Not talent, not even education

 Calvin CoolidgeNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference. Calvin Coolidge

A big payoff in taking the optimistic view

optimistic viewIf you’re an optimist, you believe that any defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge. It doesn’t knock you down.
Using this theme in your life helps you move forward in your work. And a positive view helps to prevent illness, improves relationships, and increases self esteem. A study reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows the optimists live longer, are healthier, and more peaceful and calm.
When you find yourself stuck in pessimism, psychiatrists at Columbia University say there are things you can do to revive your optimistic ways. Developing certain skills can change your view of the world.
* Practice seeing yourself as being better off than someone else. You are better off than many people you see every day.
* Know that everything is not your fault. Pessimists think they cause bad events that will undermine everything, says Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Learned Optimism, How to Change Your Mind (Free Press).
* When things go wrong, realize that the situation will only affect you for a limited time. If you failed, understand that outside factors were partly responsible.
* Decide to be positive even if you don’t feel like it. If you smile, your brain assumes you feel good. Act happy, and you will begin to feel better.
* Be positive with others, and they will reinforce your optimistic attitude. Be upbeat and show interest in them.
* Carry cards with positive statements on them about your life and your future.
If you feel depressed for some time and have negative feelings you can’t overcome, see your doctor. There are many good treatments for depression.

Be ready for that important moment

Be readyIt could be right around the corner: an occasion that puts you in the spotlight. How will you handle it?
Career coaches say that before it happens, know that it probably will, sometime in the not-too-distant future. But if you always expect the unexpected, that act alone will increase your confidence and resilience.
When you are called upon, the worst thing you can do is to become too stunned to respond. At RHR International in Wood Dale, Ill., they recommend stilling that internal voice that says you can’t handle it. Be ready to “step up to the plate” with confidence.
It helps to anticipate a surprise spotlight. One manager quoted in The Wall Street Journal takes the time to consider that various things could occur. She comes up with a dozen or two fast ideas for the one she selects. The ideas are put on sticky notes, stuck on a wall, then repositioned in the order she would present them. It’s a starting point.
Unanticipated spotlights often occur during meetings. If it happens to you, career coaches say you should take deep breaths, compose your thoughts, restate the question, and use humor to defuse tension. Above all, avoid blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
In spite of planning, some people just don’t do well in unexpected situations. Some coaches recommend acting lessons. But being on guard and prepared would probably work better.

Number of workaholics blamed on technology

workaholicsBeing truly dedicated to your work is a plus no matter what your position may be. For some, however, dedication can become addiction.
It’s a fact of life that high earners work more than 50 hours a week. They are defined as people age 25 to 34 who earn $75,000 a year, or people age 35 and older with higher earnings.
Some workers at various levels work 60 hours a week. They’re on cellphones 24/7, no longer enjoy social activities, are the last to leave the office, and their families are left out of their lives.
The situation has generated support groups in cities such as Minneapolis and Denver. Work addicts share stories about how their addiction has damaged their health, destroyed relationships, and hurt spouses and children.
There have always been workaholics, but technology has vastly increased their numbers. They will even work from the shower or bath. They always focus on the next goal and worry they will fail if they don’t keep it up.
About 10 percent are working 80 hours a week, according to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review. Workaholics don’t get enough sleep, rarely exercise, tend to overeat, and may drink too much alcohol.
To curb the constant activity, these people must acknowledge the problem and realize they are a victim of their work, rather than the master of it.
They should establish specific times and days when they will not work.
It helps to have a co-worker force them to leave work at a certain time.

Help to secure retirement income

retirement incomeInvesting in bricks and mortar can help to secure retirement income
When it comes to building long-term assets, only the top fifth of American households build a nest egg from stocks and bonds. For those who aren’t rich, real estate is their main source of wealth in later years.
Investing in commercial property can be wise, but the family home makes up a significant part of most people’s assets. Those who take the time to calculate the investment in their home and compare it to the investment in their retirement accounts are likely to be surprised.
The experts at Wachovia Bank say understanding this can help people make good decisions while they’re younger. But it can also help middle-agers secure their golden years.
Trading to a larger house during your prime working years can be a good retirement savings strategy if you can afford the payments. Equity builds and the value of the home rises each year.
A rental property can provide income as long as costs such as the mortgage and maintenance are more than covered by the rent. Equity builds and the property increases in value over time.
Some people buy vacation homes for family use, hoping to cash in on future appreciation. Others rent out a property so it creates an income stream. And still others, looking forward to their retirement years, buy a second home anticipating that they will downsize.
Location is important, but amenities, future needs, maintenance, and an exit strategy must be considered.
No one should buy a property that will strain the budget if annual income drops, say Wachovia advisors.

Let someone else reveal your accomplishments

accomplishmentsIt has been called ‘managing up,’ self promotion, and some less flattering monikers.
It’s the ability to influence your own boss to invest in your ideas and advancement.
It’s a soft skill that can be mistaken, at best, for manipulation, but, at worst, for thriving on the fruits of others’ labor and covering one’s fanny.
Real managing up is supposed to be done not for personal reasons but for the benefit of the organization. But most often, it’s done for personal gain. It’s hard to do with dignity and without straining friendships.
You may believe that when you are doing a good job and accomplishing something, that your bosses will know. But Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University says your boss probably doesn’t realize how good you are.
Cialdini and Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Jerry Pfeffer co-authored a recent study that shows self-promotion may not work as well as it seems. Reported in the Wall Street Journal, the researchers found that self-aggrandizers don’t fool others as well as they fool themselves.
Their recommendation: You have to all but deputize someone as your campaign manager. The most savvy strategy, they found, is to have information about your accomplishments come to your boss from someone else.
When discussing ideas with your boss, point out that what you are recommending is logically consistent with a stand the boss and higher-ups are already taking.

Ask your people to come up with suggestions before the meeting

suggestionsSo you’re wondering how to improve the efficiency of your department or your team and think your people could be mined for golden ideas.
How about a brainstorming session? It could be a popular method, but is it better than having workers develop ideas on their own?
Psychologists at the University of Texas at Arlington researched the number and quality of ideas produced by brainstorming sessions. They looked at whether people brainstorming in a group came up with better ideas than four people did when they brainstormed alone. The group of brainstormers came up with just half as many ideas as the four people who brainstormed alone.
They also discovered, however, that people brainstorming alone came up with good ideas after the group brainstorming sessions.
One professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education says the best way to get good ideas is to get people to write them down and bring them in.  If you really want group diversity, don’t include more than five to seven people. While brainstorming is plainly inefficient, you might do it because you want everyone to think they have a voice.
If you must brainstorm, professor Paul  Baard of Fordham University suggests you start with a statement. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, he recommends:     “No one, present or not here, is going to be hurt during this process. We will not be using ridicule …”

There are many ways to finance a home

HomeFinance all of it, part of it, or none of it. Whichever you choose, you’ve got plenty of company.
The National Association of Realtors reports these trends:
Age: Buyers age 45 to 65 and older are less likely to finance a home purchase. They are often repeat buyers or are downsizing.
Average buyer: The typical buyer tends to finance 91 percent of their home purchase.
First-time buyers: They are usually younger and don’t have cash from a previous home. Last year, the average first-time buyer financed 98 percent of their home. Nationwide, 40 percent financed the entire amount.
Sources of downpayment: Savings are the chief source of downpayment funds for home buyers in general and for 73 percent of first-time buyers. About 40 percent of repeat buyers drew on savings for a downpayment, while 60 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of a primary residence for a downpayment.
After savings, the second most popular sources of funds for first-time buyers was a gift from relatives or friends.
Types of mortgages:  Loosely defined, mortgages are either fixed-rate or adjustable. Within these categories, however, specific terms vary widely.
About 71 percent of recent home buyers reported that they had a fixed-rate loan; 8 percent had an adjustable rate loan. First-time buyers were more likely than repeat buyers to start with a fixed rate loan that eventually had rates adjusted.
Some buyers start with an adjustable rate and then convert to a fixed-rate mortgage. Others begin with a fixed-rate mortgage that then adjusts the rate periodically.
Surprisingly, 3 percent of home buyers don’t know what type of mortgage they have.

401(k) advice: Be part of the plan

401 k moneyLast August, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act. It encourages companies to sign up employees automatically for 401(k) plans.
Previously, only a third of eligible employees participated, but the new rules are changing that. The 401(k) plans have three compelling benefits:

  • Investments are made with pre-tax dollars. Investments and interest earned are not taxed until you withdraw your money at age 59-1/2 through age 70.
  • You get “free money.” Employers can match contributions dollar for dollar. Typically, however, they match 50 cents on the dollar up to 6 percent of your salary, according to Fortune. Some match 25 cents on the dollar.
  • The federal limit on your contributions is $15,000 per year or $20,000 for those age 50 or older. The minimum contribution is set by the plan.

A plan generally has a set of default options for investing your money. They are primarily balanced mutual funds and investment pools that include a mix of stocks and bonds. Some companies include target-date or lifecycle funds, which change the mix of stocks and bonds according to how long it will be before you retire.
Fund tracker Morning Star reports that balanced funds returned an average of 9.7 percent a year since 2004, making them a good choice.
Most 401(k) participants depend on the plan to make their investment choices. Participants who feel knowledgeable about investments, however, can make or change their own choices from various investments available within the plan.
Advisors at Fortune say letting your investments grow on “autopilot” with the plan’s choices has paid off for most people over time.

You’re smart. Why not sound that way?

bookFortune’s Stanley Bing is a funny guy. He begins his tirade on grammar with a 60-word sentence. Then he loads paragraphs of his “While You Were Out” page with grammatical no-nos, many of which are found in email he receives.
Here are some of the misuses of the language that grate on his nerves.
You and I or you and me? Use ‘You and I’ when you are the subject: You and I should have lunch. (You wouldn’t say, ‘Me should have lunch!’) Use ‘You and me’ when you are the direct object: The boss called you and me. (You wouldn’t say, ‘The boss called I.’)
Interchanging “their,” “there” and “they’re.” Correct: They’re (they are) having their lunch over there.
The difference between its and it’s. Its (without an apostrophe) is the possessive of it: Nice car. I like its color. It’s means ‘it is.’  It’s my favorite.
Using “myself” instead of “me.”  This rankles Bing and annoys a lot of his readers as well. If he could send a message to everyone, people would not write such things as, “For any problem, contact Ruth or myself.” Just say ‘me.’ If you want to know when to use ‘myself’ look up ‘reflexive pronouns.’ You will be proud of yourself!
Bing (and there are many others like him) notices that young men are often guilty of referring to other men as “dude,” and saying “No problem” in response to “Thank You.” Some will mutter “Yo” in the elevator to others.
Bing counsels against correcting the offender. They won’t like it and may not even believe their grammar is poor. All you can do speak correctly yourself.