Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 142: June 2011)
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Techniques for balance
Old or different? I ask myself this not infrequently. Am I seeing something truly different—usually in decline—or is it merely a fact of my getting, ah, more mature and using distant memories?
My solution to this is to apply observed behavior.
For example, visiting Disney World with our granddaughters recently, I perceived the place as thoroughly aged, and not as assertively top quality as I remembered it eleven years ago and thirty years ago, my prior visits. Am I looking through different lenses, or has the picture actually changed? Have the money men now in charge trumped Walt’s dream of an idyllic experience?
Our monorail car reeked of urine. That could have been a recent accident, but I also found the hotel on the property erratically maintained. The exhibits and rides were barely updated, with politically incorrect statements emanating from the Bear Jubilee and Small Small World, as my son-in-law observed, “barely kept dusted” over the prior decades. There were unworking animation figures in Pirates of the Caribbean, which would have been unthinkable earlier. And there was litter in the park. The cornball commentary on the Jungle Safari boats wasn’t funny (to any of the ages on board) a quarter century ago, and it’s even more bizarre now, yet the guides keep parroting the tired scripts.
I think that Disney executives are simply trying to gain maximum return on investment from the theme parks, so they are minimizing their investments.
Just because we age doesn’t mean we’re subject to “good old days” syndrome. Sometimes our memories are selectively positive, but often they reflect an accurate assessment of better times. Recollections can be involute, but they may also be faithful reproductions of the past.
People don’t write as well today, can’t calculate mentally rapidly, have briefer attention spans, and don’t dress as well as in my youth. You may or may not consider that a blessing or a burden, but I think the facts are accurate in general. Families are not as intact. Politics seem to have become more cutthroat, and the media don’t appear to be as accurate or non-partisan.
Don’t assume the old days are always better, but neither should you assume that they are inaccurate reminiscences. Use your judgment, look at the facts.
The fact is, when Disney hotel employees are poorly groomed and uninformed, that was never the case in the past, shouldn’t be the case now, and doesn’t even belong in Fantasyland.
The human condition: Inferiority
Most bullies act that way because they are terribly insecure, and are seeking to try to bring others down to their self-perceived low level. That applies to emotional and psychological bullies (whom we find in the workplace) as well as physical toughs.
Road rage is another variation of low self-esteem. Even if you’re right, and the other person didn’t use a directional or cut you off or ran a light, the need to gesture, shout, threaten, and sometimes even pursue them is more of a sign of your own feelings of lack of worth than theirs. It’s easy to camouflage this as “healthy outrage,” but it’s really more a sense of being severely threatened by another’s transgression which you interpret as an attack on you.
The notion of “gotcha” is also one of inferiority. For you to win, someone else has to lose. I received a vicious email once written by someone at three in the morning local time, who had read The Global Consultant, and was infuriated that my co-author and I had put a particular institution in the wrong country. He was correct, we and our editor had missed it, but his reaction was that our entire credibility was now suspect, we were sloppy, he should get his money back, and so forth, ad infinitum. (I told him there were four more errors of that nature in the book, could he find them? I figured that would hold him for another 24 hours or so.)
“Gotcha” also stems from one’s own low sense of worth, because it demands that we strike at others to enforce our own superiority. How many times do people rush to the keyboard, stop doing far more important things, and rip off a riposte to someone, not even hesitating before slamming “send”? (One woman, chastising me on typos in a book, made three typos in five lines of her angry missive.)
Then there are those who make excessive demands and see every minor infraction as a mortal sin. A slight hum from an air conditioner, a server who brings drinks a bit late, a newspaper that’s not delivered in the morning—these are errors that drive some to demand a free stay in the hotel or the general manager’s home address. To most of us, they are minor irritations easily corrected but not worth lingering on or the day disappears. But to some, they are a personal affront, a statement of low regard for their character, a direct assault.
These feelings of inferiority manifest in these conditions and others have to be exorcised, often with therapeutic help. Otherwise, everyone is a potential “enemy” and underminer of our self-esteem. That’s not a balanced life, that’s an upside-down life.
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I pulled up to the drive-through window of our local CVS pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions.
Clerk: Name, please?
She roots around out of my site and comes back with a single prescription.
Me: There should be three.
It turns out that the vet orders Koufax’s arthritis pills through that same pharmacy, and he has his own account.
Copyright 2011 Alan Weiss. All rights reserved.
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