Books: the key takeaway

Books: the key takeaway

I started a new project on this website books: the key takeaway.

The idea came from a post by James Altucher. He describes how difficult it is to remember more than 1% of a book and that a great book has one key takeaway that you remember afterwards.

I read a lot and agree that it is hard to remember everything. Having one takeaway makes a book worth reading, so I decided to write mine down and share them.

My process is as follows. I read a book and then wait a few weeks before I write my key takeaway down. Then, the one thing that I have thought most about in the previous weeks or the best thing I implemented in my life will be my key takeaway.

While making the list I found that I gave quite a few 4 star reviews and not too many low scores. This is because before I read a book two things need to happen. First, either a friend or someone I respect (Ryan Holiday has an excellent reading list) must recommend a book. Secondly, the book needs to have good reviews on Amazon. When both boxes are ticked I will purchase the book.

I found that it is easier to read a new book than to re-read a great book. However, there is more value in re-reading a great book to really make the concepts and knowledge your own. Reading a new book is more fun whereas re-reading a great book requires more effort. By writing down the key takeaway I remember and internalise the information better – using the power of repetition in a fun way.

I will continue to update the list as I read more. Enjoy!

How to identify growth opportunities (in five minutes)

How to identify growth opportunities (in five minutes)

Nothing is more motivating than progress. Taking baby steps forward can lead to amazing results: if you get 1% better every day you get thirty-eight times better in one year. My goal for creating this exercise was to identify which growth opportunity I should focus my attention on.

I like to make progress visual. I decided to map out my day and identify areas where I can make the biggest improvements in the shortest amount of time.

The areas I wrote down were: Sleep – Food – Exercise – Work – Passion Projects. Above every segment I drew how I thought my learning curve looked over the past couple of years.

For example, food had a nice learning curve. I spent a lot of time reading and learning about a healthy food plan.

My sleep learning curve is flat and that surprised me. I sleep approximately 1/3 of the day, but never paid attention to my sleep habits. When I asked around most people never studied sleep either. We agreed on having a sleeping schedule, getting enough hours of sleep and not using electronics before bedtime – that’s about it. We learn a little bit here and there, but no serious progress is made. It is almost as if we don’t care about 1/3 of our life.

This is an area were I can make progress quickly. I know very little about sleep so every article and book will give me new insights. A steep learning curve is very motivating; little wins fuel your motivation and that means it is easier to do the work.

I found this a great exercise to identify opportunities for growth in my life. In less than five minutes I had identified an area to focus on and now the books are ordered and I am eager to study. I challenge you to try this exercise: you will be amazed how rewarding it can be!

Don’t set goals – make a system

Don’t set goals – make a system

Your parents, teachers, friends, peers and anyone else with who you have talked about achieving something in the future probably advised you to set goals. If they really know their stuff they might have even advised you to set smart goals. To back this up, especially teachers like this one, they told you about the Harvard 1953 or Yale 1979 study. These studies showed that the 3% of the students who had written down their goals earned more than the other 97% combined. This is more enough reason to set goals, right? The surprising answer is no. Both famous studies actually never happened, despite the fact that they are often referenced and used in books. On top of that Scott Adams makes a compelling case for abandoning goals all together in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

It can be though sticking to a goal like going to the gym three times a week. After the initial motivation wears of you have to use your willpower to keep going. A great example of this is the ‘gym of failure’ in January. Because of New Years resolutions the motivation is high and the gym is full, but in February the gym is empty again – the only winner is the gym accountant. On the other hand, setting up a system like being active every day and learning about being healthy works a lot better. If you are active everyday to the degree you feel comfortable you will start to crave the daily exercise after a while, the people who exercise regularly know this. Over time you train your body to increase the level of exercise and as a result you will be fit.

Goals versus systems, lets look at some more examples.

Winning a match is a goal while practicing everyday is a system.

Bench-pressing 120 kilo is a goal whereas getting fit is a system.

Losing twenty kilo is a goal whilst eating healthy is a system.

Learning how to play the guitar is a goal while practicing the fundamentals every day is a system.

If you’re a writer writing a blog post is a goal whereas writing every day is a system.

Goals are for losers.
Scott Adams

After you set a goal you feel a brief period of motivation, but once that is gone goals only give you pleasure when you achieve them. And even that gain in happiness is only temporarily because of hedonic adaptation; when we achieve our goals our expectations rise and we want more. Systems however give you little wins everyday as you slowly improve. Little wins increase your motivation making it easier to stick with the path you want to follow.

Goals also reduce your current happiness according to writer James Clear. When you set a goal you’re saying to yourself that you’re not good enough yet, but you will be when you reach your goal. This way you’re teaching yourself to put happiness off until your next goal is achieved.

Having a goal makes it more likely you miss the opportunities that come your way because your focus is so narrow. On the contrary, having a system doesn’t narrow your focus and allows you to capture the opportunities that improve you over time.

Buy a house and a nice car, once achieved, has nothing left to give you.
Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

To make a strong and efficient system Scott Adams suggests replacing willpower with knowledge.

Imagine you choose a system of healthy eating over a goal of losing 20 kilo with a diet. Choosing healthy raw nuts over the tastier, but not so healthy, processed nut bar will take willpower. Unfortunately for us willpower is a limited resource as described in the book The Willpower Instinct. Mark Zuckerberg saves willpower for important decisions by wearing the same t-shirt everyday and we should be saving this precious resource as well.

If you study healthy eating and know that raw nuts are a better snack than a nut bar choosing the healthier option will cost less willpower. By replacing willpower with knowledge you have more willpower left for other decisions.

If, on average, you choose the healthy option for 66 days you have created a habit. Creating habits in your system is what you’re really after. A habit does not require any willpower, in that sense it is good behaviour that you can have for ‘free’. Now you can use your willpower to improve yourself even further.

Should you completely stop setting goals? Well, setting a goal is always better than having no goal or system at all. If you know very clearly what you want, for example a specific job or result, a goal and focus might be good. But most people don’t know what they want to do in a couple years. James Clear says that goals are good for planning progress and systems are good for making progress.

In my opinion you shouldn’t confuse not setting goals with not needing a plan. Find out what is important to you and set up systems around it. For me health is my number one priority. My system to achieve good health is to study the topic and being active everyday. To improve my career in international business I know good communication skills and knowledge are important. My system is to write often and read books daily. If you commit to a system you will constantly improve, there is no end. This continuous improvement will add up and with all the opportunities that come along the way you increase your chances of success.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Imagine you bought a ticket for a football game and on the day of the match you feel sick. Would you go because staying at home is a waste of money? If you answer “yes” the sunk cost fallacy is at work. The fact that you spent the money should not play a role in your decision; you can’t get it back. If going will make your life worse you should stay at home.

People like to think they make rational decisions based on the future value of something. But in reality many decisions are influenced by the time, money, love and/or energy invested. This makes it harder to abandon.

In Thinking Fast and Slow Kahneman and Tversky conducted an experiment to demonstrate the sunk cost fallacy. Imagine you go and see a $10 movie and lose $10 cash on the way to the cinema, would you still buy a ticket? In the experiment only 12% of the people said they wouldn’t. Now imagine you bought a $10 movie ticket and lost it. Would you buy another ticket? In this case a whooping 54% of the people said they wouldn’t. The situation is identical, in both scenarios $10 is lost, but in the case of the ticket it seems it was assigned to a specific purpose and then lost. This is the sunk cost fallacy at work.

Amateur investors make negative Expected Value decisions because of the sunk cost fallacy. They often base their trading decision on acquisition prices. If traders lose money on a stock they are, illogically, more hesitant to sell. The acquisition price should not be play a role in the decision; all that matters is the future value of the stock.

Professional poker players are aware of this flaw in thinking. Every dollar that a player puts in the pot is not theirs anymore and should not be a factor later in the hand. Professional poker players let the past not dictate their thought process; they are comfortable folding a hand without regard to the money invested.

The sunk cost fallacy manifests in many different ways: Do you keep reading a boring book that likely isn’t getting better? The time you’ve invested in reading the book is not important, if you don’t like it put it away. You only waste more time.

Our investment of time, money, love and/or energy is often the reason we carry on despite that we are dealing with a lost cause. Because of the sunk cost fallacy you keep reading a book you don’t like and hold on to stocks that should be sold. Investments that are gone and cannot be recovered should not matter in your decision making process; you should make rational decisions based on the future value.

Finally, apply this concept to your own life. Take a step back from the projects you currently invest time and money in and ask yourself; Am I working on these projects because of previous investments or are they still the best use of my time and money at the present moment?

The concept of expected value in business

The concept of expected value in business

Expected value is one of the most important decision making concepts that people almost never use. Professional poker players apply the concept to make rational decisions, but in business most decisions are based on emotions. This tendency most likely costs you a fortune. The concept of expected value will help you to identify profitable business situations that would be otherwise missed.

What is expected value?

Expected value is a predicted value of a variable, calculated as the sum of all possible values each multiplied by the probability of its occurrence. In other words, the expected value shows us how much we can expect to win or lose (on average) in a specific situation.

Let’s look at a classic example: the coin flip. 

If we flip a fair coin we have a 50% chance of coming up heads and a 50% chance of coming up tails. Assume that we get $10 every time it comes up heads and $0 when it comes up tails.



In this situation there is a 50% chance of getting $10 and a 50% chance of getting $0. On average we expect to get $5.

It seems obvious that on average we get $5, however this can feel somewhat unintuitive because we never actually get $5; we get either $10 or $0. The expected value of $5 is what we would get, on average, if we repeat the scenario an infinite number of times. If we flip the coin often enough we overcome the short-term variance and end up with an equal number of heads and tails.

The expected value of the coin flip is:

$5 + $0
Expected value= $5

If the coin is rigged and comes up with heads 90% of the time the expected value is 90% times $10 or $9.

$9 + $0
Expected value= $9

If we flip the rigged coin 1000 times we expect to make $9,000.

Professional poker players constantly calculate expected value and when they identify a situation that gives them a small edge they push it over and over again. Finding positive expected value situations is what enables them to earn money. Let’s look at a simplified example.

You are a professional poker player playing against an amateur, or fish as bad players are called. You raise pre-flop and the fish calls.

the_concept_of_expected_value_in_business_3There is $200 in the pot.

The flop comes and the fish checks; now it is your turn to make a decision. You decide to bet $100 into the $200 pot. To make this a breakeven play you have to win the pot 33% of the time. If the fish folds less than 33% of the time you lose money (again – to simplify this example we assume the situation in a vacuum). As a professional you know that the fish folds 50% of the time and therefore your bet is a profitable decision. The expected value calculation of betting $100 when the fish folds 50% of the time is:

You lose: 50% x ($100) = ($50)
You win: 50% x 200 = $100
($50) + $100 = $50
Expected value = $50

On average you expect to win $50 with this play. See that we have not even discussed what cards we have in our hand yet? That is irrelevant in this situation because we have a positive expected value move no matter what cards you hold. Other players might say you’re crazy for betting $100 when you end up having to show a bad hand. Or they might think the reason for your constant betting is that you have a lucky card streak. But you know, regardless if you win or lose this hand, that your move will make you money in the long-term.

Expected value encourages risks when it makes sense.

It seems straightforward to always play the positive expected value situations, but in reality most people constantly pass on these situations. Results orientated thinking, variance and cognitive biases make that people pick more losing than winning plays.

Variance and expected value

Even if we make the correct decision and play in situations where we have an edge we won’t always win.

If we only take rigged coin flips that give us a 90% chance of winning we can expect to win very often. In other words, we lose only a few times which means that we experience little variance. On the contrary, if we start taking coin flips where we have 51% chance of winning we start losing a lot more. Despite the fact that we start losing a lot more we still make a profitable decision by pushing the small edge.

If we would draw our winnings in a graph we see that only taking 90% chances will lead to a steady increase with little variance. If we also push small edges our winnings will go up and down much more often. But in the long-term we will earn a lot more money. By passing on small edges we hurt ourselves, we give up money. It is likely that people think we are crazy when we take a 51% expected value situation and lose. Especially if we lose people are quick to judge, they think results orientated. But it is not about this one situation that is lost, it is about the long-term. If we keep making profitable decisions all the time we will end up far ahead. A lifetime of taking the positive expected value move will result in many more wins than losses.


Always think in long-term profitability and forget about the short-term variance. You can lose while making the right decision, but don’t be results orientated and keep pushing small edges.

It may seem that expected value only applies to situations where we make the same decision over and over. If we flip the coin 1000 times we can expect that the rigged coin will be heads 90% of the time. But if we only flip once and we lose the expected value seems not to be important. This is wrong. We have to consistently calculate the expected value of our decisions and in the long-term we will win enough times that we end up ahead.

Expected value and cognitive biases

We want to take calculated risks when it makes sense. Unfortunately our cognitive biases often prevent this from happening.

If you have two people and one wins $100 on the coin flip and the other loses $100 on the coin flip you would expect that person 1 would gain as much satisfaction as that person 2 loses. But it doesn’t work that way. This phenomenon is known as loss aversion and was discovered by Daniel Kahneman. Loss aversion is the human tendency to strongly prefer avoiding a loss to receiving a gain. Why do we have this? It gave us an evolutionary advantage, in order to survive we have to maximize opportunities and minimize threats.

If we make decisions based on emotion we put a lot more emotional weight on avoiding a loss. To avoid this we have to think in terms of logic. In poker an amateur plays emotionally and tries to avoid losing money, whereas the professional uses logic to take advantage of a positive expected value situation.

It is important to calculate the estimate outcomes rather correctly. Imagine we assume the coin is rigged and will come heads 90% of the time. If we are wrong and it is a fair, 50-50, coin we get a very different expected value calculation. The professional poker player can calculate the odds fairly correctly, but also has emotional challenges. After winning a big hand they can feel invincible and after losing a big hand they can take irresponsible risks to get back to even. This is known as tilt.

Another cognitive bias that makes it difficult to estimate outcomes correctly is the optimism bias. This makes you underestimate the chance of experiencing an event with a negative outcome.

People cost themselves lots of money by making decisions based on their emotions. Do you recognize this in yourself? Do you play to win or play to not lose?

Expected value in business

Now let’s apply this concept to business.

Imagine you have the opportunity to buy a .com domain name for $10,000. The worst-case scenario is that you fail to attract any extra customers and lose $10,000. The best-case scenario is that you attract many new customers and profit $25,000. The $25,000 in this scenario is a made up number. For your own expected value calculation you can use as many details as you have available to get the numbers accurate.

70% x ($10,000) = ($7,000)
30% x $25,000 = $7,500
Expected value = $500

We are using conservative math, it is unlikely that 70% of the time we lose the whole $10,000. We can always resell the website or at least get a bit of extra traffic. What we can see is that even in the worst-case scenario we make, on average, a profitable decision.

You might fear a 70% chance of losing $10,000, but if you invest with logic instead of emotion the decision is easy. Don’t leave the $500 on the table.

Money is not always the correct variable to make expected value decisions. I made a negative expected value decision, in dollar terms, by taking private healthcare cover. The insurance deal is a financial positive expected value deal for the insurance company; this is how they make money. However, if something would happen to my health, and I was not covered, it could financially ruin me. Also, my health is extremely important to me and that is why I want to have the option to get the best care when needed. Additionally it gives me peace of mind, which I value greatly. All those reasons combined are why I’m happy to take a financial negative expected value deal.

On the other hand when I buy a new computer, or any other gadget, I never take the extra insurance. I know this is a financially negative expected value decision for me because it is financially positive expected value for the insurance company. If I break the computer paying $1500 does not ruin me, so I decide to take the higher variance, but more profitable option by not insuring myself.

To ensure they never go broke poker players use bankroll management to make calculated decisions as to how much money they want to invest. If you need a computer for your work and don’t have the financial capacity to replace it when necessary you might have to get the insurance.

Imagine you’re the owner of a business with one employee and you have to write a report for a client. You value your time at $100 an hour and pay your employee $30 an hour. The report takes you 1 hour to complete and the employee will take 3 hours. It might be tempting to finish the report yourself because you are more time efficient, but that might not be the right decision.

the_concept_of_expected_value_in_business_4Your time is worth $100 an hour and you finish the task in 1 hour.

the_concept_of_expected_value_in_business_5Your employee’s time is worth $30 an hour and needs 3 hours to finish the task.

The costs for you are 1 x $100 = $100. For your employee the costs are 3 x $30 = $90. Despite the fact that your employee takes three times longer you save $10. Delegating the report will give you the best financial result.

We are used to compare outcomes and choose what feels best. We are letting our emotions instead of our logic make the decisions and that is costing us money and opportunities. Every time we pass on a positive expected value situation we are making a decision that hurts us. Use expected value to take calculated risks when it makes sense and do not let short-term variance discourage you. It will be very profitable in the end.

The freelance work cycle rollercoaster

The freelance work cycle rollercoaster

The freelance work cycle often reaches high peaks and deep lows. One moment the freelancer is drowning in work and the other moment there is no work for weeks. This rollercoaster happens because freelancers forget to make client acquisition a regular part of their schedule.


  1. You have plenty of work and work at multiple projects at the same time. You might have so much to do that you refer projects to friends or you have to hire other freelancers just to get the job done.
  2. Slowly the workload is getting less. You finish some projects but there is enough left to do.
  3. Great, all the work is done and you have sent the invoices. There finally is a bit of breathing room, but in the near future there are no projects to work on. During the busy peak the last thing you wanted was more work, therefore acquisition was not part of your daily schedule. As a result you have to promote and market yourself again.
  4. Your promotion and marketing efforts often don’t pay off immediately. This can lead to uncertainty about your future income and self-doubt about your abilities. It also costs you money, for quite some time now you did not generate any revenue.
  5. In the best-case scenario your marketing effort paid off. You get plenty new project offers and, of course, they all come at the same time. You might even have to refer some work to friends… Despite the two busy work peaks you only earned an average income because there was plenty downtime.
  6. Will you forget to do acquisition again because you are very busy? In that case the rollercoaster starts all over and you will continue to earn an average income – with the added stress during quiet times.
  7. If you decide to make acquisition a planned part of your day you will find that you have less downtime in between jobs, less stress and a significant higher income.

Parkinson’s Law: Get more done in less time

Parkinson’s Law: Get more done in less time

When a deadline is fast approaching we tend to overcome productivity paralysis. We focus, work hard, and get the task done in time. Often we surprise ourselves how much we can get done if we have limited time available. If you’re into productivity hacks, you’ll know this as Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian, observed this trend based on his experience in the British Civil Service. He realized that as the size of something increased (e.g. the time available for a project), the efficiency dropped.

The lesson of Parkinson’s Law is that we can increase our efficiency by implementing restrictions. Traditionally working longer hours is linked to getting more work done. But this will lead to unnecessary complexity, extra stress and tension. Our goal is to work smarter, not harder.

We can apply different limitations to our work. For example, we don’t allow ourselves to take work home or we work in a café and have to finish before closing time. Because we make less time available we get more work done quickly.

I use this concept to make sure unimportant tasks, such as checking e-mail, don’t end up costing a massive amount of time. If I set aside 1-hour for e-mail it will probably end up taking 1-hour. If I limited myself to 40 minutes I can finish my e-mail in 40 minutes by prioritizing.

A good way to start implementing the law is to cut the time you think you need for a project in half. If you think you need 2-hours, give yourself 1-hour to finish the task. People often don’t realize how quickly some tasks can be completed before they start experimenting with this concept. The extra buffer of time you give yourself is often unnecessary and the task is likely not as complex as you imagine.

The law should not be used to set unreasonable deadlines. We don’t want to end up with low quality work because we have to rush. Therefore planning is very important. “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe,” Abraham Lincoln said. You should plan and prepare carefully before you start.

The goal is to work smarter not harder: plan, apply limitations and as you improve your time allocation accuracy you’ll get more freedom.

Negative visualizations for business success

Negative visualizations for business success

Negative visualizations don’t only increase your happiness; in business it can save a project from failure.

Many business projects that fail could be prevented. People often neglect to consider that things might not go according to plan. As a result, they feel no need to make a contingency plan, which leads to an unnecessary increase in project failure.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Benjamin Franklin

Moreover, if people have concerns about a project they are often reluctant to speak up. This might be because they want to minimize conflict, are worried to offend their peers or are afraid to make enemies.

There is a technique to let people share their concerns and to prevent overconfidence from doing damage.

Psychologist Gary Klein introduced the concept of premortem. This is a managerial strategy in which, before the project launch, the manager envisions that the project has failed. Next, the manager asks the team: what went wrong? Now the team has to work backwards and think of reasons why the project has failed.

It may sound counterproductive to ask your employees to think negatively. But, many fortune 500 companies use this technique as a response to the overly positive thinking.

By envisioning the negative outcomes, the team can mitigate the identified risks before the project launch.

The premortem in short:

  1. Before the project starts you imagine that the project has failed.
  2. Now work backwards and make a list of all the reasons why the project failed.
  3. Pick the problems that you think need fixing and strengthen the plan.

The Roman philosopher Seneca used the same technique thousands of years ago. Seneca planned his trips by writing out all the things that could go wrong. In addition to preventing possible risks he also prepared himself for possible failure. Visualizing all the things that can go wrong helped him to manage expectations: he knew what could happen and was prepared to face that reality.

When we anticipate threats to a project we can work to avoid them and prepare ourselves to deal with possible failure. Wouldn’t it be much better to have a premortem instead of a postmortem?

The concept of time across cultures

The concept of time across cultures

The concept of time varies greatly across cultures. In America time is a limited resource, “Time is money”, while a Chinese proverb states the opposite: “When God made time, he made plenty of it”. Can you see how this might lead to a business conflict?

The strategy for our international business endeavors should be adapted based on the culture we deal with. We distinguish three time concepts: linear time, multi-active time and cyclic time.

Linear time

Linear time cultures (America, Switzerland, Austria, Britain, Scandinavia and the Netherlands) place a high emphasis on schedules. Their days are structured and the focus is on the task at hand, doing one thing at a time. Their schedule looks like this:


These cultures view time as a limited resource. Time is money. They believe that you become more successful if you get more work done. Because of this time is strictly controlled. They move forward as quickly as possible with an action and task-orientated mindset.

Interruptions are not preferred and taking a phone calls during a meeting is considered rude. Punctuality, especially for the Swiss and Germans, is very important and lateness is not tolerated.

They feel that the future is not entirely unforeseeable. After all, they work hard in the present on the tasks necessary to achieve their future goals.


In business it is expected that a quick decision can be made. No decision is seen as a lack of progress and therefore a waste of time.

Multi-active time

South American cultures and countries bordering the Mediterranean have a multi-active view of time. They value personal interaction over schedules; they will ignore the passing of time if human interactions will be left unfinished. As a result, they don’t mind being flexible in their schedule.

Imagine the confusion that can arise when a linear-orientated Swiss and a multi-active orientated Italian are working together. The Swiss, with the watch as a national symbol, will have a hard time understanding that the Italian is an hour late. The Italian, on the other hand, doesn’t see the problem: he was in an ongoing conversation.

Multi-active orientated people prefer to do multiple things at the same time. They pretend to have a schedule, especially when a linear-orientated person is around, but the focus is on the present instead of the schedule.


As you can see in the figure above they do not try to control time. They react to the events as they come during the day. In other words, they are less interested in following a schedule and only move forward when ready. Their focus is on feelings, relationships and people.

Cyclic time

Cyclic time cultures (most Asia and African countries), view time as plentiful. They don’t try to control time; they allow events to unfold naturally.

Time is viewed as repetitive: each day the same routine happens, day in day out. This view also shows in their way of doing business.

The decision making process in cyclical cultures can stretch over a long period of time, every option is considered. From their perspective there is no rush, time is plentiful. And since time goes around in a circle, the same opportunities will be presented again later, when they have more knowledge.


As you can see in the figure above every option is considered, they go around the decision in a circle. They might seem to go for option D, but after more consideration they might decide for a combination of A and C.

Imagine a linear-orientated American doing business with a cyclic-orientated African businessperson. After days of negotiating the American is expecting a decision. The African can’t do this without considering all the options and taking time. The American will see this waiting period as wasteful and expensive. The African will likely not understand this frustration, an African proverb: “A ripe melon falls by itself”.

There might be confusion understanding China’s cyclical view of time. The Chinese are more punctual; they arrive on time and often thank people for their time. They don’t want to ‘steal’ anyone’s time. Because of this they also announce soon after the meeting has started that they will have to be going. However, they will not leave until the business is done. It is said out of politeness towards the other people’s time. This is not typical cyclical behavior.

As a result, you might expect a quick decisions making process. But, the Chinese take their time and want to consider every option.

As you can see, the concept of time varies greatly across cultures. Your cultural understanding will help you to achieve successful business relationships.

Learn more about the concept of time in the video below and in the book When Cultures Collide by Richard Lewis.

The positive power of negative visualizations

The positive power of negative visualizations

It is time to add a new tool to your toolkit: negative visualizations. It may sound counterintuitive, but this practice likely increases your happiness.

Many of us are trapped in the hedonic treadmill. We earn money to fulfill our desires, but the joy wears of quickly and we return to the same level of happiness as before.

This is why we always want more. We want a better paying job, a new car and a new television. We even want those things after we just got them.

The Stoics use negative visualization to break this cycle.

When you practice negative visualizations you spend some time thinking that the things you value are lost. Imagine, vividly, that you lost your car, your television or your job. You do not worry about losing them, you imagine, without affecting your emotions, that you lost your possession.

This technique can feel counterintuitive. After all, the self-development industry is crowded with people advocating positive thinking. For example, Hal Elrod discusses the power of daily ‘positive’ visualizations in his book The Miracle Morning. Negative visualizations do not replace or devalue those practices. But, they can increase your happiness.

The easiest way to gain happiness is to want the things you already have.
William Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life

Maybe you feel bored with your possessions, but did you once dream of having them? The most used ‘cure’ for the boredom is buying a new gadget to have a brief experience of joy. Wouldn’t it be much better if you could enjoy the things you once dreamed of having, again? Negative visualizations help you to appreciate what you have by visualizing what life would be like if it been lost.

People who experience a catastrophe often change their perspective on life. Using negative visualizations can give you that same change: finding new happiness in the possessions and people that are already in your life.

If, like many people, you tend to be vaguely unhappy much of the time, it can be very helpful to manufacture a feeling of gratitude by simply contemplating all the terrible things that have not happened to you, or to think of how many people would consider their prayers answered if they could only live as you are now.
Sam Harris, Waking Up