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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 121: September 2009)

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  • Don’t schedule the same thing for the same time every day. Vary even your “routines.” Keeps you fresher and more in the moment.

  • Try to avoid “binary alternatives,” e.g., should we do this or do that? Instead, focus on the objective and then ask what the full range of options to reach it might be.

  • Remember when books were going to disappear, starting about a decade ago? In this age of Kindle and E-books, less than five percent of all published books are electronic. It’s fine to look for the next big thing, just remember it may be evolutionary and not revolutionary.

  • Consider this: A lot of people using cell phones shout because they WANT you to listen to the conversation!

  • I’m against people texting while driving, but is that really different from fiddling with the iPod or satellite radio, or watching the GPS? The point is to avoid distraction when you’re driving a ton of metal 60 miles per hour, isn’t it?

  • If you have children, or loved ones, who can’t use their silverware correctly, it will someday be the equivalent of their saying “ain’t” in a job interview. I watched a well-dressed, obviously wealthy young woman about 20 years of age at the next table in one of the best restaurants in Nantucket last night, who ate her meal as if she were using knitting needles. I wanted to smack her mother, but settled for another glass of wine.

  • We all mediate in different ways, formally or informally, alone or with others’ help. But if you’re going through the day, awakening through retiring, without once considering where you are in life, or progress against your priorities, or where you’d like to be tomorrow,  you are in a very deep rut.

  • For that matter, there are four months left in this year as you read this. What have you not accomplished that you’ve hoped to? You still have almost half a year.

  • Don’t live your life guided by vacuous aphorisms. There is always one that makes the opposite point! (Try this as an exercise some time.)

  • How many people you can quote to prove your point may be a mark of progress, but the true mark of success is how many people are quoting you to make their points.

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I’m writing this “at sea.” We’re on the two-hour ferry trip from Hyannis to Nantucket, our annual pilgrimage, our hadj. Since visiting Nantucket 19 years ago at the behest of a client, the island has called like Circe, but with benevolent intent. (If she’s going to turn me into an animal, I’m hoping for white German Shepherd.)

We are one day prior to our trip last year. Since that trip, we sailed on the Queen Mary II, had to race home from Capri when our grandchildren were born three months early, I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, and London, I’ve published five books, launched several new ventures, and have been named a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants. My wife’s mother has passed away, as have several friends, and my mother is now in a long-term care facility. The grandchildren are now 17 pounds apiece and finally weigh more than my Beagle.

I’m watching the waves (and another ferry passing) and reflecting on annual “check in” points. We need to count our blessings and bless those who count. When you do consistent things a few times a year, there’s an opportunity to think about what’s happened since the prior excursion or event.

Time flies when you don’t throw on the brakes. By that I mean that you can’t stop this hour from passing but you can reflect on where you were, where you are, and where you’d like to be. We control more of our destiny than we might think, but if we’re not careful, we tend to surrender it to the whims of others, the addictive nature of social platforms, and “necessary evils” which cram the positive and constructive out of our lives.

When was the last time you took a non-work-related vacation, or went to a museum, or attended an opera or symphony or rock concert, or read a biography or historical book, or “reinvented” a part of your work? In my view, the repetitive should be the annual pilgrimages, no matter how many there are, but NOT the mundane aspect of everyday life, repeated over and over like bad music in a slow elevator.

We’re still taking the same ferries that were in service 19 years ago, though the crews have changed. We’re staying in the same suite at the same inn, though the ownership has changed. Consistency amidst change, identity within novelty.

Next August we’ll be back on this ferry, and I intend to have a great year to reflect back on, to the extent that I can influence it. In fact, I’m going to begin right now.

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Generosity is not merely about the amount one gives. One of my favorite observations comes from Joseph Epstein’s A Line Our for A Walk: “…the true measure of generosity is not how much one gives but how much, after giving, one has left over.”

But I’m not even talking about financial donations and contributions. I’m talking about the generosity that allow one to give time, attention, solicited feedback, support, caring, and understanding. Sometimes that needs to be the proverbial “tough love.”

We do grievous harm to people when we lie to them in order to assist them (and, usually ourselves) in trying to maintain certain perceptions. The presentation was excellent (even though it was seriously flawed); the food was fine (even though the pasta was nearly inedible); the clothes look wonderful (even though they are age-inappropriate and terrible colors for you). You get the idea. It’s fine to overlook the trivial and the inconsequential (those flowers will not last in that location) but not the important (Can I recommend a couple of other schools that are aligned with your daughter’s career goals?).

It’s easy to be generous with tangibles and “stuff.” Those can be replaced and are non-threatening, non-emotionally involving. No matter how much I believe in a cause, writing them a check is a rather impersonal act, especially, as Mr. Epstein points out, when there’s more where that came from. But heading a fund raising event (and not just in name only) requires far greater generosity. And telling your friend, the organization’s chair, that she is shutting down debate and alienating potential donors is the greatest charity of all.

Through the commission of lies or the omission of truth, we enable people to perpetuate mistakes, errors, and, too often, self-destruction. Our refusal to get involved when we are friends, insiders, and trusted, is basically a selfish and ungenerous act.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not not proposing that you go out and start critiquing people’s attire or choices, or attempting to substitute your judgment as Holy Writ. All I’m suggesting is that when people expect you to tell them the truth, even if it hurts, you ought to do that.

It would be generous.

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I drove to my regular gas station where a big tanker was filling the main pumps. With great finesse, I maneuvered around it, pulled up to the small space where a hose could still reach my car, and I pushed the button for the automatic gas cover to open. In my side view mirror I noted the tanker driver leaning against his truck, staring, clearly admiring my car or my driving skill, or both.

Then the gas station owner arrived and said, “Mr. Weiss, you did it again.” I had hit the adjoining button, and opened my trunk rather than the gas tank. As we made things right, the trucker walked over with a big grin. “Nice car,” he said, “and apparently it’s very complicated!”

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Speaking with Alan

At Alan's home
September 1-3, 2009

We have demand for another, and there are four seats remaining of the maximum six people Alan admits. Spend time around the pool putting together, practicing, and marketing a speech. Fee includes video, all meals, and lodging. Great times, meals, wine, and great learning.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
September 14 - 18, 2009

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. Fast becoming THE requirement for great consulting success, located at a spectacular property in Newport, RI. Limited participation.


Newport, RI
October 21-22, 2009

Join a small group to create a workshop featuring your expertise and value and a marketing plan to launch it successfully in this economy. You can use the program as a template for other workshops. One successful workshop will repay you many times over in this powerful ROI. Alan's workshops usually average six figures in profit. This is the second and last session.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
March 22-26, 2010

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. Fast becoming THE requirement for great consulting success, located at a spectacular property in Newport, RI. Limited participation.

Shameless Promotion

East Greenwich, RI
Scheduled on demand

One-to-four people participate in a rigorous two days of promotional "mayhem," in which we create assertive and powerful approaches to mold thought leaders, "go to" people, interviewing targets, and objects of interest. The second course is now being scheduled, we ensure compatibility by vetting applicants. Nothing else like this if you see to "rise above the noise."

Best Practices in Consulting

Providence, RI,
November 18 - 19, 2009

For the second time, Alan Weiss is presenting a comprehensive workshop on the techniques, methodology, approaches, and secrets that have made him "one of the most highly respected independent consultants in the country" (the New York Post). This hasn't been delivered since 2005-06 during the initial tour in Providence, Sydney, and London. Over 200 people attended those three events.

You�re not supposed to judge a book by it�s cover, but that�s what they display in the bookstore windows and Amazon�s pages! If people aren�t impressed on first sight, they may not have time �to do the reading.� — AW

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