After my first visit to the farm, I quickly invited myself back. “I’m coming there without my kids,” I told him.

When I got there, he made me hamburger that was shaped a little too much like how it might have looked in the cow’s body, and then he asked me what I wanted.

“I want this to be a date,” I said.

“And then what do you want?”

“Well. I don’t know. I guess we kiss. That’s what you do on a date.”

The farmer laughed. And he asked me if I thought I could live on a farm.

I said no. I said I was thinking this would be a summer fling.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that he is not the summer fling type.

I sat across from him at his kitchen table thinking that he is so simple and stupid for thinking I could be serious about him.

After dinner we walked through his fields, over his creek, and next to his hay, and an hour later I thought that I am so simple and stupid for thinking that just because he is a farmer, I am not serious.

So I went back to the farm three times in one week to negotiate how a date might work. Each time I felt like I was crazy. What am I doing with a farmer? I am already sometimes sleeping only four hours a night. There is no room in my life for anything but kids and work.

The next time I was there, it was time to put the chickens back in the house or pen or whatever it is that they live in. I noticed that the farmer sort of encourages them to go to the house, but really, they could get away at any time. But they go back to the house because he gives them everything they could want there.

One hen will not come in. The farmer waits. He negotiates. Then he walks away. He says the hen is not ready. I worry out loud that she will be eaten by coyotes. He says she will decide to go in before that happens, and he’ll be there. He says it’s timing.

The timing is what gets me, though. This is not a good time in my life to fall for a farmer. Of all the things to invest my time in, this is not one of them. It’s not something that will work out. So moments of doubt turn into time-management panic.

Like, at the end of our second date, the farmer walked me to my car, which was on his front lawn, and he kissed me goodnight. I got in the car and looked behind me, and somehow, in the span of seconds between going from the car back to the house, he started peeing. On the front lawn.

I got out of the car.

“Are you kidding me?!!? Are you peeing on your front lawn? Are you nuts?”

“This is normal.”

“No. This is not normal!”

He laughs.

I laugh.

But I am not sure we are laughing for the same reasons.

“On the farm you pee outside if you’re outside and you pee inside if you’re inside.”

I tell him this is a huge cultural gap and we have a huge problem.

I come back the next day even though the more things are weird with the farmer the more I worry that I am making a poor time management decision by spending time with him.

The next day, he is very tired. He woke up at 4 a.m. because he heard thunder and he knew that the mother who has new twin calves would lose one in the rain. He went out and found the lost one and brought it back to the mom.

He tells me this story while we sit on the sofa on his porch. This is where we do everything. I hope we will make out on the sofa. But he is tired. And I am scared of being rebuffed, so we talk.

“How much would it cost you to lose a calf?”

“About $200.”

“You do all that work for months and months just for $200?”

“It’s not that much work every day for one calf. This is an exception. But bringing the calf back to its mother is not about the money. It’s about taking care of the animal.”

You can see where this is headed, right? We have this conversation 500 times.

Here’s another version, different day, same porch:

“I can’t move to the farm because I have so much more money than you do. I will get into the same situation with my last marriage. I will have all the power and it will be terrible.”

“I don’t think you have more money. I have more money. ”

“You made $15,000 last year. And it was a good year. I made $15,000 for one speech just last week.”

“You make a lot of money, but you spend it. You’re in debt.”

“It’s about cash flow. I have a lot coming in. I could have a lot. If I decided to be good with money.”

“My land is worth $2 million.”

“Really!??! That’s so exciting!”

“I’d never sell it. The land means way more to me than the money. And it’s ridiculous that you spend $200 on a pair of jeans.”

So I do this drive, this three-hour drive, again and again to see the farmer. Because I feel like I am understanding myself better and better as I go farther and farther from where I think I belong. Until I find myself in a tornado, ignoring his phone calls to tell me that a tornado is too dangerous and I should stay home.

I read that people do totally crazy things when they are in love, but how do you explain me driving to the farm in a tornado to negotiate something that is not a summer fling while we sort of start having a summer fling? If I can’t count it toward being in love, then does it just count toward losing my mind?

But I don’t think I’m losing my mind. For example, I know it’s the farmer’s understanding that my children matter most that makes him hard to regard as just a summer fling.

One of the times I had the kids with me, I spent most of my time worrying that they would get into trouble, while the farmer did things like help them climb up onto hay scrunched up into sushi-shaped rolls that were too large for the kids to get down from. And then he said, “Thank you for yelling at the kids for stepping on the corn so I could focus on just having fun on the farm with them.”

For a while the farmer was very careful about the kids only coming on days he could be around, because of things like the electric fence, which he has memories of as a kid that include falling on it while riding a bicycle and getting shocked fifty times.

But then I got an email from him that said, “You are welcome at my house with the boys. I trust your judgment and I think you know most of the dangers. But remind me to take the gun out of the house.”

I never thought I’d get an email about a gun that was so touching.

So I cut back on work. But I still did an interview with a teacher’s publication while sitting on the farmer’s front porch. He laid down next to me with his arm on my leg. He said he likes hearing me work but he also likes that I don’t bring the Blackberry when I go to his fields.

“There’s reception in the field?”

“Yeah. Other people bring it there when they visit.”

I don’t tell him that I would have brought it if I’d have known. Because I don’t want to be that person. But it’s so scary that this might go on too long and be squandered time.

I snuggle up next to him on the porch and I tell him that he makes me nervous because I’m risking so much for him.

He says, “What exactly are you risking?” And he points out that he has agreed to allow his very private life to be the subject of very public blog posts, which makes him nervous.

I am silent. I feel awkward because I’m supposed to be the queen of work life balance. But I tell him that cutting back on work seems like a huge risk to me.

I know that people who are workaholics are scared of two things: Not being great at work, and having to face an empty personal life. And I’m worried about both. It’s so hard to cut back on work that I adore to see a guy who is a complete wild card in my life. But I see now that the farmer doesn’t need to be THE ONE. And there’s value for me to just stop working so hard. That’s the first step. I’m just lucky I found someone who makes me want to try that.

People are always asking me what our business model is for Brazen Careerist. Now that we have a network of 150 great bloggers, we are focusing on companies. A lot of companies come to us asking for access to the bloggers. Not surprisingly, companies want to recruit from the bloggers and their friends. But we think what the bloggers want is good conversation.

We think that offering someone a job without conversation is like walking up to a stranger in a bar and asking for sex. It doesn’t work. You need to establish some sort of rapport first. People want that from a job offer as well. People today want to work for a company that they feel some sort of connection to—a connection probably from branding and conversation.

So we want to help companies establish their brand as an employer, and create a conversation with people they’d like to hire, now or in the future. That’s our next step. And we have to sell the companies on this idea.

So we had one of my mentors, who is also an outstanding salesperson—Kathleen Kurke—give us a little coaching session on how to sell.

All of us at Brazen Careerist were in the training (there are eight employees now). And all of us were struck by how Kathleen’s advice applies to so much of life, not only to trying to get companies to engage the Brazen Careerist community. Here’s what Kathleen said:

1. Ask a good question.
You probably want a yes or no answer: “Are you gonna buy my product, yes or no?” But yes or no is short-term and opportunity limiting, because anything but a definite yes will be a showstopper. So ask instead a question like: What are the challenges you are facing?

This sort of open-ended question helps you to understand the challenges, solutions, or opportunities you are trying to capture. And the more you can align yourself with your client and their concerns, the more likely you will be to capture their business.

The better you get at asking these questions, the better answers you’ll get; and the best answers get you closer to the person who is accountable for solving the problem. And that’s the person who will be most likely to give you that yes answer that you are looking for.

2. Solve a problem.
People will buy stuff from you because you are solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity. In other words, people only buy stuff if it helps them make money or save money.

If you cannot trace your solution to either making money or saving money, then you have a problem.

The worst career advice I ever gave was to my brother’s college roommate, Robert Buckley. He was one year out of college when he asked me if he should quit healthcare consulting to become an actor.

I said, No, that’s the dumbest idea I ever heard.

He told me he thought he had talent, and then (like I wasn’t against the idea enough) he told me he was dating some girl he met in Vegas, and she is going to be an actress, and she said that he had talent.

I actually questioned how my brother could be such good friends with someone who was so stupid. I tried to be patient, but mostly I told Rob that everyone in LA has a girlfriend who thinks he has acting talent. I thought maybe his best career move might be to find a girlfriend who was impressed with his healthcare consulting talent.

But really, he did not think he had any future in healthcare consulting. So I became a largely useless advisor to him. And then my brother forwarded me a trailer to Lipstick Jungle and there was Rob: naked, with Kim Raver. And he looked so good. Who knew? And more importantly, who knew I could give such poor career advice?

I think the reason that I gave such poor advice is that I had such strong preconceived notions about the acting career. But I actually don’t know anything about making it big as an actor. I only know that when I played professional beach volleyball in LA we were constantly surrounded by casting agents and entertainment industry types. And I learned that the competition to get anywhere in acting is so tough that you should buy lottery tickets instead.

It’s ironic, though, because I’m a writer, where the odds are not much better. And both actors and writers generally ply their trade because they love it, not because they think the odds are great. If someone asks me if they should become a writer, I repeat the advice I received in graduate school: No. Try anything else first. Writing is too hard.

And I was thinking the same thing with acting: No. Big no. But I needed to adjust my advice. I needed to be able to see when I was looking at someone who could not feel fulfilled if they did not do this type of work.

So every week I watched Lipstick Jungle (I loved it, by the way—for the writing, of course) and I thought about how I could have given such misguided career advice. And I figured out that the hallmark of a bad advisor is to not understand where she is coming from, what preconceived notions she brings to the table.

I didn’t think much more about this until I was in Menlo Park last week for the roundtable organized by Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh. They posed questions to the group of entrepreneurial types: What makes good advice? What makes bad advice?

The answers were interesting, and each shed more light on why I gave Rob such bad advice. Here are some ideas that came from the group:

1. A good advisor asks good questions. Mostly in order to understand the goals of the advisee. No advice is given in a vacuum. Understand that an advisor can probably give you great tips on how to get to your goals, but really, the hardest part of making any decision in life is understanding your goals in the first place.

So your advisor needs to be very attuned to your goals and where you are in your life. This is why the best advisors ask questions rather than make proclamations. Often a good advisor is more sounding board and less Magic-8 ball.

2. A good advisor is a good listener. Advice is so much about understanding the particular situation that if she is not listening most of the time, then you are probably receiving advice based on incorrect assumptions that actually apply to a different circumstance. But it’s hard to listen when you are a subject matter expert.

In general, all situations sound the same when you give advice to the same types of people all the time. The trick for the advisor is to stop focusing on the similarities, which make her job easier, but to focus instead on the differences, which is more challenging—but makes for better advice.

3. Good advice is not fly-by-night. Advisors are best when they really know you, and they really know the arena where the issues live. So cultivate a relationship with someone who is a subject matter expert, and then he can give you ongoing advice that is relevant to your particular circumstances based on both what you are telling him, and on the relationship that provides a context for your questions.

Wondering how you are going to attract this kind of advisor? Be one yourself. Giving good advice is the same thing as giving a good kiss. You attract what you deserve. Not in a Secret sort of way, but in a way where if you are practicing good behavior then you will attract good behavior.

And, while I hesitate to give advice at the end of the piece about how advice should not be in a vacuum: You usually get in life what you expect to get. So expect good advice. And good kisses. And they will come.

It used to be that the smart kids went to graduate school. But today, the workplace is different, and it might be that only the desperate kids go to graduate school. Today there are new rules, and new standards for success. And for most people, graduate school is the path to nowhere. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Graduate school is an extreme investment for a fluid workplace. If you are graduating from college today, you will change careers about five times over the course of your life. So going to graduate school for four years—investing maybe $80,000—is probably over-investing in one of those careers. If you stayed in one career for your whole life, the idea is more reasonable. But we don’t do that anymore, so graduate school needs to change before it is reasonable again.

2. Graduate school is no longer a ticket to play. It used to be that you couldn’t go into business without an MBA. But recently, the only reason you need an MBA is to climb a corporate ladder. And, as Paul Graham says, “corporate ladders are obsolete.” That’s because if you try to climb one, you are likely to lose your footing due to downsizing, layoffs, de-equitization, or lack of respect for your personal life. So imagine where you want to go, and notice all the people who got there already without having an MBA. Because you can do that, too, in a wide range of fields, including finance.

3. Graduate school requires you to know what will make you happy before you try it. But we are notoriously bad at knowing what will make us happy. The positive psychology movement has shown us that our brains are actually fine-tuned to trick us into thinking we know about our own happiness. And then we make mistakes. So the best route to happiness is one of trial and error. Otherwise, you could over-commit to a terrible path. For example, today most lawyers do not like being lawyers: more than 55% of members of the American Bar Association say they would not recommend getting a law degree today.

4. Graduate degrees shut doors rather than open them. You better be really certain you know what you’re going to do with that degree because you’re going to need to earn a lot of money to pay it back. Law school opens doors only to careers that pay enough to repay your loans. Likewise, your loan payments from an MBA program mean that you cannot have a scrappy start-up without starving. Medical school opens doors to careers with such bad work-life balance that the most popular specialty right now is ophthalmology because it has good hours.

5. If you don’t actually use your graduate degree, you look unemployable. Let’s say you spend years in graduate school (and maybe boatloads of money), but then you don’t work in that field. Instead, you start applying for jobs that are, at best, only tangentially related. What it looks like is that you are asking people to give you a job even though you didn’t really want to be doing that job. You wanted another job but you couldn’t get it. No employer likes to hire from the reject pile, and no employer wants to be second choice.

6. Graduate school is an extension of childhood. Thomas Benton, columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Education, says that some students are addicted to the immediate feedback and constant praise teachers give, but the work world doesn’t provide that. Also, kids know how to do what teachers assign. But they have little idea of how to create their own assignments—which is what adult life is, really. So Benton says students go back to school more for comfort than because they have a clear idea of what they want to do with their life.

7. Early adult life is best if you are lost. It used to be that you graduated from college and got on a path. The smart kids got themselves on a safe path fast. Today there are no more safe paths, there is only emerging adulthood, where you have to figure out who you are and where you fit, and the quarter-life crisis, which is a premature midlife crisis that comes when people try to skip over the being lost part of early adult life. Being lost is a great path for today’s graduates. And for most people, graduate school undermines that process with very little reward at the end.

Dan Ariely, economist at MIT, found that when people have a complicated choice to make—and there is a default choice—they pick the default nearly every time. So if your parents or friends went to graduate school, you are likely to do the same, not because it’s good for you personally, but because choosing the alternatives seem more difficult. But making exactly that kind of difficult choice is what your early adult life is all about. So don’t skip it.

Welcome London Guardian readers, and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about careers, and often the advice I give includes stories from my own life. Here are some places to start reading that will give you a taste of this intersection of work and life.

Three columns leading up to the article you read about my divorce:

My First Day of Marriage Counseling

Five Communications Lessons Learned in Marriage Counseling

A Case Study in Staying Resilient: My Divorce

Five popular career advice columns from the past:

Five Steps to Taming Materialism from an Accidental Expert

What Generation are You Part of, Really? Take this Test.

Bad Career Advice: Do What You Love

The End of Work as We Know It

Five Situations when You Shouldn't Go to Graduate School

You can scroll down this page to see the most recent columns I’ve written. And you can find popular ones on the sidebar to the right. If you’d like me to send columns to your in box, please send an email to with “subscribe” in the subject line.

Thank you,


When I was growing up, there was lots of chatter in the media about how models gave girls bad role models. Today that’s old news. What we should talk about now is how the media portrays moms.

Take a look at the spread in People magazine of Jennifer Lopez and her one-month-old twins. The photos are so elegant that at first I thought it was a parody. But in fact, it is mommy porn: the visual fantasy of what being a working mom could be. And it really could be that, if it weren’t that someone like Jennifer Lopez must have a household full of helpers in order to keep her career on track while she has kids: a cook, a trainer, two or three nannies, a cleaner, an assistant, a stylist. And others I’m sure I can’t even imagine.

Here’s another example of mommy porn: Angelina Jolie, and her fifty kids. She has a rule that the nannies (plural, yes, each kid has their own) cannot be photographed holding the kids, because it’s bad for Angelina’s image as a mom. But this is the problem: It looks like these very successful women have it all, even though they don’t.

Here’s what happens: Some reporter interviews someone about their big job. And then the person ends up talking about the mythic work-life-balance topic. And they say something like, “Throughout my career I did [insert something that is supposed to be wonderful for children] for my kids.” And now, of course, we must assume that the kids are doing fine. But why do we believe that? Why do we even ask? We have no hope of learning the truth. After all, there are very few people in the world who are in a position to say that their career is, as they speak, harming their kids.

So journalists writing about moms being moms are not reporting the truth. It is propaganda. It is parents saying that they lived their lives in a way that was good for their kids. But really, who knows? The reporter has little ability to check. So all we’re left with is the parents giving their subjective and hugely biased opinion that their kids are turning out fine.

I’m not saying that every kid is messed up from their parents’ careers. I’m saying that I’m sick of learning about how famous families want us to think they are doing by looking at what is really only mommy porn, what is really just parenting propaganda.

So look, in the interest of truth-telling, I’m telling you this: people are not being honest about what it’s like to be with kids. People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. (Notable exception: Sally Krawcheck.) If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I’m gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It’s not interesting. It’s not helpful. It’s not even very relevant. For anyone.

What’s interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don’t love being with them on a daily basis. It’s very scary to write. But I’m telling you, if the feeling weren’t ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they’d all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime.

People are choosing to go to work rather than stay with their kids all day. But no one talks about making this choice because they are scared their kids will read it. I’m not sure what the right answer is. I just know that somehow there has to be a more honest discussion of parenting in this world.

So with all the mommy porn, the media does a lot to make us think that work life balance is possible, in the same way anorexic bodies without treatment for anorexia is possible.

So there’s real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time. This gives people the temerity to ask me, nearly every day: Who takes care of your kids?

That’s right. The genesis of this rant is that I was meeting with an investor — a guy in his early 40s — and we were talking about my travel schedule and he asked, “Who takes care of your kids?”

I told this to one of my board members and he said, “What??? Why did you answer that question?”

I said I answer it because I get the question every single day. Literally. And I don’t think twice about it anymore. But in fact, it’s a totally offensive question. Here’s how I’m so sure: I tried it out on Mr. Sales Guy. And even though Mr. Sales Guy and I work the same number of hours, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not really sure what goes on with the kids all day, you have to ask my wife.” He answered the question as if we were doing girl talk. As if I had asked him, “What brand of tampon does your wife use?”

So I want to tell you something: Women earn more than men in most major cities today. And in corporate America, up and down the ladder, women and men are on equal footing in the workplace in terms of who gets paid what, as long as neither party has kids. But the level of expectations people have for parenting is absolutely insane. The mommy porn feeds this problem. Everyone is drawn to the ideal of Angelina Jolie as the perfect combination of careerist and mother like the Pied Piper’s tune, and these attitudes are more exhausting to me than any amount of actual parenting ever is.

When I started doing Twitter, I put my Twitter feed on the sidebar of my blog. It seemed smart: more content means more traffic, and more traffic is good. But after two weeks of Twitter, I removed it. And then, when I was blogging about important topics like ditching Hebrew school as a career harbinger, commenters asked what happened to my Twitter feed.

Well, the Twitter feed is right here on Twitter. Just like my LinkedIn profile is on LinkedIn, and the potted plants I’ve collected on Facebook are on Facebook. Because mashing our social media together for the purpose of marketing one feed to another dilutes the value of social media. If you express yourself in the same way on a blog and on Twitter, then you don’t need both.

Each of us is multi-faceted. With a selection of media to choose from, we can express different parts of ourselves in different ways.

It’s clear to me that blogging is best for expressing big ideas. If you can’t convey new ideas on your blog, then you probably won’t get a lot of traffic. And most blogs that do well have a single theme and the audience can depend on the theme dictating the content of the blog. But Twitter is not good for fleshed-out ideas. I see people using Twitter for a lot of stuff, but not for fleshed-out ideas. And Flickr is good for expressing passion. Way better than, say, Twitter.

So it strikes me as really lame that we have such a wide range of media at our disposal yet people are using that range to convey the same aspect of themselves: the personal brand they are creating for social media.

Ironically, personal branding mostly rewards consistency, and using different media for different aspects of ourselves is not typically what builds brands. But none of us is so narrow to fit completely into the brand we present on a blog. There is more to each of us.

So I am playing with Twitter right now, seeing what part of me feels most natural to be in Twitter. This is the same thing we do as we make a new friend. We figure out what combination of the things that make up our personality will be best with this person. That’s why we’re a little different with each person we know.

As it turns out, Twitter feels very intimate to me. It’s a small burst, and small means intimate. It’s never a rant, because there’s not enough room, and it’s always immediate because—in keeping with Twitter conventions—it’s about “what I’m doing now.”

Mashing all social media together to create one image of ourselves doesn’t make sense because we are all already accustomed to showing certain parts of ourselves only in certain parts of our lives. We all know, for instance, that women don’t talk about blow jobs at work, even though they give plenty of them. And men don’t talk about the details of project management on a date, because they’d never get another blow job. It’s acceptable to have different places in your life for different aspects of your personality. So don’t flatten yourself by presenting only perfect consistency across Twitter and LinkedIn and blogs and Facebook.

Also, people who want to meet you in one format, won’t necessarily want to meet you in another, and that’s fine. Jason Warner, at Google, for example, explained that he doesn’t want to check out your MySpace photos before he hires you because it’s not the part of you he’s expecting to show up at work.

I actually already have experience switching media for different parts of me, and I’m telling you, it has served me well: I got into graduate school in Boston University based on my ability to write about sex. I spent my time in grad school writing hypertext fiction. I lectured at Brown University, I lectured at the Sorbonne, and I’m in Wikipedia for my sex writing — in hypertext. But when I had the opportunity to write career advice, I knew hypertext wasn’t the right format. So I started over, with a different way of thinking, in a different medium.

Sometimes I call this a braided career. Sometimes I call this bad branding. It’s a fine line. And some people will say that if you’re truly integrated, you will be your same self everywhere. I disagree. I think that the most socially adept people highlight the parts of themselves that will be most interesting to the people at hand.

So I am keeping Twitter separate. I want to play and explore and I don’t care about being consistent with my brand there. I want to show another part of myself on Twitter—a part that I wouldn’t necessarily show on the blog.

What is social media for, really? If traffic is your holy grail, then you need to point all your social media to one spot, in a sort of exercise in cross-pollination. If it’s not to build traffic, then it’s to build connections. And those connections can improve your life.

So give yourself permission to use social media to explore all the aspects of your personality, rather than just the one you picked for your “official personal brand”. It makes sense that you should give yourself some leeway to be inconsistent in who you are—and thereby consistent with who are completely are—in social media. Explore your full identity as you explore the media.

I got an email from this guy who told me he thinks I need a friend on a farm. I think he wrote the email right after I wrote about being a pint-sized ENTJ on the estate-sized front lawn of my grandma’s house. I am not sure how he knew I am fascinated with farms, but I am. And I’m always curious about how family farms work here in Wisconsin: what life is like, and why do people keep choosing that?

He invited me and my kids. He told me the farm was more than an hour out of Madison. Ten minutes out of Madison is farmland, so more than an hour out is really hard core. I went to a farmer’s market with my oldest son to check out the farmer, to make sure he wasn’t an ax murderer or something.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell from looking at the farmer’s market. Really, even an ax murderer has to have a job. I asked for his phone number, in case I got lost on the way to the farm. He told me it was a party line — a term I haven’t heard anyone use in real life. He also said his parents might answer the phone.

“You live with them?!?!” I tried not to sound judgmental. I write all the time about how living with your parents is a good idea. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how Norman Bates lived with his mom.

The farmer said, “Don’t worry, I’m not Amish.”

I thought that was charming. I mean, of course I didn’t worry that he was Amish because I don’t know anyone who is Amish. I didn’t even know there were Amish people in Wisconsin. But you can learn a lot about someone by how they choose to reassure you. And somehow this was so genuine that I was, actually, reassured.

The farm was really in the middle of nowhere. It was in Wisconsin, but it would be a suburb of Dubuque, Iowa, if Dubuque had suburbs. I had to call twice because I thought I was lost. Both times, the farmer said that I was actually following directions just fine.

The farmer lived in a town of 500 people. None of whom I could see from his farm.

I parked my car in the middle of his dirt road. Or his front lawn. They were sort of the same. There were fields everywhere. It was every farm: Red barn, white house, green fields.

The first thing I said to him: “What are you doing out here? All alone? Who do you talk to? You don’t even have a real phone.”

He smiled. He said he had friends.

I looked around and decided his friends were very far away.

It turns out, though, that his friends had kids. He had “city friends” and they brought their kids to visit the farm. The place was tricked out for kids: a rope for swinging, baby chicks to hold, baby pigs to pet, and ten cats he let my son feed. We walked to the field with the cattle, past the hens and roosters, alongside the vegetable garden that was for the pigs to eat, stepping through the barbed-wire fence. The farmer scanned his field for the herd of cattle, and my son held his hand while we traipsed toward the cattle.

“I don’t get it. You read my column and sent me an email to come to your farm?”

“I wouldn’t send an email to a syndicated newspaper columnist. I saw the note at the bottom of your column about your blog. So I started reading your blog. And then I bought your book. And then I wrote to you.”

“You read career advice?”

He thought my question was funny. “I’m an entrepreneur. And I read your blog because you write a lot about entrepreneurship.”

“You’re an entrepreneur?”

“Farming is changing a lot. It’s a lot like what you say about how corporations won’t take care of you and you have to take care of yourself.”

The farmer told me about how the buy-local movement is great for his farm. It’s increasing profits for farmers who can shift their business model.

He called out sort of a bird call (but deeper, for cattle) and the herd walked toward us. I thought there would be a stampede like in a movie, but they just came to say hi.

My son fed grass to snot-dripping Angus cattle and I asked the farmer if these cattle are those organic, grass-fed cattle that I see at Trader Joe's.

The farmer said that they are hormone free and grass fed, but he doesn’t get certified organic. It’s just jumping through hoops for the government and he doesn’t need to do that in order to sell to socially conscious restaurants. I liked that he was cutting corners. I liked that he knew which details to ignore.

I asked him how he knew what to write to me in an email, and he said that today, the family farm is about marketing. “It was a sales pitch,” he said. “I thought you had a problem and I thought I could solve it.”

I thought of all the problems I have and tried to remember which one he said he was solving. I felt like there were so many he could solve, but if he had mentioned them all, I’d have never responded to his email.

On the way back to the house through the field, he told me he thought I needed a place I could go that was peaceful. He told my son not to step in cow pies. We ducked under the electric fence. He told me it wasn’t on, but he wanted us to practice because it might be on the next time we came.

I got excited that he thought there would be a next time. I thought my life could be very peaceful here, as I looked out on the fields like they could fill my days. I made a note to see how much it would cost to get wireless Internet at his house.

We arrived at the farm at 5pm, so I brought dinner. My son and I are two of the pickiest eaters in the world, but I wanted to bring something that the farmer would like to eat. I brought chicken wraps and vegetable wraps. And I brought bagels for me, because I eat them almost every meal. I brought desert so I seem fun. And I brought popcorn for my son because that’s one of the only things I know he’d eat that would occupy him for the duration of an adult meal.

“I know there’s a lot of food,” I said. “You can keep what we don’t eat.”

“I don’t know if I’d eat it all,” he said. “Maybe you should take back the cupcakes.”

“Just throw out everything you don’t want,” I said.

I looked at the farmer. That did not go over well. “Um. You don’t throw out food, do you?”

“Not really. No.”

I thought about throwing out an Angus steak that I grew and slaughtered myself. It would be impossible. I didn’t know what to say. Next to my farmer, I looked less like an environmentally-conscious city person and more like a heathen.

I told my son he had to eat two mini-Gouda cheeses before the popcorn. Mostly for show. So the farmer thought I didn’t let my kid eat popcorn for dinner. The farmer had never seen Gouda cheese. So he put one on his plate. Along with a bagel.

The farmer asked if we give thanks before a meal. I looked at him, speechless. I think because I want to be a person who gives thanks, but I could tell he was a person who really did give thanks.

He asked if it was okay. And how could I say no, it’s not okay to give thanks?

So the farmer thanked God for our food and our safe trip.

And my son ate extra cheese and looked very healthy.

And I thanked God that my blog introduces me to people who can change my life.


Other posts about the farmer:

How I started taming my workaholic tendencies

Self-sabotage is never limited to just one part of your life

Think of networking as a lifestyle, not an event