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What I’ve Learned Working In Finance For Six Years (Hint: It Applies To Everyone)

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I’ve been in the corporate world of finance now for more than six years. I get everyone from kids straight out of college, to older guys and girls that have been out of the workforce for ages, to people looking for a career change asking about the finance industry.

I’ve found the real lessons I’ve gained from working in finance are far broader than just one industry. Finance has taught me life skills and how to deal with people. While the startup world was fun, the finance industry gave me some extra skills.

Here’s what I learned working in finance:

 

1. The grass is never greener.

Over the years, many of my colleagues have left finance to start their own thing or join some new age fintech that apparently has all the answers – that is, until they come up against credit risk or accidentally fund terrorism through their products and services. The grass is never greener.

“Every company, whether it’s a large bank or one you started yourself, is going to have challenges. It comes down to which flavors of challenges you like the most”

Maybe you have to be really innovative in your career but don’t mind lack of funding or small travel budgets.

Maybe you have to work with really smart people but don’t mind being in a low budget office. The people I’ve met in finance that are always chasing greener grass never seem to find it.

At some point, we can’t avoid challenges or people we don’t like – they exist in all companies whether we like it or not. Learning to deal with these facts is how I’ve stayed in finance for six years and not given up on my career.

 

2. There are mediocre people everywhere we go.

In finance, like any industry, there are mediocre people. Some of them are uneducated; some of them lack critical thinking; some of them have zero sales ability; some are afraid of customers; some of them love a good company paid breakfast for no good reason. We can’t avoid mediocre people.

“What I’ve learned through my years in finance is that it’s not that people are mediocre or dumb; it’s that everyone has different priorities”

Some people want to leave at 5:01 pm to be with their kids and that’s okay.

Just because we don’t prioritize our career and our KPIs, doesn’t mean any of us are dumb because of it. There are many levels of intelligence within a company and all are acceptable.

I’ve visited a few unique and prestigious businesses in Silicon Valley where everyone is a genius and these companies spend half their time arguing who the smartest person is in the room rather than getting down to business and solving a real problem in the world.

 

3. There are good leaders and bad ones.

Don’t get emotional about it, just spend as much time as you can with the good ones. There will be leaders you encounter who are trying it out and who’ve been given a chance. There will be other leaders you meet that are born for the role.

Everyone has the right to step up and be a leader regardless of their ability.

My career in finance has been focused on getting around the good leaders. Sometimes you’ll have to work for a bad leader and the key is to suck it up, eat shit for a while, and then leave and work for a leader you believe in.

 

4. Your career is never going to be full of highlights.

I was on the homepage of our company’s website twice in one year. Many never get this chance ever in their career and it happened to me twice in one year.

Then there was a year after that where nothing happened. There were no big milestones, no punching the air and plenty of low points involving customers.

In finance, and in the business world, it’s never going to be a back-to-back show-reel of Instagram highlights where we win every day.

There will be periods of massive growth and then there will be months and even years where nothing happens – times where we show up for work each day expecting something big to happen and it doesn’t.

 

5. The need for a side hustle.

Our career can’t always be full of highlights, which is why we need a side hustle. Think of it like another avenue that we can use to kick goals, grow and broaden your skills. For me, outside of working in finance, it became social media and blogging. Over the last five years of my finance career, I’ve hustled my face off learning somewhat non-related skills that have nothing to do with finance.

Side hustles allow us to explore our wild side. Working in finance can be quite dry and without my side hustle, I may have succumbed to suppressing my emotions, wearing a corporate mask and dressing in a suit and tie every day.

Side hustles helped me keep it real. Some days I work in jeans and a t-shirt. Other days I wear the cliché suit. My side hustle helped me live a little and get some perspective on what the finance industry was really about. The answer? Like every business, finance is about people.

 

6. Once we understand people, we’re set.

People go through a range of emotions every day. Once we understand that what’s happening in business could be entirely down to the fact they’re human, and nothing to do with business, we see the business landscape differently.

We become more compassionate to stakeholders, we treat customers with kindness and we quit thinking that we’re a freaking genius that has all the answers and if only people would listen to us the business would make 10X the profits.

Business is about people and by understanding them we can see it for what it is. Our customers are also people, and our interactions with them become easier when we come to grips with this fact.

If I were to get you to learn one thing, it would be the basics of psychology. Most of the key points can be Googled for free but the value they bring will help whether you’re in finance or any another industry.

 

7. We’re all constantly growing in secret.

I always thought that GM’s, CEO’s, etc, had it made. I always thought that they woke up each day and came to work with a killer instinct. The finance industry taught me I was wrong. The leaders we admire with those big job titles are just like you and me: they’re scared as F.

The difference is that the leaders we admire are growing in secret.

You think they have it made but when you get in their head, you realize that even with their success they suffer the same human pitfalls that you and I do. The difference is they embrace those pitfalls and take action regardless.

Even your heroes are fearful when they have to perform, but they do it anyway.

 

8. Your happiness doesn’t stay the same.

At the start of a new role in any industry, we’re loaded with energy. We come to work with new strategies and different ways to acquire customers. Then a few years go by and we become a bit negative. We see the same challenges over and over and the same people failing to take action.

This can lead to unhappiness in our career.

What working in finance has taught me is that there will be times we’re really happy with our role and other times where we are unhappy.

What we learn in the unhappy times helps us when we’re living through the happy times. If you expect to get into any industry and be blazing on fire for decades straight you’ll be sadly disappointed. One solution I’ve found is to change up my career and try new things.

Maybe you start in a sales role and end up working in product or risk. Maybe you work in customer service and end up in a strategy role.

Much of the unhappiness is tied to boredom and changing roles can help reboot our happiness at work.

 

9. Innovation is much harder than we think.

Geez, if there’s is one thing I have seen a lot of in many financial services businesses it’s innovation. So many companies have tried it and it never works. Sometimes it’s too much red tape that is put around the business or idea which ultimately suffocates the life out of any opportunity to innovate.

Other times it’s the wrong people that kill the innovation.

“Surprisingly, one thing that makes innovation really challenging is an abundance of resources”

Large businesses can afford to throw lots of money against the wall at innovation whereas startups can’t.

The limitations and budget restraints a startup has are often why they can be nimble and innovative. In the end, true innovation is damn hard. If it were easy, then many businesses would be more successful than they are.

The key is not to give up on innovation. It’s a slow process to embed innovation into the culture of a business and get results. True innovation requires a lot more failure than the leaders in the business world are often comfortable with.

It’s only by looking at what doesn’t work that we find truly innovative solutions.

 

10. It’s not about networking: it’s about helping.

Someone emailed me yesterday and said, “Hey I’d like to network with you.”

I thought to myself “Wow that sounds really silly!”

This idea that we have to network is stupid. What makes more sense is to build relationships just like we would with friends. Networking is focused too much on what we can get and what we will give in return. It’s transactional and it feels unnatural.

The subtle difference is that when we build a relationship with someone (instead of network with them) we’re not seeking anything from them. There’s no expectation and that’s where the magic lies right there.

 

11. We all experience bad publicity. It’s how we handle it.

Even monster success stories like Facebook have bad publicity. Working in finance can have some ugly moments. Not everyone is honest and there will be times where the business you work for or even your own business may face negative publicity.

No company or industry (including finance) is perfect. Businesses make mistakes just like humans do because ‘Business’ is just a label for a group of humans doing their life’s work.

Expecting the company you work for to be a perfect corporate citizen is a fantasy.

 

12. Listening to customers is not easy but it works.

Working in finance has allowed me to see my fair share of angry customers. For years, I tried to defend my position and this caused me to miss what the customer was saying.

After a while in finance, I learned that if you shut up and listen to the client, you learn much more. Sometimes they might yell at you for 30-minutes flat. Sit there and listen.

By listening, you get the chance to understand the problem fully and it gets your mind ticking with ideas. When people feel they are being properly listened to, they’re more receptive to the solutions you present for their problems.

It’s freaking revolutionary when you listen more. Not just in business but in life too.

 

13. What you have for lunch matters.

I was eating chicken nuggets in a bread roll for ages and it caused me to be sleepy in the afternoon. This killed my productivity and my desire to work effectively so I would cram all my challenging tasks into the morning.

Once I learned what a proper lunch was and began eating one every day, my energy, mood and productivity improved. I’m still getting better but what I learned is to monitor carefully what I eat if I want the energy to excel in my career. Bread, at lunchtime in particular, tends to suck away my energy later in the afternoon.

 

14. Kindness and compassion are superpowers.

Your humility separates you from the pack. Trying my best in my finance career to show compassion and be kind to people has helped me immensely. These two traits are rarer than you think.

In the business world, kindness and compassion are the glue that sticks all of the right opportunities together for you and presents them as a beautiful collage.

The reason I’ve had some cool opportunities (particularly of late) is that I’ve tried to be different instead of being like everyone else. I’ve questioned the way business works and experimented with kindness and compassion.

It turns out these two traits make people see me in a weird way. It’s almost like these two traits make me more human.

Kindness and compassion are about seeing the best in people before making assumptions that they’re out to screw you. Kindness and compassion are about believing in the power of the human species above all else.

 

15. Taking off the mask is freeing.

For the first half of my career in finance, I wore a mask. It’s hard to admit but it’s true. I used corporate language like “revenue targets” and “customer value proposition” and took a notepad to meetings to look smart. I wore the nicely ironed suit with the cute little cufflinks.

I said hello politely to everyone and was graceful. When it came to social media, I promoted the company and supported my colleagues. I told people I liked what they did even when I didn’t.

I did all of this because I thought that being fake and wearing a mask of bravery and perfection was what you had to do to succeed. I thought that’s how business land worked.

I found that all of this acting became exhausting and it was incongruent with who I really was. Deep down, I was an entrepreneur and a highly creative person that wanted to express himself.

After a string of bizarre situations – like narrowly missing cancer and seeing a few people close to me like my grandma pass away – I decided to throw away the mask.

I started dropping the odd F-Bomb. I told people politely when I didn’t like their idea. I became brutally honest with clients and stopped telling them what they wanted to hear.

All of this led to the real version of me being on display. Some people liked it and others weren’t interested.

“Either way, you can’t keep faking it till you make it at work every day because eventually, you’ll fall down from all the BS and wonder whose life you’ve been living for the last six years”

 

16. Scheduling holidays in advance provides additional motivation.

Let’s not pretend we’re 100% motivated each week at work. Some weeks will suck and that’s normal. Booking holidays in advance gives me a permanent memory of yet another thing that’s great about life: taking breaks.

The first half of my finance career involved almost no holidays. Not only did I become burnt out, but I also didn’t have as much to look forward to. Then I began booking in holidays to New Zealand, the USA and Japan. My motivation changed. I’d work harder leading up to holiday time so that I could take an even bigger break away from it all.

Holidays became like a reset button for my finance career and they gave me something else to aim for other than boring old KPIs.

 

17. Working really long hours means there’s a problem.

There have been a lot of times I’ve encountered people in finance working their butt off. I used to think it’s cool; now I see it as a problem.

If you’re working long hours, there is a problem. You’re either unproductive, distracted or under-resourced. All of these issues can be resolved and working stupidly hard is not the answer.

“Productivity is the opposite of working long hours”

 

18. You’ll have to speak in front of others.

That’s why I tell everybody to get their arse to Toastmasters and learn how to speak without having a thousand Ums and Ahs between every word. Public speaking is a basic form of communication and mastering it is how you get across your ideas, visions and tell phenomenal stories.

No matter your speaking ability in front of others, it’s time to improve it.

 

19. Most people have no idea about business so don’t feel so bad.

Yep, that’s the truth! All these people you meet in business that sound like they know what they’re talking about often don’t. They are just regurgitating something they heard or read which they thought was right.

We all pretend like business is an art and so many times it’s not what it’s made out to be. The science of business has more to do with life skills than anything else. Most books about business try and overcomplicate something that isn’t that hard.

“The greatest challenge and complexity with business is understanding its simplicity”

 

20. Change is guaranteed. Why not embrace it?

And here’s the final thing I’ll say: whether you work in finance like me or in another industry, change is guaranteed. One of these will happen to you:

–    Your industry will be disrupted if it hasn’t been already

–    Your company will go through a restructure, merger or be acquired which may cause you to lose your job

–    The business you are a part of could fail

–    Or a natural disaster or manmade event like a GFC could screw with your career

Change is guaranteed in your career so rather than avoiding it, what I’ve learned in finance is to embrace it. See the fork in the road as the greatest gift you’ve ever been given.

Welcome change with open arms otherwise it will be the kiss of death to your perfect, cookie-cutter career in whatever.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Matt Swintz

    May 7, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks, Tim!

    As someone who is relatively early on in my professional life, I really appreciate this wisdom.

    #1 is a big part of my life because it seems like there’s always something better I should have done.

    #10 sticks out as well because I have always felt awkward trying to “network”. Your thoughts here echo the book Never Eat Alone where they talk about being a connector and helping people as opposed to what networking is typically thought of as.

    I really enjoyed this article!

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Success Advice

Success is for the Self-Taught

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Truman Capote, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla. Those are four names you never thought you’d see in a sentence together. As it happens, these four individuals have more in common than their success, ingenuity, and fame. They were all autodidacts. In other words, they were self-taught learners.

The talents and innovations that skyrocketed them to fame were the products of their own teachings. Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean a formal education is a waste of time. However, it goes to show that success is crafted solely by commitment and focus. While college and traineeships can prepare us for the groundwork of what we pursue, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals to teach ourselves how to refine our knowledge for success.

It’s the self-taught principles that allow us to distinguish our own work from that of others. With the help of the internet, self-taught success is more possible than ever. And there are plenty of ways to reach our inner autodidact.

Elon Musk had science degrees from top Ivy League universities, but he still credits most of his knowledge to the textbooks he allegedly “committed to memory.” Reading is just one way to teach yourself everything you need to know. Aspiring inventors can surely learn a lot by sacrificing some of their leisure time to sit down with a textbook.

For writers and artists, the best study is to just read. Read anything. Inspiration can be derived from poetry, works of fiction, etc. These also help you develop your writing skills, which is an important asset for any aspiring entrepreneur.

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” – Isaac Asimov

With the help of online Master Classes, Youtube videos, and apps – where online courses developed by some of the top U.S. educational institutions can be accessed remotely – self-taught success is more attainable than ever.

What’s more, we learn through practice. We can publish our own eBooks through Amazon without the publishing house bureaucracy. We can advertise our product, brand, or service through social media savvy without astronomical advertising costs. And as we practice, we learn. We gain feedback from our followers, learn from our mistakes, and do it better the second time around.

Even when you’re teaching yourself, others are always helping. However, you get to decide which lessons are most constructive, and you get to apply them to the real world in real-time.

The Science of Self-Taught

People have a tendency to romanticize the concept of self-taught success. It’s not a solution for laziness, or an excuse for lack of motivation. In many cases, teaching yourself is more work than being taught. The level of accountability rises when you are both teacher and student. Furthermore, it requires more discipline. Without a structured schedule or a guaranteed reward at the end of your efforts, your only hope is your dedication.

Beyond this, however, the only thing stopping most people from teaching themselves is insecurity. Fear of failure and inadequacy halts self-taught learners in their tracks. Especially because with self-teaching, inevitably, comes occasional failure. Unfortunately, the self-taught often feel they have nobody to blame the failure on but themselves – no teachers, mentors, or trainers as scapegoats.

According to Psychology Today, there is nothing that makes certain people better self-taught learners than others. The only difference is motivation, and willingness to overcome that lingering insecurity. Even the concept of “learning styles” is erroneous, says Psychology Today. While each individual is different, ability to learn is not based on preference, but expertise.

Beginners learn better from examples, while experts learn better by solving problems. This builds yet another case for autodidacts, who are more likely to learn by experience – the most effective method.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein

The Rewards of Being Self-Taught

The fruits of your labor taste sweeter when you’ve taught yourself how to grow them. As such, success is more enjoyable when your self-education has contributed to it. All successful individuals have something in common: they’ve taken the initiative to teach themselves new things, or to supplement their formal education with self-teaching, as well.

Therefore, not all groundbreaking inventors, artists, and philosophers are solely self-taught. However, they’ve still accompanied their college training with their own individual quest for knowledge.

There is a simple reason why autodidacts thrive the most: because they’re always learning. The one mistake people who solely rely on formal education and training make is the mistake of stopping their learning process altogether once it’s over. Not only does this prevent you from being up-to-date on the latest concepts and advancements in your field, but it obstructs your brain’s thirst for mental stimulation.

By constantly learning and teaching ourselves new things, no matter how small or large they might be, we could change the course of our overall health and well-being. Research even shows that mental stimulation (consisting of practicing memorization, learning new things, and improving our skill in existing hobbies) is key to slowing down the development of, and possibly even reversing, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn was noted for saying, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” This does not mean you should abandon the pursuit of formal education, as it often serves as the foundation for self-education. But, it does mean we should maintain, cater to, and quench our thirst for knowledge as much as we possibly can.

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Success Advice

6 Expert Tips for Building Relationships With Those You Idolize

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Many of us dream of one day meeting a celebrity. Be it a movie star or a pro football player, we have a tendency to idolize these individuals, even looking to them for guidance as we make life decisions. In business, we can also find people we idolize. Individuals who have achieved great success with their own company or even revolutionized an industry.

From these people, we can learn key skills, gain valuable insights or even form partnerships to take our own business ventures to the next level. Yes, it is possible to form real relationships with your business idols or industry influencers. But like any other relationship, it requires work.

Here’s 6 ways you can start forming the relationships that will make a lasting difference for your entrepreneurial goals:

1. Do Your Research

Facebook stalking may be creepy for normal relationships, but doing some online research is perfectly okay for business leaders and influencers. After all, most influencers are extremely active online, either through social media, their own website or guest blogging. This basic research gives you a chance to better understand your business idol.

What do they like or dislike? What are their opinions on current trends? What do they talk like? These simple bits of information will help you better know how to approach them and determine if a relationship could prove beneficial.

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

2. Comment Carefully

Your initial research also serves as your first chance for engagement with your business idol. By liking social media posts or leaving thoughtful comments on blog articles, you can make a positive first impression.

Of course, leaving quality comments is sometimes easier said than done. As Kevin Duncan of SmartBlogger explains, thoughtfully contributing to the discussion with personal experiences or meaningful questions are a great way to get the conversation started.

“When you share a personal insight, bloggers can more easily relate to you. You’re no longer just an unfamiliar name making a comment that could have been left by anyone …the more personal your insight, the more unique it will be. And the more unique your insight, the more memorable your comment will be and the more you’ll stand out.”

3. Group Participation

Business leaders and influencers won’t only be found on blogs. Many are also active participants in online industry groups. Whether on Facebook or LinkedIn, these groups allow industry professionals to discuss current trends, ask for advice, or share new opportunities.

If you wish to make a positive impression, you should seek out, join and actively participate in these online groups. Avoid the temptation to promote yourself or your business. Instead, engage in conversations much like you would with a quality blog comment. By sharing your unique experiences and insights, you’ll build a stronger reputation among your peers.

4. Face Time

Online discussions are a great place to start, but the best relationships typically require some face-to-face interaction. You make a much more lasting impression when you have an in-person conversation. Industry conventions or lectures are great places to connect with others in your field. When you show yourself as a living, breathing human being, rather than just a name behind the computer, it becomes so much easier to make a personal connection and form a real, lasting relationship — and that can pay big dividends for future pitches.

Setting up a face-to-face meeting can be tricky. After all, you don’t want to come off as creepy. However, if you’ve already established an online rapport, asking if an influencer would like to briefly meet in person at an event you’re both attending shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Add Value

All relationships have a bit of give and take — and this is especially true when forming relationships in the business world. If you’re only approaching a business idol because you hope to gain something (like an extra investor in your startup), you likely won’t have success. Instead, find ways that you can contribute value.

As leadership consultant Randy Hain explains, “‘What can I do to help you?’ is absolutely one of the best ways to get business relationships off to a great start. Invest in the other person first, with no expectation of return. Do not keep score. Simply make the investment and over time you will benefit from the seeds of generosity you have planted.”

“Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” – Sallie Krawcheck

6. Focus On the Long-Term

The aforementioned tactics aren’t “one and done” tips. Instead, you’ll need to continually practice them to show your genuine interest and build the kinds of friendships that can pay lasting dividends for everyone involved.

Relationships aren’t a short-term investment — and this is especially true if you want help on your own road to success. Real relationships need time to grow. They need continual nurturing. With a patient, long-term approach, you’ll be less tempted to jump right into a sales pitch and more likely to focus on a genuine friendship that delivers a real payoff.

Becoming an entrepreneur may put you in the role of the underdog — but this doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. As you form genuine relationships with influencers and other business professionals, you’ll gain access to new sources of knowledge.

You’ll find friends who are willing to help or mentors willing to share their time. You may even find a new business partner. Relationship-building is a lifelong endeavor, but it will always pay off in the end.

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Success Advice

Stop Denying Your Negative Thoughts and Start Embracing Them

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Over the years, many of the talking heads and pundits in the personal development and success science industry have talked about the immediate replacement of negative thoughts with positive thoughts. The logic behind that particular behavioral strategy seems to make sense on the surface. Think about it, when a negative thought rears its ugly head, we should immediately dive into the repository of positive thoughts that we have available to us so that we could immediately begin to dwell on it.

Even further, some gurus of the genre suggest removing any chance of having a negative thought by the constant repetition of affirmations. Again, tried-and-true motivational technology that is very workable and still useful. I would suggest, however, that you view the above behaviors as tactics more than strategies.

I will further suggest to you that you do not abhor your negative thoughts but rather embrace them, examine them, and place them under a spotlight. My reasoning behind this goes back over 100 years into psychology with stimulus/response, that is, the cause and effect of certain behaviors. Many individuals look at a negative thought as a causative driver. The negative thought exists as a cause, and our behavior toward that cause will determine the effect.

So, following this logic, if an individual has a negative thought which makes them feel sad, and that sadness causes them to binge drink, by removing the negative thought you’ll have removed the motivation for binge drinking. Doesn’t that sound kind of silly? The suggestion here is to turn off the negative thought so that it will turn off the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, this makes sense if we view the negative thought as a primal force in behavior. So, what if we started to think of the negative thought more as the result of something else? It means that the “something else” must change first. What if we took a different approach? What if we looked at a negative thought as an effect of some larger causal factor?

“You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, ‘Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.’ See the positive in negative events.” – Joel Osteen

By reversing the cause-and-effect motion of negative thinking (saying that the negative thought is an effect), we now can ask a deeper, more penetrative question: Why are we thinking that negative thought? What is the underlying cause of that specific train of thinking? By reversing the cause-and-effect relationship of negative thinking, it allows the negative thinker to assume the role of diagnostician!

Below is a three-step process you can use to examine your negative thoughts, the role of it in your life, and how you can get rid of them:

1. Simply acknowledge the negative thought

Recognize the fact that there’s a negative thought in your mind instead of trying to go through a process of emotionally overlaying positive thoughts on top of it. Can you see how this exacerbates the issue? You have a negative thought, you immediately recognize that it must be changed, and you frantically scurry through the museum of your mind to find a positive thought to replace it.

In the meantime, while you are trying to find that positive thought, you’re feeling anxious, nervous, and guilty! When you finally find a positive thought to replace that negative thought, the normal process is to squash it. But you can’t! It’s like trying to get rid of weeds by covering them with rocks.

They will always find another way around the rock. It is the same with negative thoughts. Consequently, try acknowledging the negative thought.

2. Affirm the negative thought

It is a part of you. Instead of denying its existence, accept that it is there in front of you and that you are now willing to deal with it. If any of you reading this are dog lovers, you will know that the best way to get a dog next to you is by attempting to push it away from you. Every time you push the dog away it gets closer. This is the same with negative thinking because the harder you push the closer it gets.

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” – Michael Jordan

3. Acquit the thought

Give it permission to leave you. Thank it for its past importance in your life and allow it to be on its way! At this point feel free to replace the negative thought with a positive thought. What will begin to happen when you place the negative thought under the spotlight is that you will see how insignificantly small it actually is.

This is a process I’ve been using for quite some time, and it works! Oh sure, I still use affirmations on a daily basis; as a matter fact I have them right here in front of me. I find that affirmations are a tremendous way to stay positive because it doesn’t allow any room for bad things to grow. But since the average person thinks 60,000 to 65,000 thoughts per day, let’s face it, a few negative thoughts have to squeak in there!

The best advice that I can give is to not freak out over a negative thought. Acknowledge it, affirm it, and acquit it! This is magic. Watch what happens!

How do you handle negative thoughts? Let us know your tips below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Success Advice

One Thing I Can Teach You About Life That Will Help You Forever.

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I used to be a very anxious person.

I was embarrassed by what I couldn’t do and every day was a struggle. From the moment I would wake up to the moment I’d go to bed, everything felt impossibly overwhelming. It’s a battle I’ve dealt with most of my life.

This daily struggle with mental illness taught me that the satisfaction didn’t lie in beating it; the satisfaction was in helping other people beat mental illness through my success in fighting it.


Recently, I was at work. It was a pretty standard day — nothing too exciting. I then had a catch up with one of the leaders I worked with.

She said something that got my attention: “One of our colleagues is battling a mental illness.”

I really wanted to help. My eyes lit up. There was no need to uncover my plan with anyone else. I knew that staying discrete was fundamental.

I approached the person in question and asked for a few minutes of their time.

I didn’t ask them to admit their mental illness struggle; I just shared my story.

I talked about the anxiety stopping me from having a normal life, eating the right foods, going on dates with girls, having the career I wanted and traveling the world.

I wasn’t sure if any of it was sinking in or even helping. I felt compelled to go on. One thing I knew was that he was paying attention. I could see it in his eyes.

I then went on to talk about how I beat mental illness. Strategies such as:

  • Creating fear lists
  • Seeking professional help
  • Working on myself
  • Books I read
  • Events I attended

Out of nowhere, he started opening up about his own struggle. I was shocked.
It wasn’t pretty. He had an extreme case of mental illness that I certainly couldn’t diagnose or give professional advice on.

All I could do was show him through my own story that there was hope

I offered him access to all the resources I had. I told him that he had my full support and I’d be happy to help in any way I could. He then said:

“What was your psychologist’s name?”

I told him I’d look it up and send it to him. I didn’t have the answer in front of me, but I was determined when I got home to find it.

At the end of the catch-up, he smiled. I don’t think he’d smiled like that in a very long time.

That smile gave me so much satisfaction. It made my own struggle with mental illness worth it. All those sleepless nights, times spent vomiting into the toilet and dark days where I didn’t want to go on made sense.


“It took more than seven years for me to understand that my own battle with mental illness actually had a benefit”

That benefit was the satisfaction in seeing someone beat their mental illness because I was able to defeat mine.

It’s probably the greatest satisfaction of my entire life.

That’s one thing I can teach you about life that will help you forever.

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Success Advice

Success is for the Self-Taught

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Truman Capote, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla. Those are four names you never thought you’d see in a sentence together. As it happens, these four individuals have more in common than their success, ingenuity, and fame. They were all autodidacts. In other words, they were self-taught learners. (more…)

Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Every USB, helping business and entrepreneurs with their branding through the use of custom flash drives.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Matt Swintz

    May 7, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks, Tim!

    As someone who is relatively early on in my professional life, I really appreciate this wisdom.

    #1 is a big part of my life because it seems like there’s always something better I should have done.

    #10 sticks out as well because I have always felt awkward trying to “network”. Your thoughts here echo the book Never Eat Alone where they talk about being a connector and helping people as opposed to what networking is typically thought of as.

    I really enjoyed this article!

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Success Advice

Success is for the Self-Taught

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self education
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Truman Capote, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla. Those are four names you never thought you’d see in a sentence together. As it happens, these four individuals have more in common than their success, ingenuity, and fame. They were all autodidacts. In other words, they were self-taught learners.

The talents and innovations that skyrocketed them to fame were the products of their own teachings. Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean a formal education is a waste of time. However, it goes to show that success is crafted solely by commitment and focus. While college and traineeships can prepare us for the groundwork of what we pursue, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals to teach ourselves how to refine our knowledge for success.

It’s the self-taught principles that allow us to distinguish our own work from that of others. With the help of the internet, self-taught success is more possible than ever. And there are plenty of ways to reach our inner autodidact.

Elon Musk had science degrees from top Ivy League universities, but he still credits most of his knowledge to the textbooks he allegedly “committed to memory.” Reading is just one way to teach yourself everything you need to know. Aspiring inventors can surely learn a lot by sacrificing some of their leisure time to sit down with a textbook.

For writers and artists, the best study is to just read. Read anything. Inspiration can be derived from poetry, works of fiction, etc. These also help you develop your writing skills, which is an important asset for any aspiring entrepreneur.

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” – Isaac Asimov

With the help of online Master Classes, Youtube videos, and apps – where online courses developed by some of the top U.S. educational institutions can be accessed remotely – self-taught success is more attainable than ever.

What’s more, we learn through practice. We can publish our own eBooks through Amazon without the publishing house bureaucracy. We can advertise our product, brand, or service through social media savvy without astronomical advertising costs. And as we practice, we learn. We gain feedback from our followers, learn from our mistakes, and do it better the second time around.

Even when you’re teaching yourself, others are always helping. However, you get to decide which lessons are most constructive, and you get to apply them to the real world in real-time.

The Science of Self-Taught

People have a tendency to romanticize the concept of self-taught success. It’s not a solution for laziness, or an excuse for lack of motivation. In many cases, teaching yourself is more work than being taught. The level of accountability rises when you are both teacher and student. Furthermore, it requires more discipline. Without a structured schedule or a guaranteed reward at the end of your efforts, your only hope is your dedication.

Beyond this, however, the only thing stopping most people from teaching themselves is insecurity. Fear of failure and inadequacy halts self-taught learners in their tracks. Especially because with self-teaching, inevitably, comes occasional failure. Unfortunately, the self-taught often feel they have nobody to blame the failure on but themselves – no teachers, mentors, or trainers as scapegoats.

According to Psychology Today, there is nothing that makes certain people better self-taught learners than others. The only difference is motivation, and willingness to overcome that lingering insecurity. Even the concept of “learning styles” is erroneous, says Psychology Today. While each individual is different, ability to learn is not based on preference, but expertise.

Beginners learn better from examples, while experts learn better by solving problems. This builds yet another case for autodidacts, who are more likely to learn by experience – the most effective method.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein

The Rewards of Being Self-Taught

The fruits of your labor taste sweeter when you’ve taught yourself how to grow them. As such, success is more enjoyable when your self-education has contributed to it. All successful individuals have something in common: they’ve taken the initiative to teach themselves new things, or to supplement their formal education with self-teaching, as well.

Therefore, not all groundbreaking inventors, artists, and philosophers are solely self-taught. However, they’ve still accompanied their college training with their own individual quest for knowledge.

There is a simple reason why autodidacts thrive the most: because they’re always learning. The one mistake people who solely rely on formal education and training make is the mistake of stopping their learning process altogether once it’s over. Not only does this prevent you from being up-to-date on the latest concepts and advancements in your field, but it obstructs your brain’s thirst for mental stimulation.

By constantly learning and teaching ourselves new things, no matter how small or large they might be, we could change the course of our overall health and well-being. Research even shows that mental stimulation (consisting of practicing memorization, learning new things, and improving our skill in existing hobbies) is key to slowing down the development of, and possibly even reversing, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn was noted for saying, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” This does not mean you should abandon the pursuit of formal education, as it often serves as the foundation for self-education. But, it does mean we should maintain, cater to, and quench our thirst for knowledge as much as we possibly can.

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Success Advice

6 Expert Tips for Building Relationships With Those You Idolize

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Many of us dream of one day meeting a celebrity. Be it a movie star or a pro football player, we have a tendency to idolize these individuals, even looking to them for guidance as we make life decisions. In business, we can also find people we idolize. Individuals who have achieved great success with their own company or even revolutionized an industry.

From these people, we can learn key skills, gain valuable insights or even form partnerships to take our own business ventures to the next level. Yes, it is possible to form real relationships with your business idols or industry influencers. But like any other relationship, it requires work.

Here’s 6 ways you can start forming the relationships that will make a lasting difference for your entrepreneurial goals:

1. Do Your Research

Facebook stalking may be creepy for normal relationships, but doing some online research is perfectly okay for business leaders and influencers. After all, most influencers are extremely active online, either through social media, their own website or guest blogging. This basic research gives you a chance to better understand your business idol.

What do they like or dislike? What are their opinions on current trends? What do they talk like? These simple bits of information will help you better know how to approach them and determine if a relationship could prove beneficial.

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

2. Comment Carefully

Your initial research also serves as your first chance for engagement with your business idol. By liking social media posts or leaving thoughtful comments on blog articles, you can make a positive first impression.

Of course, leaving quality comments is sometimes easier said than done. As Kevin Duncan of SmartBlogger explains, thoughtfully contributing to the discussion with personal experiences or meaningful questions are a great way to get the conversation started.

“When you share a personal insight, bloggers can more easily relate to you. You’re no longer just an unfamiliar name making a comment that could have been left by anyone …the more personal your insight, the more unique it will be. And the more unique your insight, the more memorable your comment will be and the more you’ll stand out.”

3. Group Participation

Business leaders and influencers won’t only be found on blogs. Many are also active participants in online industry groups. Whether on Facebook or LinkedIn, these groups allow industry professionals to discuss current trends, ask for advice, or share new opportunities.

If you wish to make a positive impression, you should seek out, join and actively participate in these online groups. Avoid the temptation to promote yourself or your business. Instead, engage in conversations much like you would with a quality blog comment. By sharing your unique experiences and insights, you’ll build a stronger reputation among your peers.

4. Face Time

Online discussions are a great place to start, but the best relationships typically require some face-to-face interaction. You make a much more lasting impression when you have an in-person conversation. Industry conventions or lectures are great places to connect with others in your field. When you show yourself as a living, breathing human being, rather than just a name behind the computer, it becomes so much easier to make a personal connection and form a real, lasting relationship — and that can pay big dividends for future pitches.

Setting up a face-to-face meeting can be tricky. After all, you don’t want to come off as creepy. However, if you’ve already established an online rapport, asking if an influencer would like to briefly meet in person at an event you’re both attending shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Add Value

All relationships have a bit of give and take — and this is especially true when forming relationships in the business world. If you’re only approaching a business idol because you hope to gain something (like an extra investor in your startup), you likely won’t have success. Instead, find ways that you can contribute value.

As leadership consultant Randy Hain explains, “‘What can I do to help you?’ is absolutely one of the best ways to get business relationships off to a great start. Invest in the other person first, with no expectation of return. Do not keep score. Simply make the investment and over time you will benefit from the seeds of generosity you have planted.”

“Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” – Sallie Krawcheck

6. Focus On the Long-Term

The aforementioned tactics aren’t “one and done” tips. Instead, you’ll need to continually practice them to show your genuine interest and build the kinds of friendships that can pay lasting dividends for everyone involved.

Relationships aren’t a short-term investment — and this is especially true if you want help on your own road to success. Real relationships need time to grow. They need continual nurturing. With a patient, long-term approach, you’ll be less tempted to jump right into a sales pitch and more likely to focus on a genuine friendship that delivers a real payoff.

Becoming an entrepreneur may put you in the role of the underdog — but this doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. As you form genuine relationships with influencers and other business professionals, you’ll gain access to new sources of knowledge.

You’ll find friends who are willing to help or mentors willing to share their time. You may even find a new business partner. Relationship-building is a lifelong endeavor, but it will always pay off in the end.

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Success Advice

Stop Denying Your Negative Thoughts and Start Embracing Them

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Over the years, many of the talking heads and pundits in the personal development and success science industry have talked about the immediate replacement of negative thoughts with positive thoughts. The logic behind that particular behavioral strategy seems to make sense on the surface. Think about it, when a negative thought rears its ugly head, we should immediately dive into the repository of positive thoughts that we have available to us so that we could immediately begin to dwell on it.

Even further, some gurus of the genre suggest removing any chance of having a negative thought by the constant repetition of affirmations. Again, tried-and-true motivational technology that is very workable and still useful. I would suggest, however, that you view the above behaviors as tactics more than strategies.

I will further suggest to you that you do not abhor your negative thoughts but rather embrace them, examine them, and place them under a spotlight. My reasoning behind this goes back over 100 years into psychology with stimulus/response, that is, the cause and effect of certain behaviors. Many individuals look at a negative thought as a causative driver. The negative thought exists as a cause, and our behavior toward that cause will determine the effect.

So, following this logic, if an individual has a negative thought which makes them feel sad, and that sadness causes them to binge drink, by removing the negative thought you’ll have removed the motivation for binge drinking. Doesn’t that sound kind of silly? The suggestion here is to turn off the negative thought so that it will turn off the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, this makes sense if we view the negative thought as a primal force in behavior. So, what if we started to think of the negative thought more as the result of something else? It means that the “something else” must change first. What if we took a different approach? What if we looked at a negative thought as an effect of some larger causal factor?

“You’re going to go through tough times – that’s life. But I say, ‘Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.’ See the positive in negative events.” – Joel Osteen

By reversing the cause-and-effect motion of negative thinking (saying that the negative thought is an effect), we now can ask a deeper, more penetrative question: Why are we thinking that negative thought? What is the underlying cause of that specific train of thinking? By reversing the cause-and-effect relationship of negative thinking, it allows the negative thinker to assume the role of diagnostician!

Below is a three-step process you can use to examine your negative thoughts, the role of it in your life, and how you can get rid of them:

1. Simply acknowledge the negative thought

Recognize the fact that there’s a negative thought in your mind instead of trying to go through a process of emotionally overlaying positive thoughts on top of it. Can you see how this exacerbates the issue? You have a negative thought, you immediately recognize that it must be changed, and you frantically scurry through the museum of your mind to find a positive thought to replace it.

In the meantime, while you are trying to find that positive thought, you’re feeling anxious, nervous, and guilty! When you finally find a positive thought to replace that negative thought, the normal process is to squash it. But you can’t! It’s like trying to get rid of weeds by covering them with rocks.

They will always find another way around the rock. It is the same with negative thoughts. Consequently, try acknowledging the negative thought.

2. Affirm the negative thought

It is a part of you. Instead of denying its existence, accept that it is there in front of you and that you are now willing to deal with it. If any of you reading this are dog lovers, you will know that the best way to get a dog next to you is by attempting to push it away from you. Every time you push the dog away it gets closer. This is the same with negative thinking because the harder you push the closer it gets.

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” – Michael Jordan

3. Acquit the thought

Give it permission to leave you. Thank it for its past importance in your life and allow it to be on its way! At this point feel free to replace the negative thought with a positive thought. What will begin to happen when you place the negative thought under the spotlight is that you will see how insignificantly small it actually is.

This is a process I’ve been using for quite some time, and it works! Oh sure, I still use affirmations on a daily basis; as a matter fact I have them right here in front of me. I find that affirmations are a tremendous way to stay positive because it doesn’t allow any room for bad things to grow. But since the average person thinks 60,000 to 65,000 thoughts per day, let’s face it, a few negative thoughts have to squeak in there!

The best advice that I can give is to not freak out over a negative thought. Acknowledge it, affirm it, and acquit it! This is magic. Watch what happens!

How do you handle negative thoughts? Let us know your tips below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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One Thing I Can Teach You About Life That Will Help You Forever.

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I used to be a very anxious person.

I was embarrassed by what I couldn’t do and every day was a struggle. From the moment I would wake up to the moment I’d go to bed, everything felt impossibly overwhelming. It’s a battle I’ve dealt with most of my life.

This daily struggle with mental illness taught me that the satisfaction didn’t lie in beating it; the satisfaction was in helping other people beat mental illness through my success in fighting it.


Recently, I was at work. It was a pretty standard day — nothing too exciting. I then had a catch up with one of the leaders I worked with.

She said something that got my attention: “One of our colleagues is battling a mental illness.”

I really wanted to help. My eyes lit up. There was no need to uncover my plan with anyone else. I knew that staying discrete was fundamental.

I approached the person in question and asked for a few minutes of their time.

I didn’t ask them to admit their mental illness struggle; I just shared my story.

I talked about the anxiety stopping me from having a normal life, eating the right foods, going on dates with girls, having the career I wanted and traveling the world.

I wasn’t sure if any of it was sinking in or even helping. I felt compelled to go on. One thing I knew was that he was paying attention. I could see it in his eyes.

I then went on to talk about how I beat mental illness. Strategies such as:

  • Creating fear lists
  • Seeking professional help
  • Working on myself
  • Books I read
  • Events I attended

Out of nowhere, he started opening up about his own struggle. I was shocked.
It wasn’t pretty. He had an extreme case of mental illness that I certainly couldn’t diagnose or give professional advice on.

All I could do was show him through my own story that there was hope

I offered him access to all the resources I had. I told him that he had my full support and I’d be happy to help in any way I could. He then said:

“What was your psychologist’s name?”

I told him I’d look it up and send it to him. I didn’t have the answer in front of me, but I was determined when I got home to find it.

At the end of the catch-up, he smiled. I don’t think he’d smiled like that in a very long time.

That smile gave me so much satisfaction. It made my own struggle with mental illness worth it. All those sleepless nights, times spent vomiting into the toilet and dark days where I didn’t want to go on made sense.


“It took more than seven years for me to understand that my own battle with mental illness actually had a benefit”

That benefit was the satisfaction in seeing someone beat their mental illness because I was able to defeat mine.

It’s probably the greatest satisfaction of my entire life.

That’s one thing I can teach you about life that will help you forever.

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