Printer Friendly Format

If the images are not perfect, click "download pictures" on your email and they will be displayed as intended.

Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 110: October 2008)

NOTE: Maria and I sailed the North Atlantic in the largest suite on the Queen Mary 2 in September. This issue was written on board.

Return to Top

Techniques for balance when in new surroundings

  1. Watch what others do who are veterans. If you can't tell by watching, ask. It's better to learn the informal and formal mores than to bludgeon them through ignorance.
  2. Learn the speed of the place. Different environments have different biorhythms and pace.
  3. Try new things. Get up earlier and/or stay out later. Order a completely radical food (for you).
  4. Don't tell people about yourself, keep asking about them. I met and learned from a lot of people who loved to talk about themselves. The biggest bore I met never asked anyone about themselves, but just jabbered on all night like a tape recorder.
  5. Don't make comparisons with your "normal" life and lifestyle. After all, that's not why your traveling instead of staying home.
  6. If uncertain, offer a gratuity. If it's inappropriate, it will be civilly refused. But most people regard the gesture as important as the amount. (However, be careful in that service is often included in a bill.)
  7. Look for special moments. One of the best photos I took was of a lone guy I didn't know leaning on the aft rail and staring at the wake of the ship.
  8. Remain low key. If you're someone of interest to others, they will make the initiative. I found that the Commodore simply wanted to greet people at his reception and not engage in a lot of small talk, which I could instantly identify with.
  9. Make fast friends with head waiters, maitres d', sommeliers, captains, and so forth. The only worse thing than having a bad table for a night is having a bad table for six nights.
  10. Spend money. Life is short. When you're on vacation, treat yourself and your family so that it's memorable. (And have the duck, or the Grand Marnier souffl�, or the big breakfast. You don't refuse to have pasta in Italy.)

Return to Top

Into the unknown

I remember seeing photos of the Wright Brothers demonstrating their new flying machine by circling the Statue of Liberty. They were not considering failure or defeat, since there were no parachutes, no redundant systems.

When you are in the middle of the Atlantic, with an unending horizon, you tend to become stunned by brave people who put themselves in harm's way in sailing ships. Most 17th and 18th Century sailors couldn't swim, not that it mattered, because rescue from shipwreck, combat, or accident was exceedingly rare. Traveling farther back, it's almost inconceivable to try to imagine what the early Vikings and Chinese seafarers could have felt without any navigation help except the heavens, instinct, and luck.

Columbus's huge discovery was the result of a mammoth navigational and geographic error. These were fragile ships carrying the bare minimum for an uncomfortable existence. John Glenn's orbit in space, or Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, were accompanied by unprecedented resources and support. (Apollo 13 survived a devastating accident to return safely).

What are you hesitating about? Taking a new job? Moving? Changing a relationship? Learning a new skill? Pursuing a new sport or hobby? Making an investment? Changing a regimen?

We seem to feel that we are alone, and leaping over a huge chasm, when in reality, we are surrounded by support and succor, and we're merely adjusting our stride. I understand people who have fish allergies, but not people who simply refuse to eat fish. I understand the reluctance of people with a speech impediment to speak publicly (though many do and quite well), but not those who are simply "afraid" of the audience. I understand people who are uncomfortable expressing themselves in a language they haven't mastered, but not those who refuse to try.

Most of our "unknowns" are actually known quite well. Someone has been there before. The light is on, the track is clear, the safety net in place.

If you don't want to leap into the dark, fair enough. Open your eyes.

Return to Top

The first realization is that the ship is a living entity. The steel and wood and glass which comprise its corporeal existence are merely the exoskeleton. The systolic pulse of the engines is omnipresent, no matter where you are, fore or aft, topside or below.

The ship beats with life.

One thinks of the vessel sliding through the pitch black night like a paper cut, sleek and elegant, momentarily stinging the ocean. But it is a much more quotidian journey. The ship is more like a mature horse, plowing through the waters. In the daylight you can look astern and see the wake for a half-mile, the furrow we've created in the field. It is a different color from the surrounding water, lighter and greener, as if new earth had been tilled.

The voyage is referred to as a "crossing," a feat that one accomplishes, more durable and memorable than a "trip" or a "cruise." The crew heightens the singularity of the experience. The Commodore (senior captain of the Cunard lines, carefully pronounced "cue-nard") addresses us all daily to apprise us of conditions, ocean depth, and what is too far away to be seen to the north and south, clearly implying that we can't begin to appreciate the vastness of this world. He holds a reception but only for the highest class of service, and one says "hello" but is not expected to chat.

Some people look at the 360° horizon and feel that they are insignificant, mere dots on the huge surface. I feel otherwise, actually larger than life. After all, my colleagues have been able to create this ship and this passage, this crossing, despite the formidable barriers of distance and depth. I feel exalted to be here, mastering the sea through the mastery of others.

Throughout the ages we have been enchanted with the notion of a time machine, a transport to our past and future. The past is well known, but imperfectly, since photos, movies, and recordings can evoke but not involve. But on the great ship we are transported back to the 1930s, to men in tuxedos and women in gowns, to big bands and formal dancing, to elegant gambling and fine dining.

We gallivant through the night, in the darkness, traveling through time as well. Right up to the sixth and final night, we are in the ether of the early Twentieth Century, breathing bracing fresh air, watching a million stars' light from light years ago, moving amongst free spirits.

We awake on the final morning in Southampton, no longer at sea, the sun rising to reveal modern times. The ship is finally silent, its life suspended, supported by the umbilical chords and clamps connected to the dock.

The past, as always, is somewhere behind us, but this time just off the stern, there in the darkness, I was there.

Return to Top

I called the butler to our suite on the Queen Mary to tie my tuxedo bow tie, since I've never mastered the trait. My wife kept rolling her eyes, but the ceremony was completed in about 10 minutes.

"There," the butler announced.

As he helped me with my jacket and I turned to leave, he shouted "Wait!"

He whipped out a de-linter. The back of my jacket was covered with white German Shepherd hairs.

Return to Top

NOTE: For those of you not following my blog, our daughter gave birth to twin girls three months prematurely, and Maria and I rushed home from Europe. Everyone is doing well, though each day is a new victory for the girls. They will be 2.5 weeks old as you read this. All prayers are welcome and appreciated. Please don't call or write, it will complicate our lives. But we'll know you're helping.

You may leave a comment at the twins' blog:
Indicate that you're from Balancing Act.



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.

Video Rant

See Writing on the Wall, featuring Koufax the Wonder Dog.

Visit my blog

Two new podcasts every week. Special cigar smoking room.

The Strategist

Sydney, Australia, October 8-9
The Park Hyatt Hotel

This program sold out in Providence and London. Learn how to separate strategy and tactics instantly; learn and apply Alan's favorite model to your clients and/or your own practice; understand how to validate strategy before implementation; master all key execution steps. Limited seating. Learn in 1.5 days what others take months to try to comprehend.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
November 10-14
The Castle Hill Inn

The finest developmental experience for professional service providers, featuring business acquisition, fee setting, branding, market gravity, the language of the sale, proposals, and much more. Read the testimonials and look at the photos.

Million Dollar Club

November 3-5, 2008 at The Four Seasons
Nevis, West Indies

We are inviting a dozen people who are solo practitioners or small firm owners in the professional services space, who make a minimum of seven figures annually, for a three-day meeting at one of the world's finest resorts. We will exchange marketing ideas, collaborate on leads, mutually solve business problems, examine maximization of profit, and also have access to great golf, tennis, scuba diving, etc. No outside presenters, only a very successful group facilitated by Alan Weiss. Significant others and spouses are welcome. All lodging, meals, and local transportation are included. The fee is $15,000. A rare opportunity to be with the best of the best, where you belong, to prepare for 2009 in style.

NEW: Self-Esteem Workshop

December 2-3, Providence, RI
The Crowne Plaza Hotel

The intent is simple. Building on my work with individuals around the globe, I want to help you: Identify the uncertainties, perceived vulnerabilities, and situations which cause you to perform at less than your optimal capacity; understand the causes of those dynamics, and receive timely yet non-threatening feedback about how to resolve them; master and apply techniques that will help you maintain and manifest a high self-esteem level "in the moment" when it is most needed; avoid the debris and detritus in your life which tend to damage self-esteem, and focus on the routes of least resistance to self-worth and its manifestation. In brief, personally and professionally, you will be able to deal with daily routine and exceptional circumstances; with varied and often tough personalities in your life; and to overcome the problems caused by pressure, unfamiliarity, and perceived threat.

Alan in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA,
January 7, 2009
Airport Marriott

A half-day on value based fees, and a half-day on how to make top money in a bottom economy. For newcomers and veterans alike, boost your business immediately. Attend both sessions and receive these bonuses: Lunch, a session on maximizing your web presence and marketing, and free membership for one year in the Society for Advancement of Consulting�.

From Six Figures to Seven

February 19-21, 2009
Sydney, Australia

Only unique people will share this 2.5-day program to learn the major tactics required to move to and through the million dollar mark. THE US SESSION IS ALREADY SOLD OUT IN MARCH. We will help you become a visible thought leader in your field, create "communities" of support, engage in advanced promotional tactics, and a lot more. We'll also be sharing the best practices of the Million Dollar Club. This will be quickly sold-out.

If you feel people just don't understand you, why not try to change the way you communicate? - AW