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Blur The Line Between Work and Play


Many who study productivity know the balance that needs to be maintained between work and play.

Work without any play can become mundane, tedious, and non-fulfilling. But play without any work can become aimless, misguided, and unproductive.

Whether we are at work, school, or home, we should find ways to integrate playfulness and curiosity to help fuel our creativity, motivation, and commitment to whatever it is that we are doing. And although it’s been said many times before: when we are passionate about what we do, we are more likely to develop a focus that yields the best results.

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A Plight Caused By Vengeance (and The Role of Forgiveness)

Vengeance is a form of justice where we seek another person or group’s misfortune after that person or group has caused pain to us. There is an allure to vengeance that can captivate the human soul, and while vengeful we often think and act willfully to hurt and destroy, with the expectation that once we succeed we will feel righteous and victorious.

Revenge in the Movies

One of my favorite depictions of revenge is in the movie V for Vendetta, where a masked revolutionary seeks revenge from a government that has oppressed him and left him disfigured. By the end of the movie he succeeds and blows up Parliament in a fit of honor and integrity.

While watching the movie, it’s hard not to feel good when V (the main character) finally succeeds in his destructive endeavors, but is this really how revenge often plays out in the real world?

My guess is no. Having the intentions to cause suffering in another person is physically and psychologically destructive to the intention-holder. Even in the romanticized depiction of vengeance in V for Vendetta, it is clear that some of V’s actions ultimately lead to self-destruction (watch the movie if you haven’t already).

I think the same can be said for most thoughts and acts regarding vengeful behavior. Intentions to hurt rarely lead to positive outcomes for others or ourselves.

Let’s look at another depiction of revenge, this time in the movie Old Boy. In this movie both the protagonist and antagonist seek retributive justice against each other. Dae-su told a rumor about Woo-jin when they were just teenagers, this lead to certain consequences. Woo-jin responded by kidnapping Dae-su for 15 years, tortured him, and ruined his life. As Dae-su was locked up he grew strong feelings of hatred for his kidnapper (can you blame him?) and spent years training in solitude with thoughts of revenge. By the end of the movie both cause immense suffering to each other, but neither find true happiness or closure in their ways.

This seems to be a more accurate depiction of vengeance. Both character’s stories turn into a vicious cycle where one negative deed leads to another. Because they never moved on to a more clear and positive set of intentions (which isn’t always easy), both ended up destroying themselves and their dignity.

In both of these movies the protagonist has violent and destructive intentions, yet I find myself rooting them on and hoping they succeed. Sure, it’s just a movie and it’s all fiction, but I think this allure can be captivating to a certain degree in the real world as well. I know I can identify times in my life where I have at least shown wishful thinking that something goes wrong in another person’s life, mostly because that person treated me poorly at one point and I never fully forgave them.

Is Forgiveness the Answer?

As our society grows increasingly secular, I think “forgiveness” is developing a bad reputation as an outdated Judeo-Christian value. We imagine it in the sense of “turn the other cheek,” and we see forgiveness as catalyst to invite others to keep hurting us.

However, I think forgiveness is still an important value. Holding grudges is psychologically and emotionally draining. Just being able to let go of them can be like a weight being lifted off of our shoulders.

Plus we can forgive someone without ever telling them or inviting them back into our lives. There is no need to welcome further abuse, we only need to make the mental shift to hope that person sees the err in their ways and improves themselves for future well-being. While our good will alone won’t change or fix the other person, it will free us from the false desire for adequate justice (which is often skewed in the heat of revenge, or simply out of our control).

Can You Forgive Hitler?

Hitler didn’t just commit crimes against Jews, he committed crimes against humanity as a whole. This has made him out to be one of the most hated men in history. The quintessence of evil. Our society and culture has no problem depicting Hitler being tortured or burning in hell for all of eternity.

This led me to a question I frequently ask people: Can you forgive Hitler for what he did? I think many people may answer no. They will add that what Hitler did made him an evil person through-and-through, and this has ruined all chances of him ever being forgiven. In fact, he rightly deserves any negative thing that happens to him if there is an after-life.

While I understand this viewpoint, I think it is a product of frustration, anger, and revenge, and not a particularly enlightening view of humanity as a whole. Buddhists would argue that Hitler had a Buddha-nature like everyone else. What led him to his bad deeds were accumulations of negative karma: his upbringing, his environment, his genes, his relationships, as well as the negative karma he reaped through his own ill intentions and poor judgment. One shouldn’t excuse Hitler for his actions, but one can be led to believe that under certain conditions it takes a tremendous amount of will-power to not turn into a monster. If any of us were born in Hitler’s shoes and lived his life, would we have ended up in a similar way?

I don’t expect to persuade you in less than 250 words why you should forgive Hitler, but I do hope that my question gives you an estimate on your capacity to forgive in general.

Empathy’s Role in Forgiveness

I mentioned stepping into Hitler’s shoes to give you a better understanding of Hitler’s actions. What I am describing here is nothing more than empathy, our ability to think and feel about the world from another person’s perspective.

Psychologist Frederic Luskin from the Stanford Forgiveness Project has been training people to forgive for almost a decade now. He considers it a very important skill to both mental and physical well-being (especially reducing stress), and he considers empathy one of the central components of this skill. When we step outside of our narrow view of the world, we either better understand the faulty ways of our victimizers or we find that they never had intentions to hurt us in the first place. Having this kind of knowledge can make it much easier to forgive.

If you feel hurt or betrayed, imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand why they did what they did can sometimes help you alleviate your ill-feelings toward that person. This doesn’t mean that what they did was acceptable, but it is important to know that we all have the capacity to make mistakes in a given situation under certain conditions. I’m sure you too can think of times when you have made poor decisions and hurt another person. You can just as well use empathy to sympathize with these past misdeeds you’ve committed.

Forgiveness Is About Control

Another aspect of forgiveness Luskin emphasizes in his training is the fact that we don’t always have control over the bad actions and character of another person. Seeking to change or “get back” at someone who is not willing to change, or who is no longer in our lives, can be a great source of stress and discomfort. Often we can minimize this stress by re-focusing on what is in our control. Forgiveness provides the tools we need to let go of this resentment and thus concentrate on more important things in our life. When we sincerely forgive someone they no longer possess our minds or distract us from living mindfully in the present.

A Strength in Not Forgiving

Psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, in her book Forgiving and Not Forgiving: Why Sometimes It’s Better Not to Forgive, offers an alternative perspective to forgiveness. She feels that when we feel obligated to forgive it can often make our forgiveness insincere or make our feelings of anger feel unjustified. She finds that it is healthy to experience anger and grief when someone has betrayed us, and that it is not necessary to forgive someone, just not to hate them.

According to Safer, many of her clients feel there is too much emphasis on forgiveness in society, and that if they don’t do it there is something wrong with them. She says, “It’s a double-whammy. First something terrible happens to them, and then they feel bad that they can’t fix it through forgiving and loving.”

In addition, we hate being told to “get over it.” People make it sound so easy because they don’t seem to relate to how angry we feel in a given moment. Sometimes when we hear this advice we will do just the opposite in spite of the other person because how dare they tell us how to feel. Safer feels that if forgiveness is to come, it has to come naturally. And if it doesn’t ever come, that is okay too. However, there is one kind of forgiveness Safer believes is unavoidable to mental health – forgiving yourself.

    “Forgiving yourself is the only essential kind of forgiveness, because you are the only person you can’t cut out of your life.”

What do you think?

Is forgiveness something that can be extended to everyone or should we only reserve forgiveness for those who deserve it? Can apathy or indifference be enough to curb our desire for vengeance or ill-will? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Self-Bossers: How to Break Free from Corporate Culture

In the 21st century many of us are living in very privileged societies. And in these societies we have many different choices on what we can do for a living, more so than just about any other time in history. Complex market economies, technology, and especially the internet have given birth to more options and freedoms than we perhaps could have ever imagined a century or two ago.

However, in the midst of these complex economic hierarchies, there is an emerging generation of self-bossers, freelancers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and independent minds who don’t want to work a 9-5 or assimilate to today’s corporate culture. They want to have more control over their labor and what they produce. And today this is more possible than ever before.

Are you a self-bosser?

Are you a part of that growing minority who can’t imagine working for someone else or having a boss loom over their shoulder 24/7? Do you loathe taking orders and only cherish spending time as you see fit?

If not, that’s okay. Plenty of people are more than happy to spend their working lives under the jurisdiction of someone else. As long as you enjoy your job, it doesn’t make you any less of a person; in fact, in many ways it can be smarter, easier, and more financially stable to work as an employee for another company rather than start your own endeavor. However, this article probably isn’t for you. If you prefer working for another person’s business, but perhaps you are experiencing some trouble at your current job, then check out this article: 10 Reasons You’re Losing Your Mind At Work.

On the other hand, this post is intended for a smaller percentage of people who simply can’t imagine having to work for someone else. They value their free time and creativity so much that they are willing to do anything it takes to become self-employed or manage their own business. They desire more productive and creative control over their time, and therefore they are willing to bare the financial and psychological risks it takes to build a career on their own terms.

Self-bossers see the world differently.

Self-bossers think about the world in a different way than your average worker. They are filled with ideas and visions about the world they live in and what is possible. Their aim is to act out these ideas, to test them in the real world, and learn more as they continue to mold reality to the best of their abilities.

Their visions however are not without boundaries. A self-bosser must be a practical idealist, always exercising his or her control when possible, and not showing too much concern to the realities that lay outside of his or her control.

However, sometimes the territory outside of our control scares us away from claiming power over our lives. While we often recognize that we have responsibility over our actions, we are often afraid of deviating from the norm, making mistakes, failing, and suffering the consequences of our devious behavior.

But it is precisely this devious behavior that defines a self-bosser. One of my favorite contemporary philosophers Brad Spangler once said,

“All human progress is about abnormality. Innovation necessarily, by definition, violates pre-existing norms.”

But are you willing to exercise your abnormality for the sake of progress and innovation? I presume that not everyone is willing to bare the risks associated with going against the grain of society, and some probably have a great fear of it.

Being a successful freelancer or entrepreneur will require some degree of stepping outside the norm. Anyone who builds their own career must be innovative in their own way, according to their own knowledge, values, skills, and passion. If we only follow blueprints that have been handed down to us from other authorities in society, then we will never maximize our potential, which is partly unique for every individual.

Self-bossing is self-discovery.

Because we each can only manage ourselves in our own way, self-bossing is also a process of self-discovery. You need to first identify your strengths, weaknesses, intentions, and goals, just like a good employer should identify these attributes of their employees before assigning them a job. The only difference between you and any other employer is that you must build the self-awareness and self-knowledge to know what you are best at.

Only once you discover your capacities and limitations can you begin to exercise them and start building your empire. This is going to take a bit of introspection and self-inquiry. You need to ask yourself what you are capable of, what you desire to create, and what obstacles you may face in the future.

Self-bossers make tiny changes with long-term leverage.

Becoming a self-bosser can seem like a daunting task. You might already be integrated into the corporate world and you have a hard-time imagining how life would be without it. You have to first accept that this is a process that doesn’t take place over night, but over many days, months, and even years. Don’t quit your day job, but start making changes today that will help align you with your goals. Even writing on a blog 10 minutes a night can do wonders to help you organize your thoughts, clarify your values, and face anxieties that many self-bossers face when they begin to make this leap into the unknown.

10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes a night is all it takes to start making the transition. This is a new way of life that you need to start building brick by brick, and finding just a couple little things to do on a daily basis can build up your momentum fast. Start by asking your friends what you are good at, do some research on the internet or at the library, and contact others who may be able to offer you practical advice.

I guarantee you that the hardest part about this whole process is getting started. The more you invest into your projects, the harder it will be to give up or walk away. Focus on the little things now and you will begin to recognize the bigger things building up over time.

Flexible persistence

Obviously staying committed to your goals is a big factor in accomplishing them. However, there is a point where blind persistence can leave you investing more time and more energy in plans that simply aren’t going to work out (in behavioral economics, they call this the “sunk cost fallacy,” our tendency to throw money at bad investments because we want to fix them, but we just end up losing more). This is when you need to recognize failure and adjust your course of action.

Just because you fail at one endeavor doesn’t mean you are a terrible self-bosser. Self-bossers often pride themselves in the mistakes they’ve made in their past because they realize how important they were in their professional growth. Self-bossers are persistent when trying to achieve their ends, but flexible when it comes to the different means that can be used to achieve them. They can have long-term visions, but they also know how to stay focused in the present and adjust their actions when presented with new information.

Smart risks and failing small.

When we first decide to be a self-bosser it can be an enthralling experience. We often have big dreams of the future and we are willing to take big risks to meet those dreams. But while I’ve mentioned that risks are unavoidable, it would be stupid to take out a three hundred thousand dollar business loan and think you are going to be able to build a successful business your first try.

Let’s say you are a musician who wants to record an album. Before you go out to Sam Ash and buy a whole bunch of recording equipment, why not perform your songs live a few times and see how the audience reacts? Although it may hurt temporarily, you want to know if your music is good enough and if people actually enjoy it (and will want to buy it) before you spend all that money for a recording.

By taking smaller risks you find out what areas you need to improve in before you move on to bigger decisions. It’s a process of trial-and-error, but you want to make sure your errors are small enough to be recoverable. This is how you sustain positive growth.

Before I write a whole book and send it off to a hundred publishers, I should probably write a few chapters and get some people’s thoughts on it. You want to get feedback on your work periodically and in moderate doses, so that you can build off of it and not get overwhelmed or discouraged by the bigger failures that often occur when you take bigger risks. Be a smart risk-taker and try to do smaller litmus tests to see if what you are doing is productive or counter-productive.

Start reclaiming your dream today.

You’re not going to become a self-bosser simply by reading this article. I’ve tried to illuminate some of the key components it takes to begin to make the leap, but ultimately this is something that you need to figure out for yourself. I hope at the very least this article has inspired you or motivated you, and I also hope that you now have a clearer picture of some of the things it will take to become successfully self-employed. If you want to read these ideas expanded on with more depth I recommend Jonathan Mead’s “Reclaim You Dreams: An Uncommon Guide To Living On Your Own Terms” – a great self-starter for aspiring self-bosses everywhere.

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8 Biases That Cripple Smart Decision-Making


A bias is any inclination toward a particular belief or perspective, often one that is ill-supported by reason or evidence. When we call another person “biased” we usually mean that they are incapable of looking objectively at the facts. They are too stuck in their own world view, with their own prejudices, and usually unwilling have an open mind about certain issues.

Psychologists claim that many of our biases are evolved mental processes which at one point may have been adaptive to our environment. Because the mind is not a perfectly calculating machine, it uses many different heuristics (or “rules of thumb”) that help guide the decision-making process.

Although this process isn’t perfect, it often gets the job done in terms of survival and reproduction. Many of these biases may still be functional in today’s world, but others can greatly inhibit us from making rational and intelligent decisions. I hope to discuss some of these biases with you today. And maybe by being more aware of them you can avoid some of your faulty thinking and make smarter decisions in the future.

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How to Have an Exciting Social Persona

This is a guest post by Eduard Ezeanu from People Skills Decoded.

I believe that one of the best things you can do in social interactions is make others feel good and get them excited. When you are able to excite people, they are naturally drawn to you and building a rich social life is easy.

Some persons naturally have an exciting persona. They are however, very rare. As a communication coach, one of my interests is to understand such persons, model their social behavior and help others become more exciting.

Here are the key things you can practice that in my perspective will make you a socially exciting person.

1. Be Loud.

In order to get other people excited, you need to be excited yourself. One essential trait of excited people is that they are loud. Their positive energy manifests in the intensity of their voice, their gestures and their behaviors, without going to the extreme.

By being excited when you interact with others, you can generate the same effect. Speak in a strong, firm voice and hold your head up when you do. Move with energy and passion; use your hands to gesture when you talk. Touch people a lot and move around the room a lot.

2. Talk with Everybody

Being exciting and being sociable are closely related. When for example, you’re at a party and you go around the room talking to everybody, you get yourself out of your head and into the moment, which is a big leap towards energizing others.

Also, as others notice that you are a very sociable person who interacts with everyone, this gets them excited about talking with you. If you are an introvert and have a lower level of social energy, all this socializing will use plenty of your energy, but you’ll be fine as long as you know when to stop and recharge.

3. Joke Around

One thing I’ve noticed is that people usual use the words ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’ together. This is because those who are fun are also exciting. I believe that in order to thrill others in a social interaction, having fun yourself needs to be a priority.

One tip I often give is to joke around a lot. This is not the same as telling jokes; this has to do rather with not taking things too seriously, acting aloof and finding something amusing in almost anything. Having fun and enjoying yourself is absolutely contagious in social interactions.

4. Take Risks

Probably the least exciting and most boring persons in social situations are those who play it safe. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, to upset somebody or to appear inadequate, so they watch every word they say and every gesture they make.

You don’t want to be this person. If you’re not comfortable with taking risks socially, you can become comfortable. How? By gradually taking more risks in social situations and putting more of yourself out there. You’ll be amazed how often people just start laughing and feel amused by something you thought was rude to say.

If you’re not used to being loud, sociable, fun and taking risks, it may not feel natural at first. The most important recommendation I can make is to keep practicing and push through. As your mind gets used with your new social behavior, it will feel more natural. I’ve seen this happening in my social life and in those of many of my coaching clients.

We all have inside of us a part that’s thrilling, positive, and exciting. It’s just that sometimes we need to practice expressing it and we need to give it permission in order for this part to surface.

Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. If you enjoyed this article, also learn how to start a conversation and discover how to overcome shyness from two top articles on his People Skills Decoded blog.

Check out “A Roadmap To Relationships” for everything you need to know about building a healthy and fun social life. Find out more here.