5 Things I was wrong about
These will be small, okay? Because on the big stuff, like divorce is for losers, I am right. But here is some stuff I was wrong on:
1. Get plastic surgery. I said that people should get it because good looking people earn more money. But in fact, plastic surgery doesn’t change what people think of you. If you were an 8 before surgery you’re an 8 after. The human eye can subconsciously adjust maybe – I’m not sure what it is. But I talked to Gordon Patzer , author of Looks, on the phone, and he assured me this is true. So don’t bother with the surgery. Just get botox so you don’t look tired.
2. Certifications are stupid. I really really think certifications are stupid. I tell everyone to not get them. Just get a job doing whatever you were thinking of getting certified to do. But, it turns out that PayScale has research to show that human resource certifications help. I don’t know what to make of this, except that LinkedIn has research to show that human resources attracts people who are most averse to risk. So it makes sense to me that people who are scared of risk would need to trust a certificate rather than their instincts when making a hiring decision.
3. You can increase your happiness by having sex twice a week. First of all, the number of weeks of my life I have done this is, I don’t know, maybe six. I have never been a sexual dynamo, even though I want you to think I am great in bed. I have been writing for five years about how there’s not a lot you can do to change your natural happiness set point, but having sex twice a week with the same partner can change that. It turns out though, not if your friends are having sex three times a week. So have more sex than your friends. Because the key to feeling more happy from sex is to pick friends who openly gripe about how bad their sex life is.
4. Getting a PhD is stupid if you don’t have a trust fund. I am starting to think that staying in school might be a good idea for people who never want to go into the business world. Look at it this way: If you ask the CEO of Google to stay home all day with kids, he’ll die. The same is true if you ask some people to go out into the work world: they’ll die. It’s just wrong for them. The values and the purpose are wrong.
So why not take the people who will absolutely suck in the work world and let them stay in school until they get married? Then they can have kids and that can be their job. (Preemptive strike: Don’t tell me it’s not safe for someone to be totally dependent on their spouse. We are all totally dependent on a spouse when we have kids with that person. We are a team. You never get out of being that team with that person.)
5. Don’t have a crazy commute. I have reported all the research about how bad commutes ruin your life. For example if you are grouchy in the car, you will make your coworkers grounchy (or family, depending on which end of the commute you’re on). I’ve shown research that for every fifteen minutes of your commute, you lose one friend. And Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert shows in Stumbling on Happiness that commutes through heavy traffic are actually harder for us to adjust to than losing an arm. (The missing arm is predictable and bad traffic is not.)
But it turns out that a predictable-but-long commute is okay. And, most people are doing that type of commute in order to have a stay at home spouse, which is a huge factor in keeping a marriage together. So those long, predictable commutes are just fine if the benefit is an intact family.
The people who are wrong the most are the most confident and decisive. Sharon Begley writes in the Daily Beast that style affects what we listen to, and we listen to people who are boisterous and outspoken and largely wrong. Of course this is ironic since the Daily Beast is known for this type of punditry.
Psychologist Philip Tetlock studies pundits, and in an interview for Wired magazine he said, “Experts with the more eclectic, self-critical, and modest cognitive styles tended to outperform the big-idea people.” Which is why I’m posting eclectic photos of The Little Prince in braille and the spoon chandelier hanging in my house.
The real reason I don’t mind being wrong is that you can’t ever be right in a way that matters if you’re never wrong. Think about it: if you are right on something where everyone knows you’re right then it doesn’t matter that you’re right. If you are right about something where people think it’s surprising, then you take a risk of being wrong but you also open yourself up to the joy of surprising yourself with your own insight. It’s a risk high performers are willing to take.
I’m really glad to see this post, Penelope. I originally started reading you because of the Blueprint, but the one thing that always bothered me about it was the plastic surgery thing. I have Crouzon syndrome; I have had major plastic surgery. Physically it was hell, and emotionally it has been weird. I could never, ever recommend even minor plastic surgery for something like a couple percentage points increase in likely long-term salary. That bothered me. So thank you.
Also, this: “The people who are wrong the most are the most confident and decisive.”
I like it. This is something I need to remember.
I don’t need you to be right, it’s not why I read the blog. I read it for interesting ideas that make me think and for the good questions you raise about the world. I like that this post takes some of those thought-provoking ideas and continues the conversation on them!
Uh oh. I agree with all those things (except maybe the plastic surgery one), so I guess I’m wrong too! Thanks for pointing out the counter-arguments.
Commutes are great because it gives you time alone to listen to music and mentally prepare for the workday ahead. It also gives you time to decompress after work before you walk into a house with screaming children and an unpleasant spouse.
Plastic surgery may not make you look better to the outside world, but it will boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself.
“Plastic surgery may not make you look better to the outside world, but it will boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself.”
Believe me when I say, from experience, that this is not necessarily true. Thoughts which are entirely to be expected:
-“I look better now, why don’t people like me more? Why did I go through this?”
-“I can’t believe I resorted to plastic surgery. I’m weak and ugly and shallow. I shouldn’t care so much.”
-“Can they tell? Do people think this is natural? Has anyone noticed my face is fake?”
-“People only like me now because I look better than I did. They don’t REALLY like me. No one would really like me if I looked like myself.”
-“Whoa, people like me now! How many of them will sleep with me?”
Those sound like things an insecure person would say. I am extremely secure with myself and I don’t wonder if people “notice” things about me. I do everything I do for myself.
Good for you, but you miss my point. I was responding to something you said, not talking about you specifically.
Yes, those are things an insecure person would say. Not everyone who has plastic surgery magically becomes more confident. It really doesn’t work that way for a lot of people. If you have plastic surgery as a result of being insecure, you will probably still be insecure, just in different ways.
I love this post; 1. divorce is horrible with kids, even though it frees people from many bad situations, it is still horrible and creates very bad financial situations- I know this personally
2. long crazy commutes create depression and reduce intelligent people to raving crybabies, again I know this personally- every half hour I am away from my family driving in a car to work feels like a huge loss to me, period.
3. staying in school is stupid even if you want to be a stay at home parent because then EVERYBODY will ask what you are going to do with all that education and it will drive you nuts, again I know this personally- also choosing to be underemployed with tons of education because you are more fulfilled drives others nuts too
4.plastic surgery unless you have a deformity creates neurosis-I do not know this personally but have seen it lead to landslides of additional plastic surgery many times
That’s all, I LOVE this post, and you Penelope Thanks
“Just get Botox so you don’t look tired.”
…or human. unless they’ve recently made such advances in Botox that you can have it and retain your capacity for facial expression.
having no visible reaction to anything said or done by the person you’re talking to can’t possibly be good for your career.
I’d personally disagree in the case of my therapist. Verbal reactions over eyebrow raises any day!
I couldn’t agree more with your view on being right or wrong. One of the best parts about being human is that we have the choice to change our mind, our persona, our everything from moment to moment. Why should yesterday’s opinion commit you to a life of living it?
Plastic surgery info is interesting. I’ve also read that people generally stay the same attractiveness level compared to their peers as we age. So if you’re a 7 when you’re 20, you’ll generally be a 7 when you’re 40 (within your age group). This makes sense, but we can all think of someone from high school who was average and now as an adult looks stunning…..and vice versa!
I don’t know about 7 when you’re 20, 7 when you’re 40.
My adorable husband is getting more attractive every year. He was average at 20, but really hunky in his 40s and I can’t wait for 50. What can I say? Lucky me.
I have read this as well. And the book I cite in the post, Looks, has absolutely incredible data about how good-looking adults first started receiving better treatment for being good-looking when they were babies. Mothers do it. Mothers treat better looking babies better. This is amazing to me.
You say divorce is for losers, but if you hadn’t divorced you wouldn’t be with the Farmer, and you love him, right? So, are you saying that if you’d had it your way, you wouldn’t be with him, you’d still be married to your ex?
To expand on my previous post before I had to dash off. I’m saying that you found a person you connect with after divorcing. I’ve known people (some with kids, some without) who divorced and then married someone with whom they have a good marriage. They never would have met the other person had they stayed in a marriage that was detrimental to them and their children because often children can sense tension even if fighting is never done in their presence.
We have this discussion every time I mention my hatred for divorce. There is no data that says that kids do better with divorced parents than unhappily married parents. Kids do not put their parents happiness ahead of their own. Of course.
The data about that you should leave your marriage for the sake of the kids is if there is violence. And even then, nearly one-third of the violence can stop if the person who wants it to stop makes a change. In one third of the cases it takes two people to create the violence.
I write this to say that I think divorce is great for the parents. They get a second chance. They get a new home. They get a new spouse. The kids get nothing. They have no home, because two homes = no home just like two religions = no religion. They have no family, because each of their parents has gone off and gotten a new family instead of staying in their kids’ family.
The idea that divorce was good for me because I met someone I love is preposterous. It would have been better for the kids to not have their family torn apart. It’s nice that we could rebuild a family, but it has a high cost for the kids, even though they adore my husband and call him dad.
Parents are so incredibly full of shit when they say it was better for the kids.
I love this reply, Penelope
…divorced from the divorce discussion, I do not think this is correct:
“Kids do not put their parents happiness ahead of their own. Of course.” Kids actually do often respond to tension and fighting by trying to “disappear”, to stay quiet, to not trigger any events, to be nice to the parent who has been hurt – this is putting their own happiness on the backburner and put the parent or parents and their interaction with them at the center of their lives, even if it means that they themselves are not happy.
This is a good point. Kids do sometimes put their parent’s happiness above their own.
Talking purely from my own experience and no real data, though, I think when that happens it is often because of a situation which is pretty unhealthy for the kid. It’s pretty normal for a student’s grades to go UP when their parent is diagnosed with cancer, for example, as the kid tries to do everything that’s in their own control perfectly to make the parents happier.
So I’m not sure it really undermines Penelope’s point.
you mean the statement “…do not …” actually means might or might not depending on how you would like to interpret? It is a clear statement and should be discussed as such – it probably was not meant as an absolute, but it was a definite statement you can agree or disagree with.
redrock – Ah, sorry, I should clarify. I do think you’re right about the “kids do not put parent’s happiness above their own” thing.
What I mean is that although you’re right, I still think Penelope is also right to say that divorce will mess up kids. Because situations in which kids do put their parents ahead of themselves tend to be the kind of situations which will mess kids up.
I wonder if putting their parent’s happiness ahead of their own is actually a part of what makes these situations mess kids up so much long-term.
Penelope, I think it’s awesome that you are able to take that kind of objective look at your own history and place such a high rating on your kids’s happiness. Few people can/will do that.
If you have a growth or have suffered an injury to your face, if it’s within your means, definitely get surgery. The surgery will help you more mentally and emotionally than it will physically.
Never get surgery just to look prettier. You’ll never find the justification you’re looking for.
Some people get certified for social reasons, like belonging to associations and attending gatherings with your peers. Finding people you have something in common with becomes easier.
Oh, and divorce: Sometimes marriage can’t survive personal growth. If you’re growing in two different directions and your priorities become polar opposites, then free each other to be happy. Get divorced and become great friends and actually learn something about yourself.
I read somewhere recently that successful people live by their convictions. Maybe what you choose to be right about is what makes the difference.
What are you wrong about in homeschooling? Besides realizing it was wrong to think you needed a curriculum.
I seriously LOVE your blog. But your homeschool posts have been too self-righteous and doctrinal recently, so this post is refreshing.
Oh. I like this question. I thought homeschooling would get rid of my guilt. But it doesn’t. I always worry I’m doing enough for my kids. In fact, I have started seeing a psychologist to deal with the incessant guilt. I can’t stand it. I hate the self-doubt and self-hatred that pops up when I think about what I could be doing better for my kids. I want them to feel like their mom is more self-confident than that.
I hope you share what you learn from your shrink about your guilt. My guess is that it’s fear of the imperfect. Even as you realize mistakes are useful, they are only useful if you review and and try to correct them. You worry that at some point you might decide not to care about learning from the mistakes you make–you won’t try anymore to be a good mother/person. Which could relate to the knowledge that we are all mortal. I hope you learn just to love in the face of fear and not get bogged down by guilt which is unproductive, as you’ve obviously realized since you are seeking therapy.
I love the spoon lamp.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and repeat after me:
“Bryan Caplan is right. Think of opportunity cost. Bryan Caplan is right.”
Which are the people who will suck and die in the business world, but will be happy in school? In terms of MBTI?
Interesting about plastic surgery. I’m wondering how universal that rule really is, because in my lifetime I’ve had two cosmetic changes and I’m totally happy with them and only wish I’d done them sooner. Maybe it’s because they were relatively minor, that it worked for me? First one was having a mole on my nose cut out, when I was a teenager. Second one was curing my acne by going on accutane.
Oh, and also, I switched from wearing glasses (which I started at age 3) to contact lenses. Don’t know if that one counts, though.
There is no clear answer to this. But there are a lot of people who hate the idea of joining the workforce but love the idea of learning and taking care of people (both hard to get paid for). Those are good candidates for the plan to stay in school til marriage.
“…there are a lot of people who hate the idea of joining the workforce but love the idea of learning”
I know that INTJs and INTPs love learning and have little care for money beyond having a basic living standard plus they hate office politics.
I can vouch for that: As an INTP/J, it describes me perfectly.
Re: if you just get one or two things done, then it doesn’t change your score much. However, if you get a lot done by a very skilled surgeon, you can go up a couple of notches.
I had my whole face/body redone. The first few surgeries didn’t change much, but after a bit more, I really went from “average attractive” to “sexy pretty”. You’ve got to be careful though.
I got great results- undetectable. I got remarried to a better guy, and changed careers. I believe my new looks played a part in bettering my options. So much so that I wish I had had surgery instead of getting my useless B.A. in psychology.
Kits, maybe it’s the confidence that comes with it more than the surgeries themselves. Confident people feel they deserve better…better husband…better job.
Maybe you just felt more sure of yourself after the surgery, and you were able to raise your own standards. The outside world can’t raise your standards for you. That had to come from within you.
I guess I’m saying give yourself a little more credit. It wasn’t the surgeries. It was how you felt about yourself afterwards. Just my theory.
Was your editor on vacation or on crack?
I got a certificate once in graphic design, because I was working in direct marketing (when it used to be mail), and the marcomm people were always telling me what was wrong with color, type, blah blah blah. And I thought they were full of it. So I went at night, got the certificate so I would be able to argue effectively with them. Also, this was at the very advent of “online” in 97/98 so I got an early taste of “how websites are built.” Was absolutely not a waste and I fly it proudly on my resume right next to my MBA. Not a waste either. AND I never went into debt for any degree or certificate. Which honestly is the best recommendation out there.
I have a certification in my technical area and think it was worthy because it forced me to brush-up on some of the newer features and best practices in my area. I may or may-not be more attractive to employers, as I’m still working for the same employer, but I’m definitely better at what I do. That’s personally satisfying. Given that the whole test chewed up about $1,000 I didn’t consider it a waste.
I’m glad you’ve admitted that plastic surgery isn’t the way to go. Whenever I recommended your blueprint for a woman’s life to friends they always got stuck on the plastic surgery part and then used that to discount the rest of your advice. So now I can tell them to ignore that part.
Also, there is a typo on the first line of point 2. Should be certifications, not certiifcations.
Great post…made me giggle..love it, love it, love it!
REALLY? I am frankly, shocked and pissed. Initially I was shocked at the divorce is for losers comment but then swiftly read the kids comment below that and now that makes the losers comment look like small potatoes.
I have read your blog for years, attended speaking events that you have held, and referred your blog to others.
I am done. I am hurt. I am surprised that even you, as a mother, would take your comments publicly to this level.
Mother-to-mother, you know the most hurtful comment to say is that someone is screwing up their child. You worry about it in your own life. We all worry about it. It is natural. But adding to it. In a cutting way publicly is wrong.
I will not ramble with all of my reasonings that 2-family homes for kids can provide children a different variety of ways for them to learn to express love, emotion and provide different opportunities and interests, that they would not get in a single home. It is just a different kind of upbringing. It has and continues to produce wonderful children with amazing perspectives.
Penelope, know that many people reading this are not commenting as I am. The fact that you have publicly put something out into the universe that has offended or made parents (even if a handful) sad or to doubt themselves. Wow.
That is below the belt. You have crossed the line.
Wendy, I don’t know you, but your pain comes through your post. I’m sorry for what you are suffering. I hope time will bring you peace and contentment, and if you are a praying sort of person, forgiveness and reconciliation.
So you should never be exposed to anything that makes you sad, or doubt yourself? Even if it’s true?
There is a page on facebook called Sanctimommy which I think you might find amusing, Wendy. Check it out.
I’ve been reading you for a while now thanks to James Altuchers advice. I find your blog very helpful even when I disagree, and it’s refreshing to read someone who’s not afraid of putting their ideas out there or maybe you’re afraid but you do it anyway. :)
I’m glad my husband doesn’t read this. I never foresee myself on the plastic surgeon’s appointment book, but I’ve really enjoyed terrorizing my husband with that piece of advice since your first post on the topic. He thinks wearing lipstick is weird, so assuring him that all professional women must have cosmetic surgery brings the most delightful looks of terror and bewilderment to his face.
I’m not totally surprised about the HR certification. Each business function has its own vision of what a standard employee should appear to be. If you do not meet this vision, a person is morely likely to be weeded out of the hiring & promotion process.
I work with incentives and commissions which often falls under the control of HR. I did not fit their standard HR profile as a male with degrees in finance & economics who has not worked his entire his life in HR. That difference was hindering my ability to get work within HR depts. Then I got my HR certification and suddenly I’m a HR professional. Now I was member of the club and it was more acceptable for me to work within a HR dept.
I think the value of certificates has just about everything to do with the rampant credentialism in the work world these days. I see this particularly in situations where non-technical managers supervise technical staff and need *something* to help them distinguish between qualified and unqualified job appicants. At least this appears to be true with respect to mid-level IT and certain applied science jobs.
I also think they’re silly and unfortunate. The folks I’ve known who are best at their jobs earned their skills in the field. But, certificates now seem needed to get a foot in the door (so you can build actual, real-life skills). And an apparently great way for certificate-providers to separate desperate folks from their money.
Ann N, You think it’s bad in the professional world, check out your local public schools. The credentials fetish is… breathtaking.
well said Ann!
Ann, your observation is so on target about how people lack the belief in themselves to judge qualifications. A piece of paper is something you buy. You sit in a class and learn or do not learn and either way you get the paper. Someone who is good at hiring can make judgements with so many more inputs than that piece of paper – it’s almost debilitating to require someone to have the credential because then, as a hiring manager, you rely on it instead of on yourself.
You are not wrong. Divorce is for losers, and divorce does ruin children. A loving parent can mitigate the effects somewhat in a kid’s life. But those are problems that cascade through generations. Do you have a thoughtful plan (or research?) on bridging a divorce with kids with disabilities?
Thanks for this post. I’m keeping the commute information in mind.
I love that you used the snake digesting a boa constrictor picture.
1) guys who are having more sex than their neighbors, but aren’t having a lot of sex, are simply not having a lot of sex.
2) We have a spoon lamp in our dining room. Feels like we just bonded…
a) HR people do not know the job well enough to hire on instinct.
b) it is an advantage to hire someone who already has some knowledge of the job tasks (a.k.a. certificate) then someone who has to be trained from scratch. One thing is certainly right: certificates can be good or bad… if you know the field you also know which ones to trust.
“Experts with the more eclectic, self-critical, and modest cognitive styles tended to outperform the big-idea people.”
But isn’t this in itself a big idea? where is Tetlock’s self criticism here? ;)
Penelope, I like your mea culpa re: certifications. I’m a CPA and feel like it’s opened a TON of doors for me in the accounting realm – but then, accountants make HR peeps look like professional daredevils. You’ll never meet a more risk-adverse group than accountants.
The CPA has State licensing requirements and has specifc duties that can only be performed by a CPA. Those two differences put it on another level of existence when compared to many other certifications.
Often these other certifications are programs offered by professional associations or private firms. There are not legal duties or requirements built into them.
As I tell my students each semester “You learn from your mistakes. If nothing else you can learn “I’ll never do That again””.
When I was working in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, CA) I had a long but predictable commute. My second youngest daughter would drop me off at the shuttle stop from Hollister to the train station in Gilroy so she could drive my car. During the hour long ride I could do requirements reviews, design reviews or code reviews as appropriate. I would do that commute so we could own our own home and my wife could be there for the kids. OTOH Lynette agrees with you that “Silicon Valley” is family toxic.
I agree what you point it out accept certification, in that case I think someone has need the HR certificate to prove their experience in job period. But all pint are useful to keep ourselves motivate in life and avoid repeating mistakes
I love it when the links are stripped from spam comments.
The effect is very avant garde. :-)
“To err is to wander, and wandering is the way we discover the world; and, lost in thought, it is also the way we discover ourselves.
Being right might be gratifying, but in the end it is static, a mere statement.
Being wrong is hard and humbling, and sometimes even dangerous, but in the end it is a journey, and a story.” ~ Kathryn Schulz
“To err is to wander, and wandering is the way we discover the world; and, lost in thought, it is also the way we discover ourselves.
Being right might be gratifying, but in the end it is static, a mere statementpvp severler, metin2 pvp serverler, metin2 pvp.
Being wrong is hard and humbling, and sometimes even dangerous, but in the end it is a journey, and a story.” ~ Kathryn Schulz
I’d like to add to what you say about certifications. One example is that of a pharmacy tech, some states require a certification to be registered as such and others don’t. In my state you don’t need to be certified to get a job as a tech, but if you are it usually pays more(people can get hired without it routinely). It doesn’t really make sense, but probably something to do with the fact pharmacists like titles after people’s names (RPH, CPhT, etc)
This also seems to be in the world of education. I’ve worked in school districts and the technology people salary scale is based on their experience, degrees and certifications. For obvious reasons, places that are education-centric tend to place more value on these certifications, probably because public schools require a teacher certification/license as one of the principal requirements to teach.
I would say though, certifications are as valuable as the people you work for show them to be. If they only hire people with x certification then you may need it. Otherwise, don’t be a solution looking for a problem.
While I agree that some people who have PhDs (or are getting PhDs) wouldn’t be happy in what they call the “private sector,” I think that a lot of people with PhDs sort of ended up there by default or because they were encouraged by professors. I think a lot of people with PhDs would be happier outside of academia. But it certainly varies from person to person.
I love the honesty of this post and I think it’s a sign of maturity to admit we’re wrong. Life is about learning and you don’t learn anything if you’re always right, or think you’re always right.
Loved the picture of the elephant and recognized the story it was from right away! :) I also love the spoon chandelier.
I appreciated your comments on divorce and do agree with you.
I used to homeschool but was unable to keep going with it becuase I had to get a job. I didn’t have any certificates for social media marketing since I started before different schools started courses in it. However, I was hired partly because during the interviews, the company personel I met with could tell that I knew what I was talking about and that I was confident in my knowledge- so having a certificate doesn’t mean that you will automatically get a job.
I am sure that you are doing a great job with homeschooling and parenting. The unique advantage about homeschooling is that parents will develop a stronger relationship with their kids no matter what. We all have our worries and self-doubts. God helps me with mine and my kids love me inspite of my faults. As long as you keep an open, honest relationship with your kids, then you are doing a great job.
I see where you are coming from. Sometimes there is a fine line between what you think is right and wrong. More time goes by, more we change our minds about things. Live life the way you want to & you feel is right for you, not how you are told and you will be happy.
As somebody who makes a living suing companies over their hiring practices, I’d say those certificates are completely worthless, except to get into those jobs. To be fair, some of those HR certificates for benefit administration, like QPA and QKA, are valuable because they are basically the only way you can learn benefits law without dedicating your entire career to employee benefits.
So I have over 20 IT certifications, and many of them are high level ones (requiring 5 years of validated experience). I feel like they were a large factor in me recently increasing my salary by 200%.
I’m well in the six figures, yet have a degree from a for-profit school that is not well regarded. But I have the experience and the skill set to back what I do.
There is ROI for IT certifications – the ones that are good.
I like the spoon lamp. Did you make that yourself?