Report from my own happiness lab

After about a decade of doing research on happiness, I realize that my favorite research comes from university labs that use self-reported data. Most of our happiness lab research is based on self-reported data about who feels happy.

Which means, maybe, that I am my own lab. I can self-report just as well as anyone else. So here is my self-reported research. And, like all good university lab results, there is a little third-party oversight at the end.
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How I learned to live without a refrigerator

I lived in New York City for ten years. I had a 500 square foot rent-stablized apartment in Park Slope. Every week I lived there someone asked me to tell them if I’m planning to move.

To squeeze into 500 square feet with my husband, we put our winter clothes in storage. Then our books. When our son was born, all our belongings went into storage to make room for his. And when we had a second kid, we got rid of the beds. The kids slept on a counter that turned into a bed and a dining room table that turned into a bed.
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How to cope when you’re in a dying industry

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This is a guest post by Cassie Boorn. She works with me at Quistic, and she blogs at cassieboorn.com

We are packing up our trunk outside of a friend’s house when he approaches the car.

It was late at night. We’d spent all day at a funeral. We were so distracted that we didn’t even see him walking towards us.

We think it is a joke.

We are in a nice quiet neighborhood. This guy couldn’t possibly be mugging us right now.

He tells us to get in the car.

We see the gun.

Everyone is silent.
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Take risks to be your true self at work

I intuitively knew to hide my kids when I started having them, because I had already had a rip-roaring career where I steered clear of women who doted on their kids. (It’s always women, even today.) The kids were annoying to me. I couldn’t understand why the women would lose focus on their jobs to get stupid about their kids.

I made sure to stay in male-dominated departments so as to not get sucked into the kid thing by proximity.

I made sure to take no maternity leave. (A terrible decision, but one that many women make.)

Even with all my precautions, my editor suggested that instead of writing a workplace column I should write a women’s column.

That suggestion pissed me off — but I just vowed to hide my kids more.


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How to shine in a meeting

First of all you’d be surprised how many meetings I attend given that I live on a farm and I hate to leave. And, to be honest, every time I’ve written advice about how to handle yourself in a meeting, I’ve actually written about how not to handle yourself.

Like, how to gross out investors. How to disrupt a board meeting by tweeting about a miscarriage. How to look crazy in a parent-teacher conference.

For me, each meeting begins with trying on every outfit I have and sending Melissa a picture to ask if it is okay for a meeting. The pinnacle of each meeting is when I wow people with my ideas, which is immediately mitigated by my insanely terrible social skills.
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What does it really mean to work full-time?

I am at O’Hare flying to Pittsburgh to give a speech. I try to never give speeches. Actually I try to never leave my house. Because I think I will regret any time I spend away from my kids.

Well, definitely I will. Here’s how I know:

Because I chose to live in abject poverty in NYC because I didn’t want to leave my kids to work in an office. So I started building a freelance writing business on $25 articles. We ran out of food a lot, and I thought I’d look back and be horrified that my kids did not have beds. (We all slept on the floor because we had no room for beds.)
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5 Ways to make people think you’re nice

We are at the dining room table eating dinner and my eight-year-old son who is dying to have a girlfriend tells us, “Taylor Swift said she’s only going to date guys who have sisters because they understand women better. Is that true? I think I need a sister.”

I say, “I read that, too.”

Matthew says, “I don’t want to hear quotes from Taylor Swift at the table. She keeps dating men and then writing about them. I can’t stand it.”

“Really?” I say, “You can’t stand it? How do you put up with me?”
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There’s a high price to hiding from the need to transition

This is our spring family portrait. The calf wandered into the photo.

Winter is peaceful on the farm because there’s nothing to do but keep the animals alive. It’s hard work, but it’s only a few hours a day. Summer is busy because all the fields are ready at different times—farmers cut hay many times in a season, farmers rotate the animals to graze different fields, and there are baby animals that have to grow and become independent by winter. But the rhythms of summer are predictable because everything is part of a system.
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Four-day webinar with Penelope: Networking for people who hate networking

This webinar includes four days of of video sessions and email-based course materials. You can purchase this webinar for anytime, on-demand access. The cost is $195.  

Buy now!

I need to tell you at the top of this that I also have a special guest for this webinar: Guy Kawasaki.

I probably should have a huge picture of Guy because really, he is the king of networking. The last time I hung out with him was at SXSW and he rented a limo to party-hop, because he was invited to all 50 parties that were going on that night. So we are bouncing from party to party and finally I announced, “Did you see how nice the lighting is in this limo? I’m not getting out anymore. I brought a book. I’m reading it.”

But Guy kept going. I asked him how he could manage that and he said,”It’s just part of my job.”

Networking is part of your job, too. It’s part of everyone’s job because really, all good things come from having a network.  Well, except one-night stands. But actually, I never had a good one-night stand, because if I liked the one-night stand then I would stalk the guy til he’d do it again and then it went from a good one-night stand to a bad short-term relationship.

So all good things come from networks.
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Don’t let your career become outdated

I’m still stuck on that study in the Harvard Business Review that I wrote about a few weeks ago. The data shows that what women want from their career is respect, and what men want is a series of engaging problems to solve. This struck me as totally true.
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