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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 120: August 2009)

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The Ten -Year Anniversary of Balancing Act

I looked up when I was saving this work, and realized it was issue #120—the completion of ten years of the newsletter. How can that be?

I started Balancing Act with 40 names of people whom I assume wouldn't kill me if I sent them a newsletter (I was right). It's grown from there to about 8400 at the moment, with another few thousand "pass through" readers and I don't know how many journalists. That's not dramatic growth, but it's pretty decent for one of my hobbies!

Since 1999, in no special order:

  • We've been blessed with two grandchildren, three months premature, who have made it with the prayers of thousands and are now healthy and over 16 pounds each!
  • I've learned to scuba dive, nearly died doing it once, but have had a great time otherwise.
  • There have been 24 more of my books published and they've gone into 9 languages, 32 in total. I've also published thousands of articles, columns, blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc. My credo is volume over accuracy.
  • I've grown a decade older, but am in better shape than 1999 thanks to a sadistic personal trainer and ASD (Alan's Stupid Diet, so named by my wife).
  • About 650 more people have been through my Mentor Program and a few thousand through my workshops. I now have 3.5 million air miles to my credit, though I travel less and less each year, only 55,000 miles last year. I haven't traveled by air since May 8 this year, and don't plan to again before September 10, which is a record stretch since 1972!
  • The Great Dog Trotsky and our terrier, Phoebe, passed away, but we now have Koufax and Buddy Beagle, and there is no end to the pleasure that these wonderful dogs bring to our lives.
  • I've left all the boards I was serving on because I think both they and I needed change. They had ceased being fun and had become "work."
  • I've won some awards, been inducted here and there, and have my name on some things, but more importantly, August 3rd is my 41st wedding anniversary to the lovely (and some say, "the long suffering") Maria.
  • I can now actually program my satellite TV and watch it from my iPhone and I think that Steve Jobs is a serious genius. (Be careful, I just got an app to track your reactions to this..)
  • I've been in one plane and one building struck by lightning, and stopped a plugged-in lamp from falling into a basin of water with my feet in it with 12 inches to spare, yet, as the song from the wonderful Follies goes, "I'm Still Here."

I can honestly look back over the decade of writing this with both nostalgia and an appreciation of where I am today. I don't want to go back, I just want to keep moving forward.

But all things come to an end. And so we bid goodbye to Balancing Act in its first decade.

Here's to the next decade of Balancing Act! Stay with me!

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Neither half-filled nor half-empty is very good.

Someone said to me the other day that the problem with the stock market going up is that it may mean inflation is here and the supply of money is out of whack. Yes, and my getting business from a new customer may mean that the customer could have used me two years ago but waited until now.

I'm still delighted to get the business!

Some people have a habit of looking at good fortune and happy events as merely an uptick in their personal cycle of doom, a temporary trip to the surface for a gulp of air before they once again are weighted down in the shipwreck below. The susurrus of trouble is their constant, whispering companion.

I watched a woman weep once as she moaned that she didn't know what to do with her lottery winnings since she didn't deserve to win, and she would have to agonize about how to share the money with various family members, and that no one would ultimately be happy. (She later realized she had read the ticket incorrectly, and hadn't won $2 million after all, so I guess she could cheer up.)

If you only wallow in the troughs, valleys, and declivities of the roller coaster of life, and you don't rejoice in the view from the peaks and apexes, then you don't really need to be on the roller coaster. You can simply spend life in a trench. If every turn represents potential trouble, every new person is a threat, and each new request is a burden, then you're not really going to enliven many parties.

You can step outside and ask what goodies life has in store for you today, or you can hide under the covers and hope nothing happens. I love it when clients of mine have asked their legal departments for advice on non-legal matters, because lawyers are trained to be arch-conservatives. If you change nothing, then little bad can happen. If you do nothing, then the chances are no one will take offense.

Well, maybe you shouldn't even open the doors or put the lights on, but I'd really prefer to meet customers. The threat of being sued is, to me, minor compared to the threat of being ignored. I'm reminded of the famous definition of Puritanism: The dread fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself.

Enjoy life, take big gulps, trust that opportunity is to be seized. The person extending their hand may well be trying to do you a favor and is not attempting to steal your wallet.

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Okay, I'm no rocket scientist, but then again it was the rocket scientists who crashed a kibillion dollar lander on Mars because the people in Pasadena used centimeters and the people in Houston used inches, and never told each other. (I am NOT making that up.)

Still, I believe in simplicity. If you want to paint the garage, I believe you hire someone to do it. But that's me. If you wanted to paint the garage, I'd advise you to prepare the surfaces, choose a color, and paint it. I would not suggest you study the history of painting structures, find a spectrograph to ascertain proper paint textures and light reflection, investigate painting permits with the town, or buy a new garage door.

But that's where a lot of people start. Consultants tell me, "Well, first we'll have to do a needs analysis." People I mentor tell me, "We'll have to begin with some background information." The tree guy whom I want to shape a couple of trees says, "These white pines have an interesting arboreal history."

Why must we make things so complex when the perpetrators of the complex are making things so simple? Really—cable TV, cell phones, lap tops—most are intuitive and no one ever even needs the instruction manual (which doesn't exist anyway). Yet I drove my daughter's BMW the other day, and the computer seemed to demand that I go through the history of bites and prams just to get its attention. I couldn't even find how to recirculate the interior air, which has a handy, obvious, simple button on my cars. I have a new "universal remote" that is so complex to set up that it's simpler merely trying not to lose the five separate ones that now share our bedroom.

I find it hysterical that Naisbitt's accurate prediction of "high tech/high touch" is being feebly met today by people trying to use high tech to achieve high touch on places like Facebook. (Please don't send me letters, I just have Koufax rip them up.)

Life can be complex and events are certainly convoluted at times. But we don't need to add to that, as if only the complex is important or accurate or relevant. I want a car I can drive without having to pull over and take a quiz. I want a worker to do what I ask without a lot of background and overload.

And I want to paint the barn before the cows come home.

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I had brought my new car in to have the radar/laser detectors installed, and realized when I got home that I had left my Filofax in the back seat. I called the shop and asked them to look for it and hold on to it, and that I'd be by to pick it up. I can't get through the day without it (in fact, I had an interview scheduled which I would have forgotten about).

I was going to head out to the post office in an hour, and I thought I'd better make a note to ensure I also stopped at the shop to pick up my Filofax. So I turned to the pen next to my phone on the credenza, and made a note to "pick up Filofax"—in my Filofax, which was sitting there where I had left it the night prior. It took me a minute to realize what I had just done.

"We didn't find your calendar," said the guy at the shop when I picked up my car. "Yes, well, I must have left it somewhere else," I mumbled."

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Speaking with Alan

At Alan's home
September 1-3, 2009

We have demand for another, and there are four seats remaining of the maximum six people Alan admits. Spend time around the pool putting together, practicing, and marketing a speech. Fee includes video, all meals, and lodging. Great times, meals, wine, and great learning.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
September 14 - 18, 2009

The finest developmental experience for professional service providers, featuring business acquisition, fee setting, branding, market gravity, the language of the sale, proposals, and much more. Fast becoming THE requirement for great consulting success, located at a spectacular property in Newport, RI. Limited participation.


Newport, RI
October 21-22, 2009

Join a small group to create a workshop featuring your expertise and value and a marketing plan to launch it successfully in this economy. You can use the program as a template for other workshops. One successful workshop will repay you many times over in this powerful ROI. Alan's workshops usually average six figures in profit. This is the second and last session.

Self-Esteem Workshop

Providence, RI area, October 26-27, 2009

Brought back by popular demand after being held in Providence and Dublin. This workshop is for people who want to understand the elements of self-esteem, how to build and maintain the proper levels of esteem, and in an optional second half-day, explore personal issues for improvement. Do you have the self-esteem to attend the self-esteem workshop?!

More Details

Shameless Promotion

East Greenwich, RI
Scheduled on demand

One-to-four people participate in a rigorous two days of promotional "mayhem," in which we create assertive and powerful approaches to mold thought leaders, "go to" people, interviewing targets, and objects of interest. The second course is now being scheduled, we ensure compatibility by vetting applicants. Nothing else like this if you see to "rise above the noise."

Best Practices in Consulting

Providence, RI,
November 18 - 19, 2009

For the second time, Alan Weiss is presenting a comprehensive workshop on the techniques, methodology, approaches, and secrets that have made him "one of the most highly respected independent consultants in the country" (the New York Post). This hasn't been delivered since 2005-06 during the initial tour in Providence, Sydney, and London. Over 200 people attended those three events.

If a negative result makes you feel bad, and a positive result makes you wary, then no result is ever going to please you and you're going to have an awfully stressful life. — AW

E-mail [email protected]
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