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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 178, June 2014 )

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  • Start and end your day with a positive activity, conversation, and/or thought.

  • One of the biggest drawbacks of sentience is the potential to blame others. Animals don't waste their day blaming each other.

  • The more a person uses obscenity, the less force it has in terms of its intent.

  • Don't kid yourself—people respect others who know how to use the language correctly.

  • If you don't bother to understand history and geography, you tend not to appreciate why we're where we are.

  • You can learn a great deal by teaching and/or coaching others. When you stop learning, you should stop teaching and/or coaching.

  • Justifying a request with "because" helps with your persuasion, but there's no need at all to justify a "no." People who best control their time have learned to simply say "no."

  • People deserve responsiveness, but not instant access. Outside of your family, there's no reason for clients to have your cell phone number and expect you to answer at any time they call. (I even keep my business landline forwarded, so that I can choose when to retrieve messages and return them at my convenience.)

  • I've seen very few business partnerships or alliances that work unless there is actual business on the table to be shared.

  • The most powerful tool of persuasion you own, which costs you absolutely nothing, is courtesy.

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I'm sitting here at 7 am in a 19th Century mansion with my window open staring at the tranquil Narragansett Bay where it meets the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. There is no wind, the trees are as still as soldiers at attention. The gulls soar by, a combat air patrol, while robins hop for food along the lawn.

Meanwhile, the TV behind me is broadcasting CBS "news," which is consistently negative and frightening. Missing schoolgirls in Nigeria; Putin maneuvering around the Ukraine; a "no confidence" vote for a school superintendent; storms in the south and Midwest; racism charges hover over the owner of the Clippers basketball team; a circus act gone awry that injured 10 performers; veterans hospitals without proper care for patients.

This is how many people wake up, except they aren't enjoying the view and tranquility outside. They are listening to "news" which is 95 percent negative and disheartening. It does not include the huge recovery that the economy is experiencing (gradual is far better than radical); students who have completed impressive community projects; advances made in treatment of certain diseases; the perpetual, quiet heroism of police, firefighters, and emergency responders.

I want to start my day (and end it) considering the wonder of nature, the privilege of being here, and the opportunity in front of me. I want to begin my day not feeling threatened but feeling invigorated. And while I don't expect to look at the world only through rose-colored glasses, I do expect to look with perspective and appreciation.

The odd juxtaposition of the beauty of nature a few feet in front of me and the blaring, continuous-loop litany of horrible circumstances a few feet behind me (it's now 7:15 and not one story of hope, positive nature, or success has been reported as yet) is a jarring reminder that our "houses"—our environments—create our moods, which inform our behavior, our motivation, our energy.

When did the "news" turn so ubiquitously negative? Nature hasn't changed, and it appears to me to be calmingly positive.

Turn off the TV and take a look out the window.

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The human condition: Fright

One day last week I decided I needed an hour or so of complete non-thinking, so I plopped down in front of the TV and found myself watching Katie Couric's talk show. "Okay," I said to myself, "maybe something delightfully frothy!" I was hoping for Sofia Vergara or Ricky Gervais (though in retrospect that's probably more Ellen than Katie).

What I found was a horror show focusing on sugar. A doctor who would not shut up, documentary director and producer, some other expert, and 150 pounds of sugar on stage (presumably our average, annual intake). I think shows that focus on heath are great. But this one focused on victimization.

The doctor who would not shut up (TDWWNSU) and his cohorts pushed the theory that sugar "hijacks our brain" and addicts us. It ruins our judgment and focuses us on—of course—ingesting more sugar. So it's not our fault that we become heavy and even obese, and are subjected to additional health problems, from diabetes to cancer. It's the sugar talking.

If this sounds like a Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode, I'm with you. Invaders taking over our bodies, making us helpless, and take over the planet.

Katie took 60 seconds to read a small excerpt from the sugar and corn starch associations (to whom she had "reached out") who pointed out that most scientific studies dispute TDWWNSU's position and point out that sensible eating and exercise are the essential elements to weight control and good health.

But that's not exciting and it involves personal accountability. Katie wanted to assure us we're helpless, there's a conspiracy afoot, and sugar (flour was also peripherally muddied during the show) was taking control of our brains and judgment.

Well, maybe Katie's brain has been taken over by TDWWNSU or the need for higher ratings, or the craving she must be having for a good cheeseburger. But I know this better than any doctor: If we shun accountability and blame others—or foodstuffs—for our ills, we are powerless. If we accept accountability for our health and well being, we are empowered.

And that includes the ability to change the channel.


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It's the second day of the Million Dollar Consulting®  College at Ocean Cliff in Newport, RI. I can't turn on the projector, which worked fine the day prior. I call in the technical guy.

We believe the projector is somewhat hot, speculate that it was left on all night and overheated, since I don't remember turning it off. I'm wondering if the bulb burned out. He suggests we unplug it and allow it to cool, and perhaps the fan will come back on. I'm considering using the printed slide copies with the class in case the projector is kaput.

A second guy comes in to remind the first guy that they're expected somewhere. He looks down, flips on the projector power switch, it lights up, and he walks out.

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