I’m Afraid to Try

“You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me.  I’m loner Dottie, A REBEL!” -Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)

DannyZukoThis line is from the quite ridiculous but still entertaining Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  And it was co-opted by the band The Get Up Kids as a song title in the 90’s.  The song outlines one perspective of a short term love affair where the singer refuses to give the relationship a chance.  In his own words, “because I’m afraid to try.”  It’s an old story that probably precedes Danny Zuko in Grease.  Boy meets girl.  Boy likes girls.  Boy wants to leave while things are still fun and casual because a relationship is just too much work.

It’s applicable to so many things but relationships are possibly the easiest target.  In a world where Tinder and OkCupid are facilitators of the present dating scene, this mindset will probably get more widespread.  The fast and easy wins out over the slow build (which is perceived as a grind).  Of course this is only perception.  Reality holds millions of possibilities.  For many, a life with one person is a much more joyous existence than the shallowness of singles life.  Regardless of which way you lean, it’s not really the point.  The point is the actual words.  “I’m afraid to try!”  It’s not, “I’m afraid to commit!” or “I’m afraid that I’ll get hurt!”  It’s “I’m afraid to try!”

This is probably the most dangerous thing that I see from not just young people but people in general.  There is a fear of trying.  Putting yourself out there has the perception of being difficult.  And in the younger generation, it is chastised because for some reason “try hard” is now an insult.  Much like nerd or geek of the past, this is a completely idiotic strategy as a culture.  Demean those who excel in order to make the average feel better about themselves.  (But I digress)  The thing is that people have become so accustomed to guarantees that effort toward an unknown is just too scary.  There’s no point in following a rainbow because a pot of gold is not waiting for us.

It’s time to buck the trend.  TRYING (no offense to Yoda!) is often the point.  Finding our limits.  Pressing up against what is possible.  Discovering new territory is exactly the point!  Imagine where we would be if through history, we were this risk averse.  We’d be dead!  Hunters wouldn’t have had any assurances of catching any prey, so why go out to hunt?

Your survival and progress as human being depends on THE TRY!  So go out there today with the intention and determination to try.  It doesn’t need to be something monumental.  It just needs to be outside of your comfort zone.  An experiment, an attempt, a risk, a small gamble.  That’s the only way to move forward.  One little try at a time.  And I’ll suggest that you deny the teenage ridicule by TRYING HARD!

Have a great day people!

Pete

 

 

I Refuse to Lose Your Race

In high school, I ran track and field. High jump and long jump were my specialties but I also won points for the team in some of the sprints. Track is a completely different animal than most other sports. Although it’s a team competition, most of the events are competed as individuals. Much of a track meet is spent waiting around for your event to take place. So they end up being long affairs because all of the races are run on the same surface.

The longest race that was run in my area was the two mile. It could get time consuming if there were slow runners. So the officials would have the slow 2 milers move to the outside lanes and start the next race. It was pretty easy to tell the difference between someone running a slow 2 mile and the 400 meter relay, so it was an effective way to use the common space. Imagine though that the officials ran every single race at the same time. It would be chaos! Tracking who was leading which event would be difficult if not impossible. Despite this fact, it begins to paint a picture of the challenge that many people have internally and society may have externally.

The metaphor of a track and field competition is a useful one. Although time and distance are the two major measurements used, there are other factors that play heavily into certain events. A javelin thrower cares very little about the time of his run up but very much about his arm mechanics. The fact that all of the athletes are focusing on different components in order to get different results mirrors much of our perception of success in life.

People are gauging their success in different ways and for different reasons. Much like the simultaneous track events, it’s easy to get confused about whether you’re leading or trailing when comparing yourself with others. If you’re focus is on having a spectacular family life, you may feel like a failure when comparing your wealth to someone who is judging themselves only on the monetary metric. It’s a fool’s errand to try to beat someone at a game that you’re not even playing.

So the thing to do is Decide! Decide on the games that you’re playing. For sure you can play the family and monetary game simultaneously but recognizing that your attention is split between the two will keep you from caring about the 30 other games that are going on. Win on your own terms in the things that are important to you. You’re much more likely to enjoy the game when you set up the rules and keep score!

If Everyone Is Limping, Stop Going for the Knees!

wnn_kerrigan_140106_wgThe 90s had many memorable events and people.  Kurt Cobain, the OJ Simpson trial, Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were all extremely noteworthy.  Both for their own unique reasons and the media circus that followed them.  It was not just that something happened but that it was perpetuated daily for probably longer than needed.  One of the most ridiculous stories of the decade was the ice skating scandal involving rivals Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.  For those too young to remember, the major event was an attack on Kerrigan’s knee orchestrated at least partially by Harding’s ex-husband.  There was a movie released last year called “I, Tonya” that chronicles the entire episode.

Reality had to happen first in this case because even Hollywood could not have come up with a story as far fetched as this.  It’s easy to look back at a time that was truly “last century” and chuckle.  It’s no surprise that from such a chaotic decade sprang reality television.  A weekly public reminder that even though your life might have problems, you can feel good about yourself in comparison to “those people”.

Seeing the problem is always so much easier when it belongs to someone else.  Each of us has within ourselves the solutions to the problems of our friends and family members.  However we all struggle with our own issues that seem so difficult.  Time and distance both seem to have a clarifying effect on the problems of the world.

I’m sure that if the issue of youth soccer politics were someone else’s, each of us would have a plausible solution.  Since it’s now and it’s close to us, the issues of last decade persist with even higher price tags.  Children are pawns and commodities in a game that has nothing to do with soccer but rather egos and territoriality.  This coming fall, an unknown number of player who want to play soccer will not have a team.  Not due to a lack of resources.  Not due an insurmountable distance to travel.  The deciding factor will be a focus on “our club” rather than the kids.  These players end up being acceptable casualties to a soccer culture that is focused on prizes that are apparent and available now.

In so many ways we are now reaping the rewards of our fast food culture.  Rampant obesity, depression, anxiety and others are all symptoms of the NOW culture that we’ve begun to accept as normal.   Even though many people recognize that the ultimate prizes come from long term commitment to small improvements made over years or decades, it is so much easier to sell the cash grab of today.  Risking that small and almost insignificant prize of the short term seems to be almost unbearable.

US26_LogoSo I implore you.  Yep!  I’m talking directly to you because as I said last week, if the USMNT doesn’t win a World Cup by/in 2026, It’s my fault!  So I need some help.  If you have anything to do with youth soccer in this country.  Take the long term view.  See how more kids playing is better for them and better for “US”.  Understand that letting your best player move on to a more appropriate team may hurt your record slightly but it could also be the opportunity that makes that player’s life better, both on and off the field. Realize that your small pond is not actually a pond.  It’s part of a more expansive body.  Trying to keep it separate is an exercise in futility and may cause its destruction when the wrong current comes along.  BE the first person to do the right thing.  It’s often difficult because there is a culture of short sightedness.  People are so used to being hurt that they are either on attack or defense, rarely in a mode to assess.  And more than ever that’s what needs to happen.

I’m sure if this was someone else’s problem, we’d have it all figured out but it’s not.  It’s ours and it’s close to our hearts.  So we get blinded by the shiny thing that’s right in front of us but I swear the bigger jewels are down the road.  The hardest part is foregoing the prize of now because it feels like everything.

US26

Pete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Your Origin Story

Spider-man-origins-1-1024x512They are everywhere at the moment.  With the explosion of the Marvel movies, Silicon Valley startups and overnight superstars plucked from the internet; origin stories are all around us.  All of them, to a certain extent, are made up.  The comic book authors crafted those of the super heroes.  The others that exist in the real world cannot tell the story of every little thing that happened.  So they have to delete and adjust to a narrative that aligns with how they want to be seen by the outside world or by themselves.  Since all origin stories are created in one fashion or another, it may be helpful for your daily life to fashion your own.  Not pluck it out of thin air but rather weave some real events of your life in with a narrative that propels you forward.

My origin story goes something like this.  When I was 12 years old, soccer was definitely my fall sport.  However at that time, the term “travel soccer” had not really grabbed hold.  In fact, this was the first year in which my town participated in what we referred to as “spring soccer”.  My younger brother was going to play for the spring team at his age group and my father was going to help coach.  Unfortunately I had either missed the tryouts for my age group or there just weren’t any.  Regardless, the first day of practice came along for my brother’s team.  They were sharing a field with the team for age group right above mine.  I knew most of the players from school.  Although the team was already formed, I decided that I was going to get onto that team.  At that moment, I did the only thing that I could think of to get the attention of the coach.  I RAN!  Rather than sitting and watching my brother’s practice, I started running laps around the field where they were practicing.    For the entire 90 minute practice, I kept running around the field.  When my father and brother were finished, we packed up and went home.  Some time around 9pm the phone rang.  It was the coach of that older team, they wanted me to play for the team.  That was the beginning of who I became.  Someone willing to go the distance and use unique solutions to problems.

If you notice as you read that story, it all fits together relatively well.  It’s been 30 years since those events and I could not tell you definitively if that story is 100% accurate.  All of those events definitely happened.  However I’m not sure if there was a player who broke their leg, so they needed someone else.  Perhaps the call from the coach came a week later.  In the end, those detail DO NOT MATTER.  What truly matters is that the story fits my beliefs about who I am and who I want to be.  The event was chosen but the story was “created” because I want to see myself in a particular way.  I have millions of other events that have happened in my life.  I could have easily chosen to create my origin story using a huge failure and rehearsed an excuse around why I could never be a success because of “that thing that happened”.  People do it all the time.  The question that is most important for me about origin stories is, does it serve you?  Is your origin story going to make you or break you?

If it is not going to help, then change it!  Your life story is not objective truth.  It is a jumble of memories that have been given varying degrees of clarity and importance.  So decide on a moment in your life that can act as a catapult for the days that are coming.  It doesn’t need to be something from your childhood.  It could be this moment right now!  “I read this great blogpost about origin stories and I didn’t like mine.  So right then and there I decided that I was going to take action.  I….”  One of the main things about life is how you feel about yourself when you are alone and have a moment to reflect.  If you don’t feel good about yourself, then change your story.  Even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself, why can’t you?

If The USMNT Doesn’t Win The WC By/In 2026, It’s My Fault!

There are some things that are just NOT done in polite American society!  You don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant.  You don’t talk politics with your in-laws.  You don’t talk about money in mixed company.  And if you’re an American soccer fan, you don’t agree with Alexi Lalas!  I am about to break that last social norm.  Alexi gave a description of the apples to oranges comparison of US Soccer’s failings to the successes of Croatia and Iceland.  I totally agree.  The component pieces of the soccer landscapes and national culture in each country are so completely disparate that comparison is a fool’s errand that is at best click bate and at worst sophisticated soccer tail chasing.  So let’s take the American soccer “watermelon*” and inspect it on its own merit to see where we’re going.

First of all, let’s take the population discussion completely off the table because it is irrelevant on many levels.  Only 2 countries in the top 20 by population have won a World Cup (Brazil and Germany).  Of that same top 20, nine nations have never qualified for a World Cup.  If more people was the answer, China and India would be in the final every four years.  The fact that the US is larger than another country does not indicate that it should be more likely to win (or perform well) at the World Cup.  So it is much more complicated than that.

The story of the nations that have won at least one or even multiple World Cups comes down to a convergence of many factors but probably the most crucial is a soccer (football) culture.  The nations that have been able to win or compete well at World Cups all have a culture that supports and/or increases their success on the field.  Culture, in very general terms, can be characterized by the statement “People like us, do things like this.”  So in those high performing soccer nations, people do several things that perpetuate the high level of play or induce improvement.  Generally speaking this is not a top down process.  Culture is a product of many little decisions made by thousands or millions of individuals, not a handful of powerful individuals making decisions.  So if World Cup success is in the future for the United States, it will follow the adoption of a soccer culture, not create one.

So even though the size of Iceland does not matter, the fact that so many Icelandic people do the Viking clap does.  It sends a message to every single player on the team and child who is adopting the game.  The message is “This matters to us!”  That message changes the daily actions of people.  Given the choice between extra ball work or not, players in those environments recognize that something important is at stake.

With that understanding well established, I will go back to the title.  If the USMNT doesn’t win the World Cup in/by 2026, it’s my fault!  This statement may seem crazy to some but if you’ve been paying attention it becomes plainly obvious.  Culture is created by individual decisions made by the masses.  It’s on ME!  And YOU!  And everyone else attached to this game in the US.  No longer can we hope that copying Barcelona drills or hiring English trainers or attending foreign friendlies on their summer tours is enough.  Every one of us that considers ourselves a part of soccer in the US needs to up their game.  What does that mean?

pulisicIt means action by the many.  In some ways this endeavor is truly in line with American culture (of the past at least).  It is almost inherently American to identify a challenge and conquer it.  For most of our country’s history, that was almost common place.  We (the people) took on monumental tasks as a collective.  Unfortunately we seem to be at a point in history where we expect other people to do it for us.  We can outsource it or it’s the government, corporation or system’s fault that things aren’t going right.  The problem lies with someone else or it’s just too hard and I can’t be bothered.  FUCK THAT!!!  We need to step up for the next eight years!  Not in some grandiose, out of reach way but in simple ways that can have a cumulative effect.  The main thing that will be required is a long term view.  So here are some of my suggestions based on a variety of perspectives.  It’s by no means a complete list but it’s a start.  Add your own thoughts in the comments.

  • Watch MLS games – More eyes = more dollars = better players = better league = better US player pool.  If you watch the EPL or la Liga but don’t watch MLS, you need to start.  I know that MLS is not as good as the top leagues at the moment.  However if we don’t pay attention now, it won’t have the monetary resources to get better.
  • Focus on players getting better  – If you’re a parent, coach, or associated with youth soccer in any other way; put progress of the player over the result on the day.  This is so extremely difficult for people to embrace because the desire for status is so hardwired into our minds.  One of the reasons that we continue to struggle on the international stage is that we are enamored with being the biggest fish in the small pond.
  • Be active – There are all kinds of ways that the US soccer culture could improve but it needs people to do.  Passivity is only going to perpetuate mediocrity.  Let your voice be heard, your actions be seen and your passion be felt.  You matter in this endeavor.

As you finish up reading this article, I hope that you have a small inkling of the feeling that I have.  It’s only a matter of time before the US wins a World Cup.  Soccer is no longer the game for everyone else but US.  The momentum of the sport in this country is well on its way but now it needs our help to reach escape velocity.  To overcome the inertia of ambivalence and low expectations, WE all must do our small part to reach the highest of heights.  But there are no guarantees.  WE must bet on the fact that together it will be enough.  And if it’s not!  IT’S MY FAULT!

Pete

 

*I’ve chosen a watermelon because it is my favorite fruit.  It’s also large but lacks overpowering flavor and its seeds are possibly potent but they are often discarded or made to disappear before they can materialize.

Better F%#$ Ups

cropped-hurykunlimitedlogolarge1Over the next week, I just plan to have better f%#$ ups.  As humans the question isn’t whether or not we’re going to F%#$ up, it’s going to happen.  Many of us spend so much time trying to avoid F%#$ing up so much that we never truly move forward.  So for this week, an experiment!  I’m not going to try to F%#$ up less.  I’m going to try to F%#$ up better!  Realizing that perfection is not a viable option, I am going to embrace the F%#$ ups in order to move from a humiliating strike out to a foul tip and see how far I can push it.  Always with the thought in mind that I’m swinging for the fences.

Thanks for the support!

Pete

The Latest Version

IMG_3647
It’s so common to us that we are almost blind to it at this point.  The release of the latest version of something.  Whether it’s a car, an app for the phone or a video game; the old version is eventually replaced by the latest version.  Sometimes this comes with huge upgrades that revolutionize the way that we think about the product.  Other times it messes up something that was working to our liking.  The thing is that even if we don’t see the changes, they’re happening all the time.

It’s so much easier to understand with technology especially.  The cellphone does not change shape or size when you add a new app or update it.  It simply acquires the new programming and moves on.  Often bugs need to be fixed but I’m pretty certain that Bill Gates does not lament the fact that Windows 7.1 was not as good as Windows 10.2.  There is an understanding that each new version is intended to build upon the past.

In a very similar way, here you are.  Version 2018.193 of yourself.  You may look at yourself as the same person that you’ve always been but that’s most definitely not true.  You’ve learned new things since version 2015.125 (after the decimal is the number of days past in that year).  The question becomes whether or not you want to just maintain what is working or truly upgrade.  Unlike Windows, you’re not going to be rereleased.  Your bug fixes and big upgrades have to all happen at the same time.  AND YOU ARE THE LEAD DEVELOPER!  Only you can make changes to the system.

So what is the latest version of you going to look like?  Is it just like today’s you but with a few more miles worn off the treads?  I hope not.  I hope that you believe that you are capable of a big jump.  A leap from the version that you are today to the version that you’ve always wanted to be.  My hope is that you’re making the plans and putting in the code to launch yourself to a whole new level.  So that people who haven’t seen you in a while will take notice to the fact that the latest version of you is a huge upgrade!

Upgrade today!

Pete

The Javelin Thrower

lance-150317_960_720This story comes directly from a dream that I just had.  I was brought in to help a javelin thrower with some issues that he was having.  Despite his great potential that everyone could see, he was underachieving and plagued by injuries.  As we started to talk about his issues, we walking near a lake.  He was confused and upset by all of the issues that he was having.  As he talked, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the lake.  His words became more heated as he described his disappointment in his lack of progress.  Another stone farther into the lake.  Then his disappointment turned to anger as he focused in on how many opportunities he’d wasted.  Stone lake farther.  In a crescendo of shouts and rage, he picked up a rock larger than all of the stones that he’d hurled so far.  With three steps forward and a shout of “why?”, he threw the rock as far as he could but it did not reach the water.  He winced slightly in pain and stared at his failed effort.  I woke up.

Everything was a javelin.  He had taken his own existence and reduced it down to one thing.  Nothing else mattered.  Farther, stronger, better.  These were the ways that he was judging himself.   It was not that he was on a path of progress that would get him to: farther, stronger, better but rather that those were metrics.

Measuring yourself by metrics is not always a negative thing.  There are all kinds of things that we can use to quantify aspects of our lives: grades, weight, time, distance and many others.  The issue comes from using those measurements as a punishment device rather than a measuring stick.  Dissatisfaction with where you are because it is not where you’ll be is a recipe for disaster.  The process of living is just that, a process.  Each step has inherent value as it leads you toward your destination or destiny.  To devalue the step because it is not the destination is devaluing the destination.  Because in the end you have sacrificed all of those steps for a moment.  The joy of accomplishment is compounded when the process is enjoyed.

So go out there today and pursue something that you love.  But pursue it with the joy of a child chasing a butterfly, not the angst of a man paying his taxes.  Most of life is the process, so enjoy it!

Pete

Small Time Heroes

GrootMarvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero.  They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante.  These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies.  These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities.  Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.

There are two problems with the Super Hero though.  First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes.  Second, they’re not real!  Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality.  So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?

It is really quite simple.  Super Heroes are a distraction.  A way for us to be let off of the hook.  Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary.  Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt.  It’s just me!  What can I do?

You can be a small time hero!  You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary.  Be a little kinder.  Be a little more resilient.  Be a little more intelligent.  Love your family a little more.  BUT what difference will that make?  Almost none.

UNTIL a few people around you catch on.  Then it has the possibility of developing super power.  Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier.  It’s not particularly easy!  Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way.  Super Heroes are not coming!  The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends.  So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us!  Go suit up!

Have a great day!
Pete

 

 

Soccer’s Hate Triangle

Huryk-LukeWith the World Cup only a week away, the passion of nations is about to be put on display for the world to see.  The line between ecstasy and exasperation will be measured in moments and inches rather than hours and yards.  Preparations for this spectacle have been going on for years because for most of us, it is just that big of a deal.  Soccer truly is its own religion.  The problem, however, is the same as it is with most religions.  When people care that much about something, they tend to leave their ability to reason at the door.  Passion trumps perspective and people lose sight of what is TRULY important.  This is extremely evident in soccer’s hate triangle*.

HateTriangleThis past weekend at my son’s game, it became evident that there are a lot of negative feelings swirling around the soccer fields these days.  There is obviously plenty of excitement and passion to go around but the negative feelings are also ubiquitous.  Most of the time these feelings are directed at a particular group of people involved.  Every game has the potential to become a powder keg as tempers (both expressed and unexpressed) flare up.  Three groups represent the biggest sources of animosity and project it outward toward one or both of the others.  Coaches, Parents and Referees are the adults surrounding a game.  While stuck in the middle are the young people that the game is supposed to be for.  Obviously not every parent, coach or referee has these negative feelings toward the other groups but it is so ever-present that most kids are affected.

So in the name of the children that we are supposed to be helping navigate this game and life, here are some suggestions on how to break the hate triangle:

Walk a mile – It’s so extremely easy be an expert on something that you’ve never done.  Perspective is a game changer.  So if you’re a parent or coach who regularly finds fault with referees, sign up for a course or volunteer to “referee” a scrimmage game within your club.  These simple actions can give you the perspective of the other party.  Empathy is a key component to breaking down the walls between opposed people.  One of the best ways to cultivate empathy is through a different experience.

Communicate only when emotion is low – Do your best not to say (or scream) what you’re thinking in that heated moment.  Pause and wait for a time when you and the other party are calm to discuss situations.

Remember people – More than likely you’re not dealing with the reincarnation of Genghis Khan.  This person is not a demon.  They are another human that has a family, friends and a job.  It’s easier to judge someone else as bad based on one moment of their life.  While I’m sure that you’ve handled every situation of your life perfectly, it might not be fair or helpful to hold everyone to a standard of perfection.

Be a person you’d like to meet – If the roles were reversed, would you want to deal with you?  Putting the best version of yourself forward gives an example for the other side to live up to.  At bare minimum in these tumultuous times, people might not show you their best side.  You should never lower yourself to become a person that you don’t like.

These are not the only strategies but they’re a start.  In the end we need to remember every single weekend that the World Cup is most likely not at stake in the game that we’re involved with.  Something more important is.  The future of how our young people relate to one another is being formed at every moment.  How many more generations do we want to keep in soccer’s hate* triangle?

Break the cycle!

Pete

*(I use the word hate on purpose.  It is more to describe the depth of feeling rather than pervasiveness of that feeling.)