Building Relationships Through Letter Writing.

Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.

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With remote teaching likely continuing into the next academic year, we’ll need low-tech ways to establish relationships with students whom we can’t reach digitally. An ongoing letter communication through the mail is just that—and is also an empowering way to build relational trust with students. That trust, explains Zaretta Hammond, is the foundation on which culturally responsive teaching can change learning trajectories for even our most vulnerable students.

My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.

When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.

INTRODUCING THE LETTERS

To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.

Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.

Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.

Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.

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WRITING YOUR LETTERS

I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.

Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.

Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.

Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.

Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.

Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.

When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone

Are you one off those people who constantly need approval from everyone they know? Don’t you know that this is a damaging habit that will only add more stress to your decision making process and make it harder for you to do whatever it is that you want to do in life? Why do you think that other people should get a say in what you do or don’t do in life? By seeking approval from others you basically give them the power over your life and that’s completely and utterly wrong. It will not do you any good, on the contrary, it can only bring you misery and discontent so you need to stop doing it.

No one should have the power to decide what’s good for you and what’s not, other than yourself and here are a few other reasons that will convince you to never ask for approval from anyone but yourself.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ask for Approval from Anyone

You make your own happiness

It’s true that the people we love and care about make our life happier, but they aren’t the ones that make or break your happiness, you’re the only one responsible for that. Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you or what others say about you, you shouldn’t care about that. If you let your actions be guided by other people’s approval, you’ll never be truly happy. Remember that at the end of the day you are the one who needs to live with his decisions and you are the one who needs to be comfortable with them. No one else can know what you want in life better than yourself, so don’t worry about other people and make your own happiness. Remain true to yourself and to what makes you happy and make sure you follow that path.

You control your own life

You don’t just make your own happiness; you control your own life as well. Stop rushing to other people, asking for permission to do something, remember that you are your own master and you should decide what’s best for you. Listen to your heart and you’ll get all the guidance you need, from within. You are stronger than you think and wiser than you believe, you just need to let yourself follow your passion. People don’t know what they truly want to do with their own life, how can they know your life path? Trust yourself and let your soul guide you on this journey we call life.

You’re wasting precious time

Do you always run to your friends or family members whenever you need to make a decision about something? Can you imagine how much time you spend trying to convince everyone that you’re right or getting them to see things your way? And why? Just so that you’re sure in your actions, in your decisions? Asking other people’s approval only makes it tougher for you to reach a decision and it’s truly time-consuming. You’re wasting precious time; time that you could spend doing something you enjoy.

Don’t rely on others to support you, be your own biggest support. It’s OK to share your plans with your loved ones, but just that, inform them of your decision and don’t ask for their approval of support.

You can truly be free only if you rely solely on yourself

Can you imagine making a huge decision that will change your life all by yourself? Not to consult with anyone, not to ask for anyone’s advice, just follow your heart and gut? Yes, it’s possible to do it and you have everything you need to make this decision you just need to follow your gut instinct.

We can all be truly free only if we rely on ourselves and only if we know that we can make big changes in life without seeking anyone’s approval. It may seem scary at first but try it out, it’s so liberating. Rise to your potential and seize the day – that’s when you’ll experience true freedom.

Don’t even try to please everyone, it’s impossible

It’s completely normal to have people who don’t agree with what you say or what you do, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. You just have different views and opinions in life and that’s all that is. If you try to please everyone and get everyone to like, you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’ll fail spectacularly. It’s absolutely impossible to get everyone to agree with you and you need to accept this and not let it affect your life. Moreover, the sooner you stop trying to please everyone, the sooner you’ll be happy.

Mihran Kalaydjian Playing I wish I could hide her and not let anyone talk to her

 

I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.”

LYRICS:

I wish I could hide her and not let anyone talk to her

Ill let her drink my tears, and present her my heart with my hands

And take from my life and give it to her

I wish she knew how much I love her, and how much her love is causing me pain

Oh heart go bring me her heart, i’m going to melt if I stay thinking of her

And ill take from my life and give it to her

I wish she knew how much I pray so that I can just catch a glimpse of her

This problem needs a solution, I need to go talk to her

And Ill take from my life and give it to her

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

If Your Partner Doesn't Do These 7 Things, You're Forcing Your ...

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?

We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.

Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.

In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.

It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.

Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.

7 Mistakes You May Make In A New Relationship, And How To Fix Them

1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.

2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.

3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.

4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.

5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.

6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.

7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.

The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.

Be more gentle with yourself Little strategies in 8 steps

Improve your self-confidence

1. Consider the mistakes as part of the learning process
No one likes to make mistakes, but we need to learn that only when we make mistakes we realize what is not working and what can be changed or be done better. We should always keep in mind that we are not what we do, we are much more than that. Our actions, what we do, is the self-efficacy which can be increased with the practice; our essence, who we are, our self-esteem, is separated from everything and do not depend on our performance.

2. Do not compare yourself to others

Comparing yourself to others is never constructive. Focusing on what others do better than us is a trap that no one is immune and is very insidious because it leads to focus on what we do or do not possess losing sight of the many gifts that are already present in our lives. Continuing to bring our attention to others makes us take everything for granted. The comparison leads us to measure ourselves using inappropriate parameters, risking to live someone’s life and desiring things we don’t really want. When it happens to envy someone ask yourself: “I really want that thing, that result, that goal?” And if you do not want it, then why are envious? Are we convinced that this person will appear in the eyes of others better? But in the eyes of whom? And that’s really so important?

3. Be loyal to your values even if it means being unpopular

Key values are those that belong to our soul, do not change over time and lead us in our lives. Be true to your values, even if it means going against and be unpopular. It is not easy, you will lose people along the way, but you won’t lose yourself and this is the only thing that matters. Being faithful to your values means loving yourself.

4. See the past as an adventure

Life is an adventure: every day we have the opportunity to discover something new and wonderful to experience. The past is what allowed you to get to this moment, including errors. Do not condemn your past, even if you suffer, it made you the person you are today.

5. Do not underestimate your talents

All of us have unique talents that make us special, but very often we underestimate them or we are not even aware of them. What makes you feel most alive? What gives you more excitement, what you dream to be, do, have, give? What were your dreams, your passions as a child? What makes your heart beat? What are
your favorite topics? What are your interests? What would you do even if your are not paid for? What makes you feel so absorbed that you lose track of the time passing? What are your features, your peculiarity? It’s just by looking within yourself that you can discover your talents and make them available to the world.

6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you

We are social animals and we need to interact and share experiences with others. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

7. Express your anger creatively

Anger is an important emotion, but many times we try to repress or deny it, hurting ourselves. It’s important to express anger and there are many different ways to do that. Playing sports, spending time in nature, writing, screaming (in the car or with a cushion for example): find ways to express anger, not hold it in!

8. Celebrate every success

Celebrate every success, even when it seems insignificant, it is important to keep motivation high. Celebrate the wonderful person you are, whatever you do or whatever result you get. Just because you’ve decided to do something new and try to be happy, you deserve all the possible respect.

Duet Song Melody “Beauty Beauty”

The song “Who is beautiful, beautiful” loved by Armenians is one of the beautiful works that we always listen to with pleasure and great love. Over the years, this song based on Levon Mirijanyan’s words has been developed by various Armenian artists and presented in a unique way (recently the song was also presented in reggae style), but now it is also performed in Armenian by members of the famous American band Pink Martini.

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Mihran Kalaydjian and Emma Singing Beauty, beauty ( Ով Սիրուն, Սիրուն (Ov Sirun Sirun)

 

 

Lyrics for Beauty, beauty ( Ով Սիրուն, Սիրուն (Ov Sirun Sirun)

Beauty, beauty, whenever I
Meet you again on my way
I burn the nonflammable memories of mine once again
My sleep and rest are lost again

Beauty, beauty, why did you come closer
Why did you know the secret of my heart
I loved you with an innocent love,
But you, unfair girl, why did you leave me?

Ah, if I see you one day
Sad and careless
I’ll be your friend and will share your pain
Won’t leave my love.

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Lyrics translated in Armenian

Ով Սիրուն, Սիրուն (Ov Sirun Sirun)
Ով սիրուն, սիրուն, երբ որ ես կրկին,
Հանդիպում եմ քեզ իմ ճանապարհին,
Նորից այրում են հուշերս անմար,
Նորից կորչում են և՜ քուն, և՜ դադար:

Ով սիրուն, սիրուն, ինչո՞ւ մոտեցար,
Սրտիս գաղտնիքը ինչո՞ւ իմացար.
Մի անմեղ սիրով ես քեզ սիրեցի,
Բայց դու, անիրավ, ինչո՞ւ լքեցիր:

Ա՜խ, եթե տեսնեմ օրերից մի օր.
Դու ման ես գալիս տխուր ու մոլոր,
Ընկեր կդառնամ ես քո վշտերին,
Մենակ չեմ թողնի իմ կարոտ յարին

How to develop world-class behaviors in the next 14 days

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Most people don’t realize they’re only a few key behaviors away from starting to live a truly world-class life.

You don’t need to adopt dozens of new, difficult behaviors of “successful people” — you just need a few. And if you make just a few key behavioral changes, you’ll build momentum and confidence that you can reinvest in yourself to master new and better behaviors.

Success doesn’t happen all at once — it’s a slow, gradual process that rewards those who can consistently follow the path.

You also don’t need a lot of time to develop these initial world-class behaviors, either. A couple of weeks will do. We’re not trying to transform your entire life overnight, we’re getting you to identify and adopt just a few key behaviors that will create the momentum you can use to continue the process. Because there’s no end to success, no limit or cap — you can go as high as you want.

But it starts with developing a few world-class behaviors.

Focus on Learning and Creating, Not Entertainment and Distraction

There’s a lot you’ll need to learn on this journey you’re on. When I was a no-name blogger with dreams of being a big-time writer, I foolishly thought all I needed to master was “writing.”

Now that I am a successful writer, I’m amazed at how many new skills I’ve needed to learn, like website design, email marketing, webinars, sales pitches, public speaking, relationship building, online course creation, scheduling software, and countless more.

That’s why your first world-class behavior to master is to simply focus on learning and creating, not entertainment or distraction.

You can learn a lot very quickly if you choose. If you play guitar 3 times a week, you might take a year or two to get pretty good. But play guitar 3 times a day, and you could become very skilled in a matter of weeks.

You can only find these shortcuts by intense learning and creating, making mistakes, building your abilities as well as your confidence.

But as long as you continue to focus on entertainment and distraction, you’ll always be stuck in first gear, unable to start gaining enormous momentum to break through mental barriers that you might’ve been carrying around for years.

It’s difficult to remove yourself entirely from these distractions. Major corporations have an entire department of professionals whose sole job is to make you pay attention to their products. With the enormous influence of technology, social media, smartphones, and advertisements, it can feel a bit like living in a casino, where every little detail is designed to keep you focused on spending your money.

It’s on you to say no to these distractions. The most effective response I’ve ever found to the endless tempting distractions is simply to imagine what my life will be like when I finally complete this journey — traveling the world, making more money than ever before, 100% in charge of my time and attention. That sounds much more appealing than watching another silly video online when I should be working.

Ask Yourself Direct Questions That Force You To Gain Enormous Clarity

One of the most common responses I get from my readers about all this is: I don’t know where to start!

Getting clarity on your most important goals isn’t easy. You might be afraid you’ll choose the wrong thing, and become paralyzed by analysis. Maybe you’ve never known what you want to do, and have been stumbling into whatever job, relationship, or situation seemed the most convenient at the time.

You need to ask yourself some direct, blunt questions about your life.

I read a terrific article by Zak Slayback about gaining enormous clarity on these important things that I bookmarked and go back to sometimes.

It’s a 20-minute writing exercise you can do today that will provide crystal-clear clarity on your most important goals. Here are the questions:

Here are the questions:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

2. I dread …

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

6. … does not appeal to me.

Here are some of my answers that might help you with yours:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

  • am forced to work with frustrating people that force me to do busy work that doesn’t accomplish anything
  • when I have to listen to uninformed bosses that don’t know how to lead me
  • can’t write and do what I want to do with my time
  • am forced to work long hours doing things I hate doing
  • am forced to follow someone else’s silly schedule
  • can’t do things the way I want to do them

2. I dread …

  • going to work at a job I hate
  • dealing with rude and mean people
  • confrontation with difficult, assertive people
  • having to work on things I don’t want to do
  • having to spend time on tasks I don’t care at all about

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

  • Data entry
  • Empathizing with angry customers
  • Putting out fires made by other people

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

  • working at a boring 9–5 job
  • busywork
  • data entry
  • working with people I don’t like or respect
  • staying in one city
  • a job where someone has total control over my career progression
    phone sales
  • commuting more than 30 minutes each way

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

  • want to work at a boring job that crushes their spirit
  • work with rude, annoying, stupid people
  • not travel the world
  • not make passive income
  • let one person dictate their career success
  • be content to simply “survive” then they could thrive
  • let others bully and intimidate them

6. … does not appeal to me.

  • Anything I can’t control and create myself
  • Following orders from people I don’t trust
  • Living by someone else’s rules

If you want extraordinary results, you need to ask yourself extraordinary questions. Be precise in your speech; don’t allow yourself to sit in the vague fog of “maybe” that most people have been living in for a long time. These small questions, genuinely answered, will provide enormous clarity in your life.

Everyone Must Sacrifice Things. But You Get to Choose What You Sacrifice.

You actually don’t get to choose whether you need to sacrifice or not — you do. We all must sacrifice something.

But you do get to choose what to sacrifice. This choice will affect the rest of your life.

There was this funny-because-it’s-true joke in college that went like this: “Sleep, good grades, friends: you only get 2.” You had to sacrifice something.

Everyone must sacrifice something. Make sure what you sacrifice isn’t costing you dearly.

Sadly, most people are sacrificing the wrong thing — their potential, their relationships, their well-being, even their future. Instead of letting go of negative, toxic relationships, people cling to them. Instead of striving nobly to achieve an extraordinary career, people settle for their comfortable, mediocre jobs.

You must sacrifice something — make sure you choose wisely.

Years ago, I was working in one of the worst jobs I’d ever had — telemarketing. My boss was near-comic-book-villain level bad. I saw countless coworkers fired for not hitting sales quotas. I wanted out.

But I had been complaining for months about it, calling friends and family to vent my frustrations. I wasn’t doing much about it.

Finally, I mentioned my poor, sad situation to a friend of a friend — someone who didn’t really know me, and had the ability to be extremely blunt with me. He didn’t hold back on his feedback. “Look — it’s time to stop complaining. You need to get a new job, now. Cancel social obligations, stay in on the weekends, wake up early, whatever. But find a new job.”

It stunned me. At first, I was angry and defensive. How can he say that! He doesn’t know me! He doesn’t know how hard this has been for me! He was inviting me to sacrifice something I didn’t want to let go of.

Eventually, I saw his wisdom. I was sacrificing my happiness and emotional well-being working there — why not sacrifice some weekends and casual social hangouts for something that could change my entire career?

So that’s what I did. I chose to stop hanging out with friends (for a time) while I busted my ass finding a new job. Within a few focused months of networking and meeting more people in different departments, I was offered a job that was infinitely better than telemarketing! It was higher-paying, I got to travel, help people, and most importantly, no more telemarketing calls!

You must sacrifice something — that’s not up for debate.

But you do get to choose what you sacrifice.

In Conclusion

Small choices have big results. Once you start making the right small choices, you’ll start seeing the results you actually want, and not the opposite. It’s time for you to start acting like people living a world-class life — in charge of their time, money, relationships, and choices.

It starts with your behaviors. Once you consistently start making world-class choices — something you can start today — you’ll start seeing these behaviors grow into lasting characteristics of your life. You’ll become a disciplined, consistent, focused positive person with power and ability.

For many people, the hardest part is just starting. Most people don’t know where to focus their time and energy, so they continue wasting time when they should’ve started long ago.

Since most people have been making many foolish and unwise small choices, they’re see big, negative results in their life.

Choose to adopt some new, world-class behaviors in life. They don’t have to be enormous — just big enough to start creating some momentum. Use that momentum. Reinvest in your life. Sacrifice the right things so you can achieve the life you want.

Ready to Level-Up?
If you want to become extraordinary and become 10x more effective than you were before, check out my checklist.

This is the most fun way to make your life awesome (pandemic edition)

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It was 1962, the girls wouldn’t stop laughing and nobody knew why.

And even stranger, the laughter was spreading. Like a virus.

This was at an all-girls school in Kashasha, Tanzania. A few students had started laughing and they couldn’t stop. And this inexplicable behavior spread from girl to girl until 95 of the 159 students were affected. After 6 weeks the school had to close because of it. But that didn’t stop the laughter.

It had already spread to a neighboring village, Nshamba. 217 more girls afflicted. And then it spread to Bukoba, “infecting” 48 more girls.

All told this “outbreak” lasted 18 months, closed 14 schools, and affected over 1000 children.

Sound crazy? It’s true. While certainly uncommon, this kind of thing is not unheard of. During the Middle Ages there were outbreaks of “choreomania” – uncontrollable, infectious dancing that spread throughout Europe sometimes affecting tens of thousands of people at a time. And, no, I’m not making that up either.

Viruses aren’t the only things that spread through networks of people. Attitudes and behaviors do too. Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, has studied how this works. A network can perpetuate anything in it: not just fads, fashion, and trends, but happiness, unhappiness, kindness and cruelty can also spread like a disease. When I spoke to Nicholas, here’s what he told me:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

A happy friend increases the likelihood of you being happy by 9%. An unhappy friend means a 7% decrease. Yes, happiness is more contagious than unhappiness. It’s the scientific version of karma. With the effect spanning out three degrees, there’s a good chance making a small effort to make friends happier will flow back to you. Nicholas found that if a friend became happy in the past six months there’s a 45% chance your happiness will increase. Neat, huh?

Hold that thought, I’ve got a second story for you:

Julius Wagner-Jauregg won a Nobel Prize in 1927 for “pyrotherapy.” Other than having the coolest name in all of medicine, pyrotherapy would go on to save tens of thousands of lives. This was before antibiotics, when syphilis was a scourge. There was no cure for it. But there was a cure for malaria. Here’s the thing: the bacterium that causes syphilis really doesn’t like heat. Meanwhile, malaria causes high fevers. So Wagner-Jauregg deliberately infected syphilis patients with malaria. The high fever killed the syphilis. Then you treat the malaria. Patient recovers from both. Triple word score.

Clever stories. But what’s this all mean?

A network can spread a virus — but it can also spread happiness, help, gratitude and optimism.

You can use one infection to fight another. “Fight fire with fire.”

So what if we start our own “pandemic” and use it to fight the current one?

It’s just a metaphor but that’s okay; I recently had my poetic license renewed at the DMV. Look, I’m in no way suggesting that spreading happiness and kindness right now is magically going to kill COVID-19. And I do not want to make light of something so serious.

But we need to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful to keep fighting this. We need to help each other. We need to protect our health, but to do that we have to protect our mental health, our spirit and soul to stay resilient.

Our ancestors didn’t climb their way to the top of the food chain to have their spirits broken by a few rogue strands of debatably-alive RNA. We’re not giving up hope. Humanity is not just going to crawl back into the primordial slime and close the door behind us. We can’t let this get us down or tear us apart.

So let’s start our own pandemic of positive emotions to keep our spirits strong for the battle ahead. We’ll fight fire with fire. We’ll spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism. And we’ll win.

Ready to get infectious?

1) Spread Connection

70% of your happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

But with social distancing, some of us now have zero people around us. (Even yours truly lives alone.) And extended time without social contact is bad. Very bad.

Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury,” Gawande concludes.
Loneliness is the equivalent of being punched in the face. And that, dear reader, is not a metaphor.

Your stress response to both — the increase in your body’s cortisol level — is the same.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Feeling lonely, it turned out, caused your cortisol levels to absolutely soar—as much as some of the most disturbing things that can ever happen to you. Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack. It’s worth repeating. Being deeply lonely seemed to cause as much stress as being punched by a stranger.

We may be quarantined and cut off from others to varying degrees, but this doesn’t mean we need to be lonely. Sound weird? It’s not. Stick with me.

Ever felt lonely in a crowd or lonely at a party? Yeah. The late John Cacioppo was the leading expert on loneliness. He said feeling lonely isn’t caused by the mere absence of people. We feel lonely because we’re not sharing with others, not connecting with them. That’s why you can be surrounded by people and still experience loneliness.

So reach out. Our new pandemic of positivity needs to spread that feeling of connection far and wide.

Send a text. Pick up the phone. Do a video call. Smoke signals and semaphore. Whatever. Just let people know you care and are thinking about them.

Have any of your relationships fallen dormant? Time for a reboot. Estranged from anyone? The force majeure clause has just been engaged. Reconnect.

You know how good it feels to be connected to others? Research does. It feels pretty close to an extra $76,856 a year:

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

Reach out and tell people you’re thinking of them. We have the most powerful communication tools ever known to man at our fingertips, for free, 24/7. COVID-19 needs face-to-face contact to spread. Our pandemic of positivity doesn’t.

We have the advantage.

(To learn more about how to make friends as an adult, click here.)

Just connecting with others is huge. But our pandemic can do more to “fight fire with fire” and mitigate that other one…

2) Spread Help

Ask people if they need anything. Others might need a little more than well-wishes right now.

Everybody should be doing this. Everybody. Yes, even selfish people. Because being a little selfless can actually be the best way to be selfish.

As University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, one of the leading experts on happiness, explains in his book, Flourish:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

And what if you’re not only selfish but you’re also a narcissistic braggart? No problem at all. I encourage you to tell others about how much you’re helping and get credit for it. Yes, really.

When people see others helping, they’re more likely to help. Infect others with the altruistic spirit. Altruism is deeply wired into us as mammals. Even rats (yes, rats) believe in paying it forward.

From The Price of Altruism:

A recent study in rats showed that the more a rat benefits from the altruism of a stranger rat, the more he will later act benevolently towards stranger rats himself.

And on the flip side, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it right now.

Most of us (well, the non-selfish, not narcissistic ones) never want to be a burden to others but research shows we vastly underestimate how willing others are to lend a hand:

A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first 3 studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings.

Spread help. Spread word that you’re helping to encourage others to help. And ask for help where you need it. Keep the lines of communication flowing so that we can all be getting what we need right now.

(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

So what can we spread that makes us all happier — while also strengthening the bonds of a relationship?

3) Spread Gratitude

Gratitude is the undisputed heavyweight champ of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

I know, some are saying there is very little to be grateful for right now. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not but guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb.

Via The Upward Spiral:

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

Spread the gratitude. Sending a thank you text is an awesome way to make two people happy and spread our pandemic of positivity.

Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor has tested this — and it works. Here’s Shawn:

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.

And don’t forget about the people you might be quarantined with. Right now some of us are participating in a 24/7 involuntary reality show with our spouses that can put a strain on any partnership.

So don’t forget to show them some gratitude too. Research by Eli Finkel at Northwestern shows when even just one of you feels gratitude, both of you are more satisfied with the relationship. How’s that for a bargain?

I know, people often mumble a perfunctory “thanks” and it doesn’t mean much, right? True. That’s why it’s important to dig deep and really feel grateful for what your spouse or partner has done.

Research shows it’s not the words that count — it really is that feeling:

…results indicate that one’s felt and expressed gratitude both significantly relate to one’s own marital satisfaction. Cross-partner analyses indicate that the individual’s felt gratitude also predicts the spouse’s satisfaction, whereas surprisingly his or her expressed gratitude does not.

(To learn how to use gratitude to make yourself happier, click here.)

What can we spread that not only makes us all happier but increases grit and even makes us luckier?

4) Spread Optimism

Research shows being optimistic increases happiness, health, resilience and even luck. (Yes, luck — because optimism boosts openness which leads to new opportunities that don’t happen when you say no to everything.)

Some will say there’s a danger in being overly optimistic, that we could go full pollyanna and not take problems seriously. And you know what? They’re right. We need to be careful with optimism so that we don’t neglect serious concerns. Penn professor Martin Seligman has a method to help you strike the balance:

Whenever you’re unsure if optimism is the right way to handle something ask yourself: “What’s the cost of being wrong here?”

Via Learned Optimism:

The fundamental guideline for not deploying optimism is to ask what the cost of failure is in the particular situation. If the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. The pilot in the cockpit deciding whether to de-ice the plane one more time, the partygoer deciding whether to drive home after drinking, the frustrated spouse deciding whether to start an affair that, should it come to light, would break up the marriage should not use optimism. Here the costs of failure are, respectively, death, an auto accident, and a divorce. Using techniques that minimize those costs is inappropriate. On the other hand, if the cost of failure is low, use optimism.

For instance, if you’re having serious illness symptoms, don’t be optimistic that they’ll clear up on their own and avoid medical care. But if the cost of being wrong is just a minor feeling of disappointment that things didn’t go your way, right now it’s better to stay positive.

And spread that positivity. The resilience-boosting effects of optimism are so strong the US military implemented a plan to teach optimistic thinking to soldiers. And we could all use a little extra resilience right now.

What’s the best way to keep others’ spirits high? Make’em laugh. Humor provides a powerful buffer against stress and fear.

Via Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool:

“Humor is about playing with ideas and concepts,” said Martin, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario. “So whenever we see something as funny; we’re looking at it from a different perspective. When people are trapped in a stressful situation and feeling overwhelmed, they’re stuck in one way of thinking: ‘This is terrible. I’ve got to get out of here.’ But if you can take a humorous perspective, then by definition you’re looking at it differently — you’re breaking out of that rigid mind-set.”

(To learn how to be more optimistic, click here.)

Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Time to round it up. And we’ll also learn what science says is the question that best predicts whether you will be alive and happy at age 80…

Sum Up

This is how we can start a pandemic of positivity:

  • Spread Connection: Just let people know you’re thinking of them and they are meaningful to you.
  • Spread Help: Offer help where you can and ask for it if you need it.
  • Spread Gratitude: Say thanks. And really feel it.
  • Spread Optimism: If the cost of being wrong is low, let yourself believe things will turn out right.

So what does Penn professor Martin Seligman say is the magic question that best predicts if you’ll be alive and happy at age 80?

“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?”

If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved.

Our relationships to other people are often the key to our survival and happiness. That’s something we need to remember right now.

And it’s an idea we need to spread.

So from me to you:

I hope you’re doing well right now.

I hope this blog post has helped you.

Thank you for reading this.

And I really do believe things are going to be better soon.

And with those 4 sentences, hopefully I have spread connection, help, gratitude and optimism to you.

I am proud to be Patient Zero in our new pandemic of positivity.

Now go spread good feelings to the people that you love. We all need them right now.

How Reading Books Helps Your Brain Recharge

It may seem counterintuitive, but absorbing information through old-fashioned books gives your brain a break.

 

How Reading Books Helps Your Brain Recharge

Imagine being the founder of not one but two companies dedicated to books and not finding the time to read any. That’s the situation that Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox and Pressbooks, found himself in a few years ago. Like many of us, he was battling an onslaught of digital information, and his beloved paperbacks were collecting dust. After a while, though, he realized he sorely missed the quiet time he used to spend with a book in hand. He also realized that he was tired all the time, and struggling to focus in every area of life.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, he explained:

“I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens.”

He found that a slower form of information, books, was the antidote to his information overload. So he made them part of his routine again. According to McGuire, “Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems.”

As any entrepreneur will tell you, problem-solving is critical for launching or running a business. But so is giving our busy brains a rest, and books help with that too. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, focused reading uses about 42 calories per hour, whereas absorbing new information (e.g., scanning Twitter or the news headlines) burns around 65 calories per hour.

Research has found that reading novels improves our brain functions on a variety of levels, including the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination. It also boosts our innovative thinking skills. Take it from Elon Musk, arguably one of the most innovative minds of our time. He’s said that growing up, he spent more than 10 hours a day pouring through science fiction novels. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is necessary for any business to stay competitive.

Reading is the best, not to mention the easiest, way to shore up our creative thinking and give our brains a break from digital overload — which, according to a 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, more than half of the workforce experiences. With that in mind, here are some strategies for making quality reading time a part of your daily routine.

1. Stash your devices

It seems simple, but detaching from our phones and tablets is often easier said than done. New information — like the ping of a new DM or refreshing our Twitter feed — triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains.

On top of that, our devices are designed to be addictive: Just ask a slew of former Silicon Valley big wigs, like Google’s former in-house ethicist, Tristan Harris, who have become whistleblowers for the addictive and unhealthy nature of our phones. Even the guy who literally wrote the book on getting people addicted — Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” — has done a 180°. More recently, he wrote a book with the opposite sentiment of his former title: “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It’s a guide to freeing people from the pull of their devices.

Say what you will about Eyal’s flip-flopping, his book includes smart tips for maintaining your attention: like don’t hang out on Slack, limit meetings to just one laptop, and keep your phone on silent. I like to go one step further by putting my phone completely out of sight — in a drawer or even another room — when I need uninterrupted focus time.

It’s impossible to concentrate and fully immerse yourself in a book when you’re constantly checking your messages. So stick with the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.

Related: Low Productivity? You May Need a Digital Detox.

2. If you don’t have hours, read in short intervals

As CEO of my online form company, I don’t have uninterrupted hours each day to dedicate to reading. But as Wharton professor Adam Grant writes, “Leaders who don’t have time to read are leaders who don’t make time to learn.”

If the most successful entrepreneurs manage to find the time, I can, too. Sometimes, that means being a little thrifty: like reading in short bursts throughout the day — on the way to work or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Or, instead of zoning out with Netflix before bed, try squeezing in a few chapters.

What’s more, research has found that we retain more information when we learn in short, spaced-out intervals, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.

If you’re struggling to concentrate or just having an off-day, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, committing to concentrating during that time period, then giving yourself five minutes to do anything — grab a snack, take a quick stroll or something else non-work-related. Once you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” you can give yourself a longer break.

Even if you only do one or two pomodoros, you’ll be surprised at how the time flies.

Related: Reading One Book a Week Won’t Make You Successful

3. Choose your material thoughtfully

It’s no surprise that if you choose something you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. Plus, fully immersing yourself in one captivating book will give you so much more than speeding through a dozen books while your mind wanders elsewhere. Only when we’re fully absorbed can we reach that priceless state of flow: the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Colleagues often tell me that it’s too difficult or time-consuming to find great books. True enough, there are thousands of titles to choose from. That’s why I recommend delegating the legwork. See who your favorite authors or experts are reading. You can puruse Adam Grant’s favorite leadership books or author Steven Pinker’s ten titles he’d take to a desert island. I also like using What Should I Read Next, a website that uses a huge database to offer recommendations based on books you’ve already enjoyed.

Simply put: For productive, intelligent leaders, reading books is literally the oldest trick in the book. It gives your brain a chance to recharge and absorb new information, and there’s no hacking your way out that.

11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything Stop worrying and start growing

Being a leader requires confidencedecisiveness, and quick thinking–none of which are served by overthinking every decision or scenario or worrying about every move you make. There’s a time to think, a time to act, a time to reflect, and a time to move forward.

Overthinking causes us to spend too much time thinking, getting stuck in a loop of inaction, and turns positive reflection into debilitating worry. Not only does it not move us forward, it moves us backward and downward.

For three decades I’ve been coaching employees and entrepreneurs with tendencies to overthink things, and I can share 11 mental tricks to dash the dissecting and stop the overscrutinizing.

1. Reopen the door only when new information knocks.

Overthinking goes into overdrive when we keep revisiting decisions we make, refusing to close the door on a call that was made. Believe that you’ve done your due diligence, and only revisit something you’ve decided when you’re presented with new information.

2. Know that overthinking and problem solving aren’t the same thing.

Constantly ruminating and going over scenarios and possibilities often disguises itself as problem solving. It feels like you’re doing something good and useful. But you’re not, you’re just spinning in a circle. Recognize when you’re overthinking something, don’t act like it’s problem solving, and press fast-forward.

3. Remember the 90-10 rule.

This is a formula, a ratio, for how you should calculate how you value yourself. Which is to say it should be based on 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned worth. 90 percent should come from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, just 10 percent from that occasional sliver of external validation we all need.

Overthinkers distort the formula, even reversing it by acting like 90 percent of their worth comes from what others think or say. So they worry, which takes the form of–you guessed it–overthinking.

4. Assume good intent.

Overthinkers read too much into things. Why? They’re assuming something bad lies underneath, something like a bad perception, someone wishing them ill, or an unfavorable outcome. When you catch yourself doing this, switch your assumption to what you’re reading into was well-intended, or at least neutral. The vast majority of the time, it really is, so why not act like it?

5. Embrace informed ignorance.

News flash: You can’t read the future, you can’t read minds, and you can’t know everything. So don’t try. Thinking harder doesn’t activate the crystal ball.

6. Embrace uncertainty.

When we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the blanks, often with garbage assumptions. Why? Many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Garbage assumptions can take many forms, all infusing themselves into the inner monologue of the overthinker.

A Buddhist chaplain once taught me how to handle uncertainty. I remember his teachings as an acronym: OAR. Observe uncertainty, don’t overreact to it. Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and accept that impermanence is inevitable. Realize that uncertainty brings benefits, like unleashing creativity and resilience.

7. Replace “what if” with “we’ll see.”

Overthinkers keep asking themselves “what if,” which is an impossible question to answer. If you catch yourself asking “what if,” quickly switch it to “we’ll see,” which is a way of moving past analysis paralysis to acceptance.

8. Get outside and play.

By this I mean stop spending so much time in your head. Get outside it and switch gears to connect with what’s going on around you so you can take joy in it. It can be dark and foreboding inside that head of yours, no?

9. Do the math.

Overthinking also comes from overworrying about the worse-case scenario, which of course no one wants to experience. But ask yourself, “What is the probability the undesirable outcome will actually occur?” Odds are, not very high.

10. Stop framing the unremarkable as catastrophic.

Related to the above, this means stop taking small details and turning them into questionable conclusions. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. Unlike at the mall, this kind of escalator lifts nobody up.

11. Evaluate the true impact of being wrong.

We often feel the need to overthink because we simply fear being wrong. It might make sense to overthink things if you’re planning to jump your motorbike over the Grand Canyon or to go swimming with a great white shark. As for overthinking the decision you made in that meeting yesterday? Not so much.

Ask yourself in such moments what the realistic cost of being wrong is. When you can lower the stakes, you raise your ability to get mentally unstuck.

So don’t overthink it. Take the inspiration here and run with it. Without looking back.