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An American financial giant gets real about student loan debt

(BUSINESS NEWS) There’s no doubt that student loan debt is one of the biggest obstacles the millennial generation faces, but now companies are stepping up to help out.

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Millennial force to be reckoned with

If there’s one thing about Millennial culture taking over the workforce, it’s that personal evolution is wrapped in every aspect of the business model. Because the generation promotes social accountability, progressive employers are stepping up and doing their part.

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They have to. Otherwise, they’ll be left hat in hand, wondering why the best talent is passing them by. And in 2017, with new business ventures popping up at an astounding rate, having the best people is imperative if you want to compete.

Caring culture

Caring about your team has become a priority in the culture of the working world. It’s nice to see companies embrace the idea of a holistic work environment and move away from 17-hour workdays that offer a blurred vision of what benefits could be. Instead, we are seeing progressive employers go above and beyond, and it’s awesome.

One of the more impressive stories popping up in the category of “next level company” has gotta be New York Life.

Despite their status as the biggest insurance provider in America, New York Life is paying it forward with taking employee care to the next level.

They’re going above and beyond the simple notion of “office perk” and offering something incredible: student loan repayment.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Working with Austin’s Student Loan Genius, New York Life has launched a program offering up to $10,200 over five years for eligible employees. They will also provide loan advice and planning tools, pay down plans and contributions toward the life of the debt. This will also count for the children of current employees, too.

Talk about investing back into your people.

This is not a move by New York Life to plan for a “theoretical” future of uncertainty, but instead, they’re working to solve the problems of this moment – the right now. Acknowledging that “right now” is the X-factor in today’s marketplace is a brilliant move because without doing so, companies aren’t addressing the elephant in the room: most of their people owe money to Uncle Sam or Sallie Mae. It’s an inescapable fact of the workplace environment that most of the folks sitting at one of the “good jobs” are likely drowning in loan debt.

Chain reaction

Considering that Bernie Sanders ran an entire campaign on college being too expensive, which one of the main pillars was the insanity of student debt, this move by New York Life works to practically combat the problem and the others it causes.

That $150 per month back into their employees’ pockets covers half the monthly health care cost for the average American.

It’s also enough to buy a $27,000 nicer home, or finance a car.

Taking this whole thing up to an even spicer degree is that New York Life is offering their benefits from the moment new employees sign on the dotted line. No waiting period or anything, because any new employee will tell you, that whole 90-day trial thing is the definition of the suck.

On brand

The student loan repayment move works well with New York Life’s commitment to personal growth and a deeper level of education. One of the cornerstones of the company has been their proactive response to college, taking extracurricular classes, and moving up the corporate ladder.

New York Life has maintained an education assistance program for a long time now, so with the both now balancing out the personal growth category, it’s a bold move to acquire and retain the top talent they are looking for.

Taking care of the people

These moves alongside companies like Atlassian, who offer 100% covered health care for employees and their families, set themselves apart from the pack. Apple has nap rooms, and Facebook has chef-catered, healthy food, Slack gives employees $150 a month for personal wellness, and Lyft gives it’s team free rides anywhere.

These perks are just some of the newest ways businesses are telling their teams they care about their lives and want them to thrive.

Another one of the big perks is centered in the idea of work/life balance is allowing for mothers to take eight weeks off with their new babies, while fathers get six to meet their new kids, too. More and more top-tier companies realize people coming back to work immediately after the birth of a child aren’t focused and fulfilled, and instead, more likely to look for a company with a more progressive family focus.

These are the kinds of perks millennials are after, the one’s that matter.

By adopting a perk like student loan repayment, it puts New York Life in the bigger conversation of companies doing more.

Treating people like people

One of the biggest trends to emerge in the last few years is the idea that treating your employees just as special as customers is critical. New hires want to see core values and how a company executes on them. By working with Student Loan Genius and offsetting some of the costs an employee has in their back pocket, New York Life is going to make waves in the insurance space. A lot of folks will check out their careers page if only to get a glimpse of possibility.

Higher site traffic, higher retention rates, and happier employees. Not a bad tradeoff for helping pay for someone’s undergrad Russian art history class back in 2004. New York Life for the win.

#NewYorkStudentLifeLoanGenius

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

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Business News

What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?

(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.

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DMT

Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.

This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”

The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).

Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.

Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.

Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.

DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.

So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?

Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).

Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.

Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.

It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.

For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.

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Business News

The race is on to develop the moon – a new private industry is born

(BUSINESS NEWS) Opportunity abounds as our world expands to the moon and to other planets, and the private sector is the fuel behind the expansion.

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1979 was the last time a human being (let alone an American) set foot on the moon. During the Cold War, the space race to our nearest celestial body drove scientific research and government funding to put the Apollo 11 crew on a rock some two hundred and forty thousand miles away from our humble Earth’s surface.

Ten years later, NASA stopped sending missions, and worldwide interest in lunar explorations fizzled out… until now. Now there are new players involved.

NASA has announced its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to contract nine American companies to develop reusable rockets, robotic landers, and rovers for lunar missions in the 2020s.

The purpose of these explorations is to mine the moon for precious resources and water, to conduct long-term lunar science, and to eventually set up a permanent base.

Here are the partners: Astrobiotic Technology Inc., Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace Inc., Intuitive Machines LLC, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Inc., Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond.

The combination of national agency establishment and private industry innovation will help decrease the steep price tag that has cancelled and/or made difficult many a space mission. Currently, international collaborations are required since the large cuts in government spending to the space programs.

For example, Russian rockets help get American astronauts to the International Space Station. The Chinese lander, Chang’e-4, which successfully landed on the dark side of the moon in January, had partnerships with the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Germany. It’s a huge team effort for these projects to work. If the U.S. is able to keep its operations domestic and between private entities, opportunity for competition arises, driving down costs.

Sounds great, right?

More chances for everyone to get to the moon. The what?

The next logical step is the commercialization of lunar travel and mining. Solar energy could be collected and beamed back to Earth, and thanks to the Moon’s weak gravity, a permanent base can be used to launch further space explorations into our solar system. An entirely new market will open up, allowing more opportunities for people around the world to join in a new space race.

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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