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Screwproof
Doing deals that won't f*ck-up
By Andrew Keith Walker

NB: This excerpt from Screwproof: doing deals that won’t f*ck up is distributed free for personal
use, but may not be reproduced in whole or part without the copyright owners permission. © Andrew
Keith Walker 2013-2014 andrewkeithwalker@gmail.com

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Disclaimer
(in case you feel like suing me)
This book contains language and imagery that some people might find offensive, including
swearing, coarse language and sexual metaphors. Any similarities in the text to real people or
companies is purely coincidental, all names and descriptions have been changed to protect the
identities of any third parties. Any and all opinions expressed are entirely my own unless labelled
otherwise. Nothing in this eBook should be treated as advice, it’s purely educational and intended to
help readers reach their own conclusions, it is not a set of instructions for how to conduct your life.
Basically if you’re offended, think I’m talking about you, expressing an expert opinion in a professional capacity or have any liability for things that happen to you after reading this book, I’m not and it’s
not my fault. Enjoy ;)

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For Lulu, who helps me do everything

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Chapter 20
The Zen lessons of Screwproofing
On your journey through life, remember this: Looking back at your life is important, but if you
don't want to walk into a lamppost, looking forwards is a necessity .

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Even the best screwproofer knows that your emotional brain, physical brain and social motivations
can’t be neutralised. You can control them, but only under certain circumstances. There are certain
times and places where they are hard, maybe even impossible, to control. That’s because all those
other parts of your brain and your social controls serve important roles in your life, you can’t switch
them off, but fortunately you can recognise in advance the times when they’ll be at their most potent.
Never negotiate at those times.
Here’s a handy list of things I’ve discovered on my own journey through negotiation life. I
wouldn’t call them Zen koans, but they’re of a similar nature, they describe an aspect of the
fundamental truth of human existence, but with a screwproofing twist.
#1. Farts use up brain power. When someone farts in a meeting everyone’s distracted by it. You
can ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen, but the truth is a lot of your brain suddenly starts trying to
work out who did it. If it’s a loud one, your brain starts trying to suppress your social controls which
normally want to activate by saying "Jesus dude, you just farted in a meeting". If it is silent but causes a
nasty smell, you’ll get distracted trying to work out who did it, or by worrying that people will think it
was you. Whatever happens, a meeting room fart is like a shot of caffeine for your emotional brain
which will reduce your ability to be analytical. Avoid making important decisions if it’s a farty
meeting.
#2. Hands don’t go down pants or in facial orifices. No matter how uncomfortable your underwear is, how itchy your crotch is or indeed, how much you want to bite your fingernails or pick your
nose, don’t do it. It’s the same as farting, it uses up way too much brainpower trying to handle the
emotional and social fallout. I used to work with someone who had the alarming habit of putting her
hand down her pants and having a good old scratch in long client meetings. Afterwards, she’d offer
round the meeting room biscuits and people would recoil in horror. Closing a deal in those circumstances is impossible.
#3. Don’t take medicines mid-negotiation, even if it’s a powdered cold or flu remedy. If you’re ill,
hungover or whatever, it triggers irrational behaviours in negotiations. Some people will become
more aggressive in their thinking because they’ll think you’re weak, or vulnerable, or going to give
them a dose of what you’ve got. Others will become more sympathetic and pliable, but when you get
better they will resent being too soft in the negotiation and make your life harder later on. Keep it to
yourself and if your deal partner is ill, suggest you negotiate when they’re feeling better. If you’re
having an asthma attack, take the medicine but don’t try to close a deal. Don’t die at work.
#4. Lunch is just lunch. The idea of a business lunch being a serious negotiation is laughable. It’s
fucking lunch. Sure, you may talk business, you may even shape the framework of a negotiation, or a
deal. But it’s not a negotiation. That bit happens when you sit down and negotiate. People might say
"hey, let’s do lunch" but deep down, you need to accept that whatever you discuss over lunch is
incidental to a negotiation. Your emotional brain and social motivations like fancy places to eat. Your
physical brain gets all lovey dovey when you’re eating comforting food. Your rational mind is
wondering "should I have ordered the sea bass instead?" when it should be being analytical. Don’t take
anything at lunch too seriously, unless it’s the Bad Waiter Test.

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#5. Mobile phones fuck up deals unless you’re using them to talk to your deal partner. When I
was having my house repaired after it got flooded, I got lots of calls from my insurance company that I
had to take. I knew they were coming. I said in all my negotiations at the time "If my phone goes, I gotta
take it, sorry but my house got flooded and..." everyone was fine with that. We all have a life beyond work
and sometimes it can’t wait. If you get an emergency call from your school or family, you can take it,
again, no-one will mind. Apart from that, mobile phones are negotiation killers. If your deal partner
is taking calls, checking their email or using Twitter, they’re not taking you seriously enough to close a
sensible deal. It will also make you want to grab more attention for yourself, so causes you to behave
in a way that makes what you’re saying more interesting than whatever their phone is doing. Don’t
compete for attention with inanimate objects.
#6. Pulling faces makes you look like an idiot. It doesn’t matter what anyone says in a negotiation, a meeting or anything else, don’t pull a stupid face or make eyes at someone else in the room. It
is like the look your parents exchange when you tell them you want to get a tattoo at the age of 16, or
the sour expressions my former business partners’ wives used to exchange when I got drunk at
dinner or grabbed my wife’s bum when she got up to go for a pee. It’s the visible effect of an
emotional or socially motivated reaction, the equivalent of saying "You see, I told you they were an
asshole". It shows you the people pulling the face are thinking something they can’t put into words, or
feel too awkward to say. Either way, it’s a clear indication the negotiation is subject to confirmation
bias problems, not an open and honest exchange of opinion.
#7. Keep attention on the deal, not your ego. A great tip about avoiding social or emotional
problems in deals came from my father-in-law, who is a very successful antiques dealer and a lot
richer than many of his wealthy clients. He said "I have no desire whatsoever to let my clients know where
I live, dine or go on holiday. I let them think I’m a poor tradesman, if they want to think that, it’s fine with me,
otherwise they’d be more inclined to haggle." The point is, you’re supposed to be focused on the
negotiation at hand, but as we saw in chapter 12, money conversations are full of baggage and
disconnected logic. The sad truth is, people are very materialistic, so when they learn seemingly
innocent things about your personal status, they change their negotiating stance. If you’ve got a
bigger car or eat at fancier restaurants, or are better connected, they get shitty about giving you
money. They’re motivated to display their own wealth and status, not close a sensible negotiation. So
don’t give a fuck about what they think about you or vice versa, just give a fuck about what you
negotiate with them.
#8. Don’t have sex with colleagues and clients. Once you have sex with a client, they’re not a
client anymore unless you’re a prostitute. Once you have sex with a colleague, they’re not just a
colleague anymore unless you’re both porn stars. I had a colleague once that was sleeping with the
marketing director AND one of the clients. They both found out. The marketing director left. We lost
the client. I found him drunk sitting in the gutter unable to speak. Keep it in your pants at work.
#9. Don’t get drunk or stoned and try to negotiate. You can’t, believe me I know. A good
negotiating process requires you to control the emotional and social variables that will affect it, you
can’t do that when you’re hammered – and more importantly, getting wasted provides an excuse for
making stupid choices in strong pre-existing relationships e.g. "hey, did you hear about Quinn getting
wasted last night, what a crazy dude" but no excuse whatsoever if you don’t know someone very well e.g.

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"This new guy Quinn showed up drunk and made an ass of himself, what a dick". Avoid it at all costs.
#10. Where you go together affects how you think together. Once I got asked to meet some
clients for a night on the town. We went out for a few drinks, had some dinner, then they made a big
deal about heading to a lap dancing bar. Personally, I think lap dancing bars are for losers. They’re a
stupid, sexist waste of money for shallow guys who are sexually frustrated - but I accept that’s my
own personal bias and lots of people think tucking money into a woman’s knickers whilst she shakes
her boobs in their face is perfectly normal, if not a desirable career choice for their own wives,
girlfriends and daughters. Anyway, the way it changes your ability to talk about business is huge.
These guys all got big grins on their faces and got excited and very positive. I on the other hand felt
awkward and irritated, and became negative. You should always negotiate in a neutral environment
that doesn’t unconsciously get your social and emotional factors working in your rational mind. Plans
hatched in distracting environments are like great ideas you cook up when you’re drunk - missing an
analytical viewpoint.
#11. Avoid making personal remarks. Deal partners aren’t friends. They may become friends and
you can talk about personal issues in friendship, it’s fine within the social controls of that kind of
relationship, but avoid it with deal partners you aren’t actually buddies with. You have no idea what
reaction you’ll get. Innocently saying "Have you had a hair cut?" to a female client once made her tell
everyone else I knew at her firm that I had "hit on her". That was embarrassing. I’m a designer, I
notice hair cuts. I’ve had clients pat me on the beer gut and say "You’re getting fat" which really pissed
me off. I’ve remarked to clients after they’ve got off a non-stop flight from Singapore that they look
tired, and they’ve reacted angrily. It’s hard not to make conversation and be human, but generally,
you want to focus on the negotiation and not on controlling the emotional or social fallout from
irrelevant smalltalk.

Your experiences have positive and negative value
It doesn’t matter how people explain their actions, debunk your view of events or say you’ve got it
wrong. None of that erases the feelings you have experienced as a result of their actions. Even if you
change your mind about how you felt at the time, you have still witnessed events and formed your
own conclusions. You will have an emotional memory associated with that reaction, which never
really goes, no matter how much your rational mind rewrites it - just like the first time I got drunk
and was sick (after drinking whisky for the first time). Now, no matter how hard I try to appreciate the
fine aroma of a rare, expensive, single malt, when I smell whisky I get a flashback to lying curled-up
on my bathroom floor, covered in puke. It’s all baggage, it all takes its toll, be ready for it to affect your
confirmation bias.
Regardless of how you change your view of something after it has happened, the effects of
experiencing it at the time remain a factor in your decision making faculties. I’ve had very poor deal
experiences with people who work in TV, so I know the net result of those failed negotiations is going
to work my confirmation bias against being analytical about new opportunities with TV companies in
the future.

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My past experiences mean I’m expecting TV people to be sharks and shysters. Obviously, that
might be wrong, but I’ve got a better chance at keeping my emotional brain under control if I work
with clients who don’t belong to an industry that I’m wary of. Pick negotiations where you have the
best chance of making your rational mind do its stuff successfully, the ones with the least baggage.
These Zen lessons are a baggage handling strategy, if you give it some thought, you’ll have plenty
of your own to add.

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Thanks to...
(the people who helped)

Bill Pope - for his editor’s eye and general awesomeness

Proof readers:
Jeremy Banx
John Kernan
Baldwin Berges
David Angell

Sage-like wisdom:
John Grace
Bryn McNeill
Charlie Giguere

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About the Author
Andrew Keith Walker was born in 1971, and grew-up in a seaside town on the south
coast of England. After being told that he could either work in a hotel, an insurance
company or a bank by his careers teacher, he attended Edinburgh University to do a degree
in Politics - which his teachers and many of the people he grew up with thought was proof
that Andrew was basically an ungrateful socialist troublemaker (people thought like that in
the 1980s). He graduated with an MA (Hons) and realised he didn’t want a job, so he took a
part time nightshift job at The Scotsman newspaper and was a stand-up comic on the
Edinburgh comedy scene.
In 1995, his mother suggested he get a job working on the internet because "It’s for people
who can’t decide what they want to do with their lives and don’t like fitting in". She was right
(thanks Mum - AKW). Andrew started a post-graduate MSc in Multimedia Technology where
he ignored the boring coursework and made games for web pages, but couldn’t complete it
because he had a row with his MSc tutor who refused to mark his dissertation proposal on
internet games because "The internet is just for academics, nobody will ever play games on it,
you've been watching too much Star Trek". Fortunately, his tutor was wrong about the internet
and Andrew walked out and got a job, that same day, making internet games at Cyberia, the
UK’s first chain of internet cafés. His tutor was right about the fact Andrew watched
too much Star Trek, however.
Since then Andrew has done many jobs as a graphic designer, copywriter and web
developer in the grim world of advertising and marketing agencies. In 1998 he started his
own successful creative agency (Thin Martian), more recently he’s been MD of a data
mining start-up (Semetric / MusicMetric), been a partner in a social media product
placement company (Social Placement) and co-founded social media news feed company
Tweetminster.
He was the first person to interview a UK political party leader on Twitter, the first
person to interview a serving UK Prime Minister on Twitter, he’s written and created ad
campaigns, designed logos, developed data powered news products, built websites, helped
set-up the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), helped the BBC monitor
elections, been the social media rent-a-pundit on the TV and Radio news, written articles
and features in newspapers and magazines and is a regular speaker on the changing worlds
of technology, business and culture at conferences around the world.
His greatest achievement is generally proving that your parents and teachers really
don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about when they assume, because you wear
dungarees covered in political slogan badges at the age of eighteen and smoke a bit of weed

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down the beach with your buddies, you’re basically somewhere between Shaggy off Scooby
Doo and Carlos the Jackal.
He’s closed deals with big brands (like Evilcorp, Hewlett Packard, Nokia, Vodafone, and
Xbox); public institutions (like The Commonwealth and the UK Parliament); charities (like
the NSPCC and Oxfam); publishers and media organisations (Nastycorp, The Independent,
The Guardian, BBC, BSkyB); angel investors, venture capitalists and start-ups... his view of
deals and the complex social interactions that come with them comes from experience of
success and, in all fairness, screwing plenty of stuff up along the way. He has to his credit
award winning projects, industry firsts and also been laughed out of people’s offices for
having wacky ideas that would never work, until they either worked... or didn't.
Andrew now lives in rural Suffolk, with his wife and children, a hamster, a chicken, a
couple of fish tanks and a cat called Rusty that isn’t his but comes to visit all the time. He
tweets under the name of @killdozer and writes, publishes and podcasts about life,
business and thinking tools at ManVsBrain.com
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© Andrew Keith Walker
Published by Andrew Keith Walker
www.ManVsBrain.com
ISBN 978-0-9928365-0-4

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