When we are not in the garden, I obsess about how I want to redesign my blog to look like the Pioneer Woman’s blog. I want to be the Pioneer Woman on Suicide Watch. That will be the new title of my blog. I am obsessed with stealing her blog design.

Melissa sits in my garden with me and talks. She likes to talk to me in my garden because she says it’s the only time I don’t interrupt her.

In the garden Melissa narrates her Facebook activity like it’s a horse race. And she takes pictures of the farm all day long and posts them to Facebook.

Her Facebook friends tell her she is really lucky to be living on a farm. An old friend of hers that is really not her friend but her ex-boyfriend’s friend, says, “You’re so lucky. I wish I were on a farm right now.”

Melissa tells me he is a designer who can write code and he wants to live on the farm.

“Invite him,” I say.

She tells him, “You can come live here. Penelope needs a designer. Can you redesign her blog?”

He says yes. Melissa gives him one of the ten thousand free tickets she has from living in Hong Kong and Milan with jet-set millionaires who foot the bill for everything. Read more

You hear all this talk aobut how you have to march to your own drummer, think out of the box, blah blah. The truth is, you can't change anything until you know all the rules.

Advice admonishing you to break rules is so shallow. How can you break rules without learning them first? People who understand all the rules know intuitively how to break them because they know the rules that really are not working. People who do not know rules are not breaking rules. They are annoying people.

Because for the most part, rules are there to make peoples' lives easier. There are lots of us in society, in the workplace, driving through intersections. If we don't have rules there is chaos. Some rules need changing, but you can't tell that until you know the rules and how they work together.

So instead of giving you advice on how to break the rules, I'm going to give you advice on how to learn them fast.

1. Learn multiple sets of rules at the same time.

The more types of rules you learn, the faster you get at learning them. This is, basically, what a liberal arts education is — learning systems in disparate categories.

I'm fascinated by the yarn bombers. Here's a photo of some of their work:

What makes the yarn bombers so fascinating to me is the practitioners have learned two sets of rules that don't usually go together: How to do yarn work at a high enough level to do it on the street, fast and furtively. And how to create street art in a way that has social impact, defies arrest, and leverages networking tools to pass along knowledge. Read more

I get my haircuts in Los Angeles because my best friend Sharon cuts my hair for free, which means the cost of the plane ticket to LA is cheaper than paying for cut and color in Chicago.

Sharon is a color specialist. This is Sharon picking color for a client who Sharon is trying to focus on while I disrupt her.

She started out just being a hairdresser. That's how I met her. I had a boyfriend who had a terrible haircut and I walked into a salon that looked expensive because he was paying, and I asked for anyone. We got Sharon because she had just learned to cut hair and we didn't request anyone who had experience.

Now I know better. Now, twenty years later, Sharon is my best friend. At some point, I don't remember when, Sharon started cutting my hair for free. I asked, like a jealous boyfriend, which other friends she cuts for free. She said no one else. That's how I feel okay telling you she's my best friend. Read more

I just got back from Washington, DC where we were meeting about the future of Brazen Careerist. The only time you have big company meetings for a startup is if you have no money or a lot of money. We just got a lot of money.

Usually I bring something to do during Brazen Careerist meetings because I get so bored. I don’t get bored when I talk. But I get bored when I listen. Unfortunately the only way to hear new ideas is to listen. So I try.

We brought in this guy, Michael Mayernick, from the company Spinnakr. Here’s a picture I took of him meeting with us.

He has this great product that can tell where someone is coming from, and then you change your home page to appeal more to the type of person that would come from that site. Really big companies use this technology already, but now Michael’s company makes this technology for smaller companies. So now, for instance, all of you who come to my blog from porn sites can get a version of this photo with Michael naked.

When Michael wasn’t there, I furtively worked on my site redesign. Not like I did the designing. Melissa did a lot of it. If you think the design sucks, here’s her twitter handle: @melissa.

I like the design because there are now more than 1000 posts, and this design is meant to help people get to them. I spent most of my time in DC drawing lists of ways to think about navigation.

And peppering the conversation with bright ideas about where Brazen Careerist should go.

I did not tell anyone in the company that I was taking the title Brazen Careerist off of my blog. I think it is time, though. This is a good design for a period when my career is in transition. I can change the categories and the links all the time until I figure out which parts of the last eight years of writing are best to highlight now.

I hope you like the new design. I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas of what to do next. Thanks.


Sixty-five percent of people in the white-collar world have workplace spouses. Jacqueline Olds, professor of psychiatry at Harvard, explains that because we spend so much time in the office, “these relationships can be critical to succeeding in today’s work environment.” CNN published a piece singing the praises of the workplace spouse, as “a wonderful support system among co-workers and makes a more productive worker.”

Like all other life-saving, confidence-bolstering types of relationships, workplace spouse relationships are more common among the more highly paid. This is why I should have a workplace spouse.

Plus, I'm lonely on the farm. The problem with being lonely on the farm is not that I can't find someone to cheat with. I'm a resourceful girl. The problem is that I wouldn't cheat because I'd end up trying to keep it a secret and then I'd tell the farmer and then he'd hate me even more than he probably hates me right now.

It's not that he hates me, actually. It's that he's sick of talking to me. He would like me to be more low maintenance. He does not want to talk and for sure is sick of me crying. So I am trying to stay away from him now. Read more

I’m always shocked to hear that people don't like brown-nosing. If I could do it, I definitely would. But as someone who has Asperger’s, brown-nosing always looks very difficult. So I have been looking for someone to teach me how to be better at brown-nosing, and finally, I found it.

First, here is research from James Westphal and Ithai Stern at Kellogg School of Management. They found that being adept at ingratiating behavior was the number-one factor for getting positions at the top of the corporate ladder.

This is not surprising to me. What is surprising is that the research comes with a how-to provided (perhaps inadvertently) by the American Bar Association Journal.

According to the study, here are the traits that are most likely to be rewarded.

1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”

2) Argue before accepting a manager's opinion. Read more

A lot of what I learned in college I learned from the New York Times. I was completely incapable of managing the college application process on my own. In hindsight, it strikes me as similar to my experience with the DMV. The application process is way too complicated for someone with Asperger Syndrome. But I didn’t know I had Asperger’s then, so I assumed that if the process was impossible for me it was impossible for everyone, and no one was really doing it.

My parents only realized in April of my senior year, when my friends were getting early admissions to Stanford and Brown, that I had not applied anywhere but Vassar.

I got rejected. So my parents pulled strings and gave a big donation, and I got into their alma mater, Brandeis. During the McCarthy era, Brandeis was a haven for left-wing professors who scared everyone else. By the time I got there, in the ’80s, Brandeis was a haven for smart, Jewish New Yorkers who did not quite make it into the Ivy League, and wanted a haven from the semi-adult world that did not function like Jewish summer camp.

I did not fit in well, but of course, all the kids that did not fit in well somehow ended up hanging out with each other. My freshman year roommate, for example, had Asperger’s. (What luck!) My junior year roommate was just realizing that he was gay, and he thought he was being taken over by the devil. I told him being gay is fine, and that if anything, the devil is working though his dad, whose job was to ensure that Camel sold ten billion gazillion cigarettes to kids by using their icon properly. Read more

People at work are asking me why I am not working as many hours as I used to. I am. But I am working on anger management. Here are seven tips I’ve tried using:

1. Face the problem and make it a priority.
I used to think anger management problem is a thing for men who are in prison for setting their wives on fire. Now I see it's a problem for people who think they will get fired for being unpleasant. Or for people who think their kids will grow up and hate them for being emotionally unpredictable.

I am both those people.

2. Focus on your trigger points.
The time I most consistently lose my temper is trying to get the kids out of the house in the morning. So I told myself to not lose my temper.

That didn't work.

So I have been waking up at 5:30 because I need to give myself two hours to be completely organized and calm so that I can get the kids and myself out the door for school and work at 7:30 without screaming at the kids for not eating fast enough because I changed my clothes for work three times and got behind and forgot to make lunches. Read more

The workplace is set up to reward extroverts. For example, ENTJs make up only 3% of the population but they comprise a wide majority of the world’s CEOs. The bias against introverts in American society is well documented, including research that shows that a spot on the cheerleading team foreshadows career success much more reliably than a spot on the honor roll. Also, workplace catch phrases that annoy everyone are especially annoying if you're not an extrovert: Toot your own horn! Your career is only as strong as your network! Let's do lunch!

The absurdity of the workplace being set up for extroverts is that 57% percent of the world are introverts, according to Laurie Helgoe, a psychologist and the author of the book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.

A lot of people tell me that my posts about how to approach social situations if you have Asperger Syndrome are helpful to people who are introverts. That might be true, in that both types of people need to limit their exposure to social situations. But the difference is that people with Asperger's are disabled socially. People who are introverts could be great in social situations.

So you can't judge yourself by whether or not you are socially competent. Rather, if you have the choice to be in a social situation or be alone, which would you choose more often? An introvert has more energy for doing life if he or she gets time alone, to recharge. An extrovert gets recharged from being around people. (Here's a test to take if you're not sure what you are.) Read more

The first step to growing a good career in the face of Asperger’s Syndrome is to recognize that this is a social skills deficit, by definition, and work, by definition, is a social skills decathlon.

I have written before that for me, the biggest problem at work stems from my own sensory integration dysfunction — something that typically tags along with an Asperger’s diagnosis. But for someone with Asperger’s, it’s not enough to deal with sensory integration dysfunction; in order to succeed at the workplace, you need some guidelines for bridging the gap between other peoples’ social skills and your own.

So, based on my own experience, here are some concrete rules for doing better at work if you have Asperger’s, and maybe if you don’t.

1. Spend limited amounts of time with people.
One of the things that is alarming to non-Asperger’s people is how few friends and relationships people with Asperger’s have. But I have never heard anyone with Asperger’s lament this. (Temple Grandin is a good example.) It’s not something we feel a loss about. We only need a small amount of closeness in our life. What I do hear Asperger’s people sad about all the time is a lack of employment opportunity. Read more