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The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: January 2005

Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:

  1. Techniques for balance
  2. The Human Condition: Marriage and Divorce
  3. To the barricades!
  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department


  1. Techniques for balance

    • No matter how constructive the pursuit, extremism can become toxic. For example, exercise is wonderful and a regular regimen is great, but you can always take a couple of days off without committing a sin. Don't let routine run your life.
    • Withhold judgment. Constantly judging others actually takes a toll on you. That waiter or flight attendant who appears to be dilatory might just be preoccupied for the moment.
    • If you have to speak to a group, remember that they dearly want a success experience. No one is "rooting" for you to fail. They are, at worst, neutral, and probably hoping that you'll be great.
    • One piece of adverse feedback is like a single bad piece of fish. You can smell it immediately, you shouldn't touch it, and don't let it turn you off to all forms of nourishment.
    • If you ever want to truly master something, then try to teach it to others.
    • There is actually a web site called "" My point? Modern technology can save you a huge amount of time if you use the web to find what you lack.
    • A one-stop flight means you can't miss your connection. Especially in the winter, minimize connections at cities subject to variable weather. In the U.S., changing planes at Chicago's O'Hare in the winter with less than 90 minutes' connection time is a worse bet than a "hard 8" on the craps tables in Vegas.
    • With current technology, you can use Apple's IPod to listen to something in your home on your stereo speakers, then in your car on its radio, and finally on ear phones when you're walking to your destination. And the new gizmos include a device which turns the IPod into a digital recorder.
    • When your gas tank reads "empty" and/or "miles remaining" reads "0," you still have 5-to-10 miles of gas in the tank.
    • If you travel with a lap top, then include a CD with the contents of your desk top, and you'll have a complete office on the road with up-to-date information.

  2. The Human Condition: Marriage and Divorce

    I know a great many divorced people. They are generally wonderful acquaintances and friends. I find absolutely no qualitative difference between divorced and married people in terms of their capacity for joy, empathy, resilience, sincerity or any other noble human characteristic.

    Some are on excellent terms with ex-spouses, and some would love to see them flayed and trampled. All, however, seem very close to their children, even their adult children, and often invite them along to an event. There is obvious love and support.

    I'm thinking that some of us are simply lucky, perseverant, or masochistic. The odds of meeting the perfect lifetime companion when you're under 30, immature, inexperienced, untravelled, and generally clueless, are somewhat remote. That means that about half of us either beat the odds at the marital casino, were determined to make it work and allow love to finally erupt as a marigold seed struggles to break the topsoil, or have resolutely decided to hang tough and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (as the Bard would say).

    Some people remain in relationships they know they can make work, while others remain in relationships they know can't work. Some people abandon relationships that are not working, while others abandon relationships that could work if given the chance and the effort. We are, all of us, seeking love and companionship, and uncertain at times when to hold and when to fold.

    Sometimes life calls our bluff. We hold a hand that's hopeless, we fold a hand that has real potential. We are frail beings, and we err.

    Yet one's marital status (or partnership status) has no direct bearing on one's worth. I find a stubbornly pursued bad relationship as desultory as a prematurely discarded sound relationship. Increasingly in our society, like it or not, formal partnership arrangements and even informal living arrangements will continue to multiply and fluctuate. While many aspects of our society have become more conservative, relationships have steadily liberalized as women have gained a more equal status in society and work; as the stigma of divorce has faded; as the taboos against pre-marital living arrangements have attenuated; and as people have decided to make lifetime commitments later and later in life.

    We need to value people as people, not as parts of one demographic or another, and not based on whether their lifestyles conform with out own. Divorce doesn't always signify a failure. It can be a sign of a new success.

    I've been married for 36 years to a woman who knew me when I was a frog and foresaw, with a lot of hard work, that I might just one day become a prince. She was right about that, and has been the light of my life. Every once in a while, however, she wakes abruptly in the middle of the night when she could swear she hears a strange sound from my side of the bed.


  3. To the barricades!

    I received a furious letter from a man-of course canceling his subscription-who informed me that my comment about "any good financial advisor should be retired and not have to sell financial advice" was personally offensive. And I've received letters from others who said, "Right! But how do I find a good advisor if they're all retired?!"

    My point is that you have to look for extraordinarily successful people. They are usually referred to you by other, highly successful people, or you are told about them, read about them, or hear them speak. Highly successful advisors don't have to make cold calls and beg for clients. Clients come to them, and their personal standard of living is quite high, because they are so successful.

    That was my metaphorical point, and I stand behind it. In fact, I'll add another: Not only are highly successful people "magnets" for others who seek out excellence, but they also can laugh at themselves and aren't offended by critique, valid or not.

    If anyone out there believes that a complete stranger calling you at home at night to persuade you to buy investments over the phone is an outstanding investment advisor, I would urge you never to answer the phone alone.

    How do you choose these people? Through references among your network of friends and professional colleagues. And the more subscriptions you cancel because you don't agree with the writer, the less you'll ultimately know�.

  4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department


    Seriously, just pass this up unless you know me and can simply accept it as a funny story. But this is my life.

    It's not unusual for people to pose for pictures with my Bentley GT when it's parked outside a restaurant. Sometimes the valet will take the shot for them.

    Recently, I saw a man having his photo taken at the driver's door while I was having brunch with my wife. I went to his table later and asked if that were his car. "No," he said with a distinct Irish accent, "I can only wish. But I am sending the photo to my cousin Petey in the old country with a note telling him I'm doing rather well over here."