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Harper A.







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Kurt Vonnegut: How to write a good short story
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in a way that they won't feel it was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character to root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even just a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Make awful things happen to your leading characters so that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person.
  8. Give your reader as much information as soon as possible. Readers should understand what is going on, where and why, enough that they can complete the story themselves.


Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tenets of Storytelling - Brain Pickings

Stephen R. Covey
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

The Five Purposes of Listening

  1. Listening makes people feel like they matter, which in turn makes them work harder.
  2. Arrogance talks. Humility listens. Practice humility by letting others speak.
  3. Listen to help others learn what they really think and find clarity.
  4. Listen to understand what needs to be acted upon.
  5. Curiosity. Listen to ask a question.
4 Reasons You Hate To Listen
  1. An attention span compromised by excess of stimulation.
  2. Nagging issues take over your mental space leaving little space for listening.
  3. Lack of empathy makes you ignore how other people feel when they are not heard.
  4. Conversational dominance and impatience.
The background research part

If you are planning to speak about something in front of an audience, you must know a lot about the topic - on average, 3 times as much as you're going to speak about it.

You need to have a real point (a problem you are trying to solve) and various narratives at hand that you can refer to in order to explain your point.

Jordan Peterson's Guide to Speaking

  • Organize what you're talking about around the problem you are trying to address: set up a dozen of stories around your point as a journey that circles the main point.
  • Talk about what you know and use your personal experience. You can also bring external material, but that needs to be tied to the real world through your own experience.
  • Speak directly to the members in your audience; look at a single person at a time, focus on them, and talk to them like you would have in a normal face to face conversation. This will help you see if they are following along.
  • Listen to your audience. It's best to have a silent audience. If the audience is dead silent, that usually means you are on track.

Facts with no meaning are dull.

Tie every fact (or set of facts) you present to a story, to emphasize why knowing these facts will bring value and will influence the perception about the world of the people listening.

Your speech should be a process of truthful exploration, almost like a journey you are taking your audience along.

Don't aim for an overprepared speech and leave space for play and exploration: have a point (a theme), a body of knowledge, and actively explore that theme in front of your audience.

You too should be able to learn something from your talk. So take this as an opportunity to think on your feet.

This makes your speech exciting and entertaining, even if it also gives it a big probability of failure.

You may have to speak with notes when you are a beginner. Notes are a sort of safety net: If you use them, the probability to fail is minimal.

But you'll never do anything spectacular if you always rely on them. Spectacular means being willing to take risks.

Emotions Work Backwards

Positive emotions and enthusiasm are useful and contagious. If we are stuck in a negative emotion we can shake it off by changing our body, moving, sitting or standing.

If we want to be enthusiastic, we can act enthusiastically and suddenly we will be the same.

Dale Carnegie’s Tips for Improving Your Social Skills

We are emotional creatures, not logical ones. Most interactions in life are based on emotions. And body language and voice tone make up for more than 90 percent of communication.

We need to be in a positive mood while interacting, which positively impacts our relationships and our results.

Most people are criticizing, condemning, and complaining, as these three C’s offer us a twisted pleasure.

There is negativity hidden in these three C’s which is lowering your mood, motivation, and wellbeing, pulling you inside a negative spiral of emotions.

When we stop talking about ourselves and listen to others, we will come across as great talkers and communicators.

Actively listening and responding meaningfully is the best way to win a friend. Let people talk about their ideas, children, hobbies, etc.

We can make great friends by being genuinely interested in other people, rather than trying to get people to be interested in us.

If you treat people nicely and are interested in them, they will be interested in you. You can make use of your body language, words, and voice tonality for ensuring the same.

We are too dependent and reliant on external validation, and like to be measured by the ratings, book sales, likes, retweets, and other types of communication that seem to applaud us, and show that we are smart, pretty, or successful.

This makes others take control of your emotions and brings you on an emotional roller coaster. We need to be emotionally stable and cultivate emotional muscles that help us be optimistic and enthusiastic in all kinds of weather.

We are building self-doubt by caring about what people think, something which holds us back to do what we want to do.

We need to accomplish something that will be admired, but not be bothered by what people say or think during the entire process. Most people do not care about you and are too busy in their ups and downs. We need to unchain ourselves from other people and put positive feelings inside us, showing it in our words and actions.

People will do what you want them to do if they want to do it. They are not doing stuff based on our motivation, but only if they want to get something out of it.

You have to tell the person what’s in it for them and be genuine and positive about the same.

The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. Two egos are head-to-head in an argument, and both are trying to defend their turf.

The result, even if you win the argument, is resentment and negativity from the other person.

The world evaluates and classifies us in the following four ways:

  1. What we do.
  2. How we look.
  3. What we say.
  4. How we say it.

We are mostly focused on what we say but are ignoring or putting less emphasis on the other three. The world will reflect back to you all these four ways of contact, according to our own efforts in each one.

Credibility Comes With Clear Writing

Whoever you may be and the audience you are talking to, it is important to denote that people will tend to misunderstand whatever you post or publish online.

A simple misunderstood statement can lead to irreparable damage. So try to avoid ambiguity when writing and imagine that you're talking to a know-it-all who's out to get you stuck in a corner.

Two Reasons Why Everyone Needs To Write Clearly - Darius Foroux

Clear Writing is a Time Saver

A writing habit most of us have is to write and send what comes into our head 90% of the time.

A good writing habit to develop is the careful reassessment of your post, reply, or article and keenness to details.

Understand that your time is of importance and other people think the same. Do not let your valuable time be wasted because of a misunderstood statement that could have been avoided in the first place.

Linguistic mirroring: The secret to connecting with someone

The secret to connecting with someone is to simply copy their body language. Linguistic mirroring, where you mimic someone's communication style, can also make you more persuasive.

The next time you're on the Zoom staff meeting, pay attention to how each of your colleagues speaks and present their thoughts. Some may only be concerned with bullet points and bottom lines, while others might launch into a rambling story. Adjust your speech to mimic them - even if their communication style is different from yours.

How 'linguistic mirroring' can make you more convincing

If you present something in a way that the other person is used to hearing, it's easier for them to process the essence of that argument.

A study that looked at the legal profession and how linguistic mirroring could help lawyers get on the good side of judges found that if the legal teams more closely mirrored a judge's preferred writing style in documents, their chance of winning went up by 25%.

To use linguistic mirroring effectively, pay attention to how people ask their questions, and notice what pieces of presentations they find compelling. In writing, observe how your colleagues compose an email, memos, or a chat, and match the form and sentiment.

The rewards of observation and application can result in sealing a deal with a client, impressing the right executive, or building mutually beneficial relationships with people in your organisation.

FBI's 5-Step Negotiation Strategy
  1. Active Listening: Just defending your proposal puts you at odds with your counterpart. Listening "without judging" and ensuring the other knows you're doing so lets you understand their value system and then adapt your proposal to fit it.
  2. Empathy: Understand why the other feels a certain way and then connect by sharing those feelings. 
  3. Rapport: After empathizing, respond with words that will resonate with the person you are negotiating with.
  4. Influence: After showing an understanding and willingness to help them achieve their objective. Now, you have leverage to problem solve with and help them reframe their objectives.
  5. Behavioral Change: Finally, you propose alternatives that stand a chance to achieve an acceptable outcome.

How to Negotiate Using the FBI's 5-Step Hostage Strategy

How To Be Liked

You don’t have to be smart and charismatic to build connections with people — just make a commitment to do the little things right.

Here are a few steps to be liked, while saying little:

  • Don't look at your phone
  • Remember names
  • Leave a good last impression
  • Do small talk
  • Have some ice breakers
  • Know when to keep quiet

6 Ways to Be More Likable by Saying Very Little

Leave Your Phone Behind

You have to show interest to be interesting, so don't look at your phone, look at the person in front of you and provide your full attention.

Remember Names

Remember people's names, it really helps build a bond. Make it a priority to memorize and say their names to them. It's something we all like to hear.

Leave A Good Last Impression

Leave a good last impression by offering to connect the person you are speaking with to someone in your network who you think they may get along with.

Association is important.

Small Talk

Small talk, like asking about the other person's day, or talking about the weather, comes off as pleasant to many, as it puts them at ease.

Small talk is great if you are talking to a complete stranger too.

Ice Breakers

Having an ice breaker or a conversation starter can be really helpful. You can ask about some tips or advice that relate to their interests, or careers.


A likable person is a good listener and knows when to keep shut and simply listen with intent and genuineness.

The essential skill of listening

Listening is essential if you want to have a meaningful exchange with another person.

When you listen in a way that the other person feels heard, they are more likely to relax, open up and share information with you.

How to listen — really listen — to someone you don’t agree with

Nonverbal attending means giving someone your full attention without speaking.

  • Keep your body open to the other person. Try to be relaxed, and lean forward a bit if you're sitting.
  • Maintain eye contact without looking like you are staring.
  • Use simple gestures such as head nods or occasionally say "Mm-hmmm" to communicate encouragement.
  • See how long you can listen without interrupting.

Reflecting means repeating or rephrasing key content or meaning from the other person.

Instead of saying, "I hear you," summarise and paraphrase the content confirming that you heard them and that you accurately understood them. If you didn't quite understand what they were saying, it allows them to correct you.

As you listen, questions will come up in your head. But asking questions can interrupt the other person's thinking and derail a conversation.

  • Always attend and reflect before you ask a question.
  • When you do ask a question to encourage dialogue, use open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no. Keep the questions simple without trying to impress them with your exceptional question.
  • Stay neutral in tone and content. A loud tone can come across as judgment.
Changing Habits Of Punctuation

The digital age combined with short attention spans and time constraints has led to the demise of various punctuation skills like the omission of apostrophes, deliberate spelling mistakes and using abbreviations to a larger extent.

The new generation seems to create a new punctuation-free language of their own which does the job and is largely ignoring many prescribed grammar rules that seem like a relic of an old, elitist era.

Beside the point? Punctuation is dead, long live punctuation – Florence Hazrat | Aeon Essays

  • Early stone inscriptions did not even have the punctuation we all take for granted: The blank space.
  • Ancient Greece and Rome had the written word for keeping records of political speeches and texts, which were carefully used by the orator for maximum rhetorical effect and verbal impact.
  • In 200 BCE, the Alexandrian Aristophanes worked on easing pronunciation of Greek for foreigners by using small circles to denote pauses, emphasising the rhythm of the sentence.
  • The 7th-century encyclopaedist Isidore Of Seville later took up the task of inserting grammar in the same text, inventing the period, the colon and the comma.
  • The language in the Quran had cantillation marks written above the line to signify the kind of pause required.
  • The 9th Century Torah manuscripts show vowel additions and cantillation marks that help in the recitation of the same.
  • Modern Arabic and Hebrew texts have similar punctuation marks as many western languages.

The breaks and sonic links were primarily used to aid singing, sense-making and enhancing the beauty of the verses.

By the middle ages, when the comma, the full stop and the colon had become common, the question mark and the exclamation mark came in the picture, as it became clear that the spoken word was easily understood, but the written word needed emotional emphasis, clarity and intonation to be understood in its true context.

The Brackets as a form of punctuation came in the 14th century, first used by the Italian scholar Coluccio Salutati.

It was used 1500 years earlier (as a parenthesis) to separate one text from the other, forming a digression. The more subtle usage inside sentences came much later.

Invented in 1450, the printing press revolutionized the distribution of books, and along with it, punctuation.

A large number of copies were now possible to be created with ease and a low cost and had the advantage of the replication being identical, paving the way for standardization and legibility.

  • Printers in many countries like Italy, France and Germany pioneered the use of advanced punctuation like the semicolon(invented by Italian poet Pietro Bembo) in 1494.
  • The usage of the semicolon, a way to pause in a sophisticated manner, puzzled many writers(and readers) making them a much-ridiculed form of punctuation for many centuries.
  • The prison letters by Martin Luther King Jr. used a series of sentences suspended in the air using the semicolon, adding to the weight of the suppressed black people’s conditions.
  • A 2012 reader survey in the Swedish Journal Språktidningen listed the semicolon as a favourite punctuation mark.

In 1905, Russian printers demanded to be paid for punctuation, which according to them requires the same amount of effort and time as any normal letter of the alphabet.

This ‘Comma Strike’ spread as a popular boycott, leading to political turmoil.

  • The Mirrored Question Mark was created in 1575, to denote sarcasm or signal a rhetorical question.
  • The Upside Down Exclamation Mark was introduced in 1668, to signal irony.

These new marks and their iterations came in various manuscripts in the 18th and the 19th century but never caught on.

  • Full stops are now considered rude in a social media setting as they denote ‘finality’, which is the opposite of the infinite digital scroll seen everywhere.
  • Replying with a small word followed by a full stop (sure. ok.) in a digital conversation(like iMessage) feels abrupt and inconsiderate.
  • Colons and brackets have a new purpose: capturing the emotions and feelings of the writer to denote context.




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