Balancing Act #123, November 2009
BALANCING ACT: BLENDING LIFE, WORK, AND RELATIONSHIPS®
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 web site: http://www.summitconsulting.com.
Copyright 2009 Alan Weiss. All rights reserved.
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Balancing act is in four sections this month:
1. Techniques for balance
3. The human condition: Posturing
4. ORTIYKMWOYBNT-O Department
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1. Techniques for balance
• Ignore other people’s “rules” unless you’re in their house. Some guy tells me that he “has to hesitate to follow me on Twitter because I don’t use it correctly.” I guess they skipped the secret decoder ring when they accepted my email account. People make rules because you’re racing too far ahead of them.
• Bear in mind that most good things that happen to you on an airline are due to the flight and cabin crew, and most bad things are due to airline management.
• Most people have stories they just want heard. Listen, but don’t feel obligated to act. You will have done a good deed, but will have also attended to your own self-interest.
• Never deal with middle men if they are not adding value to the transaction. An insurance agent or realtor usually adds value; a “broker” for consulting services usually does not.
• It’s against the rules to give your postal, Fedex, or UPS carriers holiday presents. It’s against common decency not to. That’s another rule I break.
• Next time you’re apt to quickly poke fun or be sarcastic, and you believe that “casting the first stone” is an empty Biblical admonition, think about David Letterman.
• When you focus on someone’s needs, instead of the features and benefits of your alternative, you become a source of unique value and not another endless, price-sensitive commodity.
• Most people jump to their feet after a mediocre play because of two factors: They’ve lost the power to discriminate between good and average, and they don’t want to take the ego blow of appearing “not to get it.”
• If you feel as if the driver ahead who didn’t signal, or the passenger in front of you who reclined the seat into your lap, or the person talking during the movie, are uniquely tormenting you, then you need to work on your persecution complex.
• It’s healthy to forgive someone who hurt you, but it’s unhealthy to allow them to hurt you repeatedly.
I love summer, and the pool, and wildlife on the pond, and the dogs romping across the grass. I love the top down, and comfortable clothes, and no socks, and the ocean, and a healthy tan. I love the vegetation in bloom, the long days, and the occasional cooling thunderstorms that cause the ground to smoke.
But the seasonal change isn’t bad. The autumn leaves becoming a palette superior to any artist's; the nip in the air in that requires a light jacket; the relentless transformation from hot to cold, each day becoming a few minutes shorter until we change our fundamental time system.
Then the winter, with snow in carpets revealing the tracks of crows, rabbits, and deer. The dogs making great leaps to make headway as the powder is repelled by their coats. Icicles, frozen stalactites, that slowly drip from the eaves. The eternal verdure of the evergreens. Feeding the ducks on the near-frozen pond as they come skidding in, bad landings on an unmoving aircraft carrier. Seeing your breath, lighting a real fire, and dressing in furs, and leathers, and boots, and hats. And then the great holidays, which warm you from the inside no matter what the temperature outside.
And then comes spring, with birth and renewal. Magically, the deciduous trees remember their lines. Sprouts and buds and blossoms. The next generation of animals is born. There is a taste to the air, like there is at the ocean’s side, that heightens the senses. One feels younger in the spring.
“Summertime”: “Autumn in New York”; “Winter Wonderland”: “Spring Is Here”: they’ve all been immortalized in song, vacation, remembrance. They represent four distinct patterns in our lives, four inescapable choices, a quartet of vibrant living.
Not everyone has seasons, and I’ve always loved the static climates (relatively speaking) of San Diego, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. But I’ve heard a lot of émigrés tell me that they “miss the seasons” and I can understand why.
They break up your life, they offer diversity to the year, they provide options for recreation, clothing, vacation. I hate that cold-to-the-marrow feeling of a driving, wet wind in February, but I love carolers on the snow in December. And you can’t beat the smell of a wood fire, nor its warmth as you drink a brandy and watch a football game.
Maybe I’m rationalizing, and I mean no one any offense, and we could, of course, live anywhere. But somehow I find deep, deep meaning in the old refrain, “seasons change.”
3. The human condition: Posturing
I joined Twitter as an experiment (as I did linkedin and Facebook) because I’m skeptical about the impact of these social platforms for consultants and their marketing. I don’t believe you can fairly debunk something that you haven’t personally engaged in if conditions allow. (Thus far, I have rather indisputable evidence that I was right.) But I have had a good time, and whereas I thought I should generate 150 followers on Twitter to have a decent test, I’ve in fact acquired about, 1,500 as you read this.
I have to admit that Twitter fascinates me, because you’re challenged to provide something of value in 140 characters (actually, much less if you expect to be quoted and “retweeted.”) Now, many contributors are happy just citing others, or putting up hyperlinks to various web destinations, or providing Biblical citations, or quotes from one of those dumbed-down CDs with “5,000 quotes worth knowing.”
I’ve chosen to follow no one, not because I have nothing to learn, but because I learn from others in different ways and don’t choose to hypocritically follow all those who follow me. (For example, it’s easy to find someone who is mentioning you and write back, or accept messages from them, or interact on another medium with them.) This is simply my choice to protect my time and maximize my learning style.
Of course, this has generated offense! One man told me that I had a nerve not providing the “courtesy” of following him in return. Another became pretzel-like in his being bent out of shape, and told me he had to “hesitate in following” me, since I didn’t understand the rules of Twitter, was not using it in the way intended, and wasn’t maximizing the potential.
All of this according to him and his personal rule book! Of course he took me to task when I defended my practices, blogging about me complete with Twitter citations [!} and saying his hero had fallen. All because I wouldn’t follow his personal rule book! In the meantime, he’s not posting anything of value, and I’m posting insights and tips twice a day. I would think my growing following (and his tiny one) would demonstrate what’s best appreciated. But, no, he had the rules.
I don’t believe that those who can do, and those who can’t do, teach (and those who can’t teach, consult). My best-seller, “Million Dollar Consulting,” has been dedicated to teachers and educators through four editions and 17 years. But I do believe that there are those who posture as experts in order to try to derail those on the express hurtling by them.
Don’t let up on the throttle. Full speed ahead. When you’re posturing, you can’t move. And that applies no matter how thick your rule book.
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4. ONLY READ THIS IF YOU KNOW ME WELL OR YOU'LL BE NEEDLESSSLY TICKED-OFF DEPARTMENT
We return from dinner and I note that the lights which illuminate our flag at the front gate are not on. I’m very disciplined about the protocol, and since we fly the flag 24 hours a day, I know that it must be illuminated at night.
I make a quadruple K-turn in the driveway inside the gate, and edge my car tentatively onto the edge of the front lawn, between two large trees, so that I can play the high beams on the outlets. After all that maneuvering, I walk over and proceed to take out four plugs in two large outlets, hit the fuses in both, then replug in all the lights. Nothing happens. I do this four times, in that many combinations. Still nothing.
Defeated, I return to the car and tell my wife that the recent rain must have shorted the system. I then reverse my intricate maneuvering, narrowly missing a stump, and proceed over our bridge headed up to the house.
“Notice anything?” says my wife.
“Yes,” I admit, “it’s dark on the bridge and all along the driveway.”
“That’s because,” she reports, “the timers haven’t gone on yet. You haven’t adjusted them for the earlier sunset.”
If you ask the same question repeatedly, you’ve heard the answer but haven’t integrated the learning. – AW
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