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.

Friendly Relationships Are Not Friendships

IMG_1411The difference between a friendly relationship and a friendship is easily understood. You and your landlord have a friendly relationship. You and Doug have a friendship. For most people, friendly relationships aren’t hard to come by. They’re everywhere: the mailman, the barista at your local Starbucks, the kid at the Apple Store who tries to explain to you the purpose of the cloud, etc.

But would you call any of them friends? For many people in our mindbogglingly fast-paced age of one-day news cycles and social media, the answer is “Yes.” But I want to ask: are they really your friends? Do you have their phone number? Can you name one of their hobbies? Do you open up to them about your marriage or finances, or they you?

Don’t get me wrong: friendly relationships aren’t to be discounted. Nobody gets more satisfaction than me from somebody’s secretary who issues a “Pip, pip cheerio and a top of the day to you, sir!” each morning. But can you count on her taking your call at any hour of the night?

I don’t doubt that Facebook has contributed to the confusion surrounding what constitutes a friendship. But I also believe that to some extent it is a product of it. For some time before Facebook we would casually refer to someone as “my friend” when she is, in fact, she is no such thing.

I get it, “friend” is just easy to say: “This is my friend Gladys.” What else are you going to say, “This is Gladys with whom I have a friendly relationship”? Of course not. Way too suggestive. But what’s wrong with “This is Gladys. She fits me for all my running shoes,”?

I’m as guilty as anyone of blurring the distinction. In truth, owing largely to my family and career, my circle of true-blue friends has become vanishingly small. And I’m not sanguine about it: I don’t think it’s possible to have too many friends. On the other hand, the difference between having one friend and no friends is immeasurably greater than the difference between having one friend or two friends.

But no matter how many friends you have, never forget the difference between friendship and friendliness and that with only latter you’re subsisting on the icing without the cake.

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

Celebrate Consistency

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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.

Discretion Please

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-6-12-03-amThe father of someone I’m connected to on Facebook recently passed away. Very recently. Just a few minutes ago, in fact. How do I know this? Because the connection in question said so on his Facebook wall: “My father passed away just moments ago”.

How does this work, exactly? I imagine this fellow sitting vigil by his father’s side, holding his dad’s frail hand, the thumb of his other hand hovering over the “Send” key in a pathetic frenzy to raise the profile of his Facebook page.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but discretion is out – way out. What’s in? Sharing online every thought, emotion, impulse and event as it occurs. In our therapeutic age, grief is out and healing is in. After a mass shooting, the bodies aren’t even cold yet before the self-directed cries for “Let the healing begin” are heard.

And to the extent that we do still grieve it’s not for the departed’s loss but for our loss. In this regard clergy have been of little help. The secular world having infiltrated religion far more than the reverse, clergy insist that when we cry for the dead we’re actually crying for ourselves. With all due respect, not me: I’m crying for the departed’s loss.

When I was a kid I heard someone say “You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut.” The truth of it was obvious to me even then. Speak less, listen more, take it all in and you’ll gain in knowledge. After all, you can’t speak and listen at the same time. Perhaps just as important, you can’t reflect and speak at the same time.

Sure, there are times when we reflect on this or that with a friend or spouse, but in general reflection takes place internally. Relating an experience before having a chance to digest its full meaning often invests it with undue import. But I’ve never regretted those occasions when I resisted the temptation to immediately share an experience that only just occurred.

This is true for both positive and negative experiences. Give something days or even just hours to breathe and the increase in clarity is revealing – and often reassuring. Whether it’s losing a job or winning the lottery, reflection and the passage of time often reveal what appear to be pivotal events into something not crucial, not turning points, not make or break.

Oftentimes what seem to be life-changing developments turn out to have a very different meaning from the narrative you’ve been weaving for yourself and others. Why we still envy lottery winners even though the lives of lottery winners invariably spin out of control is beyond me. Conversely, things like losing a job are very often the real beginning of a satisfying and career.

Like the ability to entertain yourself when bored, learning to keep your mouth shut is a valuable tool: you may even find that it enables you to keep up with the truth.

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

 

Marketing: The New Caring Profession

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Is that coffee you’re drinking fair-trade certified and ethically sourced? Is the microprocessor in your laptop manufactured by a company whose board is half comprised of women? Have the holes in your blue jeans been carefully frayed by Indonesians working in an air-conditioned surround?

Vanity is an ugly vice; vanity with regard to one’s virtue is somehow uglier. Crowing about one’s personal wealth, athletic accomplishments or extensive travel is off-putting. Yet marketers increasingly seem to see moral preening as a virtue: “Good people eat this tuna and not that tuna”. “Bad people drive those cars and good people drive this car”. “Setting homeless people on fire is wrong”.

Maybe that last one isn’t a good example but you get the idea.

This orgy of virtue isn’t merely an attempt to appeal to the vanity of hippies but a form of tribalism: good, caring people versus the indifferent masses. But it also pits another pair of consumers against one another: the poor versus the well-off. And the increased production costs associated with caring disproportionately affects those consumers on limited budgets. For example, shade-harvested coffee is a welcome development if you’re a poor Guatemalan coffee harvester. But if you’re a poor Guatemalan coffee drinker? Not so much.

For the cash strapped, such a cost increase is just the thin edge of a very wide wedge. While the well-off fret over the cost of wine and Chilean sea bass, the poor are left in thrall to the cost of butter, eggs and pancake mix (trust me, it goes a long way). California’s widely-applauded law expanding the dimensions of cages transporting live chickens to market is another example. Such a law is wonderful if you’re one of those poor chickens. But if you’re a poor person sensitive to the price of eggs and other staples of the underprivileged diet? Not so much.

In the regulation-palooza world of food labeling, the FDA dictates in tiny paragraphs everything from what manufacturers must disclose to consumers to the font used to disclose it. Maybe we need a federal agency whose mandate is to ensure that consumers are made aware of the price increases resulting from the production costs associated with everything from non-GMO underwear to free-range snails.

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

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?

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

Progressive Peanuts Specials

It’s A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown

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The gang has its awareness raised of Woodstock’s dubious gluten allergy while learning that shared sacrifice isn’t always delicious.

It’s A Hetero-Normative Valentine’s Day, Charlie Brown

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Charlie learns that the valentine he receives from a classmate is only the expression of the dominant, heteronormative society in which he lives and that in any event love, unlike tenure, is merely a social construct.

Eat Your Spinach, Charlie Brown

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Charlie Brown learns that in nutrition as in everything else, government scolds know best. (Viewer discretion advised: frank portrayals of gluten.)

Check Your Privilege, Charlie Brown

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Charlie learns that his incredible career success has come at the expense of women, minorities, gays, bisexuals, bigendered, transgendered, cisgendered, queer and other government-favored groups.

It’s An Culturally Sensitive Halloween, Charlie Brown

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 Lucy takes offense at Charlie Brown’s Halloween costume only to learn that he’s not actually wearing one, then flies into a rage over his failure to do so. (Viewer discretion advised: stereotyping).

It’s The Grievance Sweepstakes, Charlie Brown

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Charlie Brown learns that rights inhere in groups and are to be unsheathed and used to hit opposing groups on the head.

Linus Seeks A Safe Space

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Linus’ first day at college goes poorly when he’s informed that entering the nearest safe space requires passing through buildings inspired by Greek and Roman architecture.

Charlie Brown Identifies As Black

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No sooner does Charlie Brown identify as African-American that he begins to feel the oppressive scourge of institutional racism.

You’re Part Of The Problem, Charlie Brown

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Peppermint Patty gets angry when Charlie Brown expresses reluctance to identify as the sister she never had.

Life Is A Trigger Warning, Charlie Brown

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Life for the gang quickly becomes complicated upon learning that everyone is entitled to feel offended at anything and at anytime.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or see how I reinvented myself after a head injury cost me the coordination in my right arm.

Moderates in Paradise: David Brooks

David Brooks during a commercial break on Meet The Press.

David Brooks during a commercial break on Meet The Press.

The reflexively moderate New York Times columnist David Brooks is at it again, this time lamenting those poor, confused Iowa Christians who believe that the Bible’s injunction “Do not show partiality to the poor” means, well, not showing partiality to the poor. According to Brooks, this idea should extend to both policy and political discourse, but the parlance employed by the likes of Ted Cruz is deemed by the pant-crease impresario un-Christian.

According to Brooks, to win Iowa’s sizable evangelical population one must speak in the reassuring tones of Mike Huckabee or the pleasantly sleep-inducing Ben Carson. This is why Ted Cruz’s lead in Iowa is confusing to Brooks, a man who, tellingly, has never met a study he didn’t like.

Cruz’s lead in Iowa is confusing to Brooks, a man whose most recent New York Times column is characterized mostly by his unfunny and apparently unself-aware tendency to lecture Christians about how they should comport themselves. According to Brooks, these Iowa Christians don’t seem to know their place anymore. Trump? Cruz? Please! Iowa evangelicals haven’t witnessed much undesired change during Obama’s tenure. Sure, on same-sex marriage they’ve gone from “against it” to facing jail time for refusal to bake a cake. Refusal to bake a cake. Other than that it’s pretty much a wash. Of course all this took place over the course of a couple of years so there was the phase-in aspect.

It would seem to Brooks that Iowa Christians must be thrilled that while divorce law is seen fit for basket cases likes Oregon and Illinois whereas marriage shall be defined once and for all on our continent-spanning nation by one man in a robe: its a play so absurd the minds of Harold Pinter and Harold Becket together could have conceived of it.

President Obama arrived unfashionably late at the marriage-rights party, his though his fellow partygoers didn’t much seem to care. Future histories will show the president as characteristically behind the times, knowing that it took his vice-president’s coming out party on the issue to make him realize that he is only in left in the room to not-yet get the joke. (Imagine for a moment being deemed less-hip than Joe Biden.)

For Brooks it’s a given that Christian values like fairness and love are inherently progressive values and cases his argument in a Third-Way-Al Gore vein for added annoyance. And it’s not just social issues that have Evangelicals nonplussed. At any rate, these social-issues ingrates don’t seem unduly impressed by the managed loses of both the “bad” war in Iraq and the “good” war in Afghanistan. They don’t seem to marvel at the apparent ingratitude of the the Libyan people to Obama, Congressional Republicans and Democrats  and NATO for their special brands of magic.

But don’t take my word for it, read David Brook’s latest column in the New York Times, The Brutalism of Ted Cruz. In Cruz’s speeches there is “not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy.” He continues “Traditionally, candidates who have attracted strong evangelical support have in part emphasized the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate among us. Such candidates include George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.”

That no misprint: George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum all cited positively in a single sentence.

Return to daviDDeeble.com.

 

 

Testimonials: “They Say” versus “I Say”

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The endorsement of a product or service from someone you know and trust is more powerful than one from a mere acquaintance or stranger. Similarly, an endorsement from someone who has personal experience with a product or service carries more weight than one from someone who heard from someone that your product is great: “My cousin raves about it” just doesn’t have the same impact as as “I’ve tried this heartily recommend it”.

When an emcee introduces an entertainer or speaker, it’s an endorsement which usually takes the form of the two categories described above. Let’s call them the I’m-told-this-guy-is-great introduction and the I-need-you-to-see-this guy intro.

The I’m-told-this-guy-is-great introduction, when reduced to plain English, boils down to “Let’s hope our guest speaker is fantastic. If not, you can’t blame me.”

The I-need-you-to-see-this-guy introduction sounds more like this: “I first saw tonight’s entertainer at an event last year and afterwards we couldn’t stop talking about her. After the show I immediately invited her to perform at tonight’s event and I’m thrilled that she is able to attend.”

A personal endorsement requires courage and confidence: courage to give your imprimatur and confidence that you are right to do so. The difference has nothing to do with stroking the speaker’s ego and everything to do with getting the audience to sit up and pay attention.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or see how a head injury initiated my journey from conventional- to comedy juggler.

Mediocrity: The Ultimate Safe Space

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Mediocrity kills careers but seems to increase job security. The latter part of this formulation is mediocrity’s chief appeal and why it’s so widespread, whether you’re dealing with an airline representative or an internet service provider.

Examples are so commonplace they no longer warrant notice. The service rep who refers to you as “the next customer.” The words sound taught and they of course they are. What was wrong with “May I help you?” Rapport, fellow-feeling, conversation – anything that can’t be taught is subsumed in a frantic desire to make customers go away.

Much of what informs mediocrity is fear and a desire to conform: fear of failure and a desire to conform to convention. But if you want to get people talking about your product or service – if you want people remarking to others about it – then it must be worthy of remarking upon.

Return to daviDDeeble.com or see  to magicians from around the world.