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Daniel Surian's Blog

By Daniel Surian | Broker in Boston, MA
  • Most Expensive Apartment In The Country........

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Boston, Home Buying in Boston  |  July 31, 2012 2:47 PM  |  288 views  |  No comments

    Right in midtown Manhattan.

    "The most-expensive apartment in the country — a triplex, wrap-around penthouse on W. 56th Street — can now be yours for just $100 million.

    Raphael De Niro, the son of actor Robert De Niro, has the exclusive listing on the 73rd through 76th floor aerie atop CitySpire — the deluxe apartment in the sky owned by Long Island real estate developer Steven Klar.

    The 8,000-square-foot octagon-shaped unit is a "one-of-a-kind gem [that] ranks amongst the most elite homes in America," according to the Prudential Douglas Elliman listing.

    The apartment isn’t for everyone — and not because of the nine-figure pricetag.

    Architect Juan Pablo Molyneux took the original raw space and created an aristocratic interior with inlaid marble floors, stately columns, gold draperies and candeliers.

    Other features include:

    -- a private, three-story elevator.

    -- A wrap-around terrace on all three floors that offers 360-degree views of the city. It’s believed to be the highest outdoor space in any city residence.

    The master bath was built with hunter-green marble and mahogany finishes.

    -- A dining room that can seat 20.

    -- A silver closet.

    -- A wine room that can hold more than 1,000 bottles.

    The eat-in kitchen also has a butler's pantry.

    Oh, and there’s even a separate apartment one floor below — you know, for the help.

    Klar bought the property in 1993 for $4.5 million and then spent about as much to renovate it to his tastes. He made his riches building thousands of homes on Long Island.

    The octagonal-shape of the penthouse means that every room has city views.

    The penthouse has what is believed to be the highest outdoor space in New York City.

    During the dip in the housing market in the early 1990s, banks took back the property from Eichner, and Klar was among those brought in to sell the remaining units. He ended up buying into the building himself.

    The super luxury market has been red-hot in the last few months. Nearby, ONE57 has a $90 million penthouse under contract that is currently being built.

    In March, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a penthouse at 15 Central Park West for $88 million.

    Daniel Surian
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  • The Five Business Books That Shaped 2011

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Boston, How To... in Boston  |  December 31, 2011 6:42 AM  |  1,428 views  |  1 comment

    Read. Read. Read.

    Blog posts are great. So are Twitter, online newspapers and magazines and the occasional podcast, but if you really want to deep-dive into a topic and spend more than a grazing moment with it, you have to read a well-written book about the topic that interests you. A few years back, I set a personal goal of reading one book per week. It hasn't been easy, but by doing most of my reading on my iPhone loaded with both the Amazon Kindle app and iBooks, it has become much more feasible.

    This year, I failed miserably. As of this week, I've clocked in 33 books (and yes, I realize that "failing miserably" is probably a bad choice of words considering that the average person in North America reads between one and three books a year... if that). I'm also a bit of a business book geek, so in the spirit of the holidays season, year-end lists and "top 10 of 2011" linkbait posts, the world seems primed for...

    The Five Business Books That Shaped 2011:

    1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster - October 2011). I can't remember the last time a biography on a business leader got this much attention. Much of the press you will read about the Steve Jobs' biography leans towards his personal disposition (which wasn't the kindest). If you have yet to read this fascinating biography, my recommendation is to do it with a notebook nearby and read it from the perspective of, "what can my business learn from Steve's way of thinking?" A lot of the words used to either describe Jobs or his direct statements are not only inspirational if you're interested in business, but it allows you to see how one of the biggest companies in the world wasn't looking at case studies and market research in an attempt to grow a viable business. This should put a damper on those who only push forward based on "best practices."
    2. Poke The Box by Seth Godin (The Domino Project - March 2011). This short and easy-to-read manifesto was Godin's first release on his own publishing imprint that he launched (and recently disbanded) along with Amazon. Godin has a way of inspiring new business thinking with real stories and books that are both fun to read and super-smart. "Poke The Box" doesn't disappoint (and, at $5, you can't go wrong). Having business ideas are great, but it's about starting and doing stuff where the rubber meets the road. That's what Godin wants you to do: poke, poke, poke.
    3. Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen (HarperBusiness - October 2011). During the last recession, our company (Twist Image) was very lucky. We not only maintained our business that year, but we grew it by nearly 50 per cent. My business partners and I would like to think that it's because we're much smarter than our competitors, while some might say that we were lucky. Nearly 10 years after Collins' breakthrough book, "Good To Great", he's back with another fascinating question: "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?" With nine years of research to back up the answer to this question, you may be surprised to find out what it takes to thrive and sustain in our current economic throes.
    4. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis (Crown Business - September 2011). Sadly, most businesses start with an idea and stick with it until the bitter end. For some, the bitter end means the Fortune 500 list but for most it means either bankruptcy or some very disappointed investors. We live in a new era of entrepreneurship and business ideas can be tested and marketed for success like never before. Ries has been preaching the value of what he has called the "lean startup" and it has become all the rage this year. Much like Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" became a saying that every business exec used in 2002, this year every person looking to start a business has been talking about it being a "lean startup" or how they've managed to "pivot" (another big concept in The Lean Startup).
    5. End Malaria edited by Michael Bungay Stanier (The Domino Project - September 2011). Full disclosure, I was one of the many people who contributed to this collaborative effort. Had I known how amazing the final product was going to be, I probably would have put much more effort into my piece. Usually books that are a culmination of many authors offering a small snippet of content wind up coming out dry, disjointed and unsatisfying for the reader. I found myself constantly going back to the notes I took while reading "End Malaria" and the great contributions from people like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Jeff Jarvis, Gary Vaynerchuk, Sir Ken Robinson and more. The fact that all of the money raised went to buy malaria nets to save the lives of children in countries less fortunate than ours, made it that much more powerful.

    6. By Mitch Joel
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  • Guerrilla Grafters: Splicing Fruit-Bearing Branches Onto City Trees

    Posted Under: General Area in Boston, Quality of Life in Boston  |  December 30, 2011 7:44 PM  |  1,573 views  |  No comments

    In San Francisco, a new form of covert agriculture is taking root: making fruit trees out of trees that normally don’t bear fruit, and turning an entire city into an orchard.


      Money, as we all know, doesn’t grow on trees. Food, on the other hand, does. So with the economy dragging, why not turn public trees into a source of free fruit?

    In San Francisco, a group of renegade agriculturalists called Guerrilla Grafters are doing just that, grafting fruit-bearing branches onto public trees that otherwise don’t bear fruit. The group has created a web app to help locals find trees that might be good candidates for a new, fruit-bearing branches and provides tips on how to pull off a successful grafting. They also have a Facebook page where they report on upcoming events and track the progress of their cherry and pear grafts.


    What makes them guerrillas is the fact that this grafting is illegal. As the group’s Tara Hui explains, “people think of fruit trees as kind of a nuisance.” That’s both because of the mess they might create in the form of rotten fruit and the vermin they might attract in the form of rats. Depending on the species you’re using, grafting might also run afoul of patent law. The Guerrilla Grafters address the first two problems by making sure each grafted tree has a “steward” who can monitor and take care of it.

    Guerrilla grafting might be seen as another branch (ahem) of a diverse and burgeoning movement to bring nature--and its bounty--into the urban environment. The practice of guerrilla gardening (first popularized, perhaps, by a certain John “Appleseed” Chapman in Ohio in the late 18th and early 19th centuries) has attracted a lot of media attention in the last five years, and local organizations have proliferated. The related ideas of urban gleaning, urban agriculture, urban aquaculture, and vertical farming also seem to be gaining momentum.

    One especially nice thing about guerrilla grafting, however, is that it splices together the low overhead of guerrilla gardening with the productive promise of farming in the city.

    Whether guerrilla grafting will take off--and, indeed, whether it will grow to any meaningful scale in San Francisco--remains to be seen. But given the media attention, there is certainly interest. And given the fact that there are thousands of trees in most American cities, it would seem to have some potential as well.

    Daniel Surian
    BizSold Business Brokers
    Boston, MA.

  • 14 Easy Ways to Get Insanely Motivated

    Posted Under: General Area in Boston, Quality of Life in Boston  |  December 30, 2011 7:02 PM  |  1,427 views  |  No comments

    These simple strategies will keep you energized through the holidays and well into the new year.
    By Geoffrey James | @Sales_Source | Dec 19, 2011

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    It's getting toward the end of the year, so with the holidays in sight, I thought it appropriate to give you all a little gift: a column that I guarantee will make you more more successful in the coming year.

    Here are 14 quick strategies to get and keep yourself motivated:

    1. Condition your mind. Train yourself to think positive thoughts while avoiding negative thoughts.

    2. Condition your body. It takes physical energy to take action. Get your food and exercise budget in place and follow it like a business plan.

    3. Avoid negative people. They drain your energy and waste your time, so hanging with them is like shooting yourself in the foot.

    4. Seek out the similarly motivated. Their positive energy will rub off on you and you can imitate their success strategies.

    5. Have goals–but remain flexible. No plan should be cast in concrete, lest it become more important than achieving the goal.

    6. Act with a higher purpose. Any activity or action that doesn’t serve your higher goal is wasted effort--and should be avoided.

    7. Take responsibility for your own results. If you blame (or credit) luck, fate or divine intervention, you’ll always have an excuse.

    8. Stretch past your limits on a daily basis. Walking the old, familiar paths is how you grow old. Stretching makes you grow and evolve.

    9. Don't wait for perfection; do it now! Perfectionists are the losers in the game of life. Strive for excellence rather than the unachievable.

    10. Celebrate your failures. Your most important lessons in life will come from what you don't achieve. Take time to understand where you fell short.

    11. Don’t take success too seriously. Success can breed tomorrow's failure if you use it as an excuse to become complacent.

    12. Avoid weak goals. Goals are the soul of achievement, so never begin them with "I'll try ..." Always start with "I will" or "I must."

    13. Treat inaction as the only real failure. If you don’t take action, you fail by default and can't even learn from the experience.

    14. Think before you speak. Keep silent rather than express something that doesn’t serve your purpose.

    The above is based on a conversation with Omar Periu, one of the world’s best (and best known) motivational speakers.

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  • 9 Underground Economies - And Greece

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Boston, How To... in Boston  |  December 30, 2011 6:47 PM  |  1,404 views  |  No comments

    The fortunes of the world's legitimate economies may rise and fall, but the global black market is currently booming.

    From Somalia's "pirate stock exchange" to the flourishing illegal organ trade in Egypt, there are some making money hand-over-fist, under the table.

    We took a look at nine "alternative economies" -- and Greece -- to find out how people make do on the margins.

    Hackers
    According to Wired magazine, the Romanian city of Râmnicu Vâlcea is known “among law enforcement officials around the world” as Hackerville.

    Reporter Yudhijit Bhattacharjee maintains that the term is “something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers.”

    Explains Bhattacharjee in a feature published last January:

    Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming.


    When Bhattacharjee asked a cab driver what all the gold-chained twenty- and thirty-something men he saw around town driving BMWs and Mercedes did for a living, the response was, with a laugh, “They steal money on the Internet.”

    But it’s not the “gleaming storefronts” or the new construction which “grinds ahead on nearly every block” that mark Râmnicu Vâlcea as the epicenter of Internet crime. No, it’s the more than two dozen Western Union locations within a four-block area that give Râmnicu Vâlcea’s “secret” away.

    Prison
    In 2004, smoking was banned in all federal institutions, and cigarettes, which were the de facto currency until then, were replaced by…are you ready for this?

    Mackerel.

    In a 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ed Bales, a prison consultant, said that mackerel had become the currency of choice in smoke-free institutions.

    These days a haircut goes for two “macks”, which are small pouches of the fish, at about $1 each.

    A “Fiend Book”, or a pornographic magazine, goes for as few as 40 macks (if it’s out-of-date and stained …use your imagination) and as many as 100 (if it’s reasonably up-to-date and bodily fluid-free).

    Craving a bit of heroin? Be prepared to fork over 50 macks.

    And, if it’s a cellphone you’re after, that’ll be 400 macks, please.

    Mark Muntz, president of supplier Global Source, told the Journal that his company unloaded about $1 million worth of mackerel to commissaries in federal penitentiaries in 2007, though it’s not particularly popular elsewhere.

    “We've even tried 99-cent stores," Muntz said. "It never has done very well at all, regardless of the retailer, but it's very popular in the prisons."

    Somali Pirates
    Somali pirate hijackings are financed by what may well be the world’s most unusual “stock market.”

    A pirate interviewed by Reuters in 2009 says that, in Haradheere, 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, brigands set up an exchange of sorts to fund their activities.

    “Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange," he said. "We started with 15 ‘maritime companies’ and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking.”

    He explained that, “The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials.”

    After a ransom payout for releasing a Spanish vessel, “investor” Sahra Ibrahim, was lined up outside the exchange waiting for her cut.

    “I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation,” she said. “I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the company.”

    Between June and September every year, the number of hijackings drops, as monsoon season makes it difficult for pirates to operate the small skiffs used in attacks. Come autumn, the attacks begin once again, which are so frequent that Frontline Ltd. (FRO), the world’s largest operator of oil supertankers, which transports cargo for companies including ExxonMobil (XOM), BP (BP), and Chevron (CVX), has in the past considered avoiding the Gulf of Aden altogether.

    Pirates know that the value of the ship and its cargo are usually worth far more than however much they are demanding, and a few million dollars is a drop in the bucket in relative terms for the ship operator. Whatever risks there are in attacking -- like the chance of being caught by the international task force of naval vessels patrolling the area, for one -- the risk of not collecting a ransom is lowered still, as corporate “Kidnap & Ransom” insurance today seems to be the rule, not the exception.

    North Korea
    The North Korean government has reportedly earned itself hard currency over the years by engaging in drug dealing, weapons manufacturing, and top-drawer counterfeiting. But the proletariat makes ends meet in decidedly more pedestrian ways.

    "A North Korean family needs 90,000-100,000 North Korean won for living costs per month, but workers at state-run factories or enterprises earn a mere 2,000-8,000 won," one South Korean official told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper this fall. "So North Koreans have no choice but to become market traders, cottage industrialists or transport entrepreneurs to make up for shortages."

    With the ration system in tatters, North Korean citizens survive by moonlighting from their state duties as private tutors, carpenters, and taxi drivers.

    "Ordinary North Koreans have become so dependent on the private economy that they get 80-90% of daily necessities and 60-70% of food from the markets," the official said.



    Public School Cafeterias
    Though the Los Angeles Unified School District has received accolades for its new, healthful lunches, the appearance of quinoa and whole wheat bread has created “an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare.”

    Last week, Van Nuys High School juniors Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez told the LA Times they considered the new school fare "nasty, rotty stuff," as they pulled three bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks -- which they very well may have purchased from one of the junk food “dealers” on campus.

    At Van Nuys High, a Junior ROTC officer and an art teacher have been caught selling candy, chips, and instant noodles to students. And, as Hank Cardello, the author of Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat, and a former food executive with Coca-Cola (KO), General Mills (GIS), and Cadbury-Schweppes (KFT), pointed out in the Atlantic, candy dealers have sprouted up wherever fresh food is sold:

    • Following the passage of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which banned candy, enterprising students at Austin High began selling bags full of candy at premium prices, with some reportedly making up to $200 per week.

    • Similarly, young entrepreneurs at one Boca Raton (Florida) middle school make runs to the local Costco (COST) and buy candy bars, doughnuts, and other high-calorie snacks in bulk. They then offer these goodies for sale in an environment that has supposedly eradicated such goodies.

    • An eighth-grade student body vice president in Connecticut was forced to resign after buying Skittles from an underground "dealer."

    • The U.K. has also seen its share of black market trade in banned foods, snacks, and beverages, with schools in Oxford, Dorset, and Essex reporting healthy underground markets trading in food contraband. The plots ranged from kids selling McDonald's (MCD) hamburgers in playgrounds to bicycle-riding entrepreneurs hauling bags of soft drinks and milk chocolate for sale.

    Bushmeat
    Meat from roughly a dozen animal species -- including porcupine and pangolin, a scaly relative of the anteater -- is “commonly smuggled into France to cater to the country’s African community,” according to Genevieve Oger of Public Radio International’s “The World.”

    One Congolese immigrant in Paris told her back in March, “You can’t make the difference between fish or chicken or beef. But in Africa, you can make the difference between porcupine, snake, crocodile. All animals have got a unique taste.”

    That’s why he eats bushmeat -- which can land a seller in jail for up to four years -- twice a week.

    There’s a thriving market for illegal bushmeat in the U.S. as well, which Dale Peterson, author of Eating Apes (University of California Press, 2003), recently noted is more common than one might think.

    "If you go into a big city [anywhere in the world], you can buy ape meat,” he said. “It's more expensive than domestic meat, but people will pay for it because they want to be reminded of life in the village where their grandparents are.”

    Peterson says the bushmeat trade is “not just a conservation problem but a serious public-health problem,” as the “hunting and consumption of ape meat is the origin of HIV1,” the virus that causes AIDS.

    Scrap Metal
    As commodity prices rise, so do commodity thefts.

    Church roofs have gone missing as the price of lead hit all-time highs. Used fryer grease has disappeared from behind fast food restaurants and resold for biofuel. And thieves in New Castle, Pennsylvania stole an entire bridge for scrap.

    The latest trend in metal theft?

    Tubas.

    “It’s exclusive to the tubas every time; they are the most valued instrument for any band,” band director Ruben Gonzalez Jr. of Southern California's South Gate High School told ABC News earlier this month. “We currently have more players than we do instruments.”

    South Gate has lost five of its eight tubas, valued at $30,000. However, South Gate is still in better shape than nearby Huntington Park High School, where thieves made off with the school’s last tuba. Fremont High School saw 13 tubas go missing, and Centennial High School lost eight.

    Reporter Jenna Harrison explains that some of the stolen tubas are likely being “melted down for the high priced brass, but it’s more likely that the high priced instruments are being sold -- there’s been a recent resurgence of tuba-based banda music in Hispanic communities.”

    While no one has put a hard number on the economic impact of tuba theft, Sam Hoober of NewsyType.com shows just how expensive theft -- no matter how pedestrian the item -- can be. According to Hoober, the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, part of the Department of Justice, claims that “stolen beer kegs alone cost the beverage industry an estimated $50 million in 2007, and the city of Philadelphia spent $300,000 between 2007 and 2008 to replace stolen manhole covers.”

    Organ Trafficking
    The Arab Spring and the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak have “left a shortfall” in the country’s law enforcement ranks. This, says the Wall Street Journal’s Joel Millman and Matt Bradley, “has been a boon for criminal organizations that traffic in human organs.”

    Earlier this month, the Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions, an international health and human-rights organization, released a report titled "Sudanese Victims of Organ Trafficking in Egypt," which told of traffickers “removing kidneys either by inducing consent, coercion or outright theft.… In some cases, sex trafficking was associated with incidents of organ removal. The victims include men, women, and children."

    Far from being limited to Sudanese, victims are believed to include citizens of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Neither is the illegal organ trade limited to one country -- or region -- of the world.

    While selling one’s organs was once legal in India, legislation outlawed the practice in 1994. The Philippines finally banned organ sales until 2004. Iran, however, has no restrictions on kidney sales. And China harvests organs from executed prisoners, which is fully legal as long as the condemned signs a release before he or she is put to death.

    In 2007, 26-year-old Daniel Tuck, an Englishman who found himself facing a £25,000 slot machine debt, discovered the hard way that the UK frowns upon the sale of human organs.

    After offering one of his kidneys for sale in an Internet chatroom, Tuck wound up in Wolverhampton Crown Court, where he pleaded guilty to “offering to supply human material for transplantation.”

    He was ordered to pay £250 in court costs.

    Cocaine
    The flaccid economy is proving to be a drag on banks, retail sales (yes, parents are even cutting back on diaper purchases), and New York City cocaine dealers.

    This fall, Chuck Bennett of the New York Post pointed out "another sign of the stalled economy -- New Yorkers are ditching their coke habits."

    “It is sort of on a slight but steady downward trend,” Dr. Stephen Ross, director of NYU’s Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, told Bennett. “I treat patients in private practice. Many cocaine addicts tell me stories they don’t have enough money to buy it anymore.”

    Drug dealers have been lamenting the sad state of the local economy for some time now.

    In 2009, a coke dealer named "Eddie" told New York magazine's Adina Wise that, before the recession, he was "making deliveries every night of the week."

    "Back then, I could afford to pick and choose," he said. "If I didn't know the address -- forget it. If I didn't like their accent -- forget it. On most nights, there were more people wanting than I could get to."

    But, as one former customer said, "None of my friends mess with that anymore. It's like they grew up when the banks died."

    And, just like that, the business changed.

    "I see high-end guys hawking in parks now," a dealer named "Sammy" told Wise. "And these are guys that used to sell to Paris Hilton's crowd."

    Greece
    “Greece is really skating on the edge,” Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank Plc in London, tells Bloomberg Businessweek's Maria Petrakis.

    Writes Petrakis:

    Unemployment is close to a record, with more than 40 percent of those aged under 24 out of work. The economy is set to shrink for a fifth year, the worst slump since World War II, and Greeks are sending bank deposits abroad at the fastest rate in at least a decade.

    Seven general strikes have shut down the country this year, leaving garbage piling up in the streets and stranding travelers. Angry protesters have attacked politicians at public gatherings and outside the Greek Parliament, pelting them with yogurt and eggs, and calling them traitors. In Athens, homeless people sleep overnight in central Syntagma Square, the venue for the protests in front of parliament, amid the trees festooned with Christmas lights. Illegal immigrants with shopping trolleys roam the streets of central Athens salvaging disused water heaters, DVD players and other items left on the sidewalks of the city.

    Murders have doubled since 2006. Home break-ins are "on track to set new records."

    Sakis Tsaoussis is the president and CEO of Athens-based Pyrsos Security. Like an investor who shorted the euro six or so months ago, Tsaoussis isn't complaining. He tells Der Spiegel that the company's "services for private clients have increased by up to 50 percent in recent months and he has responded to demand by adding 100 new employees to his 1,000-person firm in the past year."

    The populace is pointing its collective finger at their elected officials.

    “We hate all politicians,” one boutique owner told Landon Thomas Jr. of the New York Times. “We think they are responsible for all this.” And one truck driver says, “I am impressed that the people have not yet stormed into Parliament and burned the politicians alive -- like a souvlaki.”

    That's why Greek politicians "rarely venture out in public." And when they do make an appearance, writes Thomas, "even the most obscure member of Parliament is accompanied by at least one bodyguard."


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  • What doesn’t kill you….

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Boston, In My Neighborhood in Boston, How To... in Boston  |  December 29, 2011 4:51 PM  |  962 views  |  No comments
    Dr. Gregory House, as you might by now know, is one of my favorite fictional characters. He is a misanthropic, social misfit who is borderline genius yet an idiot. One of his more memorable lines goes something like this – “Almost dying doesn’t change anything. Dying changes everything.”

    House’s quip, while powerful on screen, doesn’t hold water, at least in my life. I do think almost dying changes everything.

    Four years ago, just before midnight, I walked into the UCSF emergency room and ended up nearly dying. Call it a miracle of modern medicine or just plain, old, dumb luck — but here I am.

    So today is one of those red letter days in my life that makes me reflect and think about what could have been and what is. The question that I am often asked is – have I changed? Have I learned anything?

    As I look back on the past four years, it is clear to me that I am the same guy. I still notice the little things  - the patina on a pair of boots, the lines on a bag, the way green chilies are sprinkled on lentils. I still obsess over ideas and the act of turning them into words for hours before I actually do. What is changed is not what I do, but how I do it.

    Take my life for example: after smoking for over 25 years, I despise the smell of smoke. Single-malts have been banished from my life. Much as I love lamb chops, I would much rather eat veggies. Today, it is not about writing as many blog posts, but writing what feels right and spending time on it. As I said, how I live life has changed.

    Here are some of the thingsI did to “do” life better.

    • Set very simple goals for myself.
    • Use binary choices to make better decisions.
    • Simplification through elimination.
    • Trust the people I love and work with.

    The biggest lesson of these past four years is not really a lesson – more of an observation. When my life hiccuped, like it has for so many others who go through similar events, I was wondering if it would ever be same. I wasn’t too thrilled with how things had turned out. I was forced to deal with life’s unpredictability and unfortunately there isn’t a manual for dealing with that.

    You just have to get up every morning and deal with it. Sometimes it is depressing and sometimes it fun. But most of the time it is just a state of existence.

    One of the two promises I made to myself when I came back from the hospital – I was going to stop trying to control everything. As life’s unpredictability showed me – the best you can do is control the inputs (or your own efforts). We cannot control the outcome. The other big promise I made to myself – stop evaluating life by the moment and instead live in the moment.

    Those two simple promises made a big impact on how I lived and worked. For instance, if I want coffee, I want to have what seems to be the best expresso for my taste buds – I don’t care what the reviews say. Everything I own has to have joy attached to it. When it comes to work, I stopped obsessing about how many page views I got – instead it is about writing something meaningful and valuable. It was Katie who pointed out that what I have learned is re-evaluating what makes me happy. It could also be part of growing up.

    As days became weeks, months and now years, I have realized that we all make the fatal mistake of judging every instance – winning or losing. What matters is evaluating your life over a period of time, rather than scoring random events.  I would argue that the past four years have added up to what could be the best years of my life – for now.

    For instance, I don’t feel breathless when walking down the street. I don’t get cross with other people. Our little blog has evolved into a media company that is unique in its vision, ideals and business model. I got to host GigaOM RoadMap – a conference that has been in my head for as long as I have been writing about technology. I learned how to use my iPhone to take photos that were stuck in my head and turned to Instagram for sharing them.

    I have tried many new things – some have been hard, some full of wonder, but none of them boring. So next time someone says, what doesn’t kill you, makes you better – you better believe it. Because it places a premium on what you have – time.

    Thanks for listening on my re-birthday.

    Shared by:
    Daniel Surian
    BizSold Business Brokers, Boston, MA.
  • 11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Boston, How To... in Boston  |  December 29, 2011 3:03 PM  |  493 views  |  No comments
    Post image for 11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything
    Goal-setting research on fantasising, visualisation, goal commitment, procrastination, the dark side of goal-setting and more...

    We're all familiar with the nuts and bolts of goal-setting. We should set specific, challenging goals, use rewards, record progress and make public commitments (if you're not familiar with these then check out this article on how to reach life goals).

    So how come we still fail?

    This psychological research suggests why and what mindsets should help us reach our goals.

    1. Stop fantasising

    The biggest enemy of any goal is excessive positive fantasising. Research on fantasising in goal-setting shows that positive fantasies are associated with failure to get a job, find a partner, pass an exam or get through surgery. Those whose fantasies were more negative did better. Don't experience the future positively before you achieve it.

    2. Start committing

    The reason we don't achieve our goals is lack of commitment.

    One powerful psychological technique to increase commitment is mental contrasting. This involves entertaining a positive fantasy but then pouring a bucket of cold reality over it (follow this link for the details). It's hard, but research shows people really respond to it.

    3. Start starting

    You can use the Zeigarnik effect to drag you on towards your goal. A Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, noticed that waiters seemed only to remember orders which were in the process of being served. When completed, the orders evaporated from their memory.

    What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere...anywhere. Just taking that first step could be the difference between failure and success. Once you've started, the goal will get lodged in your mind.

    4. Visualise process NOT outcome

    We're all susceptible to the planning fallacy: that's thinking all will go smoothly when it won't (and hardly ever does). Visualising the process of reaching your goal, helps focus attention on the steps you need to take. It also helps reduce anxiety.

    5. Avoid the what-the-hell effect

    When we miss our target, we can fall foul of the what-the-hell-effect. It's best known to dieters who go over their daily calorie limit. Reasoning the target is now gone, they think 'what-the-hell', and start eating too much of all the wrong food.

    Goals that are vulnerable to the what-the-hell-effect are generally short-term and inhibitional (when you're trying to stop doing something). The effect can be avoided by setting goals that are long-term and acquisitional. Find out more about the what-the-hell effect.

    6. Sidestep procrastination

    When goals are difficult and we wonder whether it's really worth it, procrastination can creep up on us. Under these circumstances the key is to forget about the goal and bury yourself in the details. Keep your head down and use self-imposed deadlines (read more on how to avoid procrastination).

    7. Shifting focus

    You can't keep your head down all the way or you'll get lost. In the long-term, the key to reaching a goal is switching between a focus on the ultimate goal and the task you are currently completing. Research suggests, when evaluating progress, especially on difficult tasks, it's best to stay task-focused. But when tasks are easy or the end is in site, it's better to focus on the ultimate goal (read more on how to shift focus).

    8. Reject robotic behaviour

    Often our behaviour is robotic. We do things not because we've really thought about it, but because it's a habit or we're unconsciously copying other people (e.g. Bargh et al., 2001). This type of behaviour can be an enemy of goal striving. Ask yourself whether what you are doing is really getting you closer to your goal.

    9. Forget the goal, what's the aim?

    Goals should always be set in the service of our overall aims. But there's a dark side to goal setting. When goals are too specific, it's easy to get stuck; when they are too many goals, unimportant, easy ones get prioritised over vital, difficult ones; when they are too short-term, they encourage short-term thinking. Badly set goals reduce motivation and may increase unethical behaviour.

    Remember to keep in mind the whole point of the goal in the first place.

    10. Know when to stop

    Sometimes the problem isn't getting started, it's knowing when to stop. Psychologists have found that sunk costs make us do weird things (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). 'Sunk costs' refer to the effort or money we've already expended in trying to reach our goal. So, even when our plan is failing, we keep pushing on.

    Research shows that the more people invest in a goal, the more they think it will succeed; irrespective of whether it actually will succeed. Know when to change tack or you'll end up flogging a dead horse.

    11. If-then plans

    What all these studies show is the importance of self-regulation in achieving a goal. Unfortunately, as we all know to our cost, controlling the self can be very hard.

    One strategy with plenty of research to back it up is forming 'if-then' plans (Gollwitzer et al., 2006). You simply work out in advance what you're going to do in a particular situation. Although it sounds simple, we often prefer to wing it, rather than plan. With a little ingenuity, though, if-then plans can be used to surmount the obstacles described above.

    Image credit: Matthias Weinberger

    Content Credit: Hiten Shah our Twitter friend

    Shared by: Daniel Surian of BizSold Business Brokers
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