Blogpost, self-reliance

Kickball Rules

In my neighborhood as a child, kickball was the game that we played most often. I lived near the local middle school and the blacktopped area behind the school was our regular play area. The beautiful thing about that time of my life and in our history was that there was almost no adult supervision. Our parents knew where we were but they were not watching us directly nor directing our activity. The organization, rules, procedures and culture was completely up to us. It usually started with knocking on doors to assemble enough players. Team selection was usually done by captains but almost never the same ones. Our preferred game ball was an old volleyball but we tried a soccer ball and even a basketball once. House rules said that two fouls was an out. Pitches couldn’t bounce and littler kids got a slow roll. The rules themselves are not what matters because we probably inherited them from a gym class or somewhere else. What does matter is that we had to decide regularly. We had to consider a number of variables as a group of young kids and figure out how to make it work so that everyone would want to play again tomorrow.

Despite the fact that kickball still exists and kids play it, my sense is that the autonomy and decision making are gone. A quick YouTube search produced at least five videos on the rules of kickball. There are a lot of positives to having that amount of access to desirable information. However a negative consequence that comes along with it is deniability when it comes to responsibility for decisions. If people are not used to making up the rules, they struggle when a new situation arises.

Each of us is playing our own game. It’s nowhere near as simple as kickball and we have to come up with the rules. There are definitely common practices out there that may inform our game. However the decisions are ultimately up to us. Do we greet people that we dislike? Do we work hard on something that no one will ever see? Do we prefer to play on our own or in groups? These are all things that we must answer for ourselves. It’s completely possible to defer all decisions to other people like your parents, teachers, bosses, friends, etc. Eventually though, you’ll most likely end up playing a game that you dislike.

So perhaps it’s worth considering. What game are you playing and what are your house rules? You don’t need to keep score like everyone else unless you want the same results. Your boundaries may not be the same. The game that you’re playing may be unrecognizable to others and that’s alright. This world can be a playground or a prison based on these decisions. Some people who have all of the freedoms in the world feel trapped. While others who seemingly have every disadvantage find a way to win on a daily basis. It’s not about the external factors. The game that they’ve organized for themselves is one that they’re set up to lose or win internally.

Set yourself up to win!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You Are Here

They are really quite useful! Maps with that drawing or sticker that tell you exactly where you are on the map. It gives you a frame of reference for your future movement. Whether in a shopping mall, amusement park or any other area with twists and turns, this added feature to a helpful guide to the territory can be invaluable.

In the real world though, there is rarely an indicator of this sort. Sure we generally know where we are geographically but in a larger context, we’re often lost! There are traditions and conventions that we may follow. Paths that others have trodden which gives us some assurance of success. However it’s not the precision of a map with our exact location of the moment spelled out for us.

At the moment, I have no idea if this is the blogpost that will skyrocket me to stardom. I don’t even know if that is on the map nor if that would get me closer to my goal of helping people. Since there is no map, it’s even more important to have a compass. Something that helps you know if you’re heading in the right direction. Do you have yours? If not, it’s worth developing or considering. Getting lost is part of most journeys but losing yourself shouldn’t be. Define for yourself the direction that you’re heading so that when you reach obstacles, you understand why you must get past them.

There will probably not be a convenient map for you to follow through your life. Life is rarely set up for your convenience. However if you set yourself up with the right tools for keeping you on track, you won’t even need the sticker because you’ll know “You are here!”

Find yourself today!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

Player Value: Creating POSH Out of Potential

As the Euros are on at the moment, there is plenty of buzz around different players. The value of a player can go up or down massively during a tournament like this. Some stars are born out of these circumstances and others that have shown bright in the past fade. Gareth Bale used to be worth nearly 100 million pounds. Now his market value is around 19 million. Is he one fifth the player that he used to be? Probably not, his chipping has definitely improved! Haha! But seriously, a player’s value is not a fixed thing, nor is it ever completely accurate. It is based on many perceived factors including consistency and potential. No one can see what tomorrow will bring but those who guess right consistently enough, create value for their clubs.

Aaron Mclean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue on Sun Nov 9, 2008

Luckily for the past decade and a half, the POSH have had a relatively consistent combination of a gambler and a teacher who have maximized player value. This season that value is no longer going to help finance the club’s future young starlets. It is going to pay the rent for a year in the Championship. While the POSH haven’t done any transfer business yet this summer, the core of their promotion winning side is intact. This side’s fate will depend largely on the “dynamic duo” of DMac and Fergie to do what they have for so many years, see value where others don’t and improve it.

Although it’s easy say after the fact, that Boyd, Gayle, and Toney were “destined” to be great, no one can ever truly say. The order of the moment is to believe. Consistently through the years, the DMac/Fergie combination have delivered results. Although the Championship is a different level, lessons have been learned and the course is clear. There is nothing magical about the Championship. No one has a divine right to play there but there are teams that it’s almost a given that they are going to stay up. The bookies know who they are, that’s how they set the odds. However they have made a slight error in setting the POSH at 15/8 to get relegated. They are discounting the gambler and the teacher. The track record of turning potential into POSH should not be overlooked. Perhaps it’s for the best though. Long odds can create strong mentality of belief in teams and individuals. Us against the world is an idea that can be sold because people who are undervalued have something to prove. This season is all about the things that POSH does well. Finding diamonds in the rough and getting them to shine for all to see. Patience.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Uncategorized

The Size of Your Cell

Today the family and I visited Alcatraz Island. Despite the very moving and exhibit about the Native American occupation of the island, our main purpose for the visit was the prison. This was my second visit to “The Rock” but it was my children’s first. It’s easy to forget how small the cells are and the solitary life that must have been led by the prisoners. Surely their past actions put them into that position. However can’t that be said about all of us? The size of the cells in Alcatraz was 5 feet by 9 feet. How big is the cell that confines each of us? Are we only confined by the limits of our imaginations? Or is the size of our cell around 3 inches by 6 inches?

It easy and enticing to believe that we’re not confined by anything. The optimist inside of me would love to believe that we are all limitless, no bars, no guards, no walls to keep us in. Largely that could be true if it weren’t for us. We confine ourselves, punish ourselves and obstruct ourselves. The prison around us is man made but the man or (wo)man who made is also the prisoner. This knowledge is important but not liberating. It can help us to see past the bars and wall but escape is not particularly any simpler. Depending on how old you are, those impediments seem as real as the stone and steel of Alcatraz.

There is still debate about whether or not anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz. There is no debate that people escape their self-made prisons every day. The question is how far they get and whether or not they lock themselves back up in the same cell with the same number. It’s possible for you to make it! You don’t need to use a spoon from the commissary to tunnel through concrete. The escape plan needs to center around you and the amount of freedom that you’ll allow yourself to believe in. No one is stopping you! Unlock the cell and walk out! Freedom awaits but you need to believe.

Let’s go!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Missing Ingredient

You can find a recipe for almost anything online. On a frustrated Sunday afternoon, I looked up a recipe for a fake Chik-Fil-A nugget recipe. Since the restaurant is closed on Sundays, I took it upon myself to make my own nuggets. The first batch wasn’t great. The recipe didn’t exactly meet my expectations. So I changed it up and developed my own version of the recipe (see below). It became a family tradition for a while that every Sunday I would make my chicken recipe.

Life has become a lot more convenient since I was a kid. Almost anything that you want is a click away. The problem is that since we can have our desires met without much personal effort, we tend to undervalue things abhor effort. It seems to take too long, be too hard or even impossible to make those things of true value come about. So we tend to settle. We settle for the prepackaged, knock off version of the real thing because it’s just easier. Searching for the solution to our problem is often too difficult, so we put a poll out on a forum or Twitter. Who has the recipe that will fix my problem? If this is just research then, have at it! Much like my chicken problem, looking at someone else’s recipe was helpful. However it was missing that most important ingredient: ME.

In many ways we’ve put ourselves on the substitute’s bench in our own lives. We look outward for so many things. Whether it is validation on social media or an endless stream of entertainment from our streaming services. The problem is that you cannot ignore this “missing ingredient”. You are the most important person in the story of your life. Every single day of your life, you’ll be there. Putting yourself on the bench makes no sense. Even in times when you need the help of an expert, you still need to be there. Otherwise your life is happening to you, not for you. I did not care for piece of the recipe that I took off the internet, so I changed them to my liking. Perhaps, you’ll not like what I’ve created below. That’s ok! It might be a starting point for you to find your own recipe.

No matter who you are. You are the main character and chief script writer of your own TV show or movie. It’s largely up to you if you have a starring role or play a minor character. No one else can make that decision for you. If you’ve started to notice that you’re not a major ingredient in your life. Perhaps it is time to make a change! Put down the phone. Stop reading this blog and go do something that makes you, YOU! Come back later for the chicken recipe.

Go make it happen!

Pete

HURYK-Fil-A Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup dill pickle juice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour 
  • ½ cup House Autry hushpuppy mix 
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •    peanut oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, pickle juice and 1/2 cup milk; marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk an egg. Stir in chicken and gently toss to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, combine Kentucky Kernel flour, Hushpuppy mix  and confectioners’ sugar; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Working in batches, put chicken into flour mixture.  Then add chicken to the skillet and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Blogpost, self-reliance

I’m On the Outside

To fully understand the situation, it may take you an extra five minutes to watch the video that is linked here. That is the video from the 1990s for a song called “Outside” performed by Aaron Lewis from the band Staind and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve heard of either of them or the song. The story behind the song and how it relates to the rest of us is really what matters.

The performance of that song was recorded during the “Family Values” tour in 1999. The relevance of the performance is that it was the first time the song was performed anywhere. Quite literally, Aaron Lewis was making up the lyrics as he went along. At the time, Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst were the big name headliner of the tour and Staind were the opening act. Lewis asked Durst to come on stage during their set and perform as a backing vocalist. Fred agreed but didn’t like the original song selection. He wanted to sing the backing vocals on “Outside” which Lewis had been workshopping months before but never finished. He had the first verse and the chorus. With the pressure of a live audience and a “star” performing with him, he was able to produce a song that still strikes a chord twenty years later.

This is the story of all of us. The stakes may be different and we may not be on a real stage but it is how we exist. We are making it up as we go along. Some of it we have prepared but much of the performance is ad libbed in the moment. The audience size is different every time and sometimes we’re a solo act. Regardless, this is the gig of being a human being. Producing something in the moment. Despite our desire to be consumers, we are actually producers!

Although I love the idea behind the performance, the song is worth noting as well. The reason that I still listen to it from time to time is the universality of many of the lyrics. “Inside you’re ugly, ugly like me.” I haven’t met a person yet who is not self-critical on some level. We spend so much time with ourselves and know our deepest and darkest secrets, it’s easy to get fixated on our imperfections. “I feel all this pain, stuffed it down, it’s back again.” Perhaps this one is just me but the demons never go away! I get far better at fighting them off and taking away their ammunition. However they are still there waiting to attack in my moments of weakness. They’re there because they are part of me. I’m both on the outside and the inside. The enemy and the ally at the same time.

It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one who is struggling in the moment. Perhaps you’re playing in front of a big crowd with huge stakes with no back up. I hope that it helps you to know that you’re not the only one who is fumbling for the right chords in the moment. We all are! Anyone who isn’t, must be in the audience and they are more afraid than you are. They’re afraid of criticism. That someone will see through them. You’ve gotten beyond that. “It’s not the critic who counts…” Hopefully your performance will blow up in the best possible way like it did for Aaron Lewis. Regardless of whether it does or not, you still have tomorrow to get back on stage and give it another go!

You rock!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Keep The Game Going: The One With The Ball Game

The “Friends” reunion has put that series and many of its episodes back into the forefront of my mind. There is a particular episode where Joey and Ross start throwing a ball to pass the time. They and several of the other friends continue the ball game for a long time while missing work and other events. In the end Phoebe inadvertently ends the game by putting the ball down on the table. While disappointing, it is not the worst outcome because Monica had already taken most of the fun out of the game. The original intent was to keep the game going but her competitive nature intervened. Although it is just a simple example, it lends itself well to the major ideas of the book by Simon Sinek, “The Infinite Game.”

The premise of the book is based on the comparison between infinite games and finite games. It is also relates them to business, companies and a variety of other things. The overarching idea is that finite games are generally played in order to be won while infinite games are played in order to keep the game going. From the Friends example, Joey and Ross begin playing an infinite game. They are throwing the ball in order to keep throwing the ball. As Monica begins to influence the game, there is more of a finite mindset based on competition and status. Sinek’s book puts a spotlight on the fact that many of our current practices in business (and possibly life) are finite minded. Although these finite practices are culturally supported, they are not actually in the best interest of the businesses that employ them. Using many counter examples, Sinek gives a compelling argument for the profitability and sustainability of the infinite mindset.

Most of us don’t own our own company nor do we plan to do so. However we each have the opportunity to take on an infinite mindset with regards to how we play the games of our lives. The important games that we play are not usually win/lose even if some people treat them that way. Marriage, friendship, health, education, career, etc. are not games that you can particularly win. The idea is to keep playing and hopefully play a little better tomorrow than you did today. Learning to employ an infinite mindset in particular areas of your life may garner better results than always trying to “win.”

Keep playing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Talent

Children around the world are taught to believe in some things that just don’t exist. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are two western world creations that give excitement and anticipation to children around their respective holidays. Eventually these particular mythical creatures are revealed for what they are: cultural fantasy. I’m not sure that they do any pervasive psychological harm because the fantasy is replaced by a functional reality that young people can understand. The same cannot be said for the cultural ghost of “talent.” I’m sure that my argument is going to get someone’s knickers in a twist. So let me be as specific as I possibly can be. I am referring to the seemingly “god given” ability that comes without effort, training or intention. The ability that comes from nowhere.

Unlike Santa Claus and the Eastern Bunny, this myth is extremely dangerous and erodes the possibility of personal achievement in so many lives. It breaks the confidence of young people and older people alike. People are left feeling like a child on Christmas with nothing under the tree but they don’t seem to ever realize that they’re waiting for something to appear that really doesn’t exist. The way that people generally think of talent has set them up for disappointment. Sure there are people that are born with some slight advantages such as height, intelligence or kinesthetic awareness. However these advantages are the beginning of a path, not the end of the road. Someone who is dedicated can catch up to those with a head start. It happens all of the time. The stories of people like Michael Jordan are told often in order to dispel the myth of talent. However the truth isn’t what most people are looking for. They are actually looking for an excuse.

Talent is the perfect alibi for low achievement. The lack of it can be used to explain away the poor results that were unwanted. People want to receive positive results but often are unwilling to put forth the time and effort required to get them. It’s so much easier to point the finger at the people who are getting better results and brand them as having “talent.” Then their conscience is free because God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or some other deity did not bestow upon them the magical power necessary to become something special. It’s a lie and it needs to be called out.

Unfortunately we don’t put “talent” into shopping malls every year in a costume where everyone older than ten years old can see the farce. We perpetuate the lie because most of us want to be protected by it in some way. However we have to realize that it is not protecting us from anything more than all that we could be. So let go of the myth! Your lack of talent can be overcome with grit, determination and consistency. When you eventually become so good at something that people call you talented, you’ll know the truth. It will then be up to you to tell them or let them believe in fairy tales. Either way, you’ll be free!

Merry F#$@ing Christmas!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Unsporting Behavior

There are many things that can be considered “unsporting behavior” within the game of soccer. However I believe that the one that encompasses them all most concisely is “Shows a lack of respect for the game.” Whether it is a reckless foul or attempting to deceive the referee, all situations that can be characterized as unsporting behavior show some level of disrespect toward the game. Generally speaking most people tend to respect the game at levels that allow for the game to move forward. If too many people disrespect the game, there is no continuity and possibly, not enough players left to make the game worth playing.

This situation almost never happens. Games are infrequently abandoned due to a high number of players being dismissed. It would be counterproductive. Players inherently want to play. So excessive disrespect to the game is not in their best interest. Even implementors of “anti-football” had to recognize that the more egregious their actions, the more they gambled with the tactic backfiring. Stifling the opposition can be a team’s undoing if they take it too far.

Taking a step back from the rectangular field with lines and focusing on the spherical one with continents. The same logic seems to fit. A lack of respect for the game is counterproductive and can stifle us all. The problem in the bigger game comes from the fact that not everyone is aimed at the same goals, each person has their own set of rules and mostly people referee themselves. So a lack of respect is even more subjective than in a soccer game. Playing within the rules can get frustrating when confronted with opponents who seemingly have no rules. Your goals and ambitions may be nothing more than trash to other players in the game. Therefore many people end up disillusioned or overwhelmed by the world. The game of life was never set up to be fair, equitable, convenient nor consistent. So as the player, it is important to decide how you are going to play the game and the rules that you’ll live by.

From time to time, it may be necessary to revamp your personal “laws of the game.” However you should not adopt someone else’s just because it’s popular, easier or more convenient. Your laws need to match who you are and where you want to go. The feeling of being aligned with these components is worth the difficulty of defining them. Playing the game in a fashion that makes you miserable is probably not ideal. So be as deliberate as you can defining your goals and laws of the game. That way you can hold yourself accountable for unsporting behavior. Almost no other referees are watching. So you need to be.

Game on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Waving at Passing Cars

The road near where I live has no sidewalks. It is also has several curves that drivers tend to take too fast. The combination of these factors make it a little treacherous for walking my dog. I need to be attentive, have my dog a short leash and consistently wave to the passing cars. The first two could pass as common sense. The third seems to be a waste of time or possibly even embarrassing. I’ve been told as much by people who will remain nameless. So what is the point in the wave? I don’t know a vast majority of the drivers and probably never will.

Casting things out into the void is not particularly good strategy. A football team that relies heavily on hail Mary passes will mostly find their prayers unanswered. Regardless of the mathematics of the situation, I persist. The simple reason is that I believe in ripples, paying things forward and micro influencing macro. In a world where everyone seemingly wants to be seen, it’s easy to forget to see others. This is why I wave.

Human beings have been tribal animals for centuries or even millennia. Our need for community is hardwired deep within us. There is also a desire for status within that tribe. Balancing this “need to be an individual” with the “need to be part of a community” is a key component to us making it through this time in history. Selfish acts are far too easy. We experience the world through our own perspective therefore our needs, our desires and our priorities tend to dominate our point of view. So going fast down a curvy road is a self-serving act that has no malice in it but it fails to consider others until forced to do so. Therein lies the problem. Our world is a spinning sphere with billions of independent people living upon it. If it is only when we are forced to “see” one another that we actually do, our interactions are reactive and less thoughtful. So I wave.

I wave in the hopes that the people passing by will see me seeing them. Perhaps that recognition will make them consider me the next time that they drive down the road. The mutual recognition may be just enough for each of us to make it through this life unscathed by the carelessness of others. Because we only have one spinning sphere and we need to care more, not care less!

I see you!

Pete