How to develop world-class behaviors in the next 14 days

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Most people don’t realize they’re only a few key behaviors away from starting to live a truly world-class life.

You don’t need to adopt dozens of new, difficult behaviors of “successful people” — you just need a few. And if you make just a few key behavioral changes, you’ll build momentum and confidence that you can reinvest in yourself to master new and better behaviors.

Success doesn’t happen all at once — it’s a slow, gradual process that rewards those who can consistently follow the path.

You also don’t need a lot of time to develop these initial world-class behaviors, either. A couple of weeks will do. We’re not trying to transform your entire life overnight, we’re getting you to identify and adopt just a few key behaviors that will create the momentum you can use to continue the process. Because there’s no end to success, no limit or cap — you can go as high as you want.

But it starts with developing a few world-class behaviors.

Focus on Learning and Creating, Not Entertainment and Distraction

There’s a lot you’ll need to learn on this journey you’re on. When I was a no-name blogger with dreams of being a big-time writer, I foolishly thought all I needed to master was “writing.”

Now that I am a successful writer, I’m amazed at how many new skills I’ve needed to learn, like website design, email marketing, webinars, sales pitches, public speaking, relationship building, online course creation, scheduling software, and countless more.

That’s why your first world-class behavior to master is to simply focus on learning and creating, not entertainment or distraction.

You can learn a lot very quickly if you choose. If you play guitar 3 times a week, you might take a year or two to get pretty good. But play guitar 3 times a day, and you could become very skilled in a matter of weeks.

You can only find these shortcuts by intense learning and creating, making mistakes, building your abilities as well as your confidence.

But as long as you continue to focus on entertainment and distraction, you’ll always be stuck in first gear, unable to start gaining enormous momentum to break through mental barriers that you might’ve been carrying around for years.

It’s difficult to remove yourself entirely from these distractions. Major corporations have an entire department of professionals whose sole job is to make you pay attention to their products. With the enormous influence of technology, social media, smartphones, and advertisements, it can feel a bit like living in a casino, where every little detail is designed to keep you focused on spending your money.

It’s on you to say no to these distractions. The most effective response I’ve ever found to the endless tempting distractions is simply to imagine what my life will be like when I finally complete this journey — traveling the world, making more money than ever before, 100% in charge of my time and attention. That sounds much more appealing than watching another silly video online when I should be working.

Ask Yourself Direct Questions That Force You To Gain Enormous Clarity

One of the most common responses I get from my readers about all this is: I don’t know where to start!

Getting clarity on your most important goals isn’t easy. You might be afraid you’ll choose the wrong thing, and become paralyzed by analysis. Maybe you’ve never known what you want to do, and have been stumbling into whatever job, relationship, or situation seemed the most convenient at the time.

You need to ask yourself some direct, blunt questions about your life.

I read a terrific article by Zak Slayback about gaining enormous clarity on these important things that I bookmarked and go back to sometimes.

It’s a 20-minute writing exercise you can do today that will provide crystal-clear clarity on your most important goals. Here are the questions:

Here are the questions:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

2. I dread …

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

6. … does not appeal to me.

Here are some of my answers that might help you with yours:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

  • am forced to work with frustrating people that force me to do busy work that doesn’t accomplish anything
  • when I have to listen to uninformed bosses that don’t know how to lead me
  • can’t write and do what I want to do with my time
  • am forced to work long hours doing things I hate doing
  • am forced to follow someone else’s silly schedule
  • can’t do things the way I want to do them

2. I dread …

  • going to work at a job I hate
  • dealing with rude and mean people
  • confrontation with difficult, assertive people
  • having to work on things I don’t want to do
  • having to spend time on tasks I don’t care at all about

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

  • Data entry
  • Empathizing with angry customers
  • Putting out fires made by other people

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

  • working at a boring 9–5 job
  • busywork
  • data entry
  • working with people I don’t like or respect
  • staying in one city
  • a job where someone has total control over my career progression
    phone sales
  • commuting more than 30 minutes each way

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

  • want to work at a boring job that crushes their spirit
  • work with rude, annoying, stupid people
  • not travel the world
  • not make passive income
  • let one person dictate their career success
  • be content to simply “survive” then they could thrive
  • let others bully and intimidate them

6. … does not appeal to me.

  • Anything I can’t control and create myself
  • Following orders from people I don’t trust
  • Living by someone else’s rules

If you want extraordinary results, you need to ask yourself extraordinary questions. Be precise in your speech; don’t allow yourself to sit in the vague fog of “maybe” that most people have been living in for a long time. These small questions, genuinely answered, will provide enormous clarity in your life.

Everyone Must Sacrifice Things. But You Get to Choose What You Sacrifice.

You actually don’t get to choose whether you need to sacrifice or not — you do. We all must sacrifice something.

But you do get to choose what to sacrifice. This choice will affect the rest of your life.

There was this funny-because-it’s-true joke in college that went like this: “Sleep, good grades, friends: you only get 2.” You had to sacrifice something.

Everyone must sacrifice something. Make sure what you sacrifice isn’t costing you dearly.

Sadly, most people are sacrificing the wrong thing — their potential, their relationships, their well-being, even their future. Instead of letting go of negative, toxic relationships, people cling to them. Instead of striving nobly to achieve an extraordinary career, people settle for their comfortable, mediocre jobs.

You must sacrifice something — make sure you choose wisely.

Years ago, I was working in one of the worst jobs I’d ever had — telemarketing. My boss was near-comic-book-villain level bad. I saw countless coworkers fired for not hitting sales quotas. I wanted out.

But I had been complaining for months about it, calling friends and family to vent my frustrations. I wasn’t doing much about it.

Finally, I mentioned my poor, sad situation to a friend of a friend — someone who didn’t really know me, and had the ability to be extremely blunt with me. He didn’t hold back on his feedback. “Look — it’s time to stop complaining. You need to get a new job, now. Cancel social obligations, stay in on the weekends, wake up early, whatever. But find a new job.”

It stunned me. At first, I was angry and defensive. How can he say that! He doesn’t know me! He doesn’t know how hard this has been for me! He was inviting me to sacrifice something I didn’t want to let go of.

Eventually, I saw his wisdom. I was sacrificing my happiness and emotional well-being working there — why not sacrifice some weekends and casual social hangouts for something that could change my entire career?

So that’s what I did. I chose to stop hanging out with friends (for a time) while I busted my ass finding a new job. Within a few focused months of networking and meeting more people in different departments, I was offered a job that was infinitely better than telemarketing! It was higher-paying, I got to travel, help people, and most importantly, no more telemarketing calls!

You must sacrifice something — that’s not up for debate.

But you do get to choose what you sacrifice.

In Conclusion

Small choices have big results. Once you start making the right small choices, you’ll start seeing the results you actually want, and not the opposite. It’s time for you to start acting like people living a world-class life — in charge of their time, money, relationships, and choices.

It starts with your behaviors. Once you consistently start making world-class choices — something you can start today — you’ll start seeing these behaviors grow into lasting characteristics of your life. You’ll become a disciplined, consistent, focused positive person with power and ability.

For many people, the hardest part is just starting. Most people don’t know where to focus their time and energy, so they continue wasting time when they should’ve started long ago.

Since most people have been making many foolish and unwise small choices, they’re see big, negative results in their life.

Choose to adopt some new, world-class behaviors in life. They don’t have to be enormous — just big enough to start creating some momentum. Use that momentum. Reinvest in your life. Sacrifice the right things so you can achieve the life you want.

Ready to Level-Up?
If you want to become extraordinary and become 10x more effective than you were before, check out my checklist.

This is the most fun way to make your life awesome (pandemic edition)

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It was 1962, the girls wouldn’t stop laughing and nobody knew why.

And even stranger, the laughter was spreading. Like a virus.

This was at an all-girls school in Kashasha, Tanzania. A few students had started laughing and they couldn’t stop. And this inexplicable behavior spread from girl to girl until 95 of the 159 students were affected. After 6 weeks the school had to close because of it. But that didn’t stop the laughter.

It had already spread to a neighboring village, Nshamba. 217 more girls afflicted. And then it spread to Bukoba, “infecting” 48 more girls.

All told this “outbreak” lasted 18 months, closed 14 schools, and affected over 1000 children.

Sound crazy? It’s true. While certainly uncommon, this kind of thing is not unheard of. During the Middle Ages there were outbreaks of “choreomania” – uncontrollable, infectious dancing that spread throughout Europe sometimes affecting tens of thousands of people at a time. And, no, I’m not making that up either.

Viruses aren’t the only things that spread through networks of people. Attitudes and behaviors do too. Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, has studied how this works. A network can perpetuate anything in it: not just fads, fashion, and trends, but happiness, unhappiness, kindness and cruelty can also spread like a disease. When I spoke to Nicholas, here’s what he told me:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

A happy friend increases the likelihood of you being happy by 9%. An unhappy friend means a 7% decrease. Yes, happiness is more contagious than unhappiness. It’s the scientific version of karma. With the effect spanning out three degrees, there’s a good chance making a small effort to make friends happier will flow back to you. Nicholas found that if a friend became happy in the past six months there’s a 45% chance your happiness will increase. Neat, huh?

Hold that thought, I’ve got a second story for you:

Julius Wagner-Jauregg won a Nobel Prize in 1927 for “pyrotherapy.” Other than having the coolest name in all of medicine, pyrotherapy would go on to save tens of thousands of lives. This was before antibiotics, when syphilis was a scourge. There was no cure for it. But there was a cure for malaria. Here’s the thing: the bacterium that causes syphilis really doesn’t like heat. Meanwhile, malaria causes high fevers. So Wagner-Jauregg deliberately infected syphilis patients with malaria. The high fever killed the syphilis. Then you treat the malaria. Patient recovers from both. Triple word score.

Clever stories. But what’s this all mean?

A network can spread a virus — but it can also spread happiness, help, gratitude and optimism.

You can use one infection to fight another. “Fight fire with fire.”

So what if we start our own “pandemic” and use it to fight the current one?

It’s just a metaphor but that’s okay; I recently had my poetic license renewed at the DMV. Look, I’m in no way suggesting that spreading happiness and kindness right now is magically going to kill COVID-19. And I do not want to make light of something so serious.

But we need to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful to keep fighting this. We need to help each other. We need to protect our health, but to do that we have to protect our mental health, our spirit and soul to stay resilient.

Our ancestors didn’t climb their way to the top of the food chain to have their spirits broken by a few rogue strands of debatably-alive RNA. We’re not giving up hope. Humanity is not just going to crawl back into the primordial slime and close the door behind us. We can’t let this get us down or tear us apart.

So let’s start our own pandemic of positive emotions to keep our spirits strong for the battle ahead. We’ll fight fire with fire. We’ll spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism. And we’ll win.

Ready to get infectious?

1) Spread Connection

70% of your happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

But with social distancing, some of us now have zero people around us. (Even yours truly lives alone.) And extended time without social contact is bad. Very bad.

Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury,” Gawande concludes.
Loneliness is the equivalent of being punched in the face. And that, dear reader, is not a metaphor.

Your stress response to both — the increase in your body’s cortisol level — is the same.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack. It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.

We may be quarantined and cut off from others to varying degrees, but this doesn’t mean we need to be lonely. Sound weird? It’s not. Stick with me.

Ever felt lonely in a crowd or lonely at a party? Yeah. The late John Cacioppo was the leading expert on loneliness. He said feeling lonely isn’t caused by the mere absence of people. We feel lonely because we’re not sharing with others, not connecting with them. That’s why you can be surrounded by people and still experience loneliness.

So reach out. Our new pandemic of positivity needs to spread that feeling of connection far and wide.

Send a text. Pick up the phone. Do a video call. Smoke signals and semaphore. Whatever. Just let people know you care and are thinking about them.

Have any of your relationships fallen dormant? Time for a reboot. Estranged from anyone? The force majeure clause has just been engaged. Reconnect.

You know how good it feels to be connected to others? Research does. It feels pretty close to an extra $76,856 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Reach out and tell people you’re thinking of them. We have the most powerful communication tools ever known to man at our fingertips, for free, 24/7. COVID-19 needs face-to-face contact to spread. Our pandemic of positivity doesn’t.

We have the advantage.

(To learn more about how to make friends as an adult, click here.)

Just connecting with others is huge. But our pandemic can do more to “fight fire with fire” and mitigate that other one…

2) Spread Help

Ask people if they need anything. Others might need a little more than well-wishes right now.

Everybody should be doing this. Everybody. Yes, even selfish people. Because being a little selfless can actually be the best way to be selfish.

As University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, one of the leading experts on happiness, explains in his book, Flourish:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

And what if you’re not only selfish but you’re also a narcissistic braggart? No problem at all. I encourage you to tell others about how much you’re helping and get credit for it. Yes, really.

When people see others helping, they’re more likely to help. Infect others with the altruistic spirit. Altruism is deeply wired into us as mammals. Even rats (yes, rats) believe in paying it forward.

From The Price of Altruism:

A recent study in rats showed that the more a rat benefits from the altruism of a stranger rat, the more he will later act benevolently towards stranger rats himself.

And on the flip side, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it right now.

Most of us (well, the non-selfish, not narcissistic ones) never want to be a burden to others but research shows we vastly underestimate how willing others are to lend a hand:

A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first 3 studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings.

Spread help. Spread word that you’re helping to encourage others to help. And ask for help where you need it. Keep the lines of communication flowing so that we can all be getting what we need right now.

(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

So what can we spread that makes us all happier — while also strengthening the bonds of a relationship?

3) Spread Gratitude

Gratitude is the undisputed heavyweight champ of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

I know, some are saying there is very little to be grateful for right now. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not but guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb.

Via The Upward Spiral:

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

Spread the gratitude. Sending a thank you text is an awesome way to make two people happy and spread our pandemic of positivity.

Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor has tested this — and it works. Here’s Shawn:

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.

And don’t forget about the people you might be quarantined with. Right now some of us are participating in a 24/7 involuntary reality show with our spouses that can put a strain on any partnership.

So don’t forget to show them some gratitude too. Research by Eli Finkel at Northwestern shows when even just one of you feels gratitude, both of you are more satisfied with the relationship. How’s that for a bargain?

I know, people often mumble a perfunctory “thanks” and it doesn’t mean much, right? True. That’s why it’s important to dig deep and really feel grateful for what your spouse or partner has done.

Research shows it’s not the words that count — it really is that feeling:

…results indicate that one’s felt and expressed gratitude both significantly relate to one’s own marital satisfaction. Cross-partner analyses indicate that the individual’s felt gratitude also predicts the spouse’s satisfaction, whereas surprisingly his or her expressed gratitude does not.

(To learn how to use gratitude to make yourself happier, click here.)

What can we spread that not only makes us all happier but increases grit and even makes us luckier?

4) Spread Optimism

Research shows being optimistic increases happiness, health, resilience and even luck. (Yes, luck — because optimism boosts openness which leads to new opportunities that don’t happen when you say no to everything.)

Some will say there’s a danger in being overly optimistic, that we could go full pollyanna and not take problems seriously. And you know what? They’re right. We need to be careful with optimism so that we don’t neglect serious concerns. Penn professor Martin Seligman has a method to help you strike the balance:

Whenever you’re unsure if optimism is the right way to handle something ask yourself: “What’s the cost of being wrong here?”

Via Learned Optimism:

The fundamental guideline for not deploying optimism is to ask what the cost of failure is in the particular situation. If the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. The pilot in the cockpit deciding whether to de-ice the plane one more time, the partygoer deciding whether to drive home after drinking, the frustrated spouse deciding whether to start an affair that, should it come to light, would break up the marriage should not use optimism. Here the costs of failure are, respectively, death, an auto accident, and a divorce. Using techniques that minimize those costs is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the cost of failure is low, use optimism.

For instance, if you’re having serious illness symptoms, don’t be optimistic that they’ll clear up on their own and avoid medical care. But if the cost of being wrong is just a minor feeling of disappointment that things didn’t go your way, right now it’s better to stay positive.

And spread that positivity. The resilience-boosting effects of optimism are so strong the US military implemented a plan to teach optimistic thinking to soldiers. And we could all use a little extra resilience right now.

What’s the best way to keep others’ spirits high? Make’em laugh. Humor provides a powerful buffer against stress and fear.

Via Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool:

“Humor is about playing with ideas and concepts,” said Martin, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario. “So whenever we see something as funny; we’re looking at it from a different perspective. When people are trapped in a stressful situation and feeling overwhelmed, they’re stuck in one way of thinking: ‘This is terrible. I’ve got to get out of here.’ But if you can take a humorous perspective, then by definition you’re looking at it differently — you’re breaking out of that rigid mind-set.”

(To learn how to be more optimistic, click here.)

Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Time to round it up. And we’ll also learn what science says is the question that best predicts whether you will be alive and happy at age 80…

Sum Up

This is how we can start a pandemic of positivity:

  • Spread Connection: Just let people know you’re thinking of them and they are meaningful to you.
  • Spread Help: Offer help where you can and ask for it if you need it.
  • Spread Gratitude: Say thanks. And really feel it.
  • Spread Optimism: If the cost of being wrong is low, let yourself believe things will turn out right.

So what does Penn professor Martin Seligman say is the magic question that best predicts if you’ll be alive and happy at age 80?

“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?”

If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved.

Our relationships to other people are often the key to our survival and happiness. That’s something we need to remember right now.

And it’s an idea we need to spread.

So from me to you:

I hope you’re doing well right now.

I hope this blog post has helped you.

Thank you for reading this.

And I really do believe things are going to be better soon.

And with those 4 sentences, hopefully I have spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism to you.

I am proud to be Patient Zero in our new pandemic of positivity.

Now go spread good feelings to the people that you love. We all need them right now.

There’s an Epidemic That’s a Bigger Threat Than the Coronavirus

ou are, probably, worrying about coronavirus. For most of us, the anxious questions are: Am I going to get the coronavirus? Is someone I love going to get it? If we do, is it going to kill us?

For starters, let’s be clear that no one ever gets a health guarantee. You might still have a heart attack even if you do everything advisable to avoid one. If you eat optimally, exercise, don’t smoke, and so on- you make heart disease or cancer vastly less probable, but you don’t get a guarantee. Human health simply does not come with those. And, of course, you can do everything right to be fit and healthy and keep your coronaries pristine, reliably avoid heart disease, and still get hit by a bus, or a falling tree, or lightning. Or get a brain tumor, for reasons we don’t know.

One thing you learn in medicine is that we control ship and sail, but never wind and wave. We don’t control everything, ever. Bad things happen to good people doing everything right all the time. But they do happen much less often to those doing everything right than to everyone else, so what we do matters enormously. It shifts probability.

So, the questions about coronavirus revert to questions about probability. And those we can answer, or at least establish the basis for answers.

The ultimate questions — will I get this disease, and will it kill me if I do? — can be broken into component parts.

What is my risk of exposure?

Right now, unless you are in one of the rarefied populations around the world where the disease is concentrated, the answer is: probably very, very, very low. There are, as I write this (2/28/20) just under 84,000 global cases out of a population of nearly 8 billion humans. That is one case per 100,000. For comparison, the lifetime risk of being struck by lightning in the United States is roughly one in 3,000. The coronavirus numbers could change, of course, and likely will, but for now- total cases are of a “one in many, many thousands” magnitude, making exposure for any one of us highly improbable.

Being exposed is necessary, but not sufficient, to get infected.

If I am exposed, how probable is it I get the disease?

This is the infection rate. If we use the most concentrated outbreak in Wuhan, China, as our model, with the assumption (obviously not entirely true) that everyone there was “exposed,” then the answer at the moment is just under 79,000 cases in a population of 11 million. That is an infection rate of roughly 7 per thousand, or 0.7 percent.

If I get infected, how probable is it the disease will kill me?

UPDATE 3/09: Only South Korea is doing testing extensively enough to give us a realistic view of the fatality rate of COVID-19. It is much LOWER in South Korea than anywhere else, 0.6% — due to more extensive testing.

This is the fatality rate. Once again, the most dire numbers come from Wuhan, where there have been just under 2,800 deaths among the just under 79,000 infected. That ratio yields a fatality rate of less than 4 per hundred, or just under 4 percent.

I hasten to apologize for any semblance here that these numbers are adequate messengers. Every number in this mix is a real person just like you and me, with a family just like yours or mine. One of the great liabilities of public health is the capacity to lose the human reality of it in a sea of anonymizing statistics. As I use numbers to make my point, I point to the people behind the veil of those numbers, those families, and invite us both to direct the full measure of our condolence, our compassion, and the solidarity of our human kinship there. Among the messages of this, and any, pandemic is that however good we may be at accentuating our superficial differences, we are one, great, global human family- the same kind of animal, with just the same vulnerabilities. COVID-19 does not care at all who issued our passport.

OK, back to numbers. Here’s an important reality check: We are much, much more likely to overlook the mildest cases of any disease than death from that disease. Death is hard to miss.

What would it mean if this common scenario pertains to COVID-19? It means many more people than we know are getting the infection, but with mild symptoms passing for a cold, or maybe even no symptoms at all. The “bad news” here is that the infection rate might be much higher than we think. But does that increase your risk of getting the disease (yes!), and dying from it (no!)? I’ll illustrate.

Let’s say you are a member of a hypothetical population of 2,000 people. We believe this population was exposed to coronavirus, that 200 people got infected, and that 8 died.

The infection rate here is (200/2000) or 10 percent (much higher than the reality in Wuhan), and the fatality rate is (8/200), or 4 percent (about what has been seen to date in Wuhan). If you are a typical member of this population, your risk of both getting the infection and dying from it is {(200/2000) X (8/200)}, or 0.4 percent. We can see this directly from the total population numbers: 8 deaths out of 2000 is, just as our calculations showed, 4 deaths per thousand, or 0.4 percent. And to flip this around, it means your chances of dodging the coronavirus bullet are 99.6 percent. Those are good odds!

But what if we were wrong — not a little, but a lot — about the number of infections, because we had overlooked many that were too mild to attract anyone’s attention? Well, then, maybe 4 times as many actually got infected- 800, rather than 200. This does mean you are much more likely to get the virus yourself, but does that make it more likely you will die from it? Not at all. The simple math shows why.

We now have an infection rate of (800/2000), or a very alarming 40 percent. But we now also have a fatality rate of only (8/800), or 1 percent. If we repeat the prior calculation for your personal risk of getting the virus and dying from it, we have: {(800/2000) X (8/800)}, or…the exact same 0.4 percent as before.

This is true of coronavirus in the real world. If we are finding every case, then your risk of getting infected is, for now at least, very low, and your risk of dying if you do is also very low. If we are missing a lot of cases, your risk of infection may be much higher, but your risk of dying if infected is commensurately lower. It’s a zero-sum game, and each sum, for now, means a very low probability indeed that you or someone you love will die from this disease.

Before we wrap up, let’s examine our propensity for risk distortion whenever confronting the new, the seemingly exotic, and the uncertain — and let’s consider how epidemiologic familiarity clearly does breed contemptuous disregard.

Worries over the exotic coronavirus are roiling the world now in every way imaginable. Those not anxious about life, limb, and loved ones are fretting over their stock portfolios.

To date, there are a total of 60 cases in the United States — and zero deaths. In contrast, humble influenza thus far this year has infected as many as 40 million of us (about 1 in 9) and caused as many as 40,000 deaths (a fatality rate of 1 per thousand). We breathlessly await the rushed development of a vaccine for COVID-19, even as we balk ever more routinely at a flu vaccine which is in fact very safe, effective at reducing infection and transmission, and directed at a disease so far many orders of magnitude more dire than the coronavirus.

Nor is our penchant for risk distortion limited to infectious diseases. As I write this, I am mere days away from the release of my new book, co-authored with Mark Bittman, “How to Eat.” We wrote the book together not because we weren’t already busy enough, but because infusing the conversation about diet and health in America with science filtered through a generally missing lens of sense is that important.

Poor overall diet quality is the single leading cause of premature death in the United States today, causing an estimated 500,000 or so deaths each year. That is more than ten times worse than a fairly bad strain of influenza, monumentally worse than coronavirus thus far, and happens every year.

Diet — what should be a source of nourishment, sustenance, and vitality — is the reason for one death in six here. And that is just the tip of the epidemiologic iceberg, since diet causes much more morbidity than premature death. To borrow directly from Dariush Mozaffarian and Dan Glickman in The New York Times:

More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cardiovascular disease afflicts about 122 million people and causes roughly 840,000 deaths each year, or about 2,300 deaths each day. Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy.

The exposure risk for diet is 100 percent; everyone eats. So for coronavirus to rival diet, every last one of us would need to be exposed.

Poor overall diet quality is the single leading cause of premature death in the United States today, causing an estimated 500,000 or so deaths each year. That is more than ten times worse than a fairly bad strain of influenza, monumentally worse than coronavirus thus far, and happens every year.

Let’s say that the ‘infection rate’ for diet is the probability of it harming you. Since less than 10 percent of Americans meet recommendations for fruits and vegetables, and since overall diet quality is poor on average, we can say that diet is harming — to one degree or another — at least 90 percent of us. So, for coronavirus to rival that, 90 out of 100 people exposed — almost everyone — would need to get infected.

What about mortality? The deaths attributed directly to diet don’t really tell the whole tale. Diet is the major contributor to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and an important contributor to cancer, liver disease, dementia and more. At least 50 percent of all premature death can be traced to effects of diet in whole or part, so let’s call the fatality rate 50 percent. For coronavirus to match that, the virus would need to kill one out of every two of us infected.

Admittedly, coronavirus kills quickly when it kills, and diet tends to kill more slowly. This matters, but less than first meets the eye. Dying prematurely and abruptly is bad, but dying prematurely after a long chronic disease — losing life from years before losing years from life — is no bargain either. We have a native blind spot for any risk that plays out slowly rather than immediately — but climate change shows how calamitously costly that can prove to be. So, OK, coronavirus “wins” for speed, but really deserves far less preferential respect than it gets. Flu warrants far more. Diet, willfully engineered to put profit ahead of public health while evoking no apparent outrage, warrants far more still.

Back to COVID-19, sure it is scary, mostly because of the attendant uncertainties. The relatively unknown threat is always the scariest. But for the coronavirus to rival mundane but massively greater risks that hide in plain sight and go routinely neglected, it would need to be literal orders of magnitude worse than it has thus far shown itself to be. That might happen — but we might also be struck by a large asteroid while worrying about it.

I am not saying “don’t worry, be happy.” I am saying, if your worries relate to you or those you love getting sick and dying, that they could be far more productively directed than at COVID-19. I am saying get some perspective, get a grip, get a flu shot, drive a hybrid, go for a walk, and…eat a salad.

How Reading Books Helps Your Brain Recharge

It may seem counterintuitive, but absorbing information through old-fashioned books gives your brain a break.

 

How Reading Books Helps Your Brain Recharge

Imagine being the founder of not one but two companies dedicated to books and not finding the time to read any. That’s the situation that Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox and Pressbooks, found himself in a few years ago. Like many of us, he was battling an onslaught of digital information, and his beloved paperbacks were collecting dust. After a while, though, he realized he sorely missed the quiet time he used to spend with a book in hand. He also realized that he was tired all the time, and struggling to focus in every area of life.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, he explained:

“I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens.”

He found that a slower form of information, books, was the antidote to his information overload. So he made them part of his routine again. According to McGuire, “Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems.”

As any entrepreneur will tell you, problem-solving is critical for launching or running a business. But so is giving our busy brains a rest, and books help with that too. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, focused reading uses about 42 calories per hour, whereas absorbing new information (e.g., scanning Twitter or the news headlines) burns around 65 calories per hour.

Research has found that reading novels improves our brain functions on a variety of levels, including the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination. It also boosts our innovative thinking skills. Take it from Elon Musk, arguably one of the most innovative minds of our time. He’s said that growing up, he spent more than 10 hours a day pouring through science fiction novels. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is necessary for any business to stay competitive.

Reading is the best, not to mention the easiest, way to shore up our creative thinking and give our brains a break from digital overload — which, according to a 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, more than half of the workforce experiences. With that in mind, here are some strategies for making quality reading time a part of your daily routine.

1. Stash your devices

It seems simple, but detaching from our phones and tablets is often easier said than done. New information — like the ping of a new DM or refreshing our Twitter feed — triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains.

On top of that, our devices are designed to be addictive: Just ask a slew of former Silicon Valley big wigs, like Google’s former in-house ethicist, Tristan Harris, who have become whistleblowers for the addictive and unhealthy nature of our phones. Even the guy who literally wrote the book on getting people addicted — Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” — has done a 180°. More recently, he wrote a book with the opposite sentiment of his former title: “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It’s a guide to freeing people from the pull of their devices.

Say what you will about Eyal’s flip-flopping, his book includes smart tips for maintaining your attention: like don’t hang out on Slack, limit meetings to just one laptop, and keep your phone on silent. I like to go one step further by putting my phone completely out of sight — in a drawer or even another room — when I need uninterrupted focus time.

It’s impossible to concentrate and fully immerse yourself in a book when you’re constantly checking your messages. So stick with the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.

Related: Low Productivity? You May Need a Digital Detox.

2. If you don’t have hours, read in short intervals

As CEO of my online form company, I don’t have uninterrupted hours each day to dedicate to reading. But as Wharton professor Adam Grant writes, “Leaders who don’t have time to read are leaders who don’t make time to learn.”

If the most successful entrepreneurs manage to find the time, I can, too. Sometimes, that means being a little thrifty: like reading in short bursts throughout the day — on the way to work or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Or, instead of zoning out with Netflix before bed, try squeezing in a few chapters.

What’s more, research has found that we retain more information when we learn in short, spaced-out intervals, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.

If you’re struggling to concentrate or just having an off-day, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, committing to concentrating during that time period, then giving yourself five minutes to do anything — grab a snack, take a quick stroll or something else non-work-related. Once you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” you can give yourself a longer break.

Even if you only do one or two pomodoros, you’ll be surprised at how the time flies.

Related: Reading One Book a Week Won’t Make You Successful

3. Choose your material thoughtfully

It’s no surprise that if you choose something you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. Plus, fully immersing yourself in one captivating book will give you so much more than speeding through a dozen books while your mind wanders elsewhere. Only when we’re fully absorbed can we reach that priceless state of flow: the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Colleagues often tell me that it’s too difficult or time-consuming to find great books. True enough, there are thousands of titles to choose from. That’s why I recommend delegating the legwork. See who your favorite authors or experts are reading. You can puruse Adam Grant’s favorite leadership books or author Steven Pinker’s ten titles he’d take to a desert island. I also like using What Should I Read Next, a website that uses a huge database to offer recommendations based on books you’ve already enjoyed.

Simply put: For productive, intelligent leaders, reading books is literally the oldest trick in the book. It gives your brain a chance to recharge and absorb new information, and there’s no hacking your way out that.

How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating

Thought-clouds

 

The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.

The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.

Those benefits can include:

  • reduction in the stress we feel
  • A deeper sense of calm and relaxation in our lives
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety
  • A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
  • Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
  • Being more present
  • Being more content
  • A better understanding of who we really are

This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.

If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.

If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.

I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice

As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.

Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.

If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.

All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”

This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.

Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6

Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.

1. Walking

Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.

I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.

2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature

The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.

Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.

Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.

Take in the sun rising and setting.

Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.

Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.

Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.

3. Losing myself in music (art)

Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.

Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.

We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.

However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.

4. Seeking stillness

Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.

Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.

This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.

Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.

No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.

5. Creating

For me this means writing and playing guitar.

Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.

6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)

I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.

Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).

Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years.  Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.

As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.

The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).

Reframing Meditation

What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.

I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.

When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.

Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.

11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything Stop worrying and start growing

Being a leader requires confidencedecisiveness, and quick thinking–none of which are served by overthinking every decision or scenario or worrying about every move you make. There’s a time to think, a time to act, a time to reflect, and a time to move forward.

Overthinking causes us to spend too much time thinking, getting stuck in a loop of inaction, and turns positive reflection into debilitating worry. Not only does it not move us forward, it moves us backward and downward.

For three decades I’ve been coaching employees and entrepreneurs with tendencies to overthink things, and I can share 11 mental tricks to dash the dissecting and stop the overscrutinizing.

1. Reopen the door only when new information knocks.

Overthinking goes into overdrive when we keep revisiting decisions we make, refusing to close the door on a call that was made. Believe that you’ve done your due diligence, and only revisit something you’ve decided when you’re presented with new information.

2. Know that overthinking and problem solving aren’t the same thing.

Constantly ruminating and going over scenarios and possibilities often disguises itself as problem solving. It feels like you’re doing something good and useful. But you’re not, you’re just spinning in a circle. Recognize when you’re overthinking something, don’t act like it’s problem solving, and press fast-forward.

3. Remember the 90-10 rule.

This is a formula, a ratio, for how you should calculate how you value yourself. Which is to say it should be based on 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned worth. 90 percent should come from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, just 10 percent from that occasional sliver of external validation we all need.

Overthinkers distort the formula, even reversing it by acting like 90 percent of their worth comes from what others think or say. So they worry, which takes the form of–you guessed it–overthinking.

4. Assume good intent.

Overthinkers read too much into things. Why? They’re assuming something bad lies underneath, something like a bad perception, someone wishing them ill, or an unfavorable outcome. When you catch yourself doing this, switch your assumption to what you’re reading into was well-intended, or at least neutral. The vast majority of the time, it really is, so why not act like it?

5. Embrace informed ignorance.

News flash: You can’t read the future, you can’t read minds, and you can’t know everything. So don’t try. Thinking harder doesn’t activate the crystal ball.

6. Embrace uncertainty.

When we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the blanks, often with garbage assumptions. Why? Many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Garbage assumptions can take many forms, all infusing themselves into the inner monologue of the overthinker.

A Buddhist chaplain once taught me how to handle uncertainty. I remember his teachings as an acronym: OAR. Observe uncertainty, don’t overreact to it. Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and accept that impermanence is inevitable. Realize that uncertainty brings benefits, like unleashing creativity and resilience.

7. Replace “what if” with “we’ll see.”

Overthinkers keep asking themselves “what if,” which is an impossible question to answer. If you catch yourself asking “what if,” quickly switch it to “we’ll see,” which is a way of moving past analysis paralysis to acceptance.

8. Get outside and play.

By this I mean stop spending so much time in your head. Get outside it and switch gears to connect with what’s going on around you so you can take joy in it. It can be dark and foreboding inside that head of yours, no?

9. Do the math.

Overthinking also comes from overworrying about the worse-case scenario, which of course no one wants to experience. But ask yourself, “What is the probability the undesirable outcome will actually occur?” Odds are, not very high.

10. Stop framing the unremarkable as catastrophic.

Related to the above, this means stop taking small details and turning them into questionable conclusions. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. Unlike at the mall, this kind of escalator lifts nobody up.

11. Evaluate the true impact of being wrong.

We often feel the need to overthink because we simply fear being wrong. It might make sense to overthink things if you’re planning to jump your motorbike over the Grand Canyon or to go swimming with a great white shark. As for overthinking the decision you made in that meeting yesterday? Not so much.

Ask yourself in such moments what the realistic cost of being wrong is. When you can lower the stakes, you raise your ability to get mentally unstuck.

So don’t overthink it. Take the inspiration here and run with it. Without looking back.

GOODBYE 2019 AND WELCOME 2020 THE NEW DECADE!

It’s now time to say goodbye to another decade.  We enter the new decade with great anticipation of things becoming better. This New Year and new decade creates an atmosphere of renewal for all of us. Regardless of what mistakes have been made in the past year or what projects might remain unfinished; the New Year provides an opportunity to make things better. As with all beginnings, however, getting started can be the most challenging step.  Strive to have a better understanding of yourself this year.  The most important person in your life is you!  The only person that can change you is you!  So work on yourself this year spiritually and at the end of the year look back and see all the changes you have made.

pexels-photo-284011

Now, you will enter the unseen, and you can enter a New Year equipped with an arsenal of heavenly energies.  It requires your taking time to be quiet and feel the energies of the angels all around you.  Look for their guidance throughout this coming year and decade.

The Angels are bringing bright blessings to you and your family this coming year. They ask that you reflect on all the blessings that you have had, as well as the lessons you have learned during this past year. They ask that you reflect on the struggles you have endured throughout the year and question why these times were so hard.

By looking back, you may be able to change your perception of the way you view your life and the world around you. When you look at things differently, the things you look at change. Consciously choose to see things in a positive light in the New Year.

Soon you will see that everything around you is filled with loving energy. You create your reality. Why not choose to have a positive, loving experience this year, and in turn, your energy will add to the collective consciousness and make the earth a better place to live! Life is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.

Many of the events that have happened in 2019 have made people realize how fragile life is and how quickly things can change. Now is not a good time to be clinging to past issues and past hurts. Letting go is a good option because it frees you from heartache caused by going over and over the past.

Bob Marley once said, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you’re riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts; put your vision to reality. Wake up and live!”

Now is the time to let down the walls that have kept you trapped. If you choose the spiritual path these walls will soon start to fade away and you will get a taste of real freedom. You can become more aware of your connection to everything as you let down your guard and remove the walls. Focus on what has changed for you and what you desire to change in the future. For some of you this will be easy to do. For others who are resistant to change pulling down those walls will be more challenging.

lAItE5

Allow yourself to connect with that spark within that has been glowing inside of you from the beginning of your existence. Sometimes we only get a glimpse of the eternal, but those moments are given to us so that we have the fortitude to carry on.

Happy New Year. May the New Year bring to you warmth of love, and a light to guide your path towards a positive destination.

 

50 Travel Tips About Armenia

Armenia isn’t on many people’s list of countries to visit. However, if you are considering visiting Armenia soon, you will probably have a few problems finding correct and reliable information. Why? There aren’t many people traveling to Armenia and even less writing about it. That’s why after visiting Armenia we built this list!

50 Travel Tips About Armenia | Armenia And The Locals

#1 Armenia isn’t a “tourist ready” country, but that’s probably just another thing that makes it even more interesting! This doesn’t mean that tourists aren’t welcome since we were always pleasantly received in Armenia. However, the country still lacks many infrastructures to receive big amounts of tourists.

Things you want to know before traveling to Armenia

#2 Barely anyone speaks English, only Russian and Armenian. We believe it’s the least English-speaking country we have been to… Communication can be very difficult, though it’s manageable.

#3 Armenia is a very dry country, at least in the Summer. Yellow is the prevailing color and makes it quite scenic 🙂 There’s something about it that’s soothing…

traveling in Armenia
Karahunj Observatory

#4 It’s very mountainous or else wouldn’t be a Caucasus country… The mountains aren’t as high as its neighboring Georgia but the whole country is marked by mountains, gorges, and valleys.

#5 There are more Armenians outside Armenia than in the country! In fact, there are almost 3 times more Armenians outside Armenia (8M) than living in Armenia (3M)! This happened due to the Armenian Diaspora.

Armenia and the locals

#6 During WWI the Ottoman Government (nowadays Turkey) killed 1-1.5 M Armenians in what it’s called the Armenian Genocide or Armenian Holocaust. Until today Turkey does not recognize what happened as a Genocide.

#7 Armenia is considered the first Christian country! Christianity was implemented as the state religion in 301 A.D. Though it was introduced in Armenia even earlier, during the 1st century by Christ’s disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. They are known as the “Illuminators of the Armenian world”. Even today Armenia is still a very conservative and religious country, 95 % of the population is Armenian Apostolic.

Armenia travel - Mount Ararat

#8 Armenia (and Georgia) connects Europe and Asia. For centuries was a center of trade between continents and the epicenter of many wars! It has been attacked and invaded by the Greeks, Mongols, Persians, Turks, Russians, etc…

#9 However, today Armenia is a geopolitical hotspot! It has no access to the ocean and has a conflict with many of their neighboring countries. It has no relation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Iran to the south mostly supports their fellow Islamic countries. This leaves only Georgia,  who wasn’t too happy with their support to Russia during the recent war…

How to see Mount Ararat - Armenia travel guide
In Armenia, you get some astonishing views

#10 All this made Armenia’s economic struggle and made Armenia’s transition to a market economy more difficult. Though, Armenia is still a very poor country!

#11 However, don’t feel discouraged Armenia is a stable and safe country. Moreover, it feels safe… As a tourist, I always felt relaxed and comfortable, almost as in Georgia or Western Europe.

Top atractions of Erevan Armenia
The famous cascade in Yerevan

 

Travel In Armenia And The Tourists

#12 Armenia is one of the least touristy countries in Europe. Out of the few tourists they host, even fewer are western backpackers… We only saw a handful of them.

Armenia has so many cool things to do and see, yet has so few visitors…

#13 Even in the peak season, in the biggest tourist attractions, we only saw a few tourists and no queues. It was great not being overwhelmed by people everywhere we went

What to visit in Armenia

#14 If you are planning an overland trip be aware that Armenia borders are closed with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. If you want to go to any of these countries your best option is to go through Georgia.

#15 While traveling through Armenia, one thing will catch your eyes… Half the country seems to have been abandoned to their own fate… There are way too many half-deserted towns with buildings falling apart.

Travel in Armenia and the tourists

#16 Yerevan is the exception, the center is much more developed than the rest of the country. It’s known as the pink city because of the color of the stones of the beautiful old and new buildings. Yerevan is a buzzing city and very pleasant to walk around both during the day and at night!

#17 If we had to choose the best travel attraction of Armenia, that would be the Tatev monastery and the Wings of Tatev aerial roadway! The Tatev monastery is amazing and situated in an incredibly scenic mountain range, which you can appreciate from the Wings of Tatev.

Visit Tatev Armenia - Travel tips
The gorgeous Tatev Monastery

 

#18 Mount Ararat is a very important part of Armenian National identity, however, it’s nowadays part of Turkish territory! Though you can see it from Armenia and it’s an incredible view that allows some amazing pictures particularly from Khor Virap! Unfortunately, when we were closer to it, there was a strong fog ruining the pictures

Armenia travel tips
Khor Virap, with Mount Ararat behind – unfortunately it was a bit foggy

#19 Sevan Lake is the biggest lake in Armenia and occupies 5% of the territory! We read how beautiful it was and that it’s a beach destination within Armenia… Well, the lake is impressive and being 1900-meters high makes it rather unique, however, most of the surrounding felt abandoned! it definitely wasn’t a place where we wanted to beach…

Visit lake Sevan Armenia - Travel Armenia
Sevan Lake

#20 Moreover, the town of Sevan itself was probably the worst place we have been in Armenia! Felt completely abandoned and with nothing to do… I would suggest visiting the lake as a stopover on a road trip, but nothing more!

#21 Armenia is the place to go if you want to see unique monasteries in a beautiful setting, usually hidden away in the Mountains. The most interesting we visited were Noravank, Tatev, and Geghard. Khor Virap isn’t that impressive by itself, but the view of Ararat is incredible! We also went to Etchmiadzin, which is supposedly the first cathedral ever built (between 301-303)!

Travel to Armenia
Just one example of the many Armenian Monasteries

 

Food And Drinks In Armenia

#22 Armenian food is pretty cheap, even in restaurants. With 5-10 Euros one couple can have a very good meal at a nice restaurant.

What to eat in Armenia

#23 However, it isn’t easy to find quick meals or fast food. Definitely, the country isn’t prepared for travelers… We ended up going to supermarkets and buying supplies to being able to eat “on the road”.

#24 Lavash is the staple bread in Armenia. When you ask for bread, usually you get Lavash. It’s a soft, thin flatbread. “Lavash, the preparation, meaning, and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

#25 The best things we tried in Armenia were Zhingyalov hats and Dolma. Zhingyalov hats are flatbread stuffed with finely diced herbs and green vegetables. Dolma is a dish of minced meat wrapped in grape leaves.

Traditional Armenian food

#26 Be careful when you ask for a Lemonade! It may not be what you expect… We learned that, in Armenia, a Lemonade is Soda, and it doesn’t have to be a Lemon Soda! You can easily have a pear or Tarragon (Yeap…) Lemonade! 🙂

#27 Fruit (fresh and dried) is very good in Armenia, particularly peaches and figs! You will also see lots of melons and watermelons…  Enjoy them, it’s a great way to eat some healthy food during the trips!

Where to eat in Armenia
We love buying fruit and veggies from street vendors – Armenia was no exception

Money And Expenses In Armenia

#28 Overall Armenia is a very cheap country to travel in! Food, accommodation, fuel, and tickets to attractions are all very inexpensive. Overall, in 5 days we only spent 190 Euros, which means less than 20 Euros per person per day. This doesn’t include the car rental!

#29 You can withdraw money from almost any ATM with your foreign card, without extra fees! It’s similar to Georgia and very different (better!) from SE Asia! Note: We are talking about the local ATM fees, not the fees charged by your bank… those depend only on your bank!

Travel to Erevan Armenia - Travel tips

#30 The problem is that in most places it can be difficult to find ATMs! I would advise you to take a few extra Eur/USD just in case you need an alternative… The exception is Yerevan, where there’s ATM everywhere like you would expect in a big capital city.

#31 Accommodation is also very cheap! It’s fairly easy to find a private double room in a nice guesthouse under 20 Euros. Most of the times we ended up paying about 15 Euros per night.

breakfast in Armenia
breakfast in Armenia

#32 Expect to pay an added service fee of 10% in every restaurant. That information is usually on the menu. Besides, even with this small added tax, meals are very cheap in Armenian restaurants.

#33 Cash is King in Armenia. Many places only accept cash, even some that have Visa’s and Mastercard’s signs (no internet, no service or any other problem).

Most supermarkets and big restaurants/hotels are exceptions. Almost every guest house will have to be paid in cash and you can’t even pay with a card when booking.

How To Travel In Armenia

 

#34 Roads in Armenia are terrible, much worse than in Georgia. They are full of potholes, even some of the main roads that connect the country. Also, be aware that just because a road is considered a highway or a main road doesn’t mean that is any good, or even paved… You may need to drive gravel in places you won’t expect it!

#35 Therefore, you cannot blindly trust Google Maps (or maps me) expected time or you’ll be in for a bad time! In our experience, add 30 – 50% to the ETA to be safe…

 Roads in Armenia -
Roads in Armenia are a hassle…

#36 However, you don’t have to drive a 4 x 4 / SUV! It will make your journey more pleasant and allow you to go to more extreme places, but most of the usual destinations can be reached with a normal car. We did it with a small Toyota and it was OK.

#37 If the roads terrible, drivers are even worse… mostly because they are impatient and will overtake you in the craziest places. We think they are more reckless than actually aggressive. Anyway, it can be dangerous and if you are driving you should be aware of it. Our experience driving in Angola was very, very useful 🙂

Transportation in Armenia - how to travel in Armenia
Out of nowhere, the road becomes like this…

#38 Fuel is very cheap at half the price of western Europe countries, which is great for road trippers!

#39 In Armenia you can (or may really need to) fill up your car in these pumps… how cool is that? 🙂

Is Armenia Safe

#40 Armenia is part of the silk road and one of its most famous passes was the Selim pass (now called Orbelian’s pass). The scenery is amazing and the road is actually good and enjoyable to drive in. Selim pass goes as high as 2410 meters!

#41 If you are planning to drive in Armenia please note that there are way too many speed cameras on the main roads! In almost every small town you’ll see one, or several! We didn’t get any ticket, however, be careful because they usually enforce the speed limit.

Best Things to do in Armenia
Beautiful open Road in Armenia…

#42 If you are planning to bring a car from Georgia to Armenia you will need a cross-border authorization to cross the border to Armenia. It’s a document from the car rental authorizing you to take the car to Armenia in Georgian and translated to Armenian! It will cost at least 50 USD and you’ll probably need to request it 1 or 2 days in advance.

#43 Additionally you will also need to buy car insurance in Armenia, but you’ll need to buy it in Armenia. Right after crossing the border you’ll find many places selling insurance. Just stop and buy it. It’ll probably cost 10-15 USD.

Other Travel Information About Armenia

#44 In Armenia you’ll find free WIFI everywhere, restaurants, bars, hotels, guesthouses, and even some tourist attractions! However, if you want you can also easily buy a sim card close to the borders. We didn’t buy and didn’t miss it!

#45 Armenia uses the power sockets and plugs of type C and F, with a standard voltage of 230 V and a frequency of 50 Hz. Type C plug is usually called the Euro socket as it’s used in almost every country in Continental Europe. If you need to buy an adapter, we recommend this one.

#46 Do you need a visa to enter Armenia? Probably not. The citizens of many countries are exempted from visa: the US, most EU, the UK, Australia, etc.. Curiously, not Canada… Both Canadians and Indians need a visa on arrival. Nevertheless, have a look here for the lists of countries that exempted countries, visa on arrival, and visa requests.

#47 If you can buy products on the side of the road. This way you will get great products at very reasonable prices and it will directly help the local economy! Fruits, nuts, honey, and wine are some of the great things you can buy…

Armenia travel information
Another street vendor – this time it was honey

#48 Be aware that the working day starts very late… There’s nothing open before 9:00… However, at night many things come to live, particularly in Yerevan.

#49 Crossing borders between Georgia and Armenia is perfectly easy and fairly quick. One time took us 30 minutes, the other for almost 2 hours. But most importantly it was peaceful and without any “problems” from the Police. We were particularly worried about the Brava Border (because it’s very small) but it was very simple and without any trouble!

#50 If you want to travel to a country that it’s still off the radar of tourism, visiting Armenia is probably one of your best options! It’s safe, cheap, relaxed, fairly easy to travel. It has many interesting destinations and unique culture and history!

Things you need to knwo about Armenia
Garni Temple, close to Yerevan

 

Simple Day After Christmas Ideas to Help You Catch Your Breath

It’s the day after Christmas. Generally, this day is a flood of emotions that can vary from one person to the next, however, I think there is one word that most likely describes all of us: exhausted! Maybe your home is like mine – with all the extra food, all the packaging from the gifts, the used wrapping paper, and more. And then there may even be a pile of returns. Ugh. But, the day after Christmas doesn’t have to bring you stress – it actually can be a peaceful day if you allow it.

Sound like a dream?

It’s not. Just keep reading.

Just-BreatheBreath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.

Before you go any further, one of the things you’ll need is help with clutter. Be sure to grab our download with questions to ask yourself about whether to keep things or get rid of them. Just enter your email below to have it sent right to your inbox!

You may still be in the midst of exhaustion if your Christmas festivities are still continuing. Whether today marks the end of your holiday festivities or that day has yet to come for you, we all must resume our regular lives in the midst of the exhaustion that the holidays leave in their wake.

How then, are we to do this? How do we dig ourselves out from the torn packaging, mountain of wrapping paper and the kitchen that have most likely fallen victim to holiday cooking of some kind. Then there is the endless amounts of toys that need to be assembled or brought to life with countless batteries?

Let’s not forget about the sugared up, sleep deprived, most likely “regular rule” breaking kids since there is rarely room for “regular rules” in the midst of the holiday cheer.

Feel like your head is spinning yet?

HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS THINGS YOU CAN DO SO YOU CAN CATCH YOUR BREATH TODAY AND BEYOND.

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Enter “Life is as simple as these three questions: What do I want? Why do I want it? And, how will I achieve it?”a caption

1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH

We must start here. If there is one thing I know as an exhausted, sleep deprived, overloaded, overfull, and stressed out post holiday mom it is the need to start with a deep breath. Most likely, you probably have not had a deep breath since last week sometime.

2. PRIORITIZE WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

The list of things that need to be done all seem urgent, but the entire list of what needs to be done can’t be urgent. We only have so many hours in the day. As a mom, we are in the midst of trying to get our kids to return to “normal” as well.

Take a quick inventory of what needs to be done in the near future. Then, put this inventory list in order from most important to least important.

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3. MAKE A PLAN

Plan the times that you will be devoting to working your way through your prioritized list of tasks. We all still have our “regular” lives, so fitting in all the extras that the holiday rush thrusts in our lap will have to be planned into our daily schedules, most likely little by little.

4. START WITH GOOD ENOUGH RATHER THAN PERFECTION

Start with making things good enough to get by.

Do you have a bunch of things that need to be returned?

Start by gathering them in one place. Then, get the necessary receipts and put them in a bag or box in your car, ready to be returned.

Do you have a bunch of clothes that your kids need to try on? Try putting them in a neat pile somewhere in their room. This way they are out of the way, but not causing a bunch of clutter around your home. You can get to them when you can get to them.

I am sure you have a bunch of new things that all need places to go in your house. With a family of 11, the new things that now need to find homes is astounding.

My favorite way of handling this is to break the things down, room by room, and then put each room’s things in a box or bag in the room that it will need to be put in. Again, this way I can get to it when I can get to it.

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5. ACCEPT WHAT IS

Accept that your house, your kids, and your life will be in a state of disarray for the next little while. Just accept it now – you can’t change it anyway. Know that things will go back to normal in a few days, at least ideally.

6. LOOK PAST WHAT ISN’T GREAT

Look past the things you can’t get to right now. Look past the box of stuff waiting for your attention in each room. Know that it is already partially tended to since you have started organizing things to be put away. But, look past the fact that everything isn’t done to completion at this point in the game. You’ll get there eventually.

7. START WITH THE VISIBLE AREAS FIRST

Start with putting things away in the most visible areas. Attack the main living areas first since this is where you spend most of your time. The list of things you need to take care of is most likely seemingly endless at this point.

However, if you are anything like me, the sooner you can get the areas you look at most under control, the better.

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8. WORK IN ORDER

Get one area or room completely done before moving on to another area. I find it to be so much better if I can get one room completely under control. Then, when I feel overwhelmed by another area, I can breathe in the solace of the one completed room I have.

It also motivates me to keep going on the rest as I can check rooms off my list.

9. REST

I put this last on the list not because it is least important. In fact, I think it may be the most important thing, and it is something that you need to start working in to your digging out process right from the start.

Recognize that in most cases, you have had several long days, all in a row. This means that you need some time to rest and recuperatere. Resist the urge to pass over this rest part in an effort to have more time to devote to the things on your list that are screaming at you.

Plan some time of rest into each day.

More importantly, get to bed on time tonight and in the nights that follow. You are no good to anyone when you continue to run on fumes.

Although we all love the holidays, the after part is not nearly as much fun. However, with every Christmas holiday season comes the time of transition and let down when Christmas is finally over.

Being intentional in breathing deeply, prioritizing and planning, creating ways that things can be good enough to get by while looking past everything else and getting adequate rest will help get you back on the path to sanity in your life once again.

Fill Your Heart with Christmas – A special holiday post

Merry Christmas!

This time of year is the perfect time to reflect and show appreciation. Christmas is a time of giving, I want to give my love to everyone. I am truly grateful for all of my readers, family, and friends that have and continue to support me in my journey. Honestly, I could never have done it without you all.

Take some time this holiday season to be appreciative of those who work when they should be with family and friends, those who are away from those they love, and those who sacrifice for our needs.

 

Among all the memorable events of the year, Christmas is one of the most-awaited festivals. And preparation for this day starts much before the day arrives.

People start planning for the festival, buying gifts for friends and family, making travel plans, preparing cakes and selecting the Christmas Tree and the festivities add warmth to the cold December days.

Christmas Day, which is celebrated on December 25, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Given the importance of the day, prayer sessions are held in churches and people’s houses from the night of December 24 itself.

The true meaning of Christmas is giving and sharing the love and reaching out to those who have touched our lives. It is a time to count our blessings and be grateful for them. You have touched my life in so many ways, and I thank you for being a wonderful friend. I wish you the best of Christmas.

As you celebrate Christmas, make wonderful memories that will linger in your home, make great friendships that will last a lifetime and may this season filled with peace and joy. Have a merry Christmas.