A Man Is Punctual: The Importance of Being on Time

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 16, 2012 · 136 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette, On Virtue

The life of George Washington was characterized by a scrupulous regard for punctuality.

When he asked a man to bring by some horses he was interested in buying at five in the morning, and the man arrived fifteen minutes late, he was told by the stable groom that the general had been waiting there at five, but had now moved on to other business, and that he wouldn’t be able to examine the horses again until the following week.

When he told Congress that he’d meet with them at noon, he could almost always be found striding into the chamber just as the clock was striking twelve.

Washington’s promptness extended to his mealtimes as well. He ate dinner each day at exactly 4 o’clock, and when he invited members of Congress to dine with him, and they arrived late, they were often surprised to find the president halfway done with his meal or even pushing back from the table. To his startled, tardy guest he would say, “We are punctual here. My cook never asks whether the company has arrived, but whether the hour has come.”

And when Washington’s secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”

George Washington’s passion for punctuality was born from his youthful study of “The Rules of Civility” – his repeated copying of maxims like “Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.” For Washington, being on time was a way of showing respect to others, and he expected to be treated with the same level of respect in return.

We may no longer live in an age of knickers and powdered wigs, but being punctual is just as important as it ever was. It has been called “a homely, but solid virtue,” and it certainly doesn’t cause one’s breast to swell in the way that pondering courage or resolution does. But related as punctuality is to discipline and self-mastery, to integrity and respect, it is – if not particularly sexy – still an essential component of the character of an upstanding man.

Today we’ll explore why this is so, and then on Wednesday we’ll cover why some men struggle with being on time despite their best efforts, along with tips on how to overcome the habit of always running behind.

Why Is Being Punctual Important?

“The habit of being prompt once formed extends to everything — meeting friends, paying debts, going to church, reaching and leaving place of business, keeping promises, retiring at night and rising in the morning, going to the lecture and town-meeting, and, indeed, to every relation and act, however trivial it may seem to observers.” –William Makepeace Thayer, Tact and Grit, 1882

The importance of punctuality is not universal and varies from culture to culture. In some places like Latin America and the Pacific Islands, life moves at a different pace and meeting times are meant to be fuzzy. But this does not negate the value of punctuality to a man living in a culture that does define being on time more strictly, just as the well-rounded man of the West seeks competence in things like shaking hands, wearing a tie, working out with a kettlebell, and holding open doors for women, even if such things are not practiced the world over.

Here’s why.

“I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time, and it has made a man of me.” -Horatio, Lord Nelson

Being punctual strengthens and reveals your integrity. If you tell someone that you will meet them at a certain time, you have essentially made them a promise. And if you say you’ll be there at 8:00, and yet arrive at 8:15, you have essentially broken that promise. Being on time shows others that you are a man of your word.

Being punctual shows you are dependable. A man can always be found at his post, carrying out the duties needful for that time. People know they can rely on such a man – if he says he will be there, he’ll be there. But if a man is not punctual, others cannot depend on him — they do not know where he will be when they need him. His associates will begin to feel he cannot organize his own time, and these doubts will seep into matters beyond the clock, as it naturally raises the question: “If he is careless about time, what else is he careless about?”

Benjamin Franklin once said to an employee who was always late, but always ready with an excuse:  I have generally found that the man who is good at an excuse is good for nothing else.”

Being punctual builds your self-confidence. Showing up on time not only tells other people you are dependable, it teaches you that you can depend on yourself. The more you keep the promises you make, the more your self-confidence will grow. And the more you gain in self-mastery, the less you will be at the mercy of your compulsions and habits, and the more in control of your life you will feel.

Being punctual assures you’re at your best. After riding someone’s bumper, speeding like a maniac, scanning for cops, and cursing at red lights, it’s hard to then turn your focus to making a presentation at a meeting or charming a date – you’re shaky and depleted from the adrenaline and stress. But when you show up on time, better yet a little early, you have a few minutes to collect your thoughts, review your materials, and get your game face on.

“Soldiers should be minutemen. Punctuality is one of the most valuable habits a soldier can possess.” –Christopher Columbus Andrews, Hints to Company Officers on Their Military Duties, 1863

Being punctual builds and reveals your discipline. The punctual man shows that he can organize his time, that he pays attention to details, and that he can put aside this to do that – he can set aside a pleasure to take care of business.

“’There is great dignity in being waited for,’ said one who was in this habit, and who had not much of which he need be vain, unless it was this want of promptness.” –John Todd, The Students Manual, 1854

Being punctual shows your humility. That bumper sticker maxim: “Always late, but worth the wait” shows that tardiness and an overestimation of one’s worth sometimes go hand in hand. People will be glad to see you when you arrive, but they would have been gladder still had you come on time.

Being punctual shows your respect for others. Being late is a selfish act, for it puts your needs above another’s. You want an extra minute to do what you’d like, but in gaining that minute for yourself, you take a minute from another, which is why….

Being late is a form of stealing. That’s a tough truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless. When you make others wait for you, you rob minutes from them that they’ll never get back. Time they could have turned into money, or simply used for the things important to them. In coming to meet you at the agreed upon hour, they may have made sacrifices – woken up early, cut short their workout, told their kid they couldn’t read a story together – and your lateness negates those sacrifices. If you wouldn’t think of taking ten dollars from another man’s wallet, you shouldn’t think of stealing ten minutes from him either. Being punctual shows you value time yourself, and thus wouldn’t think of depriving others of this precious, but limited resource.

“It has been said that time is money. That proverb understates the case. Time is a great deal more than money. If you have time you can obtain money—usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.” –Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, 1910

Being late disturbs the experiences of other people. Your tardiness not only robs others of their time, but of the fullness of their experiences as well. The student who interrupts a professor in the middle of his lecture; the family which climbs over you to get to their seats at the middle of the row in the theater; the man who opens the creaky door in the middle of a eulogy. When an old man was once asked why he had been so punctual in arriving at his church on time for decades, he replied, “I made it my religion not to disturb the religion of others.”

Being late strains your relationships. When you’re late in meeting other people, it makes them feel under-valued, that whatever you couldn’t pull yourself away from was more important or that they didn’t mean enough to you to warrant allotting sufficient time to arrive on schedule. The guest who flies in to see you feels like a dope standing at the airport alone, your date feels awkward sitting at the restaurant by herself, and your child feels abandoned as she waits with her teacher for you to arrive, all the other children having already been picked up from school.

Being late hurts your professional career. Whether you’re an employee or in business for yourself, being late can hinder your professional success. Many companies have strict policies about punctuality — get a few write-ups and you’re gone. Of course, if you arrive late to the job interview, you probably won’t land the position in the first place. And if you’re trying to win over a new client, arriving ten minutes late isn’t going to get things off on the right foot, in the same way that promising to get something to him by a certain date and then failing to do so, may have him looking elsewhere for your services.

Being late takes a toll on your life. Always running behind simply hurts you in all areas of your life. It results in lost opportunities: missing a plane, missing a meeting, missing an important part of a lecture, missing a wedding. It creates stress and can lead to car accidents and traffic tickets. It results in embarrassment and forces you to come up with excuses for why you’re late, putting a strain on your honesty. Basically, it makes your life more complicated; for men seeking to simplify their lives, cultivating punctuality is an essential part of that path.

Read Part II: The Reasons You’re Late and How to Always Be on Time 

{ 136 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andres July 17, 2012 at 12:01 am

Awesome!!

2 Mark July 17, 2012 at 12:14 am

I definitely thank you for this write up. I’ve always been “that guy” that shows up 15-20 minutes early when I agree to meet someone. It has always benefited me professionally, and people remember this quality. Especially friends because it always feels good when your friends know they can count on you to be there when you say you will.

3 Jonathan B July 17, 2012 at 12:17 am

“If you don’t plan to be early, you plan to be late.”

Someone told me this a long te ago and it’s so true.

4 Matt H. July 17, 2012 at 12:18 am

Thank you for this. I’m generally 5-10 minutes late everywhere I go and had convinced myself it was no big deal. But this article really convicted me and made me want to change my ways. It made me see being on time in a whole new light. Thanks AoM.

5 Ilana July 17, 2012 at 12:37 am

I agree, and have thought this for a long time. Punctuality is a (not-so-difficult) way to get into the habit of keeping your word on all matters, small and large.

But although I like to leave myself extra time in case of delays, I don’t like to arrive early at the appointed meeting place. I’d rather wait next door and show up at the appointed place just as the hour strikes–then the other person has no cause to fell as though s/he has made me wait. (Also, I love the Dumas quote, “It is just as lacking in punctuality to arrive fifteen minutes early as to arrive fifteen minutes late.”)

I do have one quibble with Washington’s modus operandi–I would hold a meal for guests. Making punctuality a rule for oneself is admirable; causing others embarrassment because they lack the same virtue is discourteous.

6 Brett G. July 17, 2012 at 1:07 am

It’s worth noting that sometimes, being slightly late is actually polite. Occasionally in the US, and often in many European countries, it’s acceptable, or even expected, for guests to arrive at a dinner party 15 or so minutes late, to give the host extra time to prepare. That being said, punctuality is an important and very manly virtue. Great article

7 Eric H July 17, 2012 at 1:30 am

I wish everyone would read this!

8 Michael H July 17, 2012 at 1:38 am

Great article. This is something I’ve been working on for the past year or so and it really does feel good to be early and prepared!

9 Michael July 17, 2012 at 1:49 am

I heard that one of the previous coaches of the Florida Gators said that “5 minutes early is 10 minutes late.” While that’s more of a call to be MORE early instead of just a call to be early alone (or just plain on time), it gets the point across well.
You guys make me feel like I’m not crazy for wanting to arrive early and get my thoughts together. That little bit about the “get your game face on” after arriving early is EXACTLY what I like to do, so thanks for saying that. I feel a little more sane now. Good to know that it is manly.

10 Grace July 17, 2012 at 1:51 am

I want and expect punctuality in business, but Brett G is exactly right. For a dinner party in the US, unless you are close friends/family, show up 15 minutes late. I’ve seen this is appreciated by hosts in Los Angeles and New York.

11 Cresca July 17, 2012 at 2:31 am

Absolutely true. I myself try to always be 10 minutes early or on time. If I´m not I call whoever I´m meeting with the reason, because sometimes there are circumstances out of your control.

12 cassie July 17, 2012 at 3:03 am

Every manager I have had had always commented on me being no less then 15min early. I pride myself on that fact and have even found myself not answering my door when a date shows up late. It really is all about respecting ones self and others.

13 charlie b July 17, 2012 at 4:19 am

this is spot on – everyone should read it. If my patients turn up 25 mins late for a half hour appointment they get 5 mins with me – because I have to respect the time of the following person. The exception, as Brett pointed out, is arriving at parties – 15 minutes late is about right I think. In the UK delayed trains and bad traffic hold-ups can make arrival on time a challenge.

14 Timothée July 17, 2012 at 4:20 am

I just got fired from my job today because of unpunctuality (among other things). This article comes on time.

15 Seth July 17, 2012 at 7:06 am

In the Air Force there is a saying that if you are on time, you are already fifteen minutes late. Sometimes it makes for too early of an arrival, e.g. when the briefing starts at 0600 and the supervisor tells everyone to be there by 0545. Everyone then shows up at 0530, when really the supervisor was just reminding everyone to be fifteen minutes early…

16 Ben July 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

Being late for dinner parties and such events is only appreciated by hosts, who themselves are incapable of being on time.

All to often do I have food prepared at waiting at x o’clock, just to have people arrive 15 minutes late and then I have to apologize for the food being cold, just because they can’t come on time.

17 Lord Mund July 17, 2012 at 8:33 am

In the past five years or so, shortly after I had left school, I’ve never been late for something- be it a job interview, a date, a meeting with a friend, or attendance at a function of some sort- except for circumstances that took it entirely out of my hands (which are, as one could expect, very unlikely).

Despite being punctual regardless of the occasion, I don’t adhere to the same rule every time. For example:

For interviews, I show up fifteen minutes early. It’s like you’ll be invited in for the meeting earlier anyway, and the amount of times I’ve been the first to show them my suitability for the role due to being early is numerous. Couple this with being an all-round gentleman, and you can’t lose.

For dates, be they with my male friends or romantic companions, I aim to show several minutes before the exact time. Never slightly after. No particular reason, though this is how I’ve always done it.

For parties, dinner dates, or anything of that nature, I show up shortly after the agreed upon time, or as much as fifteen minutes afterwards. By then, you’ll often find a veritable amount of guests have turned up- though not enough to make you look like the typical ‘late guy’- and you’ll be able to blend into the scene accordingly.

Works for me, and I imagine it does for many others. Great article, great man, and great insight.

Chin chin!

18 Joe July 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

Early is on time. On time is late. And late is unacceptable.

19 Alejandro De La Garza July 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

The importance of punctuality has been underestimated. Today I return to work for the first time in almost 10 months. Two weeks ago I showed up for the interview 20 minutes early and I intend to keep that same level of professionalism, as I begin this new phase of my career. People need to show respect for one another’s time and energy.

20 Hartmann July 17, 2012 at 8:48 am

Amen to that.

21 Sasha | Global Table Adventure July 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

This is so, so true. I always used to be early… now that I have a child I really have to focus to be on time – it can be quite the challenge but I force myself. I loathe tardiness. There was a girl in college who was always 15 minutes late to class.. on the dot. She was consistent haha – if she could only shift her thinking… it was incredibly disrespectful.

22 Toke Eskildsen July 17, 2012 at 9:08 am

The delayed arrival for a dinner party is also considered polite in Denmark. We have an old book written in 1918 named “Takt og Tone”, loosely translated to “How to behave in social settings”, where the author states that being 5 minutes late for dinner parties is the polite thing to do. I find that is still a fine rule and try to follow it.

23 Anthony July 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

Being on-time enhances your reputation, especially as to whether you are dependable or not, while being late diminishes it.

Here’s the problem I have: I am myself usually on time or early. My wife, on the other hand, is terrible at time management and usually runs 15 or 30 minutes late. Now that we have small children, of course, it’s even harder. Nagging isn’t a good option, for many reasons; how else can I lead the family so that we are all on time to events?

24 Taylor Harris July 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

Great article! Though I got caught up in reading it and ended up being five minutes late to work. Oh the irony. But really, punctuality is one of those things that isn’t really noticed until it is absent. Don’t let tardiness define you!

25 PaulTheCabDriver July 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

“I do have one quibble with Washington’s modus operandi–I would hold a meal for guests. Making punctuality a rule for oneself is admirable; causing others embarrassment because they lack the same virtue is discourteous.”
Yes, but he was dealing with Congressmen.
Seriously, though, in my business (I own a taxi company), punctuality is a must. If you show up with your taxi on time, you’ve won 90% of the battle. But it is also important not to show up too early, either, because then your passengers feel like they have to hurry. 5 min early is the best, most acceptable goal in my estimation

26 Jules July 17, 2012 at 9:42 am

Good post. When i was in my teens I started setting my watch 5min or so early, used to work out right when i had to be somewhere. Never lost the habit.

27 James July 17, 2012 at 9:43 am

This article is true. As a man who holds and attends many meetings. I can tell you that lateness is a lack of respect and for years I have made it a priority to run early for all appointments.

28 Craig O. July 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

In my experience there is an inverse relationship in the arrival time of those attending meetings. Those farthest arrive first; those closest last and usually late.

29 John July 17, 2012 at 9:50 am

It would be great if punctuality could again become a societal norm (though I’m sure it never will). At the very least it’s nice to know that there are others out there who feel that tardiness is disrespectful.

30 Mark Ruddick July 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

Anthony – my wife is always late as well. I can tell what does not work out well. Getting in the car and being on time at the appointment and leaving her at the house.

All kidding aside, lead by example and lie about the appointment times.

31 Ron July 17, 2012 at 10:06 am

A timely post indeed. 35 years in the CF taught me the habit of being being 15 min early for any specified occasion, if for no other reason to allow you time to prepare or modify your plan. On one occasion a few years back a security platoon, led by an old friend, linked up with my Ambulance troop exactly 15 min early. Just in time to help us out of a sticky situation. On time would have been about 5 min too late. In my new civvy career I notice this doesn’t seem to be the rule. Meetings are a hash of flustered late arrivals. Being on time is the mark of a professional man.

32 D July 17, 2012 at 10:09 am

Question for you all: how do you manage a significant other’s tardiness? I really dislike being late for things, but my wife tends to make us late (still getting dressed, still putting on her make up, etc).

Any tips on how to broach this topic w/her and how to help her get into better time management habits?

33 Andrew July 17, 2012 at 10:15 am

“For Washington, being on time was a way of showing respect to others, and he expected to be treated with the same level of respect in return.”

This statement stuck out the most for me. I feel like I’ve always gone out of the way to be respectful to others when it comes to different things, but I don’t feel that people are like that with me. After an incident last week, I said I would quit being so courteous. But after reading this article, that is unnecessary. I need to demand the same respect I put give.

34 Jasper July 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

The way time is regarded is highly culturally influenced. In countries like Italy and Spain for example, time is nothing but a indicator, punctuality is just an option, at best.

This article, as many on this website, is written from a purely American perspective. Recently an article was posted in which was explained how to fold an American flag. Not a flag, which would’ve been fine for writing purposes, but the American flag.

When almost all articles on this site are American-centered, you ignore an opportunity to give this site so much more depth. Manliness in other cultures would broaden the views of both the author and the visitor, instead of just writing about things that are happening in your own backyard, so to speak.

35 Jayson Feltner July 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

Great Article! Being on time is such a key to building your persona. Just think what would happen to a presidential candidate if he showed up to a debate 10 minutes late.

36 David July 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

For me punctuality is a very big concern, but I’d like the author to consider. This is also a cultural issue. In The American North East punctuality is a big big deal, but there are other cultures where it is the norm for events (even work!) to begin when “everyone has arrived and is ready to work”. While that philosophy goes against the grain of my personal beliefs, I think it’s fair to say that the above article reflects “American Manliness” rather than “Manliness”

37 Tina July 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

As I have hosted friends for sit-down dinners, I do not appreciate the 15 minutes late idea. I work really hard to have the meal ready at the time I say it is going to be ready. When my companion is late, I then start worrying about whether the food will be ruined or if my companion has forgotten or is bailing on me. A party where there are many people or is a more informal event is probably ok to be late…

38 Brett McKay July 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

To those who complain that this article and website are American-centric….yes absolutely, and that is intentional. The great majority of our readers are American and while many things on the site can help any man, anywhere, the site is mainly aimed at helping our core constituency. Almost every major magazine, and many major websites as well, have multiple editions for different countries and different parts of the world. There is a reason for this. An entire article can be written saying this culture does it this way, and this does it this way, before you get to anything helpful. It is foolish to try to be all things to all people…you end end up being nothing to nobody.

39 Steven Feder July 17, 2012 at 11:51 am

Brett G. is right–a little late for a dinner party or social engagement dinner at someone’s house is actually polite (10, 15 minutes). Gives them a little breathing room.

Also, I’d not eat dinner at the appointed time if the guests were not there. Hmmm, on that one.

Otherwise, this article is spot on. I’m a litigatioon attorney, and my life revolves around being on tims, and the value of that time to others–in addition to the value of their time.

A former Marine I know always said “1/2 hour early is 30 minutes late”!

40 Joel A. July 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

I have rarely been late without a reason (unexpected traffic due to an accident, for example). Often times I plan for those and end up 15+ mintues early. The wife hates it, she doesn’t like that we show up to a party before the hosts are even ready :). But it has afforded me plenty of opportunities in work life, when I’m the second one in a room after the presenter I just won myself a free unscheduled 1:1 meeting.

41 Dan S. July 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Thanks Brett for comment #38.

When I first read the title I thought this was going to be a very contentious issues, but it is very refreshing to know that there are people who appreciate being on time.

As for the being 15 min. late to a dinner party. In my experience everybody plans on being 15 min. late because they know if they arrive on time they will be the first ones there. And nobody wants that. People don’t arrive late to a dinner party to be courteous to the hosts.

42 Jason July 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

My dad’s advice still sticks with me to this day: “There’s NEVER an excuse for being late.”

But now I work and live in southeast Asia. Talk about wearing on your inner man’s nerves….

43 Rupert July 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

As a store manager of many years, I don’t remember where I first heard this, but this is what I told all new employees during orientation: If your early your on time, if your on time your late, and if your late your fired.

44 AB8511 July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I agree with everything stated in article and in discussion. A non-American I would like to know, if there is real historical evidence, that George Washington posessed this trait, or it is just a legend about your first president…

45 Jonathan July 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Thanks for this article! I’m a very punctual person, and have always believed that punctuality is a sign of respect. Time is a non-renewable resource, so when someone wastes mine it changes my opinion of them for the worse.

When dealing with chronically late people, I’ve done the same as President Washington. My habitually tardy friends have found me at a resaurant having already ordered. Some other commenters think this behavior is rude, and that may be true. However, so is being chronically late. Want to order at the same time I do? Show some respect and be on time. Sorry, I don’t have any advice for the married gentlemen whose wives are this way. I would never marry a woman who disrespected me enough to consistently cause me to be late.

46 DVS July 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I’m always on time. It’s everyone else I meet up with that is 10-20 minutes off. ^_^

47 Britaliano July 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Great article. Just great.

Being punctual expands one’s reputation in so many ways. It shows you are dependable, trustworthy and that you’re not taking others for granted: “It’s ok if I turn up 15 minutes late, they won’t mind”

Well after a while, they do mind.

I was one of those men who didn’t mind too much if I arrived late or not at all. I freely admit it was part of taking people for granted and it had to stop.

I made a conscious effort to improve my timekeeping, which I saw as improving my dependability.

As luck would have it, I moved to Switzerland where timekeeping is an area of etiquette all of its own.

You don’t arrive more then five minutes early or ten minutes late. Ever. Being early is seen as being just as rude as being late.

You do not turn up anywhere unannounced.

Over here, “my train was late” is just not a valid excuse, you can time journies to the minute.

All in all I am pleased I put in the effort. It is well worth it.

48 Patricia July 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for this excellent article. As a woman who is usually late, I have just had a good examination of conscience. Never too old to learn, never to late to change. I have work to do. First, where is the confessional.

49 Patrick Coffin July 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

And when it’s being late for Mass, you’re talking a venial sin. (And that “worth the wait” bumpersticker is the worst. Narcissism is alive and well.)

50 PASunter July 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

A wonderful article Brett!

One of my assignors requires that we be on-site for our ball games an hour before game time. Barring emergency, if you are not there an hour before, you will be replaced. Only a few (former) umpires have challenged him on that.

51 Brian H July 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

This makes me wonder if Washington’s punctuality would have differed had he been in the inferior role. For example, if he had been invited to interview for the some fictitious position and made to wait 15 minutes, would he then have left with the same admonition?

52 jennifer July 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

As one who is trying to be more punctual, i will share that my conversion to a more punctual way of life began when I was challenged to view the act of being punctual as an act of charity toward others. This is only one of the concepts put forth in this excellent article. I would encourage husbands to charitably share this article with their wives, in the hope that they can begin to see punctuality as a virtue worth cultivating. I plan to share this article with my daughter (who, sad to say, seems to have inherited my propensity for lateness), whose husband is working patiently to encourage her to be more punctual.

53 Ellen July 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Wonderful article. I can boast that in 32 years of work, I have never been late. I am fanatical about being on time.

54 Carlos July 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Excellent article, like many others on Art of Manliness. We’ve all been late due to unexpected problems (tire blows out, car breaks down, last-minute emergency). But by and large, punctuality is a virtue.

Years ago when I didn’t have a car, a friend offered to drive me to a wedding we’d both been invited to. I politely declined – I had already made plans by plotting public transportation to the wedding’s site (one bus ride, one subway ride, and one train ride). I looked up each vehicle’s pick up time and it worked flawlessly – and at the end, another friend punctually picked me up. We allowed ourselves about 30 minutes and got to the wedding venue around 20 minutes early.

The wedding itself was delayed – for 40 minutes. At last, it started.

But the friend who had offered to pick me up and to drive me didn’t show up. By now we were taking pictures. Still no sign of him. FINALLY I got a call from his wife. They’d been late (he was notorious for lateness) and he couldn’t find the wedding venue. In other words, had I accepted his offer, I would’ve missed the entire wedding.

That friend wasn’t a bad guy, but he cheated himself and his wife out of a lovely celebration. All because he didn’t know how to be punctual.

55 Katrina July 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I want to address the men who mentioned their struggles with getting their wife/family out of the door on time. The several of you who mentioned it, did so very respectfully, and I thank you.

I too struggle with punctuality sometimes. But growing up, I had such an unpleasant experience with it. My father would roll out of bed Sunday mornings, get himself dressed and ask me (the oldest of the kids) to fix his toast. Meanwhile my mother was getting herself AND my six younger siblings ready, making the coffee, ensuring someone fed the dogs, etc. Dad would then sit out in the car impatiently (some days honking the horn) while Mom helped the little kids get their shoes on, hair combed, reaching Sunday School books from the shelf, and so on. We would then endure the ride to church with my dad tight-lipped and angry, driving with his knees so he could comb his own hair. Then we’d traipse into church as one big (happy?) family. I always hated that and as an adult I have a real aversion to walking into church stressed out…seems morally wrong somehow.

So for me, punctuality has always taken a back seat to human relations, making my children/spouse/friend feel cherished and a general happy countenance (not to mention safe driving).

That being said, although my ex husband didn’t get much that I tried to impart to him, he did at least go along with me on this. Punctuality was important to him. So when we were going somewhere as a family, he would take responsibility for getting the kids ready on time. And I fully acknowledged I didn’t live by the clock, so he would give me “no pressure” time updates, just a “we leave in 45 minutes”, “we leave in 15 minutes”. And for the most part it worked pretty well.

I’m in a new relationship now, and once again I’m with a man that finds punctuality more important than I do! For the most part he’s pretty naturally figuring out that I don’t live by the clock and he’ll check in with me about departure time periodically. But this article is a good prompt for me to sit down and have a frank discussion with him about it, set my pride aside and lay it all out there to avoid any tension about it.

Maybe show your significant other my post, it couldn’t hurt. If nothing else, you’ll open a discussion as to why she struggles with being on time.

56 Vince C July 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm

When I was in the military, they always drilled it into us to be at least 15 minutes early to every appointment–also known as “hurry up and wait”. To this day, I hate to be late (or even right on time) to any appointment.

57 bobster July 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

there are several remarks here about washington, some hinting that his position of authority allowed him to be strict about time.

think about it… maybe his being strict about timeliness was one of the qualities that GOT HIM to that place of authority!

timeliness is more than manners, it is an effective tool for success. Time is an asset to be managed, just like money.

58 Jim July 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I learned early on in the Marines that, “If you’re not early, you’re late.”

We were expected to be present 15 minutes prior to every occasion, and God help you if you weren’t.

59 Julian July 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I went to a very strict all boys Catholic high school( Im 21), our days ran from 6am to 4pm, and one of our many mantras that we heard on daily basis was: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.”

Im glad George Washington was such a stickler about time, or otherwise we might still be sipping tea.

60 Brew July 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Norman: “You’re late, Neal.”
Neal Burns: “Yeah, yeah, I didn’t get in until late.”
Paul: “Well, I didn’t get in at all but I was here.”
Norman: “Neil, Paul. Paul, Neil.”
Paul: “Neal, in Montana there’s three things we’re never late for: church, work and fishing.”

61 T-Wood July 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

@ anthony #23…

I’m sad to say I’ve never had a woman in my life that was on time for anything. I don’t have the same hard-on for punctuality as Pres. George Washington. However, I try to live life by the golden rule; so it goes without saying I strive to show respect for other people’s time. If something unforeseen comes up and I’m running a little late, chances are I’m likely going to be “on time”. I learned that if you need to be somewhere with someone who is notoriously late, your best bet is to tell them the start time of the event is earlier based on the person’s habit. If he/she is always 15 minutes late, then tell them the event starts 15 minutes earlier than advertised. If they find out and ask why you said something different, you could tell them you “misremembered” (Thank you to Roger Clemens for that little nugget). It’s a lie, and probably not the best way to live your life, but at least the intent was decent. I would say use your best judgement with regards to whom you try this with and for what appointment you are trying to make. I’ve done this to my wife with success, and no backlash for bending the truth. My wife is cool that way, plus I told her in a joking way previously that I would do that one day since she was always making us late. Other tactics failed: For example, I told her at one point that I was leaving for some event at whatever time, and if she was going with me, she had to be ready by then. It turned into an argument every time… Some people just aren’t going to change their habits. If it’s important to you to be on time, you have to learn to work effectively in the environment you’re in.

Great Article!

62 Greg M July 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm

One rainy summer morning I was involved in a terrible car accident on the way to work. When I was finally able to call from the ER to inform my boss of what had happened. He already knew that something bad had happened, because I was late…and I am never late. A reputation is a powerful thing.

63 Christopher Battles July 17, 2012 at 8:34 pm

It is a manly attribute. We all know of those friends of ours who are always late. Not fun it is to plan for those people who are late.
Thank you for this article.

K, bye

64 Elijah July 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm

The other end of being punctual is ending on time, as in a speech. Going over your allotted time steals time (life) from the audience just as surely as being late for a date steals time from the other person.

65 Karl July 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I am always on on time or early… as far as it depends on me. What about you punctual guys who’s wife is not so punctual? Have you any tips on helping her not to cause you to be “that couple”, the ones who can never be on time?

66 T-Wood July 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

@Karl –

Anthony above (#23) had the same question. I gave him a suggestion that I have used in the past with my wife (#60).

Good Luck, man!

67 novembertwentyeleven July 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm

My department boss is always late by about 15 to 30 minutes to meetings he called. When he walks in, we can smell the cigarette smoke about him. His excuse is he was busy.

But we are early so we place bets on how late he will be this time and amuse ourseleves with outrageous excuses that he could have come up with. Like: he rescued a sinking ship, or applied CPR on somebody, or he met the President and had a chat with him, and so on.

68 Father Muskrat July 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I used to be like this. But then I started my own law firm and became an arrogant prick.

69 James July 17, 2012 at 10:31 pm

While I agree with much that was said in this article, I believe consideration must be given to the other side of the coin.

Before you dismiss me as be lazy and discourteous for suggesting a second look at this issue, let me tell you an anecdote from my recent life to assure you that I do highly value punctuality. Last year I was planning a birthday gathering which was to begin with a potluck supper in a nearby park. I showed up ready to go with food, a blanket, some drinks, and a soccer ball about 10 minutes early. Then I waited for no less than 40 minutes before people slowly began to trickle in (only one of whom brought any food, I might add). Not only did I feel somewhat dejected by their lack of effort to arrive on time, or even close to on time, I also had to endure the strange glances of passerby seeing a lone young man sitting at an otherwise empty picnic, and still sitting there when they passed by half an hour later. The popular idea of being “fashionably late” does not hold up when everyone does it! In any case, it is usually selfishly motivated. I also try my best to arrive on time to events, whether professional and formal, or casual and personal.

At the same time, punctuality cannot be looked at as a categorical good, regardless of situation. As previously mentioned, there may be many perfectly valid reasons for lateness, such as emergencies, caring for children, tardiness of others you are traveling with, and so on. But the severity of the “crime” of being late must also be judged accordingly to the importance of the appointment. If a friend is 20 minutes late arriving to another friend’s house to socialize, this is a less severe offense than arriving equally late to a doctor’s appointment or a date. There are times when the good of punctuality is superseded by a greater good. To paint a picture, suppose you have been invited to a dinner party to which many friends have been invited. You are about to head out the door when the phone rings. Another friend is on the line, saying something is wrong and she really needs to talk to someone. Do you tell her to call someone else as you are busy, so that you can be on time for the dinner party? Or do you attend to your friend in need? Of course the friend in need is more urgent and also more important. In this case, punctuality is the wrong thing to do.

Furthermore, is a man not just as guilty for not forgiving the lateness of a companion and taking it in stride, as the one who was late? Does a truly “manly” man act like a child and throw a tantrum inside his own mind because another has done him a discourtesy? The primary virtue of manliness is charity, which defines all other virtues. If the legend is true, President Washington’s table manners were not at all those of a man, but those of a child.

70 Ben M. July 18, 2012 at 2:25 am

While punctuality is very important in many respects, I would like to explore a bit more a point Ilana (Post #5) mentioned. What should one do about someone who does not show up on time for a date?

On the one hand, it seems to me that anyone who is going to be late today has an obligation to at least call or text ahead to the person who will be waiting. After all, would a woman not do this if she had a date with Brad Pitt (or a man if he had a date with Mila Kunis?)

At the same time, an issue that has risen a few times here (Ilana in Post #5, James in Post #68, and apologies to anyone I may have left out) that it is disrespectful and even childish to NOT wait for the late person. This point reminds me of Socrates in “Book I” of The Republic when he suggests that a just man would do no harm to the unjust. What does beginning without your date do other than build resentment? I think they would be more ticked at punctual person’s lack of patience than inspired to become more punctual themselves.

I believe there is room for some middle-ground here, and would like to know what the rest of you think. Say a man arrives at a restaurant 5 minutes before he is meant to meet a date, and after spending that 5 minutes in the lobby, he requests to be escorted to a table for two, giving the host/hostess a description of the lady he will see. While I think a good number could say it is rude to order the meal, how acceptable is it for him to order a drink? Should the drink have to be water? If he goes this route, is he obligated to call or text the lady and ask what she would like to drink?

71 Nick July 18, 2012 at 2:57 am

Agreed with James just above, sometimes you need to be fashionably late. Consider a party: coming right on time is completely unexpected and will throw people off. Also, you’ll have to sit around getting bored before other people come a few hours later.

example, if party is at 7pm, come at 10-11pm.

Also, sensitivity to time is a cultural thing. Down in Latin countries, showing up on the dot is not expected. People will take their time.

72 Jasper July 18, 2012 at 5:02 am

@ Brett McKay

It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, are the articles American-centered because the majority of the visitors are American, or are most of the visitors American because the articles are American-centered?

Furthermore, many magazines and websites have multiple editions is for an important part because of lingual differences.

Mentioning other cultures shouldn’t have to be too long, for example this article could’ve contained one single paragraph describing how in some cultures it’s normal to be late, also for men, and why it is that way. No need to write lengthy chapters on all cultures in the world, just a short paragraph, to view the subject from a different perspective.

There’s no need to be a jack-of-all-trade to suit anyone. Remember, there is a huge variety of subjects on this site already. That is a great thing, and shows that diversity, whether in subjects, perspectives or whatever, doesn’t have to be foolish.

73 The Therapist July 18, 2012 at 6:55 am

@Anthony #23

Lead your house by example as well as pitch in to help your wife even more no that you have children. She’ll appreciate the help as well as see how important timeliness is to without you saying a single word or other wise “nag”. Therapeutic disclaimer: This type of behavior from you may lead to activities that may produce more children, thus continuing the cycle of justifiable chronic tardiness.

74 Jim Collins July 18, 2012 at 7:50 am

Esteemed Brett, Kate, and readers,

I wonder — is it an accident that those cultures that value punctuality are more productive than those that don’t?

Maybe some one is right.

Repeated lateness results in a person being deleted from my contacts list, and that includes ex-friends, male and female, Brazilian or Swiss. On the other hand, those who respect my time have gone a long way towards earning my respect and loyalty. Friendships, intimate or not, are best built on values.

75 Native Son July 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

Agree with the article, but will point out that beng punctual also requires onebe organized enough to have “contact information” at hand. Even in Switzerland, one can be unavoidably delayed, owing to the truly unforseen event. Someone becoming ill on the train immediately preceding yours on the transit system is an example. Thus, you have the responsibillty, and owe the courtesy, of hauling out the cell phone and calling the person you’ll be meeting and apologizing for your unplanned tardiness. It’s not an excuse, but you will rate a lot higher than the guy who misses the appointment time, with no explanation.

76 Steve July 18, 2012 at 9:33 am

“You’re either early, or you’re late. There is no in between”
-Eric Clapton

77 subwo July 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

I worked for a boss in the navy that would admonish latecommers with the words ” if you can’t be on time, be early”. That got the message across.

78 Brett McKay July 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

@Jasper-

Chicken and the egg perhaps, but because this is an English language site,and because the US has more internet users than any other country except for China, it’s hard to parse isn’t it? I simply write about what I enjoy writing about and let the chips fall where they may. We do have many international readers from all over the world who very much enjoy the site even though it is not tailored to them.

As other men’s magazines like Men’s Health and Esquire have separate editions for the US and for the UK, is not merely a lingual issue.

This article did include a single paragraph about cultural differences. Perhaps it was not comprehensive enough for you? But I felt it was sufficient.

79 Charlie July 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

We have a saying in Air Force JROTC:

“If you’re early, you’re on time.

If you’re on time, you’re late.

If you’re late, you get left behind.”

80 Andrew July 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Good post. It drives me nuts when I’m on time but have to wait around for other people who are chronically late.

It reminds me of a high school basketball coach who regularly talked about being on “Lombardi Time”. If you weren’t at least five minutes early, you were late.

81 Kyle July 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm

@Brett McKay

Can’t wait for the follow up article on this! Punctuality is something that I have really been consistely Challenged by.

82 Anthony July 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question (and in some cases, echoed it!). I’m not going to lie to her about the time: though it’s a tactic that would obviously work, I don’t like the idea of manipulating her that way. Besides, she already knows what time church starts.

To other commenters, helping get the kids ready is certainly helpful: I consider that as much my job as hers, and I do find that if I really make a point of having them ready in time (which can mean starting the get-ready process as much as 30 minutes beforehand), she can usually be ready also. I complimented her the other night that she’s getting better at estimating how much time it will take to be ready, and she said that when there are so many things to do, it forces you to learn to manage time.

On the other hand, I do think some flexibility is required. The goal is to be on time, but the world won’t (usually) end if you’re not. And for those of you dealing with chronically late wives, it may take a while. My wife knows I value timeliness, so she’s making efforts to do better. We used to average 10 minutes late to church, but now we average on time or 2-3 minutes late. That’s a big improvement!

Katrina, I especially enjoyed your post. I’m sorry you had such a poor experience with timeliness growing up (an example of what not to do, I guess). As I mentioned, I’ve found that getting our 3 under-5 kids ready to go means starting the get-ready process at least 30 minutes early. And yes, it can be a lot of work!

83 J. Delancy July 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I am habitually late, even by this country’s standards. Major issues of punctuality can be seen where two cultures meet. The second largest industry in The Bahamas is offshore banking. This means we always have any number of Swiss and other time centric nationalities as expatriates. Trying to get them to conform to our more laid back pace is hard work.
What drives me crazy are people who are extremely punctual but unprepared when they reach. This set always wants to have another meeting, which wastes even more time than arriving late would.

84 Bud July 18, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I live in South America. Nobody is ever on time. Somewhere close to on time but certianly not by the watch, even it they had one. Everyone understands and appreciates the casualness.

The “American Disease” of punctuality is a major cultural flaw.

When I was living and traveling in Arab country, it was actually an insult to be “on time”. Everyone was always late, and it worked out just fine.

85 James July 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I have no idea why the whole ‘I’m punctual but my wife is always late’ is so common, but clearly it is. For me personally, I married a woman who is much like my mother was, including her habit of never being on time. She has been this way as long as I’ve known her, before we even dated. I always remind myself that if I couldn’t live with her tardiness, I probably should not have married her. When I did, I made a commitment to accept her for who she is, so I really have no right to get angry. I also try to follow the example of my father, who waited patiently on my mother at all times, especially as he grew older and reached a level of wisdom that I one day hope to attain. I know that, now that my mother is gone, my father would prefer to still be waiting on her rather than being on time for everything.

This is not to say that I don’t encourage her to be more punctual, and there are times when my patience is severely tested. For instance, when we’ve know for a month what time our flight leaves to go on vacation and she still isn’t packed in time. “Uhhh… honey, the airline is NOT going to wait on us. Why didn’t you pack 2 weeks ago?” Still, I try to remain calm, and I’m getting better at it. I try to adjust. We don’t fly if it can be avoided. I try to make sure all of our ‘important’ plans are flexible. I look at it as an opportunity for me to put my love for my wife above my other concerns.

That, and listening to Brad Paisley’s “Waitin’ on a woman” also helps…

86 Brandon July 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Wonderful article.

87 Ted July 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I’m taking this article as an attitude adjustment. In my early life I’d be on time or early, not wanting to miss out on anything or call attention to myself by being late. To be self-motivated was enough for me to be punctual in a small town where I walked to school or elsewhere. In college my bike could have me anywhere I needed to be, keeping punctuality within my control whether for class or my campus job. Always having something to do in my backpack kept me from being much troubled by someone else’s tardiness.

Later in life when fewer things were in my control I no longer felt so gracious about it. Situationally compromised in Michigan’s dying economy had me underemployed with a variable income that was usually too low to keep much under my own control. Without sufficient income to keep a car “dependable” things will happen. Using public transportation makes one subject to its lack of dependability or infrequency of scheduling for needed routes. This matters a lot when you don’t know Whether you’ll work or Where you’ll work until some scheduler calls at the last possible minute. Not enough quarters to keep up on laundry makes your last clean consignment store dress shirt lose a button just as you need to catch a bus, etc, etc. – a low income denies access to the goods and services that most people use to make their lives more functional and efficient. But you’re doing everything yourself, everything’s compromised and that’s a self-compounding thing. Nevertheless, I managed all that when I was young, but grew resentful of business-as-usual of being on time only to wait for late or worthless meetings of any kind. Being early only allowed someone to waste even more of my time. With increasing disability my body didn’t move fast enough or well enough to get things done. Life as it was really became impossible to conduct in context. To me it defines disability: a worker being offline too much to be sufficiently exploitable. In a throwaway society he’s marginalized and discarded.

Even though I’m not part of anything anymore, I watch. I see more and more how people are compromised by greater demands and fewer resources to fulfill them. Those of you with obsessive and absolute views of punctuality may do well to consider whether someone is required to function altogether beyond their means.Social inequity and uncontrollable circumstance are taking many, many people beyond the realm where appearance issues have much to do with virtue or character. My attitude adjustment is to resolve to keep trying as though this were not so, and in the case where I’m the one left waiting, to keep up the cheerful appearance of experiencing the wait as a relaxing time with a book, not an imposition.

88 Timothée July 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

It looks like the second article isn’t being punctual… ;-)

89 Jasper July 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

@ Brett McKay

I’m glad you take the time to respond to criticism, that is a manly thing to do(in many cultures ;)). I understand now why you focus on America. I do hope that you might focus a little more on other cultures as well in the future, but that’s just a personal preference.

There would be many ways to do this, and it doesn’t even have to take up too much space in articles. The paragraph in this article you mentioned is a good example. Another example idea could be an article/series on different rites of passage from a boy to manlihood from around the world. It’s obviously very manly and is easy to involve other cultures as well.

Anyway, I’m glad you write about things you enjoy, there’s been many articles I enjoyed reading.

90 lex July 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Excellent article.

As an Army instructor, I drilled into the Lieutenants’ heads: “If you’re 5 minutes early, then you’re 5 minutes late!”

Later, as an executive in a Fortune 100 company, that habit never failed me. At one point, I served as an executive recruiter. When a candidate showed up late by even a minute, the interview was over. Period.

This is one of the best articles I’ve read here. Good job, Brett.

91 Rob July 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm

“When I was living and traveling in Arab country, it was actually an insult to be “on time”. Everyone was always late, and it worked out just fine.”

Right, because everyone is clamoring to live in the Arab world. Countries that aren’t punctual tend to be the least developed and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Way more people in places like Latin America want to immigrate to America than the other way around, and almost no one in America wants to move to the Middle East. I lived in Yemen for a few months and certainly wouldn’t trade their greater casualness about time for living in the US. I have an Arab friend who immigrated here and one of the things he most loves about America, and finds so amazing, is how orderly we are–he is amazed that people actually stop at red lights and wait in line. In his country things are chaotic and stressful and nothing gets done. He understand that having some rules is what makes the country great instead of backwards.

92 lex July 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

And an additional comment to all the foreign readers who have complained about this post- I’ve traveled to several other countries on business.

Not surprising, the conversation usually turns to having my brain picked by business people who want to find a way to tap into the HUGE economic beast of the U.S. Even in our tough financial times here, we are still the most solid economy in the world. So, if you want to play ball with the Americans, you must play by their rules.

I challenge the the concept that the ‘American Disease’ of punctuality is a cultural flaw. Show me a country with a laid back attitude on punctuality and I’ll show you a country with crappy economy.

93 sam July 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

my coach always said
“to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be forgotten”

94 Rob July 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm

My biggest problem is always the internet. For whatever reason I tend to stay and read “just one more post” rather than actually get up and leave.

95 Melinda July 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

@Brett G.: And in some European countries (Sweden, Switzerland, Germany) punctuality is expected. I arrive on time and expect the same consideration from others. My boyfriend is constantly late and doesn’t care; I am thinking of terminating the relationship as I can see lots of quarrels over this. Excellent article for those of us who appreciate punctuality in ourselves and in others. You’ll never go wrong is you are on time.

96 K Smith July 19, 2012 at 12:30 am

D, Karl, and Anthony,
Which do you value more – your wife and your marriage, or being on time?

If you value your wife and your marriage more, do not try to change your wife.

Accept her tardiness as a personal quirk. Look at it as part of her charm.

Embrace the idea you will be tardy. Learn to love it. You change.

Earn points with your wife by taking the blame when others ask why you are late.

K Smith
Married 23 years

97 Bongani July 19, 2012 at 2:26 am

thank you for this articles, it puts alot of things into prosperity.

98 Pappa July 19, 2012 at 3:50 am

Så sant som det er sagt. Og det beste for meg har vært å se at min sønn skjønte dette, lenge før denne artikkelen ble skrevet. Det har ofte gjort meg stolt og glad.
Keep it coming son!

99 Gruesome July 19, 2012 at 7:24 am

The 3 Commandments of Punctuality:

1. Always start on time.

2. Always end on time.

(and if you can’t meet either #1 or #2 above)

3. Always set next time.

100 lisa July 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

As a punctual person I appreciate this article. The comments are exactly what I expected–lame cultural debates. I same “lame” not because the cultures are lame (on the contrary, I often wish I lived in a different one), but because cultural differences are an invalid argument for being late (or early). There is only one rule for punctuality, and it works for any culture: You arrive when you are supposed to!

If you are in the Marines, and you know you are supposed to arrive 15 minutes early, you make sure you do so. If you enter the civilian world, and your coworkers all show up at the exact time of the meeting, or five minutes late, then you show up five minutes early to show your professionalism. Being fifteen minutes early at that point would be a waste of your time. If you move to Spain, and you know everybody arrives an hour late to a party, then you arrive an hour late. Otherwise you’re just being a jerk, trying to make everybody act American just because you don’t want to change your own behavior. Likewise, if you are in America, and you show up late to a date with friends, you are inconsiderate. If you consistently show up 30 minutes late, you are an outright jerk.

The question of the what is the correct time to arrive is all about who has the power in the situation. If your boss shows up late because he’s out smoking, then he is using his power to bully his employees. However, if your boss shows up late and frazzled to every meeting, then you have the power, and you are highlighting his shortcomings at every meeting. My husband and I host a lot of parties and our friends are always late. We could wield our power and make a big deal of it, but we decide to relinquish our power to our guests, to be gracious. We pad the time of the invitation, and don’t start the bbq until everybody shows up. Our goal is to have fun with our friends, not to fix their personal flaws. If I was president, and wanted to surround myself with the most competent people, then I would probably start my dinner, and let them eat cold food, just like George Washington.

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