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30 Life Lessons From Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma

30 Life Lessons From Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma

Have you ever felt discouraged when you consider your professional progress or financial state? Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has a few tokens of advice for you.

Ma is a Chinese internet entrepreneur who launched his first big endeavor, and many since, in the face of adversity or criticism. He was named Financial Times’ “2013 Person of the Year,” and is widely held as a symbol of the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit. While some of his insight may constitute a new approach more focused on the bottom line than others, there is no denying that his perspective is one that has proven staggeringly successful.

Ready to incorporate Ma’s approach into your management of professional and financial life? Copy those that resonate most with you on a notecard and post them on your computer, in your wallet, or at another location where you will see them regularly. You’re about to go on a wildly successful ride with Jack Ma.

1. Look far and wide for opportunity.

Ma categorizes those who fail as often being myopic to opportunity. Look across the professional and financial landscape with a broad lens first, considering all possibilities. Then, bend down to dig under every rock and in every nook and cranny for potential opportunities.

2. Treat every opportunity as an open door.

No chance is too small, too menial, or beneath you. When something lies before you, seize it. Grasp it with all of your strength, work this opportunity with all of your heart. Bring everything that you are to bear on this task. Do not treat anything as small if you want large results.

3. Seek understanding.

Work to understand both your current position and the position to which you aspire. What, exactly, are you working for? Why? What will it take to get you to where you want to go?

4. Act quickly.

Sometimes, the race does go to the swift. What most folks miss, however, is that being “swift” means bouncing back from failure, not necessarily running most quickly at all times. Acting swiftly can also mean being the first one out of the blocks when the gun goes off. When an opportunity presents itself, act.

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5. See beyond your circumstances.

No matter what your current condition, how or where you grew up, or what education or training you feel you lack, you can be successful in your chosen endeavor. It is spirit, fortitude, and hardiness that matter more than where you start.

6. Channel your ambition.

It is your job as a visionary to become single-minded in your ambition. Focus on your goal, work toward it, and never let it go.

7. Be courageous.

When Ma launched Alibaba Group, a highly successful group of internet businesses, he did so in the face of cautionary feedback from potential backers. There is a time for boldness, and in pursuit of your chosen ambition is that time.

8. Take chances in your youth.

If you are not rich by the time you are 35, says Ma, then you have wasted the opportunities of youth. Capitalize upon these young years, with their energy and imagination, by giving in to your ambition and the pursuit of it.

9. Unify your team toward a common goal.

You will never succeed in unifying every member of your team behind a single person. Ma estimates that 30% of people will always disagree with you.  Unite them behind an idea, cause, or mission, however, and you can harness the power of the team.

10. Make yourself replaceable.

Part of unifying behind an idea or mission is reducing dependency upon any particular individual, including the founder or lead boss. Cultivate the ideas, skills, and approach that you value in individuals you trust. When you move on, their leadership will ensure the continued success of that mission or idea.

11. Hire those with better technical skills than you possess.

If the boss has better technical skills than the employees, then they hired the wrong people. Workers should always be technical experts. Hire them, empower them, and let them do their jobs. They’re better at it than you are.

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12. Lead with vision, tenacity, and grit.

There are skills that are vital to successful leadership of any company or endeavor — vision, tenacity, and grit. A leader must be a visionary, able to see opportunity where others do not and acknowledge challenges before they come. A leader must be tenacious, be able to “hang in there” when a less determined individual would have long since given up. A leader must have grit, that ability to buckle down and do what is required in order to get the job before them, done.

13. Persevere.

Hard times will come. Challenges may be everywhere even at launch. Keep that founding vision in mind, and cling to it in rough waters as a lighthouse and guide. Your actions will inspire others to do the same.

14. Attitude is more important than capability.

It is your attitude that determines your altitude. Whether in smooth times or rough, successful leaders remain calm, confident in their mission, and focused on their desired outcome.

15. Savvy decision-making is more important than capability.

The most successful leaders are not always the smartest or the most qualified on paper. They do, however, surround themselves with extremely capable experts, turn to them for input, and make clear decisions. It is the decisions you make that will advance you and your endeavor forward one step at a time, not how qualified you are to move from square to square.

16. Money and political power cannot exist together.

Money and political power are mutually exclusive. One is the powder keg, the other, the match. Where both exist, an explosion will occur. If you are interested in both, pursue them consecutively, not concurrently.

17. Resilience is only understood after you have gone through hardship.

An intellectual understanding of resilience means nothing.  The capacity to be resilient means nothing.  It is only after having gone through hardships and having been tested, that an individual can be deemed “resilient.”

18. Your job is to be more diligent, hardworking, and ambitious than others.

There is a simple formula for success, every time. Be diligent. Work hard. Never lose sight of your ambition. Whatever form your endeavor takes, these principles hold true.

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19. Compete with grace.

If you treat your competitors as enemies, you will be seen as an enemy yourself. You will soon be surrounded. Instead, enter professional competition with grace, honoring your competitor and remembering that next time, the tide may turn another way.

20. Take all competitors seriously.

No competitor is a giant unless you make them one in your perspective. Treat all competitors with respect; treat your own business with respect. All have an equal chance of success when the competition begins. The one you overlook may be the one that beats you.

21. Behold yourself a giant.

Every large business started somewhere. Your business started somewhere. All deserve a seat at the table. Behold yourself equal to those you are competing with, and conduct yourself accordingly.

22. Winners do not whine.

While occasional poor spirits are to be expected, with the accompanying utterances of annoyance or dejection, regular whining is a sure sign of failure. All endeavors will bring hardships and challenges. How you deal with them will indicate the success of your business. Winners do not whine.

23. Customers are first; employees, second; shareholders, third.

As a leader, you only have a certain amount of time and energy. Give yours to those who enable your business, first — your customers. Those who make your business run come second — your employees. The shareholders are given attention and resources only after the first two have been satisfied. Many business owners spend all day, every day, catering to the shareholders. This resource allocation is not sustainable.

24. Forget about the money.

You did not launch your business or project solely for the money. You went down this path to build a particular lifestyle, or to meet a need of your soul and mind. If you focus on the money, you will make different decisions than if you focus on the journey. Walk the path you started down diligently, with ambition; the money will come.

25. Find the right people, not necessarily the best or most skilled people.

The most skilled people on paper are not necessarily the ones who fit best into your culture, or work best with you. The most efficient people on paper may not be those you trust most. Sparkling resumes do not mean that an individual can grow and evolve with your company. Find the right people, now. They are the best people. Their skills can be developed, as will yours.

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26. “Free” is a very expensive word.

When you give something away for “free,” you give away profits, as well as resources of manpower spent during development, implementation, and follow-up, and possibly intellectual property in the form of a great idea. Think carefully before you run such a promotion. Nothing is truly free.

27. A smart man uses his brain to “speak”…

The words that come from another’s mouth are not meaningful. Engage your mind. Utilize your intellect. Make decisions from an informed, grounded perspective.

28. … a wise man uses his heart.

Likewise, trust your intuition and your knowing. Making decisions from a place of faith can serve you exceptionally well, particularly with regard to personnel and when identifying strategic objectives.

29. We are born to enjoy life, not to spend it working.

The point of life is not to simply work, work, work, grinding away our bodies and our minds until we die. The focus should be on enjoyment, not only of your work but by creating time to play, relax, and enjoy those around you. If you work your life away, you will regret it — this is guaranteed.

30. Giving up is the greatest failure.

You will never know what you can achieve and accomplish, unless you try it. You will never know if your idea will “work” or if the business will produce, unless you stick with it. Adapt your ideas, change your strategies if you must, but never give up.

Craving more guidance? Check out these 5 Things The Richest Man in Asia Wants Young Entrepreneurs to Know.

Featured photo credit: epSos.de via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

If you work in a company office:
You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

If you work from a home office:
Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

Chair and Table

If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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  • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
  • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
  • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

If you work in a company office:
Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

If you work from a home office:
Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

Clutter

Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

Room Color

The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

Room Temperature

Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

Room Scents

Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

Try using these scents to stay focused:

  • Pine – Increases alertness
  • Cinnamon – Improves focus
  • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
  • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
  • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

Noise Level

The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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Air Quality

Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

Different Spaces

If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

Organization of People

Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

Idea Storage

Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

Refreshment

Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

Bring in Nature

We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

Digital Space

For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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