How-to-Do-Life Tweets: What's New?

42 ideas on communication, personal growth, work, men, and education.

Posted Aug 22, 2019

pxhere, public domain
Source: pxhere, public domain

I tweet to archive my best ideas. Since 2009, I've posted more than 5,000 tweets. Last year, here on Psychology Today, I posted  How-to-Do-Life Tweets: 30 of my most useful practical tips.

Here are what I believe are my most useful new tweets:


When your strongest argument is much stronger than your second, stop after #1 or paraphrase it rather than present #2. The latter would dilute your contention's persuasive power.

Wait a moment after your conversation partner finishes speaking. That conveys that you're considering what they said, not just waiting for them to finish so you could hold forth. Interrupting does the opposite.

When trying to get a person who is worse than you at coming up with solutions, present two or three options and ask, "Which do you think is wisest?" That way, you can offer ideas while allowing the decision-making to reside in the other person so their self-esteem isn't diminished. Also, that avoids the antipathy common when one offers advice.

When a person doesn't take your advice, take solace in the possibility that you've planted a seed. Surprisingly often, weeks or months later, they'll implement your idea, maybe even thinking it was their own.

Personal Growth

To enrich their lives, people seek out others and they travel. Yet without even leaving home, we can experience the best thinkers and entertainers in books, magazines, and TV, and more broadly still with the amazing Internet, especially using GoogleSearch: videos, movies, articles, curated.

Don’t compete with others. Just try to be a little better every hour, forgiving yourself when you're not.

I was quoted recently in the New York Times. I said that the path forward is normally not marked by excessive rumination but by low-risk actions. Search for the point at which the risk/reward of additional rumination or data collection is outweighed by the risk-reward of making a decision. Then take a low-risk action and revise based on the initial results. Ready-Fire-Aim.

It's perhaps surprising that an effective response to even a serious setback such as getting fired or a death in the family is often just: 1) Is there a lesson to be learned? 2) Replace grieving about it with taking the next step forward. In short: Lesson, baby step.

When stuck, try saying aloud what your wiser twin would do.

Whether you're leaving your job, a relationship, or even the street you're walking down, aim to leave it at least a bit better than you found it.

Don't compete on the trivial: appearance, cars, etc. You know that your life is better led if focusing on more important things. Just act on that.

It's dispiriting how much human energy goes into the superficial rather than the substantive: marketing, personal appearance, designer labels. Ugh.

Books and articles are such trusty, interesting, self-enhancement companions.

Lack of confidence is sometimes justified. In such cases, the cure is in finding an area or two in which you have the potential to be competent and devote yourself to becoming so. Then your confidence will legitimately increase.

Meta-analysis: Cognitive training doesn't make people any smarter.

Am I the only person who thinks TED talks are overrated? The mandated formula converts interesting people into robots, leaching the imperfections, the humanity, that differentiate a talk from text. Speakers, list a few talking points and then trust you'll do better by extemporizing.

Pop psych cheerleaders: Ugh. Their formula: "You're fabulous. Just follow these steps: Have a “Growth Mindset!" “Grit,” "Power Pose." Because the creators of those nostrums are at Stanford, Harvard, etc., we genuflect. But fair-minded data, logic, and my experience with thousands of clients, indicate it's hype.

Jonathan Wai in Psychology Today: “We’re primed to think that there’s a better version of ourselves out there just waiting to be discovered, that one weird trick can change our lives.” It’s usually wiser to accept your basic self, find a place where that core self can thrive, and make modest, incremental efforts to improve.

Work and career

The pressure to win, whether in politics or sales, puts pressure on truth and ethics.

Salespeople, stop selling and start teaching and sharing. You'll be more successful, make a bigger contribution, and feel better about yourself.

You have many more, often more desirable, career choices if you're prudent in your likely #1 expense: Choose to live in modest housing. The advantages of having a more desirable if lower-paying career, can be far greater than those derived from tonier digs.

Speakers: In two of my last three speaking events, in the sound check, the audio person said my volume was fine but after my talk, patrons said they had a hard time hearing me. When you begin speaking, ask the audience to raise their hand if they hear you well.

Even given today's lauded collaborative leadership style, a leader can still order supervisees to do something without lots of mollycoddling and consensus-building turgidity, which too often result in lowest-common-denominator decisions. Often, you need just gather the needed info, and in a positive tone, explain your decision. Done.

Reading aloud is a useful skill and not so easy to do well. Key is to imitate natural speech: Speed up, slow down, pause, raise and lower your voice.

Some of my most successful and contributory clients believe that their spouse has impeded their ability to make a difference. The spouse wants to spend more, forcing the earner into activities more lucrative than contributory.  Such a spouse may also demand proportionate help with domestic tasks, which those clients believe are not the most contributory uses of their time.

Job seekers, be a statesman, not a salesman: Volunteer a weakness or two That will eliminate you from jobs at which you'll likely fail, and gain the interviewers' trust, which is crucial to being selected for a job you would do well.

"To understand the culture of a company before you join, ask people to tell you stories about things that happen there but wouldn't elsewhere." Adam Grant, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania.

A client asked me how I manage to answer my emails promptly. It's because I recognize that behind the bits and bytes of an email is a human being who'd feel valued and respected if I answer promptly and feel disregarded if I didn’t. Answering them is more important than, for example, my having fun.

Many media messages urge working less: "Have work-life balance!" "Work smart, not hard!" etc. Yet employees spend a shockingly low percentage of work time actually working, (2 hrs, 23 min per day!)  No wonder so many employers automate as much as possible and hire as little as possible.

Finally, there is robust research into whether "Diversity Training" actually works – Unfortunately it's not very promising.

A single dad with a solid employment track record got laid off and has been unable to land a decent job. Finally, he was a finalist for a good job, didn't get it, and then learned that a person who had a much worse track record got the job because she was of a desired race and gender. I got teary because that has become common. When merit takes a back seat, we all lose.

How foolish we are that, especially in romance but also in the workplace, we let appearance trump substance.

Men's issues

When, in the '70s, the male/female college-degree ratio was 60/40, there was massive redress. Now, when it's 40/60, no one seems to care. On the contrary, 92% of sex-specific scholarships are reserved for women. Why?

The suicide rate for white men is climbing: That’s not surprising given society's mindmolders’ (media and colleges) relentlessly portraying that hard-working sector as evil, foolish, and privileged. If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t there be massive spending to reduce suicide among minority women? Why not for white men?


Instructors try to compensate for students' lack of talent by breaking down the indivisible into parts. Real musicians, writers, and artists don't use analytic/synthetic models. Mainly, they organically create. If that's not you, beware. Instead, focus on your natural strengths.

Assessment data suggest no changes in critical thinking from college freshman to senior year.  A more comprehensive assessment of cognitive changes from liberal education is also dispiriting.

The Economist: "Improving education has proven harder than making progress in health research and vaccine delivery." Psychology Today blogger Jonathan Wai commented: “Bill Gates said, 'Software is an IQ business,' and so (tech companies) hire on candidate characteristics. Thus the finding that test scores have been harder to budge is unsurprising. A path forward is to start with student characteristics, then education."

Harvard Business Review: One thing entrepreneurs can agree on: You can learn most outside the classroom and from your own peers.

Bloomberg: Student loan delinquencies surged last year, hitting consecutive records. Unpaid student debt also rose to the highest ever.

Art or music school: a 6-year, 6-figure summer camp.

In deciding where to devote your charity dollars, consider forgoing the tax deduction. Instead, give to individuals to pay for training likely to have a strong ripple effect but where financial aid isn't available. For example, pay for a gifted kid from a modest-income family to get mentoring. For more on this, see Mentoring a Gifted Child.

I wonder:  If I had dropped out of school in 9th grade, kept learning but only what I cared to, then began writing essays and selling subscriptions to my work on the Net, might my life, without the liabilities of schools and inept employers, have been more satisfying and contributory?

I read this aloud on YouTube.