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The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: April 2007

Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for Balance
  2. The (non)Human Condition: Beagle Lessons (continued)
  3. Musings
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department

  1. Techniques for Balance

    • If you're traveling on a reserved train, or in a foreign airport, use a uniformed redcap for your departure. They will almost always get you to the front of lines, early boarding, etc. It's well worth the gratuity.

    • Paying down debt is the equivalent of putting money into savings, and will also improve your credit rating and banking relationships. Whenever rates do go down or your bank offers a special deal, investigate whether you can improve your amortization of outstanding debt.

    • Only remember one person's name when you have to introduce two people? Simply say to the person whose name you DON'T remember, "Have you ever met Joan?" They will then use both their names for you.

    • A television in the bathroom is not a sybaritic luxury. It's a good way to catch up on the latest news, learn traffic and weather conditions, and, perhaps, not miss a key program segment. (And if it's cable or satellite, you can also listen to music.)

    • Electronic greeting cards can be clever, but somehow the regular mail denotes a more sincere sentiment. When you see a card you like, buy it, put a note on it about its intended recipient and use, and stick it in a folder labeled with the month it's required. That saves last-minute, desperate shopping for mediocre, leftover cards.

    • In a decent restaurant, the wait staff has sampled the wines and the food. They will usually give a fine and accurate recommendation. But here's a hint: If someone at the table has already ordered the salmon, don't ask subsequently, "Which is better, the salmon or the rack of lamb?" That undermines a candid response.

    • Many of us have the enervating belief that we must be "doing something" or we're somehow non-productive. Consider this: Thinking, reflecting, meditating, observing, remembering, visualizing, absorbing, resting, recharging, and enjoying are all "doing something." No harm, no foul.

    • The best place to watch a play in a traditional theater is from about fifth to twelfth row center orchestra, or first to third row front mezzanine. Any closer in the orchestra and you can't really appreciate the panorama and depth of the sets and movement. (These best seats are traditionally termed "house seats.")

    • Do you love that rare "new car smell" that only seems to last for a few days after you bring it home from the dealer? Well, they sell it now, in spray bottles, in places such as Griot's Garage!

    • We're riding the Acela high speed train home from New York, and the conductor has his ten-year-old daughter along, who is making all the station announcements flawlessly. If she can do that, why can't the 50-year-old hostess in the first class club be gracious? Don't lose your child's joie de vivre as you grow older. Make the station announcements with gusto.

  2. The (non)Human Condition: Beagle Lessons (continued)


    • Don't bark. They howl. It is a distinctive sound. You immediately know it's the beagle, not another dog, and that they have something on their mind. Beagles know how to be heard, despite background noise.

    • Can be petted forever. You can pet him through an entire episode of Lost or Law and Order. He figures that you never know about later, might as well enjoy it now. Beagles are into instant gratification. - Are deceptive. He has a vertical leap of about four feet, which places him adjacent to food thought to be otherwise unreachable. You tend to underestimate Beagles, which is a strong asset for them.

    • Are sturdy. He can hold up well in a good fight with the Shepherd, which means he would intimidate all other dogs his own size. Beagles are not afraid to stand up for themselves, even when the odds seem prohibitive.

    • Do not listen too well. He is a scent dog and follows his nose. Beagles go with their strength, and don't worry about improving "weaknesses" which aren't really important to their growth.

    • Make friends readily. They are inclined to trust first, and welcome others who display fondness towards them. A Beagle doesn't begin by assuming a person is damaged or dangerous.

    • Eat with gusto. He cleans his plate in a race against the clock, and then sees if he can steal something from the patient and slow-dining Shepherd. Beagles are passionate about their pursuits.

    • Have extraordinary balance. He can stand on two rear legs, and prefers to ride on the truck balanced on the console, taking turns like a sailor adjusting to rough seas. Beagles are steady and have great equilibrium.

    • Sleep like the dead. It's tough to wake a Beagle. They are serious about getting plenty of rest. Beagles know the value of sleep, rest, and revitalization.

    • Are always leaning on you. They seldom rest in an isolated position, but much prefer to lean against your leg or arm, and will continually adjust for maximum comfort. Beagles enjoy intimacy.

    • Like all dogs, lead too short a life. But they cram a lot into it, and relish every second. Beagles provide love and support, and vastly enjoy what they do.
    In essence, they are superb at being Beagles. Wouldst that we could all emulate that at being people.

  3. Musings

    The best sign of confidence and maturity is probably never having to say "We belong here," or "We are equals." I find a lot of organizations trying to "pump up" their people by proclaiming, "We're world class!" or "We have a seat at the table!"

    Wouldn't you already know that because people were coming to you for advice and you happened to be seated at the table at the moment?

    I've always loved Jaguar automobiles, and we've had a couple over the years. I've also loved Mercedes, and we've had quite a few of them. Sometimes Jaguar owners would make a point of telling me (or anyone within earshot) that their cars were the equal of Mercedes and that they preferred the Jag's styling. Never, once, did I hear Mercedes owners saying that about Jaguars. That's because the Jag owners who spoke that way had an inferiority complex they were trying to exorcise, and the Mercedes owners knew their cars were good and didn't have to prove it to anyone.

    Great athletes demonstrate their unique abilities by winning more often than losing. They don't taunt opponents or make excuses for not winning more. Great companies meet or exceed tough strategic goals, reward their people well, value their customers, and contribute to the environment while generating impressive returns for stockholders. They don't launch massive PR campaigns or foist sizzle over substance. Great philanthropists and charities simply help people. They don't use every gesture as the excuse for a press conference or new self-aggrandizement.

    Competition is a wonderful dynamic, particularly because just by engaging you improve. You don't have to "win," merely try your best and learn. As we improve and garner more substance, we become objects of interest to others. We are sought out. We are cited. We reach a point where we know what we are doing and what it is worth. (I'm a good speaker who can help people to improve. I don't change lives or create magic moments, nor am I a charlatan or slickster. I know exactly who I am and what I do in that arena.)

    When we have to proclaim who we are, that we "belong" or "have arrived" or "are a part of the team," it always sounds to me as if we are trying to convince ourselves, not someone else. True word-of-mouth support usually focuses on those whom others believe "belong" and "have arrived" and "are part of the team." Empirical evidence is just that: as obvious as a ham sandwich. You're either sitting at the table or you're not. If you're not, telling me you are doesn't change my reality. ("Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?")

    Just as the time people spend cheating the system would reap far better returns applied mastering the system, energy spent proclaiming that we "belong" is better spent in the efforts required to have others actually embrace you. Human resource people can tell me forever that they have a seat at the corporate "table," but show me three human resource executives who have been promoted to CEO of their company in the last five years. Don't bother, you can't. Hence, their "table" is purely metaphoric, not real.

    I prefer deeds to words. If you can do it, I believe you. If you merely say you can do it, then I'm not impressed. Them that can, do.

    Them that can't, just proclaim that they can.

  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department

    My wife uses our truck for her errands, and usually takes the dogs along for company (and to tire them out). One day, realizing she had to pick people up that evening, she stopped at a gas station that also provided a free, automated car wash. Once amidst the whirling brushes and spraying water, our terrier began to moan and our always-high-strung Shepherd, Koufax, became frazzled. Jumping on my wife for safety (he's 85 pounds), he pushed the automatic window opener on the door and my wife was sprayed right in the face with the pre-rinse. Both dogs headed for the rear, howling.

    A couple of weeks later, in a similar situation, my wife was careful to keep her arm up so that the shepherd could not reach her window, while she also "locked out" all the other window buttons. Koufax became so agitated that he stood on the console and hit his head on the ceiling controls, which triggered the "auto-open" for the sunroof.

    Since this took a minute longer than last time, my wife was directly under the soap sequence. Both dogs again headed for the cargo area. My wife was unable to close the sunroof since she had several gallons of soap in her hair, her eyes, and the front of the passenger compartment.

    She came home, on a sunny day, looking as if she had been in a tornado, chasing Koufax across the yard. I didn't ask about it until days later.