This is the last thing I should be writing on my blog. Because it’s now clear that the blog is a great dating tool. Propositions all the time. So I should not tell you this, but here it is: It turns out that I’m a lousy girlfriend.

Not the bad in bed type. Well, sort of. Because I’m game for anything, but only as long as I don’t have to be vulnerable.

At work, I’m great because all workplace vulnerability is based in talking—everyone gets to talk all the time—and I’m a very good talker. I can say things that would seem vulnerable, but really, talking is a way for me to constantly make sure that I am in charge.

The farmer likes less talk.

When I was with the farmer, the first night, and we were having intellectual banter about if he should date someone who will never move to the farm and never make him apple pies, I was winning. I won when we argued if he needed to call God “He” in a prayer. I told him that I read Hebrew, and in Hebrew the word for God is gender neutral.

So after a bunch of verbal sparring, I leaned across the sofa and kissed him. Even though he said he didn’t want to kiss. He kissed back, and I felt victorious.

Flash forward: To now. To me next to his bed, typing. Because he told me that absolutely today we were not going to do arguing in bed.

“But that’s my favorite thing to do,” I told him. In bed. Gearing up for an argument.

“Let’s just have fun,” he said.

“That is fun.”

“Let’s go running in the corn field.”

He loves that. He says he loves running in his fields because he’s a guy and women feel close talking and men feel close doing things. But I think he loves running in the corn because the corn is high now, and it makes you feel cozy, and he runs too fast for me to keep up and talk at the same time.

Ten million times a year I write about how people would rather work with people they like than people who are competent. And then everyone asks, “How can I be more likable?”

So I tell people the answer: “Be more vulnerable.” And then I suggest stuff that is easy for me but hard for most people: Admit shortcomings, confess stuff you are having trouble fixing, ask for advice on things you cannot figure out. If you let people see the cracks in your surface, that is where they will find a way in.

But in my personal life, this is extremely hard for me. So my own process for figuring out how to be vulnerable with the farmer is actually a good step-by step lesson on how to be vulnerable in any relationship.

Later, hours after the run, the farmer sits up in bed, head propped on a pillow. I am undressing at the foot of the bed.

I take down my pants and my underwear in one fell swoop.

“Hey. Hold it,” he says. “Do you even have underwear on? Why so fast? What about undressing slower?”

I think about it. I see he wants some sort of strip tease. Not the kind with a pole. But the kind that is sort of casual but has some zing.

It already took me three weeks to get rid of the underwear that could have passed for a bathing suit. So now I have the sexy underwear, but I can’t really use it. I’m very comfortable talking about it, not so comfortable seducing with it.

And then there is the bed. And we are on it. And I cannot cope. We are not sparring verbally. So I wait to hear him talk. He talks about things like the cattle, like my day. My meetings. The grass. His sister. Not small talk but not conflict. Something in between that surely is a building block of intimacy, but I cannot figure out how to do it.

I am quiet. And then, I think, he feels close to me because I am not arguing with him, so he rolls over on top of me and I nearly cry. From the stress of having to be vulnerable and intimate and not connect with words.

I want to talk about my meeting. We got a new board member and he was fun and he liked talking with me and I like when someone likes talking with me because I am so comfortable with that. He said there are not a lot of people in Madison like me and I took that to mean that when I told him that he was full of crap and he should talk to people with his heart, he liked me. I am good with words. I am good with talking.

People think I’m being intimate with the talking, because for example, I told the guy who I want to be on my board that I waxed off all my pubic hair because I read that 90% of Generation Y girls wax it off and I wanted to see what I was missing. So he thinks I’m all vulnerable and intimate with him and we are connecting, but look, I’ll tell that stuff to anyone.

For years I was the manager telling employees their career will tank if they don’t become more vulnerable with their co-workers. At the farm, I’m like my employees, but it’s the non-verbal stuff that flummoxes me. A hand on a chest. A peck on the arm. A stroke on the back. And no talking.

The farm is absolutely lovely right now. But I see the corn growing taller and blocking the views I’ve almost become used to. And I am worried that I don’t know what the winter will bring.

It all makes me nervous. And, like an employee who does not have the social skills for management, I wonder if I will get good at this girlfriend stuff any time soon.

I haven’t posted for two weeks. This is the first time in ten years that I have gone two weeks without writing a column. Really. I have a track record for continuing to write when every other sane person would take a break: I wrote a column right after I delivered a baby, I wrote a column from the admitting room of a mental ward, and I wrote a column four hours after the World Trade Center fell on me.

So you can imagine that I did not plan this blogging break. Of course, I tell people that planning a break from routine work is very important for learning. And of course, I don’t take my own advice. So, the break was accidental, but I did learn a lot. Here’s what I’ve been learning about myself.

1. I am sick of straight-up career advice.
Do you want to know what I was writing when I wasn’t writing? I wrote ten thousand random paragraphs about the farmer. I wrote about him considering dumping me for being Jewish, and me having to argue with his pastor about our interfaith relationship. And I wrote about the farmer borrowing my books about business.

Every time I wrote something that was straight career advice (like how to change departments in your company—a question people ask me a lot) the post sucked and I didn’t run it.

But at lunch—I had a lot of lunches while I was not taking time to write posts—I met with a potential investor, and he said, “I read your blog for two hours last night.” And I said, “Oh, did you get a lot of career advice?” And he said, “I read mostly the personal stuff.”

It hit me then that it’s okay for me to write personal stuff all the time. You have to write what interests you. I want to tell you that stuff that is not me is interesting to me. And it is. But only in relation to me.

2. I missed my editor.
In case you didn’t know, I have an editor for my blog. This comes from being a columnist for so long. My editors were incredible—one was from Vanity Fair, one went on to the Harvard Business Review, and they definitely made me a better writer. So I have an editor for my blog, and if you think that’s over the top, consider this: he also edits my Twitters. I mean, you can’t write about sex and investors in the same 140-character phrase and still get funding unless you have an editor to save you from yourself.

So anyway, when I am posting regularly, I talk with my editor three or four times a day. When I stopped posting, he called me to see if something was wrong. And when I said, “Yes, of course something is wrong. I have too much to do,” he changed his tune and started telling me that if I have to cut something, writing on my blog probably wasn’t the best idea. And then I snapped at him: “When someone is cutting out something they love as much as I love blogging, then you can imagine that person is really, really busy.”

The problem with being friends with someone who works for you is when you snap at him about time management issues, it’s hard for him to come back to you with something like, “You are being a brat and a bitch and I’m sure you have twenty minutes to crank out a post about how everyone should be lost in life or something like that.”

So I missed writing a lot. Every night I would tell myself, “Tomorrow I will write. I will have time tomorrow.” It didn’t surprise me that I missed writing because I’m addicted to the process of self-discovery through words. But it did surprise me that I missed my editor. Talking with someone about things that matter—like does the sentence have better rhythm with an and or an also—is a foundation for talking about everything else.

3. My traffic is mysteriously not related to my rate of posting.
On days when my blog is rocking, like when I write about transparent salaries and the New York Times quotes me and I get 200,000 page views from the intelligentsia, Ryan Healy will point out that my blog is not really a blog—it is something else—because I have the same traffic no matter how often I post.

But this is not totally true. For example I experimented by canceling my whole life and posting five days in a row, and yes, my traffic went up a bit. But only a bit. And after not posting for two weeks, my traffic only went down a tiny bit.

4. Some things don’t change. Even after a break.
Look, I’m still writing lists. Right? And I’m still telling myself that for me, blogging is mental, and if I would just take any free half-hour of the day to sit down and write what I care about, I’d have enough posts in the hopper.

And even though I spend tons of my time meeting with investors who tell me that I should use my blog as a way to plug my company, I continue to write posts about me instead of my company, and I still insist on tossing in off-color missives about the investors for good measure.

Our SEO guy, who I love, told me to use the word Generation Y in a sentence and then link to Brazen Careerist. So I am doing that now. Because I want to be a good team player. But really, I took time off from the blog to raise funding for my company, and realized that I care too much about the blog to make the company come before it. They are together. The blog is where I experiment with ideas that end up driving the company.

5. I hate my photo.
This is something I’ve learned in the last two weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I never look like my photo on my blog. First, my hair is never that organized. I try to remember back to when Yahoo had the photo taken and I don’t remember hair like that, so maybe it was never like that and it’s all Photoshop. That wouldn’t be too outlandish an assumption since my skin also never looks like that, or my lips, and it might actually not even be a photo, but a Yahoo rendition of what a photo might look like.

A British women’s magazine did an article about me and my divorce. And they asked if I had three hours to do a photo session. I was like, I don’t even have a half hour for a blog post, so I’m definitely not doing three hours of photos. Then they told me it was a famous photographer, and he takes pictures for Vanity Fair and other big magazines that I figure surely starlets demand to look great in. So I said yes.

And it paid off. Because I have new photos that actually look like me. Here they are.

The idea that we somehow have a certain amount of potential that we must live up to is a complete crock. People who say they are not living up to their potential do not understand what living means.

Life is very hard. We each probably have some fundamental goals, even if we don’t think of them consciously. First of all, getting up in the morning is very hard. It is fundamentally an act of optimism. Because surely you have already realized that most days are not full of happiness. They are full, but with something else. Yet we still get out of bed every day, thinking that the day is going to be good. That’s a big deal. A huge leap of faith. I spend a lot of time wondering why more of us don’t kill ourselves, and I never come up with a great answer.

The next big goals we have are the spiritual kind: Be good, be kind, treat people with respect. You probably don’t write these on your to do list, but now that you read them, surely you are thinking to yourself, “Oh yeah, I want to remember to do that.”

So already, life is very full. For example, I just took the red eye home from San Francisco. But if you live in a little town like Madison, Wisconsin, there is, really, no red eye. There is only half a red eye to Chicago, a traumatic awakening at 5am, and then an 8am flight to Wisconsin. By the time I get to my gate, treating people with respect takes pretty much everything that is left of my potential.

Living up to your potential is not crossing off everything on your to do list on time, under budget. Or canonizing your ideas in a book deal. Really, no one cares. You are not on this earth to do that. Trust me. No one is. You are on this earth to be kind. That is your only potential.

And then you have to earn a living.

It’s no coincidence that everyone who is walking around bitching that they are not living up to their potential is talking about how they should be more successful at work. Because “living up to potential” is really just code for “not being recognized as the talented genius that I am.”

How about this? How about saying, “I was so good at getting high marks in school. Why am I not catapulting up the corporate ladder?” The answer, of course, is that most of getting what you want at work is about having social skills, and school doesn’t measure that. So there you go—if you insist on talking about living up to your amorphous potential, the reason you’re not doing it, most likely, is that you are not being kind enough at your work.

If you want to live up to your potential, be as nice as you can be. Be as respectful as you can be. Be as honest with yourself as you can be. Because you can’t be honest with other people if you are not honest with yourself.

What can you do if you think you are living below your potential?

1. Recognize that it’s delusional. You are who you are, and you should just be you. Have realistic, meaningful goals for your life, like: Be kind. Be engaged. Be optimistic. Be connected. Most people who say they are not living up to their potential are not talking about this most-important stuff.

2. Recognize that the world isn’t a race. A race assumes that everyone has an inborn ability to reach a personal best. If you stop racing, you stop wondering what that inborn ability is. I mean, really, “living up to one’s potential” is always relative. You are really talking about your ability to kick everyone else’s butt at something. And it’s not a pleasant thing to say. When you stop looking at the world as a competition, then you can stop wondering why you’re not coming in first place.

3. Recognize that you sound like your mother. “Living up to your potential” is a phrase from a grade-school report card. It is elementary-school speak. It is your parents saying you need to do more homework. It is your mother saying “Joey, you’re a genius. Why don’t you get straight A’s? Look what you do to your mother!” In almost every case when someone says, “You are not living up to your potential,” the proper answer is, “So what?” Because it’s always someone trying to tell you that the thing you should contribute to this world is something other than kindness.

I give a lot of speeches, mostly telling people how to manage Generation Y, and how to manage their careers so that they are not jealous of Generation Y. My charm, I think, is that I don’t prepare a speech. I never know, exactly, what I’ll say when I stand up. It works for me—no one ever says I’m boring.

What they say instead is that I talk fast. When they are being nice, people say, “You’re so east coast” or “You sure have a lot of information.” When they are not being nice, people say, “Penelope lacks polish.”

The lack of polish thing sort of bugs me, so I get a lot of coaching.

The first time I got coaching as a speaker, it was from Lindy Amos, at TAI. She totally changed how I approached speaking. She taught me that it’s not about the information you spew so much as about the connections you make.

I love the crazy things I’ve had to do at TAI. Like, give a sermon as if I were a Southern preacher and give a speech about how much I did not have time to be interrupting my day to give a speech. I have taken the TAI introduction course twice, and really, I’d take it ten more times because I love it so much, but I'd feel like a cheater.

So I take private lessons from Lindy now. And last time I met with her, she told me to pause. I had to pause and ask her to repeat herself, because of course, I was talking so fast when she told me to pause that I could not pause fast enough to hear her.

“What?” I said.

“Pause,” she said.

“I am,” I said. “What did you say?”

And I said this in an annoyed voice, of course, because people who do not pause do not pause because they do not like to pause.

Lindy says that the impact of what I’m saying arrives during the pauses.

She tells me to start talking again, and pause where it feels natural to pause. I do that, thinking I won’t know where to pause, but I'm surprised that I can sort of tell.

Then I realize that I don't pause when I am speechmaking because I’m scared of what will happen in the pause. If I tell a joke with no pause, then people start to laugh, but they can’t really laugh because they are laughing on top of me talking, so they stop themselves laughing. That is not a great way to do a joke, but the alternative—that I pause at the end of a joke so that people have a moment to laugh—seems too risky. If they don’t laugh, I’ll feel so awkward.

The real risk of speaking is in the pause. And not just during joke time.

If I have a big idea, it sounds big when I pause. If it’s stupid, the pause gives someone a chance to really notice how stupid the idea is. But the excitement of hearing a big idea is nice, and people will have more miss it if I don’t pause.

During my own pause, I am horrified by the analogies—how, really, you don’t know how you’re doing with anything until you slow down to listen and notice.

I do a lot of swing dancing. With fast music, you can hide that you have no style. You just do technique to keep up with the music. The best moves come out when the music slows down and you can’t hide behind speed.

The same is true of sex. Right? Bad technique always comes with a fast pace.

And what about the pace of a career? I write all the time about how important it is to pause. A career with a slow, rhythmic, but not-always-constant pace is the best type of career to have. Because we learn about ourselves, and recalibrate our paths when we pause. That month you spend on the sofa, collecting an unemployment check and eating Cheetos between movies. That’s not wasted time. It’s your pause. You are thinking. And the pause is actually what keeps us on course.

What I love about Lindy is that she takes what I know is definitely true and shows me that I’m not living up to that. I am scared to have a pause. I know that’s where the action happens, and I know that the best speakers are the ones who take risks. You would think that I take risks all the time. I mean I go to employee motivation seminars and tell everyone to job hop. But the risk isn’t in one's content. The risk is in the pause, where I can tell how my audience is connecting with the content, or not.

It’s a hard lesson. But this lesson is just like all the times that Lindy has changed my speaking style: I connect better everywhere. Not just in my speeches.