The “Thank You” Itch

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Well-raised individuals are instructed from an early age to say it. It can be heartfelt or empty ritual. But rarely do we think of saying “thank you” it as a form of self-expression, like an unbearable itch that has to be scratched. Not merely an obligation but a primal urge to convey one’s feelings.

We should recognize that “thank you” can be fraught with so much meaning from time to time. And such instances aren’t engendered only by surgeons who save our lives or soldiers who do our fighting.

This came to mind tonight as I popped into Starbucks to get one of their free Pick Of The Week apps for my young son, which are normally displayed next to the cream, sugar, napkins, etc. No sooner did I realized that none were on display that a barista called out to me from behind the counter.

“May I help you?” he said. I explained what I was looking for and he had one of his colleagues assist me (it turned out they didn’t have any at that time).

What impressed me wasn’t so much that he volunteered his assistance so much as his lack of hesitation. He was like the person who doesn’t wait to see how much someone struggles opening a door before lending assistance.

I returned to my son impressed with this barista but also feeling the need to express to him my gratitude for his proactive approach.

Sometimes thank you should represent more than a friendly way of saying “this conversation is over”. More, even, than “I’m grateful to you”. Sometimes “Thank you” should mean “There’s something I have to tell you”.

Thoughts or comments? Leave them in the section below.

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You Look Better Than You Think

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You look at a photograph of yourself from a decade ago and are startled and depressed by how terrific you looked. At the time the photograph was taken you didn’t realize it – perhaps you we’re feeling old even then – but now you are a little taken aback by how you great you looked. Not even young, necessarily, but fantastic.

Similarly, ten years from now you’ll look at photos of yourself from the present and be flabbergasted at how terrific you look(ed). In twenty years you’ll ache to look as good as you will ten years from now and in thirty years to look as good as you will in twenty.

And so it goes: the present only appreciated through the lens of the future, whether it’s your looks, finances, marital status, health or whatever.

Consider this the next time you’re anxious about the future – or depressed about the present.

Think this is great or that I’m clinically insane? Leave your thoughts, whatever they may be, in the comment section below.

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Happiness Is Hard

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In my home there lives a baby who loves taking a bath but who often must be dragged kicking and screaming to take one. There’s also a boy who eagerly anticipates his reward for completing his homework yet must be goaded into actually doing it. There’s a woman whose mood is boosted by exercise yet sometimes goes days without it. Finally, there’s a man who finds sharing ideas with others enormously gratifying yet often lacks the wherewithal to do just that.

What’s wrong with us?

Our problem  – most people’s problem – is that we think in terms of ease and comfort rather than happiness. Happiness takes an energized body and an engaged mind. Comfort requires only a decent-size sofa.

I know that preparing a new dish for my family will greatly increase my happiness. I know that shopping for the ingredients and working in the kitchen will increase my happiness. But I also know that there’s a yet another frozen pizza in the freezer which can be rendered delicious in less than 20 minutes. And that I can check out my latest Facebook post while I wait.

The next time you consider engaging in any activity, ask yourself “Will it make me happy or will it make me comfortable?”

Comments? Leave them in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch a me attempt to juggle while wearing a volunteer’s glasses.

Difficult Things Make You Happy

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My son loves watching videos and playing games on our iPad. He become giddy with excitement when I allow him to do so. The problem is that when it’s time to stop, he invariably becomes sullen and moody.

I point out to him the transformative effect the iPad or – more precisely – turning off the iPad – has on him. In response, he promises he’ll be more self-aware (my words, not his) when his time is up. And when his time is up, I’ll be damned if he doesn’t slide right back into grumpiness. It’s as if we had never had our conversation.

Conversely, homework is something which he does not look forward to. He’ll do it, to be sure, but he does so grudgingly. And when he’s done? He’s happy.

In short, the iPad makes him unhappy and homework makes him happy. Why then does he not plea for more homework and less time on the iPad? Because he, like most of us, lacks self-awareness. He thinks the iPad makes him happy because it’s fun. He thinks homework makes him unhappy because it’s boring.

Like many others, I have struggled with cultivating the self-awareness to do those things which make me happy. One area where I have largely succeeded is exercise. For example, I’m an avid runner, putting in anywhere between 20 to 50 miles week. My primary motivator is knowing that getting my run in – even if it’s only a relaxed 30-minute jog, makes me happier, not to mention more pleasant to be around. (“I owe it to others!”).

Would I characterize running long distances as fun? Not really. Do I wake up each morning aching to find time to put my tired legs to the test? No. Do I ever put up a big, fat zero in my running long because I just can’t bring myself to lace up and head out the door? All the time. But in general, it because I have enough self-awareness regarding the effects of exercise on my mood to get some in each day.

Notice the parallel: exercising is for me what homework is for my son: not something I particularly want to do but something I have to do because not doing it will make me irritable. Which, funnily enough, makes me want to do it.

If you’re a responsible person, the vast majority of your days are spent doing things you’d rather not be doing. At this very moment I can think of many things I’d rather be doing than sitting in Minneapolis airport writing this blog. So why am I doing it? Because I know that having written it and sent it out into the world I will have accomplished something and accomplishment is one of the greatest sources of happiness.

There’s part of us that wishes we could enjoy a sense of accomplishment without doing the hard work it necessitates. Call it the path of least resistance, the death wish or just plain laziness. The point is that if you think of those things you have to do as essential for happiness, you’d do them more gladly.

Comments? Leave them in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me roll a billiard ball around my head.

Outwitting Your Inner Perfectionist

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If you have children you know that they can sometimes be unflattering reflections of yourself.

“Put your pants on, Luke”, I often tell my 6-year old son, adding “Put down your Transformer and put your pants on”.

“Put your shoes on, Luke”, then “Set down your biscotti and put your shoes on.”

Oftentimes I have to explain to myself what I explain to Lucas: you save time by doing one thing at a time.

For children, of course, saving time isn’t a priority because it’s one thing they have in abundance. For adults, though, this tendency to do more than one thing at a time is a result of run-of-the-mill perfectionism.

I call it “run-of-the-mill” perfectionism because many of us think perfectionism is an attribute solely of artists or surgeons. Worse, many of us think of perfectionism as a positive thing, spurring us to higher and higher levels of achievement.

Real perfectionists know that the most-common side-effect is difficulty getting anything done. Those truly in thrall to perfectionism try to do everything at once because, well, what’s the point of trying to do one thing at a time when perfection is always beyond reach?

Blogs, as a medium, have helped me to see that if you take something seriously, doing it consistently is infinitely more important than doing it perfectly. But only by doing it consistently was I able to learn this.

Even on the most popular blogs, after all, it isn’t unusual to find misspellings, grammatical mistakes, etc. We readers don’t interpret such mistakes as failures as such. Blogging has evolved into a conversational medium, where the most successful ones tend to be personal, helpful and free, none of which requires that every i be dotted and every crossed.

What does this mean for you? It means that people – readers, audiences, bosses – respond to openness and authenticity more than to perfection and panache. (I learned this the hard way).

It means that if you’re intimidated by the prospect of writing book, commit to writing three books. Instead of updating your resumè, consider replacing altogether with your story. What do you wish to accomplish? What have you started? Captaining your high school chess club is pretty cool.. Founding your high school chess club is even cooler and tells us something about you. (This is great advice to give your children, by the way. If your child’s school has no German club, encourage him to start one and help him every step of the way. Imagine how transformative it is to be reminded of your power – even as a child – to start things).

So take a chance and start something, finish it and send out it out into the world. If you can do that, you’re ahead of the vast majority of others who wish they had the courage to do the same but substitute it with the unfulfilling rewards of anonymity. 

Will your thing fail to set the world on fire? Probably. But you’ll learn firsthand that you had much less to fear than you thought.

But what if everyone hates it? That’s the perfectionist in you again, telling you, in effect, that you’ve got one shot and that it has to be perfect. But you don’t have one shot: you have a new shot everyday. In fact, each moment provides you with an endless supply of new opportunities to say “Let’s see what happens”.

When you fail, tell yourself “Well, at least I got that out of the way”. You’ll find that your inner-perfectionist, for once, has nothing to say.

So use both your hands, pull up your pants and see what happens.

Did this blog suck? Let me know in the comment section below and I promise you, there will be a lot more.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me fail on stage in front of hundreds of people.

Positive Resolutions

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Happy 2015, everybody. On New Years Day everyone seems to be either hungover or jogging: so stay off or on the sidewalk, respectively.

If you made resolutions, I hope at least one of them was affirmative (like becoming more honest) rather than a litany of no-longer-can-do’s (like giving up smoking or drinking). When you resolve to quit smoking or drinking it’s very easy to look around and see nothing but people having fun smoking and drinking.

Of course, much depends on how you phrase your resolution. “Quit sleeping around” is very different from “Be loyal to my wife”. If you can formulate your resolution as a positive rather than a negative you find that doing so gives you to strive for, rather than striving against.

Nearly everyone benefits from having a little wind to their back.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me deal with a 3-year old heckler.

Perfection: The Enemy Of The Better

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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 www.daviDDeeble.com or learn more about my corporate presentation on YouTube.

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.

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Classical vs. Modern Virtues

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These days we we speak today of values, not virtues. Classical virtues such as patience, diligence and humility have been replaced by modern virtues such as connection, idealism and leadership. As a result we have the spectacle of corporations paying speakers and consultants large sums to teach them the importance of authenticity while strictly enforcing sexual harassment policies which boil down to “Keep your authenticity in check”.

Classical virtues are inner-directed and reflexive. Just as prayer affects the supplicant,  humility means more happiness for the humble (envy being the only deadly sin which does not provide even temporary pleasure). Modern virtues, on the other hand, tend to be results-oriented and often exhibit the attributes of a scold (I cite the modern health movement).

Author Alain de Botton has written Ten Virtues for the Modern Age. An atheist, de Botton acknowledges that “There’s no scientific answer to being virtuous”, thus reiterating another wide-spread assumption in modern thought: that science should explain not only how but why.

Do you have thoughts on modern and classical virtues? Leave them in the comment section below. But be temperate.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me get tickled by a Turkish barber.

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.