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I grew up in a big city, where the only communication between my neighbors and I was a polite “Hello” when we would bump into each other in the hallway. Knocking on your neighbors’ door and asking for a cup of sugar was unthinkable! If you have lived in an apartment building you know what I’m talking about.

That was until I moved to Italy and rented an apartment in a small neighborhood 20 minutes away from the center of Milan. I still remember my initial shock when I was walking down the street and people were greeting each other everywhere. It seemed that in Cernusco Sul Naviglio everyone knew each other!

My neighbors would regularly knock on my door to ask me for a cup of sugar or just to share the latest gossip. It felt like the concept of privacy did not exist there at all.

I remember how I was thinking, “Why can’t people here just mind their own business?”

I’ll tell you one thing… Two months later I knew that the guy, who would wake me up every night at 2 a.m. by slamming his garage door, lived on the 3rd floor. I knew that a city mayor lived on a 4th floor and that is why we would always be the first ones to receive invitations to the celebrations of the city. I even knew the name of an evil-looking basset hound that lived next door and, it seemed, got sadistic pleasure out of scaring little children and old ladies.

Now, after living in both – big city and a tiny neighborhood, I can say that I like the fact of knowing my neighbors and being a part of the “community”. I also enjoy the fact that in case anything happens I can always ask my neighbors for help. But, unfortunately, to get something, you have to sacrifice something. In my case good neighbors came at the cost of privacy and personal space.

What is your opinion? Would you rather live in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors or one where they keep to themselves?

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“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” ~François Duc de La Rochefoucauld

“Just be yourself!”- is such an obvious statement. What can be easier than that? And yet the first thought that comes to mind is “Can’t you, please, be more specific?”

We are so used to changing masks, playing our social roles, adapting to other people and circumstances that most of us no longer understand where the real us is and when “us” is acting. We know how to act to be a leader – you guide, manage and educate those who depend on you. We know what it means to be a good employee – you show up to work on time, invest your time, skills and abilities to help the company grow and prosper. We have a pretty good idea about what being a wonderful spouse or a great parent means.

But how are you supposed to act when your only task is to be yourself?

If you are unsure how to answer this question, here are 9 suggestions that will help you to stay true to yourself.

1. Get to know yourself better.

If you need to fill every second of your day with some kind of activity, if you believe that any reason is good enough to go out instead of sitting at home, if you get bored by yourself – it all means just one thing – you have not got to know yourself well enough.
It is close to impossible to be yourself, when you do not know who you are or understand what you want! Take time to get to know yourself better! After all you are the only person who you will spend every day of your life with.

2. Develop your individuality.

Sometimes we copy other people’s actions or adapt to their beliefs, because it seems like the easiest way to fit in and be accepted. But it is also the easiest way to lose your unique individuality that makes people want to get to know you better. Why blend in with the surroundings and be just like everyone else, when you can actually stand out?
We all have our unique individuality. After all that is why we are called individuals, not primates. Whether you love to walk on the beach while it is raining or cannot stand the smell of beer, do not be afraid to share it with others! That is what makes you interesting and attracts others to you!

3. Do not snub the “popular” stuff.

When I was a teenager, every time I heard the phrase, “It is very popular right now” I automatically assumed that it was stupid, shallow and pointless. I did not listen to Backstreet Boys, because 99% of my classmates were constantly listening to them. I decided I did not like Leonardo di Caprio just because all the girls of my age were in love with him. I guess I just did not want to like something or someone simply because everyone else does. I wanted to be different. Unique. Invincible to social influence. Now when I think about it, it actually makes me laugh. Thinking that you are too cool to get in the trend is just as silly as wanting something because everyone else has it /likes it. Do not snub the popular stuff just because it labeled as “popular” or “trendy”. Take time to figure out what it is that you like! This is way more original!

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When something bad happens to us, our first thought usually is “Why me?!”, “What have I ever done to deserve THAT?!” Sometimes we think that we know the answer to this question, but most of the times we are left absolutely clueless about why bad things happen to us – good people! Some say that it could be our bad karma catching...

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About only two-three hundred years ago a man’s word was his bond and a handshake was enough to close a deal. Now contracts are valid only if written on paper in the presence of lawyers and it is enough to have a plausible excuse to break a promise.

How often do we tell someone “I’ll call you”, “I really want to watch this movie. I’ll clean up as soon as the commercials are on”, “I will definitely get back in shape before the summer”?

I admit that I am guilty of making such promises and then fulfilling them partially or having to go back on my word and explain why I could not do it.

There are hundreds of reasons why we do not stick to our word: circumstances change, something more urgent comes up, time passes and we forget what we have promised and to whom, or we realize that we made a foolish pledge without thinking it through. The human mind can reach extraordinary levels when it comes to making up self-justifications. But all the excuses in the world still cannot stifle the nagging sensation that we have done something wrong.

If you, just like me, would like to learn how to follow through with your promises 100% of the time, here are 7 Great Tips that will help you to become a man/woman of your word, gain other people’s trust easily, reinforce your self-confidence, eliminate guilty pangs and even reduce conflicts with your family members and your co-workers.

1. Be honest with yourself. However good the intention, before making a promise to anyone (even to yourself), ask yourself if you will be able fulfill it. Do you really have the opportunity, time and desire to stick to your word? Are you sure you are not going to let yourself or another person down? No one is forcing you to give the pledges or make any commitments. Therefore, whenever you have the impulse to make a rushed, far-fetched promise, put a piece of chocolate in your mouth and chew it slowly until the promise-itch passes.

2. Ask yourself if you mean it. An interesting study conducted in Switzerland by Thomas Baumgartner and Urs Fischbacher showed that it is possible to detect whether a person is about to break a promise the second the person voices it. It means that on some level we already know if we will do something or not. They also noticed increased brain activity when participants were giving false promises, which may mean that it is psychologically more comfortable to stick to your promises than to break them.

So my question is why promise something that we do not want to do, knowing that we are not going to do and in addition to all this having to deal with the negative consequences. Isn’t it easier to say “I’m sorry. I wish I could, but I don’t want to” right away?

3. Analyze your motivation behind the promise. Why are you making a particular commitment in the first place? Do you really want to help? Do you feel that you need to say “yes”, because you do not want to disappoint the person who is asking you for a favor? Do you just say “yes”, because you want to end a conversation or because you do not feel like explaining why you do not want to do it? Is there some type of reward/punishment involved? If you are making a promise for the wrong reasons, the chances are that you will not follow through with it.

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“Realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity”Will Smith

When a little boy says “I want to be an astronaut” – we smile at him and say, “Sure, honey, you can be anything you want to be!” When a twenty five year old man makes the same statement, we say, “Hey, be realistic!” Which basically means, “settle for something that brings you no satisfaction, just because you know you can get it”.

What happened in the 15 years that made a perfectly capable human-being turn into perfectly incapable grown-up, whose only choice in life is to get a degree in a highly- demanding field, find a regular job, work 30 + years and hopefully save enough money for retirement? It is as if in the course of our adulthood years instead of perfecting our skills, tripling our IQ, gaining valuable experience we are somehow getting dumber and less talented.

Common sense would suggest that if we could have accomplished everything we wanted at the age of 5, we are even more capable of doing it at the age of 25 or 50.

And since you and I are sensible people, let’s forget about the most depressing, demotivating, dream-killing cliché’s of our time to “be realistic” and go for something that we actually want and can accomplish!

Here are 9 ways to start achieving unrealistically realistic success:

1. Readjust your goals. When I first voiced my idea about quitting a regular job and starting my own website I got “worried” looks, ironic remarks and I was warned at least 700 times that it is a “crazy idea that is not going to work”. Now when I explain to people what I do I am told how lucky I am. 🙂

I honestly do not believe that success starts or is based on luck, intelligence, determination or some extraordinary talents. It starts with a big vision that is worth working for.

Take a look at your goal.

  • Is it motivating?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it the greatest goal ever?

If not, than perhaps you have made it too realistic. Psychological research shows that challenging goals lead to increased motivation and improved performance. It makes sense – the bigger the goal is, the more strongly we want to achieve it.

2. Think differently. If you do whatever everyone else is doing you will get the same results as everyone else is getting. Which is fine if this is what you want, but if you feel that you could do more/ be more/ achieve more, why settling for less?

All of the greatest discoveries, multi-billion dollar companies and break through- accomplishments were done by people, who thought differently from the rest of the world and were not afraid to put their vision into action.

3. Ignore the “realistic dudes”. They say that you should not go to a doctor whose office plants have died. Just as you should not ask a person who has achieved very little, advice on success. Before listening to “kind-hearted” advice to give up on your goals or think smaller, consider this – most people who claim to “be realistic” spend 95% of their time worrying about things that will never happen.

There is a huge difference between having your feet firmly on the ground and making Murphy’s Law “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” your life credo. Do not let the “realistic dudes” dampen your self-confidence and prevent you from going after your goals. Listen to yourself! You already know all the right answers!

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For me it has always been a hard question – I like so many different songs and music styles that I just can’t pick one. It all depends where  I am and what I am doing.
There is something hypnotizing, and at the same time liberating, about driving on a highway at night, watching street lights flash by and listening to “It’s my life” by John Bon Jovi or “Final Countdown” by Freddie Mercury.
Just as there is something really peaceful and relaxing about listening to “Enigma” or “Deva Premal” while meditating or doing yoga…
I also enjoy “Primavera in Anticipo” by Laura Pausini (although, all of my Italian friends make fun of me for liking it :)) and I love most of the songs by Elton John, Sting and Zucchero.
But if I would have to choose one song that always puts a smile on my face, no matter where I am or what I do, I would pick “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from the movie “Wizard of Oz”. Maybe because it reminds me of my childhood, or maybe just because it is a beautiful song.
Do you have a favorite song(s)? What is it?
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“One day, out of nowhere, you realize you don’t know who you are, and none of the cards in your wallet provide the slightest clue to your real identity.”Sam Keen
There are times in life when we feel confused and disoriented. Just like a little child, who has been carried away by an interesting game and has not noticed how far away he has got from his house. He stands in the middle of the street and realizes that he has never been here before. It is getting dark and the world no longer seems a friendly place. Which way is home?! Where am I?!
Similar, we get so carried away by the game of wealth and power that we often lose sight of thing that truly matter in our life. We go through life believing that we will have plenty of time ahead of us to make things right with our family members, to start taking care of our health, to figure out what it is that we want to do or to travel to the places we always dreamed of visiting. And we postpone doing these things until the next day… next month… next year… because we are too busy making money, helping our kids do their homework, or getting ready for the next meeting.
I have a trick question for you!
Have you ever heard of a person, who on their deathbed said, “I wish I had more money” or “I wish I had spent more time in the office.”? I haven’t. Who cares about that stuff when you just have a little bit of time left?
When you look at your life from this perspective, you are able to see more clearly which aspects of your life truly matter and which were simply ‘shiny objects’ that promised happiness and satisfaction, but turn out to be worthless trifles.
Whether you feel confused about which goals to pursue or have no doubts that you are on the right track; whether you lack focus or motivation; whether you have just graduated from college or about to retire, try the following experiment:
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Walter Elias Disney was born on the 5th of December, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. He spent his childhood on a farm near Marceline, Missouri. Walt started drawing at very early age and when he turned 7 he was already selling his sketches to the neighbors. Although, Walt Disney’s father worked hard to support his wife and five children, the family still had to count every penny. Walt had to start working young, selling candies and newspapers on the train that traveled between Kansas City and Chicago, Illinois. He also took some art lessons at McKinley High School in Chicago.
In 1918 Disney dropped out of high school to serve in World War I. Rejected because he was only 16 years old at the time, he still joined the Red Cross and was sent to France, where he spent a year driving ambulances. When people saw Disney’s ambulance they always followed it with a smile, because instead of the stock camouflage it was covered with Disney cartoons.
One setback after another…
After returning to the US, Disney won a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute. There he met one of his best friends Ub Iwwerks. Together they started their own company Laugh-O-Grams, which eventually fell bankrupt. In August 1923 with his suitcase, a few drawing materials and a twenty dollar bill, Walt Disney headed to Hollywood to meet his brother Roy O. Disney and to start anew. Ub Iwerks joined them shortly after. Soon they received an order from New York for the first “Alice Comedies”, distributed by M.J. Winkler. Business took off and Walt could afford to hire more people to join his team. On July 13, 1925, Walt married one of his first employees, Lillian Bounds and later on they would be blessed with two daughters, Diane and Sharon.
By 1927 the “Alice Comedies” started to lose their popularity and the brothers began working on a new animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This series was successful, but in 1928, Walt discovered that M.J. Winkler and her husband, Charles Mintz had not only stolen the rights to the character from him, but also all of his animators, except for Ub Iwerks. The rights to the Oswald trademark, was now owned by Universal.
Birth of Mickey Mouse.
Taking the train back home and trying to take his mind of the fact that the people he had trusted and worked together with for so long had betrayed him, Walt started doodling on a piece of paper. The result of these doodles was a mouse named Mickey.
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Have you noticed that when you’re feeling down, little annoyances of life that you would otherwise brush off easily, make you angrier, unhappier and much more frustrated?  And vice versa – when you are in a good mood, tiny stuff like a cup of freshly brewed coffee, a fun song on the radio or a free parking spot right by the entrance is enough to make you burst with joy and happiness.
Obviously, our mood is related to our general perception of happiness. However, there are some things that always make us happy despite any mood, weather or work stress, be it seeing a toddler smile at us, drinking a cup of delicious hot chocolate or petting a pet we love so much.
For me, it is being with my family and friends, listening to great music, learning something interesting (When I say “interesting,” I don’t mean discovering cool, new functions of my cell phone or reading about the ‘hot’ gossip in the magazine. Instead, I get really excited every time I learn something new about nature, spirituality, health, art, archeology, marketing or read about new psychological discoveries. I guess, it makes me sound geeky, but this is what works for me and it does not have to work for everybody). The ocean is another mood-booster that never fails to make me feel at peace. No matter how mad or frustrated I am, long walks on the beach always cheer me up.
How about you? What makes you happy despite anything that may happen?
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Usually successful people are praised for their talents, incredible persistence, unbending will-power, high self-confidence, brilliant intelligence and inexhaustible creativity. There is a possibility that just one person can possess all these wonderful and obvious qualities. But I sincerely do not think that ALL successful people are these “god-like” creatures who do not make mistakes or have bad days, like the rest of us mortals.

In fact, my experience shows otherwise. I have been fortunate to meet many highly successful people (some of them are my good friends) and I can tell you that at a first glance they seem no different from me or you. (and, yes, successful people have unproductive days and family arguments, just like everyone else).

But if you look closer you will notice that there are a few things that most successful people intuitively do right. You will never hear them talk about it, because I do not think the majority of them even realize that they are taking these actions.

It is actually funny, but most famous people achieve success first and then assume that they must have done it, because of their unstoppable determination and bright mind.

If you want to be successful, stop comparing your personal qualities with the list of “The top 20 traits of successful people”! You only set yourself up for disappointment and self-esteem problems.

Instead concentrate your efforts on doing just these 5 ridiculously easy things:

1. Do an extra 1%.

In business to gain total control of a company it is not enough to have more stakes than any other stake holder. You need 51%. In politics 1% preponderance determines the future of a whole country. Similar, when your odds for success or failure are equal, it is often 1% of your effort, your attitude, and your determination that makes a difference.

Do you remember a task that you did not have time for, but you managed to do anyway? Or when you were on the verge of giving up, but you persisted a little bit longer? Or the time when you wanted to roll your eyes and slam the door in your boss’s face but you clung to the last note of patience and, therefore, avoided an open argument? This one percent of extraordinary effort often manifests in ordinary situations.

If on a daily basis you manage to: do something a little better, resist the temptation to “throw in the towel” a little longer, try a little harder not to jump to conclusions about what other people are or are not– I promise you that you WILL become successful.

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