It’s Tuesday, which is usually the day for the Twentysomething column. But Ryan announced last week that he’s quitting as a columnist. I’m not surprised. He’s gone through a huge transition – quit his job in Washington, DC, started a company (with me), and moved to Madison, WI – two blocks from me.

It’s a small town, so it’s not like he was ever going to move ten miles from me – I mean, ten miles from me in almost any direction is a corn field. But it’s funny to me to have him so close.

I ended up going over to his house a lot in the first few days, to check in on him and Ryan P without saying so. Almost immediately my kids saw the situation as new neighbors. They refer to “The Ryans” and when we went apple picking, the kids thought of the Ryans immediately.

So we brought over a bag of apples. The kids did not really understand the concept of red all over, so the apples were not ripe. And I couldn’t tell if the Ryans noticed, but they were very grateful, because it was when the Ryans first got here. When they were grateful in general.

Now it’s been six weeks. And Ryan is thinking that maybe his new blog will be about how crazy life is working with me.

I asked for examples. He gave the one about how I invited the Ryans over for dinner. I picked a night when my husband wasn’t home because there is too much tension between us to put the Ryans through it as well. I also picked the night my kids wanted an impromptu Halloween party.

So there was our nanny, who is actually a guy who is a college sophomore taking a year off to establish residency so his University of Wisconsin tuition goes down. And there were fake eyeballs and pumpkin glitter. And it was like a frat party with toddlers instead of girls. To me, that is the weird part. To Ryan, it’s weird that I didn’t cook.

“You ordered burritos!” he says.

I tell him it was better than Batman spaghetti O’s.

He shakes his head in disbelief. He thinks I’m eccentric, which I probably am, but I think this is not the best example.

Other mentioned eccentricities: I have been working out of a coffee shop for a year. Ryan can’t believe it.

The women who own the shop are probably my best friends in Madison – I see them every day. In the summer they noticed me showing up in my obsessive long sleeves and long pants so the sun doesn’t get me, and in the winter they saw me fighting with my husband at the curb when he drops me off. I always imagined I’d have some great post about how the owners let me do radio interviews from their land line (radio producers hate cell phones) and they buy Lean Cuisines especially for me so I don’t have to eat their muffins for lunch. It was a great setup.

Til the Ryans came.

They said everyone in the coffee shop is annoyed by my talking on the phone, which is probably true. So we went to their apartment. Like it’s not eccentric for me to be spending my days in the apartment of two twentysomething guys.

But as we were leaving the coffee shop for good, new art was going up on the wall: Phil Porter. I loved the art. Ryan hated it. So I gave a lecture right before we left, about why good art forces you to see things differently and the Ryans only like art with naked women on it because it doesn’t challenge anything that’s already in their mind. (Yes, they have a painting of a naked woman in the apartment. And yes, it sucks.) Ryan called me a snob.

He is a snob, too. For example, Ryan does not wear black shoes with khaki pants. I have never heard of this rule, but I confess to immediately putting my khakis aside until I got brown shoes, just in case he’s right.

Maybe we get along because we’re both snobs. Or maybe our excessive judgementalism, which probably makes for good blog posts, gives us a sort of detente.

I went out to dinner with Ryan P’s parents. I can’t ever recall going out to dinner with a co-worker’s parent. But here’s a tip. You know how when you go out to dinner with a boyfriend and his parents, you end up liking him even more? I am not sure why, but this always happens. And I have to say that the same thing happened in this situation: I liked him better. He has the same odd speech cadence as his dad, the same bright smile as his mom. It was nice to see.

Nice as long as I could squash my jealously; I don’t recall a time when my parents drove across state lines to dote on me.

Now I wake the Ryans in the morning. They are not morning people. I know you expected this post to be about starting a company, and this sort of is, because the first part of starting a company is learning boundaries.

A startup is inherently intense. Founders are so dependent on each other, and there are almost always only two or three people involved. I have two close friends who have startups: The woman’s company is three women and the man’s company is three men. I think that most startups with a both genders involve sex, and/or marriage, and those that don’t require navigation of a difficult and dicey new language of boundaries, (which I have touched on before).

There is a lot written about work spouses. That is, people who feel like they spend so much time together that they’re married. But they are not. The context for these relationships is usually a big company, where there is safety in numbers, and there are office conventions to keep boundaries in place.

A startup usually has none of these safeguards, and a startup usually entails longer hours at the office. Maybe this is why so many startup teams are all men or all women, but not mixed. And maybe this is why my friend, who has a startup team of three guys and will not consider hiring a woman as the fourth, is making a smart decision.

Meanwhile, we continue to draw boundaries at our own startup. For example:

Ryan P comes to the dining room table that is also our office and says, I have a rash.

I start thinking about my kids.

Where is it?

On my leg.

Can I see?


Why not?

It’s too early. Ask in twenty minutes.

Tyeptyeptyep type

Can I see it ?


While Ryan P is typing a blog post about how he would rather work for man than a woman (yes really: he says men bond better with men) I look under the table. I don’t see the rash, but the light is not that good.

What are you doing?

I need to see it.

It’s not on my leg. It’s on my groin.

And this is the moment. The boundary moment. I look away because some boundaries are clear. But I also think of my kids – some boundaries are murky — and I navigate the best way I know how as CEO of a startup:

Does it itch?

I used to write a lot about productivity, until I started reading blogs and discovered David Allen’s world of Getting Things Done. I discovered that some of the most popular blogs are about productivity, and my blog audience is full of productivity gurus. They gave me a lot of recommendations to improve my productivity ignorance, and each person mentioned the book Getting Things Done.

This was a little after the time that my blog started taking off, which meant three things: I was changing my job from a columnist to a blogger, I was writing five columns a week instead of two, and my email load went up about 500%. For a few months I was sleeping four hours a night. Crazy, right? In fact, many readers who caught me emailing at both 2am and 7am commented that maybe I needed to take a break. Especially after I posted about how important sleep is.

So I tried Getting Things Done (GTD). I went whole hog: In less than a week I changed my whole to-do list and whole filing system. I was the Queen of Outlook, with more folders to choose from than Imelda has shoes.

I had a A list a B list and a C list. I also had a spreadsheet of links that I had collected over six months as a blogger. I had links filed by topic and could sort my topics and links in ten different ways to come up with quirky, linky columns that addressed questions readers had sent to me – which were also searchable.

I was also adhering to the GTD holy grail of the empty inbox. But the empty inbox, I confess, made me crazy. I found myself deleting emails in the name of that cause, and not because I had actually dealt with them. Also, I was filling in my Outlook calendar religiously, by moving emails directly into my schedule. But I was not looking at my calendar religiously. So I often missed meetings.

I was getting things done. Sort of. I was probably annoying a lot of people along the way.

And then the worst thing that could happen for a GTD-er happened to me. My hard drive crashed and I didn’t have Outlook backed up.

Please, do not send me smug details about your great backup system. Of course I know how to back things up. Everyone who didn’t back their stuff up knows how to back their stuff up. It’s like telling someone who eats French fries that your system of eating salad is healthier. DUH!!!!!!

At first I panicked and imagined that the email of my lifetime was somehow locked in that Outlook view that will never come back. But then things got sort of cushy. For one thing, my B and C list totally went away because people reminded me about stuff on my A list, but no one said a word about the other stuff and I couldn’t remember most of it.

Have you ever read about the joys of declaring email bankruptcy? Well I think my situation was like inadvertently declaring GTD bankruptcy, and it was marvelous. I slept well. I opened up a gmail account, and I had an empty email box all the time – maybe because I also had no record of email addresses, so my outbound mail slowed down significantly.

So, this week, my hard drive came back. I looked at my old to do list and I laughed. I did not need to save all that stuff. I needed to get some perspective. And GTD bankruptcy gives you just that: Perspective. And getting a clear picture of one’s work is really what GTD is all about, right?

During the middle of the 20th century, the social fabric of community unraveled. Families fled to the suburbs, where they lived isolated lives. Baby boomers became hyper competitive – almost a necessity of being part of such a huge generation – and then baby boomers raised latchkey kids, and Generation X felt so isolated from community that it actually defined the generation.

So it’s no surprise the pendulum is swinging the other way right now. Generation X is consumed with their families and integrating them into the community. Fund-raisers know that if you want to get money from Gen Xers, talk with them about local, grassroots action they can be a part of. (via Giving Back)

Generation Y is the teamwork generation. The majority of these young people did community service as a high school graduation requirement, or, for the overachievers, which is most of them, a way to spruce up their college application. But they discovered that community service is rewarding in itself. This is a group that is so team oriented that they are not comfortable doing things on their own. The teamwork in school means soccer, but in adult life it often means community.

It’s a great time for new ways of thinking about community and how to make life better for yourself and those around you. Here are five new ways to think about community:

1. Schedule community time because frequency matters.
This comes naturally to people in college. Daniell Ouellette, a junior at Northeastern University, and her friends live together, eat together, and even watch the World Series together. When college is over, people tend to separate from their friends and making new, close friends is very difficult.

But it’s worth it. When you belong to a group that meets each week, you are likely to live longer than people who don’t. And a Gallup poll, published in the book Vital Friends, found that if you have a few good friends at work it’s nearly impossible to not like your job, because a group of friends can absorb so many bad feelings about the office.

It’s a tall order to find these people, but remember the key is not picking the perfect friends, the key is getting together with them regularly.

2. Find your community first, then find a job.
Today, people place so much importance on community that Rebecca Ryan, a frequent consultant for city governments, finds that the best way to stem brain drain from midsize and smaller towns is to focus on the fabric of community. In her new book, Live First, Work Second, Ryan finds that people today want diversity, culture, and gathering places – the core community aspects we lost during the flight to the suburbs.

3. Become an influencer by growing a community.
Paul Gillin, author of the book, The New Influencers, describes how blogging has allowed leaders to emerge in communities that used to be closed to new leaders. Gillin marvels at the amount of influence a blogger can have by growing a large community of readers. What is remarkable, though, is that the premise is community. The influence brokers today trade on grassroots community building rather than power coming down from the top.

4. Get flexible work by leveraging your community.
Michelle Goodman, in her book The Anti 9 to 5 Guide, describes the steps people take to get out of cubicle life. She has handy chapters about negotiating and temping, but the biggest value of her book might be the underlying theme of community. The best way to get control of your life is to figure out how to integrate yourself into a community and get work and ideas from the people around you. The book is full of ways to learn from other people, help other people, and weave your own community fabric to meet your career goals.

5. Use community roots as a way to make a smooth transition.
One of the most stifling parts of college is that everyone you hang around is at the same place in life you are. And one of the hardest parts of making a life transition is trading one community for another. Northeastern addresses both these problems with the cooperative education program. Students take longer to finish school but they work intermittently during their stint at college. Ouellette is part of this program and she sees it as a way to get a foothold in the local marketing community before she goes out into the work world.

And this, perhaps, is the newest aspect of community: Community used to be a way to hold you back and enforce rules. But today it’s a way to create new roots, find freedom, and follow a dream. No wonder community is such a popular buzzword with young people.

Every once in a while I’ll publish job-hunt questions people ask me a lot. And it’s that time again. But today I’m publishing a question that stumped me:

“Why don’t interviewers get back to me after the interview? I go to the interview, I feel like we click, and the hiring manager or human resource representative never says another thing to me again. Ever.”

I sent this question to my well-placed, hot-shot human resource friend who works at a company that a slew of you want to work for but cannot be named in this blog, and this is what he told me about the issue:

The primary reason candidates don’t hear back after the interview is that most recruiters and/or interviewers don’t shut the discussion down when they know it’s a non-fit. This is rooted in human nature and avoiding conflict.

For example, two weeks ago I interviewed a terrible candidate. I spoke with him for a half-hour, and then told him, “You know what? I have to be honest with you that I’m going to pursue other candidates who appear more highly suited for this role. I want to be transparent about that because I know you may have other job opportunities you are considering, and I want to be up front that compared to other candidates I’m considering, they appear to be more strongly suited for the role.”

Most people won’t have that conversation in the moment, and instead say, “Thanks for your time, I have some more people to interview, and then I’ll get back to you with the decision on whether we’ll be moving forward.” This closing remark creates more work and clutter, and then the “getting back to them” never happens.

By not being transparent, the interviewer feigns that there will be more evaluation, and I believe interviewers think that it makes the eventual turn-down more palatable. But in all honesty, it just creates inefficiency and friction in the system.

Another way to look at this problem though, is that it’s simply poor execution, because the opportunity cost of letting people dangle doesn’t have to be absorbed by the interviewer. Example: If you interview with me, what are the consequences for me treating you poorly? Not any really. You as the candidate don’t want to burn a bridge lest [my company] should happen to call you in the future, so it’s not like you are going to take me to task.

In the mix of hundreds of candidates in process, there’s no clear measurement of what is really going on, unless you write a letter to my boss or blog about it (which few people take the time to do).

So what can you conclude from this? The people who get back to you and tell you flat out no, or, better yet, are transparent enough to tell you no right there in the interview, are the people who are the best to work for. And that’s not helpful, is it? I mean, they are rejecting you. So what are you going to do with that piece of knowledge?

Here’s an idea for candidates in the post-interview process. How about sending a thank you note, placing a followup call or two to show interest, and then if you don’t hear anything, move on?

And instead of spending time whining about how rude the interview process is, focus on turning the next interview into a job offer. If you get good at interviews, you don’t have to worry about people who don’t let you know about rejection because you won’t get rejected.

The skills that help us most in life are not the skills we learn from homework. In fact, Time magazine reports that homework is wasting kids’ time on a number of levels, and in his book “The Homework Myth,” Alfie Kohn rails against the massive amount of family time that’s lost to homework. Finally, Harris Cooper, who studies homework at Duke University, found that too much of it can be counter-productive to learning.

Ambition, self-confidence, and goal-setting are better indicators of adult-life success than doing well in school. So instead of harping on homework and test scores and insipid parental competitions over childhood metrics, help your children learn the skills that really make a difference in their future success or failure:

1. Teach your kids to persevere.
Persistence is what gets us what we want in life, and persistence without the risk of failure is not persistence — it’s monotony.

Some people think persistence is perfection, but perfection isn’t rewarded in the workplace — it’s penalized. So don’t teach your children to be perfect, teach them to try things that are very hard and not likely to go well. Then watch them overcome their fear of failure and try anyway.

You know that parental instinct to tell your kids everything will be all right, and that failure isn’t really failure? It’s not realistic, because persistence is moving forward even when you recognize that the odds are bad. So teach your kids to recognize bad odds, and help them move forward regardless.

2. Teach your kids to make decisions without doing all the research.
We all know we need goals, but most adults are hindered by their inability to commit to something big and meaningful. After all, how do you know what’s best for you to be doing at any given time? You don’t. We never know what’s best for us, because we’re limited in our knowledge. But we have to take action anyway.

Teaching your child to set a goal — even if it’s not perfect — is a great tool, because making a decision with imperfect information is a key to adult life. You can’t teach a kid to shoot for perfect decisions, because there aren’t any. But you can teach your child how to take action in the face of the information that could change.

(One of my favorite discussions about this sort of decision-making is on the blog Mind Your Decisions by Presh Talwalker, who writes a feature called Game Theory Tuesdays.)

3. Make yourself a positive thinker so you can teach it to your kids.
The biggest indicator of how happy someone is in adult life is how positive their outlook is. Adults can change their outlook with practice, and parents can help their children learn and practice positive thinking.

You can start by training yourself to talk to your children in terms of the good things they do. In his upcoming book “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child,” Yale psychologist Alan Kazdin helps parents focus on the positives in their children’s behavior instead of the negatives. If you always focus on the bad behavior instead of the good behavior, your child will learn to do that for herself. Kazdin advises, for example, to say, “You did a great job cleaning your room — don’t forget to put the clothes in the hamper” instead of “You’re not done — there are still clothes on the floor.”

Did your child do something good? Make a big deal out of it, because as an adult, if you can’t focus on your achievements it’s unlikely that you’ll have any.

4. Teach your kids frugality.
A parent’s instinct is to provide as much as possible for their kids. This probably worked very well in the prehistoric era, when children would freeze to death if they didn’t get enough animal skins. Now that we’re dealing in iPods rather than skins, the need to provide isn’t so urgent.

The best way to learn how much you can live without is to live without it. I was forced, by a series of crazy circumstances, to learn how to live without almost all my possessions. I thought I needed so much more stuff than I really did.

It was a great lesson for me, and it made me realize that the only way to teach frugal living is to force it. If you impose frugal living on your kids, perhaps artificially, you end up giving them the freedom to focus on a future career for reasons more important than the stuff they can buy with their salary.

5. Know your own limitations.
Your children are growing up in an environment much different from the one you grew up in. The rules are different, and the measures for success are different.

So don’t find yourself stuck in old ways of thinking. Challenge your own assumptions first, in order to give your child the strongest foundation for adult life.

For those of you with older kids, here’s a list that will help you give advice during the college years.

The most prestigious place for college grads to get a job today is Deloitte, according to a Business Week story titled, The Best Places to Launch a Career, by Lindsey Gerdes. In fact, the top three choices for Generation Y are all Big 4 accounting firms.

My first thought was, are you kidding me?!?!?!

Because if you ask Gen Y what is most important about work, this is what they’ll say: Flexibility, personal growth, liking the people they work with, and money.

But here’s what a consulting job offers: Long hours in cities where you don’t live. On-demand work for demanding clients. Days and days of working on a client site where you do not even benefit from the supposedly forward-thinking corporate culture that a company like Deloitte has created. And, finally, isolation from all but a few co-workers who are at the same client as you.

So what’s going on here? Why is generation Y going to these firms when the firms clearly do not meet Gen Y”?s top three goals as well as, say, a smaller company would?

Well, for one thing, the Big 4 are acutely aware of what young people want. Deloitte has been studying generational issues for years and Cathy Benko, vice chairman of Deloitte, just published a great book, Mass Career Customization, that replaces the corporate ladder motif with a lattice; and workers can move laterally or up or down on the lattice depending on their personal goals and career aspirations. The Big 4 get the best candidates because these companies have been the fastest to react to the new workforce conditions that place young people in the driver’s seat .

But here’s what else is going on: Gen Y does not admit it, but their top priority is stability. This is a fundamentally conservative generation. And in the middle of this very long article in Business Week is an important quote from Andrea Hershatter, director of the undergraduate business program at Emory University and veteran of college recruiting:

“There is a strong, strong millennial dislike of ambiguity and risk, leading them to seek a lot more direction and clarity from their employers, in terms of what the task is, what the expectations are, and job progression.”

Hershatter gives a great interview because she explains in detail why young people today are fundamentally conservative in their goals and decision making. Not conservative politically. (In fact, we know they are not conservative politically.) But conservative in their lifestyle. They are not risk takers, not boat rockers, not revolutionaries. Young people today want a safe, nice life, and clear path to that goal.

Things start to look murky because young people are so difficult for older people to deal with at work. Young people seem to be demanding that everyone change to accommodate them. In fact though, young people are merely demanding that the workplace live out the values that the people who run the work place – parents of Gen Y – taught at home: Personal growth (“turn that TV off!”), good time management (ballet Monday, soccer Tuesday, swimming Wednesday…), and family first.

Here are four reasons why members of Generation Y are fundamentally conservative in what they envision for their lives:

1. They love their parents.
Not only do they love their parents, but they want their parents to help them figure out adult life. There is no rebellion. Instead there is helicopter parenting. And there is a near-perfect implementation by Gen Y of the values their parents told them were important. Gen Y are hard workers, achievers, and rule followers.

According to Rebecca Ryan, author of the new book Live First, Work Second, violence, abortion and drug use are down; education, global vision, and career focus are up. A parents’ dream, right? This is not the generation that whose icon will be a guy who protested government policy or who shot himself.

2. They operate in teams.
This is not a generation of mavericks. This is not about self-reliance, it’s about teamwork. But teamwork is inherently conservative because there’s consensus. For example, prom is a group event. And there is not infighting – gen Y hates conflict- which is no surprise because, as Rebecca Ryan points out, that they’ve been learning negotiation skills since they were kids.

3. They are not complainers.
Baby boomers got their start as people who bucked the system to protect their own interests by protesting Vietnam. Who was fighting the war? Baby boomers. But they hated the war. So they argued against it. Who is fighting today’s war? Gen Y. And they hate it. But they almost never complain in a large, public way.

Similarly, young people hold all the power in the workplace today but they choose to be consensus builders. They say, “Talk with us, work with us, let’s understand each other.” Or, as Gen Y blogger Rebecca Thorman, wrote to older people, “How can we work together to fulfill our dreams?” This is a far cry from the “don’t trust anyone over thirty” slogans of the baby boomers.

4. They are not asking for anything crazy.
Gen Y are really hard workers. They have been working harder in school than any preceding generation. And the pace that they sift and synthesize information puts the skills of their elders to shame. So why complain about the demands of this generation? They are great at work and they want to have work that is meaningful and challenging.

And this is exactly what everyone else wants from their work as well. These demands are not new. It’s just new to hear them from an entry-level worker. But in fact, it’s reasonable and fundamentally conservative since these are the values this generation has been taught to live by.

Certainly we can’t fault gen Y for wanting stability. Who doesn’t want stability? Baby boomers wanted it, which is why they worked insanely long hours and surrounded themselves with tons of possessions. Gen X wanted stability, too. We just never got it because we graduated into the worst job market since the Great Depression. So we worked hard to create it for our kids, instead.

Generation Y is the most conservative generation since the Great Generation that fought World War II. Thomas Friedman just wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which, predictably, he used his Baby Boomer platform to complain that Gen Y is not more like the baby boomers. Friedman wants hands-on activism.

Obviously, that is not the be-all and end-all for making the world a better place, because the baby boomers are leaving us with global warming, social security, and an image crisis abroad that the US hasn’t seen since the Boston Tea Party.

So how about reframing things a bit? Let’s take another look at Generation Y — as the kids who are going to ensure that the values they were raised by will extend to the workplace. Finally.

The art of public speaking is actually the art of connecting. So the lessons in this field apply to everyone since each of us needs to make connections. If you can connect with a room full of people, then you can also connect with an audience of one. And the people we remember most are not those with the smartest commentary or sharpest wit. We remember people we feel we connected with.

1. Tell stories
A good way to make connections is telling stories. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a whole book – Made to Stick – on the different types of stories we can construct from the pieces of our lives in order to make people remember us. The key is to have a storyline with conflict and resolution, even if it’s very short. This takes practice because you need to know your stories before you start talking, but once you have the stories, your ability to connect with people improves dramatically.

2. Look deeply at individuals in the audience
Many people say they don’t actually know how well they connect with their audience. Getting audience feedback is an art. TAI Resources, a New York City communications coaching institute, teaches people how to read the audience by searching for a connection.

TAI coaches clients to look at one person until they’ve made one point. You know you are supposed to look at your audience when you talk to them. But in a large room, it’s easy to pick your head up without ever really seeing. That is, you scan the audience constantly and never let your eyes land.

We do this because it’s so hard to talk in an unengaging way and look someone in the eye. And most public speakers are not particularly engaging. You can test yourself – to see if you’re really connected – by forcing yourself to look at one single person while you make a point. Get out the whole idea before you let your eyes move to the next person.

This is a way to know for sure if you are connecting with your audience when you talk. Sticking with one person for each point is painful and nearly impossible if you are not truly connecting your material to that person.

3. Be honest about how you’re doing
But what do you do when you see you aren’t connecting? Some people ignore it, or trick themselves into thinking there is a connection: Think about all the deadly PowerPoint presentations you’ve sat through where the speaker was oblivious to boredom. This tactic alienates an audience, and makes reestablishing a connection very difficult.

Comedian Esther Ku says the best thing to do when you can tell you’re not connected is to acknowledge it. “If a joke fails, I poke fun at myself so I show the audience that I’m aware of what’s going on.” The audience doesn’t need constant genius, the audience needs to know you are clued into how they are reacting. Then you get another try.

4. Smile, even if it’s fake
Your nonverbal body language influences people’s reactions to you more than what you say. For example, Allan and Barbara Pease spend a whole chapter of their book, The Definitive Book of Body Language, dissecting the power of a smile. If you smile at your audience, they are likely to smile back. And a smile engenders good feelings and a true connection — even if the smile is forced, because we are pretty bad at recognizing a fake smile. (This is because when we are forcing a smile, we are still genuinely trying to make a positive connection, so most people will read the nonverbal cue as positive.)

5. Relax
A fake smile is okay. But overwhelming nerves is not. And audience can read uptight pretty clearly, and they don’t like it – it’s not inspiring or trustworthy.

There are lots of ways to get yourself to relax before you connect. One is, of course, to know your material well. But a lot of relaxation is physical, not mental. Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley found that a reliable way to decrease nerves is to have sex before speaking. There are many physical activities that work to decrease the stress of speaking. For example, Ku prepares for a show by jumping up and down for two minutes before she goes on stage.

But what if you do all this and you still don’t connect? Blame it on the audience and try again somewhere else. Because as Ku says, “Some audiences are just not right for you.”

Being overweight or sloppily dressed is worse for your career than being a poor performer.

I’m not saying this is fair, I’m saying it’s true. So manage your weight, and manage the image you project at work, and you’ll do wonders for your career.

If you doubt that your image can inhibit your career, think about this: According to a 2005 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, good-looking people make more money than average-looking people for doing exactly the same work.

Before you get up in arms over how unfair it is to discriminate against people who are overweight, consider that there may be some rationale behind it. If you’re overweight, you’re probably not exercising every day. But regular exercise increases peoples’ ability to cope with difficult situations in the workplace and, according to University of Illinois kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, might even make people smarter.

And the same self-discipline we use to make ourselves exercise regularly and eat in moderation carries over into other aspects of our lives. This is probably why, in a study from Leeds Metropolitan University, people who exercise regularly were found to be better at time-management and more productive than those who don’t.

So don’t kid yourself that if you do good work it won’t matter if you’re overweight. It’s sort of like people who have messy desks: The perception is that they’re low-performers, poor time-managers, and not clear thinkers. This might not be true at all, but the only thing they can do to overcome the perceptions of their coworkers is clean their desks.

What makes this information particularly troubling is that so many people say they can’t make time to exercise and eat right because they need to work instead. In fact, if you’re overweight, you should probably put aside some of your work, accept that you won’t be performing as well at the office, and manage your image more closely by going to the gym.

That’s right — get rid of that perfectionist streak, do a little less work, and use that time to make yourself look better. People will perceive that you’re doing better work anyway. So instead of rationalizing why you can put work ahead of taking care of your health, start acting like a healthy person. Go to the gym at lunch, or leave work at 5 to hit the gym. Reorganize your schedule to make health a priority and your coworkers will respect you for it.

Here’s something else: Dress like you care. Building a strong brand for yourself is the only way to create a stable career in today’s workplace. You’ll change jobs often, and what influences your ability to get new jobs most is the image you convey. People judge that before they judge one word that comes out of your mouth.

I didn’t have a weight problem when I owned my first company, but I did have an image problem — I was younger than almost everyone, and my mentor told me my age was creating problems. So I hired an image consultant to drag me around town and spend lots of money until I looked more grown up.

I still worry about image issues today — everyone does, no matter where they are in their career. It’s just that today I worry less about looking older and more about what shirt is right for an appearance on CNN. The point is that issues of image are ongoing in a career that matters.

So don’t be overweight and don’t dress carelessly. These are just as detrimental to your career as doing your work poorly. And if my bringing this up makes you angry, consider being more forgiving, because anger is a risk factor for obesity. Besides, forgiveness makes people more resilient to difficulties because it’s about seeing the world in a positive light — which is, of course, also good for your image.

1. Voice mail
It will come as news to most people over thirty that most people under thirty do not leave voice mail messages. Think about it: Voice mail takes a long time to retrieve and it’s almost never earth-shattering, so it’s not worth the time it requires. Microsoft is such a big believer in this that all voice mails you leave at the company go straight to email. And you can do the same if you use eVoice.

Young people treat their list of missed calls as a page system. And they call the person back. No extra step for listening to the message.

Except at work, where the old people leave messages. My twenty-three year old brother used to be an analyst at a big investment bank, and he and his friends were so annoyed with the managing directors’ obsessive use of voicemail that they used to make fun of it. For example, they would call someone and leave a message to say they were going to the bathroom. (My brother guest blogged about this here.)

2. The reply-to-all button
This button should be hidden in all email software. You should have to click through five menus to find the option because that’s how many times you should reconsider before you reply to all. This was a great button to have in 1993 when even the busiest people only got fifty emails a day. Back then reply to all was a way to have an inclusive conversation.

Now reply to all is only a way to annoy people and make yourself look foolish.

And here’s a love note to all of you who think you are being really efficient by hitting reply to all: When there are more than four people in the send field, I don’t read the email because I know that if there’s any action item in that email, someone else will do it.

3. The workplace candy machine
I’m not saying that work should be paternalistic, but I am saying that your employer should not be a crack dealer. And when I have sat within twenty yards of a candy machine, I felt like I had a drug dealer on my block. It is very, very difficult for me to have a hard problem at work and not let my mind wander to chocolate. And I’m not even overweight. So I can imagine it is much harder for people who are already not controlling their eating.

So I wonder, who feels good about the candy machine? The vendor, probably. But everyone else feels like crap after they eat a bag of m&m’s, and if you don’t feel like crap your body has acclimated to crap and the first culprit you should consider is the workplace vending machine. Instead, companies should have healthy micro market vending options which are becoming very popular in or near the workplace.

4. Soliciting money at work
What is up with people asking for sponsorships at work? If you want to do the breast cancer fun run, fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite charity. Why do we need to solicit at work for our charities? Why is that socially acceptable? I don’t get it. I don’t need my co-workers to choose my charities. They can choose their own.

Also, what is up with six-figure paycheck types asking me to sponsor them? Hello? Write yourself a check.

I think my bitterness over workplace check-writing comes from a few things. First, I was involved in a United Way campaign in the Fortune 500 where I was actually forced to go to a meeting in the middle of the workday about why it’s important to give to United Way. To me this felt like mixing church and state. I go to work to earn money, not to be told what to spend it on.

Second, I was the number-one girl scout in Illinois for cookie sales two years in a row. You know how I did it? My mom sold the cookies at her office. So I know the genesis of all those parents passing around a coffer for their kids stuff: Guilt. Instead of making your co-workers cough up bucks for your kids’ escapades, try this: Being personally involved. Then you won’t feel so compelled to make up for it with money.

5. The 800-person office party
The only thing a party like this is good for is anonymous hookups with the marketing girl you see in the hallway on Thursdays. Otherwise, there is no point in a party this big. Its way more fun to go out with people you really do work with after work.

It used to be that a big office party was a way to know your company cares. Now you know your company cares if they siphon money off to training programs. And you know what? Good training is so much fun, it’s like a party anyway.

This is a guest post from Nina Smith whose blog is Queercents.

I was out at work long before I had the courage to come out to my parents. As a twentysomething marketing coordinator, I would often shoot the breeze in my boss’ office, and during one such gab-fest she asked if I was gay.

I remember standing up, walking to her office door and shutting it before answering the question.

“Well, since you asked… Yep, I’m gay.”

I can’t recall what prompted the question and I’m sure her inquiry broke more than one human resources rule, but we were friends and she was genuinely curious — in a Jewish-mother sort of way– about why I didn’t date or have a boyfriend.

I’ve been out at work ever since.

There’s a lot to be said about showing our true colors. Corporate America rewards authenticity. Selisse Berry, Executive Director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates said, “We know that when employees bring their whole lives to work, they are happier, more productive, and have decreased rate of turnover.”

This makes sense because it’s hard to come across as a “normal” when people don’t know a thing about your personal life. Or worse yet, you get pegged as the person defined by work and nothing else.

David Stocum, a Life Coach who specializes in working with members of the gay community writes, “Among the benefits of coming out is a potentially more pleasant environment with less stress and more mental energy to devote to your work. You also are less likely to have resentment and workplace conflict. All these factors combine to yield overall improved job performance, which you could expect would lead to more steady career growth, better advancement opportunities and a more successful career, not to mention the improvements in mental and physical health.”

I work in technology and I take a new job every couple of years. I’ve been out at every company. The process gets easier with practice. Now I typically out myself when someone asks if I have children. For whatever reason, after thirty, people stopped asking if I was married. Recently my response has been, “No, but my partner and I are trying to get pregnant.” The reaction is everything from silence to the gentle and sincere follow-up questions.

Proposed federal legislation aims to end discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but we know that laws with the best intentions are limited in by realities of the workplace. Discrimination from employers and repercussions from homophobic co-workers are complex and slippery to squash with laws; social acceptance among colleagues will remain a personal journey for those of us in the LGBT community.

Still, for many people, no salary is big enough to compensate for being closeted at work. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies. And the idea that you have to stay closeted because of the town you live in is also suspect. Where you live should meet your highest priorities; surely being true to yourself is one of those, and there are many options for moving to an inexpensive city that is gay-friendly.

Keep in mind, though, that coming out at work is not an all-or-nothing decision. columnist Russell Kaltschmidt says: “Some people choose to come out initially only to selected colleagues or just to their manager. Others seek to be out to everybody. You could just start responding more honestly to questions from colleagues about your personal life, or you could take a more proactive approach by informing all of your immediate coworkers.”

Coming out is not a one-time event, but a conscious choice we make every day. Richard Rothstein at QueerSighted writes about this recurring moment of truth: “No matter how confident you may be in your queerness, you nonetheless look for signs of trouble or discomfort. There’s a momentary pause as your co-workers digest the news; or you can see on their faces that they already knew, or you can see them struggling to pretend that they did already know and that it doesn’t matter. Occasionally someone “?comforts’ you with the “?news’ that you’re still the “?same person.’ Yuck.”

And what happens when they see the real you? Kirk Snyder, author of The G Quotient writes, “The more people who get to know us as good neighbors, talented co-workers and company leaders, the less homophobia there will be in the world. Bigotry of any kind is rooted in fear of the unknown, so by coming out and being ourselves, we are changing the world.”