Skip to content

Archive for

How to hit the reset button on your career (review of Mike Lewis’ When to Jump)

This review first ran in the March 17th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want

By Mike Lewis

Henry Holt and Company


What would you be doing for a living if fear wasn’t a factor?

Would you continue doing what you’re doing right now?

Or would you hit the reset button on your career?

Personally, I’d make the jump from PR pro to cab driver in Aruba. I’d shuttle tourists around the One Happy Island and review business books between fares.

Mike Lewis was 23 years old when he went from being a well-paid venture capitalist to a professional squash player. He traveled more than 200,000 miles to 50 countries on six continents on his way to becoming the world’s 112th best squash player.

Based on his own experience and in talking with others who’ve also changed careers, Lewis has mapped out a jump curve with four key milestones. While not an instruction manual, the jump curve can help you figure out when and how to make your move.

You start by listening to the little voice inside your head and telling people what it’s saying. “To keep a jump alive, it helps to tell someone,” says Lewis. On hearing his plans to play squash, one of Lewis’ friends told him that is plan was absolutely crazy. “But there’s a difference between crazy and stupid,” added his friend.

You reduce the risk of doing something stupid by making a plan. Lewis spent 18 months planning his jump. Planning is where you get serious about building a nest egg, getting in pre-jump practice and sewing a safety net. As one career-switcher told Lewis, a successful jump is less an impulsive leap off a diving board and more of a slow wade in from the shallow end.

“Following a dream is lofty and sounds admirable but real consequences follow,” says Lewis. Switching careers is hard work and sacrifices will need to be made.

Letting yourself be lucky is the third milestone on the jump curve. “Once you’ve started to plan, favourable coincidences begin to appear. You have to jump and believe that some good luck will come back to you.”

Finally, don’t waste time looking back. “The people you meet, the story you’ll have, the lessons you will have learned make it an experience worth pursuing, regardless of what happens.”

After achieving his dream of playing professional squash, Lewis went on to found a global community of people who’ve left one path to pursue something completely different. It doesn’t have to be you alone against the world, says Lewis. Many people have already done what you’re considering and they’re willing to lend a hand.

Among the career-changers profiled by Lewis in his book are a mechanical engineer who became a fitness entrepreneur, an advertising executive turned advocate for sexual assault survivors, a lawyer who’s now a firefighter and a former garbage collector who’s designing and making furniture.

Lewis cautions against making the jump if you have a family to support and debts to pay. This isn’t the ideal time to quit a money-making job for a dream that doesn’t come with a paycheque. “But that doesn’t mean you can never chase your dream; it means not just yet.”

You also don’t need a ton of money socked away to make a change.

“The ability to jump is not limited to those who have a college degree or a certain-sized bank account,” says Lewis. “Applying for an internal promotion at work, going back to school at night, teaching cooking classes on the weekends – big jump or small jump, very many of us have something we’ve longed to try doing. A jump is a jump. If you can’t do it now, write it down for later. And if you can do it now? Go.”

aruba love

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton, has reviewed business books for The Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and would be happy to drive you and your family around Aruba.







12 Ways to Treat People Well (REVIEW)

treatThis review first ran in the March 10th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life

By Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard



There’s a public relations intern on our team at work who’s acing the airport test.

Imagine that you and a colleague from work are stranded at Pearson International. What’s it like waiting for your delayed flight? Is it enjoyable or exhausting? Is there a risk that only one of you will make it out alive?

You’d be in good company with our intern. She’s smart, upbeat, self-confident and unfailingly polite. There’s zero drama and she’s been blessed with both a sense of humour and the ability to carry a conversation.

She’d earn high marks from Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard, authors of Treating People Well. Both worked in the White House as social secretaries and special advisors to the president. Berman served George W. and Laura Bush while Bernard oversaw events, announcements, visits and dinners for Barack and Michelle Obama.

Berman and Bernard’s primary job was to treat people well. “So much of success, however you define it, hangs on how well we treat others from all walks of life,” say the authors. “Insisting on your importance rarely works. Everyone is important and everyone deserves to be treated well.”

Based on their experiences in the White House, Berman and Bernard have identified 12 practices that are the cornerstones for treating people well. These practices include:

Carry yourself with quiet confidence. “A confident person inspires trust – one of the most important components of all strong relationships.” Maintain a positive attitude, be prepared for whatever comes next and reassure others to help build their confidence.

Use self-deprecating humour and charm as the great equalizers. “Like humour, charm is a crucial social skill that bridges differences of opinion and smooths the path to understanding.” Berman and Bernard say that just one charming person can change the dynamics in a room or an entire organization.

Be consistent. “When your behavior reflects your words and promises, people know what to expect and they appreciate and remember you for it. There is no trust without consistency.”

Listen first and talk later. According to Berman and Bernard, we will live in a world of constant communication with lackluster listening. “When you listen quietly to another person, you’re sending a powerful message: that his or her words are more important to you than anything else.”

Radiate calm in a crisis. “When you remain serene, you’re communicating that you have the situation under control and there’s nothing to worry about.” Build trust by staying composed, avoiding drama, finding common ground and maintaining perspective while everyone else is losing their heads.

Handle conflict diplomatically. “People who treat others well don’t stonewall or criticize; instead, they collaborate, seize opportunities and try to create a better result for everyone concerned.”

Give the gift of loyalty. It’s the key ingredient to achieving success and fulfillment in life, say the authors. Practice discretion, stay steadfast in your loyalty and go above and beyond for others with no expectation of anything in return.

And keep smiling while working with difficult people. “The battles they seek and the conflicts they create aren’t really with you but with themselves. Remembering that makes it easier to view them with some level of compassion. And continuing to treat such a person with equanimity, despite the abuse he or she hands out, is a reflection of your own good character and integrity.”

We get to make a choice every day. We can choose to treat people well, poorly or with indifference. “If you’re optimistic enough to accept that treating people with kindness and respect will make them likely to do the same, then you’re already on the right path,” say Berman and Bernard.

So if you’re looking to hire a soon-to-be freshly minted PR grad who’s far along that path and will treat people well on behalf of you and your organization, I’d be more than happy to make an introduction.

Alana and Andrew Podcast

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.