For those of you who don’t remember, a film crew came for three days to make a demo reel for a reality show based on my family.

Here is the problem: we are too normal. I’m not kidding. That’s what the TV people ultimately concluded. But I take being too normal for reality TV as new-millennium Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The other thing the TV people said was that listening to my coaching sessions was magical. Really. They said that. So I’m writing it for you again: magical. They filmed at our house for three days, which means they heard my side of a dozen calls, and in each case, they couldn’t believe how fast I could figure out the person’s problems and solve them. (And then, of course, I started doing that for the producer of the demo reel. That was a big hit.)

So there is probably not going to be a reality show based on my family. But the good news is that I’m going to focus on doing my own video podcast/reality show where I coach people. I am not totally sure how I’m going to execute that, so if you have ideas, please let me know.

And if you want to know how to specialize, this is the process. You think you’ll be great at one thing, but people tell you you’re great at something else, so do what people tell you you’re great at. Don’t fight it.

So somehow I’m going to be great at reality TV coaching. In the meantime, here is a peek into my too-normal-for-TV family.

This post is about productivity. I have to tell you that because this is a career blog and career blogs need topics that fall into the career space. You can’t have a blog that doesn’t have a topic. Even Mark Cuban, who seems to not have a topic because he writes about basketball and colleges and eating at the iHop still has a clear topic: How to make a ton of money.

1. Life is easier if you embrace hardship instead of trying to avoid it.
My blog topic is not how to make a ton of money. It used to be. When I was in my twenties, and early 30s, my focus was money.  But somewhere I realized that I wanted an interesting life more than money. I think it was when I was at Ingram Micro, a Fortune 50 company, and I was blown away at how boring and risk averse everyone was. The Fortune 50 is a study is seeking safety in product lines, in workplace practices, and in a stable life. Read more

I took the kids to New York City for a week, and while Melissa was trying to figure out what to do with the kids for the day I was working, she came up with this idea that my seven-year-old son should do an internship with a stylist.

He wants to be a stylist. He talks about it all the time. And it’s hard for me because I’m so bad at dressing myself that he has actually reprimanded me: “Mom. That’s okay for the farm, but not for Boca Raton.” Read more

I’m fascinated by the idea of judging whether you are on a good path. Because everyone wants to know if they are doing okay. The problem is that if you look at things out of context, you can’t really see what’s going on.

See the picture up top? You can’t totally tell what they are doing until you see other pictures, pictures of similar but different paths. Read more

I am reading Miranda July’s  book because she made a great ad for her book. It’s like a little film and after I saw the ad I got upset that I cannot make such good ads for my books. But then I read that what she really loves is filmmaking. And anyway, I really don’t love writing books.

Books are too long—my writing sweet spot is about as long as a good blog post. Do you want to know the rule for blog post length? Eight hundred words. Because every big idea in the last 100 years has launched in an op-ed, which is 600 words, so how could you need more? I have been preaching this rule for years. And now I’m breaking it. You haven’t gotten to the end of this post, and, frankly, neither have I. But we are both pretty sure I’m not going to stop at 600 words. Read more

The update about my friend Melissa is that she is still working in an administrative job that is totally unimpressive. By choice. Because the only way to know what you’ll like for sure is to try it, so building a career is an exercise in trial and error. Which is what Melissa is doing. And even though trial and error looks very similar to aimless flailing, it’s what everyone has to do. Here’s how to do it well:

1. Let yourself try things that are widely seen as lazy and indulgent.
Melissa was great at everything when she was a kid. She was a math major in college while she was teaching herself to be fluent in Mandarin. She got a job in investment banking.

But really, she just wants to lay in bed and read the New Yorker, (which is actually a common response to childhood in the land of the gifted). Melissa is engaged to Steven, who has a dog that is probably a better catch than he is. This is not to say Steven is bad. He’s good. But his dog is really good. Super smart and well trained and, the best part for Melissa: very needy. The dog waits for Melissa to get home from work and then they get into bed and cuddle and read old New Yorkers. Read more

Most career problems stem from the fact that we are terrible at picking jobs. We think we are picking a good job and then it turns out to be a bad job. It’s almost impossible to pick a good job on the first try, actually. So don’t think you’ll be the exception.

I’m not an exception either. When the reality TV people came to our farm , I expected that it would be fun for them and it would suck for me. In fact, though, my family had a really good time, and I couldn’t believe how difficult the work was for the film crew.

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During my twenties I played in beach volleyball tournaments with Olympic contenders all the time. You’d think this would mean that I love watching beach volleyball in the Olympics. But actually, watching makes me sad.

After college, I moved to Los Angeles, determined to play on the professional beach volleyball tour. People thought I had completely lost my mind. I gave up an invitation to study history in Yale’s graduate program. I gave up a job offer in New York City publishing. I gave up living in Chicago, where my whole family was.

Here’s what my day was like: I woke up at 7am and I walked to a bagel store. I ate four bagels because I had no money for food and I had to eat cheap calories that would hold me over until the end of  the day. Read more

It was a big decision whether we should do reality TV. Since mostly only people with crazy, falling-apart lives do reality TV, I realized that to feel good about doing the show, I’d have to think about it as a job. Otherwise I couldn’t justify spending so much time on it. So I evaluated the TV show as if it were a job opportunity.

1. Make sure it’ll be a psychologically positive experience.
In my mind, reality TV is letting someone else tell my story. But right now I make a living from me telling my story. So I need to be really careful letting other people do that. Also, the Farmer said no. Just plain no. He wanted nothing to do with it. He pointed out that he is the only one of the two of us who lets someone else tell his story, and he can tell me from experience that I won’t like it.

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High performers work for free.  The difference between working for free because you’re a loser and working for free because you’re a high performer is what you get from the deal.

People often ask me how to become a writer. The answer is to write for free. You won’t get paid for years. I wrote for decades before I saw any money from my writing.

Here’s how to decide if working for free is a good idea for you:

1. Can you reach your goal without working for free?
If you are aiming to do something that people don’t really like doing, then there is no point working for free. Whoever is hiring is grateful to have you. Child protective services, for example. It’s an impossibly difficult job—low pay, high stakes, and your hands are tied, even in some of the most difficult cases.

But you know how you can tell when it’s a job no one else wants? It’s really easy to get. If you are having trouble doing the work you want to do then it’s a pretty good bet that it’s not easy work to get.

All other jobs—the jobs that people genuinely want to have—are candidates for free labor. Read more