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How to live richly and avoid regret.

In the 1990s, Randy Pausch, PhD, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, began giving speeches about time management. Pausch cautioned listeners not to waste energy on activities that seem urgent but aren't important. Choose instead, Pausch suggested, to spend time on activities that are deeply important, even if they don't seem critical.

That was an excellent speech. It would become extremely poignant in 2006, when the then 45-year-old Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Watching another of his speeches online - the famous "Last Lecture" (now a best-selling book), in which he teaches his three young children how to make their dreams come true - I wondered if this time management expert sensed, long before his diagnosis, that he'd spend less time on earth than anyone wished.

Pausch's work and his personal story drive home a lesson we all know but frequently forget:

To live richly and avoid regret, we must give priority to things of real importance.

But in a world where everything from your BlackBerry to your car's oil filter to your grandmother is competing for your limited time, this requires deliberate, consistent choice. The good news is that we can develop the habit of choosing what's really important over everything else. Life seems designed to teach us how to do this. Pay attention, and you'll notice that even when you're under "urgent" pressure to do something unimportant, it feels discordant and wrong. Do what really matters, and your life comes into harmonious alignment. 

Randy Pausch proposed categorizing all activities on Stephen Covey's matrix of apparent urgency and ultimate importance. 

We almost always do the things in Quadrant I (stuff that's both important and urgent, like feeding the kids and paying the rent), and almost never get to Quadrant IV (like reading junk mail). That's good. However, we tend to focus on Quadrant III (urgent but not important things, like talking to a demanding co-worker about her rotten boyfriend) to the detriment of Quadrant II (no-deadline pastimes like writing a book, basking in nature's beauty, or taking time to be still). Devote less time to the dinky tasks, even those that are urgent, and more time to those things that are really important. 

Here's an exercise he proposed:

1. Get 20 or 30 notecards. On each card, write down one thing you should do, want to do, hope to do, plan to do, or dream of doing. Include everything, no matter how large or small. Keep this up until your brain runs dry. 


2. When you've written down all your goals, plans, and ideas, separate the cards into two piles: things that have to be done right this minute (or feel like it) and those that don't.


3. Now go through both of these piles, separating each into "important" and "not important" stacks. The four resulting stacks correlate with the Covey Quadrants.


4. Carefully place both your "not important" card stacks in a safe spot. This, if my experience is any indication, will ensure that you'll never find them again. If you do happen to stumble across them at any time in the future, burn them.


5. Commit to eliminating from your schedule all the activities that didn't make it into the "important" stacks. If you have time after doing your important and urgent things, use it on important but not urgent activities. No matter how pressing something may seem to be, if it's not important, just don't do it.

From Theory to Practice: Living a Quadrant II Life

Planning to live this way is one thing; changing habits of thought and action is another. You're subjected to daily pressure to do things that, while unimportant in the long run, may seem unavoidable in the middle of a PTA meeting. Congratulate yourself every time you drop a Quadrant III activity and replace it with something from Quadrant II. Here are some substitutions I made after doing this exercise:

  • Postponed promoting new book to raise money for research on Down syndrome.
  • Canceled client meeting to bake my daughter's birthday cake.
  • Blew off e-mail to chat on the phone with dear friend.
  • Blew off e-mail to volunteer at local methadone clinic.
  • Blew off e-mail to exercise.
  • Blew off e-mail to bathe.
  • Blew off e-mail to sleep.
  • Blew off e-mail to sense a theme developing here.

How to Determine What's Important

As powerful as this exercise was for me, it posed a few vexing questions. Highly effective people seem to cut through life's complexities in bold, clean strokes; reading their books or watching their lectures, you can practically hear them telling their secretaries: "No, no, Mabel, can't you see that's urgent, but it's not important? And cancel my 5 o'clock; I'll be meeting with His Holiness the Pope instead."

By contrast, my prioritization is plagued with ambiguity. Is chasing my beagle round and round the sofa important? Urgent? Many would say it's neither, but Cookie clearly thinks it's both, and who am I to say he's wrong? I might dismiss Cookie's opinion on the grounds that he's small and furry, but what about, say, the authors who'd like me to promote their books? The stack of manuscripts in my office is taller than I am, and every volume is both urgent and important to its author. If you, like me, tend to include other people's priorities in your decision-making, the Covey Quadrant exercise requires you to break that pattern. You can't differentiate between "this is due today" and "this is important" when you are (to quote the 15th-century mystic Kabir) "tangled up in others." You must untangle yourself, still all other voices, and go to the deepest place within to know what's important and urgent in your unique and singular life.

This can be difficult at first, but as you focus on it, you'll discover a beautiful surprise: Your life has been waiting for just this opportunity to help you choose what's right for you, even when other people (and the occasional beagle) are telling you that their own code-red desires should take priority. It does this like a good psychological behaviorist, by making things difficult and taxing when they're not important, delicious and relatively effortless when they are.

When I say this to new clients, they look at me cynically, as if I've promised them a unicorn.

But when they begin paying attention, they soon notice how good life feels when they're doing what thrills them, and how bad it feels when they're not. The bad feeling is most noticeable at first; a sense of awkwardness, like petting a cat from back to front. Tasks go badly. My clients forget things: their keys, their wallets, the way to the office. Conversations are stilted. Energy ebbs without ever flowing. If these clients don't change course, unease may grow into anger, depression, health problems, or total burnout.

Uncomfortableness is a wonderful incentive to begin finding out how good a life of real significance can feel. Drop what's unimportant and replace it with activities from Covey Quadrant II—things that replenish your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being—and suddenly, everything becomes much easier. Energy returns, anger disappears, you begin smiling spontaneously. The cat stops generating static electricity, and starts to purr.

To follow your life's guidance, you may have to reassign some seemingly important things to "unimportant." If you believe that pleasing your horrible boss or having a spotless house is a higher priority than playing with your children or sleeping off the flu, be prepared for a long and strenuous battle against destiny. Also, be prepared to lose. And after you've lost, go online and watch Randy Pausch's last lecture. In Pausch, who died in July of 2008, you'll see the clarity and joy of a man who chose all along to do what really mattered. That's no consolation prize; that's true victory. 

As you focus more on what's important to your soul, filling your schedule with the kinds of things that are vital though maybe not due this minute, every day will bring more enjoyment and refreshment. You'll be fascinated and invigorated.

"This is the true joy in life," wrote George Bernard Shaw, "being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. ... Life is no 'brief candle' for me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." This is the credo of Quadrant II.

Abide by it, and you'll find a path that illuminates the world for you and others, even after you're gone. No matter what others may think, say, or do, your whole life will become a blaze of glory. 

(Adapted from an article by Martha Beck via O Magazine)

Lifehacks for the home.

We love saving you time at Fancy Hands. Our assistants do the tasks you don't want to, so that you can sit on the beach with a cocktail and relax. At some point, however, sad as it may be, we must all face an unpleasant chore or two. Here's how to get them done faster and smarter than the average Joe: 

1. Lint rollers. Stock up, people. Run one quickly over the bottom of your purse to pick up trash and spare change. Roll one over a carpet or table after craft time to grab all of your kid's glitter (or maybe do this after a bachelor party, once the glittery strippers leave).

2. Dude. Your dog's kinda dirty. It's nothing personal, it's just the way dogs are. Use bath mats as car seat protectors. The rubber bottom will keep it in place, and the thickness is better than a towel. 

3. Stain on your suede? Run a nail file over it gently. Boom. What stain?

4. Grease stains suck, too. Cornmeal soaks them up. Pour some on the sore spot, and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Vacuum up to remove the grains. Then make some cornbread for dinner and get another grease stain on the chair. It's the circle of life. 

5. Got a spiderweb or some other general funk in the corners of your ceiling? Secure a clean towel around your broom and swat it like a champ. Bonus points if you blast some music and turn this task into a calorie-burning dance. Triple points if you film it and send it to me. 

6. Tiny toys underfoot? Ugh. Don't pick them up one-by-one, use a dustpan to scoop them up and dump them into the toybox. Better yet, make your kid do this. Those aren't your toys. 

7. When you can't reach inside your vases to clean them, fill the container with warm water and drop in one or two denture-cleaning tablets for every eight ounces of warm water. Let the fizzy solution sit for the time specified on the product's box, swirl, and rinse. 

I'm having fun just imagining buying denture tablets at the store. Great opportunity to play a teeth-falling-out prank of some kind on the cashier.

8. Hot air quickly loosens sticker glue. Peel off, then turn your head upside down and give yourself a little mid-day blowout. Now you look fabulous and your glasses are sticker-free. 

9. If I lose one more plastic cup lid or straw to the dishwasher gods, I'm going to scream. The heater coil in the bottom melts anything that falls through the rack. Good thing I know about this trick now - put those loose odds and ends into a lingerie bag before washing. Genius. 

10. If you're planning to scoop sticky things like honey or peanut butter from a measuring spoon, coat it with oil first, and that stuff will land in your recipe instead of hanging out premanently on the spoon. 

Well! I feel more productive already just for writing this. Imagine how great life will be once we try all of these things. Let's go get 'em, tiger. 

(Ideas from Real Simple). 

Meet Nick: Developer

Nick is our youngest employee at Fancy Hands HQ, known for his love of Subway and motorcycles. Here's what's on his mind: 


What are your interests?

Coding, wheelies and the great outdoors.

What are you good at? 

Doing the needful. 

What is your worst quality? 

Not thinking before speaking. 

What food do you hate? 

Cookies with nuts. 

What food do you love?  

Cookies without nuts. 

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken? 

Quitting my job and motorcycling to NYC to join Fancy Hands. 

What's the most memorable request you've seen from a customer? 

We have a customer who asks us to give him a wake-up call on his early travel days. That's a great idea. I could use all the help I can get waking up.

What's your favorite request to ask our Fancy Hands assistants to do? 

They find me anything and everything I need in NYC.

Favorite TV show? 

Breaking Bad. 

Who is your spirit animal? 

Wolverine. 

What are you normally doing on a Saturday night? 

Riding around on my motorcycle. 

What advice would you give to the 16 year old version of yourself? 

Keep on keepin' on.

Don't Give Up!

We've hit the halfway mark in the year. The summer weather begs you to slack off and lose focus of your goals. But whatever they may be, you can achieve them.

Don't give up!

These people didn't: 

  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for. Then he became the British prime minister at the age of 62. 


  • Thomas Edison's teachers told him he was "too stupid to learn anything." Edison also famously invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked. 
  • Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC "Colonel," couldn't sell his chicken. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected him. But then one did, and today there are KFC restaurants bearing his image all over the world. 
  • R.H. Macy had a history failing businesses, including a dud Macy's in NYC. But Macy kept up the hard work, and ended up with the biggest department store in the world. 
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from his dream school, the University of Southern California, three times. He sought out an education somewhere else and dropped out to be a director. 
  • Marilyn Monroe's first contract with Columbia Pictures expired because they told her she wasn't pretty or talented enough to be an actress. Monroe kept plugging away and is one of the most iconic actresses and sex symbols of all time.

  • Soichiro Honda was passed over for an engineering job at Toyota, and left unemployed. But then he began making motorcycles, started a business and became a billionaire. 
  • Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. She began designing wedding gowns at 40 and today is the premier designer in the business, with a multi-billion dollar industry. 
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." Several more of his businesses failed before the premiere of his movie Snow White. Today, most childhoods wouldn't be the same without his ideas.
  • Albert Einstein didn't speak until age four and didn't read until age seven. His teachers labeled him "slow" and "mentally handicapped." But Einstein just had a different way of thinking. He later won the Nobel prize in physics.
  • Sir Isaac Newton was tasked with running the family farm, but was a miserable failure. Newton was sent off to Cambridge University and became a physics scholar. 
  • The first time Jerry Seinfeld went onstage, he was booed away by the jeering crowd. Eventually, he became a famous comic with one of the most-loved sitcoms ever. 
  • In Fred Astaire's first screen test, the judges wrote: "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." Astaire went on to be the most famous dancer of all time and won the hearts of American women forever.

  • After Sidney Poitier's first audition, the casting director instructed him to just stop wasting everyone's time and "go be a dishwasher or something." He went on to win an Academy Award and is admired by actors everywhere.
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporting job because they told her she wasn't fit to be on screen. But Winfrey rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows. She's also a billionaire.
  • Stephen King was initially so frustrated with his first novel, Carrie that he threw it in the trash. King's wife found the manuscript in the trash and took it out. To date his 49 novels have sold 350 million copies. 

  • Charlie Chaplin's act was rejected by executives because they thought it was too obscure for people to understand. But then they took a chance on Chaplin, who went on to become America's first bona fide movie star.
  • J.K. Rowling was unemployed, divorced and raising a daughter on social security while writing the first Harry Potter novel. She is now internationally renowned for her 7 book Harry Potter series and is the first person to become a billionaire from writing.
  • While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over 15 years. But the 5,127th prototype worked and now the Dyson brand is the best-selling vacuum cleaner in the United States.
  • Dr. Seuss' first book was rejected by 27 different publishers. He's now the most popular children's book author ever.

(By Ashley Lutz and Noah Plaue via Business Insider

Make the most of your weekend.

Laura Vanderkam, the author of What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, shared four things that successful people don't do on the weekends with O Magazine

1. They Don't Keep Spinning.

Yes, successful people work a lot. Martha Stewart, for instance, has famously claimed to sleep just four hours a night. But there are times to push and times not to. We need both. "A decade ago, I let my days just sort of all blend together," says James Reinhart, whose San Francisco-based online clothing resale platform ThredUp.com has grown from 30 employees to 140 in the past year. After starting the company, though, he realized that "it's the quality of my decision making that ultimately makes the company successful." Without the time to go into refresh mode, "you never end up with the space to think." 

Now, James makes a point of golfing or running from 6 to 8 in the morning before his family wakes up. Reinhart claims to do his best thinking while hitting the trails in a nearby state park. "I come back from runs with clarity on decisions I want to make," he says. (He may be onto something; a number of neurological studies have found that exercise improves brain function.) 

Of course, in a world where we tether ourselves to our inboxes, unplugging is easier said than done. You take your iPhone along when you meet a friend for coffee. She's five minutes late. You start checking your email and, boom! Work mode is back. That's part of modern life, but you can still carve out a few hours for a "tech Sabbath," which is time with no electronic devices. Try turning the smart phone off Friday or Saturday night and turning it back on 24 hours later. Probably nothing has changed, exceot for your level of energy. 

2. They Don't Go Limp.

If you spend your workweek running—or worse, flying—from place to place, you may think you want to collapse on the couch all weekend. But resist the urge: first, it's impossible to do "nothing." And research into human happiness finds that anticipation accounts for a major chunk of the mood boost associated with any activity. One well-known Dutch study of vacationers found that holiday-goers were happier than people who weren't taking vacations, but the increased happiness largely happened before the trips, as people anticipated the fun to come. Compare it to opening Christmas presents: the act only takes an hour, but seeing wrapped gifts under the tree stretches out the joy for weeks. If you make a reservation on Wednesday for a Saturday night dinner at your favorite restaurant, you'll spend the next three days imagining your pasta carbonara to come, which improves your weekend and your week. 

3. They Don't Clean the Grout.

Using the weekend to catch up on chores is probably the hardest trap to avoid. After all, if you work full-time, what other time are you supposed to do the 15.1 hours (for women) or 9.6 hours (for men) of household activities that the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims the average American does each week? Housework will take all the time you are willing to give it. After all, women in 1965 spent more than 30 hours each week on housework...and we haven't descended into complete filth since then. 

So consider doing your chores during the workweek. The chores will take less time because you have less time. This will leave your weekends free for more rejuvenating activities. Throw a load of laundry in before dinner and have the kids either do the dishes after or fold. Make a quick trip to the grocery store at 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. The place will be so empty you'll zoom through. If a perfectly sparkling house is important to you, then designate a short cleaning time on the weekend. When the cleaning window arrives, set an alarm and do as much as you can in an hour. When the time is up, it's up. 

4. They Don't Lose the Last 15 Hours.

I struggle with this trap myself. I love what I do, but sometimes the sheer volume of work waiting for me Monday morning makes me look at the clock come Sunday afternoon and fall into a total Sunday funk. But the thing is: At 3 p.m. on Sunday, I still have 15 hours before I'll wake up Monday morning, including seven hours before I need to go to bed. Why not seize that time? 

This is why Sunday nights have become my new favorite time to host parties. Most people are free, and there's a more relaxed vibe than at the formal get-togethers people expect on Saturday nights. Order food, have a beer, enjoy your friends, and you'll be far readier for the workweek than if you spend that same time thinking about your inbox. As Reinhart puts it, failing to relax, run and refresh on weekends "makes me not a good husband, not a good dad and a terrible CEO." Success requires recharging the batteries from time to time—so you can hit Monday refreshed and ready to conquer—if not the world—then your own life. 

Jockeys, Jedis, and Juicy Fruit.

What have our Fancy Hands assistants learned in their research for clients today? 

Most horse racing jockeys were African American slaves prior to the Civil War. Once they became free men, due to racism, they were virtually pushed out of the profession. An African American has not won the Kentucky Derby since 1902. However, jockey Kevin Krigger is trying to change that. He became the first African American jockey to ever win the Santa Anita Derby in April, and although he didn't win the Derby this year, he'll keep trying. -Allison H. 

Jedi Knighthood is gaining momentum as a religion. On the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians, 70,000 Australians, and 390,127 people in England and Wales marked their religion as "Jedi". In England, that means that "Jedi" surpassed Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism, making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country. -Amber M. 

In 1892, William Wrigley Jr. began adding gum as a bonus to each can of baking powder he sold. The chewing gum became more popular than the baking powder, and the company was reconfigured as a chewing gum company.Then came Juicy Fruit. Then Wrigley field ... Go Cubbies!!! -Juls N. 

If you need to call the NYC-based 311 outside of the boroughs, they can be reached via (212) 639-9675. -Susan M. 

I learned that there are 4,670 city blocks in San Francisco. - Mandie S. 

Lastly, check out how one of our super cute clients, Beth, has been using our service! 

Creativity, Productivity, and Forgiveness.

Simon Rich is 29 years old. He wrote his first book when he was 18. He is the second youngest writer to ever be hired by Saturday Night Live, and he was just named one of Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business. His collection of short stories, The Last Girlfriend On Earth, is available now. 

Simon shared five key creativity boosters with Fast Company here that you can apply to your work routine right now.


KNOW WHEN YOU WORK BEST.

When Rich wakes up, the first thing he wants to do is write, so that’s what he does. As the day progresses, however, the story changes: "I don’t usually have a lot of problems getting stuff done in the morning," he says. "But after lunch I really slow down." He estimates his pre-lunch versus post-lunch productivity ratio to be about 80/20. "It’s really diminishing returns."

WORK ON WHAT YOU WANT TO FIRST.

Recognizing that not everything you do today will be something you’re dying to do, Rich says you might be better off tackling your favored task first. "It sometimes depends on deadlines, but I’ve found that the most efficient thing is to write what you want to write," Rich says. "So if I have a movie script due, and I don’t really want to do it--really what I want to do is write some short story that I’ve started--I’ve found that it’s actually faster to just write the story and then go to the screenplay. There are exceptions to that, if something is really due imminently, but I always secretly know, in the back of my mind, what I really want to be writing."

GO FOR QUANTITY OVER QUALITY.

Rich calls himself a "law-of-averages guy." "I figure, if I throw enough stuff out there, some of it will hopefully stick." His favorite writers are the ones who keep writing: T.C. Boyle, P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh. "I just read this great biography of Charles Schulz, and he produced a new Peanuts every single day for half a century. And obviously not every Peanuts strip is on the same level, but still, it’s pretty staggering."

KNOW HOW YOU WORK.

Routine works for Rich, but to each his own: "I know a lot of extremely talented people who are very successful who hate work and never do it," he says. "And they’re fine. I really like the band Tegan and Sara, and I read that…one of them generates hundreds of songs, and the other generates five or six, but they have an equal number of songs on each album. I thought that was really interesting. It’s like, if I had a higher batting average with my pieces, I wouldn’t have to write as many of them. I think everyone’s got to sort of figure it out."

FORGIVE YOURSELF.

Rich says that he was horrified at 18 when he re-read his first novel and discovered that it was - in his words - "terrible." "I remember being so upset because that novel accounted for probably half of the pages I’d ever written in my entire lifetime. Whereas a couple years ago I threw out a novel, and it was just a small portion of the pages that I had even written in that year." The lesson? The more you do, the more you know you’re capable of. "You write a bad novel. So what? You just write a better one."

(by Jillian Goodman via Fast Company

Search success!

We're happy to announce a new feature - task searching! 

In the upper right hand of your dashboard screen (www.fancyhands.com/dashboard), you'll see a "Search your requests" box. 

You can type a word that you remember was in the subject - or you can even search for a word that was in the body of your request. 

When you want to clear your search and review all of your tasks, click on the "x" in the search box. 

We hope this will make it easier for you  to find the answers you're looking for in your archives.

Enjoy! 

The secrets to happiness at work.

Being happy at work is best for all involved; the employees and the boss. Check out these statistics that happy employees deliver: 

33% higher profitability (Gallup)

43% more productivity (Hay Group)

37% higher sales (Shawn Achor)

300% more innovation (HBR)

51% lower turnover (Gallup)

50% less safety incidents (Babcock Marine Clyde)

66% decrease in sick leave (Forbes)

125% less burnout (HBR)

It’s no surprise that the 20 employees of Delivering Happiness at Work (DHW) compiled this list and toss around the data any chance they get. The startup brainchild of Zappos’ Tony Hsieh and business partner Jenn Lim emerged after the publication of Delivering Happiness, a book that waxes on the benefits of value-based management and work, life balance.

To drive the point home, the consulting firm’s even set up a return-on-investment calculator that allows any company to determine how much malcontent could cost them based on the number of employees on staff. So far, over 200 companies have signed up, and DHW workshops have garnered rave reviews from clients as diverse as HP, former Lost producer Ra’uf Glasgow, and RealTruck.

“A lot of people think [happiness] is fluffy,” Sunny Grosso, DHW culture and brand boss admits, but it's what built Zappos into a $2 billion business.

With that in mind, Fast Company asked Grosso for a peek inside DHW’s happy hive. 

Here are a few of their best practices: 

Draw Your Own Culture Target

The premise is simple: Draw a bull’s-eye with three concentric rings. The center spot is the “me.” Grosso explains that this represents, “The idea that happiness at work and in life starts with you.” The next circle is “we,” which could be your family, friends, and coworkers. The outer ring is for community, or all the people you affect in your job such as partners and vendors.

By putting yourself in the middle, Grosso says, you begin to see how much your own personal values influence those around you. Aligning those things that are most important to you with your “we” and “community,” will make your work more fulfilling, your partnerships stronger, and your impact on the world greater, she asserts.

Birds of a Cultural Feather...

Every person on the DHW staff has a poster of the organization’s 10 core values up on their wall. Grosso even has a small copy stuck to the back of her phone. Referring to a speech made by Delivering Happiness CEO Jenn Lim, Grosso says, “Our core values are the code, the DNA,” that allows the team to fly together as seamlessly as a flock of geese in formation.

And if you're curious, here are DHW's 10 core values: 

1. Deliver WOW Through Service

2. Embrace and Drive Change

3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5. Pursue Growth and Learning

6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8. Do More With Less

9. Be Passionate and Determined

10. Be Humble

Bring Your Weird Self to Work

That’s not to say that everyone needs to share the exact same personal values in order for the organization’s values to unite the team and strengthen the business. DHW team members are encouraged to bring their whole self to work, with all the attendant weirdness that may involve.

“I used to do gymnastics,” recalls Grosso, so the time she spontaneously did a handstand at work sparked a colleague to begin showing off his facility with contortions. “Our work environment allows you to be you more,” she contends, and is less about work/life balance and more about how work mixes with life.

Scale Individual Happiness to Strengthen the Organization

It may sound like a simple recipe for a small startup, but Grosso points out that Zappos does the same with some 2,000 employees who are an eclectic bunch. Bringing your weird self to work is okay if you can exist--happily--within the company’s 10 core values.

Grosso says that Zappos’ IT department is an example of a team that has a different micro-culture within the parent company. “They are less about sharing and interacting and having Jello shots,” she notes, laughing, “But they still adhere to the core values. Some [values] are stronger than others, but that’s okay.”

Happier Collaboration Through Video Conferencing

Though small, the DHW team is spread across several offices in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Atlanta, and across three business units (including the DH clothing line and community-focused efforts) so collaboration doesn’t happen as seamlessly as it would in one open office. Nonetheless, Grosso says they make a “huge effort” to bring everyone together via video conference once a week. In addition to quarterly in-person meetings, every Friday at 11 a.m., everyone on staff is required to stop what they are doing and join the call, no excuses. “Connection is one of the pieces of the science of happiness that we teach companies, so it’s something we take very seriously,” she says.

To energize the assembled crew, the call starts with something fun such as Grosso or Lim sharing photos of their travels to speaking engagements or workshops. This week for instance, Grosso proudly shared a pic she took of a billboard in the Gates Foundation’s offices that asked, “Does happiness matter at work?” in anticipation of a presentation she was doing there. The visuals, she contends, make more of an impact than reciting a laundry list of the week’s appointments.

Talk to the CEO

The video conferences also have an “Ask Jenn” component in which the entire team has the opportunity to quiz Lim about anything from how many hours she put in on a given week to which magazine’s cover she’d like to grace. Questions are emailed in advance from each team member. “It’s important to make sure people have a connection to her because she’s on the road so much,” says Grosso.

The Path to Happiness is Paved With (Well-Placed) Praise and More Cowbell

Then the conversation moves to “snout outs” which Grosso likens to the way a dog pushes its nose out of a car window. The premise again is to share accomplishments. “Did someone impress you this week?” or “Did you appreciate the way someone collaborated?” are just some of the items thrown out for praise.

And just to add a little extra encouragement for those who don’t like to toot horns, good ideas are celebrated with ringing of cowbells.

Use Constructive Honesty

Not every person or idea is a good fit at any company and DHW is no exception. Grosso admits that even after putting some employees through the rigor of interviewing, they just weren’t right for the team once they were hired. Like the founders of Asana, Grosso credits the company’s tenet of extreme transparency to weed out potential trouble.

She also cites the research of Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina that illustrates how a ratio of three positive emotions to one negative is minimum optimum for high functioning teams. So if someone or some initiative isn’t working out, Grosso says the team will share their thoughts in a positive way.

Collaborate Right Now

The final component of the conference is to work on something together right away. Usually there are four items that require immediate attention and the team brainstorms solutions onto a whiteboard. Grosso says that allows the meeting to end on a note of inspiration and connects the team (once again) to the higher purpose of the organization.

(By Lydia Dishman, via Fast Company

6 Ways to Improve Your Memory

Ready for a pop quiz? Set your timer for one minute and focus on the words above, then go read another article. When you're done, write down as many of the words as you can remember, and return to this page to count up your total. 


How'd you do? Recalling 5 or more of the words means that your baseline short-term memory is in good shape. If you came up with fewer, don't panic. Maybe you were distracted by a text message, or maybe something else on the page caught your attention while you were reading the list (research shows that simply being unfocused can make it nearly impossible to add new information to your memory bank). Or perhaps you need to incorporate some brain training, which can activate and strengthen neural connections over time, allowing you to recall stored information faster. 

Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, who designed this test and uses a similar one to help diagnose memory problems in his patients, believes that certain behavioral techniques can help you stay sharper, longer. If you're perpetually misplacing your keys and forgetting to pick up milk at the grocery store, use these tactics to boost your memory today—and help prevent its decline down the road.

Connect with Friends

After tracking the social behaviors of more than 700 people over 15 years, Australian researchers found that those who maintained more close friendships scored better on memory tests (recalling symbols, pictures, and words). Being in regular contact with friends can keep you on your toes by engaging the problem-solving regions of your brain (as when you debate your latest book club pick, or help a friend through a crisis). "It's important to be socially connected from a young age so that the lifestyle patterns you develop become ingrained," says Peter Snyder, PhD, chief research officer of the Lifespan Hospital System in Rhode Island. "We've found that when people prioritize these relationships, they also protect their brain function."

Choose Stimulating New Hobbies

As long as it interests and challenges you, the particular pastime doesn't matter—it could be reading books in a genre you usually avoid, learning to play an instrument, or taking a new exercise class. A study by researchers at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons found that people with more than six intellectual, physical, or social leisure activities were 38 percent less likely to develop dementia—and with each additional hobby, their risk decreased by another 8 percent. The fresh neural connections established as you take in new information can help build up what's called cognitive reserve—the brain's ability to resist memory loss. And the sooner you find new passions, the better: A 2012 study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, found that people who performed more mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives had lower levels of a certain destructive protein associated with Alzheimer's.

Go to Your Happy Place

Many studies have shown that depression is linked to memory problems, but keeping your brain sharp requires more than just staving off the blues—you need to actively practice positivity. A 2013 study in the journal Cognition and Emotion found that older adults who experienced positive emotions improved their memory by roughly 19 percent. "Positive moods are thought to trigger the release of the chemical dopamine in brain regions involved in memory, which may help improve recall," says study coauthor Ellen Peters, PhD, professor of psychology at The Ohio State University. If you want to reap the same benefits, try practicing meditation—one study found that the proven stress buster can help increase dopamine levels.

Brush Up on A Second Language 

A study from the Rotman Research Institute found that bilingual Alzheimer's patients began experiencing symptoms of the disease five years later than patients who spoke only one language. "When you think in two languages, your brain cells may be working twice as hard," explains Small. "And the more often you fire up those neurons, the stronger they get." But it's use it or lose it: "If these connections aren't reinforced regularly—as in the case of a neglected foreign language you learned decades ago—they fade," says Neal Barnard, MD, an adjunct associate professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Use Your Imagination

Picturing yourself completing a task can help ensure that you remember to get it done. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently conducted a study in which participants were asked to memorize lists of words describing personality traits; having subjects imagine themselves acting out the traits proved the most effective technique for boosting their ability to immediately recall the words. The findings suggest that this technique could work for everyday memory tasks, from remembering to return shoes at the mall (picture yourself at the cash register) to remembering to stop by the dry cleaner's on your way home from work (imagine walking out with your clothes).

Challenge Yourself at Work

Whether you do it by changing careers or simply taking on more responsibilities at the job you have, finding something that pushes you out of your comfort zone can help protect against memory-deteriorating diseases. One study published in Neurology reviewed the work histories of people with and without Alzheimer's and found that those who developed the disease had fewer mentally taxing assignments. Researchers believe that the mental stimulation of more demanding jobs can help shore up cognitive reserves and stave off dementia. Says Snyder, "Routinely challenging yourself with projects that require you to multitask and solve problems fortifies systems in the brain that are important for memory."

(By Emma Haak, via O Magazine)

So Morgan Freeman walks into a bar with a parrot...

It's yet another interesting day for our assistants. Check out what they learned today: 

A man named Morgan J. Freeman is the producer of the MTV show "Teen Mom". This is NOT the same man as the actor. -Danielle Cotton 


The highly regarded Michelin Restaurant Guide was first published in 1900, conceived by tire-selling brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin. A marketing concept that grew into an empire in its own right, it was originally a freebie with the purchase of a set of tires. -Deirdre Motley 

While researching day spas in Manhattan, I came across one that charges $1 a minute to nap. -Mandie Skelton

It's not that hard to get a message put on the scoreboard at Fenway Park! The message fee is actually a donation that benefits The Red Sox Foundation (which goes towards children's charities). The $50 minimum donation is tax deductible and only needs to be requested one day before the game. "Live" marriage proposals, which include a scoreboard message, an appearance on the video board, and a visit from Wally, require a $350 minimum donation. -Amanda Perez

At Andrew Jackson's funeral, his pet parrot had to be taken out of the church because he would not stop swearing. -Draconius Grey 

Become a master unitasker.

I'm sure that times weren't always perfect for Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family, but I often wish for that type of simple life. She was happy when she got an orange and some maple candy in her Christmas stocking. She and her sisters sewed their own dolls and spent most of their afternoons sitting in trees or playing stick ball. "Paw" was always doing one thing at a time: chopping wood, fixing the roof, taking the wagon into town for supplies. He held the reins and focused on the road. I didn't once see him take a conference call while driving. 


My career has been a hectic one, and I've had days where I was involved in so many projects at once that I felt like my head would shoot off of my shoulders like a rocket. I would start working on one task, get interuppted by someone's "emergency", run off to help them, then I'd get a phone call and need to take that. I'd walk down the hall and get pulled into a meeting, and before I knew it, it was 7pm, I hadn't eaten a thing, and the original task I started that morning would still be unfinished on my desk. 

The older I get, the more I realize that I have to slow down and focus completely on one thing at a time. This is for my own good and for the good of whatever I'm working on. Everything turns out better when it's gotten my undivided attention. This goes for my job and my relationships. No cell phones at the dinner table, people! Try simply enjoying the company of your loves ones tonight. They'll appreciate it. 

Jacquelyn Smith wrote this about unitasking at the office:

Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, says concentration is critical. "In the old days before GPS, if you were driving around and got lost and had to look at a map, the first thing you did was to turn off the radio so you could concentrate," he says. "To successfully unitask, you need to do the same type of thing; eliminate any outside distractions."

1. Schedule time to unitask. You’ll likely spend a majority of your day multitasking, but if you know you have an important memo to write or a big decision to make, schedule time on your calendar to devote all of your attention to that one task.

2. Allocate a specific amount of time. “There’s something scary about having to focus, but if you give yourself a set amount of time, like 10 minutes, it might make it less scary for some people,” says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career. It’s not always feasible to spend hours or an entire day on one task, but if it requires that much time and attention, and is that significant, then you should try. Determine an amount of time you want to unitask, and follow through, Marjie Terry, VP of business development and client service at Great on the Job adds. 

3. Choose the right time of day to unitask. “Don’t decide to do it during the busiest time, like the first hour of the workday,” Pollak says. Pick a time when you’ll have the fewest distractions, or work on it over the weekend. “Sometimes you can accomplish a task that might take you the entire workday to do, in an hour on a Sunday,” she says.

4. Close your door if you have an office, and/or post a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. You shouldn’t do this too frequently, though, or you may appear isolated or incapable of dealing with any distractions, Pollak says. But if you do it occasionally, when you really need to focus on something for 15 minutes or an hour, your colleagues will probably be respectful and understanding.

5. If you don’t have an office and you’re in an open work space, like a cubicle, ask your colleagues to give you some time to focus on the task at hand by putting up a sign on your cube, sending out an e-mail, or verbally informing them of the situation. Again, you shouldn’t make a habit of this, as you don’t want your co-workers to think you’re unreachable or unapproachable. “You don’t have to announce it to the whole world,” Pollak says. Only tell those who really need to know, like the colleague who sits next to you or the one you’re working on a project with.

6. If your workplace in noisy and filled with audible distractions (like phones ringing, people talking and loud televisions) consider finding an alternative work space. Go to a nearby park, coffee shop or library where you can focus with fewer distractions, says Teri Hockett, chief executive of What’s For Work?, a career site for women. 'If the task you’re trying to accomplish doesn’t require you to be online, pick somewhere that doesn’t have Internet, or has expensive Internet,' Pollak suggests. 'This way, you’ll be less tempted to go online and be distracted by things like Facebook or e-mail.”

7. If you stay at work, clear your desk. If it’s messy and you happen to catch a glimpse of some paperwork or a post-it note with a reminder, you might be tempted to focus some of your attention on those things, as well.

8. Disconnect! This one is extremely difficult for most workers, and might not even be possible for some—but if you can, turn off your e-mail, phones, computer, etc., while you’re unitasking.

9. If you can’t disconnect completely, at least silence your devices and disable notifications. "There are websites you can visit that allow you to turn off your Internet for a period of time," Pollak says. "If you find that you’re constantly distracted by the Internet, this might be a good solution for you." You can also set your phone to go directly to voicemail or set up an auto-reply on your e-mail to let people know when you’ll be available again, and how they can reach you or a colleague in the case of an emergency.

10. If you are on an important call or need to clear your head, turn your chair around to face a wall or the door. "I’m doing this right now!" Pollak says. "It’s the only way I can prevent myself from checking e-mail while I’m talking to you."

Train Your Brain.

Science suggests that your brain is one of the best organizational tools out there. But how do you deploy it to de-clutter your life? A coauthor of the new book Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time provides some thought-provoking strategies.

1. Tap Into Your Logical Side.

"Disorganization is often driven by anxiety and fear," says Paul Hammerness, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Those feelings are processed in the amygdala, a primitive part of the brain. Rational thinking, on the other hand-the cornerstone of effective organization-takes place mostly in the prefrontal cortex. Rev up this area by filling out an expense report or looking over a spreadsheet; you'll be on the road to thinking more logically and tackling tasks more efficiently.

2. Flex Your Memory Muscles.

First thing in the morning, go over the upcoming day's tasks, step by step, in your mind. Making a mental to-do list stimulates your working memory-the part of your brain that helps you store and use complex information. Focus on completing the items on your list in order. If you're interrupted (say, the phone rings), make a conscious effort to ask yourself if you need to respond-an action that taps right into your working memory. Once you've reacted (or not), revisit your mental list. The more you use your working memory, the more likely you are to stick to a task, which should ultimately leave you with a greater sense of control.

3. Give Yourself A Break.

"Despite all the brain's impressive hardware, there is a limit to what it can deal with," Hammerness says. Most adults can focus on one task for only about 60 minutes. To make the most of your attention span, stop hourly and walk around; any new action will "reset" your brain and ready it to return to the work at hand.

(By Gretchen Reynolds via Oprah.com)

Meet Scott: Customer Experience Supervisor

When we sat down with Scott to get to know him better, we were also lucky enough to be granted an interview with his beautiful beard. Here's what that ginger masterpiece had to say:


What's your favorite food to capture? 

I'm a bit of a connoisseur of cookie crumbs.

Why is life hard for you? 

Sometimes other beards find me intimidating.

Why is life awesome for you? 

My whiskers bring all the girls to the yard.

What's the best part of your day?

When I get my daily shampooing and brushing.

Describe your ideal day.

A sunny afternoon with a cool breeze and an adult beverage.

What's your secret to staying healthy?

A steady diet of whiskey and a boar bristle brush.


Scott donned the most amazing costume for Halloween last year - he went as Alan from The Hangover. 

There was no better way to honor the beard! Now, here's what Scott had to say about himself: 

What are your interests? 

I like to listen to and play music. I play trombone in a local punk rock marching band. I also love hiking, backpacking and most anything in the outdoors.

What are you good at? 

I have a knack for remembering weird details and trivia.  I'd probably be a good Jeopardy! contestant except that I'd refuse to answer in the form of a question.

What is your worst quality? 

That ability to remember inconsequential details and trivia does not carry over into the actually important things I need to remember on a daily basis.  If I don't set reminders, I'll forget almost anything I'm supposed to do on a given day.

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken? 

Deciding that it's okay to work in a field completely outside of my academic background.

What's the most memorable request you've ever seen from a client? 

One client asked us to arrange for a custom-designed novelty cake of a body part. I'll leave it at that. 

Who is your spirit animal? 

Does my beard count?

What are you most proud of? 

I once played trombone in Afrika Bambaataa's dressing room.  I wish I could say he was impressed, but I think mainly he just wanted to go home.

What advice would you give to the 16 year old version of yourself? 

It's okay to not know who you are or what you're doing with your life.  Half of growing up is changing your mind about everything you thought you knew.

19 emotions with no English words.

(Click to enlarge) 

We’ve all heard that the Inuit people have countless words for snow. That’s a bit of a misnomer, but the sentiment is powerful all the same: Some cultures have rewritten language itself in order to better express the things most important to them.


It’s an idea explored in this infographic by design student Pei-Ying Lin, which lists 19 emotions that, unless you’re a native speaker of Russian, Japanese, or any number of languages other than English, you’ve probably never heard before.

“My inspiration came from the experience of studying in the UK as a foreign student and having to have conversations with both friends who do not understand Chinese (my mother tongue) and those who do,” Lin tells Co.Design. “So often our conversations will involve looking for a right word to say in either English or Chinese, and unable to find its equivalent in the other language.”

'GEZELLIGHEID' IS DUTCH FOR 'COMFORT AND COZINESS AT HOME.'

At the core of Lin’s graphic is Parrot’s Emotion Classification, which contains a seemingly nuanced look at over 100 emotions (in English). Not only does Parrot’s list include words like “cheerfulness,” but it also maps their more specific permutations, like “bliss” or “gladness.” So, you know, it seems pretty good--that is, until you read the foreign alternatives that Lin has highlighted in red bubbles. How about the word “Gezelligheid,” which is Dutch for “comfort and coziness of being at home, with friends, with loved ones or general togetherness”? Or maybe you’ll like “hygge,” which is Danish for a similar idea but specific to events of food and drink.

“We tend to use languages in the most economical way--meaning that if there’s a simple word for expressing [a] complicated idea, then we will tend to go for it,” Lin writes. “[But] I think knowing more languages/words allows us to expend our conceptual world. We ‘grow’ with our languages. So it’s not exactly like the hypothesis that ‘Eskimos have more words for snow’ so they can tell more different kinds of snow, but rather, perception and language have an active interaction with each other.“

With that in mind, I couldn’t help but ask Lin if there were any emotions she’d like words for. My favorite was “‘the moment of learning something and feel the expansion of one’s perception scope’ like the moment you suddenly understand ‘infinity’ in mathematics, or the moment of understanding the idea of ‘parallel universe.’”

And I totally know what she means. Because my deficient English vocabulary has always labeled that feeling as “insignificance.”

By Mark Wilson via Fast Company.

Wisdom, by Kareem.

Great insights by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, originally published in Esquire

When I was thirty, I was living my dream. I’d already accomplished most of what I’d set out to achieve professionally: leading scorer in the NBA, leading rebounder, leading blocker, Most Valuable Player, All-Star. But success can be as blinding as Bill Walton’s finger in the eye when battling for a rebound. I made mistakes. Plenty of them. In fact, sometimes I wish I could climb into a time machine and go back to shake some sense into that thirty-year-old me. If I could, here’s the advice I would give him:

1. Be more outgoing.


My shyness and introversion from those days still haunt me. Fans felt offended, reporters insulted. That was never my intention. When you’re on the public stage every day of your life, people think that you crave attention. For me, it was the opposite. I loved to play basketball, and was tremendously gratified that so many fans appreciated my game. But when I was off the court, I felt uncomfortable with attention. I rarely partied or attended celebrity bashes. On the flights to games, I read history books. Basically, I was a secret nerd who just happened to also be good at basketball. Interacting with a lot of people was like taking someone deathly afraid of heights and dangling him over the balcony at the top of the Empire State Building. If I could, I’d tell that nerdy Kareem to suck it up, put down that book you’re using as a shield, and, in the immortal words of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (to prove my nerd cred), “Engage!”

2. Ask about family history.

I wish I’d sat my parents down and asked them a lot more questions about our family history. I always thought there would be time and I kept putting it off because, at thirty, I was too involved in my own life to care that much about the past. I was so focused on making my parents proud of me that I didn’t ask them some of the basic questions, like how they met, what their first date was like, and so forth. I wish that I had.

3. Become financially literate.

“Dude, where’s my money?” is the rallying cry of many ex-athletes who wonder what happened to all the big bucks they earned. Some suffer from unwise investments or crazy spending, and others from not paying close attention. I was part of the didn’t-pay-attention group. I chose my financial manager, who I later discovered had no financial training, because a number of other athletes I knew were using him. That’s typical athlete mentality in that we’re used to trusting each other as a team, so we extend that trust to those associated with teammates. Consequently, I neglected to investigate his background or what qualified him to be a financial manager. He placed us in some real estate investments that went belly up and I came close to losing some serious coin. Hey, Kareem at 30: learn about finances and stay on top of where your money is at all times. As the saying goes, “Trust, but verify.”

4. Play the piano.

I took lessons as a kid but, like a lot of kids, didn’t stick with them. Maybe I felt too much pressure. After all, my father had gone to the Julliard School of Music and regularly jammed with some great jazz musicians. Looking back, I think playing piano would have given me a closer connection with my dad as well as given me another artistic outlet to better express myself. In 2002, I finally started to play and got pretty good at it. Not good enough that at parties people would chant for me to play “Piano Man,” but good enough that I could read music and feel closer to my dad.

5. Learn French.

My grandparents were from Trinidad where, though it was an English-speaking country, the school system was started by the French. Whenever my grandparents wanted to say something they didn’t want me to know, they’d speak French. The language seemed so sophisticated and mysterious. Plus, you earn extra James Bond points when you can order in French in a French restaurant.

6. Get handy.

I always wanted to be one of those guys who, whenever something doesn’t work, straps on a tool belt and says, “I’ll fix it.” I like the Walden-esque idea of complete self-reliance. Build my own house, clean out the carburetors, find out what carburetors are. Recently my washing machine broke and flooded my entire downstairs. I was forced to stand idly by waiting for a plumber to arrive while water rose around my ankles because I didn’t know how to shut off the water. That’s the kind of experience that makes you have your testosterone levels checked.

7. Be patient.

Impatience is the official language of youth. When you’re young, you want to rush to the next thing before you even know where you are. I always think of the joke in Colors that the wiser and older cop (Robert Duvall) tells his impatient rookie partner (Sean Penn). I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like: “There's two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: ‘Hey pop, let's say we run down there and screw one of them cows.’ The older one says: ‘No son. Let’s walk down and screw 'em all.’” Now, to counter the profane with the profound, one of my favorite quotes is from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Talent hits the target no one else can hit; genius hits the target no one else can see.” I think the key to seeing the target no one else can see is in being patient, waiting for it to appear so you can do the right thing, not just the expedient thing. Learning to wait is one of my greatest accomplishments as I’ve gotten older.

8. Listen more than talk.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

9. Career is never as important as family.

The better you are at your job, the more you’re rewarded, financially and spiritually, by doing it. You know how to solve problems for which you receive praise and money. Home life is more chaotic. Solving problems is less prescriptive and no one’s applauding or throwing money if you do it right. That’s why so many young professionals spend more time at work with the excuse, “I’m sacrificing for my family.” Bullshit. Learn to embrace the chaos of family life and enjoy the small victories. This hit me one night after we’d won an especially emotional game against the Celtics. I’d left the stadium listening to thousands of strangers chanting “Kareem! Kareem!” I felt flush with the sense of accomplishment, for me, for the Lakers, and for the fans. But when I stepped into my home and my son said, “Daddy!” the victory, the chanting, the league standings, all faded into a distant memory.

10. Being right is not always the right thing to be.

Kareem, my man, learn to step away. You think being honest immunizes you from the consequences of what you say. Remember Paul Simon’s lyrics, “There’s no tenderness beneath your honesty.” So maybe it’s not that important to win an argument, even if you “know” you’re right. Sometimes it’s more important to try a little tenderness.

11. Cook more.

After I got divorced I missed home cooked meals and the only person I had to rely on was the guy in the mirror. Plus, I found it impressed women if you could cook a good meal. Once, very shortly after I started cooking for myself, I had a first date with a woman I really wanted to make a good impression on. Of course, I could have done the usual celebrity thing: fancy restaurant, signing autographs, wait-staff fawning. But I wanted this to be special, so I decided to cook for her, everything from soup to dessert. Some women get a little freaked seeing a 7’2” black man with a carving knife and butcher’s apron, but she appreciated the effort. Which was good because the soup was a little salty, the steak a little overcooked, and the flan a little watery…

12. When choosing someone to date, compassion is better than passion.

I’m not saying she shouldn’t be passionate. That’s a given. But look for signs that she shows genuine compassion toward others. That will keep you interested in her a lot longer.

13. Do one thing every day that helps someone else.

This isn’t about charity, this is about helping one individual you know by name. Maybe it means calling your parents, helping a buddy move, or lending a favorite jazz album to Chocolate Fingers McGee.

14. Do more for the community.

This is about charity, extended to people close by whose names you don’t know. You can always do more.

15. Do one thing every day that you look forward to doing.

It’s easy to get caught up in the enormous responsibilities of daily life. The To Do List can swallow your day. So, I’d insist to my younger self to make sure he has one thing on that list that he looks forward to doing.

16. Don’t be so quick to judge.

It’s human nature to instantly judge others. It goes back to our ancient life-or-death need to decide whether to fight or flee. But in their haste to size others up, people are often wrong—especially a thirty-year-old sports star with hordes of folks coming at him every day. We miss out on knowing some exceptional people by doing that, as I’m sure I did. I think the biggest irony of this advice is that it’s coming from someone who’s black, stratospherically tall, and an athlete: the trifecta of being pre-judged. And I have a lifetime of hurtful comments to prove it. Yet, that didn’t stop me from doing the same thing to others. You have to weigh the glee of satisfaction you get from arrogantly rejecting people with the inevitable sadness of regret you’ll eventually feel for having been such a dick. A friend of mine told me he routinely attends all of his high school reunions so he can apologize to every person he mistreated back then. He’s now on his fortieth reunion and still apologizing.

17. When breaking up with a woman, you can’t always remain friends.

I have managed to stay friends with many of the women I have dated because I truly liked and respected them. But sometimes emotions run too deep and efforts to remain friends, while that might help you feel better, actually might make the other person feel worse. Take the hit and let it go.

18. Watch more TV.

Yeah, you heard right, Little Kareem. It’s great that you always have your nose in history books. That’s made you more knowledgeable about your past and it has put the present in context. But pop culture is history in the making and watching some of the popular shows of each era reveals a lot about the average person, while history books often dwell on the powerful people.

19. Do more yoga.

Yes, K, I know you do yoga already. That’s why you’ve been able to play so long without major injuries. But doing more isn’t just for the physical benefits, it’s for the mental benefits that will come in handy in the years ahead, when your house burns down, your jazz collection perishes, and you lose to the Pistons in a four-game sweep in your final season.

20. Everything doesn’t have to be fixed.

Relax, K-Man. Some stuff can be fixed, some stuff can’t be. Deciding which is which is part of maturing.

Be the CEO of your mind.

A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is defined as "the highest-ranking corporate officer (executive) or administrator in charge of total management of an organization."

Melanie Greenberg wrote the below about how to gain CEO-style management...over your own mind: 

Buddha said, "to enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to yourself and your family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind."

You may have tried to control your thoughts at one time or another. With the aid of self-help books, perhaps you really tried to “be positive” and “show negativity the door.”  And this may have even worked for a while. But sooner or later, you probably found yourself back at the starting point. I’m here to tell you that there is another way. And that is to become the CEO of your own mind – skillfully directing it to live in harmony with the other players of self - body and spirit.

If you follow the six steps below, you will be the master of yourself in no time.

STEP 1:  LISTEN AND ACKNOWLEDGE.

Like all good leaders, you’re going to have to listen to your disgruntled employee, and acknowledge that you’re taking its message seriously. Minds, like people, can relax and let go when they feel heard and understood. Practice gratitude and thank your mind for its contribution. “Thank you, brain, for reminding me that if I don’t succeed in making more sales, I might get fired.” “Thank you for telling me that I might always be alone and never make a family if I don't find love soon.”  “These are important areas of life, and I need to pay attention to them, and do my best to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up. I also need to learn from past experiences so I don’t keep making the same mistakes.”

STEP 2: MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR MIND.

You may not like what your mind does or the way it conducts itself. In fact, all that negativity can be downright irritating sometimes. But the fact is, you’re stuck with it, and you can’t (or wouldn’t want to) lobotomize it away. In the book The Happiness Trap, Dr. Russ Harris uses the example of the Israelis and the Palestinians to illustrate your relationship with your mind’s negative thoughts. These two old enemies may not like each other’s way of life, but they’re stuck with each other. If they wage war on each other, the other side retaliates, and more people get hurt and buildings destroyed. Now they all have a lot less energy to focus on building the health and happiness of their societies.

Just as living in peace would allow these nations to build healthier and more prosperous societies, so will making peace with your mind. Accepting that negative thoughts and feelings will be there, that you can’t control them, can allow you to focus on your actions in the present moment, so you can move ahead with your most important goals. You don’t necessarily have to like the thoughts or agree with them, you just have to let them be there in the background of your mind, while you go out and get things done.

STEP 3: REALIZE YOUR THOUGHTS ARE JUST THOUGHTS.

Most of the time we don’t “see” our minds. They just feel like part of us.  Dr. Steve Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, uses the concept of being “fused with your thoughts” to illustrate this relationship. To be fused means to be stuck together, undifferentiated. You feel like your thoughts and feelings are YOU and so you accept them unconditionally as the truth without really looking at them. “I’m thinking I’m a failure and boring – gee, I must be a failure and boring.”  This kind of simplistic logic seems to prevail because we can’t see our own minds, so we have difficulty stepping outside ourselves and getting an objective observer’s perspective.

In actuality, our thoughts are passing mental events, influenced by our moods, states of hunger or tiredness, physical health, hormones, sex, the weather, what we watched on TV last night, what we ate for dinner, what we learned as kids, and so on. They are like mental habits. And, like any habits, they can be healthy or unhealthy, but they take time to change. Just like a couch potato can’t get up and run a marathon right away, we can’t magically turn off our spinning negative thought/feeling cycles without repeated practice and considerable effort. And even then, our overactive amygdalas will still send us the negative stuff sometimes.

STEP 4: OBSERVE YOUR OWN MIND.

The saying “know thine enemy” is also  applicable to our relationship with our own minds. Just like a good leader spends his time walking through the offices, getting to know the employees, we need to devote time to getting to know how our minds work day-to-day.  Call it mindfulness, meditation, or quiet time. Time spent observing your mind is as important as time spent exercising. When you try to focus your mind on the in and out rhythm of your breath, or on the trees and flowers when you walk in nature, what does your mind do? If it’s like mine, it wanders all over the place – mostly bringing up old worries or unsolved problems from the day. And, if left unchecked, it can take you out of the peacefulness of the present moment, and into a spiral of worry, fear, and judgment.

Mindfulness involves not only noticing where your mind goes when it wanders, but also gently bringing it back to the focus on breath, eating, walking, loving, or working. When you do this repeatedly over months or years, you begin to retrain your runaway amygdala. Like a good CEO, you begin to know when your mind is checked out or spinning its wheels, and you can gently guide it to get back with the program. When it tries to take off on its own, you can gently remind it that’s it’s an interdependent and essential part of the whole enterprise of YOU.

STEP 5: RETRAIN YOUR MIND TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN.

There is an old and rather wise saying, “we are what we repeatedly do.”  To this, I would add “we become what we repeatedly think.”  Over long periods, our patterns of thinking become etched into the billions of neurons in our brains, connecting them together in unique, entrenched patterns. When certain brain pathways – connections between different components or ideas – are frequently repeated, the neurons begin to “fire” or transmit information together in a rapid, interconnected sequence. Once the first thought starts, the whole sequence gets activated.

Autopilot is great for driving a car, but no so great for emotional functioning. For example, you may have deep-seated fears of getting close to people because you were mistreated as a child. To learn to love, you need to become aware of the whole negative sequence and how it’s biasing your perceptions, label these reactions as belonging to the past, and refocus your mind on present-moment experience. Over time, you can begin to change the wiring of your brain so your prefrontal cortex (the executive center, responsible for setting goals, planning and executing them), is more able to influence and shut off your rapidly firing, fear-based amygdala (emotion control center). And, this is exactly what brain imaging studies on effects of mindfulness therapy have shown.

STEP 6:  PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION.

The pioneer of self-compassion research, Dr. Kristin Neff, described this concept as “a healthier way of relating to yourself.” While we can’t easily change the gut-level feelings and reactions that our minds and bodies produce, we can change how we respond to these feelings. 

When we judge our feelings, we lose touch with the benefits of those feelings. They are valuable sources of information about our reactions to events in our lives, and they can tell us what is most meaningful and important to us. Emotions are signals telling us to reach out to for comfort or to take time out to rest and replenish ourselves. Rather than criticizing ourselves, we can learn new ways of supporting ourselves in our suffering. We may deliberately seek out inner and outer experiences that bring us joy or comfort – memories of happy times with people we love, the beauty of nature, creative self-expression. Connecting with these resources can help us navigate the difficult feelings while staying grounded in the present.

SUMMARY

To be a successful CEO of your own mind, you need to listen, get to know it, acknowledge its contribution, realize its nature, make peace with it, implement a retraining or employee development program, and treat it kindly. It will repay you with a lifetime of loyaly and service to the values and goals that you most cherish.

Hello, Trello!

We're happy to announce a new integration with Trello, a project management system that keeps you organized even better than your Trapper Keeper did. Remember those? 

When you synch your Trello account to your Fancy Hands account, you can assign items from your Trello to-do list to your Fancy Hands assistants, freeing up time in your day to keep working on the important things you need to do. 

Or, maybe you can use the free time to hit the gym. 

More fun, even - free up time for happy hour! 

Well done, Old Sport!

Interested in becoming a new Trello user? Find out more about them here

Lifehacker wrote about them here and Techcrunch has the behind-the-scenes dish here.

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Find out about all of the platforms that Fancy Hands integrates with and other cool bells and whistles here.

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