Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another Coach's Ideas on Curing Procrastination

I've written a number of posts that list ways to control procrastination. You can find them easily by clicking "procrastination" in this blog's tag cloud.

The following list was written by someone else, Kathleen Nadeau. It contains some different ideas, which make sense to me. To read her list, click HERE.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Having a Long-Term Vision

I invite you to take an hour to write a long-term vision: what you'd like your life to look like decades from now.

I did that yesterday. In deciding whether you want to do that, it might be helpful if I shared what I learned from doing it:
  • I'm getting a little tired of trying to make a difference. I think back especially on the work I've done with the "at-risk," and the money I've donated to charity, and while perhaps I made a difference, it feels too insignificant or impalpable for altruism to motivate me as much in the future. Similarly, I've made efforts to further unpopular causes I believe in: men's and boy's issues, that higher education is overrated, and a truly honest conversation about race. All I've derived has been opprobrium.
The insignificance of my altruistic efforts is amplified when I remind myself that in 2011, I will be but one of seven billion people on the planet, our lifetime is but a blink in time's procession from the Big Bang to the infinite future, and Earth is but one planet in a universe of infinite size and thus likely containing other civilized planets.

When I've written such thoughts in the past, readers responded by encouraging me to believe in God but I cannot believe in a God who would not stop billions of people, including infants, from dying of excruciating diseases.

So in the future, in deciding whether to take on an altruistic task, I may give greater weight to how pleasant the task will be. For example, I enjoy writing, and coaching smart, kind, willing learners on things practical: for example, career, interpersonal communication, public speaking, investments, parenting, romantic relationships, acting, and getting a good deal on purchases.
  • I'm tired of trying to fit in. I am a misfit: too intense, too goal-oriented rather than relationship-oriented, and I too often anger people. Except for brief, kind conversations--especially those in which I can solve someone's problem--I'm probably best off doing solo activities: writing, talking on the radio, and taking walks with my dog Einstein. (His name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but as sweet as they come.) UPDATE: A day after writing this, I'm finding myself wanting to reach out to people. Hmm. The results of doing the long-term vision exercise may not be so obvious nor so immediate.
  • If I get too old to live in my own home even with an in-home caretaker (hopefully that won't be for another two or even three decades,) I won't insist on living there until I die. I'll gratefully move to a modest but humane assisted-living facility and, if necessary, a nursing home.
Despite this narrative's soberness, if you'd like to know the procedure I used in writing my long-term vision, here it is:

1. I wrote a description of my present life: career, relationships, money, health, and spirituality (secular humanism.)

2. In each of those areas, I asked myself what I'd like to be different 20 years from now. I wrote quite-feasible-to-achieve goals but you may wish to aim for loftier ones. Many people are more motivated by ambitious goals and enjoy the process of trying to achieve those goals, even if they never get accomplished.

3. I asked myself, "What do I want to do differently today in light of my long-term vision? The answers are the first two bulleted items above.

Note: I wrote my statement of present life and vision for the future quite quickly, then went back to edit it. Then I put it aside for a couple of hours and re-edited.

If you write your long-term vision, feel free, on this blog, to post a comment describing what you learned from the exercise.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"The Sexiest Man Alive:" A play about a couple with mismatched sex drives

I've just completed writing a play, The Sexiest Man Alive, which explores a couple's attempt to deal with mismatched sex drives and other compatibilities.

Your feedback is welcome. Read it by clicking HERE. Or if you prefer to read a fully formatted version, email me and I'll send it to you as a Microsoft Word attachment. My email address is

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Job Stimulus Plan: How to Grow a New Army of Ethical Entrepreneurs

With unemployment and underemployment so high, there's a temptation to provide quick fixes for creating jobs. And those may indeed be necessary for political as well as practical reasons, but the most potent approach requires time.

If President Obama were to ask me for recommendations on how to create jobs, #1 on my list would be to grow a new army of ethical entrepreneurs. In this article, I present the blueprint for doing so.

First, the definition:What is an ethical entrepreneur?An ethical entrepreneur:
  • has the antennae to smell out opportunities for ethical, valuable new products and services that could be provided by a company.
  • the power to persuade the boss, investors, the government, or a nonprofit to invest in the creation and dissemination of the product or service.
  • will only start a business that's profitable when considering the triple bottom line of profits, people, and planet. Additionally, it must be a business that will be profitable even though salespeople are ordered to be scrupulously honest: fully disclosing product weaknesses, delivery dates, and extent of post-sales support, and in which salespeople are required to discourage potential customers from buying if the product is inappropriate for that customer.
Why Creating More Entrepreneurs is Crucial
Only entrepreneurs can create permanent jobs because government can only create jobs to the extent of tax revenues, and those come from businesses. Without entrepreneurs, there are no start-ups. Without intrepreneurs (entrepreneurs who work within a company,) large businesses can, at best, grow slowly: selling more of their product as population increases or as the result of marketing efforts.

Increasing the number of ethical entrepreneurs would increase the chances of millions more Americans making a good living, especially those not academically oriented. Today, so many such people struggle to pay the rent, spend so much time looking for their next job and after landing one, living in fear of getting laid off because of a personality dispute, because it's a project job with a built-in end date, or that their job will be shipped to a low-cost country. Instead, a new army of entrepreneurs will be hiring themselves as their own business's CEO or as intrepreneurs within a company, nonprofit, or the government.

Of course, beyond creating jobs, entrepreneurs benefit us all by creating new services and products: from soap to the steam engine, glass to google, anesthetic to automobiles, the icebox to the iPhone, housekeepers to hospice.

Entrepreneurship can foster not only commercial products and services but help us achieve our larger societal goals. The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship's core goal is "to unleash young people's ideas around the issues that matter most to society, from poverty reduction to climate change, and to foster a global culture that recognizes entrepreneurs as drivers of economic and social prosperity. "

How do we encourage the development of a new army ethical entrepreneurs?

Primarily by suffusing the K-16 curriculum with ethical entrepreneurship education. From kindergarten through college, the curriculum would include hands-on opportunities to learn ethical entrepreneurship. They would apply principles of budget, finance, persuasion, ethics (See above,) etc., to create small enterprises, guided not only by the teacher, but by inspiring, ethical entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. (The latter are people who use sound business methods to create non-profit ventures aimed at improving society.

How could entrepreneurship education be fit into an already packed school day? Lengthen the school day and school year, which brings the additional advantage of ameliorating the nation's child care problem. Also, pare elements of the existing curriculum that are less important than entrepreneurship. Could anyone reasonably argue that it's more important that all students know geometric theorems than learn ethical entrepreneurship? Than deciphering Shakespeare's arcane allusions and vocabulary? The intricacies of the periodic table of chemical elements? All those wars from the Peloponnesian to the War of the Roses? The celebration of multiculturalism to which so much time is devoted in today's curriculum?

The K-16 inclusion of ethical entrepreneurship education should be supplemented by out-of-school activities. In that regard, the U.S. could learn some lessons from abroad. For example, a recent issue of The Economist , reports that "According to the British Enterprise Week’s website, Britain has nearly 3,000 events designed to inspire and educate young and aspiring entrepreneurs, from a workshop on “Growing Your Business” in Ipswich to a “Could You Be A Million Maker?” contest in Blackpool, in which school and college students create their own mini-enterprises."

What about adults? Certainly courses in entrepreneurship, already offered by the Small Business Administration, state employment departments, colleges, and by the private sector should be more publicized and expanded as needed. SCORE, an SBA-program that matches aspiring entrepreneurs with retired executives should be expanded. Ethics are too small a component within most such courses. Ethics, as defined earlier, must be made central.

I believe no initiative has greater potential to create jobs, innovation, and, in turn, improve the world than to grow an army of ethical entrepreneurs, and I believe the above model could make it happen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One Resolution You Should Make...And Might Actually Keep

One of my clients, "Adam Michaels," has, for years, fought to be more responsible: set goals, not procrastinate, see tasks through to completion. He's had years of therapy, read a libraryful of self-help books, and had a few sessions with me, a career and life coach. Nothing has worked.

So today, I asked Adam, "Moving forward, do you think it's wiser to keep trying to become more responsible or to accept that this is who you are, just as I must accept that I will never be a professional artist." He cried...and voted for self-acceptance.

If he keeps to that decision, that may ensure he'll never accomplish what he'd hope to accomplish, professionally and personally. But continuing to try to morph himself into something he's not won't likely help him accomplish more. It will mainly just torture him, just as forcing me to continually take art classes would torture me without increasing my chances of becoming a professional artist.

Remember the story of the scorpion that asked a frog to
carry him across the river. The frog is afraid of being stung but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, both of them would drown. The frog then agrees. Yet in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, "I'm a scorpion; it's my nature."

So as we enter 2010, Adam's story may be a useful reminder that New Year's resolutions are generally a waste of time. We haul out the same old vows, the triumph of hope over experience, that this time will be different: We will stay on our diet. We will find a better job. We will be nicer to our spouse. We will stop using our treadmill as a clothes rack. And by January 10, nearly all of us will slink back from our resolutions, reminded yet again of our formidable resistance to change.

Sure, if you have a new, achievable goal, something that doesn't require a personality transplant, it may help to make it a New Year's resolution. Doing so can keep that goal top-of-mind. But if you have a musty old collection of never-kept resolutions, you might, this year, keep them in the closet and instead, make just one new one: "I will accept myself, flaws and all."

Monday, November 23, 2009

We Send Too MANY Students to College

Today, I was on NPR's Talk of the Nation again to talk about the fact that we send too many students to college.

The fact that the AVERAGE college graduate makes more money doesn't mean that the hundreds of thousands of students in the bottom half of their high school class that" four-year" colleges not only admit but woo, wouldn't be wiser to pursue an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, short-term community college training program, or learn entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful, ethical businessperson.

Indeed , according to the U.S. Department of Education, of college freshmen who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, 2/3 don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years.

My co-guest Julianne Malveaux immediately pulled the race card saying that I, a white male, failed to take into account the legacy of slavery.

HERE is the link to the interview.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No new posts for a while

I'll be blogging little or not at all for the coming six weeks or so. I'm devoting as much as possible of my discretionary time to finish writing the aforementioned play, "The Sexiest Man Alive."

It's about a nominee for "Sexiest Man Alive," who in fact has low sex drive. Most of the play occurs on his wedding night.

The play will not only be a window into a couple's struggle to cope with mismatched sex drives but also reveals their attempt to address the question: How good does a marriage need to be to be worth saving? The play includes the couple's unvarnished exploration of their feelings about all aspects of their marriage, for example, children, money, career, and religion. I'll try to leaven the play's seriousness with humor.

I worry about my ability to create characters the audience will care about and dialogue that's believable, powerful and, yes, funny. But I'll give it a shot.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog and to encourage you to click on the words in the label cloud on the right side to read about topics of interest to you. And for longer articles, mostly about career, education, and men's issues, check my site:

I'll be back when I can. Wish me luck.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keys to a Great Screenplay or Stage Play

In preparing to write my stage play, "The Sexiest Man Alive," I read three fine books on the craft: The Art and Craft of Playwriting, Naked Playwriting (terrible title, fine book) and In Their Company (interviews with 50 iconic playwrights).

I took eight pages of single-spaced notes but here are the nuggets I most want to remember:

Most memorable characters are likeable, even the villains, who you admire for their brilliance, soft spot, etc.

Write for people smarter than you. Make your characters smart, if only street-smart.

Make your audience eager to know what will happen next.

Your protagonists must have arcs: the play's events must transform them.

Always keep your hero in trouble. We must see the characters under pressure, struggling, and see how they respond.

In addition to the big conflicts, a play needs dozens often hundreds of smaller ones, each resolved and replaced with another often bigger one.

Your audience must feel delight when the power shifts from protagonist to protagonist and back again.

Hitchcock described suspense as "the addition of information." Like a strip tease: a little more, a little more.

A full-length play needs more than one question to keep the audience interested. So, pose sub-questions, inner questions, side questions, thematic questions.

Write sparely. Better to show than tell. Only have your characters speak when they are compelled to.

Real characters interpret, misinterpret, and read unintended meanings into everything said to them.

Sometimes, the speaker is evading, pouting, defensive, talking to themselves as much as to their protagonist.

Constantly ask yourself not just what would your character do but what could they credibly do?

Subtext-laden dialogue (not saying what you mean) is high dialogue and fun for the audience. It's often accomplished by understatement, inarticulateness, or metaphor.

Look for opportunities to create honest spectacle. For example, I may have the husband dump a bucket of ice on his wife's crotch.

Perhaps most important, you must bring to your playwriting, all your heart, soul, humor, imagination, sensibility, history, and your life's experiences.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

You May Need Not Baby Steps but Micro Steps

I suggested to one of my career counseling clients that she call 20 potential employers. She exclaimed, "I can't even say hello to a store clerk and you want me to cold contact 20 employers?"

That reminded me of how fear-filled many people are. So if even a baby step feels too big, ask yourself what is the microstep you could take: the step that is so easy, you wouldn't be tempted to procrastinate it.

For example, if you're too scared to cold contact even one employer, try writing a script for a 10-second pitch. Then read it aloud, perhaps into a recorder. Listen to the recording and keep trying it until you like it. Then give your 10-second pitch to a best friend. Next, call one prospective employer--one you don't mind at all screwing up with.

How to Outsource, Offshore to India

Silicon Valley insider and India specialist, Sramana Mitra says you can get your low-level work, such as data entry done in India for $2 an hour, basic programming for $5 an hour, and webmaster-level work for $10 an hour.

And it's easy to find such workers:,, and

She does recommend you interview them (Skype video and audio calls are free worldwide) and ask for references. Be sure they can communicate effectively verbally and in writing--You want to be sure they understand what you want done.

Also, try them out on a $50 or $100 project before hiring them for a biggie.

I'd imagine that reading this is scary to Americans who have invested a fortune in college and expect $30-100 an hour, plus benefits, 12 weeks a year of Family and Marriage Leave, rights to sue for wrongful termination, etc.

Hot Tech Fields

I interviewed Silicon Valley insider Sramana Mitra on my NPR-San Francisco show today. She said most of the action is in:
  • Search engine optimization
  • Health care information technology
  • Online training and education
  • Gaming
  • Marketing using social media (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • CleanTech
  • iPhone and to a lesser extent, Blackberry and Droid apps.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Make Peace with Working in a Bureaucracy

Whether working in a company, nonprofit, or government agency, many employees are frustrated with the politics, lack of autonomy, and slow pace of getting things done.

But most employees are too scared--often understandably--to quit and become self-employed or to work for a tiny company, where job security is an oxymoron and resources are what one seeks rather than has.

So what's a wage slave to do? Of course, there's no perfect answer but I had a client today who now feels more willing to stay in his corporate job because of a suggestion I made: When experiencing your bureaucracy's inefficiency, if you can't reasonably change it, be not angry but amused.

That's not as difficult as it may seem. It mainly requires keeping the big picture in mind: For example, if your customer buys your competitor's product, will the world be that much worse? If it takes another month for your initiative to be implemented, is it that big a deal? If your co-worker's idea gets adopted, not yours, will your career really be much affected? Actually, you may be more likely to be perceived well if, after unsuccessfully making the case for your idea, you congratulate the other person and move on to the next issue.

Ironically, being less invested in an outcome while still working diligently will usually result in your organization turning out at least as good work, and your co-workers and bosses having better lives because you're not unduly forceful or passive-aggressive.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Relentlessness: The Key to Success

I keep finding that successful people have, in addition to intelligence, one key quality: relentlessness. They latch on a goal and then persist in a comprehensive attack on it.

For example, if I aspired to the long-shot career of sportswriter, I'd:
  • identify the 20 sportswriters I most admire. For each, I'd read five or ten of their most recent articles, taking notes on what I most wanted to emulate.
  • then write to each of them, explaining how much I admired them, and would include the aforementioned examples. I'd ask if they would offer me career advice and/or feedback on articles I've written.
  • send profuse thanks and a new article of mine to any sportswriters that responded. Eventually, I'd ask for leads and a letter of recommendation for a job or internship.
  • read the useful articles on the websites of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, Baseball Writers Association of America, Football Writers Association of America, and U.S. Basketball Writers Association. I'd network and get advice at their national conferences and local chapter meetings. And I'd keep writing a lot, ever incorporating the useful feedback I was getting.
Despite sportswriting being a long-shot career, if I had at least moderate talent, I'd bet I'd achieve my goal of becoming a professional sportswriter.

Even in mundane fields, relentlessness is the most potent way to ensure your success. If you wait for good things to happen, or you tackle things in drips and drabs, unless you're brilliant or lucky, you'll likely be waiting for Godot.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Holiday Presents, Bah, Humbug! (There's a Better Alternative)

Exchanging presents at Christmas (oops, also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and Winter Solstice) is a practice that is ripe for replacement, at least for those of us who already have too much stuff.

Instead of giving more stuff to clutter your recipients' lives or for them to have to shlep back because it doesn't fit or they hate it, why not, in the recipient's name, give a donation to the charity of your choice?

The charity I'm currently hot on is SmileTrain. Millions of kids in developing nations have cleft palates. That makes them not only very unattractive, shunned by children and later by adults, but often unable to speak comprehensibly. Yet a simple one-hour surgery can render the child completely normal and able to live up to his or her potential. SmileTrain, which focuses on rural India, has already performed 500,000 such surgeries but millions more kids need it.

I must admit to a particular appreciation of Indians, indeed all Asians, because they are an impressive people: Despite being as visibly different from white Americans as any minority and other immigrants, they, even as new immigrants, have low crime rates and instead, in greater proportions than the general population, become top contributors to society, for example, as physicians, successful businesspeople, and innovators in Silicon Valley's high-tech and biotech worlds. So when we cure an Asian child's cleft palate, it strikes me that we are likely to be unleashing especially good potential that otherwise would go for naught.

Of course, you may have another charity that you're more inclined to donate to but there is one charity I believe is a poor choice: a college scholarship fund. Such donations are likely to provide little help per charitable dollar invested.

Let me explain why. Donating to a scholarship rarely does what most donors think it does: enable a student to attend college who otherwise couldn't. Instead, what usually happens is that your donation is used to tweak an already admitted student's financial aid package.

If the student is lucky, your donation is used to convert some portion of the student's government-paid student loan into grant. In that case, you are essentially opting to pay additional tax--you've chosen to pay the loan subsidy that the government otherwise would have paid. Thanks to you, the government keeps the money. That's very different from what scholarship fund solicitors imply: that you're enabling a student to attend college who otherwise couldn't.

If the student "recipient" is not lucky, your donation is used to replace the scholarship the college would otherwise have given the student to induce him or her to choose that college. The college figures, "Good! S/he got the money from someone else, so we can keep the dough in our coffers!" The student doesn't get an additional dime.

Even if your donation is given to a student before choosing a college, funding a scholarship is a poor use of your charity dollars. The student, knowing s/he has a chunk of other people's money to use to pay college tuition, is thus disincented to look for a cost-effective college. If it was his own money, s/he might, for example, wisely conclude that a good public university is a prudent choice, perhaps even a very-low-cost community college for the first two years. But if the student has your money to spend on tuition, s/he's likely to give less weight to cost-effectiveness in choosing a college.

Of course, the most important argument against funding a scholarship as your charity of choice is that, for example, a $250 donation to pay for a child to have a cleft palate fixed will likely do far greater good.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

America's Forced March to the Left

The drug-induced anti-authority, anti-discipline, hippie era of the '60s combined with America's drubbing in Vietnam and the spectacular birth of the Black Power and feminist movements led America to become ever more contemptuous of right-of-center thought.

Because that is more a movement of passion than of reason, it has--outside the hard sciences--rapidly accelerated in zeal, power, and influence, which has led to leftist thinking dominating society's mind molders: the colleges and the media: including most of the major newspapers, book and magazine publishers, and TV news networks, led by CNN.

That, of course, is bringing about, not withstanding occasional pauses, an ever more leftward-leaning electorate, which has resulted in the election of the most radical president in American history. And the leftward trend is accelerating yet further. He's only been in office for nine months and already, he has taken over the nation's largest car company and all college lending from banks, mortgaged our children's future by forcing through a wildly cavalier "stimulus," plan, filled with leftist policies--for example, transportation spending designed to force us out of our cars and into wildly time-wasting mass transit. Most dangerous, ObamaCare will ensure that taxpayers will die earlier by providing health insurance to everyone, without regard to their ability to pay, including, after he gives them amnesty, the 12-to-20 million illegals. You can't provide health care for 43 million more people with the same numbers of doctors, nurses, MRI machines, operating rooms, etc., without killing more people--Already, over 100,000 people die of medical errors every year. And to ensure that his dragging of America leftward accelerates, he's skirted Congress by naming 37 czars to move America ever leftward.

The only remaining major mass-media sources of conservative thought are the admittedly sometimes overwrought (e.g., Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck) Fox News and some conservative radio talk show hosts, notably Rush Limbaugh. And now, the White House and its complicit media, is trying to eliminate even their relatively small influence. For example, the media ridicules Limbaugh while promoting such equally biased and frothing leftists as former sportscaster, now Obaman pit bull Keith Olbermann. Limbaugh's drug problem was exploited viciously by the media, and now, with frighteningly little evidence, the media is tarring Limbaugh as a racist, the worst epithet that, today, can be bestowed. It's McCarthyism from the Left.

And to assault the last bastion of right-of-center thought, the White House is refusing to provide access to Fox News, the only major news organization to seriously question Obama policies: the many hard leftists on the Obama campaign team (not to mention his white-hating pastor of 20 years Jeremiah Wright,) ObamaCare, his massive expansion of government, the Acorn scandals, skirting Congress by creating more than 30 leftist czarships, etc. Ironically, the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Fox provided the presidential campaign's most fair and balanced coverage.

Let me be clear, I do not like many of Fox News's rightwing lightweights. But listen, for example, to the regular Fox News debates among the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol on the right and Juan Williams and Mara Liasson on the left and I think you'd be hard-pressed to broad-brush dismiss Fox News.

Compare those with CNN "debates," in which CNN regularly pits a brilliant leftist such as Paul Begala or Julian Epstein against a lightweight conservative such as Bay Buchanan or Alex Castellanos. That's like the president of the American League pitting his best home-run hitter against a minor leaguer from the National League in a home-run hitting contest. That hardly proves that the American League has better hitters.

Do you truly believe America will be better now that we are significantly exposed only to left-of-center ideas? If the country veers ever more leftward? Are the following ideas so apriori wrong that they should be given short shrift and in many cases, outright censored: individual responsibility, discipline, order, fiscal restraint, meritocracy rather than reverse discrimination, free-market versus big government solutions, a clear-eyed look at the pros and cons of providing another amnesty for illegals, the science behind global warming, the risk-reward ratios of "environment-saving" restrictions on our lives, a fair-minded risk/reward analysis of nuclear energy and of ObamaCare, and more careful stewardship of our tax dollars?

As readers of this blog know, I hold some liberal views, many libertarian and a few conservative ones, but perhaps most important, I believe society is, by far, best when we are exposed to the full range of benevolently derived ideas. Alas, America has raced toward ensuring that we are exposed overwhelmingly to leftist views. That trend has rapidly accelerated under President Obama and his complicit media.

Lord Acton said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Obama is verging on absolute power and is using it to stifle all dissent. That worries me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making a Living at Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Moving Sales, and Estate Sales

I predict that you could make a living from garage sales, yard sales, moving sales, and estate sales, as follows:

Every week, consult local newspapers and websites to find the upcoming garage, yard, moving, and estate sales. Especially note those in middle- to upper-class older neighborhoods. Why older? Because their residents are more likely to have been there for years and thus have more good stuff to sell. Use to print out a map of the area, and put an X on the locations of all the sales you plan to visit.

On the first morning of the sale, plan to arrive at your first stop at least 15 minutes before its scheduled start time. Bring your iPhone or other wireless internet device with you so you can check to see what similar items sold for.

Generally, the professionally run sales are the worst for you because they charge high prices. If you see a professional sign, skip it or come back 1/2 hour before the sale ends--at that point, they may be willing to give you a real bargain. In any event, you must be a tough negotiator or you probably won't make enough money to make this endeavor worth your while.

To take advantage of auction fever, sell your lightweight items (jewelry, collectables, etc) on ebay. Sell heavier items, for example, furniture, at a consignment store, on, or a publication read by people likely to buy the product you're selling.

Keep track of what sort of products are yielding you the highest net profit and focus subsequent treasure hunts on those items.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Latest Clean-Tech Career Information

Clean Edge, a consulting firm that focuses on the Clean Tech Industry, just issued a Job Trends report.

Here are highlights:

There’s no mistaking the types of jobs we’re talking about – they include solar system installers, wind-turbine technicians, energy-efficiency software developers, green building designers, and clean-energy marketers.

The top five sectors for clean-tech job activity in the U.S. are solar; biofuels and biomaterials; conservation and efficiency; smart grid; and wind

Here's a more detailed list:
Renewable Energy (e.g., Solar, Wind)

Energy Storage

Energy Conservation and Efficiency

Smart Grid Devices and Networks

Electric Transmission and Grid Infrastructure

Biomass and Sustainable Biofuels


Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

All-Electric Vehicles

Electric Rail

Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Transport

Advanced Transportation Infrastructure

Advanced Batteries for Vehicles


Energy-Efficient Desalination

UV Filtration

Reverse Osmosis Filtration


Automated Metering and Controls

Water Recovery and Capture



Bio-Based Materials

Reuse and Recycling

Green Building Materials

Cradle-to-Cradle Systems

Clean-Tech Job Compensation Survey

Boiler Operator Biofuels / Biomaterials $61,100 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Refuse, Garbage, and Recyclable Material


Biofuels / Biomaterials $38,100 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Research Associate, Molecular Biology Biofuels / Biomaterials $46,600 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Geothermal Power Engineer Geothermal $71,799 Entry-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Architect (LEED Certified) Green Building $58,700 Mid-Level Bachelor's Degree

Building Maintenance Engineer Green Building $43,300 Mid-Level High School/Associate’s


Energy Field Auditor Green Building $48,500 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

HVAC Service Technician Green Building $49,500 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Instrumentation & Controls Technician Green Building $72,900 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Insulation Worker Green Building $36,100 Mid-Level High School/Associate’s


Project Manager, Construction (LEED Certified) Green Building $80,000 Senior-Level Bachelor's Degree

Manufacturing Engineer PHEV / EV $60,300 Entry-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Mechanical Engineer PHEV / EV $63,600 Entry-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Accountant Renewable Energy,


$46,400 Mid-Level Bachelor's Degree

Business Analyst Renewable Energy,


$61,500 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Financial Analyst Renewable Energy,


$60,200 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Marketing Coordinator Renewable Energy,


$39,300 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Project Developer Renewable Energy,


$106,000 Mid-Level Master's Degree

Embedded Systems Engineer Smart Grid $77,100 Mid-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Hardware Design Engineer Smart Grid $87,700 Mid-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Journeyman Lineman Smart Grid $67,900 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Network Operations Center Technician Smart Grid $46,400 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Software Engineer Smart Grid $65,500 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Construction Foreman Solar PV $53,500 Senior-Level High School/Associate's


Electrical Design Engineer Solar PV $65,000 Mid-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Maintenance Technician Solar PV $44,100 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Research and Development (R&D) Lab Technician

Solar PV $41,400 Mid-Level Bachelor's Degree

Solar Energy System Installer Solar PV $40,000 Entry-Level High School/Associate's


Solar Energy Systems Designer Solar PV $42,600 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Solar Fabrication Technician Solar PV $43,800 Entry-Level High School/Associate's


System Integration Engineer Solar PV $75,100 Mid-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Construction Superintendent Wind Power $74,000 Senior-Level Bachelor's Degree

Field Service Engineer Wind Power $62,400 Mid-Level Engineering Bachelor's


Sheet Metal Worker Wind Power $50,300 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer Wind Power $50,300 Mid-Level High School/Associate's


Wind Turbine Technician Wind Power $52,600 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Source: PayScale and Clean Edge, Inc., 2009

Clean-Tech Job Activity – Top 15 U.S. Metro Areas*

1 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA

2 Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, CA

3 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA

4 Boston-Worcester-Lawrence-Lowell-Brockton, MA-NH

5 Washington-Baltimore, D.C.-MD-VA-WV

6 Denver-Boulder-Greeley, CO

7 Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton, WA

8 Portland-Salem, OR

9 Chicago-Gary-Kenosha, IL-IN-WI

10 Sacramento-Yolo County, CA

11 San Diego, CA

12 Austin-San Marcos, TX

13 Phoenix, AZ

14 Detroit-Ann Arbor, MI

15 Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX

In addition to pure plays, diversified multinational corporations are also adding to the ranks of emerging clean-tech jobs. Siemens currently has 5,500 employees working for its wind business, BP has more than 2,200 solar employees, and GE Energy, with a diverse portfolio of both conventional and rapidly expanding clean-energy activities, employs 40,000. Other multinationals with significant clean-tech workforces, among a growing list, include Sharp, Toyota, and ABB. And, as we point out later in the report, major entities such as utilities are hiring more clean-tech workers as they transform their businesses.

Next Big Thing in IT Jobs: Networking the Grid

The smart grid has become one of the hottest areas of clean

tech. What is it? Well, it’s a lot of things, ranging from enhanced

grid monitoring and renewable energy integration to

smart meter networking and consumer energy management.

Deployment of these upgrades to the world’s electrical grids

will require an enormous amount of manpower – and this

means jobs.

There will be plenty of opportunities for traditional grid workers:

installing smart meters, building transmission and distribution

networks, and integrating new generation capacity.

But the heart of the smart grid is in the digital management

of data, not unlike the Internet. With even more potential

nodes than the Internet, however, the smart grid will be the

mother of all networks, placing the work of creating smart

grids largely on the shoulders of the IT community.


Blogs are a great way to keep up with the latest news and gather insight from some of the brightest minds following the industry. Below is a sampling of what we feel are some of the best clean-tech blogs. To track these and other industry blogs,


Apollo Alliance Blog Green Tech Pastures – ZDNet

earth2tech R-Squared Energy Blog

Green Collar Blog Clean Techies

Green Tech – CNET Environmental Capital - WSJ

Green Light – Greentech Media Gunther Portfolio

Clean Technica Green Inc – NYT Venture Beat – Green Beat

Green for All Blog


Conferences/Career Fairs

Here are a few of the best events at which to explore clean-tech opportunities and support the clean energy economy.

Good Jobs, Green Jobs Green Career Conference (SD, SF, LA) Green Professionals’ Conference

Networking Organizations & Nonprofits

Eco Tuesday Apollo Alliance

Green Drinks Green America

Net Impact Green For All

Renewable Energy Business Network Repower America

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Best Careers in 2010

I just wrote an article on choosing a career that will appear in American Mensa's magazine. Part of the article consists of these descriptions of 16 careers I believe are particularly worthy of consideration by Mensans and other intelligent people. Perhaps you'll find one or more that you might want to check-out:

Researcher with expertise in two or more of these: physics, math, molecular biology, engineering, and/or computer science. Key specializations:

  • energy: e.g., developing space-based solar power, in-vehicle hydrogen fuel generator, algae that's genetically engineered for maximum net energy yield, efficient insulators such as nanolevel-designed coatings, long-cruising-range batteries for electric vehicles.
  • genomics : e.g., determining what gene clusters affect what phenotypes, developing safe, effective methods of gene knockouts and transfers.
  • neurophysics: e.g., understanding the physics of depression, ADD, schizophrenia, retardation, etc.
  • diagnostic imaging: e.g., developing molecular-level medical imaging.
  • pollution control: e.g., nuclear waste neutralizers, nanolevel pollution filters.

    Before getting too excited, remember that after getting that hard-science/math Ph.D, you may need a one-to-two-year postdoc. Learn more: Career Guide for Scientists: Science Careers:

    Federal government manager, especially in homeland security, energy, health care, veterans' affairs, defense, and the environment. Common federal job titles for degree holders: program analyst, program manager, director. Also needed are country experts, especially on China, India, and Middle Eastern countries. The Federal government will be the largest source of new jobs, with 300,000 hires expected within the next two years. Learn more: Partnership for Public Service:

    Corporate executive specializing in global business development or managing global workforces. Being bilingual/bicultural in Mandarin, Hindi, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Arabic, or Farsi is a plus. Learn more: Thunderbird School of Global Management Blogs:

    Finance specialist, especially with skills in raising funds globally. Learn more: Global Finance Magazine:

    Terrorism expert, especially on bioterrorism and nuclear/radiologic weapons of mass destruction. Learn more Careers in the Age of Terrorism:
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist. The Mental Health Parity Act now requires mental health to be covered as fully as physical health, but many insurers will cover only cognitive-behavioral therapy because it 's shorter-term and has generally shown greater efficacy than traditional therapy, which explores the impact of past experiences on your psychology. Among my thousands of career coaching clients, I've found that those who have undergone long-term traditional psychotherapy often suffer side effects from the therapy: excessive self-absorption, preoccupation with their past, and/or externalization of responsibility. Learn more: Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies:

    Immigration expert. President Obama has promised a path to citizenship for America's 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants. After ObamaCare is passed, that will likely rise on his agenda. Experts will be needed to figure out how to successfully integrate such a large population of largely minimally educated, limited-English-speaking, and high-health-care need people. Learn more: Department of Homeland Security: National Council of La Raza:

    Optometrist. This career offers high success rate with patients, good income, status, and shorter-than-MD training: four years after a bachelors, seven years in a combined BS/OD program. Learn more: Bureau of Labor Statistics profile:

    Genetic counselor. With personal DNA sequencing becoming ever more informative and affordable, people face many more gene-related decisions, for example, if your genome doubles your risk of breast cancer, should you have a preventive mastectomy? Or you're pregnant and a test reveals your baby has the gene for a genetic disease that may or may not be serious. Should you abort? Genetic counselors help people figure out what to do. A master's is the terminal degree. Learn more: National Society of Genetic Counselors:

    Health informatics specialist. Hospitals, insurers, and regional collaboratives are switching to electronic medical records. Nurses and doctors, urged to do more evidence-based medicine, are using computerized expert systems to guide diagnoses and treatment recommendations. Healthcare providers also are collecting more data to evaluate quality of care. Learn more: American Medical Informatics Organization:, American Health Information Management Association:

    Patient Advocate. Even Christopher Columbus would have had a tough time navigating the tricky waters of the U.S. healthcare system, and most people, especially when ill, aren't the best navigators. Enter patient advocates. They help ensure that the patient gets to see the right specialist. They do Internet research so the patient is informed when talking to the doctor. They educate family members on how to support the patient during a hospital stay. And they sort through the mountains of bills and, if necessary, negotiate fees with the healthcare provider, insurance company, or other payer. ("Medicare, how dare you refuse to pay for that surgery?!") Click here to find out more!Learn more: Becoming a Patient Advocate:

    Program Evaluator. Not withstanding politicians' rhetoric, is Head Start really worth the taxpayer dollars? What are the benefits and liabilities of online versus in-person training of lab techs? How might a teen-pregnancy prevention program further reduce teen pregnancy? Program evaluators address such questions. Learn more: Basic Guide to Program Evaluation:

    Higher Education Administrator. Even in tough times and despite annual more-than-inflation price increases and low freshman-to-senior achievement growth, many people continue to view higher education as worth the money. So manager types may find the job market better in higher education than in corporate America. Also, colleges are among the more felicitous work environments for bright people. Plus you get lots of vacation: Neat niche: Student affairs administrator. (No, I'm not talk about assignations.) Learn more: the book, The College Administrator's Survival Guide.

    Physical Therapist. Job satisfaction surveys rate this career near the top. One-on-one interaction, with progress usual, reasonable work hours, and you get to spend more than the physician's 12 minutes per patient. In addition, the job market will be decent as aging boomers are ever more likely to sustain weekend-warrior injuries and worse. A three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy has become the standard terminal degree. Learn more: Dept of Labor profile: Department of Labor profile. American Physical Therapy Association:

    Veterinarian. For many people, this career is more desirable than physician: shorter training, you get to do a wider range of procedures, less insurance paperwork, and you avoid the uncertainties of health care reform. Of course, your patients can't describe what's wrong with them. Learn more:'s veterinary career portal:

    Media coach. I include this self-employment opportunity because it has near-zero start-up costs, demand is strong and likely to grow, and many people would find it fun. Media coaches prepare executives, job seekers and others, to do well in front of a camera or microphone: YouTube, intranet, video-resume, as well as traditional TV and radio. Learn more: the book Media Training, A-Z.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    The World's Fastest Way to Find a Career?

    This has to be the world's fastest way to find a career that matches your abilities.

    Here's how it works. At this federally created site, just click on all the skills/abilities you'd like to use in your next career, click "Go" and up pops a list of best-fitting careers.

    Scan all the careers on the the list and use your intuition to pick one or more that's worthy of investigation. Just click on that career and you'll get useful info on it.

    Still interested, Google the name of the career and the word "career." (For example: "Accountant career"). Want still more, read a book(s) on the career. You can find on-target ones by searching, search on the name of the career and the word "career."

    Finally, speak with or, better, visit one or more people on-site in that career. If it still feels right, you probably have found a well-suited career.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Why Funding a Scholarship is the Worst Charity You Could Donate To

    When you fund a scholarship (usually by donating to your college or to a charity) you are making terrible use of your charity dollars. Here's why:
    • You're probably NOT enabling a kid to attend college who otherwise wouldn't. Contrary to the sales pitches that many fundraisers use or imply, very few students would be unable to attend an appropriate college in the absence of your money. You're merely substituting your money for the government's or college's. (The college's money heavily comes from such sources as tax dollars and government- or corporate-paid overhead payments.) The kid would have attended college, probably the same college, and almost certainly an equally appropriate college without your money.
    • Usually, your donation makes college only minimally more affordable to a student. The amount of your scholarship dollars is usually deducted dollar-for-dollar(!) from the financial aid the student would otherwise get from the government or the college.
    Usually, the best a student can hope for is that the college will convert his taxpayer- or college-subsidized low-interest loan into a grant. So, for every dollar you donate, only a few cents actually gets to the student. We'd never donate to a charity that had even 30% overhead, yet here, you're donating to a charity that is almost all overhead!
    • A student's receiving your scholarship reduces his or her motivation to select the most cost-effective college.
    • You incur a huge opportunity cost. There are so many uses of charity dollars more likely to lead to greater societal good. For example, I have given money to a blue-collar school district that provides little or no special programming for its high-ability elementary school kids. (The funding and attention in most schools has been diverted to low achievers, to meet the government's No Child Left Behind mandates.) That donation enables those kids, with so much potential to make a difference in the world, to get appropriate education and co-curricular experiences they otherwise would not get. I've also donated money to the Population Council, which makes birth control and reproductive education available to third-world women, and to The National Organization for Rare Diseases, which funds research on diseases too rare for the drug companies to invest in.
    Think three times before saying yes to your college's or charity's highly sophisticated pitches for your money to fund scholarships. Your charity dollars will do much more good elsewhere. Besides, you've already paid your college a fortune for an education that many thoughtful people conclude does not yield sufficient benefit for all the money and time.