October 11, 2022

What It Means To Be Stuck In The Middle Seat

middle seat

In preparing to publish my first book, I found myself searching for a better subtitle than The Five Phases to Becoming a Midcareer Entrepreneur. While I liked the rubric of five phases, I found that using it as a working title was, quite frankly, boring.

Recognizing that I was too close to the project and book to really name it, I reached out to a few colleagues asking for help. I asked them to give my manuscript a read and let me know what they thought, and also provide thoughts on a good title for the book.

A few weeks before the deadline of getting the book title settled, a colleague of mine, Shahir Kassam-Adams, who had recently read the book, took some time to meet with me in Philadelphia. As we sat for coffee, he excitedly told me the story I recount below. As you will see, the story resulted in the title for the book. For context, I have known Shahir for roughly ten years and had the good fortune of buying a company with him in 2014 and selling it for a three-to-four-times return in 2018. In fact, he led an effort to buy my first company (TGaS Advisors) in 2010 and actually backed out of the deal during due diligence. While that was a disappointment and might have had me running for the door in terms of working with him, I knew he was a unique businessperson who was worth staying close to. I have always admired his experiences, his wit, his impatience, and his insights. In helping with the book title, he also did not disappoint me.

Shahir had reviewed my manuscript the day before he was flying from Philadelphia to Boston for business meetings. As he sat at the Philadelphia airport early that morning, it became clear that the one-hour flight to Boston was going to be delayed and possibly canceled. Being a savvy business traveler, he quickly turned to his iPhone and began to look for other flights to Boston. He mused, in retelling me the story, that he also saw a few other travelers doing the same. It became a race to see who could rebook what were probably already full flights to Boston. It turned out that he and a number of other travelers were able to get on another flight … and they all hustled to the new gate to board it. It was the proverbial all-out-sprint to get to another flight at another gate in a large airport.

As he boarded the new, rebooked flight, he could see that the other rebooked travelers in front of him were all squeezing into middle seats on the plane, since they had all scrambled to get the last seats. As he told it, many of them were midcareer professionals who were sort of road warrior types—boarding flights to and from clients and assignments. It was sort of a sad situation, but something any business traveler has lived though.At that moment, as he recalled, it struck him that the book he had read the day before (my Five Phases of the Midcareer Entrepreneur) was meant for exactly that professional. It was meant for the midcareer (35-to-55-year-old) person who had valuable business skills and experiences and had probably always thought about starting their own business so that they could take control of their life! As he settled into his middle seat, he realized that he had found the title and the target audience for my book.

So thanks to Shahir, and cheers to canceled flights! Once he told me this story, there was no turning back from the appropriateness of the title. I can only hope you are not stuck in a middle seat right now reading this, but if you are, grab a copy of my book and give it a read (or listen)!

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Originally posted on Forbes.