# Blog

Posted by on 6:57 pm in Wealth | Comments Off on How to Estimate Your Taxes

## How to Estimate Your Taxes

Short of hiring an accountant, the easiest way to estimate your taxes is by calculating your Effective Tax Rate.  Your Effective Tax Rate is the percentage of the money you earn that you pay towards income taxes.  This estimate works particularly well if you earn about the same amount of money every year.

To determine your Effective Tax Rate, take the total amount of tax you paid in the previous year and divide it by the total amount of money you earned that year.  The answer will be a percentage.  That percentage is your Effective Tax Rate.  Then, multiply that number by the amount of money that you plan on making in the current or upcoming year.  The answer will be the approximate amount of money you will pay for income taxes for that year.  If you want to know how much to have withheld from your paycheck, just divide that number by the number of paychecks you receive every year.

For example, if you made \$100,000 last year and paid \$20,000 in tax, your Effective Tax Rate would be 20% (\$20,000 / \$100,000 = 20%).  As a side note, it’s generally a good idea to increase this by 1%-2% so you don’t underpay your taxes in a given year but to keep the math simple we’ll continue using 20%.

If you plan on making \$110,000 this year, multiple \$110,000 by 20% (which is your Effective Tax Rate).  This gives you \$22,000, which is the amount of tax you will probably pay this year.  If you are paid twice a month, divide this number by 24 and you will know how much money you need to tell your employer to withhold from your paycheck, which is \$916 in this case (\$22,000 / 24 = \$916).  If you live in a state that has state income tax you should do this for your state as well.

CAUTION: This method works best for people that are paid by pages (e.g., a salary, a dollar amount per hour, etc.) If your income changes drastically from year to year this will not work!  The federal government and most states structure their taxes so that the percentage of your money you pay toward income taxes increases as you make more money.   That means if you are going to make a lot more money than last year, you will most likely pay a larger percentage of that money in tax.  Conversely, if you are going to make a lot less money than last year, you will most likely pay a smaller percentage of your income in tax.  For example, if you make \$100,000 you might pay 20% of it toward income taxes versus if you make \$200,000 you might pay 30% of it toward income taxes.  Also, this will not work if the government changes the tax structure in the prior or current year or most of your income comes from dividends or capital gains.

If you don’t know how much money you made last year, look in Box 5 of your W-2 (if you receive a salary) that says “Medicare wages and tips.”  This box will have the total amount of money you earned from that employer.  If you received multiple W-2’s, add up the numbers in this box.  You can also find this information on Line 1 of the first page of your 1040 (which is the form you use to pay your federal income taxes.)

If you don’t know how much tax you paid last year look on Line 63 of page 2 of your 1040 (which is the first two pages of your Federal tax return), which says “Add lines 52 through 62.  This is your total tax.  The number to the right of this is the amount of tax you owed the Federal government for that year.  If you filed a state tax return there should be a similar line on your state tax return that tells you the total tax you owed the state for that year.  Add these two numbers and you will have the total amount of income tax you owed last year.

Posted by on 6:56 pm in Happiness | Comments Off on How to Have a Difficult Conversation

## How to Have a Difficult Conversation

Set the Time, Place, and Length of Time for the Conversation

Call the other person on the phone to schedule a block of time to speak at a neutral and public place where two people can talk with a degree of privacy.  Parks, coffee shops, and food courts work well.  Do not pick a location where it is difficult for one of you to leave.  For example, restaurants are NOT an ideal place because you will be interrupted by the waiter and (theoretically) can’t leave until you’ve paid for your meal if one of you decides to order.  Choosing a neutral place is important so neither of you is uncomfortable or defensive.

The goal of the phone conversation is to get the other person to agree to meet you at a specific place at a specific time and for a specific amount of time.  That’s it.  Nothing else should be discussed during the phone call.  This should be a phone call, not a text or an in-person request, because texts can be read the wrong way and if you do this in person you may not be able to limit the conversation to just scheduling the meeting.  Doing this over the phone enables you to end the conversation quickly.

Generally, it’s preferable to not discuss what you will talking about.  This prevents the development of any misunderstandings before you have a chance to talk with the person at length.  However, if you think the person will meet you even if they know you will be having a difficult conversation say something like this:

“Hi __(insert name of person)__.  I’d like to spend some time with you to talk about __(e.g., our relationship, our conversation the other day, etc.)__.  When would you have __(15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, etc.)__ for us to chat at __(insert location here)__? Great.  Thanks.  I’ll see you then.” Hang up the phone.

If you don’t think the person will come to the meeting if you tell him or her what it’s about then say something like this:

“Hi __(insert name of person)__.  Can we set aside some time to talk about a few things? When would you have __(15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, etc.)__ for us to chat at __(insert location here)__?”

If the person presses you to find out what you want to talk about do not deviate from your goal of getting them to agree to meet you at a specific place and time.  Respond with something like:

“We’ll talk about it more when we meet.  I’m free __(list a few periods of times)__.  Do any of those times work for you to meet at __(insert location here)__?”

If they keep asking you what it’s about respond with something like this:

“It’s not something I’m going to discuss over the phone.  Can you meet me at __(insert location here)__ at __(list a few periods of times)__?”

If they refuse to meet with you unless they know what you will discuss this is not a person you want in your life.  If they won’t give you the time of day without getting an agenda they can use to prepare their defenses find someone who will to take their place in your life.

How Much Time Should I Ask For?

Allow for twice the amount of time you think you will need for the conversation.  Generally, half an hour is a good minimum.  For a difficult conversation to be meaningful, there has to be enough time for both sides to listen and express their feelings and thoughts.  Additionally, if the conversation goes well and takes less time than expected, the two of you can spend that extra time reconnecting with each other on a positive note.

Once you have your thoughts written down on paper, revise them so you are owning own feelings rather than attacking the other person or telling them what you think.  For example, instead of saying “You need to stop making fun of me!” or “I think you should treat me better!” say something like “When you make jokes at my expense it makes me feel bad about myself.  It also makes me feel like you don’t value me as a person or a friend.”

If you tell someone what to do they will get defensive.  They won’t be able to hear what you are saying because 1) a different part of their brain has been engaged and 2) they will be working on their response to what you’re saying rather than understanding your situation.  Plus, if you speak in terms of what you “think” rather than what you “feel” you will get stuck in a pointless argument of logic.  The way a person thinks or an opinion can be changed by reason.  Unless the person you are speaking with is an adept listener with a high level of emotional intelligence, he or she will start to convince you as to why you should “think” a different way about the subject.  No one can dispute how another person feels.  It is a reality and, when stated as a fact without accusation, can’t be refuted.  So make sure you say whatever it is you are going to say in terms of how you feel without passing blame.

The Conversation

Show up ten to fifteen minutes early so you can choose a good spot for the conversation.  You may need to change locations and you want to avoid any awkward periods where you and the other person are anxiously waiting (and possibly avoiding) the inevitable.  You also want to choose a place where you feel comfortable and can mentally prepare.

When the other person arrives have his or her place to sit ready.  Once he or she sits down, DO NOT start engaging in small talk. Be pleasant, thank him or her for coming, and get right into it.  You both know you are there to talk about something serious and delaying the inevitable just makes the other person more nervous.  Studies show time and time again that people who are coming to a difficult conversation (e.g., being fired) prefer and appreciate when the other person is honest and direct.  So be nice to the other person and get straight to it.

After thanking them for coming, you will use what’s known as the “sandwich technique.”  This is where you sandwich something negative between two positives.

If you care enough about this person to have a difficult conversation with them then you can find two nice things to say about them, your relationship, etc.  An easy thing to lead with is something like this:

“Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it.  I really value our relationship which is why I wanted to talk to you about __________.”

This is when you express how your relationship with the other person is affecting you or your life.  Remember, do not accuse, don’t blame, and own your own feelings.  We can’t control or change other people.  We can only try to help them understand how we feel and then make our own decisions about who we allow into our lives.

It’s also important that you get through everything you came to say.  If you think the other person will jump in or interrupt before you are finished, when you start the conversation say something like this:

“Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it.  I value our relationship which is why I wanted to talk to you about __________.  I’ve prepared some thoughts so I’m going to ask that you wait and let me get through them so I’m able to listen to anything you might want to talk about when I’m done.”

After you’ve finished sharing with the other person, make sure you end with something positive.  Tell the person why you value them as a friend, something you love about them, something you admire about them, etc.  If you care enough to have this conversation you should be able to find something but if you can’t you can always fall back on:

“I value our relationship and I appreciate you listening.”

Once you’ve said what you need to say you then need to allow the other person a chance to express themselves.  Sit quietly, actively listen (which means looking at the person while he or she is talking and think about what they are saying), and don’t interrupt.  At this point the other person will either:

1) be defensive

2) ask you questions to understand more about what you said or

3) empathize, apologize, and thank you for sharing with them

If No. 1 happens, there is not much else you can do.  If the conversation is to help fix a romantic relationship, you may need to seek professional help to learn how to communicate.  If No. 2 happens, answer his or her questions in the same way you shared your thoughts and feelings.  If No. 3 happens congratulations!  You’ve taken your relationship with that person to a new level.

Posted by on 6:55 pm in Health | Comments Off on How to Treat a Pulled Muscle

## How to Treat a Pulled Muscle

Please note the below is not a substitute for medical care from a licensed medical professional.  We recommend you consult your primary care physician for all possible injuries.

Step 1 – Rest and Inflammation Control

(24-48 hours post injury)

When you injure a muscle you need to rest it and take steps to control inflammation to speed up the recovery process.  Rest means not performing any activity that uses that muscle.  The more you use a pulled muscle right after it has been injured the more inflamed it will become and the longer it will take to heal.  So for the first 24 to 48 hours stop using that muscle and all connected muscle groups and apply a cold ice pack two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  This will limit your body’s inflammatory response and allow the healing process to begin.  Getting anti-inflammatory pills from your physician can also help this process.  It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

Step 2 – Rest and Circulation

(48 hours to 7-14 days post injury)

After controlling inflammation, the next step is to promote circulation to the affected area.  Muscles heal when byproducts from the injury are replaced with nutrients.  Therefore, the more circulation you provide an injured muscle the faster it will heal.  Heat expands blood vessels, allowing for greater circulation.  Apply a heat pack or heated pad to the injured muscle two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  If you find that applying heat makes the  muscle feel worse go back to Step 1.  It is important that you do not use the muscle during this step as well.  The muscle needs to heal before you can use it again. It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

Step 3 – Circulation, Massage, and Range of Motion

(7-10 days to 4-6 weeks post injury)

Now that the muscle has completed it’s initial healing process, it’s time to start regaining your range of motion as the muscle continues to heal.  When a muscle heals from an injury, it loses some of its mobility because it has heals shorter than it was before the injury due to the lack of us.  The next step in the recovery process is slowly strengthening and lengthening the muscle back to its original state while still promoting blood flow.  Keep applying heat to the muscle two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  Deep tissue massages during this step will also speed up the recovery process.  During this step, perform the stretching routine for the daily workout TWICE per day.  Only stretch the injured muscle if you do not feel pain.  There might be a mild soreness and/or a tight feeling in the muscle.  This is normal and only GENTLY stretch the injured muscle to the point where you feel one of these sensations but NO FURTHER.  Depending on the severity of the injury, it might take up to three months to regain full mobility in that muscle so be patient. The point of this step is to keep promoting the healing process with good circulation and making sure you don’t lose flexibility in the rest of your body.  Also start doing activities that lightly use the muscle and the surrounding muscle groups but no full workouts.  It’s very important to start using the muscle in this step to avoid atrophy but dialing up the intensity too quickly will result in reinjury and going back to Step 1.  It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

Step 4 – Strength and Range of Motion

(4-6 weeks to 8-12 weeks post injury)

At this point you shouldn’t feel any pain when using the muscle.  You may experience some mild tightness but using the muscle should not hurt.  You should also have regained approximately 80% of your range of motion and be able to perform full workouts.  If you are ready for this step in the middle of a phase of The Health Program perform the Transition Works available on the Health homepage.  These workouts are designed to progress the body into a state where it is ready to train at 100% intensity.  If any part of a workout causes a “tweak” or small acute pain in the muscle, dramatically decrease the weight you are using so you can complete the exercise without pain or modify the exercise.  Keep performing these workouts (which include the stretching routines) until you have regained your full range of motion.

Posted by on 6:54 pm in Happiness | Comments Off on How to Tell the Difference Between Soreness and Injury

## How to Tell the Difference Between Soreness and Injury

Two ways to tell the difference between being sore (which should not prevent you from exercising) and an injury (which might require you to restrict your physical activity) is the type of pain you feel and whether it gets better with activity and time.  Soreness is generally a dull, aching pain that you generally feel over an area rather than in one specific spot.  It also shouldn’t hurt more than a 3 or 4 on a pain scale of 1-10.  If you perform a completely new exercise or haven’t worked out in a long time your soreness might be greater than a 4 but it should quickly subside with time and more activity.  Pain from soreness typically should not reside in your joints and generally doesn’t increase when performing an exercise over time.  The affected area should feel progressively better during and after your Highest Level workout because you increased the blood flow to all parts of your body and relengthened your muscles, which also helps flush out the chemicals that cause the soreness.   Alternatively, pain caused by an injury is acute, is located in a specific area, and does not get better with more use.  Pain from an injury can rate anywhere from a 1 to a 10 on a scale of 1-10, but if it doesn’t get better with properly performed exercises and stretching, it is from an injury and requires rest and treatment.

Posted by on 6:53 pm in Health | Comments Off on How to Speed Up Muscle Recovery

## How to Speed Up Muscle Recovery

Muscles generally take 48 to 72 hours to recover from a good workout.  However, you can speed up that recovery by helping your body flush the lactic acid out of your muscles and get new blood and nutrients in.

The best way to help flush out the muscles is a massage; deep tissue being the best kind for muscular recovery.  Massages help work out knots, adhesions, and micro-tears in muscles that foam rolling can’t fix.  Make sure you properly hydrate both before and after your massage to get the maximum benefit.

The second way is foam rolling.  The Highest Level workouts all include a foam rolling routine to help work out the kinks in your muscles after you exercise.

The third way is a form of hot/cold therapy.  Athletes often alternate plunging their bodies into very warm and very cold water to promote circulation.  When the body is cold, it diverts more blood to its core to keep the vital organs warm.  When it warms back up, it brings more blood to the surface to cool down.  This process when repeated creates a “flushing” effect through your muscles.  If you don’t have access to an ice pool and hot tub you can do this by turning your shower to its coldest temperature for thirty seconds and then turning it to a very warm temperature (but not the hottest temperature so you don’t scald yourself) for thirty seconds.  Repeat this cycle for three minutes.  End the cycle with thirty seconds of cold if you want to feel more energized when you get out of the shower.

Also, drink lots of water.  Water helps your body circulate the nutrients needed for your muscles to repair themselves.  Dried out muscles take longer to recuperate.

Last, the best way to get nutrients into your muscles is to eat a protein rich meal within 20-30 minutes of working out.  Studies have shown that muscles absorb the most nutrients in the 30 minutes after a workout so give your body the building blocks it needs to repair it self as soon as possible after exercising.

Posted by on 2:59 pm in Happiness, Health | Comments Off on How to Experience Gratitude

## How to Experience Gratitude

One of the easiest ways to lead a happier life is by making gratitude a habit.  It is impossible to experience two emotions at once.  So being grateful is a great way to crowd out emotions like fear, greed, and anger, which prevent us from being happy.

If you are having trouble focusing on just one positive thing, try a technique called negative visualization.  Positive thoughts are the key to a happy life but sometimes it’s useful to imagine what our lives would be like without certain comforts or people who are dear to us.  Imagine your life without running water, a roof to sleep under, fresh food to eat, or a job.  Imagine what your life would be like if one of your loved ones passed away tomorrow.  The point of this exercise is not to breed negativity, but to keep you present and make sure you are not taking the wonderful things in your life for granted.

Finally, a quick and easy way to experience gratitude is by buying The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha.  This book points out hundreds of awesome things in life that we take for granted on a daily basis.  Keep this book in a handy spot, pick it up, read one of the sections, and check the box on your Personal Action Form.

Posted by on 2:58 pm in Happiness, Health | Comments Off on How to Sleep 7+ Hours a Night

## How to Sleep 7+ Hours a Night

Sleep is when our bodies heal and our minds process.  Without enough sleep we can never live at the highest level.

The first (and best) way to get 7+ hours of sleep is to standardize when you go to sleep and wake up.  Our bodies love rhythms and cycles.  If we teach our bodies when they are supposed to go to sleep and wake up, they will start to do both automatically.  This might mean being tired the day after the occasional night when you don’t sleep well.  Keeping the cycle is more important in the long term than sleeping in a few hours.

The next tip is to exercise.  If the body and mind are tired at the end of the day, you will sleep better.  Performing The Highest Level workouts everyday will help standardize your routine and tire you out so you get a good night’s rest.

Next, start powering down an hour before you go to bed.  This means don’t eat, exercise, or engage in any strenuous or exciting activity for at least one hour before you go to sleep.  The process of going to sleep is like slowly dimming a light bulb, not switching it off.

Next, make sure you have the right mattress.  A good mattress can be expensive.  However, you spend 1/3 of your life sleeping so it’s a wise place to spend your money.  Go to a mattress store and spend an hour laying on all the different kinds of beds to find what type of mattress is most comfortable for you.  Having the right mattress might also address some minor aches and pains you are experiencing.  Remember that the price of mattresses are generally very negotiable so do your homework and get the best deal that you can.

Next, do not sleep with your phone or computer by your bed.  If you can it’s best to turn them off completely.  Get an alarm clock to wake you up.  You can buy them today for \$5.  Your mind will never truly be at ease if it subconsciously knows it can be interrupted at any time.

Next, get the room temperature between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.  Studies have shown this is the optimal temperature range for a good night’s sleep.  The room should also be as dark as possible.

For aroma, try using lavender scent on your pillow.  There is evidence that the smell of lavender is calming and can help induce sleep.

Finally, keep a pad and pencil or pen by your bed for two reasons.  First, the best way to get a thought out of your head when you are trying to sleep is to write it down.  This helps your mind let it go and relieves any anxiety that you will forget it.  Second, some of our best thinking can happen at night when our brains have had a chance to synthesize the contents of our day.  You may come up with some of your best ideas or solutions when trying to sleep so write them down.

Posted by on 2:57 pm in Happiness, Health | Comments Off on How to Meditate

## How to Meditate

When it comes to your mediation practice, the first thing you should do is schedule your mediation time between two activities that typically happen every day of the week.  For example, in between waking up and eating, in between coming home from work and preparing dinner, or in between working out and showering.  Scheduling your meditation time between two other habits will help it become a part of your daily routine.

Once you have determined WHEN you will meditate, next you need to decide WHERE you will meditate.  All you need is a quiet space where you can be undisturbed for however long you are going to meditate.  The quieter the better but it doesn’t have to be dead silent.  A quiet room, a park, or even your car will work.  Your location needs to have a place where you can sit or lie comfortably.

First take two long, loud breathes where you inhale deeply through your nose and exhale loudly through your mouth.  Then, let your breath settle into long, slow, measured breaths where you inhale through your nose for four, full seconds, pause for one second, and then comfortably exhale slowly through your mouth or nose for another four seconds.  Pause at the end of the exhale for one second and then repeat this process until your time is up, focusing on your breath the entire time. Feel free to take more time to inhale and exhale as you relax more.

Your mind might wander or thoughts might pop in your head (especially if you are new to meditating).   You may even feel an uncomfortable urge to stop to go take care of a “To Do” in your life.  This is totally normal.  Just because you are having these thoughts doesn’t mean you are not meditating correctly.  Every time you have one of these thoughts, calmly recognize that you are having it, let it go, and refocus your attention to your breath.  A particular thought might come back again and again.  Again, this is normal and part of what meditation is about; letting go of these thoughts and being present.  Every time this happens, calmly acknowledge the thought, let it go, and refocus on your breathing until your time is up.

Posted by on 2:56 pm in Health | Comments Off on How to Stretch

## How to Stretch

Stretching is slowly training your body to accept a greater range of motion.  The more flexible you are the less you will get injured, the more powerful you will be, and the better you will feel.

Since stretching is about getting your body to accept (not forcing it to experience) a greater range of motion, perform each stretch by relaxing into it.  While you may feel tension in your muscles during the stretch, you should not be pulling or jerking your body.

Start by getting into the the starting position of the stretch.  Take a deep breath, hold it for one second, and then, as you slowly exhale, relax into the stretch position.  Keep relaxing into the stretch until your body won’t allow you to go any further.  Hold that position until you are finished exhaling.  Once you’ve finished your exhale, breathe in again, hold it for one second, and, as you exhale, relax even further into the stretch.

Each time you repeat this cycle you should be able to relax your body a little further into the stretch.  Repeat this process until you’ve performed the stretch for the allotted time.

Posted by on 2:54 pm in Health | Comments Off on How to Perform a Heavy Lift

## How to Perform a Heavy Lift

Proper form is especially important when you are performing lifts with lots weight.  Examples of heavy lifts include deadlifts, bench press, the clean and press, clean, squats, front squats, and split jerks.

Start by firmly positioning yourself in the starting position of the lift whether it be lying underneath the bar (bench press), with the bar on the front of your shoulders (front squat and split jerk), with the bar resting on the back of your shoulders (squat), or with the bar on the floor in front of you (deadlift and clean and press).  Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart with your toes angled out no more than 15 degrees.

Next, firmly grip the bar (with front squats and split jerks, place the bar so it rests firmly on the front of your shoulders with your elbows up and triceps parallel to the floor).

Next, engage your core by flexing your stomach muscles to 20% of their maximum capacity (like what you would do if you were preparing for someone to lightly slap you in the stomach).

Do not draw your breath in to the top of your lungs but sucking in your stomach.  This will round out the lower portion of your back, concentrate a disproportionate amount of stress, and might cause injury.

Then, for deadlifts, bench press, and clean and press, grip the bar almost as hard as you can.  With your grip strong, activate (which is another word for slightly tense) all the other muscles of your body starting with your feet.  Grip the floor with your feet by slightly turning them a few degrees toward each other.  Then activate the rest of your muscle groups in sequential order from your feet to your head from the bottom to top.