Episode 143: True Equality: When It's OK to be Mediocre

The idea is to say we’re not perfect, or great - we can be just as bad, evil, hopeless and ridiculous as men, but so what? The point [is] we need the freedom to be just people.
— Pilita Clark
Photo by eggeeggjiew/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by eggeeggjiew/iStock / Getty Images

Pilita clark

Pilita clark

We all need inspiration in the form of successful women. But sometimes the pitches I get about the latest amazing, do-it-all star who's 'killing it' can make me feel tired rather than inspired.

Financial Times columnist Pilita Clark is in the same boat. She argues that true equality means not having to be utterly stellar to receive recognition. In this show we discuss her theory that women should be allowed to be as mediocre as any man, and what it’ll take to get there.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

As I mentioned in the intro, those of you who are managers or about to become one should check out former guest Anne Libby’s On Management newsletter.

Further reading: Here’s the column Pilita wrote that got me reflecting on my own inbox full of superwomen pitches: Women must demand the right to be as useless as men.

During our conversation we discussed the book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

Episode 142: Working Daughters: Your Career + Parent-care

I just remember taking her to one doctor, and one doctor’s appointment took five hours...So how do you do that and still balance your career or progress in your career?
— Maria Toropova
Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Getty Images

The doctor that day asked me why I worked and didn’t quit to spend more time with my mother. It was a brutal day.
— Liz O'Donnell
I have to believe there was a meaning for my music, for my soul...that me going through that experience was teaching me something about what it means to live.
— Kate Schutt

The issues surrounding work and motherhood are out in the open and being talked about. Less so the issues around working daughters. And a lot of us are turning into working daughters. In the US, the average family caregiver is a middle-aged woman who often has a family of her own and holds down a job. But as this show reveals, it’s not just women in their forties and older who are trying to maintain careers and livelihoods while caring for at least one parent.

Maria Toropova was just 29 when her mother got sick last year, and both their lives changed utterly. Now she’s the sole wage earner and caregiver to her 65-year-old mother. Kate Schutt found her musical career hard to keep up while caring for her mother in the last years of her life. And Liz O’Donnell founded Working Daughter to bring more attention to the work/eldercare clash and provide support to the women doing this work.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Further reading: Here’s Liz O’Donnell’s piece in the Atlantic on working daughters and how invisible the issues can be.

Liz is also the author of the upcoming book, Working Daughter - a Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living.

Kate Schutt made this TED talk last year about how to help your friends and family through a loss.

Episode 141: When I'm 85 - an interview with Madeleine Kunin

It doesn’t end at 80 or 85. As long as you’re still curious, as long as you’re still interested in new things, you can be happy.
— Madeleine Kunin

A few years ago I spoke to former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin for a show called Politics is Power. When I took some of her career advice and wrote it up in a LinkedIn post, it got hundreds of (positive) comments. So when I heard she had a new memoir out about being in her eighties, I couldn't wait to speak to her again.

In this show we discuss what it's like to officially be an old woman, and talk about some of the highs and lows of reaching your eighties. We discuss how Madeleine has changed as a person and go back in time to her childhood, to parts of her career, and to the time she became a single professional woman at 60, after many years as a wife. She found love again at 71.

Being 85, she says, 'is not what I pictured in my mind.' It’s better.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Further reading: You can read more about Madeleine’s marriage to John Hennessey in this New York Times piece.

Here’s an obituary of John from the Burlington Free Press and an appreciation by staff at Dartmouth College, where he spent much of his career.

Madeleine’s previous two books are Pearls, Politics & Power and The New Feminist Agenda.

Episode 140: The Coaching Cure, part 2: The Coachee

Even if somebody has all the certifications they still might not be very good - or they might be great. They might not have any certifications and they might be brilliant.
— Anne Libby
There are many men in particular who would not be caught dead reading a self-help book, but they would be happy to tell you that they’re meeting with their coach.
— Christine Whelan
Christine Whelan

Christine Whelan

This coaching has made me much more aware of my feelings and helped me stop just pushing aside my emotions, which I think many women are told to do at the office.
— Danielle Sauvé

This is the second of two shows on women and the coaching industry (listen to the first one here). This time we find out about one novice coachee's first experience of leadership coaching at work. We talk to management expert Anne Libby and coach trainer Terry Maltbia about why coaching has become so popular during the last several years, especially among women - and why anyone picking a coach should ask plenty of questions first. And we meet Christine Whelan, a professor of consumer science and an expert on the self-help industry.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

Further reading:

If you’re considering any area of self-help where you might spend a chunk of change, check out SeekSafely.org first.

Also, here are the International Coach Federation’s tips for choosing a coach.

Some stuff that didn’t make it into the show because I couldn’t neatly weave it into the narrative: If you live in the west and pay attention to these things, you may have noticed most coaches are white. Terry Maltbia at Columbia University (a coach trainer and an African-American man) told me that in his experience, the biggest group of coaches is made up of white women, next come white men, and then women of color (this is in the US). He thinks this is probably related to how coaching grew up in the first place, as part of what he called ‘the human potential movement’ - and it was people with some money behind them - usually white people - who could afford to a) think about human potential and b) take a chance on being a coach and/or pay for some training. He said it’s not much spoken of in the coaching industry, but the racial disparity is something he notices whenever he’s at industry events. He mentioned that on his training program at Columbia University Teachers College, most women of color who attend are coming from Latin America, and particularly from Brazil.

The other thing I wanted to get into is what can be the scammy underbelly of the coaching industry. As I said last time, coaching is unregulated and anyone can hang out a shingle as a coach. Lots of people are doing so. Many new coaches find it challenging to make a living at first. You don’t have to spend long online to see that endless numbers of people market themselves as coach marketers - in fact one of them hit me up on LinkedIn recently. They claim to be able to vastly increase a coach’s business. This kind of thing makes me incredibly wary (others I’ve spoken to have compared the coaching industry to a multi-level marketing scheme, noting some coaches’ websites are suspiciously similar). I’m already wary of the happy talk and ra-ra attitude that can be such a big part of the self-improvement industry. We should all maintain some cynicism as we search for and interview coaches.

Your thoughts are always welcome.

Episode 139: The Coaching Cure, part 1: The Coach

Coaches have always existed in some form...if you want to be better at being yourself and doing your life, it costs something.
— Kate Schutt
My clients don’t have a lot of support in their lives for themselves...the mentors they might go to are so busy themselves.
— Rachel Garrett
Kate schutt

Kate schutt

A few years ago I wrote a post called Everyone’s a Coach. Because that’s how it felt to me. Ever since I’d started the show I’d noticed an increasing number of social media profiles of women using the title ‘coach.’ And they all seemed to be targeting their services at other women.

Rachel Garrett

Rachel Garrett

The coaching industry is growing fast all over the world. It’s unregulated, and anyone can call themselves a coach. The majority of coaches are women, as are the majority of clients. So why do more women than men seek coaching, and why are so many women drawn to the profession?

This is the first of two shows that looks at women’s relationship with the coaching industry. In this episode we meet two coaches, Kate Schutt and Rachel Garrett, and we hear from Terry Maltbia, a trainer of coaches.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

I’d love to hear from people about this episode. Does it resonate with your experience, or not? What do you wish you’d heard that you didn’t? I’m releasing a second episode in two weeks.

Further reading: The International Coach Federation has the most recent global survey on coaching.

Terry Maltbia directs the Columbia Coaching Certification Program.

The Harvard Business Review published The Wild West of Executive Coaching in 2004, but it’s still relevant today.

Episode 138: Focus Amidst the Chaos

Women don’t think they have the right to spend time on their book or their painting or whatever it is until they’ve checked all the boxes and everyone is OK. And the fact is no one is ever gonna be OK.
— Jessica Abel

Right now a lot of us are thinking about our intentions for the new year. Plenty of people have a side project they're hoping to get off the ground - it could be a novel, a new business, or perhaps you just want to learn to paint. Whatever it is, you have to make it happen on top of the rest of your life. Which is where the problems start.

In this episode cartoonist, teacher, and author Jessica Abel talks about how to bring focus to a crowded life so you can actually turn your idea into a reality.

You can also read a transcript of the show.

At the top of the episode you heard me talk about Anne Libby’s newsletter On Management. Anne has been a guest on the show and is also a supporter. You can sign up for her newsletter right here.

Jessica abel

Jessica abel

Further reading: Jessica’s latest book is Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life.

Here are a few of her blog posts as well: the first is on ‘idea debt’, which she mentioned in the show. The second is on scarcity and why so many creatives work like crazy, moving from project to project without allowing any time to think or strategize in between (and how to change that). The third is on how to escape panic mode and actually get on with your creative project.