My son already has experience taking care of an animal and selling it. Last year, his 4-H project was pigs. He showed them, then he sold them, and we even went to the carcass show, which is where fifty people go into a meat freezer with a agriculture professor and find out why one kid’s carcass got a blue ribbon and one kid’s got a white ribbon.

If you guessed marbling, you guessed right. But the Farmer says this is an outdated way to look at meat. He says you get lots of marbling from feeding animals corn instead of letting them graze on the grass, but corn feed is like candy feed because there’s so little nutrition.

Okay. So even though we fundamentally disagree with the carcass show judging process, my son did take care of animals and then kill them, which is no small feat for a kid transplanted from New York City to rural Wisconsin. Read more

Executive function means being able to see the big picture and sort through details to arrive at a good decision. You probably have met more than a few people with very poor executive function. This person is probably very smart but seemingly incompetent in one area—often at work, or in daily life skills, or both. Executive function disorder is common among people with Asperger Syndrome.

I have terrible executive function. Sometimes I make decisions that are so bad that I look like I’m being ridiculous on purpose. It’s simply unbelievable to many people that I could make such incompetent decisions. But in the moment, I can’t see it.

To be sure, I can see it in other people. When I’m coaching others I can tell within five minutes if I’m dealing with someone with poor executive function. Many times I have said, “The crux of your career problems is that you have an executive function problem.” And after the person does a bit of searching on Google, they thank me over and over again for helping them understand why their life felt like it was falling apart and they couldn’t stop it.

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When I was growing up, we had stuffed lions from Harris Bank. We had enough Hubert Harris lions to make a whole zoo.  The lions made sense to me, because I thought of the bank as a warm and fuzzy place.

Really, to understand what I’m talking about, I need to tell you about money in my family. And what I learned about money from living the life of a rich kid

1. Big money comes from areas of big chaos.
The money started coming to my family when my great-grandpa got a law degree in the 1920s in Chicago. He didn’t have any clients, so he hung out at the jail, looking for people who needed a lawyer. It turned out that the only people who landed in jail who could reliably pay for a lawyer’s help were prostitutes.

My great-grandpa did a good job representing them, and consequently, he met Al Capone, who was the money behind the prostitutes. Soon my great-grandpa became Al Capone’s lawyer. Read more

Seth Godin

Seth Godin just published an e-book about education called Stop Stealing Dreams. He talks about how schools stink, but that even though homeschooling appears to be a rational response to terrible schools, homeschooling is inefficient and unrealistic for most parents.

When I first saw this, I was stunned. Seth has built a career on telling people how to push past the status quo. In his book The Dip, which is my favorite, Seth taught us all how to do something really difficult.  In his book Linchpin, Seth asked us if we are doing something that really matters or just talking about it.

I can’t help thinking that Stop Stealing Dreams is his description of why homeschooling requires going through a dip, but he doesn’t want to do it. So instead of being a linchpin for homeschooing, Seth will be a naysayer. Seth is advocating the status quo: Lame-duck parent activists who delude themselves that their activism is meaningful. And people advocating for large-scale school reform without any blueprint whatsoever for how to educate such a wide range of students on such a large scale. This discussion is parental escapism. No parent, not even Seth, will solve the school problem before their kids are out of school.  Read more

When you see someone who has a career you want, it’s a safe bet that they spent the majority of their career clearly defining themselves and then differentiating themselves from all the other people who defined themselves the same way.

Self-knowledge is a huge career tool, but most people find it onerous and try to skip it. The problem with skipping over self-knowledge is that people hit a career ceiling, not because someone put it on top of them – we put it on top of ourselves by not knowing who we are.

In order to differentiate yourself, you have to know what you don’t do well, and what you can do better than most people. This takes trying a lot of stuff (read: tons of failures) and it takes being wrong a million times (read: take public risks).

1. Forget about being smart.
The first thing you should not be is smart. You know that great American idea that we are a meritocracy? Well, it’s true, except it’s not a meritocracy based on hard work, we’re a meritocracy for good social skills.

We used to place high value on people who were walking Encyclopedias. Now we don’t need those sorts of people, and, in fact, they are weird. Their formerly very-useful ability to store data is relegated to parlor tricks now that we have computers.

My favorite example of the cultural demise of the know-it-all is the infographic of dumbest editorial arguments on Wikipedia. The arguments are fueled by people who think they will somehow define themselves by their arcane knowledge. For instance, on the page for Andre the Giant, 3,766 edits have been made in a dispute about whether his height was 7’4” or 6’10”. The problem is that these people will be defined by their obsession with facts, but they will be defined as useless. Read more