Why Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation | Nilofer Merchant Episode #11

Aaron McHugh


You know those really cool NPR interviews that you listen to where there is hustle and bustle in the background?
The one’s where they interview some guy in a subway about economics in Greece?

I’m proud to say that Nilofer Merchant and I ended up with a cool NPR vibe in this podcast.

We had a chance to meet for lunch in Los Gatos, CA at a phenomenal restaurant Nicks on Main.

Click to Listen

What I loved about my conversation with Nilofer?

Yes she has a long resume of accomplishments.

Most importantly, she is a very real person: Authentic, kind and spirited.

In this podcast:

Walk-n-Talk meetings

How Nilofer started walking meetings instead of coffee sit-downs.
As a result how she is logging between 20 and 30 miles per week.
You will want to read her Harvard Business Review article about how today Sitting is the smoking of our generation.

And check out the Los Angeles Times Article on her TED 2013 talk.

Recommendation: Don’t be sitting while you read her article.

Check out the Fitbit that she wears.  Hear how a little picture of a growing flower on your wrist will help motivate you to get out of your chair.


How in her book the #SocialEra she outlines how the structure of power in business has shifted forever.

Formerly what only centralized big organizations could accomplish can be accomplished by a team of two people working in different parts of the world.

The 900 LB Gorilla no longer has the upper hand.  The little guy with a laptop, a great idea and an Internet connection becomes a dangerous threat.  A revolution has begun whether you know it or not.  You might at least want to read about how the world you live in has changed forever.  Buy her book for your Kindle Reader.

TedTalk-February 26th

Nilofer will be speaking side-by-side with Bono on the same stage at the upcoming TED2013 event.  She will be delivering her compelling parallel between sitting and smoking and how it is truly slowly killing us.

Check out Nilofer’s speaking page with a full download of her articles, videos and upcoming speaking events.

More on Nilofer from her About page

Nilofer Merchant — is an author, corporate director and speaker based in Silicon Valley, California.

Because it is unique, you might want help to know how to say the name. Any chance you remember those cookies that Nabisco creates called Nilla-wafer’s? That will help, cause the name sounds a lot like that but with an o in the middle. It’s Nil – O – fer.  (Just don’t call her NIL or FUR, okay?)


As someone who has grown businesses — from Fortune 500s and silicon valley web start-ups — for 20 years, Nilofer is like a secret agent in knowing how to piece together exactly and only the parts that matter (frameworks, strategies, and cultural values) — to get the needed results.

Somewhere along the way, people started giving her monikers like “The Jane Bond of Innovation” because of her ability to guide companies through impossible odds, and that one stuck.

She’s worked for major companies like Apple, and Autodesk, and startups in the early days of the Web (Golive/ later bought by Adobe). And Logitech, Symantec, HP, Yahoo, VMWare, and many others have turned to her guidance to develop new product strategies, enter new markets, defend against competitors, and optimize revenues. And, Merchant is one of the few people who can say they’ve fought a competitive battle against Microsoft and won, for Symantec’s Anti-Virus $2.1B annual business. She has personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18B in sales, with expertise in Europe and US markets.  Today she serves on boards for both public and private companies.


CNBC has called Nilofer a visionary. Her ideas are shaping the future of many organizations.

“The Future is not created. The Future is Co-Created.” That’s the central thesis of her first management book, published by O’Reilly Media in 2010 and something she learned the hard way.

Her second book, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, was released in the Fall of 2012, by Harvard Business Press. It was chosen by Fast Company as one of the Best Business Books of 2012. In it, Nilofer reconciles things that are often considered opposing forces—doing right by people and delivering results, collaborating and keeping focus, having a social purpose, and making money—because they are really not in opposition. They never have been. But it does take a more sophisticated approach to understand business models where making a profit doesn’t mean losing purpose, community, and connection. Finding the right balance between them is the key. And what is created will be rich in many senses of the word.

Explore. This blog has been around since 2003. You’ll find ideas that are both “provocative and yet practical” as Seth Godin has said. Nilofer has been featured in the WSJ, written innovation columns for BusinessWeek and Forbes. Her work as a columnist at Harvard Business Review (HBR) is on social business models and there’s a reason these ideas resonate. Find out for yourself.

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