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Do You Make Your Friends Happy?

happy_people A recent study of happiness showed that the birds you flock with make a bigg difference. Nicholas Christaskis with the Harvard Medical School and James Fowler from the University of California at San Diego found that the more connections you have with happy people, the more likely you are to be happy.

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It cuts both ways

They likened it to a quilt. If the person in the patch next to you is unhappy, it increases the likelihood that you’ll also be happy by seven percent.

If the person next to you is happy, it increases the odds that you’ll be happy by fifteen percent. It’s interesting to note that we seem to have some resilience to unhappy people since happy people tend to rub off twice as often as unhappy people.

But the good news is that is doesn’t stop there. If the person who knows the person next to you (i.e. the person two patches away) is happy, the probability that you’ll also be happy increases ten percent. So happy people one step removed still increases the odds that you’ll be happy more than that unhappy person next to you!

In a quest to find out how happy we could be once we get to Kevin Bacon’s patch (six patches of separation) on the quilt, the researchers found that if the person three blocks away is happy, your chances of being happy increase six percent.
Happiness is contagious!

4 questions to discover if you spread happiness

To determine if someone was happy, the researchers asked four questions. During the past week, how often …

  1. Did you enjoy life?
  2. Were you happy?
  3. Did you feel hopeful about the future?
  4. Did you feel that you were just as good as other people?

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marylynnI feel blessed because I have positive responses to each and every one of these questions. I guess I’m a happy person.

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georgeI think I’m a happy person as well. In fact, if I remember right, I was voted the “Happiest” person in high school! But when I look closely at these questions, it makes me think. Like the first question … I enjoy my life, but how often do I stop and recognize it?

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This study was released recently, but imagine how you might have responded if you were asked the third question at the height of the financial crisis. Uncertainty creates fear, but as these questions show, it’s important to remain optimistic in any environment. That’s where happy people come in – they’ll help you have a brighter outlook no matter what the situation!

There’s one more benefit to hanging out with happy people. The researchers reference a study done in 1984 that showed that having an extra $5,000 increased a person's chances of being happy by about two percent. Based on those results and the results of this study, the researchers conclude that a happy friend is worth $20,000!

They say a happy friend is worth $20,000. We’ll borrow from MasterCard – we think having a happy friend is … priceless!

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We really appreciate you checking in with us today. Join us next time when we discuss the three categories of spending. Keeping them in mind will keep your budget in line! Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Thanks to You, Bigg Success is One Year Old!

birthday Hey it’s party time! We’re celebrating the first birthday of Bigg Success. We’re so excited to have come this far. We weren’t sure we would make it!

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Seriously, though, we want to take this opportunity to say one simple thing …

Thank YOU!

We couldn’t do this without you. There would no reason to keep doing it if you didn’t visit us. So whether you check in every day or every now and then, we thank you so much.

It wouldn’t be any fun to do this if you weren’t here. We feel fortunate that more people are discovering Bigg Success. From site visitors to subscribers – in iTunes, in Zune, our newsletter, and our RSS feed – we’re seeing more people every month in every category. We thank you so much for sharing Bigg Success with your friends and business associates!

We also check page views and show downloads and we see that you’re consuming our content faithfully. We’re just thrilled that you take time out of your busy schedule – and we know how busy you are – to check in on us like you do.

You got here early so you’re a leader in the Bigg Success community. We appreciate everything you’ve already done to help us build this community of bigg goal-getters. We just ask this one thing – if you have any feedback, if you have any questions – please reach out to us. If you want to keep it private, send us an e-mail (bigginfo@biggsuccess.com,) or call us on our toll-free number (888-455-BIGG). If you can share it with everyone, just leave a comment. We want to get to know you better in the days and months ahead.

Special thanks

We would be remiss if we didn’t take the time to thank those people who have been a bigg help to us as we launched Bigg Success and throughout our first year.

Chris Brogan You helped us build our confidence when we didn’t know if we could put out content worth anything to anybody. You have also generously shared time with us that we know you didn’t have.

Liz Strauss
You helped us think outside the box and develop a framework for Bigg Success in the coming years. We so appreciate your guidance.
 
Jim Bouchard You have unknowingly been a model for us and you continue to be an inspiration. Our conversations with you always make us think bigger!

Shwen Gwee Is there anyone you don’t know? You’ve been so helpful in introducing to people who have made such a difference in how far we’ve come.

Chris Christensen You’ve always been willing to take time to answer our questions, especially when we were as green as green can be. You’ll know never how much your advice has meant to us.

Denny Birt You’ve been helpful for years in other businesses and now you’re helping us make Bigg Success a bigg success.

Liz McMillen We feel so lucky that you share your graphic design genius with us to give Bigg Success the right look and feel. You’re incredible!

Michael Bailey What would we do without you? You’ve always been there when we faced technological challenges that we didn’t know how to handle. You’re amazing!

Keith Kravitz You’re a fantastic marketer and you’ve helped steer us through the rough waters of launching a site. We just wish you had a little more energy!

Lon Ray That bigg voice. Thanks for introducing us on every Bigg Success Show!

Jerome Ritchey You’re one of the most talented people we know. We love all of your character voices and are so glad you share them with us. This one is our favorite.

Dana Mancuso
You’re so good at taking great lessons away from real life situations. Thanks for sharing your gift of writing with us.

Jake Novak You’re one of the funniest people we’ve ever met. We know you’ll make it bigg in Hollywood someday. Thanks for the laughs!

Paul Faraci You were there when this was just an idea. We thank you so much for all the promotion you’ve given us. You’ve also shared so many resources that have been great show topics. Keep ‘em coming!

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georgePat Drake Mary-Lynn and I can’t thank you enough for both your moral support and all of the advice you’ve given us. We always know you’re listening. I couldn’t find a better sister if I picked her out myself!

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marylynnSue Foster You’re not just my sister; you’re my best friend. Thanks for encouraging in my bigg step from the corporate world to life as a business owner. George and I are so grateful for all your help this year, including your great work on our soon-to-be released DVD.

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We’re very happy with the results of Year 1. We look forward to Year 2 and many more to come. We’d like to virtually share a piece of birthday cake with all of you. It’s totally non-fattening!

Join us next time as we look at a natural experiment that shows how isolation impacts innovation. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

(Image by PinkCakeBox, CC 2.0)

Save the Holiday Party!

holiday We face many important issues in the coming months and years. So we decided to start a movement – to save the holiday party!

Okay, maybe that’s not the most important thing we could address, but we still think that many business owners are making a bigg mistake by eliminating this annual tradition.

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A recent survey by executive search firm Battalia Winston found that fewer firms plan to host a holiday party for their employees this year. In fact, it’s the lowest number in the twenty year history of the study. The primary reason cited is the poor economy.

We think this sends the wrong message. Leaders who portray gloom and doom create an environment of uncertainty. It scares people. People today are looking for signs of reassurance, not signals of impending disaster.

Holiday parties aren’t just about having a party. They’re a great opportunity to show your appreciation to your people. They can help build your team by getting together without the pressure of work. Yet people inevitably talk about work, recalling fun times together from the past year. This builds a sense of comradery which helps get things done at work.

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If last year’s party is beyond this year’s budget, get creative. There are ways to keep the party without busting the bank. Here are some thoughts:

Look for deals

With more companies cutting back, you might be surprised to learn that facilities are more aggressive in pricing deals for those people who still plan to hold an event. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!

Keep it on site

If you can’t find a good deal, consider having it on site if your facility will accommodate it. Then look for a good deal on catering. You might find that catering firms offer a good alternative since they’re not paying for the overhead of a facility.

Go potluck

If that’s still too expensive, have a potluck. Ask your employees to bring a dish. Consider making it a day-long event. People can “graze” and chat. Just for one day, accept a more relaxed environment full of impromptu conversations.

Make it fun

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marylynnSanta visited us at a radio station I worked at. The employees brought their kids in to tell him what they wanted. It was a lot of fun – all for the price of renting a Santa suit since our General Manager played Santa.

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There are many other ways to make it an event, even if it doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional holiday party. Give out awards. Have an employee who’s into such things produce a fun video or audio.

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marylynnAt one radio station, our production manager put together a fun audio of all of our commercial outtakes. As the disc jockeys recorded commercials, he kept the bloopers and played them at our annual holiday get-together. It was so funny!

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georgeWe gave out gag gifts at one of the companies I owned. They reflected something that an employee had done over the past year that made people laugh. It brought up the joke again and everybody loved it.

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Hold it after the New Year

A number of companies are turning their “holiday” party into an “annual” party. Instead of competing for space during the busy holiday season, they hold it after the New Year. A lot of people really like this because we’re all so busy at the end of the year.

We have friends who turned their annual holiday party into “Christmas in July.” We were fortunate enough to get invited. They had a Christmas tree and played holiday music. It made for a fun evening.

If you do end up doing something different, don’t present it as just the result of budget cutbacks. Tell your people that you want to try something different. Get them involved in finding a good solution.

What do you think? Does canceling the holiday party send the wrong message to your people? What are you doing this year for your people?

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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The Art of Knowing Yourself

questions In the movie, Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward (played by Julia Roberts) and Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) go to an opera. Edward explains to Vivian that some people who go to an opera for the first time love it. He continues that others don’t love it; they may come to appreciate it, but they will never love it. At the end of the opera, Vivian is crying while Edward sits stoically watching her.

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There’s a great article, by Eriq Gardner over at Psychology Today, about what your choice in art says about you. He describes four 4 personality types:

#1 – Taste hunters
These people are always looking for new art and sharing their discoveries with others. If you visited their home, you’d find an eclectic mix of books, CDs, and DVDs. These people are more likely to become artists themselves.

#2 – Thrill seekers
These people are highly social, connecting with others at concerts, clubs & theaters. They crave sensory excitement, often consuming several media at once. They enjoy bold colors or themes of sex or violence.

#3 – Self-medicators

These people may be somewhat neurotic, evidenced by anxiety and sensitivity. They are highly creative and emotional. So they like art that depicts emotion – romantic movies and books, and music like rap and heavy metal. They use art to regulate their moods and validate their feelings.

#4 – Art as decoration
These conscientious people are dependable, focused, and task-oriented. They enjoy order and rules. So they like art about things they like in real life. They choose art for its aesthetics, often selecting it based on its market value. Conventional art is preferred over modern or abstract. Musicians who are technically accomplished are favored.

Which type are you?

Edward Lewis was definitely the “art as decoration” personality. He went to the opera to be seen by people who viewed as important. He chose the best seat because it made him look important. He consumed art in a very logical manner. He didn’t experience it fully, but he appreciated the craftsmanship that went into making it.

Vivian Ward was very extroverted, enjoying flashy clothes throughout the movie. She felt the opera deeply. This all steers us toward thinking she was a “thrill seeker”. But she was also very emotional, perhaps showing some tendencies of a “self-medicator”.

That’s the thing about these four personality types. Most of us probably fit into more than one. What type or types are you?

Consuming art can reduce your stress

The article also cites a study of office workers – one group looked at art, the other didn’t. It took five hours for the group that didn’t look at art to wind down after work. The group who looked at art achieved the same stress level in forty minutes!

It also helps you understand yourself better. By thinking about the type of art you like, you get to know yourself better.

It’s also a great way to get a conversation going. It helps you connect with others. By knowing what art a person consumes, you come to understand them better.
So take advantage of the upcoming weekend to take in some art!

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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Next time, we’ll discuss smart investors in tough times. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Are You Throwing Money Away by Owning Your Home?

toss_moneyWe all know that the three essentials for living are food, clothing, and shelter. We definitely rent our food. Do we rent or own our clothing? Hmmm.

Part of the American dream is to own your own home. And there are good reasons to do so. For instance, a Federal Reserve study[pdf] shows that the average family that owns a home has a net worth of nearly $625,000 while families who rent have a net worth of just a little over $54,000.

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Homeowners on the move

We’ve seen an interesting statistic bantered about, but we haven’t been able to pin down a reliable source. If this statistic is true, American homeowners move once every five years or so, on average.

So we thought we’d consider what that does to the buy vs. rent equation. We’ll use some averages and national statistics to create an example. However, what really matters is your own situation and your local real estate market. Only you, working with your financial advisors, can determine what’s in your best interest.

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marylynn When I was younger, one of my bosses in radio told me that I was just throwing away money by renting. I remember thinking that it made sense. I’d reached an age where maybe I should consider buying. So I did. As often happens in the radio business, less than a year later, I lost my gig. So I had to sell my house to move to a different market. I lost a lot of money by buying. If only I had had a crystal ball!

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Putting buy vs. rent to the test

We created a fictional purchase to see if we would be better off renting or owning a house for five years. We assumed that:

  • We put 20% down (approximately $63,000).
  • We financed the rest with a 30-year mortgage
  • The interest rate would be 6.50%, slightly above the current rate.
  • Our house would appreciate 4% per year, slightly below the recent average.
  • Property taxes would cost us 1% of the value of the home.
  • Insurance would run 0.50% of the value of the home. (Renters and homeowners have to insure the contents. We have the added burden of insuring the building.)
  • Repairs & maintenance would consume 1.50% of the value of the home.

Over the first five years, 83% of our total mortgage payments would go for interest. In other words, for the most part, we’ve traded renting property for renting money. If the interest rate is higher, the portion that would go to interest would also be higher. Of course, the reverse is also true.

During this period, we would pay $2,171 per month as “rental costs” for our home. We call them rental costs because they have no value once they’re paid. They only allow us to keep owning. So if we could rent a similar property for less than this, we would be better off renting instead of buying.

Of course, if we had made a down payment of less than $63,000, our cost would go up because we would be paying even more interest.

Where’s the break-even?

We also looked at how it would take before we would break-even. After all, it costs money to sell a house. We would have to pay commissions to our realtor, closing costs, and the like. We assumed these costs would total 8% of the selling price.

Given our assumptions, we looked at what would happen if we sold after one year. Our house would now be worth $326,560. From that, we would pay $26,125 in selling costs. After a year, our mortgage balance would be $248,392.

So we would be able to take out $52,043 in cash. But remember, we invested $63,000. So we lose about $11,000 if we sell after one year.

But that’s not the whole story …

We haven’t yet considered the opportunity cost of tying up that $63,000 in a house. Because if we didn’t invest it in this house, we could have invested in something else. We assumed we could have earned 6% by investing in some portfolio of financial assets.

That would have returned nearly $3,800. So by buying this house and selling it in a year, we would put ourselves in the hole nearly $15,000.

Even after 2 years, we’d still be about $3,500 behind, given our assumptions. Of course, one of those assumptions is that real estate prices are rising. It’s almost certain they will in the long run, but will they rise in the next year or two? They may not in some markets.

What’s the bottom-line?

We concluded that if we didn’t plan to own a house for at least two years, we’d rather rent. We also saw that the longer our holding period, the better we would do. For instance, in the last five years of the mortgage, only 15% of the mortgage payment would go to interest. It seems like buy-and-hold is rewarded in real estate investing.

How to get around it …

We have two friends who have been able to get around the short-term ownership problem. One of them is in the military, so he moves frequently. He only buys a house that he knows would make a good rental property. If he gets transferred, he hires a local property manager and rents it out. Until he decides where he wants to retire, he plans to hold a number of his houses.

Another friend doubled-down on this strategy. He moved quite frequently as he climbed the corporate ladder. Not only does he own houses in a number of cities, he bought additional rental properties, so he has a diversified portfolio across a number of cities. Now he’s retired living off the rents!

So you can get around the disadvantages of short-term ownership by having an alternative exit strategy!

Next time, we’ll discuss how a toy that you probably played with as a kid can help you manage your time. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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