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The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: December 2002

Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for balance
  2. The Human Condition: Insecurity
  3. Musings
  4. Happy Holidays

  1. Techniques for balance

    I thought I'd deal with an unusual but wonderful topic this month, viz.: How to deal with victory and success.

    • One victory does not a life make. Learn what processes you applied for success, which can stand you in good stead for the future, and replicate them consistently.
    • Be a gracious and magnanimous "winner." I'm always impressed by the winning coach who says before all else in the inevitable interview, "My hat's off to the competition's great season and game--we were fortunate to win."
    • Maintain the perspective of your sphere. Virtually all victories in unrelated fields DO NOT validate your religious beliefs as superior to others, nor your value system, nor your politics. Confine your temporary superiority to your actual performance.
    • Share credit appropriately. People who accept personal blame but share credit are those who are most balanced and usually most admired as role models.
    • Rewarding yourself is fine. Reward should await any good effort, in victory or defeat, and particularly the former. Indulge.
    • Balance your ledger. We tend to allow defeats and personal setback to cling to us like melted candy on hot asphalt. Use the victories to create more of a positive paradigm for your life.
    • Don't exaggerate. Real pleasure is in sharing the actual story and embracing others in your success, not embellishing to the point of disbelief and alienation of others, who may then mock your success.
    • Maintain realistic expectations. A victory, win, triumph, or other success is wonderful in and of itself. It needn't be followed by a "dynasty" of consecutive "wins," nor be sullied because it wasn't "record breaking."
    • Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but it's still a win. I'm a poor tennis player, but I hit a killer shot against a semi-pro one day, and she replied, "Too good," meaning I was lucky. "Yeah," I said, "but good enough to beat you." If we lose by being plumb unlucky at times, we can certainly win by being lucky without embarrassment.
    • Don't ever be undermined by "not succeeding enough." There will be "yes, but..." people who inform you that others have done it better, that you had ideal circumstances, or that they expected still more from you than you accomplished. Ignore them. That's merely passive-aggressive behavior from those watching your tail go by.

  2. The Human Condition: Insecurity

    I've written here before that I believe that most anger is actually self-anger which is re-directed outward so as to preserve ourselves from self-loathing (and possibly self-destruction). We rail at our spouse, or children, or co-workers, or even innocent bystanders to vent our unbearable unhappiness with ourselves for not doing what we should have done.

    The dead giveaway is when we begin shouted sentences with "You should have..." (in New York, "You shudda..."), as in when we awake late and miss an important appointment, "You should have awakened me!" or when we decline an invitation which proved later to be a sterling event, "You should have explained how important this was!" It's the other person's fault, because it takes a highly secure and confident person to admit that personal flaws and errors have caused a problem or failure.

    The same phenomenon occurs when we take umbrage at a perceived slight which never intended to target us but which we choose to let victimize us. "Victimization" in our society is largely from people, uncertain about their own abilities and potential, who choose to place that unsupportable self-doubt into the implications, shrugs, and innocent speech of others.

    In the last issue I published a few funny incidents that happened to readers, prompted by my own descriptions of crazy things that had befallen me in my travels. One such report was from a woman attracted late at night en route to her lodgings by a sign offering a massage, but who then rethought her choice when she noticed in small print, "truckers welcome." I interpreted this as a sign that, rather than the sensual and intimate experience she had envisioned, she was in for something more muscular, gymnastic, and physical.

    A reader wrote me, near apoplectic, that such a slight on truck drivers was not only uncalled for, but absolutely discriminatory. In between demands to cancel her subscription, she let me know that merely printing it was insensitive and biased. She indicated, of course, that she was married to a truck driver.

    I don't know about you, but my home state (New Jersey), my profession (consulting), and even my esteemed alma mater ("Nobody ever dies for dear old Rutgers") have all come under the taunts and approbation of a sometimes harsh and sometimes highly discriminating public. I have always taken it all in good spirits (a favorite: "A consultant is someone who comes to study a problem and then remains to become a part of it") and have laughed at the absurdity of life.

    If we can't laugh at ourselves--or at least appreciate the irony in some wicked barbs that are honed by a small truth--then we are exhibiting a degree of insecurity that we simply can't tolerate, and must therefore affix blame to the speaker or writer for gross insensitivity, bias, or worse. It became rapidly clear to me, as I tried in two emails to explain that no slight was intended by the writer or me, that the woman who was affronted was really the one most bothered by the fact that her husband is a truck driver (a fine profession, which carries well more than half of all cargo moved in the United States and in most other places), not by the "massage" comment. She chose to be an outraged victim because of her own self-doubts.

    My bio states that I've been to 49 states because "I'm afraid to go to North Dakota." In one audience, a woman told me she refused to listen to anything I had to say after that, because she was so offended. Another woman told me that I should visit North Dakota and allow her to show me the sights and buy dinner, and that I'd have a completely different impression of the place.

    Guess who was more secure, and more likely to gain my admiration? And, more importantly, guess who dealt with life balance far better? And for all I know, she may well have been, or married to, a truck driver...

  3. Musings

    The summer is wonderful here in Rhode Island, since the entire state is perched on the water's edge and we're fortunate enough to live amidst six acres of private serenity. I annually grouse when I'm forced to close the outdoor pool (this year in late September) and wonder if I should move to warmer year-round climes, such as Florida or Southern California (or "winter" in Australia).

    Yet the fall has its appeal. The trees in the Northeast United States attain amazingly vibrant colors, and this has been a peak year by any standards. There is something soothingly familiar about a roaring fire, a glass of wine, and a football game while the wind twists the trees through the windows.

    Winter, naturally, I can't stand. It's bone-chilling and raw here. However, the blanket of snow that falls and remains startlingly white for days and crunches so excellently beneath your feet (I'm a sucker for popping those packing "bubbles" as well) does create a wintry silence and tranquility that is eerily calming. When the pond (two acres, but my wife won't let me call it "Alan's Lake") freezes except for where it's fed and departs over the waterfall, I go out and feed the ducks and geese in a goofy ballet with all of us skidding like bumper cars.

    And there's nothing like snow for the Holidays. A frosty night with no wind, a kizillion stars�it doesn't get much better.

    Then there's spring, with the promise of eternal life. There is a wonderful scent of spring (a new cologne?) which breeds optimism and hope. Things are born, bloom, and grow. Springtime up here is just about as good as winter, and fall, and, well, summer.

    Full circle. Just when the grass looks greener, I realize I'm standing on a most verdant spot. I can fully understand and appreciate the people who seek warmth and sunshine year-round, and those who are snow-birds, and travel with the seasons. Chacon au san gout.

    The talent to suit your manner to the times, I think, is the key. We all need to maximize our own effectiveness and happiness by seeking out the environments and timing most propitious for our success. It's ironic that there are so many places we visit, but in which we can't live, and that magic place where we live which we probably otherwise might not visit.

    Ah well, it's time to haul some logs inside. Season's change. Isn't it grand?

  4. Happy Holidays

    To all of you who take a few moments each month to share in Balancing Act, my wife and I wish the best of the Holidays, a joyous New Year, and a safe, healthy, and prosperous future.

    All generations have lived in troubled times, and we are no exception. I'm hoping that you'll see silver in dark clouds, a rainbow in the storm, and feel the warmth of loved ones on a cold night.

    Start something new in the New Year. Reinvent yourself. Change direction somewhat. Take your fate, your future, your happiness into your own hands.

    Dickens wrote about Scrooge, but he also wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness�" What makes the difference?

    How you lead your life.