This thought hit me the other night as I was watching “A Few Good Men”. Tom Cruise’s character is a lawyer who everyone expects to take the easy route. He has a reputation for plea bargains and that’s what they expect him to do this time around. No one is waiting for him to do anything great.
Our lives are made up of moments and they stack upon one another. We get used to our particular level of performance. Whether your best is better or worse than someone else’s is largely irrelevant. People expect that you are going to show up like you. When you fall short of your normal level, the people who care about you might worry. Your enemies may chuckle but most people are too self-interested to even notice.
The thing that no one is waiting for is for you to be great. It will make your friends uncomfortable because if you do something great, then they feel inadequate. Your enemies want you to fail, not succeed and the general bystander needs more mediocrity or ineptitude from others to make them feel better about themselves. So under no circumstances is anyone waiting for you to do something great.
So it all boils down to you and what you want for yourself. The moments of your life belong to you. There will be peaks and valleys for each of us. The question becomes what level do you want to be your average? Who do you expect to show up every day when you look in the mirror? If no one else is waiting for you to be great, will you demand that of yourself? Or will you live up to the expectations that people have for you at the moment? These are questions that only you can answer. Regardless of whether you do so consciously or not, your actions will tell the story. So what are you waiting for? Make today happen and if at all possible, make it great!
Recently I was asked by a young player to give some thoughts on building confidence on the field. Although the request was made with a very specific goal in mind, building confidence is possible for anyone. The component pieces are the same regardless of the specific pursuit.
The first step is to focus on skill acquisition. Competence leads to confidence. This should be an obvious step but it is overlooked by many. People generally do not want to take the time to become good at something. They want to believe in themselves before they have any reasons to support that belief. Take the time to develop the necessary skills. Do the work when no one is watching.
As the physical skills are building, it is also important to build a mental framework. The opposite of confidence is fear. Fear as an acronym is False Evidence that Appears Real. The reason why most people are not confident is that they have the pictures of all of the ways that it could go wrong in their heads. Combating these images takes deliberate practice. In order to get to the point where you can admire your own abilities, you must have Mental Images Rehearsed Everyday. It is important to see what you want in your mind’s eye before it happens. Before things happen in the external world, they have to happen in your internal world.
Finally there is a component of faith to any endeavor. A belief that things are going to work out. With this faith there is a certain amount of emotional equilibrium that one must possess. The ability to see setbacks and obstacles as part of the process is crucial. Ultimately humans lead with belief and the willingness to leap out into the void at some point is necessary.
The most confident people did not develop that ability in a day. Nor is it a super power that is kept from us mere mortals. It is simply a process like so many others. Follow the steps to get similar results. Unfortunately it is easier to succumb to fear than to take action. However even the most difficult things can become a habit if they are practiced enough.
So go out there today and face your fears. Build your skills and become confident based on your new abilities. Nothing is so big that it can’t be broken down into bite sized pieces. Be careful because if you picture it, you just might do it!
It was the latest thing! The internet was on fire with different videos. Everyone from celebrities to little kids were taking part in this craze. For about two weeks, I saw it go through the entire life cycle. The birth, life and death all happened in such a short period of time that it was impossible to miss it. It didn’t last long enough for anyone to care that it was gone. Of course I’m talking about the “Harlem Shake”. If you had something else in mind, that’s not a problem because I could have gone with other examples. Flappy bird, dabbing, fidget spinners, bottle flipping, etc. Each had their own amount of time in the spotlight but none lasted too long. Fads are not new and by no means am I suggesting that they should go away. My fear is that everything has become a fad.
As a child in the 80’s, I saw the rise and fall of so many fads I could “gag myself with a spoon!” I had Bugle Boy Jeans a year after they were cool. My mullet was never quite right and convincing my mother to buy jeans that already had rips in them was unthinkable. Even though I didn’t fully partake in any of these fads, I was influenced by the culture around me enough to notice what was “in”. As I said previously, it’s not that fads are new. Each of the fads that came and went through my childhood stuck around long enough to be remembered. None were life altering but they usually hung around long enough to get associated with a year or part of life. The life expectancy of a fad was long enough to make it memorable and possibly meaningful.
In the age of the internet, the viral nature of media has caused fads to appear out of nowhere. They disappear almost as quickly. Very few cultural phenomena have the “staying power” to hang on for a year. Often the life of a fad is measured in weeks. While this isn’t a problem on its own, let’s face it, the Harlem Shake didn’t deserve much more of our time. The issue is the cultural impact on our perception of life expectancy. People have become accustomed to the idea of things disappearing quickly. So things that matter or require time to develop and flourish get swept aside because they don’t peak early enough or burn slower than people’s comfort level.
In a world filled with fads that seem like mental candy, have we lost our ability to recognize the things of substance? Are we so accustomed to anticipating the new that we are unable to determine if the thing in front of us deserves the time to develop? Our minds are like muscles in so many ways. I fear that these short spurts of attention are training us for the wrong game. Most of the things that really matter in life are the result of long term thinking. If that long term muscle never gets exercised, it will atrophy. Eventually we will only be equipped to deal with the short term, prepackaged, watered down version of life. While it might be easier, I don’t think it will be more fulfilling. So be aware! Some things, people and situations in your life deserve more than just a passing glance. You need to develop the awareness to recognize them and have the patience muscle to see them through. There will always be another shiny thing laying in the road. Most of it is just trash that you’ll discard. Most of the things of value require some mining!
There was always a butter dish at my house when I was growing up. It was on the kitchen counter most of the time. A stick of butter on a glass plate intended to hold it with a metal cover. It wasn’t something that you paid much attention to until it was empty. The discovery of the empty butter dish usually happened at the exact moment when there was a piece of toast or a bagel that needed buttering. Refrigerated butter is almost useless at that point. It does more damage than it does to enhance the taste of the chosen item. It spreads unevenly, if at all. Microwaving the stick to soften it was an exercise that always ended in disappointment. That’s why the butter dish being empty was such a crime because room temperature butter is ready for action.
If yo’ve read my blog before, then you know that I’m not talking about butter. I’m talking about you! Not your ability to melt evenly on a waffle but rather you ability to be ready for action. The room temperature butter is exactly that. It exists in that sweet spot where it can be anything for anyone at a moment’s notice. While we’d like to believe that we are room temperature butter, most of us are in the refrigerator or even worse we’ve already melted. In most instances we’ve grown cold to the possibility of anything other than what we had planned for our day. We need to be coerced, convinced and prepared for the things that are coming our way. Otherwise it spikes our anxiety, takes us out of our comfort zone or just plain freaks us out. What would the butter say? Nothing!!! It’s butter! But what do you have to say for yourself?
Each of us has to take responsibility for at least one person in this world. Recognize that the ability to respond to the world around you is important: not the way that you wish it was, not the way that it used to be but the way that it is! Plan, yes! Schedule, yes! Dream, yes! But do not expect that life is going to lob you underhand pitches for you to knock out of the park. It is going to go high and inside on you to put your but in the dirt. So be ready! Be nimble! Be flexible! Be room temperature butter! The events of today are going to happen with or without your consent. Be ready to take whatever it gives you!
The axle is where all of the action happens but it is often overlooked. Depending on the situation, the axle could be relatively small compared to the wheel or even completely hidden from view. Regardless of this fact, the axle is the thing that holds it all together. We are all the axle to our own lives. That central piece from which all other aspects fan outward. Unlike a wheel, the axle of our existence is not bolted to anything in a completely permanent or stable fashion. Our axle existence is moving through something more like cookie dough. Some of the things we encounter get stuck to us and stay for a while but others are deflected in an instant. There are also billions of other axles spinning about in the dough we even bump into some of them.
It’s easy to believe that because the dough is all around that it is actually spinning you. Since our influence is less concrete than we’d like, it’s easy to believe that we have no influence at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just easier to believe than what actually true. Every moment of every single day, you are influencing your world both directly and indirectly. There is a veritable web of spokes that you have put out into the dough. Unfortunately since they are difficult to see, most of us assume that they are not there.
The only way to see them is to act. Recognize in every moment that it is your turn and you need to be present enough to see where your web of influence reaches. Not just “on the Web” but in the world. In the beginning, this can be difficult because beyond the ever present and obvious, it’s all very subtle and not straightforward like we’d prefer. We want everything to be as easy as Amazon with one click overnight delivery available. Most of the world doesn’t work like that and building momentum takes time and effort. These two ingredients are often in short supply because we’ve filled our lives with things that we think really matter. The “busyness” of our lives is often a smoke screen that covers up the things that we truly want.
So as you move through your life, it is crucial that you accept the role as the key structural component. It’s your turn and you have more power and influence than you realize. In the end it will be up to you how you choose to move through this doughy world. Will you be the beater or the beaten? Decide now.
This morning I was honored to be able to speak at the memorial service for my former college professor. Most professors are people that you know for a semester or two, then they are out of your life. My relationship with Dr. Knowles spanned twenty-five years. He spoke at my wedding. His mentoring and teaching lasted long after our classes together were done.
If I look back on my life since I met him, I am awestruck by the direct impact that he has had on major decisions, beliefs and mindsets that I have. While I was his student, long conversations about academics, life and everything in between were a constant. One of the great loves of his life was the story of Don Quijote. Regardless the subject, he could find a way to work the Quijote into the conversation. His generosity allowed me to study in Ecuador for a winter semester when I could not afford it. After he retired, my yearly visits to his home in North Carolina became a mental litmus test for me to figure out whether or not I was progressing. He never really gave much input into my personal life. It was the feeling of telling him what I was doing. The sensation that I had as I described my life to someone that I respected was the input that I needed. As distance, children and life made our visits less frequent, we talked on the phone, through email or letters. About a year ago, I got the sense that I did not have much time left with my mentor. So I pushed for us to get together but life got in the way. So I was too late.
After a day of spending time with his family and friends, it was obvious that he had a similar effect on everyone that he touched. This man, who loved the story of a knight who saw the world differently, had helped so many people experience the world differently through his association. On the drive home, it hit me. We are all fighting windmills!
In probably his most famous adventure, Don Quijote sees windmills in the distance. Through his adventure focused mind, he thinks that they are giants flailing their arms. He attacks and gets himself caught in the mill’s sail. In the end he is turned upside down in a heap with his squire explaining the error of his ways to him. The undeterred Quijote tells his squire that a wizard had changed the giants to windmills.
The modern human condition in many parts of the world is all about making giants out of windmills. Once a person has enough food to eat, water to drink and shelter from danger; humans create the scenarios to make their lives meaningful. All that Don Quijote did was take an existence that was extremely normal and turned it into something spectacular because he chose to see the world differently. At a certain point we all make decisions about the world that we live in. It can be a world full of wonderful adventures to be shared with other distinguished people on their own personal quest. Or it can be filled with the mundane elements that seem more and more drab as they continuously repeat through the years.
The question is not whether or not we are fighting windmills. The windmills are all around us waiting to be fought. Almost every task in this world could be characterized as foolish when put in the proper context. So it is not whether we do it, it is how that we do it. We have a choice every day, which windmills will we focus on and how fervently we will fight. I was so extremely fortunate that Dr. Knowles chose to fight the battle of educating young minds with a joy and passion that it was infectious. At all times, the possibility existed that he was going to be ridiculed and branded a fool for his constant belief in the abilities of young people but I’m glad to say that his campaign was a success. A life well lived, finding and fighting windmills that most other people never saw. Don Juan Canoles, you will missed!
Women’s Soccer is an American sport. Men’s Soccer isn’t (yet). Therein lies the problem of comparing the two on every level. Although they kick the same ball, they are very different for a variety of reasons. Just in case anyone reading this is waiting for my arguments against equal pay, they’re not coming. I believe the women’s compensation from USSF should be “equal”. (actually fair is the right word because the structures of compensation are vastly different and should be for now) The drum that I’m banging on is the need to separate the men’s game in this country from the women’s game for a while (about 12 years is my guess).
Women’s soccer is an American sport and if that was not obvious before, it should be after the 2019 Women’s World Cup. All American sports have a distinct characteristic: first mover’s advantage. The reason that the best leagues in the world for football, baseball and basketball reside within the United States is that these leagues existed before the rest of the world was overly interested in them. Yes, the players in baseball may now come from a variety of islands to the south but they are playing in the stadiums that were built by the legacy of the Babe, Rose, Clemens, etc.
“But the women’s league in the US has failed multiple times and the NWSL is propped up by National Federations.” Absolutely correct but the institution of Title IX gave women’s soccer a place to breed female talent before any other nation cared. The proof was on full display during this Women’s World Cup. Both coaches in the final played soccer in college and neither were born in the US. Soccer on the women’s side has been growing in the United States for decades. It is only recently that other nations are beginning to invest in the idea of women playing soccer. France and Spain in particular have begun the difficult game of catch-up but they have many obstacles to overcome and many don’t rely on money. Rose Lavelle was a standout performer in this World Cup because of Mia Hamm. A culture of women’s sport does not develop overnight and the rest of the world needs to contend with that issue. Unfortunately a majority of the female soccer stars on the international stage are from one country.
The exact reverse situation exists on the men’s side. Soccer is not an American sport (yet). The heroes that young players in the US idolize are usually not from their country. The best talent from the US is exported rather than imported. The game does not have a “first mover’s advantage”. It is one of the last dogs to get to the feeding bowl and often the traditional American sports have taken the greatest athletic talent before soccer gets a sniff. So the comparison of women’s and men’s soccer in the United States is at best apple to oranges and at worst unfairly skewed. But do not despair comparison people! The playing field will eventually be level, again I’d guess in about 12 years.
To use a phrase from Peter Diamandis’ book “BOLD”, men’s soccer in the United States is in a deceptive phase. Diamandis uses this moniker to describe a period when progress in technology seems to be almost non-existent. Results have looked basically the same for a long time with the USMNT. Win some, lose some but never a sense of dominance like the women enjoy, even in our own region. The reason why this is a deceptive phase is because all of the groundwork for the breakout of the men’s game has been happening for 25 years. Slowly, fathers who played now have sons who play. Soccer is becoming less of an afterthought and more of staple. The professional game is stable in this country and there is more soccer shown on TV in this country than ever before. So while the results of the Gold Cup may be disappointing, it is not truly a representation of where the men’s game is now. It is on the cusp of disruption.
This is where I’ll stick a pin in my argument for not comparing the women’s and men’s soccer programs for a while. Eventually the two will be on a level playing field as the rest of the world catch up to our women and the men disrupt the status quo in American sports culture and world soccer. I’m not sure which will happen first but I’m fully confident that they are both going to happen!
The World Cup is always filled with drama. Most of the time it happens on the field. It also usually happens between players, coaches and other people involved in soccer in some way. As the United States Women’s National Team prepares to take on France, host nation and one of the other favorites to win the cup, the biggest drama coming from France has almost nothing to do with France, the World Cup or soccer at all. Many more eyes and ears have become focused on the World Cup because of the comments made by Megan Rapinoe and Donald Trump. Since most news outlets have latched onto the story, I won’t repeat it here. This clash has sprung out of the fact that even though the two seem to have nothing in common, they both like the spotlight. So how can we use all of the light that’s been shone onto this situation? Remember that freedom is responsibility.
In so many ways, freedom has become fashioned into a thought process that “I can do what I want.” While there is some truth to that statement it glosses over one of the inherent costs of freedom. “I need to let other people do what they want, even when it diametrically opposes what I believe is right.” Embracing freedom is easy when it is your own, it becomes difficult when it belongs to others.
So as the lights are focused on these two characters that represent very different factions of our country, my hope is that one or both of them remembers their responsibility. They both represent this country on an international stage and they have the opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech and action for the betterment of themselves OR the people who are watching. This is not Reagan imploring Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. It is a professional athlete who represents several ideals like equality in compensation, LGTBQ rights and racial equality and a president who has promised to “Make America Great Again”.
During their moment in the spotlight together, what will each of them do? Will they choose the spotlight and the clicks or will they choose the responsibility of their freedom? Rapinoe can turn that light from herself “not going to the White House” and shine it directly onto the people that she represents and their stories/struggles. The President could equally use the bright lights of this situation to address those same people and help “Make America Great” for them because Again excludes them. America was not great for women, LGTBQ or minorities in the past.
Both people have the freedom that this country affords them. My hope is that they take the responsibility seriously and see that it is not about them. It’s about us. The US may win or lose today against France. The question is can we find a way to win as a country in our daily lives? Or have we become so enamored with our own freedom that we no longer recognize the freedom of others? Republican, democrat, black, white, brown, green, woman, man, transgender, gay, straight….. at a certain point we need to figure out how to be neighbors and make America great! Even if it is for the first time for everyone.
I had blood all over me. I didn’t know where I was. It was the coldest that I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t see a thing. All that I could do was scream. Luckily help was nearby and I was able to calm down. It had been a difficult trial but I was alive and in the hospital. Just when things seemed as if they would be OK, a complete stranger came along and chopped off a quarter of my penis. All of that trauma happened in the first twenty four hours of my life. Despite that very rough beginning, I’ve done quite well for myself.
This story is at least partially true for almost all of us. We were all thrust into this world naked, afraid and unable to speak, read or write. It is not something that we give much thought to because it happens to everyone. However birth (or creation) is a messy and traumatic business by all accounts. Not just the human producing ones but also the birth of companies, relationships, art or anything else. There is always that starting point of conception that is magical and exhilarating. Eventually that moment is replaced by some form of hard labor in order to get the creation out into the world. Just because it’s painful, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. The narrative of the present day is about safety and comfort. Our world has had most of its sharp edges taken off. While I’m all for vaccinating against the next Bubonic Plague, there are some struggles that are important for people to go through. Not all pain is trauma.
As you conceive the next dream of where you’re going or what you’re doing, do a little pre-trauma planning. Like a person that is preparing for a marathon, it is important to understand your “quit points”. Quitting is not shameful if it is done for the right reasons. A broken leg is a justifiable quit inducing occurrence. Cramps are a nuisance to be fought through. The difference between trauma and possibility is perspective and the next few steps that are taken. Expectation that everything will be easy is a sure fire way to turn every problem into trauma. Traumatizing yourself with things that should be expected is recipe for disaster. Imagine freaking out because your newborn child couldn’t walk. It’s a process not a fully completed miracle. Take the possibility and run with it.
The Women’s World Cup has been a roller coaster ride from the beginning. Although I support the US Women’s National Team, I am much more interested in the women’s game growing and being accepted in its own right worldwide. Most of the results have been in line with expectation. However the results are not all that matters. Even though there are more games to be played, this World Cup is sending messages. Some of them need to be heard and emulated, others need to be learned from then possibly forgotten. Regardless, I thought it was worth the time to recap some of the biggest beats so far.
Lone voices aren’t loud – The absence of one of the best players in the world has largely gone unnoticed. Norway has performed relatively well without their Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg. Her decision to stay out of the Norwegian National Team was a mild source of intrigue but in the end has been overtaken by other story lines. There is just too much happening in a World Cup that the absence of one person is going to invoke great change. If the World Cup is the best platform for female athletes to make a statement (and I believe that it is), then it requires a much more evident and pervasive stance. Perhaps all of the teams deciding, they are not going to play for the first minute of each game because they want to make a statement about inequality. Instead of kicking of an internationally televised game exactly when the whistle blows, a minute, thirty seconds, ten seconds is taken for all of the players to stand together against a common foe of inequality.
Objectively Subjective – Although it has people behind it, one of the loudest voices of the tournament has no voice at all. VAR has all but taken over a tournament that is supposed to be about human beings playing and interpreting the beautiful game. Unfortunately in an effort to “get it right”, it’s all gone wrong. The games have largely been robbed of the emotion of the moment. Referees without VAR get things wrong (and obviously with VAR things still go wrong). Based on what I’ve seen from this World Cup, I’m much less worried about the getting the call “right” as I am the referee doing her/his best to endeavor to make the “right” call. Human error is part of the process but two minute discussions over earphones about a possible infraction have not improved the game, they’ve cheapened it. This is largely the reason that I’ve not watched a NFL game in four years. The game has been taken away from the humans, so they defer, rather than decide.
Entitlement Doesn’t Lead to Titles – As a fan of the USWNT, it pained me to watch the match against Spain. In an almost Rocky IV type moment, I felt myself almost wanting for Spain to win. This was not me renouncing my citizenship. It was the simple fact that I saw more instances of pride producing behavior from the Spanish team. As a fan, pride is one of the emotions that we rely upon to continue our association with a team. When we are no longer proud to support our team, there is little point in being a fan. The Spanish team had a plan and they executed it well. The US didn’t and didn’t. At a variety of moments, it seemed as though the US were waiting for Spain to give up. Rapinoe and Morgan seemed to want the referee to be the one to help them past the defenders. Expectations of calls for any contact were fully on display. Although some of Spain’s tackles were reckless, the general feeling that I got was that they were actually trying to win the game through skill and hard work rather than reputation. My hope is that this was a blip on the radar screen but I am fearful that we are more show than GO!
One last word before she leaves – In one of the most shareable moments of the World Cup, Marta exited the tournament by laying down the gauntlet to the future of the sport. Although the message was intended toward young Brazilian girls, it is a strong message for anyone. The heroines or heroes that we esteem so heavily will not always be there for us to adore. Someone, maybe you, needs to pick up where they left off or possibly challenge for their spot. It is not going to be easy. As Marta put it, you need to cry before you can smile. The picture needs to be painted over and over again that the exceptional do not get there by chance or in born talent. There is work that no one sees and most people fear but if you want to get to the highest levels, you need to embrace.
So even though it is not over, there is so much to take from the World Cup so far. It is one of the reasons why I love soccer so much. The result is only part of the story. Stats and scores can only tell you so much. The experience of the 90 (+7 COME ON! VAR!) minutes is necessary to tell a story about the people that are trying to get that result. Their stories run parallel to our stories and allow us to live more fervently because it resonates around the world!