Get what you want by capitulating to demands of others

I get up at 5am to drive my son to his cello lessons in Chicago. On Saturday he’s in lessons for four hours. I wake him and he says, “No. It’s too early. It’s too hard to drive to Chicago all the time. I can’t do it.”

I don’t say anything. I sit on the side of the bed, in the dark, and I can’t force a seven-year-old to drive sixteen hours a week for cello. This is crazy. I can’t do it.

My son glances over at me from his squishy warm pillow. I decide I’ll let him sleep.

Then he throws off the covers, bounds out of bed and says, “I’m just like the kids in the video! I have to work hard if I want to be great! All great artists suffer! I have to suffer on the drive! Let’s go!”

In the car, my son watches the The Rachel Zoe Project. I have learned so much about the fashion industry from that show, like when you’re picking a dress for the Oscars, you don’t try the dresses on, a body double does.

I can understand that. Getting dressed is hard work. Which is why I’m in the car in my pajamas. I get dressed on the way to Chicago. At stop lights. Not that we have a stoplight for the first hour of the drive. We live an hour from a stoplight. So, you can imagine, when you live that far from civilization, it’s hard to get out of pajamas.

In the car I am busy learning about fashion and getting dressed and then, when we hit Rockford my son puts on Regular Show, which I like, but I cannot listen to each episode fifteen times. So I start falling asleep.

I tell myself that we are going to die and I slap my cheeks and I get out of the car twice to freeze my brain into staying awake and I am still asleep. I decide I’m going to stop at a gas station and buy junk food but we just passed the gas station and I was self-congratulatory about not stopping for junk food and now we have another hour before another gas station.

I call Melissa. “Are you awake? It’s not an emergency, but can you get up?”

“Yeah. I’m up.”

“Okay. Good. Happy birthday. And can I dictate a post to you? I’m falling asleep.”

“Okay. Hold on. Let me get my headset. Wait. No. You can’t do a post now. You have a coaching call right now.”

“Oh. You’re right. Okay. Bye.”

My coaching call is early Saturday morning because the guy is in a far away time zone working for a company that you have definitely heard of. He reports to the CEO at his company. From his email I found that hard to believe, but now that I’m talking to him, I see it’s true, and I can’t help thinking that he makes millions of dollars a year and it’s ridiculous that I’m charging him only $250 for this call.

He has an interesting job because the person he reports to is not an expert in their particular industry. So this guy’s job is to be the industry expert. Who knew there were jobs like this in the Fortune 1000?

Okay. So we are talking and we get to the next gas station and I decide to leave my son in the car with the car on and run in and buy something sugary just in case I start falling asleep again. But in the candy aisle I lose the call. I decide I’ll just pay fast and then call him back, but I get to the car and it turns out his callback went automatically to the car, and for the last few minutes my son has been talking to the guy on speaker.

When I finish the call I’m halfway to Chicago with nothing to do but eat my new emergency sugar supply. I tell myself this is not an emergency because I can dictate a post.

I call Melissa.

Me: Let’s do a post.

Melissa: Okay. I’ll put on my headset. You should write a post where you use that photo of us sitting next to each other wearing the same boots.

Me: Oh yeah. I love that photo. But I’m not using it today.

Melissa: You should.

Me: Shut up.

Melissa: Okay.

Me: Get What You Want By Giving Other People What They Want

Melissa: That’s the title?

Me: Yeah… The last time I flew with my son and his cello, we did not book a seat for his cello. I had a plan to pretend that I am stupid and didn’t know I needed to book a seat for the cello and then they’d give me a free seat.

Melissa: Oh, I have a great link for you.

Me: What? Shut up. I’ve told you a hundred times not to interrupt me while I’m dictating or I can’t keep track of where I am.

Melissa: Well, this will help you think.

Me: No it won’t. I already don’t know what I’m thinking. Okay. Fine. Tell me the link.

Melissa: This guy accrued thousands of frequent flier miles for his cello but Delta cancelled them.

Me: You can’t accrue miles for the cello?

Melissa: No. But he’s fighting it.

Me: I should have put both kids on the violin. You don’t realize what an expensive decision the cello is when you have a four year old playing on a cello the size of a large frying pan.

Melissa: Is that part of the post?

Me: No. Ready? Okay. So the flight attendant was onto me right away. I told her we already bought three first-class seats so could we just have another for the cello? She said that there were not extra seats she could sell me. I began feeling really sorry that I tried this scheme. I told myself I was never going to push the limits of seat selection again. And she could tell I was dejected and sorry I ever had this dumb idea. I said I was sorry. Because I was. Then she came up with an extra seat.

Melissa: If you’re going to write about you making a scene at the airport, you should write about how much your kids hate it when you make a scene. And then you can use that link I sent to you about how Disney should have an introverted princess. Your posts where you talk about how great introverts are always do well.

Me: What? Shut up. I can’t think. It’s not your post. We will do a separate post that is yours.

Melissa: Okay. When?

Me: I don’t know. Later.

Melissa: How about for my birthday?

Me: No. You said you don’t even care about birthdays.


Me: You’re sad. Okay. I’m sorry… Hey! Wait! Didn’t you get flowers? I sent you flowers for your birthday and they were supposed to come yesterday so you could wake up happy on your birthday. Where are they?

Melissa: You sent flowers?

Me: Yeah. And I got a delivery confirmation.

Melissa: Oh. Maybe they are on the porch. Let me check… no. They are not there.

Me: Blah. Okay. I’ll call and find them… Wait. No. Can you call and find them? It’s part of your job.

Melissa: You are going to pay me to find my flowers?

Me: It’s the thought that counts.

So Melissa calls to find her flowers. And I search for her links while she finds her flowers. Because I can see that if I am going to get a post written, it’s going to have to be the post she wants.

Here is the link about the injustice of frequent flier miles for inanimate objects.

Here is the link about the need for introverted princesses from Disney.

And here is the photo of the flowers that finally arrived this morning.

Do you know what I love about this photo? Melissa’s artwork in the background. She buys art at thrift stores and somehow manages to buy stuff that is good. And then she had the brilliant idea of hiring a gallery owner to figure out how to hang the art in her apartment.

Melissa wanted to hang the art in an orderly way. She is an orderly person. But the gallery person wanted the art to be her own vision. Which is why, of course, you hire a gallery person to hang your art. So Melissa let the person hang it how they want, and it turned out great.

And I tried to write a post about my topic and Melissa had her own idea about how we are writing the post. But look, I got a post.

Which goes to show that you can get what you want by giving other people what they want, if you hire amazing people to work with you.


63 replies
    • Anne Stone
      Anne Stone says:

      Agreed, the picture of the boots compelled me. That it is really of P. and M. And the rest of the reason it is the picture, all bonus! Lovely flowers. Happy birthday to Melissa. Great choice on the boots!

  1. Gary Sarratt
    Gary Sarratt says:

    Excellent post, if it IS mostly a post about nothing. You and I think a lot alike, and sometimes I wish I had a touch of Asperger’s so I could be myself more. But wishing for a (nother?) mental disorder is just plain crazy. BTW, ignore my blogspot. I’ve only posted 3 blogs (and then got back in college, which pretty much dictates my schedule and thinking), and they probably suck anyhow. Toodles!

  2. techkim
    techkim says:

    this post made me laugh. I want a body double to try on my new clothe for me that is why I hate clothes shopping have to try everything on plus the added baby bump in front doesn’t help.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Love!!! I didn’t realize you were close enough to Chicago to drive here for your sons lessons.

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Disney has had a few introverted princesses. I think Jasmine and Belle were both introverts. What they really need are introverted thinker princesses. Unfortunately, Disney writers seem uninterested in writing about women who don’t wear their heart on their sleeve A logical princess who never emotes would probably not be very popular for most people, even feminists.

      • gordana dragicevic
        gordana dragicevic says:

        i’m not a princess, but am an extreme introverted thinker (and a feminist), and for some reason almost as a rule kids love me. it is the grown-ups who tend to believe a thinking female must be some kind of a witch ;)

  5. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    btw, I’m pretty sure all the female thinkers in Disney movies are villains. That should tell you something.

    • Gwen
      Gwen says:

      I don’t think so. Belle and Mulan are both thinkers. I mean, the first song in Beauty & The Beast is about what a weird geek Belle is. And Mulan is the best thinker among her comrades, figuring out how to climb the pole with the weights, using the single rocket to cause an avalanche…

  6. Rory Trotter
    Rory Trotter says:

    I remember initially adding this blog to my RSS reader because I thought it was related to Human Resources / Sourcing.

    I have not learned much about either topic from reading said blog, but I find it deliriously entertaining and am very glad I subscribe.

    Thanks for sharing this – and keep writing.



    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Rory. I’m glad you are sticking around, even if it’s not HR all the time.

      As a reward for you sticking around through all the non-HR stuff, I’m giving you a link to a HR article I liked from the Wall St. Journal:

      How to deal with an employee who is an online celebrity


  7. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I do not think the interpretation of the heroine from brave as an extrovert is correct. If memory serves me correctly, she enjoyed spending most of her free time playing in the woods by herself. All the same, pretty flowers, pretty artwork and nice boots! Oh yeah, just wanted to say Hi!

  8. Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel
    Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel says:

    You are funny. I like the idea about hiring a gallery owner to hang thrift store art. Fabulous. AND, 16 hours for cello lessons is a stinking lot. I’ll stop complaining about the 45 minutes for soccer practice and an hour for high school. I always say that if we lived in the MidWest everything would be very far away. Yes, compromise sometimes allows both people to get what they want. I wanted to write a post about a purse but was worried about my son yelling at me again for getting off topic. Damn, you have inspired me. Doing it. Boom.

  9. Katybeth
    Katybeth says:

    I’m not judgmental but jealous when I ask…how do you manage all of this while driving? I’m back after taking a long break from your blog and happy to be reading….Congratulations on marrying the Farmer. Homeschooling is wonderful–BTW, the Chicago Waldorf school has some wonderful music resources—if you are ever in need or interested.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m happy that you’re back, Katybeth!

      It’s an interesting question: how do I do so much in the car. I realized that I was going to be in the car for a huge amount of time each week, and I knew I couldn’t homeschool and work if I were not working in the car. So I started saying no to lots of stuff that I could not do in the car (like video interviews – I do almost all my interviews on the phone, in the car). And I started adding more stuff that I can do in the car, like coaching and dictating posts.

      So I guess I sort of crafted a career around my car. And, for those of you who think this post is off topic, that’s one reason I thought this post was on topic!


  10. Karen
    Karen says:

    I disagree with “It’s the thought that counts” and am so surprised that you actually uttered that one.

  11. Ruth Zive
    Ruth Zive says:

    First of all, you shouldn’t leave your seven year old son in the car with the engine running. Second of all, not sure what Melissa thinks, but that particular variety of Lily is really, really smelly. It ruins a perfectly lovely arrangement.

  12. Ron Chester
    Ron Chester says:

    Best one in quite a while!

    But they’re not the same boots, just the same color. P closer to the camera, M further away?

  13. gg
    gg says:

    There is no point to this blog at all. It annoyed me the whole time because I thought it was going to get to something but it never really did.

  14. Jane
    Jane says:

    The Rachel Zoe Project seems like a very odd choice for a little boy.

    You talk about public school being so awful, but making a paper mache moose in a first grade class would be far better for a child than watching a TV show about a vacuous and superficial person.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That seems like a really tough judgment for Rachel Zoe, frankly. I mean, she’s a mom, she owns a business, and she’s launched the career of at least one other super successful stylist. I have learned a lot from listening to her, so I can attest to the fact that she’s not vacuous.

      Regardless, I think a good education is giving kids access to what they want. It’s not about what I want to listen to, it’s about what’s interesting to my son.


      • Jen
        Jen says:

        I think this is the first time I’ve seen you take a defensive posture in comments. I’m def going to check out this RZ now. :)

  15. Jane
    Jane says:

    I mention the paper mache moose because this was an actual assignment in my child’s first grade class. The children each chose an animal, studied it, and made a life-sized paper mache model. Self-directed learning in a classroom!

    Really, much better than watching a reality TV show about an empty middle-aged woman. This is true even if your son does want to become a stylist.

    • Cristen H
      Cristen H says:

      I don’t think the’s any way to call an assignment a self-directed endeavor, especially in an entire classroom of kids…

      • Jane
        Jane says:

        I was there, and I can assure you it was. In any event, it was far more self-directed and educational than watching a TV show about a woman shopping in LA

  16. Karen
    Karen says:

    The posts that you dictate have a different feel – very freeform and immersive – and they’re wonderful in their own way.

  17. ToastedTofu
    ToastedTofu says:

    Belle is definitely an introvert, she reads so much she doesn’t even notice people, and I think she was the first Disney princess who didn’t suck. Disney usually just creates token princesses, so Belle might be all you get. Outside of Disney, Violet from The Incredibles is not just an introvert she is so painfully shy she turns invisible (even though she’s not a princess, I think that counts), and even though it’s not animated, Katniss Everdeen, the heroine du jour, is totally an introvert.

  18. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    When I take the quiz at Disneyland about what princess I am…I’m always Belle. That makes me soo happy :)

    Lovely post! And a seven year old in the car is just fine :) You know your own kid.

  19. Amy
    Amy says:

    How much does it cost to hire a gallery director to tell you where/how to hang art? That’s what I’d like to know. Can someone give me a range? A ballpark?

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      It should cost somewhere between $50 to $75 an hour, depending on who you hire and how you hire them. If you find a professional through a gallery or a framing shop, it’s likely to be at the higher end of the estimate, whereas if you find a freelancer or a consultant who works independently, they will be less expensive (and probably just as good, if not better).

      If it helps, this is who I hired:


  20. gordana dragicevic
    gordana dragicevic says:

    but the boots are not the same! how come Melissa didn’t get that detail?
    the pair on the right has no straps and the zip is different and on the other side :) the picture does look cool, though.

  21. Kate
    Kate says:

    Happy Birthday Melissa.

    Great post Penelope but you left us hanging – what did your son and the guy you were coaching talk about?

  22. PJDJ
    PJDJ says:

    For great heroines in children’s movies, refer to the works of Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli, particularly “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, the tale of a 13-year old witch that sets to find her place in the world as part of witch training, encountering all the nuisances and questions of a young teenage girl.'s_Delivery_Service

    And what do you know, it’s widely available in the US.

  23. Jason
    Jason says:

    If they ever make a fiction tv show about your life, the role of you should be played by Lana Parrilla.

    She looks like you, but also her character in Once Upon a Time on ABC reminds me of who you seem to be.

    She plays the Evil Queen, but the premise of the show is that fairy tale characters get sent to the modern world, and in the modern world she is the mayor of the town of Storybrooke. And like many modern villains we’re shown that she has a good side too, and her evil side was brought upon by her tragic past.

    She’s smart, tough, confident, pretty and independent. She likes to be in charge and she’s good at it. Her looks and her power are equally intimidating. She’s not afraid to hurt people, physically or emotionally. But she’s also a loving mother to an adopted son, and a loyal daughter to an abusive mother.

    Her story is a story of a woman who wants to have it all — in her case, it means she’s trying to balance power and love, having control and letting go, being feared but also being loved.

    Ok, maybe not all of that is like you. But where her character is not like you it still fits within the major themes of your writings.

    Anyway, when I read this post I heard your lines in her voice. But maybe I’ve just been watching too much of that show lately… Also, I’m an INFP, so maybe that’ll help explain it for you.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’ve tried it. I think I don’t have the patience to train dragon to understand my dictation. In the dictation department, Melissa provides much more immediate gratification.


  24. sarahloo
    sarahloo says:

    Okay, but the real question here is: where did you get those boots?

    Also, this post help me understand your Aspergers because I have terrible people skills but I couldn’t stand it if someone told me to shutup that much. Even if they did give me what I wanted.

    But really….link to the boots?

  25. alyce vayle
    alyce vayle says:

    This post absolutely stuck with me in a very significant way. At first I thought it was just a random collection of jumbled thoughts, which is how it reads.

    It wasn’t until later that week that the message gelled for me. My partner and I had broken up and he was in the process of moving out. There was so much conflict, so much “this is mine, that is yours,” and “this is the best way to do this, that is the best way” etc.

    I remembered that I could get what I want by giving someone what they want. It doesn’t have to be either or.

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