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Writers work best with an external deadline. We don’t realize it, but our definition of a successful writer means someone has attained external deadlines: Journalists have an editor, authors have publication date, comedy writers have a showtime, publicists have a boss.

If you know you have something to say, but you have a hard time getting yourself to write on a regular schedule. This course is for you. Think of it as buying the external deadline so you can get started.

What does that include? In addition to unlimited editing for a year, check this out:

Self-discipline to write regularly and the self-confidence that follows. Knowing you are writing well is one of the best ways to get yourself to write. And we’ll reach to that point by working together.

When I started writing, it was sporadic. I didn’t like that I didn’t know if what I was writing was good or bad. I thought it might be good. But I didn’t trust myself. I wanted outside affirmation.

I turned a corner when I realized that receiving consistent feedback from a seasoned writer made my own writing better and better each week. And the experience made me want to write regularly so I could get feedback: no writing meant no feedback for that week.

Insight into the format that showcases your particular talent I ended up teaching writing at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Paris. Based on the curriculum I developed I can help you discover the format of writing that is most true to you: fiction, non-fiction, long-form journalism, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, essay, memoir, op-ed. You might be surprised to discover that you’re naturally talented to a format you have’t tried.

I ended up teaching writing at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Paris. Based on the curriculum I developed I can help you discover the format of writing that is most true to you: fiction, non-fiction, long-form journalism, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, essay, memoir, op-ed. You might be surprised to discover that you’re naturally talented to a format you have’t tried.

Finding your best format will lead to you finding your hidden ability to write regularly about what matters to you.

One-on-one coaching to create your own version of the writer’s life We’ll have an ongoing relationship the whole year via email and phone. I’ll suggests topics, tactics, routines, and other solutions I’ve developed to overcome challenges in my own writing life.

A measurable, achievable goal that will make you feel accomplished Once you’re writing on a regular basis, I’ll make sure your writing adds up to something. I’m very goal oriented, and I didn’t feel like a real writer until I had a goal for my writing. This might be true for you, too.

The people I’ve been working with for the past four years have had big success:

  • One person has seen her blog traffic increase 20% every month for two years.
  • Two people got book deals for non-fiction books.
  • One person changed from writing a blog to writing a memoir and that switch enabled her to write almost every day for a year.
  • One person – who had never written anything before I worked with her – published a book of short essays that I keep by my nightstand. It reminds me what a joy it is to work with writers.

The price goes up to $1550 in three days, so sign up now!

I know it will change your life, because everyone I’ve worked with in this capacity has accomplished something meaningful to them and surprising to both of us.

No one succeeds alone, in anything. I’ll be your team for your writing.

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Parental Advisory: Earning all the money and taking care of the kids by yourself at the same time is hell. And only crazy people do it. Really. Less than 1% of white college-educated women raise kids alone. That statistic makes sense to me. Because 2% of white college-educated women get divorced. All these statistics come from the Bureau of Labor. Most of the women in this demographic get remarried. I am convinced that the women who do not remarry and actually do the whole child-rearing thing alone all have Asperger’s.

Public Service Announcement: Any woman who raised kids alone instead of remarrying and thinks she does not have Asperger’s should just email me. I will diagnose you myself. I don’t care that I’m not a doctor. Because, hello!, doctors freely admit they have no idea how to diagnose women with Aspergers. You are lucky to have me diagnosing you instead of a doctor.

A lot of people ask me how I can possibly do all that I say I do each day, like there aren’t enough hours or maybe I am embellishing a little. Then they ask me to break my day down into a schedule so they can see how I do it.

The short answer is no, I cannot break down my hours for you. I’m like a chicken with my head cut off. Sometimes. Other times I drink to cope with the stress and then I fall asleep. Which, actually, is similar to a chicken with it’s head cut off, just after a little more time has passed.

My point is, how would I count those hours?

Also, before you get upset about me saying that I drink to cope, drinking alcohol is the coping mechanism of choice for rich suburban moms and also for high-powered women. And while I am not really either of those, I’m almost both of them, so that equals a predilection to deal with stress by drinking.

So anyway, I am really good at adapting my money earning to whatever time I have in between kid stuff. So, for example, when we were driving back and forth to cello lessons and spending 20 hours a week in the car, I changed how I earned money to be less about going into TV studios and more about being on the phone. I could work on the phone in the car.

When I ended up having to be on the phone 100% of the time in order to make enough money, I hired a driver. (Only after I totaled two cars in one year.)

When we moved from the farm so we didn’t have to travel for cello lessons I changed how I made money again. In Swarthmore I’d let people come to our apartment for a few days in a row and we’d take over the dining room table as I showed the person how they could build a business from scratch.

Now, in Boston, the boys study at the dining room table and mostly manage their own schedules. Homeschooling for me is lurking in the background to troubleshoot and keep them on track. Otherwise, they’d do things like punt on the bow tie and perform with an open collar.

So, I hired two people and I am working with a team, because managing a team requires checking in quickly throughout the day, which fits in nicely between the kids.

In each instance, I looked for tools to make things easier. When I coached two or three people a day I automated my calendar with Calendly. When Melissa got married I bought PicMonkey and told my son he’s promoted to my photo editor. Right now I’m looking at CloudPhone, because I have tons of people working on contract  and part-time and I hate having to be the phone operator for everyone calling Quistic.

One of the things I worry about is that I’ll commit to the wrong business solutions for the wrong time in my life. Doing something like CloudPhone means I’m getting ready to grow a bigger company. And I can’t tell if you do the software first and then the guts, or guts first then software.

In each phase of my kids’ lives I have tried to adjust so I could do both kids and work at the same time, so I wouldn’t have to choose. I thought I was killing two birds with one stone, but often I was just blindly hurling stones and killing nothing.

And also, I’m aware that PETA is asking us to stop using idioms that are abusive to animals. So I am telling you that I know I’m doing it, because the first step to change is noticing there’s a problem.

I think I did not answer the question about how to work and homeschool at the same time. Maybe I showed how not to do it. But this post is actually a good example of how I get so much work done: I do a bad job and hope a bad job is enough. And I keep going. Sometimes that works.

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Porcelain Pencils by Katharine Morling

The FBI just announced a sting operation that caught 50 rich and famous parents paying millions of dollars to bribe and cheat to get their under-qualified kids into top colleges (and, mysteriously, some not-top colleges). Last year a magnet school in Louisiana, which had been celebrated for getting poor minority students into top schools year after year admitted to lying and cheating to get the kids in.

I’ve been convinced that the college system is broken for a while, so I spent a good part of last year interviewing high-priced college consultants (many who are former staff on admissions committees to top-flight schools).  My goal was to figure out what sort of advice these consultants give parents. I didn’t receive any illegal advice, but I was shocked by how many corners you can cut without breaking any rules.

Here are some tips I learned:

Move to Wyoming. Colleges work hard to get students from each state.  And standards are lower for states with sparse populations. Brown University has an 8% acceptance rate but a 30% acceptance rate from Montana. And colleges are shying away from racial diversity and focusing on diversity of backgrounds. So if you can’t move to Wyoming or Montana, at least go somewhere rural.

Hide your ethnicity. If your name is Jose Gonzales, let the admission committee assume you’re one of the rare qualified hispanic males applying to their school. If you are Asian but your name doesn’t reveal it, consider that Asians need to score much higher than white kids to get into top schools before checking any extra boxes. (If you think this sounds extreme, my family changed their last name in the 1930s to get past Jewish quotas at Harvard. This trick has been working for as long as discrimination has been working.)
Play beach volleyballThere are hundreds of schools with varsity beach volleyball teams including Stanford, Berkeley and UCLA. Give it a try. Seriously. There are no national high school rankings, few club teams, and you don’t even have to be tall. Most cities with sand have free beach volleyball in the evenings. Even in the North. Play enough to know the basics. Then contact recruiters who have no idea how to find sand players. This is not cheating. It’s playing by the rules.
Play violin. So many kids play string instruments that colleges don’t think of it as a hook anymore unless you have some remarkable achievement as a string player. Luckily you can enter this international competition, and for just $600 everyone’s a winner and then everyone gets to perform at the winner’s recital at Carnegie Hall.

Study literature. Colleges need to make sure they have students for their tenured teachers in humanities. It’s a serious problem because so many kids are choosing STEM majors instead. So tell the college you’re planning to study literature. Write your essay about Proust. And then there’s no rule that says you can’t change majors after you start college.

Start a company. So many kids start companies that now admissions officers expect you to report how much your company earned. This is not difficult, even for non-millionaires. Learn to post earnings the same way startup founders post earning: high growth no profits. You’ll be like a pro –– on the cusp of VC funding.

Hire a scientist. The wait list for high schoolers to do volunteer work in a lab or hospital environment is more than two years in in some cities. But you can hire a professor at a major university to do a science experiment with your kid and then write a recommendation to colleges. No waiting!

Homeschool. Stanford accepted 5% of applicants but 27% of homeschoolers. This disparity is because homeschooling gives kids more time to cater to the arcane admission system that colleges set up. Most of what colleges want to see on an application doesn’t happen in school, so why bother being there?

Put a science lab in your bedroom. Wait. No. Don’t. Because the Siemens Science Competition (formerly Westinghouse, then Intel) was shut down because all the kids who were winning had access to their parents’ labs at major universities. Siemens said they thought there were more effective ways for them to promote learning. And then Siemens started giving scholarships to disadvantaged kids.

Yes, we are all outraged about the lengths people will go to get their kids into colleges they don’t deserve to attend. But the truth is that parents are scared. They’re scared that they are not doing enough to help their kid become a successful adult. This is why we want to know what other parents are doing. We want to know what our options are.

If we weren’t so stressed about how to raise our kids we wouldn’t be so outraged that other people are cheating.

And actually, the workplace is just like college admissions. You learn the rules and use them to your advantage. So teach your kids when they’re young that the higher the stakes the game is, the more arcane the rules are. And the more arcane the rules, the more likely it is that you can find a backdoor route to the top.

But pretending the system is a meritocracy encourages more discrimination –– so says economist Robert Frank. And belief that one has succeeded inside a meritocracy leads to more self-congratulatory, selfish behavior. Frank says people who accept that all of life is about skill and luck are much more likely to be thankful and therefore more generous.

Bottom line: Gaming the system is a great idea, but you can’t game the system if you don’t have good grades. Hard work counts too. So raise a kid who has gratitude. Because when it comes to being a happy person, having gratitude is much more important than having a fancy diploma.

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I check the farmer’s blog obsessively for any updates, which takes a lot of energy partially because he never writes on it but mostly because I have to work really hard at all the mental gymnastics I use to justify to myself what I’m even doing on there in the first place.
But now I know. I was looking for evidence that he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I wonder all the time – does he miss me when he’s sorting pigs for market? I did that with him. And I miss doing that with him.

Maybe that’s asking for too much, because I was always letting a slightly-too-small pig get through the gate. But what about living inside the blue and red and yellow walls? The colors I picked to paint inside the house are so cozy. Do they make him think of me?

The answer is no. Because he got married in December. I’ve watched the video 50 times. His family is so, so happy in the video. They were never that happy around me.

The farmer is happy, too. Happier in the video than I’ve ever seen him. Maybe it’s that he’s getting to be the center of attention – he loves that.

Maybe you’re thinking that he could never be the center of attention with me around. But, actually, being the center of attention is hard for me. Which is why I hid at my first wedding and then there were only five people at my second wedding. I’m generally happy to go along with whatever someone else wants. That’s why dating him was so easy.

But once we were together it became clear that my kids are the center of my attention. His family is like most farm families – all the attention goes to the land. I don’t think he could have ever imagined how much time, energy, and resources I’d give to my kids.

The farmer was honest from the start that he loved the land more than he loved me. People told me that’s how farmers are and I loved him, so I thought it was OK.

Until I saw this video, I didn’t realize that maybe he was excited to be with me because he had never been loved more than the land. But I loved my kids more than I loved him. So he was still second.

The woman he married seems nice – I think I can tell that from the video. So I am not surprised that he’s so happy. I am surprised that he crawled under her dress and pulled her garter down with his teeth.

To say I would never do that is the only way I can think to talk about it. Because the only thing that matters is that he loved doing it. He did a victory dance afterwards, garter in mouth, fists pumping in the air. And she is laughing with joy.

I don’t think I will be reading the farmer’s blog anymore. I think I was reading it to try to understand who I am now and how I got here. Because there is no way to get where I want to be if I can’t tell the story about where I’ve been.

People tell me I don’t charge enough to rewrite resumes. I used to worry those people were right, but now I don’t.

I charge less than most people to rewrite a resume because it’s a privilege to help someone find the story of where they’ve been. The story you tell about your past determines where you can go in the future. If you never get a story that feels right to you, you get stuck there – this is just as true in your professional life as it is in your personal life. Stories are what we use to make sense of our world. And every time I help someone rewrite theirs I’m practicing for the next time I’ll need to rewrite my own.

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Penelope Trunk Blog by Penelope Trunk - 5M ago

I am on a sad-movie-watching binge. It started a few weeks ago. Wait. No. It probably started when I was in third grade and there was no grownup home until 8pm, so after school I went to the movie theater every day for a week to watch Wilbur lose Charlotte and learn to fend for himself.

I think people who have sadness in their life use movies to work out their sadness by seeing it in other people. You know that truism about how we see other people so much more clearly than we see ourselves? It’s true for seeing other peoples’ disorders as well. Wilbur doesn’t work for me anymore, but trichotillomania does.

Because while I was sitting for school pictures with no eyebrows, thinking I was the most insane person in the world, four percent of all people were also pulling out their hair. And while I was playing beach volleyball with shorts on because I couldn’t stop plucking pubic hair, doctors were adding Trichotillomania to the DSM as a form of OCD.

I wish I hadn’t spent so much time hating myself for plucking. I was doing fine, I just needed help with anxiety and OCD. Well, and with carpal tunnel, which is a common result of pulling hairs so obsessively for so long. So you can be sure that when I saw a reference to the movie Trichster, I was captivated. Trichster? I haven’t heard that term before. Now pulling hair is for cool kids? They get a nickname?

So, I watched the movie. It’s a great way to understand what makes people pull their own hair out. I got sad all over again about how lonely it feels to hate yourself.

Last week I watched a documentary about logging. Loggers wear earplugs so the chainsaw doesn’t make them deaf, but then they can’t hear when a tree is about to fall. So they die. One hundred loggers die each year. Should they choose deafness instead?

I also watched a documentary about the Fyre festival. It turns out the whole Frye debacle is the result of Billy McFarland’s incredible hubris, but also his incredible social media skills. Generational schadenfreude makes me giddy when the narrator focuses on the millennial need to be part of everything important — or simply imply involvement with a photo.

One interviewer says McFarland was always surrounded by people, but it was like there were no people because no one ever gave him useful feedback. Relying on input from other people could have saved McFarland. In another interview an influencer says it’s his job to promote his brand. When asked what his brand is, the guy says, “My brand is about happiness and wellbeing.”

Happiness and wellbeing? I hate him: so much BS.

Then I have an epiphany: my brand is about negativity and mental health! That’s where I should put my energy.

Immediately I tell my epiphany to Amelia. Because I have new ideas all the time – like they are trees and I’m a logger and I need a friend around or I’ll get hit.

She says, “What? That is not your brand. Your brand is authenticity and being true to yourself.”

I say, “Oh.” And then, “Thank you.” Because see? She saved me.

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Penelope Trunk Blog by Penelope Trunk - 5M ago

When I was looking at apartments I didn’t notice the incredibly noisy construction right outside our windows. I attribute this oversight to the same phenomena that happens in the video where you count basketball passes – if you have never seen the video stop everything and go watch it.

Quiet = money

Vox did a video on how quiet has become a sign of quality.  And people sell quiet. Bose has become a noise reduction company, and so has Miele. LH And CEOs establish themselves as quality leaders by disconnecting their phones to have quiet time.

We know a lot about the negative impact of noise, because rich people fund studies to squelch developers. Environmental noise effects not only our hearing, but our sleep, social skills, and cardiovascular health.

Too much noise is a sign of poverty.  So people paint their houses with noise-reducing paint, and companies are trying to reduce their noise footprint as a way to attract top-flight employees.

I find myself constantly hoping for freezing ice storms at night so the construction is delayed and I wake up to quiet.

Quiet = focus.

I’m working with a group of readers editing everything they write for a year. There’s one guy, Graham, who is a psychologist, and sometimes I feel like reading his stories is when I’m quiet and still and it’s a daily meditation. And other days his stories stream like endless noise. One day, after ten rewrites, I told him I will kill myself if I have to read another version of this story.

The next day, maybe to save my life,  he sent a story about how there is no benefit to delaying a bad feeling. I told him to throw out the whole piece. “It’s too broad an idea,” I told him, in case he was thinking of delaying the delete button.

But now I will steal the best paragraph of his story and tell you that our instinct is to delay terribleness – like construction –  but that delay doesn’t help us and instead becomes emotional noise in the back of our mind. I would add a link to Graham’s piece here, but of course, it’s in the garbage.

I think we look for people who can help us find quiet. Amelia is my new friend. (That link requires $1 to read. But you know she’s really my friend because the only other person I’ve charged you to read about is Melissa.) Amelia creates quiet in my life by telling me what I should be worrying about. I can’t stop worrying, but at least I can have a prioritized list. For me focus means quiet.

Quiet = good noise

Spectral Quartet commissioned 45 composers to write ring tones. You can upload the ringtones to your phone and then you turn an annoying repetitive sound into something interesting and surprising.

John Cage is an composer whose name is associated with quiet. His piece 4’33” is a solo for the piano, but the pianist doesn’t have any notes. So the audience sits in silence but has no choice but to notice there never really is silence. The composition encourages us to hear all the noise around us as music.

Quiet is mental.

The best financial advice tells you that feeling financially secure is a state of mind; you can think yourself rich. I see how you can change your experience of noise so that it feels like quiet.

Quiet is sometimes just better than whatever there was before. And just like we never really feel like we have enough money, we never really feel like we have enough quiet. That’s why they are both so special: you want more.

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How much do you think Jeff Bezos will get in the divorce?

I haven’t heard anyone ask that. I’ve only read headlines like How Much MacKenzie Bezos Get? and How Much Will Jeff Bezos Lose?

In the Bezos marriage, the partners are equals. Jeff and MacKenzie started the company together. And they worked side by side. When the company was big and they had four kids, MacKenzie took half the load (kids) and Jeff took half the load (work).

Why do people assume Jeff will be doling out money to MacKenzie? The money is as much hers as it is his. Some headlines are simply despicable. NBC ran the headline The settlement between the world’s richest man and his wife. But if he is the world’s richest man, then she is the world’s richest woman. Already. Before the settlement. Because all his money is her money.

Consider what it would be like if NBC ran this headline: The settlement between the world’s richest woman and her husband. It sounds odd, right? Because the power in the sentence is so firmly on MacKenzie’s side. But then we should recognize the first headline as odd, too. The headline NBC ran is bad journalism because it distorts reality.

The language of divorce is about power, and we take power away from all stay-at-home spouses when we talk about MacKenzie like she has no money of her own.

Wired magazine published a great piece about how the famed companies of Silicon Valley are never founded by one, single person. It takes a team of people to do something so grand as Amazon, and MacKenzie was a key part of that team. Years ago, MacKenzie put any doubts about her contribution to rest in a long, meticulous review of a biography of Jeff. She gave the book one star.

MacKenzie has always stood up for her contribution in the marriage. But it’s not so easy for most women. Most women did not work side by side with their spouse to start the most disruptive company in the world.

Most women do their half of the team’s work and get very little credit for it. Because when it comes to spousal partnerships, society talks about the stay-at-home spouse like they are a freeloader, waiting to pick up their check in the divorce.

USA Today describes MacKenzie and Jeff starting Amazon together. But then USA Today frames the marriage this way:

Since then, Bezos became the world’s richest man, supplanting Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Forbes’ annual list of the 400 richest Americans three months ago, with his net worth rising to $160 billion, up from $81.5 billion a year ago.

MacKenzie Bezos became a novelist, winning an American Book Award for her 2005 debut novel “The Testing of Luther Albright.” Subsequently, she released the book “Traps” in 2013.

This is not an accurate representation of either Jeff or MacKenzie. One of the most dangerous parts of the USA Today summary is they left out that “since then” Jeff and MacKenzie also became parents. This is very important because it’s the work that MacKenzie did that makes her an equal partner in the marriage and equally as wealthy as Jeff.

So, USA Today should make a correction to give a more accurate description:

Since then, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos became parents. At the same time, Jeff was the CEO of Amazon, and MacKenzie became a novelist. They also became the richest couple, supplanting Bill and Melinda Gates. 

It’s unusual for such a high-profile CEO to be married to someone who is their equal. Which is why the language we use to talk about this divorce is so important. Society does not celebrate the contribution stay-at-home partners make to corporate jobs. But huge jobs like CEO of Amazon are actually two-person jobs.

When we automatically assume the stay-at-home spouse is the one with less money, we disparage the contribution of the stay-at-home spouse. Today more and more women choose to stay at home with kids, but only after they spend time in the corporate world, where people get money and accolades and promotions. The transition to parenting is difficult, because there are no awards or promotions. The transition is even more difficult when journalists don’t give women credit for their contributions.

How you talk about the Bezos divorce says a lot about you. We don’t come across divorces like this very often; MacKenzie is a powerhouse. Let’s talk about her that way, because talking about women with power while being respectful of that power teaches us to respect the power inside ourselves.

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Urban Meyer, coach of Ohio State football, likes three-sport athletes more than singularly focused athletes. Yet sites like Active for Life jump on the three-sport thing to tell parents that early specialization is bad for kids.

I don’t believe specialization is bad. But I do believe it’s scary. You could get hurt, you could miss your big chance, you could be disappointed, you could fail publicly. But if you don’t learn to take risks by specializing early then won’t be able to be great at anything later in life.

But what does it mean to be great at something?

Being great is relative. Relative to what you’ve been exposed to.

Before Eddie George played football for Ohio State, he left home for a private high school that specializes in keeping kids for a fifth year so they’re better recruits for college football. There’s tons of Ohio State football players who played multiple sports, but to go pro like Eddie George, you have to build your life around it. Because specializing is how you go from great to the best.

Corporate life has the same rules. You can be a parent and work full-time, but you can’t get to the top while making your kids a higher priority than work. Really. People at the top hand over parenting to someone else.

I say this a lot. And then people tell me, “I don’t need to be CEO. I just want an interesting job.”

And then I say, “How can things be interesting if you’re not trying to be the best?” You can’t be great at three sports or three instruments or three careers. I don’t want to do the work equivalent of three sports. It’s so insanely uninteresting to me to just be OK at something.

But when I start pounding my fists and shouting about the difference – commitment, focus, determination, grit, risk – people say, “Oh. I don’t want to do all that. I just want to [insert some mediocre version of what they are doing here].” Those people sound so rational, but I’ve spent my life trying to be great.

I am so enthralled with the relativism of being great –– that’s the arena I’m always trying to be in, even though I think it’s killing me. Also, I look at that picture of my son being little and playing football not very. well, and I am happy thinking about him being happy playing.

I can’t tell if I’m exhausted or changing or both.

So few people understand the gulf between the top and the very top. Most people know they don’t want to work hard enough to be the very best, but they still want to be learning and growing. But that level of constant engagement is really intense. Very few people want to live that intensely. Because it’s exhausting.

Science says you’re always going to want 20% more than what you have –– whether it be money or skills or recognition. We get used to where we are and then it’s not exciting anymore so we want more. We always want more. It’s human nature.

You actually have to approach your entire life differently. You have to want the crazy life of singular focus.

Which is why talking about how to be the best is sort of boring. Because being the best disrupts all calibration in your life.

People who are trying to do something huge are on the fringe. They are doing stuff no one else is trying to do. They are taking risks no one else relates to. Most of the time you can’t even talk to people trying to do something huge. Because those people don’t ever leave their office unless the hugeness requires leaving. They’re overly invested to the point of being irrelevant in any social gathering or reasonable conversation.

Until they are big and great, that is.

Which may be never.

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My friend is staying at my apartment while he job hunts in Boston. My job hunts were always done in pajamas with a jeans-and-T-shirt interview finale. Micah is in sales and his hunt starts with a trip to a clothing store.

While he hops in and out of dressing rooms becoming friends with everyone, I settle into a spot with the mannequins.

Then I say, “Micah! Hey! Did you know the most reliable way to speed up a job hunt is to have a professional rewrite your resume?”

Micah stops and looks at me. Sales guys are always attentive, even if you annoy them.

“So, not that I don’t love living with you, but I’m rewriting your resume.”

A lot of times when I rewrite a resume it’s so much better than the original that the person has to learn to talk about themselves differently. We underestimate ourselves because we’re in the thick of things when it’s our own career. A good resume rewrite makes you feel like a different, much more successful person.

Most people take a week or two to get used to talking about themselves at a higher level. Salespeople can adjust right away, which Micah did. Then he started making little changes for each job. And ruining the resume.

“Micah! Are you a total numbskull?! You can’t have a bulleted list with one bullet! It’s not a list if there’s only one thing!”

I told him he has a huge indentation where there shouldn’t be any. He thought I was crazy. He thought no one would notice.

This reminds me of when I was doing a lot of public speaking. I wore jeans. Even when I was getting paid $15K per speech, I wore jeans. Even when I was speaking to a coat-and-tie audience, I wore jeans.

My agent told me to stop wearing jeans. I told my agent my content is so good that no one notices what I wear. So he stopped booking me.

The problem is blind spots. And part of the art of making it through adult life is to learn our blind spots before they completely undermine us.

This is a good time to complain about tests we administer to ourselves. I have already published a tirade about personality tests –  why nearly 50% of people get inaccurate results when they test themselves.

But another example is that the are you a sociopath tests don’t work because the ENTPs and ESTPs are always excited to test as a sociopath. They think it’s funny. So they inadvertently skew the results.

Also, when you have someone test to see if they have Asperger’s, most of the time they will say their social skills are fine. That’s because people with Asperger’s don’t know what counts as a social skill. For example, meeting deadlines, sticking with the group, saying I’m sorry. These are all social skills that people with poor social skills don’t count.

I see the phrase “appropriate attire” a lot. Well, maybe not a lot now, but I did a lot when I was 13 in the ’70s and I was receiving tons of formal bat mitzvah invitations. But anyway, that phrase doesn’t mean you have to knock it out of the park with an outfit straight from the runway. It means just look like you fit in.

The same is true with appropriate grammar. People just need to know basics. As a former copyeditor, I know that one should not capitalize a job title unless the job title comes directly before a person’s name who is doing that job. The number of people who violate this rule is so large that breaking that rule is like wearing white after Labor Day: Whatever.

But those mistakes on Micah’s resume are on the list of must-be-fixed. And, here’s a list off the top of my head of common grammar errors I see on resumes from very smart people:

Do not use jargon as a way to abbreviate because you need everyone at the prospective company to be able to read your resume.

Always abbreviate state names unless you’re a calligrapher getting paid per letter.

Don’t write Inc. on your resume unless you worked at Inc. Magazine. No one cares about the incorporation papers of the companies you worked for.

Lots of rules are flexible, but no rules are random. Put periods at the end of non-sentences. Or not. Capitalize long prepositions in a headline. Or not. Abbreviate months. Or not. But be consistent; whatever you choose, do it every time.

Maintain past tense even for a job that you are still doing. If you are writing a good resume, you are writing about a moment in time when you were great. If you are writing about something you do every day, meaning you are still doing it, then stop writing that. A resume is about accomplishments and the second you accomplish something it becomes past tense.

Give your verb an object as a way to make sure you look great. Consider the difference between Emma ate. And Emma ate something. The latter is a specific time with a specific outcome. People get hired for making a specific impact at the places they work.

Don’t use quotation marks unless you literally refer to a person who you then quote verbatim. But if you are quoting someone verbatim on your resume, delete it. What are you thinking? The only acceptable quote would be from someone who is so famous that they can just make a phone call and get you the job without you sending a resume at all.

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I did not cry at Melissa’s wedding because I cried when I met the guy. I knew right away that he was the one. He was way too sane and stable for Melissa to ever let go.

So I let go of Melissa, right there, when I met him. I said some bossy things, like, “You better be really reliable because that’s what she needs.” And I said things you’d never want to hear from anyone like, “You better hurry up and have kids because Melissa’s eggs are dying.”

He did not say, can you shut up because I have lived my life just fine without your advice. Instead, he reassured me. And he hugged me when I cried. Not the when-is-this-going-to-be-over hug that I get from my kids. It was an I-think-we’ll-get-along hug.

My experience of the lead-up to Melissa’s wedding was like being with the most competent wedding planner handling all aspects of her own wedding and getting rid of less competent people at every possible moment while still being on a diet so strict it did not include food.

My sons were in the wedding. They did not jump for joy when they found out. They thought it was their natural place.

As the moment got closer they asked, “What do we do? What will happen? What’s our job?”

I told them, “It’s Melissa’s wedding so you do whatever she asks.”

I have never seen them look more loyal and reliable as they stood under the huppa next to Melissa. And I have never seen Melissa look so sweet and doting as she did, surrounded by the boys and her brand new husband.

For most of the wedding it was my job to hug Melissa and tell her I love her.

And to make her take off her 5-inch heels for the hora. And it was also my job to make a toast.

Melissa’s husband’s job is to assess risk. He decided that the other person making a toast was a sure bet — he’s always good. But I would either be amazing or horrifying, so they had the other person go second in case he needed to repair damage.

I was great. Of course. Even though Melissa made me wear that feather thing in my hair.

You might notice my son hunched down, covering his ears. He was scared to hear what was coming next. But all good toasts make the listeners a little bit nervous.

You can listen to me giving the toast on Patreon. Which means you will have to pay at least $1 to see it. Which means I’ve monetized my best friend’s wedding. You’d do the same thing if you had to wear those feathers.

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