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Article of the Week: Give More, Stress Less This Holiday Season PDF Print E-mail

Tim Maurer, Forbes.com

The holidays are stressful enough. Why add to that strain by botching a prime opportunity to give more generously?

That’s right. Research suggests that being more generous in the act of giving actually reduces stress—and increases happiness—for the gift-giver. In fact, new Harvard and Georgetown studies seem to prove the ancient maxim, “It is better to give than receive.”

But how do we translate that wisdom into the action that brings us the happiness we seek?

1) Let’s err on the side of generosity, rather than stinginess, in our giving. I’ll be the first to admit that my default may be on the stingier side—giving’s perceived short-term gain—but every effort I’ve made to be more generous has come to feel like a long-term investment.

Take a moment—right now—to acknowledge your personal default on the stingy-to-generous continuum. And don’t blame yourself if you don’t like what you see. Our many defaults are largely compilations of our life experience, especially those that occur early in life. But they are also not a life sentence.

2) Don’t give with reciprocity in mind. This is hard, but apparent generosity can actually flip from a blessing to a curse if your expectations require a quid pro quo.

Author Anne Lamott advises, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

Take another look at where you put yourself on the continuum. Be bold and acknowledge if your generosity is actually subconsciously designed to curry favor, assert control, inspire reciprocity or evoke a self-indulgent comparison. True generosity is its own reward.

But remember, too, that our generosity is only genuine when it is autonomous. Therefore, we must not necessarily feel compelled to reciprocate, either. Additionally, dropping obligatory and reciprocal gifts will allow for more generosity with those to whom we feel impelled to give.

3) Adopting generosity is not a license for financial imprudence. Stinginess and frugality are not synonymous. “While frugality is an intelligent and efficient use of time, energy and resources, stinginess is a form of fear—a fear of not having enough,” according to PsychMechanics. Yes, you can be both generous and frugal.

I immediately think of my good friends who, when in the beginning stages of their careers in social work and counseling, were forced by their financial reality to get creative with their gifts. Even in a white elephant gift exchange, theirs were the gifts that everyone hoped to trade for. Indeed, you may be able to even further reduce your holiday stress through generosity planned well, a topic I recently discussed on the TODAY Show.

Perhaps the best news is that generosity is contagious, according to the founding fathers of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. But be careful; so is stinginess!

Surrounding ourselves with generous people inspires us to greater generosity, while hanging out with a bunch of Scrooges—well, you get the idea.

 
Article of the Week: The Right Way To Back Out Of A Networking Conversation PDF Print E-mail

Does this sound familiar? You’re at a networking event with the sole purpose of meeting as many people as possible, when boom! You get stuck in a corner talking to a terribly nice but not terribly useful person.

You came to this event to build genuine connections with a number of new people who could possibly help your career, but unless you can get out of this conversation, you’ll have just lost a major opportunity.

So you need a way out, and stat.

But how? It can feel awkward to exit a conversation, especially when it seems like the other person wants to keep going. You might even be nervous that your partner will think you’re rude—and hey, just because this person isn’t useful to your career now doesn’t mean he might not be one day. So you don’t really want to leave him with a bad impression of you, either.

The good news is that it’s possible to tactfully end the conversation without ending the relationship. Try these tactics to make a graceful exit.

Make An Honest Getaway Plan

Saying you are going to go to the restroom, get something to eat, or refill your drink is one of the oldest tricks in the book. So it can sound a little canned. Pamela Weinberg, a New York City–based career coach, instead recommends being honest.

"Wrap up your conversation by thanking the person for their time and letting them know that you enjoyed meeting them," says Weinberg. "Then say something honest like, ‘Please excuse me, I want to catch Jim, my former colleague, to say hello before he leaves.'"

Saying you’re headed off to connect with someone else is perfectly reasonable since it’s a networking event, and the fact that you actually intend to follow through on what you’re saying will make you sound more sincere as you make your exit.

Schedule Time to Follow Up

Another humane way out is to ask for the person’s contact information, and make plans to follow up and continue the conversation later.

"Offer a handshake to your fellow attendee, look the person in the eye, smile, and say something such as, ‘Leon, it was great to meet you tonight. I do want to connect with a few other folks while I am here, but can we exchange contact information to stay in touch?’" says Kevin Grubb, executive director of the Villanova University Career Center.

Mentioning the person’s name will make them feel recognized and help you remember their name in the future.

Caveat: Don’t try this approach unless you actually intend to reach out. You don’t want to lead anyone on.

 Make An Introduction

When you’re talking to someone one-on-one, a great way to transition out of the conversation is to introduce the person to someone else, says Emily Merrell, founder of the networking group Six Degrees Society. That way, you’re not leaving the person to be a lone wolf at the party, and maybe you’ve even helped her make a useful connection.

"Say something like, ‘I want to introduce you to my friend Beth. I think you’ll have a lot in common—she also transitioned from a large corporation to a startup,’" Merrell says.

You don’t want to treat a networking event like a speed-dating event, so focus on having authentic, impactful conversations before gracefully exiting the conversation to meet someone new.

 
Article of the Week: 8 Tips for Building Your Business Support Network PDF Print E-mail

By Ijeoma S. Nwatu, SBA.gov

Whether you are just branching out or gearing up for your umpteenth year in business, it never hurts to have a supportive network around you. Owning a business can not only be stressful but lonely. Not every family member or friend will understand or emphasize with your entrepreneurial journey. The key is to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can offer advice, share opportunities and listen to your big ideas. Go beyond your typical inner circle and broaden your network of support.   

Consider the following strategies in either engaging with people you hope to connect with or need to re-engage to strengthen the support around you as well as to look for new business opportunities.

1. Alumni: Reconnect with college and/or high school staff and classmates by letting them what you are doing now and what you have accomplished or plan to accomplish in your business. There might be opportunities to collaborate with university or community college by speaking at the school, hiring seasonal workers or bidding on a project. 

If you have children or are engaged in your local community, this strategy applies to reaching out to the parents and teachers association (PTA) or a similar group within the school.

2. Chamber of Commerce: Join a local or state chapter and meet and support business leaders. Becoming an active member can expose you to other industries, opportunities and like-minded contacts.

3. SCORE: Supported by the SBA, SCORE is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their business. There are SCORE locations throughout the U.S. Between workshops and mentorship business owners can access professional support year-round.

4. Faith-based community: Your spiritual relationship with the members at your place of worship can have a positive effect on your personal life and business goals. Lean on faith-based organizations and activities that promote a healthy, productive lifestyle.

5. Extracurricular groups: It’s easy to forget that we form bonds with people we meet through leisure activities like sports leagues, volunteer and travel groups. When not working on or in your business, it’s essential to have a release.  

6. Former co-workers: If you’ve shared ideas or worked well with previous coworkers and staff, re-engage them to share your current business venture. Their skillset might be useful in your next idea or they can provide insight or contacts that you may have not consider.

7. Professional organizations or conferences: Depending on the nature of your work and business, there might be an established network of professionals who meet annually. Conferences and professional groups are instant support systems because they bring together small and large crowds of people who are similar. You can get a lot of inspiration and information by not only attending events but potentially sponsoring or speaking at one.

8. Online groups via forums, private Facebook groups or Slack communities: Thanks to the internet and social networking, interfacing with other business owners across the world is reality. Building connections that go beyond day-to-day business matters, can provide new ideas and a different perspective. 

 
Article of the Week: GreyCastle Security Shares Its “5 in 5”: Top Five Cybersecurity Trends of the Past Five Years PDF Print E-mail

Since its establishment in July 2011, GreyCastle Security is one of the leading cybersecurity consulting firms in the country. In just five years, GreyCastle Security has clients in 42 states, has opened a second office in Rochester, NY, has won numerous awards include Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2016 Cybersecurity Top 500, and has been mentioned by leading news sources including ABC, NBC and TIME Magazine.

With this large amount of success, comes following and staying up-to-date with cybersecurity industry trends.

“Cybersecurity is changing all the time, but we’ve definitely seen some obvious trends over time,” says GreyCastle CEO and co-founder Reg Harnish. “Keeping pace with cybercriminals and adversaries is now a full-time job for most businesses; unfortunately, our adversaries are advancing faster than we are.”

Harnish, who helped oversee the firm’s double-digit growth in employees, clients and revenues, offers these top five cybersecurity trends he has witnessed over the past five years.

1. The word is out that technology does not solve security problems on its own.

Houses don’t get built with hammers alone; it takes carpenters, architects and blueprints. Effective cybersecurity needs a similar approach: If you’re not addressing your people and process risks, you’ll never solve your cybersecurity problems.

2. Businesses continue to spend more on cybersecurity, but they’re spending it on the wrong things.

Businesses are seeing the importance of cybersecurity and finally budgeting for it. However, they’re spending their money on the wrong things. If they don’t know and pinpoint their risks, they’re going to waste time and money on things that don’t matter.

3. Federal regulations continue to be little more than a distraction.

Right now, government agencies are going out of their way to penalize companies that are not compliant with cybersecurity regulations, rather than rewarding companies that are following the rules. Rewarding compliant organizations would motivate others to be proactive in their security compliance versus waiting until they are caught in non-compliance. Remember, compliance does not equal security. A company can be compliant and still be at risk.

4. Cybersecurity is now about resilience, not prevention.

Proactive cybersecurity practices that include a combination of education, training and technology has led to the industry’s resilience. Cybersecurity professionals who approach security as a constant process are better prepared to minimize negative consequences from the next attack, because they realize there will be a next attack. Companies who adapt this mindset are less likely to be caught off-guard.

5. Cyberwarfare is asymmetric – offense is easier than defense.

The bad guys only need to be right once; we need to be right every time. As hackers continue to get more savvy with their tactics, the odds are against us, forcing us to rethink the way we approach cybersecurity.

Harnish noted that the pace at which hackers adapt and sharpen their skills is a constant driver of future trends, while increased connectivity – widely referred to as the Internet of Things – should be on the radar of security experts.

“Five years ago, we anticipated that cybersecurity would become a major player in business and touch nearly every industry. Regardless of your company’s size, it is all about identifying threats and vulnerabilities and managing risks,” says Harnish. “Hopefully one of the trends we see over the next five years is that our message about cybersecurity being a people problem – not a technology problem – is getting through.”

 
Article of the Week: Use This Formula To Tame Your Hopeless To-Do List PDF Print E-mail

By: Brian Tracy, FastCompany.com

You know how to write a to-do list. If you’re like lots of people, you may already be in the habit of writing out a list of the day’s tasks as soon as you get into the office each morning or even the night before.

The bigger challenge is figuring out how to prioritize it. No matter how productive you are, there will always be too many tasks for you to complete. You’re always going to have to choose which ones to do first, which to do second, and which tasks to do not at all. It isn’t always easy to remember that it’s not the amount of time you put in, it’s the value of the work and the things you achieve in that time that really counts. Your job is to focus onaccomplishments rather than activities.

Allocating your time based on the value of the task starts with your to-do list, and this method can help.

The ABCDE Method

The "ABCDE method" is deceptively simple: Before you start your workday, go through your list and write one of these five letters before each task or activity. Think about the likely consequences of completing or not completing each task. Something is only as important as its potential consequences. Likewise, an unimportant task is one that has low or no potential consequences. Consequences are everything.

Successful, highly productive people spend most of their time working on activities that have big potential consequences. Unsuccessful people often work harder and longer hours, but they spend too much of their time working on activities without much impact one way or the other. It doesn’t really matter if they complete them or not.

Put the letters A, B, C, D, or E next to each task on your list. An A activity is something that you must do. It has serious potential consequence for completion or non-completion. If you don’t do this task or get it done on time, there are going to be serious problems. These are the most important things that you do each day.

Put a B in front of activities that you should do, activities that have mild potential consequences if they are done or not done. You need to get to these tasks sooner or later, but they are not as important as your A tasks. The rule is that you never do a B task when there is an A task left undone.

A C task is something that would be nice to do, but it has no consequences at all, either for good or ill. Checking your personal email, phoning home, having coffee with a coworker, are all activities that are nice to do but it does not matter at all whether you do them or not. These items don’t often make it onto our to-do lists but tend to creep into our workdays unplanned. Since you’ll probably be checking Facebook anyway, it helps to include that—the key is to take an honest inventory of what you’ll do at work each day before you can take action accordingly.

 

Unfortunately, the great majority of people spend most of their time doing B and C tasks, and they think that because they are doing them at their workplace they are actually working. But this isn’t true. Just because you’re at work does not mean that you’re indeed working.

Put a D next to all tasks you can delegate to anyone else who can do them. Think about the value of the work you do in monetary terms: If you aspire to earn $25 per hour ($50,000 per year) or $50 an hour ($100,000 per year), don’t spend your time doing tasks that someone else can do for $10 an hour.

An E task is something that you can eliminate and it won’t make any difference at all. It may be a task that you have been doing for a while (or even just a bad work habit . . . sorry, Facebook), but it’s no longer important. It may no longer be your task to do. Whatever the case, it can be eliminated safely and have no consequences at all for your career.

Now go back over your list and organize your A tasks by priority by writing A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on next to your most important tasks. Do the same for your B tasks. Finally, start on your A-1 task, your most important and valuable use of your time. Resolve to concentrate single-mindedly on that one task until it’s 100% complete.

This simple formula—making a list, prioritizing it, and then starting and completing your most important tasks first, uninterrupted—can help you dramatically improve the quantity and quality of your output at work. It’s the key to high results. And remember, results are everything.

 
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