When I was a single parent, I would get up at 6am to get ready before my kids woke up — all advice for how to get ready in the morning recommends this. But then the kids realized that if they woke up early they could watch videos, because what else is there to give the kids to keep them from fighting? So then I’d get up at 5:30, to get ready for work in peace, and then the kids got up at 5:30 with me.

They won the alarm-clock arms race. So I had to make another plan. I read reams of rants and rational advice about getting out of the house in the morning. Here’s what is working so far:

1. Get a schedule and stick to it.

I made a visual schedule for each of us, which I learned about from my son’s occupational therapist because people with Asperger’s often forget what they are doing next, or get anxious if they don’t have a clear list of tasks. It helped a lot, but it didn’t overcome having two boys doing the tasks at the same time. Can someone tell me when brothers stop fighting with each other over everything? And are we the only family that has a violent wedgie problem after reading Captain Underpants?

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We drove to Iowa City yesterday, to have Rosh Hashanah with my family. I took the kids out of school and told their teachers it’s the Jewish New Year so the kids will miss school. I said it in front of the kids so I can teach them that we take off a day for the Jewish high holidays.

The truth is, though, is that today is the day. Last night was the first night and today is the first day. But I can’t take them out of school today because, well, first of all, what would we do? There are no other Jews where we live and we can last only so long on apples and honey before we get sick.

So I sent the kids to school. And, anyway, I have a meeting. I told Ed, the CEO, that I can’t go to the meeting because it’s on Rosh Hashanah. He said fine, because this is why he’s a great CEO. He knows when to push and when not to.

But then, it turns out, that the company is opening an office in Washington, DC. This is not a huge surprise to me. Ed is in Washington, DC in some sort of huge estate which I haven’t seen, but I have heard talk of an uppercase and lowercase balcony, which makes me think he’s not moving to Madison in this lifetime.

So we’re in the next phase of the company and it’s scary and exciting and I’m already doing so many new things that the idea of opening a new office in DC, and having a meeting about it, and me not showing up because of Rosh Hashanah is all too much for me to think about. Also, I have to always make sure that Ed likes me because I think I am hard to like. Maybe not in little blog post snippets, but in long meetings I am hard to like, and Ed still likes me, I think. Because every time I write a desperate paragraph like this about my need to be liked Ed sends me an email saying he likes me. Which normal people would not need to receive, but I need to receive and Ed knows that which is why, as I said, he’s a great CEO.

So it’s Rosh Hashanah and I am driving to a meeting in Milwaukee with Ryan Paugh for the meeting. And I’m over the bad-Jew part of things because I figure that now that I live on a farm I have to feed the animals, so I fed the chicks, too.

Here’s a cool thing about the chicks: we got them via US Mail. The hatchery we bought from, Murray McMurry, hatches them on Monday. And in a normal hatching situation, chicks don’t hatch at once, and the mom doesn’t get up until they all hatch. So chicks can sit under their mom for up to two days while their siblings hatch. Which means the hatchery can put new chicks in a box they arrive two days later in good health.

Taking care of our chicks doesn’t count as work, right? I don’t know. Som
e good Jew will comment about this nuance in Jewish law. But I think feeding the chicks is like feeding my kids. Rosh Hashanah is not a time to starve. (That’s Yom Kippur.)

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Here’s an idea for what women should do if they’re unemployed: Have a baby. Your first reaction is probably that this is a throwback to the 1950s. But it’s not. This is the most up-to-date career advice you’re going to get for dealing with a down-in-the-dumps job market.

Here’s why a stint of unemployment is a great time to have a baby: Read more

It is harder to know who you are than it is to be who you are. Everyone says, “The important thing is to be yourself!” I say that when I give them career advice. People like you better when you are being authentic. Gay people do better in their careers when they are out of the closet. Women do better at work if they are feminine at work instead of trying to be like the guys.

But there is very little advice on HOW to be yourself.

1. Don't be boring.

On the way to our board meeting today, it was me, and Ryan Paugh, and Ryan Healy, in a car, running late. Ryan Healy told me not to write about him on the blog anymore, but I think only because I used to write about him like he was my little brother or something. At this point, Ryan Healy is COO of the company, so I think I can write about him because really, how can I undermine him when I'm agreeing to report to him?

So I'm riding in the car with Ryan and Ryan and I finished my needlepoint and I didn't have anything left to occupy my hands during the board meeting. I know that as a board member, and the majority shareholder in the company, I'm supposed to be enthralled at these meetings, but honestly I find them largely very slow and repetitive. (I know I am not the only one who feels this way because another board member went to the bathroom and when he came back and found out that we waited for him, he was disappointed.)

Anyway, I was in the car with them and I was panicking that I didn't have anything to do in the board meeting except listen to the board meeting. Then I said, “I think I'll pop a Xanax.”

And no one said anything. Ryan and Ryan are largely bored with my antics. Read more

So, I am lost. But I need to be useful more than I need to confess feeling lost. So, here I am, telling you what I’m doing to get through this, because I think you and I have an agreement that you’ll put up with me being lost and not posting very often, as long as I’m useful. Read more

Feeling lost is part of being great. If you are forging your own path then you are often lost. Because you have not seen this route before. I wrote my book because I did not have a road map and I am wanted other people to have a road map to do a career like I did.

I have been thinking about this because I am really lost right now. I’m going to show you something. Here is stuff that’s going well. The farmer is totally hot, and he tries so hard to get along with me, and his singing voice is the kind that allowed him to hook up with any girl after his band played a gig. And he matches my wall:

Another good thing is that he lets me do whatever I want with the house. See? In the background? We definitely needed a hutch in the dining room. It’s exactly what fit with the decor. But I thought if I bought a hutch I’d just start buying stuff to fill it with. So instead, I drew a hutch on the wall. I showed it to the farmer and he said, “I really like the undulating lines. They have confidence.” Read more

The majority of people in the US would like to be self-employed, according to Dartmouth economist, David Blanchflower. This makes sense because people who work for themselves are happier than people who work at someone else’s company, according to research from Estaban Calvo at the Harvard School of Public Health. However the majority are not self-employed, and one of the most important reasons for this is that people do not know how to come up with an idea for a business.

1. Read all the time, among broad sources and materials.
In a study spanning sixty years of economically underprivileged Harvard graduates, psychiatrist George Valliant concluded (in a great article in the Atlantic) that the only consistent indicator of who will be happy later in life is who did chores as a child.

This information should make almost everyone happy, since obviously just graduating from Harvard isn’t enough to guarantee happiness. It also gave me a burst of hope for our new life on the farm. The type of farm we live on has big cash flow and little incomes. I’m not sure if this qualifies us for the Harvard study demographic, but just in case, my kids do a lot of chores. They take care of farm animals and get rewarded with computer time. Not quite American Gothic. But still, maybe a path to happiness.

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I am going to be a better person at self-promotion because I don't brag enough. Ryan Paugh, who was basically my intern when I met him, and now he’s almost my boss and definitely my social-skills mentor, tells me that I am popular because I’m interesting but that I suck at self-promotion. (He uses, as an example, the day I promoted an event on my blog a few hours after it actually happened.)

I do not tell Ryan to shut up because he has taught me a ton about myself since the day I started working with him. And in fact, he makes me feel qualified to tell you how you can fire up your career by paying close attention to the people with the least work experience.

1. Recognize interns are gatekeepers to the good stuff.

When it was time to promote my second book, I went to Keith Ferrazzi, author of one of my favorite career advice books. I needed a quotation from Keith that said something like, “I am The Great Keith Ferazzi and I can tell you for sure that your career will be crap and you will die drowning in the blood of a rabid coyote if you do not buy Penelope Trunk's book.”

Just so you don't get confused, I'm going to start calling my first book my first book and my second book my second book. At this point, I have written enough about oral sex and family atrocities that you will not be shocked to hear that my first book is really a memoir that my publisher – out of the University of Colorado — decided was too disturbing to be sold as a memoir, so it was published as a novel. Read more

Hi there. You are probably here because you read the article about me having Asperger’s syndrome. I have never seen the Mail on Sunday, but it must be a big publication because thousands of readers are coming to the blog from London today.

(For readers who did not see the article, I like it. Here’s a link. And, sidenote, the author, Louette Harding, was so good at interviewing – so patient and so insightful and I wish I could talk with her every day. But maybe that’s just because we talked about me and this is just evidence that I am really hard to be friends with.)

If you are here for the first time, here are some shortcuts to posts I’ve written about having Asperger’s syndrome:

Why I need a sick day to register my car

Five ways to be less annoying

5 Ways to make telecommuting better

Why I’m difficult at meetings

How I deal with sensory integration dysfunction

Really, though, almost all of this blog is about having Asperger’s syndrome because most of my writing is me trying to figure out the rules for succeeding in the workplace. I know that people say I have an odd take on the rules, but I think I’m usually right, I’m just more literal and more blunt than most people.

Here are some examples: Read more

It's the fifth annual Penelope Trunk Q&A. It's not that I don't answer questions. I actually answer almost every question I receive. But only rarely in a blog post. The problem is that most questions suck. Look, here are posts about how to ask good questions.

In fact, I’ve been getting so ornery about questions sucking that I did a webinar about how to write a good blog post and I got pissed off in the middle because the questions were so bad that I walked off camera and half the video is Ryan Paugh telling me not to be a brat.

So, in the spirit of not being a brat, I am answering questions that I think are interesting. Read more