So much of the world is based on how much people like you. For example, when you are in a job interview, there are three or four other candidates. All are qualified, because no one interviews people who cannot do the job—that would be a total waste of time. This means that interviews are about being enchanting. Whichever of the four candidates who the hiring manager most wants to hang out with all day is the one who gets the job.

The same is true for getting a promotion. Whoever the person in charge likes the most is the one who gets the promotion. And the rent control apartment. And the best match for a tutor. And the best coaching for Little League. It’s always about who is most enchanting. They get all the benefits.

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When you see someone who has a career you want, it’s a safe bet that they spent the majority of their career clearly defining themselves and then differentiating themselves from all the other people who defined themselves the same way.

Self-knowledge is a huge career tool, but most people find it onerous and try to skip it. The problem with skipping over self-knowledge is that people hit a career ceiling, not because someone put it on top of them – we put it on top of ourselves by not knowing who we are.

In order to differentiate yourself, you have to know what you don’t do well, and what you can do better than most people. This takes trying a lot of stuff (read: tons of failures) and it takes being wrong a million times (read: take public risks).

1. Forget about being smart.
The first thing you should not be is smart. You know that great American idea that we are a meritocracy? Well, it’s true, except it’s not a meritocracy based on hard work, we’re a meritocracy for good social skills.

We used to place high value on people who were walking Encyclopedias. Now we don’t need those sorts of people, and, in fact, they are weird. Their formerly very-useful ability to store data is relegated to parlor tricks now that we have computers.

My favorite example of the cultural demise of the know-it-all is the infographic of dumbest editorial arguments on Wikipedia. The arguments are fueled by people who think they will somehow define themselves by their arcane knowledge. For instance, on the page for Andre the Giant, 3,766 edits have been made in a dispute about whether his height was 7’4” or 6’10”. The problem is that these people will be defined by their obsession with facts, but they will be defined as useless. Read more

One reason I have achieved so much in my own career is that I’ve taken shortcuts. For example, I played professional beach volleyball without learning how to play indoor sixes very well—I can really only play doubles, which is what people play on the sand. But it allowed me to skip a lot of years of indoor volleyball training and still play pro.

I’m always fascinated by people who find shortcuts. Tim Ferriss is a shortcut taker, but he totally annoys me because he pretends his shortcuts don’t mean he still had to do hard work. One of the reasons I was initially attracted to the Farmer is that he is good at knowing what shortcuts to take and he values hard work.

Just last week, in fact, he moved his pigs to a new barn, where they will be able to mix with the cattle herd. It’s not something anyone in our area does, but he had a hunch it would work, and now he manages one herd instead of two. I love that I’m learning the rules of farming by watching the Farmer cut corners.

In lists of the most common New Year’s resolutions, most are career-related. So I thought I’d take a look at the most common things people tell me they want to do, and I’d tell you shortcuts to getting to that goal. Because I’m pretty good at learning the rules and then figuring out how to work around them. This still means you have to do some hard work, of course, but it’s a smarter way to spend your energy and still get to what you want. Read more

I know you’re thinking that the workplace is dead between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but actually, December is a great time for careers. Here are five reasons why:

1. Job hunting is great in December.
January is the biggest month for hiring, but December is the second-best month for a job hunt. This is because people have budget allocated for jobs on a yearly basis. And if they don’t fill those jobs, they lose the position in the new budget. So all those hard-to-fill positions have to get filled no matter what this month. Also, people have money they did not spend in other areas that they can put toward a new hire. But they don’t know if they have that money until the end of the year. This all makes for a hiring frenzy in December, and since most candidates don’t realize this, the candidate pool is not as full in December either. Read more

My homeschool blog is mentioned in the New York Times. It’s a small mention, but it’s a big deal for me, because lately I’ve been obsessed with how people learn, and what makes a successful adult. It’s appropriate that the Times would link the day I wrote about what my day is like trying to homeschool and work full-time. It’s a colossal mess, really. But it’s a work in progress.

When things got really bad — me trying to do everything, and me having marriage trouble — Melissa said, “You need a vacation.” So the boys and Melissa and I went to Hermosa Beach. We stayed at a hotel called The Beach House. It’s right on the ocean, and it’s in front of volleyball courts I used to play on when I was on the pro circuit and too poor to stay in hotels as nice as this one.

I thought the best part of the vacation would be the hotel. It’s dreamy – with a perfect balcony and a fireplace, and soft thick towels that I never had to wash.

But it turned out that the best part was watching the kids learn. The hotel was the facilitator.

The first thing the kids did was line up their Pokemon everywhere so the place felt like home.

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The farmer is separating his farm from his parents’ farm. To say this has been a summer full of drama would be a total understatement. I would say that the drama has gone from his larger family, to our little family, and now, to the economics of the farm.

This is probably where the drama should be: The Farmer is essentially starting a new business. I have always thought he would do a great job on his own and it’s been fun to watch him.

He is experimenting, trying to figure out what he wants. This summer, for example, he let the pigs graze in our field of sweet corn after the season was done.

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Look at this picture. I love this picture. I am carefree, pulled together, and a little bit like a farmer but not too much.

I keep thinking I want to put this picture online. And then I think, I can't. I'm too sad. I need a picture of me moping.

This feeling reminds me of when I was younger, it was very hard for me to get a job, and also hard for me to keep one. I was job hunting all the time. Read more

We finally got a dog. Sparky. His original name was Prince. But I decided you can’t have a prince on a farm. So we changed the name. Sparky is five years old, so he was probably pretty used to the name Prince, but name changing, is of course, normal in our family. (After all, I’m on my fourth name.)

We picked Sparky at the pound because my son wanted a lap dog. I am not a fan of lap dogs. They scream Paris Hilton to me. A study at the University of California at San Diego confirms our hunches that people pick dogs that resemble them, and sure enough, the rat terrier is like my son in that they are both delicate and jumpy. I think I am more labrador—strong and fun—so I thought I was being an extra good mom getting a dog I would never choose myself.

Rat Terrier

At the dog pound, Sparky sat in my son’s lap, but as soon as we got him home, he looked for larger laps. It turns out, Sparky prefers adults. At first we thought it was my son’s jumpiness. We told the kids to be calm around the dog.

But the dog got snappier as the week went on. And growly. Read more

My favorite place for pizza in Madison is Ian's. My kids go there in the summer for macaroni and cheese pizza. They order it because it sounds so fun, but then they don't eat it.

Ian's is located right on the Wisconsin State Capitol, where 70,000 people are protesting that Governor Walker is repealing almost all collective bargaining rights of public workers. For the last six days of protests, Ian's has been taking orders from all over the world — Korea, Egypt, New Zealand, and 51 states — to deliver pizzas to the protesters. Ian's keeps track of worldwide pizza support on a blackboard:

It's a nice story. But the issue in Wisconsin is more fundamental than pro-labor or anti-labor. The issue is that the workforce is changing. Some of the groups having the hardest time dealing with this change are the unions, and protesting change is not going to help. Read more

This is a guest post from Ali Brown.

Two months ago, I wasn’t satisfied with my job. I was a communications/administrative assistant. I’d been with the company almost two years, and it was clear there were no opportunities for advancement.

So, just weeks after turning 26 years old, I went to a temp staffing agency and I took a temp job..

I’m not a risk taker, and I was hesitant because accepting the new job meant giving up paid sick time, vacation time, and health insurance, which my employer paid for, and I have no guarantee that I’ll be employed in January.

But the enjoyment I have after a 10-hour day confirms that I made the right choice. And I’m not alone. Nearly 28,000 people became temporary workers in September, and I don’t think it’s all due to people not being able to find full-time work. I think it’s because in many cases, a temp job is better than a full-time job.

I know no one dreams of being a temp worker, but it might be the best alternative in today’s economy. Here’s why you should do what I did: Read more