Compared To What? Thoughts On Gratitude

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People make mistakes, like the time my wife bought me some home-brew coffee which wasn’t Starbucks French Roast. I was hopeful: given the scale of my coffee career we’d save a lot of money over time with the brand she was steering me toward. I took one sip, sealed the air-tight lid on what remained then scribbled the words “Save for guests” on the front.

Then one 5 a.m. I realized I was out of my French Roast. Wiping the sleep from my eye, I shuffled toward the car keys in a foolish, inchoate attempt to drive to the grocery store. After realizing the insanity of operating heavy equipment without a coffee in me, my forlorn gaze fell upon my wife’s purchase.

With the relief that occasions waking up from a disturbing dream, I put my single-cup Keurig coffee maker to work then continued with my morning routine. The coffee brewed, I took a sip and a noticed something funny: it wasn’t terrible anymore. It wasn’t even bad. It was good.

John Updike once wrote a short story about a man desperately seeking a toilet. Finally finding one, the humble toilet appears to him to be one of the most beautiful things he’s ever seen. In non-fiction, U.S. war hero Louis Zamperini tells the story of waking up one day on his life raft adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to discover a seagull resting on his forehead. He quickly grabbed the bird and devoured it, saying it tasted like a banana split with chocolate syrup, whipped cream and cherry on top.

Why was my wife’s coffee so much better the second time? That’s right: because the first cup was tasted against a backdrop of an ample supply of own coffee. The second time I brewed it, though, it was my only alternative to the unthinkable: going without coffee.

I don’t pretend to know if mothers still say it to their complaining children today, but when I was a kid we were always reminded that “Somewhere in the world somebody has it worse”. Then, as now, it caused me to reflect that at any given moment there’s a child in the world who actually does have it worse than anyone else. (What does his mother tell him? Then again definitionally he doesn’t have a mother.)

It’s said that Olympians who win the bronze medal are often more satisfied with their result than those who win the silver: the latter compares her result to the gold medalist’s while the former compares her result to finishing out of a medal entirely.

What should be the attitude, then, be of those Olympians who actually do finish out of a medal? Should they be grateful merely for the opportunity to compete? Yes. And what of those who fail to qualify for the Olympics altogether? Should they appreciate the opportunity to have given it their best shot? Yes. What about those who will never fulfill their dream of attending the Olympics, let alone compete in them: should they, too, be grateful for the opportunity to watch The Games on tv and online?

You know my answer.

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Time Decides, Not You

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Sometimes what appears to be a fork in the road turns out only to be a bump in the road. Most of us have experienced something which seemed catastrophic at the time – a job loss, a divorce, an entire chocolate cake devoured in a single seating – but with the passing of time one realizes it wasn’t catastrophic after all.

Other times what appears to be catastrophic does turn out to be life-changing but in a positive sense. When a head injury cost me the coordination in my right arm, I largely lost my ability to juggle at a professional level but over time I developed a workaround which ended up taking me places conventional juggling never could.

Then, of course, there are what appear to be incredible blessings which eventually come to haunt us. Think of the countless lottery winners whose lives spin out of control as if on cue or the boffo young actor who falls prey to the trappings of fame and fortune.

So what’s the point? The point is that Much of the pain in life comes not from events but our characterization of events. . And a monomaniacal insistence on finding meaning from events in real time.

This was the view of the stoic philosopher Epictetus. For example, if you drop your favorite coffee mug causing it to shatter into a million shards it’s tempting to think of it as anything from unfortunate to a profound misfortune. According to Epictetus you should not engage in characterization at all, positive (“It’s a growing experience!”) or negative (“Somebody kill me”).

Learn to think of the facts in your life in exactly those terms: facts. “My favorite mug is shattered”. One advantage of this approach is that describing it thus makes you right and being right is an important contributor to happiness, except for pessimists who are happy to be proven wrong.

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Is The Boss Laughing? Why Corporate Shows Are Easy

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There’s hardly a gig I haven’t done: nude cruises, kids’ birthday parties, comedy clubs,  The Tonight Show, colleges, parades, corporate events – you name it, I’ve done it. Of all of them, corporate shows are unique in at least one respect: the audience is keenly attuned to the boss’s reaction.

It’s not like performing for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, of course, but corporate audiences do tend to be inordinately cautious about not laughing until they’re sure the CEO is.

Which makes performing for corporate audiences a nightmare, right?

Wrong. Why not? The reason is simple: the CEO isn’t worried about what her boss thinks – she is the boss. While employees, desirous of keeping their jobs, are taking cues from her, she’s simply enjoying the show.

This is one of the reasons corporate shows tend to be far easier than, say, college shows, where the boss (i.e. professors and faculty) are processing the show through their politically-correct (i.e. leftist) ideological lens rather than simply having a good time.

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Fun Is Easy, Happiness Is Hard

10443158_788833557827333_4179652623399338578_oExercise is hard. My primary form of exercise – running – is particularly unfathomable to many. Yet when it comes to running long distances, I’m one of those annoying people who “get it”.

You know what I also get? Eating doughnuts. Who doesn’t love doughnuts? Fried dough, delectable vanilla icing, rainbow sprinkles. What’s more, eating doughnuts is a lot more fun than running. No matter how much I engage in both activities, eating doughnuts never fails to out-fun running. But here’s the thing: I eat doughnuts only rarely but I run 30 to 50 miles six or seven days a week. So what gives? Am I preternaturally disciplined? Obsessed with being skinny? Is someone always chasing me?

The answer is that I’m acutely self-aware of what makes me happy as opposed to what merely makes me feel good. Orgasms feel good yet I’ll wager that if I spent my life pursuing them I’d be a less happy person. If engaged in for a prolong period of time, fun things tend to make me miserable. Difficult things, conversely tend to make me happy.

Confusion about the difference between fun and happiness has caused no shortage of pain in people’s lives. A good question to ask yourself before engaging in any activity, from flossing your teeth to going to attending religious services, has been suggested by author Dennis Prager. The question is “How will I feel once I’m done?” Happiness-inducing activities tend to provide good feelings long after the activity has ceased. Merely fun things, however, tend to stop providing pleasure the moment one desists in the activity.

This phenomenon is easy to observe in children. Calling my children inside for dinner, they remain flushed with the joy of having played outside. They exhibit the “glow” I feel after a good run. But if I must inform them that it’s time to stop playing video games or watching Netflix, well, the words “profoundly irritated” best describe them.

We all know that passive entertainment diverts us for a time but leaves us less happy and more irritable. Yet we continue to eat junk food, play video games and watch too much tv instead of doing the hard work of exercising, reaching out to others and creating.

If you want to spend your life having fun then by all means, fill it with fun things. But if you want to spend your life being happy, pursue things that make you happy.

But most importantly, constantly remind yourself of the difference.

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Stop Pining For A Clinton-Trump Dream Ticket

Change You Can Believe In, Okay?

Look, I get it: the American people face a difficult choice. Now that both parties’ primaries are over and the general election is finally upon us, it seems unfair that we must choose between Clinton or Trump.

But talk about a good problem to have!

Sure, it’d be nice to have a candidate on the ticket who embodied both the unbridled ambition of Clinton and the unmoored political philosophy of Trump – like Joseph Stalin, say. But instead of losing sleep over this decision, be grateful that God has blessed America with such a bountiful general election!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m conflicted just like everybody else. On the one hand, Hillary would be our first woman president. I think we can all agree that the last thing this country needs is another George Washington or Abraham Lincoln: BOR-ing! On the other hand, in Trump we have the kind of candidate who would protect America’s interests as only a true authoritarian can.

I understand why some are losing sleep lose sleep over this election. One minute I’m leaning Hillary: from the reset with Russia, the invasion of Libya and her handling of the difficult situation in Benghazi to the fact that she’s never been indicted, Hillary’s résumé speaks for itself. Talk about an ability to think inside the box! But hen I fluff my pillow and suddenly I’m leaning Trump, who understands that it’s the Constitution that’s obstructionist, not Republicans or Democrats as such.

Like many Americans, I was hoping that once the primaries were over that the choice before us would be a clear one rather than the current embarrassment of riches. The Republican primary showcased its remarkable depth of talented and young politicians, from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker to Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Chris Christie. And while the Democrats’ primary was a cozier affair, who couldn’t help but be impressed by candidates like Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and something called Lincoln Chaffee.

But now we must make the most difficult choice of all: the jingoistic nativism of the unpredictable Trump or the corrupt cronyism of the all-too predictable Hillary. I hear you: 

 Well wish all you want but as Trump would say, it’s time to think white and get real. Maybe when Clinton and Trump debate one candidate will clearly stand out as less cover-your-eyes-awful than the other. But until that happens, I feel like the proverbial donkey who starves to death because it can’t decide which pile of hay to eat from because they both look so appetizing.

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Detects Hillary’s Cackle From Jupiter

All I asked for was a a federal minimum wage with a frickin' laser beam attached to its forehead.

“All I asked for was a college tuition plan with a frickin’ laser beam attached to its forehead.”

The investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices while Secretary of State has finally come to its foregone conclusion. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as expected, has kept her promise to abide by the recommendation of Bill Clinton the FBI.

FBI Director James Comey, America’s only silk-tie-wearing cop, possesses the risible lack of self-awareness Americans have come to associate with “high-ranking government officials” (formerly public servants). Of his decision not to recommend prosecution he said “This is not to suggest that in similar circumstances a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

Similar circumstances.

Clinton, for whom identity politics comes natural, has adeptly exploited Comey’s comments to burnish her credentials as the history-making candidate: the first President of the United States to be denied access to classified materials.

Reduced to plain English, of course, Comey’s message is that Clinton is protected from prosecution by a kind of establishment immunity. Put bluntly, she’s too-connected to indict. The subtext of Comey’s statement could hardly be clearer: while Clinton’s gross negligience does not constitute a criminal act, the prospect of Trump presidency does.

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Clinton, whose incredulity rivals Dr. Evil’s upon learning that a million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to, had already issued her go-to, I-regret-the-error-but-it’s-time-to-move-on statement, designed to reassure voters that the awesome power and privileges of the presidency would somehow humble her into greater respect for the law.

Legally in the clear, Ms. Clinton can now focus all her attention on the campaign trail, where she is attempting to energize her base by calling for a ban on gun sales to those who appear on no-call lists.

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Speakers: Be Quiet But Not Sneaky Quiet

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 2.00.58 PMWhat’s more distracting: a speaker who openly refers to the clipboard in her hand or one who stares long and hard at the top of the podium each time she takes a sip of water? One who furtively glances at his watch to see how he’s doing on time or one who makes no effort to conceal doing so?

Many years ago when I moved into a friend’s house he asked that when arriving home late at night that I be quiet but not “sneaky quiet”. Cautiously turning the key and gently opening the front door; tip-toeing around the house to prevent the floors from creaking: all these things, he explained, are not only more likely to wake him but more likely to terrify him in the middle of the night. The routine sounds of a respectful housemate coming home late, on the other hand, might wake him briefly but would also send him quickly back to sleep.

Much better for all involved to simply be open about it.

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What A Difference 700 Meters Makes

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Recall past visits to your local high school running track and ponder the difference that just two laps can make.

Then ask yourself why, for example, does the body of the 800-meter world champion David Rudisha say “athlete” while the body of his fellow Kenyan 1500-meter world champion Asbel Kiprop screams “Somebody feed me”?

How man meters are you from a breakthrough?

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Punishing Loyalty: Rewarding First-Time Customers

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Let’s face it: Nothing says “We value our longtime customers” like making a discount available only to first-time customers. .

Let’s call it the First-Time Flyer approach: instead of encouraging loyalty among customers by rewarding them for it, the First-Time Flyer approach seeks to reward new customers for abandoning one of their competitors.

The mindset which focuses on gaining new customers by imposing costs on long-established ones is widespread.

You call an internet service provider to arrange web access in your new home or apartment. It’s explained to you that as a first-time customer you are eligible for a special discounted rate, one not available to those chumps who have been customers for as long as there’s been an Internet.

The next time you visit your local grocery store, consider the “15 items or less” sign above the check-out. Set aside that it should read “15 items or fewer“: the mindset encapsulated in such signs is crystal clear: “We aim to reward those the most who are profiting us the least”.

Imagine shopping at a grocery store where such signs are replaced with ones which read “Customers Shopping With Us For Three Years Or More”. I’d wager that such a sign would encourage first-time customers to become longtime customers. (I’d also wager that the novelty of such a rewards program would prompt some customers to take pictures of such signs and share them on social media.

Then you’re really in business.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch my most-recent performance at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.

Adding Value

VALUEYou go to a comedy club to see some comedians you’ve never heard of and who ends up doing a set but Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld benefits only little from the set – maybe he’s not getting paid and the short time he spends onstage helps only little to hone his set – but the value he ads to the show and your experience is incalculable.

In the same way, things have tremendous to your clients and others that cost you virtually nothing. A $5 bill left on the nightstand has a lot more value to the woman who cleans your hotel room than what it costs you.

How many ways can you add similar value to your product or service on behalf of your clients?

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