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5 Good (And Bad) Habits Of Really Smart People

5 Good (And Bad) Habits Of Really Smart People


Our culture loves to idolize smart, successful people. Although I might argue  that society’s real heroes can be found in classrooms and farm fields, we  need these brilliant outliers to shake things up and show us what’s  possible.

Incredibly smart, successful people make it look easy,  developing revolutionary technologies or creating works of art that astound us  for generations. What you don’t often see is the hard work and discipline that  allowed them to achieve their dreams. You also don’t see the embarrassing stuff,  the dirty little secrets that may only come out when their lives are reproduced  in Hollywood.

Although there’s no one sure path to success, you can’t deny that most smart  people have a few things in common. Good habits helped to keep them on the right  path, despite personal setbacks or professional failures. On the flip side, some  could have enjoyed much longer and productive lives if they’d had more control  over bad habits.

Normally, I’d advise against trying to live like someone else, but emulating  these key habits can do the same for all of us. Just make sure it’s the good  habits you copy, and not the destructive ones.

The Habits of Smart People

Image via Thinkstock

Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So  far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is  passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth  on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.


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6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

It’s 8:25 p.m. and you’re working late.  Again. The boss has gone home,  along with most of your coworkers. But  not you: you’re still chained to your  desk, and you’ll probably be there  for a while.

Over the last few months you’ve been cranking through work, though.  You’ve  pulled ahead of your competition, and you figure a significant  promotion — along with a bigger paycheck and more responsibility — is  right around the  corner.

Sure, you feel rundown and you’ve put on some weight. But you just  haven’t  had much time to sleep, much less shop for and prepare healthy  food. And the  prospect of squeezing in a workout when there is so much  to do seems  laughable.

Here’s what you tell yourself: I’ll work out when I clear these  projects. I’ll sleep after I get the promotion. I’ll start eating  better when the kids start school.

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: too much on our plates, not  enough  hours in the day, and a persistent feeling that any time away  from work means  lost time, money and accomplishments.

Many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that stress and poor  health  are the price of success. We may even see our rundown bodies as  evidence of our  unflagging dedication to the demands of our careers.

New research shows that this zero-sum view of work and working out is   flawed. Far from detracting from your productivity and efficiency,  regular  exercise can make you smarter, and more effective, resilient and successful. And this is true whether your “profession” involves  tackling corporate mergers or taking your kids to soccer  practice.

In addition to helping you look and feel better, time invested in  upgrading  and maintaining your fitness repays itself many times over in  ways that  psychologists, brain experts and other researchers are only  beginning to  understand. And putting even a little effort into upgrading  your health and  fitness can have a surprisingly dramatic effect on your  professional  performance.

Fit for Success

You may have been hired for your brain power. But the condition of  your body  could matter more than you realize, particularly as you climb  the corporate  ranks. A 2005 survey conducted by  found that 75 percent of top executives considered being physically fit  “critical to career success” and being overweight “a serious career  impediment” to advancement.

It turns out that employees’ salaries are influenced by how closely  their  body weight approximates an “ideal,” which frequently and unfairly  differs by  gender. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2011  found that slender women out-earned their overweight female  colleagues by a  significant margin. Men of moderate weight, meanwhile,  earned more than both  slender men and overweight men.

Being thin, in other words, tends to be an advantage for women and a   disadvantage for men. Being heavy is a disadvantage for both.

It’s unfortunate, to say the least,  that these sorts of prejudices   persist. Until attitudes change, though, it means that if you’re  overweight,  you’ll probably be operating at some level of professional  disadvantage.  Getting into better shape could give your earning power a  direct boost; it  could also benefit your confidence and self-esteem in  ways that amplify your  job performance.

That’s why Phyllis R. Stein, a career counselor from Cambridge,  Mass., with  more than 36 years in the business, says: “Whether you’re  looking for your next  job or trying to reach the next rung on the  corporate ladder, I consider  exercise an essential job-related  activity.”

Stress Case

Cultural biases notwithstanding, success-oriented people have plenty  of good  reasons to work out regularly, says Stein. One of the best:  Exercise improves  energy while decreasing stress and amplifying mental  focus.

Consider cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates your energy   throughout the day. Under normal conditions, cortisol levels peak early  in  the morning to get you going, and then gradually decline as the day  progresses,  leaving you mellowed out and ready to sleep at bedtime. A  hectic work  environment can throw this natural circadian cycle into  disarray. Commuter  traffic, an irate boss or an impending deadline can  create small cortisol  spikes during your day, each one followed  immediately by a sharp decline in  energy and mood.

Worse, many stressed-out workers turn to junk food, sugary  snacks and caffeinated energy drinks to keep themselves going — all of which  can make the hormonal roller-coaster ride even wilder. Months of this  routine  can exhaust and ultimately kill off some of your brain’s  stress-regulating  neurons, leaving you perpetually listless.

“When you’re chronically stressed, the normal daily cortisol cycle  can  flip,” says Tom Nikkola, CSCS, CISSN, director of nutrition and  weight  management for Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn. “This can  leave you  barely able to get out of bed in the morning, but too keyed up  to sleep at  night.”

Though it may seem like a minor, inevitable annoyance to the  ambitious  white-collar warrior, sleep deprivation actually comes with a  steep economic  price. One 2004 study estimated that sleep disruption of  various kinds cost  Australia more than $4.5 billion annually in the form  of lost work, reduced  productivity and accidents — 0.8 percent of the  gross domestic product.

Here again, exercise can come to the rescue. “Easy movement, like  walking or  low-key yoga, before bedtime nudges the parasympathetic  nervous system into  gear, diffusing stress and helping to calm you  down,” Nikkola says. Even 10 to  20 minutes of stretching before hitting  the sack, for instance, could keep you  from tossing and turning,  resulting in an additional hour of slumber. And when  you’re sleeping  better at night, you’re also less likely to reach for the junk  food and  energy drinks that can wreak havoc with your daily energy cycle.

If you’re willing to kick your intensity up a notch to the “moderate”  level  (the equivalent of a brisk walk or anything that gets your heart  pumping), you  get other benefits, including improved mental focus. A  2008 study found that 45  to 60 minutes of a midday group exercise class  improved the mood, performance  and concentration of white-collar  workers.

“The clear and positive benefits of exercising only accrue on the  days when  it happens,” notes the study’s lead researcher, Jim McKenna,  PhD, professor of  physical activity and health at Leeds Metropolitan  University in the United  Kingdom. A second study, published in 2010 in  the journal Pain Med,  showed that just 10 minutes of exercise produced measurable reductions in  anxiety and depression.

So rather than skip that yoga class when you’re facing a day loaded  with  challenges, it’s probably wise to make it an even higher priority.  “You should  treat your workout like it’s the most important meeting you  have all week,” Nikkola says.

Reclaim Your  Brain

“When you’re stressed, your brain busies itself trying to keep you  safe from  threat — real or imagined,” says Sascha du Lac, PhD, associate  professor of  neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies  in San Diego.  Self-preserving thoughts can monopolize the brain space  that could otherwise be  used for scanning your environment, accessing  memories and relating to other  people.

Fortunately, physical exercise can help heal and hone the very same mental  abilities that are sabotaged by everyday stressors.

Picture yourself hiking or running on a trail. Though you’re not  conscious  of it, this relatively simple, pleasurable activity requires  you to make  hundreds of split-second choices — about foot placement,  balance and  navigation, for example — which can improve your capacity to  think, feel and  relate to others.

“The cerebellum, the area of the brain traditionally associated  mainly with  movement, is also involved with higher functioning, like  planning, socializing,  abstract thought — even creativity and emotional  intelligence,” explains  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais  Institute of San Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe  Feldenkrais (North Atlantic Books, 2010).

“When you exercise regularly, your attention can broaden and shift at  will,” adds du Lac, “away from fearful, self-preserving thoughts and  onto what’s  actually going on around you: the responses of your  coworkers, your own  insights and ideas, the specific demands of the task  at hand.”

Psychological research has also shown that, for many people, a  regular  exercise routine is a “keystone” habit: a behavior that sets off  a chain  reaction of seemingly unrelated positive behavioral changes. In  a 2006 study  published in The British Journal of Health Psychology,  researchers  found that sedentary people placed on an exercise program  voluntarily began  smoking less, drinking fewer alcoholic and caffeinated  drinks, and eating  healthier. They also did more household chores, used  their credit cards less  often, and kept up more diligently with study  and work obligations. Everything  in their lives that required  self-discipline, in other words, became easier — almost by magic.

“Regular exercise builds self-regulatory resources,” explains Todd   Heatherton, PhD, professor of psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth   College and an expert in habitual behavior and addiction. This ability  to  self-regulate, or exert willpower, say researchers, may be the most  significant  key to success in any work environment — it’s what  allows you to stick  to a task when others give up, and to overcome  obstacles that at first seem  insurmountable.

Small Changes, Real  Results

Improvements in mood, energy and productivity aren’t affected   significantly by the type of exercise you choose, so don’t fret too much   about whether you should be getting your work-enhancing boost from  yoga, a Zumba class or a run around the lake. The key is to do  something you enjoy — and maybe something a little novel as well.

“Learning is inherently enjoyable to humans,” says Beringer. “It  lights up  pleasure centers in the brain.” So mix things up, and try to  include activities  that build in some variety and progression, like team  sports, dance or martial  arts.

Also keep in mind that if your primary fitness goal is to boost your  work  performance, you can begin with a relatively small commitment of  time. “Researchers believe that 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous  exercise, a few  times a week, is all you need to see positive  adaptations in the brain,” says  du Lac. “You can do that all at once or  in small segments throughout your  day.”

And when you can’t spare even that much time and effort, just use  your head. “Imaginary movement lights up the same areas in the brain  that real movement  does,” says du Lac. Clinical studies show that  athletes who visualize an  unfamiliar exercise see gains in strength and  power similar to those who  actually practice the movement.

So when work is pushing you to the limit, spend a few minutes  daydreaming  about a jog down the beach, complete with the feeling of wet  sand beneath your  feet and the smells and sounds of the ocean. The  process could confer at least  some of the same benefits of a real  workout.

Of course, you’ll get the most significant advantages from moving  your  entire body on a regular basis. And now that you know the extent to  which your  professional future depends on it, you may find yourself  more motivated to do  just that.

The Efficient  Workout

If driving to and from the gym for an exercise class just isn’t in  the  cards, try these easy ways to get in a fat-burning, muscle-building  workout on  a busy day:

  • Hop in the saddle. Consider bike commuting. You get  to  skip the stress-filled commute, burn some calories, reduce your  carbon  footprint and save gas money all at the same time. Bonus: It’s  tough to flake  out on your after-work exercise routine when the bike is  your only way  home.
  • Grab a bell. A kettlebell, that is. Pick up a hefty  one at  your local sporting-goods store and stash it underneath your  desk at work. In  10 minutes, you can do a full-body, low-impact workout  that puts the treadmill  to shame.
  • Climb a skyscraper. Racing up the service stairs of  tall  city buildings is becoming an increasingly popular urban sport —  in large part  because it’s tough. If you work in a high-rise, lace on  your running shoes, hit  the stairs and scamper up 10 or more flights as  fast as you can. Take the  elevator back down (for recovery), if you’d  like, and repeat two to four more  times.
  • Make like a monkey. Mount a chin-up bar in the  doorway to  your office, and do a single pull-up every time you go in or  out. Can’t do a  pull-up yet? Stick with the self-assisted, jump-and-pull  variety until you can,  which will be soon, because you’ll net dozens of  reps per day. To avoid angry  memos from the boss, get a bar that mounts  over the door jamb — not one that  requires screws and a drill.

Fitness Tips for the  Time-Starved

“Keeping active doesn’t have to mean taking up residence at the gym,”  says  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais Institute of San  Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais (North  Atlantic Books, 2010). “The trick is to make movement a natural  part of  your day rather than another thing you have to make time for.”

  • Sound the alarm. “Staring at a computer screen can  pull  your attention away from your body. People often sit motionless in  front of  them for hours on end, and only later realize they’re in pain.”  So instead of  waiting till your lower back is begging for mercy, set an  alarm that tells you  to get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so.  These micro-breaks will help  stave off aches and improve your focus.
  • Reach out. Ergonomic experts will tell you to set  up your  workstation so that everything you need is right in front of  you. Beringer  suggests going the opposite route: “Extending your arms is  extremely  pleasurable, and we almost can’t do it enough,” she says. “So  put some things  you regularly need — important documents, a file  cabinet, the phone — an arm’s  reach away so that you have to extend and  shift in your chair every so  often.”
  • Rise up. Every hour or so, get out of your chair.  Go  refill your water bottle. Do some deep lunges and a few pushups.  Schedule a  walking meeting. Make a point of getting vertical several  times throughout your  day. You can also experiment with working at a  counter or other standing-height  surface.
  • Go mobile. “Mobile devices like cell phones were designed  to help us be more mobile,” says Beringer. “But few people take full  advantage of  that.” So don’t hunker down at your desk during a cell-phone call  when  you could be walking around the room or climbing stairs. Attending to   your body’s need for movement helps you think, interact and perform your  job  better.

By , Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget

10 Simple Truths Smart People Forget

Some of the smartest people I know continuously struggle to get ahead   because they forget to address a few simple truths that collectively  govern our  potential to make progress. So here’s a quick reminder:

1. Education and intelligence accomplish nothing without action. It doesn’t matter if you have a genius IQ and a PhD in Quantum Physics, you can’t change anything or make any sort of real-world  progress  without taking action. There’s a huge difference between  knowing how to do  something and actually doing it. Knowledge and  intelligence are both useless  without action. It’s as simple as that.  For some practical guidance on taking  action, I highly recommend The Now Habit.

2. Happiness and success are two different things. I know  an extremely savvy businesswoman who made almost a  million dollars online last  year. Every entrepreneur I know considers  her to be wildly successful. But  guess what? A few days ago, out of the  blue, she told me that she’s depressed.  Why? “I’m burnt out and lonely. I  just haven’t taken enough time for myself  lately,” she said. “Wow!” I  thought. “One of the most successful people I know  isn’t happy.”

I also know a surfer who surfs almost all day, every day on the beach in  front of our condo  complex in San Diego. He’s one of the most lighthearted,  optimistic guys  I’ve ever met—always smiling from ear to ear. But he sleeps in  a van he  co-owns with another surfer and they both frequently panhandle  tourists  for money. So while I can’t deny that this man seems happy, I wouldn’t  classify his life as a success story.

“What will make me happy?” and “What will make me successful?”  are two of  the most important questions you can ask yourself. But they  are two different  questions.

3. Everyone runs their own business. No matter how you  make a living or whom you think you work for,  you only work for one  person—yourself. The big question is: What are you  selling, and to whom? Even  when you have a full-time, salaried,  Corporate America position, you are still  running your own business. You  are selling one unit of your existence (an hour  of your life) at a set  price (the associated fraction of your salary) to a  customer (your  employer).

So how can you simultaneously save your time and increase your  profit? The  answer is slightly different for everyone. But it’s an  answer you should be  seeking. The 4-Hour Workweek is a good read on this topic.

4. Having too many choices interferes with decision making. Here in the twenty-first century where information moves at the  speed  of light and opportunities for innovation seem endless, we have an  abundant  array of choices when it comes to designing our lives and  careers. But sadly,  an abundance of choice often leads to indecision,  confusion and inaction.

Several business and marketing studies have shown that the more  product  choices a consumer is faced with, the less products they  typically buy. After  all, narrowing down the best product from a pool of  three choices is certainly  a lot easier than narrowing down the best  product from a pool of three hundred  choices. If the purchasing decision  is tough to make, most people will just  give up.

So if you’re selling a product line, keep it simple. And if  you’re trying to  make a decision about something in your life, don’t  waste all your time  evaluating every last detail of every possible  option. Choose something that  you think will work and give it a shot. If  it doesn’t work out, choose  something else and keep pressing forward.

5. All people possess dimensions of success and dimensions of  failure. This point is somewhat related to point number two on  happiness and success, but it stands strong on its own as well …

Trying to be perfect is a waste of time and energy. Perfection is an  illusion.

All people, even our idols, are multidimensional. Powerful  businessmen,  polished musicians, bestselling authors, and even our own parents all have  dimensions of success and dimensions of failure present in their lives.

Our successful dimensions usually encompass the things we spend  the most  time doing. We are successful in these dimensions because of  our prolonged  commitment to them. This is the part of our lives we want  others to see—the  successful part that holds our life’s work. It’s the  notion of putting our best  foot forward. It’s the public persona we  envision as our personal legacy: “The  Successful ABC” or “The Award  Winning XYZ.”

But behind whichever polished storyline we publically promote,  there lies a  multi-dimensional human being with a long list of  unprofessed failures.  Sometimes this person is a bad husband or wife.  Sometimes this person laughs at  the expense of others. And sometimes  this person merely takes their eyes off  the road and rear-ends the car  in front of them.

6. Every mistake you make is progress. Mistakes teach you  important lessons. Every time you make one,  you’re one step closer to your  goal. The only mistake that can truly  hurt you is choosing to do nothing simply  because you’re too scared to  make a mistake.

So don’t hesitate—don’t doubt yourself. In life, it’s rarely  about getting a  chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100  percent sure it will  work, but you can always be 100 percent sure doing  nothing won’t work. Most of  the time you just have to go for it!

And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it  should be.  Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win.  Remember, if you never act,  you will never know for sure, and you will  be left standing in the same spot  forever.

7. People can be great at doing things they don’t like to do. Although I’m not suggesting that you choose a career or trade  you  dislike, I’ve heard way too many smart people say something like,  “In order to  be great at what you do, you have to like what you do.”  This just isn’t  true.

A good friend of mine is a public accountant. He has told me on  numerous  occasions that he dislikes his job—“that it bores him to  death.” But he  frequently gets raises and promotions. At the age of  twenty-eight, out of  nearly a thousand Jr. Accountants in his division,  he’s one of only two who  were promoted to be Sr. Accountants this past  year. Why? Because even though he  doesn’t like doing it, he’s good at  what he does.

I could come up with dozens of other examples just like this, but  I’ll spare  you the details. Just realize that if someone dedicates  enough time and  attention to perfecting a skill or trade, they can be  insanely good at doing  something they don’t like to do. For an  insightful read in this department, I  highly recommend The Talent Code.

8. The problems we have with others are typically more about us. Quite often, the problems we have with others—our spouse,  parents,  siblings, etc.—don’t really have much to do with them at all.  Because many of  the problems we think we have with them we  subconsciously created in our own  mind. Maybe they did something in the  past that touched on one of our fears or  insecurities. Or maybe they  didn’t do something that we expected them to do. In  either case,  problems like these are not about the other person, they’re about  us.

And that’s okay. It simply means these little predicaments will  be easier to  solve.  We are, after all, in charge of our own decisions.  We get to  decide whether we want to keep our head cluttered with events  from the past, or  instead open our minds to the positive realities  unfolding in front of us.

All we need is the willingness to look at things a little—letting  go of what  was and what should have been, and instead focusing our  energy on what is and  what could be possible.

9. Emotional decisions are rarely good decisions. Decisions driven by heavy emotion are typically misguided  reactions  rather than educated judgments. These reactions are the  byproduct of minimal  amounts of conscious thought and primarily based on  momentary ‘feelings’ instead of mindful awareness.

The best advice here is simple: Don’t let your emotions trump  your  intelligence. Slow down and think things through before you make  any  life-changing decisions.

10. You will never feel 100 percent ready when an opportunity  arises. The number one thing I persistently see holding smart people  back is their own reluctance to accept an opportunity simply because  they  don’t think they’re ready. In other words, they believe they  require additional  knowledge, skill, experience, etc. before they can  aptly partake in the  opportunity. Sadly, this is the kind of thinking  that stifles personal  growth.

The truth is nobody ever feels 100 percent ready when an  opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to  grow emotionally and  intellectually. They force us to stretch ourselves  and our comfort zones, which  means we won’t feel totally comfortable at  first. And when we don’t feel  comfortable, we don’t feel ready.

Just remember that significant moments of opportunity for  personal growth  and development will come and go throughout your  lifetime. If you are looking  to make positive changes in your life you  will need to embrace these moments of  opportunity even though you will  never feel 100 percent ready for them.

By Marc and Angel Hack Life, DivineCaroline

At, women come  together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and  culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing  and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women  publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all  facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy  living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at

21 Suggestions for Your Success!

21 Suggestions for Your Success!

 While transacting some business at the bank recently, I saw an article that was written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Although I don’t know who this gentleman is, I certainly believe that he must be a very wise individual. The bank was making available to its customers a copy of some of his thoughts. Because I constantly want to learn and grow and am always on the lookout for new information, I picked up a copy for my own personal use. Here at the beginning of a brand new year, I thought you might like to read these 21 Suggestions. You may or may not agree with all of them, but I believe there is a lot of profound wisdom found in this list.

  1. Marry the right person.  This decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
  2. Work at something you enjoy and that is worth your time and talent.
  3. Give people more than they expect, and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
  6. Be generous.
  7. Have a grateful heart.
  8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
  10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
  12. Commit yourself to quality.
  13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  14. Be loyal.
  15. Be honest.
  16. Be a self-starter.
  17. Be decisive, even if it means you will sometimes be wrong.
  18. Stop blaming others! Take responsibility for every area of your life.
  19. Be bold and courageous.  When you look back on your life, you will regret the things you did not do more than the ones you did.
  20. Take good care of those you love.
  21. Don’t do anything that would not make your mom proud of you!

Isn’t that a great list? I want to really encourage you to make a copy of this and post it somewhere that you will have easy access to in the coming year. You might even want to take the time to jot down several of these thoughts on a 3 x 5 card and keep them with you so that you can study them when you have any down time. I find that having a list of positive quotes with me that I can review when I am flying in a plane or am stuck somewhere for long periods of time is a good way of keeping my mind alert and fresh.

At the beginning of this New Year, I am doing everything in my power to make it the greatest year of my life. I trust you will join me with that same attitude for your own personal life and future!

Have a great week! God bless you!

Dr. Robert A. Rohm

Reprinted with permission from the “Tip of the Week”. To subscribe for the free “Tip of the Week” please go to and receive Dr. Rohm’s weekly Tip every Monday morning.

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