It’s easy to forget yourself in the chaos of advice.

When people — usually women — get abused by their partners, many of us have the same reaction: Why doesn’t she just leave?

I used to think the same way.

And then, I took a training class for domestic violence advocates. And I learned something that was eye-opening for me.

We are all experts in our own lives.

It’s also true for domestic violence survivors.

So why doesn’t she leave? Maybe her kids are in danger. Maybe she loves him and believes him when he says he’ll change. Maybe she’s stashing away money so she can afford to get out…


They’re advertised as healthy, but they’re not

A white woman with dark hair eating a sandwich outdoors
A white woman with dark hair eating a sandwich outdoors

I have a Costco-sized box of granola bars in my pantry that claims, in big capital letters, 22g WHOLE GRAIN.

These granola bars are delicious, and eating them couldn’t be easier. I don’t have to wash fruit, chop veggies, or even use a plate or a bowl.

So I really want to believe they are healthy.

I don’t want to look at the label because I’m afraid of what I’ll find out. These granola bars are probably no angels. I bet they’re about as good for me as a candy bar.

That’s how the health halo works. Advertisers and marketers…


It’s time for a new word. Here’s my vote.

Languages evolve. Words don’t always mean what they used to mean. The way people speak and write changes the meaning of words:

  • “Literally” used to mean, well, literally. Like it or not, now it means “figuratively” as well.
  • “Idiot,” “imbecile,” and “moron” used to describe a specific level of mental ability. (Idiots were at the level of a typical 2-year-old or less, imbeciles were at the level of 3- to 7-year-olds, and morons were at the level of 8- to 12-year-olds.) Now these words are used interchangeably to describe someone who is acting stupidly, regardless of their actual mental ability.


Sometimes the best routine is a break from your routine

Sometimes it feels like we’re all chasing the holy grail of self-improvement. I’m as guilty as anyone else.

I have 16 things on my list of routines I would like to do every day, and that doesn’t include ingrained habits like brushing my teeth, drinking lots of water, or walking my dog.

Here are some of them, and the perfectly good reasons they’re on my daily to-do list:

  • Morning gratitude to help me stay positive
  • Exercise to stay healthy and strong
  • Working on my top-priority projects first thing, so they don’t slip off the schedule
  • Meditation to help me focus


Or make you a better writer. Step away from the keyboard for a minute.

I don’t know where we got the idea that doing the same thing over and over again is how we improve. After all, we’ve all heard this quote:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Hazelden Foundation (not Albert Einstein!)

Maybe we should blame Malcolm Gladwell for the repetition = success formula. In his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he famously claimed that you need 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert in a field. (A lot of people disagree.)

But think about it:

  • Cooking the same roast chicken night…


Because you can’t offer all 3 for long

A Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: good, fast, and cheap
A Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: good, fast, and cheap

I was getting my kitchen remodeled the first time I heard this phrase:

“You can have it good, fast, or cheap — pick any two.”

It turned out to be true with any of the contractors I hired:

Good + Cheap. The guy who installed my cabinets did great work, and his prices were reasonable. But I had to wait for months to get on his calendar.

Fast + Good. The electrician lived close by, so he could do the job quickly. And his quality was top-notch. But his invoices? The total due nearly brought me to tears.

And…

Cheap…


Don’t slam the door in your customer’s face

A woman is covering her eyes with her hands. She is wearing a black top and black checked overalls.
A woman is covering her eyes with her hands. She is wearing a black top and black checked overalls.

Pretty much anyone can navigate the subway in Mexico City. You don’t need to know how to read. You don’t need to speak Spanish. Every line is represented by a color, and every station is represented by a pictogram.

That’s because when the subway system was designed, Mexico had a high rate of illiteracy. So the people who created it wanted to make sure that people who couldn’t read could still navigate the system by following the visual signs.

And those visual signs, plus a fare that works out to around 25 cents in U.S. …


Trial and error is a slow way to grow. Getting feedback can help you improve faster

A group of young people meet around a table
A group of young people meet around a table

For a few years, I had a plot in a community garden with a friend. I had zero experience growing anything, ever. But I had a lot of enthusiasm!

Here’s what I learned about gardening. Trial and error works. You can learn from your mistakes. But it works VERY slowly.

Did you plant your tomatoes too early and lose them to frost? Space your zucchini too close together and watch them grow into a tangled, impenetrable mess? Water in the middle of a sunny day and see your plant’s leaves start to burn?

You won’t make these mistakes again. But…


What to buy, what it costs, and how it adds value

I’ve never been a fan of retail therapy — to me, shopping is a chore best handled by the pros at Instacart. I tend to be what Gretchen Rubin calls an “underbuyer” — I put off shopping as long as possible.

But postponing buying what I need screws things up for me. I often end up spending more time and effort doing something because I don’t have what I need to do it properly.

Case in point: I put off buying an Instant Pot for years, even after I interviewed cookbook authors who raved about it. …


If you’re not broke and drowning in debt, there are good reasons to treat yourself once in a while

There are a lot of personal finance gurus out there who say they can put you on a path to financial independence.

If you listen to them, you’ll eventually hear some version of this advice:

“Don’t set foot in a restaurant unless you work there.”

Seriously?

Suppose you’re paying off credit card debt, student loans, or a car loan. It’s probably going to take you months or years to be debt-free.

And you’re not going to treat yourself to a single slice of pizza or a cheeseburger even once? In all that time?

This recommendation reminds me of the “stop…

Stephanie Thurrott

I write stories that make our lives better. I learn something with everything I write, and I hope you do too. Get my newsletter: stephaniethurrott.com/medium

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