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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 156, August 2012 )

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  • If every single poor review, piece of negative feedback, or passive-aggressive swipe is going to influence you, you're in for a long, slow crawl through enemy territory. The anodyne: Ignore anyone and everyone you haven't asked for feedback. It's really that simple.
  • Eschew "bucket lists," which are unimaginative (you read that correctly), rigid, regimented attempts to create metrics of achievement. If you need a list to make you feel successful, go shopping at the local supermarket.
  • Be careful about what you talk about and share. With the personal invasions of TSA at airports, and the trumpeting of what should be private experiences on social media, we can become inured to sharing that which should really be kept to ourselves.
  • If you don't have hobbies, games, athletic pursuits, and private interests you pursue whenever you can, there's something out of kilter in your life. I don't care how much you "love" your work, you can't be that good at it if it's your single, narrow focus in life.
  • "Do as I say, not as I do" is actually a quite valid phrase, and more than just a rejoinder for kids from their parents. My advice to others for their career stage may be something I'm not doing at all at my career stage. (You don't go from zero to 100 without passing through 25, 35, etc.)
  • Don't waste your time trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped. People who resist being helped with behavioral and skills development needs will drain the life out of you. They're adults, making their own decisions. They are mostly uncoachable.
  • I can work in great frenzies of activity, but also sit on the beach for six hours reading and thinking. I can enjoy the finest restaurants in the world, and also hot dogs at the beach. I've always thought it a huge benefit to appreciate all facets of life and not attempt to rank them.
  • Have you donated either time or money to a charitable cause over the last month? It doesn't matter how much, but have you given anything?
  • Passionate people try to influence others, but zealots try to convert others. That's a huge difference.
  • If you can't look at a dog trotting by on a leash and smile, somehow I just don't think you get it.

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We were in Maui and my wife decided to go out on one of the huge dugout canoes, with a ferocious, huge, Hawaiian serving as helmsman and 20 frightened tourists rowing like crazy in synchronization to propel the unstable craft. He screamed orders as they paddled furiously to get out past the breakers, then had them perform a difficult maneuver to turn the boat around toward the beach without capsizing.

All this time he screamed at my wife, "NUMBER FOUR! Paddle in sync with everyone else! NUMBER FOUR! You're not in tempo with everyone else!!"

As the boat gained speed, maniacally roaring back on the huge breakers he bellowed his final order, heard even over the surf: "NUMBER FOUR, STOW YOUR OAR! NUMBER FOUR, I SAY AGAIN, TAKE YOUR PADDLE OUT OF THE WATER BEFORE YOU SINK US!"

Sheepishly, my wife pulled her paddle onto her lap, amidst the glowering looks of 19 other exhausted people paddling for their lives. I was, of course, laughing so hard on the beach that a curious lifeguard had to hold me up. I retrieved my wife from the dugout when it beached and told her not to worry.

"You're merely paddling to the beat of a different drummer," I assured her.

Schools of fish and herds of wildebeests are adept at moving as one, synchronized and choreographed to within an inch of their lives. The mainstream, the herd, the anonymity of the group are what saves them from predators. But humans don't survive by mindlessly following norms or group behavior. We survive through innovation, independence, and autonomy.

Be careful about following the group, conforming to popular taste, being another face on social media platforms, and regarding all feedback as valid. Be willing to stand out in a crowd. That's the path to success and fulfillment.

It's the person at the helm who calls the strokes and helps others through rough waters.

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The human condition: Perfectionism

People actually write to me to tell me of typos in my books. (That's the publisher's issue, not mine, and these are routinely corrected during reprints.) What am I supposed to do, stop by and correct it on their copies? Most of these folks can't tell me three ideas they've picked up from the book, no small irony.

I've built electric train layouts and built military models. Some people build them to fanatic precision, using all kinds of sources, and will condemn others who don't bother to put seat belts on the pilot's seat or mud under the tank, where it can't be seen in any case.

In coaching, I've seen promotional materials sit for months awaiting better phrasing or layout; book proposals languish while hundreds of people are consulted about a title; new purchases not used until the exact right moment comes along, which will usually not be in our lifetimes.

Too many of us have a noxious, insidious addiction to perfectionism, which I'll define here as: "A fictional state in which all elements are aligned with an arbitrary and unachievable ideal for the individual engaged in the activity." It ought to be in Merck's Medical Manual. Perfectionism has denied more people pleasure and undermined more good ideas than the resultant imperfection ever could have.

The cult of perfectionism arises because of fear: fear that what's produced will be critiqued; or will fail; or that it won't be as good as someone else's; or that people will laugh; or that people will be unimpressed. None of that, of course, bothered Edison or Bell or Picasso. (Listen to Sinatra sing the brilliant, iconic version of the George Gershwin song, "They All Laughed.)

We seek perfection because we are insecure. We're afraid of what others think. We create illusory standards that we believe others meet. If we're perfect, no one can criticize. (Of course, if we're immobile, everyone may well criticize.)

We don't require extensive therapy for this, we merely require the immortal words of Bob Newhart: "Stop it!"

Or, you could use my reply to someone who informs me that there are seven typos in my book: "No, you're wrong, there are twelve."



New York City, September 6

In this day-long workshop, you will learn in detail from Alan personally, and immediately apply:

  • How to reduce your labor intensity by eliminating, transferring, and streamlining professional and personal burdens, and gain a month a year in resurrected time.
  • How to use your head and common sense to provide value to any kind of client, public or private, and how to deal with the 11 most common issues that cause organizational difficulties—within a day on site!
  • How to monetize your ideas, intellectual property, approaches, and successes for active and passive income in a variety of media, including apps.
  • How to work with any size organization with a minimum of adjustment, and how to find those organizations most likely to have the means and money to pay.
  • How to stand out amidst the cacophony of social media and competition—large and small—to be an object of interest within a month.

AND: Free teleconference for registrants: August 22.
ALL of this for $490.

Thought Leadership Symposium

October 22-24, 2012
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL

Our third annual event, this featuring Margaret Wheatley whose seminal book, Leadership and the New Science, is being re-released at the time of our session. Join us for three days of intense work to help make you the thought leader in your field. Seven places remain. Meals and lodging included.

The Super Language Practicum

November 12, 2012
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, San Francisco, CA

Learn how to use powerful, concise language in oral and written communications, including rapid rebuttals, reframing of issues, metaphor, analogy, and examples. Control every subsequent conversation and impress people in email and correspondence. Nothing else like this in the world, only 25 people admitted, 10 seats remain.

Million Dollar Consulting� College

December 3-7
Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI

The only one taking place in 2012 and there is none scheduled for 2013. This is the 18th such offering over the years of a full week of intense work in all aspects of professional services development, from marketing to implementation. Small group, incredible property, includes subsequent mentoring.

And this terrific session authorized by Alan:

How to Acquire Clients, Value Based Fees, How to Write A Proposal

October 2, San Francisco Bay area

Learn from Linda Popky, who has mastered and applied Alan's approaches, the fundamentals of smart professional services business growth. Extensive interaction and wonderful learning from someone who can share her immediate experiences.

Digital Empire Creation
Provided by Chad Barr and his team

Work with the strategic technological genius, Chad Barr, Master Mentor and Mentor Hall of Fame member, who is behind all of my web activity (and co-author with me of Million Dollar Web Presence coming out next year). His team will create "instant" intellectual property from your material and place it in a variety of forms on the Internet on a continuing basis.


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We were moving from our beach house to the water like an army caravan, and my son dropped our granddaughters' beach ball. The wind whipped it down the beach, and I told him to forget it, they had plenty of other toys.

Six hours later, I'm heading back alone, the last one, and there's the ball, the wind having blown it back to where it was dropped. I picked it up and was looking forward to my granddaughters' appreciation of my having found their ball.

When I entered the house and gave it to them, Alaina said, "What happened to the clowns on the ball? They're gone." "So are the cows," said Gabrielle.

My wife looked at the ball, then at me, and said, "Congratulations, you've stolen some poor kid's beach ball."

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2012 Teleconference Series

Next year there is a learning guide before each teleconference, and a free download, as always. Join us for �Conversation Domination� and �The Mental Gym,� as well at 8 other sessions of advanced skills building.

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 completed, and we ensure compatibility by vetting applicants. Nothing else like this if you seek to "rise above the noise." One to four people, scheduled at mutual convenience. The third one has recently been formed.

I've never seen seagulls fight about which one is bigger or stronger, but I have noticed that sometimes the smaller, nimbler ones are able to steal the food.—AW

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