I’ve been walking around with the July/August 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review constantly, for close to three years. Sometimes, if I'm getting on a plane, I'll put it with the other heavy stuff into my luggage, and then get it out later. When my last car broke down in the middle of an intersection, I got the magazine out of the trunk before I abandoned the car.

The article that I'm attached to is The Making of an Expert by Anders Ericsson, Michael Prietula and Edward Cokely. I would not normally bother to tell you all three authors for one article in my blog. This is not a medical journal. But I love the article so much, that I want you to know all of them.

The article changed how I think about what I am doing here. In my life. I think I am trying to be an expert.

Being an expert is not what you think, probably. For one thing, the article explains that “there is no correlation between IQ and expert performance in fields such as chess, music, sports, and medicine. The only innate differences that turn out to be significant”?and they matter primarily in sports — are height and body size. ”

So what factor does correlate with success? One thing emerges very clearly is that successful performers “had practiced intensively, had studied with devoted teachers, and had been supported enthusiastically by their families throughout their developing years.” Read more

I collect data points constantly, and I index them by topic, and I always hope that they will come together in an interesting, useful way. Lots of times, that doesn't happen, and I just have to throw ideas away, because I have a rule for myself that I have to be useful in every post.

But today I'm trying something new. I'm doing a post that is useless to you. Here are four ideas I was just about to toss out as incurably useless, but instead, I bring them to you:

1. Law firms are making concessions for women.
One of the top law firms in the world, Allen Overy, just announced they are letting people become part-time partners. This would be news if no one had tried it before. But many firms that have already done this in response to the extreme brain drain in the legal profession due to women leaving law firms because they are so inflexible.

So now there is the idea that there can be a part-time partner. Fortunately, like most things in workplace reform, Gen X-ers have already been the guinea pigs. My friends, in fact, have tried this. And it turns out that if you give a lawyer a part-time job, she ends up working 50 hours a week instead of 80, and gets part-time credit, which isn't exactly encouraging.

2. People live together instead of getting married.
This is not news you can use because you already know it. This is what I said to Hannah Seligson, who asked me to write about her new book, A Little Bit Married: How to Know When it’s Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door. Read more

The idea of paying for a liberal arts education is over. It is elitist and a rip off and the Internet has democratized access to information and communication skills to the point that paying $30K a year to get them is insane.

Ben Casnocha has one of the most thorough, self-examined discussions about the value of college on his blog. He went to college, probably, because so many people told him to. (Here are some good links on Ben’s blog.)

Ben left college. Early. And he’s fascinating, and he’s educating himself through experience, which is what the Internet does not provide. The Internet provides books and discussion, so why would you need to go to school for those things?

Read more

The All-Star Rodeo Challenge came to Madison, WI last weekend, and the farmer took me and my kids. I was not thrilled about going, but I try to be open-minded when it comes to stuff that is new to me that I am not ever wishing I will get a chance to experience.

I asked the farmer if rodeos are bad for the animals.

He said, “City people probably think so. But most farmers don’t.”

He told me that if I really hated it, we could leave.

I really hated it before there were any animals. Before there were animals there was the flag, rising above the dirt ring, and the announcer saying everyone should sing the Star Spangled Banner to honor “the flag that protects our troops, and our churches and our great country.”

I looked over at the farmer for churches, and before I could roll my eyes, the announcer said, “Everyone please rise in the name of Jesus and sing the Star Spangled Banner.”

I told my kids to stay seated.

The farmer stayed seated out of solidarity even though he hates standing out. It was a great moment of compromise for us. Read more

I think I'm over the happiness thing. I think I am thinking that the pursuit of happiness is, well, vacuous. I don't think people are happy or unhappy. Because I think knowing if we are happy would require knowing the meaning of life, or the ultimate goal, or the key to the world, or something that, which really, we are not going to find outside of blind religious fanaticism.

The first thing I have to grapple with, besides having spent the last three years of my life completely enthralled and ensconced in the happiness research from positive psychologists, is if I don't want a happy life, what sort of life do I want?

I think I want an interesting life. Not that I want to be interesting, but I want to be interested. I’m talking about what I think is interesting to me. I want to choose things that are interesting to me over things that would make me happy. For example, this post. I am not sure if I’m right on this, and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of telling me I’m an idiot in the comments. But it’s going to be interesting.

I think choosing a life that is interesting to us and choosing a life that makes us feel happy are probably very different choices.

For one thing, people who are happy do not look for a lot of choices, according to Barry Schwartz, in his book, The Paradox of Choice. People who want to have an interesting life are always looking for more choices and better choices, and they make decisions for their life based on maximizing choices. Read more

People talk about leadership like it's a business crisis, and the exit of the baby boomers leaves a huge gap, and there are no aspiring leaders in the younger workforce.

But what we have is actually a semantic problem rather than a leadership problem. The issue is that in the age of the Internet, what it means to be a leader is changing. And we need a new way to talk about leadership so we can talk about identifying leaders.

The old view of leadership is doing it from the top.
To baby boomers, leadership is a game where you try to get to the top and then everyone will follow you. Baby boomers have had to compete forever, for everything, because there were so many of them trying to get on the same “path for success.”

Tammy Erickson's book, What's Next Gen X, has lots of fun tidbits about generational conflict. To Gen X she says, “Your expectation to be treated individually — to be allowed to play the game by our own rules — contrasts with boomers' willingness to play by established rules in competition for individual rewards.”

Baby boomers competed for a big salary which they translated to a visual trophy: a McMansion. This gives us a visual for the lack of interest Gen X has in Baby Boomer style managment: McMansions for sale with no buyers. Read more

People at work are asking me why I am not working as many hours as I used to. I am. But I am working on anger management. Here are seven tips I’ve tried using:

1. Face the problem and make it a priority.
I used to think anger management problem is a thing for men who are in prison for setting their wives on fire. Now I see it's a problem for people who think they will get fired for being unpleasant. Or for people who think their kids will grow up and hate them for being emotionally unpredictable.

I am both those people.

2. Focus on your trigger points.
The time I most consistently lose my temper is trying to get the kids out of the house in the morning. So I told myself to not lose my temper.

That didn't work.

So I have been waking up at 5:30 because I need to give myself two hours to be completely organized and calm so that I can get the kids and myself out the door for school and work at 7:30 without screaming at the kids for not eating fast enough because I changed my clothes for work three times and got behind and forgot to make lunches. Read more

I'm pretty sure that the people who pay attention to happiness research are actually happier people. And happiness begets happiness. So I have a feeling that me just writing a post about happiness, and you reading it makes us all happier.

Here is why I think that:

Recently, Gretchen Rubin sent me her new book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.

Let me tell you now, I am not a huge fan of the book. She is writing about her life, but her life is not all that interesting. The thing about reading stories about people’s lives is that we like conflict. That's what every novel is, it's what every memoir is. If there's no conflict then there is no path to follow in a story line.

Gretchen's conflict in this story about her is how can she be happier. Gretchen reports that she is already happy. She has an investment banker husband, two seemingly just fine daughters, a nice apartment in Manhattan, former-model good looks, etc. She basically (as she says in her forward to the book) needs something to talk about at cocktail parties. So she is writing a book so she can talk about it. Read more

I am back with the farmer.

This probably is not surprising to you, because admittedly, it is absurd to be engaged one day and not engaged the next day. But there are exacerbating factors, and basically, the way I got him back was to be more likable.

I have spent most of my career overcoming my lack of social skills by studying research about what makes people likable. And I think the research I've applied so systematically in my career is finally helping me in my personal life.

Here's what we know about being likable:

1. Don't give ultimatums. It's disrespectful. Instead, be a negotiator.
The farmer does not want to be in this blog. As you might imagine, we have this discussion a lot.

First it was like this:

Him: I don't want to be in the blog.

Me: You have to be. I can't live without writing my life.

Then the conversation was like this:

Him: I don't want to be in the blog.

Me: How about if you can edit whatever you want? Read more