Saturday, December 31, 2011

Career, Workplace, and Economic Predictions and Trends for 2012 and Beyond

My latest article (republished on offers my career, workplace, and economic predictions and trends for 2012 and beyond. HERE is the link.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Two Keys to Achieving Your Goals and Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

You can set goals and make New Year's resolutions but you'll probably fail unless you remember one thing: stay conscious.

Let's say you want to lose 20 pounds in six months. That meets all the usual criteria for a good goal: realistic, specific, and important. But you will fail unless you stay conscious of the importance of your achieving your goal, from the moment you start thinking about eating through the moment you finish or get distracted by something else. Without that vigilance, it's just too easy to succumb to "Ooh, that food will taste good." It may also help to break your goal into a small step:one pound in the next four days, for example.

Another example: You want to land a job within three months and, to that end, you want to put in 30 good hours a week. During those 30 hours, you must stay conscious that you must put in the time, reminding yourself of all the benefits you'd get from landing a job. Again, it can help to break it down into smaller goals, for example, I'll make five calls today.

If staying conscious isn't enough, tell one or more people your goal and deadline and, if necessary, ask if you could check in daily. For example, ask if you could email them the letter grade A through F you'd give yourself for your day's work.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three tips from my new book: How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school

Here, I present three tips from my just-published book, How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school. It's available on Amazon for $15.00. HERE is the link. I'd welcome your writing an honest review of it on Amazon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Career Advice: What I said to a panel of student interviewers

A group of broadcast journalism students did a series of six six-minute interviews with me. Most of the questions were on how to be a career success in these tough times. Here are those interviews.

Note: The first minute is pre-interview fooling around. And the following minute or so has a few audio squeaks--they are student engineers. But the other 33 minutes are okay.

My new book, "How to Do Life" is now available

I've just published my new book, How to Do Life: what they didn't teach in school.

Perhaps it's author bias but I believe it is an invaluable assemblage of ahead-of-the-pack ideas on career, relationships, money, health, education, and life's big questions, all in 142 crisply written, even mildly entertaining pages.

Many but not all of its ideas have been presented on this blog and on my website. The book presents them in a coherent package.

I've priced it at just $7.99 because I'm far more interested in being helpful than in making money.

I believe How to Do Life would be of great benefit to people of any age but particularly appropriate for someone just starting out.

HERE is the link to the Amazon page where you can buy it. Do note that the cover may be the one above or the one pictured on the Amazon site. (I can't control which.)

Both a printed-book and Kindle version are available.

I welcome your writing an honest review of it on Amazon.

You Can Vote For or Against Staycations in The Atlantic

I've long felt that vacations longer than two hours aren't worth it. If your worklife is so unpleasant that you need longer breaks, maybe you'd be wiser to try to get your job description changed, get better at your job, or if you can, find better a better job or self-employment.

And if you or your honey feel you need a longer break, you'll probably get more restoration and even novelty with far less hassle and cost with a staycation: using your home as the base of your vacation operations: You can go to that restaurant you know is great, see those friends you keep saying you want to see, and make that Grand Marnier souffle you've been dying to try.

And unless you're one of those spiritual souls for whom stepping into the Parthenon makes you feel so one with history that it's worth the $$$ and hassles getting to and fro, you may feel you've derived more pleasure per buck and minute by watching high-quality travel videos without cost or hassle on YouTube. For example, HERE is a free five-minute tour of Malaysia. The company that produced that video has created dozens of other free video tours of vacation destinations. To see more, HERE is the link.

I've made the case for staycations on this blog but not elsewhere...until now. It's my Question of the Week in The Atlantic: If and when is it wiser to have a staycation than a vacation? If you'd like to weigh in, just click HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We're All Miseducated

We are educated by the wrong people: teachers, professors, journalists, filmmakers, fiction authors.

Teachers score lowest among all professionals on the SAT, and qualitatively, spend time with K-12 teachers and, unless you're a dullard yourself, you'll find most of them, well, dull: usually caring but unlikely to educate beyond a minimum, let alone inspire or elevate their students.

Professors are people who opted out of the real world so they can study arcana for a lifetime--not the best people to abet students' real-world functioning. And because there is a near litmus test for hiring professors in the humanities and social sciences, college and graduate school education is truncated: right-of-center ideas will usually be absent from the curriculum except as whipping boys. Some but not all wisdom resides left-of-center.

Journalists disproportionately self-select into the profession because they want to change the world--in the leftist direction their professors monolithically extolled. And most journalists have little real-world experience to temper their being True Believers in leftist theory: that the privileged white male capitalists are destroying society, especially women and people of color. In previous generations, that was tempered by journalism school professors urging students to strive to be fair and balanced. Now, many journalism professors urge "advocacy journalism," even in supposedly straight-news pieces.

Films nearly always have a leftist bias. For example, filmmakers generally portray corporations as evil --even though, for example, if not for corporations, you'd have no medication, no refrigeration, no TV, no computer, no car, no public transportation, etc. And corporations' efficiency enables even most low-income Americans to afford all of the above. Not to mention that big corporations offer some of the more secure, well-paying, well-benefited jobs, with ongoing free training, all in a safe, pleasant environment. But you'll rarely see that message in a major film. The hero is much more often a have-not.

I've been taking a number of literature courses through The Great Courses, for example, THIS, (taught of course, by leftist professors) and I've learned that the authors of most of our revered literature are misfits, so offbeat (depressed, alcoholic, or simply downright weird,) they nearly always honor the weird person over the straight arrow. And, like journalists, most fiction writers, holed up in their atelier most of their life, have little real-world experience to provide a reality check for their dreamt-up ideas.

I'm not in a bad position to assess the extent to which the above arguments are true. I've trained student teachers and observed many so-called master teachers. I've been on the faculty of the University of California and the California State University and been a consultant to 15 colleges, so I know lots of professors from the inside. I've been a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Kiplinger, U.S., News, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic. So I know journalists. I'm always looking for the metamessages in books, movies, and the news media's reporting. And as a career counselor who has worked with 3,900 clients over the past quarter century, and someone who, even at parties, loves to talk with people about their worklife, I have a pretty good sense of what our society's mind molders are like compared with other intelligent people.

As a result of all of this, I have concluded that we would be better educated if we were taught mainly, although not exclusively, by society's doers: businesspeople, those who work in nonprofits, tradespeople, as well as in the government. The older I get, the more I believe in a variant of the old saw: those who can, do; those who can't, teach, write, or make movies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Overcoming Shyness: An inspiring story (with music)

Here's the one-woman show I wrote with Jeffrie Givens. She's the performer and I accompanied her on the piano.

It's called Big, Black, and Shy. It's the improbable story of how she went from being extraordinarily shy to, well, I don't want to give away the ending.

We performed it for the first time yesterday at my home to a packed house of 22 people. I was pleased with how it went.

Here is the video:

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Case for Economic Agnosticism

What's the best economic system: Socialism? Communism? Capitalism? A hybrid?

So many factors affect an economy that history nor theory provide adequate basis for dispositive judgment.

Thus, despite today's era of polarized opinions, it strikes me that the only responsible positions on the subject are agnosticism or advocacy of some sort of capitalism/socialism hybrid.

What do you think?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing Careers in Midlife and Beyond

This is my next column in Germany's Spotlight magazine. I thought you might enjoy an advance look.

It's not easy to change careers, especially if you're older and especially in this economy, but it can be done. These are the ways my career coaching clients have most often done it:

1. Ask all your relatives and friends, real-life and online, for example, on Facebook and LinkedIn. Unless it's a very low-level job, most often it's only a friend who will be willing to hire someone with no experience, which by definition, is what a career changer is. Tell your relatives and friends in ten words or less what you're looking for. Examples:
  • I'd like to combine my law degree with an interest in health care.
  • I'd love a job working with my hands, especially outdoors.
  • I'm not an artist but I like working with aesthetic products: fashion, decor, art.
  • I've very social so any professional job where I work on teams would be fine.
Note that you needn't be highly specific. If you're too specific, for example, "I'm looking for a job as a project manager in a fuel cell fabricator," the odds are too small that your friends will have leads for you. On the other hand, it's usually wise not to say "I'm open to anything." That makes you seem desperate and unskilled at anything.

2. Train with a short program. Most older people don't find it worth the time to complete a multi-year degree program. And remember that older people tend to take longer than the expected time to complete their degree. So look at short job training programs offered by your professional association, a community college, etc.

Examples of careers with relatively short training: fundraising, project management, sales, iPhone technician, piano tuner, home stager, bookkeeper/tax preparer, irrigation designer/installer, locksmith, auto body repairer, baker, bus or truck driver, massage therapist, nanny, and database administrator. Not only are such programs a source of fast training but often of job leads from your instructors and your fellow students.

3. Become self-employed. It's tough to convince an employer to hire an older person even if s/he has much experience. It's harder still if you're changing careers--no experience, no contact list, nothing. So, if you're a self-starter and cost-conscious, you may wish to start your own business. You instantly go from disgruntled employee to CEO, where you run things as you like.

Key to maximizing your chances of success is to copy an already successful simple business: Don't innovate; replicate. Rather than be a guinea pig for some untested idea, it's far safer to replicate someone else's successful business in a different location. For example, let's say you notice gourmet soup/sandwich/salad trucks have long lines. Visit the few busiest ones and incorporate their best features into your own, of course, in a busy location.

4. Decide you don't need a career change, just a career tweak. Might you be happy enough if you did the same work but for a different boss? Different work for your current employer? If the latter, give your boss a proposal for a revised job description that would emphasize your strengths and preferences while meeting your employer's needs.

I should warn you that many of my clients find themselves no happier in their new career in their old one. They bring their weaknesses or bad attitude with them to the new career. So look inward and ask yourself, "Honestly, am I likely to be so much happier and more successful in my new career that it's worth the time, money, and hassle of starting over?"

If so, great. I have indeed seen people become happier in both their professional and personal life from a career change--even if it means a decline in status. One person was a Ph.D. school psychologist but was frustrated at the slow progress of special needs children. She quit, became a pediatric nurse, and is ecstatic!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Justice System Reinvented

Our justice system is laborious, expensive, and too often, what prevails is not justice but the better lawyer.

In my latest Washington Post column, I propose a reinvention of our justice system.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do Christmas Trees Belong in the Workplace?

I've just been hired as a columnist for The column is a bit unusual in that, before writing it, I ask's readers to opine on a question. I then write the column based on their answers and my own thinking.

The first question is, "Do Christmas trees belong in the workplace?" If you'd like to weigh in, HERE is the link.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Communicating Honestly... without getting your head chopped off

I gave a pre-conference workshop today: Communicating Honestly... without getting your head chopped off.

I thought you might like to see a list of the main points:

To be effective, you must be a detective and a chameleon, changing your style depending on who you're talking with: High or low energy, intellectual or simple, emotional or fact-centered, nurturing or tough-love, closed-ended vs. open-ended questions, give advice or be a facilitator of their thoughts, etc.

Showing you care is among the most important things you can do.

In a particular situation, if you think it's wise to reduce the power imbalance, share a weakness, e.g., if they're sitting, you sit. Say things like, "This is hard for me."

There's usually no need to burst someone's dream. Going for their dream will likely fuel them to do the work needed to get there. Even if they don't succeed, they probably will have learned more and accomplished more from having tried than if you squelched their dream. And of course, they'll more likely like you.

If possible, avoid arguing. For example, if your client, a high school student, says, "I don't need math to be an actress," briefly acknowledge them without starting a conversation about it, e.g., "I understand," and move the conversation to somewhere you'd like it to go. For example, "You haven't been in any school plays. Would you like me to introduce you to the drama teacher?" Similarly, when a student goes off on a tangent, briefly acknowledge their point and bring the conversation back to the topic.

To keep the conversation moving where you want, give the person two or three choices, all of which you're okay with.

To minimize defensiveness, use California couching: "I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to do X. What do you think?"

When you're annoyed with a client, it's safer to say "I" than "you," for example, "I'm getting confused. Can we slow down?"

Be time-conscious. There are tools that can enable you to make a difference in just a few minutes. For example:
1. Ask the student if s/he's better with words, numbers, people, working with her hands.
2. Give her two disparate career choices within that category.
3. Based on which one she prefers, offer choices you think will be more on-target.
4. When she seems to like a career, ask her where it scores on The Meter from 0-10. If it's less than a 10, ask her, "What keeps it from being a ten?" Then propose a better-fit career.

Don't expect them to agree to do what you ask--planting a seed may be all you can reasonably expect.

Sometimes, all you can do is give them a resource: someone to talk with, a website, an article, book, etc.

Give career-finding assignments based on the student's abilities and motivation. For many special-needs students, you might want to keep it very simple: read this article, visit this site, ask your mother, etc

The perfect is the enemy of the good. Help your client take a step in the right direction. Sometimes that's all you can realistically do. Remember that you are but one influencer over another person. They are a product of their genes, their homelife, their peers, all the educators they've had, etc.

Forgive yourself. You're dealing with a challenging population. Do what you can, in the moment, and when they leave, let it go. You can only control your behavior not its outcome.

Websites listing California apprenticeships:

Remember my dad's story: Never look back; always look forward.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recreation for a Hermit

I'd like to tell you my favorite recreation. Even if you're quite social, you might want to add my hermitic pleasure to your recreation repertoire.

It's free, endlessly varied, and fascinating to me. And for you environmentalists, it has a zero carbon footprint.

My favorite recreation is simply to sit in front of my computer and pick one of these:
  • Watching YouTube videos. That enables me to see, on command, for example:
-- a jaw-dropping version of a magician cutting a man in half
-- a flash mob in a food court singing the Hallelujah Chorus
-- Susan Boyle auditioning for Britain's Got Talent
-- memorable movie clips
-- Bach's Air on a G String while watching beautiful images of deep space
-- Julie Andrews singing "In My Own Little Corner"
-- and, okay, my own crude videos, e.g., this one on how to live the life well-led.

I particularly enjoy listening on my computer since I bought Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 computer speakers. They're $180 new but available in like-new condition for half that on Amazon, and to my ears, they sound as good as a fine home system.
  • Googling. I can read world-class articles on virtually whatever I want. Finding one is usually as simple as picking one of the first few Google search results. For example, I recently wanted to learn about the future of electric cars. Here's what I found. Yesterday, I wanted to pick a better hair conditioner. A two-second Google search revealed THIS.
  • Writing. I love to share what I know. If it can be said in a sentence or two, I write it on my Twitter page. If it requires a few hundred words, I write it on this blog. If it's longer, I post it on my website,
  • When I want recreation away from my computer, true to my hermitic preferences, except when I'm hanging out with my wife, I usually play the piano or in my garden, and six days a week, take a vigorous hike with my doggie, Einstein.

    I recognize that my style of recreation isn't for most people.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    You're invited to "Big, Black, and Shy," a one-woman show at my home

    You're invited to a one-woman show I've helped create: Big, Black, and Shy.

    Jeffrie Givens' (pictured right) will tell her story, which is poignant, funny, and most of all, inspiring. I'll be accompanying her on the piano.

    It will be on Dec. 18 at 2 pm at my home in Oakland, CA. Seats are free but there are only 22 seats.

    If you want to attend, just email me at I'll email you back to let you know if you got seats and directions to my home.

    In case you'd like a bit of a sense of what the show might be like, I did a one-man musical show at my home about my own life. HERE is the link to the video of that.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Radio Reinvented

    KGO, one of the nation's most successful talk radio stations has just changed its format to all news. Just what we need: yet another news outlet.

    I believe the era of traditional talk radio, with expensive headquarters and expensive talk show hosts is obsolete. The question is: What should replace it?

    If I were starting a radio station, I'd crowdsource my programming: Each day, I'd search the podcasting world and broadcast and podcast the very best shows I could find. It would seem that such curated crowdsourced radio would offer fresher, better content, far less expensively than any one station's set of talk show hosts could provide.

    Of course, changing programs every day will lose listeners who tune-in specifically because they like a specific show or host. But net, I think it would improve radio and allow it to survive in a world of too many new outlets for interactivity, for example, online forums, Amazon and Yelp reviews, and, of course, Facebook.

    What do you think?