The Art of the Deal vs. Hard Choices

tdy_mitchell_clinton_160519__588455.nbcnews-ux-1080-600Being a bit of a political junkie, I watched both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention this year. Of course, I have my own personal preferences going into this election, but here at Improve My Life This Year, we’ll remain impartial.

Regardless what you think of either candidate, neither would have reached the level of fame, power, and wealth that they have without having some skills and abilities that we might be able to put to work in our own life.

And that got me to thinking. With so many undecided voters out there this election year, why not read the most popular book written by each candidate to get a better feel for what they believe, how they think, and to identify skills and abilities from them worth emulating.

So for Mr. Donald J Trump, I have selected The Art of the Deal – it is by far his most famous book. For Secretary Hillary Clinton, I have selected the Hard Choices.

To makes things exciting, from now until November 8th, I’ll be tabulating which book my readers choose more and once a month I’ll be updating you with the stats! Happy reading and may the best man (or woman!) win!


The Art of the Deal: Donald J. Trump
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Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump lays out his professional and personal worldview in this classic work—a firsthand account of the rise of America’s foremost deal-maker.
 
“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”—Donald J. Trump
 
Here is Trump in action—how he runs his organization and how he runs his life—as he meets the people he needs to meet, chats with family and friends, clashes with enemies, and challenges conventional thinking. But even a maverick plays by rules, and Trump has formulated time-tested guidelines for success. He isolates the common elements in his greatest accomplishments; he shatters myths; he names names, spells out the zeros, and fully reveals the deal-maker’s art. And throughout, Trump talks—really talks—about how he does it. Trump: The Art of the Deal is an unguarded look at the mind of a brilliant entrepreneur—the ultimate read for anyone interested in the man behind the spotlight.
 
“Trump makes one believe for a moment in the American dream again.”—The New York Times

“Donald Trump is a deal maker. He is a deal maker the way lions are carnivores and water is wet.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“Fascinating . . . wholly absorbing . . . conveys Trump’s larger-than-life demeanor so vibrantly that the reader’s attention is instantly and fully claimed.”—Boston Herald
 
“A chatty, generous, chutzpa-filled autobiography.”—New York Post


Hard Choices: Hillary Rodham Clinton515otzAA0oL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside look at the choices and challenges she has faced is “a subtle, finely calibrated work…with succinct and often shrewd appraisals of the complex web of political, economic, and historical forces in play around the world” (The New York Times).

In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, Hillary Rodham Clinton expected to return to the United States Senate. To her surprise, newly elected President Barack Obama asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. “Hard Choices is a richly detailed and compelling chronicle of Clinton’s role in the foreign initiatives and crises that defined the first term of the Obama administration…it teems with small, entertaining details about her interactions with foreign leaders (Los Angeles Times).

Secretary Clinton and President Obama had to decide how to repair fractured alliances, wind down two wars, and address a global financial crisis. Along the way, they grappled with tough dilemmas, especially the decision to send Americans into harm’s way, from Afghanistan to Libya to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. By the end of her tenure, Secretary Clinton had gained a truly global perspective on the major trends reshaping today’s landscape.

In Hard Choices, “a rich and lively narrative” (Entertainment Weekly), Hillary Clinton offers her views on what it will take for the United States to compete and thrive. This “memoir is serious, sober, and substantive” (The New York Times Book Review).

Enjoy your reading!

Jamie

The 3 Shortcuts to Wisdom

books-768426_960_720Recently I answered a question on Quora on the topic of shortcuts to wisdom. I’ve expanded my ideas and want to share them with my readers here at Improve My Life This Year.

Year by year, I’m sure you notice that you become wiser. What if we could accelerate that process? What if we could become wiser, faster? We can. Let’s see how. Let’s see the 3 shortcuts to wisdom.

Shortcut #1 to Wisdom – Mistakes

You learn most when you are in-over-your-head, taking on challenges you never faced before. And in that kind of environment, you will screw up a lot and make many mistakes. The pain and frustration of those setbacks will spark awareness and new understanding. And you’ll be on the fast-track to wisdom. That is of course if you engage in self-reflection at each moment and use your mistakes as learning opportunities.

Shortcut #2 to Wisdom – Mentors

The cool thing about mentors is, they have already screwed up a lot. So, of course, you can spend a lot of time making your own mistakes, but another great way to become wise is to learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. On the plus side, learning through mentors saves you a lot of struggle and pain. On the down side, that lack of direct experience makes it harder for you to truly understand as well as you can from your own mistakes.

Shortcut #3 to Wisdom – Reading

The final shortcut is reading. Think of this, if you read a book by Elon Musk, you are almost having a conversation with him. If you read my post, you are, for a brief moment, peering into my little bit of wisdom. Reading is not so dissimilar to finding a mentor. The conversation is just one-way from them to you, but you are not limited by time and space. You can select from millions of potential mentors from the past and present with a quick trip to the library. Or better yet, you can get a Kindle and read on-the-go, throughout the day. Wherever and however you prefer, just find  a way to read.

Good luck, and may you find wisdom on your life journey!

Jamie

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3 Killer Ways to Improve Your Writing

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The pen is mightier than the sword. Are you well-armed?

If you want to improve your life this year, a key area to target is your communication skills. We’ll cover conversational skills in a different post, but let’s focus on writing today.

Fair or not, people judge your writing skills A LOT! Your resume. Your school assignment. Your dating profile. Your social media posts. These have the power to shape your life. If your writing skills aren’t at the level you’d like, then please, follow my 3 steps and you will be a better writer today!

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#1 Avoid Crutches:

So, crutches are those things you add to your writing, thinking they add value, even though they don’t. What do I mean? Let’s look at some examples more closely.

Adverbs – Take a look at these sentences. He shouted loudly. She walked nervously. He ate quickly. He spoke proudly. All these sentences contain adverbs and all these sentences could be made stronger. You see, writers often lean on adverbs because they have chosen weak verbs. Look at the verbs in those sentences. Shouted. Walked. Ate. Spoke. All of these are rather generic and weak. That’s why the adverbs were added to give a little more color to the sentences. But better yet would be to swap out the original verb/adverb pairs for a single powerful verb. Look at how we can upgrade these sentences. He roared. She tip-toed. He gulped. He gloated. There is almost always an amazing verb that will improve the sentence. Find it. Use it. Instant improvement.

Adjectives – Take a look at these sentences. The beautiful girl sang a lovely song. The small house was in the green forest.The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig. See the adjectives? Beautiful. Lovely. Small. Green. Hungry. Notice that they are common and overused adjectives that don’t really add much value to the sentence? Their only role is to take your eye off the fact that the nouns are even more common and overused. Girl. Song. House. Forest. Wolf. Pig. So here’s what to do. If possible, combine the adjective and noun into a new noun which carries the meaning of both. “Beautiful girl” can be an “angel”. “Small house” can be “a cottage”. If such a word does not exist, (for example there is no specific word which means “hungry wolf”) at least choose a more specific adjective, and consider substituting some imagery in place of the standard noun. Let’s see how this looks. “The beautiful girl sang a lovely song” becomes “The angel sang a stirring aria.” Better yet, “sang” is an overused verb, so let’s change the sentence to “The angel lifted her voice in a stirring aria.” Amazing improvement. “The small house was in the green forest” becomes “The welcoming cottage was nestled in a peaceful green sea of trees.” “The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig” becomes “The rapacious monster longed to devour the unsuspecting farm animal.” If you want your words to come alive, swap out the common for the uncommon and you’ll get instant improvements.

Cliches – I struggle so much with this. A cliche is any phrase that has been used again and again to the point of losing all freshness and originality. As much as I try not to, I tend to overuse cliches frequently.

“At the end of the day”

“All’s well that ends well”

“Bring your A-game”

Here’s a huge list if you’d like to see more. http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-cliches.html

Like I said, I’m bad at it; I use cliches far too often. When you catch those, cut them out and come up with a fresh way to say it. Now that you are aware of it, you’ll notice them in your writing. Ruthlessly remove and replace for an instant boost to your writing.

#2 Get a Decent Thesaurus:

Seriously. Get a physical copy, place it on your desk and become friends with it. Refer to it often. A good thesaurus contains far more than just synonyms. I personally love Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers. It contains over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, and related terms every writer should know.

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As you refer to a thesaurus over time, your vocabulary and writing skills naturally strengthen.

Avoid Grammar and Spelling Mistakes:

OK, if you follow steps 1 and 2, you’ll be crafting incredibly descriptive sentences now, but you still don’t want a perfectly good email or journal entry to be marred by basic errors. How can you avoid making grammar and spelling mistakes, especially when you are in a hurry? I use Grammarly.

Grammarly is a cloud-­based application. As of now, it checks for over 250 types of common grammatical errors, corrects contextual spelling mistakes (which means it’ll notice that you used “too” when you probably meant “to”), enhances vocabulary usage, and provides citation suggestions as you type (a fantastic aid for college students). My favorite feature is that it runs in real-time as you type, so you see a variety of suggestions which don’t obstruct your view or distract you as you work. If you want to correct an error, you simply click once on the suggested improvement and your text is instantly fixed. There are browser extensions available as well, so wherever you are typing (emails, Facebook, blog comments, etc.) you are protected from errors. They have both a free service and a premium one. I started with the free service for some time; later I upgraded to premium and I love it even more. Seriously try the free version for yourself and I’m pretty sure you’ll wonder how you lived and worked without it for so long. Millions of people worldwide including myself rely on Grammarly and it can be the key tool that makes you a better writer.

So there you have it! Avoid crutches like boring adverbs and adjectives. Get a thesaurus and use it as you write to build your vocabulary. And use Grammarly to catch all the tiny errors that you miss but the judging eyes of someone else won’t. I truly believe that as you write better, your career, your relationships, and your reputation will improve.

Go for it, and if you have additional tips, feel free to share them in the comment section below!

Jamie

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Eat That Frog!

51eRBJgA9hL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week’s theme is all about accomplishing great things. And one of the best books I’ve read on the topics of overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Below is the introduction of the book which provides a nice outline of its contents and overall philosophy.

The introduction comes via the book’s Amazon page.

Introduction: Eat That Frog

This is a wonderful time to be alive. There have never been more possibilities and opportunities for you to achieve more of your goals than exist today. As perhaps never before in human history, you are actually drowning in options. In fact, there are so many good things that you can do that your ability to decide among them may be the critical determinant of what you accomplish in life.

If you are like most people today, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks and responsibilities just keep rolling in, like the waves of the ocean. Because of this, you will never be able to do everything you have to do. You will never be caught up. You will always be behind in some of your tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them.

The Need to Be Selective

For this reason, and perhaps more than ever before, your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop.

An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.

The Truth about Frogs

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

The first rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.

Think of this as a test. Treat it like a personal challenge. Resist the temptation to start with the easier task. Continually remind yourself that one of the most important decisions you make each day is what you will do immediately and what you will do later, if you do it at all.

The second rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

Take Action Immediately

In study after study of men and women who get paid more and promoted faster, the quality of “action orientation” stands out as the most observable and consistent behavior they demonstrate in everything they do. Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.

In our world, and especially in our business world, you are paid and promoted for getting specific, measurable results. You are paid for making a valuable contribution and especially for making the most important contribution that is expected of you.

“Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.

Develop the Habits of Success

Your success in life and work will be determined by the kinds of habits that you develop over time. The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting on with your most important task is a mental and physical skill. As such, this habit is learnable through practice and repetition, over and over again, until it locks into your subconscious mind and becomes a permanent part of your behavior. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes both automatic and easy to do.

This habit of starting and completing important tasks has an immediate and continuous payoff. You are designed mentally and emotionally in such a way that task completion gives you a positive feeling. It makes you happy. It makes you feel like a winner.

Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world.

The completion of an important task triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These endorphins give you a natural “high.” The endorphin rush that follows successful completion of any task makes you feel more positive, personable, creative, and confident.

Develop a Positive Addiction

Here is one of the most important of the so-called secrets of success. You can actually develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger. When you develop this addiction, you will, at an unconscious level, begin to organize your life in such a way that you are continually starting and completing ever more important tasks and projects. You will actually become addicted, in a very positive sense, to success and contribution.

One of the keys to your living a wonderful life, having a successful career, and feeling terrific about yourself is to develop the habit of starting and finishing important jobs. When you do, this behavior will take on a power of its own and you’ll find it easier to complete important tasks than not to complete them.

No Shortcuts

You remember the story of the man who stops a musician on a street in New York and asks how he can get to Carnegie Hall. The musician replies, “Practice, man, practice.”

Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.

The Three Ds of New Habit Formation

You need three key qualities to develop the habits of focus and concentration, which are all learnable. They are decision, discipline, and determination.

First, make a decision to develop the habit of task completion. Second, discipline yourself to practice the principles you are about to learn over and over until they become automatic. And third, back everything you do with determination until the habit is locked in and becomes a permanent part of your personality.

Visualize Yourself as You Want to Be

There is a special way that you can accelerate your progress toward becoming the highly productive, effective, efficient person that you want to be. It consists of your thinking continually about the rewards and benefits of being an action-oriented, fast-moving, and focused person. See yourself as the kind of person who gets important jobs done quickly and well on a consistent basis.

Your mental picture of yourself has a powerful effect on your behavior. Visualize yourself as the person you intend to be in the future. Your self-image, the way you see yourself on the inside, largely determines your performance on the outside. All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.

You have a virtually unlimited ability to learn and develop new skills, habits, and abilities. When you train yourself, through repetition and practice, to overcome procrastination and get your most important tasks completed quickly, you will move yourself onto the fast track in your life and career and step on the accelerator.

Eat That Frog!

Incredible advice and a fantastic book for people that want to get serious about improving their career or academic life.

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Get it on Kindle and make this week the start of a new, more productive you!

Motivation for Monday

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The only thing standing between where you are now and where you want to be is the work that it will take to bridge the gap.

Get busy this week.

For some self-improvement ideas to inspire you, check out our self-improvement curriculum, our suggested book reading list, our Facebook page, and our Twitter page.

– Jamie

Stop Outsourcing Confidence

chess-1464959_960_720One simple hack to improve your life is this: stop outsourcing your confidence. What do I mean?

Usually, our confidence comes from outcomes. Get a good test score – you’ll think you are a good student. Girl says yes when you ask her out on date – you’ll think you are a cool guy. Land a promotion, win a match of arm-wrestling, finally make that perfect omelette – and for a moment, you feel you are the greatest.

The problem is, outcome-based confidence is fleeting. You don’t get an “A” on every assignment. You go through fights and breakups in relationships, you’ll screw up at work some days and you’ll sometimes lose at things you wanted to win so much.

What happens then?

If you are outsourcing your confidence, those moments will crush you. They’ll lower your sense of self-worth. And if you hit a rough patch with a sting of bad results, you’ll suddenly find yourself facing a crisis of self-confidence.

What’s the alternative?

Internal-based confidence. How does it work? You take back control of your confidence by placing it processes rather than results.

The beauty of this system is that you have full control over it. Instead of looking at the grade on the test which can be influenced by things outside of your control, focus on your study process. Did you study enough? Did you use good study methods? Did you pay attention in class? If you followed a great process, then have confidence that you are a good student and that in spite of this one bad result, you will be achieving success in the long run.

You see, processes are always under your control. You can’t control whether you win the game, but you can control whether you practiced, worked out in the gym, ate well, prioritized rest, etc.

You may succeed today; you may not. Don’t place your self-worth in hands of today’s results.

You will succeed in the long-run if you build and follow good processes in your life. Check out our self-improvement curriculum for some great processes to start building today.

Jamie

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A Counter-intuitive Way to Say “Goodbye” to Worry

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I have a tendency to worry. I think it is due to the fact that I juggle a lot of responsibilities and often find myself involved in projects that have me out of my comfort zone.

Additionally, I think I worry sometimes because there are many wonderful things in my life that I fear losing.

Actually, when you think about it, that’s what all worry is – a fear of loss. I worry because I don’t want to lose something I have or something I hope to have.

Ironically, this means that worry can strike even more during the good times in life. Have a great relationship? You can start worrying about losing that person. Just landed a new job? You can easily begin worry about screwing up at work.

Now a lot of people will tell you that the way to avoid worry is to not think about it, but honestly, that doesn’t work. Don’t think about a dancing bear in a tutu. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what is in your mind now.

In fact, by trying not to think about something, you actually increase the likelihood of it occupying prime real estate in your mind. So what can we do?

Let’s try something very counter-intuitive.

Rather than trying to forget our worries, I want you to focus on them. How and why?

Here’s how. First, get a journal. Here’s a nice one. It’ll be your worry journal. Next, everyday for at least a week I want you to write down every worry that pops into your mind.

“I might be late today!” Write it down. “I think my coworker thought my joke was dumb.” Write it down. “I worry my partner won’t love me someday.” Write it down.

No matter how big or small the worry, get it down on paper.

Why are we doing this? Well there are 2 huge benefits.

First, by getting these worries out of our heads and on to paper, we surprisingly will reduce the attention we pay to them. But the second benefit is even more powerful.

Imagine you have a friend who always gives you advice. Unsolicited. But he’s almost always wrong. Would you listen to him? Would you let his words dictate your  life? Of course not!

But here’s the thing. Your worries are nothing more than unsolicited advice and they are usually incorrect, just like the friend in our imaginary example.

Don’t believe me. You will after this experiment. After you write down every worry for a week, I want you to review your entries.Calculate what percentage of them actually came true? Find out what percentage turned out to be totally unnecessary.

The results will prove to you once and for all that in most cases you worries are to be laughed at, not feared.

Give it a try, and set yourself free from your worries.

Jamie

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