Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

What good interview questions are actually trying to discover

How long are you willing to keep pushing on a good project until you give up?

How hard is it to get you to change your mind when you're wrong?

How much do you learn from failing?

How long does it take you to learn something new?

How hard is it for you to let someone else take the lead?

How much do you care?

The rest is merely commentary, either that or they're interviewing you for a job that's not as good as you deserve. For those jobs, the only question they're really focusing on is, "will she fit in around here?"

Invitation to a three-day session with me in New York

This is my last public event of the year.

I'm hoping you will consider coming to the Medicine Ball session, which I'll be holding in a loft outside of New York on December 7, 8 and 9, 2011.

I've discovered a few things about the spread of ideas: first, in-person interaction really can't be beat. While digital ideas spread far and fast, there's something really powerful about being in the same room. And second, it often takes more than an hour or two to really dig in and discover not just who else is in the room with you, but what's holding you back and what's available to move you forward. This session is an experiment in generating both skills and breakthroughs over three intensely-focused days.

Applications are processed first-come, first-reviewed, so if you're interested, I hope you'll check it out soon. Feel free to share this invite with anyone on your team who might benefit. Looking forward to seeing you.

Are you doing math or arithmetic?

I have enormous respect for mathematicians. They're doing work on the edge, a cross between art and science and music.

Arithmeticians, not so much. They are merely whacking at a calculator, doing repetitive work better done by a computer or someone cheaper.

Many fields have precisely this same division. There's a chasm between the proven, repetitive work that can be farmed out and the cutting edge risky work that might just change everything.

When someone asks you what you do all day and you respond, "I take what comes into this basket, do a standard process to it and then put it in that basket," it sounds a lot like you're doing arithmetic, doesn't it? Far better to have a job where there are equal parts magic and art involved in processing the stuff in that basket.

Sure, it's harder to figure out the values of the Ramsey numbers, particularly R(5,5), than it is to add together 318 numbers, repeatedly. It's harder to create an original tweet than it is to retweet. It's harder to find metaphor than it is to work through a to do list. Hard work, true. But worth it.

The fall reading list

A semi-regular feature, here are a bunch of books I've been reading that might change the way you do your work and see the world.

Since posting these lists, my Squidoo pages have earned more than $20,000 for charities like the Acumen Fund. Thanks for that. Feel free to start your own.

Accentuating differences

The easiest way to describe your product (or service or candidate or cause) is to outline how it's different from the competition.

"This is just like Brand X, but 5% cheaper, 10% faster, 20% easier to use and it comes in chocolate…"

We do this so often and so naturally that often, we forget to talk about why we made the thing in the first place.

When selling A against B, we might do a great job of explaining why A is better than B, but it's easy to forget that the prospects you are pitching have another option: doing nothing.

How many baskets?

For many organizations, power and growth come from the idea of having lots of customers and even more potential customers. Lots of eggs, lots of baskets.

When one gets annoyed or leaves for a lower price or goes out of business, no big deal, there's always more where he came from. Believing you have an abundance of alternatives means that you can mistreat, ignore or reject any individual if you like. Or make something that merely delights a few, instead of all.

Even a frequent flyer with 100,000 miles on his account is disposable when you have millions of them.

For a few organizations, the opposite is true. One basket, cared for and watched carefully. When no one else can focus on and serve that customer as well as you (because you have no choice, it's your only basket) you have a huge obligation but you also have a platform to do great work.