Stories are an integral part of our society and have been for thousands of years. Whether the Odyssey, the Bible, Star Wars or Romeo & Juliet, the stories of the present and past have almost all been intended to tell us something. Not particularly something about the past although many are historical in nature. More often than not, stories are trying to tell us something about the human condition. Although a form of entertainment, they can also be instructive.
Characters are not just imaginary people to play make believe for us real humans. They represent a myriad of possible traits, life courses and mindsets. Whether Han Solo, Jesus, the Lorax or Hector, each one offers the gift of possibility. The idea of a life slightly different from our own. They offer themselves up in front of us on the screen or the page in order for us to judge them and their value. At that point their power or lack there of is left up to us.
What’s missing from the story is you. If you only admire the heroism of Han Solo or the kindness of Jesus but never transfer it into your own life, then these characters truly are lifeless. However, if you’re willing to take up their plight from the page, then they truly do live. It is not enough for heroism, kindness and love to exist in movies and books because evil and hatred are alive in the real world. So if you truly love a movie or book, then show it by becoming an actor. A person who acts in the stead of those imaginary people. The world is waiting for your story to be told and you’re the only thing that’s missing.
In kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class. The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom. I won everyone that I ran in. Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion. First, it’s possible that it is true. I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class. Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine. Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER! While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.
Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around. In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races. Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem. Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later. They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.
The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis. The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things. Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people. It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles. Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste. These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.
So the daily choice comes down to you. Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life. Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself. Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.
It was an absolute revelation! Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business). The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women. The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.
Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar. He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.” His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way). They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny. Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number. Watch the clip for the full picture.
This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives. First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations. Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me. I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.
The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you. Keep that in mind at all times. Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you. So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself. It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can. Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior. When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.
You’re a big bear man!
Idols are supposed to be held in high esteem, the very personification of the things that we want to be. It hit me like a lightning bolt this morning that Mr. Magoo is truly an American idol for so many people. For those youngsters out there, Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character whose poor eyesight routinely got him into precarious situations but he always escapes unscathed and sometimes falls into good fortune. Feel free to watch one Mr. Magoo cartoon on YouTube. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all (minus little details). The overarching idea behind Mr. Magoo is that his problem would be easily fixed if he were just to put on his glasses but he wants to deny his problem rather than face it.
Although it isn’t pretty, this seems to be a scarily accurate description of how many of us live our lives. We recognize our problem but are too damn stubborn, lazy or indifferent to do anything about it. Seemingly our greatest hope is that we can meander through life blind to our inadequacies and not have them bite us in the ass. While this makes for a mildly amusing cartoon, it is a disastrous strategy for living a life of fulfillment and progress.
Rather than turning a blind eye to your inadequacies, stare at them with crystal clear vision, even put them under a microscope if need be. Decide what you truly want: to feel good in the moment or feel good long term. If you want the Magoo life, then by all means turn the blind eye. BUT if you want more from your life, then you and you alone will need to make the decision to systematically work on your areas of weakness until they can no longer hurt you. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting on glasses but perhaps it will take years or even decades to overcome. Regardless, it’s up to you to Magoo or not.
It wasn’t a 100% binary equation. Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”. Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death. Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died. I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner. Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case. Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators. While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes. Gladiators got good because they had to. Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.
By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to. A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go. However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward. The same holds for an individual. What is at stake for you today? Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie? Or is nothing at stake today? Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday? Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly. Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber. The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword. That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake. So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!
It is not an uncommon thing at all to wish for a future that is yet to come or a past that is long gone. Humans have the blessing and the curse to be able to mentally exist in the past and future while ignoring the present. It is a blessing because it allows us the freedom to live in the most useful plane. The curse is the propensity to relive or project the worst of experiences or possibilities. At all times, the mind has the capability of transporting the self elsewhere. With this ultimate power to determine much of our existence, surprisingly most people defer control to the moment or to their “monkey mind”. Imagine if you will driving a car with no steering wheel. The gas and the brake are great tools but without the ability to steer, one is at the mercy of the terrain and the tires.
So the key to moving forward in a direction of your own desire means developing a steering mechanism. How long would you drive that car without a steering wheel? Not long at all before you or someone else added that key component. The key to your mental steering comes down to practice. Pulling your mind in the direction of your choosing on a regular basis. When it wanders, you must take control again. Under no circumstances is this easy. It’s easy to be swayed by right now. It’s easy to run the patterns that you’ve been running for years or decades. Those are the paths of least resistance but I assure you that they will not get you to your destination in a timely or comfortable manner.
So take this moment to decide. Decide who you are now and who you want to be in the future (you can’t fix the past but you can change its meaning). Once you have those in mind, start with a half hour each day where you think and act only in line with that vision. If you mind wanders, bring it back! As you get better and better at completing that half hour, it will begin to dump over into the other hours of the day. Eventually the you from the vision and your reality will be one in the same. The only question for now is, are you willing to take control?
I’m fully willing to admit that I’m a relatively passive driver. It’s almost to a fault. Most of the driving routes that I take for local trips are based on their lack of difficult left turns. It’s not that I’m incapable of making the turns nor do I lack the patience to wait for openings. My overarching thought process is that I don’t engage with unknown chaos if I don’t need to. Overall I’m happy with the strategy. However recently I’ve been forcing myself to do more left turn heavy routes. Just to demonstrate to myself that my passivity is a strategy that I want and not character flaw born out of fear.
In many areas of our lives, we tend to become accustomed to things. There is almost an autopilot type of function that we employ to the regular and presupposed. This is not a problem until it is. Often the need for comfort keeps us anchored to the known. Most of the time the known is a positive but eventually you may end up driving in circles. “Big Ben, Parliament!”
People have an ingrained need to feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately those emotions do not usually help you move forward in the most direct route. The road to your ideal life is not lined with rose petals, rainbows and unicorns. It is going to require grit, determination, unwavering faith in that unseen and YES! Hard left turns through major traffic! This realization is necessary to reach new destinations. If you’re happy going where you’ve always gone with path of least resistance, then by all means keep going that way. If not, then it’s time to recognize the power of the left turn and accept that they are going to be integral to you reaching your destination.
For my international reader who may drive on the left hand side of the road, just reverse all that I just said! :p
Go get there!
Sometimes the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of you. Your nose is always front and center but most of us don’t pay it any mind. The reason why we tend to forget about it is because it is always there. Our brains tend to discard or ignore those things that can be taken for granted. Air, light, food, water, friends, opportunity, etc. are just a beginning to the list of things that we take for granted each day. This is not to say that we should be spending major amounts of time contemplating air in a recreational effort. It is simply to point out that your brain is working at all times to determine what is worth your attention and what is not. This ability to ignore the inconsequential is wonderful until it isn’t. As they say, the dose makes the poison.
Although our brains were originally designed to act in our best interest, the operating system has not been updated in a long time. So if you do not intervene on your own behalf, your brain will protect you from things that are no longer relevant. Most of the fear and anxiety that you feel is supposed to keep you from being eaten by a bear or be kicked out of the tribe. The latter is more relevant than the former but both need to oversight. On its default settings, your brain will keep you alive and partially comfortable in the modern world. If you are looking for more than that, then you need to be more deliberate about the things that you see.
The invisible nose is just a representation of the things that you’re ignoring. More important things are out there that you should be aggressively pursuing but you just don’t see them. Opportunities pass you by or better yet you pass them by regularly. The reason is that you’re not programmed to notice them. That’s not safe! Stay where it’s comfortable! Don’t stand out! Don’t fail! These are all things that your brain screams subliminally everyday. Unless you take control and look for that which is most important to you. Those things may not be as obvious as you want them to be. Although they might be directly in front of you, they may be buried under a pile of societal and personal hard-wiring. Hacking your way through that will be difficult, time consuming and totally worth it once you’re on the other side.
So I’ve give you permission. Look at the world with fresh eyes and endeavor to see everything. Hack away at the beliefs that no longer make sense. Filter your vision to look for the ideal rather than the real. Your past low expectations will be there to catch you if you fall. It starts with a moment and builds from there. Make this your first moment!
Have a great day!
The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance. While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground. Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems. At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn. Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world. I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains. The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form. Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.
Intuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken. Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity. There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same. The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.
The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails. Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain. The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own. In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure. Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.
At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance. A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”. Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.
So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy. Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel. Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight. Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!
Learn today to be better tomorrow.
Growing up in the 80’s, the desire to be a “rock star” seemed almost ubiquitous. Not everyone was in a band at one point but the numbers were high enough to take notice. The proliferation of MTV allowed for widespread exposure to a life that many people assumed that they wanted. In the end most of those dreams faded because the path was too difficult for most to bear. Constant practicing, trying to get signed, playing small gigs for no money and myriad of other obstacles were enough to teach “would be” rock stars to look for another direction. Another key obstacle was parental approval. Most parents saw the dream as unlikely and allowed their kids to pursue it but not overly invest themselves.
Fast forward to the present day where we have a similar situation surrounding professional sports. While kids have always aspired to be professional athletes, it has a much greater parental push than ever. Youth sports are a multi-million (probably billion) dollar industry. With the pervasive use of professional training, specialization and speed/agility work, one might think that every twelve year old kid was preparing for life as a professional athlete. The truth of the matter is that they already are.
Whether NBA, MLS, NFL or NHL, the business model is the same. The fans pay money for tickets which the owners then use to pay the players, coaches and for equipment. Sometimes sponsors help to offset costs but they usually reap an advertising reward. The only real difference is that the parents don’t receive a physical season ticket. They pay for the coaches and equipment but since this is a developmental league, the players don’t get paid yet. Although I am saying this with a little tongue in cheek, it is not far off.
The youth ranks seem to become more “professional” each year. So what explanation should be given to all of the players who don’t make it to one of the top levels? Is the justification for the capital investment going to be that it taught teamwork, confidence and other life skills? Seemingly it’s not teamwork, as parents move their kids in an almost mercenary fashion to different clubs for “exposure” or “better competition”. Not for confidence building as overly competitive teams focus on results rather than development so players are chopped and changed annually. Getting a kid to believe in themselves is tough when always under a performance microscope. Any life lessons that could be taught would have been administered as well by a parent with experience. Rather than a trainer whose interest in the kids may be based more on financial gain and results and not the kids personally. So how is the seismic shift toward youth professionalism going to be explained? Will it be an unfortunate memory like a bad hairstyle? Or will it be an core identifier of an entire generation?
At a certain point each of us must decide if we are on the right path. Supply is often based on demand. The demand for professional youth players may wane as the academy system matures and is less of a “cash grab”. Until then all of us must identify our desired outcome from sport. There is nothing wrong with chasing a life as a professional provided that it is done with open eyes. Traveling salesmen with miracle cures used to move from town to town selling their products. It’s easy to blame the salesman when he’s gone. It’s much more difficult to justify being hoodwinked by ourselves. So decide early which path you are truly on. It’s OK to change course but heading east to get to the Pacific is a bad strategy anywhere in the US.
Enjoy the week!