Inspiring Ideas from Bottom Line’s Experts

Each year, we ask a diverse group of our experts to reflect back on the past year and name something they tried that went so well for them that they would recommend it to others. Here are their inspiring responses…

DAN BUETTNER: I banned red meat, sweets and “white foods” from my home but not my diet. I don’t believe in draconian diets that completely deprive us of the foods we enjoy. So rather than force myself to give up red meat, sweets and unhealthful “white foods,” such as white flour, white bread, white pasta and white rice, I simply set a rule that I would never have these things in my home.

I don’t feel completely deprived of these foods because I still let myself eat them when I’m at a restaurant or eating dinner at a friend’s house—and not feeling deprived reduces the temptation to cheat. Imposing this single rule allowed me to lose 15 pounds in less than nine months and keep the weight off—without ever feeling as if I was on a diet.

MICHAEL V. PANTALON, PhD: I stopped trying to be an expert on everything and instead hired experts to assist in my areas of weakness. I had always thought that I needed to be good at every aspect of my business. Then I realized that all those hours I spent futilely trying to figure out parts of my business that I’m bad at were hours that could have been better spent focusing on my areas of strength. I decided to hire coaches and consultants to help me.

In my case, that meant hiring a media coach and a blogging coach to improve the way I present myself in the media and on the Internet, things that I had been unable to master on my own. Both coaches agreed that I needed to make bolder claims. Bold claims don’t come easily to me—the academic in me always is inclined to speak with caution—but my coaches understood that cautious words tend to be ignored or treated as having little value in the media and online.

SANDOR NAGYSZALANCZY: I learned Google SketchUp. This program lets you create 3-D models on your computer. I use it to create precise images of furniture that I intend to build, but it can be used to design anything from a new kitchen layout to a landscaping plan. I helped a buddy lay out a fairly complex playhouse for his children in just an hour.

It’s useful even if you are not a do-it-yourselfer—you can create drawings to convey your design ideas to architects, contractors or landscapers.

And the program is free (a pay version is available, but the free version has everything most people need). Go to http://SketchUp.google.com.

STUART DIAMOND: I used business negotiation strategies at home. I tried some out on my family, and I found that they made the whole family happier. Traditionally, when two family members have different priorities, one simply surrenders what he/she wants for the sake of the other. Trouble is, people eventually retaliate when they feel forced to do things that they don’t want to. So rather than be outwardly self-sacrificing but secretly resentful, I tried to arrange trades that let both family members get something they wanted.

For example, my wife likes me to garden with her, but I don’t like it very much—so I traded her gardening in exchange for three uninterrupted hours in front of the TV whenever a professional football game is on.

LEIL LOWNDES: I researched differences between men’s and women’s brains—and became more patient with my husband as a result. In 2011, I dug into the latest neurological research for a book that I’m writing and came away with a clearer understanding of why men and women often have trouble seeing eye to eye—the chemistry and construction of our brains are significantly different.

I now understand why my husband gets annoyed when I bring up old issues during new conversations—his brain doesn’t make connections between separate events as readily as mine, nor does his brain recall past events as well. And I now understand why my husband angers more easily than I do—higher levels of testosterone make men more prone to anger.

Until my book comes out, I recommend reading The Owner’s Manual for the Brain by Pierce J. Howard, PhD (Bard), or The Female Brain and The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD (Three Rivers).

DANNY LIPFORD: I used Liquid Stainless Steel to breathe new life into an ugly old refrigerator. I tried out a product called Thomas’ Liquid Stainless Steel during my TV show in 2011. It did a wonderful job turning a rusty refrigerator into a “stainless steel” fridge that I put to use in my little river cabin.

The coating looks just like brushed stainless steel because it actually is stainless steel—microscopic particles of real stainless steel are suspended in a clear resin. In addition to appliances, it can be used on most metals, tile and glass or on painted or primed plastic, wood or drywall.

Prices start at $3.95 for an 11-ounce spray can that is perfect for small projects. Refrigerator kits cost $69.95.

JOEL HARPER: I learned to pause before accepting opportunities. In the past, I tended to say “yes” to every offer and request that came my way. As a result, I often was overbooked, rarely had a peaceful day and sometimes had to turn down things I really wanted to do because I already had filled my schedule.

In 2011, I forced myself to take some time before responding to requests and invitations to consider how well the opportunities meshed with what I truly wanted to achieve. For example, I turned down an invitation for a getaway that I wasn’t 100% certain about even though I had nothing else on my schedule—which made it possible to later accept a last-minute invitation to work with a company that I had always hoped to work with.

DANIEL COLMAN, PhD: I learned to play the guitar. I’ve never really had a gift for music, but when my wife decided to learn to play the guitar in 2011, I thought it might be good for me to try, too.

I started with instructional books and videos—there are guitar instructional videos available for free on YouTube—but eventually, I hit a plateau and started taking lessons, too. I’ve made slow progress and now can fingerpick Beatles tunes. It’s pretty rewarding when I finally figure songs out.

This has been a good reminder for me that age should never be a barrier to personal growth. I’m well into middle age, but I always can learn to do new things.