13 Business Cliches That Are Making You Terrible At Your Job

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At some point — long, long ago — someone would say “bull in a china shop” and you would actually picture the scene. Here’s this bull, all big and mad and energetic. But he’s in a dainty little shop filled with dedicate plates and teacups. You can picture it, you might even chuckle a little. And you would definitely remember that conversation.

But hear that same phrase today? You’d get the point, but the message doesn’t stick nearly as well. There’s no imagery to make the point extra clear. You register the phrase and what it means, but the benefits of the metaphor are washed out. You might as well be saying nothing. You basically are.

This is what a cliche is. And they’re insanely common in business. And they’re making you terrible at your job. Terrible? Yes. Talking in empty cliches makes you — and the things you say — forgettable.

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9 Tips for Landing a Remote Job

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This article on landing a remote job is a guest post from Tim Metz. Tim is the co-founder of Saent, a hardware and software device that blocks digital distractions and helps you be more productive. Saent is crowdfunding its initial production run on Indiegogo now. Before Saent, Tim worked in mobile gaming and electronic music, amongst other things. Tim lives and works from Beijing (China) and starts each day writing, usually about productivity on the Saent blog. You can follow him on Twitter & LinkedIn

 

When I lost my job at a mobile gaming company in August of last year, I soul-searched hard to figure out what I really wanted to do. I realized my ideal position would involve my passion and knowledge of productivity. I set my sights on landing a job Evernote, which is one of the few companies truly trying to build a great brand and community around productivity. To my amazement, they also had a vacancy at that time that I thought would perfectly suit me: Marketing Producer. I sent off a cover letter and CV.

And that was it. I never heard back from them.

Tim Metz

Tim Metz

At first I was puzzled, and a bit crushed. Then I started reviewing myself more critically. I’d done a lot of things wrong: I didn’t really highlight my passion for productivity, I didn’t talk about what I could do for Evernote, and I didn’t even showcase my relevant productivity experience. In retrospect, everything sounded a bit generic.

Fast forward 12 months and I’ve launched my own company to manufacture a productivity device and hired a globally distributed team operating under Teal organizational principles. Most recently, I’ve been going through the over 400 applications we received for our remote librarian position, and unfortunately, many applicants made a lot of the same mistakes I did. Though the Evernote job wasn’t a remote role, many of the concept translate — and at times are amplified by the nature of remote work.

So, based on my own failed attempt to land a job at Evernote and the experience hiring a remote team at Saent, here are nine tips about how to apply for a remote job.

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Why Your Brain Loves Negativity and How to Fix It

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Pretend you’re a caveman.

You’re in your cave preparing for a hunt, but something outside seems dangerous, violent sounds you don’t understand.

You have two choices: Skip the hunt, spend the night hungry but live another day. Or risk death and go outside.

Hold onto that thought. We’ll be getting back to that.

Now imagine you’re driving to work. While getting off the highway, someone cuts you off. You slam on your brakes.

You know the feeling that’s coming. That tense anger rises up. Your fingers clench the steering wheel.

It’s enough to set you on a path to feel horrible all day. You might be less productive at work, distracted during meetings. You might try to counterbalance the feeling with a quick shot of endorphins from junk food, mindless web surfing or time-wasting YouTube videos. This only compounds the problem. This is like taking short-term unhappiness and investing it in a long-term, high-yield unhappiness investment plan, ensuring belly flab and career stagnation for years to come.

So why does this one minor thing, getting cut off, have such a powerful effect on us? Why does one negative experience ruin an otherwise great day?

The answer has to do with our friend, Mr. Caveman. Research shows that our brains evolved to react much more strongly to negative experiences than positive ones. It kept us safe from danger. But in modern days, where physical danger is minimal, it often just gets in the way.

It’s called the negativity bias.

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Don’t Let Your Huge Goal Distract You from Small Wins

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Go big or go home. Shoot for the stars. Aim high. These types of platitudes could be holding you back, because they’re distracting you from all the small things.

A kind word or a moment of honest listening can be enough fuel to keep you going. Doing one push-up a day, writing one line a day seems laughably easy and ridiculously unambitious — but that’s how you build a practice.

We think small actions leads to small consequences, and grand motions have the most impact. But that’s just not true. We presume this “consequence-cause matching,” because it helps the world seem more predictable and manageable — but in return for believing this myth, we’re less happy and successful.

Small things might seem silly, but they can have exactly some of the outsize impact we need to reach our big dreams.

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Why You Need a Business Coach But Won’t Admit It

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You’re a founder who’s juggling a million priorities and tasks — from product to people to vision. There’s so much going on and so much to do that you feel simultaneously adrift and stuck, not sure what to do or where to turn next — even as you continue to work incredibly hard to get your startup on higher ground.

It’s time for you to get a business coach.

“Having a coach who can develop insights for you, to help you think through things is so, so helpful,” says Brian Wang, co-founder and CEO of Fitocracy — which began as a gamified fitness tracking app with an important social support element and now includes a platform offering coaching services. “It’s the next big element of health and fitness — and I would say productivity — to have coaching,” predicts Brian, “a human experience that moves beyond a self-serve tool.”

Even with Fitocracy’s move toward training services, Brian was initially skeptical about the value of a CEO coach for himself. But he soon found his business coach invaluable to the process of self-improvement as an entrepreneur and leader.

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Why Poor Leaders Are Valuable

Thomas Edison famously replied when asked whether his repeated failures (ten thousand plus) at creating a working light bulb frustrated him: “No, I just discovered 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When someone demonstrates poor leadership, he or she is showing you one way not to make your light bulb.

My father gave me similar advice while I was attending Navy Officer Candidate School after I had complained about some of the leadership traits of my peers and senior candidates in charge of us:

Correct in yourself what you do not like in others.

This single phrase helped me see people’s weaknesses or inabilities not as a chance to point out their blemishes but to look inward and see what I could change about myself.

When people miss this lesson, it’s a wasted opportunity. You may never be able to change the person above you, but you do have the power to create a better work environment for those under you.

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How to Keep Believing in Yourself

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I stood there catching my breath. Thoughts were gushing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. This was a metaphorical mirror — a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.

This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.

Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down, paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self-doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me? How do you keep believing in yourself?

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Build Brick by Brick

John Heywood was an English playwright who lived hundreds of years ago.

Today, Heywood is known for his poems, proverbs, and plays. But more than any one work, it’s his phrases that have made him famous. For example, here are some popular sayings that have been attributed to Heywood:

“Out of sight out of mind.”
“Better late than never.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Many hands make light work.”

There is one phrase from Heywood that is particularly interesting when it comes to building better habits:

“Rome was not built in one day.”

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How Long It Really Takes to Form a New Habit, Backed by Science

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a strange pattern among his patients. When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation — like a nose job, for example — he found that it would take patients about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.

These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit. Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

In 1960, Maltz published that quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The book went on to become an blockbuster hit, selling more than 30 million copies.

And that’s when the problem started.

You see, in the decades that followed, Maltz’s work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from Zig Ziglar to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz’s story — like a very long game of “Telephone” — people began to forget that he said “a minimum of about 21 days” and shortened it to, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”

That’s how society started spreading the common myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (or 30 days or some other magic number). It’s remarkable how often these timelines are quoted as statistical facts. Dangerous lesson: If enough people say something enough times, then everyone else starts to believe it.

It makes sense why the “21 Days” Myth would spread. It’s easy to understand. The time frame is short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable. And who wouldn’t like the idea of changing your life in just three weeks?

The problem is that Maltz was simply observing what was going on around him and wasn’t making a statement of fact. Furthermore, he made sure to say that this was the minimum amount of time needed to adapt to a new change.

So what’s the real answer? How long does it actually take to form a new habit? Is there any science to back this up? And what does all of this mean for you and me?

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Treat Yourself Like a Role Model

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In December I completed my first 200-hour yoga instructor certification. With New Year’s resolutions in full gear and Q1 initiatives in motion, I’m often reminded of an idea I explored during my certification and has guided me since, in both my personal life and in all of my work at Zirtual.

The idea is simple yet stunningly important: You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Our society has an intense quest for productivity and endless improvement. We look at our past with a dissecting eye and zoom in on what we didn’t accomplish. We set goals and record what we did, day in and day out.

But how do we use this data? Is it to celebrate each accomplishment? Hardly! We usually use what we have done to highlight what we haven’t, and everything starts to center around what’s next. “Tomorrow I’ll get through this,” we say. Or “next quarter I’m finally going to tackle that.”

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