The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

August 14, 2016

IntroductionImplementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.What is Change Management?Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ’4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.Why is Change Management important?As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

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We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:Focus on TechnologyIgnoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.Recognition of the Business importance of InformationThe low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.Business Case and BudgetThe business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.StrategyBest practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.ContentWe can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.ProcessDue process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.CultureThe manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.RelationshipsOrganizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.ServicesThe application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.TechnologyInformation technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.Change Management Best PracticeThe capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.GovernanceAs discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.Information Management SystemThe selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.PilotsThere are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

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User FocusThe inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.ArchitectureMost of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.Change Management Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.SummaryResearch shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are plannedFor most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Budget Travel and Hotel Considerations – Travel Industry Making Changes To Compete For Consumers

October 20, 2016

If you are like most Americans, you having difficulty saving money while prices are rapidly increasing; things like college tuition, food and fuel. So, when it comes to traveling you are looking to shave off costs and find ways to travel on a budget, and well, no one can blame you for that. What you may not be aware of or have not considered is that in the travel business; everything from airlines and rent-a-cars to tourist destinations and hotels are trying to find better ways to accommodate the budget traveler.

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For instance, many airlines have had their fuel prices boosted to record costs and many family budget and business travel hotels are making changes in management and in their operations. Recently, Choice Hotels named a new COO and President; Stephen P. Joyce, 48. Additionally they named a new Executive VP of Global Branding. Why, because they know that they must hold their American clientele and find ways to cut costs, while still attracting their overseas travelers who are paying in high valued currencies.There are many ways to cut costs in traveling and staying on a budget and hotels, rental car agencies and airlines are working very hard to compete for fewer travelers with fewer dollars, while still retaining a profit. Easier said than done, especially when jet fuel has almost tripled in cost since 2000 and recently the number of families traveling on vacation is being cut by a good 35% this summer, all due to cash strapped consumers, credit crisis and outrageous fuel costs. Airline Industry analysts are predicting one or maybe two major airlines filing bankruptcy in 2009 and some hotel chains have pulled back construction of new hotels in many locations.

Natural Health Sciences

August 14, 2016

Natural health sciences have taken on a whole new dimension with the creation and expansion of the large assortment of healing arts schools and colleges available today. For example, students can invest time and tuition to achieve a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Science in Nutrition. Natural health studies that are provided in these degree programs involve anatomy, physiology, whole foods, organic chemistry and biochemistry, food science, nutritional supplements and herbal medicine, physical fitness, and related natural health sciences. However, be prepared — most degree programs in these and other natural health sciences require prerequisite education from an accredited school or university; and may take up to four years to complete.If you choose to pursue an education in herbology, there are a number of degree programs in natural health sciences that cover this field of study as well. Currently, candidates can apply to a Bachelor of Science Degree program with a major in herbal sciences, and earn a solid educational foundation to become an herbal instructor, herbalist, wellness practitioner, herbal medicine researcher, or holistic health practitioner, among others. Common natural health sciences that are offered in this course of study include herbal sciences, anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, biochemistry and organic chemistry, microbiology, Materia Medica, herbal preparation and formulas, and more.

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Home herbal gardeners, don’t dismay — there are a number of holistic workshops and seminars that offer natural health sciences and studies in home herbal remedies, organic gardening, iridology, and introductory classes in supplements, vitamins, and flower essences, among others.Some certificate and/or diploma programs in natural health sciences are also accessible. If you like working with people and enjoy the healing art of massage, there are numerous natural health programs that emphasis bodywork modalities like deep tissue massage, Swedish massage, sports massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, and associated studies.Because natural health sciences reflect the growing demand for natural health care and complementary medicine in lieu of often invasive and risky conventional health treatments, now is the perfect time to enlist your energy and talents in the ever-expanding fields of the healing arts.

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If you (or someone you know) are interested in learning more about these or other programs in natural health sciences, let professional training within fast-growing industries like massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, oriental medicine, Reiki, and others get you started! Explore natural health sciences [http://school.holisticjunction.com/clickcount.php?id=6634739&goto=http://www.holisticjunction.com/search.cfm] and similar studies near you.Natural Health Sciences© Copyright 2008The CollegeBound NetworkAll Rights ReservedNOTICE: Article(s) may be republished free of charge to relevant websites, as long as Copyright and Author Resource Box are included; and ALL Hyperlinks REMAIN intact and active.

7 Reasons Why People Buy Darjeeling Tea Online

October 11, 2016

Darjeeling tea is loved around the world, and is grown in the aromatic tea region of the beautiful Himalayan mountain range in the city of Darjeeling. There are various types of blend of this tea, such as Green, Black, White and Oolong. The Darjeeling blends happen to be the favorite of everyone, due to their freshness, attractive aroma and light color. Makers of Darjeeling tea take a lot of care to preserve the amazing features of the blends of the area. Find out about the 7 main reasons why people love to buy Darjeeling tea online.1) Wow-worthy tasteThe fine taste of Darjeeling tea is the first thing that attracts so many tea drinkers to it. It tastes much like Muscat wine, and this is the reason why it is called the “Champagne of teas”. The blend has a fruity flavor and its musky, sweet notes make it one of a kind. These teas are available in different varieties, with floral sweet taste as well as a little astringent taste.

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2) Weight control benefitsTea from Darjeeling tea estates is a rich source of caffeine, which can prevent additional weight gain. The substance accelerates the metabolic rate and further increases the effectiveness of exercises. Any individual who wants to control his or her weight can benefit from the consumption of this type of beverage.3) Stress relieving propertiesThis kind of tea happens to be packed with catechins, a type of antioxidant and natural phenol that can improve blood pressure and offer relief from stress as well. These complex organic molecules can help reduce pain sensations. Regular consumption of the tea is important for people who would like to de-stress themselves amid the hectic activities of daily life.4) Preventing gastric disorderDarjeeling tea also helps improve gastric health. It can help heal gastric cancer as well as prevent the development of stomach ulcers. The brew reduces the proliferation of the bacteria known as Helicobacter Pylori, which can cause severe ulcers in the stomach. This kind of brew has plenty of health benefits, and tea traders in Darjeeling attempt to maintain the quality of various varieties.5) Making the immune system strongerDarjeeling tea is also extremely effective in improving the natural immunity. People who tend to catch cold or flu easily should consume at least 1 cup of Darjeeling brew on a daily basis. The tea contains a type of enzyme known as Theanine, which can improve the ability of the body to combat infections.

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6) Enhancing tooth healthOrganic Darjeeling tea, particularly of the black variety, can prevent the decay of tooth and reduce the formation of cavity. Daily intake of this tea blends can prevent the decay of tooth. Some studies indicate that the intake can help destroy cancer-causing organisms and help prevent oral cancer and other cancerous conditions.7) Preventing viral infectionsRecent research indicates that the consumption of black tea can eliminate germs, such as those that cause skin infections, cystitis, pneumonia, herpes and diarrhea. Some studies show that drinking black tea can neutralize viruses in the mouth.

The 7 Pillars of Branding

September 13, 2016

Although the question of branding has always been essential part of marketing and has been approached with multi-dimension models, sometimes these studies have been made without systematic approach or with full of redundancy or ad-hoc views. Unlike marketing which has the widely-known and usable, practical 7P-model, branding still misses such a sort of basic structure which makes the skeleton of all branding story.Here I am making an outline of such a simplified model to help people in successfully designing brands and also to better understanding the already existing ones. I collected 7 layers of the branding with 7 different tasks to be completed in everyday actions. I hope this can be useful for the readers, too.Right before entering this syllabus, we need to define what brand and branding is: in our view brand is a vision that is related to a specific company, product or any specific entity which lives in people and materializes to them. Branding is the art of deliberate control over the whole process.First pillar: Publicly knownA brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.Task 1: design and make your publicityHowever, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories aroundThe discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

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Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.Task 2: define and drive brand storiesNotwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative formIn real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand powerMost times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.Fourth pillar: Unique propositionThe history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiationsThe unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.Fifth pillar: ValueWhen we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.Task 5: define and carry brand valuesThe value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

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Sixth pillar: personal relationAll the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.Task 6: turn personal relation to actionAs a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.Seventh pillar: Exposure to timeWe have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over timeBrands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

Web Directories – Performance, Purpose, Problems – A General Guide to Web Directories

August 18, 2016

The path to building a successful web directory is far from a simple task. It requires a certain amount of devotion to take a web directory script and transform it into a heavily used directory. Web directories contain more complexities than meets the eye, and I have learned first hand that the development of a quality web directory is no walk in the park. But a good web directory is worth its weight in gold, for both webmasters & internet surfers alike. Let us enter the world of web directories.A web directory acts much like a search engine, but on a much smaller scale. Web directories are essentially a categorized index of websites that have been submitted by website owners. Directories normally have search features, allowing users to search through the entire index, just like a search engine. The main differences between a directory and a search engine is that very few directories contain the amount of links that a search engine does. Search engines also collect data from websites, which is used to categorize and rank them. Directories lack the ability to “crawl”, or exam websites as search engines due, therefore the only information a directory contains on a particular website is the information that was submitted by the website owner. Most directories use meta tags and keywords to search for websites, where as search engines use complex algorithms that take into consideration much more than meta tags (the value of meta tags in search engines has actually declined). Web directories are not the most popular internet search tools because huge search engines like Google and Yahoo are much more convenient to use and contain a vast amount of resources available to be searched. The largest and most popular web directory is the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), whose links are indexed by Google, Yahoo, and the majority of other search engines. Google and Yahoo both have their own web directories as well. Though independently owned web directories may not be so popular for internet searchers, they do have their benefits for webmasters & surfers alike.Web directories can have several purposes, it all depends on what the administration’s intended goals are. Some web directories are purely advertising hot spots, while others focus on driving targeted traffic to the directory. Some directories are free, some paid, others both. Directories can have broad topics, or specific topics. Lets start with the different types of web directories.First, we have what is commonly referred to as a “niche” directory. Niche directories have a specific topic, or niche, and the links found within the directory reflect that. Examples of a niche would be automotive directories, sports directories, shopping directories, web promotion directories, etc. Niche directories are most beneficial to internet *searchers; they have a specific topic and therefore *surfers and *searchers have a better chance of finding what they want. In a human edited niche directory, you are very unlikely to find spam sites as well.We will label the next kind of web directory as a “Free for All” directory. Free for all directories have no specific topic. They are very broad in their category selection and links are usually hidden behind several sub-categories. Free for all websites can benefit webmasters so long as the “no follow” tag is not applied (page rank increase), however it is in your best interest to avoid free for all directories for several reasons. Using a free for all directory to search for a website is more likely than not going to require you to sort through heaps of spam. A lot of free for all directories are not human edited due to the massive amount of link requests they receive, and websites are not carefully examined before being approved into the directory. The link quality of some free for all directories is extremely poor. Also, a lot of free for all directories extract data from other directories; how original. No sense in supporting the lack of creativity or devotion in such web directories. Despite a flood of low quality free for all directories, there are some very good ones available. A well organized, human edited (human edited = higher quality links) free for all directory is a great place to search for websites. It also serves webmasters with increased website exposure and if they are lucky, the directory is indexed by Google and other search engines, therefore improving its ranking on search engine result pages.

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The final type of web directories that will be examined are the poorest quality ones. Often referred to as “link farms” these directories are not human edited, due to contain high quality links, lack organization and unique features, and more often than not they become blacklisted from the major search engines. Searching these type of web directories is useless, and it’s highly recommended that you do not support such sites. Furthermore, if you are a webmaster, submitting your website to link farms will substantially decrease your popularity amongst search engines. These directories due more harm then good, and consequently give other directories a bad name.Whether you are submitting a website or searching for one, you will achieve the best results with a high quality niche directory. Webmasters, here are the common submission options for most web directories: Free submission: Submit your website to the directory for free. Simply fill out the form and wait for approval. A “no follow” tag is often placed on free submissions. Regular Submission: A small fee is usually necessary for regular submissions. Regular submissions can sometimes use the “no follow” tag. The main benefit is that submission approval times are significantly faster for regular submissions. Reciprocal Submissions: Free submissions that require a reciprocal link of the web directory to be placed onto the website you are submitting. Reciprocal submissions sometimes use “no follow’ tags, but often do not. Cost is free with reciprocal submissions. Featured Submissions: Paid submissions that grant you premium listing (websites listed in special section of category, generally above regular links), fast submission approval, and paid submissions do not place “no follow” tags on your links, meaning you gain a back link for search engine ranking benefits. Featured and regular submission fees are generally charged per year, and prices vary depending on the directory and the traffic it receives.Web directories have benefits for both webmasters and internet users. For webmasters, web directories main benefit is website exposure. Webmasters submit their websites to directories to increase their exposure. Not only can they receive traffic from people using the directory, but they can also benefit from a back link; a link to their website indexed by Google. Google ranks pages in several ways, but back links is one of the most important. A quality back link to your website increases your Google page rank. Enough quality directory back links, and your on your way to the top spot in Google search results. Bottom line: Web directories can increase your websites exposure by sending targeted traffic your way. For people using web directories as a search tool, web directories can offer you a big advantage over search engines. Search engine indexing is a big contest between website owners and therefore a lot of high quality content gets left out of the search engine result pages. Top results often go to corporations, big business, or highly devoted marketers. What about the little enthusiast and personal websites that contain valuable knowledge otherwise unavailable on the web?Well, a lot of these quality content websites can be found in web directories. If you are having trouble finding what your looking for in search engines, try searching for a niche directory and I bet you will find what your looking for. Furthermore, using web directories supports smaller businesses and helps the little guy out. Not everyone has the time or money to spend on internet marketing or website promotion, and web directories are a great way for these small websites to gain some exposure. Big search engines have monopolized the internet search market, and it makes the relationship between big search engines and website owners way to critical. Google doesn’t like you, and your sales drop 75 %. Now that does not seem right, does it? If more people frequented web directories, directory owners would gain a larger slice of the search engine market.There is a large number of web directories on the internet today that have been blacklisted by Google. It is best to avoid these directories at all costs; having your link listed there will most likely negatively affect your search engine rankings. But how do you know which directories to submit your URL to and which ones to avoid? These guidelines in rating web directories may help:1. Organization- Web Directories should be well organized and categorized.- Categories should be, neither, too broad nor too narrow. Category organization is important, but a directories search feature holds more value for finding links.- Links should be easily accessible.- Links should be posted into the correct category. If they are not, this is a sign of automated link approval, which should never be used in a directory. (Even the largest, most powerful of web directories are human edited).

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- Poor quality and spam links should not be accepted into any decent web directory.2. Advertisements- A quality directory should contain a free submission option, so it is necessary for directories to offer sponsored listings and sale advertisement space. However, the page should not be cluttered with ads. This is a sign that the directory administration is too focused on making a quick buck than enhancing the internet experience.- If the directory has a specific topic, or niche, than the advertisements should pertain to that topic. Off topic and irrelevant ads do not belong on niche directories.3. Page Rank (PR)- Rumor has it that it’s possible to fake some page rank indicators. Make sure your page rank comes from a reliable source when examining the PR of a web directory.- Page rank is important factor in website popularity. However, directories that boast high page ranks, or have their page rank in the directory name or slogan typically use the page rank factor to compensate for their downfalls. It’s like bragging…and you want a modest web directory. Find a directory that shares and uses their page rank to the benefit of directory users, not a directory that clearly lacks in features but boasts a high PR.- Directories that display website links within a category in descending order of PR are less desirable than those that display links based on popularity (unique hits). Most desirable first, not highest PR; very beneficial to new websites attempting to build initial PR.4. No Follow Tag- A web directory that uses “no follow” tags on all links is useless.- “no follow” tags are acceptable on free submissions. Reciprocal & featured submissions should not be tagged as “no follow” links. This gives value and meaning to featured (sponsored) & reciprocal links, while controlling the amount of links indexed by search engines to a reasonable number.- In a quality directory, do not fear a “no follow” on your free submission. A good directory brings in targeted traffic, and though you may be missing out on that back link, there is still a lot of potential for increasing traffic.5. Reviews, Marketing, & Promotion- Search around for reviews and recommendations on web directories. There are some really good resources when it comes to choosing quality directories.- A web directory should be marketed to both webmasters & internet surfers. If a directory only attracts webmasters, what kind of web traffic is it likely to bring? Look into how the web directory is promoted and marketed.
These 5 guidelines can help you distinguish between low quality link farms and high quality, effective web directories. I hope this information helps you in your website’s marketing and promotion campaign, in terms of website directory submission.Teal Reid, SYC Automotive Directory Administrator

Eight Tips For Launching Your Real Estate Investing Career

October 21, 2016

Eight Tips for Getting Started in Real Estate InvestingIntroductionThis article is just the basics for getting started in real estate investing. This is not a how to article but an article that gives you some information about things to do to get started. Everything in this article is tools that can be applied to helping anyone get started in real estate investing. I am going to give you my eight keys to getting started. Nothing is right or wrong but reflects the point of view of the author. Laws and legal practices vary from state to state, and laws can change over time. The author does not vouch for the legality of his opinions, nor is there any intent to supply legal advice. The author strongly encourages the reader to consult with professionals and an attorney prior to entering in any real estate transaction or contract. The author is not a writer but he is a real estate investor. There will be grammar mistakes and errors, so don’t be too critical of the grammar but focus your energy on what is being said. With that said prepare yourself to think a little differently and expand your mind. Let’s get started on an amazing adventure.The Eight Tips are as follows1. Desire
2. Goal Setting
3. Learning What To Do
4. Attending a Real Estate Investing Seminar
5. The Billings Montana Market
6. Finding a Mentor
7. Your Real Estate Team
8. Just Do IT1. DesireBefore we get in to the bolts and nails of real estate investing in I want to talk to you about desire. If you are going to be successful at anything in life including real estate investing you have to have the desire to do it. Desire is defined as longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment. Desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim. In real estate investing if you don’t have a desire to learn and grow as a human being and really get satisfaction out of it, then real estate investing is going to be hard to do. When I go out and look at a property it brings me a lot of enjoyment. Every aspect brings me joy from talking to home owners, figuring out how I can make a deal work, to buying the house and to finding a good homeowner or tenant for the house. Real estate investing may not be for everyone but real estate investing can offer anyone the financial freedom we all crave for. If you do not have the desire for real estate investing that is ok, it can still help you to live your dreams and help you to get where you want to go in the future.Why is real estate investing an amazing avenue for anyone to live out all of their dreams? Let me ask you a few questions. Do you have enough money to do anything you want? Do you have everything you want? No debt? A nice house? Great Marriage? The freedom to do anything regardless of how much it costs and the time it takes? If you have all of these things then you are one of the few people in America who does. Most people may be working fifty hours a week and making just enough to pay their bills. In today’s day and age most people are living pay check to pay check never really knowing if they will make enough to pay the bills that just keep piling up. If you cannot keep up with your monthly bills how are you going to plan for retirement or send your kids to college or have time to enjoy life. The answer to all of these questions is becoming financially free. Now it’s not going to be easy everyone will have to get off the couch and out of their comfort zone. Real estate is proven to be one of the fastest ways to get your out of the rat race of the nine to five and begin living the life you deserve to live. Everyone wants something different out of their life. Some dream of traveling the world, spending more time with family, volunteering, golfing, laying on a beach, giving back to the community, or anything that will make them happy. There are thousands of things that make people happy.Making it in real estate takes a person who has a strong desire to change their lives for the better and think big. Anyone can become a great real estate investor. It is going to take a lot of work and can be a struggle at times but in the end it will be the most amazing feeling ever. The people that make it in real estate investing all have a few things in common. First they run their real estate investing business like any other business out there. Second they get out there and network with anyone and everyone. Some people might be like me and have a hard time talking to other people. If you are that is ok, anyone can learn how to become a people person, it just takes hard daily work. You have to push yourself past your comfort zone. The third thing is that you cannot be afraid to fail. Everyone has failed at something but the most successful people out their learn from their failures. The fourth thing is that you have to put a good team together. I will go into putting a team together in a later chapter. The concept of putting a team together is so that when you don’t know something you have team members that know what to do and can help you with questions. The can also make sure that you are not working yourself to death. You do not want to be the person doing everything in your business. Doing everything is a receipt for failure. You have to put together good people who you can trust and rely on. The fifth thing is that you need a mentor. Sixth and final is the desire to do it. No one can become successful at something if they don’t want to do it and don’t get satisfaction out of what they are doing.2. Setting GoalsHaving goals is one of the most important aspects of achieving what you want in life. You don’t want to just have your goals up in your head you want to write them down and past what you have wrote on the wall somewhere or in the bathroom mirror. You want to review your goals daily and read them out loud to yourself. This way you remind yourself everyday why you are building your business.How should you start to write down you goals? First off you should think big, and by big I mean HUGE. If your goals are too small you will easily achieve them and have nothing else to look forward too. You should start off by asking yourself the question if I had all the money and time in the world what would I do, what would I buy, how would I spend my time, and how would I spend my energy. Are you starting to write these down? Well you should be. Think about what you want, spending time with family, traveling the world, the best cars, a castle, owning a small country, running for president, having the biggest real estate investing business in your area or in the country. Whatever your dreams and what you want out of your life, write it down. Some of my goals are becoming free, traveling the world, having a Ferrari, having 10 vacation homes all over the world. Right now I am just trying to get you out of your comfort zone of thinking and let your imagination run.

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There are several ways to set goals. I have learned a lot of ways you can set you goals and there is no right or wrong way. The best ways that I have found to set your goals is to break them up into two categories. First your short term goals. This should be goals from a month out to around a year. The second is your long term goals these goals are you think big goals and what you see for your future.For year one I like to first make a list of what I want to achieve this year and I will give you an example of how to do that. For year one you want to be very specific first you want to list what you want your income to be at the end of the year, next how much cash in the bank you want (this is money in your checking account, not assets). Next you want to list how much you are going to give. Giving is a very important, this can be giving to charity, giving of gifts to friends and family, giving to your school or anything you can dream of. As long as what you give brings joy to others who need it more than you. Next list what bad habits you have that you want to eliminate. Weather is be quitting smoking, spending too much on junk, drinking too much, working too much, not spending enough time with family, too much TV, not exercising and many more. We all have bad habits that need to be changed in order for use to grow as human beings. Under each of these bad habits list out some steps that you can take in order to quit them. If you bad habit is being lazy and not exercising enough what can you do to change that. Well you can get a gym membership or a home work out program. Commit yourself you following through with a plan to work out 3-5 days a week. For you to change these bad habits you have to be totally committed and follow through with a detailed plan you set for yourself. After you have your plans in place you should start listing several things you want to achieve or do in the next year. This can be start a successful business, spend time with family, travel to 2-5 places and so on. Now under each of these you should also write a detailed plan on what you need and what you need to do in order to achieve these goals. Finally you should take all of this information you have a write on page on what you see your life being over the next year. Doing this is a great exercise to really see what you want out of life.Goals Year OneThis is what I am going To Do This Year
Income: $500,000
Cash: $100,000
Give: $20,000Bad Habits that will be changes:Over Sleeping 1. Go to bed at 11 p.m. 2. Use a timer and set it for 8 hours 3. Set the timer on the other side of the roomBuying things that you don’t need: 1. Going out shopping less 2. If you have the urge to buy something think to yourself is thing item going to help me to achieve my goals of becoming financially free? 3. Tell friends what you are doing, so they can help to stop you.What I want to Achieve:Start a successful Real Estate Investing Business: (you should write a detailed step by step plan of everything you need in order to achieve your goal)Travel: Where do I want to visit? 1. Gators football game (what I need to do it, money, etc)And last your own page about what you want to achieve using words like I will and only positive words.For long term goals you don’t need to be as specific right now, but you should list them and under them list a few steps or smaller goals that need to be achieved before you are able to achieve them. With the long term goals always think big. Another good exercise for long term goals is to make a collage of you goals. Put pictures of the house you want on it, places you want to travel, a picture of your family, a number of what income you want in or anything you can think of.3. LearnKnowledge builds confidence and destroys fear. If you are starting any kind of business you need to learn the ins and outs of that business. The best way I have found to learn about real estate investing is to read all about it. But once you know it you have to apply what you have learned. Learning and reading is just one step to take. There are thousands of books on the market about real estate investing and everyone has something you can learn from. You don’t just want to read real estate investing books though. You also want to fill yourself with motivational and leadership books. Every successful person that I know if a reader and they all spend at least thirty minutes a day reading something that will teach them about improving their business or helping themselves to become a better person. Some of the best books that I would recommend reading are listed below.1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (read this first and also ready everything in the rick dad poor dad series, great books to start with and will expand you mind)
2. Be a Real Estate Millionaire by Dean Graziosi
3. Flip your way to financial freedom by Preston Ely (this is an E-Book)
4. Four hour work week by Timothy Ferriss
5. The Attractor Factor
6. Short Sale Pre-foreclosure Investing by Dwan Bent-twyford and Sharon Sestrepo
7. Keys to success, by Napoleon Hill
8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
9. How to win friends and influence people
10. Any Book by John C. Maxwell (he has tons of amazing leadership books)
11. Getting Started in Real Estate Day Trading by Larry Goins
12. The E Myth by Michael Gerber
13. How to be a quick turn real estate millionaire by Ron Legrand
14. The Power of Full Engagement
15. The It Factor
16. Anything by Anthony RobinsThere are tons more you can read but these will give you a great start. You should also read books on negotiating, sales, motivation, and biographies on American business people.I hope this list gives you the knowledge it has given me. If you learn and apply what you have learned from these books there is no reason that you should not become very successful.4. Attend a Real Estate Investing SeminarAttending a Real Estate Investing Seminar can be one of the best places to learn about real estate investing from some very well known experts. There are several seminars going on all over the country every weekend. If you live in a big city it will be very easy to find one. If you live in a town like Billings Montana you might need to travel a little ways to find one. Now most of the best meeting cost money to attend them. Some range from five hundred dollars for three days and some can be up to $20,000. There are a few that I would recommend. Than Merrill is a great speaker to go hear. I have learned a ton from him. You can find his company online by Google searching him. Also rich dad poor dad has seminars all over the country. I attended one of their seminars in Billings Montana for only $500 dollars and learned a ton from it. There is also Preston Ely, Larry Goins, and hundreds of speakers out there. If you find a great book that you really enjoyed, then just simple search for that person online and see if they are speaking somewhere or offer a seminar close to you.Another reason I recommend going to a seminar is because they get you pumped up and motivated. I have not yet found anything else that just gets you feeling like you can do anything. When you get back from one of these seminars you will have tons of energy and knowledge. Every time I get back from one all I want to do is going out and do a deal or ten.These seminars will also provide you with several opportunities to purchase amazing real estate investing tools, software or learning material at a fraction of the cost. Believe me when I tell you all of the low priced seminars try to sell you something. But a lot of times what they are trying to sell is some really good stuff.Another reason to attend a seminar is to network with other investors and build relationships with them. You can meet other investors who you can partner with on a deal, sell a deal too, people who will provide you with deals and so on. You should have hundreds of business cards made up and try to give them all out. You never know how much one business card you hand out can make you.5. Learn About the real estate market in your areaMost real estate investors start their career off my investing around where they live. This is why I do my real estate investing in Billings Montana. You can venture out when you have more experience. The reason behind this is because we feel more comfortable with the areas and know the areas better. It is also easier to get local real estate information that we need. Investing in your local market is also cheaper to start out, there is less travel costs, you can see what you are buying and it may give you a feeling a comfort.First you have to decide which part of town is the best place to invest in. This can be determined by what kind of real estate investing you choose to do. I have not gone over the types of real estate investing but some include rehabbing (fixing up and selling), wholesaling (finding deals and selling them to other investors), buying to rent, and there are a few others. These are the real estate strategies that I use for the most part. When looking at the market you need to see where other investors are buying their houses. Most of the best deals will be found in low to middle class neighbors hoods. By low I don’t mean drug infested war zones, what I mean is blue collar safe neighbor hoods that might have somewhat older houses and houses that are not on the higher end price side. Now you can find deals in the higher priced neighbor hoods but most will be in the low to middle income neighborhoods. When looking where others are buying ask local realtors, other investors or appraisers.When talking with investors ask them several questions such as what neighborhoods they prefer, what type of houses they buy (3 bed 2 bath), and what they do (rehab, rent, wholesale). You should not look at other investors as competition but try and work with them.There are different types of markets such as appreciating markets, flat markets, and deprecating markets. Appreciating markets are markets that there is no enough houses or a very high demand for houses which causes the price of houses to go up. The reason there is a high demand for housing can be because of job growth, a very appealing area, or several reason. Flat markets are markets that have no or very little growth. This means that there is not a lot of demand; buy just enough to fill every ones needs. Depreciating markets are where there is a lot more houses than people to fill those house. This causes house prices to start going down. This can be because of a large employer leaving the area, a natural disaster or just over building. There is an old saying buy in a bust and sell in a boom. In depreciating markets you can pick up several deals, while in appreciating the house prices are going to be much higher and harder to find great deals. The deal will still be out there you just have to know where to find them.Learning your market is another key to becoming successful. Real estate Brokers and experts in your area can be the best source of information for you. Learn to use them to find out what kind of market you are in. If you are in Billings Montana we are in a pretty stable market. Billings Montana has not seen the ups and downs that other markets have experienced. I will have to say that I have been noticing a little bit of a downward trend but not much. Once the first time home buyer credit is over with we might see a little more decline. Every market can vary by neighborhood, so make sure you know you market well. I have seen the same houses just one mile apart selling for totally different prices.

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6. Find a MentorHaving a mentor to help you can be your biggest learning experience. Mentors can help you with any questions you may have, walk you step by step through the investing process, give you moral support, you learn from their proven system, and also network you with others in the business. Every successful real estate investor that I know says they owe a lot of their success to the mentors they have and had in their lives. I have had one of the best mentors around, my father. He is teaching me something new every day and pushing me to become successful.When trying to find a mentor I would suggest network with the investors at your local real estate investors club meeting. There is a real estate investing club in Billings Montana that meets once a month. You can find information about real estate investing clubs in your area by searching for REA or real estate investors club then your area in Google. When you go to the meetings ask around who the biggest investors are. Then ask if you could get together with them sometime and discuss real estate investing. Ask them if they would consider working with you to get their career going. Offer your services as a bird dog. Bird dogs are people who go out find deals or leads about deals and give them to other investors. A bird dog gets from $500 to $3000 dollars depending on the deal. Make sure that you have a bird dog contract signed with the investors saying that if you find them and deal and they buy it that you get paid a certain amount of money. Being a bird dog helps you to build credibility with the investor and they are more likely to mentor you if you have something to offer them. If you would like to contact me with a question go to my web site Big Sky Property Solutions LLC.7. Your Real Estate TeamBuilding an effective team can make your life as a real estate investor a lot easier. You are only one person and cannot do everything or be an expert in every aspect of real estate investing. Going at a project alone can become one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever encounter. Many people have become frustrated and quite real estate investing because they try and juggle too many things. Make sure that when putting a team together you provide everyone with win-win opportunities. When someone knows that working with you is going to make them money they will put you as a higher priority on their list. But you have to prove it to them that you are the real deal.
People to have on your real estate investing team includeo Real Estate Agents ( find the top agent for volume of sales in your area and other agents who work with real estate investors)
o Real Estate appraisers (find an appraiser that has done a few hundred jobs or more and make sure they carry errors and omissions insurance)
o Real estate contractors (good rehab crews that can get the job done in a timely manner, have 3-5 crews and on every deal get 3 estimates done. Ask for referrals from them and make sure they are licensed)
o Real estate attorneys (every investor needs an attorney, they can help to protect your assets, make sure you find one that works with investors)
o A property management company (can manage your properties and will give you leads on property they are managing that might come up for sale)
o Title companies (take care of the legal process and make sure there are no liens against the property you are buying, choose one that does hundreds of closings a year)
o Home inspectors(charge about $400 but will give you a great inspection and could save you thousands in the long run)
o And your MentorAll of these people can help you in various aspects of real estate investing. You might find that there are a couple others that are keys to your business but this is just a list of a few.8. Just Do itThere is no better phrase out there then JUST DO IT! Once you have learned all you can networked with investors in Billings and learned real estate investing strategies there is nothing left to do but get your feet wet. There is no better learning tool out there then doing a deal. Once you have completed that first deal you will know what to expect and find out that it is not as hard as you thought it would be. You will have learned what you did right and what was frustrating. Take that experience and ask yourself what would have made it run smoother. Apply that to your next deal. Then the next deal will be easier and it keeps getting easier as you go. I will say that every deal is different from the last but that what makes this business fun. You have to be creative and always keep on learning and growing with your business.The average person never uses what they learn. Don’t be average apply your knowledge. When going out and doing your first deal act like you have done 1000′s of deals. The fastest way to change a habit is to act like it is true.Five keys for success
1. Specialized Knowledge
2. Tools of a professional
3. Have the mindset of a winner
4. Mentors
5. Money and the knowledge of leveraging it (you don’t have to have millions to invest in real estate, there are many strategies out there to use other people’s money, or no money at all)This is going to conclude this article about getting started in real estate investing. I hope this gave you some ideas about how you can get started. I didn’t give you any strategies at this point but look for some in upcoming articles. These are simple steps you can use to get started. If you read this article thank you for listening.

The Fine and Performing Arts & Education

September 14, 2016

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. (Paulo Freire)I see too many public service commercials-today-exhorting us to support the Performing and Fine Arts in public education. We, as a nation, have evidently become so low-brow, or unsophisticated, that we can no longer see the need for Art education in our schools. So now, we have our children pleading with us, on television commercials, to keep Art education alive. This is a sad state of affairs for us and our children, because art is what truly separates us from the beasts and allows us to rise above the mundane drudgery of life. As many others, I believe art should be at the center of education and not just because it’s good for us. Art stimulates a child’s cognitive and affective domains, as well as their motor skills, which leads to learning, discovery, creativity and motivation.Academics are very important, of course, but too often they only stimulate a very small portion of the student’s mind and heart. There are three, basic domains of learning: the Cognitive (mind), Affective (emotions or feelings) and Motor-Skills (hands-on). These three domains are key to our thinking/reasoning, learning, problem solving and creating. A healthy mind (Cognitive) is capable of taking in, retaining and processing information, which can then be applied, if retained and used, to the individual’s life. Emotions and feelings (Affective) are closely connected to an individual’s learning, because they aid in retaining and applying information, as well as stimulating the desire to learn more. Seeing, hearing, speaking, the ability to write, walk and run are all part of the individual’s Motor-skills. Without these three domains, learning, needless to say, would be impossible. Reading, writing, math and the sciences stimulate the cognitive and motor skills domains quite effectively, but the affective is too often short changed.If we think back to our school days, then we should be able to remember that the memorization of facts and successfully spitting them back out on tests was our main concern as students. This is very much a part of the learning process, and I’m not denying that, but where does the Affective domain play a significant part in this teaching process? In much of this way of learning the affective is absent, and-therefore-much of the educational material, which has just been learned, has no real application in the individual’s life and is forgotten. I remember very little about higher level math, the periodic table and scientific jargon. Why is that? It didn’t relate to my life nor touch me in a deep way. This is not to say that I, or anyone else, shouldn’t have taken math and science classes, but what I am saying is academics are less effective than they can be, because they tend to ignore the Affective domain.

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I contend that the Arts use all three domains effectively, and they can-therefore-stimulate the student to apply, as well as retain, what they’ve learned. Creativity is key in this process. The Performing and Fine Arts have a distinct advantage-educationally-in their ability to allow students to create as they learn. In painting, students are in the process of creating at the same time they’re mixing colors and learning brush techniques. The same applies to sculpting and photography students. Many middle and high school music directors are-now-using computer programs to stimulate their students to compose as they learn to play and sing. Dance and theatre programs are examples, as well, of applying skills as their students learn. This artistic, educational process employs the cognitive and motor skills domains, but it also stimulates the affective. The art student experiences the sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from successfully learning, and then being able to immediately apply this knowledge in a very personal way. The Arts can enhance a student’s ability to express their emotions in a very positive way. These students have ownership of what they have learned and are able to express this ownership through creativity. The Performing or Fine Arts student is motivated-educationally-beyond just memorizing facts and passing tests, because they’re using their newly-acquired knowledge to express what lies deep in their heart and mind.Surprisingly, the arts and sports have much in common, educationally. The basketball or football player, as well as the long-distant runner, learn their skills while applying them. The learning of physical techniques and immediate application reinforces the athlete’s desire to learn and perform even more. In team sports, such as football, baseball and basketball, the student athlete learns to work with others to produce a product, or team. The young athlete learns that the whole, or team, is greater than the sum of its parts, or players, as do dancers, actors, singers and instrumentalists. As in performing ensembles, these young athletes experience the joy that comes from accomplishing something special with others. They learn, in a very intimate way, responsibility towards others and that the team is dependent on the very weakest athlete, as well as the strongest and most gifted. There’s really very little difference between a football player and a band member, when it comes to being responsible and understanding that it takes everyone-involved-to be successful. This is such a valuable and wonderful lesson, and it is learned primarily, through the affective domain.Educational collaboration between artistic disciplines is a great way for young artists to learn while they create. The pairing of young instrumentalists with dancers and visual artists, or actors with singers, can open up a whole new world of artistic exploration, discovery and creativity. These collaborations can become a great vehicle for learning and motivation, as any arts teacher who has experienced this process will testify. The educational process becomes more important than the outcome, or testing results, because it is in the process of exploration, discovery and creativity where learning really occurs. The educational outcome is secondary, because it is only used, in this case, to measure curricular goals. The motivation for and enjoying of learning comes through the process of collaboration, exploration, discovery and creating.In academia, the emphasis-today-is placed more on the outcome, or testing and grades, which, in my estimation, is a huge mistake. Academic instructors could learn much from their counterparts in the arts. The government and its politically motivated, educational policies, of course, stands in the way of any successful, corrective change to academic teaching methods. Political agendas, such as, “No child left behind” are meaningless and worthless to students and teachers, because they’re not concerned, as they so hypocritically claim, with the success of the individual learner. Instead, these agendas are merely an attempt to soothe the fevered brows of unsatisfied constituents.I will agree with academic teachers that their process seems to be more set in stone than with the arts, and the only real way they can measure educational outcomes is through testing. There has to be a way-however-to allow a math, science, English or history student to become more involved in the process of learning. English teachers have a distinct advantage, since they could use writing essays and poems to instill a sense of ownership in their students. Their students-then-could use their essays and poems to collaborate with young composers, actors and dancers, as an example. Even though it would be difficult, science, language and math teachers could also seek these same avenues for educational exploration, discovery and creativity, which would-then-hopefully-lead to a student’s retention/application, ownership and motivation. This, of course, will be impossible, as long as we allow our government to force academic teachers to teach-solely-towards the outcome, or “standardized” testing.American students, every year, fall farther behind their counterparts around the world, academically and intellectually, while their parents and teachers continue to buy into the educational propaganda, which is spewed out by the American-political machine in Washington. Every year, Art education becomes less and less important in our schools, because of it’s effectiveness in producing students who can think, reason, question, learn and create. Realistically speaking, Art education may be perceived as a threat to those who run this country and desire a race of middle-class, mindless, unquestioning and unsophisticated robots.

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Education is the responsibility of the parents first and foremost, and if parents aren’t capable or willing to fight for their children’s education, then I guess America is doomed. If I were a parent-today-there would be no way I could allow my child to be intellectually molested by our current, public-education system. My child would either be home-schooled, at best, or in a private education system.The Roman Empire was one of the greatest and long lasting nations in the history of the world, and yet, as the Roman government declined, then so did its human values and arts. There is only one piece of music remaining, one mere fragment, after one thousand years of Roman culture. Rome literally disintegrated from within, because of a corrupt government and decaying society. The United States is less than two-hundred and fifty years old, and we’re already starting the lingering slide into governmental corruption, cultural ignorance and decay. Perhaps, it’s too late to save our society, but if it isn’t, then it’s time to start rebuilding what we have allowed to be torn down for the last one-hundred and fifty years. If it isn’t too late, then we must begin to rebuild our values and education system. Our values and education system may not have been perfect, in the past, but they were worthy of being fixed, properly.Most successful, world cultures, throughout history, have been measured by the quality of their philosophers and artists far more than their forms of government and technological advances. If we disappear as a nation, in another century or so, what will we be remembered for? What will be our legacy to the world?Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine. (Magdalena Abakanowicz)In my estimation, art is an integral part of being human and-therefore-is integral to human education. If we die to our affective inclinations, then we cease to be human in any real sense, and the results of this can be seen on MTV and its “Hip-Hop” generation. Money, material objects, self-absorbed egos, low-life affections and brutal power will never make us more human, if anything these extrinsic motivators will simply and affectively dehumanize us. “The one with the most toys in the end,” loses! Art education can help us to see ourselves, the world and-yes-God more clearly. We are more than flesh and blood, and our affective, as well as cognitive, attributes are exhorting us to remember this truth. The arts should be at the center of our children’s education, and our children shouldn’t have to plead with us to give them what they need and desire!

What a Pharmacy Technician Does

October 13, 2016

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy? Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy technicians in healthcare. The rest of this article will list different types of pharmacy settings and the roles that pharmacy technicians have in these settings.Community/Retail Pharmacy:I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:• Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
• Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
• Filling and selling prescriptions
• Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
• Compounding medications that are not commercially available
• Ordering medications
• Restocking shelves
• Answering the phone
• Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
• Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functionsHospital Pharmacy:There are many different roles for pharmacy technicians in a hospital pharmacy. I know this type of pharmacy best since this is where most of my work has been. The most common are technicians who work in the central pharmacy. In addition we have decentralized techs, sterile compounding techs, billing techs, OR techs, narcotic techs, database techs, automation techs, team lead techs, and buyer techs. These technicians as a whole perform the following tasks, but not limited to:

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• Filling new orders, this includes a variety of medications from oral medications to specially prepared sterile compound medications (including chemotherapy meds)
• Answering the phone
• Tubing medications (if the pharmacy has a pneumatic tube station)
• Preparing medications for delivery
• Delivering medications
• Assisting floor pharmacists with medication histories
• Assisting floor pharmacists with IV drip checks
• Handling missing dose calls
• Billing medications where nurse charting does not bill
• Maintaining the pharmacy database
• Restocking operating rooms and anesthesia trays with appropriate medication
• Dispensing and tracking all controlled substances throughout the hospital
• Maintaining automation equipment [automated dispensing cabinets that store medication on nursing units, automatic fill systems (typically called Robot-Rx)]
• Purchasing of all medication and supplies needed in the pharmacy
• Leading and managing the technician workforce, including upkeep of schedulesLong-Term Care Pharmacy:I have worked at a couple of long-term care pharmacies, and I think it is a great place to be a technician. They typically employee a lot of techs because the work load lends itself to a lot of technician tasks. These pharmacies provide the medication needs for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and psychiatric facilities. The typical pharmacy is located in a warehouse. It does not have an open pharmacy for people to come to; they receive orders by fax and deliver all medications via couriers or drivers to facilities. The oral medication is filled in blister packs (cards of 30 tabs that are used to provide a 1 month supply of medication), or some other mechanism that provide the facility with an extended amount of medication doses that can be safely and cleanly kept until doses are due. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:• Filling new and refill orders (different from hospital because of the number of doses provided)
• Processing new order and refills coming through the fax machine
• Order entry of prescriptions and printing of labels for fill techs
• Sterile compounding of medications (although there aren’t as many sterile compounded medications as a hospital, there are still enough that most long-term care pharmacies have a few techs specialize in sterile compounding
• Billing medications to homes
• Controlled substance dispensing and documentation
• Ordering medications and supplies
• Restocking medications that are returned that are still suitable for reuse.Home Infusion Pharmacy:These pharmacies primarily care for patients that require some form of IV or other non oral medication, and want to receive the therapy at home (hence the name home-infusion). I have also worked in a home-infusion pharmacy. As a tech I had a lot of experience in sterile compounding, and found my self in any position that needed a IV room tech. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:• Compounding sterile preparations in the clean room
• Preparing supplies associated with sterile medication administration for delivery
• Billing medications delivered to patients home
• Coordinating deliveries of medications with patients
• Entering orders in the pharmacy order entry systemNuclear Pharmacy:No, I have not worked in a nuclear pharmacy (I am sure you were staring to think I got around quite a bit, but I have been in pharmacy for about 17 years). I have some friends who work in a nuclear pharmacy. The hours are interesting; they usually come in at about 3 AM and work until about noon. These types of pharmacies make radioactive compounds and they need to be made in a way that when they are delivered to the hospital or clinic administering them, that the dose has degraded to a specific amount. Without going into too much detail, these medications have short half-lives. So they have to time the compounding of the product with the time it takes to deliver the medication and the time the patient is to receive the dose. The job pays well, but as you can imagine, there are not a ton of these positions available. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

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• Preparing radioactive products
• Cleaning and preparing sterile compounding areas
• Entering orders into the pharmacy system
• Coordinating dose due times with deliveries and preparation
• Billing products to hospital or clinicHealth Plans/HMO Pharmacy Group:I saved this one for last because it is a lot different. Most healthcare plans have a pharmacy department. They manage the pharmacy benefit of the health plan. I have worked with my companies health plan and have spent some time with the pharmacy department. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:• Answering phone calls and providing support for patients on the pharmacy benefit
• Reviewing prior authorization requests
• Providing support to physicians and drug companies for information requests
• Supporting the pharmacists in the department with database and projects as neededAs you can see, pharmacy technician roles can be very diverse. The best advice I can give you is to figure out what setting you would most like to work in and obtain some experiential hours in that setting. I have found that the type of pharmacy you train in is typically the type of pharmacy you end up working in.

Benefits of Holidays and Vacations

November 2, 2016

As a frontline medical practitioner for over 20 years, I have been actively encouraging and motivating my patients, relatives, friends and other people to take holidays and vacations on a regular basis. Except for those people who have serious medical conditions, there are no restrictions to travel and enjoy holidays. Even the elderly, disabled or pregnant women (within 28 weeks of pregnancy) can travel as much as anybody else. The benefits of holidays and vacations are numerous, both short-term and long-term, but most people fail to appreciate the benefits. As a result, only a small percentage of people worldwide travel and harvest the benefits of holidays and vacations. Research has shown that even workers who are offered paid vacations by their organizations do not take advantage of such offers to take some weeks off their work.In this article, I will briefly highlight some benefits of holidays and vacations.Longer and healthier lifeA recent survey conducted by the State University of New York has shown that people who take holidays regularly every year reduce their risk of early death by about 20 percent. The survey also revealed that those who did not take any holiday in 5 years faced the highest death rate risk, along with higher incidence of heart diseases. This can be explained by the fact that during holidays people are happier, relaxed, carefree, spending more time with family and loved ones, and away from the regular stressing environment. A happy relaxed life increases longevity.

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Improvement in mental healthOne study conducted by the Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield and published in Wisconsin Medical Journal showed that women who went on frequent vacations had lower susceptibility to depression, tiredness, or tensions and they were more satisfied with their marriages. Women who took rare vacations displayed higher stress levels in their homes, felt more exhausted and tired and slept lesser. It is without doubt that regular holidays will not just unwind people from the stress accumulated during the day to day hectic life in the short-term but also will improve the overall mental and psychological well-being of an individual in the long-term. Many researchers have shown that depression increases the chances of heart disease. Since holidays provide a break from the normal boring routine, they also help in relieving the symptoms of depression.Revamping of relationshipsThe always busy, work-obsessed and chronically duty-minded culture of people of modern life has indeed taken a heavy toll not only on our physical and mental health but also on our relationships. People do not have much time to spend with their partners, children or families. As a result, there is disharmony in the family, children are not looked after well and there is increased tension between partners, which has resulted in increased number of separations, divorce and other marital conflicts. Taking regular breaks from work and enjoying holidays and vacations not only revamps the strained and estranged relationships but also renews, revitalizes and strengthens family relationships and bonds.Improvement in self-confidenceWhen we travel, we encounter various types of situations and meet different kinds of people. Such encounters improve our self-confidence. It also helps improve our social skills and prepare us for unexpected or unknown.Creative inspiration through holidayingWhen we do the same thing again and again, it becomes monotonous and stereotyped. This is what has happened to us in today’s world. We have become victims of monotony that has gradually crept into our system and destroyed our creative abilities, new thinking processes, and inspirational opportunities. When we travel, we come across new situations and different environments. Such situations can induce and help develop the creativity within us.Increase in productivity Many studies have shown that holidays not only motivate people to work better but the relief from the monotony also rejuvenates people, resulting in higher productivity.Seeking adventureHolidaying is a time to pump adrenalin for many adventure lovers. This is a chance to make their dream come true and try many daring sports and adventures, such as, bungee jumping, water rafting, surfing, mountaineering and many others. Such adventures give people a sense of achievement and happiness.

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Mental and psychological escapeMany people these days view holidaying as a form of mental or psychological escape. The change in atmosphere, climate, scenery, quiet surroundings, slow pace of life, and clean air is regarded by many travelers as pathway to happiness and spirituality.Improve physical fitness, and lose weight tooObesity has become a global epidemic. Holidays and vacations can at least induce people to do some form of exercise. They have more time and any form of physical activity (and away from TV and video games!) can help lose weight. If they can continue the same sort of exercises once they are back home, it can at least help people change their habit and lose some weight at the same time. Losing weight not only improves the physical fitness and appearance of a person but also reduces the chances of getting depression, some cancers, heart diseases and other conditions.In conclusion, holidays and vacations not only bring joy, excitements, fun and break in the usual monotony of life, but they also have far reaching effects in the long-term including improvement in physical and mental wellbeing, longer and happier life, revamping relationships, improving self confidence and productivity, and instilling creative inspiration within us.