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The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: August 2007

Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for Balance
  2. The Human Condition: Sharpsters
  3. Musings
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department

  1. Techniques for Balance

    • The more you talk about yourself socially or in a business meeting, the more others will feel you're either terribly insecure or determined to hide something. Secure people don't have to say much. Their behavior drowns out background noise.
    • If you want to liven your conversation, state the obvious as though it's not. I've often reminded people that I'm a "practicing heterosexual." Nothing wrong with that, right? (Some people have artfully rejoined: "After all this time you're still just practicing?") o You simply cannot go wrong telling someone that they look good. ("You look better than I though you would" does not, however, come close.) o Remember jumping rope when you were a kid? Even Double-Dutch? You had to time your entry, but once you learned the cadence, you could do it repeatedly. That's how you enter a conversation gracefully, deftly, but impressively. Timing is everything.
    • Tough love is very real, no different from a vaccination. Sometimes help hurts. You do your kids no favors by salving their feelings in the short-term at the cost of long-term harm. Shoplifting is easier to deal with now than grand theft auto later.
    • Never shop for important clothing alone. Have someone with you who can assess the clothing in natural light and from angles you can't see while wearing it. (Always the most important angles!) No matter how helpful the sales person and the tailor are, their job is to sell the clothing.
    • In case you will be traveling on an airline which "code shares," meaning, for example, a USAir flight number is actually operated by United Airlines, you must obtain the boarding pass at United, the carrier flying the plane. This can be very confusing, especially if the two carriers involved don't share the same terminal at the airport.
    • Someone told me recently that my advice here previously, to learn state and country capitals as an aid to conversation, has worked beautifully for them. Here's a similar tip: Read the "top ten list" of books on the New York Times and their descriptions. Even if you choose not to the read all the books, you'll be conversant with what's on there and the content. (You can do the same for pop music.) You can do this online any time, or with the hard copy every Sunday.
    • There are outlandish claims, bold claims, and factual claims. Avoid the outlandish ("The finest author on sales in the history of selling"), make bold claims through a third-party endorsement ("Her book helped us to triple our sales within a year"), and cite factual claims yourself ("written five books").
    • Ever notice how often you criticize someone for something and then realize you're doing it yourself?!

  2. The Human Condition: Sharpsters

    "Sharpsters" are people who believe they can con anyone at any time. The irony is that they are as obvious as a ham sandwich.

    A guy writes me the other day and tells me that he is going to be "bold enough" to provide me with a "win/win" opportunity: I am go give him all of the business that is offered me but that I don't want because the fees are too low or the work doesn't interest me. He will have the opportunity to be associated with me and capitalize on my name, and I will have the "opportunity" to accommodate clients through his work.

    It just must have been my lucky day!

    I told him there were only three things wrong with his offer. First, there was zero in it for me. Second, I had no idea who on earth he was or whether he was any good, and there were only ten thousand people ahead of him in line. Third, if your offer is that abysmally stupid, you can't be trusted with a client.

    At least the guy trying to sell you oil futures in Turkchickistan at 8:30 at night isn't trying to claim anything except the fact he's trying to sell you something at 8:30 at night. He may be a con artist, as are all the multi-level marketing people, but he's not a sharpster.

    The sharpster is the guy (or woman but I refuse to use "gal" which I find unacceptable except in the works of Damon Runyon) who tries to tell you that swapping your early August vacation weeks for his late September weeks is really in your favor. The sharpster offers to "split the work" by him taking the meeting in Naples and you doing the reports in Philadelphia.

    The most infuriating aspect of sharpsters is their total disregard for your intelligence. They believe you are stupid enough to accept their exegesis of excess. They always want something from you in return for nothing.

    I've received three separate complaints from people at functions I've run about the same guy offering to "buy" drinks who leaves the bar without paying the tab, sticking those who accepted his offer with the bill. He won't be asked back. Sharpsters always act like the big deal, but they develop paralysis when a check is on the table, narcoplexy when a volunteer is needed, and amnesia when a mistake has to be acknowledged.

    You dull sharpsters by refusing to allow them to get airborne. You ask, "Why should I do that for you?" or "Isn't that a huge favor to ask of me?" Or you place conditions on them.

    I asked my caller if he had read any of my works. "No," he admitted, "but I'd certainly be willing to."

    "Find," I said, "buy 10 of my books on my web site, read them, then get back to me and we can talk."

    That's called a highly desirable "no sale."

  3. Musings

    Too many of us are living with a poverty mentality. We've achieved a certain measure of financial success and professional accomplishment which would certainly justify an impulse gift, a prolonged vacation, or an improved life style.

    But we cling to who we were years ago, or our upbringing, or our fears that we don't deserve to be where we are. This is conventionally labeled "baggage" which is a fine metaphor, but it suffers from its eponymous roots: This baggage, too, can be stuffed away in the dusty attic or damp basement of the mind, and forgotten, always present, never put up for purchase in a cerebral garage sale.

    I'm astounded at the successful people I know who search assiduously for the lowest coach air fares, when they could actually afford to fly full fare, first class. "Oh, it's a short flight," or "I use that money for other things," or "I refuse to pay the airlines that kind of money" are all lame excuses for the comfort derived from the poverty cocoon.

    Wealth, to me, is the creation of discretionary time. You can always make more money, but it's impossible to create more time. You have 24 hours in the day, and that's it. Money is just means to an end. Riches are not wealth. A bank account is not a lifestyle.

    But, the time to do what you choose when you choose constitutes inestimable wealth. Watching your kids play soccer or dance at a recital, going to a spontaneous lunch with your spouse or a special friend, engaging in charity work without feeling it's "robbing you" of time otherwise needed elsewhere, are all displays of great wealth.

    If you drive a 10-year old car and haven't purchased new clothes in ages because you have no money to do so, I'm concerned about your wellbeing. If you've denied yourself those items because you're using your money to sit in vaults, then I'm concerned about your wellness. I'm not suggesting we need lavish houses, large yachts, and legendary cars, but I do think that the ability to engage in activities with families, support good causes, and nourish your soul are legitimate investments.

    "There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich," observed Oscar Wilde, "and that is the poor." A poverty mentality is not related to how much money one owns, but rather to one's view of how money should be used.

    I continue to be amazed, not only at how stupid I was two weeks ago, but also at how many people I find myself coaching to whom I have to say, "You're approach to money is subconscious and your approach to time is unconscious." No one, not even people truly in poverty, should have a poverty mentality, which is akin to a victim mentality.

    As Cher said in "Moonstruck" as she slapped her ardent suitor, "Snap out of it!"


    I drove an Aston Martin DB7 for three years, the term of its lease. It was a beautiful car and somewhat rare-six-speed manual, no paddle shifters, a real driver's car.

    Being British (albeit owned by Ford) it had its quirks. For example, my Ferraris had a key, and my Bentleys have had a starter button. The Aston had BOTH, and it took about six steps to get it started, but once in gear it was wonderful. There was no integrated phone. ("We build automobiles, not phones," I was loftily informed when I questioned this shortcoming.)

    I had noted for some time that one of the various screens for information on the dashboard wasn't terribly clear. It kept slipping my mind during the infrequent service intervals, when the Connecticut dealer would send a flatbed truck up to Rhode Island to pick up and return the car to my home. However, after two-and-a-half years, I had occasion to stop by the dealer for a minor adjustment of a power seat.

    I remembered to mention the screen to the service manager and asked if new glass might be installed while I was there. He leaned into the car, reached out, and pulled the protective plastic off the crystal clear glass beneath. "It should be a lot better now," he said, deadpan.