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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 127: March 2010)

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Techniques for Balance

  • If you need something from someone that you can't afford to purchase, don't be a mendicant. Offer value in another form. I've found that nearly everyone to whom I offer a scholarship or value pays me back in some way. Those who have asked me for something for free without commensurate value offered, have seldom ever even made the offer or attempt at recompense.

  • Don't punish yourself with perfection. My birdfeeders are constantly visited by squirrels. My response has been to have a lot of feeders. My philosophy is that the squirrels have to eat, too. Why are they the enemy? (They're having enough trouble dodging my German Shepherd.)

  • Life is seldom sequential. It is concurrent. It's fine to pursue a reasonable number of priorities at once. I'm usually writing two or three books at once, because it makes no sense for the second one to wait for the completion of the first. And it keeps me more interested. (Fortunately, I pursue volume, not accuracy.)

  • Try having an outstanding lunch and a very light dinner on occasion. Completely refreshes the day.

  • You can lock your luggage with special locks that TSA and other security operations can open and relock. They're not great, but it's better than simply leaving the luggage unlocked. (Here's an example:

  • Upset? Write a letter to the editor. It may not get published, but you'll feel better!

  • I've begun stopping strangers who staff retail operations on the phone when they call me "Alan." I've found that such informality actually decreases their performance and makes them equally informal about their job responsibilities. A flight attendant on American Airlines came down the aisle taking drink orders, and said, "Hi, I'm Andrea," and asked very passenger is she could call them "Nancy," or "George," or whatever. I told her "no." Do you call your doctor by his or her first name?

  • You'll see more and more (once rare) standing ovations today, even in "sophisticated" environments, such as the theater. I'm convinced that it's for the audience, in that they want to assure themselves they've spent their money on something worthwhile, and that's how they're going to prove it! (Australians seldom give a standing ovation, which is one of many things I love about them.)

  • Be honest: Do you ask the vet more questions about your pet than you do the teachers about your kid or the doctor about your own health?

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I was sitting in the back of a meeting room in which I was about to conduct a workshop. It was about 8:30 am, and my wont is to sit by myself and simply watch people. This is one of my primary learning devices.

One of the participants had asked my permission to bring his dog, a hound somewhat larger than my own German Shepherd. It was a dog-friendly hotel, he assured me that the dog would keep quiet, and he would stay in a very large cage. If there were problems, the hotel could make other arrangements.

Indeed, despite the people, noise, and food, the dog was quite content to look around and take things in. (We were actually in the same mode, but the dog had a quite nice stuffed rabbit of some kind in his massive paws.)

I noticed that as people walked in, there were only two reactions, since you couldn't very well miss this huge creature in the cage. People either said something akin to, "Whoa, what a dog!" and went over to talk to him (full well knowing that talking to me in the morning is not very productive), or they quickly looked away again and found themselves a seat. I'd say the ratio was about 70/30.

Which prompts this observation: Assuming you're not allergic to dogs, or have recently lost one and don't want to be reminded, why would you simply ignore this large animal in unusual surroundings? And especially at the start of a day, don't you tend to be energetic, inquisitive, and enthusiastic?

Alas, a lot of people begin their day in a funk, grouchy and semi-belligerent, and things go rapidly downhill from there. Occasionally this happens to us all, but if this is the normal modus operandi, there's something wrong. It's not necessarily transgressive not to be interested in a dog, but it is a poor start to a day when you lack curiosity and verve.

All dogs, of course, are naturally interested in their surroundings, and can read the shrugs and twitches of people with near-Gnostic precision. Yet I've seen people on the sidewalk completely ignore someone climbing the side of the building they are passing, and when it is pointed out, they reply, "That's nice, but I have other things on my mind," or "I'm running late."

So remove the dog (those of you objecting to my allowing the dog—who was totally quiet—in the room, and not providing vaccination shots to everyone, please send your letters to my address, care of Buddy Beagle, but also see the next column in this issue) and my point remains the same. There are people who light up a room with their enthusiasm and inquisitive nature, whom you're happy to see and comforted to be with. There are others who cast a pall as they absorb energy and oxygen from the immediate vicinity.

I know whom I want to be near, and whom I want to avoid. I know for whom I'm more likely to be candid and sharing and even inconvenienced.

And I know with whom I'm more likely to trust my dog and my money.

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hear no evil

I can understand people getting upset with me when I write about controversial topics. I'm a provocative guy, I like to poke people, love to make them think. When it happens to me, I write a letter to the editor, or the author, or the keeper of the book of truth (Wikipedia). But I keep on reading.

Recently, a guy vituperatively ended his (free) subscription to Alan's Monday Morning Memo® because I had cast aspersions on attempts at collaboration. My point, in less than a single paragraph, was that most such attempts are purely conceptual and theoretical, and many times the collaborator often merely wants something you have.

Well!! My ex-subscriber went into a snit because his company had "collaboration" in its name, it was always good, always laudable, always to be sought. He ranted, ungrammatically, that "I should had a more open mind."

Perhaps. But perhaps he could have engaged in a discussion with me (I had 20 favorable comments on the piece and only his negative one), or challenged me back, or used my blasphemy in his own blog to show how benighted I am. Instead, he called me names, put his hand over his ears, started yelling "yayayayayayayaya," and ran away into the night.

That's what happens when you cancel subscriptions, end memberships, stop visits, and otherwise bail out once you've heard something that threatens your belief system. How strong and well balanced is your belief system if a contrary view drives you to hysteria? There are people threatening the New York Times and Golf Digest and Stamps Magazine every day with non-renewal and cancellation over some perceived threat or damaging remark. Maybe they should read more carefully and try to intelligently determine a) if they are right to be outraged, and b) how most effectively to react if they are right.

Can you imagine a board meeting where every opposing view is met with shouts and refusal to listen to the other side? Pretty soon, you'd have the South Korean parliament, where they tend to throw punches and chairs over legislative disagreements.

A healthy condition seems to me to be one where we listen to opposing views, consider their merits, and make reasoned decisions whether or not to change our own. We can then feel free to try to enlighten the other party if we believe they are laboring too far from the street light at dusk.

But to act as if decency itself had been offended, the lords and ladies endangered, and society teetering on the brink, and then turn your back and slink off into the crepuscular depths, well, that's too much like those monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouths.

Other opinions aren't evil. And running from them is simply stupid.

Upcoming Eventss


Newport, RI
April 21-22

A full day and optional second morning based on my newest book. Learn how to jettison baggage, organize around pragmatic needs and not empty wishes, blow up obstacles to success, and face each morning thrilled with the personal and professional opportunities that await. Invigorate your life. The optional, second morning will feature a personal, customized, Thrive Plan.


Newport, RI
May 19-20

A full day and optional second day to explore the role of spirituality in our lives. This will feature a segment with a "God Squad" interdenominational panel of clergy moderated by me, examination of the differences and commonalities between a spiritual life and religious life, examples of how we deal with loss, uncertainty, the unknown, and fears. This is not a religious retreat, but rather a candid discussion of what spirituality is and why it matters. The optional second morning will feature voluntary discussions of personal experiences and learning for all of us to share. Limited participation.

Alan Weiss’s The Write Stuff™

September 27, 2010

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.

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I had ordered a steak in a superb restaurant, but was dismayed to find I had been given a regular dinner knife and not a steak knife. I had been told that the steaks were unusually tender, but I was convinced this knife was insufficient.

Sure enough, the steak arrived and I began sawing away, hardly making a dent. I promptly motioned to the captain, who rushed to the table. I pointed out the obvious problem.

He then turned my knife over, so that the serrated edge was facing the steak. That, of course, seemed to do the trick.

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.

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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.

The Art and Science of Process Visuals

Las Vegas, NV, June 11, 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. Four seats remain.

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. The next session is already filled, March 29-30.

Sometimes other opinions are the only ones that are interesting, because they break up the monotony of our own voice.—AW

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