One of the keys to my ability to work 40 hours a week and homeschool two kids is that I have great time management. Which is to say, I say no to just about everything. But learning when to say no is still a work in progress. Here’s what I know about saying no to phone calls:

1. It’s more efficient to read the book than talk to the author.
I get about ten emails a day asking me if I want to talk to someone about their book so I’ll recommend it on the blog. My answer is always no.

I said yes once because it was Gloria Steinem. And it turned out to be a really disappointing phone call. If she is disappointing pitching to me, then everyone else will be, too.

Now I ask people to send me the book. If I like the idea of it, I’ll read it. I just read a book by Alexandra Robbins about why high school is destroying the kids who go there. She didn’t come to that conclusion, I did. But see, that’s why it’s good that I read the book myself instead of talking to her.

2. Interviews are a faster form of entertainment than going to a movie.
But I do try to say yes to all interviews. I like the Russian Roulette aspect of interviews in that I never know what I’ll get. I liked getting grilled on CNN about my miscarriage. They didn’t tell me that was the topic, but it’s okay. It was interesting to answer the questions.

And I didn’t like talking to Steve Roy about his career, but whenever I listen to the recording of the call, I laugh out loud, so in hindsight, even that was a good interview to say yes to.

So this guy, Michael Zenn, sent me this email:

Subject hed: Your Input

…I am currently in the process of producing a new edition of my book and reaching out to interview some of the leading female thought leaders in the nation, which I believe you are one.

I will be adding a brand new material to the book and am looking for female influencers, bloggers, websites, resources and ideas that I could potentially feature in the new book that would benefit women readers.

Please let me know when you might have a few minutes for us to chat.

I replied with a yes. I figured I’d give him 15 minutes, and anyway, people never call me about food, so it might be fun to answer questions about that.

3. Smalltalk goes faster with short responses.
Here’s what happened. He opened up with some platitudes. Like, who he is and that his book is sold in Whole Foods and it’s the only book the CEO of Whole Foods has ever endorsed.

I think a few things. I think, I hope he gets to the questions fast. Then I think, he must be the illicit lover of the Whole Foods CEO to be leveraging the checkout counter in the way that he is. He is telling me how his first printing will sell out in one month. And I am thinking, something is fishy here.

Then he says he reads my blog, and he wonders if I have always been so direct and unfiltered.

I say, “Yes.”

He asks, “Do you know why?”

I say, “Yes. I have Asperger’s Syndrome.”

He has never heard of it.

“It’s like autism,” I say. “But with a high IQ. I’m smart about some things, but not social skills. So I have no patience for you making small talk with me.”

He laughs. He says “Oh, it’s like you can’t tell a lie.”

“Yeah.”

“I wish I had more people in my life like that,” he says.

“No you don’t,” I say. “You’d get sick of it.”

Pause.

4. Tirades take too long (and they’re hard to stop once you get going)

He asks, “What is your goal? What do you want to tell the world?”

“I don’t want to stand in front of everyone and tell them what to do. Because I don’t know. Life is hard. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with the difficulties of life, and I like that people do that with me, on my blog.”

He says, “Yeah, it’s much better to just be honest about what you’re doing.”

Pause.

Then he asks me if I have written at all about the food I eat.

I think to myself that he is either illiterate or a liar. I say, “Yeah, I live on a farm. With animals that we eat. I write a lot about that. With pictures.”

I can’t remember what happens next. I think I decide to tell him that all of the goat cheese that’s labeled by Whole Foods is made by killing the boy goats as soon as they are born. I hear nothing on his end. So I add that they are crushed underfoot, in the snow.

I tell him people need to pay a lot more money for pork if they want to have pork from mothers who are not chained like prisoners while they are having their babies. It costs a lot more money to raise pork if the farmer lets the mom roll on top of some of the piglets, but it’s what she would naturally do.

5. A fast way to feel good is to attack a caller you’re sick of. (Childish but effective.)
I don’t know what he says next. He is saying something about how I have strong opinions or something. He is not used to this.

I tell him people don’t have enough money to pay 50% more for groceries at Whole Foods. I tell him that group child care for kids under two is very bad for the kids and people should spend their money solving that problem. It’s a lot more important than not having food additives.

He says his book tells people to do small steps.

“Like what?”

“Like eggs.”

I say, “Do you buy your eggs at Whole Foods?”

“Yes.”

“Well, they suck compared to my free range farm eggs.”

“The eggs at Whole Foods are free range.”

“What does that mean? Free range for one day a year? Who regulates the words free range? Free range on sawdust? You can look at my eggs and the eggs you eat and you can see a huge difference in how yellow the yolk is.”

“People need to know what they are eating.”

“You don’t even know what you’re eating. This is a black hole for spending and it’s not appropriate for poor people. You can buy pork at Whole Foods where the moms are chained at birth and the pork could be organic.”

5. Get off the phone as fast as possible.
Then I tell him it’s time to go to skateboarding. I tell him that my son gets more out of the money I spend on skateboarding lessons than the money I spend on organic juice with 50% less sugar which he thinks taste terrible, by the way.

The guy says, “Can I send my book to you?”

I can’t believe it. I want to tell him that he should have just sent that email to me, instead of wasting my time talking to me about his book. I would have said yes to just an email but now I hate him. I hate that he told me he wants to interview me for his book but he doesn’t. He’s a lifestyle guy, really. He’s telling people how to have a good life. And he’s lying to me.

So I say, “Why do you need to pitch your book to me? You have a monopoly in Whole Foods checkout lines. Your book is selling out it’s first printing. Why don’t you do something more interesting than marketing a book?”

He says, “I want to change the world. Obesity is a huge problem in this country.”

“You’re going to solve obesity by telling people to buy free-range eggs?”

“Yes. Education is the key to curbing obesity.”

“You think fat people are too stupid to know that if you pay double for your food you get better food? I think they know that. Try being a single mom with two jobs and four kids and then tell her she has weight problems because she doesn’t buy free range eggs.”

He asks, “Well what do you think is the panacea?”

And I say, “Panacea? You are looking for a panacea? There aren’t those in this world.”

 

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  1. tia robertson
    tia robertson says:

    As always Penelope you have an interesting way of handling human interaction. I can understand your frustration with his lack of professionalism and unpreparedness but hate is such a strong word for someone that you don’t even know. Give patience and tolerance to yourself and maybe you can have it with other people. That is the only way you can really help them with any of your efforts.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a great link, Elaine, thanks. Because it applies to way more than just obesity. How much money you have affects so little of what your life is like after $75K (it used to be $40K — the number seems, based on current research, to have gone up a bit). But what impacts us immensely is the people we spend our time with. The Framingham Study shows this correlation to be huge. We should spend more time worrying about who are friends are and less time worrying about our careers. Really.

      Penelope

  2. Dentists Solihull
    Dentists Solihull says:

    My wife is worried as she is three weeks away from giving birth to our first child and she is a career women. She wants to continue working but is not sure how she will manage it?

  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    This post left a bad taste in my mouth and I usually am a big supporter of your candid nature. I’m just not sure why it was necessary to be rude. I get annoyed by people at work but I always feel that you should always be polite. You can stand up for yourself and make your point without being unkind.

    I also think the post was quite contradictory. You rail on about poor peopl not being able to afford the food at whole foods but many of the things you promote are things that also aren’t options for poor people (e.g. Homeschoolong) so why beat this guy up for also promoting something out of reach for that same group?

    Ridiculing and embarrassing people, like you’ve done to this author, who are trying to make their way (regardless of how misguided it might be) just isn’t right. Maybe you should say no more often and spare people the judgment.

    I’ll keep reading the blog for now. I always am amazed at how brave you are to be so out there with your life but I hope this isn’t taking a turn towards abusing others to make yourself feel better.

    • Jeff
      Jeff says:

      Amy,

      What would be the polite way of telling somebody that you believe everything they stand for and are telling you is completely contrary to your nature?

      “I can't remember what happens next. I think I decide to tell him that all of the goat cheese that's labeled by Whole Foods is made by killing the boy goats as soon as they are born. I hear nothing on his end. So I add that they are crushed underfoot, in the snow.”

      -This is Penelope trying to understand if he knows what he is talking about.

      “I tell him people need to pay a lot more money for pork if they want to have pork from mothers who are not chained like prisoners while they are having their babies. It costs a lot more money to raise pork if the farmer lets the mom roll on top of some of the piglets, but it's what she would naturally do.’

      -This is her probing for an intelligent response.

      “I tell him people don't have enough money to pay 50% more for groceries at Whole Foods. I tell him that group child care for kids under two is very bad for the kids and people should spend their money solving that problem. It's a lot more important than not having food additives.”

      -Still probing

      He says his book tells people to do small steps.

      "Like what?"

      "Like eggs."

      I say, "Do you buy your eggs at Whole Foods?"

      "Yes."

      "Well, they suck compared to my free range farm eggs."

      "The eggs at Whole Foods are free range."

      "What does that mean? Free range for one day a year? Who regulates the words free range? Free range on sawdust? You can look at my eggs and the eggs you eat and you can see a huge difference in how yellow the yolk is."

      "People need to know what they are eating."

      "You don't even know what you're eating. This is a black hole for spending and it's not appropriate for poor people. You can buy pork at Whole Foods where the moms are chained at birth and the pork could be organic."

      -This is where he reveals that he doesn’t know anything about the subject he wrote about compared to someone who moved to a farm from NYC a few years ago.

      How do you politely tell somebody that you thing they are full of it?

      You can’t.

      It is what it is.

      If the worst thing she gets from this is less people asking to waste her time because that are afraid she’ll be rude to them, do you think that is a bad thing?

      -Jeff

      • Jeannette
        Jeannette says:

        It seems she was interviewed by an 18-year old intern, not the writer.
        How many “leading female thought leaders” do you think received that letter?

  4. Rachelle
    Rachelle says:

    Yep “free range” is an absolutely ridiculous name to call it. My in laws were on a turkey farm for a while. It was a “free range” farm. Most of the time the turkeys are so close together that you have to shove your way through or wait for them to squish aside to let you through. It’s far away from my idea of free or range, which implies at least a small pecking area outside and a stray ray of sunlight, it’s a large barn or rather a series of them and as the turkeys grow they get moved to bigger and bigger barns. Every day they pulled out a tractor bucket load worth of dead birds from each barn.

    I think the answer to a lot of the “food problem” is to let people have a few chickens if they want them and grow some tomatoes and other kinds of food in their yard. I’ve never really understood why people spend so much time growing a lawn, it’s the most idiotic plant on the planet. Imagine a city or town with everyone growing some nice veggies where their lawn used to be.

    In any case people waste my time too, most recently one of readers signed me up for the PeTA newsletter and reported one of my blog posts so I replied to her on my blog about her strategies for pest control http://landlordrescue.ca/petas-killer-resources-landlords-2/ It is pretty funny if you like sarcasm. Sometimes you just got to fight back :)

  5. Diane Dolinsky-Pickar
    Diane Dolinsky-Pickar says:

    I appreciated that this kind of disconnected dialogue goes on all the time when someone in sales (or promotion, or anything with a script in front of them but no access to their brains) talks AT you, and not with you. Penelope, I would have had the same reaction, just run him round the bend and let him rant, but not too much because then he is stealing your good (otherwise valuable) time. I am sorry this happened to you. It just shows the value of doing your research and coming to a source to ask questions and then just STOP and listen. Not enough use of four letter words, in my opinion. Words that begin with ‘s’ and end with ‘p’.

  6. BH
    BH says:

    The penalty for being lame shall be getting blind-sided with a malicious hit piece. It’s his fault for not knowing the rule.

  7. Marylynn
    Marylynn says:

    I went to look at this Zenn guys books and he is really kinda off the wall. Check out his reviews on Amazon. He goes a little crazy on the only not perfect review he got. I waslooking at the comments and he went to all this reviewers reviews and commented on how bad and wrong the reviewer was and told him he knew who he was and he was going to go after him. Then all these other great reviews come up on the same day for his book and theyre from people who have no other reviews. Which is not suspicious at all. Good you saw through him.

    • Marylynn
      Marylynn says:

      His book is called Self Health Revolution btw. I think it could be self published. I think the CEO of WF is his friend.

  8. Brooke Farmer
    Brooke Farmer says:

    While I am a huge believer in the impact diet changes can make on our lives (not just obesity, but learning difficulties, mood disorders, pretty much everything) I still have to say this guy is an idiot.

    And the thing about the pigs being chained up at birth makes me sad. Where is the “chain free” label at the supermarket? I would like to buy chain free pork.

    • greg
      greg says:

      You can get chain free pork from a local farmer. Or, if you’re poor, or lazy, you can get chain free ‘pork’ in the Tofu aisle.

      Even if they made a ‘chain free’ label, they’d just come up with another way to pin the mother pigs down.

  9. Havaladırma
    Havaladırma says:

    I’ve never really understood why people spend so much time growing a lawn, it’s the most idiotic plant on the planet. Imagine a city or town with everyone growing some nice veggies where their lawn used to be.

  10. KarenP
    KarenP says:

    I have read his book per recommendations of 2 friends. One of them was almost 300 lbs and only 5’2″ the other had 40 lbs to lose. The first was warned of her sugar and cholesteral numbers. They both found Mr Zenns book and have lost 80 and 40 lbs since January and all blood numbers are perfect! One had severe panic attacks for years that really effected her life and they have also gone. Both said only the initial investment in some ingredients were a bit costly but it leveled out. Not for nothing, the cost of poor health in doctors visits and meds add up too! Dont miss the point he is trying to make, he just says to do the best you can to add more fruits and veggies to your diet and try to get organic/local when you can (support your local farmers). He says it is not necessary but preferable. Like anything else in life…take what makes sense to you and leave the rest. It is really stupid to let any book tell you how to run your life. He makes some really good points and keeps it simple. I have spoken to him for some orders for friends and he appears to be a kind decent man.

  11. CL
    CL says:

    I reread this today as a result of your large post on the list of things that overachievers do. I realized that it very directly related to something that your friend Ramit Sethi talked about – the futility of using education to curb obesity. http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/fat-obesity-education-psychology/
    It was the quote from Clotaire Rapaille at the beginning of the article that nudged me into reading The Culture Code, which is a fabulous book primarily on how the French are different from Americans. There are other perspectives (Germans, Japanese, etc.) but because Rapaille was born in France and moved to the US, his personal perspective is colored by the American and French influences in his personal life. He has lots of charming anecdotes which I have used to illustrate the big differences between my French family and my American family.

  12. Eric Miller
    Eric Miller says:

    I hunted you down to get a link to share with my friends because I thought it was a “Slam Dunk” for me (yup, I needed to be Steve Roy a long time ago.) Thank you for the bullet between the eyes.. it liberated me to do what I like to do and share it. (I have a purpose for my site.and having a ball with it… gives me technical challenges as well as a learning experience .. maybe that’s why I’m enjoying it.

    I will monetize it, but not in an ordinary way. Reason? Because there’s going to be cool stuff on there that my gut tells me others will want and sometimes need, let alone have a ball shopping there.)

    So, I come here, see the link, click it and get an internal server error. I managed to download a recording from David Walker’s 30 Day Marketers site. (WSO offer $7) and intend to upload the recording to a server somewhere and share the link there. I’m also going to post a link to your blog in the emails I send out to three friends who might want to share this interview … i.e. It will go viral.

    Scream at me soon if you don’t want me to do that. I’ll hold my breath for two days then do it regardless.

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