This Swedish fitness trend combines running with picking up litter

Image: Getty Images

Forget about Hygge, Lagom, and Ikea’s attempt to start a twin duvet revolution. There’s a new Scandinavian trend in town. 

This trend encourages people to pick up litter while out running. So, it’s not just good for your health, it’s also good for the environment. 

It’s called ‘plogging’—a portmanteau of jogging and the Swedish plocka upp, meaning ‘pick up.’ 

So hot is this new trend that fitness app Lifesum is allowing its users to log and track their plogging activity as a workout. 

Plogging combines going for a run with intermittent squatting or lunging (to collect rubbish), which actually sounds like a pretty satisfying workout. According to Lifesum, a typical user will burn 288 calories in 30 minutes of plogging, which is more or less the same as what’s burned off while jogging.  

As with all fitness trends, there are plenty of #plogging pics on Instagram, offering a glimpse of what this trend looks like IRL. Ploggers take plastic bags along with them so they can store the collected litter they find along their route.

Swedish fitness app Lifesum claims it’s the first health app to allows its 25 million users to log their plogging activity. Those using the health app can log plogging as a fitness activity, in the same way that they would log running or walking, and the app will estimate how many calories have been burned. 

Image: lifesum / rachel thompson

Lifesum has also teamed up with the non-profit Keep America Beautiful to provide an online resource for ploggers who want to log the rubbish they’ve collected. 

Mike Rosen, senior vice president at Keep America Beautiful, thinks plogging is a great way to encourage people to make a difference in their local environment. 

“Plogging is brilliant because it is simple and fun, while empowering everyone to help create cleaner, greener and more beautiful communities,” Rosen said in a statement. “All you need is running gear and a bag for trash or recyclables, and you are not only improving your own health, but your local community too.”

Plog away!

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Turning your business trip into a leisure trip

Image: pixabay/skitterphoto

Ah, business trips. Meet-and-greets, business cards, handshakes, conferences, and an airtight schedule keeping you from having any fun. Awesome. 

While business travel will never have the same appeal as an honest-to-goodness real vacation, there are ways you can hack your trip to ensure you can enjoy some time to yourself. Here’s how you do it. 

1. Create downtime 

People love to lean on the whole “I’m way too busy with work” argument. We get it, you’re busy, but there are still 24 hours in a day — that’s 86,400 seconds of time to divvy up. Even if you’re taking an hour to go back to your room and recharge between meetings, you should use that time for yourself. Brew a cup of coffee, read a book (remember books?), go for a walk, and explore the neighborhood near your hotel. 

Image: pixabay/ahundt

2. Stay an extra day to sightsee 

So, you’re in a town you’ve never been to before for a 10-hour long conference on the importance of customer retention. Every town, city, state, and country has something special lurking beneath the surface — your job is to seek out that special something and make it a point to visit before you leave. Whether it’s taking the elevator to the top of the tallest building in the state or eating at a city’s most famous restaurant, going off the beaten path for even just an hour will take your mind off customer retention. 

Image: Hilton Garden Inn

3. Turn your quick snack into a memorable meal

We all know how it goes when you check into a hotel after the longest flight in the world. You’re irritated, tired, and hungry. However, your options are usually limited to fast-food from a burger place or worse yet — a vending machine. 

What if you could have a gourmet meal at your hotel? Enter the recently enhanced food and beverage offerings at Hilton Garden Inn. You can get everything you want, from a handcrafted cocktail created by a mixologist (hey, it was a long flight) to fresh hummus and veggies, small plates, and other delicious entrees. No need to curb your hunger with chips or candy bars –  you can get the good stuff just as easily. Plus, whether you arrive in the wee early morning hours or at the stroke of midnight, Hilton Garden Inn offers quick and delicious options, from healthy salads and sandwiches to coffee and locally-sourced wine and beer. 

Image: pixabay/free-photos

4. Meditate

Did you know that mindful meditation can actually decrease both anxiety and depression while heightening your sense of empathy and self-awareness? That’s right—meditation might actually make you a more self-aware person, which is a pretty good souvenir to take home after a long business trip. The best part about meditation is that it can be done almost anywhere. Whether you step outside during lunch or schedule 20 minutes before bed, meditating can increase your mood and turn your business trip into a spiritual enlightenment getaway. 

Image: pixabay/rawpixel

5. Meet up with an old friend

No matter where you go in this country, you can find a friend. Let’s say you have a conference that cannot be missed in an exciting city — it’s time to put out some feelers and hang out with someone who isn’t presenting a four-hour long speech on risk management. Before your big meeting, connect with your old college friend for breakfast at your hotel. Getting out of the business world for just a few hours will clear your head, while turning your business trip into a social event.

Finding a little room for fun on your next business trip is not only good for your mental health, but it’ll help with productivity and professionalism while making the experience memorable. When you’re on the go, you should treat your stomach with the amount of care you treat your mind, so check out the food and beverage offerings at Hilton Garden Inn and plan accordingly. 

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Bearded dudes pose for merman calendar to raise money for a worthy cause

Behold the “Merb’ys”—a breed of Canadian bearded mermen flapping their fur and fins for a good cause. 

The gentlemen of Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club are posing in nowt but their merman garb for a dudeoir-style calendar to raise money for mental health organisation Spirit Horse NL.

And, the photos certainly don’t disappoint. The calendar—which can be previewed online—features bearded mermen posing in pumpkin patches, pubs, and on various beaches. 

The Merb’ys are thus-named because “the Newfoundland mermen are a different breed,” says Hasan Hai, founder of the beard and moustache club. Hai came up with the idea of a merman calendar after a friend of his posted a photo from a mercreature themed dudeoir shoot on his Facebook wall. 

He decided to organise a calendar, and posted an “open call to the universe” on social media, which received an unexpectedly high response. 70 or 80 people got in touch with Hai, offering to model or photograph. 

Hai knew he wanted to raise money for charity, but hadn’t yet settled on a charity. When he came across Sprit Horse NL and heard the stories of the people they help, he suggested using the calendar to raise money for the organisation. 

“It basically uses horses to provide equine therapy for people with mental illness, people who want to live better lives, people with physical limitation,” Hai told CBC. 

Donning a fin was a challenge for the men during the calendar shoots. “Moving around in a fishtail is not as easy as you would think,” Hai continued, adding that there was “a lot of hopping” and squirming involved behind the scenes.  

The calendar, which has received an overwhelming number of pre-orders, can be purchased online for $25 CAD ($19.70 USD, £14.99) from the Beard and Moustache Club website. 

Major props to the Merb’ys of Newfoundland!

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The dark side of optimism: How the trait you value most could be ruining you

Mark Cuban
Image: REX/Shutterstock

Few people have crushed more bright-eyed, entrepreneurial dreams than Mark Cuban.  

At first, that might sound like a rough assessment. After all, Cuban has invested a quarter of a billion dollars in bringing other people’s hopes to life. But, if Cuban’s rejection rate—which hovers right around 80% on ABC’s Shark Tank—teaches us anything, it’s a lesson profoundly contrary to popular wisdom. 

“They think,” Cuban said via email, “they can find a solution for any problem. Of course, I can. But everyone else. Not so much. :)” 

Joking aside, belief in our ideas and abilities is often regarded as the most valuable trait we can cultivate. After all, optimism isn’t just physically healthy, it also fuels passion, emboldens risk, and inspires courage. 

In his 2011 classic, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman called optimism the “engine of capitalism”: 

Optimistic individuals play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives. Their decisions make a difference; they are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the political and military leaders — not average people.

And yet, for all its benefits, optimism has a dark side.  

“Most of us,” Kahneman continued, “view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be.” 

From those assessments, two questions arise. First, what makes optimism so dangerous? And second, how do we foster healthy pessimism without losing hope? 

When half full goes all wrong 

To understand the danger of optimism, the first thing we have to come to grips with is: Fear.  

Humans are hardwired for threat detection. For the most part, our fight-or-flight impulse is a good thing. It’s what made our ancestors our ancestors

When it comes to decisionmaking, things get trickier. Psychologists call the phenomenon loss aversion: the universal drive to avoid risk even at the expense of equal or greater gain.  

Just how influential is this drive? Experiments by behavioral economists like Richard Thaler gauge the motivational sway between loss and gain at roughly two to one. “Losses,” in Thaler’s words, “hurt about twice as much as gains make you feel good.” 

Given our sensitivity, wouldn’t loss aversion keep us safe from optimism’s bias? Perhaps not.  

When I put the question to Kahneman directly, he explained: 

A combination of optimism and loss aversion is very common, causing people to take risks because they don’t acknowledge their existence. They take risks while feeling both confident and prudent.

Fear and optimism are two sides of the same coin. This is especially true in situations where not only the odds are against us, but control is too.  

Success demands a host of serendipitous events—the right development, timing, marketing, sales, supply, retention, and blunders from the competition. Rather than contemplate those requirements, we fall back on optimism’s mantra: “I think I can.” 

The result? Again, here’s Kahneman: 

Whenever you look at a great success you are likely to find an optimist. Optimists are great for the economy because their unreasonable risk-taking is an engine of innovation… On average, however, they are not particularly good for themselves. The fact that most or all successful people are optimists does not guarantee that all optimists are successful.

Compounding optimism’s danger is another bias: Survivor Selection. Success sells, which means if we only pay attention to the headlines, we’re likely to get a warped sense of how uncommon success truly is. For every magazine lionizing an outlier, countless bodies litter the same path. 

That’s why, when failure rears its head, we marvel and ask, “How could they be so stupid?” In truth, their stupidity stems from the very same place as our own. Not only do we overestimate our gifts, abilities, and insights, we chronically underestimate costs, timelines, and challenges.  

Why? Because loss aversion and survivor bias numb us to the realities of life. Just like any good pain killer, optimism soothes without treating the disease.  

What’s more, it can also turn on us. That’s what New York Times Bestseller Lewis Howes told me: 

Optimism can go south and turn into stress, anger, or frustration when the reality of my life doesn’t match up to the highlight reels I see around me on social media — especially if I’m struggling in an area where it seems like everyone around me is doing awesome.

At work, optimism can even have the opposite effect of its intention. “While it can inspire us to action,” Anthony Stephan, a principal at Deloitte, explains, “it also has the potential to unintentionally stifle the creative voices of others, which can limit your own opportunity for growth.” 

Strangely enough, Stephan goes on: 

What I had failed to realize was that with all the optimism I was trying to create, I was actually limiting the potential for ideas from others. Instead, the more positive and animated my words became, the less people were willing to share, out of fear that their ideas might not be received with the same enthusiasm I had for my own.

Don’t misunderstand; optimism can be a powerful force for good … right up to the point when it all goes wrong

The bright side of embracing the dark side 

If optimism fuels risk-taking and risk-taking drives innovation, then retaining optimism is essential. But so is tempering it.  

How? By embracing four habits. 

First, start planning your funeral. In the wake of any great failure, wise organizations conduct postmortems: business-focused autopsies that diagnose where things went wrong. 

Instead of waiting until it’s too late, analyze your demise before you begin. It’s a practice known as the premortem. After gathering stakeholders, ask your team, “A year has passed, and our project went down in flames. Why’d we fail?” Participants then talk through and record every possible cause of their foretold collapse.

You can take the same approach in your personal life as well. As Brad Stulberg explains in To Reach Your Goals, Imagine You Already Tried and Failed

It may seem like the negative thinking inherent to a premortem would work against self-belief and confidence. But if anything, it actually works toward it. When you force yourself to become aware of all that could go wrong, you become more likely to take the necessary steps to ensure that things go right.

The key is to divorce yourself from subjectivity and adopt an “outside” view. Dan Lovallo and Daniel Kahneman’s article Delusions of Success: How Optimism Undermines Executives’ Decisions offers detailed instructions — including a five-step formula — to do exactly that. 

The second way to cultivate healthy pessimism is by facing the numbers. Broadly speaking, fifty percent of new businesses survive past five years, and only one-third make a decade. Worse, for venture-backed startups, the failure rate is anywhere between seventy-five and ninety percent

On the personal side, a mere 4 percent to 7 percent of people quit smoking without medication or outside help: “Even experiencing a traumatic event — like the death of a loved one or being diagnosed with cancer — only leads to a 20% success rate.” Twenty-five percent of all New Year’s resolutions fail within the first two weeks. And we won’t even get into the failure rates of diet and exercise. 

But why flood yourself with negative numbers? 

“Many successful people,” writes Charles Duhigg, “spend an enormous amount of time seeking out information on failures. This, ultimately, is one of the most important secrets to learning how to make better decisions.” 

Third, know your limitations. “The optimism or pessimism choice is a forced choice; it’s a faulty assumption,” says Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and the forthcoming book Altered Traits. “What you want is realistic optimism.”  

While at Harvard, Goleman and his colleges researched success in a surprisingly simple way:  

The test was a ring toss. Participants would take a little post and place it out as far away from them as they wanted. The further out they put it, the more points they’d get. It turned out that successful entrepreneurs — the business people who were going to last — were able to put the post pretty far out but still get the ring on. They knew what they could do. 

In other words, realistic optimists are people who know the game. They know what they bring to it, what their odds are, what’s possible, and they know the most they can do to still be successful. “That,” as Goleman put it, “is the best path to follow.” 

Lastly, and perhaps the best way to become a pessimist, isn’t to become one yourself. Entrepreneurs are natural optimists. In a very real sense, we have to be. The trouble comes from birds of a feather flocking together. Without getting intentional in our selection, we inevitably surround ourselves with people just like us: hopeful people, encouraging people, optimistic people.  

As strange as it sounds, that’s a recipe for disaster. 

“Behind every unbridled optimist,” says angel investor Joe Roos, “is a counterbalancing rationalist that ever so slightly varnishes the tint of the rose-colored glasses. It’s the delicate balance between blind ambition and rational thought that creates a dynamic environment conducive to innovation and growth.”  

Every optimist needs a pessimist to tell them when they’re naked. If your whole team is just as excited as you, something’s gone wrong.

Optimism and the Truth 

Going back to Cuban, his solutions echo the same principles: “Preparation, experience, and the never ending quest for more knowledge. More often than not, when I am pessimistic, it’s in areas that I haven’t had experience in or have chosen not to get involved with previously.”  

In the end, facing the truth about optimism doesn’t mean abandoning it.  

Rather, it means (1) envisioning all the possible ways your plan could fail, (2) staring long and hard at the odds against you, (3) knowing your limitations, and (4) sticking close to the people in your life who love you enough to be mean.  

So, here’s to the pessimists and all the dreams they crush. Because dreams stay dreams, until a pessimist drags them into the light. 

Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about content marketing (and bunnies) on Facebook or Twitter.

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How to bring humanity and tech together: Innovators and advocates on hope for the future

Image: Shutterstock / whiteMocca

The headlines are everywhere.

Social media makes us narcissists. Screen time atrophies the brain. Work is inescapable. We sleep less, weigh more, and report higher levels of depression all thanks to the onslaught of tech.

On the other hand, many of technologys benefits are undeniable: longer life spans, reduced poverty, and the democratization of both knowledge and opportunity.

The question is: Can we bring humanity and tech into harmony?

To find an answer, I connected with some of techs biggest names executives at places like Dropbox, Deloitte, Canon, Polycom, and more as well as a few of techs lesser-known stars. Their answers point toward hope in our work, commerce, and connections.

Humanizing the tech we work with

Workplace communication is often lamented as the very antithesis of humanity.

Memo-driven hierarchies, reply-all email chains, and new cover sheets on your TPS reports are partly to blame. But the real disease lies deeper: namely, control, our desire to solidify tools and processes from the top down.

Ironically, the antidote comes from a relationship to tech that unshackles tools and processes, instead, from the bottom up.

Technology should work for people, not the other way around. It succeeds when it fits seamlessly into our lives and solves real problems. Too often, it forces us to change our behavior to fit its own limitations. Think about how painful it can be to file an expense report compared to how easy it is to pay a friend with Venmo.

Increasingly the question of whether technology helps us or hurts us is our decision people will choose the products they love. The way to make tech more human is to listen.

The future of work will be driven by technology, but technology at home and at work is and always will be bound by the desires, wants, passions, and needs of human beings. In enterprises, its a trend known as the consumerization of IT. More and more, the tools we use at work are being driven by consumers, instead of management. The professional rise of text and video, for instance, is a direct reflection of that same rise in our day to day lives.

The key, however, is to prioritize bandwidth for infrastructure and freedom for personal choice.

Technology should be viewed as a way to better connect, rather than divide, human interactions. For example, AV/VR technologies combined with ubiquitous, broadband capabilities could enhance the collaborations of workers in remote locations.

Regarding intelligent automation, we dont foresee a quick, wholesale pivot to robotics but rather humans staying in the loop to perform the higher value work of making decisions and taking actions based on insights produced by machines.

So with the right mindset, technology can enrich work rather than impoverish it. It can accentuate our humanity and maximize our potential.

At its core, work is about communication. It’s about people sharing work, ideas, and opinions. Productivity suites were built to facilitate this but that was a long time ago. The way we communicate has shifted dramatically since then, and we need not a better but an entirely new way to work together.

If we redesigned productivity software around the way people work today connected, mobile, and social how would it work? Wed elevate the fundamentals of human communication over esoteric features that most people dont even use anymore and unify content and communication. Its a next-generation way to work together.

Making commerce relevant and inclusive

To say the Internet fundamentally changed commerce is an understatement. However, the gulf between physical and digital products as well as the gulf between the haves and have-nots has been a bane since its inception.

For consumers, more automation often means less individuality. Especially when it comes to irrelevant marketing and the disenfranchised. Can technology bridge these worlds?

The lines between ecommerce and commerce are blurring as more and more brands look to experiment with traditional retail models. Pop-up shops for product drops and digital showrooms where people can co-create through VR, AR, and 3D are just two examples.

Whether in-person, online, or blended, these experiences should integrate with purchase history, browsing behavior, and geolocation. Bringing those pieces together creates the kind of deep personalization we naturally crave.

Paradoxically, I think machines are going to help us make our relationships with our customers more human.

With advances in machine learning, digital assistants will be able to understand customer history and context and handle repetitive tasks much better.

This will free humans to focus more on the relationship instead of rote tasks.

The key is to remember that technology even AI and cognitive serves at the pleasure of the people. Its easy to be seduced by the multitude of magic wands at our disposal, but it’s always about the wizard.

The best way to bring humanity back to tech is to force yourself to be surrounded by people. Sitting in an office, spitting out reports, and using them to infer customer needs and desires is shortsighted. And that robs us of what is really lacking in much of technology today: empathy.

Start with requiring the makers of technology to spend two hours per week with real customers, observing how they use it.

Theres a misunderstanding that technology is somehow neutral or unbiased, which is simply not true: anything made by humans is going to be biased, so we need to have a bias for inclusion.”

It might seem counterintuitive, but we can make financial services more human by servicing the underserved via a smartphone app versus a traditional bank. Many of our customers call us family; they think of us as a friend or a partner.

Were able to include people who are excluded from traditional finance. Women, for example, often encounter discrimination in a face-to-face interaction with a male lender; being able to access credit from the palm of their hand is liberating. Even men tell us they are afraid to face more formal lenders sometimes for fear of rejection and the shame that might bring them. Having a private, personal relationship with your financial services validates our customers humanity, and reminds them that someone out there believes in them.

Fostering connections that dont add to the noise

Perhaps the most daunting challenge is how tech affects relationships. Study after study not only documents the increasing time we spend behind screens but also their interpersonal dark side.

Of course, how we use technology is far more important than what and when. Setting aside its abuses and, in some cases, combating them means leveraging our new-found interconnectedness for the good.

We need to remember why technology is evolving in the first place: it solves real problems and connects people.

One example includes using the latest imaging technology to help find missing children or prevent the exploitation of children. Canon has partnered for the last 20 years with The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children by providing the latest state-of-the-art technology which allows law enforcement to quickly disseminate photos across the U.S., not just to law-enforcement, but through social media as well.

We released a feature called Content Suggestions in 2014, and there was a substantial bump in platform use. Many users loved it. However, we noticed that some were sharing identical posts without reading them.

Essentially, we were contributing to spam, which was not great for content creators and also not great for Buffer as a product. We believe in creating authentic voices on social media, and this broke down that trust users had in us.

Even though this feature had lots of traction we ultimately decided to shut it down. At the time, we had our values of Listen First and Do the right thing top of mind.

With the rise of chatbots and voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home, talking to computers is becoming the norm. The challenge at this point is how to personalize interactions, and connect humans and computers on a more intimate level.

Brands are already taking the lead in engaging conversational experiences are tailoring their bot personas to directly reflect their target audience for the best chance of retention and engagement. In messaging platforms planning a personality that informs the dialogue and entire interaction with consumers is critical. These authentic brand experiences wont be led by engineers but rather writers and designers, who can connect humans to technology through storytelling.

Technology has the ability to connect people across the artificial lines in the sand we call nation-state borders. At BITNATION we’re using the blockchain technology to help people create their own nations, based on their beliefs and desires, rather than on where they were arbitrarily born.

Using the blockchain we’ve helped refugees. People have used our technology to get married, to title their land, to write birth certificates and wills, and much more.

Make technology about people and not about technology

Writing about the patron saint of innovation, columnist Jason Hiner explained, Steve Jobss most important contribution will be that he made technology about people and not about technology.

Is there hope for the future of humanity and tech? Certainly. This doesnt mean the pitfalls are easy to avoid, but it does mean theyre far from inevitable.

Tangible buying experiences, serving the underserved, the consumerization of IT, and crossing traditional borders all point to the power of tech to reinforce our humanity rather than undercut it.

After all, humans arent merely dominated by tech. We are its creators and hope lies in the image of ourselves we stamp upon it.

Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about content marketing (and bunnies) on Facebook or Twitter.

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