Category Archives: It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

Bizarro World (It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault)

For those of you unfamiliar, “Bizarro” originated in the Superman Comics and was revived on Seinfeld. Essentially, it means “polar opposite,” so there was an evil anti-Superman, an anti-Earth, and so on.

However, it may not be strictly fictional or, alternatively, I may no longer be sane.

Not long ago, I posted on social media about a woman who ordered a book, then refused to pay for it, return it, or even communicate about it. She simply took the book and didn’t pay, which is normally called theft. Yet some people castigated me for raising the issue, feeling her privacy should be protected.

Periodically, I object to senseless profanity of Facebook, and block the user. I find virulent obscenity used to express simple terms to be indicative of low intelligence and total insensitivity (outside of locker rooms and private meetings). Yet, there are always those chastising me for not being more flexible and listening to the ideas while ignoring the “innocent” expletives, or for not honoring someone’s “free speech.”

I saw two guys in business suits attempt to sneak into the United air lounge in Denver, and when turned in by someone else (not I) they became resentful and obnoxious. Some of the other guests thought that they should have been left alone.

What’s going on here? Are we a society so permissive that anything goes? It’s bad enough that ill-advised school districts have removed “top ten” lists and valedictorians in a futile endeavor to improve everyone’s self-esteem by pretending no one is performing better than anyone else, but do we now waive all the rules on civility, membership, and discourse? Apparently at Brown University we do, because it’s okay for that bastion of liberal thought to boo and harass the former Police Commissioner of New York off the stage after he was invited to speak. Free speech? Learned discourse? Not in our universities, if you please.

Society moves forward and people’s lives are improved by emphasizing the best, not the worst, and by striving for higher standards, not the lowest common denominator.

Except in Bizarro World.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Rehab Me

The mayor of San Diego, after long denying sexual harassment claims, has now apparently gone into “two weeks of intensive therapy” after overwhelming evidence has been brought against him by several women.

Therapy and rehab have become way stations on the road to continued degradation. Instead of confessing one’s sins and admitting one’s crimes—which might just lead to true catharsis—politicians, athletes, and celebrities simply go through the turnstile of rehabilitation or therapy to emerge as if from a car wash, cleansed of grime and bug spots. Lindsay Lohan ought to have one of those discount coupon books for good customers.

No one is guilty any more, they’re simply a product of their environment, or listened to the wrong people, or have had bouts of mental fatigue/anxiety/excessive chocolate.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief who got involved sexually with the maid in a New York Hotel but managed to get back to France, has just been charged with pimping by a French magistrate (New York Times today). You see, the car gets cleaned on the outside, but it’s the inside that remains filthy.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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I’ve Heard This Song Before

An outfit called FreshBooks has put out an ebook that resulted in two dozen emails to me over the past two weeks, all on the same subject. The kinder interpretation was “these guys really learned from you,” and the unkinder was, “these guys are using your stuff.”

I downloaded a copy of the free book, speed read it, and immediately found about ten instances where the concepts, examples, or words themselves were mine, on the topic of value based fees, which I began writing about in 1992 and have never stopped. The concepts are in 20 of my books, most notably Million Dollar Consulting, and Value Based Fees.

I wrote to the authors and suggested that if they put something in a footnote, index, acknowledgment, introduction, preface—anywhere—that they recognize my work as a source or inspiration for at least some of their ideas and writing, well, that would be gracious and we could all go on with our lives. The author responding to the email told me he’d get back to me.

When he did, he actually wrote (he couldn’t have done this in person with a straight face) that he and his partner never read any of  my work, never heard me speak in person or recorded, never Googled “value based fees” when they decided to write on the topic, and never read any other books on the subject at all. He claims the ideas just “came to them” and “his father talked about it.”

There’s all too much of this stuff that goes on and it’s more pathetic than it is threatening or vexing. I place my ideas in the public forum through books, articles, video, audio, and speeches. I expect the ideas to be applied. But I also expect the decency, ethics, and maturity to provide attribution when you otherwise seem to present the ideas and words as your own.

Perhaps I should write more on ethical behavior. I did write a booklet on the subject once, “Doing Well By Doing Right.” It was the worst selling booklet of the series of five I created.

But be apprised: FreshBooks is anything but Fresh Air.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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On Compassion

Here’s one definition of compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion.

I wrote a Monday Morning Memo recently about achieving certain goals and a woman wrote me to tell me she was in agreement with all of my views but couldn’t implement because she was “stuck.” I took the time to write back and suggest she wasn’t “stuck” and could take action if she’d stop telling herself she was “stuck.” I don’t believe in “writer’s block” or “overwhelm” or any other excuses for inattention and lack of discipline. I DO believe in procrastination!

She told me she deserved more compassion from me, and I pointed out that I believed compassion was reserved for the sick, for those suffering loss, for those in pain, for those without easy remedy for critical issues. “Stuck” wasn’t among them. Of course she took umbrage. (Taking umbrage and departing in a huff I find to be closely related.)

This woman symbolizes victimhood for me. People would rather create imaginary reasons for not taking action—even becoming a victim of their own inactivity—rather than simply getting off their chair. (I’m trying to be polite here.)

Most of us, especially in the US, are well off compared to others. We have opportunity, resources, and support networks unless, of course, we convince ourselves that our situation is so dire that none of that can possibly help. We have a professional victim category in this country, and its embarrassing to observe.

There are many who deserve our true compassion: those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own; who are dealing with illness and family crises; who are serving our country in harm’s way; who have endured hardships beyond their resources to endure. They deserve help, not merely compassion, from the government and from all of us who can afford to provide it.

But I’m not about to cheapen that legitimate need by investing in those who feel “stuck.” But there is, fortunately, a cure for them, too. To quote the famous psychologist skit of Bob Newhart: Stop it!

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

Some business and personal practices require the individual to come up with stunningly stupid approaches. These aren’t genetic or hereditary. They are not your mother’s fault. She knew better, so get off the therapist’s couch and take accountability for your own mess.

One of the people in my mentoring program, a specialist in sales skills, informed me today that when she suggested to a client that salespeople take more effective notes in meetings with prospects, the legal beagles stepped in to determine “the legal risk in permitting note taking in meetings.” (No offense here intended for beagles, fine and intelligent dogs.)

There is no right to privacy in a public place where privacy is not a normal condition, e.g., standing in line at an airport. Yet two people took great offense at a picture I posted of a woman eating a sandwich (showing the lack of amenities in coach class travel), a woman they don’t know, merely eating a sandwich, and claimed I was engaged in “bullying.”

A woman approached me after a speech and told me that she was happy with my treatment of women, since she counted (she COUNTED), and determined that I used equal numbers of male and female pronouns. Another woman, minutes later, told me I was biased because I tended to laugh when answering women’s questions, but I didn’t laugh as much answering men’s questions. Both these women ought to have a sandwich while waiting for a plane.

A woman at the phone company, sounding like a zombie on Prozac, asked me in a monotone if the number I was calling her on was the number that was not working for outside calls. (I did NOT laugh at this question in responding to her.)

A publisher for whom I’ve written a recent book—bear in mind I’ve written 46—asked if I’d be willing to write an article for a magazine to promote the book. When I agreed, they had a ghostwriter contact me so that he could make sure the article was written well. (Now there’s a man I did laugh at as I told him to take a hike.)

There are people on the web ostensibly trying to become professional consultants and speakers who are both posting and downloading intellectual property that is protected by copyright so that it can be stolen. What kind of pea brain do you possess to believe you can be a responsible professional by stealing others’ works to save $16 on your way to a successful, ethical career?

Trust me, this idiocy is not their mother’s fault.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved. (Ha, Ha!)

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault: Vol. 1 Issue 3

We get a truckload of Christmas cards, which is wonderful. Many are sent by people from early in our marriage who stay in touch via an exchange of cards. Some people have a tradition of inserting a “family letter” detailing the past year, as if we should be catching up on episodes we’ve missed of Breaking Bad or Dexter. (The last time I printed such a sentiment, some people were incensed that I wouldn’t appreciate these exegeses. I expect the same backlash now!)

I find these epistles to be interesting only to the sender and usually merely read the card, but my wife insists that these are effective missives to “catch up” with acquaintances, though I’ve seen her eyes glaze over in the middle or reading of a fourth cousin’s marriage to a deputy assistant librarian in Raleigh who once met the hairdresser for one of Rihanna’s backup singers.

However, I have noticed something of interest in these Pauline letters (“The second letter of St. Paul to the Weisses,” if you follow the Gospels): Most are filled with accomplishments and pride, and occasionally the unfortunate loss of loved ones, or the status of those in the military. But some are unremitting in their unrelenting expostulation of misfortune, calamity, and setback. They make Job seem well off by comparison (and, in fact, one writer this year, ignoring hubris, cited Job as having nothing on him).

A single letter writer (often electronically, sort of the antithesis of the personal holiday greeting) will go on about lost opportunities, illnesses, natural disaster—everything short of locusts, though I don’t read all the letters carefully, so who knows? I’m reminded of Al Capp’s famous “Li’l Abner” character, Joe Btfsplk, who had a perpetual black cloud over his head, carrying the world’s worst jinx.

Why are you sending others your litany of miseries? Surely all of us have our stories, our losses, our grievous wounds. Some have suffered deaths and horrible illnesses. Why are you so special as to have to broadcast your every bad hair day, hiccup, and unfair traffic ticket to the rest of us?

I know this sounds harsh, but share tragedy, much less minor misfortune, with your family and those who are close friends. Share with others some happiness, some optimism, some uplift. Your fourth cousin’s wedding is preferable to my learning that someone vandalized your car.

Some issues are meant to share, some you have to bear. Your mother probably told you to “grow up” and “stop crying” and “you’ll have to accept it.” She was right. What happens to you isn’t her fault, much less mine. We all have to deal with adversity.

But as my mother said: “Better to spread some joy. Would it kill you?”

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

Vol. 1 Issue #2

I run across too many people obsessed with the “fact” (viz.: personal belief) that they can’t get a “break.” The theater ticket is too difficult to acquire; the traffic made them late for the start of the game; the tax assessment isn’t fair; the driver alongside them hit the door of their car.

Stuff happens. No matter what your beliefs, I know of no belief system that posits some guy in a green eye shade and sleeve protectors keeping a detailed ledger of everyone’s positive and negative “breaks” so as to ensure a fair distribution. We have “life coaches,” silly enough, but we don’t have “life accountants,” unless I’ve missed a fad du jour.

We can buy tickets far in advance, or pay extra for choice seats if they’re that important; we can leave earlier and plan our time better; we can appeal a tax assessment; we can park farther away where no one is likely to park next to us. In other words, we can reduce the probability of bad stuff happening to us, and attempt to mitigate the seriousness if bad stuff should happen anyway.

Gizillion dollar missions to Mars fail. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is so late you can’t even track it with a Mayan calendar. The wind blows a shopping cart across a parking lot right into your car door. You step in a place recently visited by a dog relieving itself. Stuff happens.

Stop complaining about the breaks. You make your own over the long haul. The harder you work, the more breaks arise. Unless, of course, you’re too busy complaining that you never get any breaks.

“Luck,” said Brooklyn Dodger legendary general manager Branch Rickey, who brought Jackie Robinson into the major leagues, “is the residue of design.” How are you designing  your future?

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault Feedback

I’ve been getting two kinds of feedback to that first column.

The first is all about addiction and battering. The points being made are that mental illness is not the fault of the individual, and you need more than to simply change your discipline and accountability. I would think that would be self-evident. My point is that too many otherwise perfectly healthy people are claiming “it’s not their fault” and blaming their mother (as a metaphor) for their own lack of discipline and resolve. And, for that matter, I think issues such as Adult Attention Deficit Disorder are far over-diagnosed, and claimed by many without any diagnosis at all.

The other kind of feedback is encapsulated by the most recent email this morning, from a mother to her son who forwarded my column:

OMG!!!  I wish you could have sent it to all your siblings!  I’m going to forward it to a few of my friends.  Right now I’m going to print it out and put a copy on my refrigerator.  You should put a copy of it around, too.

MANY, MANY THANKS!!!

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

Vol. I Issue #1

This is the first is a series of columns that will appear on Alan’s Blog about the self-limiting beliefs we consciously and unconsciously allow to undermine our lives and success. I will reproduce this elsewhere, but the original columns will begin their lives here on contrarianconsulting.com.

Think of Cher in “Moonstruck” slapping Nicholas Cage twice, shouting, “Get over it!” or Bob Newhart in his famous skit as a therapist advising his patient, “Stop it!”

We spend inordinate amounts of money on problematic therapy sessions trying to eradicate “baggage” that we believe is affecting our ability to perform, to maintain relationships, to deal effectively with life’s vicissitudes. But we might as well hire an exorcist. (I asked the then-president of the American Psychological Association, who was on my advisory board at a former company, why there was such a high incidence of suicide among psychologists. “Because,” he replied without hesitation, “we attract many troubled people who are trying to work out their own issues.”)

In other words, their mothers were also wreaking havoc with them.

But it’s not your mother’s fault.

My observations of successful people and struggling people feature this omnipresent distinction: Successful people help themselves. They are not professional victims; they don’t present themselves as hopelessly entrapped by their nurturing; they create positive change for themselves.

Some people can stop smoking, some can’t. Some people can lose weight, some can’t. Some people comfortably address audiences, some can’t. Some people can control their nerves and fears, some can’t. The distinction isn’t in one’s DNA, or toilet training, or being part of a village to raise the child. (It takes loving parents or even a single parent to raise a child, not a village or other municipality.)

The distinction is in one’s self-discipline, organization, and resolve; in one’s self-accountability. Support systems are wonderful, as are loving families, but the primary support system is between your ears. To claim that you were scarred early, or can’t work in certain environments, or need special attention to get by, is usually just an excuse not to change, grow, or mature. You might as well say, “The devil makes me do it.”

Once you reach adulthood, with a basic education, an ability to examine the environment around you, and the advantage of witnessing what works for others (hard work, learning new skills, forging relationships, etc.), you should be able to “get over it” and “stop” whatever it is that’s impeding you. If others have, you can. If you don’t and won’t, then you have only yourself to blame.

It’s not your mother’s fault.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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