Men are hard-wired to think they are funny. They use it as a courtship technique. A study by Eric Brassler at McMaster University finds that women rate men as more attractive if they make more jokes. And men are somehow aware of this, because they are more likely to make jokes if women are around.

This is probably part of women being hard-wired to select an appropriate mate; people who are funny are generally smart and creative people, because humor is about putting two unlikely things together in a clever way, according to an interview with Chris Robert, professor of management at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Also, Robert says his research shows that people who are funny are more likely to be promoted.

In the category of research to support what we already know, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher surveyed more than one million employees to find out that people like fun offices. This news is revealed in their book, The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up.

Anyway, their point is that fun people are more likable. Which is the problem with women: We are not as funny as men. That is not their point. It is my point.

But my gut tells me it’s right. My gut tells me that most funny women are gay. First of all, Brassler’s research found that men do not think women who are funny are more attractive. Also, Christopher Hitchins has a great piece in Vanity Fair, Why Women Aren’t Funny, where he points out that Jewish women are funny, but only because they have male qualities of humor -angst and self-deprecation.

All this makes me happy because people often ask me if I’m gay, and I used to think it’s because I am awkward when it comes to flirting. (Quote from the first guy I dated since the onset of my divorce: “You are an incompetent flirt.”) But now I take the question of my sexual orientation as a compliment: it means that I’m leveraging my angst-riddled Jewish upbringing to be the funny girl.

But back to The Levity Effect. Gostick and Christopher define lighthearted as something more broad than humor. Maybe this is because their book lacks the amount of humor you’d expect from people who write about the importance of levity. But they have a few chapters about how you don’t need to be a comedian in order to create levity. (Which may or may not be justified encouragement to the unfunny.)

I want to tell you to be careful about being funny – because trying to be funny and failing is so lame. But I am certain that men are hard-wired to try no matter what, because they want to mate. Which means they get a lot of practice outside the office. So women should try, too. It won’t help us get a mate, but it will help us get the career we want, (which, in many cases, does help find a mate).

That’s right. Me on CNN today. On the show Open House. I know that often times I have posted about me being on TV have not been moments of genius. Like, me mispronouncing Kucinich’s name. Or me not knowing how to put makeup on for TV.

So I haven’t said anything about TV for a while. But when I was complaining to a Fox News camera guy in Chicago, he told me that every single person who walks in the studio hates how they look on TV. That makes me happy. And brave.

But also, I’m raising a round of funding for my company this week. Lots of investors are looking at the blog. And if I don’t put a post about CNN on top, then the last post I ran, about my divorce, will be on top.

And, by the way, I bet there will be lots of comments today, in the divorce post, saying: “Why is divorce a topic for a career blog?” But if you could see how much the divorce impacts the terms of cashing out of my company, you would wonder why divorce is ever categorized as something other than career.

A lot of times when I’m pitching my company to investors, I tell them about how the blogosphere is great because the conversation is so authentic. And the investors always want examples. Now they have one: Me admitting that I put a post up about CNN not because I really want people to watch, but because I don’t want investors sidetracked by my divorce.

Update: Here’s a video clip of the CNN show, provided by TVEyes.

My husband and I are getting a divorce. It’s really hard to write this for a lot of reasons, but the one that comes to mind this moment is that it’s so crappy to be in the middle of a divorce when I make a living telling people how to run their lives.

Fortunately I also make a living scouring the world for good research. And, while I have spent forever telling you that relationships make us happier than money, I am really pleased to find some research that says that for some people marriage is like a raise in pay, and it only makes us happy for a couple of years, and then we go back to our baseline of happiness.

This is not true for the kids, of course. There is extremely persuasive research that no one likes to hear, that says that kids do not notice that their parents are unhappy in a marriage. In this seminal study, Judith Wallerstein tracked a large sample of children of divorce for 25 years. And she found that unless there is violence in the home, kids suffer more from parents getting a divorce than staying in a bad marriage. This research is what has kept me in my marriage. But now I am learning that marriage is a little like fertility in that I cannot control everything.

So really, I guess I have to say that you shouldn’t take my advice about marriage, because I failed. But then I think, hold it, I have failed at least once in just about everything I have tried, and I think that’s what makes my advice work. How do you know what you’re doing wrong if you are not failing? How do you ever learn your limits?

Here’s the process I go through to tell myself that I’ll be okay after this divorce: I think about when I used to practice volleyball. If you spent the day practicing a shot you knew how to do, what was the point of practicing that day? Where was the learning curve? Where was the growth?

I think that one reason people listen to me about choosing a career is because I chose so badly, so many times. And bounced back. And I think that one reason that Wired just asked me to write a column on how to start a business is because I have started one and seen it go under. And then done another.

We should all know that success is as much about resiliency as it is about luck and skill. And at this point, I think it’s safe to say that while I have luck and skill, I am most gifted in the resiliency department.

So maybe getting a divorce will make for better advice. Or more humility. Which I’m sure are related, by the way.

There’s a study I read in the New York Times about how the people who are most happy with life are people who can create complicated scenarios to explain why a given situation is not so bad. That is me, right now.

To be honest, I’ve had a lot of time to perform those mental gymnastics since I’ve known for a while about the divorce. I waited to tell you because I didn’t want to blog about it when I was crying. Everyone has their limits, even me. And besides, I’ve been raising a round of funding for my company, and what a terrible post to have up on a day when investors are reading my blog.

Anyway, during the time between crying and deciding that I’m the queen of resiliency, I stumbled across this information about my Myers Briggs type: ENTJ. There are sixteen personality types. ENTJs make up 4% of the general population and 80% of the population of executives.

Here’s the news about ENTJs in a marriage:

“Gender issues are especially significant for ENTJ females. As a type, their arrogant, confrontational manner and need for control can appear to be quite ‘unwomanly’ to others. Of course, the problem intensifies for the ENTJ female when dealing with men. Their demanding, objective, competent, and independent nature is not particularly endearing to most men.”

But, being the optimist I am, I kept looking and found this:

“These qualities may obscure the fact that ENTJ females can be quite nurturing and caring. For them, femininity is not defined by traditional roles. It is reflected in the total involvement and commitment they bring to each moment of life.”

Here’s what I’ve been doing while I’ve been not blogging about the divorce: I’ve been thinking about dating. It’s my nature—being an ENTJ means planning the future. I’m very future oriented. And I can’t help wondering where the female ENTJs are in the marriage world. How those marriages work out. Right now, I can’t even imagine how an ENTJ date would work out.

But I’m starting to remember that all the skills I’ve learned in my career will be useful to my personal life right now: don’t focus on shortcomings and play to your strengths instead; be kind and caring to the people around you to improve any situation, and most of all—setbacks don’t matter as much as bouncing back.

Here’s how you figure out what to do next in your career: you line up all the stuff you like to do and you figure out which one will pay best. Don’t complain to me that I’m too focused on money. Really. Just do the exercise. The ones who are complaining the most right now, after reading just this far, are the people who are most in denial of what adult life is about.

Look, figuring out what you should do is actually a hard task. Because you have to start eliminating stuff.

1. Eliminate stuff.
Cross off your list all the stuff that you like to do but that pays well only if you have the career-equivalent of winning a double bingo game. Stuff like, being a feature film director, being an opera singer, or being the owner of the Chicago Cubs.

Then eliminate all the stuff that you think would be fun but probably will never pay well: working in a nonprofit, working in local government, being a travel writer.

2. Look at what’s left. If you are a risk-taker, entrepreneurship is left. If you are not a risk taker, then something in corporate life is left. That’s because this is what adult life is for most people. You get up every day and work at a job you never dreamed about doing when you were a kid.

3. Check in with yourself. Do you feel like you are going to die? Have you been writing songs since you were five years old and you cannot imagine living if you don’t write songs? You can still write them. At your house, after work. Have you been skiing every day you possibly can since forever? Then get a job in Aspen and ski at night.

You don’t need to go into journalism because you love writing. You need to write because you love writing. The same is true for everything else you love. Just because you love something doesn’t mean you need to get paid for it.

4. Be honest about what you love. If you’re not making time to do it regularly unpaid, then you probably don’t love it. Here’s the litmus test: Sex. We do it regularly, unpaid, and we love it. Run this test on other stuff you supposedly love. Do you crave it like sex? Then you probably don’t love it that much. You probably love the idea of loving it, the idea of who you are when you say you love that thing.

When I graduated from college, I did all these things that I’ve just told you to do, and it was soul-crushing. The corporate jobs made me ill. But it was very clear to me what I wanted to do: I wanted to play professional beach volleyball. I was ready to commit everything to that. It did not meet the criteria of being something that could probably support me, but I did it anyway, because it was so completely clear to me that that’s what I wanted no matter what.

5. Admit if you lack a clear passion. If you don’t have something that is overwhelmingly important to do, then you probably don’t have anything that you’d absolutely rather be doing than getting up and going to work every day. So just start doing that. In any field. And stop deluding yourself that you have so many interests that you can’t choose. Really what you have is no clear interest and only a bunch of things you would consider if you had nothing to do.

6. Get busy. Doing anything. But you do have something to do. You need to earn money. And since you don’t have anything that’s making you feel like you’re gonna die if you don’t do it, go get a job in a cube and stop complaining. The best way to find yourself is to start doing things. When it comes to ourselves, we find by doing, not philosophizing.

When I stopped playing volleyball, I tried tons of different jobs, trying to figure out which one was right for me. I changed jobs every year. And I figured out where I fit.

But all that time, I wrote at night. After work. Marci Alboher writes about “slashes,” those people who have two careers, like, lawyer/actress. But really, we all have two careers. We have the career that is what we do that earns money, and we have the stuff we do at home because we love it. Career is not just your day job anymore—career is how you spend all your time. Spend it doing things that matter to you, and don’t discount that struggling with what it looks like is a necessary phase. Time spent struggling to figure out what matters to you—that something that should be as important to you as sex—is essential to you becoming you.

Do you want to know how to tell if you have a business idea that will succeed? You know what? I don’t know how you know that. And if I did, I’d be a venture capitalist, right? But I do know how you can tell if you have a business idea that is worth reorganizing your life to try.

Who knows if you have a good idea?? No one. Actually, in some cases some people can tell you for sure that your idea definitely sucks, but no one can tell you for sure that your idea is good. And, if nothing else, any for-sure good idea is already being pursued by ten people, or ten million, depending on how big the market is. Which makes it, again, not a for-sure good idea because maybe you won’t do it best.

So if you want to know if your idea is one that you should actually try, don’t spend time figuring out if your company will be the next Web 2.0 darling. Instead, figure out if it’s going to give you a life you want. The best way to figure this out is to look at how other entrepreneurs are living their life.

I did not do this. I purposely ignored what the lives of other entrepreneurs look like, because a gazillion studies show that entrepreneurs work longer hours than everyone else. And they are under more stress than other people.

I ignored this research because I told myself that a startup would be a good thing for my kids. I told myself that my blog was growing too fast and I couldn’t keep up, and if I spun part of it off into a startup then I would have people helping me. I am a great delegator. I imagined the list of things I could delegate to the slew of people who would go into business with me.

It is not uncommon for people founding startups to lie to themselves about how much work it will be. It’s similar to having a baby. Everyone tells you the baby will take over your whole life. Daniel Gilbert even tells you that kids will not make you any happier than you already are. You go ahead with it anyway. You tell yourself that the kid-time-crunch will not happen to you. You are the exception. Other people are incompetent time manager and you ‘re not. But if we didn’t lie to ourselves, who would have kids?

So, anyway, denial goes very far in both the birth of a child and the birth of a company. Which means it is should not be surprising to you that I have done things like let my son dump boxes of cereal all over the house so that I could be on a conference call, or that I hid in the broom closet at swimming lessons so I could do a radio interview with no background noise. (Please, don’t send me emails telling me I am a negligent parent. Negligent is relative. And why are you reading this column instead of playing Candy Land, huh? )

When you imagine your life doing your startup, do you imagine laying in bed at night worrying about money? Because no matter how great your idea is, you will worry about money at the beginning, in that terrible time between when you quit what you had been doing and you start drawing a salary form the startup. And you know what is worse than one person stressing about money? The two or three people who do the startup with you, all stressing about money together. At some point during the early time, it’s not even about the idea any more; it’s about just getting through the early, tough part.

Now, go back to your idea. Go back to the question of is it a good enough idea to try? Entrepreneurship is not about one, static idea that you implement. It’s about an idea that you go with, and mutate, and act on because you want to do a company so much that you are willing to delude yourself into thinking that maybe it won’t be so hard.

Are you there, to that point? Then you have an idea that’s good enough for starting a company.

There’s a lot of advice on this blog about how to interview: Tell good stories, ask good questions, be a closer. But here’s only one most important thing to remember: when it comes to discussing your potential salary, never give the number first.

The right answer to the question, “What’s your salary range?” is almost always some version of “I’m not telling you.”

The person who gives the first number sets the starting point. But if that’s you, you lose. If you request a salary higher than the range for the job, the interviewer will tell you you’re high, and you’ve just lost money. If you request a salary lower than the range, the interviewer will say nothing, and you’ve just lost money.

So you can only hurt yourself by giving the first number. You want the interviewer to tell you the range for the position, because then you can focus on getting to the high end of that range. But you can’t work to the high point if you don’t know it.

So if there are two good salary negotiators in the room, it will be a game to see who has to give the first number. Fortunately, the company cannot make you an offer without also offering a salary, so the cards are stacked in your favor, as long as you hold your ground.

So here’s a list of responses for all the ways the interviewer will ask you how much money you expect to make. The more times you can fend off the question, the less likely you will have to be the one to give the first number. This works, even if you don’t have the upper hand and you really need the job.

What salary range are you looking for?
“Let’s talk about the job requirements and expectations first, so I can get a sense of what you need.” That’s a soft answer to a soft way to ask the question.

What did you make at your last job?
“This position is not exactly the same as my last job. So let’s discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job.” It’s hard to argue with words like “fair” and “responsibilities”—you’re earning respect with this one.

What are you expecting to make in terms of salary?
“I am interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. I’m sure whatever salary you’re paying is consistent with the rest of the market.” In other words, I respect myself and I want to think I can respect this company.

I need to know what salary you want in order to make you an offer. Can you tell me a range?
“I’d appreciate it if you could make me an offer based on whatever you have budgeted for this position and we can go from there.” This is a pretty direct response, so using words like “appreciate” focuses on drawing out the interviewer’s better qualities instead of her tougher side.

Why don’t you want to give your salary requirements?
“I think you have a good idea of what this position is worth to your company, and that’s important information for me to know.” Enough dancing–this is one last attempt to force you to give the number first. Hold your line here and you win.

You can see the pattern, right? If you think you sound obnoxious or obstinate by not answering the question, think of how he feels asking the question more than once. The interviewer is just trying to get a leg up on you in negotiations. If you give in, you look like a poor negotiator, and the interviewer is probably not looking for someone like that.

So stand your ground, and understand that the interviewer is being as insistent as you are. And it might encourage you to know that research shows that if you mirror the behavior of the interviewer, you are more likely to get the job. Sure, this usually applies to tone of voice, level of enthusiasm, and body language, but who’s to say it doesn’t apply to negotiation tactics, too? Try it. You could come away lots richer.

Since today’s job market is employee-driven, many candidates are fielding more than one or two offers at a time, and at this point, maybe it’s the employers who need the advice on how to attract the employees, instead of the other way around.

There is lots of chatter about how resumes are on their way out. There will be blogs, and videos, and LinkedIn profiles and other mechanisms to downplay the concept of a linear career and put upfront the way someone thinks and the ideas he or she has. There should be similar chatter about the near-death of the job listing.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of consulting to companies about how to recruit and retain employees. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic, and here are five of my favorite ways companies can hire people without focusing on the job listing itself.

1. Tell people where they’ll go next.
Michael Arrington, co-editor of the popular blog TechCrunch, just lost his right-hand man. What did he do? He wrote a very public thank you for good work done – so that people know how appreciative he is. And he wrote a little side note about how everyone who has left TechCrunch has gone on to amazing jobs.

I was talking with Dylan Tweney, senior editor at Wired, and he was using a similar hiring tactic, showing people how a stint with him at Wired is a stepping stone to places like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

2. Use your public relations team to prop up the manager.
One of the most important aspects of a job is who you are working for. A good manager can help you to get where you want to go next, and a bad manager can be so undermining that the job becomes a blemish on your resume. So it’s odd that companies advertise jobs instead of managers. Instead of publishing a laundry list of dream traits of a dream candidate (usually unreasonable anyway), companies should list the dream traits of the dream manager this job falls under.

3. Get some respect for speciality recruiters.
It used to be that companies owned the employee’s loyalty. But today, with employees changing jobs every two or three years, they are more likely to be loyal to the recruiters who placed them than with the companies they work for. Especially when that recruiter is there to place the candidate again and again.

Art Papas knows a bit about recruiters. He is the chief executive of Bullhorn, which makes staffing and recruitment software. Bullhorn is a testament to the fact that both candidates and employers are relying increasingly on the recruiting industry for help. Bullhorn has more than 12,000 users and the company grew by 70 percent in the last year.

Most recruiters are running their own business in one way or another, and Papas points out why recruiters are poised to take on an increasingly important role in the employee-driven market: “Generally speaking, recruiters are high energy, good with people, and they are incredibly tenacious and persistent.”

4. Advertise in niche communities.
Joel Spolsky is chief executive of a midsized firm, Fog Creek Software, and he spends a lot of time blogging, at Joel on Software. Spolsky makes it clear he’s blogging to make himself part of a community of smart, curious, high-performing engineers who become Spolsky’s employee pool.

Here’s another example: Lots of companies talk about the importance of catching women re-entering the workforce after they have children, but it’s hard to get those women. One way is to be a part of their communities. Websites that focus on women and careers like WorkIt Mom are places where you can become a part of the social fabric of the community you want to hire from.

Bonus idea: Make it part of someone’s job description in your company to truly become part of the community, and swoop in to scoop up promising candidates for interviews. It’s so tough to get A players to interview today that people are actually charging companies for an interview at But coming from a trusted friend, an invitation to interview is hard to turn down, even if you’re not looking.

5. Leverage social media.
Why don’t companies use social media tools to attract candidates? It’s already a proven recruiting method for young people.

The Center for Market Research at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth reports that, “Colleges are adopting Internet technologies such as podcasts, message boards, blogs, and social networks faster than Fortune 500 companies. The explosion of social media, higher education specialists say, is revolutionizing the college search process and the way colleges and prospective students interact.”

Standout Jobs is a new site that provides easy-to-use social media recruiting tools for small companies and then aggregates them into a sort of recruiting network. This is a great on-ramp for companies with trepidations about social media

A lot of people worry that they can’t get another job because they don’t have time to find one. This is why hunting for a job from your cube is totally standard. It used to be that people stayed in their jobs 40 years, and a job hunt was an earth-shattering event, and there was no Internet. In that environment, telling people to keep the job hunt out of the office was fine.

Today, people switch jobs every two years between the age of 18 and 32. Which means that most job hunts do not have a start and finish—they are continuous. And this is smart, because so much of job hunting is being aware of the market (i.e. surfing at work) and networking (long lunch, anyone?).

In today’s environment, job hunting from the job you have is totally mainstream. Here are tips on how to do it right:

1. Don’t feel guilty.
Employers expect that you will look for a job while you have a job. Your boss probably did it. And your boss’s boss. And if they didn’t, why not? Why would you quit a job before you have a job when every statistic in the world shows that people who are employed are more likely to get hired by someone else?

It would be absolutely impossible to do all your job hunting from home, because business hours are the hours that both you and your possible new manager are working. Get your work done well at your current job no matter what. You owe that to your employer. Beyond that, your time is yours and job hunt if you want.

2. Schedule interviews for the beginning or the end of the day.
The goal is to interrupt your current job as little as possible while you’re looking for a new job. In terms of schedule, this means an interview before you’d typically need to be at work or an interview at the end of the day. In the latter case, you might even be able to get all your essential work for the day done before you leave. Less disruption means fewer inquiries about your intentions.

3. Don’t dress up for interviews if you can help it.
It’s awkward to tell your current boss that you are looking to leave. It makes working with him hard because he knows he’s not your first choice. So you don’t need to be sneaky beyond what is ethically comfortable, but you don’t need to beg the question either. This means that if you have an interview, you can leave early from work simply by saying, “I have personal plans,” which would be true. But if you have personal plans and you look like you’re dressed up, people will ask. Who dresses up for anything at 4pm except an interview?

4. Don’t do phone interviews from your cube.
Your voice will sound insane—like you’re running from the FBI or hiding an illicit phone call from a parent. Which you sort of are, since everyone in the office can hear you, and as soon as there is a hushed voice in a cube, the rest of the office hushes to try to hear. On top of this, there is no way that you will give your best interview when you are trying, in the back of your mind, to convince yourself that none of this is happening.

A potential employer will respect you for saying that you cannot do the interview immediately but they can schedule a time—at lunch perhaps?—when you can leave the office to do the interview. You will sound like a good time manager.

The most important thing to remember is that what you’re doing is in the range of normal and fair. If you sound unsure of yourself during your job hunt, you won’t land a job. So the first thing to get sure about is the fact that you should be hunting. From your cube.

In the past few years, postpartum depression has had a lot of press. Brooke Shields had it, Marie Osmond had it. Tom Cruise denied it exists. All good for raising awareness. Now we all know it exists, and maybe some of us know the warning signs. But no one talks about this: What if you have post-partum depression and you must continue working?

Three years ago, I was in this position. I haven’t written about it because it was bad. Very bad. I keep waiting for someone to write about what it’s like to have to continue working even with post-partum depression. I guess I will be the one.

Here is what you need to know about postpartum depression if you are the breadwinner of the family:

1. Take maternity leave. Even if you have to make it a little unconventional.
I was a freelance writer, with a husband who did not work, and we were living paycheck to paycheck. I thought there is absolutely no way I could take maternity leave. We’d starve.

But I tried to think of ways to craft an unofficial maternity leave by getting ahead with my writing. I didn’t tell my editors I was doing that, but my plan was to not have to write very much.

2. Plan ahead, for the worst-case scenario.
In our heart of hearts, we know that the best case scenarios don’t actually need planning for. So why make plans assuming best case? Make contingency plans.

I did that a little. Because I’m a freelancer and my husband and son are nearly uninsurable, for prior medical conditions, we usually have crappy, near-nothing insurance. But we raided the last of our savings to buy great health insurance for the baby and me, just in case something happened during delivery.

Other than that, I assumed that things would go smoothly when we got home from the hospital since this was our second child, and I already knew how to care for a baby.

3. Admit that no time off means you’re high-risk for postpartum depression.
The baby came early, and I was not really ahead on columns, and my book wasn’t finished.

So right after the baby arrived, I had to finish my book, which was behind schedule. And, my agent told me that there was no way I could promote the book when I was 40 pounds overweight. After all, there was a chapter about how bad it is for your image to be overweight. So I spent two or three hours at the gym every day.

The baby came everywhere with me—to my book publisher, to my agent, to my newspaper syndicate, to the gym. I breastfed in everyone’s office. I breastfed in the cardio room and the weight room.

I cried all the time, and I felt that I had no idea how to take care of the baby, but I looked okay in all my meetings, so I kept going.

4. Ask for help from people you don’t work with.
Then, one night, the baby was screaming and our three-year-old wouldn’t go to bed and my husband was telling me that I needed to get the three-year-old some milk and I was saying that he should and I’ll get the baby and he rolled his eyes, and then I took a knife out of the dirty dishes and stabbed my head.

I don’t actually remember doing it. I remember my husband saying, “Oh my god. There’s blood everywhere.”

Here’s how crazy I was: I just put the knife back in the sink and went to get the baby.

The next day I went back to my old therapist and told him. While I breastfed the baby.

My therapist said he didn’t think I’d ever hurt the kids, but he had to send me to the emergency room to be checked out. So I went there. With the baby, and my cell phone, and I handled edits for my Boston Globe column from the hospital hallway.

The doctor I saw wanted to admit me to the mental ward. I had a friend call all over looking for a hospital that could take me and the baby into a mental ward together, and not one could. “It’s a huge breaking point in the mental health system,” she said.

The psychologists did not want me to leave, but I was convincing, telling them that we would not be able to support ourselves if I did not work. And I was also convincing telling them that I did not want to risk losing my breast milk permanently by separating from the baby for a week in the mental ward.

The doctor said I could go back home with the baby but I couldn’t be alone with the baby.

5. Postpartum depression is one of those times when you should break the bank.
When I left the hospital, I told myself I would just ignore the doctor’s advice because it would be impossible to not be alone with the baby. My husband had to take our older son all over the city for school and activities. And we could never ever afford round-the-clock care.

But on the way home, I remembered Andrea Yates. I had always felt empathy for her, but now I felt like maybe I could be her. I know it came out of nowhere to her: first she was just sort of depressed, and then she was killing her kids.

Plus, I remembered two times when people had asked me how the baby was and I said, “Sometimes I want to slam his head into the wall.” Both times I got very concerned looks. So stopped saying it, but I knew it was not good.

So I hired someone to stay with the baby and me. Only then did I realize that I was terrified to be alone with the baby. I still cry thinking about how I was probably a danger to my own child. The babysitter was as much for me as for the baby.

I kept working. I kept seeing a therapist. And we went into huge debt in order to pay for the babysitter.

In hindsight, I wonder, What could I have done differently?

My career could not have handled a three-month maternity leave. But I should have hired the nanny at the first sign of trouble, even though it caused a lot of debt. I was so scared of spending money. I cut corners on things that I thought I could handle but couldn’t. And the biggest thing, in hindsight, that I thought I could handle, was being a working mom with no support system. No one can do that and stay sane.

I recently mentioned a new book about happiness: The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The premise of the book is that we each have a setpoint for happiness—we are born with a proclivity toward being happy or not. But we can affect that proclivity to become happier. And Lyubomirsky tells us how.

There are snooty quotes in the promotional material from other happiness researchers saying that this book is superior to other self-help books because it’s based on science. They think that if you use scientific data to tell someone how to be happy, then the advice is more effective than if you use nonscientific data to tell people how to be happy.

The problem isn’t whether the advice is based on science or not. The problem is that you need to find self-discipline in order to execute the strategies in the first place. If all anyone needed in order to change was a scientific reason then we’d all be muscular and thin.

To be sure, tucked deep inside Lyubomirsky’s book on page 274, is the admission that we need “motivation, drive and inspiration” to do the stuff that she has scientifically shown will get us to happy. But that’s the hardest part. That’s the part I need to read three hundred pages about. If we each had the self-discipline to accomplish whatever we set out to accomplish, the world would be a very different place. But what we have instead is a world divided into the people who have self-discipline (those with good careers, good bodies, and good mates) and people who don’t.

I’m not talking about the self-discipline just to get dinner on the table every night. I’m talking hard-core self-discipline, where you conduct routine investigations of how you feel and what you’re doing, and then make changes. What Lyubomirsky recommends requires a whole mind overhaul through amazing self-discipline, but I can’t even stop eating two bagels for breakfast. (Cut back just one a day! That’s like losing 1.5 pounds a week!)

So I called my favorite positive psychology coach and asked her how to get more self-discipline.

She asked me if I had read Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness.

I told this coach that I’m annoyed by the assumption that self-discipline is just a side note.

And also, I said that by the way, I’m annoyed that in eight years, when only two people have emailed me to correct data in my column, Lyubomirsky is one of those people. I have already written about how people who correct journalists are annoying and generally off-base, so you can imagine how chirpy I was to receive her corrections.

In fact, I remembered from the last time I talked with Lyubomirsky that she was a difficult interview, so I never quoted her directly, so that she would not have a chance to complain about the post. But she ended up sending overly academic clarifications to information that I didn’t even attribute to her. How can she be a happy person when she is such a nitpicker?

If I had good self-discipline, I’d take out those last two paragraphs. Because saying unpleasant things about people will not increase my happiness. And I risk the wrath of the movers and shakers of the positive psychology movement. Leaving those paragraphs in this post is a career-limiting move for me. But we all have recognized a career-limiting move and then done it anyway. So there’s another moment that calls for developing great self-discipline.

My coach has good self-discipline, of course, because she is in the business of teaching people self-discipline. So she did not bite my bait to dis Lyubomirsky. After all, talking trash about people makes you unhappy.

I told the coach that I am frustrated with happiness research because doing any of it requires tons of self-discipline. And I know I have more self-discipline than most people and I’m still overwhelmed with how much more I need.

I tell the coach I want to change the setpoint of my self-discipline. She likes the idea that people might have a setpoint for self-discipline. She has never heard of it, but she likes it. So I am claiming, now, to have coined the term. This, by the way, will only make me happy if it increases my blog traffic. That’s because authentic compliments right after an action are pleasing to us, and what is more authentic than measurable web stats? (Career Advice: This is why you should give co-workers feedback right away and not wait—right away is twice as meaningful to someone.)

The coach says I can change my setpoint for self-discipline by making small, manageable changes, because small, manageable changes will improve your ability to change other things without trying as hard.

This research is quoted all over Lyubomirsky’s book. I believe it.

The coach asks me what I want more self-discipline for.

I say I want to do the most important thing on my to-do list first, every day.

She asks me why I don’t.

I explain that I write my to-do list the night before. And I star the item that I want to do first. And I block out from 8-9 am for that most important thing. But then I sit down to work at 8am and I answer email. Which is never the most important thing, but it is always the most fun, because a full in-box is like a bucket full of lottery tickets: You never know, but you always hope you’ll hit big.

She says that I should break down the starred task into smaller pieces and just ask myself to do the first, tiny piece at 8am.

This is good advice. Which is why this post got written today. I just wonder if I can keep it up. Or if I’ll have to call the coach again.