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We all like to get a good deal, but how may not be so obvious. Here are some thoughts on how to get an edge in life’s major categories: work, relationships, purchases, physical health, mental health, and overall life.
Work. Your best chance at a good deal is to cast a wide net in looking for a job and then to ask vetting questions during the interview and before accepting the job: Read what employees say on Glassdoor and elsewhere on the net. In interviews, ask questions such as, “Why did the incumbent leave?” and “All bosses are different. In what ways are you?” If it’s a group interview, in response to the boss’s answer to that question.look for any subtle change in the other interviewers’ facial expression: tightened lips, even rolled eyes. Also, when offered the job, ask to come in to discuss terms. Not only does that convey that you plan to take the negotiation seriously, it allows you to observe the vibe in the office. Plus, in the break room you might ask employees a question such as, “I’ve been offered a job here. What should I know about working here that might not appear in the official handbook?” They may say little but do observe facial expression and tone. An enthusiastic, “It’s good!” is very different than a flat “It’s good.”
Relationships. Again, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This report card may help you retain a measure of objectivity amid the swoon of infatuation or of feeling pressure to take the traditional next step: get married.
With friends and relatives, the core question is, “Is my life better with this person in my life?” If so, to what extent and in what contexts? For example, you may enjoy a semi-annual hike with the person but more than that yields more trouble than it’s worth.
Purchases. The average consumer overpays for homes, cars, jewelry, clothes, restaurants, nearly everything. For a look at getting the most from your money on these and other purchases and investments, see Seven Money Tips for Smart People. The macro point is that high-status items usually cost much more they’re worth, not just in money but in the financial freedom to pursue the work you want even if it’s not lucrative, as is the case, for example, in many creative careers.
Unless you’re made of money, the usual sweet spot is in mid-priced items. That’s largely because that’s what most people buy and so the competition among sellers and manufacturers is greatest. In addition, because mid-priced items of mainstream brands (e.g., Toyota, Sony, Whirlpool) yield the company the most total revenue, they can afford to hire the best creators because the cost of those stars is amortized across huge numbers of purchasers.
Physical health. This year’s fad is often next year’s fade. One year, dietary cholesterol is the devil, the next year they say it has little impact. One year they urge carbs over protein, next year protein (e.g., keto) over carbs. One year they urge baby aspirin to prevent heart attacks. Now they say, “Never mind.” One year they exhort us to exercise vigorously for 20 minutes three days a week; now it’s moderately for 45 minutes five or six days a week.
Of course, there is no certitude but you’ll likely get an edge, a good deal relative to others, by opting for moderation. For example, regarding diet, I like Michael Pollan’s recommendation: Eat real food. Not too much. mostly plants, and an occasionally cheat won’t kill you.
Mental health. Within a fairly wide distance from the average, self-acceptance may be best. We’re all a little more or less anxious, more or less sad, more or less distractible, more or less intense, more or less hyper. Psychotherapy and medications are alas still at a stage where they typically can help somewhat but not remake our foundational selves. So unless you’re in significant distress, it’s normally wise to accept your basic self and tweak around the edges, especially putting yourself in situations and with people who bring out the best in you. If you want to improve, perhaps, start by upping exercise, staying busy, helping others, and feeling grateful. Need more? Try an app such as Woebot or Sanvello (formerly Pacifica.) Need more? Try a short course of cognitive-behavioral therapy with a highly rated practitioner. Of course, more severe cases may require pharmacological help or even, for example, electroconvulsive therapy and/or deep brain stimulation for severe depression.
Life. Here again, acceptance and gratitude plus moderate striving are normally best but, alas, those are easier to urge than to do. The good news is that trying those is free and without side effects.
Is there one or more tips in this article you want to use to try and get yourself an edge?
I read this aloud on YouTube.