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.

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.

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.

Dealing with Change

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Soccer fans know that that an injury on the field generally does not stop the game clock. Instead, “injury time” is tacked-on at the conclusion of the 90-minutes of regulation.

Similarly in life – or in your career – injuries do not stop the clock. I learned this the hard way many years ago while riding a tall unicycle through a doorway: I hit my head on the cross-beam and in an instant I went from world-champion juggler to a particularly-clumsy beginner. Because while the swelling on my forehead lasted only a few hours, the life-long casualty was my right arm, which simply stopped receiving the signals my brain would send it.

My friends – some of them world-class jugglers themselves – were fascinated. It was as if everyone was suddenly trying to set me up on a blind date. One had me attempting to juggle while clamping a small pillow in my right armpit, in order to “See what happens”. Another fashioned a rubber sling to help me ape the now-lost throwing motion of conventional juggling.

It was an anxious time for me. I was expecting my first child and for a time believed that I was experiencing some kind of psycho-somatic illness which, I hoped, would vanish once I was able to “work through” my life-altering transition to fatherhood and the greatly-increased financial obligation associated with it. I also read books on neurology and visited several neurologists, the last of whom removed his wedding ring, held it behind his back and then asked me in all seriousness to “Guess which hand it’s in”.

In hindsight, it was a good thing that I couldn’t tell life to “Stop!” while I reinvented myself into… what? I didn’t even know and had no time to figure it out: I had shows to do, contracts to honor, money to make.

The injury, more than anything, shaped me as a performer. “Shaped” isn’t really the right word: it essentially changed my occupation. The years I put into learning to juggle five balls was now for naught. My time would now be spent learning to catch an olive on a toothpick in my mouth, kicking a billiard ball into my eye socket and juggling slow-falling plastic grocery sacks.

Before my injury, audiences would ask “How do you do all that stuff?”. These days they ask “How did you think up all that stuff?” My answer is: “I had no choice”.

My talk, Winning With A Bad Hand, is the story of how I learned to roll with the punches. But more importantly, how to punch back.

Questions? Comments? Angry screed? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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