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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 131: July 2010)

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  • Experience trumps opinion. Remember the observation, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” If you’ve been doing it, ignore the theorists. If they’ve been doing it and you haven’t, it may be better to put your opinions to rest, listen, and learn.

  • “There is no zealot like the converted.” Beware of people supposedly offering objective advice but who really have their own agenda. I’ve about had it with people who count male and female pronouns in my speeches, as though that is some measure of my perspective or competence.

  • Don’t wait for the “right opportunity” to come along to try something, or you’ll never get to it. Create the opportunity and proceed to try it.

  • Second-guessing yourself is like arguing with yourself—no matter who wins, you lose. You’re better off with an (inevitably) imperfect approach that you can fine-tune as you speed down the road.

  • Break daunting tasks into chunks. Do you really need to clean out the cluttered garage, or call everyone on the donor list, or write a complete book chapter at one time? Spread out the major challenges and create small victories for yourself as you assemble the pieces.

  • Read just one page of the history and culture of a country before you go there and you won’t feel like so much of a stranger and tourist when you arrive. Beyond that: Learn the currency, and a few simple phrases, such as “Thank you,” “What’s for dinner?” and “Where is the bathroom?”

  • If you’re seeking help or support, find empathy, not sympathy. You want someone who understands how you feel and can provide objective advice, not someone who feels what you feel and offers their own experiences. ("You think you had a rough time, listen to what I had to go through").

  • Here’s a quick secret for getting along and playing nicely in the sandbox: When something goes amiss, don’t look for guilt, look for cause. Focus on correcting the situation and not blaming anyone. The former develops support, the latter enmity.

  • A hard copy letter send by Fedex has a far better chance of reaching an executive than a mundane email. If it’s that important, invest the money.

  • Anyone who insists on dividing a meal check by what they actually consumed instead of in equal shares is not going to be invited out very often. The ten dollars you save isn’t going to get you very far, and if you don’t like your dining companions’ habit of sharing, then why are you out with them to begin with?

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A boy in Coventry, Rhode Island—8 years old—makes a baseball cap as an assignment on patriotism which includes two toy soldiers on the bill of the cap, holding rifles. The rifles are about an inch long.

He is immediately charged under the school's policy of zero tolerance for weapons. No, I am not making this up.

We've all seen boys sent home from school for pulling a girl's pigtails under "sexual harassment" guidelines. Toy guns, of course, could get you expelled. A boy offering an aspirin to a classmate in grammar school was nailed under the school's zero-tolerance drug policy.

"Zero tolerance" is a euphemism for "don't expect us to think or use judgment." Consulting superstar Peter Drucker observed a long time ago that laws created from scandals, to foil once miscreant, are always bad laws, because they punish a hundred innocents. They frustrate good practice while seldom ending malpractice. (The bad guys will always find a way.)

I recall a notorious police officer in a mid-sized town who gave tickets for the smallest technical infractions. One day, he found himself going 26 miles-per-hour in a 25 MPH zone, and he wrote himself a ticket! This is not zealous regard for the law. This is a personality disorder.

We certainly don't have "zero-tolerance" for speeding under normal circumstances, since my informal experience of the past 30 years is that most drivers are exceeding the posted limit most of the time. We'd need the equivalent of the population of China to try to monitor that and penalize all the offenders. But the police, in this case, use judgment.

I remember how my very active, daredevil son would get bruised every week falling off something or battling some immovable object. These days, nine different official and self-appointed authorities would turn us in for possible child abuse. How did any of us ever grow up without all these rules and "zero tolerance" enforcement?

A retired Rhode Island major general wound up pinning a star on the kid with the baseball cap, and explained the real teaching point: Soldiers must use real guns to defend themselves and the country, but that's where guns belong, not in the hands of children or in school. That's something even a 8-year-old can readily understand.

But apparently not the school board.

Life is not an "on/off" switch, it's mostly a rheostat, with differing settings. But when everything becomes black or white, and there are no shades of grey, the fight for which way to set that single switch can be quite ugly.

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The human condition: Derivativeness

I thought I had made up that word until my spell checker didn’t blink a byte. I’m not talking about arcane investment vehicles which can bankrupt small countries.

I’m talking about a lack of originality.

Think and Grow Rich is a classic work by Napoleon Hill, written in the 1930s. Unfortunately, others have chosen to simply cash in on the word play, naming their books things like Fish and Grow Rich or Network and Grow Rich, or Get Rich and Grow Rich. If you have a good idea, can’t you at least be more original?

Once Chicken Soup for the Soul became such a hit compilation, I actually began to receive inquiries from people who had never written a cogent sentence before telling me they were working on a compilation of pet stories, or house horrors, or lawnmower laughter, and they’d like my contribution. The legalese would go like this: “You will surrender copyright to your story and may not use it elsewhere, and I will gain copyright because I will change it’s cadence and tone. You will get excellent exposure in return.”

Right, sort of like you get in a damp, dank, fungus-growing cellar.

Chicken Soup, a brilliant exercise in marketing, spawned a legion of would-be imitators and apers, too feeble to come up with their own ideas but trying hard to cash in on someone else’s. I’m waiting for Think and Grow Chicken Soup.

There are too many people merely seeking to be derivative. They see someone else’s successful idea and want to jump on the bandwagon, ride the coattails, follow the yellow brick road. The problem is it rarely ever works, because the people with the original ideas corner that market. The Chicken Soup folks are on the umpteenth book, place mat, and coffee mug, while the woman who wanted to usurp my pet stories with her own “cadence” never got out of the kennel, thank goodness.

We need to present novel views and original ideas. The work involved in trying to adjust someone else’s success to our own condition is probably far more taxing than attempting to develop some new approach consistent with our position.

Derivatives were part of the recent collapse of the financial system, and they are equally noxious in our business and professional systems. To succeed, personally and professionally, we have to be the source of new ideas which makes us objects of interest to others.

Otherwise, we’re not even Johnny One Note. We’re Johnny Somebody Else’s Note. And it takes more than chicken soup to cure that.

Upcoming Events

Just Announced:


Write to me: [email protected]
The Breakers, West Palm Beach, FL,
October 13-15

An incredible three full days, focused on building your profile as a thought leader and "go to" person in your niche. We will have an outside, undisputed thought leader for one discussion segment, videos to deconstruct, three books to discuss, a personalized commercial book outline created, elegant meals, and a great deal more under my very aggressive leadership. Emerge with a clear blueprint, which will include my Stairstep Methodology, to become THE thought leader in your field.

Maximum 16 people admitted, all meals and luxury lodging included. Marshall Goldsmith, the pre-eminent thought leader in executive and personal coaching, will be my guest as a discussion leader on the final morning


Denver, CO,
October 7.
Venue to be announced.

Accelerate you speaking and consulting career, the lowest price workshop I've produced in many years, intended for newcomers, people who are "stuck," and veterans who need a boost. An intensive day in Denver, includes a free book. Take a day to move your career ahead by a year.

A Special Teleconference: Riding the Recovery

July 1,
One hour,
Noon Eastern,
free download to follow.

As I write this, the market is leaping forward about 400 points in half a day. That kind of volatility will continue, but on an upswing, which I predicted amidst the "doom and gloomers" last year. Just as I did in "Accelerate Your Business in A Dismal Economy," and "From Panic to PROFIT," this is a very special hour, packed to the rafters with practical techniques to turbo-charge your progress in a turbulent but unmistakable recovery. Choice of free book included.



September 16-17
Hyatt Regency Goat Island,
Warwick, RI

A rare third offering, due to popular demand. Building on my work with individuals around the globe, I want to help you:

  • Identify the uncertainties, perceived vulnerabilities, and situations which cause you to perform at less than your optimal capacity.
  • Understand the causes of those dynamics, and receive timely yet non-threatening feedback about how to resolve them.
  • Master and apply techniques that will help you maintain and manifest a high self-esteem level "in the moment" when it is most needed.
  • Avoid the debris and detritus in your life which tend to damage self-esteem, and focus on the routes of least resistance to self-worth and its manifestation.

In brief, personally and professionally, you will be able to deal with daily routine and exceptional circumstances; with varied and often tough personalities in your life; and to overcome the problems caused by pressure, unfamiliarity, and perceived threat.

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I've noticed that when I pull into the gas station, the attendant waits patiently behind the car. After I hit the wrong button and open the trunk, he swiftly closes it, then when I hit the right button and open the gas tank, he proceeds to fill the car.

Neither of us ever remark on the arrangement, it's just become standard operating procedure.

This is, of course, a design flaw in the car.


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2010 Teleconference Series

A powerful, exciting lineup for the coming year. 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. Join now and receive downloads of any you've missed this year.


September 27, 2010
Sea Pines Plantation
Hilton Head, SC

The ability to write with influence, facility, and speed is critical in creating articles, position papers, proposals, blog entries, business correspondence, reports, inquiries, and, of course, books. Imagine being able to write a superb article within an hour, a winning proposal within two hours, an enticing booklet within a day, an exciting book proposal within a week (and a book in two months)?! I'm inviting you to join me to learn my secrets (over 10 million words in print) in a single, intensive day of learning. Optional small group Writer's Circles will emerge for monthly phone meetings with me. (This is scheduled immediately prior to my Private Roster Mentor Program Summit at the same property.)


October 26-27
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Warwick, RI

Back for a second time by popular demand, use the extensive prep work, two-day event, teleconferences, podcasts, and coaching to create, develop, complete, and market your own new product, from text to electronic, from clients to prospects, from New York to Tokyo.


October 28, 2011
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Warwick, RI

This is a methodology workshop analogous to The Strategist and The Coach. I only touched on change management in my Best Practices Workshop, due to the volume of material I was covering This workshop is intended for consultants who are (or who seek to be) engaged in change management efforts in large and small businesses, non-profits, government, and/or educational institutions. (Sign up for Thought Leadership, above, and attend this with my compliments!)


December 13-17,
Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI

Join us for the 14th of these unique programs to accelerate your progress through business acquisition, fee setting, methodology, delivery, sustainable business, and life balance. An intensive 4.5 days with a very small group in one of the great properties in the country.


January 12-13, 2011

January 12-13, 2011 I'm offering the Change Management Workshop and the Thrive! Workshop on successive days in Berlin. Join us for this first offering in one of my favorite cities.

If you have the intent to interfere, you had better also have the heart to help.—AW

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