Friday, March 30, 2012

Where Are The Jobs? Nowhere

The somewhat declined unemployment rate masks the true situation. Ever more people have stopped searching and many people who are landing jobs are forced to accept lower-paying positions or work that is more odious. How many people do you know who say it's getting easier to land a good job?

This article supports what I've been sensing for a long time: that there are no significant areas of U.S. job growth. The usually cited growth areas--health care, computer science, engineering, and Green--have become saturated, the result of offshoring, automation, and structural problems in the U.S. economy.

I'm well aware that heretofore, new fields have always emerged to replace declining areas of employment, but I cannot think of one. I hope that merely reflects my lack of vision but if I'm right, I fear that in the coming decade or two, the U.S. will suffer a dramatic drop in standard of living to closer to the world average.

For the world, that actually may be, net, a good thing: True, most Americans will have to live on $20,000 a year plus taxpayer handouts but the billion people on Earth who live without basic food, water, housing, and health care would have lives improved far more than the decrement to Americans'.

Ironically, the U.S. government's growing impulse to be kinder to the poor is accelerating America's descent. It is redistributing additional resources from the wealthy and from corporations to the poor. For example, it does so with the employer-funded ObamaCare (which will pay for comprehensive health care for indigents) and with "comprehensive immigration reform." The poor will get more resources but redistributing resources from job creators to those less likely to create jobs will cause a decrease in U.S. employment and probably GDP.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Art of Coaching

This is a draft of my next column for The Intelligencer, a Mensa publication. Feedback welcome.

Whether it's someone at work, our players, or a family member, we all coach.

This anecdote elucidates some non-obvious coaching techniques I've found effective:

I walked into the waiting room to greet my next client. There sat a 250-pound woman named Jeffrie Givens. (
Note: She has given permission to use her name and photo.) When I said hi, she averted her eyes and murmured "Hi." She had dropped out of Cal, was making $8 an hour in retail sales, and had come to me for career help.

I pored over her answers to my new-client questionnaire. She loves singing--not exactly a low-risk career goal. But looking for an entry-point, I had her sing for me. Reluctantly, she did: B+ voice, F performer---I've seen less-stiff cadavers.

I then showed her YouTube videos of world-class performers singing that song. After, I said, "Go into the this room. It has a full-length mirror. Like when you were a girl, play pretend: Pretend you're one of those superstars performing that song. When you're ready to perform it again for me, call me in."

Fifteen minutes later, she called me in and her voice had improved to an A- and her performance to a C.

I then said, "We're going on a field trip," and I drove her to Woodminster Amphitheater. Looking down upon its 2,000 seats and bigger-than-Broadway stage, I said, "You are going to perform here some day." She said, "You're crazy."

Long story short, she has now performed at Woodminster in five of America's great musicals, gained the confidence to finish her degree and land a middle-income-earning job at Children's Hospital. And now she performs a wonderful and inspiring one-woman show, Big, Black, and Shy, that I devised and we co-write which tells her improbable story in anecdote and song. (By the way, her voice is now an A, better than Susan Boyle, a Black Celine Dion.) I accompany on the piano. Her next performance is sold out with a long waiting list. If, however, you might like to attend her subsequent performance on June 17 in the East Bay, email me for info: 

That story embeds at least three principles of coaching:

• Consider going beyond talking. People who seek coaching often have talked about their problem ad nauseam. Sure, coaches need good communication skills: listen well, ask questions to facilitate the client coming up with her own solutions, and tactfully and not-too-often offering their own. But often, an experience(s) is required to blast a person from inertia.

• Build on a person's interest, even if it seems irrelevant or impractical. There's often a way to tie it back to practicality.

• Provide a model for the desired behavior: show, don't tell. It needn't be a YouTube video. For example, to demonstrate how an effective CEO behaves, I role play an executive running a meeting. Another example: I've taken a client who wanted to learn the art of flirting to a pick-up bar to watch what successful bar hounds do.

Here are three more of my favorite non-standard coaching techniques:

The Optometry Game. The Optometry Game allows you to use your ideational fluency without making your coachee feel less-than.

I tell the client, "Eye doctors always ask you, 'Is it better with lens 1 or 2?' Well, now I'm going to give you two options and you tell me which you like better?" (It could be career choices, options for meeting a romantic partner, getting more education, whatever).
You're generating all the ideas. Your coachee simply needs to pick among two alternatives. Anyone can do that.

A variation on The Optometry Game is The Trial Game. I pretend I'm a lawyer making the arguments for one option. Then I make the arguments for the other option. Finally, I ask the coachee to be the judge: to pick the winner and explain why.

Disequilibrate? I consciously decide how much disequilibration to create in the coachee.

Normally, I want my clients to feel confident, that they're efficacious, or at least that they're on the right track. So usually, I try to avoid disagreeing with client contentions.

But sometimes, a client is overconfident, complacent. So if I decide that the likely benefit outweighs the risk, I'll tactfully disagree. Even more occasionally, I'll decide that being tactful won't create enough disequilibrium. In that case, I use a technique I call, The Jerk. I say, "I'm going to pretend I'm a well-intentioned but tactless jerk." I then say something honest but quite blunt to create the desired disequilibration. Here's a particularly forceful example:
"You spend your life blaming your failure on everyone but yourself. Or maybe you really don't want to succeed---It's a lot cushier to let your parents keep funding your lazy-ass existence. Well, if you want to go on being a parasite, fine--We'll all just keep thinking of you as a loser. But if instead, you decide to be a contributor, everyone will think so much more of you and, more important, you'll feel a helluva lot better about yourself. The choice is yours."
I then ask the client, "How would you respond to that jerk?" Usually, the client says something like, "There's some truth in what the jerk said." So, without alienating the coachee, I've said something s/he may have long needed to hear.

The Vegas Game. My job is only half done when my client and I have developed an action plan s/he's excited about. The other half is helping to ensure s/he implements it. To assess the likelihood of that, at the end of the session, I usually ask, "If we were in Vegas, should I bet that you would or wouldn't implement the plan?"

If the client says "Wouldn't," I ask, "What would improve the odds?" If the client doesn't know, I usually say, "Let's go to that moment of truth when you know you should start implementing the plan. What's going through your head?"

Often, that question reveals that I need to provide more guidance on how to implement the plan or on how to overcome a fear. We keep playing The Vegas Game until the client says something like, "Now you should definitely bet on me."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Best Way to Fix Financial Aid? Make Colleges Accountable

My new column is titled, The Best Way to Fix Student Aid: Make the Colleges Earn It.

It argues that to receive taxpayer-funded financial aid, colleges should be required to show at least minimal value-added in learning and employability. After all, the government won't allow even a drug to market without proven efficacy.

The government has given higher education a free pass and mammoth access to our tax dollars while requiring less accountability than we do for a tire. That must screech to a halt.

HERE is the link to the column.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Advice for Parents of Boys

I received this email from a parent of a boy who heard me talk about boys/men's issues on KGO yesterday:

Hi Marty-
I just heard you on Michael Finney's show. I am a mother to three-year old twin boys. I am so hyper-aware of male discrimination. I'm quite concerned for my boys. What could you suggest to this mom?

Beth Wald

Here's how I responded:
  • Try to get your sons in classes with teachers who are boy-friendly. Too many teachers, if a boy is active and unwilling to sit for hours at a time reading, in cooperative learning, etc., unduly disparage him and/or recommend he be put on a Ritalin leash. So each spring, visit the possible teachers for next year. Watch how each teacher treats the boys.
  • Don't, as many moms do, try to unduly quell your sons' "boyness." Aggressiveness and competitiveness are pluses if used wisely--ethics and wisdom must always be primary.
  • Because so much of the media portrays boys and men as idiots or evil, rent movies etc that portray boys and men positively--for example, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and, when he's older, The Never Ending Story and the Harry Potter movies. Unfortunately, most movies portray the female as the hero and males, on average, as lessers. For example, see THIS list of famous children's movies.
  • Encourage adventure play: scavenger hunts, relay races, heroic role playing, etc.
  • When they're older, you may, alas, have to tell your sons what parents of Black kids used to tell them: You may need to be twice as good to go half as far, but I'll support you all the way.
  • Read the excellent book, The War Against Boys.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Big, Black, and Shy: The Improbable but True, and Inspirational Story of Jeffrie Givens

I must admit I'm pretty damn proud of the woman who did the one-woman show I produced, directed, co-wrote and piano-accompanied. I'm really quite confident you'll enjoy watching it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Current Thoughts on How to Replace Procrastination with Willpower, Motivation, Focus, and Drive

Obviously you'll be more motivated if you're pursuing something you're passionate about. But even if you're passionate about something, you may not be sufficiently driven. That's especially likely if your passion is shared by lots of people and you're competing for limited opportunities: for example, in the arts, environment, fashion, journalism.

And often we need to do things we're not that passionate about. You may, for example have chosen to be an accountant even though you'd rather be a singer. But to be even a reasonable successful person, in any field, requires drive.

Some people are fortunate to be intrinsically driven. They do everything with vigor. But if you're not, often these can help:

1. Break it down to baby steps, perhaps giving yourself a reward after each baby step. That's old news but it works, perhaps more often than anything else.

2. Be accountable to someone else: Tell people your goal (e.g., lose 20 pounds, get a job within three months, whatever.) Perhaps have daily check-ins. Or try a dramatic solution: Hire someone for a day or two to monitor you and keep you on-task, for example, in job searching. That may get you into the rhythm. Yes, it may cost you $100 or $200, but you've spent that much on an evening out. This will yield you far more benefit and even pleasure.

Finding Names of Small Companies and People There With Power to Hire You

A stumbling block for many job seekers is finding the names of smaller companies and the people there with the power to hire them. Here are some solutions:

To get names of smaller companies
      Online Sources
      ·  Most obvious, Google "fastest growing companies." Your search results will include lists of the national and regional up-and-comers as well as those growing quickly in a specific field, for example, high-tech or advertising.
      ·  There are 40 local editions of Business Times (, each containing information on companies in growth mode, often including the names of contacts associated with that growth.
      · This database contains 24 million businesses in the United States, including a special section with 4 million new ones, where job openings are more likely and less competitive than in established companies.
      · lists 37,000 jobs at startups. Sure, answer ads that are on-target but again, even if none are, companies that placed multiple ads might be in hiring mode and thus worth your trying to make a connection there.
      ·  LinkedIn and have discussion groups in a wide range of fields. Interesting, growing companies are often mentioned.
      ·  Your local newspaper. Yes, the business section, but the rest of the paper – even the advertisements – can lead to you to growing businesses. The online version may be more robust.
      ·  Employers you've never heard of that have multiple job listings are likely to be in hiring mode. To find them, search the big job-ad sites:, and using keywords and zip code to narrow your list. Also, search job sites specializing in your field. A wonderful portal to those is the Riley Guide (
      · lists newly funded high-tech companies, those that have the most money and those, from its 160,000-company master list, that are trending upward on Chartbeat, which, in real time, ranks pages by the number of visitors.
      · claims to be "the worldwide leader in job postings focused on venture-backed companies. Many job postings on VentureLoop cannot be found on any other job board."
      ·  Search your favorite shopping sites, such as Amazon, Etsy or eBay for a category of product you care about (for example, garden seeds). Does any company stand out for you?
      ·  Scan your college's and even high school's alumni directory.
      Human Sources
      ·  Talk with officers at local organizations: Rotary Club, Kiwanis International, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Ask which local businesses are growing.
      ·  Drive around in areas near where you live: Look at the lobby directories in office buildings, walk into any businesses that intrigue and tell the receptionist your story. If you're open to working in a storefront or retailer, walk in to appealing businesses.
      ·  Ask your friends: Your real-life ones, and look at where your LinkedIn and Facebook "friends" are working or have worked.
      To Get the Names of People There With the Power to Hire You
      ·  Search LinkedIn's company directory. You may well find someone in your network who works at that company.
      ·  Google a target employer along with words that might elicit the name of the person with the power to hire you, for example, "Vendome Widget," "vice president, marketing." If that doesn't generate contact info, Google as much of the following information on a potential lead as possible: name, title, organization, area code and the word "email."
      ·  Phone the company's main number and use its automated directory to find a likely candidate (For accounting, press 202, for marketing, 203, etc.). If he or she is the wrong person, ask if he or she has a company directory handy and say you're looking for, for example, the marketing manager for the Mid-Atlantic region.
      ·  Phone the organization's main number. Usually to get to the operator, you press zero. Say, "I'm sending a note to (insert name). What's the best way to send it to him or her?
      ·  Large organizations have a mail room. Call it. The person answering probably doesn't have gatekeeper responsibility so he or she will most likely give you the names and contact information of people with the power to hire you.
To get the names of people there with the power to hire you
  • Your professional association, for example, the Seismological Society of America, has a membership list.
  • Call the company's main number and use their automated directory (For accounting press 202, for marketing 203, etc.) to find a likely suspect. If they're the wrong person, ask if they have a company directory handy and say you're looking for, e.g., the assistant general counsel.
  • Call the organization's general phone number. Usually to get to the operator, you press zero or #. Say, "I'm sending a note to (insert name). What's the best way to send it to him or her?
  • Large organizations have a mail room. Call them and ask.
  • Google a target employer plus a word or phrase that might elicit the name of the person with the power to hire you, for example, "Vendome Widget Co, vice president, marketing." If that doesn't generate contact info, Google as much of this information on a potential lead as possible: name, title, organization, area code, and the word "email."

In Praise of Music

We tend to undervalue what's inexpensive and easily accessible, whether it be aspirin, the Internet, or the topic of this post: music.

For the moment, forget the miracle of being able to listen to and watch on YouTube, with a click of your mouse, for free, the world's greatest performances, from Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations to the shopping mall flash mob of the Hallelujah Chorus.

I'm talking here just about the benefits of listening. And I'm not claiming, as some people have, that listening to classical music increases cognitive ability. Indeed, the preponderance of the evidence now suggests that's not true. Here are ways I benefit from music. Perhaps you might too:

When I'm feeling blue, pump-it-up music is my antidepressant--and it has no side-effects. Of course, you'll want to identify your own musical pepper-uppers but my sure-fire ones include: Big Phat Band's A Few Good Men: and Watermelon Man:, New Life Choir's Oh How Wondrous, and My New Philosophy from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown: . You can download each for permanent use for 99 cents, less than the cost of one Prozac. (I do consider "file sharing" to be stealing.)

I listen to such a song just a couple of times, and not only do I feel better while listening, afterwards the melody often keeps rolling around in my head--it's a long-acting anti-depressant.

When I'm anxious, music is as calming to me as meditation without having to spend the time. Examples of music that reliably soothe me: Bach's Air on a G String, any Beegie Adair piano music: , Doc Severinsen's Big Band's Siliciano: and the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

Music also can be a motivator. My main exercise is a vigorous hike every day with my beloved Einstein. Taking my mp3 player, loaded mainly with pump-it-up music on my hike, motivates me to resist the temptation to skip the day's hike. That music also makes the hike more pleasurable.

Beyond listening, performing music, even if you're a beginner, can be life-enhancing. Whether by ear or with sheet music, trying to recreate great music or create your own is, for many of us, a welcome antidote to the heavily cognitive lives many of us lead. Even though a hand condition has recently reduced me to being a seven-fingered pianist, as you can see on THIS video. I still derive much pleasure from playing, and maybe my playing still can give pleasure to others.

Might you want to try a low-risk experiment? Create a musical tool kit: Whether on mp3, CD, whatever, pick one song you know will pump you up, one that will calm you down, and a third you'll enjoy no matter what your mood. And might you want to play around with a musical instrument, even a drum? Or sing, perhaps in a choir. Or perhaps if you played an instrument eons ago, you might want to pull it out of your closet and see if you can still play the old stuff or, with fresh ears, try new things. Whatever combination of tools, consider trying out your toolkit to see if it improves your life at all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How every student can get the best teacher in the world

As you may know, I write The Big Idea column in's Innovations section.

My latest, just published is: How every student can get the best teacher in the world.

HERE is the link.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Very Short Course on Managing Anxiety

In our stressful world, nearly everyone is anxious at times. These techniques should help:


1. Getting good sleep gives you a reserve, a gas tank of anxiety antidote, to cope with anxiety. These can help:
  • Have a comfy pre-sleep ritual. For example, I exercise 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Right after exercising, I'm energized, but 2 or 3 hours later, the fatigue caused by the exercise sets in.
  • Recognize that if you're getting up in the middle of the night, you have the skills to get back to sleep: just take moderate relaxed breaths, thinking, "In with the good air, out with the bad air." until you're back to sleep. Moderate breaths are better than deep ones because the extra oxygen in deep breaths makes you more awake.
  • If the above doesn't get you back to sleep, perhaps you've had enough sleep for that night. The next night you'll be more tired, or if you tire during the day, maybe you can take a nap then, even if you have to leave work and hop into your car for a 20-30-minute "power nap."
  • For more on getting good sleep, click HERE.
2. Do you excessively use caffeine? Intoxicants? Do you overeat? Avoid those and you protect your reserve, your anti-anxiety "gas tank."

3. So you're prepared with how to respond when you feel anxious, now, when you're calm, list the positive thoughts you want to replace the worrisome ones. On the spot, you may be too anxious to think of them.

1. As soon as you start to feel anxious, well before it reaches the panic attack level, take three long, deep breaths from the belly (diaphragmatic breathing.) Think of it like filling your belly first with air and then as that's full, you fill your chest.

2. Then turn your attention away from yourself and outward to the external world. For example, study the pretty picture in the room, think about what's good in your life, listen to someone else's problem, take a walk and look for the beauty all around you.

3.  Say an affirmation, for example, "Worrying won't help at all, and I have the skills to calm down."Even if the anxiety worsens into a full-scale panic attack, remind yourself that you have the skills to calm yourself down. Make a list of what you want to do if anxiety or even a full-scale panic attack hits: for example:
      a. Take 3 diaphragmatic breaths.
      b. Transfer your attention outward.

That is your "fire extinguisher" for anxiety.