 16.
-70% of African-American boys in the criminal justice system come from single-parent
homes.
-50% of all new AIDS cases are in the Black community which comprises only 12% of
the population.
-85% of all AIDS cases in Atlanta are black women.
-African-Americans are 20 times more likely than whites to have gonorrhea.
-AIDS is now the #1 killer of black women, age 25-44.
-67% of black women with AIDS contracted HIV thru heterosexual sex.
-Black men in America engage in polygamous relationships, 3 1/2 times that of White or Hispanics.
-Nearly 2 million black males are either currently in a state or federal prison or have been in one.
-By age 30, only 52% of black women will marry compared to 81% of white women, 77% of Hispanics and Asians.

James Flynn, whose claim to fame is his much discussed "Flynn Effect" in which he documents the increase in black IQs
by about 15 percent, published the following information which relates to the demise of black marriages in New Scientist.

Government statistics show that at birth there are 104 black boys for every 100 girls. Between ages 25 and 45, six more
men than women are dead, leaving 98 men for every 100 women. Of these 98 men, nine are in jail, eight are missing and
21 are employed less than half-time.

That leaves 60 "promising" black men - men who are alive, employed and not convicted felons. Also consider that
promising black men living with a non-black partner outnumber white men with a black partner by three. That leaves
only 57 black men for every 100 women in a position to be a permanent partner. Out of 100 black women, 43 face the
choice of either having a child by a black man who is unlikely to settle down with them or going childless - assuming
they (a) want to get married, and (b) want to have children.

That's compelling information. Is it accurate? The wreckage that can be seen in fragmented black families which are
headed by single mothers says that it is. Also, just witnessing the number of wayward black men who continue to
celebrate their masculinity through procreation instead of through the active and full parent participation in the lives of
their children, is further proof.

When black men can find significance and meaning in their lives internally they are less reliant on external
circumstances for an ego boost, or to fill a void. They can find pride, peace, and salvation in the sanctity of marriage, and
the joy of fatherhood if they choose to attach value to it.

This brings me back to the movie I Think I Love My Wife.

Once Chris Rock’s character reveals his lust to his long lost friend, they agree to have a "good-bye
fling." He arrives at her place and continues to ponder his decision to go through with it. She opens
the door wearing very revealing lingerie, which effectively confirms his decision to go through with
it. He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror with his tie on his head and is reminded of his
young daughter (who he is in a previous scene playing with affectionately). It's a moment of
reckoning for him. He reassembles himself and leaves without becoming another victim of the
babes and babies syndrome

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Rethinking Love, Marriage & Divorce

I t was Leonardo Da Vinci who said, “Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of
snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.”

His lack of optimism about marriage is shared - and voiced - by many. So much so that one
might wonder, what’s the point of marriage in this day and age? Yet every year, an
estimated two million people throw caution to the wind, roll the dice, and tie the knot.

Despite those seemingly high numbers, a study released in December 2011, by the Pew
Research Center, based upon U.S. census data, confirms that marriages are in fact, on the
decline. The study finds that today 51% of all adults age 18 and older are married,
compared with 72% in 1960.

Those statistics inspired me to write this article, which takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon called love, its many
nuances and the institution called marriage to which almost half of all adults belong. It reviews the history of marriage,
and examines its purpose in the context of today’s modern world and changing values. It also analyzes the role of sex in
relationships, people’s motives for getting married, and the reasons why marriages tend to succeed and fail. My goal in
writing it is to help you rethink love, marriage, and divorce.

MARRIAGE: WHAT’S THE POINT?

During my freshman year of college I took a pilot course called the Psychology of Male and Female Relationships. One
of the most heated debates in that class stemmed from this question: does marriage still serve a purpose? My classmates,
who ranged in age from eighteen to fifty, vocalized a wide array of opinions. Some expressed their belief that marriage is
about family, and others expressed a sentiment that has become quite popular: marriage is archaic and has lost its
relevance since the women’s lib movement, which economically empowered women and reduced their financial
dependency on men.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON MARRIAGE

Once upon a time, marriages were instigated between families to preserve economic and social
status. How the arranged couple felt about each other was of no concern. After all, they had the
rest of their lives to get to know, like, and love each other. The roles were clearly defined: the
woman’s job was to cater to her husband, procreate, and attend to the resulting offspring and
household. The man supplied the resources to take care of them all.

Things have changed.

Today, for the most part, both the man and woman share the economic responsibilities of the marriage. While many of
today’s marriages may not be predicated on economics, perhaps they should. When surveyed, women report that their
top three causes of divorce are money, adultery, and abuse. Men report that their top three causes of divorce are money,
sex (or lack thereof), and in-laws. It’s interesting (if not ironic) to note that women don’t cite sex as a cause of divorce,
but they do cite the sex their husbands have with other women (44 percent of husbands and 25 percent of wives - likely
more - have committed adultery). That can be explained: the portion of the brain that governs sex drive (the medial
preoptic area located in the hypothalamus) is 2 -3 times larger in men; resulting in men being more neurologically wired
to seek more sexual activity than women. A lot more.

MEN: IT’S ALL ABOUT THEIR RESOURCES

Since money is a resource of paramount concern to both sexes, it warrants greater scrutiny. David Buss, a renowned
professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, has studied the mating strategies of mammals for decades. In
his book, The Evolution Of Desire, he demonstrates that females in both species are on a quest to attract and mate with
the “dominant male.” The female animal is biologically driven to capture the seed of the male who has the greatest
resources for the benefit of her children. These resources include looks, intellect, connections, status, and, money.
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According to Buss, one of the crucial decisions for females in selecting a mate is whether they are seeking a short-term
or long-term partner. The short-term partner (viewed strictly as a recreational love interest) satisfies the urge for sexual
gratification. The long-term partner (viewed as marriage material) has greater resources to provide the woman and her
children. If women fail to find (or doubt their ability to attract), the dominant male, and are suddenly faced with the
prospect of a life-long commitment of raising children who are the byproduct of sex with a short-term partner, the result
is women who are willing to become single mothers.

Despite the fact that the number of babies being born each year is on the decline (a previous
average of 4 million), marriage (which is also on the decline among those who are between the
ages of 25 and 34) is no longer an antecedent. It’s estimated that 4 out of 10 children are now
born out of wedlock; women in their twenties account for 60 percent of those births - which
makes it a modern mindset. Clearly, the stigma of having a child as an unwed mother has eroded.

There are, of course, instances when the female finds a dominant male who is reluctant to commit
to a long-term relationship. While marriage may not be likely, capturing his genes will provide
significant advantages for her offspring, and may provide financial rewards for her. While
marriage is averted, the benefits of marriage are obtained.

Studies show that women are outpacing men when it comes to college degree attainment, and there is a strong correlation
between career-minded women with higher education levels who are waiting longer to get married, but are choosing to
become single parents while their biological clocks are still ticking; thereby negating the need for a dominant male or his
resources.

The result? According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, more than a third of all U.S. children are now born outside of
wedlock, including 25% of non-Hispanic white babies, 46% of Hispanic babies, and 69% of African-American babies.
The percentage of two-parent families (not necessarily comprised of the biological parents) varies by ethnic/cultural
group: 87% of Asian children live in two-parent homes; 76% of Caucasians; 70% of Hispanics; and 42% of African
American.

So, does marriage still serve a purpose? One could factor religion and its accompanying moralities into the equation to
find the answer. You could do the same with the legalities of marriage and guardianship. Those have their place, and
certainly their relevance, but purpose and meaning often overlap. As long as people search for meaning and purpose in
life, marriage and children will provide a means to that end...even if not combined...or in that order.

As discouraging as marital statistics can be, they will always get trumped by the
romanticism of living happily ever after - whether or not people decide to marry. These are
the notions that we grow up with.

Women fantasize about having their “big day” with the man of their dreams, and men
dream of finding the perfect girl. The very idea that you can find someone who truly loves
you, and wants to spend their life with you by securing your presence through marriage, is
emotionally and psychologically appealing; it’s securing and managing the commitment
that creates anxiety.

RELATIONSHIPS & COMMITMENT

Like many of my classmates, I took the Psychology of Male and Female Relationships course because I wanted to learn
more about the opposite sex in an effort to better relate to them, and thus, have better relationships with them. Aside from
the stimulating debates, I was exposed to the philosophies of psychologist Erich Fromm.

Fromm believed that love is a verb; not an emotion; a skill that can be taught and developed. He argued that one should
work at becoming a loving person, before trying to love someone. His book, The Art of Loving, argues that the active
character of true love involves four basic elements: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. He also believed very
strongly in self-love. His definition of self-love means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting
oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g., being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses).

But getting to know one's self is no easy task. Relationships offer an abundance of opportunities for self-discovery. What
we like, and don’t like; what we want, and don’t want gets revealed through these daily interactions. Introspection is not
automatic…it’s a deliberate process that can yield invaluable self-knowledge if we reflect on our behaviors and choices,
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as well as the motivations behind them. These are intrapersonal communication skills (relating to one’s self), which are
not emphasized as much as interpersonal skills (relating to others).

So if getting to know ourselves is a challenge, how long does it take before we begin to really know someone else?

Psychologists say 18 to 24 months - depending on the amount of time spent together and the interpersonal skills of the
individuals involved. Time spent together should not be confused with time spent living together. One is spent in
courtship (the process of evaluating and getting to know someone) and the other is spent cohabitating. Couples living
together that have open communication regarding their intention to get married, and plans to do so, report higher
satisfaction levels with their living arrangements. Those who live together merely to reduce expenses report long-term
dissatisfaction.

PLAYING HOUSE

It’s estimated that 7.5 million couples live together in the U.S. While living together may be a great way to audition
someone for the role of long-term partner, studies show that people who live together before marriage have higher ratios
of divorce….and perhaps more doubts about getting married in the first place.

LUST & THE PINK LENS EFFECT

When we first meet someone in whom we have romantic interest, it seems as if they are
perfect, and can do no wrong. They mesmerize us; capturing our attention and hearts. Pretty
soon, we become addicted to them. It's a biological fact that lust results in surging dopamine
levels, which increases testosterone; the hormone that’s at the root of our sexual desires.

Coincidentally, all addictions are associated with elevated levels of dopamine, which result in
increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention, and delight in the smallest
details of a novel relationship. So with this addiction and sexually charged connection, are
new couples happier?

The answer is yes…while dopamine levels are high. Guess how long these levels can remain elevated? 18 - 24 months.

Psychologists have demonstrated in several studies that newly smitten lovers often exalt their relationships (i.e., believe
that it's better than everyone else's) causing them to exaggerate their positive qualities, magnify the other's virtues, and
ignore or explain away their flaws.

This behavior is called the "pink lens effect," and it creates emotions which blur the perceptions we have of our romantic
love interests. Those who suffer from the pink lens effect are simply not able to see their new love interest objectively,
causing them to turn a deaf ear to any feedback that contradicts their perceptions.

KEEPING THE FIRE BURNING

Long-term relationships or marriage can’t compete with the intensity and euphoria of a sporadic
romantic affair. The novelty of new love releases a constant stream of dopamine into our
systems, which sexually charges us. The physical act of having sex releases oxytocin, a hormone
which promotes bonding and creates attachments between lovers with physical affection and sex.
The brain doubles the dosage during orgasm, causing new couples to lose their minds.

People are quick to equate this euphoric state with being “in love,” and when the intensity
subsides, they demote themselves to merely loving the person they are with. Because we live in a
society which promotes being in love (i.e., maintaining this euphoric state), many people jump to
the erroneous conclusion that their relationship or marriage is dying, or that the fire is no longer
burning, when the intense feelings weaken.

Long-term relationships and marriages are about stability, companionship, and comfort - the very
things that German researchers say are responsible for their sharp declines in dopamine levels,
which, along with young children, negatively impact the sexual desires of both married women
and men. “Keeping the fire burning” is not just an overwrought phrase popularized by marriage
counselors; it’s something that couples must consciously and actively do to stay happy.
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TYPES OF LOVE

John Lee, researcher and author of the book Colours of Love, conducted extensive interviews with
people in an attempt to define what love is. To no surprise, he discovered that love has many
definitions, but ultimately was able to categorize the styles of love that people describe most often.
Which styles of love typically describe your relationships from his list below?

o Eros - A strong yearning to be emotionally and physically close. It thrives on attraction and romanticism.
o Ludus - Love that’s characterized by dishonesty, game-playing, control issues, manipulation, and deception.
o Storge - Tends to be born out of friendships and evolves gradually.
o Agape - Is more of an altruistic, compassionate, and caring love for others.
o Mania - Happens quickly, is all-consuming, obsessive, crazy, out of control, and practically psychotic.
o Pragma - Is practical and based on the fulfillment of one’s needs in a sensible, business-like fashion.

DEDICATION & COMMITMENT

With such a high preponderance of cohabitating couples one could question the validity of commitment in the context of
marriage. After all, many of the attractions and benefits of marriage (e.g., shared health care, tax breaks and deductions)
don’t hold as much appeal to a younger generation. Or could it be that younger generations are simply reluctant to make
the same commitments as previous generations to obtain them? And if that’s the case, is living together tantamount to
marriage in this new era?

After all, who is at liberty to say what commitment means and what it entails? There can be as many types of
commitments as there are relationships, right? The affinity between dedication and commitment is a philosophical
conversation worth having. According to Websters’ dictionary, dedication is defined as: a devoting or setting aside for a
particular purpose; self-sacrificing devotion. Commitment is defined as an agreement or pledge to do something in the
future.

So based upon the actual definitions of dedication and commitment (and not subjective interpretations), a loving couple
can be dedicated to each other, but not necessarily committed to a future together. In this instance, dedication can lead to
commitment. Commitment is what’s really at the heart of the legalization of gay marriage. For many, (legal)
commitment represents the culmination, validation, and officialization of their union.

MAKING IT WORK, MAKING IT LAST

Anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists know that the union of a man and a woman for a lifetime, considering
the nature of humans, is an unlikely one. There is a massive body of work that exists to support this statement, but if it
were widely disseminated, or publicized, it would add to the growing cynicism associated with marriage.

We want to believe, and in many cases need to believe, that boy meets girl, boy and girl overcome conflicts, and live
happily ever after. That’s been a tried and true formula for Hollywood love stories for years. These movies focus on the
“magic” of falling in love; not the less glamorous aspects of managing relationships while dealing with the vicissitudes of
life, time constraints, rigors and sacrifices of raising children, job stress, career transitions, health issues, shifts in
personal priorities, changing beliefs, and the occasional change of heart.

So how do you get through the “non-magical” phase? What predicts our ability to do so? Maturity.

A major finding is that (older) age and (increased) education positively affect one’s ability to honor commitment. The
average age for first-time brides and grooms is the highest it's ever been: 26.5 years old for brides and 28.7 for grooms.
Maybe we were getting married too early? Despite the increases, psychologists still say that the best age for men to
marry is 34. Regardless of age, when we do marry, there are predictors of happiness.

FIVE PREDICTORS OF MARITAL HAPPINESS?

50,000 married couples completed an inventory survey (ENRICH) and found the top five categories that are most
predictive of marital happiness:

1) Communication 2) Flexibility 3) Couple Closeness 4) Personality Compatibility 5) Conflict Resolution Skills

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COMMENTS ON MARITAL HAPPINESS PREDICTORS

While there has been much discussion about communication, I don’t feel proper attention has been
given to the importance of communication styles. It’s not enough to identify and popularize
communication as the greatest challenge facing couples in a relationship. Couples tend to talk more,
and say less over time. When they do have something to say, it often gets heard, not listened to.

When we think of communication, the first thing that comes to mind is talking, but it’s empathetic
listening that makes us feel understood and connected. When people honestly and openly
communicate (without an agenda) their true communication styles are on display.

Relative to communication skills, are conflict resolution skills. It’s a given that all relationships will have conflicts. How
those conflicts get resolved is what will determine how harmonious a long-term relationship or marriage will be. Because
conflicts of all sizes can creep up without notice, it’s vital that couples can extinguish them and move forward without
harboring resentment.

As much as we like to say that opposites attract, they rarely stick. And when they do, it’s the Law Of Functionality at
work (more on that below). People who are similar in personality, temperament, values, interests, and goals, have more
compatibility, and report greater satisfaction in their relationships. Obviously, rigidity in personality will result in
inflexibility in thought and behavior, which may impact couple closeness, but just as marriage has interdependencies, the
items on this list are interrelated.

So why isn’t money on this list if it’s cited as one of the top causes of divorce by both men
and women? This is a composite list of what people think predicts marital happiness. The
fact that 50,000 people did not cite it enough to have it listed as a happiness predictor adds
credibility to the studies which show that it’s often overlooked, and consequently not readily
discussed. Also, money, per se, is often not the point of discussion for many people before
getting married; it’s the lack of money, and how money is going to be spent and managed,
that become the real point of contention during marriage.

THE LAW OF FUNCTIONALITY

Theories about what makes relationships successful abound. Some are complicated. Some are simple
and easy to see. Psychologist Theodore Reik believed that we choose mates who satisfy an important
need we have, including qualities we lack (hence the phrase someone who “completes me”). It’s been
my experience, and observation, that couples uphold this theory. While it may not be apparent why
someone chooses another, time spent in the presence of couples will usually expose their individual
strengths and weaknesses; as well as how one partner compensates for qualities lacking in the other.

I have my own theory that picks up where Theodore Reik leaves off. I call it the Law Of Functionality. I believe that
whether a relationship survives or thrives depends on how well a couple is able to function in spite of their individual
weaknesses or shortcomings. For example, if one partner is not very organized, the other partner must have
organizational skills to compensate. If one partner is not good with finances, the other partner needs to be strong in this
area. In both cases, the compensating partner needs to accept this reality, and the role that they must play in order for the
relationship to function at its optimal level. Some couples do this instinctively, others do it begrudgingly.

Yes, this can create a sense of learned helplessness, but in doing so, it further defines the roles and the duties associated
with them. When a couple is constantly experiencing discord, the Law Of Functionality dictates that it’s usually because
someone is not compensating for the others’ weakness or shortcoming. In this instance, the weakness or shortcoming
becomes magnified and will pose a threat to the functionality, quality, and life of the relationship.

Because weaknesses and shortcomings are not typically the topic of conversations on first dates, they
don’t usually get discussed. People are reluctant to admit their shortcomings because most can’t identify
them; studies show that most people have an inaccurate view of themselves. As much as we would like
to believe that relationships are a mirror of truth, many people choose partners who support their view
of themselves; making it difficult to get an objective read, and to grow. The Law Of Functionality
dictates that if delusion is needed in order to function, and the other partner accepts and supports it, the
relationship can succeed. The same applies to any range of character flaws.

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WELCOME TO YOUR QUALITY WORLD

The most profound and useful strategy for making relationships work that I’ve come
across, really has nothing to do with relationships. It has more to do with
understanding what’s important to the people that we have relationships with.

Dr. William Glasser, who is known for his Choice Theory, which offers an effective
way to get along with people, has a concept that he calls Quality World. He believes
that the key is to find out what a person’s idea of their quality world is and respect
and support it.

Our parents are the first people in our quality worlds. Much of what we experience in
childhood, including our attachment styles, and our parents’ efficiency in satisfying
our needs, helps to create the pictures and template for our quality worlds as we get
older. The role of the parent is eventually taken by our partners.

The quality world is predicated upon three things: people (we most want to be with), things (we most want to own or
experience), and beliefs (which govern our behavior).

PEOPLE

In this model, you are the person that your spouse wants to be with most. You honor the significance of the other people
who add quality to their world; colleagues, friends, and relatives. Know who they are, and support their efforts to
maintain relationships with them.

THINGS

What are the things that bring quality to their world? These can be as exotic as trips to foreign countries, clothes, jewelry,
technology gadgets, books, food, events, financial security, or daily gestures of thoughtfulness and consideration.
Everyone has something that they have attached value to, and in turn has given it the power to enrich their lives, and add
quality to their world. Whatever these things are, it’s your job to support your partner in their pursuit of them. How you
feel about them is irrelevant. When the presence of a partner prevents the other from obtaining the things which add to
their quality world, disenchantment quickly occurs.

BELIEFS

Beliefs are powerful. Emotions fluctuate, but beliefs are constant. They are what really connect people. They are often
underestimated, but very pronounced in discussions regarding politics and religion. People die and kill for their beliefs.
In relationships, our beliefs embody our truths as we see them. It doesn’t matter if those truths are inconsistent with our
partner’s truths, or even a truth defined by the real world. Your truth is your belief, and it’s real - very real; real enough to
cause thousands of couples each year to file for divorce under the category of “irreconcilable differences.”

One could never spend too much time discussing beliefs during the initial phases
of courtship. Down the road, beliefs - or rather conflicts regarding beliefs - will
inevitably surface. When they do, a couple will find this area the most difficult to
make compromises in.

When people change their beliefs, they change the dynamic of their relationship.
It’s unavoidable. Your belief system governs your thoughts, and influences your
actions.

As people grow, new perspectives evolve; germinating new beliefs, but fundamental beliefs (the ones most important to
the couple e.g., religious practices, philosophy on raising children, lifestyle activities) create the most friction.

In our quality worlds, the people we most want to be with (including our partners) can change; the things that we want
the most may change; the beliefs that we hold sacred in the moment can also change. When they do, a new template is
created upon which your idea of happiness must mirror the truth as you see it. The greater the similarities are to what you
believe, and what you perceive, the greater your happiness.

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PREDICTING DIVORCE

No article such as this would be complete without mentioning the work
of Dr. John Gottman, who is arguably one of the most respected
authorities on the topic of why marriages succeed and fail.

Heralded for his groundbreaking scientific data on marriages in the 70s,
at a time when love was not viewed scientifically, Dr. Gottman blazed a
trail with his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Dr. Gottman sidesteps the communication bandwagon, and in fact, encourages others not to jump on it. What has he
identified as the keys to a successful marriage for couples?

1.) Their quality of friendship and 2.) How they argue.

How did he arrive at these conclusions? By observing more than 650 couples over a fourteen year period. Most of the
couples who he and his team observed were on the brink of divorce, but were able to avoid it after learning his principles.
Not all of them were as fortunate; however, Dr. Gottman was able to predict, with 91% accuracy, whether a couple will
get divorced or stay married. The determining factors all relate to the aforementioned conflict resolution skills, and
impact on the quality of friendship. I will share his predictors of divorce with you in a moment, but first a couple of
notable observations from his fourteen year study.

If you have major differences of opinion in your marriage, it may be doomed. He found that 69 percent of arguments
revolve around the same thing, and are unresolvable. He points out that significant disagreements are about values and
different ways of seeing the world - things that don’t change. He emphasizes that successful couples know this and
decide to accept and respect these differences. It becomes a constant point of contention for the couples that don’t.

GETTING IT RIGHT & MAKING IT LAST

If you are sincerely interested in making your marriage last (as you should be), Dr.
Gottman has compiled a list of “red flags” that indicate whether your relationship may be
in danger. Trouble lurks if you, or your spouse, consistently engage in the following:

1.) Harshness and sarcasm
2.) Personal criticisms (which is not the same as complaining)
3.) Contempt (name calling, mockery)
4.) Defensiveness (not being open or receptive to communication)
5.) Stonewalling (tuning your partner out and not listening)
6.) Flooding (constantly overwhelming your partner with concerns or anxieties)

In Dr. Gottman’s view, marriage is supposed to be about shared meaning. Each partner is supposed to support the other’s
dreams and hopes, and that if one partner has to sacrifice what they want in order to make the other person happy the
marriage is going in the wrong direction.

HEADED NO WHERE

Positive psychology research shows that men are often oblivious to when things are going in the wrong direction. It also
shows that while men benefit from merely being married, women need to be happily married in order for marriage to be
of benefit (emotional well-being) to them.

Because women are biologically wired to have more active senses, they ruminate on things more than
men do; which according to Martin Seligman, co-founder of positive psychology, and author of
Learned Optimism, women are diagnosed with depression at a rate that’s two to three times higher
than men.

So it’s more likely for women that depression will result from rumination over marital unhappiness,
while men maintain the status quo of a less than satisfactory union. This sheds light, at least partially,
on why 70% of divorce proceedings are initiated by women.

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DIVORCE: INSIDE THE NUMBERS

80% of marriages end in divorce after ten years, with the majority of those divorces taking
place between the fourth and seventh year. After ten years of marriage, it is predicted that
only 25% of couples will still be happily married. More on this in a moment.

If you are vaguely aware of divorce statistics, you’ve heard that 50% of marriages end in
divorce (though many are beginning to dispute these stats). What is not tabulated is the
number of people who separate without legal proceedings; technically, making it higher.

What can simple math teach us about the prospects of finding our “soul mates” and living “happily ever after?” It teaches
us that half the people who are married, are indeed married to the wrong person. Of the remaining 50%, 25% are married
for reasons other than love, which means that only 25% of couples are actually happily married. That’s 75% of marriages
that contain discontented individuals with unmet (and often unexpressed) needs, who are susceptible to extramarital
affairs, and other forms of escapism.

CHILDREN AND DIVORCE

One of the top reasons why people remain in unhappy marriages is children. According to the U.S.
Census Bureau, more than 1 million children are affected by divorce each year, which means that
40% of children will watch their parents divorce before they become adults. Why do people
sacrifice their own personal happiness for the sake of their children? I believe that it’s because
their children are placed front and center in their quality worlds, replacing their spouses. When
both spouses place the children front and center in their quality worlds, the marriage can endure.
Also, many married couples shy away from divorce because of the following facts:

o Children never escape divorce unscathed; they suffer psychologically in ways that may not be apparent for years
o Children of broken homes are more lonely, unhappy, anxious, insecure, and often have fear of commitment
o Children of divorce are twice as likely to feel socially withdrawn and drop out of school
o Girls of divorce are more promiscuous and have higher rates of teen pregnancy
o For boys, losing a father results in increased aggression and disobedience
o 85% of prison inmates came from fatherless homes
o Children of divorce are subjected to a lower standard of living

OVER AND OUT

No one gets married with the intention of getting divorced. Every person who has said “I
do” has done so with the intent to see their marriage through; even if they secretly had
doubts, lacked the ability to commit, or the skills to navigate through its challenges. But
despite the best of intentions, and the strongest of convictions, many people, every day,
find themselves pondering the question which will have the greatest ramifications on
their lives and the lives of their children: to leave, or stay in their marriage.

No matter who files for the divorce, the end result will be the same: amnesia. Forgotten will be the reasons why they fell
in love in the first place; effectively eroding the foundation upon which the marriage was built. What someone did to
capture your heart years ago does not eclipse what they did to break it just yesterday. It’s proof that we live in the
moment, from moment-to-moment, which makes love and relationships vulnerable. The only real constancy is
commitment, which too often is affected and overruled by emotion.

When I reflect on my Psychology of Male and Female Relationships course, I realize that subconsciously, I started this
writing this article decades ago. It was only was after the experience of one divorce and two marriages that I could
realistically fit the pieces to the love puzzle together, and consequently conclude that marriage does serve a purpose:
whatever purpose people want or need for it to serve. After all, everyone wants to be happy, and people continue to view
marriage and family as a means to that end…in spite of its odds of success or accompanying struggles.

Many of the brokenhearted who vow never to love or marry again often change their tune and emerge from the ashes of
disintegrated relationships with new beliefs, new things that make them happy, and soon enough, new people that they
want to be with most in their quality worlds. And although children represent the greatest source of distress in parting
couples, they do adjust, as best as they can, and grow up to formulate their own thoughts on love, marriage, and divorce.
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Some Advice About Giving Advice
Over the years it's come to my attention that people tend to be very generous when it
comes to giving advice.

Advice, like food, tastes better when one is hungry for it. Have you ever tried to feed a baby or a child when they were
not hungry? Now compare that experience to feeding them when they are hungry - the difference is stark. When it
comes to getting advice, people are the same way. According to Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of The Male Brain,
from adolescence, girls are more interested in talking about people and relationships, and boys are more interested in
talking about objects and games. That becomes more evident as we get older. As well as the fact that men feel more
compelled to give advice.

Women often want to vent emotions, and men want to offer advice on how to solve problems (or what they perceive as
problems). It's classic. The woman was never seeking solutions; she just wanted to vent. The advice went unnoticed
because there was never a need or desire for it.

Women have an uncanny ability to share information, insight, experiences, troubles, and
anxieties without seeking or offering advice. Men have an innate need to solve problems; their
need to be competent problem solvers dates back to prehistoric times when their survival was
contingent upon solving the problems of hunting and providing food for a family. It's
instinctive. Though it's rarely discussed, there is advice protocol that should be followed. It
doesn't matter if the advice you want to give is of a personal or professional nature.

First, before you firmly assert yourself as all-knowing (which is perilously close to being a know-it-all), understand that
no one cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care. If you really don't care if a person's situation
can be enhanced or changed with your advice, don't bother. It's more important to show that you not only care about how
a problem is plaguing someone, but that you have taken the time to really understand the totality of the problem. In other
words, fully comprehend it. This is accomplished by asking questions to get to the root of the problem.

Secondly, once you've established yourself as an empathetic listener, ask the person if they want advice. Leading with a
question such as, "I understand your problem; I have some experience that may be helpful to you. Would you like for me
to share it?" This gives you the chance to gage their sincere interest in receiving advice. It's a simple premise; one who is
sincere about receiving advice, is more receptive to it.

On the flip side, a person who really takes the time to understand the nuances, backdrop, and context of a situation or
problem, is more qualified to offer advice about it. When you feel the urge to give advice, take the above points into
consideration. And remember, sometimes an empathetic ear - which understands and appreciates a problem - is just as
helpful as a knowledgeable mind, which is eager to dissect and solve it.

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Why Men Find Nice Butts So Sexy

H ere's a scene that takes place every day, in every city.

A man is walking down the street, minding his own business, and then from a distance, he sees an attractive woman, or a
woman with an alluring walk. As they approach each other, he checks her out from head-to-toe (or at least from head to
waist), waiting the fleeting moment when they will come face-to-face. When she passes him, she grants him a clear view
of her butt as she walks by.

The man doesn't have to look - but he usually does. Why is that? Is it instinctive? Or
habitual? Is it wanton lust? Or just male curiosity?

Perhaps the answer to these questions will vary among men, but all will agree on one thing:
there's just something about a nice butt that we find very sexy. When I say "nice," I'm
allowing for variations in definition here.

Some men like small, perky butts. Some like voluptuous, heart-shaped butts. Some men like firm, athletic butts. Some
men like petite, model-like butts. Others like butts that are round, but not obtrusive. Many like shapely butts that are in
proportion to a woman's figure. There are some who don't particularly care about butts at all (they are in the minority).
Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum who like big, even gargantuan butts.

Speaking of big butts, they tend to create a more pear-shaped body, which according to scientists makes better use of
insulin, which can offer protection against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In addition, extra "padding" is still believed
to facilitate pregnancy. Bigger bottoms are also big news in Hollywood and to plastic surgeons.

Butt implants (a.k.a. Brazilian Butt Lifts) have proven
effective in enhancing the size and shape of butts. Women
who are unhappy with the size of their butts benefit from
increased volume. Patients who feel their buttocks lack
shape can be given a more prominent, sensuous backside.

The appeal of the butt is a popular and sexual
phenomenon.

Yes, men do feel that there's a strong correlation between a woman's butt, and her sexual prowess. Unknown to many
women, it's not just the size or shape of the butt that peaks our interest; it's the presentation of the butt that men find
appealing. We call it "framing." Just like what you do with a photo.

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When a butt is properly framed in the right article of clothing, it's just as beautiful as a
photo. When it's exceptional, it's more like an exotic painting. No matter what type of
butt a woman has it can - like any photo - be enhanced with good framing. Thongs are
one example of this effect.

Careful selection of wardrobe and appropriate fit on a woman's butt is essential.

Some butts look great in tight jeans. Some look better in dresses. Some look better in
skirts. A woman's butt should never have the appearance of sagging in clothing. Never.

Equally as arousing to men is the movement of the butt. Why do you think strippers are so popular? Ask a man who
frequents such establishments and he will tell you, the girls who can move their butts the best tend to get the most tips.

That movement is not limited to lap dances and poles. The movement of the butt is a natural thing of beauty which
reveals a wealth of information about a woman such as her self-confidence, sexual-confidence, and sexual vitality. It's
called "booty language." Men become more fluent with it as their sexual experiences increase.

Some butts have too much movement, resembling a plate of jelly on a roller coaster. Some butts move awkwardly. Some
butts move gracefully. Some are captivating. Those are the ones that beckon men, practically mesmerizing them;
inspiring fantasies and visions of nakedness. Why?

Unlike breasts, which are really for nursing babies, nice butts are
viewed by men as the key to a treasure chest of pleasure. Some
men swear that a nice butt reveals a woman's anatomical fit,
sexual responsiveness, amount of past sexual activity, frequency
of exercise, and ability to achieve orgasm. To many men, the butt
is a highly functional body part which reveals loads of
information. In fact, believe or not, there’s a science devoted to
reading the information that a butt provides. It’s called
rumpology; also known as “butt reading.” Rumplogists (those
engaged in this “profession”) are supposedly adept at reading the
lines, crevices, dimples, and folds of the buttocks, which can
reveal the butt owner's health, and character.

According to Jacqueline Stallone, a foremost American rumpologist, rump reading is an art that was practiced in ancient
Babylon, India, Greece, and Rome. She claims that the ancient Greeks thought the butt was the key to health and fidelity.
She says the Romans used butt prints the way some people use graphology today: to determine potential talents and
future success.

Wow.

Even though men like the aesthetic value of a nice butt and the
intrigue and promise that it holds, women, from an
anthropological perspective, have a more viable reason to seek
out, and appreciate nice butts on men.

As it turns out, a strong, muscular butt on a man can be perceived
as an indication of his "thrusting" power. It correlates with his
ability to deeply insert himself into the vagina, closer to the
cervix, to ejaculate his sperm; which increases the likelihood of
procreation.

Clearly, nice butts are not just for viewing; they serve a function
for both men and women.

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The Therapeutic Value of a Hug
H ave you hugged your child today? It was a popular slogan that was coined in 1969.
I think it's time to modify the phrase to: Have you hugged your loved one today?

Most couples report the perfunctory kiss upon their greeting or departure as their most
consistent form of affection outside of sex. It's not enough. We should never mistake or
substitute sex for affection. Affection expressed through hugging is therapeutic and
fulfills our basic human need for touching and being touched. It relaxes us and lowers
our blood pressure. Affection can also improve and prolong our lives.

Couples should indeed put forth greater effort to be affectionate with each other.
Those who do tend to report greater harmony, a closer bond, and fewer conflicts in
their relationships.

In his book Touching: The Human Significance of Skin, Dr. Ashley Montagu
examines the importance of touch on all aspects of human development. Through an
analysis of the study of mammal, monkey, ape and human behaviors, he concludes
that just as breathing is a basic physical need for these species, touch is a basic
behavioral need and when this need remains unsatisfied, abnormal behavior is a
likely outcome. He writes:

Both the hugger and the person being hugged benefit because they have the
immediate positive outcome of feeling good. Hugs are heartwarming and can have
the effect of leaving one energized and rejuvenated. A caregiver's hug accurately
expresses to a child feelings of love, acceptance, comfort and a desire for closeness.

He continues. Hugging is health-enhancing because it reduces tension and stress,
aids the immune system, helps with sleep, assists in building self-esteem and best of
all has no negative side effects. When we open our hearts and arms to others, we
inspire them to do likewise.

Famed late night talk show host Arsenio Hall made the "man hug" acceptable. He
greeted his guests - both female and male - with a warm embrace. It set the tone for the
intimate conversations which followed. His guests seemed to be oblivious to the
cameras and the studio audience as they revealed information about themselves to
Arsenio that they probably would not reveal to another talk show host. Ditto for Oprah
Winfrey. Her warm embrace is not only welcoming, but comforting to her guests.

There are many types of hugs that are given in different situations. The hugs that you see given at airports tend to be
longer in duration. Hugs that are given to people that you have not seen in a while tend to be more enthusiastic. Hugs that
are romantically inspired tend to be more intense and sometimes are given back-to-front (one person from behind who
wraps their arms around the other), which carries sexual connotations. Then there's the sideways hug which is essentially
a one-armed embrace that shows friendliness and acceptance.

No matter what type of hug you give or receive, a hug is a hug and it carries emotional benefits. In fact, hugging is so
therapeutic that there is a National Hugging Day (January 21) which was created in 1986 by Rev. Kevin Zaborney from
Caro, Michigan. Zaborney created the day to promote "the emotional benefits of hugging."

You now know that hugs are therapeutic pills that we can prescribe to each other. They supply our souls with the
nutrients of affection that we all need for our mental health, and emotional well-being. Taking the time or making the
effort to give more hugs is clearly a rewarding experience for both the person giving it, and the person receiving it.

Have your hugged your loved one today? If not, there's no better time than the present.

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Beyond The Persona:

Getting To Really Know People

I recently attended the funeral of a young man I'd known for all of his life. Like most funerals, it was a somber
experience marked by an outward display of sadness.

Funeral services can be as formal or as informal as the family allows them to be. This particular funeral service was very
informal. Family members, friends, and coworkers were allowed to speak in remembrance of the deceased. Each person
took the podium with a sense of awkwardness and obligation. Some successfully held back tears as they recalled stories
about a young man who possessed a radiant personality that brought a daily dose of sunshine to the lives of his
coworkers.

The information that I have yet to reveal is that this young man committed suicide. He was also my cousin.

Because I've always been a part of his life, I knew him very well - the real him - not the presentation of himself that
everyone was enamored with and deceived by. It's this presentation that concealed the inner turmoil that created the deep
strife which ultimately drove him to suicide.

And yet, his coworkers, friends, and most family members failed to see it.

It’s not their fault. We are most comfortable when we allow people to see the aspect of ourselves that we feel will be
received most favorably. This presentation is what Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, referred to as the persona.

The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough, a kind
of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true
nature of the individual. The aspect of one’s self that is troubled, flawed, deviant, deranged, or depressed, is called the
shadow; it doesn’t get the attention that the persona receives.

As long as we fear rejection by others and have concerns about finding acceptance, the well-crafted persona will hold
significance in our lives. In PR there's a saying that the appearance of the truth is more importance than the truth itself.
Personas operate under the same premise.

My cousin was not a happy individual. He suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and battled with psychosocial issues
related to homosexuality. It was incredibly difficult for me to recognize the persona described by his coworkers, and the
little boy that I watched grow into a troubled young man.

Perhaps if his coworkers knew the real him, they could have thrown him a lifeline. But that would have blown his cover
and created inconsistencies with the behaviors that won them over in the first place. The benefits afforded to the persona
win out; often at the expense of the person making an honest connection with caring individuals who can help heal them.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but most people don't take the time or energy to look deeply enough
into the eyes of those who they see every day to notice a troubled soul. It all starts by doing something that we all do
every day, asking "How are you?" The second part is actually listening and paying attention to what is communicated,
not just the verbal response. Cues are found in the body language and facial expressions - which can be observed when
they aren't engaged in real conversation. Only when we are not fooled by the persona can we look beyond the shadows to
identify the person that can appreciate our concern, and utilize our help.

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Why Experience Is Everything

One year while watching the NFL playoffs, an Old Spice
commercial came on which featured a confident, dapper, middle-
aged man. He was sitting on a chair in front of a lit fireplace with
his legs crossed, striking a rather debonair pose while looking
directly into the camera. He then delivered these lines while
walking to a separate room with an unlit fireplace, where he was
once again seated:

"If you have it, you don't need it...if you need it, you don't have it...if you have it, you need more it...if you have more of
it, you don't need less of it...you need it, to get it...and you certainly need it to get more of it...but if you don't already
have any of it to begin with, you can't get any of it to get started which means you really have no idea how to get it in the
first place...do you? You can share it, sure, you can even stockpile it if you like....but you can't fake it...wanting it,
needing it, wishing for it...the point is if you've never had any of it...people just seem to know..."

He then stopped, as if giving the viewer time to ponder. The fireplace behind him ignited and the word "Experience"
faded onto the screen. It then faded out with the familiar whistling melody which characterizes Old Spice commercials.

The advertising was brilliant. The statements were true.

Experience is the bridge between academic and professional status. It should be obtained by any means necessary. In
fact, experience trumps academics in most professions (medical, science, and legal being some of the rare exceptions).
Even in cases where the quality or volume of education is emphasized, experience becomes a rite of passage to
credibility.

Learning and doing are perceived as two different things, but people learn most, and best,
while doing. People often say get a "good" attorney. What they really mean is get an
attorney who has experience. Premium value is placed on the importance of education and
years spent actually applying that education. Without the experience, the well-educated
attorney is just a student of the law - not a law practitioner.

Experience is only obtained in the field of play. Ask any coach and they will tell you. No matter how long or intense
teams practice their respective sport, it can never match the real life dynamics or psychological aspects of being in real
game, just as a soldier can't truly fathom the gruesome nature of war with only combat training.

Employers demand experience, because experience demands utilization for compensation. In other words, the less time
employers spend training you, the more time you spend utilizing your experience to make them more money. They desire
experience in their job candidates, and candidates need experience (or more of it) to get desirable jobs.

As the commercial states: "If you need it, you don't have it."

For many college students, experience comes in the form of internships. Others get experience while on the job. But how
do you get a job with no experience? Or how do you get experience with no job? It's an age-old question, which is often
posed by people who are of a young age.

This dilemma is addressed in the portion of the commercial where he states "...but if you don't already have any of it to
begin with, you can't get any of it to get started which means you really have no idea how to get it in the first place...do
you?"

It's not an impossible quandary. I will tell you precisely how to get the experience you lack: Volunteer.

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There's not a person, organization, or company that can't benefit from the use of free
labor. All you have to do is find them and offer your assistance in exchange for the
valuable experience you lack. Whether you are a college student in your twenties, or a
middle-aged executive transitioning into a new career, experience can always be obtained
by working for free. There are even agencies which help match the skills of volunteers
with companies who seek them.

While the quest to obtain experience should be a priority for those you who don't have it, those who are both ambitious
and smart should surround themselves with people who have more experience than they do. But remember, when it
comes to experience..."You can share it, sure, you can even stockpile it if you like....but you can't fake it...wanting it,
needing it, wishing for it...the point is if you've never had any of it...people just seem to know..."

Law and engineering firms have a good grasp of this concept. The junior members of a firm are typically partnered with
senior members for guidance and direction while gaining valuable "hands-on" experience. The same can be true for
independent contractors. Partnering with others who have more experience than you (via joint ventures) is an excellent
way to win client confidence when the issue of experience (or lack thereof) comes up.

Perhaps the most important purpose of experience is that it is our most effective teacher. The
bridge between theory and practicality is experience. Experience is both a qualifier and a
disqualifier. It's also a means of measuring intelligence. Psychologists contend that a person's
ability to learn from their experiences is an indication of one’s intelligence (or lack thereof).

There's a potential drawback to having an abundance of experience: arrogance and complacency. When we stop seeking
and exploring new opportunities to gain fresh experiences, we stunt our growth and limit our knowledge. We should
always try to increase experience; it leads to greater proficiency and intuitiveness, which can make you formidable...until
you are up against someone with more of it.

So remember, experience is everything. If you don't have it, your goal should be to get it. And if you do have it? Refer
back to the commercial: "....you need more of it...if you have more of it, you don't need less of it...

The commercial can be seen its entirety here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af1OxkFOK18

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Tongue-tied:
Black Men Speaking Out In A White World

" He is a light-skinned African-American with no Negro dialect, unless he wants to have one."
These were the puzzling words of Senator Harry Reid who made the statement in reference to
President Obama. They invoked a staunch reaction from blacks, and caused uproar in some
political circles. Was it a malicious remark? Or was it an innocuous statement taken out of
context?

Harry Reid said it was a compliment. But what was he complimenting? The fact that Obama is special? Or that he is
special because he does not use the stereotypical parlance associated with most black men?

Language has always been a measure of social status, educational level, and intellectual ability for men. Slave owners
actually preferred slaves who lacked communication skills because they were less likely to organize revolts. It's no
wonder: strong communication skills are inherent to all great leaders.

Slaves that were referred to as "field Negros" were only required to work with their hands;
doing laborious work outside the plantation. “House Negros” were generally viewed as being
smarter, less threatening, and having better communication skills. They were often the
descendants of slave owners, and as a result, were light-skinned.

It's not surprising that there are still whites (and white men in particular) who feel more comfortable with light-skinned
black males in a professional environment; any prolonged observation of our underrepresentation in America's various
workforces reveal this truth.

The plight of the house Negro and the field Negro persists. Language often divides them more than skin tone.

Harry Reid's comments were not offensive; they were insightful. If the media would have taken the time to place his
comment in its proper historical context, a valuable educational opportunity could have been had for both whites and
blacks.

Instead, the comment merely serves as a vivid reminder that times change, but perceptions remain the same.

Having good communication skills affords one an advantage in business (and in life). For black men it's especially true.
Good verbal communication skills enable us to penetrate the circles where greater opportunities reside.

President Obama is exceptional as a black male communicator, and extraordinary as a communicator. This is what
enabled him to distinguish himself. When his presidency is over, his prowess as an orator will be his true legacy.

For non-presidential black males, the stigma of being inarticulate is dissipating, but we will, seemingly, forever walk the
fine, tenuous line between being effective communicators, and using "no Negro" dialect...unless we want to.

The reality is that every culture has its own dialect. No one questions the use of Spanish by Hispanics in a professional
environment. In fact, many Hispanic professionals are hired because of their ability to communicate with those who
speak the language.
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Dialect is language; a variety of language used by the members of a group as a manner
or means of expressing oneself. It is distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar,
and pronunciation. English is the world's language. It balances our linguistic differences.

To infer a preference for an African American "with no Negro dialect" illustrates
prejudice at best, and ignorance at worst. It's the equivalent of saying you prefer
Hispanics who don't speak Spanish so that you are not reminded that they are different
from you.

Being tongue-tied (i.e., unable or disinclined to speak freely) is nothing new to black
men. We have to choose our words felicitously to make white men comfortable because we don't want them wondering if
we talk "like the rest of them."

Speaking with the "Negro dialect" that we grew up with is natural to black men; using "no Negro dialect" is unnatural,
but can be done. Failure to do so can derail a career. Most successful black men are taught, or learn from experience,
when it behooves them to be tongue-tied.

The burden of "speaking white" (which many blacks ignorantly, and whites arrogantly refer to as "proper English") is a
challenge for many black men. They liken it to learning and becoming fluid in a foreign language. Both are achieved
with focus and consistent practice. And when it's achieved, you get to impress an ignoramus like Senator Harry Reid who
clearly has a checklist of attributes that black men must have to make him feel comfortable.

While more and more black men understand and reluctantly accept the conditions of our integration into the workplace,
we can only refrain from using "no Negro dialect" for so long. It comes out eventually - usually when our white male
colleagues become comfortable with us and use some form of Negro dialect themselves in an effort to "bond" with us.

This usually takes place during conversations about non-work related issues, such as sports or music.

Even when we remove (or think we are allowed to remove) the bonds from which our tongues are tied, they are never
truly unleashed. We can be liberal in expressing ourselves, but a black man with no tongue restraint is a black man who
becomes a target for silencing - no matter what arena he is in. Where’s our Rush Limbaugh? Where’s our Bill O’Reilly?

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X had very different dialects. Still, both suffered the same fate
because they expressed themselves with unprecedented freedom. There have been no black men
since (not even our beloved, but politically correct, President Obama) who were less tongue-tied
than them.

So it remains, black men continue to be discriminant about when, where, and to whom we are able
to "keep it real." And like Obama, we know that privately, if not publicly, using the full spectrum of
"Negro dialects" comes at a price that many cannot afford.

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Acknowledgments
This book is dedicated to my loving and departed mother who made sacrifices that allowed me to live better, do better,
and know better. She gave me roots that keep me grounded, and wings that have enabled me to soar beyond limitations.
My lovely wife and the only living angel I’ve ever met, Kerry Fiero, who makes my life better in every way; and my son,
Gianardo Valente Fiero, who I’m raising not to be like me, but a better version of me.

© 2016 Publishing

All rights reserved. Except as permitted by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without

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the prior written permission of the publisher.

About the author

Gian Fiero has counseled, coached, educated, and mentored countless individuals in
their pursuits of greater work, career, and life fulfillment. He is widely regarded as a
growth expert in the personal & professional development fields, and is a celebrated
public & media speaker, author, and CEO of Fiero Flair, an empowerment company.
Gian lives in the San Francisco, California Bay Area and offers holistic career & life
coaching services to those who want to identify and remove the barriers to growth that
limit success at work, in careers, and in life.

Follow him on Twitter @gianfiero

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“Good, better, best; never let it rest till your good is better
and your better is best.”
~St. Jerome

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If you’ve enjoyed better, you will enjoy Gian’s blog, The Growth Tree,
a source for growth & inspiration. Updated weekly.

www.thegrowthtree.blogspot.com
Media inquiries & feedback: mrgianfiero@yahoo.com

www.gianfiero.info

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