Thursday, October 29, 2009

Relentlessness: The Key to Success

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

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

America's Forced March to the Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Latest Clean-Tech Career Information

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

Here are highlights:

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

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

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

Energy Storage

Energy Conservation and Efficiency

Smart Grid Devices and Networks

Electric Transmission and Grid Infrastructure

Biomass and Sustainable Biofuels


Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

All-Electric Vehicles

Electric Rail

Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Transport

Advanced Transportation Infrastructure

Advanced Batteries for Vehicles


Energy-Efficient Desalination

UV Filtration

Reverse Osmosis Filtration


Automated Metering and Controls

Water Recovery and Capture



Bio-Based Materials

Reuse and Recycling

Green Building Materials

Cradle-to-Cradle Systems

Clean-Tech Job Compensation Survey

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


Refuse, Garbage, and Recyclable Material


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


Accountant Renewable Energy,


$46,400 Mid-Level Bachelor's Degree

Business Analyst Renewable Energy,


$61,500 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Financial Analyst Renewable Energy,


$60,200 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Marketing Coordinator Renewable Energy,


$39,300 Entry-Level Bachelor's Degree

Project Developer Renewable Energy,


$106,000 Mid-Level Master's Degree

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Research and Development (R&D) Lab Technician

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

Source: PayScale and Clean Edge, Inc., 2009

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

1 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA

2 Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, CA

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

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

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

6 Denver-Boulder-Greeley, CO

7 Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton, WA

8 Portland-Salem, OR

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

10 Sacramento-Yolo County, CA

11 San Diego, CA

12 Austin-San Marcos, TX

13 Phoenix, AZ

14 Detroit-Ann Arbor, MI

15 Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX

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

Next Big Thing in IT Jobs: Networking the Grid

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

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

grid monitoring and renewable energy integration to

smart meter networking and consumer energy management.

Deployment of these upgrades to the world’s electrical grids

will require an enormous amount of manpower – and this

means jobs.

There will be plenty of opportunities for traditional grid workers:

installing smart meters, building transmission and distribution

networks, and integrating new generation capacity.

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

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

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

mother of all networks, placing the work of creating smart

grids largely on the shoulders of the IT community.


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


Apollo Alliance Blog Green Tech Pastures – ZDNet

earth2tech R-Squared Energy Blog

Green Collar Blog Clean Techies

Green Tech – CNET Environmental Capital - WSJ

Green Light – Greentech Media Gunther Portfolio

Clean Technica Green Inc – NYT Venture Beat – Green Beat

Green for All Blog


Conferences/Career Fairs

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

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

Networking Organizations & Nonprofits

Eco Tuesday Apollo Alliance

Green Drinks Green America

Net Impact Green For All

Renewable Energy Business Network Repower America

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Best Careers in 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    The World's Fastest Way to Find a Career?

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

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

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

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

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

    Friday, October 9, 2009

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

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

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    How to Get Promoted...But is the Effort Worth It?

    Dan Schwabel, a biggie in the personal branding arena sent me these questions for an article he's writing for Details magazine. Here were my answers. At the end, I wrote something that surprised me and may be worthy of your reading.

    What does it take to get a promotion at work right now?
    One or more of these, the more the merrier: a better job offer, demonstrated greater value added compared with peers, promise of doing a better job than the person currently in the desired position, an industry award, a bold proposal, sleeping with the boss.

    What is the most unique strategy you would recommend for current workers who are looking to get ahead in this economy?
    Write a proposal for an initiative that, while consistent with the culture and mission of the organization, would be an exciting yet realistic quantum leap ahead for the organization. Send it, in advance, to the attendees of an important meeting. Get their input. Get permission to present the revised version at the meeting. Make that presentation with CEO-like crispness.(Watch C-Span, CNBC, and YouTube to see CEO types in action.)

    What is your take on going the extra mile at work and helping out other teams if you have those skills?
    Working s generally more rewarding, both financially and in accomplishment, than going home, watching TV, playing golf, and/or drinking or doing drugs.

    What do you think about transparency at work? Should all workers be that honest?
    It's not realistic. Especially in tough times, inside knowledge can be very helpful. It's all well and good to say "Share for the common good," but in the end, most people act in their self-interest--they want to get ahead or at least don't want to be a victim of the next round of layoffs.

    How important is it to be connected to your colleagues through social networks? I know you think it's key. I think it's usually overrated---Most people spend more time at it than the benefits they derive (e.g., participating in the discussions on LinkedIn.) I do like Guy Kawasaki's YouTube video 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn and his article Ten Twitter Tips.

    Do you believe that growing your brand outside of your company can help you inside?
    Yes. Give speeches at conferences, get articles written about you in trade publications.

    But Dan, frankly, having had a zillion clients play these games to "get ahead," it feels a little sickening, kind of like the movie, They Shoot Horses Don't They, in which everyone's pitted against each other to see who can dance the longest. All but the winner collapse and even the winner is exhausted. Trouble is, I don't know what the answer is. Socialism is probably, net, worse.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Another Letter from a Victim of Prejudice Against White Males

    Here is the latest of the many letters I've received from white males who feel the pendulum has swung so far that it's slamming them in the chest:

    Hello Mr. Nemko,

    I have spent most of my life priding myself on my open-mindedness while living in a state where that commodity can be in short supply.

    Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, my open attitude is being returned less and less often.

    At first, I thought I was at fault, but with time and awareness, I have come to realize that the white middle-aged male is now the low person on the totem pole and everyone, including many white men, seem determined to keep it that way.

    I have experienced racism and sexism. I have been ignored, berated, and ridiculed. I have been passed over for jobs and promotions that have been given to people with less experience and fewer abilities. Unfortunately, when I bring up these realities, people seem to look at me as if I were speaking a different language.

    For a while, I was angry. At this point, I simply feel resigned. I’ve been around long enough to understand that a pendulum always swings and now, white males are the victims of that swing. I sure do feel sorry though for the young white men out there.


    David Dickson

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Finding the Willpower

    The cure for your lack of willpower depends on what causes it:

    Many previous failures. If you too often fail, eventually you understandably figure it's not worth trying. In other words, you lose willpower.

    The usually most successful solution: Choose more attainable goals: an job better suited to your strengths, a more attainable romantic partner, etc.

    Hedonism. Here, you fail to realize that to the extent you prioritize pleasure over productivity, you are a drain on your family and on society. The wise person realizes that productivity is key to the life well-led, and that requires frequent impulse control and sacrificing of pleasure for the greater good of accomplishing something.

    Genetically low energy. Some people emerge from the womb driven while others are laid back. That is very difficult to compensate for. It may help to pair up for work and avocationally with someone with moderately higher energy. It may rub off.

    If you have long been depressed (not just because of a specific situation you're facing,) drugs such as Prozac or Wellbutrin may help, especially if combined with regular exercise and short-term cognitive therapy.

    Drug or alcohol problems. The stereotype of the lazy pot smoker is true. To find willpower you must find the--well--willpower to stop doing drugs and alcohol. You are fooling yourself if you think it isn't hurting your work and personal life, not to mention your health.

    People of faith are often best helped with a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous. More purely rational people are often helped with cognitive therapy. Some people are helped by a physician-prescribed drug that reduces cravings or makes you feel nauseous if you drink or do drugs. For some people, a combination works best. Here is a review of alcoholism treatments.

    You're pampered or have been. For example, you were too often indulged by your parents, you're a trust fund baby, welfare recipient, or have a spouse or parent who pays your bills. Unless you're an intrinsically motivated person, if you're taken care of, you lose much willpower. The following may be unrealistic but it may be wise: Cut the purse strings and try to make it on your own. Much easier said than done, I'm sure.

    Unearned high self-esteem. Many people have been led to believe they deserve high self-esteem merely because all people are worthy or because they're "The Chosen People," "Black is beautiful," etc. That mindset is likely to reduce your willpower. True self-esteem comes only from accomplishment. If you think otherwise, you're deluding yourself.

    Misinterpreted theology. Some religious and otherwise spiritually oriented people believe canards like, "The world is abundant. It will provide" or "If it's meant to happen, it will," Many people misinterpret the Christian precept "Do not be willful" as "God will provide," rather than "Make all reasonable effort but at some point realize it's out of your control."

    Along with intelligence and ethics, nothing is more key to the life well-led than willpower. I hope you might find at least one of the above suggestions helpful in improving yours.

    Reactions to this article, including other suggestions on how to build willpower are, of course, welcome.