It’s the first day of spring! We hope you’re making plans to get…

It’s the first day of spring! We hope you’re making plans to get outside on your public lands to enjoy the coming color. We’re excited for scenes like last year’s Superbloom at Carrizo Plain National Monument in California, where wildflowers put on a spectacular show. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.


Desexing the Kinsey Institute

Over the past three years, the Kinsey Institute has quietly become a shell of its former self. Perhaps tellingly, its new director Sue Carter’s own research on vole monogamy has been cited by pro-abstinence and anti-pornography organizations to justify their positions. Carter was an unusual choice to lead the institute. Although she is the first biologist to head up the institute since Kinsey himself, her career has focused on rodents—in particular, on the prairie vole, one of the few mammals that pair-bonds and is monogamous.

3 Ways To Build A Personal Brand Based On Authenticity

In today’s society, people are used to getting a taste of products for free. When a product or service is so high-quality that its creator is confident enough to give it away, that tells audiences it’s truly valuable.

Take Chance the Rapper, for example: He has risen to stardom over the past seven years — performing for President Barack Obama at the White House, hosting “Saturday Night Live,” and winning three Grammys in 2017 for his rap album “Coloring Book.” If that’s not impressive enough, he managed it all while giving fans his music for free. He’s taken the road less traveled, and zigging when everyone else is zagging draws attention from his fans.

I’m certainly not a rapper, but I have relied on a similar method for success in the 17 years I’ve led a gift strategy and logistics company, and I wrote about it in my book “Giftology.” I’ve built a personal brand based on giving and authenticity, and I can show you how to do the same. Here’s where to start:


Give back to your collaborators and supporters

When building a brand, most people focus on scrounging for every penny to help them rise to the top. But like Chance, I focus on what I can achieve alone, then collaborate with others to let them shine. In my case, that means partnering with the people providing me gifts, then putting the spotlight on them. A core value of my business is relationship-building, because even if I can give only a little at the start of a relationship, my partners and I will grow together over time.

Build a giving mentality into the fabric of your personal brand to help set it apart. As often as you can, donate time or resources to give back to the people or companies that helped you get where you are. Chance, for example, champions causes and invests time and money into revamping Chicago and its public schools. Ensure the messaging you create to market your personal brand focuses on how you’ve helped others, not on how you’ve helped yourself.

Be gracious early on

I follow the Gary Vaynerchuk mindset of playing the long game, which Chance demonstrates with every album he releases. While giving his music away for free might seem might seem crazy at first, he’s really just building good faith with his audience, which pays off in spades. It’s the same reason I ask anybody I’m engaging whether I can comp a gift on his behalf to help him look good. This freemium model has helped us land a number of clients, including pro sports teams like the Orlando Magic, and it builds goodwill.

Make the first move of generosity by giving your connections something on the front end. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gift, either. Maybe you can only afford to take someone out for coffee at a trendy local shop while you network and send him a handwritten thank-you note after your meeting — that’s OK. That act of kindness can be enough to keep you top of mind the next time an opportunity comes along that should have your name written all over it.

Go off-book


chance rapper

Any time you can surprise and delight by blazing your own trail is a chance to impress those around you. Just because society has set a standard doesn’t mean you can’t change it. Chance the Rapper doesn’t bow to the pressure of $10 million offers from record labels; he pursues his own vision. Technology has made it easier than ever to build a brand that bucks the status quo, regardless of your credentials.

It’s also a great opportunity to set yourself apart from competitors. Going off the beaten path can be a powerful indicator of who you are and what your brand is. Breaking patterns gets noticed, so whether you’re simply changing the way you present yourself on social media or pulling stunts in your community to generate buzz, don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

Chance the Rapper is known not only for offering his music for free and for his charitable work, but also for becoming a lifestyle icon. No matter your industry, chances are good your personal brand will benefit if you take a page from his book. Take it from me: A personal brand built with authenticity will take you far.

The post 3 Ways To Build A Personal Brand Based On Authenticity appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

7 Scientific Ways to Be More Productive

Be More Productive

I’m not talking about brain surgery or some advice you’d forget after reading, but rather about what actually works.

Let’s be honest. You can empty your wallet purchasing all personal development books, go to conferences, soak up all the advice you get, and yet not feel like you’re using your time effectively.

In fact, you won’t achieve the expected results even if you had 30 hours in a day, or if you knew all kinds of ‘secret sauces’ to working better and priorities decided.

To be clear, being productive is all about dealing with your own stuff, sticking to discipline, and practising until you get better. We all know it in our hearts, after all.

Yet, certain ways work

Even though all sorts of ‘hacks and tricks’ start feeling useless after a
while, certain tips really help, and they stick to you as you inculcate them in your life.

Your work pattern, habits, or skills go hand in hand – and if you can
establish a proper balance between them, you can nail what you do. You’d simplify your life.

Here are seven ways to be more productive

Most of these theories are tried and tested, and found to be useful when it comes to improving the productivity of individuals, regardless of any external circumstances they’re dealing with.

1. Pareto Principle

“The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Everything you do can be divided into two categories:

1. Important
2. Unimportant

The important part brings outcomes, and the other part is the ineffective one.

Dedicate more of your time to the tasks which are responsible for the
results. As Pareto stated, focusing on the 20% alone can do miracles for

Translation: Focus on tasks that are responsible for outcomes.

2. Pomodoro Technique

“The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method technique which uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.”

If inconsistency is your problem – pomodoro technique might bring you
back on the track.

According to the pomodoro technique, we are more productive when we
take small breaks between the whole duration of our tasks, compared to
when we do them continuously.

A single pomodoro requires you to work approximately between 15-25
minutes, followed by a 3-5 minute break.

One pomodoro cycle consists of 4 such pomodoros, after which you may
take a long 15 minute break and start with a new cycle again.

However, using the pomodoro technique isn’t the most effective solution as you might get side-tracked easily if you aren’t serious about using it. Try it only if you’re determined about using it as it requires firm

Translation: Don’t slog, take breaks, and you’d automatically work better.

3. Hawthorne Effect

“The Hawthorne effect is a psychological phenomenon that produces an improvement in human behaviour or performance as a result of increased attention from others.”

We are all somehow concerned about how we’re perceived. Our mind
works subconsciously – it cares about social reputation and respect all
the time.

Although the Hawthorne effect is environment-oriented (which means
that it works based on how others treat you), you may direct it to

For example, when you think about starting a new project but no one
knows about it, then you might not use up your complete potential. But telling your acquaintances about your project can impel them to ask you about your progress, making you self-conscious.

If you are a social person and other’s attention doesn’t trouble you, use
the Hawthorne effect to your advantage.

Translation: Use the expectations of people to motivate yourself.

4. Zeigarnik Effect

“We remember better that which is unfinished or incomplete.”

You know the feeling you get when you leave something incomplete,
right? The one that makes you roam around confusedly.

That feeling doesn’t stop poking your brain, and keeps you restless until
you finish the incomplete task or accomplish your objective.

You can use that feeling to be more productive – by initiating your long
awaited tasks.

If there’s something you want to do but you aren’t doing it, then starting
that task is the best thing you can do.

After that, the task will take over your head, it’ll remind you of itself,
occupy your thoughts, and stay there until you finish it.

If you’re worried about procrastination, start somewhere – Zeigarnik
effect will do rest of the work for you.

Translation: Leave things incomplete and do other tasks, as you’ll do both eventually.

5. Expectancy Theory

“It proposes that people are motivated by their conscious expectations of what will happen if they do certain things, and are more productive when they believe their expectations will be realized.”

We’re motivated by outcomes and work more effectively under better

If you were paid 10,000$ for a job instead of 1000$ a month, you’d work
better, won’t you? That’s how our expectations rule our minds.

When you’re working, raise your expectations for yourself, think of the
possible benefits which you’ll have, and visualize the rewards which you
work for.

However, don’t let those reward be the sole purpose of your work as you
might get disappointed when your work fails to meet your expectations.

If possible, keep your motivation-triggers emotional rather than material. Use your goals to push yourself forward, but don’t be a slave to them.

Translation: Think of the outcomes and why they matter to you – you’d
automatically work better.

6. Parkinson’s Law

“Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.”

When you’re given more time than necessary to complete a task, you
intentionally take more than usual – this is what the Parkinson’s Law

Suppose you can create a graphic within 20 minutes, but you’re asked to get it done within an hour. Then chances are you’ll spend rest of the 40 minutes scrolling through Facebook, and drinking coffee, sidelining the main task.

You slow down.

Things get worse when you have some personal goals to accomplish,
because then you’re not obligated, and hence take things more loosely.

So here are two quick ways to encounter this problem:

1. Keep a pile of tasks queued.
2. Assign only sufficient time a task, but nothing more.

Give a task the time it deserves, nothing more. What remains will be yours to use productively.

An example of Parkinson’s Law are exams. You take enough time at start, but in the end, when you realize that time is less, you rush faster and get stuff done within minutes.

Translation: Decrease the time required to do a task and try completing it within that duration.

7. Hofstadter Law

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

One common mistake most people make is approximating the required
time to do something. They never get it right. No one does.

It happens to all of us – this is the reason why deadlines are postponed,
professionals fail to ship products on time, and also why our lives are
often messed up.

If reading this post is taking longer than you had expected, then it’s just
Hofstadter’s law at work.

The only solution to this problem is to first think about the time which a
certain task needs, and then extend it up to 1.75 times or so. It works, in most cases.

The next time you predict how long a certain work might take, increase the time to have a reliable conclusion.

Another similar term is planning fallacy, which is as follows: “The planning fallacy is the tendency of individuals to underestimate the duration that is needed to complete most tasks.”

Translation: Have realistic expectations, otherwise you’ll be disappointed and lose your motivation.

Were these tips helpful?

I hope you remember at least one of the suggested ideas – because there aren’t any real hacks, but some ideas that last.

What works for you, simply works for you. So find out what makes you
work harder and better.

About Author

I’m Vishal Ostwal – a writer, blogger, and the kind of person whose name rhymes with his surname.

Subscribe to my blog to get all new articles and my recent book, ‘Pocket Productivity’ straight into your inbox.

You’ve read 7 Scientific Ways to Be More Productive, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’ve enjoyed this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.


The Sparsholt Affair

The Sparsholt Affair is Alan Hollinghurst’s sixth novel, and like his previous two — the Man Booker Prize–winning The Line of Beauty and, subsequently, The Stranger’s Child — the story travels through a series of eras, capturing in each the nature of gay life in England. That, at least, would be one way to describe these works: another would be to say that, like them, the present novel follows the repercussions and echoes of earlier deeds or events over time. Beyond that, the quality that stands out in Hollinghurst’s novels, and here again, is the unstrained precision of his prose style, a justness and aptness of description that send happy jolts of recognition through the reader.

The story begins at Oxford in 1940, the second year of the war, and all is provisional. Buildings have been requisitioned, and students from various colleges have been thrown together. Many have already left to join the military. Some, like the narrator, Freddie Green, have been recruited for intelligence work. Freddie belongs to a group of friends who include Peter Coyle, a rather louche painter, and Evert Dax, a nascent art collector and the son of the novelist A. V. Dax, whose “unshakably serious” books are much admired though seldom enjoyed (their “nearest approaches to jokes were quotations from Erasmus and occasional mockery of the working classes”). Peter and Evert are gay and entranced by the sight, in a window across the way, of a beautiful being lifting weights. This, it turns out, is David Sparsholt, an engineering student who is about to sign up with the RAF — and who goes on to be awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and, later, to found a successful engineering firm.

Spar . . . sholt . . . Sounds like part of an engine, or a gun,” Peter Coyle observes. And, indeed, Sparsholt is all efficiency and rather chilling practicality. Unlike his admirers, he leads an outward heterosexual life along with a closeted gay one, though, with respect to the latter, it seems that he may employ his beautiful body purely as a means to various ends unconnected — or not entirely connected — to desire. Although his name adorns the title, David Sparsholt, the man, is never really investigated. He is a cipher, a circumstance that is handily evoked by his coming from the industrial city of Nuneaton, which to Freddie has “something null about it,” and, graphically, by a chalk drawing made by Peter Coyle of his torso: “a portrait of a demigod from neck to knee, the sex suggested by a little slur, conventional as a fig leaf, while the neck opened up to nothing, like the calyx of a flower.”

The second part of the novel takes us forward to 1966 and is delivered from the point of view of David Sparsholt’s thirteen-year-old son, Johnny. He is gay, timid, and dyslexic, but with the budding talent of the portrait artist he will become. When we meet him, he is in the thrall of an infatuation with a visiting French boy named Bastien, a heartless little monster of manipulation who comes on holiday to Cornwall with the Sparsholts and another family. The section ends with an intimation of the beginning of the notorious “Sparsholt Affair,” a ruinous, salacious scandal that reverberates through the rest of the novel and turns on the fact that homosexual acts were still criminal offenses in England until 1967. There is a suggestion that the appalling Bastien might have had a hand in exposing the deeds that ended in Sparsholt’s notoriety, but that is never followed up — like so many things in this novel, which is one of lacunae.

Thus we move on to 1974. In Britain it is a dreary year of labor disputes, rolling power cuts, and the “Three-day week.” Johnny is working for Evert Dax, now a writer and part of a bohemian coterie, and through this association he becomes friends with two lesbians, to whom he eventually donates sperm. The resulting child, Lucy, shows up in the next section, set in 1982, and from there we are brought to 1995 and finally 2012. Hollinghurst’s evocation of different eras and of how gay life is lived in each is deftly portrayed; and each section evolves into a substory of what we may loosely call the plot. But therein lies cause for disappointment, for each developing narrative is abruptly cut off once — it truly seems — we have become thoroughly engaged with it. We find ourselves plunged into the next era to find predicaments dissolved and a whole new set of circumstances reigning. It is frustrating, all the more so as each section is so beautifully composed, so filled with fully formed characters, arresting images, and currents of surreptitious humor.

Hollinghurst has few equals in the exactness with which he summons up human traits, often with comic brio. This is especially so in the last part, which finds Johnny at sixty years of age in a milieu that prizes youth and a well-tended physique. He is at a gay nightclub, observing, amid the throng of young men, the few “bald and grizzled pillars of his own generation.” He “was troubled by them for a second, and then as quickly grateful that some looked older than him.” He heads off to the gents, elevated by Ecstasy:

In the mirror as he queued he saw himself, astonished wide-eyed figure, pink-faced, grey thatch rustic among the sharp cuts and shaven heads of the young people sliding and barging past him, but there was nothing he could do about it now and giving himself a sexy smile which got an ‘All right?’ from the friendly Chinese boy pressing in beside him, he went to a place at the trough. A few minutes later he set off again at a strange wading stagger to find his friends.

As with so many passages in this novel, everything is perfect here: the scene, the visual truth, the pacing, the mood, and, not least, the author’s kindly touch. It very nearly makes up for our being wrenched out of story after story.

The post The Sparsholt Affair appeared first on The Barnes & Noble Review.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Desolation Row

Lorca’s early poems are filled with elemental things, like a Miró painting—night, star, moon, bird—but they come with edges of strangeness and menace, like a Dalí painting—clock, knife, death, dream. He is never interested in just describing a scene. Instead, he begins to work on a set of associations, using echoes in the patterns of sound and sometimes a strict metrical form as undercurrent, thus suggesting a sort of ease or comfort at the root of the poem so that the branches can grow in any direction, with much grafting and sudden shifts, as his mind, in free flow, throws up phrases that, however unlikely, he allows in, thus extending the reach of the poem, or at other times pruning it briskly back.