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If you’re like most people, you have a job that takes up about eight hours of your day, and you sleep for eight hours a day. That leaves you with eight hours a day of free time (or, better stated, time that is your own). What are you doing with your free time? Are you making good use of that time? Those are the questions that Robert Pagliarini asks in his book, The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose.

The premise of “The Other 8 Hours” is simple: Anyone can improve their life, if they find some free time in which to do so. In addition, you can find the time by taking a look at how you’re currently using your eight hours and looking for ways to make better use of that time. Start thinking of your “other eight hours” as your most valuable resource for improving your life.

Read more about “The Other 8 Hours” below.

What Eight Hours?!

When most people read the title of the book, “The Other 8 Hours”, they immediately think to themselves, “What eight hours? I don’t have eight hours of free time!” With the busy schedules that most of us are juggling, the suggestion that we have eight hours a day lying around can be infuriating. This can lead some people to dismiss the book entirely.

However, Pagliarini argues that you do have eight hours of free time. Those eight hours when you’re not at work and you’re not sleeping are “your time”. The thing is, you’ve already assigned activities and commitments to those eight hours. What you need to do is to re-examine how you’re using those eight hours in order to determine if it’s the best use of your time.

In addition, even if you conclude that your eight hours of “free time” are being put to good use—after all, you have to fix meals, drive your kids to soccer practice, do the laundry, and so on–, you can find at least half an hour, or forty minutes a day, which you can devote to building a better future for yourself. After all, small things done consistently lead to big changes.

Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is to look for ways to save a little time here and there in order to invest that time in yourself. You can start doing this with a strategy that Pagliarini calls “PERK”. This strategy is explained below.

PERK – Strategy for Carving Time Out of Your Day

Here’s how you apply PERK in order to free up time in your day: Begin by making a list of all of the activities that you engage in throughout the day. List everything, including activities like the following:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Driving the kids to school
  • Laundry
  • Making dinner

After you’ve listed everything, go down the activities one by one, and next to each one write one of these four letters:

  • “P” for those activities that you can postpone.
  • “E” for those activities that you can eliminate.
  • “R” for those activities that you can reduce.
  • “K” for those activities that you have to keep.

As an example of an activity that you can postpone, Pagliarini shares that when he was writing his book he was also taking Spanish classes. Although learning Spanish is something that’s important to him, finishing his book was more important. Therefore, he decided to postpone learning Spanish until he finished writing his book.

An example of an activity that you can eliminate is to drop out of committees that really aren’t a priority for you. As for activities that you can reduce, if you find that you’re spending a lot of time on activities such as watching TV and playing video games, you don’t need to cut out those activities from your life completely. Just reduce the amount of time that you devote to them. Lastly, there are those activities which you decide to keep.

By using the PERK strategy Pagliarini indicates that you should be able to carve out about an hour of time which you can invest in your future.

Use Your Free Time to Become a Creator

Of course, you need to decide what you’re going to do with the free time that you carve out for yourself. You could use that time to start a new hobby, lose weight, learn a new skill, and so on. However, Pagliarini is a financial consultant, and he recommends that you use your free time in order to create wealth. In addition, he argues that the best way to build wealth is by becoming a creator (he calls it Cre8tor™).

Seth Godin said the following about Pagliarini’s book: “Just one simple decision, to become a creator, is enough to change your life for the better.”

So, what is a creator? A creator is a creative entrepreneur who has a day job but wants more. They know that the only way to get a new financial life is to do something different during their “other 8 hours”. That is, they devote the time that they carve out of their “other 8 hours” to apply their strengths, passions, and/or expertise to create something unique and valuable.

Pagliarini argues that if you settle for a paycheck, you’ll only get paid what your employer thinks that you’re worth. However, if you create something valuable there is virtually no limit to how much money you can make.

Here are five reasons Pagliarini sets forth of why it’s important to become a creator:

1. Mansion Money: If you create something special that takes off, it could potentially catapult you into a whole new level. It’s an amount of money that’s so large, that you can quit your job and buy a mansion. It’s a game changer.

2. Mo’ Money: Maybe you’re not interested in mansion money. However, everyone can use a couple of thousand extra dollars a month.  You can pay off your debts, improve your life style, invest for your retirement, and so on.

3. Be Your Own Boss. Are you tired of long commutes, working at a job you don’t love, and having to work more years than you’d like? By becoming a creator you can potentially become your own boss, and design a new life where you call the shots.

4. Move On Up. Maybe you don’t want to strike out on your own, and you prefer working for someone else. Even then, what you create in the other 8 hours can help you get a better job, or move up the ladder in your present job. You can gain credibility and recognition, and attract new clients, by creating a blog, writing a book, teaching seminars, and so on.

5. Purpose and Passion. A boss you don’t respect and an empty bank account can wreck havoc on your sense of well-being. Becoming a creator will spark new passion into your life. Even if you don’t enjoy your job, while you’re at work you can be thinking of the fact that soon you’ll be home, and then you’ll be working on your side project which you do love. And that will infuse all the hours of your day with purpose and passion.

Ways to Make Money As a Creator

Pagliarini recommends ten ways in which you can make money as a creator. As a creator you can sell the following:

  • Thoughts (Blogging; Writing Books or Screenplays; Composing Music)
  • Things (Inventing; Starting a Company; Reselling, Affiliating and Licensing)
  • Time (Working for Stock in a Company; Advancing or Jumping Careers; Freelancing; or Turning Hobbies into Income)

Here’s a quote from Pagliarini: “With very few exceptions, anybody who has attained any level of financial success has created something. It might be a book, a CD, an invention, or a web site. Look around you. Everything you see was originally just an idea in someone’s head. It took vision, determination, and action to turn those ideas into what you see today.”


In his review of “The Other 8 Hours” J.D. Roth, owner of the popular blog “Get Rich Slowly”, explains that before starting his blog he was a slacker. He’d get up each morning and go to a job that he hated. Then he’d come home at night and watch TV or play computer games. As he started his financial turnaround, he made the decision to make better use of his time. He indicates that making the decision to use his “other 8 hours” to create wealth changed his life.

How can you carve out time from your “other 8 hours” to create a better life for yourself? What do you plan to do with that time? How will your life be different a year from now because of the time investment you’re going to start making? Please share in the comments.

Related Posts:

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2. Prosperity Tips – 18 Ways to Increase Your Wealth
3. Stop Procrastinating Tip: Practice Discomfort

I Recommend:

1. How to Live Your Best Life – The Essential Guide for Creating and Achieving Your Life List
2. Make It Happen! A Workbook for Overcoming Procrastination and Getting the Right Things Done

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start your day the right way Start your day the right way by selecting your thoughts for the day.

Elizabeth Gilbert–author of “Eat, Pray, Love”–writes the following: “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day.” If you’re looking for a great way to improve your life, take Gilbert’s advice: choose your thoughts for the day just as you choose what you’re going to wear.

one-hour-banner-largeIn this post I’m going to discuss two methods for doing this:

  • The first of these methods is from the book “Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence”; and
  • The second is from a YouTube video titled “Improve Your Life Using A Daily Success Routine – The Day Launcher System”.

Both of these methods are explained, in detail, below.

Feed Your Mind the Good Stuff

“What comes out of the mind is what you put in the mind. You must feed your mind like you feed your body.” – Norman Vincent Peale

The book “Today We Are Rich – Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence”, by Tim Sanders, presents seven principles for developing a confident outlook. The first of these principles is “Feed Your Mind the Good Stuff”. That is, you should be as careful about what you put into your mind as you are about what you put into your body. The process is the following:

  • What you put into your mind determines your thoughts.
  • Your thoughts determine your actions.
  • Your actions determine your results.

Sanders describes his morning routine –which he created to ensure that he begins each day feeding his mind good stuff–in an interview with Robert Pagliarini. His morning routine is as follows:

  •  Sanders begins each day by recollecting two people that he’s grateful for from the day before. He thinks of two people who did something good for him on the previous day.
  • Then, he thinks of his upcoming day and of someone who’s going to be an asset to him on that day. He feels gratitude for that encounter ahead of time.
  • Next, he puts on a cup of coffee and he reads something inspirational for half an hour.
  • Finally, he sits down with another cup of coffee and he takes five minutes to rehearse the coming day, including any hurdles he thinks he might come across. He plans ahead of time how he’s going to overcome these hurdles. Sanders calls this “rehearsing his dance moves”.

In this way, Sanders makes sure that he begins each day by feeding his mind the good stuff. As an aside, if you’re looking for something inspirational to read each morning, a reader contacted me to let me know that she reads the following two posts from my blog each morning:

You may want to start your morning by reading these two posts each day as well.

The Day Launcher System

Derek Franklin has a video up on YouTube in which he explains that you can improve your life by having a daily success routine. Derek indicates that a lot of people devote enormous amounts of time to reading self-improvement books and blog articles, as well as attending personal development seminars. However, they have very little to show for it. Derek adds that this is because they don’t change what they do on a daily basis. In addition, Derek adds the following:

  1. Knowledge without action is virtually worthless.
  2. Small things, done consistently, create huge results.

So how do you transform the knowledge that you’ve acquired into positive results? The answer is that you take action in small ways on a daily basis. And the best way to do this is by creating a Daily Success Routine. Derek indicates that the elements of a Daily Success Routine are the following:

  • It exposes you on a daily basis to the ideal vision you have designed for your life.
  • It reminds you of the principles and strategies that you want to live by.
  • It puts you in a state where you think and feel in a powerful way.
  • It pushes you to take action in small ways.

Derek explains that when he was trying to create his own “Daily Success Routine” he came across a book called “Work the System” by Sam Carpenter. That book helped him to understand that in order to see consistent, positive results in your life, you need to create and use systems. Systems give your brain all of the following:

  • Clarity
  • Order
  • Structure
  • A Sense of Belief that What You Want to Do, Can Be Done

Therefore, Derek decided to develop a system for his “Daily Success Routine”. Derek called the system that he came up with “The Day Launcher System”. It contains the following seven steps:

  •  Step One: Calm Your Mind. You’re going to begin by clearing your mind of any thoughts that might be stressing you–such as unpaid bills, and argument you had with a co-worker the day before, a difficult conversation you need to have with your spouse, and so on. You want to calm your mind in order to be able to focus on the rest of the process.
  •  Step Two: Express Your Thanks. Get your mind to focus on things that you have to be grateful for. This step will help you to move your attention away from what’s not working in your life, and toward what is working. In addition, it will help you to further calm your mind.
  •  Step Three: Read Something Positive. You want to learn something new every day. This can be something that motivates you to act, something that teaches you a new skill, something that gives you a new perspective, and so on. By doing this you’ll be growing a little each day.
  •  Step Four: Write Your Discoveries. Spend a few minutes writing about what you learned in the previous step. You can also write down any ideas that you may have on how you can apply some piece of knowledge that you’ve acquired, the steps that you can take to achieve a particular goal, or you can write about a specific action that you plan to take on that day in order to improve your life.
  •  Step Five: Review Your Targets. Targets are things such as your mission statement, your goals, what your perfect day looks like, what you aspire to be, and so on. If you don’t review your targets on a regular basis you can lose track of what you want to do with your life. In addition, constantly reminding yourself of your targets will help you to move toward taking action in order to reach them.
  •  Step Six: Watch Something Inspirational. Find a video online that moves you, and that makes you feel good, and watch it daily so that it will have an emotional impact on you.
  •  Step Seven: Blast Off. When NASA launches a rocket, they have a term that they always use, such as “We have lift off”, or “Blast off”. When a sports team is about to go out and play a game, they usually huddle and chant a phrase such as “Go! Go! Go!” Think of a phrase that has emotional impact for you, which is going to push you into a positive state of taking action. Say it to yourself every morning.

As soon as you’re done with Step Seven, make sure that you begin to work right away on one of your high priority tasks. Instead of reading your email, watching the news, reading the paper, or going on Twitter, create something or produce something of value. That way, you start off your day by doing something of significance.


How you start your day sets the tone for the next 24 hours. Furthermore, the quality of your days determines the quality of your life. Start your day the right way with the methods described above. Do you have a morning routine? How do you start your day?

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gratitude can change your life

As John Kralik discovered at the age of 53, gratitude can change your life. In his book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life, Kralik explains that in December of 2007 everything in his life seemed to be going wrong. This was his situation at the time:

  • Several of his clients weren’t paying their legal bills and, as a result, his small law firm was failing and he was low on funds.
  • He was going through a painful second divorce.
  • His relationship with his two grown sons was strained.
  • He was concerned that he was going to lose contact with his seven year-old daughter.
  • He was living in a small apartment which was cold and drafty in the winter and a furnace in the summer.
  • He was 40 pounds overweight.
  • His girlfriend had just broken off their relationship.
  • He felt that his dream of becoming a judge was no longer a possibility for him.

While hiking in the hills near his home on New Year’s Day, Kralik decided that he would try to lessen his misery by focusing on the things in his life that he was grateful for, instead of focusing on the things that were going wrong. He remembered his grandfather who had taught him the importance of writing thank you notes. This inspired Kralik to set the goal, right then and there, of writing 365 thank you notes in the coming year.

A year later, Kralik’s life had completely changed. His book, “365 Thank Yous”, is the story of how.

How Gratitude Changed Kralik’s Life

Kralik got started with his project in early 2008 by writing thank you notes to all the people who had given him a Christmas gift. Of course, writing thank you notes for gifts that you receive is easy enough, since you have an obvious reason for giving thanks. Once Kralik ran out of gifts, he had to broaden his net of gratitude. He decided to start giving thanks for the ordinary, small things in life. His next step was to write thank you notes to his co-workers.

However, when he ran out of co-workers he got stuck again. He began telling himself that he didn’t really have anything to be grateful for. That’s when he walked into his regular Starbucks and the barista greeted him by name, asked if he wanted his usual drink, and gave him a big smile. Kralik was struck by the fact that he was receiving such cheerful, personalized service. He asked the barista for his name and then wrote him a simple thank you note.

The note said the following:

“Scott, Thank you for taking the time each morning to greet me in a friendly way. It is also so wonderful to me that you took the time and trouble to remember my name. In this day and age, few people make this effort, and fewer still do it in a way that feels sincere. You do both. It really makes a difference to me every day.”

As Kralik continued with his “365 Thank Yous” project, he realized several important things, including the following:

First, he noticed that writing the thank you notes kept him focused on the little things which he had been taking for granted. This shifted his attention from what was going wrong in his life, to what was going right. He realized that he really didn’t have such a bad life, and that he was surrounded by people doing things for him.

Second, Kralik’s exchanges with others changed. About two months after he started the project he stopped responding to the question of “How are you?” by griping about his problems. Instead, he started referring to the thank you note that he had written the day before in his conversations. Here’s an example:

If on the previous day he had written a thank you note to his daughter’s teacher, he would talk about how happy he was that his daughter was doing well in school and that she had a fabulous teacher who really took an interest in her students.

Third, Kralik began looking for something to be grateful for even in bad situations. At one point, he decided to write a thank you note to his second wife whom he was in the process of divorcing. However, he felt so much anger toward her that he just couldn’t get himself to think of something to thank her for.

Then he thought of the fact that she was doing a great job raising their daughter, and he realized that he was grateful to her for that. Giving his wife thanks for being a good mother to his child helped to make their relationship more cordial, and the divorce proceedings became smoother.

Fourth, Kralik realized that giving thanks doesn’t just have a positive effect on the life of the person showing gratitude. It also has a positive effect on the person who’s on the receiving end. People feel validated when they’re recognized by others for something they’ve done. In fact, Kralik discovered that a lot of people were keeping his hand-written thank you notes. Others like feeling appreciated, and knowing that what they do matters.

A Thanksgiving Message

In November, Kralik was sitting at a table in his law firm, surrounded by his co-workers. They were having a meal together in order to celebrate Thanksgiving. Kralik was asked if he wanted to say a few words, and this is what he said:

“When we began this year I made a New Year’s resolution that I would try to find one thing each day for which I would be grateful. It is now November; I have kept that resolution. And what I found each day, as I searched for someone or something for which to be grateful, was that the answer was very often the people I see every morning who help me through each day, and who do the difficult without questioning whether it’s necessary, and who look for ways to do more than what is asked. I have learned how truly lucky I am to have in my life the people who are gathered around this table. You have made our firm a good one, and you’ve made my life a good one. On Thanksgiving I can truly see at this table how blessed I am and how much I have; how much I should be thankful for.”


Writing the thank-you notes transformed Kralik’s life. By showing gratitude for even the smallest things that went right, the big things started to fall into place. By the time he wrote his 365th thank you note he was a much happier person, he’d gotten back with his girlfriend, he’d lost weight, his business was prospering, he’d grown closer to his children, and he’d reconnected with old friends he had lost touch with. Today, Kralik is a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Here’s the trailer for 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life:

Who do you need to thank? Will you take a similar challenge? Remember: gratitude can change your life.

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Srikumar Rao Happiness

Spring Stones

Srikumar S. Rao, Ph.D., is the author of “Are You Ready to Succeed?” and “Happiness at Work”. He teaches his ideas about how people can experience more fulfilling lives, both personally and professionally, in an MBA-level class called “Creativity and Personal Mastery”, which has been taught at the Columbia Business School, the London Business School, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, among others.

Dr. Rao got his MBA from a top school in India, and his Ph.D. in marketing from Columbia University. Having read a lot of spiritual and mystical biographies, he decided to find a way to make those teachings applicable to work and to the corporate world. For those who are skeptical of his teachings, he simply asks them to complete the exercises and apply the concepts for a period of time, and then to evaluate whether their lives have improved.

Below you’ll find four happiness exercises taught by Dr. Rao to his MBA students.  The resources used to write this post include excerpts from Dr. Rao’s two books, interviews conducted with Dr. Rao which I found online, a video from the TED.com site, and a Leading@Google talk given by Dr. Rao.

The “If . . . Then” Model

Happiness, explains Dr. Rao, is an underlying sense of well-being. He adds that it’s feeling, “I’m OK, I will always be OK, there is nothing that needs to happen for me to be OK, and there is nothing that can happen that will stop me from being OK”. In addition, he explains that this is our natural state of being, but we obscure it by thinking that something external has to happen in order for us to be happy.

He recommends that people try the following exercise in order to delve deeper into the question, “What do I need to be happy?”. Take out a piece of a paper and ask yourself what you need in order to be happy. Really think about it. Then, begin writing. You might find that you write down things such as those included in the list below.

I’ll be happy when:

  • I start making more money.
  • I find a life partner.
  • I have a child.
  • I get my degree.
  • I change jobs, or I get a promotion.
  • I have more leisure time.
  • I lose weight.
  • I get to go on vacation to Paris.
  • I get recognition for my work.
  • My book gets published.
  • I move to a bigger apartment.
  • My child starts doing better in school.
  • My spouse gets a job.
  • All my debts are finally paid off.

Once you’ve completed your list, look at it. Then get a red marker. As you read each item you’ve written down, draw a line across it with the red marker. Do this with all of the items you wrote down.  Recognize that you don’t need any of those things in order to be happy.

Dr. Rao explains that there is nothing you have to get in order to be happy. He adds that anything that you can get, you can “un-get”. That is, you can lose it. Are you going to make your happiness contingent on getting something you may or may not get, and which you might lose once you get it?  Happiness is something that’s innately within you. Happiness does not have to be acquired or achieved.

When asked whether people should set goals, Dr. Rao responds that goals are important, because they give direction to your life. The flaw in setting goals is making your happiness depend on achieving your goals: if I achieve this goal, then I’ll be happy. Dr. Rao adds that what matters is the process of working toward the achievement of your goals, not the outcome. He recommends that you adopt the following attitude:

  • If you achieve your goal, you’ll be fine.
  • If you don’t achieve your goal, you’ll also be fine.

In addition, Dr. Rao points out that there’s a paradox in that it’s more likely that you’ll get what you want once you stop insisting that things happen in a certain way.

Stop Labeling Things as “Bad”

“Be generous using the good label, and be extremely stingy using the bad label.” Dr. Rao

Dr. Rao explains that we have a tendency to label everything that happens to us as either “good” or “bad”.  In addition, we use the “bad” label anywhere from 3 to 10 times more often than the “good” label. He recommends that we stop using the “bad” label. If something extreme happens which you can’t get yourself to label as “good”, then, at the very least, stop yourself from labeling it as “bad”.

Dr. Rao gives four reasons for his recommendation.  They’re explained below.

The “Bad” Label Limits Your Ability to Notice Opportunities

Once you refuse to label something as “bad”, it opens you up to noticing possibilities that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Dr. Rao gives losing your job as an example:

If you think about losing your job as an opportunity to find something better that brings you greater joy and fulfillment–instead of looking at it as a bad thing–you’re better off. This is because your mind looks for evidence to support any belief that you’re currently holding. That is, if you think of losing your job as an opportunity, your mind will get to work on looking for evidence that this is true.

In the Moment You Can’t Really Know If Something is Bad

Think back: can you recall something that happened to you in the past which you labeled as “bad” when it happened, but which later turned out to be a blessing in disguise?  Maybe you had your heard broken by someone, only to meet someone who was much more compatible for you a few months later.  Recognize that when something happens to you, you don’t really know right away whether it’s good or bad.

The “Bad Label” Makes You Experience Negative Emotions

The act of labeling something as “bad” makes you experience negative emotions. When we tell ourselves that something is bad, the odds grow overwhelmingly that we will experience it as such. As an example, Dr. Rao tells the story of one of his students who had his cell phone stolen in the subway. The student saw a girl take his cell phone and run off with it, but there were lots of people in between them and he wasn’t able to catch her.

Initially, the student started telling himself that this was a very bad situation to be in, and he felt upset and angry. Then he decided to stop labeling the situation as being “bad”.  Once he stopped doing this he thought of how lucky he was that his financial circumstances were such that he could easily afford to replace his cell phone, and this made him feel immense gratitude.

Labeling Something as “Bad” is a Waste of Time

Here’s a quote from Dr. Rao:

“Many who rise so triumphantly never label what they go through as bad and lament over it. They simply take it as a given as if they were a civil engineer surveying the landscape through which a road is to be built. In this view, a swamp is not a bad thing. It is merely something that has to be addressed in the construction plan.”

Instead of stopping to lament dead ends, setbacks, and obstacles, accept that that’s the way it is, and start looking for alternate routes.  Think of a mouse running through a maze looking for cheese. If the mouse finds the path blocked by a wall, he simply turns around and looks for a different route.  The mouse doesn’t sit down to lament his misfortune at having run across a wall.  Dr. Rao advocates something which he calls extreme resiliency: every time you fall, bounce back up immediately and keep going.

Run a Diagnosis of Your Mental Chatter

Dr. Rao explains that your mental chatter, or internal monologue, is your constant companion. It’s with you from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, to the instant in which you drift off to sleep at night, constant and relentless. For many people, this mental chatter includes a lot of negative judgments, about themselves and about others.

The tool which Dr. Rao recommends that you use in order to perform a diagnosis of your mental chatter–to determine whether it’s mostly positive or negative, and how it’s affecting how you feel and how you act–is to carry a notebook around for two weeks. Do the following:

  • Record your mental chatter, both positive and negative, throughout the day.
  • Be as specific as possible.
  • How many times do you beat yourself up during the day?
  • Do you compare yourself unfavorably to others?
  • Do you have feelings of inadequacy?
  • Are you constantly thinking critical thoughts of others?
  • Remember to write down your positive thoughts as well.

In addition, as you record your mental chatter, pay close attention to how your emotional state is tied to it. Which thoughts make you feel sad, angry, afraid, or dissatisfied? Which thoughts make you feel confident, peaceful, or grateful? Also, notice how your emotional state affects your behavior. Write all of this down in your notebook.

This process of paying attention to your inner monologue will gradually make you more and more aware of it.  You’ll notice that this awareness leaves you less vulnerable to its sudden twists and turns. When your inner dialogue starts to turn negative, you’ll no longer be led haplessly down its destructive path. (Source).

Alternate Reality Exercise

For the alternate reality exercise, Dr. Rao has his students describe in detail a situation which is concerning them.  This can be something at work or something in their personal lives.  What the students don’t realize is that what they’re describing is not reality, it’s “a reality”.  That is, it’s the reality they’ve constructed.

With the help of other students in the class, Dr. Rao then has them construct a different reality: one that is better for them and which they can get themselves to believe at some level. Then he has his students go out and live as if this alternate reality that they’ve come up with is their reality.

At first, the students are likely to come across a lot of evidence that shows that the alternate reality that they’ve come up with isn’t true.  But they’ll also get some evidence that supports the alternate reality. Dr. Rao indicates that it’s important to write down any evidence that they come across that supports the alternate reality.  Little by little, more supportive evidence starts to show up.  This is because we see what we focus on.  In addition, the universe conspires to bring people and situations to us that support our model of the world.

Dr. Rao’s students are always surprised at how little by little the alternate reality that they constructed becomes their new reality. And since the alternate reality is better for them, their quality of life improves.


Dr. Rao tells his students the following: “I have a vision for you. And that vision is that you get up each morning and your blood is singing at the thought of being who you are, and doing what you do.  That as you go through your day you can literally sink to your knees in gratitude at the tremendous good fortune that has been bestowed on you.  That as you go through your day you become radiantly alive.”

Then he adds: “If your life isn’t like that, I’d like to humbly suggest that you’re wasting your life.”  The tools and happiness exercises that he offers are meant to help you get started on your journey to achieving the vision that he holds for you, and which you should hold for yourself.

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1. 37 Tidbits of Higher Consciousness
2. 65 Happiness Quotes
3. Harvard’s Most Popular Course: Tal Ben-Shahar on How to Be Happier

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Earl Nightingale quotes

Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever come across. When you read one of his books, or listen to one of his audio tapes, you discover that every other sentence is pure gold. The following 45 morsels of wisdom were taken from Earl Nightingale’s essay, “Lead the Field”.

1. “If the grass is greener on the other side it’s probably getting better care.”

2. “Each of us creates his or her own life largely by our attitude.”

3. “You can control your attitude. Set it each morning.”

4. “It is our attitude toward life that determines life’s attitude toward us. We get back what we put out.”

5. “Others treat us as we treat them. They react to us. They only give us back a reflection of our own attitude.”

6. “Most people begin their day in neutral. They will simply react to whatever confronts them.”

7. “Gratitude and expectancy are the best attitude.”

8. “. . . Our outlook on life is a kind of paint brush and with it we paint our world. It can be bright and filled with hope and satisfaction or it can be dark and gloomy. The world we experience is a reflection of our attitude.”

9. “Don’t take the attitude of waiting for people to be nice to you – be nice to them.”

10. “Be positive, cheerful, grateful and expectant.”

11. “Always keep that happy attitude. Pretend that you are holding a beautiful fragrant bouquet.”

12. “Don’t wait for change. You change.”

13. “Develop and project an attitude that says ‘yes’ to life.”

14. “You must radiate success before it’ll come to you.”

15. “Treat every person as the most important person on earth. To them, they are the most important person.”

16. “People don’t have great attitudes because of great success, they have great success largely because of great attitudes.”

17. “Don’t catch the bad and infectious attitudes of others.”

18. “Before you can achieve the kind of life you want you must think, act, talk, and conduct yourself in all of your affairs as would the person you wish to become.”

19. “Ask yourself every morning, ‘how can I increase my service today?’”

20. “Goals reflect your choice of destination.”

21. “Most people don’t know what they want. Do you?”

22. “Set worthy goals. Don’t drift along as a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.”

23. “Success is not a destination but a journey. Anyone who is on course toward a worthy goal is successful. Success does not lie in the achievement of a goal but in its pursuit. Success is a journey!”

24. “One thing a goal must do is fill us with positive emotion when we think about it. The more intensely we feel about a goal the more progressively we’ll move toward it.”

25. “Control your thoughts. Decide about that which you will think and concentrate upon. You are in charge of your life to the degree you take charge of your thoughts.”

26. “Spend one hour every day thinking about your goal and how to get there.”

27. “Don’t waste time thinking about needless things.”

28. “Whatever it is you seek in the form of rewards, you must first earn in the form of service. Each of us serves a portion of humanity, all those with whom you come in contact.”

29. “Every-time we use a product or service, someone is serving us.”

30. “Think not about future rewards but about present service.”

31. “Find what you can do best that renders service to others and do it with all your might.”

32. “Make the best use of what you have and what you are in the time you’ve been granted.”

33. “We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves.”

34. “Put in motion the right cause and the right effect will take care of itself.”

35. “Life can only return to you that which you sow. What do you have to sow? You have great wealth; you can think,
you have talent, and you have time.”

36. “Money is the harvest of our production and service. We in turn use it to obtain the production and service of others.”

37. “Money is an effect. It is the result of a cause, and the cause is valuable service.”

38. “We will receive not what we idly wish for but what we justly earn. Our rewards will always be in exact proportion to our service.”

39. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

40. “Failures . . . believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances … by things that happen to them … by exterior forces.”

41. “Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take — it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.”

42. “The human mind is much like a farmer’s land. The land gives the farmer a choice. He may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn’t care what is planted. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. The mind, like the land, will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.”

43. “Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country. All these priceless possessions are free.”

44. “Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.”

45. “Your world is a living expression of how you are using and have used your mind.”

If you’re looking for a straight-forward, easy-to-apply system for setting and achieving goals, “How to Live Your Best Life – The Essential Guide for Creating and Achieving Your Life List” is your answer.

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Harvard’s most popular course was a class on how to be happier.

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar taught Harvard University’s most popular course (in the Spring of 2006): a course on Positive Psychology; that is, he taught his students how to be happy.

The course, called PSY 1504 – Positive Psychology, was described as follows:

“The course focuses on the psychological aspects of a fulfilling and flourishing life. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship, love, achievement, creativity, music, spirituality, and humor.”

Wouldn’t you have signed up for that course? I know I would have.

Fortunately, this very-sought-after lecturer has authored two fabulous books on happiness based on his lectures: “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” and “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life”. So now we all have access to his lectures at Harvard.

Here’s Dr. Ben-Shahar’s philosophy in a nutshell: “When you learn how to live for today and for tomorrow at the same time, you learn how to balance your immediate personal needs with long-term goals and enjoy life as you never have before.”

Read on to discover how you, too, can be happy.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is “the scientific study of optimal human functioning” and was first introduced as a field of study by Dr. Martin Seligman in 1998, when he was President of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Seligman is the Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center and was one of the experts featured in Time Magazine’s January 2005 issue devoted entirely to “The Science of Happiness”.

While psychology has traditionally concerned itself with what ails the human mind–such as anxiety, depression, neurosis, obsessions, paranoia, and delusions–, Dr. Seligman and other pioneers in positive psychology asked the following question: “What are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish?”

The underlying premise of positive psychology is that you can learn to be happier just as you can learn a foreign language or to be proficient at golf. This rapidly growing field is shedding light on what makes us happy, the pursuit of happiness, and how we can lead more fulfilling, satisfying lives.  Dr. Ben-Shahar is well known around the world for his work in positive psychology.

Eleven Happiness Tips From Dr. Ben-Shahar

Tal Ben-Shahar Happier

Harvard’s Most Popular Course

“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness, therefore, is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain: happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak” – Tal Ben-Shahar

Here are eleven of Dr. Ben-Shahar’s happiness tips from his book “Happier”:

1. Ask yourself questions to foster awareness about what actions and attitudes will make you happier. Dr. Ben-Shahar offers several examples in his book “Happier”–which also functions as a workbook–such as the following:

Complete the following sentence: “To bring five percent more happiness into my life . . .”

2. Happiness must combine both pleasure and meaning, providing both present and future gain. To further illustrate this point, Ben-Shahar uses a hamburger analogy. He explains how certain things, like an unhealthy but tasty hamburger, will bring immediate short-term pleasure but have the opposite effect on our long-term feelings.

Similarly, an unappealing but healthy veggie burger might bring us negative emotions while we’re eating it but bring us long-term benefits. Too often people bounce back and forth between these two without finding out what things in their lives can bring both immediate and long-term happiness; that is, a meal that is both tasty and healthy.

3. Ben-Shahar argues in his book that happiness is not an end state, but rather something you work towards your whole life. Thus, you can be happier each day. Even happiness is a journey, not a destination.

4. Build happiness boosters into your life. These are things which you enjoy doing, and can include things such as having lunch with your spouse, reading a good book, taking a warm bath, engaging in a hobby you enjoy, and so on.

5. Create rituals. Dr. Ben-Shahar has the following to say about rituals: “The most creative individuals — whether artists, businesspeople, or parents — have rituals that they follow. Paradoxically, the routine frees them up to be creative and spontaneous.” One important ritual is to keep a gratitude journal. Every evening since September 19 1999, religiously, Ben-Shahar has made a list in a notebook of five things for which he feels grateful.

6. Imagine yourself as 110 years old. What advice would you give your younger self? This added perspective will allow you to recognize and eliminate the trivial and negative things from your life.

7. Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions, including fear, sadness, or anxiety. Ben-Shahar advises that an expectation of constant happiness is unreasonable and sets us up for disappointment. A happy life will have the usual vicissitudes, and trying to avoid those, or hoping not to experience them, inevitably leads to unhappiness and frustration. A happy person has highs and lows, but their overall state of being is positive.

8. Simplify.  Identify what’s most important to you and focus on that; stop trying to do too much. People who take on too much experience time poverty, which inhibits their ability to derive happiness from any of the activities they participate in.

9. Remember the mind-body connection. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

10. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on your state of mind. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on and by our interpretation of external events.

11.  Consider happiness to be the ultimate currency.  Always ask yourself what you’re trading it for.

Four Basic Archetypes

Dr. Ben-Shahar argues in “Happier” that there are four basic archetypes of happiness decision making. These are the following:

1. Hedonism. These people believe that they can sustain happiness by going from pleasurable activity to pleasurable activity with complete disregard for any future meaning or purpose.

2. Rat Race. These people are on the opposite end of the spectrum: they postpone present happiness in order to be happy in the future. They believe that reaching a certain destination will lead to sustained happiness.

3. Nihilism: These people believe that no matter what they do they will not be able to attain happiness. Basically, these are the ones that have lost all hope of being happy.

4. Happiness. As stated previously, happiness requires that we live for both today and tomorrow. These are the people who engage in activities which they find meaningful and pleasurable today, which at the same time “feed” into a future that is also meaningful and pleasurable.

How to Find Work Which Makes You Happy

People experience their work in one of three ways: as a job–a chore done so you can pay your bills–, as a career–motivated by money, prestige, and advancement–,or as a calling. A calling is work done as an end in and of itself.

To find your calling, first ask “What gives me meaning?”, then ask “what gives me pleasure?”, and finally ask yourself “what are my strengths?” Most job-seekers first ask what they’re good at, which then helps them generate a list from which they select the option which they perceive will bring them the most pleasure. The question of meaning somehow doesn’t make it into the equation.  This is why most people end up with a job or a career instead of a calling.


You can watch Dr. Ben-Shahar in action in the YouTube video below:

“Many people in enlightened democracies spend much of their time feeling enslaved — not by the regime but by extrinsic factors that are self-imposed, such as prestige, a desire to please, obligation, or fear. They experience life as more or less a series of chores that they have to carry out rather than activities that they want to engage in.” – Tal Ben-Shahar

Live your best life by following Ben-Shahar’s advice.

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Music Song and Dance Bucket List

Music is My Religion

How can music be missing from your bucket list? Is there an instrument you would like to learn to play? Have you always wanted to sing opera? Do you have a list of CD’s you would like to own? Is “dance tango in Argentina” on your bucket list? Are there any musical milestones you would like to achieve?

Here is a list of ideas for you to consider adding to your Music, Song, and Dance Bucket List.

Music Appreciation Bucket List

1. Build a classical music library.

2. Become an expert in your favorite music genre.

3. Enroll in a music appreciation class.

4. Become familiar with the compositions of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Ibert, Mendelssohn, Lalo, Liszt, Rimski-Korsakov, Respighi, Rachmaninoff, Paganini, Stravinsky, Toch, Tschaikosvsky, Verdi (this was taken from John Goddard’s Life List).

5. Be certified as a music therapist.

Musical Instruments Bucket List

musical instrument bucket list

enjoying the moment

6. Learn to play the harmonica.

7. Learn to play an instrument by ear.

8. Learn to play the drums.

9. Learn to play your favorite song on the guitar.

10. Learn to play three brass instruments.

11. Learn to play Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21”.

12. Learn to play Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” on the organ.

13. Play in an orchestra.

14. Conduct an orchestra.

15. Form a band.

16. Join a string quartet.

17. Perform as a street musician.

18. Learn to play an obscure musical instrument, such as The Hang.

19. Teach a child to play a musical instrument.

20. Play the saxophone with President Bill Clinton.

21. Play the giant piano at FAO Schwartz.

Singing Bucket List

singing bucket list

Karaoke Star!

22. Take singing lessons.

23. Learn to sing in perfect pitch.

24. Learn to yodel.

25. Compose a song.

26. Sing karaoke.

27. Sing the national anthem in front of a large crowd.

28. Release an album.

29. Join the church choir.

30. Learn to sing opera.

31. Join a barbershop harmony quartet.

32. Sing a duet with your favorite singer.

33. Compose a jingle for a commercial.

34. Audition for American Idol.

Music to Listen to Bucket List

music bucket list

Il Divo

35. Go to the Havana International Jazz Festival.

36. Go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

37. Go to a real blues bar in Chicago.

38. Go to a jazz club in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

39. Hear Joshua Bell play the violin.

40. Listen to your favorite band play in concert.

41. Watch Lady Gaga perform, live.

42. Go to a Celine Dion concert.

43. Watch Tony Bennett in concert.

44. See Taylor Swift in concert.

45. See Shakira in concert.

46. Follow your favorite band around the country on their tour.

47. Own every album Il Divo has put out.

48. Listen to every piece composed by Frederic Chopin.

49. Listen to the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center.

50. Go to a concert of Tuvan throat singers.

51. Get a great stereo system.

52. Take the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria.

53. Have someone famous sing at your 50th birthday party.

54. Make a List of the “1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”.

55. Hear Andrea Bocelli singing opera in Milan.

Dances You Would Like to Try Before You Die

dance bucket list

Passionate Tango

56. Rhumba

57. Merengue

58. Cha-cha-cha

59. Tango

60. Ballroom

61. Waltz

62. Foxtrot

63. Belly Dance

64. Ballet

65. Tap Dance

66. Hip hop

67. Flamenco

68. Square Dancing

69. Irish Stepdance

70. Krumping

71. Salsa

72. Pole Dance

73. Learn to dance Bollywood-style

74. Join a dance group.

75. Learning African healing dance.

My ebook, “How To Live Your Best Life – The Essential Guide for Creating and Achieving Your Life List”, will show you how to create your bucket list as a blueprint for your ideal life, and turn it into reality. After all, what’s the point of creating a bucket list if you’re not going to take action in order to achieve it?

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1. How to Live Your Best Life – The Essential Guide for Creating and Achieving Your Life List
2. Make It Happen! A Workbook for Overcoming Procrastination and Getting the Right Things Done

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how to create positive karma


Karma is simply this: as you sow so shall you reap.  To put it another way, what goes around comes around.

It is the natural law of cause and effect.  We’re all part of one organic whole in which everything is interrelated and everything affects everything else.

Buddhists believe that the karmic effect of our thoughts and deeds actively shape our future experiences.  It would stand to reason, then, that we would all want to create as much positive karma for ourselves as we possibly can.  The question then becomes: what type of thoughts and actions generate positive karma?

This post offers some practical ideas for creating positive karma in your life.

Ahimsa – Do No Harm

Ahimsa basically means the avoidance of harm, or the principle of nonviolence. Since acts of violence entail negative karmic consequences, the practice of ahimsa will help you to generate positive, instead of negative, karma.

Gandhi had the following to say about ahimsa:

“Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the world needs.”

Some ways to practice ahimsa are the following:

  • Send everyone you come into contact with a silent blessing.
  • Donate time or money to those in need.
  • Spend three minutes each day visualizing a world in which everyone practices ahimsa toward others.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Consider vegetarianism.
  • Be considerate of others. Consider what you say, how you say it, and how it could affect others.
  • Release the thought of competition. Create what you want instead of trying to take it away from others.
  • Whether you own a business that sells goods or services or you hold a job, your intent should be to create value for others.
  • Treat your body as a valuable temple.
  • Buy fair trade products.
  • Try to find common ground with others, even those you dislike. Here’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln that illustrates this point: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
  • Don’t steal. This means more than just refraining from taking something from another. It also means not overspending, overindulging, or otherwise taking more resources from the earth than what you need.
  • Work on releasing—that is, letting go of–stress and anxiety, instead of transmitting it to others by being rude and impatient.
  • Practice the Golden Rule.

Examples of How to Generate Positive Karma

In the book “Karma 101″, Joshua Mack offers the following examples of how to generate positive karma:

  • Chag Pregracke, a 25 year old, has been personally cleaning up the Mississippi River for four years.  He’s cleaned up 1500 miles of shoreline and collected 400,ooo pounds of trash.  He explains that he got tired of seeing all of the trash laying around and just complaining about it, so he decided to do something about it.
  • Rebecca Yenawine is an artist who bought a house in a rundown section of Baltimore. She noticed a group of teenage girls painting graffiti in the area, so she took them home with her and gave them an art lesson. Ever since then she’s been giving inner-city kids free art lessons and she started a non-profit organization, “Kids on the Hill”.
  • Elliot Fiks is a restaurant owner who noticed all of the food that was being thrown away in the process of cooking.  He started saving the leftovers and using them to make soup which he gives away to local soup kitchens.


Karma is simply the natural consequences that arise from our thoughts and actions. If you want to create positive karma, practicing ahimsa and following the examples offered by Mack in “Karma 101″ is a very good place to start.

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tips for writers

The entire writing process is fraught with perils.

Many writers would argue that the hardest part of writing is beginning. When asked what was the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway said, “A blank sheet of paper.”

Other writers believe that ideas are easy, it’s in the execution of those ideas that the hard work really begins. You have to show up every day and slowly give shape to your ideas, trying to find just the right words, searching for the right turn of phrase, until it all morphs into something real. Then comes the wait to discover how your writing will be received. Chilean author Isabel Allende once said that writing a book is like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it in the ocean. You never know if it will reach any shores.

So just how do you go about facing an empty page, coaxing your ideas into the world of form, and steering the end result toward shore? You can start by studying the tips and advice from writers presented below.

Tips For Writers From Stephen King

Stephen King writing tips“If you want to be a writer,” says Stephen King , “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

King, who has written over 50 books, emphasizes that writers have to be well-read. He adds that he has no patience for people who tell him that they want to be writers but they can’t find the time to read. The answer is simple: if you don’t read, you can’t be a writer. You have to read just about everything. In addition, you also have to write in order to develop your own style.

When it comes to the reading part of it, King explained during a lecture at Yale that if you read enough, there’s this magic moment which will always come to you if you want to be a writer. It’s the moment when you put down some book and say: “This really sucks . . . I can do better than this . . . And this guy got published.” So go ahead, read all you can, and wait for that magical moment. (Watch the YouTube video clip).

“On Writing”–published in 2000–is both a textbook for writers and a memoir of King’s life. Here’s an excerpt from “On Writing” in which King offers advice on pacing:

“Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

Tips For Writers From John Grisham

John Grisham writing tipsJohn Grisham–a former lawyer best known for his legal thrillers–advices young writers to find their career, and adds that at first it won’t be writing. He explains that before you can be a writer you have to experience some things, see some of the world, go through things–love, heartbreak, and so on–, because you need to have something to say.

You also need to have something to fall back on. Once you’re secure in life and you have a regular paycheck, then you can think about becoming a serious writer. (This is basically “The Survival/Sacred Dance” theory.)

He goes on to say that at first you have to treat writing as a hobby; you write a page a day in your spare time. Grisham explains that he created spare time to write, although he had a full time job. He adds that he always tells young aspiring writers that if they’re not writing a page a day, then nothing is going to happen. But if they make sure to write a page a day it becomes a habit, and before long they have a lot of pages piled up. (Source).

Tips For Writers From Erica Jong

Erica Jong's writing tips“The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook stage. It is like believing in dreams in the morning.” – Erica Jong

Erica Jong–who in “Seducing the Demon” defined a writer as “someone who takes the universal whore of language and turns her into a virgin again”, and who created compelling female characters such as Isadora Wing and Fanny Hackabout-Jones–tells us that she writes to get her life down on paper so that it can never be extinguished. She also writes to keep from going mad.

Jong admonishes aspiring writers not to expect approval for telling the truth, reminding them of Dante, Voltaire, Cervantes, and Swift. Then she adds: “Few are the great spirits who did not at one time or another write in jail, in exile, in the madhouse, or at the foot of the gallows.”

Tips For Writers From Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's writing tips

Ernest Hemingway–winner of the Nobel Prize in 1954–advices that each day’s work should only be interrupted when one knows where to begin again the next day. This helps the writer avoid the morning agony of facing the blank page. (From “Gabriel Garcia Marquez Meets Ernest Hemingway”).

Hemingway–knicknamed Papa–offers more invaluable writing tips in a rare interview he did with George Plimpton, original editor of “The Paris Review”, the magazine credited with inventing the modern literary interview. Here are some of the insights he offered during the inteview conducted in the Spring of 1958 (Source: “Conversations With Ernest Hemingway“):

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?

Hemingway: It depends, I re-wrote the ending to “Farewell to Arms”, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

Hemingway: Getting the words right.


Interviewer: Who would you say are your literary forebears, those you have learned the most from?

Hemingway: Mark Twain, Flaubert, Stendhal, Bach, Turgeniev, Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Andrew Marvell, John Donne, Maupassant, the good Kipling, Thoreau, Captain Marryat, Shakespeare, Mozart, Quevedo, Dante, Virgil, Tintoretto . . . Goya, Giotto, Cezanne, Van Gogh . . . I put in painters, because I learn as much from painters about how to write as from writers . . . I should think what one learns from composers and from the study of harmony and counterpoint would be obvious.


Interviewer: Does the title come to you while you’re in the process of doing the story?

Hemingway: No, I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book–sometimes as many as 100. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.


If you enjoy reading writer interviews, The Paris Review’s Writers at Work interview series has elicited many of the most arresting, illuminating, and revealing discussions of life and craft from the greatest writers of our time. They’ve compiled their best interviews into three volumes: The Paris Review Interviews, I; The Paris Review Interviews, II; The Paris Review Interviews, III.

Tips For Writers From Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's Writing TipsKurt Vonnegut was a prolific American author known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction. He offers the following advice to aspiring writers: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”

In the book “Bagombo Snuff Box”–an assortment of his short stories published in 1999, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Tips For Writers From Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott's writing tips

Anne Lamott once received a rejection letter from an editor that said: “You have made the mistake of thinking that everything that has happened to you is interesting.” That, however, didn’t discourage her from writing; she’s the author of several successful novels as well as a book on writing, which a lot of people are familiar with, entitled “Bird by Bird”.

As for the title of her book, she explains that when her older brother was ten years old he was trying to write a report on birds which he’d had three months to write. The day before the report was due he was sitting at the kitchen table at the family’s cabin surrounded by unopened books on birds, immobilized by the huge task ahead of him. He was close to tears when his father walked up, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

As can be expected from the book’s title, Lamott explains in “Bird by Bird” that the secret of writing is to get started, and in order to get started you need to break the complex, overwhelming task of writing into small manageable tasks. Then you simply get going with the first task.

From Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” comes her concept of “the shitty first draft”.  Here’s an excerpt from “Bird by Bird” which explains that concept:

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Here are three more writing tips found in “Bird by Bird”:

  • “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”
  • “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”
  • “This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of–please forgive me–wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds. When this happens, everything feels more spacious. Try walking around with a child who’s going, “Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!” And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, “Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!” I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world–present and in awe.”

Tips For Writers From Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard's writing tips

Annie Dillard has written eleven books, including “An American Childhood” and “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”. In “The Writing Life” she goes into her life as a writer, and explains the ins and outs of what a writer needs to do to have a successful book.

Here are some gems from The Writing Life:

  • “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place…. Something more will arise for later, something better.”
  • “Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case.”
  • “It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick. So you might as well write Moby-Dick.”
  • “When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.”
  • “A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. . . it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!’”

Tips For Writers From Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's writing tipsMaya Angelou is best known for her series of six autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adulthood experiences. In 1971 she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her volume of poetry, “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie.’”

The following quote by Angelou is very reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk at Ted.com entitled “A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius”:

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

Beginning with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Angelou has used the same writing ritual for many years (from: “Conversations With Maya Angelou”):

“When I’m writing . . . I get up at about five . . . I get in my car and drive off to a hotel room: I can’t write in my house, I take a hotel room and ask them to take everything off the walls so there’s me, the Bible, Roget’s Thesaurus and some good, dry cherry and I’m at work by 6:30. I write on the bed lying down–one elbow is darker than the other, really black from leaning on it–and I write in longhand on yellow pads. Once into it, all disbelief is suspended, it’s beautiful.”

Tips For Writers From Seth Godin

Seth Godin's writing tipsSeth Godin–marketing guru and best-selling author who’s been called “the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age”–generously offers nineteen pieces of advice for aspiring writers. Here are the first three pieces of advice:

1. Lower your expectations. The happiest authors are the ones that don’t expect much.

2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

3. Pay for an editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read.

To read all 19 tips from Seth, visit his blog post “Advice For Authors”.

Seven More Tips For Writers, From Writers

Here are seven more tips from writers, for writers:

  • William Stafford, explaining how he managed to be so prolific, said: “Every day I get up and look out the window, and something occurs to me. Something always occurs to me. And if it doesn’t, I just lower my standards.”
  • Neal Bowers was told by his first creative writing teacher, Malcolm Glass, to “Trust the process and the reader.” His teacher also had a colorful metaphor of grabbing the tail of a wild hog as it runs by and letting it drag you through the thicket. Back when he first heard it, that metaphor didn’t help Neal much. However, he adds the following: “These days, though, I often look back at those unplanned and unpredictable trails my writing makes through the brush, with me hanging on, and I think of Malcolm’s wild hog. (Source).
  • James Patterson’s method is simple: “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.” (Source).
  • “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” — Mary Heaton Vorse
  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” — Octavia Butler
  • “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood
  • “I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.” — Joan Didion


Another common piece of advice from successful writers is to write about what you know. Hemingway was an avid hunter and fisherman–two activities which feature prominently in a lot of his writing–and he lived within walking distance of the fishing village in Cuba from which “Santiago” from “The Old Man and the Sea” hailed.

Isabel Allende–author of “The House of Spirits”–recalls that when she was growing up every Thursday there was a seance at her house, and that it was widely rumored that her clairvoyant grandmother could move objects with her mind. She adds that her family was very strange, and that she didn’t have to invent anything for her stories: everything was given to her. While the magical realism in her novels may be something new for the reader, Allende is simply writing from experience.

Want more writing tips? Here’s 350 of them.

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growth mindset

In order to succeed, learn, and make progress, you need to cultivate a growth mindset.

In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck, Ph.D.–a professor at Stanford University and a social psychologist– explains that there are two different kinds of mindsets: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”. One mindset leads to success, while the other leads to risk aversion and feelings of limitation.

People with a “fixed mindset” believe that intelligence and talent are fixed traits: they’re born with a certain amount and that’s that. People with a “growth mindset” believe that abilities and talents can be cultivated through instruction and practice. That is, they believe that throughout their lives they can get smarter and more talented.

onehouradayformula banner longThe “fixed mindset” inhibits growth and learning. People with this mindset see obstacles and challenges as a threat to their sense of their ability. If they fail, that must mean that they’re not as smart or as talented as they previously thought. That is, failure equals a lack of ability. Even effort is a threat, because they believe that things should just come naturally if they have the necessary ability. People with a “fixed mindset” believe that if you have to exert effort at something, then you must not be very good at it.  Stars are born, not made.

The second view–the “growth mindset”–promotes the taking on of challenges and resilience in the face of obstacles. People with this mindset believe that effort is what makes you smarter.

In addition, they believe that success comes from practice and hard work, and that their intelligence and their talent can be developed. People with a “growth mindset” chalk up their errors to insufficient effort, not to a lack of ability; this leads them to persist in the case of failure, until they succeed.

This post will go into greater detail on cultivating a “growth mindset”.

A Growth Mindset Encourages People to Grow and Learn New Things

One of the experiments which Dweck uses in order to prove her theory is to go to schools and give the kids an easy puzzle. Once they complete the puzzle, she tells half of them: “You did really well, you must be very smart”. She tells the other half: “You did very well; you must have put a lot of effort into this”.

Then she asks all of the students what they would like to work on next: more puzzles like the one they just did, or difficult puzzles which will teach them something new.

The kids who were told that they’re smart tend to want to continue doing the puzzles that are similar to the one they just did. They’re afraid that if they try the difficult puzzles, they won’t be able to solve them or it will take them a long time, and then they won’t look so smart any more.

On the other hand, most of the kids who were praised for their effort chose to do the more difficult puzzles. They saw the harder puzzles as an opportunity to grow.  In addition, these kids reported having more fun solving the puzzles. They’re getting the message that the joy is in the process of learning, trying hard, and being challenged.

Kids with a fixed mindset go out into the world wanting to look smart. If you feel that your intelligence and talents are static things that live within you, then you feel like it’s something that you have to demonstrate over and over again.

Kids with a growth mindset go out into the world curious to learn. If you believe that intelligence and talents are dynamic and malleable, then you always want to be taking steps to increase your ability, even if this means taking risks and failing.

The Growth Mindset at Work

Dweck explains that the best managers have a growth mindset. They believe that all of their employees have the capacity to improve. If you’re a manager, you can promote a growth mindset among your employees by doing the following:

“Instead of just giving employees an award for the smartest idea or praise for a brilliant performance, they would get praise for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling and learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback, or for being open to and acting on criticism.”

What About the Famous IQ Test?

Alfred Binet invented the IQ test, which lots of people believe was meant to summarize a child’s unchangeable intelligence. However, Dr. Dweck points out in her book that Binet designed this test to identify the children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to put them back on track.

Although Binet did not deny individual differences in children’s intellect, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligences. Here’s a quote which Dweck cites from Binet’s book, “Modern Ideas About Children”:

“A few modern philosophers . . . assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism . . . With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment, and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”


Dweck explains that the view that you adopt–the “fixed mindset” or the “growth mindset”–has a huge impact on whether or not you accomplish the goals that you set for yourself.

  • When a person with a “fixed mindset” fails at something, they feel like a failure and are likely to give up on that goal. After all, why bother trying again if they just don’t have what it takes?
  • If a person with a growth mindset fails, they decide to try harder the next time.  They keep challenging themselves, they keep stretching, and they persist until they reach their goal.

Keep in mind that Dweck’s findings apply to everything: intelligence, athletic ability, artistic talent, sports ability, business skills, mathematical ability, emotional intelligence, and so on. Although people do differ in their initial talents and aptitudes, everyone can change and grow–in any area–through application and experience.

What do you think? Is it nature or nurture? Which of these two statements do you agree with:

  • Your intelligence, talents, and abilities are set in stone at birth. You either have it or you don’t.
  • You can become smarter and more talented through purposeful engagement. Abilities can be cultivated.


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