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What Fight Club Taught Me About Business Meetings

I hate business meetings.

I know I’m not supposed to say that… but I do.

You know those meetings that are a complete waste of time; where you leave feeling like nothing was accomplished; and nobody said what needed to be said.

Yeah… those!

On the other hand, I’ve been in meetings where the opposite happened:

  • There was conflict during the meetings but closeness after
  • At the end of the day there were real solutions to real problems
  • It was worth the time and effort

Those were the “Fight Club” meetings.

You remember Fight Club,  don’t you?

A man dissatisfied with his life forms a “fight club” with a soap salesman named Tyler Durden. The club soon becomes a movement that spreads over America.

And though I could go on and on about the movie’s raw content, fight scenes, and influence as a cult film I wanted to discuss the parallels between the fight scenes and great meetings.

Here’s what I learned:

Hold Nothing Back

The men would get into a ring, fight as long as they could, and after they fought an amazing thing happened, they’d become the best of friends.  It never made sense to me until now. That’s how meetings need to be: a place where issues can be argued, fights can be fought, the truth can be spoken and heard, and ideas for the betterment of the group can be created.

When that takes place something strange happens: in the middle of the bloodshed the people involved become closer than ever. They went beyond the veil of “professionalism” and became more intimate. They crossed each others battle lines and become best or better friends.

It’s weird but true.

Hold No Records

In Fight Club, it never mattered who won; no records or scores were kept. It only mattered that they made it through.

Does it really matter, in the long run, if you’re right? Or wrong? As long as the group benefits, who cares?

The purpose of the disagreement is to find the best course of action, and sometimes it may not be yours. If you get in a tussle and see that your ideas aren’t holding their weight, tap out.  And if you’re on the “winning” side don’t believe it’s a win for your ego. It is for the team.

Argue With Purpose

I have to admit: I didn’t get this from the movie. I don’t think the purpose of the group took form until later… after everyone had bruises on their face!

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Is there a specific problem that needs to be solved
  • You got a solution? Good. Who’s in charge of implementing? How do we keep them accountable?
  • Do you need A 20-page spreadsheet? Can you draw it on one piece of paper?

Is there anything I missed?

What do you think?

Michael Holmes is an author, blogger, speaker, and internet entrepreneur. When he's not eating Chipotle chicken burritos or screaming at fighting matches he can be found teaching Biblical Strategies for Startups on his blog

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  • Hi Michael, a man after my own heart! Yes! I agree I agree but unfortunately politics & egos will often stop people from saying what needs to be said. What I find is that it is nearly as important (sometimes even more so) to consider who you are talking to as it is what you are saying. I don’t know about the US but in Ireland we have many fragile egos & insecure business people who will become deeply defensive at anything resembling criticism. However, I love the message 🙂

  • This is a great message and such a unique perspective! It brings a lot of colour and life to the dull topic of meetings and comes with a valuable lesson 🙂

  • LOL! After your own heart, eh? 🙂

    It is politics and ego. But the politics mostly stem from the ego…of the ones in charge. SO people have to learn to play “the games” in order to move up and around. The problem with the game is in the need EVERYONE loses. Because nobody’s acting on what needs to be acted.

    And don’t worry…its just in Ireland 🙁

    But I’m glad you liked the message

  • Thanks Nobo!

    We like facts, figures, and data…but everyone loves a good story! So I try my best to put posts like these in story form so that everyone can kind of wrap their brain around it. And what other story is there…than good old Fight Club! 😉

  • Anonymous

    Love it Michael, great post and some good points well made. I’d agree with Niall on the politics and egos, particularly when I was in the corporate world. I regularly had mornings when I woke up and thought “Right today I’ll just tell everybody what I really think”, of course the thoughts of social exclusion and a P45 winging its way at me always shut me up 🙂 Seriously though, I do think we’d get a lot further and get a lot more done if people just spat out exactly what was on their minds-think of the time we’d save! I’ll leave this post with an anecdote about a sign a colleague had hanging on his cubicle in those corporate days, it said “Need a break? Looking for a way to waste an afternoon? Call a meeting, that’s what the guys at the top do!”

  • Excellent! funny & depressing all at the same time 🙂

  • I have a Dutch friend and he said to me once.

    The problem with you Irish is that you want to be liked all the time.

    We don’t care if you like us or not!

    …and he meant it.

    it probably reflects their deep traditions in commerce, where you need a thick skin and not care too much what others think.

  • Thanks!

    Those “meetings” do know how to waste time lol!

    I know exactly what you’re talking about…I made the mistake of telling the truth in a meeting…it didn’t quite work out for me. My boss chewed me out for a while. She said, “Just get there, sit there, and shut up.”

    So BELIEVE me I know what you’re talking about

  • Thanks Niall!

  • Hi Michael.

    Thanks for cross-linking with the meeting post :). I enjoyed the analogy and the take you have taken on the lessons from the movie.

    As with Niall et al, the issue of ego and political point scoring, particularly in highly contentious meetings, can often stand in the way of progress and agreement without compromise.

    Solution? To me, it comes from the top to enable people to talk freely and put forward ideas/motions without fear of negative comeback. This is a challenging idea and can only come from the top. If the senior managers are seen to play politics, this will then simply be copied by everyone else.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Absolutelly Barney!

    Culture is what drives a company and the leaders are what drive the culture. Bureaucratic cultures have been a leadership problem…nothing more nothing less.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Absolutely Ivan!

    It’s one of the great trademarks of leadership: not seeking to be liked all the time. You cant be liked all the time and make tough decisions. I think that’s one of the reasons we go through som much adversity in business…to toughen our skins a little bit 😉

  • TheOuroboro

    Glorious interview

  • More of the same needed, great positivity, no more doom and gloom excuses! Good one Greg

  • Niamh Pedreschi

    Great interview Greg, really valuable advice.n

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Garvin.n

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the kind wordss Niamh.n

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant video and content guys. Really like your interview technique Greg. For me the big takeaway was about talking to the customer about business issues and the need to tackle medium sizes companies and small divisions within large orgs. Planning to visit Jill’s site.nnOne slight negative, was that the video did seem quite choppy at parts. It seemed to be streaming fine, so I don’t think it was an issue on my end. It was just slightly annoying, as Jill was saying something important and it was breaking up. Was this the same for anyone else?

  • Facundo

    Thanks Frank. In relation to the choppy parts, we have some issues on the technical side, where we are unsure if it is the broadband conenction or the recording software. We are still looking for ways to improve this but it is challenging to say the least :)n

  • Anonymous

    u00a0Glad you found the interview of interest. Good luck next week.

  • Anonymous

    u00a0Glad you found the interview of interest. Good luck next week.

  • Anonymous

    Well done Greg! This is definitely an area where we all need to concentrate and learn.

  • I found Jills tips tips really helpful and am now on a mission to work with bigger businesses. Thanks Jill and Grey :)u00a0

  • Anonymous

    u00a0Thanks for the comment Lewis. Means a lot.

  • Anonymous

    Matthew,nnReally Glad you liked the interview. I must confess I was no expert on Jill’s work prior to the interview, but now I am extremely sold.nnGreg

  • Anonymous

    u00a0Thanks for the comment:) I am also off knocking on bigger doors thanks to Jill.

  • Paula Ronan

    Sales has a bad rep from bad reps! Great inspiration there Greg, thanks.u00a0

  • Anonymous

    u00a0Thanks for the kind comments. Like most things it is always a few bad people that the damage the reputation of the majority.

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