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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 160, December 2012 )

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  • Don't sweat what can't be undone. Apologize if it's appropriate, but stop beating yourself up about what you can't undo. No one can unring a bell, not even a judge telling the jury to disregard the last comment.

  • A true friend is someone you would trust with your wallet. Sometimes in our attempts to maintain and "save" a relationship we do more harm to ourselves and others than we would if we ended the relationship.

  • You must develop the language and courage to talk honestly and question openly your physician and your attorney. They belong to no secret cult that makes them immune to inquiry or fallibility.

  • Someone who always commiserates is a commisserator, not a friend. Friends will tell you when you're full of crap, when the mistake was yours, when you need to try again. Therefore, their praise is all the more significant and trustworthy.

  • If you ask whether or not you deserve to be in a certain organization—formal or informal—you don't have a membership problem you have a self-esteem problem.

  • If you don't use the best china and crystal for yourself, what good are they?

  • People who "think out loud" tend to enjoy themselves immensely, but boor most of the rest of us who'd just like to hear their opinion not their cognitive process.

  • Apple made a new connection device for its iPhone 5. Have you thought about new "connection devices" for your business?

  • Don't give anyone unsolicited feedback unless it's urgent or you have a truly helpful suggestion. Otherwise, you're merely playing "gotcha." And that's a child's game.


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I've always believed that people who can't convey their thoughts without using profanity are of inferior intellect. I'm not talking about sports locker rooms or rowdy bars, or truck stops, athletic events, or construction crews. I understand the macho need to impress colleagues, and the occasional need to vent when you hit your thumb with a hammer. I've done it myself.

However, I'm talking about normal social discourse. On Facebook and YouTube, in particular, there are people who can't comment on a ham sandwich or day at the beach without resorting to vulgarity. This applies to both genders. The language is filthy, and the disregard of civil and social mores is astonishing.

I routinely unfriend, unlink, untweet, and defrock people who regularly use obscenity. It's not so much that I'm offended as that I'm bored. The same applies to people in public settings: restaurants, trains, planes, and clubs. If you can't express your thoughts without profane speech in public—including social media platforms—then I'm unimpressed by your opinion, your intellect, and your character.

And I'm not talking about heated political arguments or fierce sports disagreements. I'm talking about describing a birthday party, a day at the beach, or meal. What degree of self-absorption is required to be oblivious to the effects of your profanity and lack of social hygiene on others?

I'm reminded of the low lifes who insist on drinking on the streets or in hotel elevators. I understand bachelor parties and homecoming events and various celebrations. I don't understand simply walking down the street in Vegas imbibing huge mixed drinks or carrying a cocktail with you around the lobby of a Ritz-Carlton.

Jamming your finger in a closing door can drive you to imprecations, no question. Sitting at a keyboard describing your workday shouldn't result in a bevy of curses, unless you have no vocabulary or no class.

Or, unless you've been drinking in the lobby.



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The human condition: Granularity

In the last Balancing Act I had a few typos. The cause was simple: my fault. I wrote it while traveling in Europe, thought I had proofed it, and forwarded it to my technical team for distribution without having proofed it.

I could make a case it was pretty good for no proofing! However, I'll be more careful in the future because I'd rather not have typos.

I was contacted by exactly three people (out of a subscription list of 13,000 and I suspect a "pass-through" readership 25 percent beyond that). One person merely pointed out the typos and said he thought I'd want to know. He told me he really enjoyed the issue. I thanked him. Another man told me that I was engaged in sloppy marketing, and offered his services, for a fee, to help me overcome these problems and improve. And then a woman surmised that I was ill, and wanted to know what health problems I was having to allow such typos.

This last reaction of course, is beyond passive aggressive. To deduce somehow I'm ill from a handful of typos isn't a rational conclusion and was meant to somehow unnerve me. I unnerved her back.

We need to look at the world through a telescope, not a microscope. We need to view the beauty of the cosmos, not the perfection of a grain of sand (or, worse, its imperfection). My standard reply to people who tell me I've created four typos in a book is to tell them that there are actually eight, which sends them scurrying back to their abacus.

I can't undo a typo. I can't unring a bell. These are, no doubt, character weaknesses, but there you have it. But more importantly, I regard people as adults, seeking quality content and pragmatic help, not seeking the impossible perfection of placing priority on typos over insights. In a recent Monday Morning Memo I attributed a quote about government—on the eve of the election—to Jefferson. A guy wrote me to tell me it was Madison, produced some document form the Virginia historical society, and demanded to know my source. (I've seen the quote also attributed to Adams and Franklin.) I told him I had no time for that, but what did he think of my point, exemplified by the quote?

He then launched an ad hominem attack on me!

Folks, I long ago learned to ignore small minds and disregard unsolicited feedback. There will be more typos, due to my woeful lack of perfection. But there will also be more quality, provocation, pragmatism, and value, due to my belief that I owe you that if you're bothering to read what I write. You might not always agree with me, but that's the whole point, isn't it?

The point certainly is not a dotted "i" or a crossed "t." Nor is it the typo I've deliberately included above, which only a small percentage of you will bother going back to try to find.


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My car's trunk wouldn't open, my memory settings were erased, and all of my radio pre-sets had evaporated. I was about to call the dealer and express my discontent in no uncertain terms. I threw the key into my jewelry case where I noticed it fell next to what looked like my car key. Upon closer examination, I had been using the valet key, expressly designed to do only limited duty.

Thank goodness my common sense prevailed. And also that it was a Sunday and I couldn't call anyone.

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