The Art of Meetings – [pt. 2] – The First-to-Curse Advantage

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Disclaimer – the contents of this blog post may or may not be suitable for children under the age of 13, and pregnant women. Also note that the thoughts written and expressed in this blog do not reflect the views of Sabi Sushi….well actually, I suppose they do. Just don’t get mad…and don’t sue us.


Sorry to my PG readers out there, but I had to make a point. As we’ve gone along our journey from innocent Duke University students to hardened businessmen (yea, right.) – we’ve noticed a trick that only the craftiest of business veterans use: The First-to-Curse Advantage.

In business school they teach you about the “first-mover-advantage” (not that any of us went to business school) and entrepreneurs will shout to investors that they are positioned to win because they are ‘first-to-market’ – but silly MBAs, all you really need is the First-to-Curse Advantage.

This is a trick we learned by observation, that in our best meetings – the ones where two hours fly by, jokes are made, deals are struck, and checks are written – all hinge upon a turning point: a curse word.

We noticed that CEOs, bankers, VCs, lawyers, brokers, professors etc… you name it – the most influential people we’ve met were using this technique, meeting after meeting, until we finally caught on and noticed what was happening.

You see, a cuss word changes the entire dynamic of the meeting. What was once a formal meeting between recent strangers, transforms into an honest conversation amongst soon-to-be friends. A cuss word communicates hey, I’m not perfect, and I’m just being myself here – so you can trust what I have to say. If you’re a salesman (and no matter what job you have, you’re always a part-time salesman of your services) once you have trust, you have a commission.

You’ll notice that within minutes of the first cuss word being uttered by one party, the other party will subconsciously let one out to reciprocate this level of trust and familiarity between the two. Happens everytime.

A simple cuss word can lighten the mood, and convey a lot about your personal and corporate brand. Brands with an edge can position themselves strongly in the market, and make their competitors look stiff in comparison: Dell vs. Apple? Pepsi vs. Redbull? Tiffany & Co. vs. Victoria’s Secret? All fight for similar demographics, but use the power of pushing-the-envelope to demonstrate that their brand is cooler than the competition.

If your brand is going to be good at it.

You can position your personal and corporate brand by daring to overstep social norms during a meeting. Obviously, if you overdue it, you’re just crude.  However, if you time it right – it can be a powerful way to change the dynamic of the meeting.

Two options:

1. “He said it, not me!” – if you’re unsure whether it’s okay to crack the cursing barrier, try this technique. Insert a cuss word into a story, but as if the other person in the story said it TO you. Trevor did this masterfully in our last meeting, where he told a story about his first time ever rolling a sushi roll at Phillip’s restaurant while he was training:

“I was really nervous, and I thought Phillip was walking over to coach/teach/help me with my technique…instead, he slammed a shot of tequila on my cutting-board and said ‘take this baby and roll me a  f*&king roll!

This way, you can’t really be judged too harshly for saying it, since you’re just quoting someone else! Read the reaction of the other person, and move on accordingly.

2. “I’m talking about the past – don’t judge me now” – We often meet with folks much older than us (unavoidable, we’re only 22yrs old) – and they’ll pull off profanity while talking about life back in their college days. (note: this is usually an unsuccessful technique for us, because we have no reason to cuss while talking about our glory days at elementary school recess)

Overall, the First-to-Curse Advantage must be handled with great caution. Don’t be classless and start dropping F-Bombs before the time is right. As you become more attuned to the ebbs-n-flows of a meeting, you’ll find that it can really be a game changer.

Like I said in Part I – being able to have a great meeting is all about how quickly you can break down the formal barriers and rigid constructs that we all have when we meet strangers, especially in the serious name of ‘business’. Remember, you’re working with people, not job titles, not signed documents, people – so you must find a way to connect with people to be successful.

In all seriousness, thanks for reading the blog – now leave me a comment (click the speech bubble on the top right of the blog) you a%$holes.


  1. Nisha says:

    Loved it. Way true. I do this all the time with new school team groups to let people feel like, this is me, I’m real. Don’t worry, feel free to brain storm ideas, etc. P.s. I now know how to leave a comment. I didn’t know where to click earlier. But it’s so F**% easy!

  2. schavski says:

    An excellent strategy team. I imagine the etiquette of being the first to curse in an interview might be a teensy bit different…only one way to find out I guess.

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