Category: Positively Positive

What to Do about That Thing You’ve Been Putting Off

You know how there’s something you’ve been putting off? I don’t just mean for a couple of days; I mean for a long time. Maybe you’ve had it on your to-do list every day for the past fifteen days. Every morning, you think, “I’ll finally do that thing today” … but you don’t. The next day, you dutifully carry it over again … and you still don’t complete the task.

Never underestimate the strength of psychic resistance. Dread is a powerful emotion.

I speak from experience, of course. And after I noticed I was spending a ton of energy worrying about something I had to do but not actually doing it—I made a plan. The plan is two-fold, and I offer it here for your use as well.

Part One: Let Go if You Can

Before you move towards completing the dreaded task, first make certain that the dreaded task absolutely needs to happen. You can sometimes obtain just as much relief by simply deciding, hey, I’m not going to do that thing or worry about it anymore.

Therefore, consider: Must I do this thing? What are the consequences of not doing it?

If the consequences of not doing it are less than whatever suffering you’re currently experiencing—by worrying but not doing nothing about it—maybe you just need to let it go.

Note, however, that if you decide to let go of it, you need to really let go. If you keep worrying about it, perhaps even thinking, “Oh, I might still get to it … I really should,” you’ll be miserable. Instead, accept that the thing just isn’t going to happen! Move on and be happy.

For all of the things in life that we can’t simply opt-out of, move to Part Two.

Part Two: Make a To-Dread List

A To-Dread list is exactly like it sounds. It contains everything you probably should do but really don’t want to. That overdue email reply, that loving-but-corrective feedback you need to give to a co-worker, dealing with a bill you’ve been avoiding—all of those things are typical To-Dread list items.

Of course, your list will be unique to you. So take some time and write down whatever you can think of on this new list. Maybe you normally group items by categories like “Phone Calls” or “Errands” or something else. Well, guess what the items on your to-dread list have in common? You don’t want to do them! They deserve their own list.

Once you have the list, you devote a chunk of time (like a half-hour or hour, maybe longer depending on the tasks) to actively tackle only those items on the list and nothing else. You might need to schedule this into your calendar to make sure you prioritize it.

I know, it will be painful. But just remember: it’s going to feel so, so good to get those difficult things done. Putting them off has a cost, so take them off your to-do list. Make a to-dread list, spend half an hour on it, and feel better.

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

Better Questions Will Get You a Better Life

Questions are powerful.

When we want to move forward in life, to conquer some challenge or achieve a goal, or survive, we’re asking ourselves questions:

  • How did this happen?
  • What can I do? How can I fix/achieve/avoid ____?
  • What are my options?
  • What will work? What won’t work?

Situations that require decisive action stress us out. Most of the time we react rather than act. When many reactions are possible, we balk. When we have to be proactive rather than reactive, we seek assurance that our decision is a good one. So we ask ourselves questions, then choose what seems to be the best answer and act on it.

When the best answer isn’t good

What happens if our best answer isn’t a very good one?

All too often, we’re acting on our best answer but our best answer is, frankly, awful.

This matters because our answers determine the quality and effectiveness of our actions. Of course, they’re not the only factor: how well we execute also matters. But poor answers, even when executed well, still give terrible results.

When things don’t work out the way we want, how often do we revisit our answers?

Most of the time, we don’t.

Instead, we criticize ourselves. We see our mistakes, our weaknesses, our errors, our failures in execution. We blame ourselves and our poor execution for lack of success.

Sometimes poor execution is the problem. But sometimes it isn’t. Many times, the execution is adequate. It’s the poor answer that’s the problem.

How to get better answers

To raise the quality of our decisions and actions, we need to raise the quality of our answers. To raise the quality of our answers, we look at the questions we’re asking.

We learn to ask better questions.

Questions provide the framing, the structure for our answers. We have to focus our attention, and to do that we need boundaries. We need to define what’s relevant and what isn’t. Many questions, however, provide a shoddy structure. They put the wrong boundaries in place, focus the attention in the wrong direction, or cut off relevant options arbitrarily.

If you’ve attempted to reach a goal or solve a problem multiple times without success, stop and look at your questions.

Chances are high that you’re asking the same questions on every attempt, then executing slight variations of the same best answer every time. Of course you’re not making progress. You’re not changing anything.

Asking different questions can show us what to change. Different questions open up new options and methods. Better questions get us to better answers. Better answers—executed adequately—change our results.

How to ask better questions

1. Start noticing the questions you ask yourself.

Bring them out into the world of the sense where you can see, hear, and assess the questions. Unspoken questions (i.e., those we ask internally only) are often negative, limiting, and based on false assumptions. Speaking them—either verbally or in writing—makes it easier to see the problems with a question and start looking for better questions.

2. Start modifying your questions.

Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with brand-new questions. Instead, make changes to the questions you already ask:

  • What am I going to do? What options do I have?
  • How bad can this be? How good could this become?
  • How did this happen? How can I benefit from this happening?
  • What did I do to deserve this? What can I do to improve this?
  • How can I possibly handle this?  How much of this can I safely ignore?
  • What will people think? Who can give me sound advice?

3. Look for new questions to ask.

There are two sources: people who are doing well in the relevant area, and people who aren’t. You can get new questions from successful people or unsuccessful people. From experts or amateurs.

  • Copy the questions from the successes, from the experts, from those who have successfully applied wisdom to achieve their goals. They’re probably asking better questions than you. Find out what those questions are, then start using them.
  • Avoid the questions from the unsuccessful. Compare them to your own questions. Do you see patterns of negativity, blame, limitation, victimization, helplessness, scarcity, etc.? Those are the patterns to remove.

4. Look for both internal and external insights from your questions.

Some questions are internally focused: how do I feel about this? What do I fear in this situation?

Some questions are externally focused: What tactics can I use? What resources am I not aware of?

Use both kinds of question to get a bigger, balanced picture of your options and obstacles.

Questions to start using

Here are some questions you can start using now. They’re usually most helpful when you make them specific to your situation.

For example, instead of asking the first question as-is, include the specific situation or goal you’re facing: What will happen if I succeed in this thing I’m currently attempting?

That gives you a more focused question, which will (generally) result in better, more helpful answers.

Note: Each question has multiple versions and/or spin-off or going-deeper questions. You don’t need them all. Keep asking until you get some answers that feel new, more expansive, more helpful, or more insightful in some way. You’re seeking better understanding and improved options in the answers you generate. Keep asking until you find them.

  1. What will happen if I succeed? What are the positive results of success? What are the negative results of success? What scares me about success in this are?
  2. What is my big vision? What’s motivating about that vision? How did my vision originate? Where did it come from? How much of it is mine? How much of it is a copy of someone else’s vision? What do I want to keep? What can I discard? What’s weighing me down? What doesn’t fit? What is most exciting about it?
  3. What benefit am I getting by staying as I am? What’s the reward that keeps me stuck in this situation? How do I benefit from not changing? What in me wants to resist? What serves me in these patterns?
  4. What am I afraid of in this area? What’s the biggest risk? What’s are the smaller risk? Which risks frighten me the most? Why are they frightening? What’s the worst that could happen?
  5. How soon can I let myself win? How soon can I acknowledge my success? How many milestones can I put up? How can I measure progress in a way that’s motivating? How soon can I let myself be excited about my progress? Am I safeguarding myself from disappointment by not letting myself be excited? How can I change that?
  6. What have I done in the past in this area? Did it work? If yes, what exactly worked? How can I repeat what worked? How can I improve what worked? If no, what didn’t work, exactly? How can I avoid repeating it? Are there ways I am knowingly wasting my time? Are there ways I am mindlessly repeating patterns and habits that don’t help?
  7. Do I need more options or fewer options? Am I overwhelmed by choices? How can I reduce my choices? How can I quit reinventing the wheel? Am I optimizing when I need to be acting?
  8. What’s the simplest next step I can take? How can I lower the baseline for success in this area? What’s the minimum effort I can put forward and still achieve something?
  9. How can I make this easier? How can I make it simpler? How can I trim it down? What details can I remove? What standards can I let go of? How can I do it faster? How can I make it more fun?
  10. How can I increase the benefits and decrease the effort? Where are there opportunities to offset or decrease my energy cost? How can I trade energy cost for some other resource (money, help, partnership, accountability, systemization, automation, outsourcing, etc.)?
  11. Who’s my objective/trusted expert in this area? What are they saying? Who’s succeeded in this area? Who can share their wisdom with me? Can I trust them more than I trust my fears? How can I take their advice and test it? How can I take action on their wisdom right now?
  12. What’s the smallest slice I can eat from this pie? What’s my one-breath-at-a-time strategy in this area? How can I measure a day’s progress? What’s one action that guarantees forward movement? How can I most easily accomplish this action? How often do I need to take this action for it to have an impact?
  13. What’s not necessary? What am I doing that isn’t helping? What can I stop doing? What can I do less of? What details don’t make a difference? If I have to do only 20% of the plan, which 20% will I do? If I have to get this done in half the time, what would I change?

Annie Mueller is a writer, reader, seeker of growth, and transplant to Puerto Rico, where she lives with her best friend and their four children. Her crash course in self-discovery came from experiencing job loss, financial devastation, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and major surgery—all in less than a year. She writes about creativity, personal growth, and spirituality; runs Prolifica, a content management consultancy for small teams and solo professionals; and sends out a popular weekly newsletter about feelings and freelancing. You can find more of her work on her website.

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

How to Read and Identify Toxic AF People

You may be thinking that other people are f*cking your life up.

Your mom…

Your ex-boyfriend…

Your kids…

and maybe even that really difficult client.

Here’s what I learned in the past 10 years.

Other people are not your problem. In fact, identifying toxic people has more to do with listening to your body’s natural response than any other tactic.

Listen here.

People are one of the greatest resources on the planet.

They can lift you up or tear you down. A mentor once told me, “Surround yourself with exceptional people and you will be exceptional.” The prerequisite to this is listening to your gut about who to allow in and to what degree. It also has everything to do with who to shut TF out!

Helping is manipulation or control with a smile.  

Many moons ago, I was homeless for seven months. This came as a direct result of allowing the wrong people into my life and doing the most to build “our life”.

I was prepared with my list of red flags.

I had my values.

But what I didn’t have or honor was my body’s internal response.

Today, you’re going to learn a very important method and subtle distinction as a way to read other people.

It has nothing to do with learning or mastering red flags and everything to do with slowing your life down enough to believe what your body tells you.

I call this method The Peanut Method, inspired by my sister who has a near-fatal allergy to nuts.

You see, I watched my sister almost die as a baby after eating bananas and watched numerous visits to the ER alongside epi-pen sagas after she consumed nuts. It didn’t matter how much she loved nuts or the food that contained them. They were and always are fatal to her. Not sometimes. All the time.

I believe that for sensitive and creative people with a higher purpose, we have similar allergies.

It’s imperative to identify those allergies early on. Otherwise, we risk unnecessary and irresponsible vulnerability that can derail our lives, dreams, and even our health.

Certain types of people, places, and things can create an insane level of chaos and crisis in our own lives.

Do you know what exactly they are in clear and simple terms?

The common way to better understand who to let into your life is often in the aftermath of conflict. You watch Youtube for “10 Steps to Discover a Narcissist” or “10 Ways to Identify a Toxic Boss”.

These tips are helpful as a start.

But the reality is that you began your Google search for a reason.

What is that reason? You already have an inkling— and most likely a very physical experience— that what you’re experiencing is unhealthy.

My goal in this episode is threefold:

  1. Support you to understand how to identify toxic people in your life.
  2. Trust yourself to act in your best interest.
  3. Recognize the very REAL and TRUE danger these relationships pose to your life, your energy, and your dreams.

Thank you, always, for being a part of this community.

Onwards and upwards!


P.S. Wanna dive even deeper? Sign up for my weekly newsletter and enjoy free journal prompts with every new episode!

Lalita Ballesteros is a speaker, comedian, director, and the founder of Haus of Lala, a creative agency specializing in personal branding. She stands by the belief that your voice matters and that authentic self-expression is our most important work. In the past, Lalita’s disrupted the publishing industry with Seth Godin and The Domino Project (powered by Amazon) creating six best-sellers and raising over a quarter million in revenue in only four months. She also worked at the American Embassy in Rome, created a 6-figure Airbnb business, and oversaw ambassador efforts at Lyft. She speaks three languages and is a regular contributor for Positively Positive, a publication with over 2.5 million followers on Facebook. Lalita’s been seen on the stages of TEDx and Comedy Bary as well as in the pages of Fast Company, Etsy, Forbes, Yahoo Small Business, Mashable, and the best-selling book End Malaria. She currently lives in Toronto with her dog, Luna. Follow her writings and comedy here and #100daysofcomedy here.

Image courtesy of Liza Summer.

He Looks at the Heart

At first glance, the water glass on the left of a fancy Italian restaurant seems more appealing than that on the right. Only because it is transparent, showing the clarity one assumes is synonymous with cleanliness.

However, upon taking a drink of both waters, I much preferred the one on the right. It was chilled, and while not as transparent as the first glass, the cool water met the need of my parched throat in ways the liquid at tepid room temperature assuredly did not.

So often in life we get caught up in appearances.

The way a person dresses or speaks publicly. The awards on the wall of a well-to-do business mogul. The type of car a person drives or the respectful neighborhood in which he resides. It is easy to make assumptions about others based on what we see.


What we see is not always an accurate portrayal of the truth. Is it?

Just because a person appears to have it all together, behind the walls of her fabulously impressive penthouse on 5th Avenue, she may well be fighting an epic emotional battle deeply hidden from the world.

In Luke 21:1-4, many can recite the parable told in Vacation Bible School to young children:

“21 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

Obviously, there was nothing magical about the widow’s small offering, compared to the rich man’s large offering. The difference was solely in the heart of the giver. It often seems the less one has, the more generous a spirit they display to those surrounding them. On the other hand, some of the wealthiest folks in the world, might be considered Scrooge’s by those who know them best.

We are never as rich as when considered ‘poor in spirit’ by earthly standards. This is when we access the full benefit of God’s grace and bountiful blessing.

Just as you cannot “judge a book by its cover”, the heart of man is a mystery, but for the acts of kindness he shows, not to gain attention of his fellow man, but in obedience and gratitude for the Lord, who has shown spiritual bounty to him.

Just this week, I witnessed a young boy on my own son’s flag football team, pat the back of an opposing team’s player, simply because he did a good job! Children truly own the essence of vulnerability and cutting directly through the red tape of society’s standards.

When do we outgrow this desire to see everyone succeed? Whether they are members of our competitive team or not? Lord, I pray, despite political affiliation, differences in medical views, the destruction in Afghanistan, pro-life vs. pro-choice, tragic natural disasters, and all other news-worthy heartbreakingly divisional headlines, that we could see beyond the outer shell of disagreement, to the inner heart of man, found deep below the surface.

I may prefer the cool drink of ice-chilled water. You may prefer the less gum-sensitizing taste of tepid room temperature liquid. But in the end, they are both differing forms of the exact same element essential for our very human survival.

Manndi Maphies DeBoef works at the UMKC School of Pharmacy at Missouri State University. She also enjoys freelance writing. Her greatest passion is being a boy mom to her two sons, William and Waylan, who never fail to provide daily entertainment, which inspires many of her writings. She writes about everything from being a single mom and dating after divorce to finding love later in life, the devastation of miscarriage, the loss of a loved one and starting over. Her pieces are lovingly filled with inspiration, encouragement, and always a touch of humor. “Live a life worth writing about.”  

Image courtesy of Engin Akyurt.

Structure to Hold & Guide Us in the Year Ahead: The 6 Realms of Feminine Leadership

Without structure we are like windsocks with no poles, like pioneers with no destination, like lemmings who follow the main stream.

With structure, we can create a path that provides enough focus that we become empowered and more courageous and confident to walk into uncharted waters and the uncertainty.

Join me, Christine Arylo, leadership advisor and wisdom teacher as I share a structure for thinking about the year ahead through the lens of the six realms of feminine leadership.

First watch the video.

Then I put the model here so you can take a longer look at it.

Use it and what I share in the video to think about how to structure your year – giving you both the space you need to reset and restore, the focus you need to achieve what matters most, and the courage and supports you need to make the shifts you desire.

The six realms of feminine leadership:

First you need a strong foundation: Path, Practice, Personal Sustainability.

And then, they support you to create in a sustainable, aligned way through your Presence, Purpose and Power.

Second, after you watch the video, consider the support, connection and structure you need and desire for this year. Then give it to yourself. Work with the Universe to call in what you need. And take simple but mighty steps to create the reality you desire.

Remember …. this year:

Pace yourself not push yourself.

Go deeper, into your own wisdom and the higher wisdom beyond the mental mind.

And deeper to find the imprints for how you work, relate and operate that are not sustaining you.

Take a stand for your personal sustainability in the design of how you work, set goals, design your life and relationships, and value yourself.

Because, if you don’t take this stand, the systems around you will keep taking from you in ways that drain vs. sustain you.

Then stay connected!

  • This video is one of the twice a month wisdom letters I send to my community via email and through the Feminine Wisdom Cafe community I host.
  • Sign up to receive my twice a monthly wisdom letters go to the home page.
  • Connect on the Feminine Wisdom Cafe with other courageous, wise women daring to do things differently. Go here.

Christine Arylo, MBA, is the author of Overwhelmed and Over It. As a transformational leadership advisor, three-time bestselling author, and host of the popular Feminine Power Time podcast, she is recognized worldwide for her work helping women to make shift happen — in the lives they lead, the work they do, and the world they wish to create. Arylo offers trainings, retreats and workshops globally. Visit her online at or tune into her podcast Connect more with Christine and her community at

Image courtesy of Dmitriy Ganin.

A Simple Psychological Test to Know If Someone Is Genuinely Interested in You

There I was, sweating in my party dress in the August sunshine, desperately trying to impress a woman named Lucy. Lucy was cool, she was pretty, and she seemed to like me, too. I was unbelievably nervous but hopeful about our potential future as friends.

“So what kind of books do you enjoy reading?” I asked her. It’s my go-to ice breaker because books are an easy subject for most people to talk about.

“Oh! I love romcoms most. The old school stuff was bad, but the newer books are right up my street,” she said.

“Definitely!” I replied. “Nothing better than a happy ending.”

Then she did something that is very, very rare in group conversations. She asked me a simple reciprocal question.

“What about you? What books do you like most?” Lucy asked, oblivious to the fact that she’d just blown my mind.

It was at that exact moment that I realized she was genuinely interested in me as a person.

We suck at meeting new people.

The tragic thing about humanity is that we care so much about making a good first impression that stress ruins our chance to make a good first impression.

I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of Lucy’s question, but think about it: When you meet a new person, you put a huge amount of pressure on yourself. You have to stand up straight, maintain eye contact (but not too long), remember the person’s name, and think of what you’re going to say next when the conversation turns to you. All while panicking that there’s spinach stuck in your teeth.

Humans just aren’t that good at it. As a result, when we meet new people, we focus on the easiest topic of conversation: ourselves. You’ll quickly notice when you talk to other people that most of the conversation is about them, not you. You may notice this in yourself, too.

Don’t take it personally. But good conversationalists are in the minority.

It can be easy to impress new friends.

This general lack of skill makes it incredibly easy to tell when someone is super interested in getting to know you as a person, and makes it very easy to impress other people in conversation, too.

Most folks will forget to ask about you. They’ll be worried they’ll get your name wrong, or they won’t have remembered your hobbies, so they’ll just keep talking about themselves.

When someone asks you a simple reciprocal question, that is enough to prove that person likes you and is interested in getting to know you further, especially in group settings where it’s easy to get distracted talking to the wider group.

How to use this test in the wild.

You’re probably already picking up on these cues subconsciously. Recent research by Huang et al in 2017 suggests that humans naturally like other people more if they ask questions. “When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care,” write Huang et al.

The good news is you can use this two ways. If you want other people to like you more, simply remember to ask reciprocal questions. It’s even better if you can work in a detail from earlier in conversation. For example, during our conversation at the party, Lucy not only asked me a question in return, but she also remembered that I’d said I had lived in the UK, so she asked me about British authors.

You can also use it as a quick test to see if someone actually likes you. Many people are charismatic to everyone, so you may think they specifically like you because they’re good at shining that spotlight on you, but they’ll neglect to actually ask you about yourself. Their personality carries them.

When you ask a question and get a reply, wait for a beat to see if your conversational partner asks you a question in return. If they don’t, don’t take it too personally — they might like you, but are just overwhelmed with trying to give a good first impression.

But if they do, it’s a solid sign that they like you enough and are interested enough in your answer to actually remember to return the question.

Next time you’re at a party, talking in a group or one-on-one, pay attention to who asks what. The fact that most folks are so bad at conversation means that when someone really cares about you, they’ll stand out like a shining star — if you know what to look for.

Zulie Rane is a reader and a writer who believes in the power to change the world through the written word. You can find her writing on, posting selfies and art on Instagram at @zulierane and tweeting bad puns on Twitter at @zulierane.

Image courtesy of Diva Plavalaguna.

What I Learned from the FBI’s Best Hostage Negotiator

They kidnap your husband, they say they will kill him in 24 hours if you don’t come up with a million dollars.

What do you do?

You call up Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI.

Chris has saved thousands of lives in hostage negotiations. He’s negotiated against the world’s most maniacal terrorists.

He worked at the FBI for 24 years.

Now he helps others negotiate. He helps companies, individuals, governments, etc.

He wrote an excellent book about negotiation called, “Never Split the Difference“. I recommend it.

So I gave him a call. Chris, how can I get better?

He laughed when I met him. I said to him, “Did you fly here just to do this podcast?”

“I’m meeting the most interesting guy in the world,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I fly here?”

Flattery will get you nowhere! Nevertheless, I am effusively recommending his book and that you listen to the podcast when it comes out in a few weeks.

And I got a chance to sit down with him and ask him everything I wanted to know about negotiation.

I’m the worst at negotiating. I’ve lost companies, I’ve lost millions, I’ve lost time, I’ve gotten depressed – all due to bad negotiations.

I like to think that I learned from all the bad negotiations. Because at least in a bad negotiation, someone is good (the other side) and I can pick it apart and learn from it.

But much better was for me to simply meet the best negotiator in the world and ask him as many questions as I want.


This is the most important thing I learned while talking to Chris.

You always want to get more information in a negotiation with as little commitment as possible on your side.

If one side says, “Show up with a million dollars tomorrow!” you can say, “How am I supposed to get you a million dollars by tomorrow?”

They will keep talking.

Outsource the hard things they are asking right back to them.

If one side says, “We can only go as low as $36,000 on this car” you can say, “I can’t go higher than $30,000. How am I supposed to come up with the $36,000?” And just see what they say.

Ask “open-ended questions” starting with “how” or “what”. Ask a lot of them. Be prepared in advance with your ‘how’ questions.


A lot of people think you get people to say easy “yes”-es so that when the situation gets more difficult, they are more primed to say “Yes”.

“Not true,” Chris told me. “People are too primed now to say ‘yes’. They know what you are up to. Get them to say ‘No’ first. That’s the starting point.”

How can I do that?

“Ask them a question like, ‘Do you want this project to fail?’ or ‘Is this situation not going to work out for either side.’ ”

They don’t want to fail, so they will say “No”. Now you can start to find common ground.


You can start to get empathy with the other side by listing the negatives on your side.

Then they start to agree with you.

For instance, you can say, “I know you might not trust me. I know you have had bad dealings in the past. I know you’ve had a hard childhood and this is the only way to make money.”

They will say, “That’s right”. And once you have empathy with them you can be a little more insistent on what it is you want.


“Nobody wants to feel powerless. If the negotiation is not going your way you can say to them, ‘Sounds like there’s nothing you can do’.”

“This will make them feel powerless. They will say no to that and now they will try to do something for you to prove they are not powerless.”


If someone says, “This car is $36,000” then start come back with something like, “Listen, I know it’s very difficult to go below $36,000. I know you are doing the best you can here. But the most I can afford is $32,157.”

Then it appears (and it can also be true) that you are doing the homework and preparation to come up with an exact number that you can afford.

This is, of course, better if you have done the work to back up that specific number. Then it is hard for them to fight it.


Whatever they say, repeat the last one to three words. Do this as much as possible.

If they say, “We can’t go higher than $100,000 on salary because that’s what everyone else is making” just say “That’s what everyone else is making” and see what they say next.

They will always say more.

Which goes along with:


Don’t be afraid to go silent. Mirror and then have the confidence to go silent.

Nobody wants the negotiation to end. They will keep talking and give you more information.

Your goal is you want to get them talking as much as possible. The more information you have, the better. And the more likely they will negotiate against themselves.


They need you as much as you need them. Most people don’t realize that in the heat of a negotiation.

That’s why they are in the negotiation in the first place.

If they put a deadline on, don’t feel obligated to meet it. The negotiation won’t end. They still need you.


“One time I was negotiating a hostage situation where they were asking for a million dollars…”

“Turns out the negotiations would intensify every Friday. How come? Because they really just wanted money to party all weekend.”

“We ended up getting the negotiation down to $16,000 and by that time they had pretty much given up so the hostage was able to escape.”


This was a totally new one for me.

In Chris’s book “Never Split the Difference” he talks about how you have to use you ‘late night FM DJ voice’ when you negotiate to show people you are solid and serious.

I wasn’t sure what that meant. He showed me. He got his voice about half an octave deeper and he slowed down a bit between each word.

I practiced. It worked. It was almost scary when I listened to Chris.

It brought back memories of my dad being super serious about punishing me and I did not want to mess with him.


This is where I have messed up the most in my own negotiations.

And, by the way, I am not innocent. I’ve sold, or been involved in the selling of, over a dozen companies.

I’ve negotiated many many investments. Many sales of rights, inventions, patents, deals, etc.

I’ve been around the block. But I mess up. A lot. And “terms and conditions” are what get me.

For instance, it’s not just a number for salary.

There can be more open-ended things that need to be discussed and put down on paper like, “How can I best succeed at this job so I get a promotion/raise with a year?”

Or, “How can we work this out so I get an extra week vacation.”

In every situation there are extra terms and conditions that need to be worked out.

15 years ago, one expert negotiator, Dr. Larry Brilliant (his real name), who later became head of all of Google’s charity work, gave me advice, “Always make sure your list is bigger than theirs so you can give up the nickels in exchange for the dimes.”


I always have gone back and forth on this. It’s common sense to let them throw out a number first because maybe the number you throw out might be too low.

But then I used to figure that if I throw out a number first it will be good for me because I can ‘anchor’ them on a high number

“No,” he said, “Let them throw out a number first.”

For one thing, your number might be so high that they stop trusting you. And as far as anchoring, know what your range is and if their number is too low then don’t let their number anchor you. “Be psychologically strong enough to not let them anchor you.”

Also, if their number is too low you can get back to the open-ended ‘How’ questions. Like, “If everyone else in my industry is paid ‘X’ then how can I go with the number you suggest?”


“Don’t go crazy over this. Since you don’t want to over-prepare. But get your “how”‘ questions ready. Your ‘no’ questions.

List your negatives down on a piece of paper. Figure out your terms and conditions in advance.

Do some basic work so when you come up with specific numbers you can back it up.

Make a preparation sheet.


I said to him, “You should be a couples’ counselor.” Thinking of the 10+ couples therapists I’ve visited in the past 20 years.

Thinking of all the bad negotiations I’ve had in (now -ex) relationships. Thinking of the hardships caused. The pain.

He laughed, “These techniques are good for all situations really. That’s what I love about what I do.”

I can’t even imagine negotiating against him but he told me one story about working with his son.

One of his colleagues came to negotiate something with him. His son was there also.

They were talking for about an hour when his son started laughing. “Dad! Don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s been mirroring everything you’ve been saying for the past hour and you just keep talking.”

“I’m an assertive person,” he said, “so it’s easy to get me talking. My colleague was using my own tricks against me.”

Even the master can be the student.

The key to success is to approach everything with humility. To know that there is always something new to learn in this surreal art of being human.

I think I’m too much of a sucker. I’m afraid every threat is true. And I want to please everyone. I want people to love me.

Next time my daughters negotiate with me I’m going to have to call Chris for coaching.

But maybe I will let them win anyway. Love will beat me in a negotiation every time.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of George Milton.

The One Thing You Need in Any Challenge


Most of us have experienced powerful events – both positive and negative – that changed our direction or outlook on life. These pivot points can determine how we see ourselves and how we react to the world around us. But the sad fact is that negative events in a person’s life carry far more emotional weight than the positive.

Negative pivot points generally impressed some kind of negative behavior in our psyche, that is either aggressive or submissive. Negative pivot points are almost always at the root of struggle. I can say with assurance that all of the patients I’ve treated who are in the midst of struggle have pivot points that are related to the six categories of struggle:

  1. anger
  2. fear
  3. addiction
  4. shame
  5. excessive desire for status or money
  6. toxic need for love and/or acceptance


It may seem ridiculous to you that a person can’t look back and see painful or humiliating events that have helped shape their life. Yet there are many who can’t. They have spent so much time closeting them in their mind or trying to reshape them into positive events, that they can no longer see or conceive that they were negative, let alone pivotal.

People who live in such denial are struggling with something they have tried very hard not to look at. What might that be? They sometimes honestly don’t know because their mind is cleverly trying to protect itself from the pain of self-analysis.

Searching for the cause of one of these behaviors will work best when one of these behaviors breaks out. For example, an unexplained out- burst of anger would be the time to search for the deep source of that anger. A sudden outburst of unexplained fear would be the time to take a break and ask yourself, “What am I fearful of?” A fit of uncontrolled spending on an unnecessary luxury item would be the time to ask yourself whether you spent that money just to impress others…and so on.

There are many negative behaviors in our lives that can be set off by pivot points. That’s why it’s important to take a break when these events take place and discover why they have taken place.


Conscious effort goes beyond knowing the source of personal struggle, and the knowledge of how to overcome it. Conscious effort is persistence, it means you become your own guide, it means forward motion.

No matter what the struggle involves, conscious effort to stop it is at the very forefront of the fight for freedom.

So, what is involved in conscious effort? Persistence, knowledge and self-love is the simple answer. Almost anything with the word “effort” in the title requires persistence, which is merely the ability to sustain effort. And of course, knowledge is a key ingredient, because it tells you why you are persisting and what it is you will receive for your persistence. It is knowledge that clarifies the path to the endgame. It lets you know what your goal is and how to get there.

But persistence and knowledge are not enough to power you up the path to change. Self-love is a necessary element because without it, conscious effort is usually too difficult to achieve, and with it, life becomes much easier.

So how do you assemble the right mixture of persistence, knowledge, and self-love? Oddly enough, it will all come if you can just master self-love.


It’s almost laughable to say, “if you can just master self-love,” because self-love is one of the most difficult things for mankind to master. The notion of self-love is easy to misunderstand. When I talk about self-love, I am talking about people who have had the courage to explore their flaws as honestly as they can, and have come away with a love of themselves that allows them to continue to improve with confidence. We all struggle, but no matter what we struggle with, the struggle is first rooted in a lack of love for ourselves.

This may be confusing, especially if we believe that someone else did us wrong and we can blame our personal struggles on them. But the fact is, self-love is only possible if we make peace with ourselves.

Buddha said, “Peace comes from within, do not seek it without”. I will go one further and say, that no matter what your source of struggle is, it will always be there if you are not at peace with yourself. That is why I have chosen to make Mastering Self-Love the first and foremost skill one must have in facing the struggles of life because it will allow you to accept whatever you find in your search to stop the struggle.

Self-love is a force, the very underpinning you need to press forward. To stop the struggle, it is absolutely essential, that you first develop self-love as the foundation for confidence.

Excerpt from Stop the Struggle.



Derek O’Neill, fondly referred to as the Celtic Sage, inspires and uplifts people from all walks of life, offering guidance to influential world leaders, businesses, celebrities, athletes and everyday people alike. Distilled from his life work in psychotherapy, a martial arts career and study with wise yogis and Indian and Tibetan masters, Derek translates ancient wisdom into modern day teachings to address the biggest challenges facing humanity today. For additional insights listen to his free radio archives explore over 20 personal development books including Stop The Struggle, Bullying, Love/Divorce, Grief, Mindfulness, Anxiety, Stress and Depression.

Image courtesy of Dominika Roseclay.

Dating & Chronic Illness: How to Navigate Questions

Dating can be a nerve-wracking, exciting, love-fuelled adventure in itself. Add in chronic health challenges, disability or past trauma and an adventure can become a pressure-cooker.

Today, we are going to address a common concern for many people dating while living with illness et al, sharing your story…

How often do you have conversations that start like this?

“Hi, I’m Jo and I have osteoarthritis.”

And I aaaalways want to reply:

“Hello Jo, how do you do? I’m Grace and I am not your rheumatologist.

Am I being a meanie? Maybe. I’m guilty too as I’ve totally done this myself.

But you don’t have to introduce your illness when you first meet someone new.

I know it’s important to you, but, speaking for myself, when we first meet, I’m not most interested about the finer details of your illnesses…What I am interested in is you.

Your illness is a big deal – but you are a bigger deal.

Sometimes we are so conscious of our impairments that we feel the need to explain them to anyone (and everyone) just to avoid their wondering stares and all those heinously embarrassing questions. I get it, it’s trying to make the other person more comfortable, but too often it elevates your health condition to a status it doesn’t deserve.

Your health challenges may be a part of you, but they aren’t the whole of you.

In a dating situation when do you share about your illnesses, if they are invisible disabilities? Or when do you invite questions or share information if they are visible? On a dating profile? By email/text before you meet? After the first date? When it becomes a pragmatic need to share re. meds/accessibility?

It is a tough call.

My belief? They are dating to get to know you, not your conditions. As long as they know enough to not invite you to tap dancing if you can’t move your legs – that will do for a first date.

If you are anything like me, your medical situation is too complex to be summed up in a single, easy to understand explanation. So telling all on a first meeting would actually take up most of the first meeting!

The third wheel

When you are chronically ill/disabled/dealing with grief or another life crisis then your pain can always feel like the third wheel at any dinner table.

Potential new friends (or partners) don’t know how to manage – do they ignore it? Talk around it? Ask bluntly? Try to comfort you?

I know it can seem obvious to us that pity should be off the agenda and pragmatism needs to be the order of the day but for those outside our struggle, it can feel like a minefield.

So what can people say? How do you help your potential partner to relax on your date?

  1. Encourage them to talk about whatever they would if you weren’t ill – we are having conversations with people, not impairments.
  2. Try to ask “how are things going?” instead of “how are you?”. Hopefully, they will return the question to you and then you get to answer a question directed at your life-and-times overall rather than one specifically related to health.
  3. Make your needs clear, be matter of fact and others will likely take their cues from you and downplay everything along with you. If you need to use the bathroom, change your catheter or take a pain pill, just say ‘excuse me’, explain as much as you like and do it. Chances are they will just be ok with the situation because you are.
  4. Be clear with your cues. If you don’t want to speak about a certain topic – change it. There are lots of recognised social cues we can use here…

“It’s a long story”

“There’s nothing more boring than talking illness, death or money at dinner! Let’s lighten the subject”

“That’s a conversation for another time”

“I don’t feel like going into that right now, but I would like to ask…”

“That’s something I’m working on”

“I don’t want to go into details tonight, but I’d love to hear more about..”

“Why do you ask?”

Shifting Focus

Some people however just don’t take the hint – a woman in my yoga class recently came up to me to ask,

“Are you in pain all the time?”

Yes, thanks for bringing that up, thinking about that improves my yoga experience no end.

Of course, I actually said, “Yes, but we focus on what I can do not what I can’t.” Unfortunately, this woman was not going to join me in focussing on my abilities and kept her conversation firmly on how ‘sad’ my situation is. She dripped so much sympathy over me I nearly drowned, and she wasn’t taking my back-off hints.

I simply excused myself to meditate in preparation for yoga. I removed myself from the situation.

In dating or friendship if this occurs – you could call them on it – explain what the problem is, and what you need. Or you could choose not to spend time with someone with a very limited view of illness. And that’s what it is, because you are not a bad person, nor broken, you are a trailblazer.

And that’s what it is, because you are not a bad person, nor broken, you are a trailblazer.

(Check out my Dear Grace Q & A: How Do I Explain That My Chronic Illness and Life Isn’t A Tragedy here.)

Protecting your story

When you are ill you can get used to giving all sorts of people all sorts of information. You may find yourself telling some man you just met about your bowel movements or pain during penetrative sex etc. Yes, he’s your doctor, but still, he is also some fellow you just met and it is weird.

Sometimes our admirable openness about living and thriving with illness and disability, our stigma bashing sass can mean that we are a bit too open, in ways which do not serve us.

Check in, what reaction or result are you hoping for? Cathartic release? Pride in our survivorship, for simple information or to (unconsciously) play on sympathies? Step back and consider.

It’s ok to be open and you needn’t be ashamed but that doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone.

You can be careful with your story and with whom you share it. Not everyone is in the positive space we would wish them to be in to receive it.

Some may stereotype you in the mean ‘little cripple’ box in their head forever after.

Some might see it as titillation, (horribly).

Some can see it as just as a good story or a real life wide screen, high-resolution tragedy story, in colour (and you can see the tears).

You deserve better than this

People will ask and you can choose to say no; you can choose to tell them later when you know them better.

The story of how you almost died is now part of your past and even though it informs and influences you, you do not want people to view you only in that context.

In the same vein, you do not choose to tell the story of your birth or the primary school teacher who encouraged you to draw or the roller coaster that gave you your fear of heights with every new friend/potential partner/hockey coach, you may at some point choose not to share your illness story either. And that is ok.

Telling is ok, keeping it private is ok, as long as it is a considered decision that you are choosing to make.

Remember you are empowered and loved, ok?

What’s your experience of dating with illness? What are your struggles/triumphs? Let me know in the comments.

P.S You may also want to check out chronic illness? 3 simple ways to strengthen your relationship part 1 and part 2 and date night idea for when energy is low.

Grace Quantock is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, motivational speaker, certified Reiki master and spiritual response therapy practitioner. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy. Currently living – and thriving – with often debilitating illness, she is the real deal and knows, firsthand, the emotional and physical roller coaster that accompanies diagnosis and life struggle. Currently, a resident of Wales, Grace loves reading, gardening and early mornings. She firmly believes that life is meant to be celebrated, and has made it her mission to help others do just that …joyfully and on their own terms. You can follow Grace on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Snapwire.

How to Deal With Stress: An Unexpected Approach

When we ask how to reduce stress, we might be asking the wrong question. Here’s the question we need to be asking instead.

We sat really close together on the bed so that he could see both of our faces in the Zoom window.

From the other side of the screen, our therapist described a fantasy scenario that he imagined would help me deal with my stress were it to come to pass.

He asked me how imagining that scenario made me feel.

My response surprised all three of us (the therapist, my husband, and me):

“It makes me feel worried that I would feel dead inside.”

In that moment it dawned on me that the very thing I’d been craving (infinite open space without pressure to do anything in particular) terrified me.

I’d become addicted to a consistent level of stress and needing to “perform” as a stimulant.

Imagining life without the stress/pressure stimulant felt like an energetic flatline.

In a culture so focused on collecting achievements and always working on making things bigger and better, I know I’m not the only one who’s found themselves caught in the double bind.

That’s why, when we ask ourselves how to deal with stress (and even how to reduce stress), we’re missing the mark if we don’t first explore our relationship with stress. I can practice stress-reduction techniques until the cows come home, but if there’s an unconscious part of me that’s unwilling to let go of the stress stimulant because it’s how I feel alive, the techniques won’t make much of a dent.

I’ll keep inventing pressure so that I don’t have to feel the things that are underneath the stress to begin with (like the aching loneliness of being a human amongst 7.9 billion other people, none of whom actually know for sure what we’re doing here on Earth).

What I’ve been doing instead of trying to reduce stress is fill my life with things that make me feel alive.

It’s an additive rather than subtractive technique. Makes me less anxious.

In the Do Less Planner there’s a place for a Bliss List, which is essentially things that make you feel good and make you feel alive in a positive way.

Here are some of the things on mine:

  • Putting my bare feet on the grass
  • Looking up at trees and allowing wonder to fill my whole body
  • Connecting with friends who love me for all of my bigness and my smallness
  • Being near the ocean
  • Kissing my 3-year-old’s chubby cheeks
  • Watching funny shows (Ted Lasso and Trying have been recent favorites)
  • Orgasms
  • Watching running water (remarkably transcendent once you really get into it)
  • Candlelight
  • Dark Chocolate
  • The way the pavement smells after it rains
  • Dancing

I’m finding that the more I fill my life with things that make me feel alive in beautiful ways, the less I need to depend on stress to make me feel alive.

My rate of manufacturing pressure where it didn’t need to be there in the first place has reduced.

Though the circumstances of my life haven’t changed dramatically, the stress feels way easier to deal with.

If you suspect you might also be addicted to stress, even a little, try writing out a Bliss List and adding one-two things each day that make you feel alive in a nourishing way.

You’ll likely find that the fires of your life don’t need to be stoked by stress as much anymore and that you start to find space and ease where before it was nowhere to be found.

Now, I want to hear from you:

Do you think you might also be using stress as a stimulant? What’s on your Bliss List? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and mother who supports ambitious, motivated and successful women to light up the world without burning themselves out in the process. Committed to empowering women entrepreneurs to create their most successful businesses while navigating motherhood, Kate is the founder and CEO of Origin Collective, a monthly membership site where women all over the world gather to achieve more while doing less. Her first book, Money: A Love Story, has been published in 5 languages. Kate’s work has been featured by The Today Show, Yahoo! Finance, Women’s Health, Glamour, and The Huffington Post, and she’s spoken to audiences of thousands with Hay House, Wanderlust, USANA Health Sciences, and more. Kate lives with her husband and business partner, Mike, and their daughter Penelope in Maine. Find out more and receive your free copy of the 5 Simple and effective ways to get the results you want in your business at

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.