Bullish Life: What Men Say About Living Bullishly

Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

You know, it’s not entirely easy being Bullish all the time.

Today is my birthday, so I’m going to lounge in a gentlewomanly fashion while allowing a small cadre of male Bullish readers to write my column for me; I’ll do the cutting and pasting in between popping peeled grapes into my mouth. (Actually, peeled grapes sound kind of gross and unnecessary, no? No one wants to see the inside of a grape. What’s wrong with grape skin? The landed gentry can be completely irrational.)

Let’s hear today from three gentlemen I’ll call Erwin Schrödinger, (one of the founders of quantum mechanics), Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov (the sexiest of all The Brothers Karamazov), and Don Marquis (“Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.”)

Here’s Erwin:

I was thinking about your excellent Bullish columns again this week.

Why? Well, it was a Bullish sort of week, and I was busy launching projects for 3 clients, pitching a 4th, and telling a 5th he could either accept my lawyer’s contract modifications or find somebody else. That sort of week always reminds of your columns, which says something very nice about your writing.

Anyway, here are some random observations at the end of a busy week:

1. Charging high rates is a wonderful thing, if you can pull it off. Because you’re expensive, you’ll end up reporting to senior management, and they’ll only call you if a project is either strategic or has a measurable impact on the bottom line. It’s sad to say, but too many low-budget clients are low-budget because their time is worthless. No client who’s kicking ass and taking names can afford to waste time on the petty bullshit that’s so popular among B and C players. Or to put it another way, where will you find amazingly competent and successful clients? Sooner or later, they tend to wind up in highly successful organizations with a lot of responsibilities. Focus on helping these people.

2. There’s a ridiculous price premium for people who don’t need to be supervised. Seriously. You can find a flaky programmer in a developing nation for $15/hour. But I know people who charge $150/hour, mostly because if you ask them to do something, they’ll always do an amazing job and handle all the little details. So many people could be like this, but they sabotage themselves in minor ways and throw away 75% of their potential income.

3. It’s hard to turn down work to invest more time in your business. I mean, I should have a much better home page and a cool blog. I suspect this is why December and August were invented. Perhaps we should reinvest while our clients are out yachting, or doing whatever it is that keeps them from signing deals in August?

4. The most amazing skill ever: Knowing how to negotiate well and fairly.

On this last note, Erwin recommended the book Getting To Yes, a tome on negotiating. He comments that the framework offered by the book “doesn’t rely on obnoxious interpersonal skills, which have traditionally placed women and geeks at a disadvantage.”

I have to say, something really appeals to me about the idea of “women and geeks” as occasionally-oppressed and yet allied groups (of which it is possible to be a member of both at the same time!)

For related topics, see Bullish: How Talking About Money Can Make You More of It, Bullish: What to Charge for Your Work (and What to Pay Your Assistant), and Bullish: How to Go To There (First Steps to Making It Big).

Let’s hear from Alexei:

Despite being about the opposite of your target audience (I’m 35 and male, I live in the wilds of Alaska, and I gave up entrepreneurship for a steady government job two years ago), I look forward to reading your columns every week.

I never fail to glean some wisdom from your writing. For one thing, you’ve inspired me to think about additional income streams, although that is a bit tricky in my current situation: I’m a lawyer by training, and I work as a magistrate now, so I have some constraints on extrajudicial moonlighting. Your column on traveling like a gentlewoman resonated with me too–my favorite way to see a new city is to spend a day or two just walking around, and then settle into some favorite neighborhood haunts. Plus, a smart jacket opens doors all over the world–I learned about 8 years ago that if my wardrobe matured beyond “vacation clothes,” I would feel more confident, and I would get treated like an adult!

Thanks, Alexei!

Speaking of which, I recently spoke to a journalist who said she was contractually forbidden from moonlighting in her chosen profession.

I had two ideas: moonlight in some other, non-forbidden profession that could eventually parlay itself into a book (à la Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed), or develop a male pseudonym and use that to get paid more for writing anyway.

To handle the financial part, form an S Corporation and insist that checks be paid to the corporation — when your very masculine pseudonym JOHN REAGAN HARDON says nonchalantly that his accountant insists that his freelance writing business be legally set up in a certain manner, no one will question JOHN REAGAN HARDON and how he needs his money. (Magistrates probably shouldn’t fudge the rules, though.)

Also related to Alexei’s letter, see Bullish: How to Dress for Battle and Bullish: How to Travel Like a Gentlewoman.

And finally, let’s hear from Don, a video producer (for a big corporation) and circus performer (for the sake of awesomeness) who enjoyed last week’s column on TheGrindstone, Bullish: Cultivating A Career When You Have Too Many Choices:

I was going to respond via twitter, but your column today rang so close to home that I just wanted to make it more personal.

I’ve had no free time this past week between regular work and all the performance/circus/video things I do on the side, and the Google Calendar that runs my life currently looks like a Jenga game that could fall down at any moment. Next week is already the same, and I know I’m not going to see many friends and miss out on quite a few things in this time. This time of year is always like that – it drives me crazy, but I love it. I’ve always found it worth it because it pushes me harder in so many directions, usually ones I’m not completely comfortable with (choreographed group dancing, for example). Many of my friends don’t understand it, and I can see my parents looking at each other wondering where they went wrong when I email them photos of the six different costumes I had to make for Halloween weekend.

But it’s all worth it, and you’re right, I’ve managed to have each “field” impact the other. All of my acts are completely story driven because I come from such an editing background, and the circus stuff makes it so I can carry all the camera gear I need wherever I am and not worry about getting tired or sore. Plus being able to hop up on stilts and shoot over a crowd can be very beneficial when you really want a great shot of what’s going on.

Your last line on page 3 – “anything you do really well isn’t going to hurt you. And anything awesome that other people are scared to do isn’t going to hurt you either” – that’s what made me realize I had to write. I’m pretty sure I’m a great editor/producer, and it’s never hurt me in any way. And on the flipside, there are very few people who want to fall 30’ to the ground below, having faith that the thin piece of fabric wrapped around their body will catch them.

Anyway, I really wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed this – seeing it presented in such a logical way in printed words made me feel totally okay and completely calm about the current state of my life. I know it’s not the norm for most, but it’s really comforting to know it is for a few others.

Thank you, Don!

Here’s the column Don was referencing, but here’s another especially related to doing many things and making them work together: Bullish: How to [Intelligently] Do Many Things At Once.

You know, I’ve often noted that business advice for men and women isn’t necessarily all that different, but is often presented with a different aesthetic (I have yet to have a man tell me he wants to be a productivity unicorn).

For instance, virtually everyone wants some kind of work/life balance, and most people would like to work less, make more money, and have more freedom. If you want to sell this to dudes/bros, you call this lifestyle hacking. If you want to sell it to women and gay men, you call it lifestyle design. (Obviously, exceptions abound, and, as we learned from the 1995 film Hackers, some hackers are Angelina Jolie.)

In any case, it’s nice to hear from some gentlemen.

I received a question recently from a reader that asked, “What does your day look like? What is a day in the life of Bullish actually like?”

Maybe I’ll write a column about that, but I will say that today involved being brought a second cup of coffee by a gentleman who promised on our first date, “I’ll never hold your success against you.” Sweet-talk for a new age?

I’ll balance that out with a quip from my brother (my bro is such a bro), who texted me something deliberately sexist to get a rise out of me, to which I replied, “Yeah, enjoy the few things in life where upper body strength counts. You’ll be obsolete soon enough!”

His response: “Sure. Totally. Unless the one thing women need to take over the world happens to be in a very tightly closed jar.”

Send in your questions to bullish@thegloss.com. See a Bullish archive here.

Share This Post:
    • Ashley Cardiff

      YOU ARE 100% PERCENT WRONG ON YOUR ASSERTION THAT ALYOSHA IS THE HOTTEST KARAMAZOV BROTHER.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        MORE LIKE THE BABY-EST

    • Ttiffany

      Your “bullish” column makes my week. Every time I think it is impossible to keep juggling twelve things at once, you remind me otherwise. Keep up the good work!

    • Dominique

      Sturdy rubber gloves > tightly closed jar! Sometimes I let my boyfriend open stuff for me, but when he’s not around I get the rubber gloves. Eventually jars will yield.

      Oh, & superior upper body strength can’t save a guy from a determined, trained female martial artist… I punch guys in the face regularly in jeet kune do (Bruce Lee-style) class. I can also drag a guy across the room despite him outweighing me by 50 pounds. Sheer willpower and bloody-mindedness can do wonders.

      Thanks for writing such awesomeness twice a week. I’m always inspired. It’s so great to know that there are other logical, competent, lifehacking women out there. It helps me maintain my blissful calm.

    • Jennifer Dziura

      Ha, thanks Dominique and Ttiffany!

      Ashley, I admit that my naming process was more or less “The writer is from Alaska. There are not many famous Alaskans who are heroic. Russia is also cold; you can see it from Alaska. What’s a Russian novel? Oh yes, I read that one in college. Was someone in it named Alexei? Google say yes! Deadline immiment!”

      I appeal to the 80/20 principle, and your good graces.

      Sincerely,
      Jen

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