Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 219, November 2017)

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. Techniques for Balance

2. Musings

3. The Human Condition: Trivializing


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• If you insist that your team lost because of bad calls by the officials, then you probably also think your success is based on others’ decisions and actions.

• One of the ultimate acts of incivility is people talking about highly personal matters in public on their cell phones.

• Try giving yourself permission before automatically seeking it from others.

• If all the laws were black and white and obvious, we wouldn’t need judges and juries.

• Most of the time when someone must be fired (or a relationship severed), you’re doing the other party a favor.

• If you’re not talking to your kids about drugs, alcohol, sexual conduct, and the hazards of normative pressure, you’re on the verge of child abuse.

• If you board a plane with a first class seat and someone from coach has placed luggage in your overhead space, simply tell the flight attendant you think it was left from the prior flight.

• Always think “relationship.” Don’t send an email when a phone call is more effective, and don’t make a phone call when a meeting is more effective. Don’t look for the easiest path, take the most effective path.

• Philanthropy isn’t about how much you give, but how much you have left after you give.

• Whenever you’re sure you’re right and the “other side” is wrong, listen to Billy Joel’s “Shades of Grey.” He’s the troubadour of our times, and I love the song’s line “save me from arrogant men.”

• What you tell yourself and think of yourself informs and becomes manifested in your behaviors. If you want to change your behaviors, change your self-talk.


I’m sitting once again on the Acela racing to New York from Providence. The train is hitting 150 MPH on certain stretches, but it can’t manage that where the track can’t support it, slowing things down to half that speed.

Nevertheless, I’ll be smack in the middle of Manhattan in slightly under three hours, where a cab or Uber can get me to my hotel in about 10 minutes. I have my choice of drinks and five meal entrees at no additional charge. There are two attendants in first class (all of the rest of the train is business class) and the service is really excellent. I have my computer plugged into a power outlet, the WiFi is fine, as is the cell reception for my calls. The restroom is large and clean. The WiFi alerts me to next stations and any anticipated delays. There is a first class lounge in New York’s Penn Station.

In Tokyo, the trains are much faster and almost always on time. The organization is incredible. Yet the food on first class is served by a woman coming down the aisle with a cart of prepared, prepackaged food with the intent of moving through the car just once, and without stopping. I had to throw my body into the aisle to stop her, and she wasn’t happy.

In Spain, going from Madrid to Seville, the train was also quite fast and right on time, but the first class lounge had no internet and no announcements. Not one station during the ride was announced on the train in advance. The food service was minimal and grudging.

On the Eurostar, between London and Calais and back, the attendants in first class were actually rude, refused to help us with our luggage or to ask business men who had camped out across four-seat accommodations to move for us. I’ll never take the Eurostar again.

In Italy, going to Venice from Milan, the train was fast but ungracious, and that’s odd for Italians, among the most gracious people on earth. I know, because I married one.

My musing today is this: Why do we have such superior service in the US (and not just on trains) compared to these other economies? The reason is that Americans are more demanding, have much more of a competitive, free market system, and are independent enough not to accept any guff from people to whom we’re paying money for service.

And in return for that, I’ll gladly accept a slightly slower train.


When I was teaching a 600-level program in the graduate business school of the University of Rhode Island, I found myself with a student who did very little work and who constantly said “reengineering” whenever asked about his approach to a case study. Pretty soon, everyone in the class would mouth “reengineering” whenever he began to speak. I realized he had no idea what he was talking about and probably hadn’t even read Hammer’s book on the subject. I flunked him. He appealed, and my mark was confirmed.

If you want to trivialize something, keep harping on it. Do you pay attention to repetitive ads on TV? I don’t. I instantly recognize that I’ve seen it before, what it’s about, and I dismiss it. I do the same with a lot of people who are always harping on their own agenda. They may have a good point, but it’s no more effective the hundredth time—in fact, it produces ennui instead of interest.

I’d never contend that there is no racism, or ageism, or sexism, or any other kind of “ism” that one can readily observe. But we tend to undermine important issues when we use them so widely and often inaccurately that they lose their impact. A child using his or her fingers in the shape of a gun, or who touches the arm of a classmate of the opposite gender, or who happens to have an aspirin in a pocket, should not be sent home or disciplined. Penalizing that student and his or her parents simply trivializes the reality of guns in schools, or sexual harassment, or drugs.

Marshall McLuhan observed that “the price of eternal vigilance is indifference.” That’s why TSA has to change the agents watching the monitors so often (and it’s why they still miss dangerous objects in tests). One could make the case that making grandmothers dispose of drinking water in the name of security is trivial when you consider that the great danger in airports is in the gas and cargo trucks which come in from the outside and park near the planes.

When we lose focus, generalize our outrage, use labels without restriction, we tend to blunt the force of our true outrage, the true transgressions. And I doubt that’s our intent.


I was speaking for the National Steel Foundation at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. As usual, I visited the room an hour before the program started, at 7:30 AM, but found to my surprise that it was set up incorrectly.

I picked up a white phone and within ten minutes the banquets manager showed up with a crew, changed the seating and site lines and the A/V. They finished in 15 minutes.

I said to him, “I’m telling the steel people that they should always use this property because the service is so responsive.”

“Steel people?” he asked, “this room is for the auto dealers.”

In the ensuing silence I asked, “Do you think they need a speaker? Because the room is perfect for me.”



I ran Master Class in June and it was so successful that many of the participants have signed up for the next installment in June of next year. But you can attend a repeat of this past one, 12 people only and 10 seats are open, by going here:

Here’s an example of the feedback, from Colleen Francis: 

- The Master Class worked us hard. I was particularly struck on Friday morning when a new exercise left us all dumbfounded, with no answers.

- The role plays were extensive, sudden and provided excellent learning points on delivery, reframing and communication style.

- We need to be outrageous but not ridiculous and there is a fine line.

- Being prescriptive in the sales process helps us to get to true value faster and more accurately.

- We need to think bigger - like raising my fees 2.5x bigger.

Best event of the year so far! I'll be back in June of 2018. Thanks Alan!

Join us: The Master Class



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Colleen Francis, the global sales strategy thought leader, joins me for an intense session on creating annuity clients which, over the years, provide seven figures in income. Consultants believe that the key to building a huge, fulfilling practice is signing six-figure deals with every new customer. Just like baseball hitters who only swing for home runs, they also lead the league in strikeouts. The truth is that hitters who simply get on base score more runs.

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        You can register here: Livestream Workshops             


         • Feb. 23, 2017: The Strategist - How to set strategies for organizations or                          individuals (Completed but available on recording)

         • Apr. 18, 2017: The Innovator - A methodology for systematic innovation

         • Jun. 13, 2017: Creating 6-figure Projects - Consistently and effectively

         • Sep. 19, 2017: The Advisor - Advisory work as your primary intervention

         • Oct. 17, 2017: Abundance - The mindset of success, happiness, and growth

         • Nov. 16, 2017: The Expert - How to command a room, discussion, and direction


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          #1: Control: How to maximize control of your life and not surrender your future.

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          #6: Polarization: The vast, ignorant error in believing people who disagree with               you are stupid.

          #7: The Aggrieved: Why whatever you perceive your condition to be doesn’t                    warrant a vote in Congress or a newscast.

          #8: Conservatism: Why we are far too timid in our lives and work and how to stop           playing a "prevent defense."

          #9: Degradation: How standards begin to erode and what we can do to correct it.

         #10: Overprotection: The cosseting of youth, and how it's leaving them vulnerable          in the real world.

         #11: Overkill: Pounding away until the point is crushed under the weight of                      redundancy.

         #12: Denial: Why we make ostriches' behavior in the face of threat seem                          reasonable.

         #13: Selecting: We "settle" in stead of deliberately choosing what's best for us, and          we need to stop that.

         #14: Contrarianism: Why taking an opposite view is a public service and how to do          it.

         #15: Who Loves You?: Who's got your back and how you can tell, and why it's               important.

         #16: No, You Can't: A different perspective on the popular—and incorrect—belief            that you can do whatever you think you can.


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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 2017

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.


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