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Win the Way You Won Before

When you encounter a setback and need to regroup, think back to a time when you won. You mastered a skill, navigated a tricky negotiation, or otherwise came out on top.

Can you use the same skill or strategy now? Can you adapt that skill or strategy to a new situation?

Sure, circumstances may have changed. But you haven’t always lost or struggled, so think about that time when you got it right.

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Visiting the Hidden Speakeasy in Downtown Sydney, Australia

Searching for a great cocktail in Australia is a quest of its own. For most Australians, a cocktail means "gin and tonic" or "margarita"—they have great wines in this part of the world, but legit mixed drinks are hard to come by.

That just means you have to look harder, of course.

I found a modern-day speakeasy hidden away in the Central Business District of Sydney. Finding the general area wasn’t difficult, but there was a trick to finding the speakeasy itself: you had to avoid an imposter bar located right outside. The imposter bar looked fine—just a normal pub with the typical overpriced drinks of Sydney.

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There’s Always Time to Write a Book

From Laura Vanderkam's busy year:

"I have never believed that book writing needs to be all-consuming. It wasn’t for Toni Morrison writing The Bluest Eye at night after her kids went to bed and let’s face it, we’re not likely to produce anything like The Bluest Eye no matter how much time we spend writing. Books are projects like any other.

Incidentally, you can make time for the rest of your life too. I’m always amused by the lines in book acknowledgements in which authors (generally, male authors) thank their families for putting up with all their missed dinners. Not only am I not missing dinner, I’m generally cooking it."

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Sometimes Life Sucks, So You Might As Well Do Something About It

I've always liked Trent Hamm's tagline: "All I care about is making your life not suck." This is what good bloggers, and good people of all kinds, do well. If you're trying to figure out the next step for your blog... or your life... think about how you can make other people's lives not suck.

Taking action on it will probably make you happier, too.

A couple people have suggested that the phrasing of Trent's motto is poor. Can't you make it more positive? they ask.

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The “Crisis Text Line” Helps Thousands of Young People Each Day

The Crisis Text Line provides free support and “active listening" for teens through the method of communication that many people now prefer. Volunteers are available around the clock and communicate with thousands of users in need every day.

The organization’s quantified approach, based on five million texts, has produced a unique collection of mental-health data. C.T.L. has found that depression peaks at 8pm, anxiety at 11pm, self-harm at 4am, and substance abuse at 5am.
Counselors are trained to put texters at ease and not to jump too quickly into a problem-solving mode. Open-ended questions are good; “why” questions are bad. Also bad: making assumptions about the texter’s gender or sexual orientation, sounding like a robot, using language that a young person might not know.

If you need help, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741741.

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To Be Happier, Go to the Library

If you liked the Japanese tradition, here's another one from this side of the Pacific:

“Older people often draw as much happiness from ordinary experiences — like a day in the library — as they do from extraordinary ones.

For people who have not saved enough or have broken into their savings because of lost jobs and health crises, the findings offer a glimmer of hope. If you can cover basic expenses, pursuing inexpensive, everyday things that bring comfort and satisfaction can lead to happiness equal to jetting about on international trips in your 70s and 80s."

Personally I'm still a fan of jetsetting about on international trips, so I don't think you have to choose between travel and "ordinary experiences"—but yes, a day at the library can bring a lot of joy.

Link: Affixing More Value to the Ordinary Experiences of Life

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The Japanese Tradition That Encourages Us to Be Present

More supporting evidence for my new focus on units of momentary happiness:

"Japanese tradition tells of ichi-go ichi-e, a concept fortified over centuries of practice that says we only have one meeting, at one time—our experiences with one another stand alone. Every encounter we have—a dinner, a shared bottle of wine, a late evening of conversation on an old red couch—will happen once, and then will never happen again.

The circumstances surrounding an encounter, the people involved and their exact dispositions and history make each event unique. We may interact with the same people, within similar circumstances, but ichi-go ichi-e says that each interaction is an experience all unto itself, never to be re-created perfectly."
Since each encounter lasts but once, how will we choose to treat it?

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Beware the Power of Bad Advice: A Lesson in Life and Plumbing

Holly Finch founded the LightBox Collaborative, a San Francisco-based consultancy for non-profits. Lightbox has eight “collaborators” but no employees. When I asked Holly what she should advise someone hoping to follow her path, she said: “Do it your way—but check the math.”

She explained that this means you should always apply someone else's lessons in a way that makes sense to you, but you should also make sure that your happiness allows for enough money.

Speaking of advice, here's what Holly had to say about relying on “professional" advice... and why those who give such advice should be careful.

After weeks of apartment hunting, my husband Hal and I had finally found “The One.” It was our San Francisco dream flat. The only sticking point was the water pressure in the shower, which was little more than a light spittle. The lackluster morning shower and our resulting crankiness became a black cloud over our otherwise happy new home.

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What Do People Say At the End of Their Lives?

If given the chance, what do people choose for their last reflections and comments? A veteran hospice chaplain gives an unflinching answer:

"They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.

They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.

This is how we talk about the meaning of our lives. That is how we talk about the big spiritual questions of human existence."

Link: What People Talk About Before They Die

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The Working Day in North Korea

What’s it like to live and work in one of the most mysterious countries in the world? A new book shines a spotlight on the working day in Pyongyang, North Korea. Here are a few of my favorite points, as reproduced by the Guardian:

Apartment life is a challenge.

"Those who live on higher floors may have to set out for work or school a little earlier than those lower down. Due to chronic power cuts, many elevators work only intermittently, if at all. Many buildings are between 20 and 40 storeys tall – there are stories of old people who have never been able to leave. Even in the better blocks elevators can be sporadic and so people just don't take the chance. Families make great efforts to relocate older relatives on lower floors, but this is difficult and a bribe is sometimes required."
9698785562_251663cc74_z Electricity requires coordination.

"Every day people liaise with their neighbors about the electricity situation. A large proportion of Pyongyang operates an 'alternative suspension of electricity supply' system, meaning that when buildings on one side of the street are blacked out, the other side of the street gets power. When the alternation time arrives there is a mad rush of children as they head for their friends' apartments across the road."

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It’s Okay to Schedule “Real Life” Into Your Calendar

I’m looking for people who have their "Dream Job" or career to nominate themselves as case studies for my next book. Is that you? Let me know.

I saw a great quote from Kaitlin on one of the initial survey forms:

"I've accepted that it's okay to schedule 'call parents' in my calendar so long as it helps me actually do it. It doesn't make me a bad person for scheduling real life into my calendar.”

I completely agree with this. You shouldn’t feel bad about “scheduling real life.” If you thrive on business goals and struggle with relational ones (that was me all last year), try being intentional about the relational goals.

One of my relational goals this year is to write or call one friend every day. So far I’m well on track—and having it written down as a stated goal is what makes it happen.

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“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart”

From The Diary of Anne Frank:

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.

I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Part of why I believe this too is that the alternative is too depressing to consider. So what happens when people hurt us, or when someone else does something to us that's totally unexpected? I guess we have to think about context, try to see it from their perspective, and so on.

And even when we’re wronged, I think we have to have grace. Again, what’s the alternative To refuse grace only hurts us in the end.

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Lessons from Don Miller: Success Is More Difficult to Manage than Failure

Don Miller is the kind of guy that I implicitly trusted the first time I met. Not to psychoanalyze too much, but in general I’m not a very trusting person. I believe that most people are good, but I don’t necessarily trust a lot of people. With Don, though, I felt comfortable discussing personal stuff right away.

After a recent lunch meeting, he wrote me an email with more advice. I asked him if I could share part of it, and he agreed. Maybe it helps some of you, too? Here's Don:

"Rapid success is much more difficult to manage than failure, I believe. It's just like walking a tight rope. I think the thing is, success changes you radically, but nothing around you from the old life changes, so now you're a different person and to some degree larger than the small walls you've been living in.

But it's all a bunch of tricks and lies. What matters in the end is taking the folks who loved you early with you into the new life as gingerly as possible."

Don has a new book out this week.

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The Insane World of Underground Bike Messenger Racing

File under: I had no idea this was a thing.

This mini-doc on the world of “underground bike messenger racing" might seem a little slow in the beginning, but if you stick with it you'll be like, “Holy @!*%! I can’t believe they did that!”

Even if you don't like the concept, consider the below quote, taken from about nine minutes into the video. It can apply to a lot more than illegal bike racing:

"There are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations, in this traffic, all these vehicles stuck idling in my way. You get to decide how you’re going to see it. If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred—on fire with the same force that lit the stars."

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