Balancing Act: The Newsletter

(No. 244, December 2019)

Balancing act is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for Balance (Observations)
  2. The Human Condition: Untrust
  3. Musings


From Maria and me to all of you: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year to all! (If you celebrate Festivus, may you prevail in the feats of strength.)

Techniques For Balance


- Calling a Christmas Tree a “holiday tree” is the essence of the stupidity of political correctness. What “holiday” is associated with the tree?

- Thoughtful gifts strike me as more sincere than extravagant gifts.

- The exact same people who complain about shopping and crowds are the people who are engaged in the shopping and crowds. It’s as bad as tourists complaining about tourists (which on Facebook passes for enlightened commentary).

- I happen to love Christmas carols, but Sirius Radio starting their holiday channels on November 1 is really pushing it.

- On Thanksgiving and Christmas I’m usually stuffed by the time we get to the main course, which is when the dogs really start to do well.

- If you haven’t awakened to the fact that online shopping is progressively eroding traditional retail store sales then you might just have already drunk too much egg nog.

- I love the guys at the tree farms who describe the different aspects of a pine, Douglas fir, balsam, and so on. I call them “evergreen sommeliers.” (“A wonderful aroma but it isn’t clingy.”)

- I shudder when anyone refers to a Menorah as a “candelabra.” (Technically, though, it is a “candelabrum.”)

- I read somewhere that the Three Wise Men might have actually been astronomers watching for a certain star. The thought of an ancient Carl Sagan showing up at the manger makes me giddy.

- If you’re wondering who’s responsible for the habit of New Year’s resolutions, it was the Babylonians—4,000 years ago! They created the resolutions in propitiation to their gods. Sort of a bribe.

- When I was young, everyone watched black and white television to see Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians play for a swank New Year’s celebration at the ultra-luxe Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Lombardo actually was Canadian (Italian-Canadian) and his band sold over 200 million records.

- On the night of New Year’s Eve, Times Square in New York is probably the safest place on Earth.

The Human Condition


Do you know people who never seem to be able to “pull the trigger”? Who vacillate over even simple decisions? Do you know buyers who keep changing their minds and want to change details that aren’t that important? Do people in your family constantly return merchandise?

These aren’t “fickle” people, these are people who don’t trust their own judgment.

We don’t trust our own judgment because we believe “it shouldn’t be that easy.” A car is a major purchase, and we assume such a decision can’t be made easily. How can we buy the first outfit we try on in the store, when we don’t know what else might await us?

We’re afraid that our decision might be critiqued. “You bought a new computer? Don’t you know that they’re coming out with their new model next month?!” (So what, if the current model suits your needs?) “You’re going to Antigua? But the snorkeling is better on Grand Cayman.” (But I don’t want crowds, I want deserted beaches.) “You’ve decided to accept an offer to attend Syracuse University? Was that your ‘backup’ school?” (But Syracuse has the finest journalism school in the country.)

We don’t trust our own judgment because it’s been wrong in the past, and we ferociously focus on those lapses. “I hate the color I chose for the living room walls.” “I never should have paid that much for the hotel room.” “That layover between flights just ruined my day.”

In other words, we’re not resilient. We don’t learn and improve from our occasional errors, we dote on them, we drown in them, we dwell on them. Yet resilience is all about learning and moving on.

Finally, we fail to realize that there are a lot of good options and no perfect one. We need to stop searching for perfection and simply choose excellence. You can be happy with any of several cars, with a variety of colors, with differing vacation spots. Don’t use others’ metrics (“You must begin with this river cruise”) or the popular choices.

Most of your judgment has been good! We all make correctable mistakes. Trust your judgment. It’s all you have. Otherwise, you’ll be spinning in place for the rest of your life.


Why can’t we all just get along? That was the lament of the late Rodney King, famous for being the victim of police violence after he tried to flee from police during an attempted traffic stop. When the officers who beat him were acquitted, the Los Angeles riots ensued which killed over 60 people and resulted in hundreds of millions in damages to property.

King died years later, drowned in his swimming pool, with drugs and alcohol in his system. It was ruled an accidental death due to a heart attack. He had become an activist and writer, but was unsuccessful trying to start a business.

Why can’t we just get along? Why do we kill each other over religions, or territories, or just for the hell of it? Terrorists believe they have some better cosmos to install, meaning that all infidels deserve death. That’s basically a very inferior orientation toward self-worth. Only people with no confidence, with no self-esteem, resort to violence when their beliefs or God are questioned.

I’ve always seen it as a sign of respect for the Mormons that they didn’t react in any way to the one-joke, sophomoric play The Book of Mormon. If the writers had any courage, it would have been The Book of Islam, but I’m sure they feared for their lives if they had produced that.

I think the reason that we all just don’t get along is one of inferiority complexes. Too many people seek to keep others on the ladder rungs below them out of fear that they may otherwise be seen as being at the bottom of the ladder. There is an ego component involved, an attempt to prove that we’re just as good as anyone else, though these kinds of biased actions prove just the opposite.

If we wanted to, we all could just get along. But that would require subordinating our egos, accepting others as equals, and cease trying to control and have power over others. In other words, it would require both tolerance and forgiveness. Of course, those are the tenets of most major religions, but religion is out of favor these days because of those who feel it’s a threat and don’t want to be subjected to it.

Maybe therein is the problem.

Merry Christmas.

Only Read This if You Know Me Well

A client made a reservation for me in the Royalton Hotel in New York City. It’s an “in” place, very Ian Shrager, and it’s largely black. The walls were black and the employees wore black and they seemed to emerge out of the walls suddenly, like the Mole People in the old Flash Gordon series.

My room was dark and the lighting was poor. Finally, I called the front desk and asked how to put the fireplace on. 

“We’ll have to send someone,” said the obviously annoyed clerk, “but why do you want heat in August?”

“I don’t need heat, I need more light.”

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© Alan Weiss 2019

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