Jealousy Is Always Premature

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I’ve always been fascinated by endurance events such as the marathon. They demonstrate that one has the ability to inflict discomfort on one’s competitors – physical discomfort – without laying a finger on them. Doing so, however, requires increasing one’s own discomfort level. It’s sort of like holding your hand over a flame: a measure of physical and mental toughness. Tenacity.

(The biggest players in many industries understand this. It’s why Walmart supported the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate: not because Walmart is a glutton for punishment but because it understood that the mandate would have a decimating impact on its smaller competitors – those with employees much closer to 50 employees than Walmart’s more than two million.)

Tour de France riders ask “How much more pain can I tolerate?” In the world of startups one asks “How much more money can I invest in my idea?” The writer asks how many screenplays she’ll peddle before giving up, and so on.

As in life, victory in marathon doesn’t go to the runner who leads most of the race but to the one who leads at the end of the race. Life’s race ends when you’re dead, which is to say it never ends. At least not in this life. The guy who pulls away from the pack right from the start? Sure, he gets his name mentioned on tv but twenty miles later, when the real racing has begun, he’s nowhere to be found. Similarly, the 23-year old A-lister soon finds himself in the Where Are They Now file just as the patient and persistent begin rising to prominence.

So if you’re going to be jealous of anyone, be jealous of the persistent. Or better yet, abjure it altogether. It’s said that jealousy is the only one of the seven deadly sins which does not provide even temporary pleasure. If that’s not enough for you to renounce jealousy whenever it rears its ugly head, then consider this: it’s always premature.

“This sounds well and good,” I hear you say. “But how does one fight a feeling such as jealousy?”

Here are four words which have always helped me : “Too soon to tell.”

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Good Habits Require Achieving Escape Velocity

One of the under appreciated aspects of persistence is the way it leads, over time, to habit. I realized this recently when, looking back on my day before bedtime, I grew disappointed in myself for not having gotten my run in. I then grew astonished to realize that I had, in fact, run: I’d simply forgotten that I had done so. How could I so easily forget something like that? Because running has become automatic for me.

Lacing up my trainers and going on a run doesn’t generally require great determination on my part. It’s more like drinking coffee in the morning: a daily ritual requiring little or no self-motivation on my part.

Seen in this context, one needn’t marvel at people who are able to pick up new languages for the simple reason that it’s not work for them. Immersing themselves in languages, having conversations with foreign speakers, outgrowing the fear of making mistakes becomes perfectly natural. Were such things natural from the start? I doubt it. More likely, by regularly throwing themselves into situations which many people find uncomfortable, they learn to ignore their initial discomfort and get used to making mistakes. And each time they do, they encounter less internal resistance the next time.

Whether it’s saving money, learning a musical instrument or writing a novel, with persistence one gradually achieves a kind of escape velocity: what at first seems to require an inconceivable effort gradually becomes… effortless.

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Der Geniestreich Liegt Im Anfangen

1000 mile journey

(Note: This post original appeared in English here.)

„In dem Augenblick, in dem man sich endgültig einer Aufgabe verschreibt, bewegt sich die Vorsehung auch.“
Das wusste Goethe sicherlich, wie wir alle, aus persönlicher Erfahrung. Wir kennen dieses gute Gefühl, wenn wir darauf verzichten, eine dritte Tasse Kaffee zu machen, uns nicht bei Facebook einloggen und uns stattdessen zusammenreißen und wichtige Dinge erledigen.
Ob wir nun endlich mal den Schreibtisch aufräumen, eine App erstellen oder eine Kurzgeschichte schreiben, tatsächlich mal etwas gebacken zu kriegen ist ein erhellender Moment, der uns daran erinnert, dass alles andere unwichtig ist. Weder Kühlschrankmagnete mit Motivationssprüchen, tägliche Inspirations-Emails im Postfach oder Kurse für persönliche Weiterentwicklung werden etwas ändern. Das Wichtige ist, Dinge zu erledigen.
Wie war das mit dem Improkurs? Oder diesem Seminar für Drehbuchschreiber? Oder die Filmschule? Ich bitte Sie! Man lernt mehr und verschwendet weniger beim Improvisieren, Drehbuchschreiben und Filmen. Wer weiß? Vielleicht gibt es sogar eine Plattform, auf der Sie Ihren Film kostenlos für ein weltweites Millionenpublikum zugänglich machen können.

Aber niemand wird diesen Film für Sie drehen. Sie müssen ihn selbst drehen.

Besuchen Sie daviDDeeble.com oder sehen Sie sich das Video (4:30 Min.) meiner Präsentation Winning With A Bad Hand an.

The Tree Of Knowledge Of Happiness And Pleasure

Tree Good Evil 5And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.  – Genesis 3:22

If there were a secular Bible, it might speak of the Tree of Knowledge of Happiness and Pleasure. Clearly, eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a game changer. Growing aware of the difference between pleasure and happiness is similarly transformative in our personal lives. Sure, good and evil are diametrically opposed. But for most practical purposes, so are pleasure and happiness. Want to be happy? Keep your job. Want pleasure? Nuzzle up to Greta’s breasts over at Human Resources.

Kids exhibit this phenomenon even more clearly than adults. Take my children (please!). My kids are happiest in the bathtub. Whether put in there together or separately, one never fails to hear the sounds of unadulterated joy coming from the bathroom: uproarious laughter, wonder, pleasure and amazement.

Plopped in front of the tv, however, one the sounds of silence. Their faces take on a vacant gaze and they grow glum and irritable. The commercials are too long. They want to watch something else. And most of all, they don’t want to stop watching tv. Indeed, the prospect of turning off the tv brings out the worst in them. They protest, they hem and they haw, they negotiate and grow desperate.

And how do you think they respond to the question “What do you prefer, kids, a bath or television?”

To ask the question is to answer it. Of course they’d prefer to watch tv. They hate the prospect of a bath. That is to say, they’d rather do that which makes less happy. Pleasure does not equal happiness, and much unhappiness is the result of confusion between the two.

You think adults are any wiser than children? Look around. The 40-year old guy unwilling to give up the single life for the commitment required of marriage. The alcoholic who refuses to give up the pleasure of drinking for the joys of a manageable existence. The overweight woman who drowns her sorrow in ice cream rather than the ineffable satisfaction of physical exertion.

So what’s going on here? Why would anyone choose something which they know leads to less happiness? The answer is simple: people generally prefer pleasure to happiness. To put things more simply, if you want pleasure, pursue that which brings you pleasure. If you want happiness, pursue that which brings you happiness. This pleasure/happiness dynamic is a rare exception to the way the world works in that you generally do get what you want – and you get it good and hard.

I have this crazy notion that most people are just like me or, perhaps more aptly put, that most people are just like me. Over time I have taught myself that virtually every decision on makes during the course of a day involves a trade-off between pleasure and happiness. Do I always make the decision favoring happiness? Of course not. Do I like to think that I’m aware that even the most mundane decisions I make, from what to order from the restaurant menu to whether I get in some exercise, has a very real impact on my mood, let alone my personal happiness? Absolutely.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch the sizzle reel of my talk Winning With A Bad Hand.