How to cope when you’re in a dying industry


This is a guest post by Cassie Boorn. She works with me at Quistic, and she blogs at

We are packing up our trunk outside of a friend’s house when he approaches the car.

It was late at night. We’d spent all day at a funeral. We were so distracted that we didn’t even see him walking towards us.

We think it is a joke.

We are in a nice quiet neighborhood. This guy couldn’t possibly be mugging us right now.

He tells us to get in the car.

We see the gun.

Everyone is silent.

My friend is sitting in the drivers seat, inches away from this man with a gun. Both of us stare at him in disbelief. I think about our two boys at home. I wonder if I am going to die.

He asks for all of our money.

And here is where the real story starts. The one where we don’t actually have any cash to give him, and we spend twenty minutes frantically trying to find things of value in our car.

We have debit cards and checks and a jar of change in between our seats, but no cash.

He thinks we are lying.

I show him my purse. He calls me a brokeass bitch.

So I just sit there, wondering what happens next.

Because what do you do when a man with a gun asks for all of your money, but you have none? Do you go to the ATM? Do you run away screaming? Do you try some self-defense moves you saw on TV?

I try to think of a solution for getting this man with a gun what he wants. He clearly needs the money or he wouldn’t be mugging us.

I offer him my iPhone, but the screen is cracked. No go. I show him my video camera, suggesting that maybe he could pawn it. He passes on that too.

As I rack my brain to find something of value in my car, it becomes clear to me that this is a business problem. The only way this guy can earn money is by mugging people, except no one in the world carries cash anymore.

He is working in a dying industry.

I have prescriptions in my purse. This guy could make a killing with a bottle of Adderall and a few Xanax. I hand him the bottles.

He doesn’t want them.

I realize this is a new idea for him, so I explain that he could sell these pills for at least $20 each, which means these two bottles are worth a ton of money. I assume if he can mug someone at gun point, he can probably find someone on the street to buy pills.

He doesn’t like that plan, and runs off with my debit card and its 4-digit pin instead. I shut the card off within twenty minutes, with just a phone call using the iPhone he wouldn’t take.

This is why it is so important to know when you need to pivot. Technology is shifting every industry in the world, and yet a lot of us keep trying do our lives in the same old ways.

I know it is nearly impossible to look at your industry objectively, and figure out when you need to make a change. But you have to try: this can be the most important career decision you can make.

Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to try new things. And know when to make a pivot.


Other guest posts from Cassie:

What good mentoring looks like

How I manage up working for Penelope


56 replies
  1. Marc
    Marc says:

    This is as much an adapt and pivot issue as labor mobility issue. If you really wanted to help this guy you would have staked him to move to a better labor market for his particular skills. He needs a bigger city with wealthier, younger people if he’s going to make a living wage by mugging.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      He can stake strip clubs. The higher end ones. People will still carry cash but much more than people going into dirty dingy strip clubs.

      But you have to be smarter otherwise you’ll just get beat up by the body guards.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I really love that you guys are brainstorming ways for him to have a better business. The comments section is full of great ideas – even for a flailing mugger!


  2. Grace Miles
    Grace Miles says:

    This is so awesome, Cassie.

    Mugging people is socially unacceptable, but the fact that he’s desperate for cash makes me a little sorry for him.

    I read a study where people who took a few moments to reflect on their progress became higher performers– in fact, the difference was an average of 22%, which, in school, is a difference between an “A” and a “D.” (

    If this person took a few moments to reflect on how he was mugging people all day with diminishing returns, he might realize the necessity for pivoting. Then he might’ve taken your phone and pills with the debit card.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Grace, your post is amazing.

      It’s very Penelope style (with links, not just rehashing information but actually synthesizing it, and a conclusion that ties it back to the story)!

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      PS. I decided to stalk you a bit online. I love your website.
      I admire musicians because it’s such a big commitment to get good at it. I tried playing guitar but lost interest because I was interested in so many things and my fingers hurt from playing guitar all day.

      I will now go read your blog and memorize all the stuff you talk about on how to be better but translate it to my every day situations and ambitions.

      • Grace Miles
        Grace Miles says:

        Karelys, thanks so much for your kind words. By the time I realized that there were many things out there that I haven’t tried, I was already invested in piano and part of my life was shaped around it; no vacations around exam time, lessons a few times every week– kind of like how Penelope spends a few hours each week driving her son to music. There’s probably something else in your life that you’re good at focussing on– music was one of mine. :)

  3. a
    a says:

    I was so impressed by such an interesting article, such a refreshing change from the usual posts and then I realized it’s by a guest.

  4. DeAngelo Jones
    DeAngelo Jones says:

    Great post! I wrote something very similar (although less eloquent because I was writing it with my boss right next door) on March 25th. Your example is excellent.

  5. Gene Bellotti
    Gene Bellotti says:

    What a great example. The most telling description is when you continued to search for something of value – a customer service attitude that continued to perform under pressure. Very impressive.

  6. Ru
    Ru says:

    That is so sad for the mugger. It’s a sad day for him when he realises being bad requires updating his skills.

    • Cassie Boorn
      Cassie Boorn says:

      The Adrienne in this post is my girlfriend. It is a coincidence that they are spelled the same.

      It doesn’t cause too much confusion, because Penelope never goes by the name Adrienne.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I have to weigh in here that I so much hate it when people call me Adrienne that I deleted the name from Cassie’s post so as to avoid any confusion.

        But, I do want to say that as I find stuff from my childhood with that name on it, I send it over to Cassie’s girlfriend, because if you have a name like Adrienne, there is never anything pre-printed with your name on it, so it’s fun to get.

        My grandma was the name-on-everything type, so now Cassie’s girlfriend has my gold Adrienne necklace and my porcelain door plate that says Adrienne’s Room.

        Cassie said that the other day Adrienne wanted to buy a bike, but it was too expensive, and she said, “Maybe Penelope will send over a bike with Adrienne on it.”


        • Grace Miles
          Grace Miles says:

          Out of curiosity, is there a particular reason you don’t like being called Adrienne? I thought Penelope Trunk was the name that a company you used to work for basically gave you.

  7. Beth
    Beth says:

    I’m so glad the ladies weren’t hurt. Great example to illustrate an important point.

  8. Christina Schumacher
    Christina Schumacher says:

    So funny Cassie! “it becomes clear to me that this is a business problem…”
    Lucky it wasn’t a psycho killer zombie drugged-out problem!
    You made me laugh.

  9. MK
    MK says:

    It feels like a career is a constant work in progress for my generation: “F** this I’ll go become an X” . It seems like every other one of my friends is going through some sort of soul-searching crisis precipitated by some sort of upheaval in their industry. Bankers leave to become actresses because they can’t take the backwardness anymore. HR people become UX designers because that’s where jobs are. A VJ boyfriend of mine wants to study Roman art in Florence because he’s fed up with drying up arts funding under our conservative government (we’re in Canada). Another friend is even making a movie out of his search . Yeah. The only constant is change.

  10. Mark
    Mark says:

    This is one of the best blog posts I have read on a while, Cassie! I love how you related tour real-life story to the subject. Muggers need to pivot indeed!

  11. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    Strange thought to feel sorry for a criminal. I’m impressed with your calm demeanor, I’m not sure if I could’ve been as level headed. Thank God you and your friend are ok. Great post.

  12. Trixie
    Trixie says:

    Two thoughts…maybe three:

    1. People hate muggers. If your position has degraded so much where you’re hated in your field and by the people you work with, then you’ve got to change. You just won’t be accepted. You have to move on.

    2. The mugger doesn’t want to be on your street. He needs to pivot his way up to Wall Street where the pros are. Changing location or mugging people near a strip club with lots of loose cash isn’t going to bring him closer to Wall Street. This would require a complete change in his way of thinking about mugging which would change his next steps. It would be more than just a pivot.

    3. The mugger could’ve sold the pills, but sometimes you’ve been on one path for so long, you don’t know how to learn how to sell other stuff, or how to sell for other people besides yourself. The mugger would need someone to show him how to sell without getting caught or arrested or ripped off. It’s easier for him just to wait by your car hoping you’ve got cash.

    I loved this post, Cassie. Gonna visit your blog.

  13. Manish Badkas
    Manish Badkas says:

    Instead of taking an easy option to ask us to change our moral business ways or means, why the hell you don’t take the difficult option to ask the materialistic, intellectual criminals who use technology to not only oppress the needy but to humiliate and strangulate him/her to financial death?
    Well, you know the answer better than anyone else, don’t you?

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        Isn’t it amazing how people lose all sense of politeness and decency (as if the writer were not a real person) when they are online?

        • Trixie
          Trixie says:

          There must be a name for this phenomenon because it’s very common for people to think everything on the internet is fake or being orchestrated by some corporate entity, and not a real person with feelings. And then finding a writing voice that’s conversational, instead of sounding like a heartless robot is a whole other issue. People don’t know what they sound like until the tables are turned, and then how do you fix it.

        • Leah
          Leah says:

          Uh hum… To quote: (on the internet) “well, you know know the answer better than anyone else, don’t you?” So anonymous! So polite! So bright!

          • Trixie
            Trixie says:

            See! There it is, Leah. You don’t realize you sound crazy. Another person reading this will think, “Holy cow. Did I ever sound that crazy?”

            I couldn’t find the name of the psychological phenomenon that pertains to our internet perceptions, but I found a quote that sums it up:

            “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams

            This is totally irrelevant to Cassie’s post, so I’ll leave it at that.

        • Christina
          Christina says:

          Oops! Hey Karelys (how do pronounce the name – Careless?) This is how we write, talk, work, in universities – people with an education. People who are not educated, talk about the problems of the “internet”…which reveals something about you.

  14. Lisa Lilly
    Lisa Lilly says:

    My company distributes a product which the manufacturer wants sold via regional distributors in a 1950s distribution model. Even though it’s a cash product and people want to buy online and we offer the best service (a payment plan! insurance filing! staff who answer the phone!). My company focuses on online education, service, sales. Most of the other distributors have vanished. We have cleaned plate. The manufacturer tries to reign us in and force us into their 1950s model…and one day they might fire us. What to do though, with the customer who expects to be able to educate themselves and shop online? They demand to be served! The world has changed and businesses must change too!

    PS The guy would have been lucky to get $5 out of me. I do not carry cash.

  15. Leah
    Leah says:

    Ugh! Lose some weight “Trixie”, go out and get some exercise. You ‘re spending too much time sitting on the “internet”.

    • Trixie
      Trixie says:

      You’re projecting your own need to lose weight. I feel fantastic and better than ever.

      Now, who is this? This isn’t Penelope. She’s too busy for this. Who are you?

      Reveal yourself, or I’ll guess, and you know I’ll be right. I know quite a few maniacs.

      Working this weekend, so I won’t be off the “internet” any time soon.

  16. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    LOL great stuff. The desperation in this scenario works well for the analogy. People have a lot of difficulty moving on from a field they’ve been working in for a long time, even after its unequivocally dead and all sorts of alternative opportunities are presenting themselves.

    Why would you give him your PIN though? If he wasn’t forcing you to accompany him to the debit machine, then there was no need to give him the correct PIN.

    • Cassie Boorn
      Cassie Boorn says:

      Not only did I give him my pin, but I had just changed my pin and had to look it up on my phone.

      He thought I was trying to call the cops and started screaming at me.

      I was so panicked that it didn’t occur to me that I could make up a pin.

      • Tracey
        Tracey says:

        Wow. Sorry to hear that. Sounds like you were under a lot of duress. It made for a great post, if that’s any consolation. Hope you’re okay.

  17. Stephanie Chen
    Stephanie Chen says:

    It’s so scary to think that you’ve trained so hard to become something, usually an idealized version of where you thought your education and training should have taken you. The truth is that our training, education and the life we have lived in general has prepared us to do so many things. We just need to stop and look around at all the opportunities before us and then not be afraid to make that leap!

  18. Dan Crider
    Dan Crider says:

    Change sneaks up on all of us. How to handle the situation when change happens is the challenge. What I do is turn to something that is an anchor point in my life…like music. That is why I encourage others to learn to sing and express themselves vocally.

  19. Funny about Money
    Funny about Money says:

    What an amazing take on the poor wretch’s career in crime.

    Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend used to be an investigative journalist. He was fond of repeating an adage favored by detectives and beat cops: “They’re never as smart as you think they are!”

    In this one’s case, evidently it’s true in spades. The guy is so dumb he couldn’t even figure out how to take advantage of your offer of potentially profitable drugs. Maybe another moral of the tale is “even for a career in street crime, try to cultivate a measurable IQ.”

  20. Dave
    Dave says:

    You are very lucky that things worked out ok. I don’t think there is any meaningful analysis (from the mugger’s perspective) you can extrapolate from this encounter though. The mugger was not very bright which makes it even more dangerous and terrifying to attempt to reason with him. He wanted cash. That’s all he wanted. You smartly found the solution of giving him your debit card and are lucky he did not carjack you to make you use it for him.
    I think your story DOES illustrate the need for you to be able to pivot and think on your feet. Many people would have just been stuck arguing with him trying to get him to accept something other than cash. That’s the real lesson here: people who have a perspective like “nobody carries cash” often have a hard time dealing with people who don’t have bank accounts. It is often easy to get angry and annoyed because the person you are interacting with cannot see what you see as plainly obvious…but it is a two-way street and in a professional setting, you may come across as bad as the mugger if you don’t listen, adapt and learn to avoid assumptions about what other people are thinking.

  21. jestjack
    jestjack says:

    MAN…the hair on the back of my neck stood up when reading of this encounter. In this neck of the woods the mugger would have just shot one of you ’cause you had no cash. I will share around here that the local criminal element has “pivoted” and now has targeted “smart phone users” that are unaware of their surroundings. They display a weapon and then take the phone OR just do a “snatch and go”…Good article…

  22. Alvin Glover
    Alvin Glover says:

    Thanks for such an interesting article here. I was searching for something like that for quite a long time and at last I have found it here.

  23. Ana
    Ana says:

    The title should be “How to realize…”, as it only advises on how to arrive at the moment of clarity. How to cope when you’re in a dying industry? Switch careers.

  24. Joseph C Brace
    Joseph C Brace says:

    Here I would say my big thanks to the writer of the site for having such nice collections which are totally intresting and informative for me.Thanks a lot again!

  25. Work Your Art
    Work Your Art says:

    This is an incredible story, Cassie, and there is so much truth in what you’re saying. We keep living our lives in old patterns, while pivoting and ‘going with the flow’ is the only way to survive not just in dying industries, but in any industry out there.

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