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Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Free Carl Jung Personality Test


There’s a free 72-question online personality test (don’t worry, it’s all yes/no questions) that you can take to help determine which of the 16 Carl Jung personality types you are.

Some people call it the Jung Typology Test.

Here are some tips for you BEFORE you take this really valuable test:

  • Answer the questions honestly (if you try to game the system you it will mistype you)
  • Answer the questions quickly — Don’t spend more than 10 seconds on each question (you’ll finish in about 10 minutes or less)
  • Go with your gut — Click Yes or No based on what your gut tells you
  • When you’re finished, copy and paste your type AND the numbers associated with your type (those numbers will be helpful for you to dig more into your type later if you’d like to (without having to take the test again!).
  • No Wrong Types — Remember, there are no wrong types.

Ok, enough pep-talk. Click here to get your Free Personality Test

One more thing: Afer you’ve taken the test, don’t forget to check out The 16 Personality Types so you can find out more about your particular type (including careers that make sense for you and famous people who are your personality type!).

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Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

5 Simple Steps Of How I Accidentally Lost 30 Pounds

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Catchy headline, right?

Well, it’s true…and most of it happened over 6 months.

This was a picture of me circa 2006

Before Rob: Me at 200+ lbs circa 2006

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

So, here’s my story on how I accidentally lost 30 pounds…maybe you or a loved one can benefit.

It started about two years ago when I was 39 — I weighed 203 pounds at my highest point. The 30 pounds came off over a 12-month period (about 20 pounds within 6 months!).

And, again, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, so this is a weird one.

What’s a weight loss story without before-and-after pictures. I picked a couple in which I’m wearing roughly the same outfit (in this case a suit).

I have bathing suit pics too, but let’s not go there!

So what happened? Well, after the weight-loss, I reverse-engineered the experience best I could.

There are 5 items that stand out.

I like acronyms so I came up with “S.E.E.D.S” to outline the five steps (which are in no particular order).

The SEEDS Approach to Weight Loss

So, SEEDS is:

S = Sleep
I watched an episode on 60 Minutes that showed the effects of weight on Sleep deprivation. One normal looking guy (my age and weight) was put in a lab and woken up periodically so that his sleep was both inconsistent and shorter than it normally was for him.

The effect: he suddenly started eating twice as much food — they showed him eating an entire pizza with multiple toppings (and he remarked that he had never before eaten more than a couple of slices).

In other words, he felt tired and food represented energy to him. Well, the food certainly provided some short-term energy for him but it also added a bunch of calories to his body.

How much sleep do you need? Seven to 8 hours of sleep is widely considered to be healthy (I sleep an average of 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours).

It’s also important to make sure that you have as calm and deep a sleep as you can. One way to do this is to make sure you don’t consume caffeine too late in the day.

A massuese was giving me a massage and mentioned that she was also a nutritionist; I had a soy latte with me when I showed up for the afternoon massage and she told me to be careful as caffeine has a 6-hour half life.

So, for example, if you have a tea or coffee at 3pm and it contains 50 miligrams of caffeine, 25 miligrams of caffeine will still be in your body at 9pm and 12.5 miligrams will be in your body at 3AM.

So that 3pm cup of coffee is the same as having a half-cup of coffee at 9pm! That will effect your deep sleep (you still may fall asleep but you’ll wake up a big more groggy cuz of the caffeine).

I now try to have my last cup of caffeinated beverage at 12noon each day.

E = Eating
I met another nutritionist (a wonderful woman named Minna Yoo) at Samovar Tea House in San Francisco and traded her some business advice (she later launched a cool company called LoveBottle).

Minna’s advice: She drew a circle on my place mat representing a giant plate, and she drew a line in the middle of it and said that that half of your plate should be vegatables; then she drew a line through one of the halves so that there were two quarters — and she said one of those quarters should be protein (any kind you want) and the other quarter should be some sort of grains.

Minna also said that most people (including me) need around 1,200 to 2,500 calories per day (depending on how active you are) and you should spread that out over 4 to 5 meals (there are exceptions to this (if you’re an active athelete, or training for a marathon or Triatholon type event, for instance, you need/burn many more calories).

She told me that if I tried to eat those proportions for every meal, I would feel healthier. I have since adopted those proportions for most of my meals. The key: make sure to keep enough veggies and protein around.

Some other eating tips I found during my weight loss:

  • Read Ingredients
    • Read ingredients and keep a special eye on calories and try to keep your calorie intake to 500 calories or fewer for most meals if you can.
    • Watch for Sugar Versus Fat in Snacks — A good rule is to pick the lowest sugar snack option as sugar equates to calories. Fat is actually less important to weight loss. On sugar, I try to eat only snacks that have 10 grams of sugar or fewer  per serving– this is hard to find but two of my favorite slow sugar snacks are Z Bars and MOJO Bars (both by Cliff Bar).
    • Beware of energy bars in general — Energy bars often contain 20 to 30 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Dark Chocolate Rules
    • Pick as high a percentage of cocoa as you can tolerate as there is exponentially less sugar in the higher dark chocolate. I eat 82% cocoa dark chocolate and I’m able to have 1/3rd of a large dark chocolate bar each night and it’s only about 70 calories!
    • Beware Popular Candybars as a Habit — You will find triple the amount of calories in a Hershey Bar or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup as my 82% bar — i.e. you can eat three times as much of my dark chocolate bar than a Hershey’s Bar!
  • Many Meals
    • Four to 5 Meals Per Day — I believe that when I went to 4 to 5 meals per day at 400 to 500 calories each (versus 3 meals a day (at about 800 calories each) ), that my weight started coming off.
    • Bread — A typical slice of bread has 100 calories in it and a bagel has about 160, regardless of whether it’s white bread or whole-wheat or rye. I love bread but what I now do is eat mostly NON-white bread (the reason is that it has more nutrients and fills you up faster (so you don’t need as much).  Another trick I use is that I try to eat bread only when it’s fresh or when it’s in a favorite sandwich of mine (I like BLTs!).
    • Bread OR Pasta (not both) — I try not to eat bread in a meal if I’m already having a starch such as rice or pasta.
  • Fruit
    • A modest amount of fruit (or juices) any time is great.
    • Beware of too much smoothie! For instance, you could have the Orange Dream Machine smoothie at Jamba Juice and that’s 750 calories (the equivalent of over one meal worth of calories for yourself). Note: The largest size of Peanut Butter M’ood at Jamba Juice contains over 1,000 calories! (two meals worth of calories!)

The Next E = Exercise
I had previously exercised 4 or 5 times a week and I stepped that up to daily. Some of my approaches to keeping this up:

  • Break a Sweat — I try to do something to break a sweat at least once a day (a good sex life is the easiest way!)
  • Drive Less– I try to walk or bike (instead of drive) to something wherever possible (bonuses: it feels better AND helps the environment)
  • Enjoy It — I focus my exercise on something I enjoy (i switched from treadmill jogging (boring for me) to basketball playing; I also try to do one walk/hike by the water at least one day a week.
  • Make it a habit — I find it’s easier to exercise when I’ve made a habit out of it (same time of day, every day, etc.)
  • Early Rising — I find that it’s easier to exercise early in my day — Read How to Be An Early Riser to learn tips on waking up earlier (it has changed my life!).

D = Drinking (as in less alcohol)
I cut my drinking by one-third, from an average of three drinks a day to two drinks a day.

That oesn’t sound like much but beer, wine and cocktails have about 100 to 150 calories in them so if you do the simple math of drinking one less drink per day then that will cause a decline in your calorie intake of about 5% (the average person should have about 2,500 calories per day).

Calories are similar to weight, right, so just think that one less beer or cocktail a day could help you reduce your weight by 5% (since I was 203 lbs at my peak, that could have been 10 lbs right there!)

S = Spirituality (Optional)
This last step is really an optional/bonus round…as I feel the previous four steps are key and this one is more of a multiplier!

I added a form of spirituality to my life during my weight loss period in the form of yoga.

I can’t explain any scientific reason why yoga helped me with weight loss, but my hunch is that it was the icing on the cake to my four other tips (Sleep, Eating, Exercise and Drinking). The main benefits I get are to let go of stress and “just be” as they say.

Since I take a Vinyassa Flow class in 75 degree temperature, it’s also an excellent detox (I break a sweat every time!).

While any one of the 5 SEEDS (Sleep, Eating, Exercise, Drinking and Spirtituality) will help you lose weight, I believe there’s also a compound effect (the lollapalooza effect as investor Charlie Munger calls it) that took place in me improving in all five of these categories, even if just a little.

I was very lucky that I happened to dabble in all five at the same time!

So, that’s how I accidentally lost 30 pounds! I’m still at around 172 pounds and feelin’ great!

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Friday, May 1st, 2009

7 Tips for Writing Like Warren Buffett


I’m willing to bet you that half of Warren Buffet’s success is due his effective communication (most of his other half is his sustained focus (i.e. his singular focus on creating wealth over 60 years!).

If you don’t believe me, you should read his annual reports or watch video of him on CNBC and YouTube.

I wonder if one of the reasons I like Warren’s Plain English style is that we’re the same personality type (ISTJ).

Warren Buffett: A Master of Plain English

Some people, including me, refer to his communication style as “Plain English.”

Here are seven tips for using the plain english style of writing used by Warren Buffett, Mark Twain and others:

Seven Tips for Writing Like Warren Buffett (Plain English)

#1: Personal Pronouns

Focus on the first-person plural (we, us, our/ours) and second person singular (you and yours). The purpose is it’s more direct, more conversational and avoids the he/she dilemma.

For example:

(Before/Poor) — “This article will enlighten readers and contribute to people’s success versus.”

(After/Better)– “I will enlighten you in this article and contribute to your success.”

#2: No Weak Verbs!

Steer clear of verbs such as “to be” and “to have.” They are weak!

Take the following sentence for example:

(Before/Poor) — “We will make a distribution of cash to every person in the company if our business is ever sold.”

(After/Better) — “We will distribute cash to everyone in our company if we are sold”

Hint: nouns that usually end in “ion” can be replaced with a more powerful verb (in that case, “Will distribute” replaced “will make a distribution”).

#3: Write in the Positive

Use “unable” instead of “not able” and “exclude” instead of “not include,” etc. — This is shorter and more clear.

#4: Active Voice (Instead of Passive Voice)

Try to use active (as opposed to passive) voice and go in order of Subject, Verb and Object. For example:

(Before/Poor) — “The product is bought by the customer”

(After/Better) — “The customer buys the product.”

#5: Avoid Superfluous Words

Try to avoid words that don’t add much value such as “in order to” (use “to”) and “Despite the fact that” (use “Although”).

Why?  Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and easily because it follows how we think and process information

#6: Communicating to a Group

When communicating, you should know your audience…that’s basic, but if you’re communicating to a number of people try to write with a certain person in mind.

For example, in this article I try to envision writing to Lakshmi, a department head of a medium-sized business I know.

When I’m writing about something technical, I write with my Mom in mind.

#7: Avoid Contract Language

Steer clear of “Contract-type” language with definitions — this is the opposite of Plain English.

The best book on the subject of Plain English is How to write, speak and think more effectively by Rudolf Flesch.

And then there are Warren Buffett’s famous annual reports.

Plain English, Please!

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Thursday, April 30th, 2009

How To Mazimize The Number of Valuable People You Meet In Life (The Connector Exercise)


A number of people ask me how I obtained a large network of contacts (I have 3,000 names in my iPhone).

I took two of my "Connectors" to the Famous Gene and Georgetti's in Chicago

I took two of my "Connectors" to the Famous Gene and Georgetti's in Chicago

Strangely, I’ve never thought of myself as a schmoozer…I’m actually fairly introverted.

But I’ve been very lucky. A few things were in my favor:

  1. Same Career Track — I have followed a fairly narrow career track of technology/media/Internet for 20 years now.
  2. Social Positions — My positions have centered around other people (I was a journalist, a deal-maker, entrepreneur, etc.)
  3. Decently-Organized — I’m a detail-oriented/organized-type of person and so I’ve done an ok job at entering in people’s contact information over those years

So, the 3,000 names isn’t that impressive — it really just came from 20 years times of storing an average of 100+ contacts per year.

That’s just 1 new contact I made (and stored) every 3 days. I’m sure you could do that (unless you’re a monk at a convent in which case you’re probably in the wrong place right now!).

But there is one secret I was reminded of a few years ago that I wished I had implemented earlier on in my career!

It’s only briefly mentioned on page 37 of the soft-cover version of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

In a word: “Connectors.”

Here’s an exercise I’d like you to do (should take 15 minutes and be fun):

  1. Get out a blank piece of paper or word processing document.
  2. Make a list of the 40 most valuable people to you with one per line (exclude family).
  3. To the right of each person’s name, write down the name of the person who introduced you to that person (now you have two names on each of your 40 lines).
  4. Now to the right of that second name, write down the name of who introduced you to that person.
  5. If you can’t remember who introduced you to a person (or perhaps you just met at school or work then leave that line alone.
  6. Keep adding a person to the right of the previous person until you feel like you can’t go any further.

Here’s a snippet from my list:

  • Jamie>Chad>
  • Charlie>Ted>Erin
  • Jen>Ted>Erin
  • Lenny>Jen>Ted>Erin
  • Alex>Ted>Erin
  • Zack>Chris> Chad & Ted
  • Bruce>Chad>
  • Todd>Dave
  • Mike>Dave
  • Jacquie>Tracy>Erin
  • Robert>Chad
  • Mary>Dave

Now, you’ll start to notice that just a few people — in my case Chad, Ted, Erin and Dave — are responsible for connecting me to most my friends.

Gladwell calls these people “Connectors.”

I’m a Connector too, though not as good as my Connectors.

So, if you want to to expand your network, here are a few lessons:

  1. Identify the Connectors in Your Life — Find out who they are and add value to their life (so they’ll keep introducing you to others).
  2. Ask Your Connectors Who Their Connectors Are — Connectors are usually very good at having many Connectors themselves.
  3. Try Being a Connector Yourself — Offer to introduce people of value to others who need help!
  4. Leverage LinkedIn — Read why You Must Be Linked In, an article about that amazing networking tool.
  5. Read Tipping Point.

I was inspired enough by this exercise to take Chad & Ted out for a yummy steak dinner at Gene & Georgetti’s in Chicago where I presented each of them with a personalized gift. It was of minimal value compared to the value they have given me through their Connections.

Thanks, Mr. Gladwell and thank you, Connectors!

What do you know about Connectors and Networking? Please comment below.

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

How The Ritz Carlton & I Run Our Meetings: The Daily Huddle


The Daily Huddle has arguably been one of the greatest productivity and efficiency boosters I’ve personally experienced.

Since I started using it, I’ve run into numerous industry leaders (such as the Ritz Carlton and Johnson & Johnson) who benefit from the Daily Huddle.

Duhh, why didn’t I begin this 20 years ago!


England huddle to celebrate victory over India in Mumbai, March 2006

I first read about the concept of the Daily Huddle in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, which may be the best how-to book for small businesses that I’ve read.  Its author Verne Harnish was inspired by the habits of business tycoon John D. Rockefeller and translates those for you to apply to business today.

I know, I sound pretty excited about this stuff — that’s cuz I am!

So, what is the Daily Huddle? Well, for starters, I use the term “Daily Huddle” because I like the ring of it — you may have heard it called names like Daily Scrum, Daily Pulse, Daily Agile, Daily Lineup (Ritz Carlton) or Daily StandUp. The concept is what counts.


Let me outline the basics first:

  • Time of Day — It should be as early as possible (ideally in the morning).
  • Length of Time — 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the team).
  • Number of Attendees — Teams of 7 or fewer people (if you have teams that are larger than 7, you probably have a team that needs to be split up).
  • Who Attends — Every person in your company should be attending at least one Daily Huddle (but no person should attend more than two or three).
  • Who Runs It — I recommend you pick the senior manager of the particular team to run it (unless he or she is not organized in which case pick the most senior organized person).
  • Where Does it Take Place — It can be done in person or over the phone or on videoconferencing if you’re lucky enough to have one of those.


The agenda is the same every day. I recommend you first test out the Rockefeller Habits’ suggested agenda. That’s what I did and we didn’t need to change a thing.

  1. What’s Up — The first section of the Daily Huddle should be about each of your team members sharing the What’s Up of what they’ve accomplished since you all last met. Total Time: 3 to 5 minutes (Every participant should talk for no more than 30 seconds each).
  2. The Numbers — The second section is about the numbers of your business. Here, you should cover the critical metrics that are most important to your team. For example, in my Sales Daily Huddle, we report on such vitals as total sales by brand from the previous day (with comparisons to prior periods) and percentage of our monthly sales goal we project. Total Time: 3 to 5 minutes
  3. Roadblocks — This section focuses on the roadblocks (also called “bottlenecks”) that the team members face. Total Time: 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Values & Ideology — This last section covers values-related items that don’t fit nicely into the first 3 sections of the meeting. An example of Values or Ideology items might be praise that someone outside the group has earned or a personal item that someone outside the meeting is facing that is affecting their performance (for example, we just had a woman on our team whose neighborhood in Santa Barbara was on fire (from Wildfires); and one of our values is to make sure to take care of such people in need of assistance (by offering to pick up her slack and be extra supportive of her and her family).

Bonus Tips

Here are some other things I’ve noticed from my experience with the Daily Huddle.

  • Give it a Week — It will be tough for your people to adopt at first (the first one will be awkward when, for instance, you ask people “What’s Up?) — But it will become easier as the team figures it out (give it a good week!)
  • Don’t Problem Solve — You should keep it focused on problem-identification and not problem-solving (if there’s a problem that can’t be solved with a “one-liner” by one of the group, then you should schedule to meet off-line.
  • Start at Odd Time — Try scheduling it and a time other than the half-hour or hour (e.g. try 10:02am in the morning). Reason: People will remember it more and you’ll find they show up at 10am to 10:01am (instead of being late!).
  • It Helps The Rest of Your Day — The Daily Huddle will help you and your team better figure out how to spend the rest of their day.
  • Start with Senior People — The most effective way to roll out the Daily Huddle is to have your organization’s leaders do it first (secret: if leaders do it, it will trickle down through the rest of your business).

And please read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits — it’s chock full of other valuable habits and ideas for businesses to grow.

You should comment below about your experience with the Daily Huddle — I really want to hear your opinion!

21 comments so far (is that a lot?) | Continue Reading »

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

A Simple 4-Step Approach on How To Sell Better (SPIN Selling)


I used to consider “Sales” a bad word; until I got good at it!

In this case if you’re not comfortable with the idea of “selling’ you can replace “Sales” with “persuading” or “problem solving” — now let’s help you sell!

Neil Rackham wrote a terrific book called SPIN Selling in 1996. What I like about it is that it provides you a framework for selling better based on the results and experience of thousands of salespeople and their supervisors.

Most important tip: The more questions you ask, the more effective you will be.

So, what is SPIN Selling?

SPIN is an acronym that stands for Situation, Problem, Implication and Need and the book recommends that you ask questions about all four of those.

Below are some SPIN Selling questions to ask (let’s pretend you are selling vacuum cleaners):

Situation Questions

  • How many carpets or rugs do you have in your house?

Problem Questions

  • What problems do you have with your vacuum cleaner?
  • How old is it?
  • How often does your vacuum cleaner’s belt break often?
  • How heavy is it?
  • Where do you store it?

Implication Questions

  • Is your vacuum cleaner so heavy that it aches your back to lift it from the closet or even to vacuum?
  • Is you vacuum so large and heavy that it’s hard to store away?

Need/Payoff Questions

  • How much happier would you be if you had a new vacuum cleaner that was half the height and weight, and could easily be stored and NEVER needed a new belt again?

So, when trying to persuade or problem-solve or sell, try asking lots of questions first and focus on your buyer and what will lead to their big payoff!

SPIN Selling is a must-read for any business-person; it explains SPIN selling techniques and backs it up with detailed research. Rackham later came out with the SPIN Selling Fieldbook which is also an excellent read.

I recommend you buy SPIN Selling first and then if you have people on your team who you want to share the concept with, then buy them a copy of the slightly less expensive Fieldbook.

Do you have any thoughts on the SPIN Selling technique or the topic of sales in general — if so, please make a comment below.

8 comments so far (is that a lot?) | Continue Reading »

Monday, April 27th, 2009

How I Boosted My FICO Score By 162 Points…To 778


I used to have poor credit.

And if you’re like me, you’ve had to fund some or all of your business on credit. When I ran,  I had to use cash withdrawls off of five credit cards just to meet payroll for a month or two!

Unfortunately, I was a dumb kid back then and didn’t pay back the loans fast enough (causing poor credit!).

Here's where U.S. folks fall on their FICO score (source: CreditKarma)

So, below are some learnings from restoring my credit.

First off, this article focuses on how to maximize your opportunity to get personally-guaranteed credit…so it’s useful if you A) Run a small business where you have to personally gurantee your credit cards or B) Want to improve your credit outside of business (e.g. for mortgage or automobile loans).

Ok, first off, how do you measure your credit? — Currently, one matters more than all others: Your FICO score. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, a credit-scoring business that works with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) monitoring people’s credit.

FICO scores range between 300 and 850 (the higher being better) with a score of:

  • 760 or better being Excellent (you’ll get offered the lowest loan rates with flexibility)
  • 700 to 759 being Very Good (you’ll be offered above-average terms)
  • 680 to 699 being Good (average terms)
  • 620 to 679 being OK (you’ll be offered below-average terms)
  • Below 620 — If you’re below 620 it is very uncertain what kind of loan you’d be offered, especially these days

FICO doesn’t make you loans but they provide the report card — the FICO Score — for others who do.

So, you might ask: How do I fix my credit?

Well, it’s based on a secret algorithm that changes all the time (sort of like Coke’s recipe or Google’s algorithm).

This article is sort of like reverse-engineering FICO.

I asked Scott Jones, a credit repair expert I worked with at CreditLine, to talk about the key ingredients of FICO’s secret recipe and how important each  ingredient is (the % in parentheses). Here’s what he said:

Your Payment History (35% of score)

Basically, paying on time helps lift your score, while paying late, liens and bankruptcy will lower it.

The Amount You Owe (30%)

Keep your balance low to zero. Lenders don’t like to see you using up all your credit on your credit cards (i.e. letting the balance get high) so if you can keep it low (or, better yet, pay it down to zero), you’ll get some points for that.

The Length of Your Credit History (15%)

The longer you have a credit card the more points you get on your FICO score. Even if you use a credit card just sparingly (like me with my Mervyn’s Card), you get some good FICO points for just having it for a long time.

New Credit Inquiries (10%)

This one is interesting: When you apply for a loan (including getting a credit card), the company providing you with credit (i.e. Visa or Mastercard or AMEX or a department store or mortgage company or Auto Dealership) makes what is called a “New Credit Inquiry” with the credit agencies to see what your credit looks like. Each new inquiry can LOWER your FICO score (my guess is by 10 to 30 points) for a short amount of time (about three months); so, be careful not to take out a few credit cards at one time.

Get the Right Types of Credit (10%)

Different credit is measured differently. Below is one credit expert’s prioritization of which types of credit in order of importance (first being most important).

  1. Home loans
  2. Car loans
  3. Major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, AMEX)
  4. Department store credit cards
  5. Student loans

Here are some other tips & final notes:

  • You Start Off Pretty Good — When you first get a FICO score (18 years old appears to be the minimum age to get a credit card) you start off from a position of strength! Since 30% of the FICO score depends on money you owe, my guess is that you start off with a FICO score somewhere in the 600 range.
  • Be Maniacal about paying all of your bills on time — I don’t mean to scare you, but I once paid a Macy’s credit card bill 60 days late and it cost me about 50 points on my FICO score!
  • If You Carry a Balance on Your Credit Card — If you must hold a balance on your credit card (I recommend that you don’t) then try to keep it to half or less of your available credit.
  • Don’t Do Debt Consolidation — Credit consolidation (putting all your debts onto one credit card) is usually a bad idea (unless the other card is lower interest and you can pay THAT balance off within a year).
  • Own just a few credit cards (I think 2 to 5 cards seems right) and use them once in awhile and pay them off immediately when you do.
  • Don’t Cancel Credit Cards — I don’t believe that canceling credit cards can help your FICO score and it can definitely hurt it (because of the Length of Credit History piece)
  • If you ever get billed for something and you believe that you do not owe the money, you should IMMEDIATELY contact the biller and straighten it out (and make sure it’s corrected by Experian, Transunion and Equifax).

If you’re like me and you made a bunch of mistakes already, you can repair your credit but it takes time. A Couple of Options:

Do it Yourself — You can get free online credit reports from all three agencies at and you should! Go to Check out the details of each (they will list each one of your credit cards or loans) and if you can find an incorrect piece of info or an inconsistency among the three agencies (one of them reports that you were late on paying your AMEX card and the other two do not), then write a “letter of correction/deletion” to try to fix your credit report.

That doesn’t harm you and typically can turn into them correcting/removing the item in a way that positively impacts your credit

Use a Credit Repair Service — I used a service called CreditLine and I ended up increasing my score from 616 to 778 within two and one-half years; an average of about 15 points every three months.

I used their premium service and it was worth every penny. It helped me get bettter terms on my car loan and gives me piece of mind about getting a loan for a anything else in the future. They also provided me with phone-based credit counseling.

Either way, make sure you’re in tune with your FICO score, apply what tips you can and good luck with your credit restoration.

Question for you: Do you know how credit works outside the U.S.? If you do, please comment below with any tips you have — thanks!

156 comments so far (is that a lot?) | Continue Reading »

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

5 Easy Steps On How To Be An Early Riser


The smartest move I’ve made in years was when I began waking up early (around 5:45am now).

So, here’s how you can wake up early:


1) Get Control of Your Alarm Clock
You’ll need to use an alarm clock at first (though you won’t need it two weeks from now!).

What time should you pick? Be gentle with yourself at first — start with just a half-hour earlier than you’re currently waking up.

I recommend you set your alarm to an unusually exact time (I picked 6:07am because I was born in 1967)…it’s been proven that you will be more responsive to unusual times (rather than on-the-hour or half-hour times (e.g. 6:00am or 6:30am) (see The Daily Huddle about starting meetings at odd times).

And try to pick something soothing to wake up to (soft music or a soft voice is fine). If you’re really new-agey then use one of those alarm clocks that has ocean sounds (they also have alarm clock lamps that slowly add light!).

When the alarm goes off, wake up (don’t hit the snooze button!).  Trust me: just get your butt out of bed.

Do something affirmative when you wake up. For instance, when I wake up, I put each foot on the floor and say “Thank” (left foot) “You” (right foot) — that starts me off on a positive note.

I promise you that within 5 minutes of waking up you will not feel like going back to bed.

2) Make Your First Activity Warm and Passionate
You should want to wake up earlier to do something you love…so make sure you do!

The first thing I do when I wake up is to have a hot cup of water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it and some organic honey!

Next, I have a routine for my first activity. I start with my “Hour of Power;” that consists of me sitting in a comfortable chair on the East side of my apartment (where the sun is rising) and writing down a few creative things that I’d like to do for the next hour.

Then I do them! Sometimes it’s reading a book, other times it’s playing guitar and sometimes it’s writing (like this article).

I then go work out for an hour (basketball or yoga).

Whatever you do, don’t start your day with reactive tasks such as reading emails or paying the bills.  Go with proactive/creative stuff.

3) Beware Caffeine’s Six-Hour Half-Life
If you consume caffeine (I do), you’re going to need to consume your last sip a bit earlier (I recommend 1pm at the latest).

The reason is that caffeine has what’s called a 6-hour half-life, meaning that if you have a cup of coffee (average of 50 milligrams of caffeine) at 3pm, then you will still have 25 milligrams of coffee at 9pm — it’s the equivalent of you drinking a half-cup of coffee at 9pm at night!

Some of you might say: “I drink caffeine late in the day and still get my eight hours of shut-eye.” I believe you. But your 8 hours probably isn’t very restful sleep…you may wake up groggy (that’s because you didn’t get enough deep sleep).

For those of you hooked on caffeine, just start to wean yourself off of the afternoon habit by switching to decaf (still has some caffeine) or a white tea (has a little caffeine in it) or an herbal tea (no caffeine).

I drink one cup of a black or green tea at about 9:30am and then I have decaffeinated latte (fancy, I know) at about 12noon.

With less caffeine in you at night, you’ll sleep more restfully, and it will be easier for you to wake up early every day!

4) When to Go To Sleep:  Have a Book You Love
As you get into this process of waking up early, you’ll begin to naturally get tired earlier at night. This may take about a week.

But what time should you go to sleep? Steve Pavlina recommends simply going to sleep when you’re tired in his terrific How to Become an Early Riser article.

What I do is get into bed 8 to 8 ½ hours before my desired wake up time (e.g. around 9:30pm to wake up at 5:45pm).

I then start reading a book until I’m sleepy.

It’s important to pick a book you love so that you’ll look forward to going to bed! I fall asleep within 30 minutes (that’s how I get my 7 1/2 to 8 hours sleep). .

5) Commit to a Week
Practice your new waking up early for at least seven days…by that time, you will start getting used to it.

You’ll naturally wake up earlier (you won’t even need an alarm clock within about three weeks) and fall asleep earlier too.

You’ll love waking up earlier so much that you’ll test out waking up earlier and earlier until you find the ideal time.

As the saying goes, the early bird really does get the worm.

While I’m a big fan of being an early riser, please remember about the importance of sleep as a form of renewal (see my article on How To Recharge Yourself).


After first writing my How To Be An Early Riser article, I began jotting down examples of  other early risers — especially famous early risers.

I thought I’d share those with you:

Famous Early Risers

  • Leo Babauta (Blog Writer) — 4:30am
  • Mary Higgins Clark (Writer) — Often began writing at 5:00am.
  • Winston Churchill — He would wake up at 7:30am and work from bed until 11:00am.
  • Thomas Edison
  • Ian Fleming
  • Benjamin Franlin (famous for his quote: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
  • Steve Pavlina (Writer ) — Wakes up at 5:00am (and says he’s already exercised, showered and had breakfast by 6:30am).
  • Sylvia Plath (Writer) — Often began writing at 5am.
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Walt Whitman


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