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How to lend balance to others:
  • Listen to what people have to say without being anxious to offer judgment. Sometimes, they just want to be heard, nothing more.
  • I know that their vacation slides are boring, but so are yours. Pretend to be interested and ask how they enjoyed the food.
  • If you're angry with a service provider while with others, make your protest privately, not in front of the group. Don't ruin their experience when they may not be as outraged as you are.
  • Only you can take something personally. No one can force you. Do not make your first reaction to an opposing view or critique about your own self-worth.
  • Paying an unexpected compliment far outranks an expected gift in the cosmic order of net worth.
  • If you want the other person to truly feel that their choice is what matters, don't give your preference first.
  • Profound body language will always drown out words. Don't offer a gift while simultaneously hitting someone with a stick.
  • Follow through on every commitment or don't make them. An unfulfilled commitment is far worse than no commitment at all. Don't create temporary, perceived relief that leads to long-term disappointment.
  • If you require someone else's help, offer them something that serves their self-interest, don't try to create an obligation, establish guilt, or collect a debt.
  • The key is always their self-interest, not yours. Never assume they are congruent.

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If someone were to calculate how much time we waste with obfuscation and verbal gymnastics, I bet the result would show that we're wasting a great portion of our lives on dissemblance.

I told someone I was coaching the other day that "Your web site doesn't represent you well at all." She responded maturely, "Why not? What would you change?" And off we went. It's her prerogative to ignore me, although that's not the best reaction when you've paid someone for their unadulterated advice.

I could have said, "The site is pretty good, and your photo is fine, but there may be some people who find that there's a bit too much text to wade through, although it's well written, and your client results are hidden in there, though I've seen this done by others, you're no means alone." Now, multiply that by a hundred such transactions a day and you begin to lose years off your life.

Not to mention the fact that you're not doing anyone a favor.

If you don't assume the other person is damaged or immature, then why not treat them as a healthy, functioning adult who would like to get to the heart of the matter and doesn't need insulation foam for their ego? The old cliché in performance evaluation to provide good news before bad news only conditions people to expect bad news every time you give them good news. I recall a classic critique of a two-line poem: "It's nice, though there are dull stretches."

I had tough college professors. They pulled no punches. You knew exactly where you stood. But I had a succession of bosses in the work force who vacillated like chandeliers in an earthquake. You never knew whether they were telling the truth, had hidden agendas, or were sincere. They were useless in terms of developing me as a resource. Why would you treat an employee whom you're paying with less respect than a student who is paying you?

As long as what you have to say is factually based and is manifest in my behavior or results, I'm happy to hear it. I'm happy to tell you if I disagree, based on the evidence, but I respect you none the less for trying to help me, ESPECIALLY if I've asked you for the help.

I've never like the traditional therapist who refused to commit. I like honest intervention. But if you ask me to tell you what I think, I don't want to have to say, "Are you sure?"

Just give it to me straight and I'll do the same for you. We really don't have time to dance around the issues because they are not playing our song.

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I've always warmed up more quickly to people who love dogs. I can understand someone being agnostic about canis lupus familiaris, but I don't grok people who dislike dogs (or who dislike animals). The naturalist John Muir commented once when people were wondering why something like poison ivy existed and what purpose it possibly served, "Perhaps it was made for itself."

Here's what Buck, Trotsky, Phoebe, Koufax, and Buddy have brought into my life:

Perseverance: Eventually, the drawer holding the dog treats will be opened. Standing there and staring at it can't hurt, brings attention to the object and, occasionally, it is left ajar inviting immediate access.

Focus: Koufax studied the squirrels for weeks after failing to catch them, practiced some more by chasing Buddy, and then began catching squirrels. He applied discipline and real-time learning.

Unadulterated enjoyment: Dogs will do anything necessary short of committing a felony to ride in a vehicle. They never tire of it, will try to get their heads out the window at every opportunity, and rejoice in the experience. They don't worry that it might not happen again soon, or that today's ride wasn't as good as yesterday's, or that another dog is in a roomier vehicle. They simple revel in the ride.

Thoroughness: My wife would wash any dish that she found outside its usual place even though it was sparkling clean, because there was a 70% probability that Trotsky had cleaned it off, despite no trace of any food remnants. Any hint of flavor demands a dozen licks, and floors are to be inspected for yards around when anything has spilled.

Relaxation: Dogs are perfectly happy doing nothing. Buck would sit for hours simple looking around, absolutely content. If you threw a ball at him it would bounce off his head and he would shoot you that look: What is your problem? They don't need to be entertained by others, don't need to tell you their life story, and are remarkably low maintenance.

Exploration: Running away on occasion is required to demonstrate independence, sniff the woods, commune with other dogs, and generally explore the unknown. Once you do this, it becomes less and less intimidating and you must find new ways to innovative escape routes since there are actually those who believe they can stop your wanderlust.

Comfort: Cats are over-rated. Dogs will find the maximum comfort level, including layers of just-cleaned clothing, bed spreads, and pillows. This is there due, and they view such items as useful pragmatically, with aesthetics taking a back seat.

Unconditional love: Dogs are loyal. They are not judgmental. They never assume your are damaged or project their own weaknesses onto you. They will indulge you in games that you like much better than they, and will comfort you when you are down and rejoice with you when you're up. They will lick your wounds and calm your psyche and ask nothing in return except to be included.

I heard an anthropologist say once that dogs are human parasites. We let them into our caves 10,000 years ago and haven't been able to get rid of them yet. That endurance implies great value.

It may just be a dog's life. Theirs shouldn't be so short.

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A national steel association, for which I was speaking, insisted that I attend the dreaded cocktail party the evening prior to my keynote. I attempted every subterfuge, dodge, and cavil, but to no avail. The client knew my flight times, had arranged for the car, and was adamantine in their insistence on my presence "to meet the guys."

Sure enough, at 7 I skulked into a huge suite containing 40 or more steel men, smoking and drinking and bonding. I headed for the bar set up in the corner, ordered a vodka, and looked up to see a gorgeous blonde smiling at me over her chardonnay at the other end of the bar. Our eyes locked.

"My God, you're a woman!" I blurted.

"And you must be our speaker tomorrow," she observed.

"Because you recognize me?" I preened.

"No, because of your amazing perceptive powers," she cooed.

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Having announced that my files of Balancing Act were lost during my Mexican vacation, two dozen people sent me really funny responses. Another dozen felt compelled to assume that I hadn't made adequate backups (I had, that's not the issue) and proceeded to offer advice on what I should do differently in the future. That's one lost Balancing Act in 30 million words of writing never lost. It's not time to change my life about that!

In any case, thanks to all of you for your patience, and let the games begin.

Video Rant

My fourteenth, monthly video rant, The Writing on the Wall: "There Is Always A Bigger Boat," is now on my web site. It features Koufax, the Wonder Dog.

Visit my blog

for articles, commentary, travel journals, videos, and much more.

Advance Notice:

A 1.5 day workshop on coaching in March outside of Providence, featuring real people being coached, techniques, brands, marketing, fees, and a special charity dinner with the lovely Maria for Smile Train, as well as one with me for the animals. Watch my web site and blog, and my workshop notices if you're interested. The Strategist sold out. First come….

November 26-30, 2007

This is our eighth. See details. We already have people from the UK, Canada, and Australia, it's shaping up to be outstanding! This may be the last one before the next Grad School, already scheduled in Naples, FL for April of 2008. We'll use a turret suite for coaching, with 270° water views of the former Americas Cup Race course. Last call, we have 11 people, and I doubt I will have time for another prior to April.

February 21-22, 2008

The Strategist
in London

The U.S. offering in October is sold out! Anyone from North America attending the London session will have dinner with Alan at one of his favorite and most unusual London restaurants. We have 25 people from six countries thus far.

I don't think I need say more.

"Sometimes things happen to you that are no fault of yours. But if you don't do anything about it by the next day, it becomes your fault." -- AW