Liz Phair has just released a new CD, titled Somebody’s Miracle. I’m not saying you should go out and buy it, but you have to respect Liz Phair’s ability to manage her career.

For those of you who did not spend 1991 listening to her widely touted CD “Exile in Guyville,” go buy that CD now. It is about mainstream, upper-middle class women who wish they were beautiful and fun and loved by people much cooler than they are. For men who worry that the album is like a chick-flick, no worries: You can skip to track 14 where she sings about being a sex goddess.

The latest CD is an expression of the fact that Phair never did make it to the mainstream, but she really wants to. And, in a rare moment of reality from a musician, she has confessed to needing to make enough money to support her son. That’s when I started thinking about her CD releases like a career path instead of a pop-rock event.

Her last CD, released in 2003 and ominously titled Liz Phair, was a disaster, trashed by music reviewers across the country. Not trashed like, “track two is insufferable” but trashed like “this CD will kill her career.” Diehard fans were upset that she was giving up her edgy self to make as much money as Britney Spears.

And now, here’s another CD, in the same genre that people hated. I give her a lot of credit for doing it again. The difference between people who have huge success and people who do not is ability to cope with failure. People with huge success are more able to take risks because they have less fear of failure. And then, when this type of person does fail, like Liz Phair, she tries again.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t like the new Liz Phair music. But I like watching her perform what was basically a career change — or at least a shift. And there’s a bit we can learn from her about career shifts for non-rock stars.

1. Don’t let other people steer your career
No one wants to see Liz Phair selling out. But she ignores that. She has the maturity to decide that she knows what’s best for her life, and she has faith in herself to execute a vision, even if people around her don’t like it.

At some point or another you are going to want to change what you’re doing in your work. You’ll have to put up with people around you saying you shouldn’t change. (“Why go into marketing? You’re a great programmer.”) And then you’ll have to put up with people denying that you’ve changed. (“Even though you got promoted out of your horrid assistant job, can you get me some coffee?”) These will be good times to remember how strong Liz Phair is about sticking to her new vision of herself and forcing us to see it.

2. Be true to yourself
Liz is not, in fact, an indie queen, but rather, an accidental tourist on the indie road. Even on her indie CDs she sings about wanting to be rich and famous. So she had to ditch the indie crowd and become her rendition of girl-pop-star because that’s really what she’s about.

It’s much more important for you to figure out what’s right for you than for you to act out a rendition of what someone else thinks you should be — your mom, your friends, your mentors. They can’t know what’s best for you. Be honest with yourself and have the strength to disappoint your fans.

3. Find a new mentor to help you change
Phair is known for her spare recordings that have a tiny-recording-studio feel. (Quote from my mass-market brother: “Couldn’t she afford some recording equipment?”) For her recent CDs, Phair enlisted people who could get her a more polished, mass-market feel.

Part of taking yourself seriously in a new position is getting people to give you coaching on how to look like the new part you’re taking on. Maybe this means bringing your friend’s girlfriend to go shopping with you for new work clothes. Or maybe it means getting coaching on how to speak with more authority. The more you start looking and sounding like the new you, the more people will believe you have changed.

I interviewed for a job. I haven't interviewed for the last three years. Since my first son was born. I felt that awkward feeling that people describe when they break up with their long-term significant other and have to date again.

It was a writing job. Most writing jobs don't require an interview. You just send some writing and if they like it, you get the job. But this was a big writing job, so I had to interview. However no one seemed to care what I was like in person since they'd probably never have to see me. So everything was riding on a phone interview.

I tried to do all the things you're supposed to do. I dressed in business clothes because you sound different when you are in your pajamas and when you're in a suit. Even on the phone. I stood up while I talked to sound energetic. I smiled because I read that a smile changes your voice to sound upbeat.

I thought things were going well. I liked the interviewer and all the questions were easy. When I got off the phone, I started think about my greatness: Name in lights, bank account brimming.

By bedtime, I was a wreck. I thought of questions I answered poorly. For example, “Where do you want to be in ten years? Would you go back to executive management?” The obvious answer should have been, “No. I want to write forever.” I didn't say the obvious. I decided to discuss the fact that my income as a writer is about twenty percent of my former, executive income. And, like that wasn't enough, I started talking about my childcare arrangements.

For those of you who struggle with similar problems, do not talk about them in an interview. Such talk makes you look confused, on the fence, overwhelmed by kids. All of which were true for me. But I could have hidden my problems for a twenty-minute interview. I hadn't rehearsed. I talked off the top of my head. And such an easy question to blow.

Later that night, when I was lying in bed, my heart was racing. I told myself to stop thinking about the job. I told myself, There is nothing you can do now, and There will be more jobs. But that thinking never works when you interview for a great job. It never seems like there are more jobs.

So then I did something I learned in sixth grade. I made a list of things I did well. In sixth grade it was why I would make the basketball team next season. But this time it was why I will get a great job next time. I made my list. I put it on the fridge. I felt good.

Then my husband saw this list. He said, “Did you say this stuff to the interviewer?”
Then I felt bad about the interview again.

So what could I have done? There are no re-dos in interviews. But we can all learn from my mistakes:
1. Rehearse. Very few questions are unpredictable. There are plenty of books to buy that give you the questions and answers to memorize. Try, for starters, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book, by Jeffrey Allen.
2. Make a list of off-limits topics so you don't go there. An interviewer can lead you to a topic, but your answer can lead somewhere else. Have a plan in place to make this happen.
3. Make a list of reasons you are great. Use it in the interview.

But guess what? I got the job. So here's another lesson: Get some perspective. It was very normal for me to not be sure what I want to do career-wise when I have two kids under four years old. I need to know what I want to do now, or how can I do it? But I don't need to know where I want to be in ten years. And I am thinking it might be an irrelevant question for today's workers, because in ten years most of us will be doing something completely different than what we're interviewing for, so why talk about it?

Entrepreneurship used to be an inclination that festered until a midlife crisis. But the entrepreneurship bug isn’t something that hits in middle age, so why wait that long? Today, the people who start most new businesses are under 34 — and if they’re doing it, so can you. Don't be stifled by your age or lack of experience. And don’t be put off by the bad advice people spew when you mention entrepreneurship.

Bad advice #1: You won’t make enough money.
Insane. Who is making enough money at the anything new? No one. The few who pull down six figures at the beginning probably spent six figures on grad school and are paying it back, with interest. So the fatalists who say you won’t make enough money are really telling you to never switch careers, never risk being a beginner, never bet on yourself. This way of thinking will put your career in a coma.

What many people mean when they say you won’t make enough money is that you won’t *raise* enough money. After all, if you raised a ton of money to start your business, you could pay yourself a great salary. Most of you have ideas that do not require amazing fundraising efforts. And, let’s face it, if you are coming up with ideas that require a six-million-dollar investment, that’s not really a good idea.

Bad advice #2: You can be entrepreneurial in a large company.
Large corporations suck up fast-paced, fun, innovative small business and make them boring, and then tell you, in an interview, that the position you are considering is very entrepreneurial. It’s not. If it were entrepreneurial then it would be too big a wild card to fit into a corporate hierarchy. What the corporate maven really means is that the position you’re interviewing for could be entrepreneurial if it were not in a large company.

Bad advice #3: Starting your own business is too risky.
At this point in loyalty-free corporate life, it may be higher risk to work for someone else. You probably know someone who got laid off in the 90s. And you probably know someone who got off-shored in the 00s. It was risky of them to bet that a large company would keep them around.

And when you’re sifting through those ubiquitous statistics that say most new business fail, think about the perspective of those numbers: Seventy-six percent of new businesses make it off the ground. Sure, most do not last as long as say, General Motors. But are you looking to run a multinational company, or are you looking to get control over your time so you don’t get laid off or tapped to travel from home six weeks in a row?

Don’t listen to those people who tell you small businesses are risky. Listen to Matt Rivers, owner of Pump House surf shop in Massachusetts, who went into business when he was 17. To him, the biggest risk was that he’d have to grow up and get a job that wouldn’t allow him to surf. Matt redefined the meaning of risk, and you should, too. What is most important in your life? Can starting your own business get that for you better than a corporate job? Then entrepreneurship is pretty low-risk for you.

And here’s a piece of good advice: Don’t think of failure as black and white. Rivers was so successful with his first shop that he opened a second. But running between the two shops took too much time away from surfing, and the extra money wasn’t worth it. So he closed the second shop. Is that failure? To some, maybe. But to those of us who are enlightened, closing down a business is not so much failure as it is gaining self-knowledge to lead a more fulfilling life going forward.

Forget the glass ceiling because it’s about to become irrelevant. Not because women are finally going to get to the top of Fortune 500 companies in forces of more than two companies at a time. That may happen, but no one’s holding their breath. The glass ceiling is going to become irrelevant because the women who are coming into the workforce now see what’s above that glass and they are uninterested.

Recently I got a peek into the world above the glass ceiling when I read a profile of Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE. Immelt said that he has been working 100-hour weeks for the last twenty years. He also said that he married a co-worker and they have an eighteen year-old-daughter. It is unclear to me why anyone would aspire to this life. If I were his daughter I think I’d feel neglected. And if I were his wife, I think I’d feel like a single parent with great alimony. If this is life above the glass ceiling, I think it’s absurd.

By definition the glass ceiling only exists if someone is below it, longingly looking up. And soon, there won’t be anyone left looking up. There is a broad disenchantment with corporate life that is gaining force among young workers. A new definition of success, that includes taking part in the unglorified daily tasks of raising kids, does not accommodate dreams of crashing glass ceilings.

So it is no surprise that five years after earning an MBA, 40% of women are working from home. Often the press writes about this statistic like it’s a travesty, but I think it’s great. It’s an achievement that these women have decided they can find success on their own terms instead of having to fit themselves through paths that were established for men, decades ago.

The disenchantment with corporate life is not limited to women: eighty percent of men aged 20 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. And this trend is growing: Study after study shows that one of the defining traits of generation Y is that they are determined to not give up their personal life in order to get ahead at work.

Instead of aligning yourself with people who are giving up everything in their personal life to “get to the top,” be one of the people who is redefining success. You can decide what is success for you. Don’t be sucked into the idea of success as defined by the men who constructed the glass ceiling. After all, their lives included little room for passionate interests outside of work, only ceremonious parenting, and a wife who managed everything about that man’s personal life.

That vision of success sounds quaint and outdated, but look, Jeff Immelt is still living that life. And so are the majority of his peers (although it’s hard to believe many others are living it to the extreme that he is).

Maybe, in ten years, there will be no one left to march up the stairs to the glass ceiling. Maybe it will be like the tree falling in the forest: No one will see it, so it will be as good as non-existent.

People used to think that the revolution would happen above the glass ceiling, as more women pushed their way to the top. In fact, though, the revolution is happening below the glass ceiling, where people are reestablishing their priorities. Kids and ambition can co-exist beneath the glass ceiling. Plenty of ambitious people have grand, remarkable achievements without giving up a vibrant personal life. Why would anyone aim for anything else?