The Book of James Vol. 2: Climbing the Corporate Ladder, Work-Life Balance & Tattoos

@StarterNoise It is nearly Aug. & I have yet to take down my xmas lights, should I admit defeat and remove them? or not? #hoho #BookofJames – @Tripp_Lester

Well, Champ, now it’s officially August, and I assume those lights are still up. Conventional wisdom might suggest immediately taking them down and pretending you’re a fully functional member of society. However, I think that’s a loser’s attitude; you’re on the back nine of the calendar year, and at this point taking them down will only confuse your neighbors and warrant a health and welfare check from your local police department. Instead, I recommend turning into this skid and embracing your inner Clark Griswold. Leave those bad boys up. In fact, add to the display. Take three to four days off work, scour the city for every string of lights, loose bulb, inflatable Santa Clause, and robotic reindeer you can find, and become That Guy. You clearly left your dignity back in March, so really you’ve got nothing to lose. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.


As an entrepreneur, I always make work a priority. I’m always on the phone for work and spending every waking hour trying to get my business off the ground. What are some tips on how to set time aside to actually go out on dates and let go of work for a few hours?

— Sarah

Sarah, I’ve got absolutely terrible news for you – you’ve got like ten decades on this earth maximum, and then you’re going to die. I’m sorry you had to learn about this in an advice column, but hey, that’s life. When you’re sprawled out on your death bed, are you really going to regret not firing off a dozen more emails in your mid-Twenties?

I get it, you’re a busy bee. And while starting the next Facebook/Amazon/Squatty Potty might seem like the most important thing in your life, I can assure you it is not. Dedicating time to life outside work is critical – and I don’t mean only time to date. Having outside interests is key to keeping the perspective it takes to make it in the business world. That being said, it’s easier said than done. But it’s called making time for a reason; you have to be proactive in scheduling time for yourself and others.

Once you carve time out of your day for romance, I think you’ve got a natural leg up in the department; where you see an obstacle, I see an opportunity. Dating is 90% about making yourself seem interesting. (The other 10% is eating at trendy restaurants with square plates and holding in farts.) As an entrepreneur, you are already more interesting than the majority of the dating pool who are busy slaving away for The Man in exchange for ten days of paid vacation and free birthday cake once a month in the break room. By all means, talk about your business. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for your work and discuss your long term goals. Rarely in life are we given the gift of built-in conversation – take advantage when you can. And if your date doesn’t like it, tell them to pound sand and hop on Tinder.

I am a twenty-something professional working for a major consulting firm.  I’m attempting to climb the corporate ladder and grow my career as quickly as possible.  That said, I’m wondering your opinion on how best to handle the summer vacation season.  I’m about to spend a week at the beach with my family and I would love to completely unplug, but I’m afraid it might hurt my career in the long run.  Should I check in with work every day, a couple times, or not at all?  How do I find that elusive “work-life balance” while still staying on my bosses’ and clients’ radar?  Your sage advice is much appreciated.

— Anonymous

This is in a very similar vein to the previous letter writer who is seeking time to date, but in your case, you’re beholden to the needs of others; specifically, the people to whom you answer. However, my advice remains very much the same – enjoy your damn life. First things first: it is extremely unfortunate that in today’s day and age, Paid Time Off has been relegated to the Land of Taboo. Spending time – time which is fully guaranteed through your employment agreement – with your family should not be looked at as evidence of a lack of commitment. Americans in particular are the worst at maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and it is due in large part to the unspoken belief that to rise to the top, you have to keep your nose to the grindstone 24/7/365. But like I said before, a truly well-rounded employee has a life outside of work which inspires them to give their all in the workplace. Take your vacation, dammit, and enjoy every minute of it. Personally, I refuse to check any of my work emails while I am out of the office, but if you absolutely must, do so once a day tops and in an extremely passive manner – read through them, process the information, stay abreast of ongoing activities, but DO NOT RESPOND. As soon as you become responsive to emails on vacation, any semblance of respect for your private time will evaporate. If you absolutely must acknowledge an email, remind the other party that you are on vacation and assure them you will handle the situation appropriately upon your return. Then close your laptop, walk away, and order enough Pina Coladas to float a small armada.

How taboo are tattoos and piercings in the work place? Clearly something explicit or graphic will never be appropriate in pretty much any public setting (no Amy Winehouse topless-pinup). My tattoos are appropriate, but I’m never sure how professionals will react. Tattoos do not change who I am, how well I do my job or my capabilities and charming wit…but I am worried that I’ll still be judged for it. Is it acceptable to show some ink in the work place? Or are we still living in the 1950’s? — Lindsay

I’m going to take you for your word and assume you’re not covered in prison tats. In that case, I suppose I’ll answer your question with one of my own: what’s the big deal about being judged? If the worst blowback you’re getting in the office is a few sideways glances from the Baby Boomers, let them twist in the wind. It’s not their place to dictate the decisions you make in decorating your body. Unless your tattoos directly violate your company standards, you’re perfectly fine to have as many or as few tattoos and piercings as you please. Obviously there are going to be limits; use your best judgment. And even though you didn’t ask, here is my personal list of body modifications to avoid: anything ironic, ear gauges you can pass a grapefruit through, fraternity/sorority letters, anything you found on Pinterest, any quote the internet attributes to Marilyn Monroe.

Side note: I wish we were living in the 1950s, because I’d get a lot more done with a decanter of bourbon on my desk.

Send us your questions to be in the next Book of James! Tweet your questions about life and career to @TheStuniversity & @StarterNoise using #BookofJames and we will get you a swift answer. 


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