How to measure your own progress

I have big goals for myself, but I try to measure my progress day by day instead of looking at the big picture. The big picture is overwhelming. For example, for the last three years, I’ve known I wanted to launch another company, but I didn’t have an idea. Or I had an idea that couldn’t grow big enough. Or I had a great idea but the investors wanted me to relocate. There was always a problem.

This is a picture of where I sulk when I feel overwhelmed. (It’s actually also the music room, and I get so frustrated forcing my kids to practice, that the room is already sort of a torture chamber, so I figure why fill another room with sulking karma when I have already ruined this one?)

But on good days, I measure my progress with three questions:

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What I’m reading. Really.

Willem de Kooning

I get asked so often to publish a list of what I’m reading. People tell me to make a discussion board. Make a Facebook group. Have an online book club. I don’t do that because I worry I’d feel pressure to be a reader of substance.

And I’m not. Here’s what I’m reading.

1. Tabloids
My reading list would start with the Enquirer. I have surveyed all the supermarket newsstand material and I think the Enquirer does the best reporting. I read Us Magazine for reports on the Royal Family because those of us in the know understand that Will and Kate’s baby means more than mere tabloid fodder.

But also tabloids are a diet mechanism, because if I need to feel better about my life and I don’t want to be fat later, the only thing left is reading about other people getting fat. Or doing some similarly ruinous thing to their life.

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How to tell a tidy story of an untidy life

We flew first class to Seattle so we could get the cello on board without a fight for overhead space. So imagine the come down when my son walked into the dorm room at cello camp. “Oh,” he said. “A dorm room is like a one-star hotel.”

I thought to myself: Who am I? Am I a person who flies first class, or am I a person who shares a bathroom with ten strangers?

There are cello lessons all day and we run around Seattle Pacific University with me marveling at the dahlias (are they perennials here?) and Zehavi doing too-risky parkour (“Mom. I think my penis broke.”)

Zehavi tells me I have to sleep in the top bunk because he doesn’t want to fall out. I climb up there and remember the kid down the hall who rolled out my freshman year, so I sleep on the floor.

Am I a person who has a garden that covers an acre? Am I a person who has no bed?

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How to make a good first impression

My brother was getting his Ph.D in chemistry last week, and my mom and dad and my two brothers and I went to the dissertation defense. I would like to tell you what my brother talked about but I have no idea. Seriously. The topic was alcohol dehydrogenase.

I remember from the chemistry class I failed in high school that -ase is a suffix that means something. I just can’t remember what. And let me tell you, listening to my brother talk about whatever he was talking about cleared up nothing in the suffix department. Or in any other department.

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Your spouse is always a partner in your business. Here’s how to make it work.

I stay up way too late at night running numbers for my new company. It’s incredible—me doing spreadsheets of financial projections—because I have dyscalculia, which means I was in special ed math and cannot do simple arithmetic, even now. But if you ask me how many people will take three or more seminars over the next four years, I can tell you the math I did to make that projection. Five-year projections come easily to me.

It’s just that I stay up all night doing it.

So when Matthew wakes me up to deal with pigs, the first thing I think is no. Not that I say no. He almost never asks for help with the animals, because I have no idea how to farm and we live next door to his parents, who have both been farming their whole lives, so of course when there is something important to do he asks them and not me.

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5 Things I was wrong about

These will be small, okay? Because on the big stuff, like divorce is for losers, I am right. But here is some stuff I was wrong on:

1. Get plastic surgery. I said that people should get it because good looking people earn more money. But in fact, plastic surgery doesn’t change what people think of you. If you were an 8 before surgery you’re an 8 after. The human eye can subconsciously adjust maybe – I’m not sure what it is. But I talked to Gordon Patzer , author of Looks, on the phone, and he assured me this is true. So don’t bother with the surgery. Just get botox so you don’t look tired.

2. Certifications are stupid. I really really think certifications are stupid. I tell everyone to not get them. Just get a job doing whatever you were thinking of getting certified to do. But, it turns out that PayScale has research to show that human resource certifications help. I don’t know what to make of this, except that LinkedIn has research to show that human resources attracts people who are most averse to risk. So it makes sense to me that people who are scared of risk would need to trust a certificate rather than their instincts when making a hiring decision.

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Webinar: Reach your goals by blogging

This webinar will show you how to use a blog to meet your goals. It includes five days of of video sessions and email-based course materials. You can purchase this workshop for anytime, on-demand access. The cost is $195.

Get access now.

The webinar people ask for most often is one about how to blog. So, here it is! By the end of the course, whatever your goals are for yourself or your company, you will know how to leverage a blog to meet them. I’ve been blogging for ten years and I have received hundreds of awards for my blog. I’ve also made about $300K a year from my blog for a long time, and that revenue is almost never from banner ads. I’ll show you creative ways to make money from blogging and creative ways to think about goals for your career that go far beyond how much money you make.

Here’s an outline of what we’ll cover:

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Bad decisions I am making

Everyone can do better at meeting goals by listing what we think we’re doing wrong. It’s because the pessimists of the world are more realistic. They accomplish more in life. Not that optimists want to accomplish more. They don’t. They are just happy where they are. But whatever. There is no place for someone like that on my blog.

So here’s my list of everything I’m doing wrong in my life right now.

1. The most recent bad decision I made is one second ago, when I decided that I would not write this blog post about Esther Williams. For those of you who don’t know, I used to sign autographs for her. I played volleyball in the day and signed fan mail at night.

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Take more risks to make life more fulfilling

I’m driving to the Madison airport to pick up Ian, my new partner in my new secret startup. I’m wearing the sunglasses that Melissa’s boyfriend said make her look too rich and too Type-A. The glasses are perfect for today.

I am also wearing a new, green shirt that I got at JC Penney. Did you read about how the new CEO overhauled women’s fashion and alienated all the loyal customers? This makes me think it’s okay that I like the shirts they sell. (Or used to sell—since he just got fired for selling clothes I like.)

I email Melissa a picture of me driving with the shirt on. Then I call her.

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Five things you can stop worrying about when you worry about getting a job

More and more employers don’t care about your education. It makes sense: the first place social change happens is usually at the workplace because social change is almost always financially prudent. Think about it: hiring women during WWII meant factories could keep operating, so women got equality at work faster than other places. Giving gay partners health benefits gave employers access to a much stronger candidate pool, so gay rights launched from corporations (companies like Disney lead the way).

So that’s what’s happening with the backlash against school. Employers will continue to get much better at picking successful candidates by largely ignoring schooling (Google is leading the way), and then they’ll start to ignore other largely meaningless issues that are problems only for less progressive people. Which means you need to start adjusting whether you worry about this stuff, too.

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