5 Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting a Flu Shot

It’s late autumn, the traditional start of the cold and flu season, when you see signs promoting flu shots adorning doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, even big box retailers. As a result, millions of Americans will dutifully roll up their sleeves and trust that this year’s vaccine will keep them healthy throughout the cold winter months.

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But is this ubiquitous vaccine all it’s cracked up to be in terms of protecting you from the flu? Furthermore, is receiving an injection like this year after year the wise thing to do for your long term health? While I don’t claim to be an expert in chemistry, medicine, or biology, I can report that I have never received a flu shot and cannot recall ever contracting the flu. And as a student of health and fitness, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of credible reasons to consider other alternatives to optimizing your health than subjecting yourself to repeated injections of toxic chemicals and virus strains grown on living tissue. Here are five:

1. There is little evidence that flu shots actually work. The flu shot is only able to protect against certain strains of the flu, so if you come into contact with a strain—and there are many–that you are not protected from, then you will still get the flu. According to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) own website, for example, the 2014-15 flu vaccine was only 19% effective, which means that over 80% of people who received a flu vaccine that year were unprotected from the flu. Worse, according to the data reported by the CDC, since they first recommended that children under 5 receive the flu vaccine just before the 2003-2004 flu season, there has been an average increase of 67% of flu-associated deaths in children. Plus, a 2008 study published in the Lancet found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Unfortunately, the data suggests that getting the flu vaccine gives people a false sense of protection from contracting the flu.

2. The flu vaccine, as well as all other vaccines, contain mercury, a harmful heavy metal that can seriously compromise your health. Vaccines contain a preservative called Thimerosal, which contains mercury. The amount of mercury in a multi-dose flu shot is 250 times higher than what is legally classified as hazardous waste. Even so-called, “Thimerosal-free” vaccines contain enough trace amounts of mercury to be considered toxic by the EPA. Side-effects of mercury toxicity include depression, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, digestive disorder, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, thyroid and other glandular imbalances, and low immune system.

3. The flu vaccines contain many other toxic or hazardous ingredients, including:

    • Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Triton x-100 – a detergent.
    • Phenol (carbolic acid) – also found in weed killer.
    • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
    • Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant.
    • Formaldehyde – classified as a carcinogen.

4. There is a vast difference between ingesting chemicals through eating or drinking verses injecting them into your bloodstream. Even if it were possible to substantiate claims that trace amounts of mercury (found in some species of fish, for example) and other harmful chemicals are too small to cause any problems, remember that, when we swallow something toxic, our digestive processes act as natural filters that greatly reduce the potency. But when you receive a flu shot, toxins are injected into the muscle and pushed directly into the bloodstream which is far stronger and more harmful. This is something the vaccine manufacturers never bother to point out.

5. There are plenty of safe and effective alternatives to protect us from the flu. With so many potential side effects while only protecting against a small number of strains, the good news is there are some natural remedies you can try that are proven to strengthen your immune system without risk of long term health problems. These include:

    • Getting plenty of vitamin D during the winter months.
    • High dose vitamin C (I take 3,000 – 5,000 mg per day…and I haven’t had a cold in nearly 3 years.)
    • Fish oil, one of nature’s most powerful tools to fight colds and flu.
    • Exercise, which produces natural immune-boosting chemicals throughout your body.
    • Eating plenty of “power-foods” like garlic, berries, and cruciferous vegetables.
    • Eliminate sugar. Few things suppress your immune system like sugary drinks and foods.
    • Reduce stress. The only thing worse than sugar to your immune system is subjecting yourself to frequent anger and stress.
    • Sleep. The more research published on sleep, the more clear the connection between sufficient sleep and a healthy immune system.

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I know this is, for some, a controversial topic and I don’t claim to be a public health expert. Neither am I in any way suggesting that no one should ever receive a flu shot. But I am convinced that, for most people, trusting in a vaccine to keep you healthy is a bit of a fallacy. Not only are the real consequences—both short and long term—there are also plenty of good alternatives to injecting toxic chemicals into your bloodstream with, at the very best, a 50/50 chance they will even work.

So before you roll up your sleeve and get that painful needle, think it over. Better yet, read some of the credible evidence from mainstream medical experts who question the viability of annual vaccine injections. Then, whether you decide to get the shot or not, at least you’re making an informed choice that takes both sides of this issue into consideration.

What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine? Have you ever considered that there may be harmful consequences from getting a flu shot? Or do you think it has helped you stave off sickness during the winter months? I’d love to get your comments.

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5 Key Practices of Great Hospitalians

Having spent countless hours researching, training, and championing customer service in our 300+ employee company for the past decade, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the vast difference between service and hospitality.

Most people view them as interchangeable. They’re not. There’s a big difference  between the two and knowing the difference can give you a huge advantage in building both your business and your personal brand.

Service is what you do for somebody.

Service at a restaurant or hotel is hot food on warm plates, valet parking, or 24-hour on-call concierge. In my business, it’s fixing your car right the first time, having it ready when we said it would be ready, or offering free pickup and delivery within the city limits. Excellent service is important, but it’s not enough.

Hospitality is how you make people feel.

Hospitality goes well beyond service. It is impacting the way a customer experiences the interaction, delivering the emotional connection you make with your customers. Renowned restauranteur Danny Meyer describes it like this:

“If a waiter puts a spoon on the left side of the table I’m sitting at, this is service. But if a waiter remembers that I didn’t like the big spoon with my soup last time I was at their restaurant, that’s hospitality. Service is a monologue. Hospitality is a dialogue.”

In my business, it’s the service advisor who, while checking in her customer’s vehicle, notices a bumper sticker or something else in the car that indicates the customer has children in dance, or is a military veteran or a fly fisherman, etc. Or the salesperson who remembers the dream vacation his customers were planning the month after they picked up their car—and then calls to see how their trip went.

Great customer service doesn’t always feel good. But great hospitality AND customer service always feels good.

In the digital age, as more and more customer service becomes commoditized, hospitality is a powerful strategy to differentiate your business from the competition. It’s also the most effective way to build your personal brand. High hospitality people practice the following habits with passionate consistency:
1. They are curious, always asking probing questions and demonstrating genuine interest in others.
2. They are high in emotional intelligence, starting with self -awareness.
3. They consistently display optimism and kindness.
4. They demonstrate a high level of empathy.
5. They have a growth mindset, always willing to put themselves out there to learn new skills and make new connections.

Perhaps the best attribute of hospitality is that it can be employed by any business or individual, anywhere. Although it may seem simple, it’s not easy. Authentic hospitality requires the consistent practice of presence; of looking out verses looking inward, taking the focus off yourself. Danny Meyer could not have said it better:

“You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s a great time to start thinking about how being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself; thinking of yourself less and putting others first, even family members who may get on our last nerve during holiday gatherings!

How can you put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian”? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People

Dr. Travis Bradberry is one of the nation’s leading experts in emotional intelligence. For the past six years, we have utilized his best selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, in leadership development training throughout our company. This week, I’m sharing one of his inspiring newsletter articles, 13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People.


Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that being likeable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, being likeable is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ).

In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding (another person).

These adjectives, and others like them, describe people who are skilled in the social side of emotional intelligence. TalentSmart research data from more than a million people shows that people who possess these skills aren’t just highly likeable, they outperform those who don’t by a large margin.

We did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so likeable. Here are 13 of the best:

1. They Ask Questions

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to listening is they’re so focused on what they’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what’s being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

A simple way to avoid this is to ask a lot of questions. People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening, you also care about what they’re saying. You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.

2. They Put Away Their Phones

Nothing will turn someone off to you like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all of your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.

3. They Are Genuine

Being genuine and honest is essential to being likeable. No one likes a fake. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel.

Likeable people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting person than if you attempt to win people over by making choices that you think will make them like you.

4. They Don’t Pass Judgment

If you want to be likeable you must be open-minded. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen.

Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace where approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you believe what they believe or condone their behavior, it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are.

5. They Don’t Seek Attention

People are averse to those who are desperate for attention. You don’t need to develop a big, extroverted personality to be likeable. Simply being friendly and considerate is all you need to win people over. When you speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, you will notice that people are much more attentive and persuadable than if you try to show them you’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what—or how many people—you know.

When you’re being given attention, such as when you’re being recognized for an accomplishment, shift the focus to all the people who worked hard to help you get there. This may sound cliché, but if it’s genuine, the fact that you pay attention to others and appreciate their help will show that you’re appreciative and humble—two adjectives that are closely tied to likeability.

6. They Are Consistent

Few things make you more unlikeable than when you’re all over the place. When people approach you, they like to know whom they’re dealing with and what sort of response they can expect. To be consistent you must be reliable, and you must ensure that even when your mood goes up and down it doesn’t affect how you treat other people.

7. They Use Positive Body Language

Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation.

It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.

8. They Leave a Strong First Impression

Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Strong posture, a firm handshake, smiling, and opening your shoulders to the person you are talking to will help ensure that your first impression is a good one.

9. They Greet People by Name

Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. Likeable people make certain they use others’ names every time they see them. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet him. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation.

If you’re great with faces but have trouble with names, have some fun with it and make remembering people’s names a brain exercise. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask her name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep her name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see her.

10. They Smile

People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good as a result.

11. They Know When To Open Up

Be careful to avoid sharing personal problems and confessions too quickly, as this will get you labeled a complainer. Likeable people let the other person guide when it’s the right time for them to open up.

12. They Know Who To Touch (and They Touch Them)

When you touch someone during a conversation, you release oxytocin in their brain, a neurotransmitter that makes their brain associate you with trust and a slew of other positive feelings. A simple touch on the shoulder, a hug, or a friendly handshake is all it takes to release oxytocin. Of course, you have to touch the right person in the right way to release oxytocin, as unwanted or inappropriate touching has the opposite effect. Just remember, relationships are built not just from words, but also from general feelings about each other. Touching someone appropriately is a great way to show you care.

13. They Balance Passion and Fun

People gravitate toward those who are passionate. That said, it’s easy for passionate people to come across as too serious or uninterested because they tend to get absorbed in their work. Likeable people balance their passion with the ability to have fun. At work they are serious, yet friendly. They still get things done because they are socially effective in short amounts of time and they capitalize on valuable social moments. They minimize small talk and gossip and instead focus on having meaningful interactions with their coworkers. They remember what you said to them yesterday or last week, which shows that you’re just as important to them as their work.

Bringing It All Together

Likeable people are invaluable and unique. They network with ease, promote harmony in the workplace, bring out the best in everyone around them, and generally seem to have the most fun. Add these skills to your repertoire and watch your likeability soar!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

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Optimism Rules: Why We Should Embrace Good News… Despite the Headlines

Is the world really going, as my grandfather used to say, “to hell in a hand basket?”

Reflecting on the headlines in recent weeks, you might be tempted to think so. Two devastating hurricanes displacing millions, a destructive earthquake in Mexico plus racial violence, global terrorism, renewed threats of nuclear confrontation… the list goes on.

Not so fast…

Before you conclude that things are worse than they’ve ever been and our children and grandchildren are consigned to a far more difficult life than we’ve known, let’s look at the facts. According to research, the most salient indicators of human flourishing–food, sanitation, poverty, violence, literacy, freedom, and the conditions of childhood–have all vastly improved in the last generation. Some examples:

1. Contrary to the belief among most Americans that worldwide poverty is getting worse, the number of people living in “extreme poverty” (less than $2 a day, according to the United Nations), is decreasing by over 100,000 people every day. Similarly every 24-hours, more than 300,000 people throughout the globe gain access to electricity–unprecedented in human history.

2. Worldwide child mortality, a long-established barometer of living standard, has fallen by over 55% in less than one generation. Again, this is unprecedented in human history.

3. According to national statistics, violent crime rates in the United States are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years.

4. At the turn of the century, the average life expectancy was just 31 years (due in large part to rampant child mortality). Today, it’s well over twice that–71 years.

In addition, consider that the most superfluous comforts we experience today were, as late as the dawn of the 20th century, unimaginable luxuries. And only a few hundred years ago, a family of six children in a western country like Germany considered themselves incredibly fortunate if four of them survived to see their eighth birthday. (As a parent of three and uncle of twelve, I couldn’t imagine how painful this would be.)

These and other facts compelled NY Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof to call 2016 “the best year in the history of humanity.” 2017 may well be even more promising.

As I write this, understand that I am an eternal optimist, primarily because my life experience has been such that I’ve never had a compelling reason to view life as anything but positive. I completely understand that others have not been so fortunate, and I empathize with people who have endured unexpected tragedy and hardship.

But the fact is, negativity has been ingrained in our culture for a long time. Performance coach Ben Bergeron, in his NY Times Best Selling book, Chasing Excellence, notes:

“Almost two-thirds of English words convey the negative side of things. Positivity, therefore, must be a learned behavior.”

With so many positive trends in the world taking place in our lifetimes, why does optimism seem so counter-cultural?

The most obvious reason is the media, whose ratings-driven agenda sensationalizes the negative. Apparently, good news doesn’t sell–at least that’s what can be concluded from the current headlines. If it’s true that, as a cynical journalist once quipped, “no one wants to hear about a plane taking off… only when it crashes,” then the media plays a significant part in skewing public perception toward a negative, even nihilistic, view of the world.

But to me, the more troublesome and convicting reason is the responsibility that we play in our own dim view of things. Writing in the Breakpoint commentary, best selling author and radio host Eric Metaxis notes:

“Quite simply, we often enjoy being angry about the state of the world, especially when it allows us to blame someone else. We are addicted to news-induced anger.”

Author Brené Brown coined the term “common enemy intimacy” to describe how our mutual anger and frustration–usually at some person, political party, or institution–becomes a replacement for openness, curiosity, and optimism. How true.

I don’t mean to understate some of the difficult problems facing the world today. There are plenty of vexing cultural, technological, moral, and environmental concerns. But there’s also plenty of reason to be positive–there is no better time in all of human history to be alive, and the future looks bright as well. (And for Christians like me, we have all the more reason to be optimistic in light of God’s promise to redeem and restore all things. In fact, the New Testament actually mandates that Believers focus on the positive–see Philippians 4:8)

Yet, as Metaxis concludes:

“That’s why it’s so important—while acknowledging the desperate evil and suffering around us—to appreciate the good news, the progress, and the things we have to celebrate. After all, how can we truly comprehend what’s wrong with the world if we don’t recognize when something is going right?”

What do you think about the state of the world? Do you think things are getting better or worse… and how does your attitude towards the future shape your hopes, dreams, and plans?

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