Perfection: The Enemy Of The Better

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 7.36.35 AM

I enjoy minimalism. I’m also an advocate of it when it comes to personal growth – a little bit better at something or other over the course of your entire life and you’re doing pretty darn good.

Many people are impatient with small improvements over time because they have a perfectionist inside them whispering “If I can’t do a thing perfectly right now, what’s the point?” Whether the issue is saving enough money for retirement or getting married, the attitude is “It’s far too late for me”. And then a decade passes and you look at a photo of yourself from the present and think “Man, I looked great. If only…”

Perfectionism is ultimately a form of nihilism which allows it’s practitioners to say “What difference does it make?” And so your blog goes unattended for weeks (or months), you fail to finish anything you start, etc.

In a post-internet world in which the appetite for new information is constant, the costs of stinking up the place on a regular basis have never been lower. The world isn’t even riding on your success. That the world doesn’t care about your failures is a great consolation.

So you wrote what might be the worst serious attempt at a blog post in the history of the internet. (Consider describing it as such and posting it to Tumblr). So what? Life – and your work – go on.

When America’s Got Talent! invited me on their show I thought “Sure, why not?” I did entirely on my own terms, what more could I ask? The audience at the taping seemed to be mostly 13-year old girls. Not exactly in my wheelhouse. I went on to become the only performer on the history of the show to be buzzed off by merely describing my act.

The point is I don’t regret it: I don’t have time to.

Return to or learn more about my corporate presentation on YouTube.

Seek Growth, Not Change

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 8.12.03 PMSpeakers too mediocre to talk about virtues talk about values; speakers too mediocre to talk about values talk about change.

Presentations about “obstacles to change” are nothing-burgers because “change” as such is neither good nor bad. Becoming a father constitutes change, so does infanticide. Being neither good nor bad, change as such is the seemingly-safe route for the speaker who lacks the courage or qualifications to talk about growth.

Obstacles to growth (be it personal, professional or organizational) is a legitimate topic because growth, unlike change, is a virtue. Speakers tend to avoid talking about growth, however, because it is verifiable, measurable and has an aroma of free-market competitiveness which the corporate world is desperate to avoid.

Change, conversely, has a patina of virtue which affords organizations the opportunity to engage in moral exhibitionism while avoiding a naked exploration of new ways to increase marketshare.

Do you have thoughts about change? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to or learn more about my corporate presentation here.

The “Change” Nothing-Burger

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 8.45.37 AM

That change as such can be good or bad was once so well understood as to be axiomatic. Previous generations, naturally, were no strangers to change. But the notion that change is good in and of itself is an entirely new idea.

It’s also a very lucrative one. I once attended a workshop for speakers which confirmed this. The head of an lecture agency was asked by an aspiring speaker (itself an curious phenomenon) “What topic would you say is hottest among event planners?” The woman from the agency responded with one word, spoken with laconic certitude: “Change“.

President Obama famously centered his election campaign on change and today,  much to his consternation, it remains as popular with voters as ever.

Change, it turns out, is not the mixed-bag our forebears were so ambivalent about. Far from being a mere constant – the more things change the more they stay the same – change has been elevated into a modern virtue. This is taken for granted in the speaking community, where no bill of goods is meant to receive less scrutiny than the importance of overcoming obstacles to change.

Change, we are now made to understand, is a necessary good. Self-styled change agents “show up and shake things up”, enabling us to see “new possibilities”. If change often seems distasteful it is only because, like chastity,  you have not yet been taught to embrace it.

At the heart of this conceit is the belief that change should be embraced everywhere and at all times. Overcoming obstacles to change no longer means shaking free of bad habits but, rather, to slay the Great Enemy – the status quo (a term which has been vilified in service of change myth).

The morality tale spun around change serves as a very useful nothing-burger, allowing talks to be given, books to be written and self-styled experts to be ordained with little or no effort or thought.

When the usefulness of soberly assessing change becomes as widespread as ritually celebrating it, then we’ll really have something to talk about.

Do you have thoughts on change? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to

Climate Change We Can Believe In

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 2.59.05 PM

Al Gore upon discovering he must share his private jet with his hairdresser’s entourage.










A version of this post was originally published at Visit my archive here

I used to believe that the sole role of government is to deliver the mail and defend the shores. I now realize that this is asking too much.

Speaking of the mail, I love the U.S. Post Office. It’s like the DMV with stamps. Have you noticed that you never see Post Office and DMV employees in the same room at the same time? I’m beginning to think they’re the same guy.

But give the federal Leviathan this: it’s sterling treatment of veterans, taxpayers and lawful immigrants should have earned our confidence in taking on the simpler tasks like managing the earth’s climate.

It’s true that every model currently relied upon by climate profits – ahem, climate prophets –  failed to predict the past 17 years of climate stasis (itself evidence of climate change). Indeed, current climate models were no more accurate in predicting the last decade-and-a-half than most leg models. None of this is to suggest that climate models are without value: at least one has shown some promise in predicting the American League Central (odd years only).

But the answer to global warming does not lie in more-accurate climate models. What our policy approaches lack most is imagination. What this moment requires is a bold, Kennedy-esque vision. I propose that by the end of this decade, we send a climate scientist back in time to the Ice Age to warn our ancestors of the impact of fossil fuels on the climate – and then return him safely to earth (or Academia, whichever comes first).

Return to

There’s Nothing Like Telling A Joke For The Second Time

How I work is I write down my thoughts, edit them down to size and then tell them to audiences as if they had just occurred to me. It’s sort of like acting in a play which you also wrote.

One of the challenges of performing new material is maintaining the same demeanor (i.e., feigning the same confidence) as those jokes which are time-tested. It’s like suddenly bluffing in poker after a long series of hot hands.

It’s very gratifying to try new material which receives the desired response. But in stand-up comedy the real rush comes from a new joke’s second telling because you know the audience will place a coda of laughter at the end. As a result, my anxiety is replaced with anticipation, uncertainty with confidence. Instead of anticipating and observing the audience reaction my mind is free focus on my delivery, which enhances my confidence, which increases the audience’s enjoyment, and so on.

It’s a virtuous cycle.

Thoughts, comments or angry retorts? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to


The Bureaucratic Mindset

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 5.16.58 PM

It’s a long boring story but the upshot is my itinerary had me flying, in one day, from Bismarck, North Dakota to Denver to Phoenix to Los Angeles and back to Denver. That’s right: four flights between Bismarck and Denver with a layover in… Denver.

None of this was anybody’s fault but simply a result of separate reservations made to accommodate a changing schedule.

Checking-in at Bismarck Municipal airport, I explained to the United representative that since Denver was my “final destination” that I would only be taking the first flight, thank you very much, and that she should therefore only check my bag to Denver and not to LAX, which would have required me to collect my bag and re-check them to Denver (owing to separate reservations).

“You’ll lose your return flight” she explained. She said it in such a way that suggested less full-disclosure than “I’m not sure I can do that”.

My instinct was confirmed when, after gamely poking at a couple of computer keys for a couple seconds, she summarily informed me that it couldn’t be done. Before I could explain to her (in a way that would keep her dignity intact) that it could, in fact, be done, another United representative who overheard our exchange took up my cause. “Just go to bag management”, she said, pointing to a key on her computer.

Not surprisingly, the first representative’s can’t-do attitude remained unfazed. She implied that it could, in fact, be done, but that it would be “illegal” for her to do so. (For this I gave a small prayer of thanks that anything so hilarious could be uttered in Bismarck, North Dakota).

It become immediately clear that I was dealing with one of those bureaucratic souls whose can’t-do attitude blinded her to what should have been obvious.

Happily, uncharacteristically, competence reigned as the other representative took over while the Fearful One looked on with the resentment those who can’t have toward those who do. She was advertising her own refusal to learn anything from this experience – and the self-loathing that accompanies such refusal.

Within two minutes I was headed toward security with ticket in hand.

Whenever I encounter someone with the bureaucratic mindset I am reminded of a line – I think it’s Hannah Arendt’s description of Adolf Eichmann – that “He was less concerned with what pushing the button meant than with pushing it well”.

I arrived safely in Denver and my bag did the same only a few minutes later and the sun has since continued to set in the west and rise in the east.

Do you have experiences with the bureaucratic mindset and a can’t-do attitude? Share them in the comment section below.

Return to

Worst Introduction Ever

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.44.40 PM

Entertainers often exchange stories about the worst introductions they’ve ever received. The one I received tonight has to be up there.

The show was an awards banquet for a small group of first responders in Bismarck, North Dakota (paramedics, pilots, etc.) When the last award was handed out, the emcee transitioned to the introduction provided by the agent who booked me.

“Tonight’s entertainer has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Last Comic Standing. He’s also the only performer ever kicked off America’s Got Talent! by merely describing his act.” Laughter. Everything was as it should be.

Just then the banquet manager reminds the emcee from the back of the room that the much-anticipated dessert was now ready just outside the banquet hall.

“Oh, dessert…” the emcee said, obviously flummoxed. “Who wants dessert?” The audience cheered. “Well, if you want dessert, it’s ready.” He then picked up where he left off. “His unnatural act is a whirlwind display off erotic skills and … did I say erotic?” (titters from the audience as they exited). “… exotic skills and laugh-out-loud commentary. Please welcome David Deeble.”

Needless to say getting to the stage was like trying to get on a subway car that everybody else was trying to exit.

After that much was a blur. I vaguely remember pointing out to the few who remained seated that when it comes to cheesecake vs. a comedian, cheesecake always wins.

Do you have introduction horror stories? Share them in the comment section below.

Return to

Against Corporate-Speak

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 11.51.05 AM

Some time ago Forbes published an article titled The Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon. Its premise is, in the words of management professor Jennifer Chatman at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, that “Jargon masks real meaning.” No kidding!

It also serves to as a barrier to entry. In other words, business jargon is a “Win-Win” (a phrase which should only be used when the Yankees lose a double header).

Here, then, is a short talk – ahem – presentation –  designed to, among other things, help you fail your way success.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank you for reaching out to me. I’m very happy to connect with you. 

It is my intention this afternoon to incentivize you and your organization to take things to the next level. Think of the ideas I discuss with you today as a kind of 5-Hour Synergy for any corporate culture which dares to employ them. 

I know first-hand the efficacy of these ideas as I have employed them throughout my career and in my personal life. It is my hope that by opening my kimono that I’ll be able to increase your learnings

This talk is more than just about best practices. It’s about how to think outside the box in order to get leverage. Then, how to leverage that leverage. More importantly, it will teach you to empower others and, more importantly, empower yourself. Your authentic self, of course.

These solutions are as scalable as they are actionable. They will challenge your corporate values which, in any event, are much more fun to talk about than corporate virtues, if any. 

And while I hope that you employ these principles to maximize effectiveness, make no mistake: failure is always a possibility. But don’t fear failure. It is a key component on the path to success. In fact, failure is a form of success. I’ll go further: failure is an end in an of itself.

It can be painful to work hard on a mission-critical project only in the end to be forced to take it offline, but by doing so you reveal core competencies. And your peripheral competencies. And for that matter, your core mediocrities as well. 

If you have any questions there will be some wriggle room at the end of my presentation to take your questions. Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question, so long as it is sincere. If something doesn’t make sense to you, by all means, let’s talk that. And if you would like to share your own ideas I hope you don’t hesitate loop us all in

So let’s get started, as cutting into the next presenter’s time is plain-bad optics

What are your least-favorite examples of corporate-speak? Leave them in the comment section below.

Return to

Backstage at the Magic Castle: a short, true story

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 7.43.45 PMOne night when my son was a toddler I had him with me backstage at the Magic Castle. It was unusual but not entirely unheard of: my wife was with me and assuming the yeoman work of caring for him but between shows I would sometimes take over for her.

It was while Lucas was in my care that one of the Magic Castle’s hosts, Marty, called out to me from an adjacent room. Dave? he wanted to know. Are you backstage? Do you have any guests to pre-seat for the next show?  “No” I said, loud enough for my voice to similarly carry through the wall. “Thank you, Marty”.

That settled, I had little Lucas accompany me into the stage-left restroom which at that time had walls every bit as thin as the walls the host and I had just been shouting through. There in the cramped restroom I attempted to keep Lucas’s eyes (and therefore his hands) away from the toilet by engaging him conversation as I washed my hands in the sink. “How’d you get so big? Hmm? Look how big you are! How’d you get so big?”

I carried on in a similar fashion for some time before finally exiting the bathroom, holding the door open for Lucas, damp paper towel in my free hand as I did so. And there, outside the restroom, is Marty, looking like a deer in headlights, unable to see Lucas or, for that matter, any thing other than me.

Marty quickly exited as I attempted to explain. “My son! My son is with me tonight!” But he was gone.

Marty, if you’re reading this, leave a comment in the section below. I feel bad.

Return to

Work-Related Stress vs. Stress-Related Work


Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 3.55.22 PM

When you work for yourself, the stress of having too much to do is qualitatively different than the stress of having too little. If you work for yourself, chances are it’s work you love and “busy season” just means you have that much more wind to your back.

It’s harder to do, though, when your job consists of finding your next job.

Sometimes it helpful to distinguish between stress that results from too much work – a sign that others find your work very useful – and stress that results from too little work – a sign that you have more work to do.

The former can be a burden, it is also a blessing.

Return to or watch me attempt the impossible.