Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 199, March 2016)
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Why do we listen to people who have no sound reason, no empirical validation for giving us advice? I'm constantly hearing that someone's idea for an electric fork was solidly supported by a random seatmate on the flight from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, or someone has given up their idea about writing a book on tripling attendance at events because a member of a desultory association meeting thought it was impossible.
Serena Williams has a tennis coach for her serve. He does not play at her caliber of championship competition, but he does know a hell of a lot about serves and can produce a mean serve. If my dance teacher critiques my tango, I'm listening, but if another beginning student does, I'm not.
We have to be very careful about to whom we choose to listen. Sometimes we're listening to a ghost—long ago comments from family or friends which have no current basis in reality, but are nonetheless preventing us from fully enjoying our current reality. Sometimes we're listening to static—unclear noise and strained communication which we are misinterpreting as cautionary or supportive. Sometimes we're listening to volume—someone whose decibel level is hard to ignore although the advice ought not be.
Critics have their role in the theater, literature, art, and so on. They are usually trained and informed about the content of their specialty. But I've always maintained it's easier to critique than create. And most who critique aren't at a true critic's standards. They are merely voicing opinion and personal bias, often sadly misinformed. And some practice projection, the psychological condition that if they couldn't easily accomplish something, well, neither can you because you're certainly not more talented than they are!
Make sure the people from whom you accept feedback have demonstrated excellence in at least some aspect of what you seek to do. I've never found people who can teach someone to ride a bike without having ridden one themselves.
The human condition: Inattention
"I never received the instructions for the teleconference," is a typical plaint, when the accuser did receive them but either ignored them or failed to search for them in the spam folder. (Or even worse: Has a spam filter that I'm not about to try to negotiate when I have hundreds of people signed up for an experience.)
Someone complained the other day because I had promised to speak to them prior to an important business meeting they had coming up, and he couldn't reach me. But he had left a message on my business line instead of calling my cell phone which I had clearly written to him to do, since I wasn't in my office. Many people don't listen to a full voice message or just glance at a caller ID, so they never receive the full request or correct return number.
Some people protest that a book selling for $35 winds up on their charge card for $55, yet the site clearly says we add shipping charges outside the U.S., and do you expect us to ship for free!? Another woman demanded the download of an event which she didn't receive within the 48 hours promised—but it was 48 hours after the event which wouldn't take place for another two weeks!
It's bad enough people are texting and emailing and yakking every waking hour. But this just adds to an already present, underlying inattention. The world is moving so fast that many of us have embraced the attention span of a gnat. We can't fully read or listen or watch, because we want to hurry to the next thing that we won't fully read, listen to, or watch.
There are people who haven't turned in multi-million dollar winning lottery tickets. There are those who miss planes. Some aren't chosen for opportunities because they don't show up in time. We love instant replay because we miss so much the first time around.
Want to stand out in a crowd? Just pay attention.
I was informed that my next installment was due for my gym and trainer. Since they don’t send a formal bill, I tend to forget. My remedy is to write the check as soon as I get home and put it in my sneaker so that I have it for my visit two days later.
On Friday morning I wrote some checks for other purposes, saw the stub with the gym check amount, and went to dress for my morning workout. But there was no check sitting in my sneaker. It was nowhere to be found, so I voided the prior one, wrote out a new one, and brought it to the gym.
After returning home, I took off my sneakers and, stuck to my sock, there was a trampled, crumpled, smeared check which I had been trampling for the prior hour.
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Pain is unavoidable, suffering is a choice