My older son has been entrenched in science curriculum ever since he was 12 and hired his own tutor. I told him we were unschooling and I don’t believe in standard curriculum. We argued. Then he said, “Mom you’re so good at finding people to hire, you should find me a biology tutor.”

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At age ten the Farmer was doing chores before and after school and most of the weekend. This was normal for his family. It’s what his parents did and what their parents did. Read more

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.

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One of the biggest changes in the workforce in the new millennium is that we have to be information synthesizers instead of information producers.  All information is available online.  So we can’t add value by memorizing it.  We have to add value by reframing it. I call this synthesizing.

IBM conducted a survey of CEOs to find out what they thought were the most important leadership skills of the near future. And in the top five was boundary spanning, which is networking ideas and collaborating in order to synthesize information in new ways.

Side note:  I have a theory that this is why we suddenly are noticing how many people have Asperger’s, because it used to be that people with Asperger’s were extremely valuable for their memorizing capacity.  Today, when we don’t need to hire people to memorize things, people with Asperger’s are suddenly viewed as weird and unemployable instead of savants and extremely valuable. Read more

Thank goodness someone finally had the courage to stand up and say that telecommuting is officially banned. Because telecommuting has been implicitly banned for a long time in Silicon Valley, but only Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has the courage to say it, point blank, without apology.  And her honesty is going to help all of us.

Telecommuting has been dead for a while.
Facebook has something called lock-down, where no one can go home. Kids come to Facebook if they want to see their parents. Really. Which means that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has also been promoting the end of telecommuting, but it’s actually more difficult for her to come out and say it when she is also championing the cause of women and encouraging them to “lean in” and have kids alongside a huge career.

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A common refrain about Generation Y is that there is a dearth of leadership. It’s something I heard every day when I was a twenty-something at work, when people were saying Generation X were slackers. And, I have a feeling that while the Baby Boomers were high at Woodstock, their elders were saying there was a dearth of leadership in the younger generation.

So, instead of constantly complaining about the coming doom in the leadership realm, we should see the idea of leadership as dynamic, and the faster we can understand how it changes, the faster we can identify the upcoming leaders of our 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

When I was in high school, the police took me out of my parents’ house and put me at my grandma’s house. (Here’s the story.)

My grandma spent a lot of time telling me I was special. That’s exactly how she’d say it: “You’re special.” And I used to think she was lying, saying that to make me feel better. Now that I’ve read some parenting books I know that you should give specific reasons that your kids are special. As they pop up. Or something. Anyway, her telling me I was special actually made me feel like I was less special. Like she knew I knew I wasn’t and she was trying to fix it.

Of course, this is from my childhood full of trying to get my parents to love me. And of course, this is a problem with the farmer because he married me because he thinks I’m special and I still have a problem feeling special. Read more

The All-Star Rodeo Challenge came to Madison, WI last weekend, and the farmer took me and my kids. I was not thrilled about going, but I try to be open-minded when it comes to stuff that is new to me that I am not ever wishing I will get a chance to experience.

I asked the farmer if rodeos are bad for the animals.

He said, “City people probably think so. But most farmers don’t.”

He told me that if I really hated it, we could leave.

I really hated it before there were any animals. Before there were animals there was the flag, rising above the dirt ring, and the announcer saying everyone should sing the Star Spangled Banner to honor “the flag that protects our troops, and our churches and our great country.”

I looked over at the farmer for churches, and before I could roll my eyes, the announcer said, “Everyone please rise in the name of Jesus and sing the Star Spangled Banner.”

I told my kids to stay seated.

The farmer stayed seated out of solidarity even though he hates standing out. It was a great moment of compromise for us. Read more

People talk about leadership like it's a business crisis, and the exit of the baby boomers leaves a huge gap, and there are no aspiring leaders in the younger workforce.

But what we have is actually a semantic problem rather than a leadership problem. The issue is that in the age of the Internet, what it means to be a leader is changing. And we need a new way to talk about leadership so we can talk about identifying leaders.

The old view of leadership is doing it from the top.
To baby boomers, leadership is a game where you try to get to the top and then everyone will follow you. Baby boomers have had to compete forever, for everything, because there were so many of them trying to get on the same “path for success.”

Tammy Erickson's book, What's Next Gen X, has lots of fun tidbits about generational conflict. To Gen X she says, “Your expectation to be treated individually — to be allowed to play the game by our own rules — contrasts with boomers' willingness to play by established rules in competition for individual rewards.”

Baby boomers competed for a big salary which they translated to a visual trophy: a McMansion. This gives us a visual for the lack of interest Gen X has in Baby Boomer style managment: McMansions for sale with no buyers. Read more