Don’t Call It A Comeback…

Lazy.  Lagging.  Idle.  Lethargic.  Undisciplined.

I’ve been all five plus any other word you want to use to describe the above.  I have a good excuse in terms of being sick (something I’ll probably cover in the near future) – but I hate making excuses for anything, regardless of how legitimate the excuse may be.

I haven’t looked at my blog in a while.  In fact, I stopped writing.  It looks like the last post was sometime in August – right smack in the middle of when this whole illness went down. So in the next few weeks and months, as we enter into the new year, I’m hoping to get back on track – to get in the writing flow again and to start posting on a consistent, regular basis.


I’ll probably open up the blog a little bit as well.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love non-fiction books.  I’ll still post the lessons I learn from my reading and how these lessons apply to everyday life, but I’ll mix in other things as well – maybe some off-the-wall, random stuff like restaurant reviews, movie reviews, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu thoughts, health and wellness, career, and any other things that just come to mind.

I created Midlife Upswing to be informative, but also as a way to have fun in terms of everyday encounters as I hit middle age.  It’s been an interesting past six months –  extremely tough but with great times mixed in as well.  In other words, what life is each and every day.  I look forward to starting-up again.

As a final thought, even though I lagged with the blog, I did accomplish a goal in 2013 which was to self-publish an e-book.  If you haven’t checked it out, “New Jack Guide to Corporate Survival” is at  

It feels good to hit the “Publish” button again on my blog.  Thanks for reading and talk to you again soon!

Finding The Margins In Your Life

I’m a regular listener to Dan Miller’s “48 Days” podcast.  Dan’s podcast/site focuses on helping individuals find meaningful work and incorporating that work seamlessly into our everyday lives.

In his latest podcast, Dan used a term that I’ve come to appreciate – making sure that we have “margin” in our lives.  The concept is simple.  Resumé experts tell us to leave ample (white) space so the resume is more aesthetically pleasing to the reader.  We like margins in our books (those of us who still read physical books) so we can highlight, underline, and make notes in the margins.  In other words, we need space.

Having margins in our lives means having the personal space to operate on our own terms.  I’m not talking about shirking our responsibilities to our family, work, or anything else to which we have a regular commitment.  But finding margin means you might need to re-assess your responsibilities (and other parts of your life) so you can avoid this kind of talk:

“I’d really love to write that book/screenplay/play/magazine article/great American novel but…”

“I really need to hit the gym and lose this extra weight  but…”

“We really need to stop eating out.  I’d love to cook but…”


In writing my e-book and posting to this blog, I needed to find the margin in my own life.  Here are three questions that I used that might be of help to you:

What’s really important to me?

If it isn’t a real priority, let’s be honest, we’ll usually find a way to avoid doing whatever it is.  So when considering what is important, keep it to a short list of 2-3 things.  For example:

1) Get to the gym three days a week
2) Spend an hour a day writing my book
3) Have a date night with my wife one day a week

Like goal-setting, keeping things simple allows our conscious (and subconscious) mind to focus on these few things.  Plus, this keeps it easily measurable. (Did I make it to the gym three times this week?  Did I have a date night with my wife?)

What can I cut?

Your mind can be your best friend or own worst enemy.  When I was writing my e-book, I had a pretty simple goal of writing at least 500 words a day.  This was cool for the first few weeks as I would get up early before work and knock this out.  After a few weeks, I stopped getting up and put writing off until the evening.  Big mistake.  I would find myself watching TV, going to jiu-jitsu class, surfing the internet, reading, etc.  Now, none of these things are bad, but they were not writing my e-book.

Cutting things out is not easy.  We are, after all, creatures of habit.  If you’re used to playing video games three hours each day, watching TV all evening, or eating out each night, decreasing or eliminating these activities may be tough.  See question number one.  This is why you need to make sure what you want is a priority.  If not, “Halo” or “The Bachelorette” will end up overriding your goals.

Am I being brutally honest with myself?

Being honest with ourselves can be tough.  We like to make excuses to make us feel better and cover up weaknesses or deficiencies.  I’ve gained 20 pounds because I need to work late and I just don’t have time to eat well.  I’m stuck in this lousy job and I just don’t have the time to update my resumé and research other job opportunities.  I wish I had more time to (insert hobby here) but work/family/personal commitments are preventing me from doing so.

The margins in our lives don’t just magically appear.  It takes work, sacrifice, and effort.  In assessing areas to cut and identifying our priorities, we need to be honest throughout the process.  I’m not eating right and I’m not making time to go to the gym.  I’m complacent in my job and I’m being lazy (and scared) about pursuing a better position.  I want to paint more but I just don’t have the guts to tell people no.

Only you know what’s missing from your life right now.  And without margin, these important things will get drowned out by the minutae and not-as-important things of our everyday life.  Eventually, we get to the point Thoreau calls “men living everyday lives of quiet desperation.”

And who wants to live life this way?  Now go find your margins.

What have you been putting off in your life and what can you cut out (or decrease?)

Post your answers below.

The Problem With Hubris

I recently had a setback in my health (hence the break between posts).  During this time, the word “hubris” came to mind.

Hubris:  From ancient Greek, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Before getting sick, I felt invincible.  I was eating really well and working out hard.  Not to say eating really well and working out hard aren’t good for you, but mentally, I was getting to the point of arrogance and overestimation (“There’s no way I can get sick.”…“My body’s immune system is impenetrable.”).

 Hubris can affect all areas of your life.  How about these situations?

 “I can drive.  I only had a few drinks.  I feel fine.”

 “I’m in the best shape of my life.  I know it’s been years, but I don’t need a doctor.  Those are for people who are sick.”

 “My co-worker is hot.  One happy hour drink after work can’t hurt.  My husband/wife doesn’t have to know.”

 “Yeah, that $500 monthly car payment is really high, but damn, I’ve got to get that ride!”

 We’ve all suffered from hubris in our lives.  “I can handle it.” “What’s the worst that can happen?” We’ve all made these statements at some point including the most dangerous, “That only happens to other people.” There’s nothing wrong with being confident in one’s abilities, but hubris occurs when one’s confidence is mixed with ego and an overestimation of these abilities.

I’ve had to learn the (extremely) hard way during the course of my life.  Years ago, I tore an achilles tendon playing pick-up basketball.  The doctor did his magic and reattached the tendon with the warning to stay off the foot and take it easy.  After a few weeks, my bodybuilder ego could not take the muscle atrophy (you fitness freaks reading this, I know you can relate).  So what did I do?  I went out and bought an ankle brace (the kind that you lace-up and tie) and tied the area up tight.  I threw the boot on and immediately went back to working out.  These workouts included leg presses with a load of 45-pound plates.  At my next doctor visit, I immediately knew something wrong when he said (very un-doctor like), “What the hell did you do?”  I got the tendon infected to the point that he did not know if I would ever walk straight (let alone run) again.  For a 24-year-old kid, this was terrifying news.  In the end (thank God) everything worked out.  You would think this lesson on hubris would have been sufficient for a lifetime.  Nope.  I’ve made (and continue to make) these types of mistakes.


So how can we prevent hubris from throwing a monkey wrench into our lives?

Check Your Ego: Where I train, the tagline is “Check your ego at the door.”  It applies to all aspects of the school, whether you’re Crossfitting, doing Krav Maga, kickboxing, or training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).  It’s good advice.  Often times, we let our ego override common sense and realistic thinking.  I’ve seen a lot of bodybuilders and “tough guys” tap in BJJ class after experiencing unnecessary pain – all because they thought they could out -muscle or “out-man” an opponent who was half their size.  When we put our ego in check, it allows us to operate with no expectations – and that opens up the ability to learn, grow, and most importantly, avoid dumb mistakes.

Keep It Real: You don’t have to be the Dave Chappelle “Keep it Real” type but if you know yourself, you’ve already won half the battle with hubris.

 Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.

Sun Tzu

When we do and say things that are consistent with who we really are, we “flow” and operate more efficiently than if we were just “playing a role.”  Being someone or something  we aren’t is exhausting.  And when we start acting out of character, we start missing the warning signs our mind and body are throwing at us.  The result?  A loss of contact with reality (see definition of hubris).

Get Honest Feedback: If you have close relationships with family and friends, consider yourself very fortunate.  These are individuals to whom you can go and who will: 1) help you put your ego in check; and 2) put you back in touch with reality.  When I’m struggling with a problem or if I think I’ve lost my perspective, I’ll usually ask my wife or good friends who are all willing to give me their opinion.  One caveat here.  If you’re going to solicit input, make sure it’s from someone you trust – not just anyone.  There are individuals who can just as easily use this opportunity to tear you down.  So pick your counselors wisely.

Finally, learn and apply your life lesson.  If you do happen to slip up because of hubris, and like any mistake in life, look at it as an opportunity to learn.  Allowing mistakes or adversity to pass through our lives without making any changes is a tremendous waste.  So the next time hubris gets the best of you, make the necessary course-correction by asking, “What can I learn from this?”


How has hubris affected your own life?

The New Kindle Book Has Dropped!

Late last year, I was sitting in yet another industry conference and listening to the speaker talk about “An Introduction to…” or “How to succeed in…”  Having been in corporate life for nearly 20 years, I must have attended more than 100 of these seminars.  Some were very valuable, some, not so much.  And in all these seminars, I can remember only one that addressed corporate culture and its unwritten business rules.  This became painfully (and often times hilariously) clear through the years as I watched co-workers (and myself of course) break these rules – often leading to embarrassing and awkward situations.  These rules also came to mind while conducting hiring interviews with fresh out-of-college millennials (which I described in a previous post).

So I decided to put my thoughts down in a Kindle book, “The New Jack Guide To Corporate Survival”, which will be temporarily available (for free!) on the Amazon Kindle platform.  In the book, I talk about some of the written (but mostly unwritten) corporate survival rules.


With summer approaching, more than likely, you know someone who is graduating from college and heading into the workforce for the first time.  Maybe your son or niece has landed an internship or will be working part-time over the summer.  Maybe you or someone you know is re-entering the workforce after a long break.  Whatever the case may be, hook them up with the book and help them avoid some of the common “new-jack” mistakes.

And as always, if you have comments, stories, or feedback on the book – feel free to leave me a comment (here or on the Kindle site) or just shoot me an e-mail at

Thanks for reading!



The Power of Connection

While walking our dog at the park today, I stopped to watch something beautiful.

A man was showing a lady how to operate her motorized wheelchair.  It was one of those Stephen Hawking-type wheelchairs, and the man was directing her.

“That’s right, like driving a car.  Move a little to the right.  OK, now back a little left.”

It was touching to see.  But the beautiful part was watching as others, also on their daily park walk, stop to interact and offer words of encouragement.  I watched as this man and total strangers exchanged kind words, pleasantries, and looks of support.  Connection.

I noticed this later in the day at the store while helping an old woman take her milk out of the cart and onto the checkout belt.  Normally, I wouldn’t have given it any thought but when I actually stopped for a second to make eye contact as she thanked me, even for a split second, I could actually feel her appreciation.  It made the rest of my day.

Notice I said I wouldn’t have given it any thought.  I think this is a pretty normal, everyday occurrence for all of us.  Pay attention to yourself (and others) the next time you’re out and about.  Notice how many people operate with their head down, attached to their electronic device.  Watch as the person in front of you pays for their coffee without even acknowledging the cashier.  In other words, how many opportunities for connection do we miss?


The beauty of connection is that it serves both you and the person with whom you connect. Your body releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and you get an immediate energy boost.  Plus, you start to notice things you might have never noticed before (like colors, smells, other people, and opportunities).  You don’t have to be an enlightened monk to connect.  As human beings, God already hardwired it into our operating system.  And like a computer, sometimes it just gets buried by all of the viruses, downloads, and other garbage.  Here’s how I’ve been incorporating connection into my own life:

Just be “awake” – Put your cell phone down, take your Beats By Dre headphones off, and actually pay attention to what you’re doing.  Look around.  Listen.  Smell.  Be aware.

Listen intently – This is a great one.  Personal interaction makes a hugh difference when you look someone in the eyes and actually process what they’re saying to you.  This is one thing I’ve been focusing on…from the Starbucks cashier to family and friends.  Whomever you’re interacting with, treat them like they’re the most important person in the world at that moment.

Change Your Routine – I work around some beautiful nature trails, yet I’ve never stepped outside to walk around in them.  With the spring weather, I’ve gotten away from my desk to walk the trail and even sit at a bench – things I never used to do.  The peaceful feeling of just taking in the scenery, listening to the sounds around me, and watching others enjoy the day give me a sense of peace and appreciation for life.

Refuse to Jump – We are quick to respond, judge, and assume.  What if we stopped for a moment and gave the other person the benefit of the doubt?  Should we always assume that the person we’re interacting with is a jerk, mean-spirited, or simply out to screw us?  I watched this the other day while picking up lunch at Whole Foods.  The parking lot was pretty busy.  I watched driver after driver do the angry gesture thing (throw the arm in the air, shake the head, stick their hand out the window and give an angry wave, etc.)   Wouldn’t we save a lot of time, energy, and frustration if we simply let these things go?

Take in right now – Admittedly, this is something I struggle with every day.  I have a hard time just being in the present.  My “monkey mind” is unpredictable and ships me to places that I’ve already been (the past) or have not even occurred (the future).  So guess what happens?  I completely miss the only thing that “is” – which is the present.  In other words, I’m missing the beauty all around me…like the woman in the wheelchair.

How do you connect each day?

Post your comments below…

The Calendar Don’t Lie

“The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: “I did not have time.”

– Franklin Field

I’ve been reading Jon Acuff’s new book, “Start – Punch Fear in the Face.”  For those unfamiliar with his work, Acuff writes about pursuing his dream of writing and speaking for a living.  From a 200-word blog written in his kitchen to a bestselling author and sought after speaker, Acuff shares his journey to inspire others (I suggest picking up his first book, “Quitter,” which is excellent as well).

In Start, Acuff writes about how the calendar doesn’t lie.  In other words, for things that we say are priorities or areas in our life that we know need our attention, does our time (calendar) reflect these priorities and areas needing attention?

Let’s say you wanted to jump ship from your current job.  How much time did you spend today, this week, or this month updating your resume, researching companies, or reaching out to individuals to obtain their advice about changing jobs?

Or if your goal was to lower your weight and blood pressure through exercise, how much time did you actually spend exercising today, this week, or this month?

Or, more importantly, what did you spend your time on?


There’s a saying…“What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.”  I’m not saying we should be breaking out our planners or scheduling every single thing that we should be doing, but the principle behind “calendar don’t lie” is simple (although the execution may be difficult):

Live life intentionally.

Seems simple until you look at the calendar and realize the goals and priorities you set for yourself have taken a back seat to things you weren’t even aware of: TV, video games, social media, etc.  The point is not to stop doing these things, but to be aware of what we’re trading when we do choose to do these things.

The main point of Acuff’s message is to not let years layer on top of years only to wake up one day and realize time has slipped away without having done what you wanted to do.  This is a common concern in middle age.  We settle into a daily routine of work, family, responsibilities, and repeat.  This cycle continues until you wake up one day and think, “Damn, where did all of the years go?”

So what are your two to three priorities and/or dreams and what are you doing today to move you closer to these things?  Granted, we all have our daily responsibilities, but we should all purposefully carve out that time.  That might mean 30 minutes of writing or exercising early in the morning or late at night.  Or it might mean leaving work on your desk so you can make it home in time for dinner with your family.  Whatever your goals and priorities may be, be mindful of the time that you’ve given it.  Periodically check in to see where you’re at.

You should be able to quickly assess where you stand.  The results will tell you.  Plus, the calendar don’t lie.

What important things have you been putting off lately?

Post your comments below.

The $10,000 Band-Aid (or How to Handle Lousy Customer Service)

It seems like everyone I know has a 24-Hour Fitness membership.  When the subject of gym membership comes up, people love to talk about just how little they pay for their 24-Hour membership.  These are usually individuals (like myself) who joined the gym early (or who were grandfathered in when 24-Hour bought out the gym).  That’s why when my friend told me he cancelled his 24-Hour membership (at a whopping family membership cost of $9.00 a month), I was floored.  I had to know more.

Now, my friend works as a sales executive, so he’s very knowledgable and sensitive to customer service-related issues.  It so happens that he was fed up with the lousy customer service he was receiving from the front desk.  So who hasn’t gone through this scenario before?  Instead of 24-Hour Fitness, insert gas station, restaurant, fast food, retail, hotel, or any other customer-facing business that we enter into every single day:

Walk up to the front desk.  Front desk attendant has head down, either: 1) texting, 2) reading (or studying), 3) talking to someone (usually a co-worker or friend) without acknowledging you, or 4) just straight-up ignoring you.

This is one of my pet peeves as well.  My entire work life has included some type of customer (or client) service, so I’m pretty sensitive to the customer experience.  But my friend?  Damn…even I don’t think I could give up my sweet $9.00-a-month membership, even if the front desk person was lousy.  But the timing of my friend’s story is pretty funny since I recently had my own 24-Hour front desk experience.


While working out, I noticed I had a small cut on my finger.  Not wanting to bleed all over the equipment, I headed over to the front desk to get a band-aid.  As I approached the desk, I could already see the 20-something front desk attendant talking with the big bodybuilder trainer (who was in cool-guy stance, arms crossed and leaning back on the desk).  Standing there, the trainer saw me but didn’t acknowledge me.  And finally, when the front desk girl finally turned around, I think she thought I said “Can you go outside and wash my car?” and not “Do you have a band-aid back there?”  After a slight eye roll and sigh, she dug into the first aid kit and gave me the band-aid.

Let me first say I’m not picking on 24-Hour Fitness here.  I’ve been a member since college, and for the most part the front desk staff has been all good. That’s not the point.  My point is this one bad experience is all it might have taken for me to leave.  Now, my $10,000 band-aid is obviously an arbitrary number.  But potentially, how much business (i.e., referrals, recommendations, and product purchases) is lost that could have been prevented by simply being attentive and polite?

I feel this same way about Fry’s Electronics.  I don’t know, maybe Fry’s is set up this way.  But it seems the people who really like Fry’s are the one’s who either: 1) know exactly what they need or 2) know what they’re talking about.  In other words, if you’re like me and need explanations and product comparisons, forget it.

Everyone has their bad days, so a single instance of poor customer service isn’t usually enough to turn me away (unless it’s something completely terrible).  But if it’s something you’ve encountered a few different times, what can you do?

Respond With Kindness: Sounds counter-intuitive, huh?  But remember what I said about people having bad days?  Who knows what kind of personal or professional drama the person who’s helping you is going through.  Instead of customers constantly pounding them, maybe they need a kind word (or look).  They might appreciate you so much, they might hook you up (i.e., discount, add-on, not charging you, etc.)

Escalate: Know what auditors do when we don’t get a timely response?  We escalate a position up.  This usually gets the attention of the person who’s supposed to be helping you.  It means you’re serious and want the issue addressed now.

Tell The World: With social media, the entire world is literally listening.  Companies hire teams of people just to monitor social media traffic and customer feedback.  There are stories of individuals tweeting or blogging about their experience only to be contacted immediately by the company.  This isn’t the old days where your poor experience is limited to you and your immediate social circle.

Go All The Way Up The Chain: This is escalation on ‘roids.  Instead of going to the store manager, hit-up the executive-level staff (usually the CEO).  Now, unless the CEO is one of those unusual individuals who will actually respond to a customer complaint, you’ll usually be directed to a person or team that fields these types of complaints.  That’s OK…if possible, they’d rather try to appease you and have you move along than to continue having to listen to the squeaky wheel.

Leave: OK, so most of the companies or services you leave aren’t going to feel the impact of losing your business.  In some cases (like threatening to leave your cable carrier), some type of compensation or negotiation may be available.  But like my friend said about 24-Hour Fitness, it was about the principle.  So yes, you might lose a good thing or deal, but there will always be businesses out there that will appreciate having you for a customer.

What was your worst customer experience and how did you respond?
Post your comments below…

Sometimes Good Enough Is Simply Good Enough

The other day, I ran into an old friend at the gym.  I complemented him because  it was clear he had lost a bunch of weight since the last time I saw him.  He thanked me and said he had already lost more than 20 pounds…but that it still wasn’t “good enough.”

This reminded me of another chance meeting,  this time with a guy I knew who trained Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  I asked him how training was coming along and he said it was OK, that he was getting in three to four days a week but that it wasn’t “good enough.”

Thinking about the the term “good enough,” what does this really mean?  To some people, 20 pounds would be a huge life-changing accomplishment.  And for the guy who was “only” getting three to four days of training in, well, I know guys who are lucky to get that many days in a month.

Over the past few months I’ve caught myself saying these same types of things…

You should be saving more of your paycheck…

You’ve only read one book this month.  What happened to reading two?

Only a 30-minute run?  Why didn’t you run longer?

You should have written more today.


Admittedly, this type of thinking drives me (and my family) crazy.  It’s as if your efforts are somehow meaningless or inconsequential.  This isn’t to say there are times when you need to stretch and try harder.  For example, if I was planning to run a marathon, running 30 minutes a few times a week wouldn’t be good enough.  But there are also times when good enough really is good enough.  There are seasons and times in our lives when any more becomes inconvenient, extremely difficult, or something we just don’t want to do.

Now, let me be clear.  I’m not talking about completely blowing things off that we need to do or should be doing (like exercise or spending quality time with our family).  I’m talking about not trying to do everything…and then feeling bad for not doing everything.

For example, there were days when I was spending many, many hours in the gym, six days a week.  My younger self would tell my 42-year-old self that the three-days-a-week workout was unacceptable.  But at this point in my life, I just don’t have that hardcore passion for lifting like I used to have.  Keeping myself in good physical condition and shape is good enough.  I have no desire to be a bodybuilding champ or the biggest dude in the club.

So the next time you start questioning yourself, ask the following.  You might find that what you’re doing right now really is simply good enough.

Who Am I Comparing Myself To?  Comparison is a killer because it can affect every aspect of your life.  Work, family, friendships, and even hobbies can become fodder for comparisons.  Keep in mind that everyone’s circumstances are different.  What is appealing (or possible) for someone you know may not be appealing (or possible) for you.  For example, that co-worker who works 13-hour days? Maybe you don’t want to trade your family dinners or gym time for those extra hours at work.  Getting your work done and having this personal time is good enough.

Am I Being Honest With Myself?  I’m a terrible swimmer.  I did a few mini (sprint) triathlons using a modified side stroke.  My swimming would be the equivalent of doing a marathon by crawling on all fours.  Children and senior citizens were blowing by me.  Know what I learned?  That I don’t really like swimming or training for triathlons.  The reality is I don’t have the patience or desire to do these things.  And without the desire, the ability to sustain the ups and downs of difficult training (including swimming) disappear.  Being honest with yourself can be difficult.  But it will save you a lot of time and stress in the long run.

What Season Is This?  The bible talks about the seasons of life.  We are constantly evolving.  This includes our thinking, relationships, desires, and goals in every area of our life.  What was important to you yesterday may not be that important today.  Like my bodybuilding example, what you considered a priority yesterday may be reduced to a watered-down version of just good enough today.  Conversely, something that is extremely important to you (like eating dinner with your family each night) might have to be temporarily put on hold while you pursue that degree at night.

What’s The Desired Outcome Here?  Ultimately, what are you trying to accomplish?  What are your priorities?  Depending on how you divvy up your time, trying to get in family time, workout time, spiritual time and personal growth time may be difficult.  So what if you can only read 15 minutes a day?  That’s 15 minutes you got in while being able to do everything else that was important to you.  Never discount the power of incremental improvement.  And maybe you didn’t have dinner with your family, but you were able to go out later and get frozen yogurt together.  That’s good enough.

What Happens If I Don’t?  Finally, ask yourself, what are the consequences of “good enough?”  If they are truly unacceptable to you, then course-correct.  If, for right now (or the immediate future), it’s good enough – then let it go without stressing about it. Remember, we can always choose our direction, and like a mad scientist, we can experiment and change what is and isn’t working for us at any particular point in time.

What are you doing in your life right now that is good enough?

Post your comments below…

This Meeting Blows (Six Meeting-Killing Behaviors)

Right now, all around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in some type of meeting.  One-on-one meetings.  Small group meetings.  Huge departmental meetings.  And more than likely, there are thousands of people behaving badly in these meetings.  Look, a lot of the meetings we attend are huge time-wasters.  I get it.  There’s a reason why TV shows like “The Office” and comic strips like “Dilbert” lampoon office meeting life.  Unfortunately, there can be real consequences when we exhibit bad meeting-killing behaviors.  There are poor first impressions and reputations that can be affected.  Also, you never know who’s sitting in the meeting…

I had a good reminder of this recently.  At the start of a meeting, one of the attendees rolled in and immediately started scrolling through his iPhone.  OK, he’s a busy guy, I get it.  But when he started picking at his fingernails, I was completely distracted.  Now, every time I see him, I’m going to think of dirty fingernails…see how this works?

So what are some bad behaviors?  Check yourself for the following the next time you attend a meeting (which probably will be soon):

Being Condescending: My poor co-worker.  I remember sitting in a conference call one time when we were listening to a higher-up go on and on with the latest non-sensical MBA buzz words ending with “-gize” (like synerGIZE and strateGIZE).  My co-worker asked the higher-up what a certain word meant.  After about a minute of silence, she came back (with an irritated and condescending tone) and said, “Are you serious?”  She should have just said, “I’m wasting my time with you two idiots.”  You might be the smartest guy (or woman) in the room…but people will hate you for coming off like you know you are.


Poor Body Language: Interview and interrogation experts say that more than 90% of our cues are non-verbal.  In other words, actions speak louder than words.  The executive who leans back in his chair with his hands behind his head (I’m the big dog).  Or how about that anti-social co-worker who sits with her arms and legs crossed (leave me alone). In the same way, when you rest your head on your hand or slouch in your chair (like being in your least favorite high school class), this screams, “I hate this meeting and can’t wait to get out!”

Going Off-Topic: This one drives me crazy.  The meeting is already taking up a lot of time. The off-topic co-worker makes this even worse by taking you on a verbal journey.  A simple question like, “What do you think about the company’s new initiative?” is an invitation for the off-topic co-worker to bring out their inner Lincoln.  The response will begin with a monologue and continue for the next 15-20 minutes…unless someone jumps in and cuts him/her off (PLEASE!).

Smart Phone-Scrolling: Sadly, this is so commonplace now I think it’s becoming an accepted practice.  I feel for the meeting planner (or speaker) when meeting members have their heads down and are scrolling through their phone.  Is it really that important that it can’t wait until the meeting is over?  Nothing screams “You are not important!” more than putting your head down and ordering movie tickets from Fandango. (Are you really checking your e-mail?)

Sleeping: The classic meeting-killer.  Admittedly, I’ve done it. (In my defense, the one embarrassing time I really fell asleep, I had taken Benadryl for my allergies.  For me, I might as well have taken sleeping pills.)  If you have to, step out of the room before you start snoring (I’ve heard snoring on a conference call before) and avoid the huge pasta lunch before your 1 PM meeting.  The best (or worst) ever?  During one of our CEO speeches, a guy in the front row fell asleep.  After the speech, the CEO immediately went to the back of the room and asked, “Who is that guy?”  I never saw the guy again.  Not to say the guy got fired, but you can be sure that his manager and his manager’s manager heard from the CEO (and everyone else in that room).

Bad or Inappropriate Jokes: I have to admit, this one I actually have to laugh at (as long as I’m not the one telling the bad or inappropriate joke).  If you ever watch “The Office,” this is Todd Packer.  No filters and no sense of what’s bad or inappropriate.  I worked with guys like this.  At the time it’s painfully embarrassing and awkward.  At worst, these incidents become like company urban legend and you’re forever known as the “Remember that one meeting…” employee.  Don’t be a company urban legend.

What are some memorable meeting-killing behaviors that you’ve seen?

Post your comments below.




To My Friend Paul…

My friend Paul recently passed away.  He fought and fought, but sadly, like the millions of others before him, he could not fight the cancer anymore.

Growing up, I remember listening to my Mom talk about friends and family members who were passing away.  I didn’t think much of it because I thought that’s what happens when you get older, right?  You grow old and pass away.  There are no do-overs or extensions.  Time catches up with everyone.

But Paul was only in his thirties.  He just got married.  Just had a son.  Through our periodic dinners-out and UFC fight nights, my friends and I watched as the cancer and chemo treatments began to take their toll on Paul.  The memorable night where we emptied our wallets of cash and dared him to eat and finish a Claim Jumper eclair seemed like a distant memory. (After some dry-heaving, he did finish the eclair.  And if you’ve never seen a Claim Jumper eclair, imagine a Duraflame log smothered in whipped cream.)

Scan 3

I love this picture. It was taken at our friend Dan’s wedding (Paul is second from the right). I love it because it’s pure. To me it captures the essence of friendship. Connection. Laughter. Trust. Joy. Memories.

Paul was a guy’s guy.  Intelligent, highly opinionated, blunt, and a big eater.  I’ll miss his playful verbal assaults on me of: 1) eating like a woman (or small child), 2) weighing as much as a woman (or small child), 3) my lack of handyman skills, and 4) indecisive nature.  I’ll also miss hearing his opinions and explanations on everything from education to cars to UFC Ring Girl Arianny Celeste.

The past few weeks have been a blur.  With work, Easter, and the family on Easter break, I don’t think I’ve had a chance to process the whole thing…or maybe I’ve been avoiding it.  Emotions are an unpredictable and funny thing.  I didn’t break down and cry until, out of all places, I was running on a treadmill at 24-Hour Fitness.  For some reason, the Gym Class Heroes’ “The Fighter” got to me.  I had to play it off and pretend I was having a severe allergy attack.

If you fall pick yourself up off the floor (get up)
And when your bones can’t take no more (c’mon)
Just remember what you’re here for
Cuz I know Imma damn sure

Give em hell, turn their heads
Gonna live life ’til we’re dead.
Give me scars, give me pain
Then they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me
There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter
Here comes the fighter
That’s what they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me,
This one’s a fighter

‘Til the referee rings the bell
‘Til both ya eyes start to swell
‘Til the crowd goes home,
What we gonna do kid?



Even as a child, I understood the importance of finding and appreciating true friendships. They are rare, beautiful, and extremely hard to come by.  Paul’s unexpected passing is a reminder to not only be grateful for these relationships, but to take time out once in a while to reminisce about those memorable and special times together.
Like the picture taken at Dan’s wedding, I’ll have a lot of great memories to carry with me. Until we see each other again Paul…we love you and will miss you.