Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 216, August 2017)

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Balancing act is in four sections this month:

1. Techniques for Balance

2. Musings

3. The Human Condition: Flailing


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• There’s nothing wrong with hurrying toward your goal in most cases. There is something wrong with merely hurrying through life in all cases.

• If you want to save a good portion of your life, answer “yes or no” questions with solely a “yes” or “no.”

• Once you claim an exception, you’d better be prepared to grant it to others.

• What’s wrong with airline service in the US isn’t corporate greed, it’s horrible judgment at the front line by people who are improperly trained and supervised. You can’t hire judgment and you can’t fix stupid.

• Take a look around, that’s your legacy all around you. It doesn’t suddenly begin when you die.

• I’ve found that I can help others deal with and lessen pain, but if someone is determined to suffer there’s not much I can do about that.

• Never assume that whatever you ask will be done. Always have a Plan B.

• I find practically nothing in life worth waiting in long lines for. Perhaps meeting the Pope or trying to board a late plane, but certainly not for Starbucks coffee or a movie. (Great quote from a TSA official: If they can wait 20 minutes for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee without complaining, they can wait 20 minutes for security.)

• Complaining to people who have no power (or inclination) to help you is only slightly less effective than screaming at the sky for rain to stop.

• If you believe that a “celebrity” or athlete or entertainer, by dint of their fame, is more intelligent than you about political events, then you’re going to have a hard time finding the truth about anything.


Am I being too judgmental? I find some things bizarre. I think wearing a baseball cap backwards looks stupid, even as a fashion statement. This is even more pronounced when the user has to shield his eyes from the sun with his hand.

Massive tattoos are exceptionally strange to me. I’m waiting for the panic when they find tattoo ink to be a carcinogen. I understand a butterfly here and a sweetheart’s name there, I guess (remembering, however, the divorce rate is 50%), but an entire arm or back or leg just looks, well, painful to me.

Pierced ears go back hundreds of years, but in western society pierced noses, eyebrows, and tongues—not so much. This is somewhat troublesome in restaurants when the server has pierced lips. It just looks painful, especially when chains are attached.

I don’t get pants or shorts down around a guy’s buttocks with his underwear sticking out. It looks like it’s hard to walk. It looks as though it’s impossible to sit down, for that matter.

Today, bra straps showing are quite the fashionable look. But this is seldom carried off well to the point that it seems someone just got dressed haphazardly. The concept has some sex appeal, but in reality, well, it ain’t.

I’m not fond of the “wash and dry” wet look, where a woman hugs me entering a meeting and the entire side of my face is wet.

I saw a wedding party pictured the other day, everyone dressed to the gills, but one of the nine women was wearing flip flops with a knee-length dress. Maybe she had foot problems? But I saw the same thing with five women receiving an award and one with flip-flops.

And then there are the tee-shirts with obscene sayings that put me off my food. “I’m with stupid” is stupid, but profanity is vulgar and denotes low intellect to me.

I know, I know, I ought to accept the fact that tastes and styles change, that the Beatles supposedly had hair too long, and that Elvis gyrated too much. I deserve being critiqued for my intolerance with these issues. Most would respond, I guess, that these are just signs of the times.

But what if the times are a sign of a loss of civility and respect?


Flailing is the act of wildly flinging around one’s extremities, especially arms. It usually denotes wildness, or panic.

I find that people often mentally flail. Their thoughts and emotions are all over the place, not logically confronting issues, but rather running all around them. You ask someone to set up an appointment and the next thing you know the discussion is about lack of time, lack of information, priorities, overwhelm, and uncertainties

“All I want to do is to arrange the appointment,” I point out “Yes but I must update your information, find the original appointment, check on the technician involved, and then send you a new confirmation”

“Can’t we just start with the issue of whether there is even availability on the day I’m asking about?” After all that makes everything else irrelevant if it’s not open right?

People flail about projects: “Oh I have to do more research on that book chapter and I have to think about what order it needs to be in and then I have to create a couple of visuals and I don‘t see how this can happen before I prepare my speech for next month and I also wanted to get away for the weekend.”

By that time you could have written most of the chapter.

Flailing is the inability to put things in the right order, establish the right priority, and begin action. It denotes a panic rather than reasoned mode. We begin making windmill motions with our arms instead of trying to make sense of the issues. People flail when their plane is delayed or canceled, when their bank account is suddenly and surprisingly overdrawn, and when the car won’t start.

Imagine your mechanic, or dog groomer, or lawn guy flailing when you make a request or want to change something. I don’t think you’d have much confidence in them after that.

People, at the top of their game—athletes, entertainers, artists—don’t flail. If they did they wouldn’t be at the top, they’d be at the bottom.. And no amount of flailing would change that.


I’m at the beach and take out the suntan lotion. When I press the top button, nothing seems to happen. But then, the can gets oily and I can hardly hold it. I realize there's a leak somewhere. The can becomes more and more slippery.

Then I noticed that the top is covered in clear plastic—it needs to be unwrapped. But my hands and the can were so slippery, that I couldn’t get the plastic off.



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         #11: Overkill: Pounding away until the point is crushed under the weight of                     redundancy.

         #12: Denial: Why we make ostriches' behavior in the face of threat seem                          reasonable.

         #13: Selecting: We "settle" in stead of deliberately choosing what's best for us, and          we need to stop that.

         #14: Contrarianism: Why taking an opposite view is a public service and how to do          it.

         #15: Who Loves You?: Who's got your back and how you can tell, and why it's               important.

         #16: No, You Can't: A different perspective on the popular—and incorrect—belief            that you can do whatever you think you can.


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Balancing Act® is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing the blending of life, work, and relationships, based on the popular Balancing Act workshops and writing of Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Contact us for further information at: [email protected].
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© Alan Weiss 2017

Balancing Act® is our registered trademark. You are encouraged to share the contents with others with appropriate attribution. Please use the ® whenever the phrase "Balancing Act" is used in connection with this newsletter or our workshops.


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