One. Thing. At. A. Time.

A couple of years after our weeding, my wife and I went to Texas to visit some family of hers (and now mine) and spend Thanksgiving with this part of the family I hadn’t gotten to know much given we live in California. This was a family reunion that allowed me the opportunity to get to know many family members. While talking to one of her uncles, I learned that he was a very successful vice president of a large U.S medical device company. While further inquiring about his background I learned that he had not only accomplished many great things professionally but had also heavily invested in his education (one bachelor’s degree, four master’s degree, and one doctor degree). I know, it sounds crazy… As I approach the end of my first master’s degree, I can only imagine the number of hours he spent reading, writing, researching, and studying in order to acquire so many degrees in the fields of chemical engineering and engineering management. I then inquired “how did you do it?How did you acquire so many degrees, while having a successful business life and a family” He thought about it for a second or two and replied: “By doing one thing at a time.”

When you procrastinate about cleaning your own house or avoid facing that pile of laundry that has been sitting in the laundry room for the past two weeks, it is often because we think about the task as a whole. We might think: “it’s going to take the whole day to wash all of those clothes.” Yes, it likely will if you sit there and wait, BUT it will only take one hour to do one load of washing and one load of drying. We tend to think about tasks not as individual activities, but as a whole job, as if once we started doing laundry you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the laundry room until every single piece of clothing was washed, dried and folded. If we tackled our tasks by breaking it down into smaller assignments, we would not only avoid procrastination, but also be much more effective in starting and finishing something. 


It is a fact that setting goals that are challenging, but attainable is a much more efficient way to motivate employees in the workplace. The same strategy should be used in our personal and professional life. If someone told every engineer or doctor how many mathematical problems or medical books they would have to solve and read in order to acquire their degree, we would have an even smaller number of engineers and doctors graduating every year. But, by segmenting each step of their education in weeks, months, and semesters, students are able to “endure” the arduous journey of becoming medical doctors and engineers. 

This same concept can and should be applied in business. In sales, aggressive targets are given to sales individuals. It can be intimidating or even discouraging to think that one person is required to make X amount of calls, sell X number of products, or convert X number of clients. But, by breaking these ambitious goals into steps / sections (our uncle calls it hoops), you quickly realize that you can indeed achieve these goals by jumping through one hoop at a time.

Even though this conversation happened years ago, I still relate to it in my daily routine. We are all busy, we all have “too many” things on our plate, and it is very overwhelming to even think about how we are going to do everything we want to do in the limited amount of time we have. We all get this feeling that we are simply tacking too much at times. Perhaps at times we are, but before you decide to give up on your goal (s), try to follow tour uncle’s tip and just tackle one task at a time. 

What are some tips you find helpful when facing large projects and goals? Does doing one thing at a time work for you? 

Because you need lots of energy for tackling long and challenging projects, check out this Brazilian Açai Bowl recipe from “The Spruce Eats”: https://www.thespruceeats.com/brazilian-bowl-acai-na-tigela-3029431

Picture Credits:

https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/revolutionising-motivation

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Work Life Balance

We all know or at least hear about the benefits of balancing our work load and personal life. However, we can probably count on one hand the number of individuals we know that do a good job at managing both aspects of life. Coming from a different culture (I am Brazilian if you are wondering), it quickly became evident to me that the work life balance in America is something that most business professionals struggle with. In my twelve years living in the U.S, I have noticed that one of the many attributes that make America the number one economic force in the world is the work ethic embedded in each individual. However, if not managed and harnessed properly, this great attribute can also play against each and every one of us, including our employers.

The fact is that Americas in general do not take nearly as much vacation time when compared to almost every other country in the world. According to a Forbes article titled “Why America Has Become ‘The No-Vacation Nation,’” a study conducted by Kimble Applications has found that 47% of Americans did not take their vacation time in 2017, and 21% of employees left more than 5 days of vacation on the table that year. This not only highlights the cultural influence on American workers, but also demonstrates an American believe that work comes first, sometimes even before our own health. Although not taking time off may appear to demonstrate your level of commitment to your career, the negative consequences of not “unplugging” from work can be more detrimental to your productivity level on the job, and more importantly your health than most tend to believe.

According to this Forbes article, the most common reasons people give when questioned why they do not take their time off allowed are for the most part very similar among most workers. The typical answers are that they feel that their company or boss does not like when they take time off; that it is harder to unplug because of technology; that vacationing adds stress; and that it may negatively impact their career progression. These reasons are probably familiar to you, especially if you have convinced yourself with one these reasons as to why you don’t use your allowed vacation.

My opinion is that because American business’ culture has glorified the “workaholic” behavior and reinforced it for its own benefit, employees are led to believe that this is the only or shortest way toward career growth and success. In turn, scientific studies suggest that employees that take time off not only display higher levels of job satisfaction, but are overall happier and healthier individuals, which inevitably leads to more productive and efficient workers. We could be playing against our selves here…

What are your views on taking time off? And why do you think Americas tend to underuse their vacation time?

Because you need to try some new food during your next vacation. Here is a recipe to one of my favorite Brazilian specialty foods; Brazilian Pastel by Tastemade.

https://www.tastemade.com/videos/brazilian-street-fair-pastel

Data source

https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2018/05/21/why-america-has-become-the-no-vacation-nation/#704fb054c53b

https://www.forbes.com/sites/adp/2018/06/01/science-says-your-employees-need-days-off/#6f0f56442218

Photo Credit:

https://www.paycom.com/resources/blog/using-self-service-technology/

How to Properly Write an E-mail

Before we dive into how to properly write an e-mail, can we all agree that an email is not the same as a text message? We all know, both are written forms of communication and may serve equally well when it comes to quick informal dialog. But there it is the key distinction, informal. Although text messaging is becoming more and more used in the business world, the core differentiator between e-mailing and texting is the level of formality. Let’s dive into how to properly write an e-mail as well as how to avoid some very common e-mail mistakes many business professionals make. 

  • Not naming the recipient: It sounds crazy, but how many times have you being copied in the middle of an already existing e-mail thread and someone asks a question, but does not directly address it to anyone specifically? I have seen this far too many times and the result is exactly what you would expect. No reply from anyone.
  • What to do: Make sure you specifically state whom you are addressing the email to. The email of the person you are asking the question goes on the TO: box and anyone else that is not expected to take any action goes on the CC: box
  • Not greeting the recipient: Some people simply write a question or a request without any introduction. There are some others that go as far as forwarding or sending you an email and simply not writing anything at all on the subject line or body of the email. These examples are not only unprofessional, but also display a lack of consideration with the recipient. 
  • What to do: Although we do not need to address the recipient with a “Dear Madam” on every email, make sure you set a professional tone with a simple “Good morning Jane,” “Hello John,” “Hope this email finds you well Laura.” Also ensure you clearly state what the purpose of the email is. Is there a question? Then ask it. Is this to simply inform the person about something; then let them know that. Above all, greed the person because most importantly this is common sense business and social etiquette.
  • Formatting: This is perhaps the most common mistake business professionals make. We all have received emails with two or three different fonts and colors. It is just hard on the eyes.
  • What to do: Make sure your settings are set to 12-point font with a traditional font (Time New Roman, Arial or something similar). Choose a classic black color or if you really want to stand out a navy blue, but do not try to be too clever. Do not use all caps, bold, or unconventional fonts. Remember that your emails likely are going to be forwarded, portions of it might be copied and pasted etc. Imagine if every single person uses a very different font, color, size etc…
  • Subject line: Not adding or changing the subject line is a classic mistake. How many times have you received an email with a random number or set of numbers in the subject line and you wonder what the subject of the email really is? Or someone asking a question about a different topic on that same unrelated email thread?
  • What to do: Before hitting the send button, take a second to add or create the subject line. Does it indicate or relate to the topic of the email? If not, then modify it. If you have a question to that same recipient that does not relate to that specific subject. Create a separate email to that same recipient with a different subject line. This helps keep your records, organized and easier to look up should you need to find this email conversation a few days from now.
  • Being too formal or too informal: We all have received an email that when we first glance at it makes us scratch our head. 
  • What to do: Always know your audience. It is ok to be somewhat informal with someone internally that you communicate with daily, but don’t get too casual because that same thread maybe forwarded to a customer or someone else that does not share that same level of causality. On the other hand, do not be too formal because you want people to feel like that are your peer and are working with you. A good rule to have is to increase the degree of formality of your emails based on the level of relationship you have with the recipient. 

These above elaborated mistakes are some of the most common errors I have experience in business. Other common mistakes are grammar errors, hitting “reply all” when intending to reply to a specific person, forgetting to attach a document, or copying the wrong recipient. The key common-sense tip I would like to leave you with is, make sure you pay attention to details before hitting send on an email. We all make mistakes, but some mistakes can be very detrimental to your company and your reputation. Always prof-read your email and practice your common sense skills when emailing someone. After all, emailing is not texting, and we cannot blame auto correct for our mistakes. 

What are some common mistakes you most often see in business? Any other tips to how to properly construct an email? 

I would love to hear and learn from you! You can also follow Black and White blog by pressing the follow button to your right.

Because you can’t make a mistake by eating a great pizza. Here is a recipe for one of my favorites: Arugula and Mozzarella Pizza with Garlic-Olive oil by RecipeLand.com

https://recipeland.com/recipe/v/arugula-mozzarella-pizza-garlic-52414

Growing Up Corporate: The Benefits and Challenges of Starting Young in Corporate America.

How young is too young to start a career in corporate America? Mid-twenties? Late-twenties? Assuming most corporate America jobs require a college degree, and most bachelors’ degree holders graduate at the age of twenty-three or twenty-four. The earliest most people would be “eligible” to start working at a corporate level position would be mid to late twenties. According to a report from Complete College America “only 19% of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.” In fact, most college graduates take at least six years to earn their degree. This struggle to finish college on time has contributed to elevating the average starting age of young adults in corporate America.

Breaking barriers to earn and hold a corporate America position at a young age can be a difficult task for anyone. Here are a few benefits and challenges of being young in corporate America as well a few tips that will help you succeed as you build your legacy in your field. 

Do you remember when you were the youngest kid in the playground? You had to wait for the big kids to finish going down the slide so you could go after; right? In corporate America, there is a similar hierarchy in place. When you fist start at your first corporate job, most people will have several years of experience already and some others have literally decades of corporate experience. It can be intimidating to walk in having little to no experience compared to your peers once you get your foot into a large organization, but that should not stop you from expressing your “youth” and talents.

There are challenges you will face when starting out. Some of these challenges are: time to acquire industry knowledge, learn business jargon, network with people (inside and outside your company), and more importantly building your own legacy and gaining your peers’ professional admiration. 

The above cited challenges can and usually do slowly vanish should as you give time, stay consistent with your actions and behaviors, and also produce quality work regularly. Being young does pose many other challenges when working with more experienced professionals, but the reality is that all corporate employees were in your shoes at some time in their career (whether they were in their mid-twenties or late thirties when they started). 

Hence, here are some recommendations to deal with these hurdles: listen before talking, observe how successful workers conduct themselves in the work place, ask questions, be curious, respectful and thankful. And of course, be yourself because you obviously have something to add to the company, so do not be shy to share your ideas! 

Being young in corporate America has its benefits and does also come with its responsibilities. Some of these benefits are: having a fresh perspective over old existing problems, no “baggage” between you and any other employee or supplier, more adaptability to changes as you do not know anything different, technical and technological savviness, and finally, ambition. In my view, the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges, therefore focusing on the opportunity to build your own history in the corporation should alone be a meaningful motivator for you.

The “cycle of life” is also true in business. Being the “new kid in the block” not only comes with  its challenges and benefits, but also with opportunities and responsibilities as you have the chance to not only build a legacy of your own while serving the organization, but also the obligation to ensure that the future generation of corporate workers encounter an even more adaptable and friendly corporate America’ just like when you became the older kid in the playground. 

How was your experience when starting your first corporate job? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Because a good pasta is loved by everyone; here is a recipe from The Kitchn for a delicious Tuscan Tortellini Skillet.

https://www.thekitchn.com/tuscan-tortellini-pasta-260311

First Impression Matters!

I know, I know, as soon as you read the title of this blog post you probably thought, duh! Or you may have thought that this seems very superficial. Perhaps you thought a little of both. And if these are your beliefs, you know what, I can understand that and also share some of the same feelings; but not completely! You surely have met many individuals in your life. You might even recall a specific encounter where your first impression of someone did not reflect their actual personality or qualifications. In business, first impressions are magnified during first encounters and that is why it is extra important to leave people with a good first impression of you. An experiment presented through the article “First Impressions” by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov “reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments).” – Association for Psychological Science.

Think about this scenario, your boss suddenly walks in your office and introduces you to one of your company’s top executives who is in town for a big meeting. You were not expecting to meet anyone that day other than your office co-workers. But here it is, a grand chance to display your best self to someone very influential in the organization you work for. Do not take this opportunity for granted. The few seconds or minutes you have with this top executive will determine the impression and perception she/he will have of you. Here are a few tips to ensure you leave a positive first impression with anyone you meet:

  1. Smile: Smiling is a contagious act that not only “breaks the ice” but also possess a welcoming element that shows openness and charisma. 
  2. Firm hand-shake: I said firm, do not try to squeeze someone’s hand so hard that leaves them thinking you are trying to show “power,” “assertiveness” or even “aggressivity.” There is a natural middle-ground when shaking someone’s hand; find it. On the flip side, do not go with an extra yielding hand (which I call the dead fish) because that is simply unprofessional and displays a lack of business awareness.  
  3. Look at people in the eye: Again, this is not a stare contest. Just give the proper eye contact and attention anyone talking to you deserves.
  4. Get up: If you are sitting down when you are about to meet someone, get up! You should always get up not only when you first meet someone, but any time someone is talking to you.
  5. Be yourself: Here is that common sense tip you always know I am going to leave you with. You have to be yourself because if you are not, at some point in the professional relationship you will. We all have meet someone that is a completely different person in business than when there are out of a professional setting. Although you should strive to be extra professional at work, you should always be yourself and not try to be two different people (the work version) and the (off work version). This would not only be exhausting, but would also be an unsustainable approach to finding success in the corporate world.

These five behaviors above cited are not complex and should also be carried into your personal life. Although you cannot insure everyone will “like” you, you do have the ability and responsibility to at least leave someone with a positive first impression of you. And you can do that by following these basic professional tips.

When meeting someone, you have as short as a blink of an eye, a few seconds or if you are lucky a few minutes to ensure your first actions lead someone to have a positive first impression of you. You are responsible for creating your legacy! And how people first perceive you, is a reflection of your actions and behaviors. Someone’s perception of you is reality! 

How long do you think it takes to form an opinion about someone when you first meet them? What are some other tips you believe we should adhere when meeting someone for the first time?

Because a good dessert always has a positive first impression on me, here is a recipe for an Authentic Gelato from the Spruce Eats by Elaine Lemm: 

https://www.thespruceeats.com/authentic-gelato-recipe-4172134

You can follow Black and White by clinking on the follow button to your right!

Citation:

Wargo, Eric, “How Many Seconds to a First Impression?” Association for Psychological Science, 1 July 2006, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression

Less is More

Our society continues to influence the way we perceive others. We see a Twitter account with two million followers and are led to believe that person is an influential individual because the numbers of followers he/she has. Is it true? You may also have experienced similar scenarios in college or at work where the “popular” student or employee seems to have influence. Do they? Often times in business and in life less is more. Here is why:

The above example about someone with two million views is an easy way to understand how we are taught to believe that more is better. In this case, we are led to believe that if that person has that many followers, they must be successful in influencing people’s decisions. But in reality, there is no correlation between the number of followers someone has and their ability to influencing someone else’s decision making. For example, you may follow a TV personality, an athlete or author on Tweeter; but if they tell you to do or buy something in a field that they have not established themselves as an expert, you will not follow their advice. 

So, you may only have two-hundred followers on Twitter, however if you are cultivating these followers with qualitycontent and sharing your knowledge about elements you are an expert about, often times your influence level over this two-hundred followers is exponentially more significant than that of someone with two million followers. The key to becoming successful and influential is in creating quality content that falls within your expertise and that is aspired by your audience. The level of engagement and influence between the individual and their followers is determined by the degree of credibility created through the quality of his/her content. 

In college or at work, you might also be able to identify a popular individual who has many “real life followers.” However, now that you understand that more does not mean better, you will likely pay attention to these individuals’ actual abilities to lead and influence other’s behaviors. Can they really lead others? Or are they just “popular?” They may have a lot of “exposure” around them, but without credibility, they are just that. Perhaps you know a not so “popular” student or co-worker that do not have many people following them year around, but that when finals week or an important project deadline approaches, other students and employees seek their inputs and advise. Their ability to influence others is proportionally greater than the “popular” student/employee because the credibility and reputation they have earned as an expert in their field. 

It is important to reiterate that credibility and expertise are acquired and developed through consistent output of quality work/content. Whether it is on your blog, social media account, college classes or at work, it will take time and successful results for you to start gaining the proportionate respect and recognition from others. Hence, next time you feel tempted to believe that only if you have a million followers on Twitter you will be successful or be influential, think again. Often times less is better. Remember that your degree of influence on others has no correlation to the size of your audience. The level of creditability you have built through consistent quality work will credential you as an expert and others will naturally listen and follow you. 

What do you think, is less more when it comes to influence?

Here is a link to pasta and meatballs recipe from Nataha’s Kitchen blog because when it comes to pasta, more is better!

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe (VIDEO)

Why You Should Wake Up Early!

We all have that one person in the family that wakes up early and is thrilled about starting the day at the crack of down. Maybe you are a morning person; perhaps you are not. Either way, you will certainly understand what I am about to describe next. I am a morning enthusiastic, and my wife is a night owl. As you can imagine, I drive her crazy in the mornings and she… Well, I don’t know, I am sleeping when she is being productive at night. Jokes aside, there are several reasons why you should wake up early. Here is a list of five reasons every person should wake up early. 

  1. No competition. Not as many people are up early. This is that one common sense tip you were waiting for. It sounds silly but think about it, if you are up before your competition, who has the upper hand? Although energy levels vary between each individual, waking up early or at least before your competition, will give you a competitive edge.
  2. Less distractions. Have you woken up at 4 am and for some reason and gone outside? If you live in a big city and have a chance to do that, you should. You will realize that even the most active cities tend to be “slow” at 4 am. With less distractions, you are able to better focus on your tasks. The less distractions you have, the deeper you are able to focus on what you are doing and the more productive you will be.
  3. Power level. If you recharge your phone up all night and unplug it when you wake up, you should have 100% battery. Now imagine you are the cell phone and waking up is the moment you are “un-plugged.” Then, you are the most energized in the morning; assuming you slept enough hours to “recharge” your “battery.”
  4. Better decision making: Most individuals make thousands of small and big decisions every day. It is obvious that no matter how small the majority of these decisions are, they still require time and energy from you. Hence, waking up early and not having as much distractions allows you to concentrate on the decisions that really matter and ultimately make better decisions.
  5. The butterfly effect: Every decision we make has an effect on our day and life. Although sometimes it might not feel that way, our actions and reactions determine the direction we go. If waking up early allows you to have less distractions, more energy and make better decisions, it should also ultimately lead you to accomplishing your goals.

You should always listen to your body and know what works best for you. Not everyone will thrive from waking up every day at 4am, but the point here is to understand that we all have a limited amount of time, energy and decision-making ability in any given day. Hence, if you can combine the period of the day you have the least distractions with having more energy, and less competition, you will certainly make better decisions and achieve a chain reaction (butterfly effect) in your professional and personal life that will lead you toward accomplishing your objectives. 

I am a strong believer in the benefits of waking up early, but understand that not everyone is wired the same way. If you are a night owl, I would love to hear some arguments for why you are more productive at night. 

Because a god hotdog has no right time. Here is a recipe for Brazilian Style Hot Dog from “Flavors or Brazil:”

http://flavorsofbrazil.blogspot.com/2010/10/recipe-cachorro-quente-brazilian-hot.html