Printer Friendly Format

Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 125: January 2010)

Follow me on Twitter! You can find me here:

New consulting and leadership tips posted daily!

And find me on Facebook:

Return to Top

Techniques to revitalize

  • Stop going to the mediocre place or event by force of habit.
  • Read a biography.
  • Change any hair style that's over two years old.
  • Attack aches and pains with a massage, or chiropractor, or spa.
  • Take a long weekend somewhere three hours from home.
  • Contribute to a scholarship or an animal shelter.
  • Buy a new piece of art.
  • Learn how better to appreciate music, photography, art, or wine.
  • Maintain an exercise regimen.
  • Watch a classic movie (again, if it makes sense).
  • Throw or host a party.

Return to Top

I was born and raised in a very densely populated inner city. We all lived in apartments, the largest of which would have been four rooms. Occasionally, the outside world would intrude, as in the case of relatives.

Infrequently, we met relatives from the suburbs of New Jersey, or from Long Island. It often seemed to me they looked down on each other, whereas we weren't even on the "look down radar screen." When my wife and I were married in a then-posh place called The Manor in West Orange, I remember a pair of my Long Island relatives (in matching polyester pants suits, no less) giving us a gift of a $20 check and a $10 bill. My wife figured out that once there, they were so surprised that they weren't in a tavern basement that they thought they ought to up the ante, so they pried open the envelope and threw in another ten!

I would hear these folks oft talk of "Finnish basements." I was mesmerized and stupefied by why one would want a Scandinavian-style basement. (I was always shocked that these people actually owned houses to begin with.) What would be the advantage? A built-in sauna? Caribou fur? Superb winter insulation? I didn't get it. But they were so popular that I would listen to these occasional visitors from another planet talk about designing one, finally completing one, and who had the biggest one. (What did Finns know about basements? Could they even build them in the permafrost?)

As life would have it, nothing much changed until I was in high school and had a once-in-a-lifetime lucky break to become an exchange student. I won the competition for my school (out of Ozzie and Harriet: competitors were the president of the student council and editor of the newspaper (moi); the president of the class; the editor of the yearbook; and the quarterback and captain of the football team). And you'll never guess what: The kid spending time in our school, and to whose home we would return over the summer after touring Europe (drum roll��) was FINNISH!! (He is today the Finnish ambassador to Paris, Esko Hamilo.)

As soon as we were introduced, I hit him with my one cultural, relevant question: What on earth goes into a Finnish basement?

His English was idiomatic and perfect: "Have you lost your mind? You WON this competition?"

Well, I came to be apprised that what my cousins had been bragging about were "finished basements," as opposed to cellars where dirt, rocks, rodents, and occasional strange remains were found. None of my relatives were very good with "ed" and "ing" endings to begin with (think Bada Bing and Jersey Shore), so technically, this misunderstanding wasn't my fault.

And, before you laugh too much at me, how much does this phenomenon plague all of us? I always thought that "Jingle Bells" was about a "one horse soap and sleigh," not an "open sleigh." Yet we make similar mistakes in social and business contexts. I've seen people at blackjack tables utter a certain profanity and wind up being "hit" by the dealer when they didn't really request a card yet. I've watched people engage in active bidding at auctions without realizing their body language was triggering the auctioneer's maddening babble.

Listen to what's going on around you and seek clarity if something seems strange. You don't want to have to go to Helsinki just to enjoy a rec room.

2010 Teleconference Series

A powerful, exciting lineup for the coming year, with a huge discount IF you register by December 31 (no exceptions). For the first time we'll be dealing with setting priorities, living large, spirituality, creating communities, and much more. Free downloads and recordings of every session are included.


Return to Top


I talked to a guy who is the concierge at the regional theater here where I was on the board for a long time. I wanted to see two plays while we're in New York for New Year's and he has reciprocal arrangements for house seats. He returned my call within ten minutes.

"No problem," he said, "and take my cell number in case you need me again when I'm not in the office."

We went into a packed restaurant recently, where we've never been and aren't known. "Uh, oh," I said, grabbing the last space in the large lot.

The hostess said, "Two for dinner? I'm sure I can fit you in somewhere." The waiter said, "Welcome, let me tell you about our place and the menu." The food matched the service. We're going back. (Antonio's in Cranston, RI, if you're interested.)

I had some minor, elective surgery not long ago. The doctor sent me flowers. The nurse assigned to me called two days later to see how I was doing.

In the past two months, flying to St. Lucia and Key West, I gave out my last six American Airlines recognition certificates to outstanding fight attendants. American provides these so that its best customers can honor its best employees (they receive prize awards). The six were all taken aback and appreciative.

Showing up at a restaurant in South Beach (A Fish Called Avalon), the manager said, "You're a tad early, so take the very best seats you'd like, and I'll work around you."

I've had our two cars coincidentally serviced over one week, and the service manager said, "It's a busy time, don't worry about the bill, we'll settle up when I can get to it." She also saved me $5,000 on a wheel replacement with some internal finesse.

Our snow plow guy shows up like a wraith in the night without ever being called, sometimes comes back to make a second pass, and doesn't bill me until May. Some years he plows a dozen times or more.

Our newspaper delivery woman sent me a note telling me that my Christmas gift was so generous she couldn't believe it, and wanted me to know how important it was toward making this a happy holiday for her family.

I couldn't manage a funds transfer on Citibank's web site, so I called their number and prepared to reread "The Bridge Over the River Kwai." But someone picked up in less than 60 seconds of holding, took care of the transfer, double checked my needs, and wished me happy holidays. The next morning, a second guy called me from the security area, apologized profusely, and said, "There is so much fraud this time of year that we call our customers with major transactions just to make certain it was them on the phone." When I told him it was, indeed, me, he apologized again for the "intrusion" and wished me Merry Christmas.

This could be contagious. I don't know what's come over me, but when an overworked traffic officer finally got us moving out of gridlock near a mall, I waved and said "Thank you" for his efforts. He smiled and said, "Welcome!"

I hope you enjoyed this. But if not, have a good day!

Return to Top

I wish you the best of health, peace, love, and prosperity for 2010. After all, what's the alternative? Be well, and help someone else to be well.

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.

Video Rant

See Writing on the Wall, featuring Koufax the Wonder Dog.

Visit my blog

Two new podcasts every week. Special cigar smoking room.

2010 Teleconference Series

A powerful, exciting lineup for the coming year, with a huge discount IF you register by December 31 (no exceptions). For the first time we'll be dealing with setting priorities, living large, spirituality, creating communities, and much more. Free downloads and recordings of every session are included. DECEMBER 31 2009 DEADLINE FOR DISCOUNT!

The Art and Science of Process Visuals

Providence/Newport area, Feb. 3, 2010

For the first time ever, a full day on the creation, application, and extension of these powerful visuals to use in marketing, implementation, workshops, and elsewhere. Learn the three different ways to create them and depart with personalized process visuals of your own. Limited participation for this intense day.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
March 22-26, 2010

The finest developmental experience for professional service providers, featuring business acquisition, fee setting, branding, market gravity, the language of the sale, proposals, and much more. Fast becoming THE requirement for great consulting success, located at a spectacular property in Newport, RI. Limited participation. We have two participants from Australia already, five total.

The Odd Couple®

Las Vegas, NV,
June 12-13, 2010

We're baaaaaack!! Alan Weiss and Patricia Fripp in Vegas, for their 13th presentation of this now legendary workshop. Two days solely on marketing for professional and aspiring speakers, including technology, social platforms, building communities, and the accelerant curve! Don't miss the learning or the fun!

Shameless Promotion

East Greenwich, RI
Scheduled on demand

One-to-four people participate in a rigorous two days of promotional "mayhem," in which we create assertive and powerful approaches to mold thought leaders, "go to" people, interviewing targets, and objects of interest. The second course is now completed, and we ensure compatibility by vetting applicants. Nothing else like this if you seek to "rise above the noise." One to four people, scheduled at mutual convenience.

No one asks here what school you went to or who your parents are. All that�s really important is where you're going.—AW

E-mail [email protected]
P.O. Box 1009 � East Greenwich, RI 02818-0964 � Telephone: (401) 884-2778 � Fax: (401) 884-5068

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Summit Consulting Group