Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cool blog

I've found a great blog, which is as important as my daily coffee now. It's really cool, with a load of cool free self help advice: personal development articles, ranging from how to be happier, to frugal living advice.
Check it out, it's really cool...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Back to Blogging

I finally did what I have been intending to do for ages: I got up (relatively) early, and actually sat down to write a new post for one of my blogs (I've decided to maintain several). But why, why, did I try to do so without a the accompaniment of a strong cup of something caffeinated? Ugh.

I'm trying to cut down on caffeine. I'll do some research on just how bad caffeine really is, but the fact remains that I do need it sometimes. Especially in the morning.

I have a very, very difficult time waking up. It's a challenge to drag myself out of bed, and even after I'm up, I have this buzzing feeling in the back of my head. I'm still working through it, but at some point, I should succomb and sit back with a steaming cup of coffee.
And i think that point is now... :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

18 non-monetary ways to be happy

A post from my old blog: these are some tips that should make you happy. They've been compiled from a variety of sources, so I'm sure they'll work, but it might take a bit of conscious effort to implement them :)

"Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like a violin" -- John Lubbock

  1. Be with loved ones: Research shows that happy people spend very little time alone. Instead, they surround themselves with friends and family, and find joy in sharing their lives with others.
  2. Marry someone you love and respect: Advice from Socrates: "By all means marry: if you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher".
  3. Smile a lot: Acting the part often leads to feeling the part. Besides, it'll make you look a lot better, and might even make someone else happy.
  4. Laugh a lot: Not only is it good for your heart, but also for you and the people near you.
  5. Be honest -- except for a few white lies: Honesty is the best policy, and saves a lot of heartache down the road. Of course, the road to honesty is to become a person of exceptional integrity, which while difficult, is possible. But remember to tell your next-door neighbor that she looks like she lost some weight...
  6. Spend less than you earn, and plan for your retirement: No matter how little you're earning, and how badly you want to buy those expensive shoes (apply whatever seems to pull you the most) don't splurge on them if your bank manager isn't too pleased with you.
  7. Give as much as you can: Children in orphanages often write to Santa: "I don't really want anything, but my sister needs a coat because it's so cold". Give to those with less than you, both in terms of time and money. Few other actions are as rewarding.
  8. Lead a sensual life: Surround yourself with pleasant smells: nice perfume, beautiful flowers, baking cookies. Keep a nice painting or photo on your wall. Buy flowers. Eat spicy food.
  9. Get rid of clutter: Clean your wardrobe, your desk, your kitchen. Don't let things that don't help pile up. Donate things that you don't useWhether they're books that you don't read, clothes that you don't wear, or gifts that you'll never use: give them to someone who'll appreciate them.
  10. Be healthy: Eat healthy, avoid junk food and excess alcohol, exercise regularly, and make sure you go for your yearly check-ups.
  11. Remember that you're healthy: An interesting study shows that happiness is not directly correlated to being healthy. Many healthy people take their health for granted. Whereas some sickly people appreciate the few healthy days that they enjoy. Hypochondriacs are the most miserable.
  12. Be grateful: Gratitude is essential to happiness. Psychiatrists have found that talking and writing about what they're grateful for amplifies adults' happiness. Learning to savor the small pleasures has the same effect.
  13. Spend some time reflecting on life: Meditate, keep a journal, or do both. They will give you perspective and structure to your life.
  14. Set your own standards: Forget the Jones. Establish goals for yourself, based on what you think is reasonable. You'll be happier when you achieve those, than what the Jones' have.
  15. Find activities that you love: Try to spend most of your time doing work or activities which make time flow faster. The happiest people are usually busy with things that they love to do, whether it's cooking, starting a new business, or being with a child.
  16. Construct routines, but remember that surprises often lead to greater happiness: Life is too full of uncertainties to be controlled. Yet those experiences which we don't plan for, often lead to greater growth and fulfillment.
  17. Stretch yourself mentally: Learning leads to a satisfaction much greater than any impulse purchase.
And finally, for ways to buy yourself some happiness, check out this post

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on the happiness-wealth correlation

Money isn't that important to being happy, despite my previous post on how to "buy" happiness.
No matter how hard you try, it won't be possible to use money to be happy unless you love what you do, and have close friends and family. Those are the very basics, just as a minimum amount of money is required for basic necessities.
There seems to be a lot of discussion regarding the money-wealth correlation. The Happiness Project talks about a recent study concluding that comparative wealth is more important for happiness than absolute wealth. The comments led me to a Yahoo! Finance column on Money & Happiness.

Why do people always wonder about happiness and wealth? I think it begins with the unthinking, righteous people who feel that they must instantly protest that money doesn't make a person happy. After all, people who want money are greedy, and greedy people are sinful and selfish and mean.

The study quoted in the Happiness Project concluded that people would rather earn $50,000 while other people made $25,000, than earn $100,000 while others made $250,000. This study does make me uncomfortable, it brings up too many beating-the-Joneses connotations. I really don't like using money to show off or impress others: there's too much schadenfreude involved.

Maybe that's why the self-righteous immediately protest against those who want to earn more: they just don't want to watch the neighbours driving a flashier car.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Singles in the USA

After Valentines Day, and after all that moaning by single women that there aren't any good guys out there, here are some interesting facts:

      • For 20-somethings: There are 119 single (never married, divorced, or widowed) men for every 100 single women.

      • For the over-65 crowd: There are 34 single (never married, divorced, or widowed) men for every 100 single women.

      • To find those singles: There are 904 off-line and online dating services in the U.S.

      (Source: The U.S. Census Bureau's "Facts for Features")

      Funny thing is, they don't mention how many men there are for 30-something women, the age group that is usually the most interested in finally settling down.

      And of course, US women don't need to stop complaining: maybe those available single men are ugly/unsuccessful/mean/stupid/etc.

      Sunday, February 25, 2007

      10 questions to ask before you join a new job

      Still unable to write a new post, I'm reposting another old article from my other blog. I hope it's of some help to job-seekers.

      When hunting for a job, most candidates are so busy trying to sell themselves, that they don’t research the company thoroughly enough to see if they’re a good fit or not.

      It’s very important for a candidate to ask questions about the company. If you’re looking for a job, you should definitely try to find out if working at the company will drive you crazy or not ;)
      Here are some questions that you should try to get answered. Many of these are not things that you can ask during your interview. The most valuable sources of information are usually friends who are currently working in the company, who know the company somehow, or who are working in the industry.

      Well, here are the questions:

      1. What type of work will I be doing? Establish this one early on. Ask for examples. We recently hired two people to conduct phone surveys. Anyone expecting to create policy reports would have been disappointed. So often, the job description is just a vague generalization of something the HR manager thought should be mentioned. And, in the real world, you will never get exactly what you expect. But it’s always better to ask: for a while, our Brand Management department was looking for people in different areas, although the designation for each was the same.

      2. Who will be on my team, and what is their background? You might be able to find this information online and the answer to this might not really change too much for you. But good people are good to be around. If very talented and smart people are on your team, work is more likely to be fun, you are more likely to meet people you’ll enjoy being around, and at the very least, you’ll pick up something. Good team members indicate that the team is capable, but the lack of them might also indicate that you will have the opportunity to build the team’s capabilities. (Ahem: assuming that you’re that good, of course!)

      3. Why do you want to hire someone? How will that person contribute?Sell yourself, describe how you’ll be able to contribute, and hope that it’s a good match. But wait, why should you just sit and hope? Go ahead and ask, what is it that they would like from their new employee? You’ll gain a much better understanding of what your future at the firm would be like.

      4. What are the issues facing this team, at the moment? This one shows your interest. Ideally, you will not ask this during the interview, but to some nice young people who work in that team. Someone might just mention the rivalry with the other department, and the chance that the division will be eliminated.

      5. What are the opportunities for this team in the future? Don’t ask this if the answer is very obvious. But if the division or project is new, this is the chance for your potential supervisor to paint a rosy future for you. You’ll get to judge if the best-case scenario is really something that you want.

      6. Will the company ownership change in the near future? Ok, so you probably won’t get an answer to this one. But try to find out. If there’s a chance, the rumors will be floating around. Someone working in the industry, or in the banking sector, might be able to answer this.

      7. What are the pay, benefits, etc? You will probably have to negotiate this one after you get the offer. But make sure to negotiate. Don’t just settle by not knowing the details. For instance, these days many companies have rules that state that an employee must return the signing bonus if he/she leaves before a certain period of time.

      8. Will I need to travel or work late hours? Whichever company you decide to join will appreciate it if you forget the clock and finish your work, meet deadlines, and go beyond the call of duty. But ask if late hours are normal (i.e. 4 out of 5 days), if you’ll need to work on weekends regularly, or if you’ll be required to travel a lot. Be honest with yourself as to how much of this you can handle sanely.

      9. What would be the future career path of someone entering this company in this position? Yet another chance for your future supervisor to wax on, hopefully. Just make sure that what he/she makes sense, and seems reasonable.

      10. What type of experience will I gain? This is slightly different from number 1. In essence, you are trying to find out how this position will improve your resume, what kind of value addition you will receive. Will you learn how to work with different types of people, make key contacts in the industry, gain skills that can be transferred to other industries…. What?

      Well, these are the questions that I came up with, I wonder if anyone has more suggestions?

      Monday, February 19, 2007

      How to "Buy" Happiness

      I need to regurgitate an old post of mine, from my previous (abandoned) blog. I'm unable to come up with creative new things, and I'm a bit depressed due to a number of reasons. So it's quite ironic that I'm going to talk about how to "buy" happiness. This post was also first written as part of the Problogger group writing project.

      Research shows that it's possible to use money to become happier. Of course, the most important things in life are free, but according to a 2004 poll by Associated Press, 56% of people earning more than $75,000 a year say they are "very satisfied" with life, while only 24% of people earning $25,000 or less a year say the say thing about their lives. However money can't guarantee happiness. After all, according to those numbers, 44% of people who earned more than $75,000 a year didn't claim to be "very satisfied" with life.

      There are certain things in life which are more important to happiness, than money: good health, a happy family life, good relationships, friends, a stress-free (or less stressful) life.
      Money can help to improve many of these factors, but first, a brief mention of the two most important things that money can't buy:

      1. Hearts: Just like the song, you "can't buy me love". Getting someone to love you takes a lot of things, including plain dumb luck. Never try to spend your way into someone's heart
      2. Respect and Admiration: Your new luxury car or huge plasma TV will not make people admire you. Yes, they will think you are trying to impress. And of course they will wonder about just how insecure you are. But if you want someone to look up to you, you'll have to make use of what you have inside yourself, not what you have inside your garage

      Despite the fact that money can't guarantee happiness, there are some ways in which money will make you happier:

      1. Comfort: Money can buy you a sense of security. Not having to worry about the details of survival is a wonderful things. Insurance and health cover remove some of the uncertainties that would plague us otherwise.
      2. Education: We're happier when faced with a challenge, and we have an immense capacity to grow. Whether it's learning about art history or taking cooking classes, most of us have interests which we'd be happier pursuing.
      3. Travel: Travel broadens our horizons and lets us experience the wonder of something new. The funny thing is, even if a trip is bad, we tend to remember a lot of great things about it, later on.
      4. A life full of experiences: I am definitely a person who'd prefer to save the money than to splurge on Starbucks, but small daily pleasures do add up, whether it's gourmet coffee, great home-cooked food, or a glass of nice wine. For some people, life is better when it's enriched with the arts: reading a daily poem, or visiting the museum, might be your cup of tea.
      5. Memories: Life is better when you have something to remind yourself of your wonderful past. Take pictures, buy silly souvenirs, and leave things that remind you of where you've been, nearby.
      6. Beautiful surroundings: Money can buy you a nice home, nice interior decoration, and expensive flowers. As humans, we tend to appreciate the beautiful things in life, so it's worthwhile spending to make our living spaces a joy to look at.
      7. Beauty: We may be fickle, but study after study shows that attractive people are happier. I'm completely against obsessing with looks, but spending a bit for a good haircut, comfortable and stylish clothes, and mood-enhancing perfume, certainly pays off. And any woman will tell you that shoes are a girl's second-best friend :)
      8. Nearness to work: I can't remember the exact studies right now, but I once read about how the daily commute adds to our stress. And I don't think that anyone loves their commute. So, live near your office, or work at home. If you can't do those, try to make the commute less horrible, be it with an i-Pod, or a chauffeur-driven car.
      9. Health: Money can't buy you health, but you can certainly spend on healthy things that will make you feel better, including organic food, a swimming pool and gym membership. It's up to you to put the healthy things you buy, to good use. Of course, money can also buy treatment options, but a good health plan should cover those. (I have to add here that a commenter on my previous blog mentioned that many insurance plans do not cover serious and chronic illnesses. Having the money to pay for such situations can certainly be helpful)
      10. Relaxation: Soothing music, yoga classes and massages: don't dismiss them before you've tried them.
      11. Friends: In no way can money buy you friends. But we're happy when we're social, and money spent on friends and being friendly, makes us happier in the long run. So, that Sunday brunch, your best friend's birthday gift, and the dinner party you were planning to host, are all worth the time and effort. And money.
      12. Kids: Obviously, I'm not suggesting you buy kids, or even attempt to buy their affection. But they're expensive brats, and spending on them goes a long way (as any parent will attest). I feel like this is a self-explanatory point, but whether it's spending to get the kids out of the way (baby sitting) or to make them more tolerable to be around (education, entertainment, food, etc) kids tend to make us happier.
      13. Pets: Furry friends make our lives fun, and studies show that they lead to lower stress. Unfortunately, just like kids, pets tend to be expensive: apparently, they're worth that expense.
      14. Romance: Your relationship with your s.o. is the most important one in your life, so spend what you need to, to make it work: from flowers to diamonds to a second honeymoon.
      15. Time: This, in my opinion, is the single most important thing that money can buy. None of us have more than 24 hours in a day. Trying to extract the most out of each of those precious hours is one of the most difficult things to do. Money can help you to do it, be it through gadgets, a chauffeur or a private jet.

      I'm very anti-consumer-debt, so I don't think any of the above is worth buying on credit. Although buying something on credit might make you happy temporarily, in the long run, you're likely to have to cut back on your lifestyle in order to repay those loans.

      Many of these items are not applicable to people trying to live on a stringent budget, for whatever reason. However, if you've got the cash and are considering whether to buy a yatch or a luxury sedan, don't. Spend the money on a chauffeur instead, or use it to visit your local cafe each day, where you can enjoy gourmet coffee and meet new friends.