The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: August 2006
Balancing Act® is in four sections this month:
I'm proud to announce that I was inducted into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame® in July and received the Council of Peers Award of Excellence. Not bad for someone told to keep his mouth shut in grammar school.
- If you're having trouble in networking or social situations, simply ask the other person, "What do you think about….?" Others may be bored by your point of view, but never by their own.
- Don't be afraid to tell someone they are doing something annoying (such as sending irrelevant stories or newsletters). Otherwise, how are they to know, and you're just enabling their behavior through your silence.
- Here's a great question to separate fact from opinion: "How do you KNOW?" Opinion is fine, but it shouldn't be confused with fact. Just ask Dan Rather.
- There comes a point of diminishing returns for everything (there is such a thing as too much lobster), and nothing symbolizes that better than technology. You're a slave to your technology when its upkeep approaches ten percent of its actual utility. (That's opinion, not fact.)
- No matter how controversial the person or the viewpoint, it's insufficient trying to debate their views if you haven't read, first hand, their statements. I've found relatively few people who are 100% wrong or 100% right.
- The most inane thing I'm ever asked to do in a meeting or conference is to "give yourselves a round of applause." I find that it's silly for the audience and represents a speaker who has simply run out of ideas and energy.
- With due respect to every low-cost, web-based alternative for air fare and accommodations, do you really want to make decisions by least cost or, at least occasionally, by going for best quality? (It's simple to purchase a computer more cheaply on the web or through a catalog, but try to get help dealing with problems, as opposed to the help you would get from a local retailer.)
- There has been an overwhelming amount of "junk science" of late about what we eat, how to lose weight, exercise, etc. Here's something quite factual: Moderation in eating and consistent exercise help, period.
- No one in any audience, to my knowledge, has ever complained about a meeting ending slightly early, but they all start to lose attention once it's sixty seconds late in ending.
- If you don't see a sunrise or a sunset weekly, no matter where you live, you just may not be getting out enough.
I recently read a biography of Ed Sullivan, "Impresario," and enjoyed it immensely. I wrote an email to the author telling him how good it was and also pointing out that the publisher should have assigned a better editor because of some repetition and minor errors. To my shock, he called me and was eager to talk about what could be improved, why I liked the book, and so on. I asked him about his next projects, and he asked me about mine. I now have a professional buddy.
Last year I wrote to an author of a book on prehistoric sea creatures, again complimenting him on the great read and asking how long the reptiles could stay under water. This guy is the pre-eminent world expert on the beasts. He wrote back to tell me, sheepishly, no one ever asked and it hadn't occurred to him to investigate that capability, but he'd get right on it! He thanked me for contributing to his work.
This morning, reviewing my usual press inquiries, I found one from a writer seeking meeting planners, event planners, and executives conducting major meetings. I wrote and suggested he might want to talk to a major speaker at those major meetings. He called within two hours and set an interview date. I'll be the only speaker quoted in a magazine circulated to people who hold corporate meetings.
You never know what happens when you "reach." If none of those three had responded, my total investment would have been about 20 minutes for no return. And sometimes there is no return. But you never know if you don't reach.
I'm not in favor of people applying for jobs for which they don't have the minimum skills or experience. That's not reach, that's ridiculous. But so many of us seem to prevent ourselves from acting by saying, "What's the use, someone like that would never respond," or "I'm sure this won't even reach them."
Whenever someone asks me to speak at a chapter of one organization or another for free, they are surprised when I answer my own phone and shocked when I say on occasion, "Sure, I can do that." You never know what happens until you simply ask. I have been in correspondence with Cartier over defective products. I finally called and said, "Look, you're Cartier, your response should be to simply send me two new pens." They said, "You're right," and they did.
I've been in a running battle with Mensa for years, arguing, as an insider, that they are a self-selecting group which simply admits people who perform well on certain tests, and that there is no linkage among those tests and high IQ or success in life or even pleasant company. After the book "The Bell Curve" was published, I wrote the authors to inquire why, in 500 pages on IQ origin, testing, and interrelationships, they never once mentioned Mensa.
"Because," they wrote back, "Mensa has no valid basis for claiming to be a high IQ group." You just never know what you do know or don't know until you reach.
At 8AM I'm in the business centre (why a plebian hotel like a Marriott has to use the British spelling I'll never understand) in Orlando intending to FedEx® home our luggage from the National Speakers Association annual convention. There is no one there except the woman staffing it, and she has the personality of wilted broccoli.
She is doing precisely nothing, but it seems, incredibly, I've interrupted her. She is sullen and withdrawn, and appears to believe my two pieces of luggage are camouflaged pit bulls. Indifferently, she pushes forms and papers at me. She is exasperated when I remind her that I'll need a pen to complete her forms.
The transactions are finally completed when she applies some packing tape to the luggage and air bills. It is clear to me that the packing tape, too, has committed some awful assault on her at some point and is suffering for the past relationship. I hastily depart, feeling sorry for my luggage forlornly sitting in the corner.
Move the clock forward two hours. We're at Orlando Airport and I'm dealing with a US Airways ticketing kiosk that I'm wishing had a need to be FedExed to the Marriott. It consistently refuses my frequent flyer numbers, city of destination, credit card, and rare blood type (AB negative), and finally, uselessly, suggests an itinerary taking me to Philadelphia and, worse, by commuter aircraft.
I roar up to the ticket counter where Bill awaits me. I tell him, "Your machine is utterly confused and driving me crazy." "Well, Dr. Weiss," says Bill examining our passports, "let me show you why those machines have consistently failed to have me replaced!"
With that, he pounds some keys, tells me that their own system is in error (it was a code-share with United), gets us our boarding passes including connection, directs us to the gate, and advises me how to get the most efficient line at security. "Thanks for flying with us, Dr. Weiss," he concludes, "we really appreciate your business. Do you need anything else?"
"For the future," I asked, "do you FedEx?" Bill kept smiling and assumed he had heard me incorrectly. But then he turned to the next customer and said, "Hello, Ms. Martin, how can I help you today?"
You can't buy or train or develop enthusiasm. You can teach people the content of jobs and the processes they must perform, and even to mouth certain words, however insincerely (I believe virtually no one who tells me to "have a nice day"). Enthusiasm is innate, and originates in a personal wellspring of contentment, peace, and competence.
None of us is perfect in this regard, but where are you most of the time? Do people find you natively ornery and obtuse, or are you more naturally motivated and enthusiastic about life and work and relationships? While you theoretically have that choice, I really don't see it as a choice at all....
At the Hotel Art in Barcelona, my wife and I were waiting for one of the tiny elevators when a group of six large men arrived with one petit, gorgeous woman in their midst. The men had what I thought were cell phone ear plugs and all had business suits on. They tried to take the elevator without us by pushing ahead, engulfing the small woman.
I grabbed my wife's hand and forced our way into an elevator cab meant for six people, not accommodating nine. I was pushed against the small woman. I whispered to my wife, "These people are absolutely rude." My wife said, "Do you know who these people are?" with that knowing, ironic look on her face.
"Uh oh," I said, "are these people from the client?!" "No," she explained, "they are security guards and you are leaning on Princess Stephanie of Monaco, the daughter of Grace Kelly!!"
Her serene highness had heard all of this, inches from my face, and was staring at me. "I loved your mother's films," I said.
(Many of you have told me that you love this segment of the newsletter. If you have a cosmically embarrassing moment that has happened to you, personally, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. NOTE!! Maximum of 200 words, in Word software as an attachment, with your name and address on the item itself. Proof it for grammar, punctuation, and typos. I'll print submissions occasionally and reward each that is published with a free CD from my bookstore. But you must conform with these criteria to be considered.)