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Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 158, October 2012 )

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  • Act or forget it. Fretting and worrying just burns up otherwise useful energy.
  • If you keep telling yourself you're "overwhelmed," you will be.
  • Ideas create and manifest expertise, not "credentials," experience, or education. I know too many educated, unintelligent people, and too many who can string initials after their name but who can't tell you how to use a cell phone or make a sandwich.
  • Everything looks good from a great height. Get close to issues to understand what all the problems and blemishes are.
  • There's nothing wrong or mercenary about asking, "What's in this for me?" If you have passion and interest then you'll be more valuable and participative and committed.
  • When is the last time you went to a museum of any kind (and took your young children if you have them)?
  • If you receive good news and immediately wonder if you deserve it or are worth it, you have a very significant problem that requires professional help.
  • Do you regard most of your acquaintances as people who help you to grow and challenge you, or as people who constantly want something from you and bring you down?
  • Choose any art form—dance, painting, theater, music, sculpture, etc.—and read a book about it to become conversant.
  • Have you ever considered hiring a professional to advise you on the clothing, accessories, and hair style that's best for you?

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I'm thinking it's important to have the correct metrics in life. We need to know how to measure success.

Is success based on earning a certain amount of money? I certainly don’t believe so, not if it means working 70 hours a week, rarely seeing your family, and never taking vacations. Is success based on winning every competition? I don't think so, because you can be respected and effective without winning every single battle.

Is success based on emptying a "bucket list" and completing 37 life goals? I find that to be laughably silly, a regimented replacement for enjoying the moment in favor of often worthless activities. (Climbing a mountain "because it's there" has always represented vacuous reasoning to me.)

I think success is highly personal and very intimate. And it's usually a synthesis of many activities and achievements leading to feelings of accomplishment and self-worth. Those achievements have to be manifest in effective behavior.

For example, I received an "A" in every Spanish language course I took in high school, but I could not speak Spanish. I could conjugate irregular verbs, but I couldn't speak it conversationally. Much later, when I was in charge of a Latin American operation, I went to Berlitz and learned to speak colloquial Spanish, and could henceforth obtain a taxi ride, hotel room, and dinner.

The "A" was a worthless performance indicator. Berlitz was able to improve my desired behavior.

Too often (particularly in the public schools) we are awarding accolades for the wrong metric. Telling kids to be quiet and stand in line, or awarding the grade of "A" for simply memorizing something to be forgotten tomorrow, are silly metrics. We shouldn't reward athletes for showing up. We should award them for winning, or at least trying their best.

How are you measuring your success? Moving items to be tackled from one list to another isn't a very successful activity or metric. Simply talking to buyers is not nearly as important as closing buyers and making them clients. Talking to your kids is nice, but their talking to you about important issues in their lives is probably far more important.

Think about how you measure things. I know that if I'm not receiving complaints, objections, defriending, and umbrage, for example, I just don't have a s sufficient edge.


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The human condition: Dilettantism

I love the word "dilettante" but I don't get to use it all that much. Basically, it denotes someone interested in a pursuit who doesn't put much work into it. An example would be trying to appreciate art and discuss it without reading about any of the great painters, visiting museums, or learning about light and perspective.

Unfortunately, I see it quite often in coaching, consulting, speaking, and similar professions. Someone has a "message" but doesn’t want to learn about stage mechanics, handling questions, or using visual aids. Someone wants to be a "coach" but has no use for trying to understand human behavior or read about motivation. There are "consultants" who can't tell McGregor from McClelland and really don't want to put in the work to learn about team dynamics or hierarchical power. (I love consultants who claim they "intuit" and can simply give good advice viscerally, with no process. I expect they have a crystal ball instead of a lap top.)

We all tolerate to some degree or another people who comment on cars, restaurants, vacation spots, and wine and who simply have opinions and no context, biases and no facts. They don't want to learn about a burgundy, or the history of the Amalfi Coast, or who really owns Bentley (Volkswagen). They feel they have the right and gifted presence to simply debate with people who have actually "been there and done that." (I remember sitting in a lobby while a man impressed a woman by talking about the most miniscule details of my Ferrari parked outside. The problem was that he was wrong about 85 percent of his "facts.")

In business, we have dilettantes who run small businesses or solo practices and expect that their native expertise and/or passion for their offerings will bring people running. They don't bother to learn how to market and sell. Then they blame their putative customers for not showing up!

A hundred years ago dilettantes were also called "dandies." They dabbled. It's one thing to come from wealth and dabble in music, or theater, or clothing, or rocketry. It's another when you and your family actually need the money. There are some people dabbling who have spouses who can support the entire family (and their enterprise). But in most cases, the need is to go beyond dabbling, beyond dilettantism, and put in the work that will make your interest payoff.

If you can't do that, it's not very dandy.

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I'm not big on texting shortcuts, although I can figure out what LOL or OMG means. But a key client had written me that they could be amenable to MWF, and I was too embarrassed to write back for an explanation. Yet, I had to decipher this to proceed with my project.

My wife saw me staring at the computer.

"What?" she asked.

"I think MWF means 'may work in future'," I said, "although I don't understand the context."

"What had you asked?"

"I asked when we could begin," I absently responded.

"He saying 'Monday, Wednesday, or Friday'," said my wife as she left the room.

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