Tag Archives: Relationships

What Coaching Is and Isn’t

Before we start today’s post, answer the following question.

What does coaching mean to you?

In the past, I answered that question as telling someone what to do. That’s what I learned from the popular culture. Sports coaches tell you what to do and how to do it. Sure, a life or business coach would do the same.

A few years ago, I took a coaching course, and I realized that my definition of coaching wasn’t correct. Coaching isn’t telling people what to do and how to do it, in fact, something entirely different. It is asking people questions to make them find out what to do and how to do it.

The Socratic Method

The Q&A method of coaching has deep roots. It is based on the Socratic Method. This method is more effective than preaching. Preaching creates resistance in the receiving end.

When you use the Q&A method, the coachee finds their own solutions to their problems. This has advantages on multiple levels.

First, the coachee is less resistant to the solutions found in the coaching session because they came up with those solutions. Those solutions weren’t dictated to them.

Second, the Q&A method bypasses the ego of the coachee. If your definition of a coach is someone who preaches you, you might think that a coach-coachee relationship puts you in a lower position as a coachee.

If the Q&A method is used, there’s no hierarchical relationship between the coach and the coachee. It’s a relationship of equals. Two individuals are discussing a matter to find the truth, which is the most important life skill.

Overcoming Resistance to Coaching

When there’s no hierarchy in the relationship between the coach and coachee, it’s much easier for a prospective coachee to hire someone as a coach. This is especially true for accomplished individuals.

When you are already successful and see coaching as someone better than you teaching you, than you’ll have a hard time getting into such a relationship, because of two reasons.

You might think that people more successful than you won’t work as coaches, and you might not want to be preached by someone who isn’t more successful than you. If that’s your perception of coaching, you’ll be missing out on some opportunities.

A Coach Is Genuinely Interested

In a proper coaching session, the coach is genuinely interested in the problem of the coachee. The coach asks questions to clarify the events and the way the coachee perceives and approaches the problem at hand.

During a coaching session, two things can happen. First, the coachee can realize how they contribute to the problem at hand, and decide to stop doing that. When someone has a persistent problem in their lives, most of the time, they are doing something to contribute to the problem.

Second, the coach can ask a question that would stimulate a solution in coachee’s mind. I remember a coaching session where I wanted to brainstorm about how to find customers. My coach asked me which message I wanted to convey to my prospects. That question made me look at the problem at hand from another angle, and focus on my message instead of obsessing about customers.

The Q&A method is not only relevant to the professional coach-coachee relationship. It’s helpful in various contexts, such as boss-subordinate, parent-child, between friends and romantic partners.

Which friend would you like to have? The one who starts preaching to you once you start talking to them about a problem? Or the one who listens to you and asks you questions to process the problem at hand?


Unlike the common impression, coaching isn’t about preaching people what to do and how to do it. It’s about asking questions to someone to help them find their own solutions.

The Q&A method of coaching is more effective at motivating people because the solutions aren’t dictated to them but reached by themselves.

Developing good questioning and listening skills is not only beneficial when working as a professional coach, but also in boss-subordinate, parent-child, friendship, and romantic relationships.

Game Theory, Relationships, Entrepreneurship

Let’s divide games into two categories for the sake of this discussion, games with perfect information and games with imperfect information.

Chess is an example of games with perfect information. You can see all the squares and pieces, all the time.

Texas Hold’em Poker is an example of games with imperfect information. Each hand involves two hidden cards held by each player.

Most real world transactions resemble closer to the games with imperfect information than to the games with perfect information.


Consider the following question about relationships on Quora.

“If a girl appears to dislike me while texting, but shows with her body language she does like me, then what do I conclude?”

This is a typical example of an imperfect information game. This person tries to reach perfect information, hence the question “what do I conclude.” The answer is you can’t reach perfect information in this situation.

Perfect Information Doesn’t Exist in a Chaotic World

We all have various subpersonalities in our psyche, and once in a while, those subpersonalities conflict with each other.

The woman mentioned in this question might be attracted to him on an emotional level, hence the affirming body language. However, she seems to dislike the idea of romantic involvement with him on a mental level, hence the negative texting.

Looking at the clues and analysis above, one can’t have a conclusion. Most probably, she doesn’t have a conclusion either. At one moment, she’d say that she isn’t interested and rationalize it with some convincing reasons. At another moment, she’d feel rapport with him.

When she can’t come to a conclusion, how can he? It’s impossible. Therefore, he has to move forward without perfect information.

This is not only relevant to him and to this situation but to all of us in most critical situations in our lives. We won’t have perfect information most of the time.

Proceed without Perfect Information

What he can do here is to make a step forward toward his goal even in the face of imperfect information. Make an offer to the woman and see if she accepts it or not. This can be asking her for a date.

If she accepts the offer, keep taking steps toward the goal, which can be a stable relationship, like marriage. If she refuses, then he has to deal with the pain of rejection.

That means he has to take action in the face of two possible results, the achievement of a goal or the pain of failure. That takes some courage. The alternative is to stay in limbo forever.

Even though staying in limbo seems to be less painful than the pain of failure, failing once and dealing with it is much less painful than the constant low-intensity pain of limbo. It’s always better to take calculated risks and fail than to do nothing and get stale.

What Does All of That Have to Do with Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship by definition involves imperfect information. No matter how many market surveys you make or big data analysis you do, there’s always a risk of failing. You can never reach perfect information.

That means you need to boil down your possible outcomes into two options, a success scenario and a failure scenario. The chance to fail is always there. Therefore, you need to accept it and embrace it.

One way to mitigate the risk of failure is to ask yourself what the secondary benefits are even if you failed. Lewis Schiff calls these the cherry on top in his book Business Brilliant. Your cherry on top can be more experience, extended network, and even a new idea for another business venture.


Unlike chess, most real-world games, like relationships and entrepreneurship, involve imperfect information. Therefore, a game like Texas Hold’em Poker with hidden cards provide a better analogy for real-world games.

When faced with a challenge due to imperfect information, the knee-jerk reaction is to try to get more information. This is reasonable to some extent, but in a chaotic world, perfect information is impossible.

What it all comes down to is to boil down the possible outcomes into two scenarios, a success scenario and a failure scenario.

You need to embrace the failure scenario fully and then move on and act anyway. That’s the only way to get out of limbo and to create an opportunity to succeed.

The Reason and the Remedy of the Most Common Communication Problem

Google is great if you know how to formulate a relevant search query. To do that, you need to have some knowledge on the topic such as basic terminology. In other words, you need to know what you don’t know to search for it on Google.

Most of the time, we don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why reading books, articles, blog posts, and consuming content in other formats is so beneficial. However, sometimes, we have a burning question, and we don’t have the time to read all the books in that domain. We need a quick answer.

I such cases, Q&A sites are useful. As a programmer, Stack Overflow was a great help. I’d formulate a question and receive an answer within a day. I don’t ask questions on Stack Overflow anymore because nowadays, I can find my answers with Google fairly easy.

Google is great, but it doesn’t have the intelligence to understand what you’re really looking for if you aren’t clear about it. Q&A sites use human intelligence. If enough people read your question, there’s a good chance that one of them will have a more relevant answer than Google.

The Downside of the Q&A Sites

The online Q&A process isn’t perfect, and the reason for that is relevant to our day-to-day communication with our family, friends, and colleagues.

When you write a question on Quora, you describe the situation from your own perception, and your perception isn’t perfect. It’s clouded by your mental filters, biases, and fallacies.

When someone else reads your question, they understand the situation from their own perception. Their perception isn’t perfect because of the same reasons. As a result, that person answers a completely different question than you intend to ask.

You read their answer, and you interpret that answer using your own filters. You give a completely different meaning to their answer.

As a result, you misunderstand the wrong answer to the misunderstood question that was formulated wrongly, to begin with.

The same dynamic happens all the time in our day-to-day communication with our family, friends, and colleagues.

We misunderstand what others couldn’t express clearly, and in turn, they misinterpret our wrongly formulated responses. When these misunderstandings go back and forth enough times, we have a serious conflict.

How Can We Avoid the Misunderstandings in the First Place?

The first step is to know that your partner might have expressed themselves inaccurately or you might have misunderstood them. When you come from that place, you’ll be more kind and compassionate toward them.

The second step is to tell your partner what you have understood and ask them for confirmation. If your partner doesn’t confirm your formulation of their expression, you go back and forth until you agree on the issue.

Now, you express your views on the issue, and you repeat the same. You ask your partner how they understood your answer, and you go back and forth until you’re sure that they understood you correctly.

That way you’re sure that you understood each other correctly. There’s no room for assumptions or misunderstandings. You don’t have to agree with each other, but at least, you know where each of you stands on the matter at hand. This is a basic principle of communication.

Of course, you don’t have to clarify each sentence in each conversation, but you better do it when the stakes are high, and there seems to be a conflict and a chance of misunderstanding.


We express our views from our own mental filters and biases. We interpret other people’s expressions through the same filters and biases. As a result, there’s a great room for misunderstanding in our communication with each other.

To minimize misunderstandings, we need to ask each other questions to confirm that we have understood each other correctly. This might sound like overkill every time we have a conversation with our family, friends, and colleagues, but it’s a must when a misunderstanding can have dire consequences.

Dealing with Difficult People

We are all a bunch of programs. These programs are transferred from generation to generation through genes and culture.

Some of these programs are very basic. On a deep level, we all want to survive and reproduce. A lot of our behaviors stem from those two basic instincts. We share those instincts with other animals.

Then, there are more advanced programs, like loving our family members. These programs are specific to mammals.

Primates like humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas have even more advanced programs. We form tribes and relationships with individuals other than our immediate family members.

And of course, we, humans, have many advanced programs that other primates don’t have.

We All Have Contradicting Programs

As a result, each human carries a set of programs from the most primitive to the most sophisticated. Some of those programs inevitably contradict each other.

We all have programs that derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others. Do you think that you don’t have that? You either haven’t been aware of that program, or you haven’t been in a situation where that program was triggered.

We also have very advanced programs like feeling the pain of someone that we don’t know and helping them.

Obviously, these two programs contradict each other, and all of us have these programs in us. It’s one thing to have these programs in us. It’s another to act on them.

Beyond all of these programs, we all have access to pure consciousness.

Develop Empathy and Compassion

When you have to deal with a difficult person, just realize that a program is activated in that person and that person consciously or unconsciously chooses to act on that program. And most probably, you have the same program in yourself, no matter how much you deny.

Maybe, you don’t act on that program, because you aren’t in the same situation as that person. Maybe, you don’t act on it, because you’re further in the evolution of your consciousness. But you have the same program too.

Knowing that you have the potential to behave the same way already makes a difference in your perception of the situation. You understand that person better. You develop empathy toward them. You don’t get angry at them. You feel sad for them.

Some people hurt others just because they enjoy it, but most people don’t. When people hurt others, it’s most of the time because of their accumulated pain in the past. When you recognize the pain of the difficult person in your life, you develop compassion for them.

Developing empathy and compassion for a person isn’t a weakness. On the contrary, it requires mental toughness. Not many people are able to do that.

When you feel empathy and compassion toward a person, your relationship to that person is already transformed. Think about a child that throws a tantrum instead of a grownup who acts consciously. When it’s a child that misbehaves, you will act differently, won’t you?

A Growth Opportunity to Develop Your Conflict Management Skills

The second step is to see this situation as a growth opportunity. You won’t get too far by blaming the other party. You need to take the responsibility. This is an excellent opportunity for you to develop some conflict management skills.

Teaching conflict management skills is beyond the scope of this post. I recommend the audio program: Art of Conflict Management by Prof. Michael Dues. You need to listen to that program multiple times and apply what you have learned.

Make a Decision

If you take the two steps above and the situation still doesn’t improve, you have a decision to make. Will you get out of that relationship or stay with it?

In some cases, getting out of a relationship might not be an option. For example, that person might be in your immediate family. If that’s the case, I recommend improving your compassion to a level where you don’t perceive the person to be difficult anymore.

Loving Kindness Meditation

There’s a way to improve your compassion, and it’s called loving-kindness meditation. I recommend the audio program Noble Heart by Pema Chödrön. As an alternative, you’ll find many free guided meditations if you google that term.

Developing compassion toward a difficult person isn’t weakness; it requires mental toughness. Mental toughness isn’t cruelness. It’s having the strength to not act on your most primitive instincts like lashing out on people.

Moreover, you don’t develop loving-kindness for the welfare of others. You develop it for your own wellness. Hostility is harming you. Loving-kindness improves your physical and mental health by eliminating hostility.

Getting out of a relationship is always an option. The problem with that option is that you miss a growth opportunity. The chances are high that you’ll create, attract, or experience a similar situation down the road. Therefore, it’s better to cease the opportunity in this relationship to grow.


We all carry a bunch of malevolent and benevolent programs in us. Some of us act on them, and some of us don’t. We all have the potential to act on our most malicious programs when the situation calls for it. Most of the time, difficult people act on their worst programs because of their pain.

Just knowing those facts is enough to develop empathy and compassion for the difficult people in your life. That takes mental toughness. Compassion isn’t a weakness.

The second step is to see the situation as a growth opportunity and to develop your conflict management skills.

If the second step doesn’t work, you can practice loving-kindness meditation to deal with the situation better and to preserve your health and wellness.

Quitting a relationship always seems to be a solution, but if you don’t solve your problems in a particular situation, you’ll likely experience the same issues in the future.

Two Critical Success Skills You Must Develop

This week is an intense one for me because I’m visiting my parents. It’s easy to get triggered and get into arguments with them. Those arguments aren’t about anything essential.

My parents just like arguing. That used to bother me, but now, I feel better about it. I understand them better thanks to a post I wrote about personality traits. I did a little research for that post and came across the big five personality traits.

  • Openness to Experience: inventive and curious vs. consistent and cautious
  • Conscientiousness: efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless
  • Extraversion: outgoing and energetic vs. solitary and reserved
  • Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate vs. challenging and detached
  • Neuroticism: sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident

That short list made a huge difference in the way I understand people, especially myself and my family members. Empathy, understanding the feelings of others, plays a critical role in success.

Opposite Personalities

I’m the exact opposite of my parents when it comes to extraversion and agreeableness. My parents are extraverted and challenging. I’m introverted and agreeable.

My parents get energized by talking to people and challenging them. I get energized by staying in silence and in harmony with others.

In the past, I used to judge people who were talkative and argumentative. Now, I understand that these are just some personality traits. Probably, other people judge me too for being silent and agreeable.

Understanding People

Now that I know the big five, I understand people better and don’t judge them for their personality traits. Moreover, I understand myself better and realize which personality traits I’m missing.

As I explained in a previous post, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to stay stuck in one polarity of a personality trait. I’m introverted, but some situations require me to be extroverted.

The same is true for extroverted people. In some cases, you have to shut up and do the work no matter how extroverted you are.

I’m mostly friendly and compassionate, but there are times when I have to be challenging and detached.

In the past, I used to judge people who didn’t take any risks at all. Now, I understand that they are just consistent and cautious in the dimension of openness to experience.

Everybody is entitled to their personality and free to act on their dominant personality traits as long as they don’t harm others.

On an intellectual level, I get the sentence above, but I haven’t internalized it yet. I’m somewhere between the levels of conscious incompetence and conscious competence.

In other words, I get triggered on an emotional level when my parents challenge me all the time. Sometimes, I act on those triggers and sometimes, I don’t. I know that acting on those triggers won’t change anything.

To my parents, arguing is not about finding the truth. It is a part of relationships. This is how they show that they care about others.

An Experiment in Mindfulness

My stay with my parents became a mindfulness experiment for me. Following cycle repeats itself multiple times on a given day.

One of my parents challenges me to start an argument. I feel an urge to react. At the same time, I know that reacting won’t change anything. At that moment, I start taking deep breaths to let go of the urge to react.

For more information about the letting go technique, I recommend you read the quote by David Hawkins in this post.

Self-Control Is Hard But Possible and Beneficial

Sometimes, my reactive side wins the battle, and sometimes, my mindful side. Staying with an urge, not investing more mental energy in it, not acting on it, and waiting until it subsides isn’t easy. It’s hard and uncomfortable.

The good news is that as you go through that cycle over and over, the intensity of the urges diminishes and your self-control increases. It becomes easier to control your urges.

At a certain moment, you reach the level of unconscious competence. At that level, you don’t need to make a conscious effort to control your urges.

Self-control is a skill that we all have to learn and cultivate. Developing self-control has significant benefits. It’s the biggest predictor of success. Once you develop self-control, you can apply it in all areas of your life such as time management.


Once you learn the big five personality traits and the polarities of each trait, you understand yourself and others much better. That’s a critical factor in your success.

You can use that understanding to adjust your behavior. You can treat people better because you understand them better. You can act the opposite of your default personality traits when the situation demands it.

All of that requires self-control, which is the biggest predictor of success and which can be cultivated with attention and effort.

The Critical Principle You’re Violating

There’s a simple principle that gets violated often nowadays. This principle is a critical one in our personal and professional lives. It’s one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’d call it empathy, but I’ll use Stephen R. Covey’s definition.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Covey divides the 7 habits into three groups, independence, interdependence, and continual improvement.

The Illusion of Absolute Independence

With the advances in the technology, we grew more and more independent. We think we don’t need people around us anymore.

The Internet provides us with more than enough entertainment. We don’t need to go to a store, everything is delivered to our homes.

As a result, we have the illusion that everything happens by itself and all we have to do is to pay the price. We forget the people who run this system because most of the system is automated.

With the advances in technology and automation, we became more and more independent. And that’s a good thing.

The High Tech Culture

The companies that provide us with the latest technology have a unique culture that emphasizes independence.

Engineers are encouraged to deliver a product that works. They aren’t encouraged to talk to their customers, build relationships with them, and make sure that they keep their customers satisfied.

As we excel in independence, we forget interdependence.

Communicating with others and building relationships with them are seen as a waste of time. This will be an even greater problem for the new generation.

The Generation of Loners

When I was a kid, I had at most one hour of TV time per day. I wasn’t limited by my parents. That was all there is for children on TV where I grew up.

In hindsight, I was lucky. I had to communicate with other children and grownups for entertainment. Otherwise, I’d be bored out of mind.

That’s not the case with the new generation. All they have to do is to get their hands on a gadget connected to the Internet, and they have an endless stream of entertainment. What a fantastic babysitter, isn’t it?

You’ll Need Others

If you think you’re completely independent, I have bad news for you. At a certain moment in your life, you or one of your loved ones will need medical attention. Then, you’ll understand that there are other humans, and you actually need them.

I really like how Stephen R. Covey calls this principle, seek first to understand, then to be understood. This definition is simple yet covers everything I wanted to explain in today’s post.

If I had to explain this principle in other words, I’d call it being sensitive to other people’s conditions and needs.

Real Life Examples

Let me go over a few examples that I come across frequently, and that explain how critical this skill is in your personal success.

Imagine a team of brilliant software developers. They spent all of their lives with computers and programming. They know the software technology inside out. However, the software developed by these geniuses is impossible to be used by the average person.

Their average customer uses a computer at most one hour a day. They don’t have that much experience with computers and software.

The software is developed for geniuses. These developers didn’t think that their software would be used by anyone less knowledgeable than them.

They didn’t seek to understand their typical customer. Neither did they try to be understood. Now, they have to deal with all the support calls they receive.

Business and Marketing

When we develop a product or offer a service, what we are doing is obvious to us. This isn’t the case for our prospects. Yet, most of us ignore that fact.

I came across so many online businesses where I had to search their website to find a blog post that explains what they are actually doing.

You can create the best online business out there, but if you can’t explain what you’re doing in three sentences, you won’t have any chance of surviving.

Communication in Private and Professional Life

Once in a while, I receive a collaboration request. I can understand that it’s an honest request, but I don’t get what is expected from me, and what I should expect from the counterparty.

The answers to these questions are obvious to the counterparty, but they aren’t included in the request.

Did you ever have a friend who told you “let’s meet sometime?” When you came back with a specific idea, they didn’t return your message. You know how annoying that is.

On the other hand, some people tell you the exact location where to meet, with as much detail as possible, like the date and time.

“Let’s go for a coffee in the coffee shop across the post office near our office at 4pm on Tuesday.” It’s impossible to misunderstand and waste time.

My Own Sins

Even though I’m writing a post about this principle, I won’t claim that I’m perfect at it. No one is, and no one can be, but we can improve ourselves by paying more attention.

One of my sins when it comes to this principle is that I provided way too many ideas and feedback to my colleagues.

As a result, they got overwhelmed and started to ignore my ideas and feedback over the years. Nowadays, I pay attention to keep my lips sealed and only speak up on issues that truly matter.

A Skill You Can Develop

The fifth habit is a skill you need to pay attention and practice to develop. Always ask yourself some questions about the counterparty.

  • What do they know about what I’m offering to them?
  • What is their background?
  • What is their experience?
  • Which skills do they have?
  • Who are they?

That list is not even close to complete, but I hope you get the point.

In essence, you need to step into the shoes of someone and look at the world from their perspective.

That’s not easy, because you don’t know a lot about that person, but at least pay attention and ask questions instead of making assumptions.

One of the advantages of this habit is that you perceive clues from your environment faster. You use them as feedback, which is a growth opportunity.


Empathy is a huge topic, and this post is just a reminder for you to pay more attention to it.

If you want to dive deeper into it, I recommend the books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes. Both are included in my list of 12 life-changing personal development books.


With the advances in technology, we get more and more independent, and that’s a good thing. However, absolute independence doesn’t seem to be possible in the near future.

We will always need other people one way or another. Therefore, we need to pay attention to interdependence and improve our skills in this area as well.

Personal Development Can Be Detrimental to Your Self-Esteem

And this is what to do about it.

We, personal development enthusiasts, are usually very harsh on ourselves. We set very high goals. We are never satisfied with our progress. We are critical of ourselves, finding flaws in ourselves and in our lives. Once we fail to achieve our audacious goals, we ignore the progress we made and we get disappointed with ourselves. All of that robs us from our self-esteem.

On the other hand, you might come across people that aren’t interested in improving themselves at all. They don’t even think about it. Yet, they seem happy and content with their lives and they are very confident.

Does that mean that we should quit improving ourselves and our lives altogether?

No, not at all! We don’t need to quit personal development in order to have high self-esteem. It means that we should adjust our methods of personal development. This post is exactly about how to do that.

Acknowledge Yourself

We humans are hardwired for negativity. Negativity allowed our ancestors to survive in the savanna. Our ancestors that found lions cute were eliminated from the gene pool.

I came across multiple resources that explain that five positive stimuli is needed to offset the effects of a negative stimulus. The latest resource that I came across was an audiobook called the Art of Conflict Management by Prof. Michael Dues (available at audible.com).

The 5-to-1 ratio has applications everywhere human relationships are involved. If you are in a relationship with someone, you’re better off offering five positive pieces of feedback for every negative or critical piece of feedback you offer. This includes your life partner, your family, your colleagues, your dog, and your cat, literally every relationship you have.

If the 5-to-1 ratio is so important and it applies to all the relationships in your life, why not apply this rule to the relationship with yourself as well? There’s no reason not to do that and it’s the key to a healthy self-esteem. That means you need to find five positive things about yourself and your life for every negative thing you come up with.

Find five positive things about yourself and your life for every negative thing you come up with.

Moreover, when you come up with a negative thing about yourself, immediately change it into a point of improvement. Don’t say “I suck at playing piano.” Formulate it as “how can I improve my piano playing skills?”


Finding five positive things about yourself and your life involves gratitude as well. Do you think taking everything granted means self-esteem? No, not at all. Taking everything granted means arrogance, not high self-esteem. Don’t confuse the two.

Daily Journaling Practice

I have already written about my single page, daily journaling practice. It involves my life goals, an evaluation of the day, and an overview of the next day. The evaluation of the day includes positives and points of improvement.

The positives include my own achievements as well as positive events that happened in that day. In other words, it includes acknowledging myself as well as gratitude.

Up until now, I haven’t paid much attention to the ratio between the positives and the points of improvements. On some days, I have a lot of positives without any POI’s. On other days, I have a lot of POI’s without any positives. Yet on other days, they are more or less balanced.

From now on, I’m going to make a conscious effort to have at least five positives and only one POI on my daily evaluation. I recommend you do the same. That way you’ll rewire your brain for positivity and high self-esteem and still be able to improve yourself.

“I don’t have five positive things happening in my life every day.”

If that’s how you are thinking, let me break the news. You do! You can read (or listen to) this post, that’s one. You have access to the Internet, that’s two. You can breathe. That means you’re still alive, that’s three. You are interested in personal development, that’s four. You have the time to read this post, that’s five.

See? you already have your daily five for today. Now, go ahead and repeat that every day! Look carefully and you will find at least five great things about yourself and your life every day.

Set Your Goals in Your Stretch Zone, Not in Your Panic Zone

Setting your goals way out of your comfort zone is another way personal development enthusiasts are robbing themselves from self-esteem. That doesn’t mean staying in your comfort zone all the time. That means setting your goals slightly out of your comfort zone, so that you can achieve them with some effort, yet they are challenging enough to engage you and help you grow.

Setting your goals way out of your comfort zone will result in panic. Setting your goals in your comfort zone will result in boredom. Ideally, you might want to avoid both extremes and set your goals somewhere in between, in a zone called stretch zone. I have already discussed this concept in a post titled the Secret to Happiness, so I’m not going to go into detail here.


You neither have to sacrifice your personal development efforts nor your self-esteem for each other. The perfect balance between both can be found in the 5-to-1 ratio and by setting your goals in your stretch zone.

How to Develop Superpowers in Business and Relationships

It all comes down to one simple principle.

The pain and pleasure principle can be used to understand all human behavior and to modify our behavior. This is a superpower in itself. Today, we are going to go one step further and discuss how we can use this principle to modify the behavior of others, which is an even greater superpower.

Ethical Concerns

Before we continue I want to address a possible objection. You might think that using the pain and pleasure principle amounts to manipulation and it is unethical. I get this reasoning. However, there are several arguments in favor of learning the use of this principle.

First of all, almost every authority and business is using the pain and pleasure principle. It’s the easiest and most effective way to control and influence people. Think about all the ways the society is rewarding and punishing people.

By knowing how the pain and pleasure principle is used, you become more immune to manipulation.

Moreover, you can use the pain and pleasure principle constructively to motivate people to create positive results for everybody involved. It is only unethical, if you use it to manipulate people to their disadvantage.

Creating Addictive Products

The pain and pleasure principle is heavily used by B2C Internet companies to make their users addicted to their products. These products measure user engagement and feature the content that is most engaged with. They filter out the boring content and emphasize engaging content.

There might be a life changing, text only content on a social media platform. Such content will most probably go unnoticed, shortened, and squeezed between flashier images and videos. That’s why most bloggers use flashy images and online copywriting principles such as short paragraphs, subheadings, bullet points, and quotes.

Sales and Marketing

Salespeople and marketers know how powerful the pain and pleasure principle is. They take full advantage of it. They determine all the pain and pleasure points of a prospect. They exaggerate these points and the effects of their product.

You might hear an insurance salesperson exaggerating the probability and effects of a rare event and how their insurance will save you from that.

Unfortunately, a lot of money changes hands without real value in return, because of effective sales and marketing.

Management of Employees

The 20-70-10 rule of Jack Welch is an effective way to motivate employees to perform at their best.

The 20-70-10 rule is completely based on the pain and pleasure principle. In this model, top 20% of the employees are rewarded with promotions, raises, and bonuses. Bottom 10% of the employees are fired.

You might think that the 20-70-10 rule is a ruthless system, but think about the opposite. What would motivate an employee in a company where nobody advances in their career and nobody is held accountable for not performing?


The pain and pleasure principle applies to all kinds of relationships, including private and professional. Now, think about a person who’s always nice to their partner, friends, and colleagues. You might think this is the ideal behavior. In reality, that person is doomed to become a doormat in their relationships.

Now, think about a person who’s being a jerk to their partner, friends, and colleagues all the time, indiscriminately. There are some choice words for such people, which I won’t mention in this post. Such a communication strategy doesn’t work in real life, as documented in the book No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. (Oops, I did it :))

By pain, I don’t mean to whip your partner.

As in every area of life, the pain and pleasure principle is effective in relationships as well. Please, don’t get me wrong. By pain, I don’t mean to whip your partner. I mean giving the necessary feedback to your partner, friend, or colleague, whenever necessary. This is a painful process for most of us.

Don’t forget the pleasure side of the principle. We humans associate a higher weight to pain compared to pleasure for evolutionary reasons. That means giving more positive feedback than negative feedback is necessary. The ideal ratio seems to be five-to-one.


The pain and pleasure principle is not only useful for modifying our own behavior, but also for modifying other people’s behavior. Becoming aware of it can save us from the manipulations of others. Using it effectively and ethically can improve our success in our jobs, businesses, and relationships.

How is Black Friday Still a Thing?

How did we come up with Cyber-Monday? Why does every web page that I visit have a red countdown clock urging me to buy their stuff? Why do I receive three emails per day the whole weekend from the same website about their Black Friday offers? Do people really think that this stuff still works? How come some people think that the first thing I’m going to do when I accidentally land on their website through a Google search is to enter my email to their newsletter subscription box in their pop-up and hit enter? Seriously?

I buy from the people that I already have bought from, because they provide solid value. There are two or three websites that I have been buying from regularly for years, Amazon being the main one. I could appreciate a single email from them and that could encourage me to change my purchase schedule to buy earlier. But that’s it. I’m not going to buy more or anything else than what I regularly buy just because it is Black Friday.

Time’s have changed. People aren’t interested in more stuff anymore. Because we all have access to as much stuff as possible. They are not an object of desire anymore. On the contrary, we realized that more stuff is more pain in the ass. Buying that bigger and better car is a pain in the ass, because now you have to look for a bigger, safer parking spot wherever you go, let alone the administration the purchase of a new car requires. Buying the latest smartphone is a pain in the ass, because you have to import all of your data to the new one and the new one has more or less the same user experience unless your old one is about to crash.

What we are looking for in the 21st Century is not newer, more stuff. Who needs that? What we are looking for is more, better human connections and relationships, because that isn’t available in the marketplace for a Black Friday discount. What we need is meaning, service, and producing value. Those are the challenges of the 21st Century, not some crappy new gadget. Everybody has access to that anyway.