'Ten rules of life'


Nick Roumel

You do not need to go to the mountaintop. This wise, bearded cave-dwelling yogi lives right here at the Legal News. Yes my friends: my life’s experience, and the considerable tuition I’ve paid in the school of hard knocks, have taught me the following valuable lessons. Heed well:

10. Don’t ever join a non-profit board. The first one I was invited to join, I was honored. Soon after, the organization went defunct. Did that stop us? Oh, no. Someone had to negotiate the inherited massive tax debt with the IRS, so that we board members would not be held individually liable. This is because our director failed to pay any payroll taxes over the years. Fortunately, we had a secret Canadian bank account that saved the day. True story.

The next non-profit I joined also went defunct. So did the third one. Now I simply wave off the inevitable invitations to join non-profit board by explaining my reputation as an organization killer. It seems to work, and I avoid spending hours arguing over inconsequential things as a “volunteer” endeavor.

9. Do not ever take business surveys. You can’t book a trip, stay at a hotel, eat in a restaurant, or engage in a transaction with your bank without being called upon to take a followup survey. Do not ever take them. If businesses actually listened to what customers told them, they would have real people answer the phone instead of subjecting you to a Kafkaesque voice mail menu, and United Airlines would not physically drag doctors off of overbooked airlines. Delete and feel no guilt.

8. Never do work for friends or hire friends. This is a no-win situation, either way. If I do legal work for a friend, the fee and results interfere. If I hire friends to do work in my home, same thing. So keep your friends: refer them to trusted colleagues, and hire complete strangers to work on your home.

7. Do not drink at silent auctions. On my wall is a photo of O.J. Simpson, Johnny Cochran, and Robert Shapiro; it is autographed by the first two. In one blindingly stupid moment, I thought it would be cool to have. Today it is worth ... oh, say tens of dollars.

6. Do not overshare. Like #7, this admonition could be influenced by alcohol. The older I get, the more I appreciate the maxim “Never complain, never explain,” whether it was Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Ford, or Kate Moss who uttered it. Honest to God, nobody gives a flying leap. Related maxim: don’t over-apologize. One sincere “I’m sorry” is good enough.

5. Stay out of debt. When I was in college and credit cards were in their infancy, I got an invitation to sign up for a credit card. I thought, “You mean I can walk into Sears and take whatever I want, and pay later? How cool is that!” Cool enough that decades later, I want to shout this rule into the ears of my children and anyone else who will listen.

4. Don’t tear down the other guy. Everyone is going through something, fighting a battle. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes you can get frustrated. You can even seek sanctions on opposing counsel, when warranted. You are even permitted to insert a secret, funny picture from the internet into their v-card, so you can look at it every time they send you an email. But don’t be a complainer. See #6.

3. Don’t ever read online comments to news stories. Please don’t tell me you do this. Nothing will depress you more about the state of the world today than reading these, especially if they are anonymous. Plus, it’s a time-suck of unmitigated proportions. Exception: if it’s a news story you’re involved in, you may read a few to get the flavor of public opinion. Otherwise, you will become suffocated by misspelling bigots.

2. Question everything. It’s astounding how much we take for granted. For example, why must non-profit boards exist?

And Rule #1—and the justification for this being a food column—For goodness’ sake, when someone picks up the tab, accept! Duh? Practice saying this: “Thank you, I appreciate it!” How often do we see people attempt to thwart being offered this gift? “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly allow you to do a nice thing for me. I must fight, resist, and say everything possible to prevent you from buying me lunch.”—Don’t be an idiot.

Corollary: pick up the tab yourself now and then. People appreciate it, and it’s good karma.

You’re welcome. Now be careful going back down the mountain.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.