I think this year was a year of me looking for stuff. Trying to figure stuff out. Maybe trying to figure out what I’m looking for.

It was also the year I discovered pictures for my blog, and I even redesigned the whole blog so the photos are more prominent. So it makes sense to me to end with a picture of me looking for something — who knows what? — when I was a child. Because some things are just part of us. They don’t change, even when the year changes.

I don’t know if these are the best posts of the year. But they are some of the posts that received the most comments. My favorite post of the whole year is the one that’s first on this list. Hopefully I’ve picked a few of your favorites too, and a few that you missed, so there’s a fun one for you to read right now.

Happy new year, and thank you for reading my blog and commenting. You make me feel lucky. And here’s the list:

On Sunday my son sold his pig (271 comments)

Voices of the defenders of grad school. And me, crushing them. (249 comments)

Blueprint for a woman’s life (440 comments, 3,000 likes on Facebook)

5 Reasons to stop trying to be happy (146 comments)

Salaries top out at age 40 (102 comments, 471 likes on facebook)

What gen-yers don’t know about themselves (250 comments)

Generation Z will revolutionize education (175 comments)

 

 

I am at a hotel. I think I’m dying. I have a bruise from where the Farmer slammed me into our bed post.

I took the kids and went to a hotel so I could have time to think. I think I need to move into a hotel for a month.

The Farmer told me that he will not beat me up any more if I do not make him stay up late talking to me.

If you asked him why he is still being violent to me, he would tell you that I’m impossible to live with. That I never stop talking. That I never leave him alone. How he can’t get any peace and quiet in his own house. That’s what he’d tell you.

And he’d tell you that I should be medicated.

I’m trying to make sure this is a career blog, because, if nothing else, if I don’t have a career then it’s pretty hard to have the discussion of why I am not leaving.

I am having trouble writing, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m not great at faking things. I am trying to do business as usual because we all know that I should have left the last time there was violence.

Look. I can’t even write “the last time he beat me up.” I tried to, but then I thought: “No. It’s my fault. I deserve it. He’s right. I’m impossible to live with.” Read more

One reason I have achieved so much in my own career is that I've taken shortcuts. For example, I played professional beach volleyball without learning how to play indoor sixes very well—I can really only play doubles, which is what people play on the sand. But it allowed me to skip a lot of years of indoor volleyball training and still play pro.

I’m always fascinated by people who find shortcuts. Tim Ferriss is a shortcut taker, but he totally annoys me because he pretends his shortcuts don’t mean he still had to do hard work. One of the reasons I was initially attracted to the Farmer is that he is good at knowing what shortcuts to take and he values hard work.

Just last week, in fact, he moved his pigs to a new barn, where they will be able to mix with the cattle herd. It’s not something anyone in our area does, but he had a hunch it would work, and now he manages one herd instead of two. I love that I’m learning the rules of farming by watching the Farmer cut corners.

In lists of the most common New Year's resolutions, most are career-related. So I thought I'd take a look at the most common things people tell me they want to do, and I'd tell you shortcuts to getting to that goal. Because I’m pretty good at learning the rules and then figuring out how to work around them. This still means you have to do some hard work, of course, but it’s a smarter way to spend your energy and still get to what you want. Read more

When we were at LegoLand I was struck by the high emotional intelligence of the employees. Their job is to make everyone feel like their Lego project is great. (You’d be surprised how many parents are there, swiping the white blocks from little kids at the Lego snowman contest.)

High emotional-intelligence jobs are very hard, and I would rather sweep floors. But I force myself to try to improve my emotional intelligence because people who don’t try to improve it generally suck at it. And people with high emotional intelligence are fascinated by how to get even better at reading people.

So I’m always seeking out new data points for emotional intelligence so I can get that social skills boost I most definitely need.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the social skills secrets of successful people:

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This post is cross-posted at TechCrunch.

We need to get more guys who are running tech startups to decide instead to be stay-at-home dads.

What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That's what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.

If you are worried that women don't feel capable of doing whatever they want, you can stop worrying. Women outperform men in school at such a huge rate that it's easier to get into college as a male than a female. And women take that to the bank by earning more than men in their 20s. Women would probably continue out-earning men except that when men and women have kids, women choose to downshift way more often than men do.

Clearly, women have a choice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for women if the women would just continue working in their 30s the same way they did in their 20s. So clearly, women don't want to. Women are choosing children over startups. Read more

It is the night of the new nanny. She is maybe a nanny or maybe a Spanish teacher. It is unclear. She is a blog reader who told me she could help me.

Lots of people offer to come to the farm and help me get that mythic work-life balance that no one really has. But this woman said good things in her emails — that she worked with autistic kids, her native language is Spanish, she loves my blog. I hesitated. She said she has done this before, gone to someone's house for a short time to help get the things back on track. So I said yes.

I had Spanish-speaking nannies in New York City. They are so easy to find there. It should be easy here, too. Darlington has a relatively large Hispanic community. They come to rural areas so the police leave them alone.

Here's an interesting thing about the Hispanic community here. We are one of the only counties in the whole US that has a Hispanic population that is more educated than the white population. The white families have been here for forever, and they don't take big risks—they grow up here and do exactly what their parents did. The Hispanic people have huge ambition, they took huge risks so their kids could grow up in the US and do great things, and they look down on the white people as hicks.

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This post is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

After I realized that the most underrated skill is asking good questions, I realized that I am not very good at it. I don’t ask for help enough because I don’t know what question to ask. And also, I worry the question will be bad and then the person won’t want to help me again.

So I started forcing myself to ask for help. Like, I put myself on a schedule. And the result was not so much that I got good help (I did) but what I really got was good at asking questions. Because I thought so much about it.

Here are things I’ve been noticing about what makes a person good at asking questions:

1. Surround yourself with people who make you curious.
The first time we had a bonfire at the farm I was dating the farmer and he was winning over my boys with tree climbing and hot-dog roasting. I was concerned about fire safety, but I knew it was hopeless when I realized that the number-one rule I learned about building fires — put them out before you go to bed — does not apply on the farm. He just lets it burn out itself. Read more

I confess that I don't feel like I'm working to my potential. And it makes me feel sick. I know the signs. It starts with me not being able to cope with my to-do list. It all looks too overwhelming. So I scale things back: I take out everything that has to do with starting a company.

The next stage of not living up to my potential is that I can't read anything. I tried to read the New York Times magazine cover story about fixing a marriage. I can't open it, though. The woman who is the author wrote about her own experience. Fuck. I should have posted about that.

I should have written the post about how our couples therapist fired us because neither of us seems to be capable of getting past our horrible childhoods long enough to connect with someone in a real way. He fired us but then I used my amazing negotiating skills to convince him to take us back and then I had a screaming fit in the therapist's office and said he's incompetent and doesn't give us clear direction. It was a good moment, actually. Because now that I fired him, instead of him firing me, I am fulfilled in my need to ruin relationships with people all around me and I now I have space to let the Farmer get close to me. Read more

I know you're thinking that the workplace is dead between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but actually, December is a great time for careers. Here are five reasons why:

1. Job hunting is great in December.
January is the biggest month for hiring, but December is the second-best month for a job hunt. This is because people have budget allocated for jobs on a yearly basis. And if they don't fill those jobs, they lose the position in the new budget. So all those hard-to-fill positions have to get filled no matter what this month. Also, people have money they did not spend in other areas that they can put toward a new hire. But they don't know if they have that money until the end of the year. This all makes for a hiring frenzy in December, and since most candidates don't realize this, the candidate pool is not as full in December either. Read more

I get an incredible amount of email from people with Asperger Syndrome. It’s all really similar. Here’s a sample:

“I’m 45 and a lawyer and I have Asperger’s. I don’t know what is appropriate, and not appropriate some of the time, such as talking too much about very personal info, or saying something that offends someone.

“I’ve gone through many friends in life. Most can’t deal with me, I’ve never been married, relationships get complicated, but luckily I’ve had a few who hung on regardless of my flaws.

“How do you feel and deal with the fallout when you say things that cause more problems than you would have had if you just kept your mouth shut? I want to take the attitude that if I say something inappropriate and it’s held against me, screw ’em, I’m not going to worry about it, life is short.

“Do you think there a way of saying inappropriate, blunt things into an asset even though others don’t approve of your behavior?”

I respond to everyone. I don’t even know why I’m writing this in a post—that I respond to all my emails. Because it just means I’ll get more. But I think, even though I know it’s terrible time management to respond to all emails, I must like it because look: I launched the Mailbag section. The emails are probably human contact that I need. Read more