The Balancing Act® E-Newsletter: December 2004
Balancing Act® is in three sections this month:
- Try a gift that forces someone outside of a comfort zone. Buy a ticket to the ballet for the dance-challenged, or a bow tie for someone who's never worn one, or a train ticket for someone who's never traveled the rails for vacation.
- When you see people you rarely see, it's not necessary to "balance the score" or get in the last word. Daily habits can be annoying. Once-a-year habits are irrelevant.
- Make a charitable gift for the Holidays.
- Use and/or play with Holiday gifts immediately. They are much more fun that way.
- If you get the chance and like alcohol, have a single, straight shot of Goldschlager to celebrate. It warms the body and the spirit. And it magically improves any company you're with.
- Break the law (at least in the U.S.) and, if you have a regular postal carrier, give a Holiday gift. It's a tough, tough job and the mail service in the U.S. is by far the best in the world.
- It's silly to make ten resolutions for the New Year (historically it's one of the most popular times for people to join my Mentor Program, for example) and not adhere to any. You're better off with one business and one personal goal that you're serious about: stop smoking, stop fighting with your kids, open up a new market for your business, take the vacation you keep talking about. If not now, when?
- Just because you have guests in your home doesn't mean you're an innkeeper. Expect and encourage people to pick up after themselves, clear dishes, walk the dogs, and reciprocate the hospitality.
- If you're still shopping, planning, and generally running around after December 15, you are going to need two shots of that Goldschlager. Planning intelligently is not inimical to Holiday enjoyment.
- At the end of the day, you should feel better about yourself and your life after the holidays. What are you doing and planning to ensure that transpires?
Recently, a man wrote asking if I would join him in a "revolutionary" approach to management. He had no money or backing, but felt sure that I would lend my name and assets to it because it was such a brilliant idea. Oh, yeah, he couldn't share it with me, because he was afraid someone (viz.: me) would steal it. A woman wrote me to ask my advice on how to move more into consulting from her IT profession, and when I politely told her I couldn't give her free advice because it's what I do for a living (and otherwise I'd be doing it 100 hours a week), she wrote back to tell me she was "insulted" and would never deal with me again. And then a man from Australia wrote to tell me he had a revolutionary idea about the old "80/20 rule," and I would be the ideal person to work with him to introduce this to the U.S., all as a favor, of course.
Now, I have nothing against entrepreneurs or people trying to better themselves by asking advice of others. And who's to say that a revolutionary idea to the old 80/20 rule won't be the next IPod?
No, my problem is with people who are seeking mental and emotional "handouts." To go through life convinced that your idea or personality or energy or motivation is so unique and irresistible that others will feel duty-bound to provide free help is a delusion so crass that I scarcely know where to begin with it. How much energy and personality and motivation does it take to be able to figure out that you had better have something appealing to the other person, and not just be asking for what is, in essence, business charity?
I contribute mightily to more charities, fund-raisers, and sponsorships than even my tax guy can track. I believe in generosity, philanthropy, and pro bono work. But I don't believe that the singularly self-absorbed position that you are the center of the universe and deserve to be helped and aided before all others should be rewarded and enabled. It doesn't require money or property or investment to come up with some ideas, offers, incentives, or rationale that might be attractive to the person whose help you're seeking. After all, at least such an effort would demonstrate some business and interpersonal smarts, presumably both required in the project being proposed in any event.
I asked one woman, who seemed to think that reading one of my books vested her with the right to ask me for personal advice, what would happen if 500,000 people who have read my works decided to write or call once a month. The irony was completely lost on her.
In fairness, most people whom I tell I can't help for free tell me they completely understand and apologize for any misunderstandings, and ask what they can read that would be of help (and I can offer hundreds of free articles). I tell them, as the Australians say, "no worries," suggest some reading material, and then offer them some free advice.
Why? Because the ability to be courteous, civil, and understand why your approach could be improved, are all attributes I hold in high esteem.
Permit me an indulgence here after 60+ newsletters and 6,000 subscribers, but my own Balancing Act arrives at a milepost on December 4 when my daughter, Danielle, weds.
No man is ever good enough for your daughter, but Jan Paul comes extraordinarily close, and they clearly love each other, which is good enough for me. (He drives a Maserati, which means when they visit he has only the third-fastest car on the property, which does provide a perverse satisfaction. I know he forgives me that vanity. Well, maybe not, but so what?)
My son, an actor who is sometimes a jailhouse lawyer, has protested throughout his life that I favor my daughter over him. I've dismissed that by merely stating that I like Danielle better, which is a lie, but there is truth to the fact that a daughter is special to a father.
Sinatra sang the soliloquy from "Carousel" as no one else could, especially the lines, 'My little girl, all pink and white, all ribbons and cream is she...and when my little girl gets hungry every night, then she...comes home...to me."
To a father, a daughter is the beautiful flower that he can actually help grow, despite his clumsiness and lack of delicacy. She is her mother less the independence, and her brother less the rebellion. She is the leader at the dance recital, so clearly superior to the other dancers and managing to keep them all in line, a fact incredibly lost on the other parents in the room. She is the one who, as she gets older, runs to bring the newspaper, light the fire, run an errand, mix a drink, make reservations, obviously currying favor which I'm all too happy to bestow.
I remember "Bop with your Pop," the special event just for fathers at the sorority at Syracuse, where-of course-my daughter was elected president. I remember when she was voted "Little Miss Admiral" at the Admiral Motel in Wildwood, New Jersey, when my wife instantly realized that no one could compete, which dawned on the other contestants far too late. I remember when she first drove the Ferrari in the Hamptons, proud of her ability to shift the monster, as I had to gently point out that she was driving down the wrong side of the street. I remember her nominated for an Emmy for an outstanding special program she produced for MTV on AIDS, my wife and I sitting proudly among the television elite as, unbelievably, the judges voted incorrectly and honored the Thanksgiving Day Parade Special instead.
This wedding will be quite special, as all weddings are. But Danielle is under the misapprehension that it is her special day. Of course it isn't-it's my special day. This is the wonderful daughter we've raised who will now go on to the next great moments of her life. I'm proud to take her on that journey, and I know that Jan will ensure superb new adventures and discoveries.
But when she grows hungry, she'll still come home to me. She is my daughter.
And I love her so.