Ask me anything
No, I don't think you're harming yourself at all. I didn't do an undergrad honors thesis. I was a philosophy major, and in philosophy, there's no point in getting a masters unless it's a bump on the way to a PhD and you want philosophy to be your entire life.
I did end up going back to get a masters in education (part time, while working in education), and the mere fact of having graduated from college, as well as having a decent GPA, was important, but did not hinge on whether I did some kind of giant piece of writing about, for instance, Foucault.
But more importantly, my senior year in college was super easy for me, because -- as a philosophy major who wasn't doing a thesis and who had already fulfilled her core requirements -- I could fill my entire schedule with whatever fun and eclectic philosophy classes I wanted.
For me, reading philosophy texts and writing papers about them is about the easiest academic task ever (I have come to discover that I mainly learn by disagreeing), so I had plenty of time to RUN A FUCKING COMPANY, which has way more to do with my current level of success than an honors thesis in philosophy would have. I had eight part-time employees by the time I graduated. I can tell people that, just as I am telling you right now, and it's kind of awesome, right? Even though I later crashed and burned, which I totally did. An entrepreneurial rise and fall between the ages of 19-23 kind of prepares you for a lot of future possibilities.
Conversely, when you say, "I spent senior year writing an 80 page thesis about Orwell's relationship with Asian cultures," it's sort of like bragging about your SAT score. People roll their eyes and think, "Yeah, I went to school, too." (Or maybe you go to different kinds of parties than I do?) Career-wise, it would be better to sit around in your dorm room and get really good at Photoshop.
Since your plan is a full-time job, I imagine you have one of two goals in mind: To reduce your college debt, or to build an awesome career where you keep working at that company after graduation for at least a little while, thus making a seamless transition to the adult world and skipping that part where you act like Hannah from "Girls."
These are both excellent goals. It will probably make a HUGE difference to you in three years whether your student loan payments are $400 a month or $700 a month. This will affect where you can live and whether you need a roommate, and what kind of jobs you can take, and how long in life it will be until you can take real vacations (that spring break thing where you lie to the hotel about how many people are staying in one room doesn't count).
Having a real job as soon as possible also helps you avoid becoming one of those people who goes *way too long* without ever having had a real job, and then it's really hard to get one. If you graduated from college two years ago and have never held a real job -- even if you've been seriously looking the whole time -- you tend to get this "stale on the shelf" aura about you, no matter how unfair that may be. Everybody prefers a fresh, young whippersnapper to a beaten-down 26 year old. Which is terrible, because it's fucking hard out there, but it's often true.
Please do make sure that you negotiate your first salary. Ask for something! Since your future raises and salary offers will generally each be based off your previous salary, even when you jump companies, getting a couple thousand dollars behind now can keep you a couple thousand dollars behind forever. Put more positively, if you squeeze an extra $1,500 a year out of your employer now and your future raises are all based off this higher amount, that's $60,000 over 40 years, which compounded monthly at a reasonable (bearish!) rate is about $200,000 more over the course of your career. And that's if you never again negotiate like a badass! Whereas it's probably a much more reasonable assumption that getting some practice at negotiating while result in continued, ballsy negotiating over time.
In a year, when you graduate from college, would also be an excellent time to ask for a raise. To bolster your case, keep records of your successes in your new job. Quantify everything. Get feedback from clients and customers. What percent did various measures increase and decrease due to you? Don't make your data collection totally self-serving; rather, make a mark as the kind of employee who collects data in order to do her job better.
Do try to keep your grades up while you do all this. Future employers may be interested in your GPA. They never would have read your honors thesis.
First off, that's terrible! I hope you have friends who will tell you this in person: That's terrible! I'm so sorry! You don't deserve this! I assume you've broken up with this person. Please never sleep with him again.
That said, you do not need to worry that every guy you are with will cheat on you.
I will tell you, though, that sometimes it can seem that you constantly run into/date the same kind of guy, and that this is not a coincidence. For instance, sometimes I meet a guy who has really Romney-esque ideas about women: sure, they have jobs, but they hardly need laws guaranteeing them equal pay since what they really want is to have flexible hours so they can go pick up their kids. And, of course, women of my demographic think, "You sexist asshole!" But it kind of turns out that that guy isn't totally crazy, and that ***that actually does describe all the women he knows.*** Like, his job has 8 women working there, and they are all unambitious types with kids, and they all take every opportunity to cut out early and attend a soccer game. Sure, this guy could open the newspaper and read about lots of other kinds of women. Maybe that guy's own daughter fled the state for a faraway college and life in the big city. But, from that guy's limited perspective, it sure does seem as though he runs into the same kind of woman over and over.
What does that have to do with dating? Well, in some dating subcultures, cheating is more accepted than in others. I once went on a first date with a cute young finance guy who told me -- on a first date! -- that all of his married coworkers cheated on their wives. All of them. He shrugged and looked unsure (we were both about 24, and far away from marriage), but despite his ambivalence, I just kind of figured that that guy is surrounded by toxic influences all day long and I don't want to be a part of it.
Even just regular NYC dating culture is very noncommittal -- there are a bazillion people per square mile and everyone's apartment is really small, so the whole social culture is based on going out and seeing a bazillion people (rather than, say, fixing up your house real nice and inviting other couples over for pizza and Boggle). I do think that sometimes young women who want to get married kind of need to pick between NYC and marriage. (My fiance spent much of his 20s and 30s in San Francisco, and I noticed on our first date that he didn't seem like a New York kind of guy, which was a huge plus.)
So my point is that there are some groups/clusters/subcultures of guys who are very likely to cheat on you, and some that are much less likely. And of course there are all kinds of individuals who are hard to put in boxes.
So, go out and date and be free and hopeful and optimistic. This guy was one data point, so it's hard to generalize. If it happens again, then look for commonalities. Usually your friends can see this much better than you can. YOU think your last two boyfriends Mark and Domingo were completely different people (one was short, one was tall! etc.), but your friends are like, "Um, they are both drummers who hate their mothers."
But sometimes you just run into one single creep. If you get sprayed by a skunk, it doesn't mean there's something about you that attracts skunk smell. You were just unlucky.
That said, there's nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Don't tell some new guy you're terribly afraid he will cheat on you. But you certainly can restrict access to your life/emotions/body however you wish. Don't say, "I need to meet your friends before I will go on vacation with you." But you can say, "I really want to meet your friends. You get to know so much more about a person when you see what kind of people they hang out with and what kinds of things they like to talk about." That's true, you know?
Aaaand here's my magic trick:
If you run into a particularly clueless dude who you nevertheless think is promising, tell him very early on that you are really *into* monogamy. Not in an old-fashioned, uptight, judgmental way. Say it in a sexy voice.
You know, people are really into different things! Mostly sex things, but not always. Some guys really like boobs, or bondage, or being peed on. You? Monogamy really gets you off.
When you phrase it more like a positive, you're more likely to get the regular reassurance it sounds like you would want from a new guy. If he's like, "Oh, she's really needy and uptight," that's not so great. But if it sounds like he can really turn you on by telling you you're the only girl in the whole wide world, well, that's motivating for a certain kind of guy. And it'll help get rid of the other kind of guy a lot faster, which is actually a huge positive, even though it may not feel like it at the time. Promise.
Good question! I assure you I am not made of magic, and -- just like all mortal humans -- I constantly write stuff on my to-do list that doesn't get done. But the most important things usually do, and that's what counts.
First, before putting something on your to-do list, does it really need to go there? The first time I hired an assistant, I had a to-do list ten miles long. I gave the assistant 25 tasks to do, and at the end of the first day she had done 5 or 6 tasks and I had just paid her for a day's work. I was a little horrified that some of those dumb tasks had just cost me, say, $50 to get done. And then I realized that, presumably, the reason I have an assistant is because my time is sellable for more than I pay her, so if I had done the task myself, it would have "cost" even more than $50. And the task just wasn't worth $50. So, try to strike some things off the list. Are there things that, if you don't do them, someone else will, even if a bit later or not exactly the way you want? Great! If tasks can be done by other people, live with the fact that those people will do the tasks in their own way.
Of course, if you're a college student, live alone, etc., there may not be anybody else. No problem. Let's consider the reasons you might not be getting things done.
Have you overbooked yourself? In exchange for making a solid effort, your brain wants to be rewarded with a flood of pleasure hormones. But if your calendar says you're supposed to do way more than is even possible to do, the cavewoman part of your brain knows that no matter how much energy you expend, you won't get the pleasurable reward feeling. So the cavewoman part of your brain sabotages you. Why would your brain want to work with no reward? So, set yourself up for success by setting daily goals you can actually achieve.
Next: Are there items on your to-do list that are nebulous, shadowy, and ill-defined? Like "Plan 2013 goals," "Ask for raise," or "Write proposal and send out to agents." Imagine that you did have an assistant. How would you tell your assistant to do these things? What are the steps? How does one get the information needed to proceed? Most such tasks are not really tasks; they are goals. They need to be broken into tasks. Usually MANY tasks. Then, put a reasonable number of those tasks on your list for one day. Go about getting the information and supplies and permissions and contacts you'll need for the other tasks that lead towards your goal.
If you have an ambitious day ahead, try to end the previous day by setting up all the materials you'll need to get started. For instance, if I have a Bullish column to write in the morning, before I go to bed, I can set up a document with the title of the piece and the little header and footer that say "This column is published on Thursdays" and "Contact Jen at ..." It's a brainless thing, but I'd rather do the brainless set-up at night while I'm drinking a glass of wine and otherwise not getting much done than in the morning, which to me is more valuable time.
Finally, if you're still having trouble getting things done, are the things on your list not really things you want to do anyway? For instance, "Do chapter 1 of LSAT book" is a reasonable one-day task, and you could certainly put out the book the night before and plan exactly when during the next day you will do the task, but if you actually aren't really sure you want to go to law school, naturally, you will lack motivation to complete even the simplest of tasks related to getting into law school. Do you hate doing a task because you don't actually want to go where that task is leading you?
So: DEFINE YOUR VALUES. Here are two articles on that score:
Once you decide what you really value and what kind of life you really want to live, and then set up a realistic plan and schedule small, reasonable tasks for each workday, you may feel like you are actually being somehow unambitious and that you should be doing more, all the time, really fast! This feeling will be mistaken. Even ambitious people often let weeks go by without moving forward at all because they don't do the above; by saying they're going to do everything all at once, they end up doing nothing and feeling bad. If you accomplish 1-3 things per day, 5 days a week, you'll be moving forward at a much faster pace than the vast majority of humans.
Oh, one more thing -- you're allowed to enjoy getting things done! I talk about that here:
I remember the day I had some student papers to grade and I realized I was allowed to do that at the sushi bar! What a great day.
Most productive things can be done in bed with a cup of tea, or in a bikini by the side of the pool, or in a hotel bar, or on an exercise bike, or while sitting in a park that has WiFi, or with a kitten on your lap, or with candles burning everywhere and chamber music playing like your house is some kind of baroque cocktail party waiting to happen. (A lot of those things are pretty cheap or free, too.) Even errands that must be attended to physically are made much better when you plan extra time for a leisurely trip to Starbucks, so you can enjoy the rest of the trip with the right beverage in hand. Or buy a new album and wait until you're in the car, on the way to your errand, to listen to it. I'd be very surprised if most of your tasks couldn't be coupled with at least one way to make them more pleasurable.
I'd say it happens maybe once a month that I sidle up to an uncrowded bar, spread out some papers, order a drink or a salad, and start plotting and thinking and doing things, happy as ever -- and then some guy says, "Hey, no working at happy hour!" And I say, "Well, I love my work. I'm pretty happy." And if that guy was planning on buying me a drink, he no longer wants to, which is good for both of us. Win!
Aw, thanks! I just did a show in the Brooklyn Book Festival, but nothing on the calendar right now. If you are a college professor or know someone who is, I could be coming soon to a campus near you. Most of my performances are things where an academic gets some funding from some kind of campus department that's into making academic things fun. Thanks for asking!
Hi there, thanks for the question! I wrote about something similar in this article on overcoming perfectionism: http://thegloss.com/culture/how-to-stop-being-a-perfectionist-622/
But basically, I think you need to expose yourself to real stress and problems in order to give your internal stress barometer a sense of perspective. I managed to reset mine by running a company and failing and having the sheriff lock me out of my own office for nonpayment of rent and then declaring bankruptcy, which I can't exactly recommend, but I do recommend risk-taking of the non- "147 Hours" variety -- the kind where you maybe fuck up your reputation and credit a bit, but you keep both arms and you feel ready to be an entrepreneur again and you're not scared by ridiculous things like job interviews or dates or performance reviews or clients saying no when you raise your rates.
Just TRYING REALLY HARD TO RELAX isn't going to work. As I'm sure you know.
You could raise money and go to Ethiopia and help build schools:
...just as one example.
Or become an EMT. Save a few lives and watch a few people die. Whatever it is inside you that keeps making noise about small things will probably get the message.
I hope that helps! I'm sure if you're writing to me, you didn't expect easy advice. ("Take a bubble bath and really nurture yourself!" Fuck that.)
You're not the only one who's asked about perfectionism. I think there will be a Bullish about that topic sometime in the next few months. For now, though, have you heard about the Marines' "70% solution"?
I mentioned the 70% solution briefly in a column about delegating (http://thegrindstone.com/career-management/bullish-how-to-delegate-and-why-its-important-even-if-you-just-make-coffee-598/), but here's the gist of the topic, summarized from "The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines" by David Freedman.
Aim for the 70% solution.
It's better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it's too late.
"Everyone is always looking for perfect truth. Even if you find it, the other guy is up to something. So by the time you execute it, your truth isn't perfect anymore."
When time is of the essence, Marines act as soon as they have a plan with a good chance of working. Indecisiveness is worse than making a mediocre decision. A mediocre decision swiftly rendered and executed at least stands a chance.
"If your decision-making loop is more streamlined than your enemy's, then you set the pace and course of the battle."
I recall a man-friend of mine who had a three-item to-do list at all times. "WHAT IF THERE'S AN EMERGENCY AND NOW YOU HAVE FOUR THINGS?" I would say, casting side glances over at my 500-item to-do list.
"Eh, something falls off the bottom, then," he would say.
Men tend to get more of a pass for forgetting Grandma's birthday, showing up to the potluck with a bag of chips, and otherwise letting the little things slide. But, honestly, you too can let the little things slide!
Laura Vanderkam talks a lot about this (specifically, how little housekeeping really matters) in "168 Hours," an excellent time management book I talk more about here: http://thegloss.com/career/bullish-life-how-many-minutes-of-your-life-have-been-stolen-by-scarjos-ass-and-various-kardashians-and-other-questions-raised-by-keeping-a-time-diary-417/
So, those are some resources for getting started.
I'd also recommend signing up for something that 1) you know you'll suck at, and 2) doesn't matter. Latin dance class? Cooking class? Go get a bartending certification you probably won't use. Muck about. Bumble. Get used to the feeling. Laugh it off, relax.
When it comes to Latin dance class, the 40% solution is enough. I mean, who cares?
When it comes to real things, ask before you begin what "percent" is needed. If you're a surgeon, 100%. If you're doing something stupid for your boss, maybe 60% of your best effort will make him happy. Maybe 80%. But ask yourself that before you begin.
Also keep in mind that too much perfectionism in one area means less time for perfectionism (or even basic competence) in others. Use your perfectionism against itself! If your hair and sales reports are perfect, you will have less time for networking! Etc.
Hope that helps, and thanks for reading.
I exaggerate. I do sometimes attend events, but I view them as ways to meet people with whom to spend time one-on-one.
Also, I have to really make my point sometimes about being introverted, as extroverts do not understand how draining we introverts find their events; if I know a few days ahead of time about a party, I can steel myself, but if you surprise me ... er, it's like not telling me ahead of time about the blood drive so at least I can eat a healthy breakfast.
Introverts do enjoy a sense of community, though. ON THE INTERNET. Or, in gyms where other people are working out also, so it's motivational BUT WE NEVER SPEAK. Or, in restaurants where the atmosphere is nice because brunch is an important component of the meaning of life, but where people only really talk to the person they came with. This article in The Atlantic summed it up nicely: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/
There are two ideas here, really -- one is my own preferences/quirks, and the other is advice for all. And I do think that, in the era of ubiquitous connectivity, many people have literally never concentrated IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. Some of these people are my teenage students. If you cannot be alone with your thoughts for twenty fucking minutes without needing to call up a friend or wander into the kitchen, then you will never string together enough thoughts to do anything of importance. This is a debased version of the human condition.
I appeal also to Gladwell's 10,000 hours (how long it takes to become an expert). Sure, if you want to become an expert at cheerleading, most of that time will be spent with others, but to become an expert at most important things, a great many of those 10,000 hours must be spent in solitude.
So, basically, I think that extroverts have a handicap -- not a handicap in achieving material success, but a handicap in the great human search for meaning, and the fight against mortality that we can fight only by leaving behind something worthwhile. Introverts leave superior legacies.
Thanks for the question!
Hi there, and thanks for the excellent (and flattering) question. I definitely don't feel jazzed up and super full of energy all day long -- that's just not sustainable for long periods of time. It's more that I've just cut a lot of crap out of my life. I don't have TV at all, and I don't hang out with groups of people (it's just pointless; meaningful conversations almost never happen in groups of more than two).
My deadlines for TheGloss and The Grindstone keep me on a writing schedule (I make a point to plan what I'm going to write the night before, and then sleep on it), and I add a lot of other deadlines to my calendar to make sure I keep producing. I haven't yet figured out the holy grail for doing big projects that need to be scheduled in many small modules, but I do manage to slam out all kinds of day-length projects.
I think it's also important not to be crippled by perfectionism. Sometimes I feel stuck, and I say, "Okay, this article's going to suck, but I'll just write something that sucks and then try to fix it up if I can." When it's done, though, it almost never actually sucks (well, at least I think so). And if it did suck, well, a first draft is way better than no draft (and that's true for lots of things other than writing).
I'm also able to get more done by automating the less important parts of life. I pick one healthy meal and make the same thing over and over for a couple of weeks until I get tired of it and switch it up (right now, egg whites with black beans and peppers). I would never, ever in a million years waste an entire day on "errands." I can't understand people who do. I can order everything on the Internet and save an entire day in exchange for modest shipping fees. I love Freshdirect. I always buy things in bulk even if there's no discount for doing so, because it saves my time (and also, sometimes, shipping fees). I own two years' worth of trash bags. I buy eye makeup remover in cases, from a beauty supply store. Etc. These things seem trivial, but they add up.
Finally, sometimes I feel tired, stupid, or just plain terrible, just like everyone else. It might be obvious from my last several columns that not everything has been rosy for me. But, if you have a lot going on, then you can easily say, "Okay, I'm not going to do any of these big-thinking tasks right now, so what's on the I'm-stupid-right-now list?" And then I clean the bathtub and print and collate worksheets for my students and follow back a bunch of people who followed me on Twitter and a bunch of other stuff that would bore the living shit out of me if I were on top of my game.
Life usually hands you less than ideal circumstances, so it's important to move forward under duress. You will usually be under some kind of duress! You don't need to feel guilty about it; it's the human condition. Some not-very-glamorous scheduling techniques, as above, can keep the engine running when life has given you the proverbial lemons (or cramps, or hangovers, or breakups, or pink slips).
I do! Write the easy parts first, and fit the rest around it. And then you'll probably have to kill some of the parts that were "easy."
And start with a structure. It doesn't need to have three acts; a structure can be a top-ten list, or the idea that two big ideas join to make one big idea in the end. I saw a one-man show in which @jefferyself went through a list of every man he's slept with, in alphabetical order. I loved it because you, the audience member, always had a sense of how far into the show/alphabet we were, and also because, um, two of the guys on the list were father and son.
So, start with a structure, drop in the easy parts. Oh, also -- the world does not care about your feelings unless they are funny, allow the audience to feel superior to you, or both.
I think that (plus a working knowledge of Keynote) might be the limit of my knowledge on this topic. Good luck!
Thank you! And what a great question. I would tell those students that they did the right thing by dedicating four years to actual academics (in the sense that the Ivies typically do not allow you to major in business, communications, or other vocational degrees, the point being that a real education is not identical to job training, and that a real education should not consist of a skill set that becomes outdated). So that's a start. But, at graduation, a second education begins: how to get by in the world, how to forge a career, and -- oh-so-importantly -- how to get things done outside of institutions. The fact that your education did not prepare you for this is not a failure of your education. It is simply the next phase -- one in which most of the people you want to learn from are not in the Ivy League.
Incidentally, I wrote a column that you might enjoy on Using College Skills to Succeed After College: http://thegrindstone.com/strategy/bullish-using-your-college-skills-to-succeed-after-college/
It went well, at least from my perspective! But perhaps it would be better to ask an audience member. There was some serious punctuation going on. I added a short segment about The Bachelorette ("dot dot dot" vs. "period"). There was an interrobang, a factorial, and some making fun of those "no swearing" signs in Virginia Beach. The History of Women in 60 Minutes is the last show for the year, this Tuesday: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/183944
Hi there! That is very flattering that you asked, so thank you. I wasn't really aware that my standup was being missed (or, at least, my hosting and curating?) Right now, my life is quite full of other good things that seem to be benefitting others and that consequently are much more in demand, so it's hard to imagine taking time away from my nerdy/educational shows, Bullish, and educational authoring in order to do more standup. Actually, it was not so much fun to constantly have to try to plug a free standup show at Pete's -- I think performing one run of shows per year is more my speed. I only like to go where I'm invited (and not to have to pester people). It's really the same strategy I have in business -- if you have to hard-sell people, then you maybe you should stop annoying your fellow humans and instead come up with something they actually want. Comedy can be a sort of combative profession already, so I hate to also have to dredge up an audience all the time. That said, Ladybits Comedy is due for a resurgence! I don't know how often I will take the stage, and I don't know if there will be a cover, but clearly NYC needs more lady-comedy (with pun-filled monikers). Follow @ladybitscomedy on Twitter to make sure you get updated when that happens. Thanks for your question!
I saw Peter Pan in the Navy base theater with my dad in the early '80s. We dropped acid before, of course.
Hi there. I had to really think about this. I certainly have been moving towards offering coaching and consulting services, but I haven't officially launched that yet and don't have policies in place. Do you really think your situation is so particular that I wouldn't be able to answer it publicly as part of the column? Feel free to email me at jen ..at .. jenniferdziura.com to discuss. And thank you for reading, of course.
Yes. And the troops -- we can thank them for all they do for our country, and still acknowledge that many of them have unacceptable views about women. One soldier in Djibouti who was upset that I didn't want to hang out when I was off the clock commented that my coming all the way to Africa and then not engaging in flirtatious banter with him was like "bringing in a warm Thanksgiving turkey and not letting anybody have any."
I do think that the unexamined life can be entirely worth living, especially in the sense that most of us would take whatever kind of life we can get, since what else is there? There are adults who have the mental age of infants but who lucked out in getting awesome parents who care for them and entertain them (pinwheels! shadow puppets!), and I think those people have lives that are far superior to being dead.
Additionally, I read a study once that said that some sexual abuse victims were not benefiting from years of years of therapy, and that sometimes the best thing is just to not think about it. Shocker, right, that you might be happier not constantly rehashing that time you were touched by an uncle?
I am an introvert who examines things, but it's a pretty base instinct to try to construct a logical argument for the superiority of one's own personality type when the real underlying goal is simply to posit one's own superiority.
This question is way more about you than it is about me, but I can really only think of the one song, and if you hadn't just mentioned it, I probably could've thought of zero songs. But I think I accept that, under the conceits of the song -- in which frogs talk, sing, and have human emotions -- there is a constructed world in which there are many songs about rainbows. In fact, in this world, I imagine that songs about rainbows are as plentiful as songs about sexual attraction are in our world. A puppet turns on the radio and says, "Another rainbow ditty. So cliche."