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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 179, July 2014 )

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  • The more you need validation from others, the more you seek to control their responses. Hence, some speakers' need for standing ovations and "10s" on feedback sheets.

  • Modify your environment to better suit you and you'll feel better and act stronger.

  • A "thank you" note stands out in a crowd today more than ever before, as does a "sympathy" note.

  • Feelings aren't necessarily reality. Move from emotion back to logic to test whether what you feel is real (they don't hate you, your presentation was well received, she is your friend).

  • When others are more important to you than you are to yourself you usually become less able to help, not more able to help.

  • Providing support is often about listening and asking questions, not talking and offering solutions.

  • Don't fear being angry with yourself (just don't transfer the anger to others). If you're "stuck" on something, being angry with your inaction can often break up the logjam.

  • It's a sad commentary when we have to be reminded to "favor forward" or provide common courtesies. I've always thought that people who don't allow other drivers to enter traffic in front of them are very unhappy people.

  • "Binge watching" television has more to it than you might think. Cramming for exams was "binge studying," right? What about binge medical checkups, or vacations, or personal renewal?

  • Around here, everything grows like crazy in the spring and summer, with the exception of quite a few people I know. They don't seem to find nutrients and they don't get out in the sun enough.

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Retirement in today's times in the US (and elsewhere) is an ancient construct, an artifact no more modern than Stonehenge or the baths at Caracalla. With average lifespans reaching almost 80 and health care better than it's ever been for most of the population, the desire to stop working is bizarre.

Here's George Bernard Shaw: We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing games.

I know people who have retired "young" (in their late 50s and early 60s) who  are sitting around waiting to die, which might just take some time. I don't believe that one has to remain fully employed—although with current economic volatility, a constant income and not mere fixed income is highly recommended—but I do believe one has to remain fully engaged. That may mean volunteer work, or a second career, or starting a new business, or working with others in their business. But it can't merely be tending a garden or collecting spoons.

Our brains atrophy no less than our mussels if they are not regularly "worked out." There is strong evidence that dementia and Alzheimer's can be delayed or even avoided if one is continually engaged in intellectual activities. Our memories improve the more we recall things. Some type of fulfilling "work" creates these needs as daily requirements and not idle pursuits.

Aside from the pragmatics (the Social Security funding fails, fixed income can't handle high inflation, markets decline) of continued income, there is the vitality that arises from employing one's talents and being paid for them. And the contribution to society can be immense.

Most of you reading this have the opportunity to create your own "non-retirement" activities. You should throw yourself into such planning.

When my wife asked our financial advisor ten years ago when I might be able to retire, she responded, "From what I can see of your husband's lifestyle and work habits, he's been retired for at least five years. Haven't you noticed?!"

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The human condition: Unintended consequences

My observations on the Bad, Awful, Devious Law of Unintended Consequences (BAD LUC):

  • When you give someone free advice that's useful and you could have charged for, there's at least a 50% chance they'll ask for more and more.

  • Doing someone a favor but expecting to be rewarded creates an opposite reaction from gratification in the deed. People become incensed that they're not promptly thanked.

  • The harder you try to be funny, inevitably the less funny you seem.

  • When you are obsessive about cleaning something, whether your car or your hair, you often leave it less clean and/or weaker.

  • When you assign people to be the chair person of an issue they're complained about, you don't resolve the issue but do frustrate and end useful feedback on issues you need to hear about.

  • Making sure everyone gets into the game makes the benchwarmers unhappy because they'd rather be on a championship team with little personal playing time than a poor team which maximizes their playing time.

  • Most of the complaints about too much homework don't reflect kids' abilities but rather the lack of desire of parents to invest their own time.

  • People on extreme diets (no fat, organic only, etc.) tend to look unhealthier than those who eat normally.

  • Hotels and airlines lose money by charging more for last-minute reservations rather than giving their lowest rates to fill up rooms and seats. Holding a reservation early should cost the most for the safety and assurance.

  • People screaming on their cell phones in public are seldom having useful and productive conversations. They're talking for others' benefit, not their own.

  • The "prevent defense" in football usually prevents the team employing it from winning.

  • Eliminating cursive writing in schools to save time for more important subjects creates students less able to cope in the world.

  • Social media have reduced social discourse.

  • The behaviors and traits most effective for gaining the presidential nomination and victory at the polls are not those most effective for serving as President of the US.

  • Chines proverb: The result of saving money by not burning candles at night is twins.


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I had a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning and then had to catch a train for New York. My wife came with me in our SUV, and waited outside. Since she's taking piano lessons, she also brought her keyboard along to practice. It's pretty big.

When I came out of the building and headed for the truck, a man was staring at my wife in the back seat playing the keyboard.

"What's happening in there?" the man asked me.

"Oh, that's the best music entertainment system money can buy," I said, and got in the driver's seat and drove away, before my wife even realized what was going on.

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