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learn to draw in 30 days

Drawing is a skill anyone can learn.

November is National Novel Writing Month– or NaNoWriMo. In case you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is that, by setting aside some time to write a little each day, in one month you’ll have written an entire novel.

For those of you who wish to be creative during the month of November, but have no interest in writing a novel, here’s another creative challenge you can take during the month of November. The challenge is learning to draw in 30 days.

onehouradayformula banner longWhen I was in elementary school, we had art class. However, the art teacher would simply place the art supplies in the middle of the table at the start of class and tell us “to draw”. That’s it: she never gave us any instructions on how to do it.

Therefore, I never learned to draw. In addition, I was under the impression that drawing was a talent which I simply didn’t possess. That is, until I started doing research on how to learn new skills and realized that anything can be learned–if the right approach is used.

I’m currently working on a video course called “Learn Skills Fast”. One of the skills that I taught myself by following the method that I came up with is drawing. This post is roughly based on the process that I followed in order to learn to draw.

The first thing that I did was identify the three primary resources that I would use. These are the following:

However, my learning methodology involves taking charge of your own learning experience, and using several resources in order to make sure that you’re learning in the way that is best suited to you and your needs. Therefore, you’ll see me referencing other sources—in addition to the three books mentioned above—throughout this post.

Resolve to set aside one-hour-a-day throughout the month of November to learn to draw–with graphite pencils–and then follow along with this post. Below you’ll discover how to learn to draw in 30 days.

Day 1 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  The Sphere

Kistler indicates that to start drawing all you need is a regular No. 2 pencil with an eraser, and a sketch pad. I got a 30-page sketch pad at the pharmacy for $1.99. You probably already have a No. 2 pencil, so go out and get a sketch pad. With a tiny investment, you’re ready to get started.

Start by drawing an airplane, a donut, and a house so you can measure your progress. Take ten minutes right now and do this (it’s OK if it’s terrible, you’re learning how to draw).

The first thing that most drawing tutorials teach you to draw is shapes, starting with a sphere. After all, any object that you see around you can be constructed by using one, or  a combination of, three different shapes:

  • A circle – a sphere is a circle in 3D.
  • A square – a cube is a square in 3D.
  • A triangle – a cone is a triangle in 3D.

In addition, there are two more 3D forms:

  • A pyramid, which is a variation of the cube.
  • A cylinder, which is a variation of the cone.

Look at the following illustration by Edward A Burke:

These shapes and forms help us to simplify the complex information in front of us. A useful drawing strategy is to work from the largest, most general shapes, to the smallest and most specific.

We’re going to learn to draw the shapes and forms in the image above, one at a time, starting with the sphere. As was stated above, a sphere is a circle in 3-D.  The way in which you turn a circle into a sphere is with shading and shadow.

Here is a video of Kistler’s lesson on how to draw a sphere (don’t just watch the video–follow along and draw a sphere): Day 1 of Learning to Draw in 30 Days.

Day 2 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge  – Value

“Value”–also referred to as “tone”–is simply how dark or light something is. It’s used in drawing to depict light and shadow to create a three dimensional illusion. Kistler provides very vague instructions on shading and shadowing, so I did additional research on this.

The first step in understanding value is to create a value scale. Value scales run from black to white, with several different shades of gray in between. You’re going to start out by creating a value scale with five squares. The first square is going to be black, and the last square is going be white. The other three squares will be gray, as follows:

  • Dark gray.
  • Middle gray.
  • Light gray.

It should look like this:

You can create your value scale in any of three ways:

  • Press down harder on the pencil for the dark colors.
  • Use more layering for the darker colors.
  • Use pencils of different grades.

What you think of as a “lead pencil” isn’t made of lead at all. Instead, these pencils are made of a mixture of clay and graphite. This core of clay and graphite is referred to as the pencil “lead”. The pencil lead is placed between wooden halves, which are glued together.

Manufacturers alter how soft or how hard a pencil is by changing the amounts of clay and graphite that they use in the lead. Hard pencils (H) have a lighter value because they leave less graphite on the paper. On the other hand, soft pencils (B) have a darker value because they leave more graphite on the paper.

Graphite pencils range fron 9B (the softest and darkest), to 9H (the hardest and lightest). The full range of drawing pencil grades looks like this:

9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, HB, F, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B

However, you don’t need the whole range of graphite pencils. I have a set of Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils which range from 6H to 6B.

However, once again, you don’t need to go out and buy pencils at this point. If you prefer, you can stick to your normal Nº 2 pencil (which roughly corresponds to HB in the scale above) and press down harder, or add more layers, to get the darker tones. Press down softer to get the lighter tones.

Take a look at the value scale you created. When you draw a sphere, you’re going to use these five different tones. Look at the following:

  • The darkest tone is going to be the cast shadow.
  • The dark gray is going to be the core shadow.
  • The middle gray is going to be the midtone.
  • The light gray is going to be the reflected highlight.
  • The white is going to be the highlight.

Now, draw a sphere with proper shading and shadowing by following along with this video: How to Draw a Sphere.

Day 3 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Objects Shaped Like a Sphere

The reason you want to learn to draw a sphere is so that you can draw objects that have a spherical shape. One such object is an apple. To further grasp–and practice–the concepts of shading and shadows, draw an apple in 3D by following along with the tutorial below.

The Basics of Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows

Look around and notice all of the sphere-shaped objects that surround you. You’ve taken the first step to be able to draw those objects.

Day 4 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  The Cube

As was stated in Day 1, the cube is one of the fundamental shapes/forms you should learn to draw. As you’ll discover in Days 5 and 6, once you know how to draw a cube you’ll be able to draw many different things, including houses. Learn to drawa cubes by following along with Kistler in this video: The Cube.

Day 5 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Advanced Cubes

Now that you can draw a cube, you can draw hollow cubes–like boxes or chests–, and you can draw all sorts of cube-shaped things. Start off by following along with Kistler in the three videos below:

In addition, once you can draw cubes, you can also draw all sorts of cube-shaped ojects. Practice by drawing a printer by following along with this video: Drawing Box Shaped Things.

Day 6 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw a House

Most houses are shaped like cubes. So, once you know how to draw cubes and advanced cubes, you can draw a  house. Start off by drawing this simple house (turned into a milk carton): Constructing With Cubes.

Then, move on to this more complex house: Advanced-Level House.

Day 7 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw Cylinders

The next fundamental shape that you’re going to learn to draw is the cylinder. Again, there are many objects and things all around you that are shaped like cylinders, including bottles, candles, lipsticks, and so on.

Draw a cylinder with Kistler by following along with this video: The Cylinder.

Once you can draw a cylinder, draw an object shaped like a cylinder. How about a can? It can be a soup can, a can of beans, a soda can, and so on. Follow along with this video: Draw a Can of Coke.

Look around and count how many cylinder-shaped objects you can find. You’re well on your way to being able to draw them.

Day 8 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw a Pyramid

The next fundamental shape/form that you’re going to learn to draw is the pyramid. The roof of most people houses are pyramind shaped. In addition, blocks of cheese, perfume bottles, and paper weights can be shaped like pyramids.

Follow along with this video and draw a pyramid: How to Draw a Pyramid.

Day 9 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw a Cone

Cones are another shape that show up all over the place. Learn to draw cones by reading the instructions in the article below.

How to Draw a Cone

Once you’ve learned how to draw a cone, draw an ice cream cone. Follow along with this video: How to Draw a Cartoon Ice Cream Cone.

Day 10 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Shade Basic Forms

You already learned how to shade a sphere. Here’s how to shade all of the basic forms you’ve learned how to draw: How to Shade Basic Forms.

Day 11 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Structure Basics

Once again, the reason that you’re learning to draw geometric shapes is because anything that you may want to draw is made up of one or more geometrtic shapes. You have to learn to notice the shapes in the objects around you, and draw them.

Now that you know how to draw the basic geometric shapes, here’s a great video on how to use those shapes and put them together to create great drawings: Structure Basics – Making Things Look 3D.

Then, use the shapes that you’ve learned to draw and draw this lamp: Draw Anything Using the Four Basic Shapes.

Day 12 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Overlapping Objects

The challenge in drawing is taking a three-dimentional object from real life and creating a realistic representation of it on a piece of paper, which is a two-dimentional surface. In other words, you have to find a way to create the illusion of depth, space, and distance. There are several “tricks” that artists use to achieve this.

So far, we’ve covered one way to create the illusion of depth: shading and shadows. Here are six more ways to create the illusion of depth:

One. Varying Sizes – Objects are drawn larger in the foreground and smaller the farther back you want them to appear.

Two. Placement – The objects that are drawn lower down on the page appear to be closer to you than the objects that are drawn higher up.

Three. Color and Value – Items that are closer to you appear darker than the objects that are farther away. If color is used, items that are closer appear to be warmer in color.

Four. Detail – Objects that are closer contain more details than objects that are farther away.

Five. Linear Perspective – By using one, two, or three-point perspective, artists can make objects appear closer or father away.

Six. Overlapping – Overlapping is placing one object in front of another. The object that is in front seems to be closer than the object that is behind.  In addition, objects with interrupted edges appear to be further away than those with complete contours.

Today we’re going to take a look at the sixth way to create the illusion of depth: overlapping. The next video you’re going to take a look at has Kistler demostrating how to draw lilies. However, he goes further that that. He  draws three lilies that overlap.

Follow along with this video and draw overlapping lilies: Lovely Lilies.

Notice that Kistler drew the lily in front first, and then he added the two in the back. In the book The Fundamentals of Drawing: A comprehensive drawing course for the beginning artist, Tom Dowdalls recommends that you begin with a quick sketch of the objects that are farther back, and then draw the ones that are in front. Try both ways and notice which one works best for you.

Day 13 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw Ellipses

An ellipse is simply an elongated–or a foreshortened–circle. You’ve already drawn ellipses since a cylinder is basically two ellipses connected by two perpendicular vertical lines. However, due to the importance of the ellipse, here’s a video that explains how to draw this shape: Drawing Ellipses.

And here’s some more guidance on how to draw using ellipses: Drawing An Ellipse Step-by-Step.

Now, draw this vase using ellipses: Ellipse Perspective.

Day 14 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Curves

Curves are found all over the place, so it’s important to learn how to draw them. You’ve already drawn lillies, so you already know how to draw curves. Get better at drawing curves by drawing flags, scrolls, and roses.

Follow along with Kistler in this video: How to Draw a Rose With Mark Kistler.

Day 15 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Cross Contour Lines

A contour is a line which defines the outline of an object. It’s a depiction of the outer edges of the object that you’re drawing, without adding any additional details. Cross-counter lines are lines that reflect the movement of your eyes around the objects that you see.

Cross-contour lines can be horizontal or vertical. They help us to described the form, and its shape, more accurately by varying the thickness of our lines or shading along the cross-contour lines.

Cross-contour lines will improve your drawing by making them more three dimensional and by communicating form. Watch the three videos below for an excellent explanation of of cross-contour lines.

Then, draw an apple using cross-contour lines by following along with this video: Drawing An Apple With Cross-Contour Lines.

Day 16 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw A Tree

Draw a tree with a realistic-looking trunk, branches, and foliage by following along with this video: How to Draw a Tree with Mark Kistler. Then, get even better at drawing trees by drawing another tree. Follow along with this video: Draw a Tree With Pencil.

Day 17 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw A Donut And An Airplane

At the very beginning of this challenge you drew a house, a donut, and a airplane to help you measure your progress. On Day 5 of the challenge you drew a house again, this time with instructions from Kistler. Now you’re going to draw a bagel and an airplane once more.

Follow along with the videos below:

How much did you improve? I don’t know about you, but I improved a lot in just 17 days.

Day 18 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw a Hand

Although a lot of people think that it’s difficult to draw hands, it’s just a matter of drawing some simple shapes. A hand is simply a square, a triangle, and a few cylinders.

Draw a hand by following along with this video: How to Draw Hands.

Day 19 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Texture

“Texture” used in the context of drawing refers to the way an object looks as it may feel if it were touched. For example, if you’re drawing a tree, you want to create a bark-like texture. As a second illustration, if you’re drawing a dog you want to create a fur-like texture.

There are different techniques that are used to create the illusion of texture. As an illustration, the book “The Art of Drawing Animals” explains that to draw short fur–on a dog, for example–, you would do the following:

  • Create an undercoat with a series of swift, short strokes with a 2H pencil. Draw the fur in the direction of the fur growth.
  • Use an HB pencil to create a second layer. Don’t cover the entire area–leave some of the page white for highlights.
  • Switch over to a 2B pencil and go over the area again.

That is, texture is created by using different pencil movements, pencils of different grades, creating highlights, and so on. Here are two videos to watch to learn how to create texture:

To practice texture, draw four squares (2″ x 2″ each). In each square, practice one of the following  textures: tree bark; wood, brick, and metal.

You’ll be drawing a squirrel and the squirrel’s fur on Day 28.

Day 20 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Blind Contour Drawing

Up until this point you’ve been following along as different artists draw some object or other. However, if you want to learn to draw you need to learn how to to “see”. That is, you want to train your brain and your hand to be able to translate what you see into a drawing.

There are many exercises that will help you to do this. Blind contour drawing is one of them. Specifically, it’s an exercise in which an artist draws the contour—or outline—of a subject, without looking at the paper as they draw.

This drawing technique was first introduced by Kimon Nicolaides in his book, “The Natural Way to Draw”. It was further popularized by Betty Edwards. The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen eye-hand coordination.

Draw your left fist using blind contour drawing by following along with this video: Blind Contour Drawing.

Day 21 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – The Vase/Faces Exercise

There’s a famous optical illusion image which is called Vase/Faces, because you can either see a vase, or two faces in profile. One of the drawing exercises recommended by Edwards involves the following:

  • She gives you a template with one side of the vase (or with one face in profile).
  • You have to complete the other side.

Go ahead and do this exercise. Download the template here. Then, complete the exercise by following along with this video: Vase/Faces Tutorial.

Day 22 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – The Grid Method

The Grid Method will help you to reproduce an image that you’re trying to draw. It consists of taking the image and drawing a grid over it. Then, draw a grid of equal ratio on the paper you’re going to draw the image on. Lastly, you draw the image, one square at time.

Read this explanation on how to use the grid method: The Grid Method. Then, use the grid method to draw a horse (or the head of a horse) by following along with this video: How to Draw a Horse.

Day 23 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Upside Down Drawing

Edwards argues that by drawing upside down you can create a shift between your left brain–which is logical and lineal–and your right brain. Theoretically, right brain thinking will allow you to access your ability to draw.

Upside Down Drawing will allow you to the following:

  • Learn to see lines in relation to each other, rather than as preconceived shapes.
  • Develop observational skills.

Do the following:

  • Take an image and turn it upside down.
  • Then, copy it. Just draw the shapes and lines that you see, without trying to make sense of what you’re drawing

You can use the image below:

In addition, draw the image by following along with this video: Upside Down Drawing.

Day 24 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Drawing Negative Space

Another exercise recommended by Edwards is drawing negative space. Positive space refers to the main focus of a picture, while negative space refers to the background. In negative space drawing, instead of observing the positive shape of an object, you draw the shape of the space around the object.

Here’s a great explanation of how to draw negative space: Positive and Negative Space.

Now, grab a pair of scissors, place it on a white sheet of paper, and draw the negative space around the scissors. Then, take some paper clips and do the same thing. You can follow along with this video: Positive Negative Space.

Day 25 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  One Point Perspective

What is perspective? Perspective is all about creating depth in your drawings. Here’s a quick introduction to perspective in drawing: Understanding Perspective.

One-point perspective is when everything converges toward one vanishing point on the horizon. It’s  typically used for roads, railroad tracks, or hallways. Draw this city landscape using one-point perspective: One-Point Perspective Cityscape.

Day 26 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Two Point Perspective

Two-Point perspective uses two vanishing points on the horizon line. In this type of perspective, you are viewing the object or scene so that you are looking at one corner, with two sets of parallel lines moving away from you.

Draw this bedroom in two-point perspective: Two-Point Perspective Bedroom.

Day 27 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Draw a Still Life

A still life is a genre of painting. Specifically, it’s a painting or drawing that features an arrangement of inanimate, everyday objects. These objects often include a vase–with or without flowers–, a piece of fruit, and a bottle of wine. This genre is great for those who are learning to draw because it teaches you to see like an artist.

In addition, drawing still lives will teach you proportion. Look at the following:

  • You want to maintain the right proportion between the  height and width of an object.
  • When an object has different sub-parts it’s important to draw the sub-parts the right size in relation to each other.
  • In addition, each object has to have the correct proprotion in relation to the other objects that make up the still life.

Here are some guidelines for drawing a still life:

  • Spend some time observing the composition.
  • Simplify the forms. What basic shapes do you see in each object?
  • Start drawing the shapes that you see in a rough fashion (a circle for an apple, a long cylinder for a candle, a rectangle for a book, and so on). Use a light pencil; you’ll erase most of these lines later.
  • Use a pencil to measure proportions.
  • Just draw the essential lines at this point. You’ll be adding in the details later.

Follow along with the instructions you’ll find in this blog post, and draw the still life below.

Day 28 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge –  Draw a Squirrel

You’re going to practice drawing texture by drawing a squirrel. Follow along with this video to draw the basic outline of the squirrel and get a general idea on how to create the fur texture for the squirrel: How to Draw a Squirrel.

Then, get the details on how to create the squirrel’s fur in this video: How to Draw Fur.

Day 29 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Draw a Face

The face has very specific proportions that you need to adhere to if you want to draw it realistically. Here are some guidelines:

  • The eyes are halfway down the head.
  • The edge of the nostrils line up with the tear ducts of the eyes.
  • The space between the eyes is the same as the width of each eye.
  • The head is five eyes wide.
  • The corners of the mouth line up with the pupils of each eye.

Draw a quick and simple girl’s face by following along with this tutorial: How to Draw a Female Face.

Day 30 of the Learn to Draw in 30 Days Challenge – Choose An Object to Draw

For Day 30, choose an object and draw it. As an illustration, you can choose to draw one of your running shoes. Use any of the techniques that you learned during the last 29 days to draw it. He are some possibilities:

  • Identify the different shapes that you see in your running shoe and draw those shapes. Then, fill in the details.
  • Make a blind contour drawing of it.
  • Take a photograph of your running shoe and print it out. Draw a grid on the photo. Then, draw a grid on a piece of paper, and draw the running shoe that way.
  • Draw the negative spaces around the shoe.

Here are some more ideas.


Did you enjoy the 30-day drawing challenge?  How much did you improve? Live your best life by learning to draw.


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willing to fail

Failure and creativity go hand in hand.

One of the key ingredients of creativity and innovation is failure. In order to be creative, you have to be willing to take risks. To use the analogy of a painter, use bright and bold colors instead of creating dull, bland, and “safe” paintings. If you want to discover inspired ideas, accept that you’re going to encounter more than a few that won’t work.

Below you’ll find stories from Disney, a business book written in manga, Silicon Valley, and a Stanford University classroom which illustrate that for creative success, you must be willing to fail.

Failure at Disney – The Gong Show

onehouradayformula banner longMichael Eisner is a former chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, and previously of Paramount Studios. He argues in this video that failure is a part of success. Eisner explains that Tom Watson, the founder of IBM, once said that the way to accelerate your success is to double your failure rate.

He adds that you should never make the same mistake twice. However, an intelligent stumble is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, to punish failure is to encourage mediocrity.

Eisner adds that at Disney they encourage failure with an idea-pitching Gong Show. The Gong Show is based on a 70s television amateur-hour show in which people with many different types of talents competed in front of a panel of celebrity judges. If any judge considered an act to be particularly awful, they could stop the act by striking a large gong.

For its Gong Show, Disney holds a meeting two or three times a year in which any Disney employee can present an idea for a full-length feature animation to top Disney executives. During the Gong Show, outrageous ideas are completely acceptable. They create an environment in which people feel that they’re free to express their ideas.

Most of the ideas presented during the Gong Show are awful, and deservedly get gonged. However, after hours and hours of this, some really great concepts emerge. “Hercules”, for example, came from an idea that was presented at a Gong Show.

Eisner explains that the Gong Show works because it’s almost a badge of honor to get gonged. This outlook makes people willing to fail.

Be Willing to Fail and Make Excellent Mistakes

“The Adventures of Johnny Bunko” is  a career guide by Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of “A Whole New Mind”. It’s presented in Japanese manga-style and follows the life of Johnny Bunko. Bunko is very creative and he loves to draw, but he was told to “major in accounting–that way you’ll always have a job”.

He did what his parents, teachers, and counselors told him to do. He did pretty well in school, and then got a job at the fictitious Boggs Corporation. Johnny finds himself bored out of his wits and wondering if he did the right thing by trudging through four years of business school and picking a “safe” career.

One night, Johnny has to stay late at the office, yet again. He decides to pick up dinner from a local sushi and noodles joint. While mumbling in exasperation about how bored and uninspired he is, he snaps a pair of chopsticks. Magically, a genie and career counselor named Diana appears.

Diana proceeds to give him career advice and, throughout the story, Johnny learns six rules from her which completely change his life. One of these rules is to make excellent mistakes. The exchange is as follows:

Diana: “Too many people spend their time avoiding mistakes. They’re so concerned about being wrong, about messing up, that they never try anything– which means they never do anything. Their focus is avoiding failure. But that’s actually a crummy way to achieve success. The most successful people make spectacular mistakes– huge, honking screw-ups! Why? They’re trying to do something big. But each time they make a mistake, they get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.”

Johnny: “Make mistakes. That seems risky.”

Diana: “It is. But it’s more risky not to. I’m not talking about random, stupid, thoughtless blunders, though. I’m talking about good mistakes. Mistakes that come from having high aspirations, from trying to do something nobody else has done.”

If you want to succeed you have to take risks. To allow yourself to take risks you have to stop fearing making mistakes, and you must be willing to fail.

The Biggest Successes Are Often Bred from Failures

For several years Randy Komisar has partnered with entrepreneurs creating businesses with leading-edge technologies as a “Virtual CEO”. In addition, he’s a Consulting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University and author of the best-selling book “The Monk and the Riddle” in which he shows readers how deals are made and businesses get started in Silicon Valley.

Randy explains in this video that what distinguishes Silicon Valley is not its successes, but how it deals with failure. Venture capitalists are in the innovation industry, which means that they strike out more than they hit homeruns. That’s just the way things are.

Innovation is doing things that have never been done before. The technology industry is basically a laboratory, and they’re conducting experiments.

In order to succeed in Silicon Valley, you have to teach people to be willing to fail. The way to do this is by creating a culture of constructive failure. Constructive failure is the having the ability to do the following:

  • Tolerate failure;
  • Proceed with your career;
  • Do it again, and take your experience and cash in on it as an asset.

That is, even if a venture fails you gain experience, and then it’s a matter of asking how to redeploy that experience around a different opportunity. They recognize failure as an important part of the creative and innovation process.

Creating a Failure Resume

Tina Seelig is the Stanford Technology Ventures Program’s Executive Director. In her lecture on “The Art of Teaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation” which she gave at Stanford a few years back, she encourages the audience to fail fast, frequently, and cheaply. That is, to use quick, rapid, prototypes.

Seelig indicates that if you’re not failing sometimes, you’re not taking enough risks. She adds that the ratio between our failures and our successes is pretty stable, so if you want more successes, you’re going to have to be willing to fail more often.

As an exercise in learning to fail, she has her students at Stanford create a failure resume. This is a resume of their biggest screw-ups: personal, professional, and academic.

The idea is that it’s OK to fail, as long as you learn something from it. Part of being an entrepreneur and creating innovation is being willing to put yourself out there, and that means that part of the time you’re going to fail.

I’d take this exercise a step further by adding that you should write down how you turned the failure around, what you learned from the failure, or how you managed to use the failure to your advantage.


In order to succeed–which often requires being creative–you need to constantly put yourself in a position where you’re willing to try something new, and if you fail, you’re willing to try again.

So, go ahead and create your failure resume, try to do something big, star in your own Gong Show, and make sure to always ask yourself what you can learn from your failures and how you can apply those lessons to your next project.

To live your best life, be willing to fail.


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do the things you don't want to do

The way to get ahead in life is to do the things you don’t want to do.

Without a doubt, you’ve heard the following a million times: set priorities, identify the most important thing that you need to get done, and then get to work on that thing first. Most people know this is what they need to do—it’s the only way to get ahead in life. But then, why don’t they do it?

Because the most important thing that needs to get done is—more often than not–really hard to do. The odds are high that it’s something complex, difficult, challenging, novel, or risky. Sometimes, it’s all of these things combined.

onehouradayformula banner longThat’s why another way of saying “do the most important thing first” is “eat the frog”. After all, nobody wants to eat a frog. Frogs are ugly and slimy. Eating a frog sounds incredibly unpleasant. And so do all of the following:

  • Calling a new prospect and asking for their business
  • Learning something that’s completely foreign to you—like coding.
  • Tackling an important, high-profile project at work.
  • Creating a new source of income.

But those are the things that will get you the results that you’re after, and the big rewards.

So, how do you get yourself to take the plunge and get to work on those big, hairy, overwhelming tasks? In this post you’ll discover ten tips for getting yourself to do the things you have to do to get ahead, even if you don’t want to do them.

1. Exit the Avoidance Zone as Soon As Possible

The Avoidance Zone is that space of being in which there’s something important that you need to get done, but you keep putting it off. You put it off by getting to work on unimportant things: items that are lower down on your list of priorities; tasks that someone else should be doing; or mindless activities like checking your twitter feed for the umpteenth time.

It’s an awful place be to be in, full of dread and anxiety. The task that you need to get to is always looming in the back of your mind, no matter how much you try to think of other things.

In addition, when you’re in the Avoidance Zone you’re not getting anything important done. Therefore, you’re suffering, but you have nothing of value to show for that suffering.

To make matters worse, the longer you put something off, the scarier it gets. The task that must be done, but that you’re desperately avoiding, gets bigger and uglier with every passing day. And the bigger and uglier it gets, the harder it is to get to it.

Start recognizing when you’re in the Avoidance Zone, and then get yourself out of there as soon as possible. The only way to get out of the Avoidance Zone is to get to work on the task that you’ve been putting off.

2. Demystify the Task by Unpacking It

It’s incredibly difficult to get to work on a task that looks like something you’ve never done before. However, the key here is that—whatever the task is–it just looks like something new. The reality is that once you unpack the task, you’ll realize that it’s comprised of subtasks that you are familiar with.

Imagine for a moment that, like most people, you know nothing about coding. However, it’s something that you need to learn to do if you want to get ahead in your profession. Although coding looks incredibly foreign—and, therefore, scary– once you unpack it you’ll realize the following:

  • You can learn to code by reading a book on coding. Is reading something you’re familiar with? Yes, of course it is.
  • You can learn to code by taking an online course. That just means watching and paying attention to videos. Have you done that before? Yes, you have.
  • To be able to code, you have to learn to code. Have you ever tried to learn something that you’ve been unfamiliar with in the past? You’ve done it thousands of times. At one time, all of the following were new to you: writing, multiplying, riding a bike, typing, using social media, and so on. Yet, you learned how to do all of these things.
  • Coding is just telling a computer what to do by giving it instructions. Have you ever given someone instructions on how to do something? Of course, you have.
  • Coding has a specific syntax. It can be compared to learning music or learning to speak another language. Most of us can play at least a simple song on some musical instrument (recorder, I’m looking at you), or put together a few simple sentences in another language. That’s all coding is: learning computer syntax.
  • In addition, some people have compared coding to playing with Legos, which is something that lots of people know how to do.

All of a sudden, coding doesn’t look so unfamiliar and strange any more. Right? In fact, it’s looking more and more accessible. That’s because we took a moment to unpack it, and thereby demystify it.

3. Focus On Prevention

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., explains that when you’re striving to achieve a goal, your focus can be on either promotion or prevention. If you have a promotion focus, then you’re focused on everything that you’ll gain by achieving the goal. But when you have a prevention focus, your focus is on the negative consequences that you’ll be able to avoid by attaining the goal.

The problem with having a promotion focus is that it often leads to procrastination. This is because thoughts of achievement will often lead to self-talk like the following:

  • “What if a fail?”
  • “What if it’s not good enough?”

The end result of these thoughts is that you’ll look for ways to put off the task in a desperate attempt to avoid those consequences. That is, to avoid failing or producing sub-par work.

On the other hand, if you have a prevention focus, then you’re focused on doing what needs to be done in order to avoid a negative result. A prevention focus lowers the bar, which makes it easier to get started with the task.

In addition, a prevention focus will get you to act because acting is the only way to get yourself out of danger – such as the danger of losing your job if you don’t hand in your work assignments on time.

With a prevention focus, instead of visions of grandeur, you’re just trying to get yourself to safety. This focus will force you to eliminate the nonessential, stop waffling, and get to it. Do the things you don’t want to do by focusing on prevention.

4. Stop Saying You Don’t Know Where to Start

Here’s one of the favorite excuses for people who are trying to avoid difficult tasks: “I can’t work on that task, because I don’t know what to do”. Well, guess what. There’s something called “Google”.

If you don’t know how to get started on a task, search for “how do I get started. . . (insert task here)?” Here’s an illustration: “How do I get started if I want to learn to code?” When you don’t know how to get started with a task, then begin by researching what you need to do in order to get started.

5. Schedule It

Important tasks need to be scheduled in order to get done. In fact, most productivity experts will agree that you should work on your most important task of the day first thing in the morning. By doing the most important thing first, then every day you’ll get something important done.

6. Set a Timer

Help yourself to get started with a difficult task by telling yourself that the task won’t last forever. You do this by setting a time limit. Set your timer for 25, 30, or 45 minutes. Then, get to work on the task—with no distractions—until the timer goes off.

No matter how much discomfort you may feel while you’re working on the task—because it’s difficult and requires a lot of focus and effort—you know that there’s an end to your suffering, and it’s coming soon. You just have to keep going until the timer goes off.

7. Focus On What’s Right In Front of You

Once you’ve set your timer, focus on the work that’s right in front of you. That is, don’t think of everything that you need to do in order to finish the task. Instead, keep your attention on what you’re doing now.

As an illustration, if you’re working on an eBook, don’t think of the 50,000 words you have to write in order to finish it. Just focus on the one-thousand words that you need to write right now.

Do what you don’t want to do by taking your eyes off the staircase and placing all of your focus on the next step.

8. Be Willing to Enter the Discomfort Zone

When you finally do take the plunge and get to work on the task that you’ve been avoiding, you’ll find yourself entering the Discomfort Zone. After all, you’ve been avoiding the task because it’s uncomfortable (difficult, complex, new to you, and so on).

You’ve heard me say this a thousand times on this blog: get comfortable with discomfort. That’s because it’s so important—learning to tolerate discomfort is one of the keys to success.

Nonetheless, when most people feel discomfort, the first thing they do is try to run away from it. The next time that you’re tempted to avoid the discomfort of working on a difficult task by fleeing from it, try the following meditation recommended by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits:

Now we’re going to do “pause training,” where instead of running from the discomfort, you pause. Breathe. Turn your attention to this discomfort — it might be fear, frustration, uncertainty, self-doubt, tiredness. Drop your story about this discomfort, and just notice how it feels physically, in your body. Where is this feeling of discomfort located? What quality does it have? You’ll notice that the discomfort actually doesn’t feel that bad, even though you habitually want to run from it. It’s just energy. It’s not actually good or bad, but just energy that’s in your body, one that you normally don’t want to have and normally judge as “bad.”

By pausing for a moment and sitting with your discomfort, instead of turning away from it, you’ll realize that it’s really not that bad. You can take it. At least until the timer goes off.

9. Know It Gets Easier – Enter the Productivity Zone

This post started with the Avoidance Zone. That’s that awful space in which you feel dread and anxiety because you know there’s a task you should be working on, but that you’re avoiding. In addition, you have nothing to show for your suffering.

Once you finally get started with the task, you enter the Discomfort Zone, and there’s still suffering. In fact, things may even feel like they’re getting worse, at least at first. You may feel confused, frustrated, and even more stressed than you felt before. However, now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

As you familiarize yourself with the task, the discomfort begins to lessen. Soon, you find yourself entering the Productivity Zone. In the Productivity Zone, things are good. You feel like you know what you’re doing, you’re alert and engaged, and you realize that you’re making progress.

10. Keep Going Until You’re Done

Once you’ve gotten started on an important task by following the tips above, keep working on the task on a consistent basis until you’re done. This may take a couple of hours, an hour-a-day for a few days, three weeks, or even several months. Just keep going until you’re done.

Then, once you’re done, stop. Fight the urge to add a little bit more here, and maybe something else over there. Once you’re done, you’re done. Stop!


People often state that a lack of time is the reason why they don’t get to the high-impact items on their to do list. If this is you, realize that it’s just an excuse. The real reason you’re not getting to those important items is because you don’t want to do them, because they’re hard.

Get to work on the most important items on your to do list by following the ten tips above. Live your best life by doing the things you don’t want to do.


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improve your life

Use the last 100 days of this year to improve your life in small ways.

Here we are once again. There are just 100 days left of this year. How does this keep happening? One minute we’re wishing each other a happy New Year. Then, in what seems to be the blink of an eye, we’re counting down to the next year.

I’ve decided that there are two ways to look at this. They are as follows:

  • “Oh, no! There’s only 100 days left of the year!” Proceed to panic.
  • “There’s still 100 days of the year left, and I’m going to use that time well.” Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Clearly, I recommend the second approach (at least, it’s the one I’m going with). And to help you make the most of the 100 days that are left of 2017, I’m going to reproduce below a post that I wrote for the blog Lifehack some years ago which is wildly popular (it’s been shared over 100,000 times).

This post enumerates 60 small ways to improve all areas of your life in the next 100 days. Let’s get to it.

Improve Your Life – Home

onehouradayformula banner long1. Create a “100 Days to Conquer Clutter Calendar” by penciling in one group of items you plan to declutter every day, for the next 100 days.  Here’s an example:

  • Day 1: Declutter Magazines
  • Day 2: Declutter DVD’s
  • Day 3: Declutter books
  • Day 4: Declutter kitchen appliances

2. Live by the mantra: a place for everything and everything in its place. For the next 100 days follow these four rules to keep your house in order:

  • If you take it out, put it back.
  • If you open it, close it.
  • If you throw it down, pick it up.
  • If you take it off, hang it up.

3. Walk around your home and identify 100 things you’ve been tolerating. Then, fix one each day. Here are some examples:

  • A burnt light bulb that needs to be changed.
  • A button that’s missing on your favorite shirt.
  • The fact that every time you open your top kitchen cabinet all the plastic food containers fall out.

Improve Your Life – Happiness

4. Follow the advice proffered by positive psychologists and write down 5 to 10 things that you’re grateful for, every day.

5. Make a list of 20 small things that you enjoy doing, and make sure that you do at least one of these things every day for the next 100 days. Your list can include things such as the following:

  • Eating your lunch outside
  • Calling your best friend to chat.
  • Taking the time to sit down and read a novel by your favorite author for a few minutes.

6. Keep a log of your mental chatter, both positive and negative, for ten days. Be as specific as possible:

  • How many times do you beat yourself up during the day?
  • Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
  • Are you constantly thinking critical thoughts of others?
  • How many positive thoughts do you have during the day?

Also, make a note of the emotions that accompany these thoughts. Then, for the 90 days after that, begin changing your emotions for the better by modifying your mental chatter.

7. For the next 100 days, have a good laugh at least once a day. Follow some funny Pinterest boards and twitter accounts, or stop by a web site that features your favorite cartoon.

Improve Your Life – Learning/Personal Development

8. Choose a book that requires effort and concentration and read a little of it every day, so that you read it from cover to cover in 100 days.

9. Make it a point to learn at least one new thing each day: the name of a flower that grows in your garden, the capital of a far-off country, or the name of a piece of classical music you hear playing in your favorite clothing boutique as you shop. If it’s time for bed and you can’t identify anything you’ve learned that day, take out your dictionary and learn a new word.

10. Stop complaining for the next 100 days. A couple of years back, Will Bowen gave a purple rubber bracelet to each person in his congregation to remind them to stop complaining. “Negative talk produces negative thoughts; negative thoughts produce negative results”, says Bowen. For the next 100 days, whenever you catch yourself complaining about anything, stop yourself.

11. Set your alarm a minute earlier every day for the next 100 days. Then make sure that you get out of bed as soon as your alarm rings, open the windows to let in some sunlight, and do some light stretching. In 100 days you’ll be waking up an hour and forty minutes earlier than you’re waking up now.

12. For the next 100 days, keep Morning Pages, which is a tool suggested by Julia Cameron. Morning Pages are simply three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.

13. For the next 100 days make it a point to feed your mind with the thoughts, words, and images that are most consistent with who you want to be, what you want to have, and what you want to achieve.

Improve Your Life – Finances

14. Create a spending plan (also known as a budget). Track every cent that you spend for the next 100 days to make sure that you’re sticking to your spending plan.

15. Scour the internet for frugality tips, choose ten of the tips that you find, and apply them for the next 100 days.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Go to the grocery store with cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card.
  • Take inventory before going to the grocery store to avoid buying repeat items.
  • Scale back the cable.
  • Ask yourself if you really need a landline telephone.
  • Consolidate errands into one trip to save on gas.

Keep track of how much money you save over the next 100 days by applying these tips.

16. For the next 100 days, pay for everything with paper money and keep any change that you receive. Then, put all of your change in a jar and see how much money you can accumulate in 100 days.

17. Don’t buy anything that you don’t absolutely need for 100 days. Use any money you save by doing this to do one of the following:

  • Pay down your debt, if you have any.
  • Put it toward your six month emergency fund.
  • Start setting aside money to invest.

18. Set one-hour aside every day for the next 100 days to devote to creating one source of passive income.

Improve Your Life – Time Management

19. For the next 100 days, take a notebook with you everywhere in order to keep your mind decluttered. Record everything, so that it’s safely stored in one place—out of your head—where you can decide what to do with it later. Include things such as the following:

  • Ideas for writing assignments.
  • Appointment dates.
  • To Do list items

20. Track how you spend your time for 5 days. Use the information that you gather in order to create a time budget: the percentage of your time that you want to devote to each activity that you engage in on a regular basis. This can include things such as:

  • Transportation
  • Housework
  • Leisure
  • Income-Generating Activities

Make sure that you stick to your time budget for the remaining 95 days.

21. Identify one low-priority activity which you can stop doing for the next 100 days, and devote that time to a high priority task instead.

22. Identify five ways in which you regularly waste time, and limit the time that you’re going to spend on these activities each day, for the next 100 days. Here are three examples:

  • Watch no more than half-an-hour of television a day.
  • Spend no more than half-an-hour each day on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Stumbleupon.
  • Spend no more than twenty minutes a day playing video games.

23. For the next 100 days, stop multi-tasking; do one thing at a time without distractions.

24. For the next 100 days, plan your day the night before.

25. For the next 100 days, do the most important thing on your To-Do list first, before you do anything else.

26. For the next 14 weeks, conduct a review of each week. During your weekly review, answer the following:

  • What did you accomplish?
  • What went wrong?
  • What went right?

27. For the next 100 days, spend a few minutes at the end of each day organizing your desk, filing papers, and making sure that your work area is clean and orderly, so that you can walk in to a neat desk the next day.

28. Make a list of all of the commitments and social obligations that you have in the next 100 days. Then, take out a red pen and cross out anything that does not truly bring you joy or help move you along the path to achieving your main life goals.

29. For the next 100 days, every time that you switch to a new activity throughout the day stop and ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time at this moment?”

Improve Your Life – Health

30. Losing a pound of fat requires burning 3500 calories.  If you reduce your caloric intake by 175 calories a day for the next 100 days, you’ll have lost 5 pounds in the next 100 days.

31. For the next 100 days, eat five servings of vegetables every day.

32. For the next 100 days, eat three servings of fruit every day.

33. Choose one food that constantly sabotages your efforts to eat healthier—whether it’s the decadent cheesecake from the bakery around the corner, deep-dish pizza, or your favorite potato chips—and go cold turkey for the next 100 days.

34. For the next 100 days, eat from a smaller plate to help control portion size.

35. For the next 100 days, buy 100% natural juices instead of the kind with added sugar and preservatives.

36. For the next 100 days, instead of carbonated drinks, drink water.

37. Create a list of 10 healthy, easy to fix breakfast meals.

38. Create a list of 20 healthy, easy to fix meals which can be eaten for lunch or dinner.

39. Create a list of 10 healthy, easy to fix snacks.

40. Use your lists of healthy breakfast meals, lunches, dinners, and snacks in order to plan out your meals for the week ahead of time. Do this for the next 14 weeks. (A great resource is 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous: The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food).

41. For the next 100 days, keep a food log. This will help you to identify where you’re deviating from your planned menu, and where you’re consuming extra calories.

42. For the next 100 days, get at least twenty minutes of daily exercise.

43. Wear a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps, every day, for the next 100 days. Every step you take during the day counts toward the 10,000 steps:

  • When you walk to your car.
  • When you walk from your desk to the bathroom.
  • When you walk over to talk to a co-worker, and so on.

44. Set up a weight chart and post it up in your bathroom. Also, get a measuring tape. Every week for the next 14 weeks, keep track of the following:

  • Your weight.
  • Your percentage of body fat.
  • Your waist circumference.

45. For the next 100 days, set your watch to beep once an hour, or set up a computer reminder, to make sure that you drink water on a regular basis throughout the day.

46. For the next 100 days, make it a daily ritual to meditate, take deep breaths, or use visualization every day in order to calm your mind.

Improve Your Life – Your Relationship

47. For the next 100 days, actively look for something positive in your partner every day, and write it down.

48. Create a scrapbook of all the things you and your partner do together during the next 100 days. At the end of the 100 days, give your partner the list you created of positive things you observed about them each day, as well as the scrapbook you created.

49. Identify 3 actions that you’re going to take each day, for the next 100 days, in order to strengthen your relationship. These can include the following:

  • Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” to your significant other every morning.
  • Hug your significant other as soon as you see each other after work (hold for at least 5 seconds).
  • Go for a twenty minute walk together every day after dinner; hold hands.

Improve Your Life – Social

50. Connect with someone new every day for the next 100 days, whether it’s by greeting a neighbor you’ve never spoken to before, following someone new on Twitter and sending them a message, leaving a comment on a blog you’ve never commented on before, and so on.

51. For the next 100 days, make it a point to associate with people you admire, respect and want to be like.

52. For the next 100 days, when someone does or says something that upsets you, take a minute to think over your response instead of answering right away.

53. For the next 100 days, don’t even think of passing judgment until you’ve heard both sides of the story.

54. For the next 100 days do one kind deed for someone every day, however small, even if it’s just sending a silent blessing their way.

55. For the next 100 days, make it a point to give praise and approval to those who deserve it.

56. For the next 100 days, practice active listening. When someone is talking to you, remain focused on what they’re saying, instead of rehearsing in your head what you’re going to say next. Paraphrase what you think you heard them say to make sure that you haven’t misinterpreted them, and encourage them to elaborate on any points you’re still not clear about.

57. Practice empathy for the next 100 days. If you disagree with someone, try to see the world from their perspective; put yourself in their shoes. Be curious about the other person, about their beliefs and their life experience, and about the thinking process that they followed to reach their conclusions.

58. For the next 100 days, stay in your own life and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

59. For the next 100 days, place the best possible interpretation on the actions of others.

60. For the next 100 days, keep reminding yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can.


How are you going to use the last 100 days of the year to improve your life? Live your best life by improving your life in small ways.


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Many credit the concept of hygge for the happiness of the Danes.

The World Happiness Report is a measure of worldwide happiness published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The purpose of the report is to encourage countries to consider happiness to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy.

The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012. Since its inception, year after year, Denmark has topped this poll. It’s been in the top ten from 2012 to the present, and it’s been ranked #1 in world happiness three out of the six years that the poll has been out (this year it’s second, after Norway).

So, what makes the Danes so happy? One of the secrets to Danish happiness is a concept known as hygge. In short, hygge means to live cozily. But it’s more than that. It means slowing down, noticing the present, and enjoying it.

Here’s a great definition of hygge:

Here are a couple of more definitions:

“The Danish art of building a sanctuary of coziness, stirring the senses, and enjoying the simple things in life.”

“The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open-hearted and alive; a coziness of the soul.”

Below you’ll discover 10 ways to be as happy as the Danes by adopting the concept of hygge.

1. Bring the Outside In.

onehouradayformula banner longAs you can see in the definitions of hygge which I shared with you above, an important part of hygge is turning your home into a sanctuary. You can begin to do this by incorporating natural materials in your décor—think materials that have been harvested from the earth, such as stone and wood. After all, nature is inherently calming and stress-busting.

Bring items from nature indoors and use them as decoration. This can include river rocks, fruit placed in bowls, pinecones, branches, and so on. In addition, plants are an easy way to bring the outdoors in. Choose those that do well indoors, such as spider plants, aloe, succulents, fiddle-leaf figs or cacti.

You can also pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers at the grocery store and put them in a vase next to your bed, or on the coffee table. Better yet, get several bouquets and place them all over your home.

2. Create a Reading Nook.

Bring even more hygge into your home by creating a reading nook, or corner. Few things say “comfort” like having an area in your home that invites you and your loved ones to sit back, pick up a good book, and get lost in its pages.

Be sure to include the following in your reading nook:

  • A comfortable chair you can sink into.
  • A foot stool so you can put your feet up.
  • A side table to place a drink, and maybe a snack.
  • A lamp, to make sure that you’ll have all the light you need.
  • A quilt to wrap around yourself in case it gets cold.
  • A basket filled with books and magazines.

Sometimes, happiness is a comfy chair and a good book.

3. Hygge By Savoring a Warm Drink.

A warm drink is almost synonymous with coziness. If it’s autumn, you can have some hot mulled cider or a pumpkin latte. In the winter, make yourself some hot cocoa with all the trimmings, a hot toddy, or some hot buttered rum.

A cup of green tea is good in any season. Try my new favorite – Yogi Green Tea Kombucha. And be sure to add half a teaspoon of raw honey.

You get extra hygge points if you serve the warm drink in a great mug. I love art, and my favorite art movement is Impressionism. I’ve owned many coffee mugs throughout the years that feature Impressionist paintings. Just looking at one of those mugs makes me happy.

Of course, it’s not just about having a warm drink. It’s about being fully present as you wrap your hands around the mug, inhale the fragrant steam, and drink sip by sip, fully appreciating the moment.

4. Light Candles.

One of the pillars of hygge is atmosphere, and few things create a warm and inviting atmosphere more readily than candles. Think tea lights, candles in jars, lanterns, the lot. Set individual candles here and there, and group several candles together on a table.

Once your candles are arranged, enjoy the serene glow. As an added bonus, if you get beeswax candles , you’ll also be purifying the air in your home (beeswax candles produce negative ions when burned, and those ions help to neutralize pollutants in the air).

If you’re not a candle person, at least turn off the overhead lights and use table lamps for light to give your home a warmer feel.

5. Host a Game Night.

Another of the pillars of Hygge is community and togetherness– spending time with friends and loved ones. And there’s no better way to spend some quality time with those who are important to you than to host a game night.

Set out a cheese platter and serve some wine. Then, take out all your board games, and let your guests choose what they want to play.

6. Cook Some Comfort Food.

Readers of this blog know that I love learning new things, and the latest thing that I decided to teach myself is cooking. One of the first things that I learned to cook is a dish that’s very common in Latin America: sancocho de pollo — a type of chicken stew.

There are many variations to sancocho, but the one that I make involves chopping onions, scallions, garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro. You add chicken drums, root vegetables (otoe, ñame, and yuca), corn on the cob, spices, and water. Then you let all that goodness simmer for about an hour.

At roughly the half-hour mark, the most incredible aroma begins to waft through my apartment. I would say it’s the smell of coziness. (I’m going to have to cook sancocho for my neighbors, because when I make it I can hear them standing outside my door whispering that whatever I’m cooking smells fantastic.)

And, of course, once it’s done, it’s delicious! Slow food—taking the time to cook something delicious and then sitting down to enjoy it—is very comforting, and very hygge.

7. Have a Candlelight Dinner.

Now that you have candles, and you’ve prepared some comfort food, set a nice table, and sit down to a candlelight dinner. Make sure that you get yourself some dishes and place mats that make you smile whenever you look at them (I need to do this).

8. Make a Mundane Task More Joyful.

If there’s something you don’t enjoy doing, but it has to be done, you can’t delegate it, and you can’t pay someone to do it for you, then find a way to make the task more joyful.

The steps you need to take to make a mundane task more joyful are the following:

  • Accept that the task needs to be done. Stop struggling with what is and don’t make things worse by putting it off or by complaining.
  • Tell yourself that the problem isn’t with the task itself, but with your inability to fully appreciate it.
  • Ask yourself how you can make the task more joyful. Do you need to turn it into a game by timing yourself, giving yourself points, or making up new rules? Would some music make the task more enjoyable? Can you tie it to something you like doing? Can you do it with somebody else?
  • Sometimes all you need to make a task more joyful is to perform the task mindfully. As an illustration, as you wash the dishes keep repeating to yourself: “I’m now washing the dishes.” Then, be fully present as you soap and rinse the dishes.

One way to practice hygge is to find ways to add joy to what you’re already doing.

9. Have an At-Home Hygge Movie Night.

Reading is very hygge, but so is snuggling up on the couch to watch a good movie or TV series. Here are the steps to follow to have an at-home hygge movie night:

  • Choose what you’re going to watch. Some choices include: The Gilmore Girls, Vikings (this show is violent, but excellent), and Homeland.
  • Find a great blanket or throw, preferably faux fur.
  • Fill your sofa with velvety pillows.
  • Wear something really comfortable, like a cashmere t-shirt or wool socks.

If you have someone—or a pet—to snuggle up with, that’s great. But if it’s just you, that’s great too.

10. Embrace Simple Pleasures.

Hygge is about building a little pleasure into your routine. You can do this by scattering simple pleasures into your day. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a mid-morning break to enjoy some coffee with a small pastry.
  • Use the five minutes that you have between meetings to close your eyes and listen to Chopin or Vivaldi (or whatever music you enjoy).
  • Watch the sunrise and/or sunset.
  • Sit in your reading nook with a great book.
  • Take your dog out for a walk.
  • Go for a bike ride.

Make a note of these simple pleasures in your gratitude journal so you can relive them each time you go over what you’ve written in your journal.


As you can see from this post, hygge is about self-care, midfulness, and community, all rolled up into one. Live your best life by bringing more coziness and comfort into your life. Hygge!

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brain fog

We’ve all had times in which our brain feels “foggy”, and it’s no fun.

“Brain fog” is a term that refers to symptoms that inhibit your ability to think clearly. These symptoms include confusion, forgetfulness, a muddled thought process, having “blank moments”, and an inability to focus and concentrate. In short, it’s when you feel like you just can’t think straight.

There are two main causes of brain fog:

  • Your lifestyle.
  • Medications that you’re taking, or having a medical condition.

This blog post addresses the first of these: brain fog that is caused by your lifestyle. Below you’ll find eight ways to clear brain fog so you can stay sharp, feel like yourself, and deal effectively with whatever the day brings. After all, having a clear, focused mind is key to having a successful life.

1. Eat Brain-Friendly Food

onehouradayformula banner longBrain fog is often a sign that there’s inflammation in your brain. In addition, one of the main culprits when it comes to inflammation is food. The good news is that, just as there are foods that inflame your brain, there are also foods that have anti-inflammatory effects.

According to the Harvard Medical School, these are some of the foods that will inflame your brain and body, and which you should try to avoid as much as possible:

  • Refined Carbohydrates — such as white bread and pastries.
  • Fried Foods – such as French fries.
  • Soda – such as soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Processed Meat –such as hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats.
  • Margarine – also shortening, and lard.

Here are some of the foods with anti-inflammatory effects, which you should try to eat plenty of:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Green Leafy Vegetables — such as spinach, kale, and collards.
  • Nuts — like almonds and walnuts.
  • Fatty Fish — like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
  • Fruits — such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.

Head on over to your kitchen, go through your fridge and cupboards, and get rid of any inflammatory foods you find there. Then, go grocery shopping and load up on the stuff that’s good for your brain, and which will help you to get rid of your brain fog.

2. Clear Brain Fog with Regular Exercise

In 2012, researchers followed a group of 4289 men and women—with a mean age of 49.2 years—for more than 10 years.  They found that regardless of their weight or body mass index, those who got at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise each week lowered their markers of inflammation by at least 12 percent.

As was stated in the previous point, inflammation in the brain causes brain fog. Exercise, by reducing said inflammation, is incredibly helpful in clearing brain fog.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains that having a sleep deficit has an adverse impact on thinking. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night can help you to eliminate fuzzy thinking and restore your mental clarity. Here’s Dr. Epstein:

“You really can make up for lost sleep and restore focus and clarity. You can lose the brain fog within a week. But start now; the longer you have bad sleep, the longer it will take to catch up.”

4. Cut Down On Stress

Evan Brand, a functional medicine practitioner, explains that the hippocampus is where short-term memories are turned into long-term memories. To illustrate the importance of the hippocampus, Brand refers to a medical case in which a man was having seizures; the doctors decided that the best course of action was to remove his hippocampus.

The good news was that the man’s seizures were cured. The bad news was that—while the man’s long-term memories remained intact–he lost the ability to create new memories.  What the doctors learned from this case was the importance of the hippocampus to a healthy brain.

What does this have to do with brain fog? If you’re constantly under a lot of stress, your body is continuously producing a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol can be harmful to your brain. Specifically, when you’re under chronic stress your hippocampus is basically being marinated in cortisol.

In the short-term, the result of this is mild cognitive impairment, or brain fog. Over the long-term, the cortisol can start eating away at your hippocampus. This can lead to early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Therefore, to cure brain fog—and prevent future brain-related problems—you should cut down on stress.

There are many ways to reduce stress, including simplifying, prioritizing, and taking frequent breaks throughout the day to help you recharge. Another great way to deal effectively with stress–and keep your brain clear of fog–is to meditate. This is discussed in the next point.

5. Meditate Daily

Psychotherapist Mike Dow is the author of “The Brain Fog Fix: Reclaim Your Focus, Memory, and Joy in Just 3 Weeks”. He indicates that one of the best ways to clear brain fog is by meditating for 12 minutes a day.

Dow explains that brain scans have shown that meditating for just 12 minutes a day will help you to strengthen your prefrontal cortex, which will help you to think more clearly.

Here are 2 meditations you can try:

6. Have a Wellness Shot

Something else that Dow indicates will reduce your brain fog is the spice turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has major anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also increases levels of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) which has been dubbed ‘Miracle Gro’ for the brain.

Dow recommends that you get your daily dose of turmeric in a wellness shot. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take ½ teaspoon of turmeric and mix it with ½ teaspoon of black pepper (the black pepper makes the turmeric bioavailable for you body).
  • Add an ounce of water and a squeezed lemon.
  • Optionally you can add about an inch of ground ginger, as well as a pinch of cayenne pepper, to make the wellness shot even healthier.

Just put everything in a shot glass, chug it down in one fell swoop, and be done with it.

Dow adds that if you do this every day, it will help to remove the plaque that causes brain fog, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s. In fact, Dow indicates that if you have turmeric every day, your chances or getting Alzheimer’s can be reduced by 90%.

7. Get Plenty of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As was stated in the first point of this blog post, what you eat can either fog your brain, or it can clear it of brain fog. Dr. Dow explains that—to keep your brain sharp—it’s vitally important that you eat foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Although one of the best sources of Omega-3 is wild-caught salmon, salmon can be pretty pricey. Dr. Dow indicates that a cheap, healthy, and readily available source of Omega-3 is farm raised rainbow trout. In addition, Dr. Dow recommends that you eat almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, all of which are also good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

8. Douse Brain Fog – Drink Lots of Water

One of the causes of brain fog is dehydration. Up to 75% of Americans are thought to be chronically dehydrated because they don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day. Because a large portion of the brain is made up of water, even slight dehydration can have a negative impact on short term brain plasticity.

This negative impact on short term brain plasticity results in mental decline and fog-like symptoms. If you want to keep brain fog at bay, be sure that you drink lots of water. If you need some help with this, I wrote a post on 10 Simple Ways to Drink More Water.


Which of the tips above will you start implementing today in order to move the fog out of your brain, be able to think clearly, and keep your brain sharp? I, for one, am doing all of them. After all, my brain is my most important asset. Live your best life by clearing your brain fog.

If you suffer from chronic brain fog, this could be caused by an underlying medical condition. Please see your doctor.

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personal project analysis

Whether you flourish or flounder depends on your personal projects.

I recently came across the concept of Personal Project Analysis, which is a methodology that was created by personality psychologist Brian Little. Personal Project Analysis is about asking yourself how you’re doing.

Since our lives are very complex, you may not be sure of exactly how you’re feeling or how well you’re doing. The way to fix this is to stop thinking of your life as a whole. Instead, take a look at each individual unit of your life. That is, take a look at your personal projects.

A personal project is defined by Little as follows: “a set of interrelated acts extending over time, which is intended to maintain or attain a state of affairs foreseen by the individual”. To simplify this definition, personal projects are goals. They’re commitments that we make to courses of action that will allow us to achieve something we want.

Here are some examples of personal projects:

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  • Lose 20 pounds.
  • Apply to graduate school.
  • Take a Massive Open Online Course on gamification.
  • Learn to draw.
  • Write a novel.
  • Run a 10K.
  • Learn Python.
  • Redecorate the living room.
  • Go skiing in Colorado at the end of the year.
  • Become more conscientious.
  • Boost self-esteem.
  • Be an understanding and supportive spouse.
  • Be a better pet owner.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day meditating.
  • Mentor an at-risk youth.
  • Start a blog for your company to improve brand awareness (personal projects include work-related goals).

In this post, you’ll discover how to conduct a Personal Project Analysis so you can increase your happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. That is, so that you can flourish, instead of floundering.

Personal Projects and Happiness

Little explains that our happiness levels are closely related to our personal projects. As an illustration, look at the following two people:

  • Ann is pursuing several personal projects which she considers to be important and meaningful. Although she’s at different stages of completion for each of her projects, they’re all progressing well. In addition, her projects give her a sense of control and autonomy.
  • Billy is pursuing several personal projects. He doesn’t find any of them meaningful and feels that others are forcing him to work on these projects—his boss, his parents, his girlfriend, and so on. In addition, one of the projects is incredibly boring, another one is very difficult, and a third is something that he’s sure that he’ll never be able to achieve.

Which of these two people do you think is likelier to be happy? Obviously, Ann is probably a lot happier than Billy. Right now, would you say that your life is more similar to Ann’s life, or to Billy’s life?

One way to increase your overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing is to reevaluate your personal projects.  You can do this by following the five steps described below.

Make a List of Your Personal Projects

A personal project can be something trivial, like “Organize my Closet”. It can also be something bold and audacious, such as “Create a social media platform that will rival Facebook”.  Sit down and make a list of all the personal projects that you’re currently working on, or considering.

Then, narrow your list down to your 10 most important personal projects. Choose projects that you intend to be working on during the next few months. Now that you’ve completed the first step in Personal Project Analysis, move on to the next one.

What Do You Think About Your Personal Projects?

The next step in Personal Project Analysis is to ask yourself what you think about each of the 10 projects that you selected in the step above. You’re going to do this by rating each one from 0 to 10 (where 0 is the lowest rating and 10 is the highest) on the following dimensions:

1. Importance – How important is this project to you? How meaningful is it to you?

2. Difficulty – How difficult is it for you to carry out this project?

3. Visibility – How visible is this project to the people around you?

4. Control – How much do you feel that you’re in control of this project?

5. Initiation – How responsible are you for having initiated this project?

6. Time Adequacy – Are you spending enough time on this project?

7. Likelihood of Success – How likely do you think it is that you’ll succeed on this project?

8. Self-Identity – How aligned is this goal with the way in which you see yourself? How aligned is it with your personality?

9. Other’s View of Importance – How important do the people around you think that this project is? (The social messages we receive about each of our projects will have an effect on how we feel about that project.)

10. Value Congruency – How congruent is this project with your values?

11. Challenge – How challenging do you find this project? (You don’t want to be overwhelmed, but you don’t want to be bored, either.)

12. Absorption – How engaged do you feel when you’re working on this project? To what extent do you feel deeply engrossed when you’re working on this project?

13. Support – How much support are you getting from others (this can be emotional support, monetary support, guidance on how to carry out the project, and so on)?

14. Competence – To what extent do you feel competent to carry out this project?

15. Autonomy – To what extent do you feel that you’re acting autonomously when working on this project?

16. Legacy – How much of a lasting legacy do you feel this project will create?

How Do You Feel About Your Personal Projects?

The third step in Personal Project Analysis is to ask yourself how you feel when you’re working on each of the personal projects that you selected for this analysis, or when you’re thinking about these projects. You may feel things like the following:

  • Angry
  • Upset
  • Frustrated
  • Happy
  • Stressed
  • Satisfied
  • Hopeful
  • Enthusiastic
  • Discouraged
  • Relaxed
  • Gleeful
  • Wretched
  • Delighted
  • Other Emotions

The emotions that you feel when you’re working on any of your personal projects will impact both your ability to complete that project, and your overall sense of wellbeing.

If you’re working on several projects that make you feel frustrated, or wretched, you can clearly see how that would have a negative impact on your quality of life. On the other hand, if most of your personal projects make you feel happy and satisfied, that would have a positive impact on your quality of life.

How Much Progress Have You Made?

Next, to continue with your Personal Project Analysis, you’re going to ask yourself how much progress you’ve made on each of the personal projects that you’re evaluating. Use the following scale:

  • Thinking about getting started.
  • At the planning stage.
  • Have taken the initial steps.
  • Have completed about 10% of the project.
  • Have completed about 20% of the project.
  • Have completed about a quarter of the project.
  • Have completed about one third of the project.
  • Have completed about 40% of the project.
  • About half-way through.
  • More than half-way through.
  • Have completed about two-thirds of the project.
  • Have completed about three-fourth of the project.
  • Almost finished — you’re basically done but you’re reviewing what you’ve done and making some revisions.
  • You’re done—you’ve successfully completed the project.

Personal Project Analysis

Once you’ve completed the steps above, the final step in Personal Project Analysis is to analyze the information you came up with. You’re going to do the following:

  1. Determine which projects you should keep and which you should discard.
  2. Determine how you should modify the projects that you decide to continue working on to make it more likely that you’ll complete each of them, and that each project will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

Here are the questions you should ask yourself:

  • Which projects should you discard? Take into consideration what you think about the project, how it makes you feel, and how far along you are in the process of completing that project.
  • Of the projects which you decide to keep, which should you prioritize?
  • For those projects which scored low on meaningfulness, how you can make them more meaningful? Keep in mind that sometimes you can make a project more meaningful simply by the way you frame it. Think of the story of the two brick layers. One thought of himself as simply a brick layer. The other one thought of himself as someone who was building a cathedral.
  • If you feel that you’re not getting enough support from others for your project, how can you get more support? Do you need to find someone to partner with on the project, join a group, take a class, or find a mentor?
  • If the project is boring, how can you can make it more fun?
  • If  the project is too difficult, how can you simplify it to make it easier?
  • If the project is currently unmanageable, how can you make it more manageable?
  • How can you modify the project to make it more engaging?
  • Do you need to try new projects? If none of your projects are meaningful for you, or if they don’t make you happy, then you should really consider coming up with new projects.
  • How can you make more time for an important project that isn’t getting all the time that it needs?
  • If you feel that a project has little likelihood of success, how can you change that? Is there a skill you need to acquire? Do you need to lessen the scope of the project? Do you need to increase your feelings of self-efficacy?
  • If a project is making you feel negative emotions, such as anger or discouragement, why is this happening? How can you modify the project so that you no longer feel those negative emotions when you’re working on the project or thinking about it?
  • How can you increase the positive emotions that you feel when you’re working on each of your projects?
  • If a project isn’t aligned with your personality—but you still want to pursue it because it’s very important to you—how can you better cope with having to act out of character? For example, if you’re an introvert but your project requires that you give presentations and interviews, make sure that you spend some time alone after each presentation or interview so you can restore your energy.

Here’s some guidance from Little on which personal projects to choose: projects that are “meaningful, manageable, and connected with others, and that generate more positive than negative feelings”.


Little indicates that “bringing our personal projects to successful completion . . . seems to be a pivotal factor in whether we thrive emotionally or lead lives of . . . quiet desperation”.  Use the analysis above to start bringing more of your projects to completion.

Live your best life by conducting a Personal Project Analysis.

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Benjamin Franklin life lesson

There are many life lessons that can be found in Benjamin Franklin’s writings.

I’m a huge Benjamin Franklin fan. Franklin, of course, was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He was also a polymath, author, politician, scientist, and inventor. In addition, he was a self-improvement devotee.

Fortunately for us, this wise man left behind an autobiography, letters that he wrote to friends, and several other books he penned. From these documents, we can glean nuggets of wisdom which can help us lead better lives.

onehouradayformula banner longIn 1779, Franklin wrote a letter to a friend, Madame Brillon. In his letter, Franklin recounts an event from his childhood which taught him a life lesson that he never forgot. When he was about seven years old, on impulse, he bought a whistle from another child for a lot more money than the whistle was worth.

This taught him a lesson on being careful when buying material items not to pay more than the item was worth. But it also taught him to be careful before making any sort of expenditure. This included time; effort; attention; intangibles such as dignity and self-respect; and so on.

Below you’ll find the letter that Franklin wrote to his friend. Then, after the letter, you’ll find 20 questions that will help you to avoid paying more for anything than the thing is worth.

The Whistle by Benjamin Franklin

Here’s Franklin’s letter:

“In my opinion we might all draw more good from it than we do, and suffer less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for whistles.

For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are become so by neglect of that caution.

You ask what I mean? You love stories, and will excuse my telling one of myself.

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one.

I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, ‘Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, this man gives too much for his whistle.

When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, ‘He pays, indeed, said I, ‘too much for his whistle.

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, ‘Poor man, said I, ‘you pay too much for your whistle.

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.

If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.

When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.”

Are You Paying Too Much for Your Whistle?

It’s likely that there have been many times in the past when a soft voice in your head tried to warn you that you were paying too high a price for certain things. This could include things like the following:

  • Chasing after a promotion that really wasn’t worth it.
  • Maintaining a toxic friendship.
  • Buying a house with a lot more space than you really needed.
  • Getting a degree in an area that didn’t really interest you.

Do any of these sound familiar? Even if you’ve paid too much for things in the past, you can stop doing so now. Here are 20 questions to help you determine whether you’re paying too much for whistles:

1. Do I really want this, or is this something society is telling me I should want? (This can apply to anything: items, careers, status symbols, relationships, and so on.)

2. Is this item worth the amount of time that it took me to earn the amount of money that it sells for (i.e., if you make $30 an hour, an item that sells for $90 is equivalent to three hours of work)?

3. Should I wait 72 hours before deciding whether I should buy this?

4. Are there any cheaper alternatives?

5. What is the real cost of this item (including maintenance, repairs, storing, cleaning, additional parts that must be purchased, and so on)?

6. If I’m going to finance an item, what is the cost of the item once I factor in the amount of interest that I’m going to have to pay?

7. Is this costing me my mental or physical health? (For example, is a highly stressful job that doesn’t leave you enough time to exercise and practice self-care worth it—even if you make a lot of money?)

8. Is this relationship worth the amount of heartache it’s costing me?

9. Is this friendship worth the amount of inner peace it’s costing me? Is it worth holding myself back so that “my friend” doesn’t feel inferior?

10. Is this goal worth the amount of time, effort, and energy expenditure that it’s costing me?

11. What could I buy with this money, instead?

12. What could I be doing with my time, instead?

13. Does this task justify the amount of time it takes to complete it?

14. When I factor everything in, what am I really trading for this–including things such as happiness, love, life meaning, passion, honor, dignity, and self-worth?

15. Is this brownie covered in vanilla ice cream worth the calories?

16. Is this meal of a cheeseburger and fries worth an increased risk of heart disease?

17. Is relaxing on the couch and watching TV worth missing another workout?

18. Is the feeling of safety that comes from staying in my comfort zone worth the cost of not going after my dreams?

19. Is partying with my friends worth getting bad grades because I don’t have enough time left over to study?

20. What is this costing me in terms of what I value most in life?


Live your best life by estimating the real cost of things. Don’t give too much for whistles.

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learn from your mistakes

Mistakes can be a good thing – if you learn from them.

You’ve probably heard repeatedly that it’s fine to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. But that can be easier said than done. After all, society is very good at punishing people for making mistakes. On the other hand, we’re never really taught how to learn from our mistakes.

No worries. I’ve got you covered. I know a lot about making mistakes–I’ve definitely made my share of them. And I also know how to learn from them.

Below you’ll find six ways to learn from your mistakes.

1. Be Willing to Admit Your Mistakes

onehouradayformula banner longKathryn Schultz– an American journalist and author–explains in her TED Talk, “On Being Wrong”, that we all understand in the abstract that everyone makes mistakes. However, when we think of ourselves in any given situation, this acceptance of fallibility goes out the window. We feel that we’re right about everything.

After all, realizing that we’re wrong feels bad. It can be embarrassing and it can even make us feel stupid. But if you’re wrong and you don’t acknowledge it, then you don’t feel those negative feelings — being wrong and not acknowledging it, feels like being right.

This unwillingness to feel the negative feelings that come from accepting that we’re wrong makes us very attached to being right. In turn, this attachment to our rightness does the following:

  • It doesn’t allow us to prevent the mistakes that are preventable.
  • It doesn’t allow us to learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

Therefore, the first step to take in order to learn from your mistakes is to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Simply allow yourself to say: “I’m wrong”, and tolerate the discomfort that comes along with that.

I would argue that being able to admit that you’ve made a mistake is a sign of intelligence. It means that you’ve being able to do the following:

  • You’ve overridden society’s conditioning that making mistakes and being wrong is shameful.
  • You have self-awareness: you have the ability to step outside of yourself, notice what you’re doing, and evaluate it objectively.
  • You’ve recognized that being able to admit your mistakes, and learn from them, is an important tool for achieving your full potential.

When you’ve admitted that you’ve made a mistake, you’ve taken the first step toward learning from that mistake.

2. Don’t Dwell On Your Mistakes

In the previous point I encouraged you to admit your mistakes, even if this means having to feel the discomfort of acknowledging that you were wrong. However, the idea here isn’t to replay your mistakes in your head in an endless loop like a broken record. Rumination offers few insights and will keep you stuck in a negative state.

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a former psychologist and professor at Yale University, indicates that, instead of dwelling on your mistakes, you need to practice adaptive self-reflection.

This means taking the time to reflect on your mistakes with the purpose of identifying how you need to alter your behavior so that you can do better the next time. You can differentiate between rumination and adaptive self-reflection by asking yourself the following:

  • Is this keeping me stuck in the past? Then it’s rumination.
  • Is this helping me to learn and grow? Then it’s adaptive self-reflection.

One way to practice adaptive self-reflection is by asking yourself the right questions. This is addressed in the next point.

3. Ask the Right Questions

When you’ve made a mistake, to learn from it, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Here are some examples of the questions you should be asking in order to learn from your mistakes:

  • Is there something you can do to remedy the mistake?
  • What can still be salvaged?
  • Is there a hidden opportunity in the mistake?
  • What was the cause of the mistake?
  • Was the goal that you set for yourself feasible?
  • Did you make a mistake in the strategy or the method that you chose to follow?
  • Did you make a mistake executing the plan?
  • What should you have done differently?
  • Were there any warning signs that you missed?
  • Did you make any assumptions that turned out to be wrong?
  • Has making this mistake revealed any of your blind spots?
  • What did this teach you about other people and how they behave?
  • Did this mistake reveal that there’s a skill that you lack or that you need more practice in?
  • What worked? What didn’t work?
  • Did this mistake reveal a character trait that’s holding you back, such as hubris or inflexibility?
  • What insight did you gain from this mistake?
  • Did a negative habit play a role in this mistake, such as going to bed late, failing to put things back where they belong, or leaving things until the last minute?
  • How will you do things differently moving forward?
  • What will you do to prevent this—or something like this—from happening again?
  • How do you think your behavior should/would change if you were in a similar situation in the future?
  • If you saw someone else making a similar mistake, how would you advise them?

Learn from your mistakes by going carefully through the answers that you gave to the questions above.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Once you’ve asked yourself the right questions and have identified the lessons you can learn from the mistake you made, release any remaining negative feelings you may have about the mistake by showing yourself self-compassion.

I’ve already referred on this blog to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley on the positive effects of self-compassion.

That study found that, when students did poorly on a test, they were more motivated to spend more time studying for the next test if they were reminded to show themselves self-compassion. The researchers used phrases like the following:

  • “Try not to be too hard on yourself.”
  • “It’s common for students to have difficulty with tests like these.”

Here are some phrases you can use to show yourself self-compassion the next time you make a mistake:

  • “I’m not my mistakes. My mistakes don’t define me.”
  • “No one has ever succeeded in life without making mistakes.”
  • “Making mistakes is part of being human.”
  • “I’m proud of myself for having tried.”
  • “I made a mistake, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it.”
  • “I’m grateful to this mistake for the lesson it taught me.”
  • “I’m now better equipped to do better in my next attempt.”
  • “I can’t undo this mistake, but I can refuse to carry it into the future.”
  • “I forgive myself for having made this mistake. I’m ready to move on.”
  • “I’m going to take corrective action and try again.”

In order to allow yourself to learn from your mistakes, you need to show yourself self-compassion.

5. Learn From Your Mistakes and Move On Fearlessly

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said the following:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

The fear of never achieving anything worthwhile, and failing to even try to go after what you want in life, should be much bigger than the fear of making mistakes.

Plan ahead and look for ways to avoid making mistakes to the extent that you can, but know that–sooner or later– you will make a mistake. And that’s OK.

When you do make a mistake, be prepared to learn from it by following the steps that have been covered here so far. Then, armed with your newfound knowledge, move on fearlessly!

6. Take a Trial and Error Approach to Life

The world is incredibly complicated. No one can be expected to go out there and get everything right from the get-go, not even extraordinarily smart, educated, and talented people. The technique that should be used for solving problems and trying new things in this complex world is the trial and error approach.

The trial and error approach is basically the following:

  • When faced with a problem, make the decision to try many different things.
  • Create a systematic way to determine what’s working and what’s not.
  • Analyze the data you receive by trying, make any necessary adjustments, and try again.

It’s similar to the rapid prototyping approach that I wrote about in my post, “How to Apply Design Thinking to Your Life”.

The next time you’re going to try something new, tell yourself the following: “This is what I want to achieve, and this is what I think will allow me to achieve it. However, I can’t be sure that this is going to work. I’m going to try and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.”

Here’s a quote by Frank Underwood—the President of the United States in the TV series, House of Cards—which illustrates this point:

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered in an era of hope and progress when he proposed the New Deal, and at the time his reforms were considered radical. But he once said, ‘This country demands bold, persistent experimentation.’ It is common sense to take a method and try it and if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. Roosevelt would have understood better than anyone the necessity for trying something different. The New Deal succeeded for many years, but we must now try something newer before it fails us. If America Works succeeds, we will reinvent the American Dream. If we fail in our attempt, we will admit it frankly and try another. But above all, we must try something. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.”

Your life demands bold, persistent experimentation. Try to achieve your goals. If you fail in your attempts, learn from your mistakes, and try again.


Everyone makes mistakes. We might as well stop being afraid of the inevitable and look for ways to turn our mistakes into something positive.  We do this by turning our mistakes into learning opportunities.

Live your best life by learning from your mistakes.

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How many of your dreams have you missed out on due to self-sabotage?


It’s time to stop being your own worst enemy.

Self-sabotage is having conflicting thoughts and feelings about achieving what you say you want. In addition, it’s when these thoughts and feelings lead you to act in ways that interfere with your ability to achieve your long-term goals. In other words, it’s you, acting against yourself.

People can sabotage themselves in any life area. Here are some examples:

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  • Finances: You’re trying to set money aside for an emergency fund and you already have a few hundred dollars in your savings account. Then, you go to the mall to get a birthday gift for a friend and end up buying five pairs of shoes, a leather jacket, and a couple of kitchen gadgets you have absolutely no need for.
  • Health and Fitness: After three weeks of healthy eating, you’ve lost five pounds and are feeling proud of yourself. But then you spend the weekend overeating fatty and sugary foods, and you gain all the weight back.
  • Relationships: You’ve been in a new relationship for four months, and everything is going great. Then, as always, you become overly critical of the other person, or you start accusing them of imaginary slights, and everything goes south from there.
  • Work: You’re a good and efficient worker, and you get things done. However, every time you’re up for a promotion you start missing deadlines and coming in late.
  • Business: You launched a small business and your income has been climbing slowly and steadily. Then, you notice a great opportunity. However, instead of taking advantage of that opportunity you find yourself  watching too much TV and playing video games.
  • Self-Growth: You’ve set aside one-hour-a-day to learn new skills, you’ve started meditating, and you’re working on increasing your self-esteem. But then you go back to spending endless hours with your “friends” who do nothing but gossip and complain.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes”. But why would anyone act in a way that is contrary to their own self-interest? And what can be done about it? Below you’ll discover the root cause of self-sabotage, and seven ways to overcome it.

Your Deserve Level

Psychotherapist Pat Pearson is the author of “Stop Self-Sabotage: Get Out of Your Own Way to Earn More Money, Improve Your Relationships, and Find the Success You Deserve”. In her book, she identifies something which she calls the “Deserve Level”. Here’s how she defines it:

“Just as your IQ, your intelligence quotient, is an indicator of your level of intelligence, your Deserve Level is a gauge of the degree to which you believe you deserve to have what you want in various areas of life.”

She adds that self-sabotage is how we regulate ourselves to make sure that we stay within our self-chosen boundaries. In other words, your Deserve Level creates a ceiling beyond which you won’t allow yourself to go. The good news is that your Deserve Levels can be changed.

How to Stop Self-Sabotage

We’re often very good at recognizing self-sabotage in others, but we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves. The way to stop sabotaging yourself every time you start gaining traction is through self-awareness.

By taking a good, hard look at yourself, you can begin to notice how you act in ways that are counter-productive to the achievement of your goals. Here are seven ways to become more self-aware and put an end to self-sabotage:

1. Become Aware of Your Ceiling.

Notice where your Deserve Levels are right now in your different life areas. Have you been stuck at a certain level of income for a long time? Is there a certain number of clients you can’t seem to get over? Do you feel like you stay at a certain weight no matter what you do?

The first step in breaking through the ceiling being set by your Deserve Level is noticing where the ceiling is.

2. Accept Responsibility.

One way in which people sabotage themselves is by denying responsibility for what happens to them and blaming others. External forces–such as other people and circumstances–can be partially responsible for your failure to get what you want.

However, in the end, it’s your choices and your actions that will determine where you end up. Stop playing the victim and take back control of the wheel.

3. Identify Your Patterns.

What do you do to stop yourself when you start getting close to achieving what you want? In other words, what’s your self-defeating behavior? Maybe you do the following:

  • When the alarm rings in the morning, you find yourself hitting the snooze button over and over again. Oversleeping is one way to avoid taking the risks that are necessary so that you can achieve what you want.
  • You get irritable and find yourself snapping at those around you.
  • Worry gets the better of you and starts making you sick. It’s one thing to think about what could go wrong so that you can plan ahead and decide how you’re going to deal with any problems that come up. It’s a whole other thing to ruminate endlessly over possible negative outcomes.
  • Instead of working on what’s most important, you obsess over unimportant details. Perfectionism is self-sabotage in disguise.
  • When things seem to be speeding up you get scared and pull back. You decide that you need to take another course, read a few more books on the subject, or consult with yet another expert, before you can continue moving forward.
  • You get to work on secondary projects–most of it “busy work”– and you focus on tasks that you could be delegating. That is, you procrastinate.

Once you’ve identified how you sabotage yourself, you can be on the look-out for these behaviors. Then, when you spot yourself acting in self-limiting ways, make sure to stop.

4. Change Your Stories.

The stories that you tell yourself about what has happened to you, and what you’ve done, create your self-image, or how you think of yourself. Those stories may be getting in your way and holding you back.

Keep in mind that the worst stories–the ones that will really keep you down–are those that make you feel shame and guilt. You may be holding yourself back in an effort to “make up” for something you feel you’ve done in the past.

If this is the case, you need to reexamine and reframe your life stories.

5. Identify Negative Beliefs.

Sit down and think about an important goal you’ve set for yourself. What thoughts pop into your head when you think about your goal? Maybe you think something like the following:

  • “There’s no way I can achieve that.”
  • “If I fail I’ll never be able to show my face in public again.”
  • “I don’t deserve that.”

If so, you’ve identified negative, self-sabotaging beliefs. You need to replace those negative beliefs with positive, empowering beliefs. Say things like the following to yourself:

  • “I’m going to have to work hard to achieve this goal, but it’s important to me and I’m ready to do what it takes.”
  • “Failure is evidence that I tried to make a better life for myself. There’s no shame in that.”
  • “I’m a good person and I do good for others. I deserve to be happy and realize my dreams.

Don’t just accept what your inner saboteur says to you. Instead, be ready with your counter-arguments.

6. Move Away From People Holding You Back.

Let’s face it: one of the reasons we sabotage ourselves is out of fear of outgrowing the people who currently surround us. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • What if your friends no longer want to hang out with you if you start making a lot more money than they do?
  • Or what if your boyfriend feels threatened if you start to lose weight and get in shape?
  • Who will you have lunch with if your colleagues at work resent the fact that you got a promotion and are moving up the corporate ladder?

Encourage your friends and loved ones to join you as you strive to improve yourself. But if they try to hold you back, then you need to move away from them. Find a group of people who will pull you up, instead of allowing those around you to drag you down.

7. Raise Your Feelings of Self-Worth.

The higher your self-worth, the more you’ll feel that you deserve to have the things you want. And the more deserving you feel, the less likely it is that you’ll sabotage yourself.

One way to raise your self-worth is to take inventory. Sit down and ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What good have you done?
  • How have you helped others?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What value have you contributed to society?

The worthier you feel, the more likely it is that you’ll allow yourself to break through your current Deserve Level and achieve more of what you want.


Instead of being your own worst enemy, work on becoming your greatest ally. Uncover your inner saboteur, and escort them out of your life. Live your best life by putting an end to self-sabotage.

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