Jealousy Is Always Premature

secondary-infertility-jealous-of-friends-899x503
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.”

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow of Mystery on the Late Late Show.

 

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.

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

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.

There’s Genius In Getting Started

aaaaa“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

Goethe no doubt knew this from personal experience, as we all do. We’ve all experienced the magic in the moment when you forgo making a third cup of coffee, decline to login to Facebook and instead start getting shit done.

Whether it’s tidying up your workspace, designing an app or writing a short story, actually doing the work is an illuminating moment, one that reminds us that nothing else matters. No number of motivational magnets on your fridge, daily inspiration in your inbox or personal growth courses will make a difference. What matters is doing the work.

What about improv class? Or that screenwriting seminar? Or film school? Please. You’ll learn more and spend less by improvising, screenwriting and filming. Who knows? There might even be a platform ready to distribute your movie for free to millions around the world.

But no one’s going to make the movie for you. You have to make it yourself.

Visit daviDDeeble.com or watch a clip (4:30s) about my talk, Winning With A Bad Hand.

Celebrate Consistency

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 1.08.24 PM

Getting a low-key run in on a travel day is a gratifying private victory. Bergen, Norway.

Consistency is underrated. We like the huge paydays and the big public victories. But a life of consistent pay and private victories? Not so much.

But there’s a utility to humble consistency that contributes to big outward victories. As Olympic gold medalist in the marathon Frank Shorter puts it, consistency increases one’s margin of error. And the more consistent you are, the wider your margin of error. And the wider your margin of error, the more diminished the impact of those errors.

Missing a key workout or deadline has an outsized impact for the inconsistent. The consistent, though, know that tomorrow and the next will easily make up for the occasional setback.

Whether it’s fitness of finances, the same principle applies. Who is more impacted by a big, unexpected expense: those who have saved consistently or those who have saved inconsistently? To ask the question is to answer it.

An avid (albeit mediocre) runner myself, I used to get satisfaction only from the completion of a long run or a hard interval workout on the track. Something I could brag about. “These are the workouts” I told myself, “that separate me from the weekend warriors”.

I was wrong. What separates me from the weekend warriors isn’t the killer workouts, it’s getting in some kind of exercise six or seven days a week. For decades. Cheesy as it sounds, this is why I now tend to raise my arms in victory after completing even a 30-minute jog: I did something positive when it would have been easier not to.

Whether it’s exercise or smoking, consistency becomes self-reinforcing. A Navy SEAL doesn’t have to think about doing push-ups right out of bed any more than a smoker must think about having a cigarette: it’s automatic.

So stop thinking in terms of quantity or even quality. Instead, think of one or two things that would positively impact your life and pursue them with consistency.

Visit daviDDeeble.com or see my presentation Winning With A Bad Hand.

Self-Pity, Cigarettes And A Magical Question

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 2.01.50 PM

Feeling sorry yourself is powerfully addicting.

Once upon a time I had an on-again-off-again relationship with cigarettes. At no point during this time did I think of myself as “a smoker”, as such. Instead, I saw myself as one of those lucky few capable of smoking at infrequent-but-regular intervals without thinking, let alone fixating, about my next pack.

Still, I never seemed to stop entirely. It was sort of like being single while thinking of myself as ultimately married, yet making no effort to quit being single. Then one morning I woke up, as I often did, with the unmistakable signs of a cigarette hangover. I cast a clear-eyed gaze at the sad, crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights on my dresser and asked myself what turned out to be a magical question that would serve me very well in the future.

The question was this: “How long is this going to last?” The question is magical because the answer is the same for everyone, namely, “As long as I decide it does”. When feeling self-pity or, for that matter jealousy, ask yourself “How long is this going to last?” and see if the the truth of “It’s up to me” hits you with the full force it hit me.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or see the teaser for my talk Winning With A Bad Hand.

Solve Problems By Fixating On Goals, Not The Problems

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-9-11-00-pmWhy do some people seem perpetually overwhelmed by problems while others appear to manage them quite nicely? One reason is that people with problems tend to accumulate more problems. Every doctor knows that minor infections are no big deal to people who are basically healthy. But if you have a problem that compromises your immune system – like HIV – then even minor problems easily become major ones.

As another example, consider the sad biographies of those who’ve lost their lives to serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. Were these young men regularly employed, forming meaningful bonds with others, earning and saving money while seeking a lasting, monogamous relationship? No: for the most part they were staying out late having sex with strangers like Dahmer in exchange for $50.

Another reason people become overwhelmed by problems is the tendency to allow problems to crowd-out everything else. We treat problems as deer do headlights: fixating not on our goals but on the headlights until eventually the headlights solve us. Like a hurdler training his vision exclusively on a hurdle, we can’t help but collide with it.

None of this is to say that when problems arise, as they inevitably do, they should be ignored. But it’s wise to keep many problems in the periphery of your vision while you keep your eyes on the prize. Like a great hurdler, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals by focusing on the finish line, not the hurdles.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery on the Late Late Show with James Corden.

You Think Too Much

A 45-year old woman old looks at a photo of herself at 38 and is astonished at how much younger she looked just seven years prior. At 50 she’s chagrined to see how great she looked at 42. At 60 she’d give anything to look as she did when she was only 50.

A man’s early career success begins to cool and he comes to resent merely having steady work. Then he must begin hustling for the steady work while longing for the day when work came to him.

Miserable one moment, ecstatic the next, we lack the wisdom of King Solomon who knew that this, too, shall pass. .

So what’s going on here? What’s not going on is an objective assessment of one’s beauty or career success. “I am ugly” or “I am a failure” are characterizations, as are “I am beautiful” or “I am a success”. They are attempts at finding meaning through storytelling.

When I won the International Jugglers Association’s junior championships, I told myself a story: “I’m going to become the best juggler in the world.” Eight years later, when a head injury cost me the coordination in my right arm, I told myself a different story: “I’m trapped and there’s no escape”.

I had been telling myself this story for years when a friend handed me the abstract into the FAA’s investigation into the fatal crash of Eastern flight 401. The investigation revealed that while captain, first officer and entire crew distracted themselves with a story about how the need to replace a light fuse in the plane’s control panel, they lost sight of their job: monitoring the plane’s altitude. As a result, the plane crashed shortly before midnight into the inky blackness of the Everglades.

Stop characterizing, look outward and get to work.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch my latest set at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California.

Compared To What? Thoughts On Gratitude

screen-shot-2015-01-24-at-7-00-49-pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or watch me roll a honeydew melon down my back and pierce it between my legs with a garden hoe at the Magic Castle.