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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 117: May 2009)
Techniques for balance
It seems to me, in light of my very recent experimentation with dangerous drugs (Linkedin and Facebook), that there is an interesting allure and dangerous addiction to both. (Twitter will follow in a couple of weeks, once I get back from the Betty Ford Clinic.)
Linkedin reminds me of a crazed flea market, and Facebook of a coffee shop. At the former, people appear to be mindlessly collecting things, and asking random questions of total strangers. At the latter, people seem to visit friendly faces (they are called "friends") in a familiar setting. You can "hide" people's comments, or deny them access. Meanwhile, the computer is constantly recommending new "friends."
A member of Linkedin recently sent me the entirely disingenuous invitation that pointed out since I was so "trusted" by her, she wanted to link. When I asked who on earth she was, she replied that she had one of her employees send out these invitations daily, and that she had no idea why I, a total stranger, had received it. Mark up a lost half-hour for each of us.
Another potential link told me that he simply wrote to everyone he could in an attempt to build up as many contacts as possible, since "that has to be of help to me in the long run." I told him to take up stamp collecting, it is more educational, more tangible, and also "has to be of help in the long run." (You can always use postage.)
One indignant writer told me that "Facebook is crap" and that Linkedin is the only way to go, that he made $300,000 (!!) over the last year by selling consulting services to executives he meets on Linkedin, and that he would appear for free in a webinar if I organized one and broadcast it to my community! (You see, addiction isn't pretty.)
Both my son and daughter are active on Facebook and it's fun to see them and commune there, but as my son notes, and he was brought up in the high tech age: "It really is a huge time dump." I've noticed that quite a few people who appear regularly, sometimes a half-dozen times in an hour, or even just minutes apart, are the same ones who I know are having trouble marketing and making a living as entrepreneurs. I guess that must just be a coincidence.
I'm not insisting that people should only be reading the great books or attending the theater (though I don't see how that could hurt), and I grok the recreation and networking aspects. I think the folks who invented these platforms are geniuses, though I think less of the "neutral" advocates who really have a financial motive for getting people to use them.
I will point out this, however: I write on Facebook (and here and other places) about my life. Facebook is not my life.
Susan Boyle has now had 45 million hits on YouTube after wowing the "Britain's Got Talent" contest with a stunning rendition of the Les Mis song, "I Dreamed A Dream." Why the big deal, when countless, excellent singers have also done so?
Because Ms. Boyle is not only not a star, but she is what the New York Times described as "frumpy," and what Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" alluded to as "never been kissed" in 47 years.
Ms. Boyle is the classic underdog. (Provenance is mixed, but I'm assuming that the roots of "underdog" are in the converse of "top dog," which would be the best dog in the show or competition.) She walks on stage somewhat uncertain, with hair and apparel that is in stark contrast to Amanda Holden, the female judge on the show, who is so perfectly coiffed and made up that it isn't surprising that her facial expression never changes, and wouldn't even if her colleague, Simon Cowell, started to pull her hair. The three judges (two of whom are merely "personalities" with no discernable talent themselves) who first regarded her are openly cynical, almost mocking, egging the audience on, as if to start a food throwing melee.
Then Ms. Boyle opens her mouth and the angels hold their breath. It is an untrained, unashamed, pure sound that is amplified by a wonderfully intelligent choice of song, suited for her range and the emotion of the moment. As simple as Ms. Boyle appears to be (she is unemployed and lives in a tiny house which is subsidized by the government), I can't believe that she couldn't have anticipated the awed response to her gorgeous instrument.
The smarmy judges were shocked into instant conversion, and Amanda made bold moves to raise her eyebrows (or at least that's what I think she was doing, she may have had a tic). The crowd rose in a sea of cheers, both to reward Ms. Boyle and to rebuke the hasty assessment of the judges (with whom they had quite clearly originally agreed).
Truth is, we love the underdog. That's why Uno, the first Beagle ever to win Westminster, was such a hit (to use a species-specific example of the phrase). That's why we went crazy in New York when the Mets won their first World Series. That's why grown men cry when they watch the movie "Rudy," about a Notre Dame sub who makes it into his very last eligible game.
We identify with the underdog because we often imagine the odds are against us and we have no chance to "win." It's refreshing to know there's a chance for us all.
Captain Sullenberger, of the US Airways landing in the Hudson River, and Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama who saved his crew, don't look at themselves as underdogs or as heroes. They see themselves as simply doing their jobs.
That's a pretty safe philosophy for all of us, 45 million hits on YouTube notwithstanding.
We were headed to a convention in Philadelphia, and I wanted to show off for my wife. I hired a stretch limo to meet us at the train station, and take us to the hotel. I had become irritated at the long hold time with American Express's travel service, so I booked the limo directly, on the phone, and rather, ah, assertively. I told the woman that I didn't need advice or suggestions, just take my credit card and the train arrival time.
"My pleasure," she dripped sarcastically.
The stretch was at the assigned place when we arrived, and I prided myself on my direct approach. The driver greeted us, loaded the bags, and got us settled.
Then he drove 30 seconds and two blocks to the hotel, and opened the door for us to disembark.
Special Charity Appeal:
No Man Is An Island, Or Is He?go to the article on Blog
I’m announcing a rare and unique charity fund raiser. Not long ago, I raised $50,000 for the Newport International Film Festival, which I chair, by offering a day of coaching at my home. Nine people have since come or scheduled appointments.
However, my wife is the special events chair for Festival Ballet Providence, and she is none too happy with me, since the ballet is in dire straits financially (artistically, it’s brilliant). Who knew that no good deed goes unpunished?
So, in order to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense, I’m announcing No Man Is An Island, Or Is He?
Specifically, I am offering two nights and three days at my personal Eden-on-Earth, the Wauwinet Inn on Nantucket. We’ve been staying there for 15 years, and many of you have heard my stories and seen the photos. (I’ve included some here.)
All you have to do is arrive (by plane, pedestrian ferry, or car ferry). Once there, ALL expenses are taken care of: room, local transportation, food, wine (except for souveniers!). We will start on the first night with dinner at Topper’s, the award-winning restaurant (with an award-winning wine list) where we might also share an 1870 Madeira at the bar while we watch the sun set. The next day we’ll meet after our breakfast together to talk about life, business, balance, politics�whatever makes sense, though I’ll have some topics to stimulate discussion.
Then, we’ll take jeeps with permits on the special reserve and drive out over the sand along the Atlantic to the point and lighthouse, a 40-minute trip. We may take box lunches, or have lunch on the Gatsby-like lawn before we depart. That evening we’ll dine in an exquisite restaurant in town, perhaps The Pearl or The Galley.
The next day, a gourmet breakfast again, rare talk, and another great lunch. You can depart at your convenience in the afternoon.
The donation is $7500. You can pay me by check or credit card (that ensures the tax deductibility of a business development expense) and I will remit the funds raised to the ballet. The deadline for registration and payment or deposit is June 1. NOTE: I’m only accepting 7 people at the most (two jeeps!). I can arrange for two installment payments if you prefer.
Logistics: Arrive September 21, depart September 23 in the afternoon or evening. You can fly to Nantucket from Boston, Providence, and New York; you can take a fast, pedestrian ferry or a car ferry from Hyannis. Weather permitting, you can swim at that time of year, though it’s not mandatory! Dress is casual during the day, business casual for restaurants (upscale casual).
I will review options for travel and other issues individually with each registrant. First come, first served. You register with me by phone, fax, or email, NOT on my web site:
This is a rare opportunity to talk philosophy, spirituality, business, politics, careers, and anything else on your mind with a small group of kindred spirits. I can promise that the conversation, food, wine, and surroundings will be exceptional and inspirational. I’m announcing this first on my blog and Alan’s Forums before informing my wider communities.
Have at it, and help me reach year 41 in my marriage!
PS: In the event of unforeseen problems at Nantucket, we will either switch to another island, such as Martha’s Vineyard, or I’ll refund the money. I don’t anticipate such an eventuality–I’ve never cancelled a trip–but I want you to be assured.
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