I told this guy, Brendan, that I would write about his baby bottles on my blog. Well, first I told him he had to pay me. Then he sent the bottles to me, and I liked them, so writing about them on the blog didn’t seem like it would be that difficult. Also, Brendan has been reading my blog for a long time. It felt good to tell him yes. Read more

Negotiating is not a work skill—it’s a life skill. File it in the have-good-social-skills category, not with make-more-money.

People with good social skills do much better in the world than people with high IQs by all measures except for winning the Nobel prize for economics. So then it should make sense to you that you should think about negotiating tactics all the time. Read more

In a survey of graduating professional students, Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon University, found that only seven per cent of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while fifty-seven per cent of the men did so. After years of analysis, she concludes that women might, in fact, be better off not negotiating.

Babcock is not the only person to draw this conclusion. Here’s why: Read more

Melissa is driving through Darlington trying to avoid the police. If they see me they'll arrest me, and we know they know my car. I put the front seat back all the way so I'm out of view. I keep my seatbelt on because in case they see us, I don't want to be breaking any extra laws.

I have to start this story when I was getting a divorce. People told me the cleanest, easiest divorces are when there are two good lawyers. So I asked around for the two best lawyers in Madison. They knew each other, of course. And negotiations went smoothly, except for my lawyer quitting first when I started blogging about the divorce and then when I agreed to talk about the divorce with the New York Times.

The police are not actually chasing us. But we feel like we're on the run. I told my lawyer — not my divorce lawyer but my new lawyer, who deals with about-to-be-arrested types — that the police have been to my house three times to arrest me. The Farmer is so stressed he's not even coming back from the hayfield for lunch. The lawyer says, “You'll have to stay away from the house til I can get the papers signed by a judge.”

I was thinking of staying at Jeanenne's house for a few days but I feel bad asking her to harbor a fugitive. So Melissa and I are on our way to Madison.

As we pass the turnoff for our house I worry that we don't have our computers. Read more

Coats are very important on the farm. Mine are always not dry enough, not warm enough, or not dirty enough for going into the chicken house. So when I'm on the farm I just wear one of the farmer's coats.

1. Clarify personal needs that are threatened by the conflict.
And hats. Do you see the red hat in the picture? It's from Amsoil Lubricants. When I first met the farmer I thought it was hilarious to have a hat that said lubricants. So the first time he dumped me I tried to get the lubricants hat as a relationship souvenir.

Later I realized that he would dump me a lot. It was his way of coping with the feeling that intimacy is scary. So then I focused more on learning conflict resolution and less on who gets the hat.

2. Accept conflict as a natural part of personal progress.
In fact, most of life is about conflict resolution. It's either internal conflict or external conflict, but if you don't have conflict then you are probably not trying to do something interesting with your life. (Not that interesting is everyone's goal, of course.)

Michael Stainer, who writes The Great Work Blog, once told me that if you are not annoying someone you are not doing anything new. I think this is true. (Sometimes I think it could all come down to this: you either scare your mom by creating an unstable life or you scare yourself that you are living merely the life your mom wants for you instead of the life you want for yourself.) Read more

I am back with the farmer.

This probably is not surprising to you, because admittedly, it is absurd to be engaged one day and not engaged the next day. But there are exacerbating factors, and basically, the way I got him back was to be more likable.

I have spent most of my career overcoming my lack of social skills by studying research about what makes people likable. And I think the research I've applied so systematically in my career is finally helping me in my personal life.

Here's what we know about being likable:

1. Don't give ultimatums. It's disrespectful. Instead, be a negotiator.
The farmer does not want to be in this blog. As you might imagine, we have this discussion a lot.

First it was like this:

Him: I don't want to be in the blog.

Me: You have to be. I can't live without writing my life.

Then the conversation was like this:

Him: I don't want to be in the blog.

Me: How about if you can edit whatever you want? Read more

I think its safe to say that for the majority of people, Thanksgiving is not about goodness and gratitude, but rather, family drama.

Until now, I have been pretty much on the outside of this American tradition: The tradition of building up Thanksgiving to be a great family moment and then the family not living up to it. But everyone still does Thanksgiving basically because they love their parents. I'm not gonna say here that I don't love my parents. But it's a special kind of love that does not involve being with them for holidays.

But this year is a big switch for me, because I'm doing Thanksgiving family drama—with the farmer. There is family drama because the farmer has three sisters who think I have a morality problem. Like I don't have morals.

In fact, the whole family thinks this, and those with Internet connections print out blog posts about sex acts and send them, via US mail, to less connected family members. The outcry crosses state boundaries from Wisconsin to Illinois, and sometimes, I think they are googling terms like Penelope Trunk and sex. I mean, it's not easy to find the stuff they are finding.

Wait. You are wondering, right? What they're finding? Here. Here's a list of some links. And, now no one has to do any morally-compromising searches. It's all right here: Read more

Most of us think of a dream career as one that affords us flexibility for personal relationships and high engagement for personal growth. And while flexible work used to be limited to women, USA Today reports that increasingly, men, too, feel stress from the personal impact of inflexible work. So the question for everyone is: What’s the best path to get this dream career?

Retail is a great way to get flexible work, (which is why I think we should see a surge in educated people taking retail jobs.) But most people don’t aspire to retail because the work is not intellectually engaging. On the other hand, most of the intellectually challenging work in this world comes with inflexible schedules.

So the trick is not to get flexibility, the trick is to get it without losing engaging work and avoiding a pay cut. Also, keep in mind that flexible work is not about the hours, it’s about control. Because most of us are fine with working long hours as long as we have control over those hours. Read more

Here is a map of where all the single men are:

http://creativeclass.typepad.com/thecreativityexchange/2007/04/the_singles_map.html

I do not live near any single men. Well, I sort of do. My divorce lawyer has set me up with a few men in my hometown, Madison, Wisconsin. He told me that I am too focused on my work life. I need to get my personal life in order.

Here’s how things went:

One guy was a little chunky in the middle, but he is a real estate mogul. I know, you’re thinking, real estate mogul, in Wisconsin? Are there any? There are a few. I mean, Lake Michigan is a nice place in the summer, and also, someone’s gotta own the real estate around the Green Bay Packers stadium. And besides, you can invest in real estate from any state, really.

So I went out with the real estate guy. Read more

Here’s what happens in every meeting I have with investors: They ask about my divorce.

Many people ask about my divorce. Usually it’s because the person cares about me. But with the investors, there is no pretense. They just want to know if Nino is going to get a large percentage of my stock in the settlement. The risk to them is that at some point, Nino would have so much stock in my company that it wouldn’t be worth my time to continue doing the company. The investors want to make sure they don’t get involved in a situation like this.

So I assure the investors it won’t happen, but honestly, I have to work hard to make that true.

For the most part, divorce is a divide-down-the-middle thing. For an entrepreneur with a venture backed start-up, the trick is finding the middle. Because there’s no perfect way to figure out the value of the company. I try to make the company look valuable enough that I can pay off our debt and support the kids, but not so valuable that Nino thinks it’s his ticket to divorce heaven.

My lawyer, Allan, sees it as his job to put the fear of God in me: If I cash out big and it turns out I mislead people in the divorce proceeding, then Nino can come after me for everything. “Just be honest” is what Allan tells me. For $400 an hour.

I refer him to the blog post where I say that lying on one’s resume is an art form and honesty is not black and white.

He tells me that divorce law is different from career advice.

I say I think the difference is that career advice has more than a one-time use.

Allan thinks this is not true because he thinks that one day I will divorce the farmer. He says, “Your farmer has land in the middle of nowhere. If you like farmers, I have a farmer for you. He owns the land at the end of [sworn to secrecy — major road in Wisconsin]. And he just sold a bunch.”

I remind Allan about how pissed off he was when I wrote a post about the last guy he set me up with.

Allan concurs: I am a nightmare to set up on a date.

This conversation takes place on the short walk to the building to meet Nino and his lawyer.

Allan asks me how I’m feeling about custody.

This is why I like Allan. He cares about me. He is thinking of the flurry of phone calls I made to him after I read that women who make a lot of money are losing custody to their husbands who make no money.

“Where did you read that?” Allan asked.

“In the London Mail.”

Allan said, “Forget it. This is Madison. Don’t worry about it. If you want to know what to worry about, worry about the company.”

I didn’t know if I should believe Allan. I didn’t know if I should worry. I have so many mentors who help me with my start-up: almost all of them are men, and all are extremely generous with their time and ideas. But none has experience losing custody as a mom.

So I asked Nino one day, when it was our three-year-old’s birthday and I was premenstrual and I forgot half of the goodie bags, “Do you think we parent equally or do you think you do more?”

He said, “I think you do way more than I do.”

I said, “Really?” I should have recorded it or something. But instead, I cried.

He said, “Could we just have a normal birthday party? No crying?”

Okay. So, flash forward, to the meeting with our lawyers. And in our ongoing quest to be normal, Nino and I sit in the room and we try to do niceties. But niceties are difficult for me and Nino. Not because we are not nice to each other, but because we are bad with small talk. I feel an affinity to him when both of us are befuddled during lawyer small talk about the weather and the Badgers.

We get down to business. Which is the business of figuring out how much my business is worth.

Nino’s lawyer, Steve, is worried that my business is stupid and I’ll never be able to pay off our debt. He says, “So much of the business is you. What if people start saying bad things about you?”

I say, “Haven’t you been reading my blog?”

Nino says, “No. I told him not to. I thought it would be too expensive.”

Steve says, “I’ve looked at it.”

I say, “Did you like it?”

Steve smiles. Or maybe he says yes. I can’t remember. But I remember getting the distinct feeling that he would let me use his name in my blog posts even though Allan told me to never use Steve’s name.

Me: Didn’t you see the comments? People tell me I’m an idiot all the time.

Steve: Well. I didn’t see that. But I saw the letter to the editor in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Allan: I have it right here.

Me: What? What is that? A scrapbook?

Allan: Yeah. Sort of. Here is where you were covered in the New York Times. Steve, did you see this?

Steve: Oh. What is this?

Me: Let me see the letter to the editor. Oh, this is just some over-educated person from Madison whining about how her graduate degree mattered.

[I look up. The lawyers are lost in the clips. Nino is shaking his head incredulously. Then everyone looks up.]

Me: I get hundreds of comments each week saying how stupid I am.

Steven: Really? I think I don’t understand how the business works. I thought you were an authority.

Me: It’s a fine line, stupidity and authority.

Nino: [giddy at the line of questioning] Oh, do you think so?

Steven: Can you explain the company again? How do you tell investors that you are going to make money from this thing?

Me: Well, I think the way I explained it last time probably didn’t work for you. So, I have an idea. Would you like me to give you the pitch I give to investors?

Steve: Sure.

Me: Should I stand? I usually stand.

Steve: Okay.

Me: Well, I usually have a PowerPoint presentation as well.

Allan: We can imagine it.

Allan is excited that I’m going to do the pitch. He thinks our best-case scenario is if Nino and his lawyer understand the company very clearly. Allan says they’ll leave all the stock to me if they see it’s in everyone’s best interest.

So it turns out that the key to a good divorce is good communication. Hilarious. For people who are not us.

I look over at Nino. He’s never even asked me what my company does. I am secretly happy to finally tell him. I think he should be more curious.

I do the pitch. At first I sort of tone it down, but then I get rolling. I realize that I don’t need the PowerPoint. I say, “We aggregate people who blog about their careers.” Then I talk about how great the bloggers on our network are: “Super-engaged employees that employers are looking for.” I toss around some financial estimates and explain, “We encourage employers to recruit by having a conversation in the blogosphere.”

Steve says he thinks that companies don’t know what blogs are.

Steve says he doesn’t see an employee shortage in Madison law firms.

These are not good observations. I worry that I have not explained things well.

But then Nino says, “That stuff is not going to be a problem. The problem is that the PR people won’t want to let everyone talk to bloggers.”

I say, “Nino’s right. That’s the weak link in the plan. He’s so smart. That’s why I married him.”