Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keeping separate accounts

Even if a business is small, separate accounts teach financial discipline,” says Certified Financial Planner Cathy Curtis.

Keeping separate accounts also has other benefits for freelancers and small business owners:
  1. Organization. It makes it far easier to track expenses and payments for your business if they’re not intermingled with personal stuff like your credit card bills and that fro-yo you bought at lunch. As Lauren Lyons Cole, CFP says, "Separate business and personal bank accounts and credit cards simplify record keeping.”
  2. Taxes. A lack of separation may cause more scrutiny with the IRS. In addition to the audit risk, there’s also the matter of delineating business expenses (and proving they really were for your business) if you want to claim them as deductions. “Keep them separate from the beginning—don't wait," says Cole.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Get Your Mojo Back and Do Big Things Today

Life is a wonderful thing. With the exception of a few extraordinary circumstances, no matter what happened yesterday, you get a fresh start today. If you had conflict at the office yesterday, today is your chance to resolve it. If your diet went off track, today is the best day to start again. Feel like you've lost your mojo on a project or resolution? No fear. Today, our friend Jonathan Fields gets you back on the road to success. It doesn't matter what day or month of the year it is now. You don't have to wait for January 1st. You can start again today. And you will finish strong soon.

Craig Ballantyne

"Watch yourself as you go about your daily business and later reflect on what you saw, trying to identify the sources of distress in your life and thinking about how to avoid that distress." - William B. Irvine, "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy"
By Jonathan Fields

Resolutions don't change bodies, minds, careers, businesses and lives, actions do.

But, without the right approach, it can be near impossible to take the actions needed to get where you're desperate to go!

Behavior change--exercise, diet, meditation, changing careers or launching a business, writing a book, making art--is hard, really hard. Most people fail. Not because they're incapable of doing what needs to be done, but because they don't know how to do it right.

They don't know where to find valid information. They don't know whom to trust. They don't understand what it really takes to cultivate substantial progress and change. And they don't know how to create the structures that absolutely must be in place to support the small daily behaviors that culminate in extraordinary change and achievement over time.

Here are the 7 keys to successful behavior change and quest achievement:

1. Knowledge

You must know what the right behaviors, actions and decisions are. If you want to lose 50 pounds, you need to know what action will lead to that outcome. If you want to launch or build a world-changing venture, you need to know the steps that will make it happen (and more importantly the ones to avoid that'll tear it down). If you're trying to build a good life, you need to know what goes into that bucket and what needs to be tossed.

2. Support

You need support on three levels, if possible: peer support, co-striver support and mentor support.
  • Peer support is critical as a source of inspiration, information and accountability.
  • Co-striver support (people who are striving to do similar things at similar times) adds the element of creating what's called a "normalizing" experience. Knowing a tight-knit group of co-strivers are going through similar struggles, embracing tough challenges and working through them makes you realize you're not alone and, although it's tough, there are others right there with you and you're all going to get through it together. Note, too, you don't all have to be working on the same thing, project, quest or organization. It's more about sharing the experience on the level of parallel play.
  • Mentors and coaches are people who are further down the road than you who can share wisdom and insights designed to help you correct course, avoid mistakes (though, some you'll have to make yourself to get how to do it right) and accelerate your quest. Most important when finding and choosing mentors and coaches, too, is that (a) you trust them, (b) they're genuinely qualified to help you, either through training or experience and (c) they're invested in your success and genuinely care.
Collectively, these people come together to form your Circle of Champions. Research shows, having this group artfully chosen and fully-committed to your vision ups your likelihood of success exponentially and often shortens the time frame and makes the dance far more enjoyable.

3. Motivation

You've got to have a clearly established "why." If it's a simple change or goal you aspire to, old school carrot and stick, i.e., extrinsic motivation will often get the job done.

But for longer term, more complex, involved quests, a deeper, more intrinsic, internal source of motivation will be a stronger driver of consistent action over time, which is what determines success.

One key to intrinsic motivation is something I call "alignment." When the behaviors you're looking to cultivate or the quest you aspire to complete is poorly aligned with who you are and what makes you come alive, it makes the process so jarring to your system, your likelihood of doing the work to needed to succeed plummets.

When what you're trying to build is so tightly aligned with all aspects of who you are that it feels like it's an organic extension of your being, you'll still end up working like crazy to get it done, but it will feel far more effortless. High-levels of alignment tend to jack intrinsic motivation through the roof. And they keep it there longer. Your "why" is more about DNA than packaging.

This can be a huge issue with aspiring entrepreneurs and career changers. In addition to personal alignment, you also need to align business model, mode of delivery, creative orientation, leadership orientation and a number of other "degrees of alignment" that will be specific to your quest.

When you understand how to tee it all up right, your quest sings. You don't ever need to look for a reason to do the work. Problem is, very few people know how to do this well.

Instead, they align their actions and vision with what they think will succeed, what looks good or "justifiable" on paper, rather than aligning their quest and actions with the fiber of their being. Huge mistake.

Because even if you end up building something the world deems successful, you'll end suffering way more than necessary and will be significantly more likely to have built a business or achieved a quest the world deems a success, but you experience as a miss or, worse...a cage.

4. Simplicity

Legendary Stanford professor, B.J. Fogg, has studied persuasion for years and devised his own model for behavior change. One of the big discoveries, simplicity trumps information. Take the complexity out of your approach and make it as easy as possible to learn what to do and then do it.

When it comes to action-taking, simplicity rules, complexity drools.
If you want to exercise every morning, leave your running shoes and clothes right next to your bed when you rise and have a running partner meet you every morning outside your door.

I meditate for 25 minutes every morning like clockwork, no matter my schedule is the rest of the day. And no matter where I am in the world or how tired I may be when I awaken.

One of the keys has been to prepare my meditation area before I go to bed. I set up my cushion, a glass of water, my timer, and a blanket if it's cold. I remove complexity and, more important, I remove decision-making from the system.

What you'll find is that it's not the doing of the thing that's hard. It's the beginning. Once I'm on the cushion, the next 25 minutes flow with relative ease (okay, so maybe that took a bit of practice).

But research shows beginning a task or a process is a far greater challenge than continuing it once it's begun. So make it as simple as possible to begin.

5. Measurement

You need to create a very clear picture of what success looks like. Because if you don't, you wont understand what you're aspiring to. Nor will you know when you've arrived.

Things like mission statements, painted pictures, perfect-day exercises, outcome visualizations, they can all help you understand where you're going and what your personal metrics for success are.

But, when you're in the part of any quest I call The Thrash, you often don't yet have a clear beat on your metrics for success. But you still need something to strive for. You need something to measure. You need to know if you're moving forward, backward or sideways.

While you're in this part of your journey, your Circle of Champions will be a powerful source of guidance (and sanity) to allow you to divine and refine what matters and what's worth measuring. They will see things that you are blind to.

6. Framework

Once you have the first five in place, you need an action framework. A plan of action that's not just some one-size-fits-all, but rather a simple to use methodology (again, if it's complex, it won't work) that allows you to:
  • Identify the daily, weekly and monthly actions needed to get from where you are now to where you want to go.
  • Memorialize them, either in writing or digitally.
  • Track progress over time (this, according to the work of Professor Teresa Amabile, is critical).
  • Adapt to changing circumstances and new information, without losing momentum
There is no one-size-fits-all here. Some great approaches to explore include systems by Productive Flourishing's Charlie Gilkey or Behance's Action Method

7. Ritual

This may be last but it may also be most important. You must break the giant action steps of your quest into bite size habits, turning the big action steps from intimidating behaviors into easy rituals.

What's the difference?

Behavior requires willpower. Rituals happen auto-magically.
Rituals (or habits) are behaviors repeated in a systematic way over time that move from conscious choice to autopilot action. The more you ritualize success activities, the more you free-up brainpower and willpower, making it more likely that you'll do the things needed to change what you're trying to change.
When you're building behaviors and actions into rituals that require some level of will, you're better off building the ritual into the earlier part of your day. This is because willpower is a limited resource and by late afternoon, your tank starts to run pretty close to empty.

If it's a behavior you actually enjoy or are intrinsically drawn to, like painting or playing guitar or creating a product, business or service you love, these will generally require far less willpower. Time of day becomes less important.

Putting It All Together

Does all of this take effort?

Darn straight it does.

But the cost of not putting in the effort is worse. Not doing the work leads to a life of futility, unrealized potential, of unexpressed humanity and unrequited connection. I'd rather do the work than muddle through life with my soul-tank, my body, my mindset, my relationships, my art, and my potential perpetually on half-empty.

So, what's the best time to reclaim your quest?

Right now.

No matter what your goal, now is the time to move your body, eat better, meditate, set the wheels in motion for a new career, start a venture, business, or movement or create the art buried in your soul.

Just take action right now.

Your likelihood of success goes up massively once you've put the above keys into place. Do the work, find the people, create the systems, implement the knowledge, and build the support needed to breathe life back into your life.

And most important, Commit.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."  - W. H. Murray

The Best-Paying Jobs For Women In 2013


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lessons from Grandparents (by Michael Zink)

Michael Zink, head of Citibank for Asean and Singapore country officer, laughs as he catches himself quoting yet again his grandparents. “May be I should write a book—“What I Learned from My Grandparents.”
Indeed, when it came to the subject of financial literacy, Zink, who has a Master in Business Administration degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois, United States, seems to have learned most of the basics of prudent money management from his grandparents before he read his first business textbook and got acquainted with well-known financial experts.
Zink was in the Philippines recently for the two-day Citi-Financial Times Financial Education Summit 2012 that discussed how to make both young and old more money savvy and ways to enhance their knowledge and capability on financial matters.
The Citibank officer points out that, while the world is seeing growing affluence, some 2.5 billion people, roughly a third of the seven billion total population, are not in the banking system. Asia, the most populous continent, is home to 1.5 billion of these people.
“More and more people in Asia are affluent, becoming middle class and dealing with (financial) issues,” Zink says. “We have to educate people to act responsibly.”
Zink adds one of the things he learned from his grandparents is “common sense is not so common.”
Good husbanding of resources, particularly money, is supposed to be one of the things elders teach their kids. But with modern families increasingly fragmented (in Asia, overseas employment has left children without parents and/or grandparents), who will and can impart valuable wisdom on money matters so people do not “invest” hard-earned cash in alleged pyramiding scams like Aman Futures, Rasuman and  several others that came to light recently?  And what if the elders themselves do not know any better?
Besides, the suspected pyramiding and Ponzi scams drew adult investors who were not exactly uneducated. They were teachers, policemen, soldiers, businessmen, even local government officials.
Zink says this was why “(government) regulators are telling banks they have a responsibility to make sure clients know what they are buying. (Banks) have to know if clients understand what they are ‘buying’ (in terms of services and products).
“One of the ‘unfortunate things’ resulting from the financial crisis is that people think that debt is bad and that’s unfortunate because debt, if thoughtfully used, can be helpful. (For instance, if there is no) mortgage, most people will not be able to build a house if they just rely on savings.
Credit card, if used wisely, also provides (the things people need),” Zink says.
“(People take on) debt without understanding the consequences. Young people do not see the consequences (of using a credit card), only the benefits so banks have to help them understand that a card is a handy tool if used wisely.”
MICHAEL Zink, Citibank head for Asean
Not simply greed
As for those who fall for get-rich-quick or high-and-quick-return-on-investment schemes, the Citi banker points out that it was “not necessarily greed that drives them but needs, so when somebody makes an attractive offer they will consider it.” People need things to make life easier for them and their loved ones.
Zink also admits that banks, which traditionally seemed imposing and intimidating to ordinary people, have to “soften” its image and find ways to make access easier so people will turn to them and not be easily conned.
But Zink stresses financial education was not a one-person or one-sector act. Various groups have to be involved in educating people on financial matters, he says.
The 200 or so delegates from about 30 countries who came to Manila for the financial education summit were sharing best practices on how to teach financial literacy and how to bring the information to more people.
“The world is changing quickly, (it is) very dynamic so (we) have to set benchmarks,” Zink says. He cites an observation that more data were being generated now in one day than in the whole 2002.
If affluence was creating new problems, the evolution of technology was also “shifting challenges”, he says. The generational divide, he adds, is resulting in a situation where the young are teaching their elders. “Adults have to keep up with digitally savvy kids,” he notes.
The banker points out, however, that while information is ubiquitous, “wisdom is still rare. We have to learn to cut through this ocean of data, have to distinguish what is useful, have to understand where kids get their information” and what information could be shared.
Gun-less crimes
He says, in today’s world, there are bad guys out there stealing information. “Criminals don’t need guns to steal, information is floating out there,” Zink stresses.
Nobody really knows who is actually seeing the stuff shared on Facebook, he adds, so people have to be informed.
He says part of a banker’s job is to protect people’s personal data, but it is a shared responsibility of regulators, community, banks and other stakeholders.
He mentions “a great program to teach teachers (how to teach financial literacy)” in Singapore because “discussions that used to happen around the dinner table do not happen anymore. (We) have to find a way in into that conversation.”
Citing another lesson from his grandparents, Zink sums up the plain and simple message of financial education as “living within one’s means.”
Although most of the people Citibank’s financial education program was trying to reach were not its clients—at least not yet, Zink says Citi had always adapted to a changing world. “Citi is 200 years old. (It has) survived because it recognizes the world is changing and (there is a) need to shift. It is a matter of knowing when it is time to shift because of the change.”