There’s little more frightening than the sneaking suspicion that someone may be following you, whether it’s on foot or in a car. Here’s how you can tell whether that person behind you is watching you as much as you’re watching them.
Why Would Someone Follow Me? I’m Nobody!
It’s not just spies that get tailed. Law enforcement doesn’t usually waste time and resources following random people, but they’re not the only ones interested in the lives of others. Private detectives, angry exes, friends or family of exes, or even that guy you accidentally cut off changing lanes a few miles back may have been following you this whole time, seething and ready to give you a piece of their mind (or possibly their fists.)
Don’t underestimate how even small things can set dangerous people off. These are the easiest people to identify and avoid. We’re not saying live your life paranoid, and if you can’t think of a reason someone would follow you, odds are you’re not being followed, but we are saying that a little knowledge and awareness of your surroundings at all times goes a very long way.
How to Tell If Someone’s Following You
Let’s be clear: if the professionals are following you, you probably won’t know it. Real spies use a host of tricks to make sure you’ll never know you’re being followed. Multiple operatives observe you, and switch off at predetermined points while a control operative, in contact with everyone in the field, manages their movements. That means the guy that followed you for the past two blocks will pull off at the next exit or pop into the Starbucks you passed for a coffee, and someone else will take over while you wonder where he went. There are some ways to tell is an amateur, random person, or a PI is following you though:
- Stay aware of your surroundings. It’s common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people walk around every day staring at their phones or looking at the sidewalk in front of them, paying no attention to the world around them. Keep your head up, and make note of the people you see and the cars you pass. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, the rest of these tips won’t help you.
- Don’t start looking over your shoulder. Remember, normal people are the ones who do inconspicuous things. Spies and PIs know better than to draw attention to themselves. As soon as you start glancing over your shoulder every three steps, they’ll know you’re suspicious. They’ll likely drop farther back or disengage entirely and pick up later.
Start with appearances. Look for a car you’ve never seen before in your neighborhood or along your commute, or make note of a vehicle that seems to be taking all the same turns that you’re taking. The same applies for people. Here’s the catch though: if a road-rager is following you, they’ll just close, which is easy to spot. If someone is actually trying to follow you, they’ll probably drive past you occasionally, then change lanes and fall back. On foot, they’ll walk next to you, or even pass you and take a side street that eventually ends up going the same direction that you’re going. Look out for vehicles that make all the same turns that you do. More Intelligent Life suggests you keep an eye on a person’s shoes. Coats and hats change easily, but shoes? Not so much when you don’t want to lose someone. Photo by Robert Red.
- Slow down. Slow people and vehicles are hard to tail, and risk the exposure of the operative, because they now have to stay near the target. Pull into the right lane and drive the speed limit. See what happens. If you’re on foot, slow down or stand to the side and fiddle with your phone a bit (while keeping an eye on what’s going on around you, of course) and see who slows down with you, or who walks past and then suddenly reappears later. Some people will tell you the opposite: that you should speed up and see if they do too. An amateur would speed up too, but a professional would only speed up if they think you might turn or take an exit, or if you’ll leave their line of sight.
The video above, part of a training series by SAFE International, has some more suggestions to help you figure out whether you’re being followed, and what you should do if you confirm that someone is trailing you.
What You Should Do If You Think You’re Being Followed
If you’ve tried the above and think someone’s on your tail, you have some options.
- Call the police. Do this first. If you think you’re in any kind of real danger, this is the best, first, and probably only course of action you should follow. Additionally if it’s local authorities, they’ll disengage. If it’s another law enforcement agency, they may get pulled over themselves. If it’s a PI or a road-rager or any other civilian after you, the police are the best people to handle the situation. If you’re on a highway, stay on it. If you do get off a main road, drive to the nearest police station.
- Go somewhere public. Public, and with tons of people. Find a crowded restaurant and grab a seat. Order a coffee and read something on your phone. Head into the nearest shopping mall or large, crowded store. This gives you two benefits: first, you have the cover of a lot of people (stick close to the crowds.) Second, you can observe your observer, get their description, and hand it over to the police.
- Don’t panic. Don’t start speeding, or try to make quick turns or duck into alleys. Ducking into the subway before the doors close looks great in the movies, but the smart people already have someone on the train or platform waiting for you. Start speeding, and you’ll just drive into the next tail car’s territory faster. When professionals follow someone, they don’t need to know where you are at all times, they just want to “house” you, or observe your behavior and patterns. If you’re worried it’s an angry ex or someone you cut off, stay on main roads, and if you have to stop, leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you, just in case you need room to maneuver or drive around it if someone approaches your car.
Change your behavior to confuse your follower. If you’re in a car, take the next exit, then get back on the main road. This isn’t something most people would normally do, and if someone follows you off the road and then back onto the highway, you know something’s up. Better yet, they should know you’re on to them, and disengage. Make four right (or left) turns. Few people need to drive or walk in a circle. Image by Oleksiy Mark.
- Change your patterns regularly. Don’t go straight home, especially if you’re worried the person following you intends to harm you. Take a different route home from work than you did yesterday. Go to a restaurant you’ve never been to. If you think someone’s been following you, they’re probably already aware of your patterns, so suddenly taking the freeway home when you normally take side streets may throw them off. Riding the subway uptown when you live downtown will do the same thing. If you think the person wants to harm you follow these tips on avoiding an attack, some of which echo points we’ve made here (staying in public, calling the police, etc.)
Professionals, like PIs, usually won’t interact with you—they just want to know where you’ll be and when so they can plan for later. They’re the people you can throw off with changes to your habits and driving tricks. People who want to hurt you are another matter. Your safety is paramount.
Some people will suggest you follow the follower, but we can’t recommend it. If the person following you means you harm, that’s a very dangerous game you’re playing. You should be focused on getting to a safe place, keeping your head and wits about you. With luck, you’ll never need to worry that someone is following you, but it’s important to be able to tell if someone is, why they’re following you, and how to avoid, deter, or lose them.
If you have a digital safe with a passcode entry, a few things could go wrong. You could forget the code, the electronic mechanism could fail, or someone could change the code without you knowing. In the event you need to break into your own electronic safe, here’s how to do it.
The technique you use to crack an electronic safe is called safe bouncing (which is an accurate name once you see how it’s done). It’s apparently easy enough for a kid to do, but looks like it could take a bit of practice. As you can see in the video above, you literally drop part of the safe against the table (or whatever surface it’s resting upon) while turning the locking knob. If your timing is right, you’ll have turned the knob when the safe’s lock bounces open for a brief moment. This works because many cheaper safes have locks that lift. Better safes have counterweight mechanisms so the lock is held in place even when the safe is moving. You won’t be able to bounce those open, but you’ll have no problem with the lower-end options. If you’re successful, the deadbolts will recede into the safe’s door and you’ll be able to open it up.
While good for those times when you lose your passcode, it’s not so great for those times when someone tries to rob you. If you’re concerned about the safety of a given safe, you might want to try this bouncing technique before your purchase.
There are fewer opportunities to put your social engineering skills to the test better than trying to convince someone you work at their establishment. Whether you just want to serve yourself a drink refill at a restaurant or you want to surprise your significant other with a birthday bouquet, here’s how to get in unnoticed.
If you walk around looking nervous and glancing from side to side, people will be able to tell that you don’t belong. Worse, they may approach you and ask questions. It may be unavoidable, but the most important thing to do if you’re trying to blend into any environment is to look like you belong there. That is, stand up straight, walk confidently like you know where you’re headed (even if you have no idea where this hallway will lead you,) and acknowledge people as they acknowledge you—the way you would in your own office or workplace.
This makes the other people around you subconsciously believe that you’re there for a reason. An old friend of mine who used to do penetration testing and physical security evaluations at large companies found that all too often she could find her way to the CEO’s office to hand-deliver her report just by walking around the building looking like she belonged there.
Take Advantage of Human Nature
The best way to get into a building or office that you want access to is to go in behind someone else. Most people call it “tailgating,” and it’s a serious security issue for offices, apartment complexes, college dorms, anywhere with restricted access, but it’s your best friend here. Photo by Lydia.
It’s easy to slide up to the door when someone else is going in and grab it as it closes, to beg the person going in to hold it for you, or—more often—just walk through while the person just ahead of you walks in. Most of us would consider it rude to just slam a door to a building on someone or let an elevator close when someone is just a step behind us, especially if it’s a secure door where you would otherwise have to fumble for a keycard or other device to get in, so we do the nice thing and hold it open. You may have taken advantage of it on a day where you forgot your badge at work—you can do the same just about anywhere.
Dress the Part
This part requires some familiarity with the place you’re going to visit, but no one is going to believe you work in an office where everyone is wearing shirts and ties if you walk in wearing a polo and jeans. Make sure you dress at or slightly above the dress code for the place you’re visiting. Fewer people will question a person wearing a button-down shirt and a slacks in an office full of polo shirts than will call out the guy wearing cutoff jean shorts and a t-shirt in the same office. It’s also important not to go too far over the dress code: you’ll stick out wearing a tie in an office where everyone wears t-shirts and jeans (although that can work to your advantage, as we’ll discuss later.)
Ideally, you’ll be able to slip into an office and get around to where you need to be without any questioning at all. However, if you’re overdressed, underdressed, or just unlucky enough to run into a curious employee, you need to be ready to deal with it. Photo by lululemon athletica.
If you’re overdressed compared to them, point out that you’re there on an interview and you’re just coming back from/going to get a cup of coffee. Alternatively, if the company you’re visiting has a large office or a whole building, say that you work in another office, or that you only started recently. If asked, “What do you do?” Respond that you work in a department almost every company has, like IT, or human resources. Whatever you say, make sure you have something in mind already. It shouldn’t be scripted, but you should have it ready to go.
If they buy it, ask for directions—you’ll be surprised how often you get them. If they’re not buying it, keep in mind some of these tips to subconsciously persuade people. Mirroring the person’s body language and movements will definitely make them feel at ease, and reciprocating their questions with your own will turn the attention away from you and make them think about how to respond. Ask them what they do and whose team they’re on. Ask them how that’s going, and if recent changes in your department have impacted them at all (note: this is an especially good trick if you claim to be in IT. Almost everyone will take the opportunity to talk or gripe to a new IT staffer about something.)
Remember to Smile
Not always, of course—grinning to yourself will make you stand out—but keeping a relatively upbeat and positive demeanor will make you stand out less than someone who’s hunched over, shifty-eyed, and ducking around corners wearing a Mission: Impossibleserious-face. People by nature avoid confrontation, and you can use this to your advantage by being confident, being positive, and engaging when appropriate.
This isn’t the movies: your goal is not to be so convincing that you could charm everyone, you just want to get in, surprise your fiancee in front of her coworkers, or drop off your boyfriend’s lunch without him or his coworkers knowing, and leave without attracting attention to yourself. Ultimately, you don’t want anyone to know someone who doesn’t belong was even there, even if you were right in front of their face.
If James Bond logs on to a computer, he doesn’t want to leave a bunch of files, cookies, or his IP address out there for someone to find. It might seem extreme, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take the same precautions yourself.
In this post, we’ll walk through how to use a USB stick or DVD to anonymize, encrypt, and hide everything you do on a computer no matter where you are. When we say “browse without leaving a trace”, we truly mean it. Using the Linux-based, live-boot operating system Tails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System), you can use any computer anywhere without anyone knowing you were ever on it. Tails is a portable operating system with all the security bells and whistles you’ll ever need already installed on it. You can install Tails on one of your many dust-gathering USB drives or a DVD. We’ll show you how to set up your own portable boot disc in the second section, but let’s start by taking a look at what you get with Tails.
What Tails Is and What’s Packed Into It
The magic of Tails is that you don’t have to do a lick of work: once you create your boot disc you’ll have a completely anonymous, totally private operating system preloaded with all the software you (or James Bond) would need. What’s packed into it? Let’s take a look.
The Software Packed Directly into Tails
Once you create your Tails boot disc, you’ll be ready to reboot your computer into an encrypted and private operating system preloaded with all the software you’ll need to browse the web, email, IM, and edit documents. Regardless of whether you choose a DVD or USB nothing you do is left on the computer you booted from.
- Built-in online anonymity: The key feature that’s going to appeal to most people is Tails’ built-in online anonymity. This comes in the form of the customized web browser Iceweasel built using the anonymous web browsing technology from Tor. The browser also includes popular security extensions like HTTPS Everywhere for secure browsing, Adblock Plus to block ads, and NoScript to block Java and Flash. Other than those features, the web browser works exactly like you’d expect a web browser to work.
- Built-in encrypted email and chat: Additionally, you also get encrypted and private messaging. Tails includes the Claws email client with OpenPGP for email encryption and the instant messaging client Pidgin with an OTR cryptography tool that encrypts your IM conversations.
- Built-in file encryption: When boot Tails from a USB drive instead of a DVD, you can save documents to the thumb drive and they’re automatically encrypted using an encryption specification called LUKS. (Since the DVD is read-only, you can’t save any files—which is its own form of security.)
- A full suite of editing software: On top your web access being private you also get a full suite of work and creative software. Tails comes preloaded with Openoffice for editing documents, Gimp for editing photos, Audacity for editing sound, and plenty more additional software.
Now let’s walk through how to set up a boot disc for yourself.
Step-by-Step Guide to Set Up Your Own Tails DVD or USB Drive
Tails is pretty easy to set up on your own and it doesn’t differ much from setting up any other Linux Live CD. However, a few extra steps do exist to verify your download.
Step 1: Download the Necessary Files
You need to download two different files to get started with Tails: an ISO (an image of Tails that is burned to a disc) and a cryptographic signature to verify the ISO image:
The developers behind Tails recommend you verify your Tails ISO to make sure it’s an officially released version that hasn’t been tampered with. We won’t walk through that process here, but they have instructions on their web site for Windows and Mac or Linux.
Step 2: Burn Tails to a CD/DVD
You can find documentation for creating a Tails USB from scratch on each operating system here. Alternately, you can more easily make bootable USB installation of Tails after you boot from a Tails live DVD. For our purposes we’re going to burn Tails to a bootable DVD because it’s an easier process than creating a USB stick from scratch.
On Windows: Right-click the ISO image, select Burn Disc Image, select your DVD drive.
On Mac: Right-click the ISO image, select Burn “tails…” to Disc, select your DVD drive.
Once it’s finished burning let’s boot into Tails and kick the tires.
Step 4: Boot into Tails
Stick your Tails DVD, CD, or thumb drive into your computer and reboot. The process for booting into a disc or external drive depends on your system, so lets look at how to do it on Windows and Mac.
On a Windows System: Different Windows computers have different default settings for booting from an external drive. If yours doesn’t already check for a boot DVD first you can always edit the BIOS boot order (often the DEL key at startup) to make sure your computer looks for a CD or USB before it starts. Alternately, you can closely watch the BIOS screen at the beginning of your computers startup for the Boot options shortcut (usually one of the function keys). When you get to the boot option menu, select your DVD drive and you’ll boot into Tails.
On a Mac System: When you turn on your Mac immediately press and hold down the Option key to access the Startup Manager. Select the Tails DVD (the description will actually say “Windows”) and you’ll boot into Tails.
Step 5 (Optional): Clone the DVD onto a USB Drive
Now that you’re booted into Tails it’s easy to clone your boot DVD onto a USB drive directly from the Tails operating system. Here’s what you need to do:
- Connect your USB drive to your computer.
- Select Applications > Tails > Tails USB Installer.
- Click the Clone and Install Button.
- Select your USB drive, click “Create Live USB Drive” and let the program run.
When the installation is complete you’ll have a bootable USB drive. The benefit of the USB drive is that any files you create in Tails are saved and encrypted directly on your device. However, a USB drive could theoretically be hacked into if you leave it around which is why the ultra-paranoid might prefer a read-only DVD for Tails.
Also, Macs don’t support USB booting without downloading and installing additional software called rEFit. This means you have to download and install rEFit on every Mac you want to boot into Tails from a USB drive.
Creating a bootable Tails disc is a simple process and a great use for one of those USB drives you have laying around doing nothing. Since you can use Tails on about any public computer you run into it’s a great way to keep your browsing and usage hidden from the world. It’s even beneficial on your home computer since you don’t have to alter your system in any way.
- Skyfall – Cyber War Becomes Cool (infosecprofessional.com)
I like to kick this on in the background when its 10 pm, I’m still at work, and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I found this band via Pandora, which sadly isnt available in Canada-Land, due to stupid DMCA rules.
When Music Becomes Illegal, only the outlaws will have Music.
Jack White has an uncanny ability to pick a random artist and make something even more beautiful than either artist could create on their own.
Make no mistake I don’t do anything for free
I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me
And if you think that there is shelter in this attitude
Wait til you feel the warmth of my gratitude.
One, I get the feeling that it’s two against one.
I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?
The mirror is a trigger and your mouth’s a gun.
Lucky for me, I’m not the only one.
And if it looks to me like you in your reflection
Plan to add your own fight to this dimension.
Then tell it that this ain’t no free-for-all to see,
There’s only three
IT’S JUST YOU AND ME AGAINST ME…
One, I get the feeling that it’s two against one.
I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?
The mirror is a trigger and your mouth’s a gun.
lucky for me, I’m not the only one.
Lucky for me, I’m not the only one.
And if your foot’s on to sick a thousand “yes men”
Brand or brake into the middle of this little plan…
Then there’s your plan to hear me say,
That I won’t play around the way, anyway
I plan to plan around them.
One, I get the feeling that it’s two against one.
I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?
the mirror is a trigger and your mouth’s a gun.
lucky for me, I’m not the only one.
Lucky for me, I’m not the only one. .
- The Black Keys’ Want Danger Mouse For Next Album, May Be Busy With U2, “Hopefully He Has Time” (kroq.cbslocal.com)
I’ve always envied people who can graciously accept constructive criticism. It seems I was not born with that trait, and throughout my career I’ve struggled with receiving feedback, even when it was entirely accurate. At the moment I hear the words of critique, my heartbeat quickens and my mind begins to race—first in search of an explanation for this assault on my person and then for a retort to rationalize whatever actions are in question.
And I’m not alone. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, many of us react with defensiveness and anger or—even worse—attack the person giving us feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify weaknesses and areas of improvement? Being able to handle it calmly and professionally will only help us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.
So how do you learn to back off the defensive? The next time you receive constructive criticism from your manager or a peer, use this six-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.
Stop Your First Reaction
At the first sign of criticism, before you do anything—stop. Really. Try not to react at all! You will have at least one second to stop your reaction. While one second seems insignificant in real life, it’s ample time for your brain to process a situation. And in that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression or reactive quip and remind yourself to stay calm.
Remember the Benefit of Getting Feedback
Now, you have a few seconds to quickly remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism—namely, to improve your skills, work product, and relationships, and to help you meet the expectations that your manager and others have of you.
You should also try to curtail any reaction you’re having to the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive criticism from a co-worker, a peer, or someone that you don’t fully respect, but remember, accurate and constructive feedback comes even from flawed sources.
Listen for Understanding
You’ve avoided your typical reaction, your brain is working, and you’ve recalled all the benefits of feedback—high-five! Now, you’re ready to engage in a productive dialogue as your competent, thoughtful self (as opposed to your combative, Mean Girls self).
As the person shares feedback with you, listen closely. Allow the person to share his or her complete thoughts, without interruption. When he or she is done, repeat back what you heard. For example, “I hear you saying that you want me to provide more detailed weekly reports, is that right?” At this point, avoid analyzing or questioning the person’s assessment; instead, just focus on understanding his or her comments and perspective. And give the benefit of the doubt here—hey, it’s difficult to give feedback to another person. Recognize that the person giving you feedback may be nervous or may not express his or her ideas perfectly.
Say Thank You
Next (and this is a hard part, I know), look the person in the eyes and thank him or her for sharing feedback with you. Don’t gloss over this—be deliberate, and say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.” Expressing appreciation doesn’t have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.
Ask Questions to Deconstruct the Feedback
Now it’s time to process the feedback—you’ll probably want to get more clarity at this point and share your perspective. Avoid engaging in a debate; instead, ask questions to get to the root of the actual issues being raised and possible solutions for addressing them. For example, if a colleague tells you that you got a little heated in a meeting, here are a few ways to deconstruct the feedback:
- Seek specific examples to help you understand the issue: “I was a little frustrated, but can you share when in the meeting you thought I got heated?”
- Acknowledge the feedback that is not in dispute: “You’re right that I did cut him off while he was talking, and I later apologized for that.”
- Try to understand whether this is an isolated issue (e.g., a mistake you made once): “Have you noticed me getting heated in other meetings?”
- Seek specific solutions to address the feedback: “I’d love to hear your ideas on how I might handle this differently in the future.”
Request Time to Follow Up
Hopefully, by this point in the conversation, you can agree on the issues that were raised. Once you articulate what you will do going forward, and thank the person again for the feedback, you can close the conversation and move on.
That said, if it’s a larger issue, or something presented by your boss, you may want to ask for a follow-up meeting to ask more questions and get agreement on next steps. And that’s OK—it’ll give you time to process the feedback, seek advice from others, and think about solutions.
Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight. Remember, feedback is not easy to give and it’s certainly not easy to receive, but it will help us now and in the long run.
Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ | The Daily Muse
Nicole Lindsay is a career development expert and working on her first book about women and business school. She lives in Connecticut with your husband, who is the coolest guy in the world, and loves traveling to new places on planes, trains and automobiles. Connect with her at DiversityMBAPrep.comor @MBAMinority.
Check out more advice at the Daily Muse:
- Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ (thedailymuse.com)
- How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ (lifehacker.com)
You’ve heard the refrain before: In order to master something, you have to start first, and starting involves being bad at it for a while. Author David Kadavy reminds us that it’s okay to suck at what you do, even if you’re been doing it for a while. Give yourself permissions to suck—if you don’t, you’ll never improve.
In order to be good at anything, you have to suck first, but it’s very tempting to give up and just stop when you realize you suck. You may have heard Ira Glass‘s advice for beginners, seen in the video above and also retold here at Zen Pencils, but the message is the same: if you think you can’t do something, it’s not just possible, it’s probably likely that you just need to keep working to get through the barrier of suckage before you’re any good. Even then, once you’re good, you probably still suck a bit, and that’s okay.
Kadavy explains it like this:
Most people don’t give themselves permission to suck. They think that there are people who are great at things (and are notable for being great at those things), and then there is them: ordinary person – and all of the ordinary people around them.
If they start trying to do something, their ordinary person friends try to push them down “why are you doing that?” “What a waste of time!” “Why don’t you just watch sitcoms and scan Facebook with your free time, fellow ordinary person?”
Unfortunately, most people give in. They can’t stand to suck.
He reminds us that there’s nothing wrong with being bad at something, especially if it’s part of the process you use to learn, grow, and get better. No one is ever a master at anything the first time they try it, even if they have a talent for it. At the end of the day, doing things you’re not that great at—but wish you were—eventually leads you to being better at them, obviously, but more importantly it can be fun and rewarding in itself to master something you’ve always wanted to master.
Plus, the more frequently you make that climb from knowing nothing to knowing something, the easier it is the next time you want to try something new. So give yourself permission to suck, even if other people around you think you’re wasting your time. Learning a skill, like a language, or amateur astronomy, or how to fly a helicopter, are things that are hard and take time, and you’ll suck at them for a long while, but once you don’t suck anymore you’ll have your whole life to enjoy the benefits.
- Permission to Suck (kadavy.net)
Amazing QC Clock… worthless for “real time” time telling, but wow, amazing 🙂
Professional rivalries often seem like the ultimate waste of time. Why is she spending so much time worrying about what someone else is doing? Why doesn’t she focus on her own business? Doesn’t she have anything better to do? It’s true that obsessing about a competitor isn’t the healthiest long-term activity. But I’ve also come to believe you can glean important lessons from the very act of rivalry – if you use it as an opportunity for growth, rather than just an opportunity to crush your enemies.
Where are you weak? Oftentimes, rivalry is a form of envy: your competitor has a trait or skill you (sometimes grudgingly) admire. That was the case when a friend – let’s call her Sara – reached out to me, asking if I was connected with a particular colleague on Facebook. “If so,” Sara wrote, “I want to discuss his social media presence with you.” It turned out Sara was livid about this guy’s frequent, self-promoting Facebook posts and wanted validation that our colleague was grossly misusing the network and ruining his personal brand. Unfortunately – to Sara’s astonishment – I hadn’t really noticed. I casually followed his exploits; only Sara was obsessed enough to be bothered. She was a shy, introverted entrepreneur who had long hesitated about promoting herself. Our colleague’s blatant self-promotion raised the uncomfortable specter Sara might have to start doing it, too. She felt much better after realizing it was OK to tackle social media in her own way, that didn’t feel phony or self-aggrandizing.
What do you value most? For years, I’d known a woman whom I was quite sure had fabricated her credentials. She cited ties to world-famous universities and institutions, but grew vague and evasive when asked about them. It was mildly annoying to see her at conferences, but my indignation grew to a fever pitch when she landed a book deal with a major publisher and began winning media attention. In an inspired move, I wrote to my friend Michael, who worked at one of the august institutions she claimed to be affiliated with, in hopes he might devise a clever way to “out” her. Instead, he wrote back with a question: “Why does she irk you?” I wrote back, defensive: It’s about justice! Fairness! Truth! But Michael was right. One’s rivals often poke at a tender spot. I worked hard for my degrees and credentials, never benefiting from family connections or other shortcuts. And perhaps, it seems, I’ve made a religion out of it, because the thought that someone could invent their résumé and get away with it makes me apoplectic. Knowing that bias helps me keep a better perspective (for instance, I may be liable to overvalue a job candidate who “made their own way in the world”).
Are you thinking big enough? At their worst, professional rivalries cause a form of myopia; you’re inventing products or launching initiatives to beat the competition, not to benefit the customer. That’s rarely the recipe for breakthrough innovation, as you focus on one-upmanship and incremental improvements. (Indeed, there’s speculation following Apple’s patent infringement victory against Samsung that smartphone makers may be forced into a new era of design creativity, now that the negative legal consequences of “following the leader” are so clear.) But occasionally, stalking a rival can unlock breakthrough possibilities for growth (think of the impact Roger Bannister shattering the four-minute mile had on his competitors). How can you increase your impact or make a new contribution in your field?
Professional rivalries can be a powerful vehicle for self-discovery – if you step back and think analytically about them. Learning where you’re weak, what values you cherish, and how to think big are important advantages. But even if you struggle to rise to that level of self-reflection when it comes to your rival, the blood-boiling effects of a competitor can sometimes be salubrious: if it kills me, I’m going to make sure my book outsells that of my veracity-challenged rival.
How have professional rivalries inspired or motivated you?
Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. She is the author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (HBR Press 2013). Follow her on Twitter@dorieclark.
- What You Can Learn from Your Professional Rivals (updates.lifehacker.com)
- What You Can Learn from Your Professional Rivals (blogs.hbr.org)
Alright, let’s get this out-of-the-way first: kicking down a door is not the best option for opening a locked door. It will damage the door and cost you lots of money to fix it. It is better to call a locksmith, pick the lock, or attempt to crawl in a window.
But let’s say it’s an emergency. You’re in a burning house and you need to escape and the door is on fire. Or your loved ones are in a burning house and you’re locked out. You can’t stand there fiddling with the lock, you’ve got to break it down! Or perhaps a loved one is stricken with a medical emergency and is locked inside a room or in their house. What to do? Be a man, dammit! Break down that door! You know you’ve always wanted to.
How to break down a door
If you have watched enough movies, your next move is a no brainer….run at the door shoulder first, right? Wrong. This technique may be uber-manly, but it will probably dislocate your shoulder. It is better to employ a more forceful and well placed kick.
Check to see which way the door opens by checking the hinges. If the door opens towards you, kicking it down is going to be next to impossible. Kicking a door down is best employed on a door that swings away from you.
Kick to the side of where the lock is mounted (near the keyhole). This is typically the weakest part of the door.
Using a front kick, drive the heel of your foot into the door. Give the kick forward momentum and keep your balance by driving the heel of your standing foot into the ground. Don’t kick the lock itself; this could break your foot.
The wood should begin to splinter. Today most doors are made of soft wood and are hollow. They should give way fairly easily, especially since the lock’s deadlock bolt extends only an inch or less into the door frame. Older, completely solid doors will prove more resistant. Just keep on kicking until the door gives way and you can save the day.
Avoid jump kicks. While you may be tempted to employ this manly move, jumping diminishes your stability which causes you to lose power.
Today, Jack White dropped the video for “ I’m Shakin’ ”, the fired-up Little Willie John video that appeared on his still-great album Blunderbuss. White’s been famously touring with two bands lately, one all-male and one all-female. And in the video, two different Whites and both of his bands face off against each other, soundclash-style. Here’s how much of an egalitarian Jack White is: Even his all-male band has girls in it. It’s a fun, stylish video that gets over on White’s rock-star charisma and does not crowd that out with too many extra elements. Dori Oskowitz directs, and you can watch it below.
PTX (the awesome group above) are a 5-member vocal band based in Los Angeles that combines pop, soul, R&B, and electronic music who won Season 3 of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” last fall. Like a bunch of YouTube artists they were overwhelmed by requests for a Gangnam Style cover and WOW did they deliver!!!
Now while it lacks the crazy over-the-topness that has most of us in love with the confidence PSY oozes I almost prefer the sound to the original (seen below).
Although I have to say my favorite version of the song is probably um…..this one…which uh……mmmm Asian girls.
- Gangnam A Cappella Style! (amp.cbslocal.com)
- PSY Sounds Off On His ‘Gangnam Style’ Success (997now.cbslocal.com)
- Filipino prisoners take on PSY’s Gangnam Style (telegraph.co.uk)
- VIDEO: The Thai Tims do ‘Gangnam Style’ (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- S. Korea’s Gangnam Style tops 200m YouTube views (straitstimes.com)
The following post is a guestpost by Walter Chen, founder of a unique new project management tool IDoneThis. More about Walter at the bottom of the post.
I admit that I’ve never been able to work that way. There is one thing that always came first and most importantly for me: How am I feeling today? I found that it can easily happen to think of emotions as something that gets in the way of work. When I grew, I often heard that they obstruct reasoning and rationality, but I feel that we as humans can’t shut off our humanness when we come to work.
Feelings provide important feedback during our workday. It doesn’t make sense to pretend that it’s best or even possible to keep our emotions and work separate, treating our capacity for emotion and thought as weakness. I wanted to look into whether there was anything besides a gut feeling to my suspicions behind keeping the head and the heart separate in business.
What does emotion have to do with our work?
It turns out, quite a lot. Emotions play a leading role in how to succeed in business because they influence how much you try, and this is widely misunderstood by bosses and managers.
Psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer interviewed over 600 managers and found a shocking result. 95 percent of managers misunderstood what motivates employees. They thought what motivates employees was making money, getting raises and bonuses. In fact, after analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, they discovered that the number one work motivator was emotion, not financial incentive: it’s the feeling of making progress every day toward a meaningful goal. In Fact, Dan Pink found that actually the exact opposite is true:
“The larger the monetary reward, the poorer the performance. – money doesn’t motivate us, at all, instead emotions do.”
In the famous experiment by Dr. Edward Deci clarified again whether emotional feedback or money would engagement with work. People were sitting in a room and tried to solve a puzzle while Deci measured how much time they put in, before giving up. For Group A, he offered a cash reward for successfully solving the puzzle, and as you might expect, those people spent almost twice as much time trying to solve the puzzle as those people in Group B who weren’t offered a prize.
A surprising thing happened the next day, when Deci told Group A that there wasn’t enough money to pay them this time around: Group A lost interest in the puzzle. Group B, on the other hand, having never been offered money in exchange for working on the puzzles, worked on the puzzles longer and longer in each consecutive session and maintained a higher level of sustained interest than Group A. So if it not money what else really motivates us?
The 3 real reasons that motivate us to work hard every day
Pink explains further that there are in fact just 3 very simple things that drive nearly each and every one of us to work hard:
- Autonomy: Our desire to direct our own lives. In short: “You probably want to do something interesting, let me get out of your way!”
- Mastery: Our urge to get better at stuff.
- Purpose: The feeling and intention that we can make a difference in the world.
If these three things play nicely together, Amabile and Kramer called this the somewhat obvious “inner work life balance” and emphasize its importance to how well we work. Inner work life is what’s going on in your head in response to workday events that affects your performance.
The components of the inner work life — motivation, emotions, and perceptions of how the above three things work together — feed each other. So ultimately our emotional processes ultimately our motivation to work. They end up being the main influencer of our performance.
Deci’s experiment showed that payment actually undermined intrinsic motivation because such external rewards thwart our “three psychological needs — to feel autonomous, to feel competent and to feel related to others.” As he told BBC.com, “You need thinkers, problem solvers, people who can be creative and using money to motivate them will not get you that.”
What’s going on inside our brains that connects our emotions to motivate you as a thinker and problem solver?
Amabile and Kramer tell us this:
“depending on what happens with our emotions, motivation for the work can skyrocket or nosedive (or hardly shift at all).”
So how does our brain deal with emotion and connect it to such practical results like motivation and productivity? Well, the ironic part is that the parts of the brain that deal with emotions are actually connected to those that deal with cognition. Richard J. Davidson explains how emotional and cognitive functions interrelate. To get all “brainy” with this:
The brain connection of cognition and emotion is not segregated. The idea is that your “limbic system” is the seat of emotion […] and it is critical for your cognitive processes (e.g., the hippocampus for memory).
Emotions are wired straight into our thinking and cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and reasoning.
Let’s switch this around. We know what happens if we positively affect our emotions. But what about the other way round? Famous psychologist Alice Isen found that positive moods facilitate creative problem-solving. Negative emotions, on the other hand, lead us to think more narrowly:
“Negative emotions like fear and sadness can lead to brain activity and thought patterns that are detrimental to creative, productive work: (a) avoidance of risk; (b) difficulty remembering and planning; and (c) rational decision-making.”
Personally, I found this particularly interesting. I always had a good hunch that positive thinking will improve my daily performance. The impact of negative emotions was never that clear and gives me a lot to think about working hard on limiting these emotions.
3 Most important things to improve your inner work life and manage your motivation:
Yes, it’s done! With the knowledge about the impact of a positive inner work life and our emotions’ connection to great performance, I think we win the battle against the reserved, rational robot.
The key takeaway here for me is to pay more attention to our emotions and thoughts. It’s simple, we use them to be more awesome at what we do. Following on from the studies above, the following three main actions have proven the best results for keeping our emotions and positive thinking the highest:
- Exercise – How to get started and why: Any work-out will automatically release mood-enhancing chemicals and endorphin into your blood. This can immediately lift your mood and lowering stress. Exercise and maintenance of our physical health boosts our emotional health. The hard part here is of course how to get started with an exercise habit. Whatever it is you want to get into, the key is to start with easier task than you could actually do. Yes, that’s right. If you feel comfortable lifting 10kg, make it 5. The art is in the start as this post found.
- Set yourself up for success – here is how: Amabile and Kramer’s most important finding is that making progress at work is the main way to fuel positive inner work life. Making progress is easier said than done but breaking it down to ask what will facilitate progress can be helpful. Identify barriers and remove them, whether it’s too many meetings or micromanagement. Identify facilitators and implement or improve them, such as better communication or increased autonomy. The feeling of progress triggers the emotions and brain activity that result in creativity and your best work.
- Reflect and review through work diaries: Pay careful attention to your inner work life by writing down thoughts and feelings about your workday in a work diary by yourself or with your team using a tool like iDoneThis. A regular practice of reflection helps you recognize patterns, gain insight about your work and work relationships, celebrate and appreciate achievements and gestures, and puzzle out what helps and hinders progress. Journaling itself will improve your inner work life, lifting your emotions and aiding cognitive processing and adaptation. Take ten minutes out of your day to reflect, vent, and celebrate.
Quick last fact: Emotions are the key driver to make your daily decisions
Here is an interesting last fact for you. Making decisions is all about our intellectual capability, right? I thought so too, turns out, that’s completely wrong. In an experiment by Antonio Damasio, named Descartes’ Error he discovered that the key element for making daily decisions is to have strong emotional feelings:
“One of Damasio’s patients, Elliot, suffered ventromedial frontal lobe damage and while retaining his intelligence, lost the ability to feel emotion. The result was that he lost his ability to make decisions and to plan for the future, and he couldn’t hold on to a job.”
The way our brains are built make it necessary that emotions “cloud” our judgment. Without all that cloudy emotion, we wouldn’t be able to reason, have motivation, and make decisions.
Of course, I am sure that you have tons more insights into how you manage your own work-life balance and which things help you to stay motivated every day. What have you found to be your main driver to get up for work every day? Do you think some of the new habits mentioned above could be useful? I’d love your thoughts in the comments.
About the author: Walter Chen is the co-founder of iDoneThis, a simple way to preserve and celebrate progress at work, every day, that amazing companies like Zappos, Shopify, and reddit use. He’d love to hear from you on Twitter at @smalter.
It’s like Martha Stewart always says: “Add a little color to any retail environment with the simple addition of a grotesquely murdered children’s character.” And if your kids ask why Elmo’s lifeless corpse has been splayed out above them like a hideous trophy (on the off-chance they’re able to do anything but stare up at him in silent, mouth-gaping horror), tell them he was caught stealing. Sure they’ll need years of intensive therapy before they’re able to form words again, but they’ve learned a valuable lesson about honesty.
Some day it’s entirely possible that the human race will be wiped out. Maybe we’ll do it ourselves, maybe we’ll be taken out by a rogue asteroid, or maybe we’ll survive until the sun turns into a red giant and burns away the Earth’s crust. Maybe we’ll make it out of the solar system in time to colonize other planets before that happens, but even if we don’t, somewhere out there in the universe at least something will survive as a signpost to say “hey we were here”.
Voyager 1, the space probe originally launched by NASA back in 1977, has escaped the solar system. It’s the first man-made object ever to leave our solar system, the first tangible evidence, to any creature which might be out there in the universe, that we are here and we exist. I can’t think of anything bigger or more important.
It’s taken 35-years but The Atlantic says that over the last few weeks Voyager 1 has been leaving our solar system’s heliosphere, that’s the last part of what is officially considered our solar system, before it enters uncharted and unknown deep space. The heliosphere is a bubble of charged particles surrounding our solar system and, since the Voyager was built to last, it’s been reporting back on what it finds there via radio. It’s detecting the heliosphere’s energy particles around it and beginning to detect increased heat, as it boldly goes where humanity has never been before.
Voyager 1 is now 11,100,000,000 miles away from the little blue dot called Earth, the only place in the universe where you can find an intelligent race called “humanity”.
Walking on the moon, splitting the atom, both great achievements, but ultimately fleeting. If the Earth is destroyed tomorrow, there will be no sign that any of it ever happened. But Voyager 1 will keep going. No matter what happens to us now, in Voyager 1, we know that at least some piece of us will continue on. That’s huge.
Think about it for a second. We’ve sent something out of the solar system. This is humanity screaming as loudly as it can out into the cosmos. To the cosmos and anything listening out in it, our voice is only the tiniest, almost undetectable whisper; yet for the first time in the billions of years this universe has existed, there’s something out there delivering the most important message humanity will ever send…
“We are here. We are here. We are here.”
It’s the only message that matters. This is the most important thing humanity has ever done. Tune in to your local news tomorrow night. They won’t be talking about it. They won’t be talking about it because we no longer care, but maybe we should. To the universe, we’re just a tiny little speck. But this speck has a voice. Maybe it’s time we shouted louder.
NASA reports that Voyager 1 has enough battery life to keep reporting back until the year 2020. After that it goes silent, it will become a dead relic drifting endlessly through the stars. Maybe someday, someone or something will find it and wonder who made it. Maybe they won’t. But even if we never do shout any louder, Voyager will be out there, sailing through the cosmos. Somewhere out there is tangible evidence of an intelligent race of people who once lived on a tiny blue speck and reached out into the stars to shout: We are here! We are here!
- Voyager Spacecraft: Beyond the Solar System (space.com)
- 35-Year-Old Voyager 2 Probe Is NASA’s Longest Mission Ever (space.com)
Most of us experienced the grueling boredom of waiting in a line. Not only are lines boring, they can also be aggravating, and stressful. The New York Times explains why we hate lines, and what we can do about them.
The basic idea is that when you’re unoccupied, the wait in a line feels longer. In fact, research suggests that people overestimate how long they’ve waited in a line by 36 percent. Those estimates are often based on expectation. The New York Times explains:
Our expectations further affect how we feel about lines. Uncertainty magnifies the stress of waiting, while feedback in the form of expected wait times and explanations for delays improves the tenor of the experience.
Oddly, our feelings about a line aren’t just based on expectations. Our perception of a line is often all about that final moment. If a line speeds up at the end, we remember the experience positively. If it slows down, we have a negative memory.
The other problem with waiting in lines is that we’re more likely to make impulse purchases when we’re bored. This is why supermarkets place tabloids, candy, and gum in the checkout lane.
Can you really do anything about lines? Not really, but the New York Times offers one final bit of advice for dealing with them:
The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away. The last thing we want to do with our dwindling leisure time is squander it in stasis. We’ll never eliminate lines altogether, but a better understanding of the psychology of waiting can help make those inevitable delays that inject themselves into our daily lives a touch more bearable. And when all else fails, bring a book.
If you find yourself getting peeved when you’re waiting in lines, the New York Times article is worth a read, even though you can rarely do anything about wait times.
Why Waiting Is Torture | New York Times
Photo by David Morris.
- Gray Matter: Why Waiting in Line Is Torture (nytimes.com)
The following review of Fifty Shades of Greycontains graphic language and descriptions of sex. It is a review of an erotic novel, after all. Do not read this if you will be offended.
Additionally, this review is only meant for those who may be under the misapprehension that there is any literary merit to this book. If you understand and enjoy that it is pornography, and therefore not worth critiquing, then you need read no further. We already agree.
However, if you have been told it is actually a “good book” or is interesting in any way, let this serve as a warning.
This review contains many spoilers.
It seems appropriate to start with what…
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Yes, I’m well aware that there is 80 shades of grey on this page, however, 50 in hex is 80 in decimal.
- 50 Shades of Grey: The Musical Is About All Of Us (perezhilton.com)
- Fifty Shades of Grey Parodies [Sundays Are For Procrastination] (collegecandy.com)
- Vicar condemns hotel after it replaces Gideon Bible with 50 Shades of Grey (telegraph.co.uk)
- Rihanna Won’t Be Reading ’50 Shades of Grey’: Christian and Anastacia Are Amateurs (celebuzz.com)
- The Best Thing About That Horrible Mommy Porn Book Is This Review [50 Shades Of Grey] (gawker.com)
- ’50 Shades of Grey’ : Movie or TV Show? Christian Grey May Transfer Better to TV (celebs.gather.com)
- “You know you’re borderline when “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a meaningless title.” (authorjaenwirefly.wordpress.com)
First, this is purely a thought exercise, if somebody is ill, or dead, please, call the proper authorities.
Secondly, be smart from the very beginning. Pulverize all teeth, burn off fingerprints, and disfigure the face. Forcing a DNA test to establish identity (if it ever comes to that) might introduce the legal/forensic hurdle that saves your ass down the line. An unidentifiable body can, in a pinch, be dressed in thrift store clothes and dropped in a bad part of town where the police are less likely to question it. I don’t recommend that disposal method, I’m just saying an easily identifiable body is an even bigger threat than the opposite.
Assuming you have it inside a house where you can work on it a bit, the first thing you want to do is drain it of fluids. This will make it easier to cut up, and slow decomposition a little bit. The best way to do this quick and dirty is to perforate the body with a pointed knife, and then perform CPR on it. Cut the fronts of the thighs deep, diagonally, to slit the femoral arteries. Then pump the chest. The valves in the heart will still work when dead, and the springback of the ribcage can put apply a fair amount of suction to the atria. Do this in a tub. Plug the drain, and mingle lots of bleach with the bodily fluids before unplugging the drain to empty the tub. This should help control the stench of death, which would otherwise reek from your gutter gratings. Do everything you can to control odors. Plug in an ionizer, burn candles, leave bowls of baking soda everywhere. Ventilate the room in the middle of the night, but otherwise keep it closed. Keep the body under a plastic sheet while it’s in the tub.
If you want to bury, I recommend separating the body into several parts, and burying them separately. For one thing, it’s easier to dig a deep enough hole for a head than for an entire body. this reduces your chances of being discovered while you are actually outside and digging the grave.
That is the one thing you can’t do inside the doors of your house, and represents a vulnerable moment you want to keep brief, under 2 hours. Do it between 3 and 5 am. It’s also less likely for someone to call the police if their dog digs up some chunk of meat, than if they dig up an entire body. They may assume it’s an animal carcass disfigured by decomposition, and leave it alone or dispose of it. It’s also more likely that the dog will consume all of it before anyone knows the difference. A whole skeleton is another story. You can cut a body into 6 pieces faster than you think. It’s not much different from boning a chicken, but it takes more work, a big knife, and time. A hammer will be useful for pulverizing joints or driving the knife deep where it doesn’t want to go. Anyway it’s wise to crush as much of the skeleton as you can along the way. It will aid in making the body less identifiable for what it is as it decomposes.
Don’t return to the same site 6 times for 6 burials.You’ll attract suspicion from anyone nearby, and you’ll wind up placing the body parts close enough together to be found by any serious investigation. Put them in plastic bags with lots of bleach, and store in a freezer until you have enough time to bury them all.
Depending on what tools you have available, you may find that you’re get really good at deconstructing the body. You might prefer to slowly sprinkle it down a drain without leaving your house. This avoids the long-term risk of discovery associated with burial, and the overwhelming supply of bacteria in a sewer accelerates decomposition, while providing a convenient cover smell.
Truly grinding down a body takes a lot more work, and you run the risk of fouling your plumbing and calling in a plumber. So don’t try it unless you know how to clear bones and meat out of a drain pipe. A good food processor can be useful. But don’t over-use it, or power drills or saws. They’re noisy and they attract attention. And forget the kitchen sink. It’s better if you actually remove one of the toilets in your house from its base, which will give you direct access to one of the largest sewer pipes that enters your house. Follow any disposal with lots of bleach and then run the water for 5 or 10 minutes on top of that. And plug that pipe when you’re not using it, to prevent any sewer gasses from backing up into your house. Usually, a U-trap inside the toilet does that for you.