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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 128: April 2010)

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Techniques for Balance

  • Stop worrying about what someone else may be thinking or doing. You always have two options: Talk to them like an adult, or ignore it, since they are adults and should act accordingly.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being intellectually critical so long as you’re emotionally prepared to provide help, as well.
  • No matter how hard you try‚ your kids will make dumb decisions which are not your fault and have no bearing on your quality as a parent. How do I know this? Because we all have done it‚ as children and parents.
  • Hang up on phone solicitors. You have no more obligation to be polite to them than you would someone barging into your home in a similarly intrusive manner.
  • Don’t fall victim to McLuhan's “mixed media” effect. When your attorney starts giving you relationship advice‚ or your accountant marketing advice, or your therapist vacation advice‚ it’s time to move on. (Which is basically why listening to Hollywood celebrities talk about politics is like sitting next to the speakers in a Grateful Dead concert.)
  • Go onto iTunes or something similar‚ create your own favorite mixes‚ download them to iPhone or CD‚ and have your own special music when you really need it.
  • Bite the bullet‚ buy the converters‚ and transfer all those old photos and slides to electronic images. Create a family legacy.
  • The secret to any effective diet is to give yourself a day off each week. It doesn’t mean that you binge‚ but it does mean you can treat yourself for being so disciplined the rest of the week. (Counterintuitively‚ discipline is actually about flexibility, not inflexibility.)
  • My wife and I “debrief” over dinner every night (we dine out, but that’s not required) and give each other some feedback and help on what’s gone on in our lives that day. Does it work? We’re married for 41 years.
  • You should expect correct behavior. You should be tolerant of being hurt. But you should be unequivocally dedicated to not allowing the same person or circumstance to hurt you in the same way again. Tolerance is commendable‚ but it doesn’t suggest that you tolerate repetitive poor treatment.

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Forgive me:

  • For wishing someone would open their car door when the guys on the motor scooters are speeding by between lanes of cars with only inches to spare‚ especially in Los Angeles and London.
  • For telling a “speech coach” in Manchester‚ UK‚ who critiqued me without request about my moving too much on stage‚ that he obviously had a learning disability.
  • For believing that a motion picture is a private experience with each patron‚ and that it’s somewhat irrational to talk back to the actors on the screen.
  • For insisting that you listen to my entire sentence before cutting me off because‚ as terribly smart as you obviously believe you are‚ you’re not smart enough to know what I’m about to say.
  • For thinking that if you don’ vote then your political opinion is pretty worthless to me.
  • For assuming that if you’re driving so slow on a single lane road that there are a dozen cars lined up behind you crawling along‚ that there’s something wrong with you and not the 12 other drivers.
  • For simply writing off people as fatally anal-retentive when they write me four paragraphs about a typo in a book I don’t control and can no longer fix without ever mentioning the content of that work.
  • For insisting that if you claim to be a psychic you have no reason to ever ask me a question.
  • For drawing distinctions between passion and zealotry, the former spreading enthusiasm‚ the latter trying to convert.
  • For tearing up a woman’s business card when I had finished a keynote and she told me that she could “fix my speech impediment,” and I gave her the pieces and asked, “Can you fix THAT?”
  • For deliberately flushing excessively when I find people using cell phones in public restrooms.
  • For recognizing that a great many people want to help others‚ but some just want to help themselves‚ and I believe I can tell the difference.

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The human condition: irrational fear

I’ve watched people buckle, fold, and implode through their fear of “losing” a sale. They don’t enter conversations to “win” or to “collaborate” but “not to lose.” That’s like the “prevent defense” in football, which prevents absolutely nothing except for your chances of hanging on to the lead.

People who fear speaking try “not to make a mistake” instead of trying to thrill the audience. Those who fear confrontation attempt to avoid the inevitable, instead of adapting techniques to defuse it.

I call these “irrational” fears because they are akin to refusing to leave bed because you believe there is a monster hiding underneath it‚ ready to devour you in a bloody rampage once your feet hit the floor‚ all empirical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. (Such a monster‚ one would think‚ would have no trouble taking care of matters while you’re in bed‚ but I’m not an expert in teratology.)

If you lose a sale�that is‚ you don’t close it�you’re still able to move on to the next attempt. If your speech goes poorly‚ most people will empathize‚ and the effects will be mitigated if your next one is outstanding. If you’re confronted and are uncomfortable‚ you’ll still live to argue another day. None of these is fatal‚ and most are far less serious than our imaginations would have us believe. (Audiences want to see a speaker succeed‚ because they don’t want to waste their time‚ so they start out supportive. People who voice objections and debate your points in sales presentations or social interactions are interested‚ because such resistance is a sign of involvement. Only apathy is deadly.)

We tend to exaggerate downsides and vitiate upsides. In other words‚ we over-endow the worst case with frightful repercussions‚ and underplay our victories because we feel arrogant or guilty. Honest celebration and unfettered happiness are in a state of desuetude for most people.

Ask yourself‚ when anticipating a threatening or uncomfortable situation: What’s the worst that can happen? Will I be able to survive the outcome? Will my loved ones and life still be intact? Can I adopt skills or modify behaviors to help me succeed? Will I still be me?

Walking across a high wire between tall building with no net has adverse consequences that may mean I won’t be me later on! But walking across a stage among 100 people with notes is something being done 50‚000 times globally at the moment you are reading this.

What is actually happening is that people are fearing fear. (The converse is when you become so giddy that you can’t stop laughing no matter what‚ and others join in‚ just making it worse.) You have to step outside the shadows of your own fear and confront what’s actually there‚ in the daylight.

There may be monsters under the bed‚ I can’t tell you for sure. But I can tell you this: In all this time‚ they haven’t gotten to you‚ meaning that you’re clearly stronger than they are. You might as well admit to that and enjoy it.

You’re stronger than all of your fears. You have to let them know it.

Upcoming Events


Newport, RI
April 21-22

A full day and optional second morning based on my newest book. Learn how to jettison baggage, organize around pragmatic needs and not empty wishes, blow up obstacles to success, and face each morning thrilled with the personal and professional opportunities that await. Invigorate your life. The optional, second morning will feature a personal, customized, Thrive Plan.

Alan Weiss’s The Write Stuff™

September 27, 2010

The ability to write with influence, facility, and speed is critical in creating articles, position papers, proposals, blog entries, business correspondence, reports, inquiries, and, of course, books. Imagine being able to write a superb article within an hour, a winning proposal within two hours, an enticing booklet within a day, an exciting book proposal within a week (and a book in two months)?! I'm inviting you to join me to learn my secrets (over 10 million words in print) in a single, intensive day of learning. Optional small group Writer's Circles will emerge for monthly phone meetings with me.

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I was sitting outside a meeting that was just beginning‚ completely unwilling to endure the wife of a guest speaker who was known to insist on singing “America” prior to the start of his presentation. A woman with the same good sense‚ apparently‚ had joined me‚ munching on some fruit.

“Are you a member who’s late?” she asked. "No‚ I’m a member smart enough not to subject myself to some self-styled singer at this hour. Are you new here?" "You might say that. I’m the self-styled singer.”

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When you�re successful, you accept both achievement and adversity as conditions that will make you stronger.—AW

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