Archive for December, 2011

A beautiful perk to living in or visiting a metropolis is a euphony of various languages, a din of voices uttering gorgeous vowels or harsh consanents, but nonetheless transmitting the most precious of all human inventions–culture.  But why learn these conduits of varying societies?

Pickthebrain.com articles “5 Great Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language”, and starts with the idea that it will improve your English…or whatever language is most familiar. Granted, not all ideas are parallel between societies, but to understand the uniqueness of a language and its reflection of culture ultimately makes one a more authentic and careful speaker. This continues the idea that knowing a language deepens cultural learning, teaching more than just vocal sounds, but instead a very human experience.

But strengthening one’s familiar language is only the beginning. Any avid traveler will note that knowing the local lingo can not only enhance the experience, but keeps a traveler safe as well.  Without knowing the behind-the-counter conversations, one can feel excluded from the local culture, relegated instead to buying over-price cheaply-made souveniers and eating at the local McDonald’s. Opening with at least an attempted language exchange increases the chances of a receptive and positive interaction, thus increasing the memories and deepening the experiences. When last I visited Paris, I attempted my worst pronunciation of French. Though I was ribbed for my terrible French, the Parisians were still quite happy to help me with whatever I needed. And possibly flirted with me a little bit, too.

Actually learning the language, though, can be the challenge. Two of the most used on-line language courses are livemocha and Rosetta Stone. However, which one to use is an even more of a challenge. LiveMocha allows learners to interact with fluent speakers and other learners. This community makes learning not feel so isolating, and gives almost immediate feedback as to the quality of responses. LiveMocha also has many free courses, though the most common languages (like German and Spanish) do cost. The downside is that LiveMocha has many translation errors, and behaves more as a review of a language than an initial learning tool. Rosetta Stone, however, has proven strategies that work, though at a high financial price at roughly $300.

Whatever language learning software you choose, just experiencing a new culture enhances the human experience. Challenging yourself, stepping out from your comfort zone, makes life more meaningful. Larga vida y prosperidad!


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Who wants to go to work tomorrow? Sadly, today’s economy has turned the American passion for hard work into hardly caring about work. The Conference Board research group found that “[i]n 2008, 49 percent of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.” Sad facts, of course, but wait, there’s more: the same research group claims job satisfaction has dipped even lower recently, “according to a new survey that found only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.”

What, then, is the answer? For many, it’s to start your own business. Though such a move has obvious risky results, there are plenty of reasons to follow through with your dream that may outweigh the risks. According to Inc.com, there are at least 10 of these reasons to get out and take a risk. First, owning your own business gives at least a feeling of controlling your own destiny. This said, keep in mind that markets and environmental factors could demolish an otherwise sound dream. But small business ownership allows type A personalities the freedom they need for true happiness.

As a small business owner, work/life balance becomes something you DO have more control over. In this same vein, you have more say over those people you work with as well, thus ending the frustrating battles of personalities or even mutinies.

And yes, there is a great amount of risk, but he who takes the risk, also reaps the rewards. This gives one the challenge so many seek! The challenge is what is exciting, especially if this relates to a field you are passionate about. And when there’s just you taking the risk, things get done faster than going through red tape or another’s hemhawing. Last, working alone also gives you more opportunity to bond with those you work with, including your clients.

Once successful, many small business owners feel a sense of pride, of accomplishment, and pass this positive feeling back into the community it serves.

Kiplinger.com offers advice on how to get your business started. Though their 6 steps are not new advice, nor are they greatly detailed, what it does offer is a concise, and not overwhelming page of advice. The best advice? Start with a solid business plan after gaining experience.

Of course, the above business plan should also involve a marketing plan that details who might be interested, where is the best location to start, and what time of year is best to get into the game.

All this said, I have pondered the idea of a small business for years. At one time it was a coffee house/ book store with live music. At another time it was photography. More recently, though, two ideas have become constant images in my head: an extreme sport tour company for women, and a licensed nutritionist.

I have not yet begun my official journey, but the idea of both simultaneously seems bountifully fun. I would love to give back to others who share the same passions I do. And to help people stay healthy and live longer lives? I know I would feel as though I am giving back to my community every day.

All this said, it takes a great deal of guts to start your own business. I think it would be easier if I didn’t love my currently job as much as I do! But some day, I’ll love my two business ventures even more.

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Though mothers around the world cringe at the thought of their offspring and “risk” in the same sentence, it has been proven that taking risks in adolescence is “a positive tool in an adolescent’s life for discovering, developing, and consolidating his or her identity”, as per Dr. Lynn E. Ponton. Taking risks is vital to our development, but should we stop taking risks when we become adults?

We have graduated college, found a career, maybe even settled down. The harder we’ve worked, the more we have to lose. Fear of loss, then, causes most adults to risk less, to find safe routines and comfortable lives. Yet this comfort–immediately lounging on the couch after work, rarely stepping out to meet friends unless it’s a special occasion, spending more time indoors than out–can also lead to complacency and later, despondency. We become lazy, overweight, energy-less, and with fewer and fewer experiences to make living worthwhile. However, reintroducing risk to break up routine can solve that!

At learnthis.ca, “Reach Out Beyond Your Comfort Zone” encourages readers to, once a month, take a small, calculated risk to break up routine. Some safe, small risks to try are:

  • Get out of the office at lunch (if you normally stay in)
  • Meet a friend you rarely see for coffee or a drink
  • Do something for a stranger. This can be volunteering or even just complimenting or smiling at a random person.
  • Step out of your normal “media” circle: try a new genre of book, music, or movie
  • Try a new and exotic food
  • Approach and tackle a fear, like skydiving or taking a dance class

Essentially, risk is comprised of four elements: get out of a comfort zone, face a challenge, use innovation, and have courage. Escaping the area of most comfort allows us to explore and re-examine who we are. Too much routine and we lose the definition of ourselves. We do this through facing, embracing, and hopefully overcoming a challenge of any variety. One day it might be dealing with feisty parents, while another it might be hucking off a cliff on a snowboard. When we approach these challenges, we must do so with innovation (new thinking) and courage, lest we turn and run the other way.

That courage element can often be a tricky one. “Life and Business Tips” on blogspot recommends the following to increase courage:

  • Feel and accept your fear, then visualize a positive outcome
  • Practicing daily affirmations can contribute to increased courage as well. Affirmations, such as “I am courageous. I am strong, bold and confident.” repeated regularly help guide our subconscious into a more powerful level.
  • Do a daily “anchor” exercise where you remember and meditate on a moment in your life where you feel particularly courageous.
  • As the song in Beauty and the Beast advised, “be prepared.” Know what you fear and make an informed plan of attack. For example, I once feared skydiving. I researched, learned the process, and went knowing I was ready.
  • Exercise daily. It isn’t enough to be mentally prepared, we must be physically balanced as well.
  • And last, seek examples. We can find courage in everything from uplifting movies to biographies of strong people, or even a personal role model who has achieved that which you desire.

Risk is important at all stages of our lives, but we must remember that the types of risks are what change, not whether or not we take risks. As a teenager, I took risks I know now were seriously dangerous. So as an adult, I have the capacity to make better decisions, and better risks. Dare I say even more fun risks!

Of late I’ve found myself in a routine. Same morning rituals, same afternoons and evenings. This has lead me into the “funk” I currently am swimming in, and might be partially to blame for my current illness. Thankfully, tomorrow I have the opportunity to change. Why wait for tomorrow? Right now I am plotting my revenge against routine, am building a courageous future, and hope you join me on it!


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