Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Favorite Career and Life Tips

In preparing for a radio show, I've reviewed hundreds of my previously dispensed career and life tips. Here are some I'd like to highlight for you:

When your child errs, express disappointment, then ask the child "What should we do?" Only if those too rarely work, use rewards and/or punishment, but never corporal punishment--that only teaches the child that violence is an appropriate response.

Is Facebook worth your time?

If you wonder why someone gets so much more done than you do, ask if you might shadow him/or her for a few hours.

On the continuum from parasite to host, where are you? Want to change?

Losers think, "What's the least amount of work I can get away with?" Winners think, "How can I get as much done as possible?"

My oft-repeated favorite tip: When I asked my dad, a Holocaust survivor, why he rarely talks about the Holocaust, he said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won’t give them one minute more. Martin, never look back; always look forward.” We’ve all had bad things happen to us but nearly all the successful people I know refuse to wallow. They always ask themselves, “What’s the next positive step I can take?”

Leadership is making time when there's no time.

In meetings, sit in The Focus Spot: where the person you most want to impress usually looks, usually a bit left or right of straight-ahead.

Even my highest-level clients (e.g., Fortune 50 C-level execs, physicians, big-time lawyers) so appreciate praise.

The most important thing a good manager does is take the time to recruit the bright and intrinsically motivated.

To motivate your supervisees, inspire and praise more than use money and formal evaluations.

Anchor your talk's core ideas with a compelling story and memorable visual. That will up your talk's chances of staying in the audience's brain and thus of changing their behavior.

Judd Apatow: "I am always driven by the terror of humiliation. My shrink calls it unhealthy but she can't argue with its effectiveness."

Don't innovate; replicate. Find a successful business and copy it. For example, I'd find some busy food trucks and incorporate their best features into mine, of course, placing mine in a great location.

Some low-risk business ideas:
  • Clean out people's garages and basements. Once you have the system down, hire and train others to do the work. You build the business.
  • Buy an apartment building that has been ruined by the tenants. Rehab it and sell it.
  • Plant and remove "For Sale" signs for Realtors. Again, once you've learned how to do it well, hire others to do the work. You build the business.
Key to being successfully self-employed: Be cheap, for example, "How can I get space for free--How about a friend's apartment that's empty during the day?"

Ask yourself, "Is it worth trying to change the world, with results unlikely and/or invisible, or be, for example, a haircutter, where you constantly see positive results of your efforts?

In choosing a career, if you want to consider the job market, don't focus on what's hot. A better question is, "What's the supply/demand ratio of job seekers in this field?" For example, solar engineering is hotter than petroleum engineering but far fewer people aspire to the latter, so it may be easier to find jobs in that field.

A photographer client of mine said, "I’m worn out on 'follow your passion.' I crave a plain ol' good job." Career contentment mainly comes from within your personality, plus whether you have a decent boss, coworkers, an ethical workplace, a workload that's moderate in difficulty and quantity, a reasonable commute, decent pay, and job security. It's usually easier to find those in a non-sexy job because competition for such jobs is less fierce.

If I were homeless and wanted to launch a good career, especially if I was trying to get by on soft skills, I'd be a salesperson in a busy retail establishment in an upscale area and schmooze customers.

Today, unless you have an A+ job history or superstrong connections, your job hunt must be A+. From initial query to final negotiation, all need be ahead-of-the-pack.

Interview target employers for an article you're writing for a trade/professional publication or for your own Internet radio show/podcast. Those are easier to pull off than you may think and will give you access to top-quality employers as well as boost your career credentials.

How to work a conference or trade show: Be a presenter or at least a volunteer. The exhibit area trumps sessions: you get access to lots of top people; session content can usually be acquired on the Net. If you want to talk with a session presenter, be last in line. Walk the presenter to his car or invite her for coffee or a meal. Wine & cheese mixers trump other recreations.

How to prepare to write a resume or cover letter: List what you'd say to the hirer for your target position that would make him think, "Damn, this person is good,"

Updated daily, Employment Tracker lists employers doing significant hiring.

Negotiate an internship's job description upfront. They're getting you cheap or for free; that means you deserve meaningful work and to get quality mentoring.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'll be Interviewing the Amazing Richard Posner on My Radio Show

I'm excited that tomorrow, Sunday, Mar 27, from 11 am to noon, Pacific time, I will have the privilege of interviewing one of the most fascinating people on the planet: Richard Posner, pictured right.

I encourage you to listen. In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can hear it on 91.7 FM (NPR-San Francisco.), or worldwide on The show will be archived for a week on the NPR website and permanently on my site,

To give you a bit of info on Posner and what we'll be covering in the interview, here are my planned introduction and questions.

INTRO: One of the things I most enjoying doing on this show is having wide-reaching conversations with our leading public intellectuals. Today, it's Richard Posner. The New York Times called him one of our most respected judges. The Biographical Dictionary of Federal Judges called him, "the world’s most distinguished legal scholar." He's on the US Court of Appeal where he served for seven years at its chief judge. He has often been considered for the US Supreme Court. After finishing first in his class at Harvard Law School and clerking for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, he worked under Solicitor General, Thurgood Marshall. But Posner is far more than a preeminent jurist. He's written literally scores of books and countless articles on topics ranging from sex to aging, public policy to whether we spend too much on preventive medicine, and especially on economics. The respected economist Walter Block, who also has appeared on this show, described Judge Posner as "possibly the only human being on the entire planet who's had a reasonable chance of being appointed to the Supreme Court AND winning the Nobel Prize in economics. BOTH!" Tony Kronzon, former dean of my daughter's alma mater, Yale Law School, said that Posner was "one of the most rational human beings he's ever met." Richard Posner, welcome to Work with Marty Nemko.

What do you think is the main reason or two you haven't been nominated for the Supreme Court?

After reading a sampling of your writings, I concocted a one-liner that seems to encapsulate one of your core views: If we really care to make a difference, everything must be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis. How core is that to the way you think about things?

Many of us, as we're getting older, are thinking about what charity would offer the best societal benefit per dollar donated. Do you have any thoughts on that question?

In your book, How Judges Think, you write that judges, even Supreme Court judges, are likely to abandon cost-benefit analysis in favor of emotion-based biases, for example, based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or political persuasion. Some time ago, you wrote that the tendency toward bias can't be reduced much, so the best solution is to have ideologically diverse judges, journalists, etc. Do you still believe that?

You criticize society as too-often reacting emotionally rather than with a cost-benefit analysis as it decides how much effort and resources to devote to preventing or preparing for disasters: from terrorism to nuclear disasters, global warming to privacy rights to testing for prostate cancer. You're dismissing the collective wisdom of the world as essentially irrational? (I may follow up by asking about some of those listed above.)

How would you rate the media's coverage of those issues?

Core to your jurisprudential philosophy is that judges rely too much on precedent and not enough on pragmatics. Some would call that heretical. Make the case.

Your most recent book, published last year, is The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy. In it, you candidly wrote that you felt the nine recommendations you made in the section "Reform You Can Believe In" weren't that likely to help the US to lift itself out of what you've described as, not a recession but a depression. Have you come up with any better ideas since?

Labeling anyone is dangerous, and labeling you is particularly dangerous--your positions can't be placed in one camp. But is it fair to say that you've generally moved from being libertarian-leaning to Keynesian-leaning? FOLLOW-UP: If so, what was key to your conversion experience?

I see American wages continuing to decline to closer to the world average, perhaps to $10 an hour because of automation, offshoring, our open borders, ever greater costs of employing people (paid leave has just been okayed Wisconsin's Court of Appeals) and demographic changes in the U.S. versus say China or India, Do you agree that U.S. wages will dramatically decline?

You believe that microfinance, which today has acquired almost magic-pill status, is overrated. First, would you explain what microfinance is and then why you believe it's unlikely to be a magic pill for reducing poverty?

You're best known for your writings on anti-trust. What's your core position on anti-trust laws?

Many people lament the closing of small locally owned stores, for example, independent book stores and conversely, the rise of big box stores, and of, for example, Amazon. Activists urge people to not support local non-corporate stores. There's a mantra: "Buy locally." You don't think much of that. Why?

On your blog, you recently argued that the high demand to gain admission into college is evidence that it's still worth the money and time to attend college. But I would argue that it's not an informed decision: the media, govt, colleges, school counselors, etc conduct a massive ongoing disinformation campaign to convince people it is. It may well be that we send too many to college: too many weak students because they'll drop out or not learn enough to be able to compete for the smaller number of white-collar jobs and would gain more for the time and money by doing an apprenticeship, for example,, too many average students--because as Paul Krugman recently pointed out, there will be fewer jobs for them, and too many top students--because they're autodidactic and thus more likely to learn more of value for the time and money in the real world. Your reaction?

We continue to teach pretty much as we did in Ancient Greece. For example, we've not moved to having our college courses taught online, interactive video, by the world's most transformational instructors so that every student, for every course, at every institution from Harvard to Oklahoma Baptist Junior College, would have a world-class instructor rather than the usual assortment, an assortment overweighted by professors better at arcane research than at transforming undergraduates. Your thoughts on that?

If you were entering college now, would you do anything differently: in terms of what you'd major in, do extracurricularly, whatever?

A year ago, on your blog, you laid out a number of arguments for why the institution of marriage is dying. What's your current thinking on that?

You've argued that it's hard to justify marijuana being illegal while alcohol is legal. Is it clear that the answer is to legalize marijuana or, might, net, it be wiser to take another shot at prohibiting alcohol?

Most Americans viscerally recoil at the notion of allowing, let alone the government funding, research toward allowing prospective parents to have gene therapy to ensure their children have high intelligence. Your view on that?

You're exceptionally prolific. Work-life balance advocates would doubtless criticize you. How would you respond? FOLLOW-UP: How does your wife feel about how much you work?

Any non-obvious career advice you have for young people?

What would you most like to be remembered for?

A Smarter Way to Start a School

Elitist that I am, I care deeply about improving education for the intellectually gifted, those with the greatest potential to solve our problems: from terrorism to cancer to inventing the next Google.

Alas, in today's egalitarian era, educational resources have, especially in elementary schools, been reallocated to the lowest-achievers. For example, ability-grouped classes have so often been replaced by mixed-ability classes, in part so the bright kids can become indentured servants helping low-achieving students. That, of course, denies bright kids of their right to an appropriate-leveled education. For example, even though a bright third-grader may be reading on a fifth grade level, s/he may be required to help classmates with The Cat in the Hat.

For the foreseeable future, the public schools will not likely change, so the main hope is in private schools. It is very difficult to start a private school in the traditional way, but I believe an excellent school can be created far more simply. This model could be used to start a school for any group of students of relatively homogeneous ability.

1. It should be a one-room elementary schoolhouse run by a teacher who would be a transformational teacher and mentor to gifted kids. (No principal is required.)
2. The teacher uses his/her own home as the school. That may seem creepy to some parents, so low-cost alternatives include vacant rooms in churches, community centers, etc.
3. Excellent curriculum is available free on the Net. A portal for such curriculum is THIS article in Duke University's Gifted Newsletter.
4. Students are selected based on an IQ test (a far more validly potent measure of academic ability than critics claim), an interview, and a group activity with other prospective and current students.
5. The curriculum is defined by interactivity, development of critical thinking, writing, leadership, and identification and development of students' passions.
6. The school is set up as an "independent study" or "home school" thereby enabling attendees to meet the state's compulsory education requirement.
7. The only paid staff are the teacher and a part-time administrative assistant. The kids would be in charge of cleaning up.
8. The school might elect to not seek accreditation. That may require too much money and compromise.
9. The tuition can be set low not only because the teacher/principal is using his home but because there's no gym, cafeteria, library, etc. The school provides what counts: great teaching, transformational curriculum, brilliant, good kids--the perfect greenhouse for intellectual, social, and emotional development.

I believe that such a school could be economically viable with 15 students paying $10,000 a year. And with a decent marketing effort (for example, presentations at libraries in locales with high achievers, articles in local newspapers and websites) a great teacher should have little trouble recruiting that many kids. And I believe it could be started in just months.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yet More Evidence of The Media's Liberal Bias: Reporting Gender Employment Statistics

The media is giving maximum coverage to the assertion that 90% of the jobs gained in the "recovery" have been to men.

Why was so much less coverage given to the fact that men lost 80% of the jobs in the recession, a far larger number of jobs than have been gained in our jobless non-recovery? In fact, the few that knew that inconvenient truth dubbed the recession a HeCesssion or ManCession.

And why has the media been virtually silent about the even more inconvenient truth that, since the recession began and all the way through today, the unemployment rate for men is significantly higher than for women.

And why does the media uncritically trumpet the misleading statistic perpetrated by feminist organizations that women earn 75 cents on the dollar compared with men, when, in fact, for the same nature, quantity, and difficulty of work, women earn roughly the same as men, and that among ummarried women, women, overall, earn more?

The media truly is unfair to men, especially to white and Asian men. It will unquestioningly advocate for women and "underrepresented" minorities, setting aside its usual journalistic zeal to dig for the truth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How You Might Help Japan Recover and Rebuild

The cost of rebuilding Japan is, as of March 27, estimated at $300 billion, making it the most costly disaster in world history.

Here are some ways you might do well by doing good in helping the Japanese recover.

I don't think there will be many construction jobs for foreigners. Japan has an outstanding construction industry. I'm more bullish on these:
  • If you own a business, offer to donate 5 or 10% of profits to Doctors Without Borders, an efficient charity committed to helping Japan recover. That's an easy way to differentiate your product or service from your competitors.
  • The U.S. military is assisting in recovery and early rebuilding. To see if jobs are available, contact your local Army, Navy, Marine, or Air Force recruiter.
  • I suspect that employees for the major consulting firms, such as Accenture, Bain, McKinsey, etc., will be able to find work creating plans to protect Japan's infrastructure from future disasters.
  • With an estimated 25,000 people dead, there may, alas, be a need for foreign funeral workers to assist.
  • If you're entrepreneurial, you might simply hop on a plane to Northeast Japan and look for unmet needs. I'd bet there are many that could be filled by an ethical and enterprising entrepreneur.
  • My Favorite Career and Life Advice

    Tonight was my last show on KGO and so I offered what I believe are my most potent career tips. Here they are.

    Analyze less. Act more. Most successful people plan and analyze only moderately, then take low-risk action steps and, based on that experience, revise their plan, if needed.

    Live consciously.
    Decide what you want rather than just accept what falls in your lap.

    You can refine, rarely remold. While a small percentage of people have improved themselves radically, on average, it may be wise to accept your basic self and work to improve only things that don't require a personality transplant. Be where your strengths are needed and your weaknesses aren't key. For example, I'm stress-prone, so I structure my life to minimize it.

    After moderate exploration, choose a career it even if you're not 100% sure. Otherwise, you're likely to be waiting for Godot. Usually, career contentment comes only after you've entered the career and, like a great-looking suit, have tailored and accessorized it to fit you. For example, career and life coaching fit me only moderately but I now like it quite a bit, in large measure because I adapted it to fit me: I made nonnegotiable that I'd work from home and that I'd be a more active participant in sessions than is the typical counselor who mainly just listens. I also stayed committed to getting better and better rather than giving up after just a couple years of lackluster performance.

    Strive in the moment. Let go of the outcome. You can't control the latter.

    Sustain focus. Pick a goal and stay focused on achieving it, getting help where needed. Yet you must change goals when you believe that additional sustained focus would be better directed toward another goal.

    Balance being driven with gratitude for the status quo. Whether in trying to get ahead, improve your organization, or your relationship, recognize that with seven billion people on the planet and our lifetime being a mere blink of history's eye, doing great or screwing up won't make that much difference. But don't use that to rationalize a passively led life. That would further reduce your life's value. Make the effort to become world-class or at least a go-to person at some pursuit but accept that you may not succeed every time or even ever.

    My favorite tool for reducing procrastination: Whenever tackling a task you're tempted to procrastinate on, ask yourself, "How could I make this task more fun?"

    Ask for what you want. If someone says no, ask someone else.

    Be kind where possible; tough when necessary.

    Rule of thumb: expect the best from people. That will motivate most people to give you their best. If they disappoint you once, ignore it--we all make mistakes. Twice: warn. Third time: distance yourself.

    Attend You U. Colleges are usually terrible places to get career training. Too much is theoretical, irrelevant, taught in a massive bolus rather than just-in-time, and taught not by master practitioners but by devotees of the arcane. Whether or not you feel the need to get the piece of paper, do as much of your learning as possible by reading articles you find by Googling or elsewhere, reading the most on-target books you find on Amazon, attending conferences, finding mentors, watching master practitioners, and having them watch you. In your job application letters, explain that in choosing You U over State U, you believe you've prioritized substance over form, and ask whether they'll interview you to give you a chance to prove it.

    Be nice. Look for opportunities to brighten the day of every person you encounter, even if it’s just to flick a piece of lint off their jacket. If a coworker is less capable than you, try to suppress your impatience and offer to help. Be generous with earned praise--feeling worthy is a primal need.

    The best question you can ask your boss: "Is there anything I can do for you?" Be the antidote to a boss being overwhelmed, the aspirin for her headaches.

    Hire slow, fire fast. Take all the time needed to find a great candidate. Focus interviews on simulations of the job's key tasks. Hire for a short project before employing a person"permanently." If after a few efforts to improve a weak employee, you see too little progress, cut your losses. Studies are unequivocal that hire slow; fire fast is core to the excellent employer.

    Don't innovate; replicate. If you're contemplating self-employment, I know it's exciting to test out a new idea but the leading edge too often turns out to be the bleeding edge: guinea pigs usually get sacrificed. Find a successful business--a pizza shop, coffee/dessert cart, mid-priced men's haircutter, whatever--and replicate it in a good location. If, for example, I wanted to open a burrito shop, I'd simply visit a few wildly busy ones and incorporate their best features into mine, in a great location, of course.

    Integrity is key. My mouse pad is imprinted with the statement, “Integrity is key." Yes, cheaters often win—in the material sense. Many, maybe even most, deceptive salespeople, plagiarizing students, and cook-the-books accountants, get away with it, but they still lose. They lose in the larger game of making their life meaningful. If you—especially when it’s to your selfish detriment—do the ethical thing, you may well become respected and even loved on this earth, and if there’s a hereafter, honored in that one. And you will go through life with your head high, knowing you are making the world a better, not a worse, place.

    Our most valuable possession is not money; it's time. Keep asking yourself, "Is this a wise use of my time?" "Is there a more time-effective way to do this task?" Or use the Wise-Life meter: Where would this activity score from -10 (Marketing cigarettes to children) to +10 (working to cure cancer.) Or if that metric is too altruistic for you, how about -10 (minimally living up to your potential) to +10 (fully living up to your potential?) The higher my life's average score, the more valuable I believe my life has been.

    Never look back. Always take a baby step forward. I learned that lesson from my dad. I asked him, a Holocaust survivor, why he never complained about having lost his teenage years and his entire family. He replied, “The Nazis took five years from my life. I won’t give them one minute more. Martin, never look back; always look forward.” We’ve all had bad things happen to us but nearly all the successful people I know refuse to wallow. They always ask themselves, “What’s the next positive step I can take.”

    Try to live by these principles, and even if you do so very imperfectly, you will likely have lived a better life than do the vast majority of people.

    Another Painful Story of Reverse Discrimination

    I try to suppress thinking about the amount of racism against whites and Asians in this country because it so saddens me both for the victims and for society. But every so often, it hits me in the face. I just received this email from a mom who is very sad for her son.

    Whatever vestiges of racism toward Blacks remain, whatever the value of compensating today's Blacks for past injustices, are much outweighed by the now half century of unfairness to white and Asian victims of reverse discrimination, and more important, to the larger society, which must suffer the effects of too many of our best and brightest being denied spots in top colleges and in employment merely because they lack sufficient melanin.

    The photo above was taken at MIT's 2010 commencement ceremony.

    Here is that mom's letter:

    Dear Dr. Nemko,

    I am really upset at the bias aginst white males. I have a son who is a senior in high school. He is very gifted in math and science, his SAT score was 2150 (perfect score on the math section and 2 subject tests), he has 4.0 gpa, currently enrolled in AP chemistry, econ and calculus; he's written 2 Apple apps, one of which has been very successful (; he's an Eagle Scout; he's on the school robotics team, and he works 15+ hours a week building and programming the robots; he's on math bowl, won "star student" at his school, etc. Sorry to brag but here's why I'm telling you this: He applied at MIT and was not accepted. I understand, there are a lot of very smart students applying, and we know several smart boys that applied as well, none of them were accepted.

    But there is a black girl who is, officially, on the robotics team but only shows up at the competitions, and has never laid a hand on a robot. She was accepted at MIT with a full ride! I don't know her SAT scores but I do know that she's not taking the same caliber of classes that my son is, and I seriously doubt that her statistics in general are even close to his. I realize that I don't know all her details so I may be totally off here but I doubt it. The injustice of it truly infuriates me!! My son is going to Georgia Tech. I am chafing at the unfairness of it all. Thanks for reading my blathering!

    Terri Buchanan

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    The video of my talk at Berkeley: America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education

    HERE is the video of the first section of my talk last week at Berkeley, America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education. Most or all of the other six parts are accessible on the right side of that page.

    I've now been asked to give that talk again at Santa Clara University on April 1. It's a free public event. For info, click HERE.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    My Musings on Japan's Earthquake

    These are my Twitters following the Japan quake:

    Kudos to the Japanese. Unlike after disasters in the U.S. and other countries, there's been no looting and no rioting. Discipline is key to success.

    Note: The picture above is of residents of Sendai, the city suffering the most damage, waiting in line at a convenience store, following the earthquake and tsunami.

    Poor Japan, victim of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now facing possible nuclear plant meltdown.

    Could there be a God worth praying to if s/he wouldn't stop disasters like the Japan quake/tsunami/nuclear threat, or billions, including infants, dying of excruciating diseases?

    Luck is so much more important than we acknowledge. The 40-year old Fukushima nuclear power plant was scheduled for closure in 2 weeks!

    It appears the meltdown will be only partial, with the radiation remaining in the containment structure...Let's hope

    (Note : two items have been deleted from an earlier version to reflect new facts.

    Buy on bad news: I plan to buy SHAW, which builds nuclear plants. I believe Fukushima will increase interest in new-generation, even safer plants. My plan: It has dropped 19% in the first hours the stock market opened. I will wait until SHAW rises 10 percent. That would give me sufficient optimism that downtrend is reversing.

    Update: I bought 100 shares at 31.69 after it rose 10% above its low of 27.60. It subsequently rose to 34. There's been more bad news so it's back down to 31.51. I'll keep watching it. When it rises 10% above a more recent low, I'll buy more. Of course, there's a possibility that Fukushima will cause a decade-long slowdown in the nuclear industry. That's why the price has dropped 25% in a week, but I predict that, long-term, there will be much more nuclear building--of course, with super safe (and therefore more expensive and profitable to Shaw) designs. Solar, wind, etc., just can't produce enough energy. And fossil-based fuels are running out, bad for the environment, and make us dependent on the Middle East. Safely located, very safely designed nuclear is going to be key to our energy future. And, believing in the criticality of buying good stocks on bad news, I believe that buying SHAW when it shows early signs of recovery is wise. A perhaps less risky alternative is to similarly buy top-quality Japan stocks: e.g., Toyota, Sony.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Lessons I Should Have Learned from My Jobs But Haven't

    As I look back on my jobs, there have been lessons I should have learned but haven't.

    My first job, at age 12, was as a billing clerk. I was so eager to impress the boss with my speed that I made mistakes. Now, at age 60, I still rush, whether to impress or for the fun of it--to my detriment. Yet despite constantly reminding myself to slow down, I can't seem to.

    I was a researcher, working for a world-class scientist, Neal Miller, on the seminal research on biofeedback at the most respected research center you've never heard of, the Rockefeller University. One time, I was asked to build a computer to do a particular task using just wire, semiconductors, and a circuit board. (This was 1970.) I just couldn't figure out how to do it, felt embarrassed, quit, and escaped to an intellectually less demanding job--running rap groups with inner-city kids. I still only do what comes easily to me. Maybe that's good, I dunno.

    When I was a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, I was chatting with the department chair and, without thinking, said, "I really like New Yorkers because they're so direct." I later heard that he, a California native, was offended. I don't know if that contributed, but despite outstanding teaching evaluations and student protests, I was not rehired. Today, while I try harder to be tactful, I still end up too-often offending people. I can't seem to remain vigilant enough.

    I was a columnist at Kiplinger. As long as I just submitted my how-to column without comment, all was fine. When I started suggesting that I write on broader topics and how might be improved, they let me go, saying they didn't have time to deal with my suggestions. U.S. News hasn't officially let me go; they just aren't calling me for projects like they used to. My boss said I am perceived as high-maintenance: too many suggestions, too much pushback on their edits of my work. You'd have thought that, by now, I'd have learned to keep my mouth shut. I just can't. No matter who I'm talking with, I cannot resist offering ideas for improvement.

    And now there's KGO. Management has never given me any criticism and indeed, when the boss called to say he'll be replacing me after my March 20 show, he insisted there was nothing wrong with my show, that I was a good performer. He simply wanted to replace me with someone else. So here, there's no lesson that I'd fail to learn.

    I wonder whether the lesson in all of this is to accept one's basic nature and, per Hamlet,"There's more in this heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy."

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Male Bashing's All-Time Low: "Boys Are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them"

    One of America's leading independent book publishers, Workman, has published a book called Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them.

    Five of its eight chapters are aimed at children, three, on dating, at teens.

    The book has spawned a line of tee shirts, bumper stickers, posters, coffee mugs, key chain, calendars, even a board game, all of which are available on Amazon and at other retailers. There's even a Yelp listing called, "Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them!!! Throwing More Rocks Every Day."

    The author defended the book as being just for fun. Yet if the book made fun of girls, let alone of Blacks, would that book have been published by a major publisher, let alone spawned a panoply of products produced by other companies, let alone not excoriated by the media? A Google search reveals not one negative reviews of the book or outcry against the swag by any major media entity.

    Indeed, MSNBC's liberal Dylan Ratigan opened his interview with the author of Boys are Stupid; Throw Rocks at Them and an opponent by asking, "What's the issue? They're having a good time, here." Ratigan closed the interview by telling the author, "Congratulations on the success of your business."

    Earlier today, I had posted the entire text but I realize that might violate copyright law so I've deleted all but three chapters and include none of the copious illustrations. You'll nonetheless get a sense of the book.

    Chapter 6: Boyfriends are Stupid
    If you absolutely have to have a boyfriend, don't panic. Your life isn't completely over.
    Why waste money on a cab? There's always public transportation. (Adjacent is a photo of a girl sitting on a boy's head, dangling a piece of pizza ahead of him so he keeps moving forward.)
    What not to expect from a boy on a date: 1. hold your door open. 2. pay for dinner. 3. eat with utensils. 4. not farting or belching the entire time. 5. kiss you goodnight--this is a good thing--trust me! 6. call you again.
    Phone rules: Do not wait by the phone for him to call. Most likely he doesn't even know how to use a phone.
    Be afraid if your boyfriend: a. has more shoes than you, b: has bathroom products more expensive than yours, c: is on a fad diet, d: knows what kind of jeans you're wearing. And be super-duper afraid if you catch him wearing your panties.
    Boy decoder: "It's not you it's me. I love you but I'm not in love with you. You deserve better. I need some space. I don't wanna ruin our friendship." They all mean the same thing but I'm too chicken to tell you:" I don't like you any more and I want to date your friend with big boobs."
    What kind of girlfriend are you? Take this quiz: Let's say your boyfriend tried to kiss your best friend. Would you: a) blame yourself. b) make him cry. c) kiss his best friend. If you answered "a", close this book and hit yourself in the head with it.
    Chapter 7: Break-Up Fun
    The best way to break up with a boy is to pretend you don't know him.
    Sometimes a boy won't accept that it's over. Be more direct: throw a rock. (Adjacent is a picture of him unconscious, frothing, with three rocks next to him.)
    Maybe he says, "Don't leave me or I'll die." That's when a girl must do the meanest, cruelest, most awful things a girl can do. Make him someone else's problem: 1. Find a really dumb blond girl. 2. Introduce her to your boyfriend. 3. Run away.
    Chapter 8: Training a Boyfriend
    If for some stupid reason, you decide to keep a boyfriend, it's your job to train him.
    Etiquette: a fork is to be used for eating food. Hint: Boys, the pointy pronglike utensil on the left side of the plate is a fork. (The left side is that-a-way<--)
    A fork is not to be used for: 1. stabbing bugs. 2. sword-fighting with other stupid boys. 3. sticking up nose for booger excavation. 4. scratching butts.
    Just a friendly reminder: boys aren't housebroken. Don't let them sit on your couch unless the plastic cover is on!
    Boys can't accessorize: "Like that bag was so last year!"
    Always check a boy before he leaves the house: 1. Make sure he zips his fly. 2 make sure his socks match. 3. Make sure he has on clean underwear. 4. Make sure his shoes are on the correct feet. 5. Make sure he's wearing pants!
    And make sure under no circumstances whatsoever that a boy does laundry.
    A boyfriend is not allows to spit, fart in the car, belch in front of your parents, follow you into the bathroom, make you pull his finger, put you in a headlock, put empty containers back in the fridge, dress himself, cut his own hair, give you a nickname, watch more than four hours of football in a day, and last but not least, act like he knows you in public!
    Major rule: When you're telling him a problem, a boyfriend is not allowed to interrupt and tell you his opinion before you have even told him what the problem is! New Rule Rule: New rules may be invented on the spot and be retroactive.
    And if he breaks the rules, just remember that for every stupid, smelly, cootie-ridden boy, there is a rock.

    Outline of my talk at U.C. Berkeley: "America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education"

    Here are my notes for the talk I gave at Berkeley yesterday, "America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education, how to reinvent it and create a great career for yourself in the process."

    They videorecorded it and said they'll email it to me in a week, at which point, I'll upload it so you can watch it.

    Here are the not-fully-self-explanatory notes I used for the presentation:

    Guido Sarducci:
    Five Minute University. In five minutes you learn what the average college graduate remembers five years after he or she is out of school. It may be a joke but reflects a real problem.

    In fact, value added is terrible. See Spellings Report or my Chronicle of Higher Education article, "America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education."

    The more prestigious the worse the value-added! And when you think about it, it's not surprising: how faculty is trained, hired, promoted. Class size. Political bias--Robert Reich's big public lie. Schumpeter: "The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." The biggest problem: profs value their arcana over their secular-sacred obligation to fairly and carefully educate students, at a prestigious college, the best and brightest, with greatest potential to abet society.

    The true graduation rates.

    The true fully-employed rates.

    And today, with true 4- and certainly 5 year sticker price over $100K at Berkeley, $200K at designer-label privates.

    If a physician didn't disclose that an expensive and time consuming treatment had poor prospects for success, he'd be sued. Yet colleges not only don't get sued, they're rewarded with more taxpayer and tuition money.

    What universities really care about: research and prestige. It was so clear to me as student, faculty, consultant to prezes. "Students are a necessary evil." Evidence:

    If universities cared about students it would provide:

    Maximally useful content not arcana

    Ideologically diverse faculty not one where all worthy ideas are deemed to reside left of center.

    A separate track of faculty based on ability to be a highly effective if not transformative undergraduate instructor. (It's a self-serving canard that good researchers make the best undergraduate instructors.)

    Superprofs (Immersive, interactive courses team-taught online by dream teams of the nation's most transformational instructors drawn from in and outside academe.

    A teaching/mentoring bootcamp which all teaching faculty must successfully complete.

    Mentoring by faculty and administrators, not mere academic advising by minimally trained peer advisors.

    An average class size of 15, paid for by the money saved from much streamlined administrations and modest landscaping and not spending fortunes on unnecessary buildings like the country-club-like RSF. The university wastes fortunes: e.g., $3 million on Bain instead of using its highly paid people in all UC, including Systemwide Budget Office plus Haas faculty. $300,000 for Jennifer Granholm and hubby to teach 2 classes?

    Private apartments, not 2-3-to-a-room dorms: the ACLU would sue if they housed welfare recipients that way.

    Prominently post a College Report Card: disaggregated graduation rate, price of the degree, value-added in reading, writing, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, oral communication, leadership), % professionally employed within six months of graduation, the accreditation report, student satisfaction survey results. Instead colleges obfuscate with Madison-Avenue-like brochures and websites.

    Why the govt or media doesn't demand college's to be accountable as they do with drugs, tires, even food labels. Reasons: colleges make students more liberal, and the higher ed lobby is very powerful. That's why, for example, student loans are the only loan not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

    Making the most of Berkeley

    One-on-one--e.g., independent studies. Ask respected people for advice.

    Carefully select your instructors. Better a good prof in a not seemingly-interesting subject than vice-versa.

    Prioritize learning what you care about, even if your grades suffer.

    Ask questions.

    Find true ideological diversity

    Seek leadership opportunities--join or start a club, project

    Make the most of your career center.


    Join ASUC Senate. Fight for a College Report Card, more ideologically diverse speakers.

    Become a student member of the Academic Senate

    Get a work-study job in the president's office.

    Refuse to donate to dear old Cal--explain why.

    Get U.S. News's rankings to add value-added to its ranking criteria.

    Invite the media to your picketing U.C's development office. Urge people to not donate to Cal until it posts a full and honest College Report Card.

    Careers aimed at reinventing higher education

    Become a higher education reporter.

    Work for USOE, WASC, Consumers Union, PIRG, etc. entities that could hold colleges more accountable.

    Create a true consumer advocate website for college shoppers.

    Start Utopia U.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Why I've Cooled to Libertarianism

    Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that I've removed "libertarian-leaning" from the subtitle of my blog.

    That's because, over the last two years, I've had exchanges of ideas with leading libertarians Walter Block, Mary Ruwart, Robert Murphy, Michael Edelstein, Marc Joffe, and Anthony Gregory, as well as a very smart liberal friend of mine, David Brodwin, which have turned me from libertarian-leaning to more of a utilitarian moderate.

    One of those libertarians, Dr. Michael Edelstein, asked me to explain why I have cooled to libertarianism. I reproduce that explanation for you here.

    The debate on my radio show that I moderated between Walter Block and Jared Bernstein convinced me of the benefit of a minimum wage, indeed one set at a living wage. Yes, a small percentage of people lose their jobs as the result of a minimum wage. And a bit fewer low-level workers would be hired. But all the rest of the low-wage workers (a much larger number of people) improve their standard of living. Indeed, an admittedly nondispositive study of one state that raised the minimum wage resulted in only small migration of employers to other states and no decrease in hiring of low-wage workers. Meanwhile, all the low-wage workers derived an increase to their standard of living of far greater value than the decrease to the employers who had to pay the increased wage.
    In a subsequent in-person discussion with me, Block argued that if the minimum wage were eliminated, job seekers whose value to employers was less than the minimum wage would get hired. I countered that not only would that lower the wages of the millions of workers currently making the minimum wage, many if not most of the people unhireable at the minimum wage would, at most, add $1 or $2 per hour of value and thus employers would only be willing to pay them that. $1 or $2 an hour isn't enough to motivate most people to get out of bed in the morning. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, aren't there people you'd pay NOT to work for you, for example, those with a personality that would alienate coworkers and customers, or who would require tremendous time to teach them the job, or who were unreliable or would steal from you?

    I found the argument for replacing our government-plus-private charity safety net with a purely privately-funded safety net to be weak. Edelstein based his argument heavily on the fact that in Dickensian England, the poor were taken care of purely by the private sector. That's hardly a reassuring example even if we could validly generalize from Dickensian times to today. But we can't. Today, with a far higher percentage of the population lacking the skills and abilities to be self-sustaining in our information-centric global economy, the cost of providing even a basic safety net for people would be enormous, far greater than in Dickensian times. I believe the risk of mass destitution is far too high to risk moving to a libertarian, no-government-safety-net system.
    Then there's the problem of negative externalities. I raised, for example, the issue of the polluting corporation: parties outside of the private contract between corporation and land owner are hurt by the resulting unpleasant, unhealthy, perhaps carcinogenic air. The libertarian defenses of a free-market approach to pollution control are unconvincing to me, for example, that polluting companies would develop a bad reputation, causing their sales to decline. It is too difficult to ascertain which company caused disproportionate amounts of pollution and, besides, the public has a short memory and it would have an even shorter memory of the many more companies that would pollute if it weren't against the law. I was even less persuaded by the argument that private policing firms would control the pollution adequately. It is too expensive for citizens, even if banding together, to pay to adequately police all the nation's polluting companies. If I ran a company wanting to pollute, I'd guess that I could, in the middle of the night, release the pollutants into the air and water, and it would be difficult for a private police to detect it. Remember, there are many thousands of businesses that can pollute, including in rural, out-of-the-way places.
    I also do not buy the argument that the free market will result in better roads and water systems, let alone convenient-to-pay-for water or roads. For example, each water company wanting to compete would have to install its own extensive underground, expensive water pipes all the way from the source to all the homes it wishes to serve. The companies would have to pass on those huge costs to the customer rather than having the cost of one set of pipes amortized across all the population, as with the current system. Regarding private roads, I do not find the examples of small-scale gated community private roads convincing. To widely adopt private roads would likely require tolls or bills paid to many different companies, perhaps even for every block--each company is competing for that block's users. I found the libertarian defense of doing that unconvincing. For example, Block argued that all the hassles of multiple bills etc., would be compensated for by the fact that road companies would compete to provide extra benefits--he used the example of a higher speed limit.
    Finally, most broadly, I do not believe that complete unbridled freedom is such a powerful good as to trump all other considerations. I believe that the benefits of a particular freedom (e.g., the freedom to pollute, the freedom to introduce a pharmaceutical drug without government review) need to be weighed against its liabilities.
    Thus, our exchanges have moved me from libertarian-leaning to a moderate utilitarian: I like making decisions based on what will do the most good for the most people, while not imposing clearly inhumane treatment of anyone in the process. In a given situation, the benefit of a particular freedom is merely one benefit that must be weighed alongside all the other benefits and liabilities accruing to a particular decision. That will many times argue for a free-market solution and other times for a government approach.

    This is not to say that I like big government. Indeed, I support reducing the national debt to zero and having a balanced budget. And yes, that means dramatic cuts in entitlements and in defense, not to mention the mammoth fraud, waste, duplication, and abuse in government. We must live within our means. To do anything else is a Ponzi scheme and greatly increases the risk that our creditors (e.g., China) will render us inert.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    How to Make the Most of a Professional Conference or Trade Show

    Here are ways to make the expense and time of attending a professional conference or trade show well worth it.
    • Apply to be a presenter, even if only to give a poster session or be a panel member. Instant credibility.
    • See if you can be a volunteer at the conference. You'll get free conference registration and if, for example, you request to be assigned to the registration desk, you'll meet all sorts of people.
    • On arrival, your packet will likely include a list of attendees and exhibitors. Circle all attendees you'd value meeting. Reviewing that list will also help you remember the names of people you've met before.
    • Note which sessions you really want to attend. Do not feel the need to attend all sessions. Most content can be more efficiently obtained with a Google search. What you can't get on the Net is face time with attendees and exhibitors. (See the next bullet.)
    • The exhibit area is a conference's most underrated opportunity. Often, companies send not just bimbos, but executives to staff their booth. So you can get access to dozens of biggies you'd otherwise have a tough time accessing. It's particularly easy to access those heavy hitters while sessions are going on--exhibit halls tend to be lightly attended then. That's why I encouraged you to not attend all sessions.
    • Before approaching someone at an exhibit booth, take at least one piece of its collateral material, walk away, and read it. Perhaps also Google the company on your SmartPhone or computer. That way, when you approach the person at the booth, you'll be impressively knowledgeable about the company and its key product(s) and/or issues.
    • When you do attend a session, arrive five to ten minutes early and introduce yourself to another attendee from whom you might benefit. For example, if you're looking for a job, approach someone who looks old enough to have hiring power, not someone young enough to be an intern. If the conversation goes well, ask the person if s/he'd like to sit next to you in the session. If not, at the earliest opportunity, stick your hand out, shake their hand, say "It was nice talking with you," and find another prospect.
    • Use a similar process at the networking breaks and wine and cheese events that are common at conferences.
    • At the end of a session, don't jump in line to talk with the speakers. They're usually spent and their goal is to as quickly as possible dispense with the line of acolytes. Wait until the line ends and walk out with the speaker--perhaps back to their car. Or ask the speaker out for a meal during the conference.
    • Speaking of which, do ask people who are likely to benefit you out to a meal during the conference. That adage, "Never eat alone," applies especially to conferences. Also invite a target person to sit next to you on that city tour bus or whatever recreational activity the conference offers.
    • End valuable interactions by proposing a follow-up after the conference.
    • Do remember, throughout, to look for at least as many opportunities to give as to receive.

    Some Advanced Strategies for Job Seekers

    Today, I gave my presentation for job seekers to a, sadly, very full house at Grace Cathedral.

    Beyond what I wrote in the handout I posted on this blog Saturday, a few other ideas of interest emerged during the presentation:

    In giving my mini-lecture on how to procrastinate less, I came up with a formulation I like. Procrastinators operate from "What's the least amount of work I can get away with." Other people, generally more successful people, operate from "How can I get as much done as possible." What drives the latter people, consciously or unconsciously, is a belief that their life's worth is defined largely on how much they contribute.

    I had suggested that applicants for sales positions might impress a potential employer by including a list of under-the-radar sales prospects s/he'd call if hired. An audience member asked, "But won't he just steal the list and hire someone else?" I responded by saying, "True, that will often occur. And indeed some employers who have no intention of hiring, post a job opening just so they can pick the brains of the applicants. But when day is done, the candidate that is generous with ideas (and everything else) will prevail more often than others.

    I suggested that a winning resume often contains few-line stories explaining their accomplishments. For example, standard resume advice is to list quantitative accomplishments such as "Saved the company $46 million." That is often viewed dubiously. It's more credible to include a story that explains the details. For example, "My company had long bought its circuit boards from a Japanese supplier but after I assessed manufacturers in Thailand, Viet Nam, and inland China, I was able to find a a supplier that could produce the boards 40% less expensively yet with the same specifications, including a 10,000-hour MTBF." An audience member asked, "But won't that make the resume too long?" I explained that the only thing that counts is that everything on the resume makes the employer more likely to move your resume to the top of the stack. Whether that ends up yielding a one-page or a four-page resume is irrelevant.

    An audience member signs his cover letters, "Have an awesome day." I stressed that, in today's era of rampant dishonesty, hyperbole in a resume, cover letter, or interview can be the kiss of death. Those canned phrases in job-seeker books like, "I delight in exceeding customer expectations" are atavisms from the 1980s. Today, except when pitching unsophisticated or sleazy employers, candor sells far better than hype or cliche.

    Many people try to get hired based on soft skills: organization, time management, big-picture thinking, people skills, etc. In today's job market, except perhaps at the CEO level, most employers want soft skills plus technical skills. If you don't have the latter, you may do better starting your own business, being your own CEO, being the glue that brings and keeps together talent around a solid business idea. You hire, motivate, lead the problem solving effort, and perhaps sell. Being self-employed enables you to instantly rise from unemployed to CEO.

    Of course, most people who start businesses soon go out of business. So per the previous post, I spent significant time in my presentation on how to up the odds of your being successfully self-employed.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    My Upcoming Talk: America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education...and How to Reinvent it

    This Wednesday at 7:00, I'll be giving a free public talk at U.C. Berkeley (209 Dwinelle Hall:) America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education...and How to Reinvent it.

    Here's the blurb on the talk:
    Dr. Nemko, who holds a Ph.D.from Berkeley specializing in the evaluation of education and subsequently taught in Berkeley's graduate school, believes that higher education, especially at prestigious universities--provides bad value for the time and money, in learning growth, personal growth, and in employment. He will discuss how higher education should be reinvented so it lives up to the deceptive promises in colleges' promotional materials and more importantly, lives up to the unquestioned cliché that American higher education is a national treasure. He will also offer practical advice on how to make the most of Berkeley, plus career and entrepreneurial ideas for reinventing higher education. This is a public event. All students, faculty, administrators, and the public are welcome.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    What's new and potent on job seeking, procrastination, self-employment, and thriving despite long-term unemployment

    Here's the handout I'll distribute at my presentation at Grace Cathedral this Monday, Mar. 7, 2011 at 9 am. If you'd like to request a reservation to this free event, they want you to email

    What's New and Potent

    re job seeking, procrastination, self-employment, and thriving despite long-term unemployment

    Marty Nemko
    Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, Mar. 7, 2011


    I . For most people, there is no one right career. And the risk/reward ratio of waiting too long to pick is poor. As long as a career meets your career non-negotiables (e.g., uses an ability you love using,) pick something, even if it doesn't make you ecstatic. Career happiness, if it is to come, usually does so only after you've become the go-to guy/go-to girl, have good coworkers, etc.

    II. Today, unless you're a star, landing a good job usually requires an A+ job search:

    A. Strong internet/social media presence: a high-quality targeted Twitter stream and perhaps a blog or website, linked to Facebook and certainly LinkedIn. There, your goal: 10+ excellent recommendations

    B. You or your champion submits a work product that makes your target employer want to hire you. Examples:

    * White Paper. e.g., an aspiring CFO describes the top 10 trends in C-level financial work in a particular industry.
    * Mini business plan--for example, the one I described regarding succession planning.
    * Teaching portfolio including video.
    * Under-the-radar sales-prospect list.
    * An applicant sensing a fluid job description, writes a post-interview thank-you note that tactfully proposes a reinvented job description that would be better for the employer and for which the candidate is an ideal fit.

    C. Ahead-of-the-pack cover letters and resumes. Sometimes that means prove, not just assert, your ability to be a superior employee in the applied-for position. Especially when you aren't superior, undersell, subtly appealing to emotion. Example:
    Hello Sandy,

    It was so nice of you to speak with me today. One of your first questions was for me to say a little something about myself. I'd like to say a little more, if I may.

    If you look at my resume, you'll see that I worked at that little store for eight years. I worked there until it shut its doors. I was there so long because I liked it, and although I'm embarrassed to admit it, it was just easier to stay. Because of that, I didn't think about what I wanted to do next.

    After the store closed, I discovered a career I had never heard of: prospect research. It sounded like something I'd love to do. So if you hire me (it was for a clerk position--$45K) it would be a first step toward that goal. Plus it would help a worthy organization like X hospital.

    So that's my story. Forgive me for not being able to articulate that more clearly in our phone call.

    I'm excited about the possibility of working for you but if it turns out I'm not the right person, I hope you find the perfect candidate.

    D. Certainly, no cheesiness, for example, clichés (I delight in exceeding customer expectations) or hyperbole (e.g., "Have an awesome day!") in cover letters, resumes, interviewing, networking

    E. Call-email-call-call.

    F. Talk less; listen more and better. (These are crucial!)

    G. New forms of support
    * A "board of directors"
    * Co-peer-mentoring: Every week or more often if desired, support and gently counsel a friend for 10-15 minutes on an issue of his or her choice. Then switch roles. Tip: Just venting usually makes things worse. Have a solution-focused discussion.

    H. Go to a professional conference; pitch yourself to exhibitors--that gives you easy access to many higher-ups.

    I. When you start on your new job, ask sufficient questions. Early on, get a visible win(s.)


    1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

    2. Make it fun.

    3. Become beholden to a loved one, support group, etc.

    4. Picture the benefits of getting the task done--for example, getting your spouse off your back.

    5. Jump-start yourself by doing the first one-second task--maybe it's open a computer file. That's not intimidating. Then do the next one-second task and the next one-second task, and soon, you're likely to be rolling.

    6. The one-minute struggle. When you reach a roadblock, struggle for just 60 seconds. If you haven't yet made progress, you're unlikely to. Get help or go on.

    7. Where would you place yourself on the continuum from parasite to host? Want to change?


    Even smart generalists worry about their viability in an era of specialization. Be the glue that brings and holds together experts re a project or business.

    Don't innovate; replicate.

    Ask business owners and other higher-ups: "What's annoying?" A person thus started a biz planting Realtor signs. Another person shuttles a corporation's workers between headquarters and a remote site.

    Other simple self-employment ideas: clean out people's garages and basements. wellness coach, gourmet trucks, wellness coaching, niche college counseling: athletes, artists, financial aid.

    Key to successful small biz: Be cheap. Usually start by thinking, "How can I get this for free?" For example, "Instead of renting, could I get a friend's apartment that's empty during the day?"

    Want to start a biz creating a web or mobile app? Check out


    How I could live well on $20,000 a year.

    A simple, often effective approach to reducing your fear:

    1. Realize that all of us deserve to not be shackled by worry, even if you've made mistakes. We all have.

    2.As soon as a worrisome thought enters your consciousness, quickly replace it with a productive activity.

    3. If you can't thus distract yourself, ask yourself, What's the most likely positive outcome?" That will likely ease your anxiety. Then ask yourself, "What's the worst that's likely to happen? How could I cope with that?" You could, couldn't you?

    For example, what if you never get any paying job again, even not a Wal-Mart greeter job? Per The New Republic, welfare benefits in Mississippi = 60K in earnings. (In the Bay Area, it would likely be even more.)

    Occasionally, all it takes to stop drinking/doing drugs is to remind yourself why you're stopping and to rehearse what you'll do at danger times.


    The lesson in my Dad's story: Never look back; always take the next baby step forward.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    My Advice to Gifted Teens

    I'll be doing a presentation today to students at the Davidson Academy. It is the nation's only free public high school for the profoundly gifted.

    Here's the one-pager I'll distribute, which lists the presentation's main points:

    Some Things I Believe About Being Profoundly Gifted in a Not-So-Gifted World

    Display your intelligence without appearing like you're showing off. That's a hard balance to strike.

    Resist today's egalitarian ethos. Elitism, considered a dirty word, is both more pleasant and edifying for the gifted and better for the world.

    For most people, there is no one right career. And the risk/reward ratio of waiting too long to pick is poor. Pick something, even if it doesn't make you ecstatic. Career happiness, if it is to come at all, usually comes only after you've become the go-to guy/go-to girl, have great coworkers, etc. And you can always change your goal if early signs are negative.

    The field I believe will have the greatest impact in your lifetime: genetic enhancement of humans.

    The most useful skill they don't teach in school: entrepreneurship. Just make sure ethics remain primary. Most entrepreneurs (and leaders) start out ethical but many fade.

    All empires have their rise and fall. I believe the American Empire is in its fall. This is China's century. Consider that in planning your career, summer internships, investments. (Pssst: FXI.)

    Ask yourself whether, for you, it's worth resisting the parental, peer, and societal expectation that you'll go to college, or at least go to college immediately after high school. What could you do instead? Start a business? Write a book? Start a school? Apprentice with a brilliant, ethical person?

    In class and in discussions with peers and others, when you don't understand something, ask. Similarly, tactfully ask if something a teacher says seems wrong to you. You'll learn more by asking questions than almost anything. If you're too embarrassed to ask in class, ask after class.

    Most important growth occurs one-on-one. Develop relationships with your favorite adults and peers. You might try co-peer-mentoring: Every week or two, you support and gently counsel a friend for a half hour on an issue of his or her choice. Then you switch roles.

    Working long hours to get all A's is rarely worth it. The extra study time is usually better spent exploring, creating, and yes, having fun.

    Don't prostitute yourself to get into a more prestigious college. Possible examples of such prostitution: taking an SAT-prep course, rowing on a crew team, serving soup to the homeless, and the aforementioned killing oneself to get straight A's. The benefit of the more prestigious college is outweighed. For example, if you start prostituting yourself now, that will likely only accelerate over your lifetime.

    Think three times before getting romantically involved with someone who doesn't bring out the best in you. No matter how good looking, they must be kind.

    You can dramatically increase the meaning of your life by, as you decide how to spend your time, what it would score on a scale from -10 (selling crack) to +10 (working to cure cancer.)

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