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 www.daviDDeeble.com or learn more about my corporate presentation here.

Worst Introduction Ever

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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 daviDDeeble.com.

Against Corporate-Speak

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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 www.daviDDeeble.com.

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 www.daviDDeeble.com.

Work-Related Stress vs. Stress-Related Work

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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 www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me attempt the impossible.

Simplicity

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One of the ancient Greek philosophers advises keeping your principles few and simple so that you may refer to them quickly in an emergency. This advice was very useful to me when I lost the coordination in my right arm after a head injury. One moment I could juggle five balls behind my back. The next? I’m unable to juggle even two with my right hand without getting big laughs.

But just as rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked, I also had my share of good luck. Good luck to grow up down the street from the Long Beach Mystics clubhouse, for example. Ostensibly a place for magicians to help each other hone their craft, the principles I learned are applicable to all the performing arts.

It was really about KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Beginning at around age 8, being in the Mystics inculcated in me the importance of presentation. I learned that those things performed on the stage which most move audiences are ultimately those things which move people in every day life: Generosity. Mastery. Spontaneity.

Most of us are not fortunate to have grown up surrounded by such practical wisdom in the performing arts. But the truth is, most aspiring performers have more to unlearn than to learn. Simplify. Ask yourself: Am I rambling? Is there a more-straightforward way to present this idea or ask for this raise? Is this joke too wordy? Am I beating around the bush?

The other advantage of keeping things simple is that it’s fun. Of course it can be taken too far and one should guard against doing so. Just as a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, sometimes  a painting or sculpture is complete.

Similarly, making something more complex has its allures and naturally is often appropriate. But it’s accompanied by the nagging sensation that you should be streamlining rather than adding, chances are that nagging sensation is right.

Fear Of Failure vs. Fear Or Failure

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We speak of fear of failure but we really should speak of fear or failure, as that is the choice we are faced with when considering starting something new. I take a tragic view of life – I read the papers, as we used to say. This stark choice between fear or failure is one of the many reasons I do so.

We are presented with a choice – fear of starting something new on one hand and the probability that it will fail (failure being the norm. More tragedy!)

But with failure comes the possibility of success.

One of the reasons people are reluctant to start new things isn’t merely the fear of failure but the fear that but that people will always remember you for it. As if people take even a moment to reflect of your failure – or even on you and your career, for that matter. People are more or less like you. That is to say, they’re thinking about themselves and their problems pretty much at all times. You’re not even priority number two on their list. 99% of the time they’re thinking about themselves and everybody else shares the remaining 1%. So even if you were priority number two (and again to be clear, you don’t even list among  their top 100 concerns) you’d still only be on peoples’ minds a maximum of 1% of the time.

The masses just aren’t that into you. Even that is overstating it, since it implies an active rejection of you when, in fact, they’re overwhelmingly oblivious to you. So what do you really have to lose by creating something new?

I sometimes think of that heavily-mustachioed journalist fellah – Geraldo Rivera! – and the time he hosted a live – what was it, 30-minutes long? – tv show about a vault in a Chicago basement or someplace. Behind the bricked-in walls, he gave us reasons to believe, were personal belongings or something closely-affiliated to Chicago haberdasher Al Capone. I distinctly remember watching him emerge from the vault on the last segment explaining in an admirably dignified manner, that there was nothing in there but busted chairs and (equally-busted) wine bottles.

Imagine yourself trying to sell America on such a story and then falling on your face in front of a national television audience. Live. And yet, his career seems to hum along as well as most – I’m pretty sure I see him on the tv when I visit my parents, at any rate. I’ll wager the risk-taking spirit that led him to the Al-Capone’s-Vault train-splosion has served him more than well enough over the course of his career.

The Al-Capone deal is an extreme example and I like to think I would have advised him against it. Fail early, often and cheaply, as they say. Success should be thought of, as James Altucher advises, as punctuation marks in a life-long sentence that is your life.

Do you feel paralyzed with fear of failure? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

Return to www.DaviDDeeble.com

One Mystic Memory

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 1.54.41 PMMy cousin James Tate has near total recall of our mutual childhood. Names, places, things said by whom, seemingly everything. I always think I’m satisfied with the amount of memories I have, assuming, as I think it’s safe to do, that I’ll be adding more all the time. So long as the amount I lose isn’t greater than the amount of new memories I put in, I figure I’m doing okay.

One memory I was recollecting for absolutely no apparent reason was a lecture that Mark Kalin gave when he became fed-up with the music-editing amateurism and ignorance among too many of his fellow Mystics. He wasn’t angry at us personally, that was always obvious. He was simply becoming frustrated with problem and then he did something too few of us do: he started something.

He might’ve shrugged his shoulders and moved on. I suppose he could have mentioned his frustration Stan or Caveney and left it at that. But then there he stood in front of us anxious few, with the then-cutting-edge technology beside him like magic props: a “record player” and a “cassette recorder“.

I specifically remember Mark instructing us of a trick which I would employ many times: splicing music from one symbol crash to another for an easy edit. Simply depress the record key at the beginning of the crash and then resume recording (from the new source) at the second-half of another symbol crash.

I vaguely remember in those days the infuriating and insoluble problem of recording yourself pushing down the record button. Or maybe I just made that up because I’m in a fighting mood. Being part of the Long Beach Mystics meant being surrounded by guys who were always in a fighting mood.

It was great.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com

 

Eyes On The Prize vs. Bracing For Impact

You know the brace-for-impact posture. You’re driving on a two-way highway at night with a high-profile vehicle barreling toward you. Are you keeping your eyes on your lane? Or do you succumb to the inexplicable urge to look into the oncoming headlights? If so, you’d better hope the vehicle coming the other way isn’t doing the same thing, thereby greatly increasing the chance of a deadly collision. If the pair of eyes keep their eyes on their respective lanes, the sailing is far more likely to be smooth.

So keep your eyes on the prize in everything you do.

When I first got married I used to feel overwhelmed over the number of women around whom I had to “be careful”. How much more nature it feels to simply focus on my wife.Another example is the survey done of WWII pilots who made emergency landings and lived to talk about them. The pilots were asked, among other things, what they were focused on as they made their life-in-the-balance approach. Pilots who executed poor emergency landings tended to answer many different things: trees, water, power line cables. In other words, they were focused on things they were trying to avoid. The pilots who executed well were all focused on the one and same thing: the landing area.

How many times have you seen an NFL running back run toward his own end zone in order to avoid a tackle only to be tackled for a 7-yard loss? Sometimes all you have to do is run forward until something stops you. Prenups are another example. What better way to prepare for a lasting marriage than by simultaneously preparing for divorce?

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or view my latest YouTube playlist, The Magic Castle Sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tips For Emcees

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 9.07.28 AMBeing an emcee isn’t easy. You’re the first one to show up and the last one to leave. You’ve got introductions to familiarize yourself with and must manage the on-again, off-again energy requirements associated with the job.

There are a lot of details that go into doing the job well. Here are three simple things to keep in mind to avoid audience’s lumping you into the “mediocre emcee” category.

Stop telling the audience to “Give it up for _____” after each performer.

Give it up? Really? Why not instruct the audience to “Put out” while you’re at it? The same goes for “Make some noise”. Your audience consists of 21-century adults, not Neanderthals with a metal trash can a mallet. It’s grating enough to hear such instructions at a Toledo comedy club, much less for an audience of professionals.  Simply repeat the performers name and allow her to take her applause.

Don’t divulge a performer’s name until the end of the introduction.

This one is a common mistake among people with little or no experience public speaking:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re very proud to have a very funny entertainer with us this evening. David Deeble has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and we are happy to have him with us tonight. Please welcome David Deeble”.

Sometimes the emcee, realizing he has prematurely divulged the entertainer’s name, will make matters worse by failing to repeat the performer’s name at the end of the introduction: “Tonight’s entertainer is a wonderful comedian named David Deeble. He has appeared on Last Comic Standing and is a regular at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. So please welcome him.”

How’s that for a fine how do you do? Next time I’d prefer you simply grunt while pointing at me in the back of the room.

Stop cramming all your enthusiasm and energy into the last line of the introduction.

This is an annoying one: the emcee employes a well-modulated speaking voice throughout the program except when it comes to the very last line of each speaker’s introduction, at which point, in an effort to whip the audience into a last-minute frenzy, he gradually raises the volume and intensity of his delivery.

What do you think you’re emceeing, the World Wrestling Federation? We’re grown-ups, for crying out loud. Do you fear we won’t applaud if you introduce each performer in a well-modulated speaking voice?

This fear that you’ll introduce a performer to little or no applause is a widespread and understandable one: some audiences just aren’t engaged for whatever reason. But the answer is not to suddenly shift to the hard-sell. If you’re concerned that the performers won’t get enough energy coming to the stage, simply state from the outset that in order to make the program a success, the audience should kindly give each performer a round of applause and their full attention.

Charm and sincerity go a long way. If it is important to you (and it should be) that the audience pay each performer the respect of their full attention, find a way to convey it at the beginning of the program.

It may help to think of emceeing as being a commercial airline airline pilot. A pilot bolsters passengers’ confidence with his soothing demeanor, not manic faux-energy which normal people find unsettling and off-putting.

Being an exception emcee means covering more details and putting in more hours than anyone else on the bill. Avoiding these three mistakes is a good start.

Do you have a pet peeve about emcees? Share it in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the flaming marshmallow balance of mystery.