20 Awesome Things to Say That Will Radically Improve Your Life

Awesome Things to Say That Will Radically Improve Your Life

Awesome Things to Say That Will Radically Improve Your Life

The biggest problem with deciding to do something is deciding to wait to do it. Why put off doing something you really want to do? Anything worth doing is worth doing now. Here are 20 things you need to say to yourself this week–not because you plan to do something but because you’ve already done it. And each is a lot easier to accomplish than some grand, sweeping, hopefully-life-changing-but-in the-end-you-never-manage-to-accomplish pledge. So let’s get started! –Jeff Haden

"Hi, mom!"

“Hi, mom!”

“Hi, mom!”

Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They are always there for you. But they won’t be around forever. Call them.

"I finally got started!"

“I finally got started!”

“I finally got started!”

You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day, we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stop me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step. The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

"It's totally my fault."

“It’s totally my fault.”

“It’s totally my fault.”

Everyone makes mistakes. That makes it easy to blame others for our problems. But we are almost always also to blame. We did (or did not) do something we could have done differently or better. Instead, take full responsibility, not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative the next time.

"That wasn't nearly as bad as I thought ..."

“That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought …”

“That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought …”

The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) Yet nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you thought it would be. Plus, it’s incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, an amazing feeling you haven’t experienced for too long. So go do something you were afraid to do. I promise it won’t be as bad as you thought.

"You're awesome!"

“You’re awesome!”

“You’re awesome!”

No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. And feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. Maybe a little more impact, because you still remember what happened a year later. Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

"I'll show you, ---hole."

“I’ll show you, —hole.”

“I’ll show you, —hole.”

One of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me–or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted. I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more important, achieve what I want to achieve. Call it childish and immature. I don’t care–it works for me. And it can work for you. So next time, don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary–in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or imaginary–and use it for fuel to shake you out of your same-thing-different-day rut.

"Can you help me?"

“Can you help me?”

“Can you help me?”

Asking someone for help instantly recognizes the person’s skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone to help you. The fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

"Can I help you?"

“Can I help you?”

“Can I help you?”

Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness, so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life and take a solid step toward creating a real connection.

"I did something no one else is willing to do."

“I did something no one else is willing to do.”

“I did something no one else is willing to do.”

Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Whatever it is, do it. Instantly, you’re a little different from the rest of the pack. Then keep going. Every day, do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week, you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year, you’ll be incredible, and you won’t be like anyone else. You’ll be you.

"I don't care what other people think."

“I don’t care what other people think.”

“I don’t care what other people think.”

Most of the time you should worry about what other people think–but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried that people might think you’re crazy, screw ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, screw ’em. Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think–and just go do it. It’s your life. Live it your way.

"I'm really sorry."

“I’m really sorry.”

“I’m really sorry.”

We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to–the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person. Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

"I'm the king of the world!"

“I’m the king of the world!”

“I’m the king of the world!”

According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing–standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips–will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it right before you step into the next situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.) It may sound strange, but it definitely works.



You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, stay safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. Say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.” Trust yourself.



Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to, but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once before the end of the month–the harder to say, the better. And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people too.

"You're fired."

“You’re fired.”

“You’re fired.”
Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back, and let them go.

"It's not perfect, but that's OK."

“It’s not perfect, but that’s OK.”

“It’s not perfect, but that’s OK.”
Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers will tell you what needs to be improved–which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter. You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really do anything until you let go.

"That's not my job--but who cares?"

“That’s not my job–but who cares?”

“That’s not my job–but who cares?”
Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring. The next time you see something that needs to be done, just do it. Not only will it get done, you’ll feel better about yourself for doing it.

"I'm really glad I tried their way."

“I’m really glad I tried their way.”

“I’m really glad I tried their way.”
Sure, we’re all individuals. (OK, I’m not.) Most of the time, we should set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish and follow that path. Don’t always try to reinvent perfectly good wheels.

"Wow, that was stupid. We should do that again!"

“Wow, that was stupid. We should do that again!”

“Wow, that was stupid. We should do that again!”
Sometimes the dumbest things result in the fondest memories: the time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm cranking out orders. Each happened more than 20 years ago, but my memories are still vivid. Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while you’re doing it, but the result will be a memory that will always make you smile.



Self-talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of, look in the mirror, smile, and nod at the person looking back. Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgment of achievement and, more important, fulfillment.

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What is the best way to redistribute income?

What is the best way to redistribute income?

What is the best way to redistribute income?

ECONOMISTS have two contradictory impulses when analysing policy. The first is to ignore its effects on the distribution of income or wealth, and argue that policymakers should shoot for efficiency and worry about redistribution later. This instinct often surfaces in discussion of policies like carbon taxes. These increase efficiency by raising the price of pollution, a harmful activity that, without intervention, comes too cheap for the polluter. But carbon taxes tend to hit poorer people, who spend a higher fraction of their income on fuel, the hardest. We should introduce the tax anyway, economists say, and re-distribute by other means.

This first impulse is loosely based on the “fundamental welfare theorems”, which say that whatever the initial distribution of wealth, trade will lead to an efficient outcome. The best way to redistribute is not to interfere with trade, but to divvy up “endowments”—peoples’ initial wealth. On this view, inequality can be dealt with in isolation, after figuring out how best to lubricate markets.

The second, opposing impulse, which is on display in many DC think-tanks, is to examine forensically the distributional consequences of every policy in isolation. This is becoming more common, partly because computing advances have made simulation models, which estimate how much a proposal will change the income of each social group, easier to run. As a result, few policy analyses omit to mention the “distributional benefits” or “distributional costs” of whatever is being proposed. In Britain, new policies come with an “equality impact assessment” which scrutinise their impact on specific groups.

A good example is student debt. Many young Americans feel it is an acutely stressful burden, which holds back their ability to save to, say, buy a house. Yet when politicians like Hillary Clinton propose measures to reduce student debt, economists are quick to point out that doing so would not, on the whole, help the poor. Graduates earn more than the population at large; those with the most student debt tend to be law-school graduates with lucrative careers ahead of them. Similarly, economists love to point out that higher minimum-wages do not benefit the poorest households most, because they relate to hourly pay rather than overall household income. Such polices are, economists say, “poorly targeted”.

Which impulse is preferable? The first seems wrong-headed, because it is not possible in reality to redistribute endowments. Inequality often results from trade over time—some people do well in the market, others less well—and, as a result, redistribution must be an ongoing project. When pressed on their preferred measure of redistribution, economists will often cite policies like the earned-income tax-credit, which tops-up the wages of poor workers. Yet this does not look at all like the efficient, lump-sum redistribution of economic models. Because it gets less generous as income rises, the EITC discourages low-income workers from earning more (marginal tax rates for low earners, accounting for benefit-withdrawal, can exceed 80%). The scheme is wasteful: the IRS estimates that 24% of EITC payments are improper. And other workers must pay taxes to fund EITC payments. Those higher tax rates distort the economy, too.

The second instinct, though, does not seem much better. Take student-debt again. When the British government raised tuition fees in 2010, it was so keen to make its reforms “progressive” that it introduced a complex system whereby higher-earners pay higher interest-rates. Yet it seems bizarre to redistribute within one group—graduates—rather than in society more broadly. There is no convincing reason for making high-earning graduates, as opposed to high-earners in general, subsidise education.

Furthermore, policy sometimes rightly helps higher-income folk. One example is childcare. At a conference on tax policy I attended last year, one participant pointed out that the child tax-credit, which provides money to parents with incomes up to about $95,000, does not have the “distributional advantages” of the EITC. But presumably there is value to society in helping more than just the poorest parents and children. Similarly, policies to subsidise child-care—often supported by the left—help all single-earner households become multiple-earner households, including those where the single-earner already has a high income. That is no bad thing if it helps achieve other goals, such as increasing female participation in the workforce.

The lesson is that policymaking must be holistic; proposals cannot be judged fully in isolation. Sometimes, regressive policies and universal benefits are welcome, even if an unequal income distribution is not. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect all corrective redistribution to happen through one idealised channel like the EITC, because concentrating redistributive firepower in one area can cause collateral damage to incentives. As usual, economists will do best if they cast their most unworldly assumptions—of whatever variety—aside.

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What is the best way to redistribute income?

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships

You can quickly ruin your workplace relationships by saying any of these things.

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

Over the years I’ve destroyed a few workplace relationships without even realizing it. There are a few words and phrases that we’re programmed to say on a day to day basis that prevent us from having strong relationships with our coworkers.

The average American spends 8.9 hours working per workday. Some of us entrepreneurs spend upwards of 12 hours. Because of that, it’s only natural that you would want to be as comfortable as possible at your workplace. And the best way to be comfortable at work is by building strong and healthy relationships with your colleagues.

Unfortunately, you can quickly ruin those workplace relationships by saying any the following 25 phrases.

1. “I know, right?”

First off, do you really know what you’re coworker is going through? There may be some circumstances that you can relate to them, but if you don’t, you’re coming off just a bit insincere. Obviously, if it’s a scratch on a monitor that everyone gets, this phrase would not be offensive nor insincere. However, if it is an experience of feeling your coworker is having, that is another issue. The other problem with this phrase is that you’re feeding into their complaints and not helping them resolve the problem at hand.

2. “Why?”

As Kira Asatryan says in Psychology Today, “‘Why’ is the language of accusation (“Why did you do that?”; “Why do you feel that way?”).” Instead use “why” or “what” to help them understand the root of the problem. Kira suggests that you try “why” out on yourself. Like, “why did I just sit down? Why am I eating this?” A person will immediately notice themselves feeling defensive. Try other words that indicate that you are willing to listen or that you want to understand what someone is thinking or feeling, such as, “What did I learn from this?” or “How would you do this project differently if given the chance?”

3. “In my experience…”

This phrase is basically letting your coworker that you know more than they do. A better approach may be to ask them a question like “Have you thought about…?” Or, “Could I help you with…?” If you are older in the workforce, it just makes you look — well, older.

4. “That’s a stupid idea.”

This phrase might fly with your friends, but not in the workplace – and actually not with your friends. No one should be told their idea is stupid — even if it is. And, if it is a stupid idea, there are better ways to indicate that you don’t see the value of this particular idea, however, someone else might. The use of the words, “stupid idea,” undermines the coworker or friends’ capabilities and can prevent them from assisting you in future projects since they’ll believe that you’ll immediately write their ideas off.

5. “It’s not fair.”

Dr. Travis Bradberry, the cofounder of TalentSmart, says; “Everyone knows that life isn’t fair. Saying that it’s not fair suggests that you think life is supposed to be fair, which makes you look immature and nave. If you don’t want to make yourself look bad, you need to stick to the facts, stay constructive, and leave your interpretation out of it.” This statement belongs on the “why” shelf. It also feels accusatorial.

6. “No.”

While learning to say “no” is important if you want to prevent getting stressed out, immediately telling a coworker “no” is a turnoff. Give them a chance to explain either their request or opinion first. Especially don’t break in and interrupt your coworker mid-sentence with “no” as they are explaining their idea or concern to you.

7. “Who are you voting for?”

Politics never belong in the workplace. It can divide people, paint you as a bully, make you sound opinionated or foolish, or even get you fired. Save the political talk for outside of the office. And, it may be advisable to have a non-committal answer to give when you are the one being asked.

8. “That’s not my problem.”

How gut wrenching does it feel when you come to someone with a problem and they respond with “It’s not my problem?” It’s a lousy feeling that leaves you also feeling unsupported and lonely. The person using this phrase is also saying, “Get lost!” That’s not saying that you have to get too involved with whatever’s going on with this coworker — most people just want to get something off their chest — they don’t need you to fix the problem. You may want to at least attempt to listen and if they ask for it, offer the best advice possible. If it’s truly a serious issue and you really don’t want to get involved, or can’t get involved, you can still be more empathetic and transparent and say that you’d rather not get involved.

9. “Don’t tell anyone…”

No one likes the office gossip. If it’s that big of a secret then keep it to yourself or if the information is eating a hole in you, go ahead and confide the “big secret” to someone outside of the workplace.

10. “Does that make sense?”

This may not be intentional, after all you want to make sure that your colleague understands, but this statement it really implies that you believe your coworker is not capable of understanding a concept. “Does that make sense” is also admitting that you may be incoherent in your ramblings.

11. “Just trust me.”

Don’t force your colleagues to trust you just because you said so. Let your actions prove they can trust you. Better not to try this phrase on your friends, either. I’ve even gotten the blank stare from my spouse for using this one.

12. “You need to…”

Asatryan says that phrases like this can “hinder closeness because they imply that your partner should change in some specific way, based on your opinions.” It also “creates a mandate that will drive a wedge between people.” Again, this is a phrase that puts a person on the defense.

13. “But…”

We often use “but” to offer a balanced point of view, as we may suppose. However, it really implies that you’re colleague isn’t right. Be aware most people only give their true opinion after the word, “but.” I really like her, but…

14. “Check your emails.”

Instead of demanding that your colleague read your email, which may be important to you but isn’t their top priority, send them a follow-up email, quick call, or visit and ask if they had the chance to read the email that you sent. If they ask for information from you, that was in your previous email — don’t merely refer them back to that email. Just answer the question anew.

15. “This is the way that it’s always been done.”

The perfect phrase that illustrates how much you’re reluctant to change. As opposed to resisting change, be receptive and embrace differences. It may actually make you more productive and efficient. Often, the way its always been done is out of date, and there’s a better way.

16. “Just calm down.”

Dianna Booher, author of ‘Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time,” says “This statement sounds parental. Worse, it implies that the person has lost control and has no right to be upset and that you’re judge and jury.”

17. “I’m so tired.”

Well, we’re all tired. What makes your exhaustion worse than your coworkers?

18. “I’ll try.”

Whenever you tell someone that you’ll “try” you’re implying that there’s is a possibility that you won’t come through. This forces them to handle the situation themselves – even if they could really have used your help. Consider that if someone is saying, “I’ll try,” to you personally — you are probably putting too much pressure on them, or asking something unreasonable, or giving them an unreasonable time frame.

19. “Yeah, no problem.”

A simple enough phrase that is often a brush-off, proving you are unreliable. Better to be clear with, “I’m happy to do that for you, or, if you can’t help them out, politely inform your colleague. But, don’t commit to something that you aren’t able to do. It could seriously impact their career.

20. “This will only take a minute.”

We’re all busy. If you know this is only going to take a minute, then do it yourself. And, if this is going to take up more time than literally ‘just a minute,’ then give your coworker a heads-up so that they can plan accordingly. “This will only take a minute” is usually code for, “this will take hours so I’m putting you down and shaming you into doing this task.” Really, don’t say this. How about, “I know this will take some work and time, but can I impose upon you to help me?”

21. “Now what?”

We all have those days when we’re overwhelmed. Guess what? Your colleagues are in the same boat. Don’t take your stress out them when they just asking you a quick question, or asking for your assistance. It’s even more imperative not to ask this question if you are in a management position.

22. “Let’s just get this over with.”

This is a dismissive phrase that gives the impression that whatever you’re coworker is coming to you with isn’t worth your time. More than dismissive, it’s berating.

23. “He/she is so lazy/incompetent/rude.”

Darlene Price, author of ‘Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results’ tells Forbes, “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able.” Speak well about everyone to everyone, and watch the measurable results.

24. “I wish I could go home, but I’m swamped.”

There’s plenty of times when we get bogged down with work. But, that isn’t always your coworkers problem that you either can’t manage your time more effectively, you do have too much work – or you just need to complain. If you get overwhelmed, you could always ask them for a lending hand instead of whining. If you hear this from a coworker, try asking if you can help.

25. Anything sexual

I once had colleague who frequently made inappropriate sexual remarks about a female team member. While this is obviously a fire-able offense, it was infuriating and disrespectful to me as well as my colleague – who was excellent at her job and awesome to work with. After hearing those remarks from this person, it was hard to work with him. What negative remark did he have about me? Needless to say, I wasn’t all that disappointed when I no longer had to work with this person.

Source –
25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships

10 states in America with the best infrastructure

Building roads to prosperity

Building roads to prosperity

If you’ve ever been late for an appointment because you got caught in a traffic jam, you know the importance of good infrastructure. Companies searching for America’s Top States for Business want a place where they can get their people — and their products — where they need to be, on time. That means not just good roads and bridges but airports, seaports and rail lines. Good infrastructure also means sound utilities.

We measure all of those things and more in our Infrastructure category, worth 350 out of 2,500 points. You can see our complete study and learn about our methodology here. Only a handful of states have the infrastructure to be Top States. These are the top 10.

10. Florida



The Sunshine State is not only a major population center in its own right; it is the gateway to Latin America, and it is well-equipped for the role. The Florida Seaports Council says the state’s 15 ports generate $96 billion a year in economic activity. Florida is also the second busiest state (after California) for air travel, with 5.8 million takeoffs and landings at Florida airports last year. Roads and bridges are in good shape.

2016 Infrastructure score: 211 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 16 percent
Average commute to work: 26.1 minutes
Major airports: Miami International; Orlando International
20-year water system needs: $16.5 billion

9. Missouri



Strategically positioned in the nation’s midsection, the home of Kansas City Southern is a major rail link. Some 457 million tons of freight made its way through Missouri in 2014, the fourth-largest total in the United States. And with two major inland ports, in Kansas City and St. Louis, and two international airports, Missouri is a vital part of the nation’s transportation network.

2016 Infrastructure score: 214 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 26 percent
Average commute to work: 23.1 minutes
Major airports: Lambert-St.Louis International; Kansas City International
20-year water system needs: $8.5 billion

8. Kansas



Kansas is literally in the heart of the country, so if you’re traveling coast to coast, chances are at some point you will be passing through here. More than 367 million tons of freight traveled on Kansas railways in 2014. Bridges are in relatively good shape, and commuting times are more than manageable.

2016 Infrastructure score: 216 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 16 percent
Average commute to work: 19.1 minutes
Major airport: Wichita Mid-Continent
20-year water system needs: $4.2 billion

7. Ohio



With ports on Lake Erie to the north, Ohio River to the south and miles of railways and highways in between, Ohio is a crucial transportation hub. The state exported more than $41 billion worth of goods in 2012, the most recent statistic available. The 241-mile Ohio Turnpike, completed in 1955, carries roughly 50 million vehicles per year.

2016 Infrastructure score: 218 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 23 percent
Average commute to work: 23.1 minutes
Major airport: Cleveland Hopkins International
20-year water system needs: $12.2 billion

6. North Dakota

North Dakota

North Dakota

While the shale-oil boom that supercharged North Dakota’s economy has cooled now, it allowed the state to begin redeveloping its infrastructure in a big way. Water utilities are in sound shape, and commuting times are lightning-fast. Roads and bridges are in better shape than most states.

2016 Infrastructure score: 219 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 21 percent
Average commute to work: 17.1 minutes
Major airport: Hector International (Fargo)
20-year water system needs: $449.7 million

5. Minnesota



The 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis killed 13 people and called attention to the nationwide infrastructure crisis. Minnesota took the incident to heart. Within a year the state replaced the structure with the state-of-the-art St. Anthony Falls Bridge, and today Minnesota has the lowest percentage of deficient bridges in the nation.

2016 Infrastructure score: 224 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 9 percent
Average commute to work: 23 minutes
Major airport: Minneapolis-St. Paul International
20-year water system needs: $7.4 billion

4. Georgia



It might not be readily apparent while you are fighting Atlanta traffic, but Georgia’s roads and bridges are among the best in the nation. And that’s just the start. The Port of Savannah boasts the largest single container terminal in North America. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest in the world. When it comes to infrastructure, this state means business.

2016 Infrastructure score: 231 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 16 percent
Average commute to work: 27.2 minutes
Major airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
20-year water system needs: $9.3billion

3. (Tie) Texas



When they say that everything is big in Texas, they might be referring to the fact that no state ships more commodities based on dollar value. Or that it is one of the busiest states for air traffic, with more than 4.5 million takeoffs and landings last year. Or that the state carried more than 400 million tons of freight by rail in 2014. Texas does have some big issues with its public utilities, and commuters often encounter some big traffic jams. But this state has clearly come to play.

2016 Infrastructure score: 239 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 19 percent
Average commute to work: 25.2 minutes
Major airports: Dallas-Fort Worth International; George Bush Intercontinental (Houston)
20-year water system needs: $33.9 billion

2. (Tie) Tennessee



In the home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, public investment in infrastructure is a heritage dating back to the Authority’s founding in 1933. Twenty years ago the Tennessee legislature decided to take on the state’s infrastructure needs head-on, empowering a state commission to identify infrastructure needs and develop plans to meet them. Today, Tennessee’s infrastructure performs well across all our metrics.

2016 Infrastructure score: 239 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 18 percent
Average commute to work: 24.4 minutes
Major airports: Memphis International; Nashville International
20-year water system needs: $2.7 billion

1. Indiana



Indiana calls itself the Crossroads of America, and the state lives up to the name with the best roads in the country. But the crossroads are not just highways. The state’s extensive rail network carried more than 300 million tons of freight in 2014. Indiana is home to three major ports. Burns Harbor, on Lake Michigan, is Indiana’s gateway to the world. The ports at Jeffersonville and Mount Vernon on the Ohio River transport coal, agricultural products and auto parts to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

2016 Infrastructure score: 241 out of 350 points
Deficient bridges: 21 percent
Average commute to work: 23.3 minutes
Major airport: Indianapolis International
20-year water system needs: $6.5 billion

10 states in America with the best infrastructure

How I Turned a $15 Article Into a 7-Figure Income

When over 30 million people read my article, I knew I had an opportunity to create something big.

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

In 2013, my article, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, was read by millions of people in just a couple of days. Then, Forbes reprinted my list and it became their most viral article of all time with another 10 million views.

My list was featured by major media outlets, like Business Insider, Huffington Post, Success, and Psychology Today. It was also referenced by radio personalities, like Rush Limbaugh, and mainstream news shows across the globe, like CNN in Indonesia.

At least 30 million people read my article and I knew that going viral on a global scale was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had to find a way to keep my audience engaged.

But I wasn’t even a ‘real’ writer. I was a psychotherapist and a college psychology instructor. I’d only started writing articles as a way to earn extra income after my husband passed away.

I was thrilled so many people around the world were interested in mental strength. But I also knew my article would fade from the limelight and regaining reader’s interest was going to be a major feat.

Here’s how I turned that viral article into a viable business:

1. I hustled.

To say I was unprepared for the viral superstorm is an understatement. I had a bare bones website and a scarce social media presence.

So while it was tempting to sit back and watch my article spread like wildfire (every time I refreshed the screen it was read 10,000 more times), there wasn’t any time to waste. My inbox was flooded with questions, comments, and interview requests and I had to hustle.

In addition to updating my web presence, I also had to get some professional headshots taken. Forbes requested a photo of me and I had to choose between a selfie and a wedding photo.

I opted for a cropped wedding photo which wasn’t the most professional looking picture in the world, but it did the trick until I was able to get some headshots taken with a photographer.

2. I started to build a platform.

Mental strength was something I talked about in my therapy office on a regular basis, but this was the first article I’d written on the subject. But clearly, people wanted to know more.

I wrote a guest post for Forbes about mental strength exercises and I started talking about mental strength on social media.

I contacted the influencers who were sharing my article. Reaching out to the Olympic athletes, political figures, and celebrities that were helping me spread the word on social media helped me grow my almost non-existent social media presence.

3. I turned my article into a book.

I never set out to write a book. But in the midst of the viral sensation, a literary agent called me and suggested I write a book.

I spent the next few weeks working almost nonstop to get my proposal together so my literary agent could submit my idea to publishers. Within about six weeks of writing the article, I had a book deal with one of the world’s largest publishers.

I devoted the next few months to turning my 600-word article into a full-length manuscript. For the first time, I shared my personal story behind why I wrote the article in the first place and I expanded upon the exercises that build mental strength. Within a year, my book, also called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, went on sale.

4. I started giving speeches.

As a social worker, I’ve given talks to small groups on issues like domestic violence or how to recognize the symptoms of ADHD in children. But I’d never been on a big stage in front of hundreds–or thousands–of people.

So I hired a speaking coach and got to work learning as much as I could about the speaking industry. I started landing speaking engagements well before my book hit the shelves.

I gave a TEDx talk and I continue to speak to corporations, athletes, and various conventions about how to build mental strength.

5. I created an online course.

I started receiving requests from individuals who were interested in hiring me for private coaching. But, there are only so many hours in the day. I knew I couldn’t scale my business by providing individual one-on-one services.

So I created the Mental Strength eCourse. When people ask for my services, I offer my online course as an affordable alternative to individual coaching. They can learn the same skills I’d teach them one on one, in an online interactive format.

6. I began consulting with businesses.

The same skills that I had been teaching people in my therapy office can easily be applied to organizations as a whole. So I started to provide training and consultation to businesses who are interested in helping their employees gain mental strength. My experience has ranged from helping government organizations improve their morale to assisting salespeople conquer their fear of rejection.

7. I give media interviews.

It’s easy to attract media attention in the midst of a viral firestorm. But it’s harder to attract their attention after the buzz dies down.

I worked hard to find relevant news angles that address mental strength. I participated in as many podcast, radio, and TV interviews as possible.

One opportunity often led to the next and I received a variety of interesting requests. Time asked me to create a quiz about mental strength, Red Bull invited me to appear in a forthcoming documentary, and Parade magazine asked me to write an article about resilience.

8. I’m writing another book.

In the year and half since my book hit the shelves, I’ve worked hard to market it. My goal was to sell enough copies that my publisher would agree to another book deal.

My viral article taught me that you need to listen to your audience. They’ll tell you what they want. And one of the biggest questions I kept getting from readers was, “How do we teach kids about mental strength?”

So I approached my agent, and then my publisher, earlier this year to ask what they thought about a parenting book on mental strength. They were on board with the idea and they gave me a second book deal. My next book will hit the shelves in 2017.

9. I turn down good opportunities.

At first, I wanted to say yes to every opportunity that came my way. But every time I said yes to one opportunity, I was saying no to something else.

So I had to become very intentional about which opportunities I accepted. Sometimes, I had to turn down lucrative assignments because they weren’t in line with my long-term goals.
You Never Know What Might Go Viral

I never imagined that the article that I was originally paid $15 for would turn into a 7-figure income. But, as we’ve seen with the Chewbacca Mom, you never know what might go viral.

I hope my story gives hope to other content creators who want to reach a massive audience. One viral article or video could change your life if you’re ready to capitalize on the opportunity.

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How I Turned a $15 Article Into a 7-Figure Income

11 Body Positions and Gestures That Can Improve Your Performance

Sure, you control your body. But your body can also control you. Simple gestures, simple postures — each can make a dramatic impact on how you think, feel, and act. Best of all you don’t have to be a yogi or athlete — you can just be you. Only now you will be a better you. — Jeff Haden

Be More Determined by Crossing Your Arms

Oddly enough, crossing your arms will make you stick with an “unsolvable” problem a lot longer — and will make you perform better on solvable problems. Which is definitely cool, because persistence is a trait most successful entrepreneurs possess in abundance. Whenever you feel stuck, try folding your arms against your torso. Who knows what solutions might result?

Gain Willpower by Tensing Your Muscles

You know how you instinctively stiffen before you get a shot? That’s your body’s way of trying to minimize pain. Flexing your muscles also helps you stay more focused when you hear negative information. Flexing can even increase your ability to resist eating tempting food. Sounds like I should spend my entire day flexing.

Be More Creative by Lying Down

According Australia National University professor Dr. Darren Lipnicki, lying down can lead to creative breakthroughs. “It might be that we have our most creative thoughts while flat on our back,” he says. One reason might be that more of the chemical noradrenaline is released while we’re standing, and noradrenaline could inhibit our ability to think creatively. Now you have a great excuse to lay back and think.

Gain Confidence by Standing Like Superman

According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips — will dramatically increase your level of confidence. Try this one before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.) I do it for a few minutes before every speaking gig. Trust me: it definitely works.

Smile to Reduce Stress

Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. Your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels. Stress begets more stress begets and in no time you’re a hot mess. Here’s the cure: make yourself smile. You’ll feel less stress even if nothing else about the situation changes. And there’s a bonus: when you smile other people feel less stress, too. Which, of course, will reduce your stress levels. Go ahead: kill two stresses with one smile.

Bow Slightly to Put Yourself at Ease

Inclining your head forward slightly when you meet someone shows deference and humility and helps remove any perceived differences in status. The next time you meet someone, tilt your head forward slightly, smile, make eye contact, and show you are honored by the introduction. We all like people who like us. If I show you I’m genuinely happy to meet you, you’ll instantly start to like me. And you’ll show that you like me, which will help calm my nerves and help me be myself.

Mimic Others to Understand Their Emotions

Sounds strange, but research shows that imitating other people’s nonverbal expressions can help you understand they emotions they are experiencing. Since we all express our emotions nonverbally, copying those expressions affects our own emotions due to an “afferent feedback mechanism.” In short: mimic my expressions and you’ll better understand how I feel – which means you can better help me work through those feelings. Plus mimicking facial expressions (something we often do without thinking) makes the other person feel the interaction was more positive.

Take an Angle to Reduce Conflict

When tensions are high standing face to face can feel confrontational. When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you’re confronted don’t back away. Just shift to that slight angle. You’ll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.

Take an Angle to Reduce Conflict

When tensions are high standing face to face can feel confrontational. When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you’re confronted don’t back away. Just shift to that slight angle. You’ll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.

Use Your Hands to Improve Retention

Research shows requiring children to speak while they learned had no effect on solidifying learning — but requiring them to gesture while learning helped them retain the knowledge they had gained. If it works for kids”¦ it will work for us, too. According to one researcher, “Gesturing can thus play a causal role in learning, perhaps by giving learners an alternative, embodied way of representing new ideas.” Sounds good to me.

Chew Gum to Feel More Alert and In a Better Mood

Okay, so chomping on a wad of gum may not look particularly professional. Still, a number of studies show chewing gum can make you more alert. And improve your reaction times. And improve selective and sustained attention. And improve your disposition. Here’s a thought: the next time you need to solve a difficult problem, lie down, cross your arms, and pop in a stick of gum. Maybe, just maybe, that is the winning combination you need to achieve your next breakthrough.

It’s National French Fry Day, So Here’s Seven Tasty Deals You Have to Try


Good news, fry lovers: Today is National French Fry Day, and regardless of whether you love to dip your fries in ketchup or prefer Ranch dressing, vinegar, mayonnaise, honey mustard, or cheese, here are seven places you have to try to get french fries, french fry coupons, and more:

Burger King: Get two Whopper meals for $10 until July 15 — that’s two Whoppers, two small drinks and two small fries.
The Fermentorium: This Oconomowoc, Wis. craft beer and burger restaurant is giving you a free order of fries with every beer purchase on July 13.
Frite Street: Chicago’s original fry dive is offering “Free Frites” on July 13.
Ground Round: Receive a complimentary basket of french fries per table on #NationalFrenchFryDay.
IHOP: Buy a burger at the International House of Pancakes and you’ll get free, unlimited seasoned fries until July 31.
McDonald’s: Get a free medium order of fries with the purchase of any large sandwich with the McDonald’s app until July 24.
New York Fries: All Fry Society loyalty program members get a small order of fries for free added into their accounts on July 13. But make sure to use it by July 22.

Experts have long disputed the origin of the French Fry, as their creation is claimed by both Belgium and France.

In France, fries supposedly first appeared at ‘Pont Neuf’, the oldest bridge in Paris, where they were sold on the street just before the French Revolution in 1789, the New York Daily News reported. Belgium claims that fries were invented in Namur, a city in the south of the country. However, the Paris origin theory has a long history and has been widely accepted and repeated, according to the Daily News.

If one fry-filled day isn’t enough, Fortune previously reported that a McDonald’s MCD 0.32% in St. Joseph, Mo. is serving all-you-can-eat fries, making it the first restaurant in the fast food chain giant to do so.

So whether you like your fries curly, steak cut, or shoe-string, take advantage of the places today that enjoy giving you deals on fries as much as you like eating them.

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It’s National French Fry Day, So Here’s Seven Tasty Deals You Have to Try

Innovation Is Revolutionizing the Future of Work

Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

Disruption. It’s likely the most popular word used to describe tech ventures. Not surprisingly, the more it’s used, the more meaning it loses. True disruption means flipping the status quo on its head. In the workplace, we see traditional businesses label their work as disruptive, but the majority of the time they’re actually doing the same old thing with a new spin.

However, some recent entries into the market have proven to be disruptive in the term’s truest sense. We’ve seen solutions for finding and managing space where the cost structure and ease of use is optimized to complement modern, dynamic businesses versus restricting them.

Take KISI, for example, whose team is reinventing building access and security by doing away with the concept of keys and fobs all together. Additionally, you have Managed By Q’s automated system that connects you to office management professionals and schedules their services — from cleaning to kitchen-stocking — at the click of a button. These are the disruptors who are wholly focused on giving the consumer exactly what they want, when they want it. It’s a mantra that’s forging the pathway for everything from monetizing couches, automating butler services, redefining office space leasing or opening private air travel to the masses. The world is being reimagined by a workforce that not only expects change, but is willing to create it.

Related: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Disruption

So what’s fueling this fire? The short answer is technology, and it gets better and better at driving a level of human productivity that some of us never thought possible. We’ve moved from an information society to a knowledge society where technology is enhancing our ability to learn, teach and apply our learnings to varying situations at a swifter and smarter pace. This shift is creating a new generation of workers who have developed a more diverse skill set and range of abilities and have created new forms of communication and work styles. In turn, this new workforce has different priorities regarding their work/life relationship and are unrestricted by things like time, money and space. We’re in the middle of a transformation. The future of the workplace is turning on its head.
A balance of freedom, trust and performance equals happiness.

Baby boomers and the traditional workforce are retiring. Generation Xers are skeptics, and millennials are hell bent on changing the world. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the workforce, and their path to success is very different from that of their predecessors. This quote from a male graduate employee cited in a recent PwC study is a perfect example of the millennial approach — “My career will be one of choice, not one chosen out of desperation. It will align who I am with what I do.”

In short, millennials want their work to be valued, purposeful, and most of all, impactful. Gen Xers still value many of the same things and don’t want to burn out the way the boomers did, making the work/life balance very important to both segments. Our businesses are responsible for supporting this direction — and in many cases, it’s these people who are starting companies and injecting the very same concepts into the foundations of the business.

Related: Did Millennials Kill the 9-to-5 Workday, or Just Point Out That It’s Dead?

The question is, how do you empower their drive so that together you can catapult a business into success? It starts in the workplace — physical or digital — where your company’s culture will either help inspire your employees to be greater or drive a wedge between you. And when I say the word culture, I mean far more than fancy office spaces, ramen lunches and weekly ping-pong tournaments.

Beyond entertainment, real company culture is about building valuable connections and ensuring every team member feels empowered to make meaningful contributions to a company’s growth. For millennials, that often entails an environment that allots a great deal of freedom and trust. I’ve found that by leveraging tools like Slack and Google Hangouts to connect with my remote team, I don’t miss the old way of keeping tabs on employees. In fact, by giving my employees a longer leash, I’ve actually built a stronger, more accountable team — a team that performs because they care about the fruits of their labor, not because they have a boss looking over their shoulder. On the business end, should you choose to employ this approach, you can look to performance and results to measure the effect, rather than time spent behind a desk. We favor Mixpanel, Yesware and Salesforce in particular, for monitoring performance.
Mobility redefines the definition of work space. And SaaS makes it flexible.

The result of this newfound freedom? The traditional workplace is dying as mobility takes hold. Stodgy offices where employees remained on lockdown between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm — and where status was determined by the size of your office and the number of windows — has given way to a new generation of workers who have no need to mark their territory with picture frames and postcards from the edge. Rather, a comfy seat, a well-equipped laptop and a place to connect are the only requirements to building the next big thing. Add to that the 80 percent increase in telecommuting jobs between 2005 and 2012, and you’ll see the trend has switched to collaborative workspaces and tools, flexible schedules and the ability to transcend borders. Face it. How we work and where we work has been completely upended by the new working economy.

Fueling the shift is the efficiency created by the combination of mobility and Saas. Software as a service (SaaS) innovations make things flexible by providing companies a way to cost effectively gain access to a host of services that scale alongside the business to fit the evolving needs of employees. Mobility allows those services to operate virtually anywhere. The two combined have allowed companies to free themselves from the traditional models that have long tied companies to costs and overhead that impact the profit margins — namely office space. Untethered to a traditional office location or a static lease agreement commercial real estate, SaaS services and marketplaces have expanded the workforce geographically by eliminating the need for multi-year commercial leases that were costly and fought against the dynamic nature with which modern businesses grow.

Related: How This SaaS-Based Startup Managed to Bag $250K

Today, hosting remote teams, opening new markets and expanding into international regions is easier than ever due to more flexible office space solutions. The commercial real estate industry (brokers, landlords, building managers) is starting to take notice, partnering with progressive, shared office space solutions who have a stronghold on the market. Gone are makeshift offices housed in garages and seedy basements. Establishing a multi-market presence was a feat that was once reserved for Fortune 500 conglomerates. Now it’s open to any size business.

Applying a SaaS model to office space has changed the game. Businesses can easily secure professional office space on a month-to-month basis in any major city across the globe. With global satellite offices supplemented by remote teams, they can attract top talent and leverage mobility solutions to stay connected and build on their company’s culture. The payoff is the company’s ability to deliver real value to their employees in dividends of money, time and independence.
In short, change is inevitable, and change is good. Freedom. Flexibility. Transformation. These are the new philosophies infiltrating today’s workplace. Rest assured it will be different tomorrow when a new breed of workers arrives. Accept it, embrace it and leverage it to empower the people who are committing to help you build great things.

Innovation Is Revolutionizing the Future of Work

Why the Freedom to Experiment and Fail Is Important for Innovators

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

Bold innovation is one of the many reasons for human growth and development. We have come this far because a few people dared to try. Dared to dream. And dared to try. Lives get changed, markets get disrupted and sometimes people get hurt when millions of people embrace something new. We thrive on change. The only way forward is change, but change it hard.

The only way to succeed is to try. You can’t make, create, do or start anything worthwhile if you are not willing to experiment. Nobody gets it right the first time, especially when it’s something groundbreaking, disruptive and life changing. According to Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.”
Failure open up other opportunities for success

If you don’t operate a nuclear plant, it’s safe to say that can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to fail. Failure avoidance will only lead to inaction. The hard truth though is that, acceptance of failure leads to a higher likelihood of failing but the world’s leading innovators embrace it anyway. Failure is every innovation’s inevitable companion. Learning what doesn’t work is a necessary step to learning what can stand the test of time.

Apple III was one of Apple’s worst products. It was a bold step but according to Steve Wozniak, it was a 100 percent failure rate. Every single machine that was sold had to be repaired. Apple fixed every single machine, and kept fixing the design until it worked.

Google had high hopes for Wave, one its failed products. Facebook and Twitter were too strong for it, so Google killed it. Google Wave lasted 15 months.

Microsoft’s Zune was supposed to be the answer to the iPod. But it never really caught on. That didn’t stop Microsoft from trying out new ideas.

Innovative companies learn from every failure and move on to continue the experiments. They don’t stop. They find what doesn’t work and keep pursuing other opportunities. You can’t avoid failure or you’ll never do anything innovative. And you can’t accept failure or you’ll lack grit.
Trial and error is one of the most effective approaches for innovation

There’s nothing wrong with dropping an experiment that doesn’t work out as you thought it would. But most innovators often spot a failure and try to fix it early and hold on to even the smallest chance of success. They work on projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Persistence pays off but it pays to recognise what won’t work and adjust as and when needed.

Elon Musk is arguably one of the most respected innovators of the 21st century. He solves real world global problems. PayPal solved sending and receiving payments online. SpaceX is changing space transport services as we know it.

Tesla focuses on electric cars and promises to bring about a transportation transformation. Solar City wants to harness the Sun’s energy to provide energy for millions of people. Elon has probably experimented hundreds if not thousands of times in his career. And he is still experimenting.

Innovators embrace failure like scientists.The only way to know if your idea will work is to put it out there in the real world and find out how it works. Test them, like a scientist. Start over if you get off on the wrong foot. In the course of any significant innovative idea, there will always be logical, rational and compelling reasons to quit but innovators don’t give up that easily.
Experimentation improves the process of solving problems

Experiments are the driving force behind creative innovations. Many times, companies that embrace failure often come up with a lot more new products and better ways to work. There is no innovation without the possibility of failure. Most technology giants make room for failure. Google has experimented and killed a lot more new products than most technology companies. And guess what, they still give employees the freedom to try new ideas. Gmail was an internal product made by a Google employee.

Encouraging employees to think outside of the box and giving them time, resources and freedom to explore new areas for innovative ideas often results in breakthrough products. Innovative companies that win face challenges like everyone else, but they have the will to persevere and adapt new ways to stay relevant in the ever-changing business world.

The only way to survive is to adapt and embrace innovation. Innovators don’t win every time, but more importantly, they don’t let their failures get in the way of their actions…which lets them live to innovate another day.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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Why the Freedom to Experiment and Fail Is Important for Innovators

How This Texas Company Just Reinvented the Big-Box Store

 The inviting, solar panel-bedecked entrance to TreeHouse's flagship Austin store. CREDIT: Courtesy Company

The inviting, solar panel-bedecked entrance to TreeHouse’s flagship Austin store.
CREDIT: Courtesy Company

“This building will be studied in architecture books. It’s a signpost of a hopeful future,” says Jason Ballard shortly before tossing a ceremonial shovelful of dirt in Dallas to break ground on the second store for his Austin-based home improvement company, TreeHouse. “This will be the most sustainable and healthy building in Dallas, and perhaps the U.S.”

Not exactly the words you expect to hear about a big box store being built on the site of a former Dave & Buster’s, next to a busy freeway. But TreeHouse is no ordinary retailer, and Ballard is not an ordinary CEO.

The Dallas store, designed by the celebrated architecture firm Lake Flato, will look nothing like a giant windowless box. The plans call for a striking sawtooth-shaped roof, giant clerestory windows, enormous rooftop solar arrays, and a deep front porch. As “the world’s first big box, net zero energy project,” according to Lake Flato project director Lewis McNeel, the store will also function differently from any of its competitors–with its power bills literally reduced to nothing, thanks to a combination of sustainable energy and smart conservation strategies.

Co-founder Ballard, you might recall from our story about him last year, opened his first store in Austin with the intent to build a sort of Whole Foods for the DIY set, minus the rep for higher prices. The store, which offers eco-friendly home solutions such as rainwater barrels, solar panels, and toxin-free paints, has raised about $17 million from investors led by Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone (who is also TreeHouse’s chairman) and captured the attention of some of the leading companies in the smart-home market. It was the first store anywhere to carry Tesla’s Powerwall home battery, and reportedly sells more Nest devices than any other single store.
Jason Ballard, TreeHouse’s co-founder and CEO.
CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Whereas the typical home-improvement store is basically a giant shoppable warehouse, TreeHouse is more like an Apple store–an airy showroom with expert advisers on hand to help with project planning. When the original store opened almost five years ago, the company had no choice but to put it in a typical retail box in a large strip mall–albeit a nice one. That’s worked well enough for the company to bring in about $10 million last year, and increase sales 40 percent this year. But Ballard knows all too well that his company’s own physical presence hasn’t had many of the environmentally-friendly features–nor the beautiful design–that he encourages for homeowners.

“One of the things about sustainable design is that it requires higher upfront investment and pays off over time with lower operating cost,” he says. “We try all day long to convince people that’s what they should do. And obviously, if we’re not doing it ourselves, we’re sending a message that it isn’t worth it.” The Dallas store is his chance to walk the walk. “This new building says to people, ‘Hey, the financials make enough sense that even a business that has to be profitable can do this, even at a young startup phase where we don’t have the flexibility and power of our competitors.'”

“The scale of this project pushed us way beyond what’s been done before,” says McNeel. “Big box retail is typically an extremely heavy energy user–a lot more than a home or other commercial buildings. The idea was, let’s start with net zero energy and reverse engineer how to get there.” As it turned out, one crucial design decision created a cascade of other opportunities, and the resulting design could establish a new template for many other businesses.

The Power of Triangles

A few days before the groundbreaking, Ballard shows me plans for the new building in his windowless, shared office behind the Austin store. “The twin strategies behind sustainable building are, first, to conserve as much energy as possible, and then to use renewable energy for whatever power needs you have left,” he explains. The biggest energy hogs in a typical store are lighting and air conditioning, so the team set out to create something both bright and cool.

The key turned out to be that sawtooth roof line–a series of right triangles whose slopes face toward the front of the building with verticals toward the back. The verticals are giant clerestory windows that flood the interior space with natural light but, because they face north, no direct sunlight, which would bring in heat. The slopes of the triangles, set at the optimal angle for solar panels, face south, where they can collect the maximum amount of energy from the sun.

Finally, the slope of the first sawtooth extends out far beyond the storefront, creating a large, shaded front porch, which provides even more room for solar panels and allows for south-facing front windows that don’t get direct sunlight. “So one design decision has three powerful impacts,” Ballard says. It lights the space, reduces solar heat gain, and maximizes solar energy production. (Its fourth benefit–that it simply looks cool–was almost an afterthought, but it’s probably what shoppers will most remember when they see it.)

During the day, Ballard says, the 25,000-square-foot building will be lit almost entirely by natural light (save for some spotlights around product displays). A Tesla battery will power the building in the evenings, using stored solar energy from the daytime. Further reducing cost, the interiors of the roof triangles create space for a mezzanine level, which means extra square footage for offices and meeting rooms without increasing the building’s footprint.

Sawtooth roofs are nothing new, of course–they were common on factory buildings more than 100 years ago–but oddly enough, McNeel says, they haven’t been used for this kind of large-scale sustainability trifecta until now.

Ballard estimates it will cost about 25 percent more to build the Dallas TreeHouse than it would to create a more traditional retail box. “At first, the developer [Dallas-based Cypress Equities] balked when we told them our plans. ‘Lake Flato? Net zero energy? That roof?’ But I said I’d pay for it as long as they let me realize the savings on my electric bill.” He expects the savings to pay for the extra building cost in as little as seven years.

The Store That VR Built

TreeHouse’s new store won’t open until next April, but Ballard says he’s already benefiting from one energy- and cost-saving innovation that arose from the design process. After he finished his second round of funding last summer, one of the first things he did was hire a team of designers and technologists–as opposed to, say, a CFO. And one of their first projects was to create a virtual-reality model of the new store, using a system they hacked together by combining the video game development platform Unity, the design program SketchUp, and an Oculus Rift headset.

That setup, which came together after they’d signed the Dallas lease and Lake Flato had begun its work, allowed them to walk through the new store to try different configurations and spot problems. An elaborate staircase to the mezzanine in the original design that was meant to evoke a tree trunk, for instance, turned out to be a hulking eyesore in VR, so they scrapped it for something simpler–and saved about $50,000 in the process.

An architect's rendering of the under-construction Dallas outpost for TreeHouse. Note the rippling, sawtooth-styled roof motif that will help slash the store's energy bills. CREDIT: Courtesy Company

An architect’s rendering of the under-construction Dallas outpost for TreeHouse. Note the rippling, sawtooth-styled roof motif that will help slash the store’s energy bills.
CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Moving forward, as the company plans its third store (also in Texas, Ballard says, though he declines to specify where), he plans to use VR at every step–even in the site selection process. “If you’re looking at real estate, before even considering the lease, you can get the rough measurements, throw the store together in VR, and realize, ‘Hey, it’s just not going to work here, because some element is going to be jarring.’ VR is going to end up driving our real estate decisions.”

He says he’s already planning to create a full-time VR job for someone in the company. “I want to have a live model of all of our stores. If we have 50 stores, I want all 50 modeled, so as CEO I can drop in anywhere, try a few iterations of a display, and avoid costly trial-and-error changes. That will mean a lot less airplane travel, fewer fossil fuels burned, zero trees being cut down to produce displays that last six months because they were wrong. It’s fast, cheap, and spot on for our mission of reducing our footprint.”

In yet another trickle down effect, Ballard says virtual reality is going to become a core part of TreeHouse’s project planning and consultation process with customers. “If we can figure out how to help design our customers’ kitchens in VR, we will do it at every store, for free.”

His real purpose, after all, is not to change how stores get built but how homes do. He’s just questioning every assumption along the way.

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How This Texas Company Just Reinvented the Big-Box Store