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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 141: May 2011)

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Techniques for balance

  • There are people called “trolls” who get their kicks annoying others on the web. Don’t fight with them, ignore them. It’s the absolute worst thing you can do to them.

  • If you’re a Mac user, here’s a site to track rumors about coming products:

  • Get investment advice from those who sell only their advice, not from those who sell securities, insurance, and so on. Guess what they’ll recommend?

  • Always get competitive pricing on commodities, no matter how small or grand. I’ve just received two quotes from major, reputable, New York City jewelers which are $3,000 apart for the exact same item.

  • Don’t be in a hurry to tell others how much you liked or disliked a performance, because you’re putting yourself in a committed position. Listen to them. They may have discovered nuances and subtleties that you completely missed. (Gender, age, and background can have profound affects.)

  • When the infomercial proclaims, “Not available in stores,” there’s usually a good reason for it!

  • Coaching, support, and help are wonderful, provided the other person learns and grows. But if you’re constantly answering the same questions and helping resolve the same issues, you’re a crutch not a coach.

  • I don’t care how friendly the dog looks or its owners proclaim its fine spirit, don’t try to touch it until it’s had a chance to sniff you. That goes for my dogs, as well. (Someone stuck their hand in our truck once and the Great Dog Trotsky bit it. He was acting more rationally than the human.)

  • Before you visit your doctor for any reason, have a list of questions you’d like to ask written out, and either give them to the doctor or read the list. Never allow yourself to be intimidated into being in the dark about your health and status.

  • Find any magazine, newsletter, or newspapers—hard copy or online—that you haven’t read for a month, and cancel the subscription. Stop kidding yourself.

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Perspective is everything. Some people see tragedy, some see comedy. Some see risk, others opportunity.

This newsletter is about balance, and people have constantly asked me, “What the RIGHT balance?” I generally answer, “Exactly 59.43 percent personal, and 40.57 percent professional.”

Who knows? We don’t have personal lives and professional lives, we simply have LIVES. The thought of keeping some scorecard so that Thursday morning can go one way because Tuesday afternoon went another is repellant to me. All we need is some little guy with a pocket protector and green eyeshade on our shoulders directing us to apportion our waking hours.

Don’t we already shoulder enough guilt?!

It has always seemed to me that we control out life balance pretty effectively if we choose to, because we have the capacity to do so. No less than a submarine adjusting dive plains and ballast as it descends and ascends, we’re at the control board of our lives. We can determine what we experience and when and how. We don’t have to join others, but we may choose to do so. We can cram a day like a stuffed turkey, or leave it as deserted as an abandoned beach.

The way you escape a rip tide is, counterintuitively, to swim perpendicular to it and not fight it. We’re not strong enough to fight the tide, but we are strong enough to get to calm water just a few yards alongside, from which we can peacefully paddle to the beach. But first you must get out of the current.

The same holds true for our daily lives, yet too many of us keep fighting the arbitrary current for no reason or for stupid reasons—ego, peer pressure, stubbornness, lack of imagination, the poor advice of others. Each day at a multitude of points, we can alter our life balance.

So perhaps what we should be concerned about is what this newsletter is really all about—shifting our perception, changing our perspective, moving our position, altering our weight. And all of that will change our balance. Heck, some of us may be trying to balance on one foot.

It’s time to have two feet firmly planted. And it just may be the time to shift our weight.

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The human condition: Inches

Sometimes we go down in flames. Other times we’re “blown up.” We all take some pretty serious bumps along the road.

But I’ve always felt it’s far better to go barreling into home or the goal only to be tagged out or blocked in a huge cloud of dust and pile of bodies, than to play it safe. I admire people who dream big, although failure might also be big. I’m not so enamored of those who take tiny steps, protect themselves, stay off the radar screens, and avoid risk.

We’re not here to stick a toe in the water, we’re here to make waves.

The problem with many poor-performing organizations is that they choose promotion candidates from those with “spotless” records. They’ve never had a huge embarrassment because they’ve never really tried anything daring. This paradigm motivates others to keep a low profile, never take initiative, and perpetuate the tried and true. This doesn’t make for an exciting company or career.

The same applies to our private lives. I’ve known people who don’t want to travel because it involves too much hassle, too much of the unknown, too much “threat.” I’ve known people who have traveled, but eat the same food every night they’d have at home. They don’t try anything local or new, and stay in solely Marriott hotels in other countries to maintain their comfort level.

I believe it maintains their blandness.

Most of the leading home run hitters in baseball are also leaders in strikeouts. If you swing for the fences, that’s one of the adverse consequences. But if you take a more controlled and tepid swing to avoid striking out at all costs, then you’ll rarely hit a home run. Some great basketball players will occasionally hit only two of twenty shots in a game. But they keet shooting all night. They don’t stop because the first few attempts didn’t go in the basket.

We have choices. We should focus on the best of life and the boldest of actions, not the petty relationships and minor feuding. Some of us are blown up and some go down in flames. But isn’t that better than losing you life inches by inches by playing silly games?



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June 15-16, 2011
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We were in a London hotel in a suite we hadn’t occupied before, and I awoke at 7 am to prepare for my program later that morning. The blackout curtains were drawn, and the room was pitch black.

Not wanting to wake my wife, I crept over by memory to the huge walk-in closet where I figured I could gather what I needed without noise or fuss. However, flicking the light switch on, nothing happened, and after several attempts I audibly expressed my bad luck for having a relay or bulb fail when I needed light.

That awakened my wife, who switched on the bedside lamp and said, “What on earth are you doing?”

As I looked up in the light I found a few inches from my nose a closed closet door. The light was working, but the door was closed so, of course, I couldn’t see  anything.

“The door was stuck, sorry,” I muttered, and crept inside.

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