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I am so sick of people telling me I don’t have Aspergers. I am also so sick of people not listening to me when I tell them their daughter has Aspergers.

Women who have Aspergers do not look like men who have Aspergers. Men who have Aspergers look like socially retarded men. Women who have Aspergers look like neurotypical men. Of course, this is just a nice way of saying that women with Aspergers are retarded women. But the truth is that neurotypical men still look like social retards compared to neurotypical women.

I am giving you a link for this. It’s Scientific American. Everyone should read this article because it is my Bible. I will keep linking to it until you read it.

So when a woman thinks like a man, we do not think she has Aspergers because we worry that would be gender stereotyping. But WTF, genders do have stereotypes. And most women who have brains like men have Aspergers. This does not mean women who are strong and athletic have Aspergers. That is you misunderstanding gender; women can be strong and athletic and think like a woman. But women whose brains work like men are not likely to be normal. Duh.

Don’t complain to me that there is not a man’s brain and a woman’s brain. Seriously. Of course there is. You know that if a guy loves to go shopping and get his hair done then he’s gay. It doesn’t help anyone to say there are no gender differences. You know where that gets us? It gets Sheryl fucking Sandberg telling women to lean in like women do not care more about staying home with kids than men do. Which they do.

Most women do not notice that they have Aspergers until they are in their 40s. This is because women with Aspergers are smart and good looking and are able to somehow pass as normal in a world even though they care relatively little for social decorum.

Then they get to be middle aged, where men and women separate more than any other time in life. The woman are largely at home, or struggling between kids and home, and the men are largely at work. And while everyone is raising kids, women feel that experience differently than men do.

This means the women who have Aspergers who have been passing as normal among men can no longer pass for normal because the men are pretty much gone. It becomes painfully clear to the women with Aspergers that they’ve been different forever and they can’t handle it any more.

I know so many women who “were fine until they had kids”. What does that mean? I think it means they were fine until they couldn’t hide. I don’t say this critically. I say this as one of those women. I could pass so much more easily before kids.

Because before there are children, it’s possible to spend way more time than everyone else navigating adult life, so no one notices how bad you are at it. But once there are kids, it’s much harder to hide because there is not so much extra time you can devote to doing things that neurotypicals find very simple to do.

A few months ago, I told people I’d discount my $350 coaching fee to $150 if people booked a coaching session at 7am or 10pm. I had never discounted the sessions before, so I didn’t know what would happen.

The first thing that happened is that I was able to keep a schedule for myself. I can’t get up without someone calling me. I used to think it’s because I sleep with the dog and he’s warm and cozy. But it turns out sleep problems are another sign of Aspergers.

The other thing that happened is that 40% of the people who signed up for $150 have Aspergers. It’s incredible, really. Yet it’s so easy for me to see. It’s the person who is 35 and they are scared of getting fired again. The person who wants to get married but can’t figure out how. The person who is an INTJ but working as a receptionist. The person who is single and an accountant and doesn’t date. It’s so easy for me to see that these people have Aspergers.

You are doubting me. I know. Take the last example. Accountants like to follow rules, they like to have clear paths, and they like doing tangible things rather than staring into space or reading a book. That’s just standard personality type stuff. I haven’t even gotten to my renegade diagnosis part.

The thing about an accountant who doesn’t date is that there is nothing else for that person to do. They can’t think of something else to do besides have a family. I mean, there is not actually a lot of other things to do in the world, which is why most people have families, but a lot of people (HELLO ENFPs!!!) hold on to fantasies that they will be doing something phenomenal in life and bounce around from shiny idea to shiny idea instead of having a family. But accountants are not the phenomenal types.

It’s all about patterns. And I see the patterns because I have Aspergers.

I’m hoping that people can start to see how insanely lonely it is to have Aspergers as a woman and that the way to decrease that loneliness is to help girls see themselves more clearly so they can make their lives less lonely as adults.

Maybe this blog post is not politically correct or culturally sensitive or whatever, but we need to start talking frankly about women and Aspergers. And I don’t know how to tell you in a way that is nice. Because I have Aspergers. But I see the patterns and frankly I’m really frustrated by all the people who are oblivious to what’s totally obvious to me.

Even after all these years of ranting about it, I am still not sure why people are so resistant to admitting they have Aspergers. I feel like, who cares? You are who you are — admitting who you are is never going to make things worse.

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For my next career, I decided I want to be a professional gamer. My kids will grow up and move out and I’ll get great internet and stock my apartment with all the food gamers want. And I’ll recruit an awesome team because they can live rent-free and play together in one room.

I will not have good reaction time, but I’ll be team captain and that way we can get AARP to sponsor us.

Also, I might even have a gaming blog. I have a lot to say. For example, did you know Koreans are better at League of Legends than anyone else? And people spend a lot of time trying to figure out why. Like maybe it’s their gaming style (go out strong) or gaming culture (it’s literally ILLEGAL to cheat at videos games in Korea).

But I hear this same conversation about Korean string instrument players. Earlier in life I’d have told you to go to Optilingo and learn Korean because I was convinced it was language related. But now I have come to the unscientific conclusion that it’s finger dexterity. Maybe small-twitch muscles in fingers. Or something like that. You’ll want to come back to my gaming blog for more borderline racist commentary.

The research says that hard-core gaming is a sign of high IQ, ambition, and future success. And kids who climb through the ranks become experts at grit and perseverance. Which is why I let my kids play video games whenever they want.

I read about colleges giving  esports scholarships to gamers. I read about how kids sell their accounts, or they get paid to play on other kids accounts to win games.

I read parents talking about their kids who earn six figures as gamers. One dad took his kid’s computer to work with him every day so the kid bought a second computer. Another family turned off their internet so the kid paid to get his bedroom wired.

Commitment is relative and most of you are not particularly committed to anything. Commitment is about time and energy. Look at what you put time and energy toward. Are you in the top 10% in terms of the time and energy you put into your particular thing? I’d say top 10% is how I would define committed. Top 20% is very interested. Top 50% is paying attention in an average way.

Do you want to do something that matters on the world?  First define “something that matters” and then go find someone else who has done that. Look how committed are they to what they did. Do you want to be that committed? Would you give up what they gave up? If the answer is no then you don’t want to change the world. (Or be Challenger level in League of Legends.)

I have been playing League of Legends with my kids, mostly to see what being committed to gaming might feel like. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and my son would type things in for me: “F U ALL IM TAKING MIDLANE.”

After that I typed, “I’m sorry for that. That was my son. I didn’t mean to be rude. Could I play mid-lane?”

Then my kids would get serious. They’d tell me I can’t type stuff like that. They’d tell me we are going to get our IP banned because I sound like a troll.

An interesting way to divide the world is the super-committed and everyone else. Commitment level is relative. But some things are clear. You can only expect to be with people who have the same level of commitment as you. For anything. At work full-timers hate dealing with part-timers. In League of Legends if you’re Bronze then you only play with Bronze players.

My kids can’t stand when other kids come over to our house and have very little experience playing video games, and they think they’re going to get better while they’re in our den of unlimited screen time.TK “Dude! It takes years!” Is what my son says. The only way you level up in commitment is with time and energy. There’s nothing else.

Similarly, I am sick of people who want to change the world but can’t seem to stay in the same job — because it takes decades to do something that really matters. Commitment. And risk: spending so much time at something without having certain reward. So few people can stomach that. But gamers do.

The correlation between success and hard work is palpable among gamers. It’s refreshing after decades of hearing people talk about work-life balance as something successful people do.

I like when my kids are winning because they have more time to type in the comments.

Tonight my older son says, “Oh my god this guy just said, I got my girlfriend pregnant and I’m trying to get through medical school.”

I say, “Tell him your mom will talk to him if he wants help.”

My son howls with laughter. But then he types that to the kid.

Two blown-up turrets later, the kid types back: “It’s ok. We’re going to Planned Parenthood tomorrow.”

I say, “Tell him to get her flowers when gets home. She’ll like that.”

Younger son: “No! He’s trolling! Don’t write that! MOM. Seriously!”

“So what? So what if he’s trolling. Everyone in the game will be nicer if they know someone who has an abortion.”

My older son types it.

And so does my younger son.

And it’s a small victory for me. Because right now I am not working full time and I’m not parenting full time. I’m doing both just sort of okay. But in this League of Legends moment, I’ve made a small difference. And I’m happy.

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I confess that she got engaged way earlier than just now. I had to get used to the idea. It’s a big change and of course I’m happy for her, but I’m nervous about the change.

I like the guy. Okay, of course I like the guy. Melissa is very good at setting a goal and meeting it. He is smart and interesting and loves Melissa and he is maybe the only person in the world who is as obsessed with gaming airline miles as she is.

But back to me. I notice that I’ve been thinking in analogies lately. My professor in grad school told us that writers use analogies to keep distance. Like the ants in Farewell to Arms. Hemingway can’t watch all his minor characters blow up at the end of the book. So he sets the ants on fire.

But recently I read that people do that as a way to form consensus. In my mind, consensus is railroading, to my own end. (And that is a metaphor, not an analogy.) But I think my analogistic fervor comes from wanting to have consensus with me and Melissa about what our next phase will be.

Here is an analogy I’ve been using lately. Deciding to have kids is like deciding to have spaghetti. If the only option for dinner is spaghetti, then that’s what you’re eating. You can only pick something that is not spaghetti if you have something else to eat. It won’t work to say, “There are a lot of really good things I could eat.” That’s irrelevant. Those things are not in your kitchen. You will starve. So it is true that spaghetti is mostly carbs, and stains your clothes, and probably you only have crappy canned sauce for the pasta. There are lots of bad things about spaghetti, but if there are no other choices then it’s irrelevant that there are things you don’t like about spaghetti.

Which is to say that if you have a choice between having kids and nothing else specific enough to evaluate then you don’t have a choice. All you have is kids. If you don’t know if you want kids, but you have nothing else you want, then you want kids.

Sometimes I think if I talk enough people will give in. They will say I’m right. Sometimes this tactic has worked with Melissa, but that phase is over. G. I guess we will use this name for him. G will not put up with that. He has very good boundaries.

I do not have good boundaries. That’s why you read my posts.

One of my favorite things about G is that he doesn’t mind when Melissa and I talk late at night. I told Melissa I have PTSD from her last boyfriend not letting us talk. She says she does too. But I think it’s worse for me because I couldn’t dump him.

So I was really touched that G not only lets us talk, but he joins in. Every time. He’s always there on speaker phone.

I always look forward to our late-night talks and that’s pretty much the nicest thing I could ask for from the guy Melissa chooses.

I have a new business plan every night. It’s a coping mechanism. Like some parents drink wine after the kids go to bed. I spout business ideas. Well, and my kids never go to bed.

I tell G and Melissa I met someone who wants to overhaul the pro beach volleyball system.

G asked how I’ll make money. He’s all about money, which will not surprise you if you have heard my tirades about how women should marry someone who can support them.

I just realized that I use analogies to entertain myself. Do you allow yourself to marry a felon? No. Because conjugal visits are annoying. So you make a rule for yourself, no felons, and then you work around the restriction. You can do the same thing with partners who cannot support a family.

Or maybe I make analogies to pontificate when I’m a hypocrite. Because it’s not like I ever chose someone who could support me.

So G asks how I’ll make money.

That’s usually my role. To tell someone their business idea sucks because it won’t make money. I like that he can be that role for me. People think when someone tells them the flaw with their business that it’s mean, but actually, when someone takes the time to consider the business and come up with the flaw, that’s a gift. I feel cared about each night when G dropkicks my ideas.

Another night I was telling Melissa that I don’t know what my role is in her life now. I’m the Velveteen Rabbit. People like metaphors because it’s a sensory way to present a complicated idea. I am hoping this is not true in this particular case because it is so pathetic for me to say I’m Melissa’s Velveteen Rabbit. I better be something better than that.

I could not have written this post without the distraction of metaphors and analogies. I don’t want to write about this topic. I don’t like this topic.

I cried at my brother’s wedding. And it wasn’t from joy.

I told Melissa this post will have to stand in for tears at her wedding because now I’m too old to have mascara streaming down my face.

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Penelope Trunk Blog by Penelope Trunk - 1M ago

An interesting way to divide things is into commitment and not commitment.

So many people say they want to “change the world” but everyone they point to as a world-changer is someone who was extremely committed to their cause.

Commitment is a lot of pain (see Seth Godin’s book, The Dip) and it means giving up a lot as well.

I am interested in putting people who stay in a long-term marriage in the same category as people who revolutionize their industry because both types of people exhibit big commitment.

Then we are simply talking about commitment vs not being so hard-core. So training for the Olympic swimming, fulltime parenting: same type of commitment because you give up everything else.

Part-time parenting, weekend swim class, constandncareer changes, these are forms of non-commitment. I’m not saying its bad. Just these are two different ways to choose to live, and we should be honest about what we are doing.

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Maybe you have not said all of these phrases, but you have said one of these, and you need to own up to it. Because all the #metoos of the world are not going to change things without you taking personal responsibility for the ways you put down other women.

“I could never stay at home with kids. It’s too boring.”

The implication here is that people who stay home with kids require less stimulation than you do. Maybe they are dumber than you are, or more simple than you are. Maybe they don’t have the incredible potential to change the world that you do. You were born for better things.

Most people who stay home with kids have a choice: they could work full-time at an interesting job, or they could focus on raising their kids and taking care of their family. The people who are home with their kids did a cost-benefit analysis for the family as a whole and decided the extra money they’d make working was not as beneficial as the extra time they could give to making their family run well.

This does not mean the person is boring or stupid. But it might mean you are boring and stupid to assume that people who stay home with kids are not as interesting as people who work all day. And if IQ is what you’re concerned about, consider that an Ivy League education makes moms more likely to stay home.

College educated women who are home with kids are brave enough to do what most makes sense to them instead of doing what society values. So when you say you have nothing in common with women who are home with kids, what you really mean is you have no respect for the job of taking care of kids, and you’d hate to have to identify as someone who does that.

The reason this is misogynist is that you are grouping a huge swath of the female population and declaring that they are shallow, boring and have nothing to talk about.

“You’re so smart, you can do anything!”

We say this to girls. All the time. The smart girls who follow all the rules at school at outperform the boys on everything school-related except football. We tell these girls they will go to a great college and doors will open up and they will “do great things” the world.

And some do do great things in the world. Until age 30. Then most women choose to give more time to family than their career. Women don’t want to be the breadwinner. And women don’t want to work the ten-hour days that are required of people who have outstanding careers. Because they won’t see their kids.

So when you congratulate your daughter for getting good grades so she can go to a good college to get a good job, you devalue the job she is most likely to gravitate to: taking care of a family. You degrade that job as not a valid choice, the same way people in the 1950s degraded math and science as not a valid choice for girls.

When you tell girls what they should do with their future, you undermine the achievements of women’s rights in the 20th century. When we constantly devalue the choice most women are making — to scale back their career and focus on family — we take away the pride girls have in who they are: smart, educated, hard-working. You can be all those things and still decide taking care of family is most important.

Parents should validate that option as much as they validate the option of being president or running a science lab. Because your smart, educated daughter is much more likely to stay home with kids than do any of those jobs that require never seeing their kids.

“I’ve never fit in with other women.”

I hear this all the time from high-performing women. As if they are fitting in with the men.

But they are not. Men and women are very separate once there are kids. There are relatively few married women in full-time office jobs who are over 35 and have school-aged kids. By choice. In most cases, the women who fit this description are the primary breadwinners (and it’s usually not what they wanted to be doing.)

What women mean when they say, “I don’t fit in with other women,” is really, “I win the competition with other women. I am competing with men.”  For the most part, men don’t compete with women; they compete with other men.

Women generally choose to scale back their career to take care of kids, and men usually do not scale back. So if you are a woman, it’s pretty likely that you do, indeed, fit in with the other women. You just wish you didn’t. And that’s misogynist.

How you can be part of the solution

The reality is that adults fall into very few categories. Here they are:

1) People who are the primary caretakers of kids.

2) People who have full-time jobs that matter to them.

3) People who do not fully commit to family or work. They don’t do either working or parenting as well as the other two categories because they refuse to choose one. (Or they are devoted to something that does not involve money or family, like painting.)

If you think you do not fit into any of these categories, you’re wrong. The most accomplished people commit to something and go at it with huge energy and devotion. Those are the first two types of people. Ironically it’s the third group that is most frequently involved in conversations about how they are too good to identify with other women.

Between the ages of 30 and 40, women face lots of difficult choices. Regardless of the choices they make, women who come out of this difficult time with their self-esteem in tact are those who respect and admire women who stay home with kids.

This is true for you, too. Yes, you, the one who “could never stay home with kids,” the one who “never fit in with women,” the one who pushes your daughter to overlook care taking as a valid choice. Women have fought so hard to have choices. Now the fight is for self-respect. And it starts with you.

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A few months ago I did an experiment. I usually charge $350 for a coaching session, and at that fee I let people pick the time they want to talk. But then I said that if people booked the session at 7am or 10pm I would discount the cost to $150. Nearly overnight I was booked for three months solid. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. There’s a really dirty underbelly in Silicon Valley.

Asperger hot houses of IQ discrimination, sex slave enthusiasts with one or two startups under their belt, and Luddite / Mormon / Mennonites who work at Google but don’t let their wives leave home without complete body coverage. If you think I’m exaggerating, read this piece in Vanity Fair.  If you want to coach the people in these cesspools of intellect, their sweet spot seems to be $150 an hour.

2. Self-administered personality tests yield inaccurate results.

Fortune 500 companies adore personality type tests, because they ensure only leaders get trained to lead. And entrepreneurs love personality type because one bad hire can kill an early-stage startup. So when I am coaching for $350, most people have taken a personality test through work, with some expensive consultant administering the test. And the test results are usually correct.

But at the $150 price point most people do not have the kind of job where your boss hires someone to give you the test. So they just give the test to yourself. This is when personality testing doesn’t quite work.

You have to know how to answer the quiz relative to everyone else in the world. So when you get the question: I am never late. True or false? If the person is a fanatic about being late and they were late once last year, they might say false. And if someone doesn’t really notice late or not late, they will think they are probably on time because no one has fired them for it yet, so they will say true.

Each decision point is just like this one. I know it’s an extreme example, but the same is true if you answer, on a scale of 1 -10 how true is the statement “I like social gatherings.” For questions like this ENFPs routinely give a low number, because ENFPs hate doing small talk. But actually, compared to other people, ENFPs love social gatherings because they always get excited about the possibility there will be someone good there.

You really have to have all 16 types in mind when you answer the questions so that you know where you fit relative to other people. Because understanding yourself relative to your surroundings forces the same question as the oversized chair on Swarthmore College’s main lawn: are you really small or does your context exaggerate how you appear? And questions on the personality test are not as simple as mentally adjusting to the size of the chair.

3. The most frequently inaccurate letters are N, T, and J.

This makes sense because these are the traits that school promotes — your teachers tell you that if you exhibit these personality traits you will be successful (money and power) or righteous (or at least a reader). But most people don’t like to read and they also don’t care about money and power. So the misguided test results come from the (huge number of) people who spend their life trying to undo the pressure teachers put on them to be someone they’re not.

Usually it’s only one of those letters that is not right. And a great thing about figuring out the wrong letter is you learn not only who the person is, but also how the person sees themselves. (This also means that ESFP and ISFP are types that are almost never inaccurate results. But those people never take the test; They don’t need a test to know everyone likes them.) Another great thing about figuring out the wrong letter is the person with a fresh, shiny type result feels immensely relieved — like finally their life makes sense.

4. Identifying personality traits is really about patterns.

To figure out type, you look at patterns. For example, having a meal together is a common denominator that works to figure out what is different about a person. So the CEO of Schwab takes job candidates to dinner and has the waiter mess up the order. The CEO learns about how a person will function at work by seeing how they deal with this scenario in relation to how hundreds of other people have dealt.

I do this at the very beginning of every coaching session. I say, “Hi, this is Penelope.” I have a big enough data sample now that I know a lot about someone just by how they respond. The words they say back to me are not really varied: maybe “Hi, how are you?” Or “This is xxx.” Or “This is xx I have a call with you.” Or something like that. But I can listen to the cadence and tone of their voice, the word choice and length, and the delay between sentences to figure out a lot about their type.

If I combine that with the type they say they are, then I can tell within the first minute if the person’s type is likely something different than they reported. Which is why I say it’s all about patterns.

5. I love the routine of coaching.

At the $150 price point many people did not have a particular thing they wanted to talk about. They just wanted to hear what I would say to them. This never happens when people pay $350, and at first it made me nervous. But then I realized that I only see someone’s selected topic as a guideline anyway.

So I realized I love the puzzle part of coaching – trying to identify their personality type and their most pressing problem within the first five minutes. And I love the process of the person finding the topic both wildly unexpected and also wildly obvious (in hindsight).

It’s so easy to see other people’s lives and so much harder to see our own.

Which is why so many people told me I needed a schedule and I didn’t think it would make a difference. But then I loved having a coaching session at 7am and 10pm every day.

So I’m extending my offer for discounted coaching sessions. The normal rate is $350 for an hour, but if you book a session at 7am or 10pm Eastern you can pay $150. Use this link to make the $150 payment and I’ll send you an email to schedule a session.

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Business applications are due at the beginning of January. Now is the time to not apply.

Because you should not go to business school. If you want to start a company, you should start a company. And if you want to climb the corporate ladder you should do that. An MBA does not help you with either of those goals.

An MBA gets you into middle management. If you’re a strong performer you get into middle management faster by working than you can by taking two years off of work to get an MBA.

If you want to be an entrepreneur then go be one. Entrepreneurship is about being scrappy, cutting corners, and figuring out new ways to do things. If you think you need to go to school for that then it’s a sign that you’re not cut out to do it.

This is not controversial stuff I’m saying here about business school. Yet every year people apply. In most cases the people who go to business school are essentially announcing they are failing in their work.

Here are five types of underperformers who go to business school.

1. People who work with morons.

Did you ever hear the expression “A players work with A players?” The other truism is that A players don’t encourage other A players to get MBAs. If you are a high performer then no boss would encourage you to leave and get an MBA. Because they want to keep working with you. So they’d promote you instead – without the MBA.

If you are due for a promotion and your boss says you need an MBA to move up, your first thought should be “my company sucks.” Because an MBA doesn’t teach you anything you can’t learn on the job or teach yourself as needed. If you absolutely have to get an MBA to move up at your company then get a mail-order MBA from a terrible school that requires very little effort.

And god help you if you’re at a company that is paying for you to get an MBA. That just means you are stagnating and they need to give you a carrot so you don’t leave. If you were not stagnating they’d never want you to spend extra time away from work getting an MBA – they’d want you to spend more time at work and they’d compensate you highly for that.

The bottom line is that people who are doing an amazing job in their career don’t stop to get an MBA.

2. People who can’t count to ten.

The only real reason to go to business school is for networking. And the only networking opportunities that could possibly be worth the price of an MBA are the top ten programs.

These programs are tough to get into because they are sifting. They take only the people who get high GMAT scores and have a work history that displays diligence and strategic focus. So you not only have good people to network with at these schools, but you get a seal of approval that you are likely to continue performing well at work.

So absolutely do not get an MBA from a second-tier school. Look only at the top ten. Maybe there is disagreement about which MBA programs are in the top ten. But if a school is never on any top ten list then it is not top ten. And just because a school is top ten for online sales or whatever crazy irrelevant specialty they have, does not mean it’s a top ten school.

3. People who ruin a good story.

A resume is a story. The best resume writers can rewrite a resume to make it look like you are ready for your dream job. This works because the job that best suits you will naturally arise from your work history even if you have a weird work history.

The story is inextricably ruined if you go to business school to avoid the real world. So, for example, if you take time off to raise kids, you are better off saying that than trying to hide it by saying you took time to get an MBA. Because your career choices do not require an MBA so why would you take time off to get one? You look like a poor decision maker. Whereas there is a logical, respectable reason to take time off to start a family, so you look like an effective planner.

If you get an MBA to make your job hunt easier, you will likely find yourself qualified for the same jobs you were qualified for before the MBA. Which means your resume will show the story of you interrupting your career to get an MBA that did not make a difference in your career. You look like you don’t understand how the business world works.

4. People who can’t close.

In adult life we are all in sales. You have to sell yourself to get a date. You have to sell yourself to get an apartment. You have to sell yourself to get a job.

Most people feel uncomfortable selling themselves. Offering up a value proposition feels slimy, and trying to be a closer when the product is you is nauseating for most people. But that doesn’t mean you should go back to school.

Think of it this way: If you can’t stand trying to convince someone to give you a lease do you go back to school for the grad school housing? If you can’t stand dating do you go back to school and hope there’s a visiting professor who dates students?


So why would you go to grad school because you hate job hunting? It’ll be the same when you graduate. You’ll still have to sell yourself. The school won’t sell you – you’ll still have to sell yourself. Nothing changes except that you are older and you have more school loans.

5. People who are uncoachable.

No one with success in business will tell you that you need to get an MBA. If you are competent at work then during the two years of school you can move up in ranks to wherever you’d have theoretically been after graduation.

Coachable people listen to other top performers. Uncoachable people cannot get a top performer to talk with them, so they sort through bad advice.

The advice you read online about business schools is from sites that have business schools advertising. For example, executive MBA programs are geared toward people who are mid-career and panicking that they are not going to make as much money as they thought they were. The executive MBA gives these mid-career professionals a way to believe they can do something to change their career trajectory.

Of course you cannot. Wherever you are at 40 is where you will be. Which means getting to the top in a career is a race, and you probably don’t have time to screw around in am MBA program. If you want a shortcut to getting ahead, skip the MBA and just go to Graduate Monkey to learn how to ace the aptitude tests that employers most often give.

The New York Times points out that MBA programs struggle so much to stay relevant that they now teach current events like kneeling football players and predator film producers under the guise of business ethics. And this is the problem with all of the MBA curriculum: intelligent business conversation is not exclusive to business school professors, and may actually be in spite of them.

If you think you’ll be really good in the business world, the first test is if you can you get a good job without an MBA. If you can’t do that, you don’t have the stomach for the competitive environment.

And if you think you won’t have deep conversations about business ethics without paying money to do it, then buy a subscription to the New York Times. It’s a lot cheaper than business school.

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This week Melissa is working with clients in New York during the day and sleeping at my apartment in Swarthmore. I wait for her to return each night at 9pm like I am like the cranky wife frustrated by her spouse’s long commute. My kids wait to light Chanukah candles with her like they are the cranky four-year-olds frustrated by the long wait for gifts.

And my older son says, “If you bought me socks for Chanukah then can I have them now? Because all mine are dirty.”

1. Give gifts that affirm what the recipient is doing is ok.

Melissa gets home. With gifts. And we light candles immediately. Most people scold me that my kids don’t like to read. Melissa doesn’t care: She bought both the boys books with no words.

She is particularly good at buying my older son gifts because they’re both INTJs. Tonight she gives him Crap Taxidermy. The botched procedures are disgusting. I am grossed out by the implications of torture. My son doesn’t care. He says, “This book really shows how difficult it is to stuff an animal.”

Melissa gives me a glycolic mask.

I put it on my face right away.

My older son says, “Why are you trying to be young?”

I talk without moving my lips so I don’t crack the mask: “Women who look younger make more money.”

He says, “That’s so great for women. You are really helping to break stereotypes.”

“If I weren’t trying to be younger you’d be starving.”

Melissa says to me, “Tell him he doesn’t need to care about breaking stereotypes. He should just leverage them.”

I say, “Believe me, he doesn’t need to be told more things to not care about.”

2. Know when to shut up.

Melissa curls up on the sofa just like she used to curl up when she lived with me on the farm. I curl up next to her and we click click on our phones while we talk.

I love her silk pajamas. They are a striking step up from the pink velour sweatsuit she wore 100 days in a row on the farm.

I ask her about her boyfriend (fascinatingly well-adjusted). About her plants (none dead in Q4). About her New York client (I tell her that they should be using Trafficbot).

Melissa specializes in recruiting for hipster startups so she is always reading news about hipster startups. She tells me about one she read about that focuses on making fatherhood cool.

I say, “Where is the startup that makes being a mom cool? When will that happen?”


“Is that a joke?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care about feminism.”

Feminism?!? I don’t think equating motherhood and consumerism is about feminism, but Melissa doesn’t even care enough about feminism to know what qualifies as feminism. So I have to move on.

3. Assuage a person’s deepest fear.

I am sitting close enough to Melissa that we can see each others’ screens when we get bored of our own; we are cozy and productive which is I think all I want in life.

One emailer asks me how to motivate each personality type. I tell her to take the Personality Type Master Class but then I see she said she loved it. So I have to write a real answer.

Her question turns out to be a hard one because motivating could be managing or incentivizing or something else.

I define motivating someone as making them feel good, and then the list also applies to a future post I might write about how to win over a date. My productivity level just doubled. I type:

INFJ – praise their rational approach
ENTP– praise their amazing productivity
INTP – predict their intellectual impact
ENFJ – tell them they’re smart
ENFP – predict their humanitarian impact
INFP – praise their logical thinking

I tell Melissa about my game. I tell her, “I need you to do the Ss.”

“What?” she says. “Why? You’re the one who loves Ss.”

“Well, do them with me.”

ISFJ – thank them for their insight
ISTJ – thank them for being flexible
ESTJ – fawn over their vision
ISTP – thank them for being fair
ISFP – thank them for their loyalty
ESFP – ask them for their opinion
ESFJ – let them lead by example

4. Teach them something about themselves. 

Its fun until we get to our own types. For my type, ENTJ, I suggest: tell them they’re inspirational.

Melissa says, “You already know you’re inspirational.”

“But INTJs always say ENTJs are full of shit.”

“We don’t care. But whatever. You want to be admired for winning.”

“Oh. You’re right.That’s so exciting. Winning is so exciting. Wait, what am I winning at?”

“Whatever. Just write it down.”

ENTJ – tell them they’re winning

Then we get to INTJ. Melissa’s type.

I say INTJs want to hear their ideas are good.

Melissa says, “We know we don’t have ideas. And we don’t care.”

I look at the list for a pattern to see what fits for INTJ.

I say, “Look, everything on this list is not nice. We zeroed in on the thing that each person deludes themselves about and we recommend motivating that person by catering to their delusions.”

“Who cares? As long as it’s accurate.”

“Ok, so how can I motivate you?”

“Thank me for caring.”

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When Squarespace contacted me and asked me to collaborate with them, I said yes. I usually say no to everybody. But, everybody I know uses them for their sites and their sites all look so good. And I thought it would be really good for my brand to be working with Squarespace. So I said yes. Then I did a lot of thinking about the best way to do the partnership with them, because I had a million ideas and you can do anything on Squarespace.

My grandma had a children’s book store. I helped her do the book buying to open the store. I got to pick the books for the kids my age.

I remember thinking this is so fun. And also, why does she get to have a store and I don’t?

Every day after school I went to the bookstore. There were after-school snacks in the fridge and dry shoes if I forgot to wear boots. I loved opening boxes of books and hearing the crack of a new spine.

The inventory system was all on handwritten index cards. My grandpa taught me calligraphy and we wrote the name of the book and the author and the publisher, and then we sat next to our card, rereading it, while the ink dried. Then we tucked it into the book, significantly slowing down the already-slowest inventory system in the world.

Ask me the publisher of any children’s book published from 1975 – 1990. Really. I know every publisher. Every author. When I hear about how people with Alzheimers remember stuff from when they were young, I imagine myself in a nursing home shelving imaginary books, first alphabetical by author, then by publisher.

When there was an auction for my first book of career advice, I toured big publishing houses with my agent. When we got to Dutton I felt like I had entered the Versailles of book publishing.

“Don’t get so excited,” my agent said, “you have interest from better publishers.”

I said, “The children’s book list at Dutton is amazing. No one else comes close.”

I spent the whole Dutton meeting talking about their children’s books. The editor who would be bidding on my book took me to meet the editors in the children’s department and, in a star-struck moment I asked for their all their autographs.

The hardest part of a career change isn’t having to learn something new, or taking a risk, or the pay cut. I’ve changed jobs a lot and the hardest part is leaving behind all the hard-won knowledge.

I know the history of children’s books. I know how to run a children’s bookstore with my eyes closed. I know what book to give a sixth grader who hates to read. And a five-year-old who thinks picture books are for babies. A third-grader who likes history. Working at the bookstore was nonstop Trivial Pursuit and I was the nonstop winner.

Also, for those of you who have kids with Aspergers, retail is a great job for those kids. I had no social skills, but I got to interact with people all the time because retail is a structured, repetitive interaction where it was my job to say what I know: an Apergarian dream! If I had known then that I had Aspergers I could have stocked a whole section of books on the topic.

There weren’t any of those books, of course. And maybe that’s why I got fired from every job. Including my job at the book store, actually. I had no social skills to fall back on as I was going through my career. All I had was my confidence I gained from running the bookstore, memorizing the books and helping tons of kids find a book they wouldn’t hate.

What did I do with my book knowledge after I left the bookstore? Well, I funded the beginning of my beach volleyball career by selling first editions of Caldecott winners to book dealers in LA who depended on me to set the price. (High. Very high.)  Later at the farm I started building shelves and sorting books by size and now in Swarthmore I’m sorting by color.

But there’s one more thing. I want to tell you that picture-book advice is great for choosing a career. Really. I just sort of noticed it while I was sorting books one day. I looked at books I had read so many times, but I looked at them differently, with the eye of a career coach.

Each November I tell myself I should put together the list. At first I told myself I shouldn’t just give away the list. I should make a book club and overcharge people for each book recommendation. When I never took action I decided it’s because I want everyone to see the list. I want everyone to read the books.

So I vowed to just publish the list. And I wrote it all up in a post, but it didn’t look right. This is not just another blog post. These picture books are my friends. They saved me. I sold them to hundreds to hundreds of people and then I carried them all over the country with me. Boxes and boxes of picture books, going in and out of moving trucks for 20 years. Because I couldn’t live without them. (Well, unless they were first editions. I’m not THAT sentimental.)

My list of books needs to be on a special page. Because I want you to know how special my knowledge is and how special the books are. So I did what everyone does when they decide something is super special and important: became incapacitated by the pressure of doing something good.

And even though I should never have put off doing this for so long, I hope you see this as a gift to you. And you give these gifts to people you love. Here it is: Nine Books I Love.

Please read these books with your friends and your kids and notice that a picture book is like a poem – using so few words to say big ideas that could otherwise take a lifetime to discover.

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First of all, a confession: I think the wage gap is fine. I am paid much less than men with my experience and track record, and I don’t care, because I want to be with my kids.

Still, I know many people are passionate about closing the gap. In this post, I will tell you what you can do to close the wage gap.

First of all, there are more women than men who are qualified to go into STEM but women are not interested.

Second, the gender gap in tenure-track STEM is not any bigger than the one in senior leadership in business. And we know that this gap is not because women don’t have equal opportunity. It’s because men are fine leaving kids home with nannies and women are not.

So men and women have the same choices in life but women want to care for kids more than men do.

And that’s a much bigger problem than a simple wage gap.

The problem starts in school. Teachers constantly reinforce the idea that kids go to school so they can grow up and get important, impressive jobs. They train kids from a young age that they are only as good as their report card. Which means kids lose their natural ability to determine what is valuable and important to them and what is not.

So by the time men and women get through school and get jobs, they have been trained to compete for external validation. That’s what work is.

Once kids come, women feel a drive so strong to take care of kids that they downshift their careers. Men do not feel that drive.

But why do men have to want to take care of kids? After age three it’s unclear if parenting impacts adult life, so the quantifiable benefit of having a parent at home is limited. Because there’s no data that says intense parenting is better than periodic parenting. In fact Judith Rich Harris has astounding research to show that most of parenting is pretty irrelevant. Income impacts adult life way more than parenting. And men are foregoing day-to-day parenting in favor of making money. It’s hard to argue with that.

So why stay home? To make memories. More nice memories of childhood make for a nicer adulthood because nice memories are nice. That’s all. Parenting is not complicated. It’s the choice to make life more meaningful by caring deeply for someone else. And parents can choose how much they want to do that.

It happens that women choose to spend more time parenting than men. It doesn’t mean men are lame for not spending more time with kids. Remember feminism? It’s about everyone getting to choose. It’s not about belittling people’s choices or saying it’s not really their choice but rather a result of societal pressure. In fact that line of thinking undermines feminism because it says there can be no genuine choices because all societies have societal expectations.

It’s a class system, maybe. Consider that a parent who has hired a nanny thinks parenting during the day is not important enough to do. If there is a nanny, the nanny will have playdates with other nannies. A parent who gave up their job to take care of kids sees parenting differently and does not want to spend their adult time talking with someone’s nanny; they want to be with families who share that value. So if your kid is with a nanny during the day, you kid will hang out with other kids who have nannies. And the kids with a parent at home will hang out with each other.

Maybe you are fine letting men choose to work and women choose to stay home. I’m fine with that. Not because I’m great at parenting: I actually suck at it. But it’s interesting and challenging and meaningful and it’s really only a short part of my life that I get to be with my kids.

Maybe you are not fine that men choose to work and women choose to stay home. Then you should push to change that. You probably want more men to choose to spend more time taking care of kids, right?

So if you want men to place higher value on taking care of kids, you have to stop brainwashing kids that the point of going to school is to get a big job. Schools motivate kids by creating constant competition but parenting does not have a competitive component. So we have to start by telling boys that they’re actually going to school to become good, kind people who are team players in a family. And if you want boys to think parenting is a great choice for adults, then be sure to tell your sons how much you admire the parents who have dropped out of the workforce to be a caretaker.

And you know what that means? You probably have to take your son out of school. If you are sending your kid to those classrooms year after year, you can’t say you are trying to raise a generation of boys who will make parenting a priority. Because school teaches the opposite of what you believe is right for boys — for eighteen years.

So if you really want to close the gender gap, you will homeschool, so your kid can learn to find internal validation that he needs to make parenting a priority. And for your family to homeschool, you have to have one parent staying home.

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