The secret to interviewing - how to get 5x more offers
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Before I learned the secret to interviewing, I was rejected from 25 internships that I applied to during business school.

I received just one offer — and it wasn’t very competitive. But it was my only offer. So I took it.

And I felt like a complete failure.

How had I interviewed so many times and walked away with only one offer? And how did some of my classmates at Stanford Business School have so many offers — at companies I dreamed of working for?

People often think that having a certain degree or company on their résumé will ensure lifelong job search success. Not true. In fact, the way you interview may count for even more. It’s competitive out there, and you must know how to effectively interview to get multiple offers — and ultimately a job you would love, as discussed more in Art of the Job Search.

Turns out that many of my classmates knew something I didn’t at the time: the secret to interviewing.

I really wanted to know how they did so well in interviews. So I asked a friend who got offers at multiple top firms and startups: What was his secret.

He shared this life-changing piece of wisdom:

"Act like you are interviewing them."

Wait…what?!

Initially, I thought his advice was crazy. But then I realized that I had nothing to lose by trying it. My past interviewing approach had been highly deferential — and highly ineffective.

During my next search, I decided to take this approach, and the results stunned me.

I received offers for five of the seven jobs that I interviewed for — an offer rate of about 70 percent, or five times more offers than I received during my prior job search.

Or to get even more hyperbolic, since my initial success rate was only 4 percent, this new success rate was 17 times higher.

Why You Should “Act Like You Are Interviewing Them”

After taking this approach, I realized that it made sense for a couple of key reasons.

For one, when you act like you are interviewing the company, you’redisplaying ownership and confidence — two of the top traits hiring managers seek.

In a recent survey in Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, top managers were asked what they seek in job candidates. They responded, “We want people who are problem solvers and are willing to take initiative. We want people…who act like they own the place.”

What better way to show these qualities than in your interview style?

Additionally, you should be interviewing them for your own purposes, not just to demonstrate ownership and confidence.

Most people approach the interview as a one-sided thing: impressing the company. But you should be interviewing the company to gauge their impression on you, too.

Even if the company really wants you, you will have to know if you actually want to work there. The interview is your opportunity to figure this out.

 

5 Ways to “Act Like You Are Interviewing Them”

1. Own the Introduction

First impressions are critical — the first 15 seconds of an interview can determine whether you get the job. Often, people wait for the interviewer to initiate the handshake and conversation. But you should do this instead.

To make a strong first impression, take control of the interaction with each person you meet. Each time you meet someone new, stand up and offer your hand first — and give a strong handshake. Ask them a rapport-building question like, “How’s your day going?” Be enthusiastic. And smile.

This approach not only shows your interviewers that you are the confident team member they seek, but it also sets you up for success by making you more confident. Acting confident leads to actual confidence — which will make you more effective in the rest of the interview (see #4).

2. Ask More Questions During the Interview

During my failed job search, I viewed the interviewers as the question-askers and myself as the question-answerer. I politely waited to speak until addressed. And this approach failed miserably.

Instead, make each interview a two-way dialogue. This is probably the most effective way to act like you are interviewing them.

So, how do you turn the interview into a two-way conversation?

Ask questions during the interview. From the moment the interview starts, make it a conversation by asking lots of questions throughout the conversation. For example:

  • Beginning: Ask how your interviewer is doing when they sit down.

  • Middle: Ask questions about the role or your interviewer’s background.Ask questions as they come to you during the conversation.

  • End: Ask good questions that you’ve prepared in advance (see #5).

Think about the interview as a conversation with a friend. In other words, if you were chatting with a friend, what questions would you ask her?

In one interview where I asked a lot of questions, the interviewer never got around to asking me a single interview question. I led the conversation, and it ended up being a very casual, informative, and enjoyable conversation. And I got the job.

Note: Interviewers are usually receptive to the two-way dialogue approach (probably 80 percent of the time), but sometimes more-formal interviewers like to stick to their script. If you sense that the conversational approach is not working, let it go.

3. Form a Connection — And Show Your Personality

People hire people they like — according to research.

At a past company where I worked, one of the top ways we assessed a candidates was by asking ourselves: “Would you want to be stuck with this person in an airport for eight hours?” Because we traveled a lot. And, well, it happened sometimes.

Feel free to be yourself and show some personality. It’s okay to laugh — and even to enjoy the conversation. You don’t always have to be serious in interviews. Seriously. Take a cue from your interviewers — if they seem more relaxed, then it’s okay to be more informal.

Research also shows that people like people who are like themselves, which is why you should aim to find connections with your interviewers. Research your interviewers on LinkedIn beforehand to find things you have in common (like the same school, past employer, etc.), and then try to subtly drop this into the conversation during the interview.

4. Exude Confidence

Admittedly, this is a tough one. It’s hard to feel confident when you feel nervous and want to impress. But it’s possible.

In her TED Talk, Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that your body language can make you more confident. Go into the bathroom before your interview and spread your arms to the sky (no one will know)—strike a power pose. Continue to act confident even if you don’t feel it, or to put it more simply: fake it till you make it.

My friend listened to his favorite Pearl Jam song — “I Believe in Miracles” — before every interview he’s ever had. Do whatever it takes for you.

A confident verbal communication style is important as well, and the best way to nail this is to anticipate questions and practice your answers in advance—here’s a good list to start to use in preparation.

The most important question is “Can you talk me through your résumé?” or some variation thereof. It’s almost always the first one you’ll be asked in an interview — and it’s your chance to make a great first impression.

The key to this question is not to tell your life story in chronological order.Instead, highlight the themes in your background that make you a great fit for this particular job — and keep it short (no more than a few minutes). If interviewers want to know more, they’ll ask.

A few other tips for exuding confidence: Make eye contact, mind your body language, keep your answers concise, and cut the filler words (the “likes” and “ums”).

5. Ask Good Questions at the End

Always be prepared to ask questions at the end of an interview. Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position and that you’re thinking about how you can contribute to the team.

Plus, this is your opportunity to continue interviewing your interviewer. What do you really want to know to help decide if the role is right for you?

Top questions that can offer good insight into the job include:

  • What do you like most and least about working here?

  • What are your top priorities right now?

  • What are your goals for this year?

  • What’s the team structure? How does this position interact with other people on the team and within the company?

  • Can you tell me about some of the projects you’re working on?

A Job Is Only Great When It’s a Match on Both Sides

While taking the approach of “acting like you are interviewing them” will lead to more job offers, it won’t always get you the job. Sometimes, it’s just not the right fit.

During one interview, I couldn’t seem to connect with my interviewers regardless of what I tried. And I didn’t get the job. Even though my interviews felt “off,” it still hurt to get that rejection call.

When I was finally able to get over the disappointment and be honest with myself, I realized I wouldn’t have wanted that job. Not being hired was a blessing in disguise—I later found a job I loved with a team that I really enjoyed.

A job is only great when it’s a match on both sides.

So, continue to own your interviews — and act like you are interviewing them. Because, after all, you are.

Want more tips on how to find a job you love? Check out Art of the Job Search.

Want to learn to negotiate? Start with your Morning coffee.
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When I took my first job, it never crossed my mind to negotiate my salary — or any other component of my offer for that matter. I was so grateful that I had an offer that I just took it. 

Later, I asked a colleague if he negotiated his offer , even though the salary was fixed. “I tried,” he said. “I try to negotiate everything.”

This conversation was illuminating. Unlike my colleague, I didn’t try to negotiate anything — ever. The idea of negotiating felt at best, awkward, and at worst, scary.

Over the next year, I came across some information that made me realize that by failing to negotiate, I was missing out on two major things:

  1. Income (about $500k over my lifetime) and
  2. Equality.

After all, women still only make 80% of what men do. This data inspired me to overcome my fear of negotiation and develop this critical skill — for the next time I had the opportunity to negotiate my salary or a job offer.

To build my comfort negotiating, I intentionally started small. And I made my first attempt in a low-pressure situation, where I had little to lose, for example when I would never see the person again.

My first negotiation occurred about ten years ago — in a mall. I found a sweater I liked at J. Crew with a broken button. So, when I was checking out, I simply said: “This button is broken. Is there anything you can do?”

Without blinking, the cashier said “Sure. 30% off.”

That was my first success. It was so easy — and inspired me to keep negotiating in low-pressure situations, like at stores, at the coffee shop, or on my cable bill, so that I could build the skill for when I really needed it.

I later used the negotiation skills I built in my career — most notably to negotiate job offers. In my last job search, I successfully got seven companies to raise their salary offers by up to 20%.

Why you should negotiate in your career

A fear of negotiation is so common that almost half of all job candidates never try to negotiate their initial offer.

But here’s the thing: most companies expect you to negotiate. In a recent study, half of all companies say that they would be willing to negotiate a job offer.

People who don’t negotiate their salary miss out on $500k — or more — over a lifetime. Negotiating your salary from $50k to $55k — merely an extra $5k — can lead to half a million dollars of additional earnings over fifty years. You can also use this calculator to see how much your negotiations could generate over the course of your life.

On average, women miss out even more. According to Women Don’t Ask, we are four times less likely to negotiate than men — and when we do negotiate, we ask for less and receive 30% less than men. This is likely a contributing factor to the pay gap — currently, on average women make only 80% of what men do.

So, how do you learn to negotiate — especially if you’ve spent a lifetime avoiding it?

1. Start by negotiating the small things

To get comfortable negotiating, start small. Ask for a discount on a product. Or, ask for two stamps on your coffee loyalty card. Or, negotiate a discount on your monthly cable bill. For other ideas on things you can negotiate, check out this list.

You will probably end up being shocked at how often you’re successful negotiating, not to mention that it always feels good to get a deal.

By negotiating small things frequently in your personal life, you will gain the comfort and skill necessary to negotiate larger things in the future — like a job offer or a raise.

2. Use friendly language — and questions

A common misperception is that negotiations must involve language a la Wolf of Wall Street — words like: “I’m worth this, or “if you don’t pay me X, I’ll take my talents elsewhere,” or “this is my final offer.”

But this perception of negotiation couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

Negotiation does not need to be Wolf of Wall Street style. (Source: GIPHY)

Negotiation language does not need to be hostile — in fact, using amicable language gives you a better chance of succeeding in a negotiation. According to Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra, being likable in a negotiation leads to a higher success rate.

I definitely have felt more comfortable — and authentic — using a friendly approach to negotiation.

Recently, I was purchasing a couple new couches for our living room and had sticker shock when I received the quote. So, I called the salesperson and said: “I saw that you had a 20% off Summer clearance promotion that ended last week. Any chance you can still honor this?” Without hesitation, the salesman said: “Sure.” Success!

What I’ve found is this: Negotiation is often as simple as

  1. Providing convincing data and
  2. Asking a question.

Next time you are buying something — anything — try to negotiate. Here are some ways to practice negotiating with data and/or a question and get great discounts along the way:

  • Is there a promotion going on right now? If they say no, try: “This is a large order — any chance you can offer XX% off?”
  • I found the same product listed on Amazon (or another retailer) — can you offer it to me at the same price?
  • I noticed this small defect — can you offer a discount?
  • I saw that you were offering X% off last week — any chance that can still be applied here?
  • Would you be willing to provide this service for less? Ideally suggest a number.

3. Always try to negotiate

Getting comfortable negotiating in your personal life is good practice for negotiating larger things in your life — like a job offer or a raise. So, start looking for opportunities to negotiate on a daily basis — then, try.

I almost always ask for deals and discounts, and I’m shocked at how often people unblinkingly just say: “Yes.” I would estimate that I’m successful about 80% of the time.

And when they say no, the relationship always stays cordial. If you approach the negotiation in an friendly way, how can they be upset with you?

So, why does negotiation work so often?

Think about it: negotiation is mutually beneficial for both parties.

In the couch example above, they wanted me to purchase this large order. And, I wanted the product — and to feel like I got a good deal.

We both won.

In a job offer negotiation, the company wants you to work there. And you want to be paid fairly. If you negotiate, you both win.

As a result, you may make an extra half a million dollars — or more — over your lifetime.

How I Got promoted twice in two years
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When I changed jobs a few years ago, I worried about being promoted.

The position I interviewed for was at a senior manager level, but when the company made me an offer, they downgraded the role to manager — based on my “experience level.” I tried to negotiate the title but ultimately decided that salary was more important. (According to research, the best approach to negotiation is to consider the whole package and make tradeoffs.)

But I still really wanted to be a senior manager — which would require a promotion.

So, before I accepted the job, I called my manager and said, “I’m excited about this role and want the opportunity to make further contributions by becoming a senior manager. Can we set up an informal review in six months to assess my performance and a potential promotion?”

He consented to my request. And I accepted the job.

I initially planned to wait to discuss promotion with my manager until our informal review in six months. But after talking to a friend, I realized that this approach would be a mistake. She had recently been promoted after having regular (in her case, weekly) discussions with her manager.

If I waited six month to discuss my performance, I would have no idea in the interim if I was meeting expectations and on track for promotion. So I decided to take a bolder approach than I ever had in the past: I resolved to have direct discussions around my performance and promotion in our scheduled development conversations. Every. Single. Month.

I was apprehensive before initiating our first discussion about a month after I started. My manager was a direct communicator—not my natural style. As a self-identified introvert, I hesitate to act in ways that could be construed as aggressive.

So instead of directly asking how promotion worked, I made the conversation about performance management and my interest in long-term career growth at the company. I kicked off our first conversation by saying, “I’m excited about the opportunities at this company and would love to learn more about how career development works here.”

I progressed to asking him about how the performance management system worked and what it would take for me to reach the next level. Then, each month, I consistently asked for feedback and whether I was on track for promotion. (See #1 and #4 below for the specific questions I asked, both in our initial meeting and regular follow-up meetings).

Surprisingly, I found that our frequent, open conversations improved our working relationship. And I realized two things about asking for what you want: 1) It doesn’t have to be aggressive, and 2) when done appropriately, it is extremely effective.

As a result of our regular conversations, coupled with the strategies below, I was promoted to senior manager after only six months and then promoted again in a year (under a different manager) to director, a much larger role.

Through these experiences, I realized something critical about effective career management:

Job performance is important — but it’s not enough simply to be good at your job. To be promoted, you must understand how promotion works, be strategic in your approach — and, most important, advocate for yourself.

 

1. Get Clarity on What Is Required to Be Promoted

Before my first performance discussion with my manager, I couldn’t identify any clear or consistent standards for promotion. I wasn’t sure why some people were promoted quickly and some never made it to the next level, even after 10 years at the company.

This uncertainty led to my first revelation around promotion: If you don’t know what’s required to get promoted, you must ask.

So, in our first monthly performance management meeting, I asked the following questions:

  • “How does performance management work?” (e.g., Are there performance criteria that determine promotion?)
  • “Who assesses my performance?” (Just my manager? The whole team?)
  • “When do performance reviews occur?” (Annually? Semiannually?)
  • “What would it take to move to the next level?” (Specifically, what do I need to do? Is promotion possible in my current role?)

Having this conversation early gave me a tangible goal to work towards I learned about the company’s official performance matrix — and which characteristics were most important to my manager for my role (in his case: strategic thinking, influencing, and executive communication).

This conversation will also allow you to understand if it’s possible to be promoted in your current role. Promotion requires: 1) a role for you to be promoted into, 2) the budget to pay your higher salary, and 3) often, a consensus decision by several others. If you’ve performed well, sometimes your manager cannot promote you — even if he really wants to. In this case, figure out what the other long-term options are for you at the company.

 

2. Act Like You’re Already at the Next Level

When I asked my manager about the key drivers of promotion, he said people who are promoted have: 1) excelled in their job, and 2) already proven that they can operate at the next level.

I realized that the best way to earn a promotion is to: Act like you are already at the next level.

I studied what was required at the next level and tried to do it. From my experience, here are a couple powerful ways to display your promotion readiness:

  • Ask for “stretch” projects: When I was promoted, I requested — and received — a high-impact digital strategy project that enabled me to engage with leaders who were involved in promotion decisions. My performance on this project was later cited as one of the reasons I was promoted.
  • Own your work: As a manager, one of the top things I look for in promoting members of my team is the ability of each employee to “own” their work. Can they problem solve on their own? Can they influence others? Can they complete entire work streams without constant guidance? Here are some powerful suggestions on how to “own” your work.

 

3. Ask for It

For people like me who liked school, sadly, work is not like school, where you could sit quietly in class, do solid work, and get an A. At work, sitting back and hoping someone notices all the great work you do is unlikely to lead to a promotion.

Instead, you must make it very clear that you want to be promoted because: 1) It shows ambition, that you actively want to take on the challenge of the next role, and 2) not everyone wants to be promoted.

When I was promoted the second time, my management responsibilities and scope of work doubled. While the role was exciting, it was also a lot more work — and more stressful. Some people, understandably, don’t want to take on expanded career responsibilities at certain points in their lives. I’m sure I’ll be there at some point in my life, too.

 

4. Discuss It Regularly with Your Manager

Research shows that 80 percent of people feel uncomfortable discussing employment terms like promotion. People often find these discussions intimidating because they think they must be aggressive (e.g., “I want/ deserve a promotion!”)

But these conversations can, and should, be done in an agreeable way and on a regular basis. In my monthly promotion discussions, I focused on personal development by asking for feedback and what I could do to enhance my performance.

Each month, I asked my manager the same questions:

  • “Do you have any feedback for me? (Note: Providing feedback was not common at my company, so this was a new request for my manager. I gave him advance warning that I would be asking for feedback so he could prepare — and so he wasn’t thrown off guard. I also prepared feedback for him in case he asked for it (he did).
  • “Am I on track to move to the next level?”
  • “What do I need to ensure that I stay on track?”

These regular conversations with my manager ensured that we were on the same page throughout the process.

 

5. Show Why You Deserve a Promotion

No one knows how much you contribute at work except you. Your manager is busy with his own worries. She’s probably more concerned about her next promotion than yours.

In his book Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford Business School, says:

Your first responsibility is to ensure that those at higher levels in your company know what you are accomplishing. And the best way to ensure they know what you are achieving is to tell them.

I realized that I needed to show my manager my contributions, visually and regularly — and here’s how I did it:

  1. I wrote down and reviewed goals and accomplishments regularly. For each monthly development conversation, I prepared a document listing my goals and accomplishments for that time period. We reviewed it together, which ensured that we were on the same page about priorities and that he was aware of what I had done.
  2. I sent weekly update emails. Another way I have kept my manager apprised of my work is by: 1) sending him an email each Monday with my top priorities and goals for the week, and 2) sending him an email on Friday highlighting what I had accomplished that week. If you take this approach, have a verbal conversation with your manager first to establish this process. And make sure your emails are bullet-pointed and easy to read quickly.

 

6. Get to Know the Decision-Makers Who Determine Promotions

In each of my promotions, I quickly realized that my manager was not the only one involved in the decision.

So, I started forming connections with the key promotion decision makers through regular coffee chats and work projects. Despite initially feeling anxious about reaching out to leaders that I did not know, I found that I enjoyed building these personal relationships and learning about their work.

Figure out who is involved in your promotion decision. Ask to grab coffee with them. Get to know them. If you can, try to work with them so you can demonstrate your talents.

People promote people they like, so start forming strong connections early with the people who hold the power to promote you.

 

What to Do When You Get Promoted

Celebrate! Grab a glass of champagne, go to a movie, or have a nice dinner.

Then, make sure you take the right steps to set yourself up for continued success.

Being promoted is an optimal time for negotiation. What do you want? Ideally, try to negotiate your base salary (since annual salary increases are based on this number.) Then, consider other things: bonus, stock options, extra vacation days, etc. (Here are some tips on how to negotiate effectively.)

Most important, what do you need to succeed in your new role? Extra team members? A larger budget? Support from certain leaders? Ask for the things you need, and make a clear case for why you need them.

It is critical that you do all you can to set yourself up for success in your new role so you can succeed in your new role — and put yourself on track to achieve that next promotion.

How to negotiate and make $1 million in your lifetime
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People who don’t negotiate miss out on $500k or more over their lifetime.

I initially doubted this, so I ran the numbers. And — it really is true. If you were offered $50k and negotiated to $55k, you would make $504,607 more over 50 years, with a 2.5% annual salary increase. If you negotiated from $50k to $60k, that increases to over one million dollars.

One million dollars!

When I initially heard that figure, I thought: That’s enough to pay for college – for five kids. Or to buy a very nice house. Or to provide two million meals to people who are hungry in the Bay Area.

When I got my first job out of college, I was so grateful that someone hired me that I couldn’t imagine negotiating. So, I didn’t even try. I was afraid what the company might think if I tried to negotiate. Would I come across as ungrateful, confrontational or entitled? What if they rescinded my job offer?

According to research, I’m not alone. These fears are so common that only 37% of people say that they consistently negotiate salary. Women are four times less likely to negotiate than men — and when we do negotiate, we ask for less and receive 30% less than men.

Yet, employers expect candidates to negotiate. By not negotiating, you leave money on the table that employer expected to pay you. After all, the company made you an offer because they really want you! If the company is afraid they might lose you, you’ll often be amazed what they will offer.

I recently interviewed hiring managers, and many said that they viewed negotiating candidates even more favorably. Think about it: negotiation will likely be a skill you will use in your job — to influence others and to get work done. So, by negotiating your job offer, you are showing them your ability to succeed at the company, too.

Negotiation is misunderstood. When people view negotiation as scary, it’s often because they perceive it to be done in conflict. But, there are ways to negotiate that are objective, fact-based and collaborative.

Below are the three best ways to negotiate — in an agreeable way.

1) Use other offers

Regardless of whether or not you are going to take a job, negotiate your offer. Why? Because you can use this offer to negotiate other offers.

I used this approach in a prior job search. I negotiated each offer that I received, even when I knew I would not take the job. When I finally got my dream job, the company played hardball. I was told “The max we can pay is X. Final offer.” Because I had data, I was able to confidently say, “I really want to work with you, but I received two other offers at a 20% higher salary.” Two days later, they came back and matched my other offers — with a salary they originally said was impossible.

2) Use data from other companies

If you don’t have other offers, or if you are employed already and trying to negotiate during a promotion or a year-end review, use data! Try to find salaries for comparable positions to yours — and use this data. A great source for salary data is Glassdoor.com, which includes thousands of companies and salaries for specific roles.

Another good way is to get salary information is through recruiters and headhunters trying to fill open jobs. Take their calls, and ask for the role’s compensation package, including salary, bonus and stock options.

(I always recommend taking recruiter calls for open jobs, even if you are happily employed. Use these calls to get salary information 1) to see if you are being paid fairly and 2) to use when you try to negotiate internally, during a promotion period or annual review.)

3) Use personal reasons

I was chatting with someone the other day who received an offer and wasn’t sure if he could make ends meet financially if he took the job. His wife was currently unemployed, and they were expecting a baby. “But, I can’t tell them these things,” he said.

Why not? Of course you can — and should.

Recruiters are human — they understand if you need more money to support your family. So, if there are personal reasons you seek a higher salary, tell the recruiter.

What to do when companies won’t negotiate salary

While it’s ideal to always negotiate your base salary (since annual salary increases are based on this), sometimes companies are legitimately unable to increase it. But, this doesn’t mean that all negotiation is off the table.

Get creative! Other things you can negotiate include: job title, bonus, stock options, vacation days, or working from home. Of course, don’t try to negotiate all of these things. Instead, think about what is most important to you, and focus your negotiation efforts accordingly.

Don’t stop negotiating

A common perspective is that once you’ve negotiated your job offer and taken the job, you’re done negotiating. But, by stopping here, you are leaving more on the table.

While it is easiest to negotiate before you take a job, look for opportunities to continue to negotiate in your job — like during promotions, annual reviews or role changes. And use the tactics discussed above to continue to ensure that you are paid well.

Have you ever negotiated successfully? How did you do it? Please share in the comments.

Top 3 Non-Fiction Life-Changing Books
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A year ago, I committed to reading non-fiction — for the entire year.

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I primarily read fiction because it provided a great escape from work or any source of stress in my life.

But, last year, I decided that I wanted to devote the year to learning, so I decided to try something different:  I read non-fiction for the year.

The three books below were life-changing, so I want to share them with you.  They specifically taught me how to:

  • Be more self-compassionate
  • Simplify my life
  • Have a better relationship with money

(I added another bonus book to the bottom of the list, an all time favorite. It’s a page-turning true story that’s so entertaining that it seems like fiction.)

1) How I Learned Self-Compassion

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

This book was so powerful that I plan to read it once a year. It gave me the courage to write a book, one of the hardest things I have ever done, and the strength to be more compassionate towards myself when I feel like I’ve failed.

Dweck’s life-changing concept is the growth mindset, which involves adopting the perspective that you are always developing; your abilities are not fixed.

With a growth mindset, no setback is a failure — you’re just learning and developing your skills. And, you can learn your way to personal success and fulfillment, in all areas of your life.

2) How I Learned to Simplify My Life

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

As someone with mild hoarding tendencies, this book was life-changing. I always wanted to live a more simplistic life — to be less encumbered by “stuff,” but I had a really hard time giving things away. (Like the dress I wore on a date with my husband ten years ago or the coffee mug a friend gave me that I’ve never used, but it looks really cool.)

Kondo provides solid advice on how to clean out your home — and how to simplify your life. The basic principle is simple: only keep things that “spark joy.”

After applying her methods, I successfully gave away fifteen large garbage bags full of “joyless stuff” to Goodwill. And we are living happier, less-crowded, more simple lives as a result.

3) How I Cultivated a Better Relationship with Money

The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist

If you asked me about my relationship with money, the answer would be: “It’s complicated.” But it’s less complicated after reading this book.

Before reading this book, I saw money as a source of stress, guilt and scarcity (i.e. never enough!). But, this book enabled me to see money as a source of good in my life.

I realized that money can be a powerful way to express my values — and to do good in the world. For example, I now make a conscious effort to buy more sustainably produced goods. And, I recommitted to giving 10% of my entire savings each year to non-profits whose missions I support.

A Fascinating True Story

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

Okay, my reading wasn’t all serious. This was just a really entertaining true story — a non-fiction book that reads so much like fiction that I stayed up until 4am two nights in a row to finish it. It’s one of those rare books where I felt sad to finish because I knew that it would be a long time before I found another true story that was this good.

What non-fiction books have you read that have changed your life? Share in the comments.

how to make lasting change in your life
Photo by  Morgan Sessions  on  Unsplash

It’s the start of a new year — again. What lasting changes do you want to make in your life? Who do you hope to be at the end of the year? What do you want to achieve?

These are questions I ask myself every year. Basically, how do I want to be different at the end of 2018?

In the past, I approached it the same way each year: a New Year’s resolution. Then, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t stick to my resolutions — and stopped making them altogether.

Turns out, I’m not alone. A mere 9% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. That’s it.

This year, I wanted to know how to set New Year’s resolutions that I would be able to achieve. So, instead of researching how to achieve New Year’s resolutions, I decided to try to understand how to set impactful, achievable goals —to make lasting change this year.

Here are three ways to make lasting change in 2018. Ways to Make Lasting Change in 2018

1. Start with the why.

Why do you want to change this year? In his wildly popular TED talk, Simon Sinek asserts that this is the most impactful thing you can do: start with why. He talks about it from a business perspective — but the concept is equally important in life.

So, what does it mean to start with why? Often, people start with what they want to change — for example, their weight. Then, they set a goal address how they are goes something like “Lose 10 pounds this year.” Then they might progress to define how they are going to achieve the goal, like eliminate carbs or sugar.

But, why do you want to lose weight in the first place?

Is it because you want more energy to play with your kids? Or to be in better shape to hike Mount Kilimanjaro this year? Or because you want to look like models in magazines — or all of the Instagram influencers you follow?

What I’ve found is that goals must be meaningful for me to want to achieve them — like in the first two examples above. Wanting to look like a photoshopped model usually isn’t enough to motivate true, lasting change.

I’ve tried to cut out sugar in the past — unsuccessfully. People said sugar was bad for me — my dentist, my doctor and this really entertaining Australian documentary. They’re all right. Sugar does erode your teeth and negatively impact the way you feel. But facts just weren’t enough to motivate me.

Lasting change must be motivated by something bigger. Something that really means something to me. I’ve eaten less sugar this past year — because I want to feel better to be more present when I spend time with my son, not because of my teeth (sorry, dentist).

And this, my friends, is the why.

So, before you even identify what you want to change, ask yourself the most important question: why do you want to change?

2. Set vague goals.

As discussed above, 91% of people fail to achieve their resolutions each year. Yet, the guidance given in articles on how to make New Year’s resolutions is the same — year after year: Set specific goals. Make them SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Like this article in 2016. And this article in 2017. (Spoiler alert: these approaches are probably not best — if you hope to stick to your resolutions).

There is a better way — a much better one. A recent study out of Stanford University suggests that success is more likely when you try something radically different: Set vague goals.

From his research, Professor Baba Shiv concludes that people are more likely to achieve a goal that is outlined in vague terms rather than if it’s rigid or meticulously planned.

Shiv says, “Want to lose weight in 2011? You’ve got a better chance of pulling it off if you tell yourself, “I’d like to slim down and maybe lose somewhere between 5 and 15 pounds this year” instead of, “I’d like to lose 12 pounds by July 4.”

Why would setting vague goals be more effective? This approach allows for the occasional failure on the path to success— something which is bound to happen. Which leads to the next point.

3. Anticipate failure — and keep going.

Google, “Weight Loss Graph,” pretty much all of them look like this.

Here’s what’s this graph illustrates: weight loss is not linear. Some weeks, people lose five pounds — the next, they gain back two pounds. Maybe it rained that week, and they couldn’t work out as much. But one week of regression doesn’t mean they didn’t achieve their goal. Over a longer period of time, most still lost a substantial amount of weight.

This graph illustrates a critical point for all resolutions: you will likely encounter some setbacks. Like most things in life, you probably won’t have a linear path to success. And that’s completely normal.

This is why vague goals are more realistic and motivating— because when that regression happens, you can acknowledge it, and keep going. A setback doesn’t mean that the goal must be abandoned — even if the regression lasts a week, or even a month. In the end, it’s just one short period of time. And that the next week, or month, could be very different.

I used weight loss as an example because it’s easy to illustrate. But, what do you really want to change this year? What would have the biggest impact on making your life more meaningful, impactful and fulfilling?

Do you want to be less of a perfectionist? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to build deeper relationships with your family? Do you want to spend more quality time with friends? Do you want to give back more in your community?

Here’s to 2018. May it bring you health, happiness — and lasting change.

What's your resolution this year?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

Heather Hund