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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 117: May 2009)

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Techniques for balance

  1. It's easier to scream than to listen. That's why the talk shows on radio are so vociferous. Don't be lulled into listening only to those screaming what you already agree with. You don't learn unless you listen to opposing viewpoints (to either validate your position or change your mind).
  2. Calculate the cost of a limo to take you somewhere (and, perhaps, wait to take you back). You can work or listen to music, avoid lines and stress, and you don't have to be strip-searched to prove your innocence.
  3. All things end, whether they be 2,000-year-old trees or modern industry. Newspapers never successfully dealt with radio, much less television, or cable, and forget about the Internet. Don't bemoan their fate, the industry's leadership has failed. We don't make televisions in the U.S. any more, and that's the way of the world. We're still here.
  4. At this writing, at least, perception is starting to change about the economy and prospects (whether true or not), and the markets will follow if that optimism continues.
  5. Don't be fooled into a purchase through the scarcity principle. Those stores are forever "going out of business," and that deal that's only good until tomorrow will come back the day after. The "scarcity" pitch is the primary cause that resulted in your owning an electric fork or a turnip juicer.
  6. Innovation and change are your competitive edge. With the popularity of Netflix, cable movies on demand, Apple television, and pay-per-view, movie theaters are doing better than ever. Why? Because the theaters are improved, seating is comfortable, food is better, parking is plentiful, and they are also renting out the auditoriums for other uses (there is a comedy club in one part of the multiplex here). Even with tough competition, you can thrive if you're creative.
  7. The worst things to cut back on are those that provide for your physical well-being: exercise, good food, recreation, sports, entertainment, meditation, massage, etc. The car's not going anywhere if the engine doesn't work.
  8. Amtrak's Acela is capable of 180 MPH, but only manages 150 on limited stretches because of poor track conditions, and averages about 75 on the Boston-New York route. European and Asian high speed trains average from 135 to over 200. That discrepancy has nothing to do with manufacturing capacity and everything to do with volition and intelligent planning.
  9. Bird watching is the largest spectator sport in the U.S. at the moment. It sounds ridiculous to many, but guests at my home point to cardinals and woodpeckers in wonderment, and we all stare in awe when the eagle circles overhead. Even the wild turkeys cause a pause.
  10. If you want to stand out in a crowd, just wear a nice, well-coordinated, casual outfit. If you haven't noticed, jeans and running shoes have become the national (and dull) uniform.

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It seems to me, in light of my very recent experimentation with dangerous drugs (Linkedin and Facebook), that there is an interesting allure and dangerous addiction to both. (Twitter will follow in a couple of weeks, once I get back from the Betty Ford Clinic.)

Linkedin reminds me of a crazed flea market, and Facebook of a coffee shop. At the former, people appear to be mindlessly collecting things, and asking random questions of total strangers. At the latter, people seem to visit friendly faces (they are called "friends") in a familiar setting. You can "hide" people's comments, or deny them access. Meanwhile, the computer is constantly recommending new "friends."

A member of Linkedin recently sent me the entirely disingenuous invitation that pointed out since I was so "trusted" by her, she wanted to link. When I asked who on earth she was, she replied that she had one of her employees send out these invitations daily, and that she had no idea why I, a total stranger, had received it. Mark up a lost half-hour for each of us.

Another potential link told me that he simply wrote to everyone he could in an attempt to build up as many contacts as possible, since "that has to be of help to me in the long run." I told him to take up stamp collecting, it is more educational, more tangible, and also "has to be of help in the long run." (You can always use postage.)

One indignant writer told me that "Facebook is crap" and that Linkedin is the only way to go, that he made $300,000 (!!) over the last year by selling consulting services to executives he meets on Linkedin, and that he would appear for free in a webinar if I organized one and broadcast it to my community! (You see, addiction isn't pretty.)

Both my son and daughter are active on Facebook and it's fun to see them and commune there, but as my son notes, and he was brought up in the high tech age: "It really is a huge time dump." I've noticed that quite a few people who appear regularly, sometimes a half-dozen times in an hour, or even just minutes apart, are the same ones who I know are having trouble marketing and making a living as entrepreneurs. I guess that must just be a coincidence.

I'm not insisting that people should only be reading the great books or attending the theater (though I don't see how that could hurt), and I grok the recreation and networking aspects. I think the folks who invented these platforms are geniuses, though I think less of the "neutral" advocates who really have a financial motive for getting people to use them.

I will point out this, however: I write on Facebook (and here and other places) about my life. Facebook is not my life.

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Underdogs

Susan Boyle has now had 45 million hits on YouTube after wowing the "Britain's Got Talent" contest with a stunning rendition of the Les Mis song, "I Dreamed A Dream." Why the big deal, when countless, excellent singers have also done so?

Because Ms. Boyle is not only not a star, but she is what the New York Times described as "frumpy," and what Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" alluded to as "never been kissed" in 47 years.

Ms. Boyle is the classic underdog. (Provenance is mixed, but I'm assuming that the roots of "underdog" are in the converse of "top dog," which would be the best dog in the show or competition.) She walks on stage somewhat uncertain, with hair and apparel that is in stark contrast to Amanda Holden, the female judge on the show, who is so perfectly coiffed and made up that it isn't surprising that her facial expression never changes, and wouldn't even if her colleague, Simon Cowell, started to pull her hair. The three judges (two of whom are merely "personalities" with no discernable talent themselves) who first regarded her are openly cynical, almost mocking, egging the audience on, as if to start a food throwing melee.

Then Ms. Boyle opens her mouth and the angels hold their breath. It is an untrained, unashamed, pure sound that is amplified by a wonderfully intelligent choice of song, suited for her range and the emotion of the moment. As simple as Ms. Boyle appears to be (she is unemployed and lives in a tiny house which is subsidized by the government), I can't believe that she couldn't have anticipated the awed response to her gorgeous instrument.

The smarmy judges were shocked into instant conversion, and Amanda made bold moves to raise her eyebrows (or at least that's what I think she was doing, she may have had a tic). The crowd rose in a sea of cheers, both to reward Ms. Boyle and to rebuke the hasty assessment of the judges (with whom they had quite clearly originally agreed).

Truth is, we love the underdog. That's why Uno, the first Beagle ever to win Westminster, was such a hit (to use a species-specific example of the phrase). That's why we went crazy in New York when the Mets won their first World Series. That's why grown men cry when they watch the movie "Rudy," about a Notre Dame sub who makes it into his very last eligible game.

We identify with the underdog because we often imagine the odds are against us and we have no chance to "win." It's refreshing to know there's a chance for us all.

Captain Sullenberger, of the US Airways landing in the Hudson River, and Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama who saved his crew, don't look at themselves as underdogs or as heroes. They see themselves as simply doing their jobs.

That's a pretty safe philosophy for all of us, 45 million hits on YouTube notwithstanding.

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We were headed to a convention in Philadelphia, and I wanted to show off for my wife. I hired a stretch limo to meet us at the train station, and take us to the hotel. I had become irritated at the long hold time with American Express's travel service, so I booked the limo directly, on the phone, and rather, ah, assertively. I told the woman that I didn't need advice or suggestions, just take my credit card and the train arrival time.

"My pleasure," she dripped sarcastically.

The stretch was at the assigned place when we arrived, and I prided myself on my direct approach. The driver greeted us, loaded the bags, and got us settled.

Then he drove 30 seconds and two blocks to the hotel, and opened the door for us to disembark.

Special Charity Appeal:

No Man Is An Island, Or Is He?

go to the article on Blog

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I’m announcing a rare and unique charity fund raiser. Not long ago, I raised $50,000 for the Newport International Film Festival, which I chair, by offering a day of coaching at my home. Nine people have since come or scheduled appointments.

However, my wife is the special events chair for Festival Ballet Providence, and she is none too happy with me, since the ballet is in dire straits financially (artistically, it’s brilliant). Who knew that no good deed goes unpunished?

So, in order to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense, I’m announcing No Man Is An Island, Or Is He?

Specifically, I am offering two nights and three days at my personal Eden-on-Earth, the Wauwinet Inn on Nantucket. We’ve been staying there for 15 years, and many of you have heard my stories and seen the photos. (I’ve included some here.)

All you have to do is arrive (by plane, pedestrian ferry, or car ferry). Once there, ALL expenses are taken care of: room, local transportation, food, wine (except for souveniers!). We will start on the first night with dinner at Topper’s, the award-winning restaurant (with an award-winning wine list) where we might also share an 1870 Madeira at the bar while we watch the sun set. The next day we’ll meet after our breakfast together to talk about life, business, balance, politics—whatever makes sense, though I’ll have some topics to stimulate discussion.

Then, we’ll take jeeps with permits on the special reserve and drive out over the sand along the Atlantic to the point and lighthouse, a 40-minute trip. We may take box lunches, or have lunch on the Gatsby-like lawn before we depart. That evening we’ll dine in an exquisite restaurant in town, perhaps The Pearl or The Galley.

The next day, a gourmet breakfast again, rare talk, and another great lunch. You can depart at your convenience in the afternoon.

The donation is $7500. You can pay me by check or credit card (that ensures the tax deductibility of a business development expense) and I will remit the funds raised to the ballet. The deadline for registration and payment or deposit is June 1. NOTE: I’m only accepting 7 people at the most (two jeeps!). I can arrange for two installment payments if you prefer.

Logistics: Arrive September 21, depart September 23 in the afternoon or evening. You can fly to Nantucket from Boston, Providence, and New York; you can take a fast, pedestrian ferry or a car ferry from Hyannis. Weather permitting, you can swim at that time of year, though it’s not mandatory! Dress is casual during the day, business casual for restaurants (upscale casual).

I will review options for travel and other issues individually with each registrant. First come, first served. You register with me by phone, fax, or email, NOT on my web site:

800/766-7935 (401/884-2778
Fax: 401/884-5069
Email: alan@Summitconsulting.com

This is a rare opportunity to talk philosophy, spirituality, business, politics, careers, and anything else on your mind with a small group of kindred spirits. I can promise that the conversation, food, wine, and surroundings will be exceptional and inspirational. I’m announcing this first on my blog and Alan’s Forums before informing my wider communities.

Have at it, and help me reach year 41 in my marriage!

PS: In the event of unforeseen problems at Nantucket, we will either switch to another island, such as Martha’s Vineyard, or I’ll refund the money. I don’t anticipate such an eventuality–I’ve never cancelled a trip–but I want you to be assured.

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Video Rant

See Writing on the Wall, featuring Koufax the Wonder Dog.

Visit my blog

Two new podcasts every week. Special cigar smoking room.

SPECIAL: From Panic to Profit

May 12, 2009

A special teleconference following up on "How to Accelerate Business in A Dismal Economy." This one incorporates my recent travels to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and across the U.S. to provide an hour of high content, pragmatic approaches on helping others and helping yourself in the current economic conditions. A free download is included, as well as unlimited access to a recording of the session.

$0 to $300,000

Warwick, RI
May 19-20, 2009

This is the final offering! For those getting started or who are stuck, learn pragmatic methods to earn substantial six-figure incomes in professional services. Stop spinning your wheels.

From Six Figures to Seven

Newport, RI
May 27-29, 2009

This is the final offering! Only unique people will share this 2.5-day program to learn the major tactics required to move to and through the million dollar mark. THE FIRST US SESSION SOLD OUT IN MARCH. We will help you become a visible thought leader in your field, create "communities" of support, engage in advanced promotional tactics, and a lot more. We'll also be sharing the best practices of the Million Dollar Club. This will be quickly sold-out.

NEW: THE WORKSHOP WORKSHOP

Newport, RI
June 17-18, 2009

Join a small group to create a workshop featuring your expertise and value and a marketing plan to launch it successfully in this economy. You can use the program as a template for other workshops. One successful workshop will repay you many times over in this powerful ROI. Alan's workshops usually average six figures in profit.

Shameless Promotion

East Greenwich, RI
Scheduled on demand

One-to-four people participate in a rigorous two days of promotional "mayhem," in which we create assertive and powerful approaches to mold thought leaders, "go to" people, interviewing targets, and objects of interest. The second course is now being scheduled, we ensure compatibility by vetting applicants. Nothing else like this if you see to "rise above the noise."

The Odd Couple®

Las Vegas, Nevada
June 25-26, 2009

Join Alan and Patricia Fripp in their annual romp through marketing for professional speakers in a gorgeous facility with $129 suites for every participant. Not to be missed.

Million Dollar Consulting® College

Newport, RI,
April 27- May 1, 2009

The finest developmental experience for professional service providers, featuring business acquisition, fee setting, branding, market gravity, the language of the sale, proposals, and much more. Read the testimonials and look at the photos. November 2008 sold out!

"If you want to stand out, just hold your ground on matters of principle. But get used to the loneliness." -- AW