Why Solitude Is Necessary for Self-Improvement

Never in history have we had so much instant communication with others, whether they’re in the same town or on the other side of the world. Our busy lives in large communities mean that our communication with friends and family is often through electronic devices rather than in person and face-to-face. And even when we are physically together, we can still spend most of our time on our smartphones.

Ironically, our advanced communication devices can leave us feeling isolated, and this can lead to either loneliness or solitude. While the former can lead to depression, the latter is something entirely different. We need to choose it consciously by leaving our tech aside to be alone with our thoughts.

The Need for Solitude

Although we are social beings by nature, all of us require periods of solitude where we can reconnect with ourselves. Being “disconnected” is a problem because it tends to manifest as a lack of concentration. We are never present, we’re always thinking of what’s next on the agenda, either for work or for our personal lives, and our minds wander off when we least expect it.

We need to recharge our inner battery so that we can regain a connection with ourselves. Interim solutions for recharging can be a night out with friends or having a conversation that doesn’t include electronic devices. However, it can also be a good idea to spend some time in solitude periodically so that we can regain our inner focus.

Solitude can be physical or mental. It may not be practical for you to escape to a secluded private island, but you can cultivate a tranquil space in your mind; a place you go to be alone with your thoughts. Meditation is an excellent method for developing mental clarity, as are other methods for quiet self-reflection like prayer, yoga, tai chi, and other eastern disciplines.

Becoming Comfortable with Solitude

As social beings, most of us are uncomfortable with solitude. When we’re alone, we have to think, and many of us are unfamiliar not only with how to think but where to begin. We’re acquainted with distractions but not with the lack of them. We can’t truly know who we are or what we might want from life unless we spend some time with ourselves, a journey we can commence through solitude.

We’re bombarded with information telling us we’re not good enough. We’re told we always need a better electronic device, a better love life, a healthier diet, a slimmer and trimmer body, a better hairstyle; whatever it is, we could always do better. Many people aren’t comfortable being alone with themselves because they think they’re not good enough. This is a counterproductive way of thinking because you are who you were created to be. Making time for yourself needn’t be unkind, unloving, or even anti-social. Rather, it can be a way to ensure that you’re the best person you can be, which will benefit you and those around you.

Benefits of Solitude

When we set aside time for solitude, we allow time for introspection and deep thinking. Introspection is the process of looking inside ourselves, examining who we are, determining areas that need improvement, and evaluating our goals and aspirations. It’s an essential part of becoming a better person and making a more meaningful contribution.

Solitude can help us to become self-confident, self-sufficient, and mindful. Mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings and your actions, and accepting your feelings as legitimate. This can help you become more self-assured in your feelings and opinions rather than having to rely on others for approval.

Solitude can also help you identify your feelings and get to know yourself better. This can help you become comfortable in your own skin and find enjoyment in every day experiences. As you come to understand who and what you are, the joy of authentic living can slowly become more important than materialistic pursuits, freeing you to act in more altruistic and philanthropic ways.

What You Can Do

There are many ways that you can cultivate moments of solitude. Here are three suggestions.

Meditate: This is a practice of reflection and focusing the mind in order to achieve heightened levels of awareness. In theory, you can meditate anywhere, on the bus, on the train, in the elevator. However, if you are a beginner you should find a quiet space where you can be alone. It takes discipline and practice to be able to completely shut out your surroundings and achieve the single minded focus necessary for meditation.

A common meditation trick is to focus your attention on a single physical object. For example, you could sit by yourself in a quiet space, in a comfortable meditation position, and light a single candle. Gazing at the candle flame will focus your attention, causing other ideas and worries that you had been holding onto to slowly fade away.

Keep a journal: Writing your thoughts in a journal is an excellent way to track your progress, collect useful ideas, set short and long term goals, and ask questions of yourself. You may discover a recurring theme that you can learn from or gain a new appreciation of yourself.

Spend some time alone: Set aside time for yourself each week. Take a walk, go for a run, attend a concert, or take a day trip by yourself.

Before You Go

Periods of solitude, as opposed to loneliness, can improve mental health and reduce stress. They can improve focus and mental clarity, and thus help to spark your creativity. Don’t give in to social pressure or believe that you’re somehow selfish just for wanting to spend a few hours on your own. Not only can your private and professional life benefit from moments of solitude – only when you’re happy in yourself can you be truly happy working for the benefit of others.

Sandra Moncada is a cycling enthusiast, who frequently escapes to hang out with her literary and movie heroes. She is vitamin D’s biggest fan, who is passionate about meditation, Pilates and beating stress. When she’s not floating in the ocean or her outdoor pool, she loves to write about lifestyle improvements, self-development and stress-relief methods. You can connect with her @SandramoncadaOh

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Blockchain Entertainment

While the global banking behemoths rush in to the blockchain space, many industry verticals beyond banking are also exploring applications for this technology.  This starts with insurance but also extends to supply chain management and shipping.

However, there is a new vertical that has almost overnight started using the technology, learning how to make money from it. Even if surreptitiously.

The entertainment industry is quickly embracing the blockchain – and on a couple of fronts.

Why is this happening?

Firstly, the film biz has always been high tech and since the early nineties only moving in one direction when it comes to digitalization. Those who thought film stock might actually stick around were quickly disabused of that notion even before Youtube.

However, beyond digitization, which is more an issue of bandwidth and computer-to-computer connections, the film industry and the music industry following close behind it, might have finally found a killer app to meet the demands of the digital age.

Streamed music and video takes a huge amount of hard disk space on digital networks and servers. Digital creative content is also notoriously prone to hacks and leaks.

If companies, or even artists themselves, learn how to market and sell their creative works using blockchain technology, this might provide a cryptographically secure answer to the issue of IP protection in a digital environment, which will be especially valuable for music and film distribution as well as gaming.

If this sounds futuristic, think again. There are already blockchains on the market which are specifically designed for content management and monetization.

What Kinds of Blockchain Work for Creative Content?

Expect many different experiments, but one of the earliest is STEEM. As of last year, it became the third largest digital currency as measured by market cap. The idea is that content creators can open an account and be rewarded for their work by other users. Once rewarded, creators can either get paid or they can reinvest in the system, thus gaining more authority and helping their work get found more easily.

Think Reddit that you have to invest in, but with a theoretical monetary incentive downstream.

While the approach got a lot of early positive and mainstream press, many observers remained sceptical. The reward system overwhelmingly favours those who have the most STEEM in their accounts, which means it is, from the start, an insider’s game. Steem dollars, the currency behind the blockchain, are also supposedly pegged to the worth of US dollars, although this has been challenged by the industry itself. Many have directly challenged the legitimacy of the crypto coin system behind it as a Ponzi scheme and it is easy to see why. Even the industry press remains sceptical.

But that is just one entry into this space, and an early one. And for all the negativity and dismissiveness, there clearly is a role for blockchain and cryptocurrency in the entertainment industry – just not necessarily a STEEM model.

The big boys are also moving into this world – even secretly at this point. The American TV network Showtime was just caught distributing code onto users’ machines that secretly mined a cryptocurrency called monero on subscribers’ computers. As of September the company was forced to remove the code. It is unclear how it got there and nobody is issuing any explanations.

And then there is Disney. The company known for its animations and child friendly entertainment, as well as its affinity for technology, began building an exploratory blockchain called Dragonchain several years ago. From October 2 to November 2 this year, Dragonchain Inc. is also holding an initial ICO to raise money for the company. Approximately 238 million tokens or “dragons” are now available to the public.

Disney is not directly involved. For now.

Netflix Move Over

The internet helped to destroy billions of dollars of revenue for creative industries and artists because it is so easy to post a digital file on a torrent site where it can quickly be downloaded, copied, and shared. There has been very little way – at least in the past – to control what happens after initial distribution.

Online entertainment providers like Netflix have moved into the space this has opened – where users pay a regular subscription fee.

With blockchain, however, the situation becomes very different. Smart contracts, made possible by blockchain based software platforms like Ethereum, could be used to ensure artists receive the royalties that are due to them.

Blockchain, for that reason, will continue to make major inroads into the entertainment space. This is just the beginning.

Marguerite Arnold is the founder of MedPayRx, a blockchain healthcare startup in Frankfurt. She is also an author, journalist and has just obtained her EMBA from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

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How to create your own small business in your spare time

A regular job in the industry you love is a great place to start a career, but it can take years of making the tea, making connections, and accumulating experience before you find that your daily work is truly satisfying your needs. If you find yourself regularly putting in forty hours per week and still getting home with energy and inspiration to burn, it can be both lucrative and educational to redirect that force towards building your own small business – even if you have no ambitions to conquer the world on your own. Indeed, running a small, personal business in your spare time can be a great way to put your true ambitions in perspective and to have a bit of fun on the side while your serious career develops.

And unlike most start-ups, your ‘hobby business’ really doesn’t require any financial investment to get off the ground. If you have a computer and a decent wi-fi connection, today it is relatively easy to find a product or service you can provide on-hand. This could involve using Skype to tutor students in the subject in which you’re qualified, or writing articles or even eBooks about the same.

There are tons of websites out there that are able to put you in contact with customers for a bit of freelance work that’s related to your industry: fiverr, peopleperhour, and upwork are three of the best-known, although you need to take care to get paid a decent rate for what you do. On the eBook front, if you don’t mind hacking away at the format of your document a few times it’s possible to get it out to a range of online merchants via SmashwordsKindle Direct Publishing is another option, and they also let you market your book as paperback to be issued by print-on-demand. Do note that you’ll need to put just as much effort into marketing your masterpiece as writing it, if you want it to reach further than family and friends!

You could take perhaps the more sensible option, and concentrate on making your hobby into a source of income – to give your mind a bit of rest from the pervading issues of your regular working week. If cooking is your thing (and you’re good at it) you can find freelance work preparing meals for special occasions as a chef-for-hire, via a website such as hireachef. This is a great way to meet new people, get a peek into how other people live, and get some totally new insights on life to put your main career in perspective. There might be the odd glass of wine in it, too.

Or perhaps you like to take photographs, to paint, or to make furniture. Instead of clogging up your hard drive or your garage with the things you make, you are sure to find a respectable customer base for your handmade crafts using Shutterstock, Etsy or eBay. Put your digital marketing knowledge into action, and you should at least find yourself earning enough on Saturday afternoons to fund your Saturday nights.

For some people, the idea of working on the weekends is a nightmare, but for those who are only relaxed when they have a serious project at hand, and only take a project seriously when the results are quantifiable, the appeal of the side-hustle will be strong. The key thing is to choose the right angle to work – and for a few more ideas on how to put a domestic twist on your business expertise you can check out this new infographic from Quick Quid.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

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How to Succeed in the New Age of Interviews

The process of securing an internship at an investment bank is both a daunting and strenuous endeavour. Through research and experiences of my own, I have gathered insights into how to prepare for and succeed in the search for an internship. I began by considering what to do to get an initial foot in the door, and how to set oneself apart from other candidates.

The beginning stages of the application process to a top-tier firm are much the same as any other. Provide your grade transcript, CV, and cover letter. You’re going to want to have top grades and a diverse range of life experiences.  The cover letter is the most important of these initial documents. A desired response from a recruitment manager would be “most cover letters I’m falling asleep. Reading your cover letter, I felt like I knew you.” Try to show your personal voice in your cover letter, don’t give some generic spiel about how you’ve graduated from ‘x’ university with ‘y’ degree. Vary your sentence length. Showing that you’re a good, emotive writer is important. Your cover letter should also be clear and easy to understand, as getting your point across is of utmost importance in the business world. In terms of CV specifications, keep your CV to one page. Write only your most impressive achievements. You want every sentence the manager reads to be a “wow” sentence. Start your CV off with a few sentences that set you apart as a candidate, be it your life background or unique experience set. Follow all of this advice and you might just get to stage two.

Stage two of the process may find you in front of your webcam, coming face to face with the recent recruiting tool developed be Hirevue. This involves being asked questions by a virtual man. You get 30 seconds to prepare a response and then two minutes to address the virtual man through the webcam. Be prepared for some difficult questions, an example being “what is a decision that you had to make in a fast-paced environment”, possibly prompting you to make the ironic response of “just now as I am taking part in this Hirevue process”. Almost certainly that is not the desired response. Whilst making realistic responses, you should also look into your webcam as if it is the eyes of a prospective manager. The webcam will record you, analysing your body language, eye contact, vocabulary, and anything else it can quantify. This will provide Hirevue with data that it will analyse to estimate how likely you are to be a successful candidate before a human even looks at your response. This can make for a very inhuman interview experience, but that is what the world is tending towards, so better get yourself acquainted with these technological advances.

If you continued to impress in step two, you’ll secure yourself an interview with a real human! This will likely be a technical phone interview in which you should have studied the potential terminology and conventions relevant to the industry. Your knowledge will be tested. This will be followed by a behavioural interview in which you give STAR (situation, task, action, result) responses to personal and teamwork questions. Just google STAR interview questions to find countless examples. It is good to have a pool of teamwork experiences to apply to the questions, considering both your internal feelings and external interactions. This step is possibly coupled with an aptitude test. These aptitude tests will assess your reading comprehension, numeracy skills, and logic skills in the form of pattern recognition. Succeed at all this and you’ll have made it to the final step!

The last stage involves being transported to the company headquarters to have face to face interviews. You’ll probably have 2 – 6 different interviews, each interview trying to pick your brain about a different aspect of your personality. These can often veer off script and you’ll do well as long as you have good conversational skills. These interviews are really to gauge your social competency. These firms want good all-rounders, and are looking for humble, kind, personable people. Teamwork skills are key. It is also pertinent that you remember all your interviewers’ names, you may be quizzed on them later in the day.

If you manage to jump through all of these hoops, congratulations, you are in! They’ll be in touch within a few hours to lock you in as you have proven that you are one of the most talented individuals around. Beyond step one all else will take place over the course of around a week, these top firms really do not mess around when securing talent. All of this makes for a difficult, stressful process, but that’s what work for a top company involves! Good luck in your endeavours, keep building a diverse range of experiences and keep on top of your studies and you’ll have a great shot.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

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Making The Most Out Of A Networking Event at University

If you are going to university, it is likely that you will attend a corporate networking event at some point. Whether you want to form connections with your dream employer, find out about a specific company or industry, or simply go because that’s what all of your friends seem to be doing, these events can be useful, but also somewhat overwhelming. What do people actually do at these events? Who should I talk to and what should I talk about? In this article, I will provide you with some practical advice based on my personal experience attending and organising countless corporate recruitment events at Oxford University.

There are different types of corporate events that involve networking, such as company presentations, workshops, and dinner or drinks events. While some events may have a formal part in the beginning or in between, the networking more or less always looks the same – you grab a drink or a bite to eat, gather around some employees, and try to engage in a conversation. After a while you move on and try to get to know another person. Some people despise this sort of event – after all, it’s only meaningless small talk, isn’t it? Actually, it doesn’t have to be. If you know what you are doing, you can benefit from attending such events and may even find them enjoyable.

First of all, you need to decide what you want to get out of the event. For specific questions concerning your application, it is often useful to talk to the recruitment team. They will not only answer your questions, but may even give you exclusive tips on how to stand out as an applicant. However, often the answers you receive may not be any different from the material presented on the company’s website – so why waste your time at the networking event if you can read through the FAQ much faster?

If you have already browsed the careers website and think that you know most basic facts about the firm as well as the recruitment process, I would advise you to talk to some of the employees in the area you are interested in. They can give you what no amount of research can: a personal narrative. Find out what they personally value about the company’s culture. That way, you can understand the work atmosphere better and simultaneously get a perfect guideline for your cover letter – after all, identifying with the corporate culture as presented by employees is a great reason to choose this firm over any other. Ask company representatives about their day-to-day work and their favourite (or least favourite) projects. Getting an impression of what the work at this firm is like will help you decide whether you want to work there, but it also makes for a good conversation starter if you would like to dig deeper. The more in-depth the conversation becomes, the more memorable it will be for the employee – which only has advantages for you. Sending a follow-up email asking another question about your conversation is also a good idea to make yourself noticed.

You have to keep in mind though: quality is better than quantity. Contrary to popular belief, a networking event is not a competition to see who can collect the most business cards. Having an interesting conversation with one employee followed by an email or LinkedIn exchange is worth much more than a brief chat with ten employees, consisting only of standard questions. Personally, I have stayed in touch with several people I met at university networking events and received useful advice on my applications as well as personal recommendations that got me to the interview stage.

Likewise, networking events can also help you meet fellow students with similar interests. Don’t forget about this aspect – these people may well help you prepare for interviews or tell you about their experience with recruitment processes that you have not gone through yet. After all, a networking event is supposed to be useful for everyone attending. So don’t be nervous – as long as you know what you want to get out of it, it will definitely help you progress your career in one way or another.

Max Kulaga is a finalist reading Economics and Management at the University of Oxford. As a former intern at L.E.K. Consulting in London and President of one of Oxford’s largest business societies, the German-born is keen on sharing his experiences and knowledge about the consulting industry.

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