I am in NYC with no money. This used to happen all the time. When my company was running out of money, I would go to San Diego to give a speech and stay at a four-star hotel and not have a cent. And no credit card, of course. I would fly first class, stash all the extra treats they offered, and eat them until I could charge room service to the organization I was speaking to.

I am an ace at traveling without any money, but I'm sick of it. I thought it would never happen again. After all, I have a company credit card.

But I think Ryan Healy canceled my card. Or put a hold on it. I think this is maybe because I charged a ton of garden supplies on the card last weekend. I couldn't find my own card, so I thought I'd just charge a few things and then write the company a check. But then I charged a bunch of roses. Twenty. I mean, the farmer can just dump a bunch of dirt in a pile and dump a bunch of stones around the pile, and voila — I have a huge garden plot. So now I have a sun garden that needs a little more spunk.

I discovered the credit card problem while innocently buying a Bluetooth headset in NYC so I could do the gazillion conference calls we do at Brazen Careerist with a CEO in DC and me on a farm and Ryan and Ryan in Madison. I mean, every meeting is a conference call and I'm getting a neck ache.

Also, I'm getting fat. The conference calls are hard for me. They bore me. I like big ideas, I like hypothesizing and predicting and synthesizing. The job of actually getting stuff done is not that interesting to me. But we are in execution mode at the company, and I need to stay focused. So I eat when I’m on the conference calls. On a good day, I eat ten apples. Cut into halves, then quarters, then cookie cutter shapes like stars. On a bad day it’s one apple and ten apple pies.

So I am needlepointing, to stay focused on execution instead of food.

I remembered about needlepointing from when I was a kid, bored out of my mind in Miami with my grandma, when I spent summers at the Doral, where every evening was black tie, and kids ate dinner alone, in pajamas. I learned to needlepoint there. In between getting sunburned and getting spanked. And the needlepoint was the highlight of my trips. Well that, and my diary, featuring entries like, “Granma hayts me. I hayt Auntie. I want to dye.”

So I thought, maybe I should needlepoint to calm myself down now, so I don't have outbursts on the phone. I am trying to be a more amicable co-worker. I am not sure if it's possible, but I know that to achieve my goal of amicability, I have to stop getting angry on the phone, which comes not out of passion but rather out of boredom.

So now I needlepoint. And then it was so effective that I started needlepointing everywhere. I did it while I had dinner with my mom. She told me I was crazy. I did not say pot calling the kettle black.

I stopped following the color pattern exactly by the time I was so addicted that I was needlepointing while getting a Brazilian. And by the time I was doing needlepoint in the board meeting, I was disregarding the whole pattern in favor of a completely free-form approach, (which, by the way, strikes me as the future of all needlepoint — less rigidity).

Now I'm convinced I need beads for my needlepoint, and I'm actually super happy thinking of spending my days threading beads. The problem is that I don't have any beads. There is a bead store near the farm, but they are not interesting beads, and I knew I was going to New York City, which must be home to many amazing beads. I was thinking that even though I don't know where my bank card is, I have the company card. And now that I've charged garden stuff, the beads won't get anyone any more annoyed.

But now I'm cut off from the credit card. I'm going to have to ask Ryan Healy, or even Ed, our CEO, why. They will say, “Have you been using it for anything weird?” They will ask innocently maybe, although they constantly worry about me and weird. They worry that weird will overshadow all the good about me.

But just because I am not able to charge beads while I'm in NYC with no money does not mean that I am out of good ideas. Don't underestimate my workplace trends genius.

Like, I'm thinking that the future of all writing is short, twitter-like stuff, based on traits we see in Generation Z. This group only uses phones, and very few use phones for email. For Generation Z, email is for diatribes and texting is for communication. There are few laptops in our future. Laptops will be for dorks, and keyboards will be too small for big typing sessions, so only dorks will write long form.

Here's another idea: The future of human resources is death. Good managers will do their own recruiting by having their own great network. (Great article from ERE about how Brazen Careerist will be a part of this revolution.) And RPO companies will take over the legal part of HR. So there won't be a reason for HR. Which is good because it's a cost center, which means there are no line manager positions in HR, so it's a dangerous career move for everyone.

One more trend. This one is for all the investors that my CEO will be worrying about when they read this post. Bloggers will rule the world. They will own advertising, because it's so effective to target audiences through blogs. And blogs have the best content, because if someone writes great content, why would they do it for someone else? They should build their own brand.

Okay. So, look. My career as a workplace genius is not over. And anyway, my career was never built on me being conventional. I think my company is going to have a fit over the gardening charges. I wish I were scared about what will happen. But I am feeling fearless, thinking that if I am simply honest about what's happening, I'll be fine. Or, at least I'll have a blog post.

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146 replies
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  1. Audrey
    Audrey says:

    Penelope, I have been reading your posts regularly for a long time, but lately, I think you are just making up stuff simply to have something to write about and justifying it by saying that you are “thinking outside the box”. I’m not so sure I want to listen to advice from someone who is constantly short on cash. You might be great at generating money, but as for managing it, you probably suck. There are lots of people out there with regular stable jobs, whose approach to their careers you ridicule as being out of date- but lo and behold, I betcha these people are more likely to not ever be in a situation where they face zero access to cash when they need it.

    I am writing this not because I am better than you, but because I recognize that I have spent much of my 20’s and early 30’s ( I am 35) thinking like you… and realized that I am constantly strapped for cash though I can generate a lot of money and am “doing what I love”. I’m not going to give up on my dreams, but realize that the advice you dole out is simply one way to manage your career, but not the only way and ultimately, I’m not so sure it’s the smartest way for everyone. There are lots of people out there “living their dreams and playing by their own rules”, but they are also frustrated and exhausted because they have not built the financial security they need.

  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Use of corporate credit card for personal items = embezzling (as an earlier commenter noted).

    HR groups are about avoiding litigation and risk management, not recruiting or personnel development. They aren’t going away any time soon.

    The last part of this post reads like every annual performance self-evaluation I’ve seen where the person knows they aren’t contributing and should be fired.

    • Ilana
      Ilana says:

      I was reading this post thinking, “Penelope probably has fans in every city in the country who would be happy to take her to lunch or dinner. I know I would”. No need to go without a meal when the unexpected happens. And, I work for the company that has the amazing yarn store in New York City that Alesya refers to. Knitting is a trend that has been building for a number of years because it’s relaxing and creative at the same time. Next time you come to New York – or if you are still here, stop by!

  3. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    This woman is an idiot!!! And people wonder why women are not respected in the workplace – she is a prime exhibit.

    • Maureen Sharib
      Maureen Sharib says:

      Maureen, I’ve seen it written where the number of exclamation points is proportionally inverse to a writer’s true sincerity on a subject.

      On a sort-of related note, do you wonder why women are not respected in the workplace?

  4. Moneymonk
    Moneymonk says:


    You are definitely wired to be an entrepreneur. You’re so brutually honest and a true hustler :)

    • Maureen Sharib
      Maureen Sharib says:

      Do you think there’s hard wiring that creates an entrepreneur?
      Can one be taught to be an entrepreneur or does the hot wire need to be in place at birth?

  5. Mimsey
    Mimsey says:

    Recently you wrote about buying new boots every week, which no one needs. Now you buy 30 rose bushes, which has to have been pricey, needlepoint kits which are very pricey, and beads which are also expensive. You sound like you’re in the grip of a mania, with no concern for the impact on those around you. It comes across as very selfish.

  6. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    P – While your article is a little less focused than normal, I really do think that the theme of this post is all about having passion for what you do and the transition from start up to established company.

    I agree with others that have posted that you may be looking for a way out of BC. You have said that your company is now about execution and that does not interest you. And frankly, if you need something like needle point to behave professionally while on conf calls then you clearly are not enjoying your current position.

    I think that because you created this company, you are having a difficult time with the idea of letting it go now that it is operational. So, what do you do? Self-sabotage by mixing personal and business expenses. In most companies this type of thing can get you fired. Are you daring them? Challenging your now “corporate” environment? If it is time to leave, do so with grace and on your own terms.

    What about focusing on your true calling? You are a wonderful writer. You are able to connect with people through your experiences and that is a rare talent.

    As always, thanks for sharing a glimpse into your world and letting us all jump on here and express our points of view. I always enjoy reading your perspective and insights.

  7. Lynne whiteside
    Lynne whiteside says:

    TRANSITION – you have a lot on your plate. the needlepoint sounds a little frantic, but hell, we’ve all been there too. your talent is not in question, you help tons of people. trust that we (your loyal fans) will ride out whatever it takes thru your blog, to help you help us!!! thanks for all your inspiration and motivation.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      I like this comment.
      I also like this paragraph taken from the “About This Blog” section – “What I think my life is about is figuring out how to find success at the intersection of work and life – one happy, synchronized adventure. It’s a difficult task, and I don’t want to do it alone. My blog is a community where we all do it together. (And my company is community career management on a much larger scale.)”
      Some days we’re ready to conquer the world and then there’s other days we could care less about the world. It’s easier and more enjoyable to do whatever together.

  8. alleycat
    alleycat says:

    Random meanderings …

    – IMO, people who don’t write, blog and/or tweet clearly/concisely/precisely suck, whether their texts are long or short.

    – At my work place, we were told: “You’re your own personnel/HR rep ….” So, if anyone actually believes that HR is anything but an ineffectual slag heap, they’re in for a rude awakening.

    – On a scale of “1 to Wacky,” this ain’t NOTHIN.

  9. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    Even though you’re sounding like you’re on speed or something, you also sound totally right.

  10. SarahD
    SarahD says:

    What I want to know is, where do you get your Brazilians now you live on the farm??

    This might sound like a trivial question, but it’s not: your answer will be insightful to me on many levels. For example, it will be a telling indication of how you prioritise one body zone over another (we already know you go to LA to get your eyebrows done, remember? :) ) It will also tell us just how much you’ve given up to move to the farm.

    I still can’t believe you live on a farm. But you’ve always been about challenging assumptions, PT. Keep on being you.

    PS But a farm? I still think that’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen on this blog in almost 5 years of reading… Wow.

  11. JO
    JO says:

    “But I am feeling fearless, thinking that if I am simply honest about what's happening, I'll be fine. Or, at least I'll have a blog post.”

    Pen, hate to be the one to break it to you. If you don’t blog more than three times a month, you ain’t gonna have a blog post.

  12. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Another classic post. I hope they give you the credit card back soon and start sending you roses too. I have a few problems too (procrastination, lack of focus) but nothing so bad that I’ve had to revert to needlepoint – it has crossed my mind a few times though:) Quite a healthy, creative outlet though, full credit to you for that. Keep up writing whenever you feel like it. Can we make it women blogger that rule?!

  13. Celine
    Celine says:

    I love this blog. It’s a constant reminder of what not to do in life. P, get some professional help because you won’t have a blog or any type of job much longer if you keep posting like this. You sound crazy. And you know what the definition of that is? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. How is that going?

    • Allison
      Allison says:

      I guess I read this post as more stream of consciousness. I find humor in the fact that so many people can read one snippet of your life and all of a sudden they are park bench psychiatrists. Sarcasm is truly the lowest form of wit and really reflects a true lack of imagination. I think before you cast stones here maybe it’s better look inside first and figure out your need to be so rude to someone you don’t know?

      • Celine
        Celine says:

        A snippet? P has been blogging about every single aspect of her life for years as well as providing advice that is questionable at best. If you put yourself out there be prepared to get what you get.

      • Allison
        Allison says:

        Sorry Celine – again I’m not sure what makes you the expert here but then again I would estimate we see about 10% of P’s real life here no more no less. Still no reason to behave like a child.

  14. TwistedByKnaves
    TwistedByKnaves says:

    How weird. All these comments about the decline in your blog quality just when I thought you were back to your quirky, connected best. Oh well: I suppose it’s all about valuing differences. As our HR people would say, bless ’em.

  15. TwistedByKnaves
    TwistedByKnaves says:

    I know it’s been said many times before, but isn’t “Human Resources” a HORRIBLE name for a function? What’s wrong with “Personnel”? Or “People”?

  16. JenG
    JenG says:

    First, I loved this line in your post: “I like big ideas, I like hypothesizing and predicting and synthesizing. The job of actually getting stuff done is not that interesting to me.” I have come to a similar realization, although I probably am closer to the middle of the spectrum than you are. But knowing where you are is critical to happiness.

    I also thought you would find this interesting, considering some of the comments you have received here. It’s from an essay by Malcolm Gladwell in the book “Telling True Stories.” The passage below is a quote from that essay:

    One reason I don’t write profiles of people is that I believe we are incapable of truly describing a person’s core. As writers we must acknowledge the limitations of our craft. People are more complicated than our profiles of them reflect. We tend to focus on psychological explanations. Classic profiles devote a great deal of time to the subject’s childhood, yet psychologists cannot find a relationship between what happens in childhood and how a person turns out. Profiles are a form of psychological analysis and should be written with respect for the limitations of psychological work. Pschologists talk a lot about the difference between samples and signatures. For example, you would need only about five seconds of a Beatles’ song to identify it. Their music has a signature. With a very small slice you can know something profound about it. […] Even when you spend a lot of time with people […], you see them during only a few of the thousands and thousands of hours that make up their adult lives. We pretend we’re getting a signature when we’re not. […] I write profiles about ideas because I’m deeply skeptical of the legitimacy of writing only about the person.

    All the best to you,

  17. Peter Lanc
    Peter Lanc says:

    I have been reading the comments and of course your blog.
    What can I say, I am new to your blogging.

    I would rather assume innocence and simply say, it was brave for you to put this out there. There are too many who bottle stuff up and where does that get them?
    Being authentic and vulnerable is the hardest stuff of all!

    Thanks for being you and sharing

  18. NavigatingGracefully
    NavigatingGracefully says:

    I could not agree more with your point that HR is a dying department which has been devaluing talent while streamlining the process. I work in HR and am constantly frustrated by the "process". But I consider myself a scout, who seeks out the best talent because I know the industry and the unique needs of my business partners. However, I believe that unless you can scout for the great talent out there and decider through the impersonal, improbable application system, you are only adding to the problem. It will take many passionate, talented and invested scouts to turn this ship around.

  19. Jonha @ Happiness
    Jonha @ Happiness says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Thanks for the link on the power of bloggers, I will be sharing it.

    I really like it when you’re too honest. When you’re too blunt, when you’re too just you.

    You never cease to amaze me Penelope!

  20. Tyler
    Tyler says:

    Are you trying to hide something by needlepointing!? Or is it a break from all the things you have been doing? I am under the impression that you do come up with something great while you’re needlepointing.

  21. Chillyhollow
    Chillyhollow says:

    I’m not going to comment on your problems at work. You know what you need to do to fix this–go do it.

    But I will say that fellow needlepoint addicts can always be counted on to contribute from their stash of threads and such. Email me and tell me what bead colors and sizes….

    Fellow stitcher, hanging out in Chilly Hollow

  22. Alan Robinson
    Alan Robinson says:

    I love the photos! You! Focused!! LOL
    Good thing not having money in NYC, you cant spend what you dont have!! Genius Savant! Or Genius Salute! :)

  23. J
    J says:

    Yes, yes, and no.

    Yes – texting and tweeting – I said the same thing to friends this week – just tell me in twitter length, that’s how it’s gonna be.

    Yes – HR, doomed. Not before time, in a way. They often aren’t very good at their jobs. And managers already recruit through networks – at least in areas of short supply, or PAs who they take from job to job with them.

    No. The credit card – unless this is in your contract, it’s surely inappropriate, and unprofessional, and just sloppy. You’re the what of this company? How would you feel if all the employees in the firm did this?

    Good work on the needlepoint. Try rug hooking, too. More movement. And knitting scarves – just up and down for you, I think.

  24. gp
    gp says:

    PT: Post after post, you’re nailing it. Everybody’s sucking in their own way, I sure am. Flailing/shame/inertia/yes. But some rich n’ nutritious juice oozes outta the self-flagellation, and I was missing it, mostly. Thanks.

    Keep flogging.


  25. Nancy Imperiale
    Nancy Imperiale says:

    Go, Penelope, go. I cheer every word you just wrote.

    We bloggers own the content, and the bean counters are figuring it out. The readers want US, not THEM and their brilliant strategies for “monetizing” and “paywalls” and all that other bullshit.

    While they’re trying to figure out how to get rich off our talent, we can just keep being talented and fuck them all.

    And I believe 100% that you are right on. They WILL come to us. Because they don’t know how to do anything but sell, and we’re the only ones who can make something worth buying. They don’t know how to create anything of lasting value, just how to exploit it.

    You’re not talking crazy. You’re talking smart and, best of all, you sound FREE.

  26. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    i just stumbled across an old post on your blog regarding a decision to move to Madison. I am wondering what happened to this? I am currently in Chicago debating a move to Austin to endure working in San Antonio (commute 1 hr to San Antonio for job that is fantastic opportunity).
    What happened?

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      Good luck with that one-hour commute, unless you live on the very southern fringes of Austin and work on the very northern fringes of San Antonio. I made that drive a lot a decade ago, and there’s been more growth since. Plan on at least 90 minutes, depending on your stop and start points.

      And don’t rule out living in San Antonio. It’s a really neat city–my family lived there for over 20 years, and it’s not as self-delusional as Austin can be.

      As for your question, Penelope has been living in Madison, and (I’m pretty sure) has now moved to the farm, with The Farmer.

      • KateNonymous
        KateNonymous says:

        Bleh. Should have typed “self-deluding.” Although “delusional” applies in some cases there!

  27. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    I haven’t read your blog in a couple of months now, and my very first thought upon reading this post was “Something’s not right.” You sound off.

    I can’t pinpoint it, and I don’t think it’s the losing/misusing the company credit card, buying roses, needlepointing during calls like some people are saying; it’s not anything specific. It’s you. It’s your writing.

    A lot of people like you, admire you, and look to you for guidance and help, and wish the best for you. It’s so hard to say to another person, especially someone you don’t even really know (I feel like a DB a little bit), but you should think about going to get help or just checked out. I know it’s a colassal amount of time and a huge amount of money in a lot of cases but you don’t want to do anything that can’t be taken back.

  28. Holly
    Holly says:

    How do I unsubscribe to this blog? I think Penelope has jumped the shark. I’m out of here.

  29. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    One more thing: it is true that in workplaces, people will put up with people who are difficult to work with or who break the rules if they bring something exceptional to the table. Which it is evident you do.

    But there is a breaking point- and with the corporate credit card, and the needlepoint, and the screaming at your coworkers, you must be very near to it.

    Just because you’re great at what you do, doesn’t mean you don’t have to subscribe to any of the rules of the corporate world.

    • Marcia
      Marcia says:

      Ya know, I thought the exact same thing. I think she wants out…just waiting for the boot, and then she’ll be grateful, but really, should just leave on her own terms. I’ve worked with prima donnas…not worth it. Calling herself a genius? Really.

  30. Alan
    Alan says:

    This Blog is a rare clarity of perspective.
    Words not wasted, points made abruptly, devoid of theology, filled with goal oriented advice. I recommend it often to my friends and acquaintances constantly.

  31. Robin
    Robin says:

    So what is PT’s big idea? A job website with people who blog for free? That would be Mediabistro.com, and Laurel Trouby already did it, made money, and now it’s sucky, and Jupiter Media is wondering what happened.

    I like your prose style, but I would no more trust you with venture capital money than I’d fly to the moon on gossamer wings. Have your “partners” dumped you yet?

    Why not reinvent yourself yet again, and find something else to do?

  32. Ardith
    Ardith says:

    How many amongst this group realize that not only Penelope’s blog entry, but many of the comments would never fit the Twitter format? The future of writing is short form? To say what exactly? Nothing? Wow, what a future.

  33. Lee
    Lee says:

    Penelope personifies every chauvinistic aurgument as to why women should not be placed in a postion of economic/political power.

    I’m pretty sure that if Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), Indra Nooyi (CEO of Pepsico), Irene Rosenfeld (CEO of Kraft Foods), Ellen Kullman (CEO of DuPont), and Sonia Fernandez (President of Argentina)did one of any of the unethical and unprofessional antics that Penelope has done, none of these women would have made it to the career heights that they have now.

    It’s disturbing to me that people look up to her and think she’s some kind of genius.

    She is the reason why women have to fight so hard to get their foot in the corporate door.

    • Jana
      Jana says:

      Lee, this seems like a pretty preposterous argument. Based on your dramatic last line, it seems like you think a minor-to-medium misstep on the part of one female blogger is a credible reason (if not, to use your words, THE reason) to doubt all women in the workplace. Using your logic, I wonder why we allow men in the workplace at all after the “antics” of such fine men as Ken Lay and Bernard Madoff. Assuming that you could really categorize and judge people on the basis of one representative from their group, I’d rather have a company full of rose-charging women any day of the week over a company full of swindling men who cost people their livelihoods.

      • Jessica
        Jessica says:

        If you read on the first line of Lee’s comment:
        “….every chauvinistic aurgument….”

        you could conclude that the last line of the comment is not an assertion, but referring to what people may arrived to, based on this post.

  34. Sam B
    Sam B says:

    Penelope, has the credit card situation resolved itself? Was your access to the card temporarily disabled and now reinstated, or was this a sign of larger issues with management and a permanent cancellation of the card?

  35. T
    T says:

    I agree! Really disappointed that we aren’t hearing from you anymore. Reading your blog, at times…was the hi-lite of my day! What is going on?

  36. Bob McCluskey
    Bob McCluskey says:

    I say handle your expenses any way you want to, as long as no one can punish you. I’ve worked for the federal government, big companies, small companies and myself under various legal rubrics. I’ve been told dozens of times that certain accounting things “can’t be done,” but I’ve never lost a cent, ’cause that’s what accountants like to do. What they really love is to hear someone say, “I’m really sorry. I’ll try to do better. You are so great for helping me with this.” Wow, that’s what I like to hear about myself, too!

  37. Grace
    Grace says:

    One thing at a time.
    Most important thing first.
    Start now.

    In the hopes that you are doing the most important thing.
    Take Care.

  38. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Darling Penelope, I read this post a while back and thought it was good. Interesting, thought-provoking, slightly wacky – that’s what your many fans have come to love and expect from you. So strange to come back here and read the accusational comments, but they are drowned out by your supporters. I wonder if it makes you want to turn your blog comments off sometimes? I think I’d be tempted!

    If you need money you should definitely leverage this blog. It’s a hugely valuable resource which I’m sure you could build on to create a cash cow that would fit right in with the farm theme and allow you to surround yourself with roses. I’m glad you’re finding time to stop and smell them too:)Your loyal readers will be here waiting to read you whenever you feel like sharing your writing with us!

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