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.