How Airbnb is Broadcasting Kindness

This post appeared on Mindful on July 27, 2015

As a part of their “Is Man Kind?” campaign, Airbnb has debuted an online news series that reports on positive, uplifting stories. The series, called The Daily Kindness Bulletin, aims to highlight the acts of kindness and compassion that happen everyday.

The video series came to be after their survey of Airbnb users showed that people often felt that the news reported on too many negative stories compared to the amount of positive stories. The Airbnb team joined up with Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the Science Director of the University of Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, to create this short and upbeat newscast.


Humane Clown Posse

This post by Elianna Bar-El appeared in GOOD on 6/30/15

 On a recent visit to Wolfson Medical Center on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel, Yolana Zimmerman (pictured above) is met with audible sighs of relief.

Great! You’re here! We need you,” says a nurse.

Zimmerman is not a medical doctor. In fact, she casts quite a contrast to the typical image of a doctor with her pink leggings, cupcake apron, and eyelet bloomers—not to mention the underwear on her head and the stuffed monkey in her hands. Yolana “Yoyo” Zimmerman is part of a team of medical clowns called Dream Doctors. The pioneering organization started in 2002 with three medical clowns at one hospital and today facilitates the work of more than 110 clowns across 28 hospitals in a country increasingly recognized as the vanguard of medical clowning. After this past April’s devastating earthquake in Nepal, for instance, the Israeli government sent an envoy from Dream Doctors to Kathmandu to work with affected children. As you might expect, the medical community is taking notice of the tiny nation’s zany medical practitioners.

While the clown appears as an archetype throughout history, its societal function has varied. For the ancestors of the indigenous people of northern Australia, clowning was a way to assuage potential feuds among men. For the Tübatulabal people in the Sierra Nevada range of Southern California, clowns served the political role of announcing the need for a new chief. Among the Witoto people of southeastern Columbia and northern Peru, clowning was a strategy for drawing communal attention to individual grievances, Festivus-style. In the scheme of things, medical clowning is a relatively recent addition to this cultural history. Beginning in 1986 in New York City under the umbrella of a program called the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, the practice can now be found all over the world, perhaps most notably in Israel.

Yoyo directs her attention to a religious man sitting beside his daughter who is sleeping in a hospital bed. He is obviously reading from the Bible. ‘Is that a good book?’ Yoyo asks. ‘I think I’ve heard something about it. … Who wrote it again?’

The freedom under which Israeli medical clowns are able to operate is a rarity in the field and Dream Doctors’ premium on clowning education and training, as well as hands-on involvement with medical staffs, affords it a distinct advantage over forms elsewhere in the world. Its efforts have given way to a range of research, with medical clowning at the forefront of a number of breakthrough techniques and therapeutic approaches. In Israel, clowns aren’t cheerful diversions, but are seamlessly integrated into a broad range of medical practices.

Medical clowning has developed in Israel in a different way than anywhere else in the world,” says Professor Ati Citron, creator and director of University of Haifa’s Medical Clowning program. “Medical clowns were absorbed into the medical system as part of the staff. I’ve seen firsthand how clowns work in the United States. Even after 30 years, they [the clowns] are still not allowed to touch a patient. The fear of malpractice lawsuits dominates the whole system. The doctors are hardly aware that the clowns are even there. In Israel, there is a deep, significant difference, and that has paved the way for avant-garde practices.”

Anyone who has been hospitalized understands the loss of control experienced upon admission: Clothes become a hospital gown, trays of goop replace favorite foods, and the body is poked and prodded as if it were stripped of all humanity. The medical clown’s job is to recalibrate the situation as much as possible. Medical clowns in Israel typically work in 3-4 hour shifts 2-3 times a week. Shifts are an instant reboot that can affect a whole medical ward—nurses, doctors, patients, parents, and visitors included.

Case-in-point: Walking into an adjacent hospital room, without missing a beat, Yoyo directs her attention to a religious man sitting beside his daughter who is sleeping in a hospital bed. He is obviously reading from the Bible. “Is that a good book?” Yoyo asks. “I think I’ve heard something about it. … Who wrote it again?” The father looks up at her, grinning in surprise. In the same moment Yoyo doubles over with genuine laughter, igniting a cacophony of noises from a squeezable rooster in her apron. The rowdiness attracts a gang of kids roaming the normally quiet halls. Yoyo pretends to eat some bubble gum bubbles as we head to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she comforts new moms of preemies and aids doctors while they conduct emergency surgeries.

In Israel, medical clowns are involved in over 40 medical procedures, including accompanying patients to CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation. Clowns in Israel also work solo to initiate a more interactive, one-on-one relationship with patients. (Elsewhere they work in teams of two or in groups.) Dream Doctors, which works closely with Israel’s Ministry of Health and the University of Haifa (where students can get a bachelor’s degree in Medical Clowning), also hosts monthly workshops for the clowns where medical staff provide them with a range of medical knowledge and training on hygiene, vaccinations, before-and-after procedures for entering a room, role-playing, case studies, and more. The research it has conducted has chronicled the ways that clowning can mitigate stress and anxiety in pediatric patients, lessen the need for sedative agents in pediatric patients undergoing radionuclide scanning, and enhance the outcome for women undergoing in vitro fertilization.

Before a patient even sees a doctor at the Tene Center, medical clowns meet with the abused patient at least one hour before they have to take a forensic exam.

Michael Christensen, a.k.a. “the Godfather of hospital clowning” and founder of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, has had extensive experience working with Israeli medical clowns, both in hospitals and at international conferences. “Israeli medical clowns are totally and utterly inspirational,” Christensen tells me via email. “They have the deepest integration of clowning within the medical system [of] any … program I have ever visited—and that integration has pushed all of us as artists to strive for the same kind of unity, collegial respect, service and communication.”

Canada-based Bernie Warren, one of the world’s leading experts on clowning in health care, had a chance to work with Dream Doctors through a Toronto symposium that he co-chaired called “A Healthy Dose of Laughter.” According to Warren, “Israeli clowns have fantastic access and opportunities within the hospital, which require no boardroom meetings or having to get permission from higher ups. … Clowning organizations such as Le Rire Medecin in France, the Humour Foundation in Australia, and the Big Apple Circus in New York work more like theater companies that go to the hospital to perform. Israeli clowns have an entirely different approach.”

No one is more familiar with that approach than Shoshi Ofir, who works at the Tene Center at the Poriah Hospital in northern Israel. The clinic is the only one in the world to incorporate medical clowning as part of the treatment of sexually abused children and adolescents and have clowns work one-on-one with gynecologists, proctologists, and gastroenterologists to administer forensic exams. Organizations from abroad regularly visit the clinic. Last year, the Doctor Clown Association visited from Lyon, France, to shadow Ofir in hopes of applying specific approaches to its own work. “I saw how different the treatment approach is between an abused child and a clown in Israel,” explains French medical clown Blandine Thevenon Nicoli. “Not only are the clown and the doctor physically and mentally in sync, but their partnership is imperative in restoring some of the patient’s integrity.”

Before a patient even sees a doctor at the Tene Center, medical clowns meet with the abused patient at least one hour before they have to take a forensic exam, which will be used as core evidence in court documents. Patients are typically 10 years old and younger, and the procedure often re-traumatizes them. During their solo time together, Ofir thoughtfully works to connect with the patient and gain his or her trust. But pre-teens are extremely sensitive and perceptive: get one word wrong and Ofir will be blocked from gaining their respect. Ofir’s challenge, therefore, is to create a non-threatening environment whereupon the doctor is allowed to enter the room. Using a range of trigger codes, the doctor and Ofir work together throughout the forensic exam, with the clown remaining the patient’s unfaltering ally. If the patient is fearful, distressed, clenching his or her muscles, or uncomfortable in any way, the clown can stop the doctor from proceeding.

At Meir Medical Center in central Israel, medical clown Penny Hanuka works with pediatric patients suffering from idiopathic juvenile arthritis who must undergo corticosteroids injections into their joints. The procedure is as painful as it is stressful, especially since patients can anticipate the pain based on previous experiences. Medical clowns at Meir work with doctors using a method called “the mirror.” The doctor works on one leg while the clown works on the other leg, “mirroring” what the doctor is doing in a mock, playful, painless pantomime. Once the child is fully relaxed, the medical clown cues the doctor to start the injection. Dream Doctors’ research has shown that in these instances, not only do the children get through the procedure easier, but they also require less anesthesia. Last year, Hanuka took part in the Pediatric 2014 Rheumatology Symposium in Orlando, Florida, where she presented the research she has conducted through mirroring.

Christensen of Big Apple Circus says it’s techniques like these that make the Israeli program a global model. “I hope the rest of the world pays attention,” he says. “I want every program to be as deeply integrated as the Israelis are.” 

Photos by Ziv Sade

How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

This article By Gretchen Reynolds appeared in the NY Times on July 22, 2015.

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living. In an earlier study published last month, he and his colleagues found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.

But that study did not examine the neurological mechanisms that might underlie the effects of being outside in nature.

So for the new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person’s tendency to brood.

Brooding, which is known among cognitive scientists as morbid rumination, is a mental state familiar to most of us, in which we can’t seem to stop chewing over the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and our lives. This broken-record fretting is not healthy or helpful. It can be a precursor to depression and is disproportionately common among city dwellers compared with people living outside urban areas, studies show.

Perhaps most interesting for the purposes of Mr. Bratman and his colleagues, however, such rumination also is strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

If the researchers could track activity in that part of the brain before and after people visited nature, Mr. Bratman realized, they would have a better idea about whether and to what extent nature changes people’s minds.

Mr. Bratman and his colleagues first gathered 38 healthy, adult city dwellers and asked them to complete a questionnaire to determine their normal level of morbid rumination.

The researchers also checked for brain activity in each volunteer’s subgenual prefrontal cortex, using scans that track blood flow through the brain. Greater blood flow to parts of the brain usually signals more activity in those areas.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

They also had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. That portion of their brains were quieter.

These results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.

But of course many questions remain, he said, including how much time in nature is sufficient or ideal for our mental health, as well as what aspects of the natural world are most soothing. Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements?

“There’s a tremendous amount of study that still needs to be done,” Mr. Bratman said.

But in the meantime, he pointed out, there is little downside to strolling through the nearest park, and some chance that you might beneficially muffle, at least for awhile, your subgenual prefrontal cortex.

The Spirituality of Comedian Jim Breuer

Jim Breuer, used with permission

Breuer has been doing comedy for decades — from his “Goat Boy” and Joe Pesci impersonations on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to his recent Epix special “Jim Breuer: Comedy Frenzy” — and was named as one of the greatest standup comedians of all time by Comedy Central.

In Breuer’s movie “More Than Me,”Breuer described how he used comedy to cope with different situations including his late father’s declining health. And so while many people know that Breuer can use humor to cope and help others through difficult times, fewer people know that he uses another strategy to understand and manage difficult life situations — a deep sense of spirituality.

For Breuer, this spiritual side is something with which he can connect when he needs to do so. “The faith world to me is like a radio station. It’s there,” he explained. “And if you want to plug in and listen to it, kind of tune into it, it can definitely be helpful. I don’t know if it’s an energy? I don’t know what it is, but it fascinates me.”

“And when I say about the radio station, I mean: ‘Do you want to hear it?’ If you want to hear it, it’s there. Some people say it’s stupid, don’t acknowledge it. That’s OK, whatever journey they’re on. It’s pretty awesome when you tap into it. It’s really awesome.”

Breuer finds that this practice helps him cope with difficult situations. “And I know that the stories I’ve had or the moments that I’ve lived by, where I’ve set aside and I’ve talked to G-d or meditated or begged for guidance. It’s worked 100% of the time,” he said.

“I have bizarre coincidences; I don’t believe they’re coincidences. The bummer talking about it is that people get so turned off. But there’s something. And that’s why I never go, ‘Well I’m this, and I’m that,’ because I hear it from all different types. I just know, whatever it is, I just know the way I say it. I’ll beg, and I’ll say, ‘Please guide me this way. Guide me to help. Just show me what I’m supposed to do. Tell me how I’m supposed to speak. Show me how I’m supposed to act. What can I do to help?’ Always — 100% — I get the answer.”

“And I don’t know what that is. To me, I call it faith, a deep spirituality.”

Breuer’s belief in the power of his faith is consistent with research demonstrating the health benefits of religion and spirituality. In one study of 142 patients, a week prior to heart surgery, results showed that individuals with stronger religious beliefs had fewer subsequent complications and shorter hospital stays. A recently concluded 10-year study of 114 adults found that those who considered religion or spirituality more important to them were significantly less likely to be depressed over time.

For Breuer, his spirituality started with his family. “I could be wrong, but I’m going to say it started at a fairly young age. You know my mom had that. I’d think I’m something, and she’d just belly-laugh in my face and just exploit whatever I was trying to accomplish with my holier-than-thou attitude,” he said. “And you learn through trial and error, and you start realizing you’re not really as in control and as powerful and as almighty as you really think you are as you move along through trials and errors.”

“I think it’s a big growing process. Life just keeps moving.”

What Breuer is describing could be considered humility, which he identifies as an important aspect of his spirituality. Positive psychologists define humility as the ability to view oneself in a non-defensive and open manner. Initial research suggests that people with higher levels of humility have higher levels of self-rated health.

“Humility is one of the key aspects of spirituality, and along with comedy, a key component of healing,” he explained. “We always had comedy and humility. Humility’s really important. If you can’t find that, then you’re really going to have some major issues with yourself and life. I found that at a young age. My whole family’s been that way forever.”

“Vulnerability, humility, relatability — those three are very close and very similar to keep you going. When you’re in conversation with people, and they can relate to you, or you start talking about how vulnerable you are and didn’t expect to be, or you think you’re better than what you think you are, and you’re humbled by it, and you find some humility, it helps you move along. And a lot of people have too much pride and ego to allow that in,” he said.

More, for Breuer, it was a sense of humility that helped facilitate some of his favorite comedic moments in his personal life. “I remember one of the greatest moments in my life was getting a TV show. Couldn’t have been higher — on the cover of TV Guide, the commercials were out. We were spinning off the Tim Allen show,” he explained.

“It was huge. I was going to make half a million to $1 million a year. I was a 25-, 26-year-old kid. And I flew my best friends out for the premiere of this thing. And I remember that about four days before it was supposed to air, they fired me. They let me go. And I remember coming back to the hotel room,” he said. “I was devastated, in shock. I didn’t understand it. We’d already filmed the show. The commercials were still on the air. I didn’t get what was happening. And I just remember my friends; we were blue collar, didn’t have much growing up. A whole village raised a family, everybody looked after each other.”

“I remember coming to my hotel room and I didn’t know what to do, and they go, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘I got fired.’”

“And it was very awkward. It was the first time they really saw deep pain in me. And I just remember my friend, and he laughed, and he rolled his eyes, and he went ‘Well, I rented a limo for tonight so let’s go out. We’ll stay out all night because you don’t have to get up in the morning because you ain’t got a job!’ and he just belly-laughed.”

“Then we all just started belly-laughing.”

“It was a very humbling moment. I was humiliated. But it was probably the hardest I’ve ever laughed and probably one of the best times I’ve ever felt in my whole life.”

For Breuer, part of the reason that his sense of humility allows him to see the humor in situations is because he is able to put certain life events in perspective. “See, what we do is, we make it like this is the end of the world. To you, this is the end of the world. Nothing could be worse than this. I couldn’t lose this person. They couldn’t have died. I couldn’t have lost this job. Where he made it simple — it’s no different than when you’re 15 years old. Like, ‘Oh, great! What are we doing? What are you complaining about? Now we can go out. We have the whole night ahead of us. Let’s do this,’” he said.

But soon Breuer experienced situations that were truly tragic. Over the course of his life Breuer has dealt with many tragic moments, including the loss of his sister and father, and his wife’s ongoing battle with cancer.

Breuer explained: “I have a deep respect for life in general; just a huge, deep respect for life. And I have definitely grasped onto the fact that every minute, every moment, to be grateful and thankful for. Because we really don’t know what’s two seconds away. We really don’t. It’s so unpredictable. And again I learned that at a young age through death,” he explained.

“You lose someone when you’re young, you realize, ‘Wow, we really are on borrowed time.’ No matter how much we love them or how much we think we’re invincible, that ‘[t]hat could never happen to us,’ it happens. There’s no stopping it.”

For Breuer, his first loss was the loss of a close friend.

“I think the first big one was a friend I had in Florida. The circumstances that led to my personal journey with her was somehow a faith-based, an energy-based thing that was very healing and powerful for me. She was a dear friend of mine, a neighbor; we were best friends,” he recalled.

“We weren’t talking for a couple of weeks, and it was driving me crazy. And I pulled over and asked what I should do. Just go over there and lay it all out there. I remember going over there, and I saw her one night, and that voice that I keep asking the questions to — there she was. I’m going to go over there and start talking to her. And it was one of the greatest conversations we ever had in the time that I knew her. And she was explaining to me how all of these amazing things she was hoping for in life finally happened. And at the end of it — I still cannot describe it to this day — there was a deep soul connection.”

“I can still feel it now when I think about it. It was as close as you can get to being intimate without being intimate. And that was the last time I saw her.”

“And I remember being at the funeral, and it was so sad and so depressing. I’d never seen so many kids crying, parents devastated. And I just thought about her, and I went outside and I literally asked, ‘What do you want? What’s supposed to happen here? What happens? And I just kept hearing ‘Just make everyone laugh!’ I don’t want to see them all like this. Make them laugh.’”

“And that was one of the moments that changed me. And I remember being at the funeral parlor, imitating her, what she’d probably be doing right now. And it was a blind moment — I don’t know how long I went on for. I just remember stopping, and there was just a circle of people around me — a big circle of people around me howling and laughing. And then when I stopped, and I said, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this’ They’re like, ‘No! No! Keep going! Keep going! This is the greatest! This is what it’s supposed to be like.’”

“That was the first moment where I realized —‘Let’s celebrate and keep the spirits high.’ And that was a powerful moment. And I realized how many people I was healing in that moment alone with myself.”

Later on, Breuer felt that his spirituality also helped him cope with his sister’s death. “I still have the texts that I sent to her. She was really down, and she knew she was dying very soon. And she tried not to allow that in. And I knew that no matter what, she was going to be dead soon. There was no way of stopping what she had. She was in complete denial of how much cancer she had; 100 percent denial between her and, I think, some of her family. I knew she knew that. And I knew she knew that I knew it,” he recalled.

“My job then, too — ‘Don’t worry about anything. We’re going to ride this straight out the way we always do.’ Just like coming up to the plate. I’m going to swing really hard at fastballs. Even though you know we’re going to strike out. And you know the season’s over. We’re still going to go up, and we’re still going to swing at those fastballs. I would bust her balls all the way until the end. We’d laugh hard.”

“It’s like ‘Titanic.’Keep playing that song even when you’re wiped away in the ocean. You go down with that instrument in your hand if that’s what makes you happy.”

Interestingly, Breuer’s spirituality can be understood as consistent with his musical preference — heavy metal. Contrary to stereotypes of “metalheads” as being closed minded and even aggressive towards others, research suggests that people who prefer heavy-metal music display personality styles that are more “open to experience.”(link is external)Further, far from making people more aggressive, studies suggest that among people who prefer more aggressive music, listening to metal actually appears to help improve mood and cope with anger. More, a recent study shows that not only were people who were heavy metal fans from the ’80s not dusfunctional as adults, but also they appear to be quite happy in adulthood.

In light of this research, it perhaps makes more sense that Breuer is a heavy metal fan; His sense of humility naturally dictates a tendency to accept rather than avoid negative experience. And Breuer appreciates that heavy metal musicians similarly embrace rather than gloss over the more upsetting parts of life.

He described: “For me, you’re connecting on a deeper level — old Metallica, [Judas] Priest and just metal in general — it would make me think. Especially Metallica. It helped me think about what my dad went through in war,” he said. “Metal is truth for me. And also, there is a deeper awareness. Is ‘War Pigs’ evil? Or is it the only genre that has the ’nads to put it right out there in your face?”

“It’s a truth, a raw truth; And sometimes, people don’t want to acknowledge the raw truth. Sometimes, the truth is dark and ugly and hurts,” he explained. “And that goes with death and everything else. And that music allows you to acknowledge and be aware of it. Because it’s part of everyday life. It’s a part of life where people want to say, ‘That doesn’t exist. I’ll just stick my head in the sand. I know every circle of life. And all of it exists. And sometimes it’s not pretty. Some of it’s just plain evil.”

“That music — it didn’t make me want to be evil. It made me aware of evil. That music would explicitly explain everything and give you warnings and tell you what’s going on. I always thought I had one up on everyone’s thinking patterns because of that music.”

Breuer found his spirituality was so fierce that even when his father challenged Breuer’s spirituality, Breuer stayed very sure of his own spiritual beliefs. “It was interesting, because I remember asking him, like, ‘Dad, what do you think happens to us?’ He says, ‘Nothing. There’s no G-d, there’s no time, you’re gone. People forget about you.’ I couldn’t believe how dead serious he was about that. So, you just die, and you just forget about shit. They pretend that they don’t forget about you, but they do. They forget about you. You’re just gone.’”

“And that was the moment that I said, ‘I don’t know if that will happen to you. Maybe you just don’t remember, or you become something else, or your soul becomes a tree or energy.’ He says, ‘No, that’s stupid. No.’”

“So, although he was completely ‘no,’ I disagreed, and I continued to use spirit and use guidance to make his life better.”

Eileen Fisher’s Bold New Path

This post appeared in Conscious Company Magazine in July 2015.

Eileen Fisher designs from her heart. Long before sustainability really got going as a business movement, this giant of the fashion world created clothes inspired by her love for natural fibers and her desire to make pieces that were timeless and long-lasting. As her company grew, she began educating herself on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and decided to do more. For over a decade, Eileen and her 1,200 employees have gradually transformed Eileen Fisher Inc. into one of the largest sustainable fashion brands anywhere, yet the company’s frank marketing materials are the first to tell you that more action is needed. Focusing on six key areas – fibers, colors, resources, people, supply chain mapping, and reuse – the company’s Vision 2020 initiative promises that all of its styles will be sustainable by the year 2020, or it won’t sell them.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Eileen for several hours at her home in New York about everything from her personal story to the value that mindful breathing at meetings adds to her company. She also opened up about the struggles and sacrifices required to integrate sustainable practices throughout her company, the tension between minimizing her impact and selling products, and how her search for purpose led to success.

Can you tell us about the conceptualization of the Eileen Fisher brand? Was there a moment that you remember that you actually decided to really go for it?

Eileen Fisher: I started in 1984, so I’m going to say it was 1979 when the idea was forming. I’d been working in design and graphics at that time and actually doing some branding work – logo design and packaging and things like that. I had a Japanese partner and had the opportunity to travel to Japan, and while I was there, I got really excited about the kimono – the whole idea of a garment that they wore in only one shape for a thousand years. The whole idea of timeless clothing intrigued me. The simplicity in the whole Japanese aesthetic just really attracted me. So, this idea began to form and it was just about really simple clothes – simple shapes and natural fibers. I was into cotton and linen and silk at that time. It just had to be natural fibers. That was clear to me.

When I first decided to do it, I
 had a friend who was a jewelry designer. He took me to a boutique show where he showed his jewelry to small stores. I just remember walking around there and seeing these little booths and seeing other designers presenting their work and small companies presenting their wares to little boutiques around the country. I remember looking around going, “Oh, I can do this.” I felt like I could see my idea there and it felt whole. I could picture it.

I’m probably not a good salesperson, so I couldn’t picture going around to stores and standing in line at Bendel’s or Bloomingdale’s to talk to the buyer and then being rejected. That was too disturbing to me, plus I didn’t know if they would understand what I was doing. And I guess I never saw myself doing runway shows – I wasn’t that kind of designer. It was more like I wanted real clothes for me to really wear. It wasn’t about the show or red carpets or anything glitzy. It was simple.

Was there any fear involved in that decision?

EF: I think it was foolish non-fear. 
I really had nothing and so I had nothing to lose. It was coming through me, this idea. It was clear to me. I was sort of uncomfortable and not a confident person, but a shy, introverted person. But this idea was powerful and I was confident about it and I was sure about it. I would talk to people about it with confidence. It was almost like I didn’t recognize myself because I felt so sure of myself in that arena. So I would say I had no fear – maybe foolishly had no fear.

Was it your intention from the get-go to make Eileen Fisher a sustainable brand or was that a gradual awakening?

EF: I would say it was gradual in
 terms of deepening the work around sustainability. In the beginning, it was all about natural fibers, and I was under the impression that natural was biodegradable and natural was safe
 for the environment. What happened over the years is that I drew in a lot
 of people who had similar values 
and cared about natural fibers and probably even understood things that I didn’t. I remember this woman, Sally Fox, who was one of the first organic cotton people. She was growing organic cotton in these subtle, natural colors close to 20 years ago. People like that found us because they knew we were on the same wavelength somehow, even if we weren’t fully understanding organic yet.

I guess you could relate it to food. People who eat healthy just instinctively wouldn’t eat at McDonald’s because it just wouldn’t feel right or they wouldn’t want to 
eat a lot of packaged foods. They would eat real food. To me, it was real clothes. That was where I was coming from without fully understanding the difference between organic cotton and conventional cotton, and not understanding how damaging conventional cotton is to the planet.

So, we hired Amy Hall. We actually hired her to be an assistant at first and then she moved into being Director of Social Consciousness 15 years ago. She became passionate about some of the human rights work in the factories, how we monitored the factories, and how we ensured that our people were treated fairly. That was really how we entered social consciousness. We got involved with Social Accountability International, which does the SA8000 standards 
for operating in factories around the world. Amy is now on the board of directors there.

From there, things would just happen. For example, the first cotton I did, I just didn’t like the finish. The vendors told me there was some kind of chemical finish that they put on the cotton, and I didn’t like the way it felt. I had them not put the chemical finish on it, and I felt that the fabric just came alive. It was much more organic. It was just an intuitive thing that I liked it better.

Another time we got involved with this group in Peru that was doing organic cotton. We just fell in love with the yarn, but their capabilities weren’t great in terms of design. Even though in the beginning we were offering some products from them because we wanted to support this idea, the garments didn’t necessarily sell and they were more expensive. It was probably 30 percent more for the organic cotton at that time and we were troubled by that. Some of our designers got really excited about this yarn and they went down there and they started really designing into the product and working with the people down there to actually create what we wanted and making the product really compelling. Today this is an amazing project. It has some of my favorite pieces that I go to because they’re so beautiful and this cotton is just 
so compelling. People today will pay the price for those pieces, probably because the design value is there. It’s not just funky, hippie clothes. It’s something really beautiful and really special.

I think this whole thing has kind of been a building process over the years. A few years ago, we started doing organic linen and trying to bring in more organic cotton. We’re on a path to try to move more of our products to be more local – back to this country. We’re not there yet. We have a long way to go, but we’re trying.

I think there’s just so much passion and it’s so deep in the company.
 It’s not that we just have a Director of Sustainability or Director of
 Social Consciousness. Now we have somebody mapping the supply chain. That’s her whole job. We have a Director of Human Rights. We have these different positions. What’s actually happening is that throughout the company lots of people are really encouraged to be passionate about these things and are given permission to care. At our company meetings, we do things like talk about the
 water crisis and ask everyone what they might do, and get the company engaged.

“Throughout the company lots of people are really encouraged to be passionate about these things and are given permission to care.”

Was there something that really inspired this shift?

EF: A few years ago, I got involved in the Gross National Happiness project with Otto Scharmer. I ended up going to Bhutan and the Amazon and started really thinking about purpose – my own purpose and the company’s purpose.

It’s interesting because we’re a clothing business, and although we’re not a typical fashion business, we 
are still caught in that thing where the customer wants new – she wants to feel special. We want her to feel great and give her something new, but we also want to create things
 that are timeless and that last a long time. These are weird lines that we’re walking.

I don’t think of myself as leading this company. I never call myself CEO or anything like that. It just feels like it’s such a collective, group effort. And a few years ago, when I started on this project, simultaneously there was work going on in sustainability and there was a whole team building around that asking, “What else can we do? How can we get rid of the plastic hangers? How can we use less paper? How can we ship more by sea rather than by air?” These conversations were happening everywhere and there started to be these large gatherings at off-sites.

So, after I started doing my own purpose work with the Gross National Happiness project, I was on a boat in the Amazon and I met this guy, Marcelo Cardoso, who blew my mind. He was talking about purpose and companies having a larger purpose and individual purpose and how that works together, and personal transformation. I was like, “Yes, I want more of this. How can you help me do this?”

I started bringing him in and we were doing these prototype workshops. One of them was around purpose and I had this really powerful experience. He does these exercises where you just sit in a chair and you embody your purpose. You sort of talk to yourself as your purpose, like, “What are you doing with your life? Why are you doing this? What really matters? Why are you forgetting about me?”

I had this really interesting experience in which I recognized 
that I just needed to be more fully 
me. Actually, I used the stools in my kitchen, and I found that when I would sit in this purpose chair, I was sort of embodying my purpose. I just started to take that into my daily practice of sitting on a stool and feeling that I’m in my purpose rather than just my ordinary me.

A year and a half ago, I had just come back from two back-to-back conferences and I was tired, but there was a company sustainability meeting off-site. You could feel a lot of energy building around all this great work 
that was happening. I was supposed to go. I thought I was going to go for the first few hours and just kind of set it off, give permission, and let everybody know that I supported this whole initiative. I was sitting in my purpose chair that morning and I thought, “I have to do this. I don’t care if I’m tired. This really matters.”

I went upstairs and packed my bag for the whole four days. I went and while I was there it was amazing the work that was happening. This is where the Vision 2020 came out. It was not my idea, but it came up that we should make a radical commitment that we would make all of our clothes sustainable by 2020.

And whoa. I just remember realizing that I could say, “Yes!” My name’s on the door. Even if we don’t get there, saying yes gives people permission. It was just this powerful understanding that there was a place for me to really use my voice and that this was an important area for me to do that. The work was already happening and it was maybe going to happen if I hadn’t said yes, but me saying yes that day was another, deeper layer.

The Pope Just Released A List of 10 Tips for Becoming a Happier Person and They Are Spot On

This post originally appeared on The Higher Learning on July 31, 2014

In a recent interview with the Argentine publication Viva, Pope Francis issued a list of 10 tips to be a happier person, based on his own life experiences.

The Pope encouraged people to be more positive and generous, to turn off the TV and find healthier forms of leisure, and even to stop trying to convert people to one’s own religion.

But his number one piece of advice came in the form of a somewhat cliche Italian phrase that means, “move forward and let others do the same.” It’s basically the Italian equivalent of, “live and let live.” You can check out the full list below.
The Pope’s 10 Tips for a Happier Life

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said “consumerism has brought us anxiety”, and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the Pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising,” the Pope said.

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

On the Horizon: Virtual Reality Therapy That Treats Chronic Pain

This post by Esther Hsieh was originally published in Scientific American on 6/11/15

Strap on a headset, immerse yourself in an alternate reality and cure your pain—that’s the idea of a recent study in Psychological Science.Most people think of pain as something that happens in the body—I twist my head too far, and my neck sends a “pain signal” to the brain to indicate that the twisting hurts. In reality, pain is simply the brain telling us we are in danger. Although certain nerve endings throughout the body can indeed detect bodily harm, their signals are only one factor that the brain uses to determine if we should experience pain. Many cases of chronic pain are thought to be the result of obsolete brain associations between movement and pain.

To explore the mind’s influence over pain, Daniel Harvie, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Australia, and his colleagues asked 24 participants who suffer from chronic neck pain to sit in a chair while wearing virtual-reality glasses and turn their head. The displays were manipulated to make the participants think that they were turning their head more or less than they actually were.

Subjects could swivel their head 6 percent more than usual if the virtual reality made them think they were turning less, and they could rotate 7 percent less than usual when they thought they were turning more.

The findings suggest that virtual-reality therapy has the potential to retrain the brain to understand that once painful movements are now safe, extinguishing the association with danger. Harvie believes that such therapy has the potential to restore full pain-free range of motion to people recovering from injuries and could perhaps help individuals with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

‘Instagram for doctors’ lets medics share photos to solve mystery cases

This post by Meera Senthilingam originally appeared on CNN on 2/10/15.


The idea is at the foundation of social media channels: Seen something strange? Post it online. The desire to share the unknown, or complex, is a human urge, and no-one knows this better than doctors.

“I’m a very visual learner. Most doctors are … and we like to talk to each other,” explains third-year medical resident Sheryll Shipes of Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, in Texas.

Last year Shipes began using Figure-1, a photo-sharing app through which healthcare professionals can share photographs and information about their patients for both learning and diagnosis purposes. “It’s now my medical guilty pleasure,” she adds.

It may ring alarm bells regarding patient confidentiality but founder Josh Landy, an intensive care specialist at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada, vows that anonymity, ethics and patient approval are at the core of the technology. He says his objective is the sharing of knowledge.

“People (already) share cases through text and email,” he says.

As a medic himself Landy understands the need to seek external opinions when treating a variety of patients. One day, when looking around his hospital unit, Landy realized how commonplace this virtual sharing was among his students as their hands were occupied not with stethoscopes, but smartphones. They were in search of a second opinion — and now they can get third, fourth and fifth opinions in a single click, with his photo-sharing app.

“We looked at how people are using their smart phones,” he explains, having seen many cases being shared between doctors using this medium. “I wanted a way to present all those cases … to create a global knowledge notebook.”

Feedback from the community

Launched in May 2013, Figure-1 enables users to take an image, remove any identifying information, and upload the image for feedback from the community of healthcare users accessing the app. Those not uploading use the app as a learning tool to expose them to conditions and symptoms they may not otherwise see. “It’s medical education,” says Landy.

In developing the app, Landy ensured anonymity would become standard through the removal of any identifying features, names, numbers or case information when images are uploaded. All images undergo additional verification before becoming publicly available and patients must also give their permission for their photos to be shared.

Whilst the general public may have interest in medical images, Landy stresses the importance of targeting mainly those working in healthcare. New users are asked for occupational information upon registering and only healthcare professionals can comment or add pictures.

The app is now available in 19 countries and as of summer 2014 there were 150,000 users, according to Figure-1. The number is expected to be higher today with images in the library being viewed on average 1.5 million times a day. The greatest popularity lies in the continent of origin, with Figure-1 now being used by 30% of U.S. medical students, including Shipes.

“It’s classic medicine, digitized,” says Shipes. Having used Figure-1 religiously over the past year, Shipes readily sings its praises after the app helped her diagnose a patient with an unusual skin disorder causing blisters on certain parts of her body. “I uploaded it to Figure-1 and someone told us exactly what it was,” she says. The condition turned out to be common to Latin America and Asia but rare in the United States. “We would never have known that one.”

Now Landy hopes word will spread even further. “It’s overdue for a tool like this,” he concludes. “I’d like to see it everywhere.”

10 Productive Lifestyle Hacks from the World’s Most Successful People


This post by Eric Ebert  was originally published in on July 7, 2015.

When we think of how high income earners became so successful, we often think about their work philosophies inside of the office, but what they do outside of the office is equally important. Their philosophies regarding their free time enable them to actuate their full potential when they return to the office. The simplicity of these philosophies is astonishing and adopting them into our lives will translate to better professional development.

1. Stimulate your creativity

Successful people are able to innovate creative solutions to problems. 75% of high income earners believe that creativity is critical to financial success and say that being intellectually gifted is not as important as being creative. The 1% train their minds to be creative. Creativity, contrary to popular belief, is not something that only comes naturally; it can be honed and trained like anything else. A young Steve Jobs said “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does or else you’re going to make the same connections [as everybody else], and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award.”

What you can do

Mind-expanding enjoyable free time activities are all around you, they add color to your life and make you a better problem solver. Learning an instrument or a new language are the most commonly cited examples of what to do if you want to get creative in your free time.

There are many less-thought-of ways to be creative and people of all different backgrounds and interests can find something they enjoy. You could start a small, aesthetically pleasing garden, take a cooking class and come up with your own recipes, learn origami, or just do your hair differently for the day.

2. Keep centered

Successful people are usually described as cool, calm, and collected. They are very difficult to disconcert and are generally not fazed by the fresh problem of the day. We can attribute some of this to a center that most of them find within themselves through some sort of mindfulness practice. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices are in style among wealthy people in part because they are so beneficial to our wellbeing. Warren Buffet subscribes to this centered approach to leisure activities, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions, than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” Finding time to just sit and collect ourselves gives our brain a rest, something it never gets, even while we sleep.

What you can do

Adopting some of these practices can make you a calmer more collected person and can mitigate some of the emotional ups and downs of the day, making you steadier and more reliable. These practices are generally free and only require around ten minutes a day for you to see results. You do not need to belong to a gym that offers yoga classes or go to a meditation circle, most mindfulness can be done inside of your house. You could try sitting in a room, steadily breathing, and focusing only on the present, not thinking about the past or future. You will leave more focused and relaxed and your performance at work should improve.

3. Learn how to think critically

Critical thinking, something taught in most university programs, is another great tool the 1% utilizes. Critical thinking is about challenging popular thinking and finding ways to rethink problems. It is a unique way of thinking about any subject, problem or challenge and improves the quality of our thinking by aptly analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is a personal activity because most times when we critically think it challenges our way of approaching problems. We need to figure out what assumptions we bring to a problem before we start solving it.

What you can do

A great way to start thinking critically is to find activities in your free time that train your mind to approach problems in a critical manner. The easiest thing to do is read something that you know challenges popular beliefs or your current knowledge. Sometimes we are surprised to find information we have always assumed to be true is actually false when we take the time to research it.

This is about education, finding resources that teach us to see there are other possibilities. Malcom S. Forbes once said that “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with and open one.” Questioning your assumptions through targeted learning will encourage you to look at issues from different angles and see solutions where others cannot.

4. Use your off time to actually relax

You might think that top income earners work day and night, poring over the business of tomorrow to get a head start. Surprisingly, top income earners usually prepare for important meetings and presentations at the office and not at home. Successful people are at their best when it counts and that time is usually during regular business hours. While extra hours are sometimes necessary for success, most top income earners use their leisure time for leisure.

What you can do

It is no surprise that Bill Gates rents out a $300 million yacht at $5 million a week to unwind. Now, you do not need $5 million a week to relax; sometimes the best relaxing is free. You could take a nap on the couch, go for a walk in nature, or watch your favorite TV program. Just make sure you are free of the office when you are away, turn off the work phone, do not pull up your work emails, and let your brain clock out. This enables you to be refreshed and ready to tackle the difficulties of the workday. This also prevents you from burning out, you cannot be successful at the office if you are too stressed to function at your full potential.

5. Be present for your family

Staying focused at work is often difficult and concerns about your family can intrude on your valuable work time. Sometimes these concerns are unavoidable but usually we are able to mitigate familial issues with a little bit of effort. Successful people focus on their families when they have free time, and this helps them concentrate at work and continually perform at their best. Statistics speak to this: the divorce rate for Chief Executive Officers is 9.81%, well under the nearly 50% average rate. That is because successful people often put their families first in their free time. Walt Disney once said “A man should never neglect his family for business,” something we should keep in mind as we approach our careers.

What you can do

Your family can be your stability and strength in a business environment that is too often unpredictable and trying. If you need to be at your best when things are at their worst then you need someone who is there for you when you are at your lowest point.

Instead of answering emails in your home office, use your valuable off time to work on the relationships that last a lifetime. Take time out of every day to spend quality time with members of your family.

6. Keep a healthy social network

Successful people have very large social circles and they utilize them when their career necessitates it. Most of us have heard the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” and this is accurate. More than often a position is found because of a direct or indirect contact. Statistically, the best way to find a job is through your social network, an astounding 80% of new jobs are found through social networks. Moving up through today’s corporate ladder requires moving from company to company in different, career enhancing positions. Your social network is a great resource for this.

What you can do

Building a large social network can have significant benefits for your career. In addition to securing new jobs, friends insulate you from hardships and criticisms, and people with more friends tend to be more confident. Also, friends can give you an outlet to vent your work frustrations and this a healthy way for you to deal with difficult issues. Be careful though, your social circle is important for your happiness and confidence, so continually bringing up new business proposals or asking about opportunities within friends’ companies will create distance between you and your social network.

Just be natural and do not try to push anything about your career to your friends, just show your genuine interest towards their careers and try to be there for them. As Dale Carnegie once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Sites like Linkedin help you walk that fine line between friend and business connection by allowing you access to your friends’ business contacts with minimal facilitation by your friends.

7. Enjoy business shopping

The top 1% of income earners look the part, their clothes and accessories reflect not only their current station but also their career ambitions. Most make it in the corporate world where appearances make a difference. Zig Ziglar claimed “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” When we dress a certain way, we make a strong statement about our motivations. Appropriate attire expresses respect for the companies for which we work and sends signals to our superiors and clients that we are serious in our ambitions. We have all heard the saying that you must “spend money to make money,” and successful people learn how to use their free time and money to invest in themselves.

What you can do

Enjoy shopping, but enjoy buying the things you need to succeed in your career. Buy the equipment that makes you look like you belong in the next position in the company, not the job you already occupy. This is really about choices, if you have the choice of upgrading your old TV to the sharp new 4k or buying 4 suits you need to look sharp, make the business choice. Shopping in this manner is no different from investing in stocks or bonds, you can see a return on your investment if you do it right. You may wonder how business shopping can be an enjoyable activity, and the truth is it will never be as enjoyable as shopping for things you really want. Once you have committed to the goal of progressing in your career, some of the things you enjoyed about personal shopping can be just as enjoyable in business shopping.

For instance, if you enjoy shopping for casual clothes then some of the same aspects that made it an enjoyable activity can be transferred to shopping for business clothes. The approach is relatively the same, you search for stores, try on clothes, look around for great deals, and eventually test out the items in public. Buying on a budget is no problem either, just make sure you dress in darker colors (it hides the quality) and find a great tailor to spruce up your mid-range suit. This process will be enjoyable if your priorities are in order and will help you progress in your career.

8. Methodically tackle chores and personal tasks

Yes, even successful people have to renew their driver’s licenses, organize their paperwork, go grocery shopping, change lightbulbs, etc. Some one-percenters even do normal household tasks like take out the garbage, clean their kitchens, and walk their dogs. Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen even packs his own lunch every morning. What distinguishes successful people in their menial tasks is their methodology for taking care of them. By using their free time wisely when it comes to chores and personal tasks, successful people are able to focus on work and not feel anxious to leave the office early and go to the post office to mail their taxes before closing time!

What you can do

When you have chores to do in your free time, make sure you are not procrastinating. If you find out that you need to collect some paperwork for your taxes, do it that day and do not wait a day longer. This will free your mind of this task, and when the next task comes along you will be more likely to take care of it immediately instead of letting it pile onto the other huge amount of work you have to do. When you have a list of chores to do, tackle the easiest one first, this can get the ball rolling when all you want to do is watch TV and dread the biggest task you have.
Instead of multitasking, try doing your chores one at a time. This is a new method called “singletasking” and it forces you to sustain your focus and work through complex problems. You will be surprised to find that you do tasks more efficiently and thoroughly when you focus on one of them at a time. You will not save any time if you have to redo one task because you were too distracted by a different task. This trains you for the office as well, you will be more productive if you are more methodical in all of your tasks. You can also use chore time to recharge, slow down, and simply focus on what you are doing.

9. Reflect

Reflecting gives us an opportunity to learn from our failures and successes. Reflecting on our successes is enjoyable but is only helpful if we critique what we have done right and try to improve on it the next time. Reflecting on our failures is much more productive and will help us improve immensely. Bill Gates once said that “it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Looking back and figuring out what we have done wrong and how we can improve for the next time is something for which successful people excel. Many successful people take time to reflect one day out of the week and others do it whenever an important meeting, presentation, or project ends. Whenever they reflect on their work, they ensure that they will improve the next time something important comes along.

What you can do

One way to track what you have done in your career is keep a journal. This does not have to be a daily journal or even a long journal, it can simply track one event a week if necessary. It should be just enough to tell you what the situation was and what you did wrong or right.  A great way get this started is to take a few minutes every Sunday and dissect the most important event of the week. Even if this was something that just stood out in your mind and was not incredibly important, it is good to get used to figuring out better ways to do it. The United States Army developed what is called the After Action Review or AAR in the 1970’s and it is an efficient tool that many business leaders use today. Microsoft uses this strategy at the end of every project and it has been very successful. The AAR can serve as a template for those wanting to reflect on what they have done. The process is an active reflection centered on these key questions:

  1. What did I intend to accomplish (what was my strategy)?
  2. What did I do (how did I execute relative to my strategy)?
  3. Why did it happen that way (was there a difference between strategy and execution)?
  4. What will I do to adapt my strategy or refine my execution for a better outcome or how do I repeat my successes (if there were any)?

As you can see, this not only gives you a good template to reflect and learn but is also a great way to get you to start thinking more strategically. The next time you do something important, you might first take some time to think about what you want out of it, instead of jumping right in.

10. Be generous

As you progress in your career, earning higher and higher incomes as you go along, you will have more disposable income, and how you choose to spend it will have real consequences in how you continue to earn it. Many top income earners donate a large portion of their incomes to charities or find time to volunteer for various causes. The methods in which they do this are very important and they will keep you along the right path for continued success. Richard Branson saidthat “No one has ever become poor from giving.” Being generous can give you the motivation to continue progressing in your career because you are able see a positive impact from your hard work. It can also make you happier and enrich your social life.

What you can do

Make sure you are being generous in a way that makes you feel generous. Simply filling out an online form and sending money to a charitable organization is not enough for most people. The key is to donate to something where you can see your money in action. If you are someone who cares about animal rights, it is better to visit a shelter and see the animals you are helping rather than just sending money. By watching your money in action, you create positive memories of what you have done and you get a great sense of accomplishment. This can be especially important for those stuck in jobs that seem like just paychecks. It can be a big motivator if the paychecks go to something that feels like an accomplishment.

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