This is the column I wrote for BNET. Usually I keep my best ideas for my blog, but after I posted this on BNET I thought: Hold it! This is a great idea! Everyone should be doing this to make their career great. So here’s the post.

If you want to make yourself stand out as a top candidate for almost any job, try this approach: start a company and then sell it for nothing. This is a lot easier to do than you may realize, especially if you think of entrepreneurship as a career-building tool— instead of a bank-account building tool.

Are you thinking this sell-for-a-dollar thing is a waste of time and effort?

It’s not. Here are five reasons why it's a smart career move: Read more

Jeanenne is my assistant. Of sorts. It was unclear what her job was when I hired her. She is sort of the nanny, but I don't really need a nanny. I am with the kids almost 100% of the day. You might wonder how I can do that and still have a job. The answer is that I don't do anything else. So, for example, the kids broke the flyswatter and I wanted one right away before I died from fly annoyance.

I called Jeanenne, and who knows what she was doing, but she stopped whatever it was, and bought me a flyswatter and drove it to my house. She is my big city same-day service in Darlington. Read more

Melissa left yesterday. She moved back to Austin. She moved for a job that I think is totally stupid, but her future employer reads this blog, so I have to watch what I say. On the other hand, she ended up giving references the same day I posted about me worrying about her having an affair with the Farmer, so the woman interviewing her decided not to use me as a reference.

I can see why she wouldn’t want to have to deal with me. But, if I am not a reliable reference then I’m probably also, in her eyes, not a reliable person for assessing whether the job that Melissa took is totally stupid for her to take. So maybe she is just ignoring my blog anyway. Or maybe she is printing out each post and putting it on she office wall and throwing darts at it.

The second-to-last day Melissa was here, we went berry picking.

The farm is full of little pockets of wild blackberries. And we set out to pick enough for me to make a pie.
Read more

When the pig litters came in January, the Farmer helped my son pick out pigs for his 4H project. They picked four, because you never know, really, how a pig will grow. So you start with four and pick two after a few months.

My son woke up every morning and fed his pigs, for six months. And after three months, he walked with the pigs, around in a circle, twice a day, to train the pig for the show.

There is huge variety in the amount of help parents give their kids in these projects. Some kids’ parents buy show pigs from out of state and the kids take very little care of them until the fair. Some kids do everything themselves.

I think it’s a lot like an allowance for a city kid. Each family manages the potential pitfalls of an allowance themselves. Read more

Now that I’m not the CEO of Brazen Careerist, I don’t have to be the national cheerleader for Generation Y. I fantasized about this moment for years: the moment when I’d write the post titled, 10 Things I Hate about Generation Y.

But it’s hard to hate people you hang out with all the time, and the truth is, I’ve spent the last ten years being a Gen Xer surrounded by Gen Yers. The pinnacle, I thought, was me spending my days fighting with Ryan Healy about work. But in fact, it turns out the pinnacle of my education on Gen Y is my arguments with Melissa about her peers that end in a snippy impasse.

Sometimes, I think Gen Y is lame and she won’t admit to it.

But I find, as I think about all the things I hate about Gen Y, that it’s hard to hate something you know so much about. And in fact, I have become a way better person myself from studying Gen Y. I have noticed that my worst traits are the aspects of myself I least understand. And that is true of Gen Y, too.

1. Gen Y mistakes the speed of the Internet for their own speed.
Gen Y are not risk takers, they are not conflict-seekers, and they are generally respectful of institutions and organizations. When Gen Y doesn’t like something, you probably won’t hear about it. They just won’t show up. I have written before about the conservative nature of Gen Y. Read more

I’m convinced that the biggest impact Generation Z will have on the workplace is in their schooling. They will be lifelong, self-learners, who take more personal responsibility for their ongoing education than any generation in history. I am not talking about graduate school here. I am talking about a more creative, independent way of learning that does not stop at college, but rather, picks up pace remarkably after college, when real experiential learning starts happening.

The question is, how do we get this lifelong learning bug now, as adults, so we can compete with the young people when they enter the workforce. I thought about this question a lot last week, while I was at cello camp with my son.

1. When it comes to learning, keep your bar very high.
At cello camp my son's classes are about 80% Asian. It's like being a Jew in NYC — sort of a demographic optical illusion. We are at ground zero for the Tiger Mom. We are at a camp where six-year-olds play cello for five hours a day.

I am used to being the crazy, overbearing mom in the rural farm community where we live. I’m asked, “Why do you have to drive two hours to a music lesson? There’s a piano teacher in Darlington!” because I ignore the advice of my neighbors and I drive four hours round trip so my son can take lessons from a music professor at the University of Wisconsin.

And I think I’m on the right track, because Lisa Nielsen, an education reformer working in the New York City public schools, says that lifelong learners are great at creating their own networks of experts.

2. Walk a narrow path so you can keep learning to jump off the path.
But at cello camp I find that I’m the laid back, bar-is-low mom. My son played ping-pong with little white girls in between classes. There was one soccer ball in the whole camp, and my son joined the other kid. Who was white, of course. And in group class, my son is the one who wants to try his own rhythms “just once I promise please please mom.”

At first I was thinking I am in a race to keep up with the Asian parents. Read more

I have never been a fan of vacations. Why would I need a vacation from my life if I like my life?

Also, I’m a fanatic about routine. After years of obsessive research about what makes people happy, I have determined that self-discipline is the key to happiness. And self-discipline is really difficult, but not in the context of routine. So I love routine and I hate vacations because they disrupt routine.

So I was surprised when the Hampton Inn offered me free nights in any hotel if I would write about it. After all, it’s not just that I don’t like vacations. Also, I’m the person who wrote about why I think travel is a waste of time, and one of the most popular posts on this blog about vacations is why it’s okay to work during vacation.

But now that I am basically raising farm boys, I am careful to take them to the city so they know what it’s like. Digression: I have heard that one of the biggest problems the Ivy League has with attracting kids from rural America is the rural kids with high enough test scores simply can’t handle living in a city – yes, New Haven counts as a city to a farm kid. So while you are sending your kids to SAT tutors to get your kids into college, I’ll be sending my kids to ride NYC subways.

So, back to the hotel. I used the free offer this week to stay in the Skokie, IL Hampton Inn while I was at Suzuki cello camp with my son. That’s right. This is my idea of vacation for my kid. He’s only six years old, so he doesn’t know other kids are going to Disney World.

We do five hours of cello lessons during the day, and then we come back to our hotel. And I have to say, he totally loves the hotel.


The whole day is very structured for my son. So when we come back, I let him do whatever he wants until bed time. Read more