This time last year, The Grindstone didn’t even exist! It was just a gleam in B5 Media’s eye! An egg resting comfortably in the ovary of the Internet!
Here’s how it all happened. In early 2010, I met Jennifer Wright, now Editor-in-Chief of TheGloss, at a networking event, which I had angrily dragged myself to because I know you’re supposed to do things like that, but I am an introvert. She commented on my seamed, Cuban-heeled stockings (fashion really is for other women), and then came this article on how to get your stocking seams straight, followed by one on shutting down street harassment, and this old favorite, Ask a Beauty Writer Who Uses a Wheelchair How to Look Good Sitting Down.
And then I heard that the powers that be wanted career writing, and I pitched Bullish (I have advocated pitching as a skill, and pitching ballsily and often, in at least eight Bullish columns so far). First came this one, in which I explained the origin of “Bullish” as a title.
(Also on the topic of gendered references, I’ve had to defend my repeated use of the word “ballsy” – I always respond that I find it hilarious that men oft ascribe their power to their most delicate and idiosyncratic body part. Seriously, how intimidating is a scrotum? I will answer this question: not intimidating. Less intimidating than a baby squirrel, which at least has teeth and possibly rabies.)
Over a year later, there I was writing Bullish once a week, when I heard that TheGrindstone was to be launched! I was asked to move Bullish to TheGrindstone, and pitch something else for TheGloss — the column that became Bullish Life, which runs on Tuesdays.
Let’s take a tour through this year’s columns on TheGrindstone — maybe there’s something you missed that will help you plan for the new year.
Women — especially young and pretty ones — get too much praise for doing small things. Someone once walked up to me at a concert and said, “I think it’s so cool and brave of you that you’re here alone.” What? It was Moby. I was sitting in a half-empty amphitheater drinking a beer. It would have been really cool and brave of me to rescue people from rising floodwaters in a tiny boat I rowed myself. I totally didn’t do that. Anyway, who among us has not wondered if she is thinking too small? This has happened to me: I was busy going to meetings of the local Chamber of Commerce, and my clients were raising millions in venture capital. Let’s all avoid this. My project throughout 2012 will be to start companies — many companies, mostly working together in some kind of synergistic system — and to write about it in Bullish (including dollar figures!)
There is a massive knowledge gap between growing up being told “You can do anything you set your mind to!” and actually knowing how to build competence doing practical things. (“Girls can do anything boys can do!” “Okay, how?” “I don’t know! But BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!”) This column, now that I look back, is a nice roundup of things I say frequently and adamantly — pitch all the time, sell expensive things to rich people, cultivate multiple income streams. Also, “Making money is deeply feminist.”
“Whatever got you through college — writing, balancing several things at once, working late into the night or ass-early in the morning — is what helps you beat everyone else who gets lazy once they get out of college and start receiving a paycheck.”
The topic of how to motivate yourself to be motivated is like a picture of a man painting a picture of a man painting a picture of a man inside of a Russian doll that is inside of a Russian doll that is inside of a Russian doll and also like a fractal, which I originally learned about from Jurassic Park. But seriously, I did answer a reader question on how to get motivated. My answers? Disgust, Fear, and Revenge.
Please don’t try to change the world by completely alienating yourself from the people whose minds you want to change. NO DRUM CIRCLES. Also, “Money isn’t evil — it simply magnifies the desires of whoever holds it.”
If you listen to most women’s magazines, you should cut back on daily expenses (pack your lunch!), but also splurge on a lot of products that the magazine received for free. So, you should eat terrible food — and miss out of networking by going out to lunch — but have a designer handbag no one cares about! Um, no. Also see Bullish: How Talking About Money Can Make You More of It on TheGloss.
“Resumes are about 5% of what’s important in getting hired and promoting yourself. Everyone has a really impressive resume. Yes, you need one too, but: having an impressive resume is like showing up to an interview in a clean shirt. Those are the basics.”
A commenter complained about my “language” when I called some women MBAs “dumb bitches” for telling an enormous audience of young women wanting to go to business school that they all wanted to start a business “someday” but that it was “so scary.” I will hereby reveal that I actually changed it to ”bitches.” It was originally “cunts.” Promoting fear and cowardice and corporate conformity for one’s whole life is dastardly.
Reader Lisa Simpson writes, “A friend had finally scheduled a saxophone lesson with me, and several days in advance she wasn’t sure she could make it… I told her she could cancel any time until 24 hours before, after which she’d be responsible for paying for the lesson. She accused me of ‘treating a friend like a business transaction.’” Frustrating!
The holidays are an excellent time to recover from burnout, but if you’re still dragging: Choose vacations where your Blackberry doesn’t work (or fake it!) Write a vision statement. Vision statements don’t suck if you write one yourself; they suck when they’re written by committees.
If you work on a computer, do not relax on one. Spend time with animals and old people. If you’re slogging away at something arduous but necessary, define the endpoint.
I totally stand by the theory of “coolness arbitrage” I put forth in this column. Cool people make money by selling coolness to the uncool. Cool people rarely pay other cool people, and if they do, the money ultimately comes from the uncool. Most hip-hop albums are purchased by white teenagers in the suburbs. The reader who wrote in was having trouble getting paid as a circus photographer. All for one and one for all? Ugh.
Lucretia Mott writes, “My boss is a rich man, and I am His Favorite Employee…. The problem is, he’s super creepy.” Answering this question also gave me an excuse to make the point that hipsters and liberals don’t get an automatic pass on sexism: “I’ve made the mistake before of thinking that liberal beliefs are a monolith – if a guy is wearing skinny jeans, he must want evolution taught in schools and believe in gay marriage and be pro-choice and also therefore not be sexist, right? Um, no. Plenty of douchebags are pro-choice for the sole reason that they want to bang as many chicks as possible and not ever have to pay child support. Plenty of people espouse liberal viewpoints because they enjoy affiliating with hip groups of people and because, honestly, it doesn’t cost them anything.”
It charms me that eighteen-year-olds (smart ones, anyway) read TheGrindstone! Always remember that, “Adults actually like to help you – if you remind them of themselves, way back when.” Also, in the comments, I saw that something called the Dartmouth First-Generation Network linked to me, which made me a little weepy — both at the unexpected recognition that I am part of some kind of group (blue-collar kids in WASPland) that mostly doesn’t talk to each other about these things, and also at the realization that something like that might have been a real fucking help had it existed back when I was in school. For more on class issues, seeBullish: Social Class in the Office on TheGloss.
Um, if you have $54,000 in the bank, no obligations, and a good business idea, yes, you should probably go for it. But I also talk about killing off bad business ideas and overcoming fear.
If you’re still in college, don’t apologize for it! Use it to impress older people who feel that their brains have turned to mush now that they’ve been out of school longer than they were ever in it. Also: whitepapers.
I’m going to tell myself that the reason this column didn’t get a lot of pageview love is that lots of women hate selling — so much so that even thinking about selling in a nice, indirect, non-manipulative way in which everyone wins causes itching and hives! But seriously, we all have to sell something — whether it’s a product or our own services as an employee. Even if you have a 9-to-5, the people with the safest jobs are the ones who bring in money directly; those who are likely to get raises in a recession are those who can generate the revenue the raise is supposed to come from.
“Being addicted to praise makes you someone’s little bitch. Praise doesn’t even cost anything to the person giving it; chasing it is a terrible way to run one’s life.” The stock photo of a little girl in a giant business suit kind of creeps me out, though.
Do you want to be doing the same thing in five years? What do you want life to be like when you’re sixty? Aging is full of indignities — you must now accrue more and more dignity to compensate. I am doing my advance planning now — I have money in the bank and could keep working, writing, and adding to my savings and investment accounts until I retire and write a column like this one, full of links, but like fifty times as long. That’s nice, but not really nice enough. As I told my dad when he suggested that, at 22, I should get a job rather than start a company, “I am the sort of person who, every single time I get $10,000 in my hands will try to turn it into a million. Every time.”
“It’s a terrible freaking recession and everything sucks, and yet people are still buying things every day, and the rich have only gotten richer. If there’s money circulating out there, why shouldn’t it circulate through your glittery-manicured hands?”
This one was obviously written in the moment (and just a few blocks from Zucotti Park, actually), but I think it holds up well. I stand by my pronouncement that austerity is now a social norm and that “it is now completely socially acceptable to be cheap and work fiendishly.” As I enter entrepreneurial mode in 2012, I’ll be enacting some moderate austerity measures of my own: when I signed up for Mint.com, I was immediately informed that I was $600 over budget on groceries. SAYS WHO?, I yelled at the screen, before going back to sipping a Hitachino Nest Beer White Ale as I gently folded crabmeat into an omelet. (Turns out that Mint uses a “standard” budget for you until you go in and tell it, “I don’t have a car and I can buy as much crabmeat as I want, Mint.com!”) In a related column on TheGloss, I made fun of Ayn Rand for TEN PARAGRAPHS, including a bit in which I referred to übercapitalists “banging a Fleshlight full of money.” I like to think that I earned my liberal (organic hemp) angel-wings that day.
I’m terrible at delegating (so far — I believe it is possible to improve in all things and cowardly to claim permanent incapacity at a learnable skill). So, I wrote about all of my stupid mistakes, and then I read an entire book about delegating and summarized it in this column. Also, you could get a virtual assistant in India to sort through your online dating matches and send polite rejection notices to dudes like the one who once began a message to me, “You sound hot, or like a real pain in the ass.”
Did you know that you can make a legal will online for free in about five minutes? Yes, I tempt you with sex and mythical beasts, and then starting talking about death. I am a serious bummer sometimes. At least I’m not suggesting that you manifest your dreams.
Reader Emily Dickinson wrote, “About a year ago I was involved in a three-car accident… Finally, a few of months ago, I received a call from my insurance company. The other two companies are suing me for the difference… I’m just so nervous that declaring bankruptcy will ruin everything… I know from reading your column that you declared bankruptcy at a relatively young age and bounced back.” As I wrote to Emily, “bouncing back” never feels bouncy. This column was so fucking hard to write. Even linking to it kind of pains me. Moving on!
Do you really need a fancy contract? Eh, if you’re not really equipped to take someone to court for violating the contract, a contract won’t protect you as much as you think. I’m a big fan of just fucking getting fucking started with starting a fucking company already. Also: some gay men made babies with my eggs.
One commenter wrote in response to my suggestions, “That was quite thorough. My answer to this question would have been much shorter… ‘Find out where McCopypants hangs out after work, get him wasted, and drive him to the middle of nowhere to starve to death.’”
Reader Lenina Crowne wrote, “I feel like I am getting closer to my decision about what I want to do, but I still can’t seem to come to a decision, because once I pick one, I feel like I am giving up my other options… is it possible to make a decision, but try to keep the other things you think you might want to do open as an opportunity one day?” I believe that you can do quite a lot of things at once, and make them work together and benefit one another. Why start just one company when you can start several companies that use the same answering service and web designer and will likely have some customers in common. Check back here Fridays in 2012 to watch me do just that (or fail spectacularly!) [tagbox tag="bullish"]
Reader Ada Lovelace writes, ”What I’ve noticed and find really disturbing is the number of other graduate students, all girls, who complain that they “don’t get” to talk in classes enough.” Power must be taken! It is never granted! Also, note to everyone: Please don’t say your name and job title as though they are a question. Thank you.
Virtue is for obedient little ladies. The Renaissance Italian ideal of virtù is far more gentlewomanly. This column is really leading into my Bullish 2012 project — starting companies — loads of synergistic little companies — and laying out all the details, starting next week! Now is a fine time to design your next year, and the years beyond. The further out you do your designing, the easier it is to make exactly the life you want.
Last week’s column suggested some little things we can all do during these few sleepy holiday days: Send thank-you’s and compliments, ask for feedback, ask for crazy things far in advance! All things you can do via email, from a sofa, any sofa! Get your finances in order — it’s remarkably like gift-wrapping: tedious and often involving frustrating sheaves of paper.
That’s the roundup! It’s been an excellent year, and thanks to all of you who wrote in and commented.
Notice also the exciting (and hilarious!) Bullish logo! The “bullicorn” originally arose from Bullish: How to Be a Productivity Unicorn, in which I allege that unicorns are better than ninjas (and way less tense).
Next week, I’ll write about my entrepreneurial plans, how to start a business, and why I’m convinced I can start numerous businesses in the same year. (I always say, you shouldn’t take business advice from anyone whose only business is giving business advice.)
Also on the agenda are columns about “career killers” you may not know are killing you, micro-investing in startups, getting peer-to-peer funding for your business, making money from internet businesses, and why it’s important to be able to work alone. (Comments or questions about these or other topics? Email me at email@example.com.)
As I start building, I may decide to hire an assistant, or a manager. I may end up with a virtual assistant, or outsourcing services to freelancers. I’ll undoubtedly fuck some things up, and I’ll tell you what everything actually cost and how much revenue actually comes in as I attack 2012 bullishly.
I love that this column is published on Fridays. Everyone else is lazy on Friday and over the weekend. Not you! See you next week.