Sunday, November 30, 2008

White Men: Disposable

In previous posts, I've provided many examples of men's perceived disposability, for example, 
  • Only men are required to register with Selective Service (in case of a future military draft.)
  • Only men are allowed to serve in direct combat, which is why 99% of the Iraq War deaths occurred to men. Yet the media always uses obfuscatory phrases such as "the men and women serving in Iraq."
  • 92% of workplace deaths occur to men, yet you never hear of reverse discrimination efforts to help improve workplace safety for men. Yet when women suffer a less critical deficit, e.g., they're "underrepresented" in engineering, massive redress efforts are initiated.
  • Men die 5.2 years younger than women and earlier of all the top 10 causes of death, yet all we see is a sea of pink ribbons for breast cancer.
  • Books on the disposability of men such as New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? and Bill Clinton's press secretary Dee Dee Myers' Why Women Should Rule the World became bestsellers while books decrying today's unfair treatment of men go unpublished or ignored. Even books on boys' and young men's struggles languish. 
Here is the latest example of the accelerating perceived disposability of men, especially white men. It was reported by the CBC, Canada's equivalent of National Public Radio. Each year, the students of Canada's Carleton University raise $1 million for a cause. This year, its student association chose cystic fibrosis...until a rumor started that it mainly affected white men (untrue,) whereupon, the students voted overwhelmingly to find another charity.

The next assault on white men: President-elect Obama's promises to focus on education and health care "for all" is code for "focusing on all but white men." 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Power of Low-Risk Actions

Many people, especially if they've had long-term psychotherapy, ruminate excessively before making a decision. 

My career and personal coaching clients have found this advice helpful: Take a low-risk action. You'll more likely benefit from that than from additional rumination. Examples:

1. Wondering whether you're ready to start dating again? Hang out once at a place you're likely to meet your Mr. or Ms Right and see how you feel. You can always say no to an overture.

2. Not sure what career is right? Read the intro to many careers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. News & World Report's Best Careers or Cool Careers for Dummies. (Bias alert: I wrote the latter two.) And/or just google the name of the career and the word "careers," for example, geologist careers.

3. Not sure you'd be better off if you stopped smoking? Abstain for a day or three. You can always go back to killing yourself.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Latest Thoughts on How to Network Successfully

One-shot meet-and-greets rarely result in connections strong enough that someone will want to abet your career. The core principle: Join the successful. Examples:
  • your career's professional association's conference-planning committee
  • a board of directors of a nonprofit you believe in
  • go on a cruise 
  • a few-day-long training or retreat
  • a class that meets for at least a few sessions.
  • actively participate in an online discussion group, especially one in your profession.
  • a club: for example, a golf or tennis club, or a public affairs forum such as the World Affairs Council or Commonwealth Club.
Do not ask for help until you've developed a mutually caring relationship.  As the Chinese aphorism states,"Unless the proper foundation is laid, your request will not be granted."  So, work on developing those relationships. The good news is that it's often possible to create deep connection quite quickly:

  • Ask about things more central to a person than the sports scores or the pretty outfit. I’m not saying you have to process deep feelings right away if ever, but people care plenty about their career, health, relationships, and finances. 
  • Find out what the person is most concerned about and explore that, being sure to not just ask questions but also to share common ground with them--for example, "I had the same experience...."
  • Be careful not to give unwanted advice, especially to women. The stereotype is generally true: women mainly want to be heard rather than to have their problem solved. When you’re talking with a man, however, you usually can be freer to tactfully offer a suggestion. Indeed, mutually helping each other may bond you enough that you both want to help each other’s careers.
  • After you've explored an issue of theirs, share a concern of yours. 
Finally, you must view networking as an ongoing, enriching part of your life, whether or not it yields career benefits. Otherwise, you'll prematurely give up on it. It usually takes a long time for networking to pay off in a major career benefit to you.  Recognize that even if it doesn't, creating deep connections with lots of people will contribute substantially to your living the life well-led.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama's Education Proposals: A Boondoggle?

Adapted from an article by Lance T. Isumi, Senior Director, Education Studies, Pacific Research Institute.

Obama proposes to double or quadruple spending on existing education programs while creating a batch of new ones.  Yet the taxpayers are likely to receive little bang for their buck. 

For instance, contrary to Obama's claims of 10 dollars in societal benefits for every dollar invested, his proposed $10-billion expansion of federal preschool programs is unlikely to be worthwhile.  A Reason Foundation study found that universal preschool programs in the states where universal preschool has been tried--Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee-- has made little difference in student achievement.

One of Obama's chief approaches for improving the much derided No Child Left Behind Act is to replace standardized tests with assessment of portfolios of student work. Alas, in states where that's been tried on a large scale, it's been a costly disaster.  A Rand study of Vermont’s portfolio assessment system found that scorers were confused by the guidelines and disagreed among themselves about scoring decisions. And variation in student tasks from classroom to classroom made reliable results impossible.

Even where Obama has made forays into real reform areas, such as charter schools, his proposals are problematic.  For example, he wants to increase their funding but also talks about “accountability” strings, which could undercut their very raison d'ĂȘtre.

The spendthrift Bush White House and Republican Congress may have prompted many Americans to vote for change, but we must be aware that the sorts of education changes Obama is proposing will certainly cost a lot but be unlikely to improve education significantly. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our Experts Aren't Expert

The world's leading experts can't figure out how to stop the economic decline, when just a year or two ago, the world economy was growing.

In the 1970s, the experts were predicting global cooling. Then they insisted it's warming; they even gave Al Gore a Nobel Prize for publicizing that theory. Yet, for the last decade, the earth's average temperature has dropped,  and now scientists are telling us to not expect warming for at least another decade. 

We've given billions to experts on curing cancer. Yet we still treat it with medieval crudeness: Cut out the cancer you can see and poison the body, hoping you kill the cancer without killing the patient. Often, it doesn't work.

U.S. News & World Report called me "Career coach extraordinaire" and the San Francisco Bay Guardian called me "The Bay Area's best career coach. " Yet often, I'm not sure how to help a client. Procrastinators particularly challenge me despite my having often been published on the subject.

The experts told us an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Then they told us not to eat apples because of something called alar. Then they went back to "an apple a day."

The experts told us to switch from butter to margarine...until they decided to tell us to switch back to butter.

The experts told us to control our dietary cholesterol. Now they tell us it doesn't matter much.

For decades, education experts insisted that teaching newcomers to the U.S. in their own language would ultimately improve their skills both in English and their native language. Until they decided they were wrong.

Since 9/11, the experts told us we will likely soon have another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It's been eight years and a terrorist hasn't broken a twig here.

Experts insisted that phonics was the best way to teach reading...until they decided that whole language was...until they decided phonics was. Meanwhile the reading achievement gap between society's haves and have-nots is as wide as ever.

To navigate our complicated world, we all seek a guide. Religious people turn to a deity while we atheists smugly prefer science. Yet at this still primitive stage in science's development, even an inveterate atheist like me must acknowledge that my science-based guide isn't as superior as I'd like to think it is. At least the theists' Gods don't keep changing their mind.

What Will Happen When We Bail Out Homeowners

Let's say I'm one of the large majority of homeowners who CAN afford to pay their mortgage, but I hear that my neighbor was able to renegotiate his mortgage downward. Might I be tempted to see if I can get mine renegotiated too?

That's the problem with most handouts. Meant for the few who really, through no fault of their own, have a serious problem, there will be many others who will decide to get on the gravy train. 

It worked that way with welfare and other government giveaways (All my unemployed clients are deferring looking for work until their ever more extended unemployment benefits run out) and it's going to work that way with bailouts. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boys Need Help

As I've written so often in this blog, while endless programs continue to focus on helping girls and women, boys and men are in far greater trouble. 

A number of men have written excellent books on the topic, for example, Michael Gurian's The Minds of Boys and Michael Thompson's Raising Cain but they received only modest attention. 

Finally a woman, Peg Tyre, has written about the problem, and lo and behold, the media is showing her the love. And so her book, indeed a fine one, The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems in School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do sits near the top of the bestseller list.

Here's a good blog post that she's written on the topic.

A Vivid Example of Liberal Intolerance

I have long written that while the Left claims to celebrate diversity, in fact, it is much less tolerant of ideological diversity than is the Right, except for the Extreme Right's skinhead types and the like. 

Jeffrie Givens emailed me this remarkable example.  A girl wore a "McCain Girl" tee shirt to her school, which prides itself on its liberality and tolerance. Alas, most students called her stupid. One even said she deserved to be crucified. 

The next day, she came to school in an Obama Girl tee shirt, and except for a couple of students who called her a flip-flopper, she was praised for being a smart girl--she had suddenly grown a brain.

Dear reader, if you claim to celebrate diversity, don't be a hypocrite. Really listen to perspectives other than your own and judge them on their merits not on apriori biases.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Unexpected Path to Career Contentment

A guy who recently graduated from Michigan State in liberal arts spent six months back at his parents house, doing nothing: sleeping late, hanging out. 

He had seen a career counselor but nothing turned him on enough to seriously look for a job.

At Christmas dinner, one of his relatives who worked for a tractor manufacturer said that the company was in hiring mode. His family pressured him to seek out a job there and reluctantly he did. 

He got a job installing dashboards in the tractors. He was not exactly thrilled, but it gave him money to take his girlfriend out. 

But he was smarter than the average assembly-line worker and when he couldn't get a question answered by a co-worker, he'd go home and google it. So, pretty soon, he became kind of a go-to guy on the factory floor--he'd come to knew a lot about stuff like mitering and glue.

Soon he got promoted and learned more and more about tractor manufacture, and before he knew it, this liberal-arts type felt passionate about, of all things, tractor manufacture.

Fact is, career passion rarely comes from being in a "cool" career.  Because so many people would kill for a career in such fields as entertainment, fashion, and nonprofit work, the pay generally stinks and the boss doesn't treat you especially well because he knows he can easily find a replacement for you. 

In contrast, in a field such as tractor manufacture, employers are more likely to treat their  good employees well because there usually isn't a line of quality people ready to take the job.  

Career passion most often comes from being an expert in a field in which few others are expert, and having boss and coworkers appreciate you and provide the attendant job security and a reliable, decent paycheck.  And you're more likely to get those in a non-cool career. Ironically, status and coolness are enemies of contentment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Great Debate: Liberal Capitalism vs. Libertarianism

On my NPR radio show yesterday, I debated Obama economic advisor Jared Bernstein on whether an Obama-style liberal Democratic approach or a libertarian-leaning approach would be more beneficial to humankind.

I believe it presented both sides well and entertainingly. I've never touted any of my shows on this blog, but I think this one is particularly worthy of your attention.

You can download the podcast from the National Public Radio (NPR) website or hear it live on your computer on my website.

While I'm talking about my radio self, tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 11, I'll make one of my regular appearances to offer career and education advice on the widely-listened-to Ronn Owens Show from 10:06 AM to 11 AM You can hear it on KGO, 810 on the AM dial in San Francisco or at its website

Sunday, November 9, 2008

STOP THE BAILOUT CONGA LINE: No Business is "Too Big to Fail"

Just what I was afraid of: Obama and the new more liberal congress aren't close to being inaugurated yet and already they want to take more money from working- and middle-class people to bail out those who don't deserve it.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler had a huge headstart--For decades, the industry had virtually no competition. The playing field was unlevel, in their favor. Yet, soon after the Japanese and Koreans started to make cars, the union-strangled U.S. car industry could not compete on the most important standard of all: reliability.

Year after year, Consumer Reports has made clear that American-made cars break down more often than Asian-built ones. No one ever accuses the Japanese of producing Monday-morning cars.

Even if the United Autoworkers Union drives the auto industry to its knees, the union apparently will continue to insist on lifetime job security and mammoth retirement packages despite the workers producing cars that break down more than the competition's.

Of course, it's hardly all the workers' fault. They can only install the parts that are given to them, and, in talking with auto mechanics in repair shops and workers on a GM assembly line, they're convinced that many parts and systems are inferior to many foreign manufacturers'. 

And certainly, U.S. auto executives deserve a big share of the blame. Their lust for short-term profits fueled their building building mainly high-profit-margin big cars and SUVs, figuring the materialistic American buyer would stay indifferent to thrift and environmentalism. Meanwhile Asian car makers, especially Toyota, recognized that the world is changing.

And now the Democrats want to reward the U.S. auto industry's bad behavior by propping it up with a massive bailout using our money.

It's fundamental that if you want to improve behavior, you reward good behavior and punish bad. The Democrats know that: they're always arguing that raising taxes on gasoline and on tobacco will reduce their use. Yet now, they want to reward the U.S. auto industry for its bad behavior.

If we hadn't bailed out Chrysler 20 years ago, the auto industry would have felt forced to improve. But the industry knowing that the U.S. government would probably never allow the industry to fail encouraged the automakers and auto workers to feel complacent about continuing their inferior practices.

Another auto industry bailout will only encourage further bad behavior and more inferior cars that can't compete with the Japanese or Koreans. And just imagine what will happen when the newest carmakers on the block, the Chinese, get their act together.

There is a huge hidden cost of bailouts: demotivating the small good guy. If entrepreneurs and small companies see that when a big company screws up, the government views it as "Too Big to Fail" and bails out it, that sends a dispiriting message to the small good guy: No matter how good you'll be, the government won't let you compete. No formula could better strip the U.S. of its historic advantage: the power to innovate.

If we prop up the bad with good people's tax money, it will yield only a short-term feel-good. In the long-run, we will become a bad country.

Yet the government is contemplating ever more bailouts. We've already bailed out the financial industry with uncertain results, are bailing out insurance giant AIG (who then congaed to Vegas for a $350,000 celebration) will soon bail out the auto industry, and rushing up to join the line are four more insurance companies,  Citigroup, the airlines, home builders, people who bought houses they couldn't afford, and those who ran up too much credit card debt.

Other short-sighted industry "leaders" are failing too.
  • Levitz Furniture insisted on huge showrooms and overpriced low-quality, poorly styled furniture. They're in Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy. Meanwhile Sweden-based IKEA is doing just fine. Should you and I bail Levitz out?
  • How about the nose-diving Circuit City, Best Buy, and Macy's, with their enormous, expensive bricks-and-mortar stores while the world buys online. Should you and I bail them out?
  • What about the liberals' darling company Whole Foods, which refused to stop its noble but unrealistic business practices even though that forced it to charge absurdly high prices that most shoppers won't pay. So its stock price has plummeted from 78 to 9 while German-owned Trader Joe's has long checkstand lines filled with happy customers. Should you and I bail out Whole Foods?
  • And then there are the cities and states. Here in California, our governor's already got his hand out for a huge bailout. 
Under the current "Too Big to Fail" mindset, the conga line for handouts will continue to grow until the taxpayers have been stripped of nearly all their money or there is a tax revolt.

I believe the auto and other struggling industries should be left to fix themselves or die.

What about laid-off workers? I'd encourage the private sector to create excellent online training programs. The entrepreneurial among laid-off workers would be trained on how to start a successful, ethical, and important small business. The not-entrepreneurial would be trained in such sustainable fields as health care, biotech, education, global business, elder care, and law enforcement.

I believe that's a surer road to a sturdy long-term economy than the ever-lengthening, Democrat-led bailout conga line.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Today's Winning Resume

Today, for your app to end up top-of-the heap: 

1. Your need a separate resume for each job, with a customized job objective and summary.

1a. It must tell a story, using paragraphs if necessary, that make clear that you're a better problem solver in your niche than anyone else.

1b. So the employer's resume-selection software picks out your resume, it needs to include all the right keywords. Get them from the job ad you're responding to as well as to other similar ads, which you can usually find on,, or other job site containing ads for your kind of work.

2.  If you can look natural and relaxed on camera, create a video resume, for example, at CareerBuilder, which offers dos and dont's, and it's free. Include the link to it in your text resume.

3. You need a cover letter that powerfully explains why you'd love to work for that employer. 

4. Both resume and cover letter must avoid job-seeker jargon; for example, "self-starter," "team player," "delights in exceeding customer expectations," "uniquely qualified." Those sound like B.S. canned phrases that came from resume software or a resume writer. Also, those terms are distancing; you want to create connection. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

The First Election Post-Mortem

With the election a foregone conclusion, a few observations:

1. Obama would have won without the media's help and without a billion-dollar campaign, eight times that spent by McCain.  America was ready to tilt leftward and Obama is smart and modulated in temperament, while McCain is an old 72, with failing intelligence and increasing whininess.

2. McCain ran a terrible campaign, running on vague platitudes and against a tax cut for people making $250,000+ a year.  

He should have run on the virtues of lightly regulated versus heavily regulated capitalism and more compellingly, humanly, explained the tremendous liabilities of big government, high taxation, and excessive redistributive "justice."

3. McCain made an unimaginably bad choice of running mate.  In my view, he would have been wisest to try to convince Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, or Colin Powell to join him, and to do so, he would agree to run and govern as a fiscal conservative and social liberal, which is as conservative a stance as America will tolerate today.

4. McCain became indistinguishable from a tax-and-spend liberal by, for example, voting for the $700 billion bailout, advocating bailout of mortgagees, calling for legalizing illegal immigrants, and refusing to state what programs he would cut. 

5. Obama, as a liberal, knew he could get away with lying. He knew the media would minimize:
  • his having promised to limit his campaign to public financing and then reneged. 
  • the disingenuousness of his promise to lower taxes on 95% of Americans while funding all the massive programs he promised. 
  • the fact that in just weeks, he changed his proposal from raising taxes on people with incomes of $250,000 or more, down to $200,000, and this week, according to his vice president, $150,000. Most observers are convinced that Obama will end up not lowering but raising taxes on middle-income people.  
If McCain had been guilty of such disingenuousness (not to mention of centrally formative relationships with extremists, most notably Reverend Jeremiah Wright) the media would have destroyed him, but not a liberal.

6. The media should be ashamed of itself for its blatant bias and its focusing on the horse race rather than deep probing of the devils-in-the-details on the core issues of health care, balancing the budget, the economy, illegal immigration, the environment, the Middle East, etc.

Perhaps the media focused on the horse race, in part, because it knew that probing on the issues would force Obama to reveal unpopular leftist positions that could jeopardize his election, and the media would not risk that. 

The media used to serve the key role of investigator and reporter, whereever the chips fell. In this election, consistent with its ever more liberal bias, the media was just a huge wing of the Obama campaign--and with the billion dollars Obama raised, he hardly needed help.

7. Our election system cries out for reinvention. My proposal: three-week-long, 100% publically funded elections consistingly primary of debates and a widely distributed summary of the candidates' voting record and positions on key issues.

8. The Obama jubilation will continue long past the election celebrations. I am convinced he will indeed make major changes to this country, armed with a liberal congress and an unprecedentedly liberal media. And short-term, the non-rich will feel encouraged. Indeed fiscal and other resources will be redistributed to them. 

The problem is that those changes (a few of which I mention in my previous post) plus his leading the ever-growing bailout conga line are likely to be just short-term feel-goods. It takes a decade or longer for the long-enduring ill-effects of major redistribution and big government to be felt.  

I believe they will be felt and that America will be a more impoverished nation a decade from now and for decades to come, but I suspect that the media will never blame Obama or the liberals for it. They'll simply call for more tax money for more government programs and more redistribution.

Of course, I could be wrong about the preceding--Too many factors affect the U.S. economy to , with confidence, predict how well it will do a decade or two from now. 

9. While I'm scared of what that perfect storm of liberality (Obama, liberal congress, and liberal media) will do to America, I admit that, from an intellectual curiosity point of view, it will be interesting to watch.

10. Of course, I want President-Elect Obama to prove me wrong and create a better America and world. I wish him all the best.