When I am King: The Seat of Power

When I am King...

Toilet seats will be much cooler.

Recently, I've run across warm toilet seats. Okay, maybe "run across" is the wrong phrase; let's say I've come in contact with them. And I'm not happy about it.

These high-tech seats are engineered to stay at some pre-warmed temperature. I think the idea is to create a pleasing experience, warm and comforting like the womb or a cup of hot cocoa.

But they don't please me. For one thing, I'm not looking for a comfortable experience in a public bathroom stall. It's not a place I want to hang out and spend a lot of time, so comfort is not a top priority. Toilet seats should be second in comfort only to airline seats; at least toilets have more leg room and the option of getting up, opening the door, and leaving without falling down 30,000 feet to your death.

But more importantly, there's an awkward association we have with warm toilet seats. A warm toilet seat means that someone else was occupying that spot right before you got there. And that's not something I like to think about while I'm spending quality time on the seat. So the idea that these automatic seats try to recreate that experience of sitting down right after someone else is just plain wrong.

The only thing worse than sitting down on a warm toilet seat is sitting down on a wet one. Perhaps these bright potty engineers are working on new toilet seat technology to pre-spray the seats as well, to give that complete lived-on feel.

When I am King, toilet seats will go back to being cold, hard, unpleasant places to sit. In fact, to improve upon the experience, the seats will be pre-cooled. It will never feel like someone else sat there before you, even when they're still there. The seats will be so cold that any liquid on the seat will turn to ice and you may leave behind a layer of skin when you stand up. It'll be like using an outhouse in northern Minnesota in the dead of winter. It will help you focus on the task and develop quick bathroom habits.

More research is needed in other bathroom possibilities, but for now the work is stalled.


Corporate Survival Guide: All Hands on Deck

In war, or at least in war movies, there is always a dramatic scene in which the troops come together to hear a rousing speech from the General, which inspires them to march happily off to certain death. The General moves down the line of bleak, scared faces and offers words of inspiration that, despite being outgunned, outwitted, and out-and-out doomed, they will prevail. All they have to do is this one little thing of marching straight into the line of fire while the General observes from far in the rear.

This same epic battle scene also takes place on today’s corporate battlefields: it’s called the “All Hands” meeting. This is a regular meeting of everyone in the department or the entire company in which executives address the troops, inspiring them with predictions of victory and regaling them with presentations about fiscal responsibility, budgets, and layoffs.

But the All Hands meeting is not just a time for reflection and dozing; it is a prime opportunity for the Corporate Warrior to shine. Think about it: what other forum is there where so many of your co-workers and your management hierarchy are present?

Here are some ways that you can use the meeting to your advantage:

Sit in front

Educators say that sitting in the front row is the best way to learn the material. Your proximity to the teacher forces you to pay more attention, and the lack of distractions in front of you help you focus. But sitting up front in an All Hands meeting has nothing to do with learning (hey, nobody’s listening anyway). Instead, it’s all about access and visibility.

First of all, make sure to reserve a chair front and center before the meeting starts. You could put your notebook or your laptop on the seat, but I’ve found that spilling coffee or, better yet, cooked oatmeal on the chair is more effective at keeping people away.

Next, wait in the back until the meeting starts. The first speaker is usually the highest-ranking executive talking that day. That first slot is a sign of honor and respect for this highest-ranking executive, and this person is also usually the one that has nothing in particular to talk about, so they just do the fluffy intro. Wait until the audience has stopped talking about their kids’ soccer games and the executive starts to speak to a hushed and awestruck crowd. This is your time to move.

Make your way to the front confidently and noticeably. A mobile phone is a good prop for this entrance, as you can make your position clear in a fake conversation. The trick is to appear busy, important, and yet respectful of the All Hands and the presenters. A quote like this might help: “I don’t care how, just make it happen! Now start thinking for yourself – I’m in an important meeting with very important people!”

Now that you’re at your chair, make sure that the executive at the microphone knows you’re there by saying something subtle, like, “A spill? No problem – I’ll clean it up just like our company is cleaning up in the market!” Then wipe up your seat-reserving spill and sit down.

If you played your part successfully, you interrupted the speaker. That person is now staring at you, trying to get back the lost train of thought. This is an excellent time to help, saying something loudly to them like, “You tell them, Pat!” This serves two purposes: it brings you to the attention of the executive, and it shows everyone in the audience that you’re on a first name basis with them. The best part is that you don’t have to know the person at all; you just have to know their name. With the entire company spread in front of them, they’re not going to have the time and presence of mind to stop and ask who you are and would you mind shutting up, please. Instead, you’ll get your salutation out there and they will continue reading from their index cards, and the audience will think that you helped them do it.

Ask questions

Usually, there is time for Q&A at the end of an All Hands meeting. This is the time for employees to ask serious questions about how the company is doing, or how the budget cuts affect their department, or how they’re going to tell their spouses that they have to sell the children to make ends meet. This is all irrelevant, of course; Q&A is your time to get attention.

Ask pointed questions of the executives, calling them by name and making them notice who you are, and what you stand for. Don’t bother asking real questions about hard problems – these people have enough to worry about getting their golf scores down without people pestering them about personal gripes like "jobs" and "salary cuts." Instead, focus on questions that make both them and you look good, because that’s what it’s all about.

Sample questions might include:

“How is it that the economy is so bad, but your financial management of our company is so good?”

“I don’t know about anyone else here, but this is the most wonderful company I’ve ever worked for. My question: was it always this amazing, or was it through your leadership that it got to be so great?”
Feel free to throw in the occasional not-a-question as well, as long as you have a strong point to make:

“I just want to be the first to congratulate you on a fantastic job. Everybody, let’s hear it for Mary!”
Remember the first rule of the Corporate Warrior: never stop sucking up.

Lead the troops

Shell-shocked soldiers and battle-weary veterans need constant motivation to keep on fighting. They need leaders who inspire them to ridiculous feats. You can be that leader.

In this kind of meeting, the speakers are lucky if the audience stays awake, much less pays attention during the entire event. That’s why they need you to drive the applause that lets everyone know not just when to applaud, but, more importantly, who the applause leader is.

Every time a speaker pauses and looks out at the crowd, it’s clear that a note on their index card or teleprompter reads: “[Applause]”. Be the first one to jump up and lead a round. It doesn’t matter what they just said – you won’t be able to follow any of it since you’ll be too busy watching for cues. It’s more important that you let the speaker know that the audience appreciates what they said … when you told them to.

Watch for other cues as well. When an executive smiles, laugh out loud and throw out a, “Good one!” and then jab the person next to you and gesture that you thought that was a really funny point. When a speaker makes a dramatic point, talk back to them: “No! What did you do then?”

This constant salvo from you, their main indicator for audience appreciation, will give them the feedback they need to continue in their speeches, in their jobs, and ideally in recognizing you as someone they can trust.


If you’re lucky and this is one of those All Hands meetings with food, take as much as you can. Stuff your face with Danishes, put extra donuts in your pockets, and make off with as much as you can carry. For one thing, you know that the executives won’t be anywhere near, so they won't be watching you make a pig of yourself. But also, a soldier never knows where his next meal is coming from. And heck, it’s free.


Things I Believe

If there's anything in life you can count on, it's your fingers.

Everyone's days are numbered; it's just a matter of how many digits there are.


Corporate Survival Guide: Retreatise

Success on the battlefield doesn’t just depend on how you win, but also how well you lose. The strategy of retreat is exceptionally important not just for how you save your arm and your skin, but also how fast you can make it back to the town to get your story told first.

Besides, as the abbreviated saying goes, “He who fights and runs away lives.”

Similarly, today's Corporate Warrior must know when to charge and when to high-tail it out of there. Sometimes the enemy is too powerful and you must cede the field. And sometimes the other side has compromising pictures of you from the holiday party.

It’s at these times that you have to know how to quit.

One of the most crucial elements of quitting is the goodbye email. This final communication to the team must strike the right note of camaraderie, professionalism, and awesomeness that will leave your co-workers and management with a feeling of warmth and envy for the opportunities that you are pursuing. Even if you’re quitting to flip burgers or pursue the life of homelessness that beckons every time you step over the vagrants on your way into the office, you want to leave your peers with the feeling that your life will surely be better than theirs. This usually entails bold lies, but since you'll never see them again, who's to know?

But it’s tricky composing this email. Many corporate warriors have spent their entire career composing their magnum opus, but still failed to deliver a compelling case. You can do better.

And you will do better by using this handy template I've created, which is suitable for most corporate situations you will encounter. I've borrowed the template from another blog, so I should give credit here, but I feel my additions more than make up for this flagrant theft of copyrighted material.

[To Whom it May Concern, Dear Coworkers, Fellow Drones, Life-Sucking Parasites],

After [make up a number here; nobody will know or care] [years, memos, cups of coffee, harassment complaints], the time has come for me to move on. Although it was a difficult decision made over a series of [weeks, months, beers], I feel it is something I must do because I:

A. ______ want to spend more time with my [family, dog, self]

B. ______ am taking advantage of a new, exciting opportunity

C. ______ am bored out of my mind

D. ______ have been fired for gross and disgusting insubordination

E. ______ need to get my inbox down to zero messages

F. ______ none of the above

G. ______ all of the above except F

H. ______ some combination of ABCDE: __________

I. ______ other reason (please explain in 1 word or less): __________

Good luck to everyone here. It's been my pleasure and honor to work with each and every one of you [optional: list every person in the organization][optional: except [list people you hated]]. Know that I'll be rooting for the team regardless of what I may be doing at your direct competitor. It's a small [industry, valley, city, world, galaxy]; I'm sure we'll have the chance to work together again.

Should anyone feel like contacting me in the future, you can always reach me at [you should give a fake email address here, since nobody will bother. Your are dead to them now].

[Good luck!, Go team!, Love and kisses!, So Long Suckers!]
[Your name here]
So go ahead, use the template. Send out the email and then get the Hell out of the building before Facilities wonders what happened to all of the office supplies on the second floor.


When I am King: Exexercise

When I am King...

We will exercise less and eat more.

Common wisdom and dull scientific theory say that exercise helps prolong our lives. So the time that we spend in the gym allows us to live longer and enjoy more time on this planet.

But it this actually true? That is, will we actually enjoy that time?

The problem is that we have to spend the time in the gym in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I don’t actually enjoy my time in the gym. I like having worked out, not working out. So that hour and a half spent pushing pieces of metal around and grunting and sweating is worse than a waste of my time; it’s time that I’m actively not enjoying my time.

While it’s nice that that gym time might actually back-end load more time onto the end of my life, I wonder about the tradeoff.

First, let’s look at the numbers.

I figure I spend, on a “good” week, about six hours exercising. This doesn’t include time that I might get exercise while doing something worthwhile, like walking to a donut shop or climbing stairs because there’s no escalator or elevator handy. This six hours is dead time that I’m spending purely in the pursuit of this activity that I hate, just to stay healthy.

Six hours a week adds up to about 300 hours per year. Assuming about 15 hours per day of physically active time, my workout time amounts to about 20 days per year. Let’s assume I keel over at an overripe age of about 80. I started working out when I was about 20 (after a childhood spent developing a damn good impersonation of a sloth), so that’s 60 working-out years. That means that by the time I’m 80, I’ll have spent nearly 5 years of my life exercising (60 years * 20 days/year = 1800 days ~= 5 years). So unless exercising adds more than 5 years to my lifespan, I’ve lost in the bargain – I’ve gained some time, but I’ve lost more than that amount to a pursuit that I thoroughly detest.

Next, let’s look at the time that we'll gain by being healthy. Exercise isn’t adding any lifespan now; it’s adding it to the end of our lives. You know, that time when we’re less mobile, less happy, less mentally aware, and less employable. Our kids have written us off, our friends have died, and our interest in anything except our latest hip operation have waned. And now we get another few years to live? Oh, boy. I can’t wait.

When I am King, we will exercise less. I’m not saying that you can’t exercise if you want to. I mean, if you actually enjoy going to the gym and grunting and sweating and seeing your fellow gym members primp and preen in front of the mirrors and you like grabbing the cardio machine handles that are dripping with someone else’s bodily fluids, then by all means you should keep doing it. Because you’re enjoying it. You nut. But all of the sane people in the world will wake up and realize that we should enjoy our time more by exercising less and by doing other things instead that are actually fun.

I propose that we all take the time that we would have spent in the gym and spend it doing something we enjoy: eating donuts. We all like donuts, so it’s an irrefutable fact that more time spent eating them will lead to a life well-lived. And since donuts probably help stop up our arteries and cause heart problems, they will actually take away years at the end of our lives. This might seem sad at first. But if you think about it, this means that we will have spent more time eating donuts during a shorter life, so the proportion of our time spent enjoying life will be that much greater, and we will all die happy. Besides, they're just taking away time at the end, which doesn't sound like much fun anyway.

So get off that elliptical dreadmill and have a donut. Or three. You’ll thank me when you’re dead.