Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 237, May 2019)

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 website.
Copyright 2019 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. Life's Oddities

2. Musings

3. The Human Condition: FOQ


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• Spell check ruins more of my communications than it helps, and the difference between “now” and “not” is astonishing (“I will not support this,” “I will now support this”).

• My granddaughters’ math regimen is ridiculously complex and more difficult than simply memorizing the multiplication tables and adding and subtracting in columns.

• On a public conveyance, such as Amtrak, I hear people on their phones talking about their divorces, tax evasion, unethical client dealings, jealousies, and, I believe, affairs.

• I was telling someone about a therapist I last saw 30 years ago who was tremendously helpful to me. The next night he shows up in a restaurant where I’m dining and comes over to say hello.

• Why can a European airline, which has only business class and coach, serve a fine meal on an hour’s flight when American Airlines can’t serve you a meal on a three-hour flight in first class?

• Most small business owners ignore requests when they’re busy and business is booming and then wonder why they have no leads or customers when the economy turns south.

• If you have to pay a bribe to get your kid into what you perceive is a good school, I’m suspecting you haven’t been all that great a role model up to now anyway.

• Maybe I’m calloused, but I don’t think a state can fund the needs of its populace on gambling and cannabis sales.

• If you haven’t noticed that traditional sales avenues and techniques are disappearing, you sort of know what that frog in the warmer and warmer water was or wasn’t feeling.

• I have never heard any announcement in any train station that I can understand.

Complaining about something that can’t be fixed doesn’t work nearly as well as coming up with an acceptable alternative. If the restaurant doesn’t have your reservation, and they’re full, you can’t ask that someone be thrown out. You can suggest that a free drink would put you in a good mood at the bar until they can accommodate you, or that they call a nearby restaurant and get you in there as a courtesy.

My otherwise completely reliable limo service failed to notify a driver to pick me up, so I asked my house sitter to drive me to the train station. If she weren’t available, I would have taken our truck and left it in a lot.

These days, it’s easy to bring an iPad with you in case the wait in the doctor’s office, or for the plane departure, or the business appointment is delayed. Doctors don’t hurry patients for other patients, the airlines are their own private bureaucracy, and people are often legitimately off schedule. Sit down and read, or play Angry Birds, or write something.

If the Wall Street Journal doesn’t arrive at my door, I don’t get on the phone and call customer service, I drive down to the pharmacy and pick one up there. I have both satellite and cable TV in my home, each will often go down for a different reason, at least one though will remain fully functional. I don’t like to miss what I planned to see, and I’m not wasting my time dealing with the cable companies.

We’ve become excellent complainers, but not nearly as effective problem solvers. To me, it’s about retaining control and not arguing with some uncaring “customer service” person who may well be in another country dealing with a hundred angry people a day and not caring much about any of them. It’s about retaining as much control as I can over my life and well-being.

I’ve often sought out second opinions, because I found the first opinion unpleasant or suspect, and I didn’t want to leap into precipitous action. Having done this on one occasion for a medical issue, I wound up firing my doctor who apparently had missed a few days of medical school.

I understand that it feels good to complain. But when you fix things yourself, find alternative ways, and take control of your life, it does good.

Fear of questioning (FOQ) has become endemic. People seem to believe that asking a question is a sign of weakness. It seems that too many of us want to preserve some aura of invincibility, of an unending fount of knowledge.

I’ve always felt that asking questions was a sign of confidence and intellectual curiosity. After all, that’s how I progressed through school. It’s how I learned new techniques. It’s how I create business. It’s far more effective to ask questions of prospects than to lecture them. People love the sound of their own voices.

I’m told that people whom I coach are sometimes reluctant to ask questions. I don’t know why. I never jump and scream or whoop and stomp. I simply answer honest questions. (There IS such a thing as a “stupid” question, viz.: “What time does the 9 am workshop start?”) I don’t have great patience when I’m asked the same question over and over again, because that means the other party hasn’t bothered to integrate the learning.

I encourage questions in all of my events and experiences. I’m never afraid to stop someone at full throttle and ask a question that is impeding my learning. It’s important for all of us to question caregivers, doctors, designers, architects, auto mechanics. Customers deserve to have their questions answered. However, the first obligation is to have the wherewithal to ask them.

I was sitting once at the bar of a high-end restaurant eating two huge cheeseburgers, not on the menu, made from grounding up a $40 ribeye steak. A customer looked at me, looked at the manager, and said, “Why didn’t I know you could make cheeseburgers like that?”

“You never asked,” said the manager. “He did.”

I had forgotten some toiletries so I stopped in a Duane Reade Pharmacy down the block from my hotel in New York.

I was told the items I wanted were on the second floor. I found five items and was balancing them in my arms, but couldn’t find aftershave. I went back downstairs on the escalator and was told I should have gone to aisle three upstairs. So, I took the escalator again, found the aftershave, and boarded the down escalator, now balancing six items. As I began to descend, a plastic bottle of mouthwash bounced out of my hands, rolled down the divider between the two escalators, bounced on a ledge, and landed on the up escalator, passing me about midway.

Apparently, it was returning home.

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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 2019

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.




The customer (client) is NOT always right. Stop trying to please the customer and start trying to help the customer.

Alan Weiss