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Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

I don’t want you to ‘pick my brain’!

In behavior, blogging, books, business, education, journalism, Money, photography, work on August 6, 2014 at 3:10 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Will you share your secrets with me?

Will you share your secrets with me?

Here’s an interesting issue — when (or not) to let someone seeking work-related advice to “pick your brain”. Without charging them for your time and expertise.

From the New York Post:

“When people are self-employed, you absolutely need to think of how you’re spending your time,” says executive coach Mike Woodward. “That said, charging for the occasional mentoring service is a slippery slope. It’s one thing to brand yourself as a consultant if that’s what you want to do, but monetizing mentoring could become a distraction from your own career goals.”

But call the concept “consulting” and all of a sudden it makes sense to charge.

It’s one thing to brand yourself as a consultant if that’s what you want to do, but monetizing mentoring could become a distraction from your own career goals.

 – Mike Woodward

The eponymous creator of Anne Chertoff Media, a boutique marketing agency that caters to the wedding industry, found a similar niche.

“I honestly got annoyed with people taking me to lunch and thinking that the cost of a meal could equal my contacts, expertise and advice, so I created a service called ‘Pick My Brain’ on my website. For $500, I give 90 or so minutes of whatever advice the customer needs,” she explains.

We’ve got two competing impulses — the urge to be generous and helpful to others, which reflects our better nature and realizes that other have done this for us, likely, along our own path.

But in an era of $4.05 (yes, here in NY) gallon gasoline, when my weekly grocery bill has literally doubled in the past few years — and when my industry is offering pennies on the dollar for the most skilled among us, what’s the upside?

Time is money! You take up my time, without payment in any form, you’ve cost me income.

And some skills take decades to hone and sharpen. Anyone who thinks that “picking my brain” will vault them into The New York Times is dreaming; I’ve helped one fellow writer get there because she deserved it.

So I bill my time at $150/hour for consultations and individual counseling. I’m going to raise it in 2015 to $200 an hour.

But…didn’t a lot of people help me? Frankly, not really. A few, yes.

I have mentored many other writers and am, very selectively, still happy to do so.

But when and where and to whom is my choice. In my younger and more idealistic days, I assumed that my generosity would be reciprocated, even thanked. Wrong!

Now I’m too busy funding my own basic needs, and a retirement. I can’t afford to give away hours of my time. It is what it is.

The people I choose to mentor are: bright, highly motivated, say thank you, follow through quickly, and don’t argue endlessly with my advice, (they can ignore it, but arguing feels rude to me.) They do whatever they can in return and, I trust, will share their good fortune with others as well.

Do you let people pick your brain?

Do you ask others for this?

Lean this! Many women already feel like pretzels — (maybe bonsai)

In behavior, books, business, culture, domestic life, life, US, women, work on April 18, 2014 at 2:22 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Are we there yet?

images-2

Every day someone new, usually another highly-educated white HNW woman, is exhorting us to lean in, or lean out, or duck and cover or…something.

Mostly, I just want a martini and a nap.

I hate this barrage of “self-help” books telling other women to lean in, (i.e. work your ass off for a corporate employer and climb that ladder stat!) — or to lean out (bake brownies and say Om!).

Or, even better — from a millionaire who gets writers to fill her website free – on how to thrive.

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Maybe because I grew up in the 1970s, in the era of second-wave feminism, in Toronto. We thought — really, we did! — it would be a hell of of lot better than this by now.

Ms. magazine had just launched and my late step-mother used to dance around the living room singing along to Helen Reddy’s 1972 anthem of female empowerment: I Am Woman:

“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore…”

From Wikipedia:

In the year that Gloria Steinem‘s Ms. magazine was launched in the US and Cleo in Australia, the song quickly captured the imagination of the burgeoning women’s movement. National Organization for Women founder Betty Friedan was later to write that in 1973, a gala entertainment night in Washington DC at the NOW annual convention closed with the playing of “I Am Woman”. “Suddenly,” she said, “women got out of their seats and started dancing around the hotel ballroom and joining hands in a circle that got larger and larger until maybe a thousand of us were dancing and singing, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.’ It was a spontaneous, beautiful expression of the exhilaration we all felt in those years, women really moving as women.”[4]

So we all rocketed out into the world, excited and determined it would all be different now.

 

(Insert bitter, knowing laugh.)

 

Then we grew up.

So I’m weary of this latest panoply of corporate-suck-up advice and endless set of prescriptions — all of it coming from wealthy, educated, powerful and connected women — on how we should live.

I did like this story in Pacific Standard:

I intentionally lean out of my career. A lot. I do this because there are only 24 hours in a day, and when I ask myself, “If I died tomorrow, what would I want people to remember me for?” it isn’t anything I’ve published, any TV appearance I’ve made, or anything like that.

I’d like my son to remember that, almost every morning, I snuggled with him for 15 minutes before we finally got up together. I’d like him to remember that I had the door open and a hug ready for him when he ran home from the school bus, almost every day. I’d like him to remember that I took up the clarinet, and started lessons with him with his teacher, so we could play duets together and so that he could be my secondary teacher. I’d like him to remember all the after-school walks we took to the river. I’d like him to remember how happy I was when he had a snow day and could stay home with me.

I’d like my mate to remember all that, and to remember that I became a gardener, reluctantly at first, and that I did so because he loves planting but hates to weed. I’d like him to remember all the dinner parties with friends I arranged for us. I’d like him to remember the house concerts, like the one last night.

And I fully agree that we need to carefully consider the real economic costs of when to chase (more) income instead of enjoying a less-frenzied private life, non-stop careerism versus time lavished on family, friends or just…sitting still.

The real problem?

This is such a privileged conversation.

You can only “lean out” if you have:

savings; if you and your partner and/or your dependents remain in good health and if your housing costs are free or fixed, (i.e. rent controlled or stabilized or you have a fixed-rate mortgage, all of which rely on luck or a steady income from somewhere. Which is…?)

If you lean out, away from well-paid work, you also need someone else with a reliable, decent income to subsidize or wholly support your reduced paid workload — because fuel, food, medicine, insurance, education, clothing, and specialized skills like dentists, all cost real money.

Not everyone can live in a hut or barter for everything.

And too many women are just worn thin, millions of them working in crappy, dangerous, depressing and exhausting low-wage jobs with no hope of raises or promotions or benefits.

They aren’t wearing Prada and angling for a corner office — but something as simple and unachievable as a steady schedule that actually allows them to plan doctor visits or meet their kids’ teacher(s) or take a class that might propel them out of that enervating low-wage ghetto.

I see little communal concern (Hello, Occupy Wall Street?!), and no shared outrage at massive corporate profits/stagnant hiring/excessive C-suite compensation, and the lowest union membership — 7 percent private, 11 percent public — since the Great Depression.

I don’t think unions are the only solution.

But focusing relentlessly only on our individual needs isn’t going to do much either. Too many workers, too many women, are still getting screwed economically and politically.

How about you?

Which way are you leaning these days?

How to manage your money

In aging, behavior, business, domestic life, education, family, life, Money, parenting, work on January 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm

There are so many people eager to tell us how to do it.

But how many of them are right?

I recently recently reviewed a terrific new book, by a fellow New York writer, Helaine Olen, called “Pound Foolish: The Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry” for The New York Times; here’s my full review.

She’s largely scathing of the Big Names who make a shitload of money telling us what to do with our own — (my finger slipped and typed “yelling.” That, too!)

English: CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” ca...

English: CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” came to Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Oct. 19, 2010 to broadcast in front of a live audience as part of the show’s “Back to School Tour.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People like Jim Cramer, Suze Orman and Robert Kiyosaki.

In 2012, I wrote a personal finance column for five months, every week, aimed at Canadian readers. I learned that every personal finance author seems to have a different opinion:

Love ETFs! Hate ETFs! Bank six months’ savings! No, three! Mutual funds are great! No, never!

Personal finance is deeply personal, affected by family, culture, education, understanding, (two very different things!), greed, fear, hope, comfort, wishful thinking. And the larger economy. In the 1980s, I earned 18 percent on my Canada Savings Bonds. Not today!

At 19, I was handling my money alone. Like every other, it’s a skill best acquired through practice. I was living alone, earning income as a freelance writer and photographer, putting myself through university and living on a stipend of $350/month in Toronto, where my rent, for a tiny studio apartment in a lousy neighborhood, was $160 a month. That left me $190/month — or $2,280 for the year for everything else: dentist, haircuts, clothing/shoes, laundry, food, phone, answering service.

Oh, and tuition and books; University of Toronto then (mid-1970s) cost $660 a year.

My parents never helped me out financially — beyond the cost of my small, cheap first wedding. And no chance to go home and live free or cheaply for a while after the age of 19.

Mutual Funds for Dummies ... U.S. Funds at War...

Mutual Funds for Dummies … U.S. Funds at War — Too simple? (Monday, June 4, 2012) …item 3.. Music to Help Study and Work – 26:39 minutes … (Photo credit: marsmet545)

Here are some of the many factors affecting our ability to earn, save and invest, in bold:

One reason we’ve been able to save a decent sum for retirement is having no children, an estimated annual cost, per child, of $10,000.

I chose a profession, journalism and publishing, that often pays crap. I did expect to have a steady income, and a staff job making $60-80-100,000 a year throughout my 30s, 40s and beyond. But my first New York magazine job, in 1990, paid $40,000 — $5,000 less than I’d earned at a  Montreal newspaper in 1988.

(Thank God for my pre-nuptial agreement, and alimony, both of which gave me time to get back on my feet and find a well-paid staff job.)

Yet three recessions since 1989 — with 24,000 journalists fired in 2008 — and ongoing upheaval in my industry have put paid to any notion of a steady, high income.

Once you’re earning beyond your basic needs, (and learn to keep your overhead low,) save like crazy and invest thoughtfully to keep your nest egg growing, no matter how slowly or how small.

Luckily, Jose’s staff newspaper job is steady, union-protected and a kind of work that does not damage his health or strength. Unlike many Americans, we’re extremely lucky he has a company pension to look forward to. He has also been responsible enough to make a will and designate me the beneficiary of all savings to protect me financially if he dies before I do. (I did this for him as well.) If you have assets, and dependents, protect them!

Do you play the CPW game? Cost per wearing? Better quality clothes and shoes, even pre-owned and repaired, typically last longer than cheap crap you have to keep replacing. (And earning more money to pay for!)

I bought an apartment in June 1989, a one-bedroom. I’m still here. I certainly didn’t plan that, and fear I’ll never live in a house. I’d kill for a fireplace and backyard! But that real estate decision, (a long term mortgage with a decent rate, and low maintenance costs) allowed me to do good work I enjoy, even freelance, living alone, and allowed me to save 15-20 percent of my income every year, even when it was laughably low.

Read this life-changing book, and decide what is truly worth most to you — owning even more/bigger/newer stuff or enjoying free time. You can’t ever buy more time!

We drive a used, paid-off car, with no plans to replace it any time soon. (See: low overhead.)

Managing your money intelligently and attentively is a wearying life-long game of Whack-a-Mole. Just when you think things are going smoothly, boom! The car or house needs a costly repair or your kid needs braces or you lose your job — or all three happen at once.

Here are a few tradeoffs that work for me:

I don’t write a lot of checks to charity — but donate my time and skills to several volunteer boards and organizations instead.

I chose not to continue my formal education beyond a B.A. — but I attended Canada’s top university and, ongoing, read widely, attend conferences and network assiduously to stay current in my industry. Until or unless I know the ROI on an advanced degree, I won’t assume any educational debt.

We drive a battered old car — but it takes us safely, affordably and comfortably 10 hours north to Canada to visit family and friends.

We live in a smaller space than I’d prefer, with no second bedroom for my office or a bed for guests — but it allows us the extra cash to travel, save and entertain.

Managing your money means making choices, every single day. It means determining what matters most to you, and examining — truthfully — why that choice matters right now more than anything. (Designer labels, a trip to Paris, a new pair of skis, a second bedroom, a fourth child, grad school….)

Do you manage your money well?

Where did you learn those skills?

Personal Finance

Personal Finance (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

Related articles

Do this before you turn 30

In aging, behavior, domestic life, life on October 31, 2012 at 3:48 am
Paris Sunset from the Louvre window

Paris Sunset from the Louvre window (Photo credit: Dimitry B)

As Broadside has grown — now almost 3,000 readers worldwide — it turns out that many of you are in your 20s, even teens.

Oh, the 20s!

I loved mine and have so many great memories of that heady, dizzying decade. Dated a ton of guys, from the bad-boy Serb with the black leather trousers to the blue-eyed Welsh engineer working in Khartoum I met on an airplane to the Actor who dragged me off on a three-day canoe trip from hell. I began writing for national publications right after my college graduation until 1982 when I won a fellowship to go to Paris for eight months and travel Europe on someone else’s franc.

I shrieked with joy when that letter arrived, desperate to flee Toronto, a stale relationship and the hamster wheel of freelance work.

At 26, back in Toronto (that boyfriend now history), I was hired as a staff writer for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s best newspaper, having never studied journalism or any newspaper experience anywhere. But by 28, I was bored and restless and at 29 moved to Montreal to work for the Gazette. I needed to lift my foot off the gas pedal of workworkworkworkwork. I wanted a husband, (and found one there, a tall, clarinet-playing American medical student at McGill.)

My 20s were a heady mix of insatiable professional ambition, dating, taking five dance classes a week, ballet and jazz. I traveled alone to Kenya, Tanzania, Ireland, France and England for pleasure — in addition to traveling to places like Copenhagen, Istanbul and Sicily for my fellowship. For work, I met Queen Elizabeth, spent eight days crossing Europe in a truck with a French truck driver and danced in the ballet Sleeping Beauty at Lincoln Center (as an extra). I had a small black terrier named Petra.

So, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, for those of you hoping to get it all figured out (hah!) by 30, some advice:

Date a few people who aren’t your “type.” You’ll learn something about them, yourself and the world. I once dated a man named Bob from a small town in Saskatchewan, who drove a Beemer and worked at IBM and wore white shirts and blue suits. In the middle of a dinner party with my writer friends, he said, “You’re a bunch of limousine liberals.” He was right.

Become financially literate. Understand, if you live in the U.S., what a 401(k) is and why you need to pay into it, right away and every year. Especially If you’re self-employed, put away 10 to 20 percent of every check you earn and be thoughtful about how you invest it. Read widely and deeply on personal finance so no one can bamboozle you. I suggest the books by three funny, down-to-earth, plain-spoken personal finance writers I’ve interviewed: Americans Manisha Thakor, Carmen Wong Ulrich and Canadian Alison Griffiths.

Learn the meaning of the acronyms RRSP, REIT, ETF, APR. Learn your FICO score and how to improve it.

Have two credit cards. That’s it. And one of them is only for emergencies. Make sure they have a low APR, preferably 10 percent or lower.

Needs beat wants. You want a $600 handbag/new car/bigger TV. You need: food, water, safe housing, health, savings, a decent education and good friends.

Conduct yourself professionally! Use proper grammar, diction and spelling in every business communication; dress appropriately for the occasion or job; look people in the eye and shake their hand as if you mean it. Show genuine and sustained interest in their skills and experience. (Thanks to social media there is no excuse for not preparing adequately for a meeting. conference or job interview.)

Get a passport and use it. Try to flee your native land at least once every year. We live in a truly global age. You must learn firsthand how other people live — and not just by visiting “Paris” in Vegas. Here is a beautiful blog post by someone just past 30, recently Freshly Pressed, about what she is discovering in India on her own.

Read and listen widely. Don’t limit your consumption of “news” to Facebook or Twitter or outlets whose political values comfortingly echo your own. Continue to choose intellectually challenging material after you have left the halls of academe — or be prepared to have your lunch eaten by those who do.

Buy and stock a toolbox. Know how to use an Allen wrench, cordless drill, hammer, screwdriver. Self-sufficiency is sexy in both genders.

Read the business pages every day. Everything starts with economics.

Figure out what you want sexually. It might be abstaining until marriage, or for a while, or forever. Get to know your own body and what pleases you most. Learn to clearly express what you want — and do not. No means no! If you’re sexually active, consistently use a highly efficient form of birth control; know what the morning-after pill is and how to get one quickly.  Know how and why you must avoid HIV, HPV, chlamydia and the rest of the STDs. If all you want from a sexual encounter is some quick amusement, try not to break someone’s heart.

Travel as often and as far away and for as long as you can possibly afford. The best way to find out how much in common we all have with one another — yet how differently we interpret religion, culture, ethics and public policy. Even a road trip within your own province or state can teach you something (and be a lot of fun.)

Always pursue personal projects unrelated to your job. It’s tempting to meld your identity with your job and title and company and paycheck. You’re a person with multiple interests, not just a worker. If you get laid off (which is likely these days), you’ll have other passions and skills.

Unplug regularly. Get away from everything that beeps and buzzes, every day. Silence, and solitude, is deeply restorative.

Find a community where you feel deeply loved and valued, no matter how much you weigh or earn or who you sleep with (or if you sleep alone) or whether you even have a  job. When times get tough, and they will, you need a solid posse.

Spend an hour every day in nature. Walk to work. Find a park bench and stare at the sky. Invest in clothes to keep you warm and dry so you can be safely and comfortably outdoors even in rain and snow. For a super-icy or snowy walk, Yaktrax rule!

Find doctors you like and trust. Ask lots of questions. If they won’t listen to you or answer you, find those who will. Take your good health seriously and protect it through eating well, exercise, sufficient rest. Right now, you’re taking it for granted. In 20 years, you won’t.

Ditto hairstylist/dentist/massage therapist/accountant/career coach/tailor/florist.

Invest in some really beautiful personal stationery and/or business cards. Use them, often. Write real thank you notes, promptly. They leave a powerful and lasting impression.

Find at least three forms of physical activity you love so you don’t have to go to the gym: softball, volleyball, cycling, hiking, skiing. Invest in some decent equipment so you’ve got no excuse not to get out and stay active.

Cultivate a compassionate heart. Don’t forget others whose lives are still much tougher than yours. Mentor a kid. Be a Big Sister or Big Brother. Volunteer. Set aside some cash for charitable donations or offer your time and skills to a cause you passionately believe in. By the time you’re partnered and/or a parent and/or super-busy with your career, it’s easy to forget how many people helped you achieve your dreams.

Learn to cook. Healthy, cheap, sociable and fun. One of my favorite cookbooks is Bistro Cooking, with yummy easy stuff like clafouti and vichyssoise.

Don’t take everything personally! Some people are just mean. Some are deeply distracted by a personal sorrow you cannot begin to imagine. Or they have a headache. It’s not all about you.

Fail. Don’t just keep picking the safest and easiest path. Take a (calculated) risk and live with the consequences. (That’s where resilience comes from.) The most successful people are not those who avoid risk, but know how to live with it and bounce back from it.

Drink less. A shocking number of young women and men routinely drink to excess. Empty calories, hangovers, (and the sexual risk of being drunk around people you don’t know well), and alcoholism are really unattractive.  Step away from the margarita!

Find a few old fogies you like and trust who are not related to you. Spend time with them. Listen to them. They have wisdom to offer.

If someone is unkind to you, flee. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to figure out why they’re a dick. Just go.

Remember that everyone comes with some emotional baggage. But it’s not your job to carry it.

If you’re utterly miserable all the time, tell a good friend and find a therapist. Honor what your heart is trying to tell you. Don’t hide your sorrows. They are lightened when shared.

What other advice would you offer?

For best results…

In behavior, domestic life, family, life on October 6, 2012 at 12:06 am
Toothpaste and toothbrush

Toothpaste and toothbrush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seriously, kids, this is what I recently read on the side of my toothpaste:

For best results, squeeze from the bottom of the tube and flatten as you go.

A few thoughts on this:

Someone earned a handsome wage for conceiving of/overseeing/commissioning/writing and editing that sentence.

As opposed to? The sides? The top?

Who, truly among us, does not know how to squeeze a freaking tube of toothpaste?

But then I thought some more…Wouldn’t it be awesome if life came with similarly clear and gently helpful instructions?

I began imagining a stream of them that might well have given me so much better results, had I only heard them in time…

For best results:

– That cute boyfriend who speaks Russian, with the alluringly thick mustache? Not a great choice. Although extremely skilled on the horizontal, he’s actually gay.

– That other cute boyfriend, the soulful one who became a photographer, ditto.

– When you decide to describe someone, (entirely accurately), as “a total bitch”, best to recall that your new friend has been friends with her since childhood.

– If, as you start to walk down the aisle to get married, and your final whisper to your maid of honor is “Just be my friend if this doesn’t work out”, perhaps the wiser choice is to turn around and head for the bar instead. Say, in Bolivia.

– Before taking that cool new job in another province, the one (guess!) with insane-o tax rates, best to call an accountant there to see how much of that raise you’ll actually get to keep. Before you rent an expensive apartment and up-end your entire life.

– If you’re marrying someone who makes you a little nervous, spend a few bucks on a divorce attorney to see what you’d get if he bails. Nothing, you say? Pre-nup, stat!

– Small-town life looks so alluring: flannel, boots, long walks with the dog. Complete lack of friends/family/income/sources of income? Not so much.

– If it looks like a liar, sounds like a liar yet is utterly charming, stay with your first impression. A private detective is a wonderful thing, but not someone you want on speed-dial.

– If your boss routinely stands thisclose and shouts abuse at you, that anemic fuck-you fund, if fatter, would allow you to quit with dignity, not pop another Xanax to keep the bills paid.

What words of advice, if heard ahead of time, might have saved you some excess drama?

Who’s on your personal board of directors?

In behavior, business, domestic life, education, journalism, life, Media, Money, work on May 18, 2012 at 12:31 am
Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

As Mark Zuckerberg awaited, hoodie-clad, today’s IPO of Facebook, The New York Times did an interesting dissection of the wise and powerful players who helped refine his thinking and strategy over the years, adding value to his vision and therefore adding value to today’s offering:

But Mr. Zuckerberg has also invested in a personal brain trust beyond Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. He cultivated as advisers such tech giants as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, as well as others as varied as Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, and Donald E. Graham, the chairman and chief executive of the Washington Post Company.

One venture capitalist tells how, when he met Mr. Zuckerberg in 2005, the young man wanted more than the V.C.’s money. He wanted an introduction to Mr. Gates. (He eventually got one, on his own. Today, Mr. Gates regularly advises him on philanthropy and management issues.)

“What’s most interesting about Mark is how he developed himself as a leader,” says Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, who has known Mr. Zuckerberg for years. “Not only did he have an incredible vision for the industry, but he had an incredible vision for himself.”

Here’s a fun post on a similar idea by a young Australian businessman, Jimmy Florida:

To make life really interesting a friendship group would have at least one of everything including a doctor, global wanderer, nutritionist, entrepreneur, writer, stripper, drug dealer, dentist, restaurateur, stock broker, accountant, recruiter, masseuse, farmer, banker, bum,  blogger, athlete, celebrity, venture capitalist, monk, artist, politician, Chinese doctor, arms dealer, people smuggler, politician, and rock star  –  you get the idea. This mix would make for a hell of a dinner party and some great conversation!

Whatever you choose to call it — brain trust or friendship group or board of directors — everyone with a shred of ambition needs one. This can start as early as high school if you seek out and cultivate a few wise mentors.

No matter what you know or have studied formally, there’s always going to be a pile of stuff you don’t know, and may actually need to learn (let alone use or publicly discuss or present persuasively) within a few hours or days.

Then you need access people who know this stuff who will help you.

Unlike Florida, though, I don’t just turn to people I know socially. I’m completely fine paying people for their expertise and usually turn to those with excellent references from my posse; I write off their fees as a cost of running my business.

Until or unless you’ve amassed a ton of social capital, do whatever you need to get the smart advice you have to have.
In my 30+ years working as an author and journalist, here are some of those I’ve assembled:

Agent

I’ve been through seven. ‘Nuff said.

Lawyer

Useful for scaring the shit out of greedy lying publishers and others who’ve tried to stiff me out of fees they owed for work I completed under contract — and they reneged. It works. Also useful for reviewing the work of your agent(s.)

Speaking coach

I was about to go on the Diane Rehm radio show, with 2 million listeners — live for an hour, with call-ins. No pressure! I spent two hours the day before with a speaking coach. Helped a lot. Here’s the transcript of that show. Here’s my coach, Christine Clapp. A lively and lovely young woman, she works in D.C. but can work with anyone anywhere via Skype. She’s great.

Career coach

Whenever I or my husband feel like we’re hitting a wall, we give her a call.

Massage therapist

Colorist/stylist

I’ve done a lot of public speaking, teaching and TV. I also live and work in New York, where appearance matters a great deal. A reliable and affordable hair salon (I have two) is a must.

Investment adviser

Personal shopper

When my newest book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” came out last April I was catapulted from home-in-sweats-world to being photographed for national media and being well-paid to speak at conferences and events all over the country. I needed a professional wardrobe, stat! I did something I’d never done before and it was wise indeed — I went to an upscale retailer, Neiman-Marcus, and threw myself (not literally) into the capable hands of the department manager. I felt fat, horrible, insecure. With calm, cool competence, he brought into the dressing room three dresses, two pairs of jeans and two sweaters. I bought everything! And when Marie Claire magazine asked me, with two days’ notice, to speak to their advertising staff — talk about fashionable women! — I felt completely confident and ready to rock.

Therapist

Even New York dogs have therapists. If you can afford the help and need it, go! Nothing wastes more time and life energy than wallowing in misery and repeating self-destructive behavior patterns.

Nutritionist

Trainer

Book publishing PR experts

I have two dear friends who both work in publicity for major commercial houses. I’ve learned a lot from them that helps me position and sell my books.

Accountant

Physical therapist

After four (!) orthopedic surgeries since January 2000: both knees, right shoulder and left hip replacement this past February, I know a lot about PT. I like and trust my PTs and they’ve taught me a great deal about my body. I even wrote about them in The New York Times. You can do a lot of good for an aging/weak/injured body before and after surgery. You can even prevent it.

Who’s on your “board”?

The Touch of Fire

In behavior, business, journalism, work on January 13, 2012 at 5:51 am

If we’re lucky, at some point in our lives, we’ll feel the touch of fire — time spent with someone so inspiring, accomplished and genuinely interested in us and our talents, however latent — that brands us forever.

It’s happened to me twice (so far) in my life, both when I was in my mid-20s. The first was on my fellowship in Paris, founded and run by a charismatic, bossy, imperious, charming legend named Philippe Viannay. The man, even then in his 60s, dressed elegantly, laughed often and had created more social value in his lifetime than almost anyone I’ve had the privilege to meet since: he was a Resistance hero; co-founded a major newspaper; founded a home for wayward boys; founded a sailing school; ran a journalism school and, (whew) founded and ran Journalists in Europe, the program that chose me and changed my life and worldview forever.

We had an immediate rapport, and he introduced me to everyone as “le terrible Caitlin!” I was deeply offended until I realized it meant terrific. The fellowship changed everything for me: how I felt about myself as a person, as a writer, showed me I could thrive in another language and culture. I’m honored to have known him, and that he shared some of his time with me.

When I returned to my native Toronto, and got my dream job as a writer for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, I briefly met Jill Krementz, a photographer whose work is well-known to Americans, and the widow of writer Kurt Vonnegut. She came to Toronto for a day-long photo shoot for a book called A Day in the Life of Canada and, as a reporter, I shadowed her throughout the entire day.

I’d started my career eager to become a photographer and then — in the mid 1980s — there were relatively few women working at her level in that field. The notion of meeting her, let alone spending an entire day with one of my idols? Swoon!

It was amazing to me, (even with parents working in film and television), that people of this stature would make time to talk to me, get to know me a bit, share some of their wisdom and insight. At the end of the day, back when shooters used film, Krementz sat cross-legged on her hotel bed as she counted film canisters, and I pelted her with questions about her career and how she’d achieved what she had. She was tough as nails. Is that what it would take?

(Yes!)

I have a young friend in Tucson, far from the bright lights and easy professional contacts of a New York, Los Angeles, London or Paris. Roxana is quiet, pretty, soft-spoken, Hispanic, not a culture that necessarily “gets” a young woman eager to sell her news photos for a living. In her social circles, the odds of meeting a world-famous, globe-trotting star of her industry is slim-to-none.

But she did, and her meeting with Chris Hondros — killed April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya while on assignment– touched her deeply. They spoke, emailed, stayed in touch.

With her permission, I include her account of this amazing and life-changing experience:

In 2007,  my first semester in journalism, I took an ethics course. One day we were viewing one of Chris Hondros’ famous pictures, the one with a little girl covered in blood where all you can see next to her are the boots of a soldier. Powerful, powerful image and story.

We were discussing in class about how it should be published. My opinion was front page and in color — people need to know. For the course I decided to write my report on war photography and focus on Hondros’ work. One day, I friended him on Facebook just in case. Maybe I would be able to ask him some questions personally instead of citing a book.

Five minutes later, he messaged me back. He wrote, “Perfect timing.” He was going to be in Tucson a few days working on an economy piece for Getty Images. I was so excited, I jumped from my chair, smiling ear to ear.

Minutes later we were talking on the phone and I was helping him with information about Tucson, while another of my friends, also a great photojournalist, James Gregg, teamed up to help Hondros find what he was looking for. When he arrived it was like meeting a celebrity.  He was in Tucson for four days. I went out photographing with him one afternoon and felt so lucky. I kept blushing and was nervous.

But Hondros was so down-to-earth. Every time I asked him about his work he gave short answers, very to the point. He was more interested in talking about my work.

The last night he was in town we had coffee and I brought my work for him to see it. It was my first real news portfolio, mostly pictures taken for my college paper. I was very nervous. He glanced at them very quickly closed the book and kept talking about something else — before we left I asked him about my work. “It’s a first portfolio. Mine was bad when I started.” We laughed.

But he told me that I was very passionate and he believed that I would become better. We walked to his hotel, he gave me a huge hug and told if I was ever in New York City to look him up.

I don’t have a picture of me and him, and I wish I did. I felt too embarrassed to ask.

I never knew that I wouldn’t see him again.

After that visit I was in constant contact with him through Facebook, email, sometimes Skype. We chatted online when he was sent to Baghdad, or Afghanistan on assignment and I was always picking his brains.

The last portfolio I sent him to see, he said it looked good and sharp. He once told me that when I was ready he would take me to Getty Images. I was honest with him and shared my frustrations with journalism and finding a place to publish me. He would tell me not to give up on photography because I was good at it.

The day he died was so tough for me. I had never had anyone close to me die so suddenly.  I turned on CNN and there it was Tim Hetherington, confirmed dead, but Chris was still in critical condition. At the same time I was chatting online with a photographer from Kosovo living in France. He knew Chris too, and had helped him in Kosovo.

This community of war photographers and foreign journalist is small. Most know each other, and I’m so glad to be linked to them.

I prayed for Chris all morning and I didn’t leave my house. The hardest moment was seeing the woman on CNN say, “We have confirmed that Chris Hondros has died.” My mom held me tight.

I had spoken to him a couple of weeks earlier when he was in Cairo covering the revolution. All I could think of was our last chat. I didn’t think that he would leave so soon. I miss him so much. I still feel that he’s still out there photographing the world.

He is my drive and inspiration.

Have you been touched along the way by someone like this?

What effect did it have on you or your career?

Six Reasons I Might Not Help You

In behavior, blogging, books, business, work on January 5, 2012 at 3:09 am
English: There are no symbols that represent s...

Image via Wikipedia

I really enjoy helping people — to connect with one another, get jobs, get better jobs, meet a sweetie. I tend to do this automatically and have for many years.

But I recently turned someone down who came to me for help.

I’m done having my generous goodwill taken for granted.

If someone has turned you down for help or mentoring or advice, (and you don’t understand why) maybe it’s one of these:

The person who referred me to you hasn’t treated me well.

Just because you know someone who knows me doesn’t mean I automatically want to help you (i.e. helping them out.) The quality and longevity of my relationship with the person who referred you to me is what counts — because you’re a total stranger to me.  Your referring friend knows, (even if you don’t), this is as much of a favor to them.

Why, if at all, do I owe them (and you) my help?

You asked to “pick my brain.”

It’s taken me more than three decades of unrelenting hard work, surviving three recessions — (while some of you were still in diapers!) — to accumulate these skills, experience and contacts. Asking someone this question is rude and disrespectful. I charge up to $200/hour for my skills. You get what you pay for.

Here’s a recent Forbes blog post on the same issue. It surely hit a nerve, with 3,000 Facebook shares.

You didn’t even acknowledge that asking for my unpaid time is a favor.

Because it is. Your unpaid use of my time costs me income.

You asked me for information that is quickly and easily accessible elsewhere.

I don’t help people I perceive as lazy, no matter how charming they are.

You offered nothing in exchange or access to potential clients.

Epic fail!

I was approached about a decade ago, (not at all unusual), by a writer in another city I didn’t know who needed advice about writing and selling his first book.  In that first email, he also offered to put me in touch with some of his valued editorial contacts that might lead to paid work for me down the line.  We’ve since become good friends. He got it.

In contrast, a few years ago, another total stranger  — another young man, but this time with no ties in common — asked for my help getting started as a photographer. I made introductions to a few very powerful and connected professional contacts, the sort he could only dream of.

Now that he’s thriving, (and good for him!), a thank-you note or flowers would be nice. I had no expectation of that, but anyone who chooses to share some of their skills or contacts is giving you a gift.  Don’t just grab and run!

You didn’t follow though.

The person whose behavior prompted this post took the time to write me a long email asking for help. I took the time to write back and told her my fees.

I never heard from this person again.

Do you really want help?  If you want something badly enough to ask for it in the first place, why waste my time by walking away after I respond (not necessarily exactly as you had hoped)?

If you mentor, do you care what happens after you help someone out?

Has someone you helped come back to thank you or return your generosity?

The Locker Room

In behavior, children, family, life, love, sports, urban life, women on May 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm
YMCA office in (Ulan-Bator) Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

This one's in Mongolia! Image via Wikipedia

I work out and take classes at a local YMCA, which guarantees a wide mix of ages and income levels. A life-long jock, a veteran of boarding school and summer camp, I’m used to being around other people in various stages of undress.

But it’s the naked emotion that often surprises me there, not the glimpses of others’ flesh.

I learn a lot in the locker room and often leave it in a very different mood than when I arrived:

– the mentally disabled children who come to swim, bound up in splints and diapers, laughing and playing with their caregivers

– a diabetic woman my age who needed the EMTs after going into sugar shock

– the woman who casually announced it was her 83d birthday the next day, the one whose vigor and tart wit made me sure she was 20 years younger

– the scars of surgery

– what a woman’s body really looks like in old age

I value the very few places in American culture where little children and people in their 80s or 90s mingle freely, sharing space and ideas. One is church, the other is the Y. I don’t have children or nieces or nephews and lost both my grandmothers when I was 18, so I hunger for cross-generational contact.

A few weeks ago I was worn out, weary of holding it together. A conversation that began in the locker room after swim class with the 83-year-old was, suddenly, the most honest and helpful I’d had with anyone in months…Then we kept talking in the parking lot, even after I burst into embarrassed tears. Her unexpected advice was blunt but kind.

I’m used to being visible physically, not emotionally, a common theme in my life. I tend to keep feelings bottled up, not wanting to burden friends or family who have, of course, their own challenges as well.

I know you change in the locker room. I didn’t know it might be more than your clothes.

When Corporate Kings Go Public — Beware, Meg And Carly!

In business, Media on June 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm
A fake copy of the Financial Times is pictured...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Are you familiar with Lucy Kellaway? She’s a much-respected British journo at the Financial Times, whose column on management is a must-read.

She recently tore a wildly successful British businessman a new one, devoting an entire column (ouch!) to his inane pomposity in publishing a book of his “rules”:

Ray Dalio is deluded, insensitive, emotionally illiterate, simplistic, breathtakingly smug, weird and plain wrong.

Harsh words, but I know the founder of one of the world’s most successful hedge funds will welcome them. The Bridgewater chief has just made a list of his top 300 rules for life and number 31 is to write down the weaknesses of others. Number 11 is never to say anything about a person you would not say to them directly, while number 22 is to “get over” fretting about whether comments are positive or negative. All that matters in Dalioland is whether they are accurate or inaccurate.

These rules are contained in the most curious management document I have ever come across. Simply entitled “Principles”, it is being handed out to staff at Bridgewater to help them be as successful as their boss. It is also being passed gleefully from pillar to post on the internet.

I love her taking the piss out of this guy, who probably earns more in the time it took me to post this than I’ll make in my lifetime. Tant pis.

Jack Welch is one of many ex-CEOs who write best-selling books, persuaded  — like this guy — their bons mots are going to transform our miserable lives. If you read business books, and I do, occasionally — as hungry as anyone for smart, helpful advice — you know how many of them are deeply, annoyingly, self-righteously dull, stupid and eagerly swallowed up by people who use “impact” as a verb or say things like “This robust suite of products is mission-critical”.

Just because you’ve “created shareholder value” and made big fat profits for your company doesn’t mean your in-house brilliance will translate to the rest of the world, who are not actually breathlessly awaiting your next PowerPoint. (A lesson Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, both corporate legends now entering the bare-knuckled fray of politics, are learning as well.)

It can come as a terrible shock when those who are not your underlings find your “wisdom” risible.

Which business book did you find a total waste of cash?

Any one you did like?

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