I’m going to ignore the fact that the DSM no longer includes Asperger’s as a diagnosis. Asperger’s remains a useful way to categorize people with very low social skills and very high IQ — and a high rate of manic-depression and suicide. It’s useful to separate out these people in order to help them. It’s like separating out people who have a gene for breast cancer. There are things you can do to make their lives better. Read more

As the High Holidays approach I start feeling anxiety about whether I’ll work during the holidays. Will I do two days or one? Will I write emails and send them? Or not hit send until sundown, or just not write emails at all?

It’s part of being Jewish to have a workaround for everything. For example, this is a picture of my sons participating in a not-real bat mitzvah for their cousin so we can take pictures because you can’t take pictures during the real bat mitzvah.

I’ve read that people who have willpower don’t actually have willpower. Rather they make decisions for themselves that have clear parameters and then they don’t reconsider them, so those people don’t need any willpower.

I’m pretty sure that my everything-is-negotiable approach to Jewish holidays requires an insane amount of willpower that I’ll never even come close to having. But I in that vein, I propose a few guidelines for those of you who are like me and trying to figure out what to do with social media on High Holidays. Read more

Jason Collins is a professional basketball player who just announced that he’s gay. It’s rare enough for a professional athlete to be openly gay that President Obama called him up to offer support, and former President Clinton tweeted his support, adding that he’s known Jason Collins since he was friends with Chelsea Clinton at Stanford.

Collins is a 12-year NBA veteran who has played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards and chose to come out in the new edition of Sports Illustrated . He says, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

It’s a great conversation to have, because we all do better in our careers if we are honest about who we are.

Read more

Marissa Mayer has just been named CEO of Yahoo. She is a powerhouse in Silicon Valley and she was on the cover of the most recent Fortune Magazine 50 Most Powerful Women issue.

Before I tell you why I think she has Asperger Syndrome, I want to tell you why I think it’s important: Aspergers is a serious disability that is very very difficult to diagnose in girls. (I know this all too well: I have Aspergers, and I was not diagnosed until I was an adult.)

Aspergers is a mental disability that primarily affects peoples’ ability to read social cues. You might think this is a small deficit, but actually social skills are essential to almost everything we do. An inability to read social cues leads to so much isolation and misunderstanding that suicide is relatively common among people with Aspergers. Read more

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

I always thought leaving New York City would be good for me because when you live there, the push to get the best of everything is very strong. New Yorkers are maximizers, a term coined by psychologist Barry Schwartz for someone who is always thinking they can do better. These people are generally unhappy.

There’s a spectrum, for sure. But if maximizing were a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest in NYC everyone is in the 6-10 range. And the 6s think they’re really laid back. I wanted to be in the 1-5 range, where research shows that people lead much happier lives.

I knew I’d need to leave New York City to do that. In Madison, WI, I have to admit, I remained a maximizer. I got a lawyer from Chicago to sue the schools for their incredibly poor compliance with IDEA. I flew to LA for haircuts. I refused to stop flying American Airlines even though smaller, scrappy airlines had more flexible schedules out of Wisconsin.

But the truth is that you do become who you live with, and the maximizer is slowly being knocked out of me. Which has been my goal all along. Research shows that people are happier in rural towns than in cities, primarily because there is no way to be an maximizer. (I have argued before, many times, that people who live in cities don’t care about happiness, so it doesn’t matter that they are not happy.) Read more

I get an incredible amount of email from people with Asperger Syndrome. It’s all really similar. Here’s a sample:

“I’m 45 and a lawyer and I have Asperger’s. I don’t know what is appropriate, and not appropriate some of the time, such as talking too much about very personal info, or saying something that offends someone.

“I’ve gone through many friends in life. Most can’t deal with me, I’ve never been married, relationships get complicated, but luckily I’ve had a few who hung on regardless of my flaws.

“How do you feel and deal with the fallout when you say things that cause more problems than you would have had if you just kept your mouth shut? I want to take the attitude that if I say something inappropriate and it’s held against me, screw ’em, I’m not going to worry about it, life is short.

“Do you think there a way of saying inappropriate, blunt things into an asset even though others don’t approve of your behavior?”

I respond to everyone. I don’t even know why I’m writing this in a post—that I respond to all my emails. Because it just means I’ll get more. But I think, even though I know it’s terrible time management to respond to all emails, I must like it because look: I launched the Mailbag section. The emails are probably human contact that I need. Read more

One thing I have learned from living on a farm is that you are not really experiencing diversity unless you are also experiencing repulsion.

We each have lots of assumptions about what is right and wrong, how the world works, how people should act in a civilized community. When faced with true diversity – that is, diversity of experience — we have to allow our assumptions to be challenged. It’s hard to not feel some repulsion for the person who challenges our core assumptions.

But it’s clear to me that diversity in the workplace is difficult to achieve because we must ask so much of ourselves in order to achieve it. We must allow ourselves to experience repulsion and keep an open mind while doing that.

And now, I will write about cats; specifically, the 150 comments people left on my last post about why I killed my cat. Last week I thought I was not really writing about cats because I was writing about dead cats. And anyway, really I was writing about the moral problem of paid links. But in fact, I still have the problem that I now find myself doing the very worst, low level, terrible job on the internet: writing content about cats.

In the business world, cats are the topic-non-grata. If I go into an investor meeting to discuss business models for online content, it takes only about five minutes before I hear, “I just don't want to see posts about cats.”

But I think we can all be better at thinking in diverse ways, in diverse environments, if I indulge in one more post about cats. So here I go. Read more

Increasingly it makes sense to me that the workforce is segregated by gender.

There are, in fact, jobs where mostly women belong, and there are jobs where mostly men belong, and that's fine. It's outdated to think there are no differences between men and women. And once we accept there are differences, we need to study them instead of downplay them.

One of the most difficult parts of coming of age today is that there are no clear paths in the new topography of work. The terms quarterlife crisis and emerging adulthood have come to us as a result of the new scramble to figure out where to go in adult life. In order to create safe, compassionate, growth-oriented paths through adult life, we need to understand where women and men fit best.

I have taken a lot of shots at this topic before. Most notably, I've pointed out that women want to be with kids more than men do. That explains Pew’s findings that most women want part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs after they have kids, but men do not.

But what about gender differences before there are kids? Where do men belong? Where do women belong? Here are three places women do not generally fit: Read more

Throughout my career, men have helped me every step of the way. Sometimes it was when I asked for help. Sometimes they saw I needed help even before I did, and they were there.

So you might think this is December-is-full-of-good-cheer-post — you know, me thanking men for all they've done for me at work. But no. It's me asking for even more. It's my wish list for what else men could be doing.

This is not grand stuff. Okay. I mean, women are doing better in school than men, outearning men, and look, now even Time magazine says women don't need marriage as much as men do. So it's not like women are in trouble. But still, men could do some stuff to make life better for women at work.

Here are some suggestions: Read more