Monthly Archives: December 2014

How Successful People Stay Calm

By Dr. Travis Bradberry

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you follow our newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

stress

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

They Avoid Asking “What If?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

Ditch Your Job and Create A Life You Love

50+ Fearless Feminine Power

by Marianne Cherico

It seems that more and more midlife women that I talk with are not happy in their jobs. They have worked hard for many long years, always putting the needs of their family first and this has often prevented them from going out on their own, for fear of being financially vulnerable and worse, letting their children down.

I mean, there was preschool to pay for and often private school after and sports and camps and art lessons and braces and proms and college and internships abroad and weddings and yadayadaya.

And for women who are either single or divorced, it is often even more difficult because they don’t have a partner to help support them.

So they work in jobs to pay the bills and somewhere along the way they begin to wonder where they lost that fire of their youth…that “I can do and be anything spirit.” And as the years pass, they begin to look at their life and want something more, something just for them. But they are so stuck in their patterns of living and limited way of thinking that they don’t know where to begin. Or they feel as though it is too late.

But I am here to tell you that there is always a way if you really want something and if you are one of these women, now is the time to start planning for it–not tomorrow or next week or a month from now. The clock is ticking.

You see, sometimes we fail to plan because the mountain of our dreams feels so high and our dream seems so impossible. But if you focus on gaining clarity on what you want and implementing steps to get there, it will happen and you will be so happy that you began the journey. You just have to break free of limiting beliefs that get in the way.

Because as we know all too well, time goes by fast and there is no more time to waste!

So what is it that you have always wanted to do? Begin with that. Envision it, muse about it, feel as though you are in that dream life-BELIEVE!

Here is an example. You are in a job that you hate but in the back of your mind you have always wanted to pursue your dream of being a make-up artist. You have done complimentary make up sessions for all of your friends and your services are being requested for their children’s weddings, professional photos, glamour shots, etc. You absolutely love doing this work but can’t make the leap from your steady job because you are ready to retire in 2 years and will lose the pension. You also believe that you won’t be able to pay your bills while building your business and all the other things that cause you to not take action.

But what if you could change all that by simply changing your mindset? What if you decided that this dream was really important and you would make a commitment to yourself to go all out and make it happen.

Start with envisioning what it would be like to work in a business that you love-that you created. What might your day look like? Would you start your day with yoga or plan to go for a walk in the middle of the day? Or maybe there is a hobby that you would like to explore and now you can work your schedule around it. Maybe you could travel more. Would you set up a room in your home that was just the way you wanted it so that your working environment would be pleasant?

What might it feel like to design your business in a way that makes you happy, doing what you love?

Here are some of the possible benefits:

  • You will be able to take better care of your health.
  • You will be able to spend more time with your children or Grandchildren.
  • You will feel happier and proud of yourself for creating your business and life your way
  • You can choose who you want to work with-your ideal clients.
  • You can build your business as large as you would like-you are the boss!
  • You can make as much money as you want-the sky is the limit.
  • Add your personal benefits to this list.

Now I am not saying that this is easy or even that it is for everyone. This is for those of you who are willing to work hard and create a life you want so badly that it trumps your fears. And we all have fears.

In part 2, coming out the week of the 21st, I will give you some pointers on how to move forward in spite of your fears and limiting beliefs, so that you can create the life and business that you want.

There are so many ways that you can achieve what you want, but you have to start by believing and building the dream.

If you would like to book a strategy session to determine how I can help you personally achieve your dreams, email me at marianne@mariannecherico.com

Marianne Cherico is the owner and principal designer of Interiors by Marianne Cherico.

A quiz to see if you are in the right job

To find out what career is right for you, take this interactive quiz by clicking HERE.

10 Companies Hiring Like Crazy in December

By Kat Moon

Recently, we provided a step-by-step guide to figuring out which companies to apply for. But today, we’d like to make your life even easier by giving you a list of 10 awesome companies that are hiring like crazy in December.

Think December’s a strange time to apply for a new job? Think again. With less competition from other job seekers and more attention from recruiters, you’ll get a chance to seriously impress hiring managers if you choose to apply to any of these awesome companies.

  1. Dolby

If you’ve ever set foot in a movie theater, chances are you’ve been exposed to visual and sound technologies created by Dolby. The company’s mission is to improve everyday entertainment in cinema, music, and video games.

Although Dolby has been around for almost 50 years, employees say the excitement of going to work never wears off. New projects are executed every day, and the company’s different teams are united by the desire to improve the entertainment experience. Even if technology isn’t your jam, there are plenty of open roles, from marketing and legal operations to business strategy and product management, that will surely pique your interest.

See Dolby Open Jobs

  1. GoHealth

GoHealth is disrupting the health insurance industry—fast. Dubbed as the nation’s most complete online portal for finding health insurance coverage, the company has helped nearly 30 million Americans compare and purchase insurance plans since its founding in 2011. Michael Mahoney, senior VP of consumer marketing, shares that because the fundamentals of the insurance industry are so old, there are very few limits in terms of creativity.

Want to join a fast-paced environment with endless possibilities for innovation and advancement? Now’s your chance to apply. Don’t worry if the job description doesn’t fit you perfectly, because GoHealth’s new hires don’t fit any kind of mold.

See GoHealth Open Jobs

  1. Twilio

It’s not hard to fall in love with Twilio’s office in San Francisco. The cloud communications company—with major clients like Coca-Cola, PayPal, and Uber—has conference rooms named after Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, a fully-stocked kitchen, and a break room called The Dungeon.

Apart from building the next generation of voice and SMS applications for both Fortune 500 companies and rising startups, you’ll enjoy awesome perks like $20 a month for your daily bike ride, free Zipcar credits, and even $30 a month to buy your favorite books (if you successfully build a Twilio app, that is). Check out these openings to see how you can help define the future of business communication with a smart and incredibly fun team.

See Twilio Open Jobs

  1. Squarespace

Squarespace is hiring everywhere—in New York, in Portland, and in Dublin. Why? Because the company’s product is becoming popular everywhere. With the recent release of Squarespace 7 (which is seriously beautiful), the company is becoming a front-runner in website building. Customers build a professional presence on the web by selecting from Squarespace’s range of sophisticated templates and connect real-time with the company’s technicians whenever they have questions.

The company is looking to hire everyone from customer operations advisors and design specialists to software and network engineers. Applicants with fluency in either Spanish or German are especially desired.

See Squarespace Open Jobs

  1. Virool

With a global network of more than 100 million viewers, Virool makes sure videos get seen. Whether it’s helping movie trailers reach new audiences, helping musicians get discovered on YouTube, or helping brands engage with online viewers, Virool knows the secret formula for making videos go viral. Sony, Disney, and Heineken are just a few of the company’s notable customers.

If being a part of this video advertising story excites you, Virool wants to chat. Apart from traveling between the offices in San Francisco, New York, and St. Petersburg, you’ll have opportunities to go on company retreats to places like Napa Valley and Yosemite National Park.

See Virool Open Jobs

  1. Shutterstock

Shutterstock has created the largest and most vibrant two-sided marketplace for creative professionals to license content—including images, videos, and music, as well as innovative tools that power the creative process. The company now boasts a presence in more than 150 different countries and operates in 20 different languages. It’s looking for new hires to join in its mission to deliver high-quality content from more than 70,000 artists to a global customer base of over one million marketing, creative, production, and communications professionals.

Whether you’re located in Chicago, Denver, New York, San Francisco, or Europe, there are open positions for you at Shutterstock. Don’t miss this opportunity to visually inspire the global creative community.

See Shutterstock Open Jobs

  1. Allstate 

Ever heard of the slogan, “You’re in good hands with Allstate?” Well, it comes from the company that’s currently the largest publicly held personal lines insurer in the U.S. Allstate’s mission is to help millions of households—16 million, to be exact—insure personal possessions and plan for the unexpected. No matter what your needs are, Allstate has the right insurance coverage option for you.

Join more than 70,000 professionals to expand the company’s existing products and build new ones. Even though Allstate is a giant firm, employees share that the company’s startup-like culture allows everyone to make a direct impact.

See Allstate Open Jobs

  1. GrubHub

To put it simply, GrubHub quells hunger. Its online ordering system featuring menu viewing, meal ordering, and food delivery is every hungry person’s dream come true. As Steven Young, senior director of acquisitions marketing, puts it, “We bring a new way of getting all the food that you love, whenever you want it, however you want it.”

Get excited, because GrubHub’s Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, and San Diego locations are all hiring like crazy. Whether you’re technical, non-technical, looking for an internship, or looking for a senior level position—the company has a job opening for you.

See  GrubHub Open Jobs

  1. Teach for America 

Only 8% of kids growing up in low-income communities graduate from college, and TFA wants to change that. The organization’s mission is to provide kids growing up in poverty with the opportunity to get an excellent education. Partnering with regional offices from all 50 states, TFA reaches students at every stage between pre-K and 12th grade.

If you’d like to join more than 2,000 others in this social movement, don’t wait another minute to apply. While you don’t need an experience in education to be considered, you do need a passion for impacting the next generation.

See Teach for America Open Jobs

  1. Nitro

Nitro makes smarter documents for everyone. Its award-winning products have transformed the way documents are created, edited, and shared—and more than 490,000 businesses have bought in. Not impressed yet? Over 50% of Fortune 500 companies—Nike, IBM, and Staples, to name a few—rely on Nitro, and the company built the PDF that has become Lenovo’s software partner of choice.

Now that Nitro’s products are used by millions of people around the world, the company is searching for the brightest talent for its offices in Melbourne, Dublin, and San Francisco. As a Nitronaut, you’ll enter a place where the office culture is completely defined by the interests of employees.

See Nitro Open Jobs

A sophomore at Columbia University, Kat Moon currently serves on the board of Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs.