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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 186, February 2015 )

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  • Most people lose because they perceive they're behind. Change your thinking to "I'm best at coming from behind" (which is true for many athletes and teams).
  • Don't assume an action that hurt you was deliberate and try to immediately retaliate unless you ask first: "Did he or she do that to try to hurt me, or without realizing it would hurt me?" (Especially important in families.)
  • Trying to gain a favor without trust is like trying to buy milk with no money. You wind up stealing it.
  • Don't default to blame. Find the cause of the problem first, not someone to blame first.
  • Never argue with someone who doesn't have the authority to help you. Simply find out who does have the authority.
  • Smelling the cork does no more for your testing the wine than would licking the label. It's an affectation. Smell the wine in the glass and take a sip while breathing in.
  • "Concierge" is a French word that requires a "J" sound: con-see-arshuh. Many people, including many with the title, take on airs by incorrectly saying "con-see-air."
  • Driving a car with one foot on the gas and one on the brake is an invitation to disaster. Left foot on the floor—even if you drive a manual with a clutch (which I do).
  • Don't eat lunch at your desk or at the computer. Sit down and relax.
  • If you have friendly dogs and small children at home, be careful. The children might assume all dogs they encounter are as friendly and approach them carelessly.

 

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Let me understand this:

  • We put a man on the moon within a decade from John Kennedy proclaiming we would (despite his death), yet we can't simplify the tax code?
  • We discovered a cure for polio and have significantly reduced cancer deaths, yet we can't prevent a common cold?
  • We can build passenger jets which travel at nearly 600 MPH at 38,000 feet with improving safety records, yet we can't reliably depend on our luggage being offloaded at the right place and the right time?
  • We can actually build and demonstrate "driverless" cars but we can't provide consistently clean and plentiful public rest rooms?
  • We can invent Velcro but can't create a zipper that is doesn't snag?
  • We can teach people of all ages, backgrounds, and education to drive a car in traffic in excess of 60 MPH, but not to figure out an automatic coffee maker?
  • We can automate payments and applications online for taxes, utilities, and mortgages, but not for the division of motor vehicles?
  • We complain about the car behind us tailgating but we tailgate the car in front of us which is going too slow?
  • We drive ten miles out of our way and spend an extra 30 minutes to save $5 with coupons?
  • We see the price of gas at the pump decline by more than a dollar putting more post-tax money in consumers' hands and the market plunges?
  • We want to attract and retain good customers yet we hire and tolerate employees with no enthusiasm or service ethic?
  • We decry poverty and crime yet we tolerate poor pay for excellent teachers and excellent treatment for poor teachers?
  • We see the majesty and magnitude of the cosmos every day, yet we think we're the masters of the universe?
  • We continue to complain about government sloth, impasse, and aloofness, yet we are the ones who vote these people in every time?

 

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The human condition: Habit

The research I'm familiar with supports the position that you cannot eliminate or eradicate a habit. You have to change it, supplanting the trigger that gains a reward with something else. Whether alcohol, food, impatience, or biting nails, habits crave reward.

This is why enabling is so insidious. When we loan a gambler money to pay debts, or don't challenge someone who has asked you to point out poor behavior, or give in to a bully, we're exacerbating the problem. If a child steals and continually gets fired from an assortment of jobs and we merely repeatedly forgive and provide money, we're not helping.

I have always detested meetings. I find 95 percent of them useless, mere exchanges of information and ego rattling that needn't be done in person. My habit was to disrupt them, which wasn't very effective for my career in organizational life, or my volunteerism for charity, or my work as a consultant. So I began to use the time another way. I'd sit and listen while also outlining my next book, or creating points for a speech, or identifying traits in the room that helped or hindered progress. In other words, my reward was getting important work done instead of disrupting a meeting.

I've found that many people's trigger to smoke is coffee, and the trigger to drink coffee is smoking. When they gave up both concurrently, they were better able to end their addiction. When the trigger of a cousin's critique creates an argument at a family event and the reward is a feeling of defending oneself, a new trigger might be to walk the dog or play with the kids outside and reward yourself with their interactions and freedom from the cousin.

I don't procrastinate about anything because my reward for getting things done immediately is a free afternoon to play with the aforesaid dogs, or engage in one of my hobbies. A tough phone call triggers an immediate action, not a delay—get it done now, don't fret about it all day. (Hence, issues with the phone company or cable company are always dealt with at 8 am.)

If you want to change your habits, examine your triggers and rewards. They're far easier to manage, and your cousin will soon give up.

 


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My wife and I show up at the Warwick Cinema on a freezing night, and I've cleverly placed a twenty in my gloved hand so I don't have to mess with anything and can just get our tickets. The ticket person says, "That's $22.50 for the two of you."

I look around in amazement and distaste in getting half-undressed to find my wallet. Then I see the sign, "senior discounts." I said, "Well, with the senior discount it should only be $17!"

The clerk looks at me as though she's caught a burglar: "Sir, you two are clearly not over 60."

"True enough!" I said and began to deglove and unzip in search of the other $2.50.

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