Every kid needs to learn to use a toilet brush

I recently showed my son to use a toilet brush to clean up a mess he made.
Of course he turned his nose up and made the face that says ‘this is a shitty job’. It is.

Life is full of shitty jobs –  crappy things that you sometimes have to do as part of the other amazing, interesting things there are to be done.
Some shitty jobs are cleanups of a mess you made.
Some are cleanups of a mess that others make.
Some  jobs are just shitty.

However they come about – there is learning and character growth in this work. It teaches kids to be prepared to do necessary messy jobs and the humility to value all labor – even that of dealing with crappy work.

My life’s work is to bring up my kids to care about the world and to treat everyone with respect by default. The nature of people’s labor has become a way to discriminate and in some cultures – yes you India! –  it has become institutionalized discrimination. I’m against treating people badly because of what work they do and this is a principle I teach my kids.

Helping your kid recognize they made a mess – in my son’s case a rather unsightly cluster splatter – and supporting them to clean it up is an opportunity to help them grow. It is an invitation to  a conversation about who would do it instead and what that would mean. It is a ticket to explore the bigger idea of what it means to be in a family and the distribution of work in a unit that exists together and individual responsibility in that unit.

When I was a kid, someone taught me to use a toilet brush and it helped me value all labor and to be prepared to do even the stinkiest work and not let that work define me as a human being.

Photo by illustir

Read this before ‘you eat your own dog food’

It has always amused me when people – usually men – say their company or team ‘eats their own dog food’. It has always struck me as a very ‘macho’ thing to say.

I’ve searched for the origin of the phrase ‘ eat your own dog food’ – there seems to be a couple of places it could have come from, but its wide spread technology industry usage dates back to 1988 in Microsoft.

Of course the point of ‘eating your own dog food’ is to demonstrate that you have confidence in your own product and can learn – and improve – from your own internal use of it.

Before I continue – let me say that I think when done correctly, using your commercial product internally can be a very powerful learning and empathy building experience.

Here are some things to consider before ‘eating your own dog food’.

Is making dog food mandatory likely to increase joyful adoption or encourage resentful compliance?

A couple of places I have seen have made ‘dog food’ mandatory. Usually the order comes from the top by someone concerned that the product has quality or user experience problems.

In my experience – how people work and the tools they use should not be made mandatory or imposed in any way. If the product solves a problem that the user has, then they’ll use it. If it doesn’t – that itself is some valuable learning. If it has to be forced then the data you get from the dog food experience may not be authentic.

Understand the risks to your business

You might argue that if your product brings a business to its knees, you would be better off experiencing that yourself first. Or not.

As much as you might not realise it – your company knows more about how your product works – or should work – than your customers. This insider information is hard to ignore.
So invariably, the product as used internally does not often cause the same effects as when used by your customers. Or if they cause the same effects – the knowledge your employees have masks the perception of the effects in a way that your customers’ users don’t.

For example – I had one customer who made security scanning software – the stuff that sits on your machine and scan files and access. Their CTO encouraged their teams to ‘eat their own dog food’ with some dire results.

Given the nature of the work they were doing, the software completely crippled any kind of software development on the employee’s machines. The order remained, except the developers – choosing to do work rather than remain frustrated – tampered with the configuration by effectively disabling it.

Not all dogs are the same – be clear which dog you are.

Sure you might be selling an email client – and you think everyone uses email the same as you do. Before you unleash dog food on your employees – make sure you know what kind of dog you are purporting to be.

Are you a small enterprise simply using email for inter company communications or are you a marketing agency for whom email is an art form? Knowing what kind of customer your company is, will help you exercise your product more comprehensively.

Also knowing what kind of user you are not reminds you not to have false faith in dog food – it is only as good as it is used. If you never exercise some parts of your product internally, you aren’t getting the early warning of how real customers might be using it.

How will you deal with what you find?

At a higher level – dog food is about feedback. Specifically getting real world usage feedback on your product from internal users.

The big question is  – what are you prepared to do about it when you get it and how quickly will you do it?

This is perhaps the biggest problem I see when folk use their own products internally. More often than not, the internal users have no way of getting the broken things fixed quickly – so they continue to endure it.

Where I have seen it work well – the feedback from internal users is treated as an express lane item – because it comes earlier than feedback from external users (who typically are not on the latest versions anyway). By ‘express lane’ I mean, the triage and categorization of the feedback – i.e. urgent bug, enhancement etc – happens very quickly. Repair/remediation also happens very quickly – depending on the stack – the same day.

I’d like to share 3 handy checklists items before you commit your company to eating dog food:

  1. Will this critically affect our ability to run our business?
  2. Which customer usage do we represent?
  3. Are we prepared to respond quickly to what this experience will reveal?

Good luck.

What I learnt from learning to manage depression.

A few years ago I had cause to seek help to address chronic depression.

I met with my GP and he offered referrals to either an NHS psychiatrist or a new service that was being run out from their surgery –  a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

Knowing that I didn’t really favour a route that involved medication for any prolonged period, I tried the CBT route.

And I learned something fundamental –  the journey through something is greater than the reaching a destination.

During my CB therapy I learnt techniques to help me tackle many kinds of thoughts and behaviours and I developed an inner voice that is my objective and more rational counsel when I feel overwhelmed. If I had gone down the psychiatry route, I fear I would have never developed this super power. I overcame my depression but didn’t cure it and I now have awesome tools to prevent and manage it when it happens again.

When I look at the world around I see achievements are hugely celebrated – from winning gold at the Olympics to selling a startup for a few billion dollars. What is hardly ever mentioned is how you are changed by the journey to the achievement. How the athlete has been changed  – both physically and otherwise – by what she had to endure to win the gold. Changes that make it more likely that she will win another gold and changes that mean that if she never won another gold – she would have developed the qualities to be OK with that.

Those are changes that come from the journey, not the destination.

You can reach the same place from different roads but not all teach the same things.

I always dreamed of winning the lottery. Of waking one morning to find that my ticket was the 100 Million Jackpot winner. So I would arrive at wealth but without the qualities to create wealth, nor the humility to appreciate it. What is more valuable in the end?

As I ponder life, sitting on my Spanish terrace dealing with the hopes, fears and dreams of now, I wonder less about my destination and more about what journey I am on, what journey I should be on. Perhaps there is a way to choose the journey by choosing the destination. Perhaps by saying that I shall have acquired certain qualities  and experiences, I would auto select the journeys.

What do you feel when you read this?

What journeys are you on?

What qualities are you learning from them?

I’d love to hear and share. Please consider sharing this, leaving a comment or tweeting to @mhsutton

Featured Image By: Jon RawlinsonCC BY 2.0

FUALMO – The life lesson you won’t find on Oprah.


2013 has been an amazing year on many accounts. Most notable of these is that my family and I moved to Spain, marking a new and beautiful chapter in an already charmed family life.

Also, 2013 represents the first 12 months of searching for a viable startup business through experimentation – well, almost 12 months.

This brings me to FUALMO.

Fuck Ups are inevitable.

This year has seen me fuck up repeatedly. Mostly with my startup and with my relationship with Katharine – my wife, my partner, my BFF, my ideas bouncer – basically my everything rolled into one beautiful package.

Being absolutely focused on my startups has meant being all consumed by it and being all-affected by what I am experiencing as I build things – the disappointments and the joys (actually there have been far more of the former and too few of the latter – but hey ho!).

I’ve been moody, snappy, inattentive, intolerant and lost in my own thoughts. I have overburdened her, taken her amazing resilience for granted, communicated poorly and generally been a grumpy ass for a good part of the year.

Apologise –  as soon as it’s safe to do so.

One of my enduring strengths is my ability to reflect – almost immediately – on my behaviour. It has often been difficult but I have also learnt to apologise sincerely for my contribution to disharmony.

I used to apologise simply to keep the peace – without really thinking deeply about what it meant to me and to the other person – hey don’t judge me!

But now I tend to apologise with an added description of what I am apologising for. I find it helps me fully understand what I consider the damage I may have done and  knowing I need to do this helps me really think about how the other person feels.

Thankfully Katharine helps this by being open to my apology and providing an insight into how my behavior affected her.

Learn – otherwise what is the point?

Every fuck up is an invitation to understand what need was unmet and to learn more about myself. One huge learning that I made this year was that I a lot of my behavior is down to a need to not be interrupted in thought. I think deeply about stuff. This year has been mostly about startups, what my passion is and home cinemas (yeah – who knew!). But through reflection and analysis of my behavior I learned that I resented being interrupted when I was deep in thought about something. It rarely matters what the interruption – from being called to supper or being invited to a family walk.

Now that I know this is a need I have, I can communicate it and find ways to accommodate it in a more effective and harmonious way.

The difference between failure and truly fucking up is learning. I leave you to figure out which way it works.

Move On – because no one should take that much abuse.

Finally what has really helped me this year has been my improving ability to move on from a fuck up. Some fuck ups have been bigger than others and the time it takes for me to move on from them has varied but, almost without exception, I have been about to get closure on a fuck up.

I am convinced that the steps leading to moving on are critical to being able to just let things go. Without sincere apology, I cannot learn deeply and without learning (and the actions they lead to) I cannot see how I could really move on.

Moving on is essential to my mental and emotional well-being. Without it, things boil and bubble, fury simmers – waiting for the next spark to turn into an explosion. I am lucky that I can recognise when I haven’t moved on – because the new irritation has something to connect to. But through more reflection and sometimes conversation with Katharine I am able to move on from the fuck up.

So whilst this might never make it to Oprah and I’m certainly no Dr Phil – I hope you will consider FUALMO as a sanity-preserving technique to cope with real life. It works for me and it might work for you. Even if you totally ignore everything else I have shared, please consider finding effective ways to move on from behaviors that you do not feel proud off.

Here’s to a 2014 of many failures and fewer fuck ups.

Want 30 days of free #agile #coaching for your team? Help me on my project and it’s yours. Pls Share.

By: Andreas Klinke JohannsenCC BY 2.0

A little about me?

I’m Mike Sutton – a deeply experienced agile coach with a background in development. I have built products, led teams and small companies, consulted with some of the biggest enterprises and helped  dozens of  teams and hundreds of  people to work more effectively. I tend to focus more on people and outcomes than on process and output and seek to leave places more joyful than I found them. Check me out on LinkedIn to find out who I’ve worked with or book a conversation with me  and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

I need your help

After over seven years of coaching enterprises of all sizes – usually on site for periods ranging from a few weeks to many months – I have become convinced that this is not the most effective model to help people genuinely learn and make sustainable positive changes to how they work and think about work.

Whether you are a big 20,000+ employee organisation or a small ten person team – I don’t believe this model of concentrated transformation or ‘shock’ coaching actually helps deliver sustained positive outcomes.

Here are 5 of the biggest reasons I don’t believe this is a model for sustained change:

  1. Cost: hiring a consultant coach is expensive – sometimes very expensive. It can run into tens of thousands of dollars for just one coach. When you multiply this by a few coaches on a large ‘transformation’, it gets crazy costly.
  2. Negatively disruptive : the cost also drives an unhealthy level of disruption. The unspoken sentiment is ‘Mike is here, the meter is running, drop everything now to get his help’. This has the effect of creating a pressure cooker situation that hardly encourages the learning that we want.
  3. Learning is rushed –  most enterprises I have worked with seem to consider a transformation to be a ‘project’. They’ll hire a coach and once the agreed period has passed, they will be ‘agile’. This is an unreasonable approach. The essential elements of making small changes, reflecting on the results, adjusting the next set of experiments all take time – they cannot be rushed. But because the meter is running and the costs are high, the journey is rushed and often abandoned because the learning has not been given a chance to stick.
  4. It wastes my time and your money: there are times when a coach must do nothing. Times when the organisation must do its own heavy lifting. Most organisations I have coached have expected me to still be on site even when it is counter productive to their learning and erodes their ability to stand on their own.
  5. Poor ongoing support: I see many companies that paid money to have their employees trained and certified. Some might even have hired a coach like me on site to do some work. But once the training is over and the coaches leaves,  their Scrum Masters, Product Owners, developers and even management are left with little or no ongoing support. It soon returns to business as usual because there is no one to help them stay focused or to whom they can turn for help with the next steps – at least not without another large cost. Some might create an internal coach role to keep improvements going – but in my experience the key ingredient of objectivity and honesty often get lost over time because of internal politics and familiarity.

I need your help to make this better.

I’m working on a project to help and support people in maintaining a sustainable pace of continuous improvement and learning. To do this,  first I need to really understand the problems facing people who are trying to apply an agile approach with very little support. I want to understand what the barriers to support are and experiment with ways to remove them.

My offer to you

If any of the following apply to you:

I am in management struggling to understand how agile should be working for me and my organisation, my role in it and what should I be doing next

I am in a team that is seeking ways to improve our outcomes and how we collaborate and learn;

I am a Scrum Master or Product Owner feeling isolated, unsupported and outnumbered;

My organisation claims they are doing Scrum or are agile – but it’s all wrong and very frustrating. We could do with some help.

I am a C-Level executive with people in my organisation that fit the above and I want to help make it better.

Then I would love your help on my project.

I am offering to personally coach five lucky groups remotely  free of charge for 30 days.

Each group will enjoy great benefits including having:

30 days of remote access coaching available to anyone in your organisation. This could be ongoing coaching of Scrum masters as they perform an incredibly difficult role or mentoring Product Owners in keeping a vision shared and relevant and maintaining a healthy backlog. It could be starting from scratch with setting a strategic direction with the inclusion of your entire organisation or helping established teams get even better.

A skilled facilitator  – to help you and your organisation rediscover how to collaborate transparently and effectively so that you can finally start to address all those issues that affect you all.

An untainted observer – to help you with my objective observations untainted by any political influence.

An improvement partner – to help work through those tough problems and help you find your own way through them. From vision to delivery and everything in between.

Access to lots of games, practices and experience –  to help your teams improve their capability to reflect, experiment and collaborate and to deliver product and learning more sustainably.

Help to start and grow your communities of practice  – to help sustain an almost permanent and continuous state of learning.

Support when you need it – it is not in the interest of self-sustainability that a coach is there for everything you do – this is a journey where  you will ultimately outgrow a coach. But at every step where you falter, you will have my experience, expertise and network  to overcome it.

What’s the catch?

I am usually paid thousands of pounds/dollars to offer my expertise and experience to help teams and organisations improve. I’m making this offer absolutely free of charge – gratis!

While I will not charge you for my remote services, this offer is not free – I am offering this in exchange for learning!

I want to learn how the remote coaching experience works for you, specifically:

  1. To what extent does having unrestricted remote access to independent and experienced expert improve the outcomes for agile teams and their management?
  2. How much expert access is “just right” to keep continuous improvement at its highest sustainable pace?
  3. What is the most effective kind of access and for what kind of situations?
  4. Can the business value of remote strategic coaching be measured?
  5. If, given affordable access and no-pressure, will the individuals in an organisation use the help that is offered? What will it take for the organisation to support it?

That’s it. I coach you remotely for free , you and your organisation improve and have a great basis for continued improvement and I get to learn to what extent this can be done remotely. Want free agile coaching for 30 days? Sign up now.

How it works

  1. If I haven’t worked with your group for 6 months or more, we are best to start with 2 days on site where I meet your group –  the teams and individuals – and we work together on what we want out of this. We’ll come up with goals and a near term starting plan to reach them. We’ll setup a review cadence and start working on the items on the plan.
    This on-site time will be expenses only – so you cover the flight, accommodation and meals. I won’t charge you for my time.
  2. After the 2 days on-site, I leave and we continue the work on the plan remotely  – adjusting it as we learn more. We will collaborate using every remote channel available to us – video, screen-sharing, email and phone calls – perhaps even an interactive whiteboard!
  3. After 30 days, we end the partnership happy, we would both have learnt a lot and have actionable data to fuel improvement.

Does this sound doable for your organisation? Let’s try it together..

My ideal group

  • Are based within 7 hours of GMT+1  –  so  Europe, east coast USA, middle East and Africa are all in!
  • Are not larger than 400 employees. For huge companies, this refers only to the size of the group that will be using my offer.
  • Are building any product – software or otherwise.
  • Are in whatever stage of adopting an agile approach.
  • Are committed to improvement and are open-minded enough to try this.

Does this sound like you? I need just 5 – be one of them, sign up now.

What you need to do now

Places are limited. Once I find 5 groups willing to help with this, the offer will close and you will have missed the opportunity. 

If you feel this opportunity would suit you and your organisation and you are willing to help me learn – get in touch now – there is not a minute to lose.

Finally , as a personal favour to me and your contacts – please share this.

Breakfast with TED: Trust, Memory and Gladwell on David vs Goliath

For a while now I have developed the ritual of TEDTuesday – taking time each Tuesday to watch and learn something on TED.com.

If you are new to TED.com – it is a platform for some of the most amazing explorers of knowledge and witnesses of humanity to share their knowledge, insights and experiences. Based on themed conferences and an annual general conference, TEDTalks are videos of public talks. I love TED for its purpose and for its diversity. If you have never watched a TEDTalk, I beg you – please – do so now!

So today I decided – over breakfast – to watch as many TEDTalks as I could during my breakfast time (about 30 minutes). I got out my Galaxy Note and launched the TED app and off I went. Without much thought about what I wanted to watch I just picked topics that vaguely interested me and something from Malcolm Gladwell – an author I really like learning from. So here goes…

#1 -Onora O’Neill: What we don’t understand about trust

This talk seemed a little laboured, however Onora brought a lot of focus to the issue of trust and the misguided populism of some of the soundbytes that are regularly banded about by buzzwordists and politicians, for example ‘Gain trust’, ‘Rebuild trust’.
Trust is a big deal for me in my life and being worthy of the trust of people I am interested in having mutually positive relationships with is something I spend a lot of time and thought exploring. How do I communicate my trustworthiness to my wife, my kids , friends and my clients? Truth is, they each have their own set of operating rules to determine whether I have earned it.

I think Onora falls into the same trap of offering simple templates and more – though different – sound bytes. For example, she proposes that establishing trustworthiness is based on 3 things – ‘Competence, honesty and reliability’. It may do for certain people in certain contexts but not as a general rule. They are reasonable examples but not absolutes. My son who is nearly 5 years old might consider me trustworthy because I demonstrate sacrifice – that I forego other things to make time for him.

I enjoyed the talk but it was perfectly timed at 7 minutes – any more and I think she may have totally lost me. It left me with a lingering learning that asking people how you might earn their trust i.e. how you might be worthy of their trust – is the first activity one might do and then go from there.

My key learning: Trustworthiness is a more effective goal than trust. It is subjective and trying to understand what constitutes it in every relationship is a great place to start from.

#2 -Elizabeth Loftus: The fiction of memory

This impassioned and fascinating talk really opened my eyes and mind to the power of suggestibility – especially in when it is sustained and deliberate. The lessons Elizabeth shares and glimpses of what is possible throws up huge questions in my mind about the quality of our legal systems.

My imagination is pretty vivid and I often find myself questioning a memory that flashes in my head – did I dream it, imagine it or did it really happen? This is a conscious act. So far I have deliberately developed mental tools to cross validate my memories with other things to rule out whether that event was real or imagined. For example, I often ‘remember’ that I replied to someone’s email when in fact I haven’t. Typically I retrospect on this and find that I mentally composed the reply and did so visually – as though I typed it out. At some level, my brain registers this as a memory. Then I seek evidence (like checking my ‘Sent’ box to see whether it was right.

As a student of NLP and very keen on the way the mind works, I know how easy it is to affect someone’s behaviour through some pretty easy ‘tricks’ and although it is not something I  do for ethical reasons, I know of practitioners that use these techniques in personal coaching work. The insight that the use of some of these techniques, like hypnosis and subliminal messaging, could tamper with people’s memories and unleash a chain of events that have lifelong consequences was very interesting.

It raises other questions in my mind – about film and fantasy work and advertising. Do they really understand the long term effects of such realism in film. I know there is research now into the effects of pornography on the brain and behaviour – how much of this effect is on memory? Perhaps certain content needs regulation – like dosage!

My key learning: Memory is far too open to suggestion to be reliable on its own. Even collectively it is dangerously unreliable (due to anchoring and suggestion). So finding evidence based thinking tools to cross validate it is both essential and offers a whole new world of potential innovation.

#3 –Malcolm Gladwell: The unheard story of David and Goliath

I like Malcolm – he is a fantastic story teller and I value his ability to get to the essence of something. Usually it is an essence no one else sees! Many ah-ha moments with his books.
Anyway, Malcolm retells the story of David vs Goliath really beautifully, taking us through the geography of the times and the geopolitical forces at play.

Then he shares his opinions – some backed up by various bits of research – about how David was really not an underdog and simply fought Goliath on his own terms. In the end all of it was circumstantial and personally I thought it was reasonable. For example, Goliath could have been suffering from acromegaly – which many people suffering from gigantism also tend to suffer. This could have caused him to be visually impaired and may have contributed to David’s victory.

My key learning: Aside from all the biblical blah blah, I took from the subtexts some really powerful messages about adversity and some of the challenges of competition and some lessons that I can directly apply to my startup journey. For example – focus on my strengths. Also to play by my rules – not the rules of my opponent or competition. Also, weirdly, in place of competition, collaborate. Work with the weakness of my partner for my gain. This is also something that resonates really strongly from my Aikido practice.


What have you learnt from these TED talks? I really would love to know and share. Go ahead, drop me a comment or tweet me your thoughts.

Lessons from why my startup failed: Know your mind.

I ceased work on ServiceChat – the startup that I have been working on for six months. It might not seem that long to you, but to me it is a very long time of illusions and self discovery.

My learning from why ServiceChat didn’t go where I had ambitions for it to go will continue to emerge over time, but one thing that pops straight out is that I didn’t know my own my mind. Let me explain?

Too many sources of information

We are in an age of startup frenzy. All the cool kids are in startups and it is an exciting time that is all the more exaggerated by the media feeding on the spectacular valuations and fortunes. Politicians rest the recovery from recession on startups and entrepreneurs, kids are encouraged to code from a young age and be the next Zuckerberg and dreamy eyed youth are cluing on to the fact that the barriers to realise their ambitions are lower than at any other time in the history of business – well at least for tech startups anyway.

There is such a rich ecosystem for startups – blogs, books, incubators , accelerators, coaches, advisers, mentors and so much more – maybe too rich. The reality is that almost everyone in this ecosystem is a startup themselves. They are selling something – their idea, their learning and some times their services. So you are their customer – of sorts – and their messages can be interpreted to make you think their way is better or your goals are the wrong ones. With so many opinions competing for your attention, it is easy to get distracted.

I got sucked in. I bought and read the books,  I read the blogs and heard expert after expert tell you how to do it – or how not to do it. Everyone means well – absolutely – and there is a wealth of anecdotal sense in what they say. But in a blog or a book, you read what was written whereas the learning you might need is in what was unwritten. In any case, as much as you recognise the symptoms they talk about, they are not talking about your particular condition in its entirety. I still needed to know my own mind.

But there is no recipe for growing a successful startup. There are general ingredients – test your idea, continuously validate and others. The exciting bit is that you get to decide what you are cooking and what the recipe should be.

Fail on your own terms

My trouble was I was seeking my mind in the words of others. That took a huge amount of focus away from what I was supposed to be doing – finding customers and trying to find market/product fit. It was also emotionally wrecking, constantly second guessing myself when yet another blog implied to do the opposite of that the previous book advocated. Was I following the *exact* process or was I doing what the book said? Occasionally my rational mind would chime in and say:

‘Screw them, they don’t have to find next month’s rent, you do – you have to do what you have to do to build this thing!’.

But I would mute it. Failure is hard to accept. But it can be easier to deal with if you understand why you failed and you learn from it. Failing on your own terms is perhaps the best you can have. In my case, one of the reasons I failed was not knowing my own mind.

My Learning

I’m not blaming anyone or anything – I don’t believe in blame.

I do believe in behaviors being more or less effective towards a goal. My learning here is that focusing on a process or a body of other people’s experiences to build my own startup was not an effective way for me to achieve my goal of a successful and viable startup business. The next time – and there will be a next time – I won’t do the same thing.

I will have my plan and I’ll be comfortable with my plan. I’ll formulate it from my own experiences and instincts. I may run it past advisers or check for obviously stupid aspects of it with books or blogs or other sources of information.  I may otherwise revise it but ultimately I will do it because it makes sense in my mind.

I encourage you to completely disregard this post. It was my learning and my experience and it absolutely may not apply to you. Know your mind.

Featured Image By: McKay SavageCC BY 2.0

The Art of Peeing Sitting Down

It all starts in Germany

A few years ago I spent a few weeks working in Berlin. The work was through the consultancy owned by my friends Marion and Andrea. To keep costs low and to help make my stay in Berlin more enjoyable,  they offered me a room in their lovely apartment.

Marion is a beautiful human being and absolutely WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get – and she also speaks her mind. From the get go she declared that there shall be no peeing standing up. This applied to me and the other visiting consultants.

Her reasons were perfectly logical – you sprinkle when you tinkle and the wipe up can be a little hit and miss, so be a sweetie and sit down when you pee! It almost entirely eliminates the mess. Also reasonable because she has a cleaning lady come in a couple of times a week to clean the apartment and no one really needs to be wiping up other peoples’ pee.

A few jokes were made, but we all knew that she made sense and even if her directness was a little grazing, we would still be more mindful of her request. Now I don’t know how the other guests complied with her request or the need behind it – leave the bathroom clean and dry after your visit, but I actually tried to do what she suggested. I tried to sitting down to pee.

A history of being upright

For a guy who has spent 39 years peeing upright, this was  a fairly unnatural stance. I would guess I’m not alone in that sense. I’ve never been in a men’s bathroom that had the urinal area that was anything other than gross. Granted there are different degrees of gross, but gross nonetheless. There is always bits of hair, occasional dandruff and chewing gum in the urinal, legacy wee on the flow and the ever present danger of you peeing on your own shoes. And don’t forget the awkward avoidance of looking down when you are shoulder to shoulder with other men draining the camel.

Typically, going for a pee is a super fast job – in and out. There is no lingering by the urinals – unless there are other agendas afoot. You wouldn’t anyway – the stink is fairly overpowering.

Even peeing upright in the privacy of your own bathroom is fraught with risk – so much could go wrong. Toilet seats dampened and left up, lids not put down and the potential for puddles all make this a risky venture. Many a loving relationship has been strained by this recurring risk.

You might think that with so much opportunity to practice that there would be no problem. I have a theory about this – You only get good at what you deliberately try to get good at.

If I pee on average twice a day everyday for 39 years – that is 14244 days or  28,488 opportunities to practice. You would think that I would be an expert at peeing. But no,  I still get seats wet, the occasional drip on my shoes and certainly leave the seat/lid in the wrong configuration many many times. So if it’s not the lack of practice, then it must be about the lack of deliberate focus.

Time for something different

So with this in mind, I was determined to explore something different – to deliberately get better at peeing. I tried sitting down and over time the sense of weirdness disappeared. Not only that, but I also found there was no spillage and no puddle. It was all tinkle with no sprinkle. The toilet seat is left down and it is clean and dry for the next occupant. The residual hair dropping was also greatly reduced. I never had a dandruff problem so no view on that.

What amazed me more was the opportunity to take a break. Sit down, take a load off and enjoy the experience. At least twice a day, you get a moment to yourself. It takes marginally longer than an upright pee but you get so much more. Peeing upright does not really afford you that opportunity, you’re on your feet, you got places to go and people to see. You might wash your hands or not and often if you do, do you really wash them well enough?

I found myself consistently more relaxed and remembering to wash my hands more often and more deeply than when I was an upright urinator. (ok that is not a real word).
For all the benefits I mentioned, there is still one bit that I am not yet entirely consistent at doing – putting the lid down. But with time and deliberate focus, I expect that will happen to0.


I have to say a huge thank you to Marion for that suggestion two years ago – I know we joked about it, but it really worked for me! Olaf, my male German friend says that men peeing sitting down is far more common in Germany that anywhere else he had been. I don’t have experience of that either way.

So fellas if you are looking for something that will help you be more hygienic, delight the ladies you share your lavatories with,  give you back a few serene minutes of your day and leave you with dry shoes then consider peeing sitting down. You might thank me!

Featured Image By: Tony AlterCC BY 2.0