Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 226, June 2018)

A free monthly newsletter about balancing life, work, and relationships based on the books and popular workshops conducted by Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Past copies are archived on our web site:
Copyright 2018 Alan Weiss. All rights reserved.
ISSN 1934-3116 

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.

Balancing act is in four sections this month:

1. Techniques for Balance

2. Musings

3. The Human Condition: Mythology


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• Don’t expect to be thanked for every favor and good turn. You’ll be disappointed far less often and pleasantly surprised far more often.

• It’s bad enough when people are rude and vulgar watching professional sports in person. When it’s your kid’s game in a school league, it’s akin to child abuse.

• If I opened a door for a woman and she gave me a sarcastic comment or chided me for it, I’d tell her to get a life. That’s because I open the door for whomever happens to be following me.

• I habitually thank the bussers when they pour water or bring bread or remove dishes. I wonder if there’s a connection with our table being taken care of so efficiently and my needs anticipated (malt vinegar appears with the fries).

• If businesses choose to cut back on expenses, that’s the management’s prerogative unless it demonstrably affects me. I told the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Naples once: “I don’t care how nice the room is, if the maids aren’t permitted to change the amenities daily and the front desk phone rings for a long time because you’re understaffed, I’m not running more meetings here.”

• If I were on The Price Is Right game show, I wouldn’t know the price of anything at all and would quickly lose. I have no idea what a bottle of soda, container of milk, or loaf of bread costs.

• With the exception of some science fiction movies (which have their own problem with noisy audiences screaming) I don’t find any qualitative difference between watching a film in a movie theater and on a large screen TV.

• The laws of entropy degrade plateaus and debase social norms. An example: When I pull into a “full service” gas station in Rhode Island, they pump the gas but they rarely clean the windshield unless I specifically ask. Let’s call it “partially full service” or “our notion of full service.”

• It’s funny that when I travel (what passes for) first class domestically, I just want to be treated politely, but when I travel (legitimate) first class internationally I’m treated like royalty. Yet service levels in restaurants and hotels in the US are generally better than anywhere in the world except for parts of Asia in my experience.

• If a New Yorker says, “Jeet?” he or she is inquiring as to whether you’ve eaten. If you haven’t and wonder if the other person has, you reply, “No, djou?”

I’m fascinated by reactions to problems. I’ve always seen them as opportunities, ever since my days consulting for Mercedes-Benz North America.

That company was concerned over complaints about poor service from buyers. They asked me to find out what other car companies were doing better, but I convinced them to first investigate internally (I call this “internal best practices”) because some of their “stores” (as they called them) had higher service ratings than others. So, why not try to achieve that higher level of excellence internally first?

The best dealers told me that their success with service was based not on flawless operations, but rather on response to problems. As I thought about this I realized that no one goes home raving about a hotel because they delivered room service food on time. Instead, they’re ecstatic when room service is late or incorrect, and management waives their room charges for that evening.

Sure enough, some Mercedes dealers, confronted with a scratch on the trunk a day after the car left the showroom asked the buyer how that happened and said the repair would be $600 (about $200 at actual cost). But the highest rated dealers said, “We apologize for not having caught that, we’ll fix it for free and give you a loaner car in the meantime.” Think about the difference in referral business and repeat business from those vastly differing attitudes.

I tripped in a salon the other day because they had carelessly allowed the dryer cord to become taut across the bottom of the chair about three inches off the ground. I fell on the floor, but thankfully didn’t have any serious injuries. But the staff did nothing, collected for the haircut, and accepted the tip (which I offered to see what the reaction would be). I let the owner know he’s lucky, because I could have closed him up with a single call to my lawyer. His people didn’t know how to handle a problem. The owner hasn’t apologized, and I won’t be back, and I will tell other people not to go there.

What’s your response to the inevitable problems of our businesses and lives? Do you see the opportunity not merely to recover but to improve? Or do you try to ignore it or blame the customer (or family member)?

I think it depends a lot upon your own self-esteem and feelings of worth. Only those who feel poorly about themselves try to continually “duck” the blame.

The rest of us man-up; woman-up; person-up!

When you repeat something often enough, you subliminally begin to believe it. That’s why résumés of high-ranking people are found to have lies on them, because what was once a lie became an exaggeration and then morphed into false reality. This has happened with people such as Hillary Clinton and Brian Williams, and also with your best friends, work colleagues...and, perhaps, with you.

We were told as kids never to run with a sharp stick or “we’d poke our eye out” (more likely it would be someone else’s) and that even a nanosecond less than sixty minutes after eating, if we ventured into the water we’d get cramps and drown (even in the kiddie pool).

If you think this is far-fetched or just for the terminally naïve, think about those who swear you can’t market services over the summer or during the Christmas Holiday season, as if everyone went to the beach en masse, or left to celebrate for a week at home. We seem to believe that social media provides for excellent contacts, but research (such as Jonah Berger’s in Invisible Influence and Contagion) show that only four percent of word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer influence actually occurs over the internet. Most of it is in person.

Drunken driving and traffic fatalities are a horrible problem, but they are in decline and the culprits are habitual violators—people who have no registration, licenses, or insurance, and who are not kept in jail but are released to repeat the offense until someone is killed. Steven Pinker has been studying and writing about the fact that the world is far better today than 30 years ago in areas such as poverty, nuclear disarmament, income improvement at all levels, disease reduction, fewer dictatorships, and so forth. The mythology is that 2017 was the worst year ever, but it’s far from it, it’s actually one of the best.

There is no Loch Ness Monster, no Sasquatch, no Yeti, no aliens in some Air Force hangar in the Utah desert. We may love novelty, and joke about conspiracies, but when we begin to believe them, we are paranoid.

And the worst kind of mythology is that you, yourself, are awkward, or inept, or careless, or lazy. We’re told those things by irresponsible parents, and teachers, and siblings, and “friends.” You’re none of those things.

Don’t let the myths substitute for your reality.

I drive four different vehicles. They are, of course, highly differentiated in how they are engineered, so that the light switches, wiper stalks, and navigation systems vary widely.

Whenever I drove the Bentley to the gas stations (which is often) and tried to remember which side the gas tank was on to get the appropriate angle, I hit the remote gas cap opener. However, that location was on the Rolls, and on the Bentley that location opened the trunk.

I did this so often that the gas station attendant, upon spotting the Bentley, would automatically stand at the rear of the car to close the trunk before coming to my window to take my credit card.

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This is an entirely new offering comprising of what I’ve learned over the past two years in my global work and communities. I’ve delivered it in London and will in Adelaide in November. I’ll be covering leads, compelling messages, the new kinds of sales evangelism, innovative marketing, virtually labor-free relationships, and much more. I anticipate participants will call the office to change practices and rewrite proposals during the program.

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Thinking BIG

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Thought Leadership

I’m now in my eighth year of presenting top global thinkers in an intimate setting (including dinner and a small group of attendees), at a world-class property. Join me and Charlene Li, a global expert on service, social media influence, and performance, herself a former CEO, who has been consistently quoted in major print and broadcast media as well as written a seminal book in the field. Five places remain.

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Evergreen Clients and Never-Ending Value

Once again, Colleen Francis—THE global sales strategy expert—joins me in an intensive experience on creating long-term, seven-figure clients. We call this “never-ending value” which results in “evergreen” customers. This is our second such offering, and we’ve expanded it to two full days to accommodate all new material and specific evergreen exercises that can lead to immediate application. Limited attendance.

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What in the World is Going On?

Join me for an "Alan Unplugged" SAC webinar session on society and business, Tuesday, June 5th, at 10am PDT/1pm EDT. 
This webinar is included as a benefit of SAC membership. If you're not a SAC member, you may attend for $79 (still a great deal!) by clicking here. Or, you could join SAC and enjoy these events each month without paying for them separately. 


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Balancing Act® is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing the blending of life, work, and relationships, based on the popular Balancing Act workshops and writing of Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Contact us for further information at: [email protected].
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© Alan Weiss 2018

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.


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





Not all people can be, or want to be, helped. Focus on the ones that do. You’re an expert, not a saint.

Alan Weiss