I am the poster-child for the saying “You have to spend money to make money”. I make a lot of money but I spend most of it on people who help me to do things so I can keep making money. For example, I have an assistant, a driver, a nanny, an editor, and a research maven. None are full-time but all make my life much better.
I think I make their lives better, too, because I’m good at delegating. Here are three delegating rules I live by:
1. Don’t think of it as delegation. Think of it as customizing jobs.
The reason driving nearly put me in the mental ward is that I can’t stop looking for new things to think about. Which means I either feel mental anguish focusing on driving or I crash. So I found Carla, who is much happier driving than being at her former desk job.
When I was a kid, Jehovah’s Witnesses used to come to our door. We had no parents at home. So I was always like, “Finally, someone is here to talk to me and my brother.” But they won’t come in and talk if there is no parent home. Jehovah’s Witnesses can spot a family situation that is too bad to mingle with.
Do you see how I just used the word like? Normally I would reword that sentence because it would provoke cries of pain from grammar police across the Internet. But my editor sent me this article about how using like is actually acknowledging the fact that truth is elusive.
So anyway, I think I gravitate toward Jehovah’s Witnesses because everyone in the vicinity of my farm has lived here a million years. But the Witnesses (that’s what you call them if you talk about them a lot) move to new places so they can keep converting new people. So they are often newcomers and they are always outcasts.
So they are outcasts and I am an outcast and we attract each other.
While Carla was driving I was telling her how I did like five hours of research about Amanda Knox. At first I was looking for information about the sex game she was playing when she was arrested. The Italian police think she and two guys were playing a sex game and Amanda’s roommate wouldn’t play so they killed her.
I didn’t understand what sort of sex game that could be. So I googled and it turns out there probably wasn’t a sex game. But I kept reading and noticed reports about her inappropriate eye contact in the court room. There’s a picture of her smiling in court up top. And inappropriate behavior at the police station. Another smile picture:
And her friends say she was the smartest person they’ve ever met. The more I read, the more I am sure she has Aspergers.
Also, her mom has it. Look, I know you think I’m nuts that I diagnose everyone. But I am a genius at seeing it in women. The mom is a math teacher and a really nice guy divorced her and she married someone Amanda’s age. See? She’s a social idiot who is really smart.
So I tell Carla about my Aspergers theory and Carla says, “You should google it.” Carla has pretty much made that my car job. Carla is the driver and I google things. So guess what? There is a Time magazine article about how Amanda probably has Aspergers. How did I miss this?
2. Instead of delegating the type of work you don’t respect, delegate work you wish you were good at.
Clive Thompson emailed me to tell me that he reads my homeschool blog, likes it and wonders if he could send me his new book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. And I was like, “OMG I’m so happy I’m so happy” because I love the writing he does in the New York Times. I set up an interview, which I never do because I don’t know how to ask questions. I only know how to answer questions. So I asked my research maven to find all the interviews he’s done so I can steal people’s questions.
But after all that, I skipped over all the questions and just argued with Clive. Why? Why do I do that? Why do I need Clive to see that his book is a diatribe on why people should homeschool? I wrote down all kinds of stuff from our interview where he says things that prove he should be homeschooling his kids. But it’s immature of me.
And every time I said self-learner he would replace it with auto-didact. I made a note to make fun of him for that.
And then. Nothing. I mean, it’s not like I can use an interview where I am being an annoying socially incompetent homeschool zealot.
But one good thing came of this exercise. My research maven sent me a great article Clive wrote in Wired about how kids are tied to their electronics because it’s the only way they can get any privacy with their friends because school doesn’t give them privacy.
This dovetails nicely into Jennifer Senior’s new book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting. She says teenagers are hard for parents because parents can’t cope with how their teens need some space. How can parents give space when parents gave up all their own space to be parents?
Okay. I am paraphrasing. But Jen Senior is my favorite living writer. No kidding. I have plagiarized her New York magazine articles about 100 times on this blog. Here and here for starters. And I can call her Jen because she emailed me to ask for career advice.
Sort of. She asked me if she should start a Twitter account to promote her book. And I told her Twitter doesn’t sell anything. I told her I have 135,000 followers and I’ve never done anything useful with that account except sell a tweet for $3000 to someone who thought tweets actually sell things.
I considered asking Jen for an interview, even after Clive. But then I thought, the phone call will be awkward because the only thing I want to ask her is, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how much do you like me?” So instead, I had my assistant find all the published excerpts of the book, because I like to read magazine articles, not books.
3. Instead of delegating small, low-impact tasks, delegate with the goal of accomplishing your larger agenda.
Probably me writing that I read excerpts instead of the book is going to make Jen knock me down a few notches on the scale of one to ten.
Probably if my roommate were murdered I’d be convicted, too, because I am not good at being quiet when it’s time to be quiet.
And probably you are like, “When is Penelope wrapping up this post? And what was the point again anyway?”
So here’s the to do list I am delegating to you. Read Jennifer Senior’s book. Read Clive Thompson’s book. Tell everyone that Amanda Knox has Asperger’s so our society can start identifying Asperger’s in women instead of just putting them in prison.