I must be a cog in the wheel, because I asked Melissa to get me some links to read that answer the question, “What information is important?” and she came back to me with, “I think that’s a bad question, but here are five links.”

Which made me decide to write this test to find out how good an Information-Age worker you are.

1. Can you frame a question? Plus one point.
The first link Melissa sent is about how you are information illiterate if you can’t ask good questions:

The ability to critically evaluate and ethically apply that information to solve a problem are some of the hallmarks of an information literate individual. Other characteristics of an information literate individual include the spirit of inquiry and perseverance to find out what is necessary to get the job done. Read more

A big theme in my life has been how much I had to unlearn to come to the decision to homeschool my kids.

I had to unlearn all my assumptions about parenting (it turns out that kids don’t need teachers, they need love). I unlearned my assumptions about self‑management (well-roundedness is a false goal). And I had to change my assumptions about how much respect each child deserves (freedom to choose what we learn is a fundamental right).

Now that I’ve been homeschooling for a while, I understand that the reason it’s traumatic for most young adults to enter the workforce is because they have to unlearn so many things from school in order to survive in adult life.

No matter what age you are, the faster you start your unlearning the faster you can shed the weights that hold you back from moving forward in today’s knowledge-based workforce. Here are five things most people need to unlearn. Read more

Willem de Kooning

I get asked so often to publish a list of what I’m reading. People tell me to make a discussion board. Make a Facebook group. Have an online book club. I don’t do that because I worry I’d feel pressure to be a reader of substance.

And I’m not. Here’s what I’m reading.

1. Tabloids
My reading list would start with the Enquirer. I have surveyed all the supermarket newsstand material and I think the Enquirer does the best reporting. I read Us Magazine for reports on the Royal Family because those of us in the know understand that Will and Kate’s baby means more than mere tabloid fodder.

But also tabloids are a diet mechanism, because if I need to feel better about my life and I don’t want to be fat later, the only thing left is reading about other people getting fat. Or doing some similarly ruinous thing to their life. Read more

These will be small, okay? Because on the big stuff, like divorce is for losers, I am right. But here is some stuff I was wrong on:

1. Get plastic surgery. I said that people should get it because good looking people earn more money. But in fact, plastic surgery doesn’t change what people think of you. If you were an 8 before surgery you’re an 8 after. The human eye can subconsciously adjust maybe – I’m not sure what it is. But I talked to Gordon Patzer , author of Looks, on the phone, and he assured me this is true. So don’t bother with the surgery. Just get botox so you don’t look tired.

2. Certifications are stupid. I really really think certifications are stupid. I tell everyone to not get them. Just get a job doing whatever you were thinking of getting certified to do. But, it turns out that PayScale has research to show that human resource certifications help. I don’t know what to make of this, except that LinkedIn has research to show that human resources attracts people who are most averse to risk. So it makes sense to me that people who are scared of risk would need to trust a certificate rather than their instincts when making a hiring decision. Read more

In case you were wondering what happened to the 20,000 bulbs I planted, here they are. But don’t worry that this is going to be a post full of happy spring cheer. That sort of post would embarrass me.

First of all, these bulbs didn’t come up until after spring. Partly because it was 50 degrees in Wisconsin this spring, and partly because my bulbs probably have some sort of photosynthesis version of schizophrenia since I planted fall bulbs during a blizzard in Janurary. But even those came up.

But first, look. When you plant bulbs in a blizzard, it is too cold to put the bulbs at the right depth and make each bulb point up so it’s ready to sprout. I ended up planting some bulbs in the muted moonlight of thick snowfall. I shoveled snow until I hit dirt, then I dug a little deeper and dropped handfuls of bulbs into piles. And even those came up. Read more

Branding has finally reached the snobs who think they are above it.

Every Gen Y-er knows about personal branding, and every Silicon Valley social media maven has one eye on their Klout score. But this year the New York Times declared that branding is a must-do for psychologists. You can’t make money if you don’t have a brand.

I was thrilled to read this because I have thought for many years that my therapists could benefit from having me help them run their careers. But whenever I ventured into this territory, the therapist invariably did something annoying like reminding me of client-therapist boundaries. Now, though, it’s clear: they should hire me.

Also, in case you think you are not in a field that requires branding, there is now officially nothing without a brand. Because look, even Liechtenstein is rebranding itself as a party room: Harper’s magazine reports that you can rent the whole country for the evening for $20,000.

The thing is that most people don’t want to brand themselves as a party room; they want to be known for being creative. Which makes sense because really, we are all creative – to be human is to be creative. But you have to work hard at it to be good. Read more

Powerful people do not have good listening skills. They hate to listen. They succeed by getting good at faking it. Here’s how I know. There are sixteen Myers Briggs personality types. Only 4% of people are ENTJs, but almost all Fortune 500 CEOs are ENTJs. Each type has an Achilles’ heel. The ESFP can’t stand being alone. The INTP can’t get their head out of the clouds. The ENTJ can’t listen.

Which means that listening skills must not be essential for major success in the corporate world. So maybe instead of building your listening skills, you should buy the book How to Talk so People Listen. If you’re an extrovert, you think while you’re talking. And it’s impossible to listen to someone if you are thinking of the next thing you want to say.

As an ENTJ I get bored with the idea of becoming a better listener. Why would I do that when interrupting people is so much faster? And anyway, there is great advice on how to deal with the people who won’t listen. Forbes magazine says that if you want people to listen to you, you should cut to the chase. That’s great advice. If you could just get your idea out faster, I would listen to it. Read more

The title of this post should really be 5 Steps to Have a Career that Makes the World a Better Place. But the first thing about making the world a better place is that if you really want to do that, you’ll have to make some compromises. Like, I have to write blog post titles that will rank high in Google searches instead of writing the titles I feel most like writing.

I’ve been on a yoga rampage—going to yoga every day for two weeks. I have gone to classes in Madison, WI, Chicago and LA. And I’ve noticed that people who open yoga studios are probably going to fail. Here’s what they need to know:

1. Bringing peace is not a differentiator. Of course every yoga studio brings peace, harmony, and blah blah blah. That doesn’t make the studio special enough to compete with the 10,000 other yoga studios around them. Read more

“Your post just destroyed Melissa’s life.” This is the email I got from my friend Melissa‘s fiance, Steven, who is now her ex-fiance.

He did not like the post I wrote.

Before you tell me that I’m a terrible person for writing the post I want you to know that Melissa’s therapist read the post that same day and told her, “Penelope saved your life. That post is the only thing that made Steven angry enough for you guys to call off the engagement.”

So, the truth is that Melissa and Steven were good together as long as there was nothing hard to decide. You don’t really know if someone is good for you until there is something really hard—like telling Steven’s mom that Melissa was not going to have a Catholic wedding.

You don’t really know someone until you know their level of resilience. People can fake emotional stability, but when life brings challenges, resilience is what allows you to maintain a sense of well-being when you deal with the challenge. There are five key characteristics of maintaining your resilience. Read more

See that picture of my son?  I tell him all the time he is not being nice. “Be nice.” I tell him. “If you are not nice then people won’t like you.” So he surprised me by writing it on his hand.

An example of him not being nice is that he doesn’t see that when people play a game together, they care if the other person has fun even though both people try to win. My son does not understand this nuance. So he seems mean. But mean is actually a really complicated intention that people with Aspergers Syndrome don’t have. I have Aspergers as well, so I understand that to my son it looks like a time waste to be intentionally mean. Being direct is so much easier.

This is true for me, as well. For instance, as I have become completely obsessed with my research about homeschooling, I have discovered that the top-tier universities are set up to favor homeschoolers over everyone else. And the most expensive private schools are aware of this and they are switching over to a homeschool model. Read more