I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from writing on the blog over the past week. There are plenty of reasons why but most of them are only half true. The most pertinent reasons are that I haven’t made a priority and I haven’t felt like I had something “big” to say. So tonight I’m taking care of both by committing to saying something little.
I am afraid. It is a posture that I have to deny in many ways as a father. I am supposed to act fearless at times for the sake of my children. That usually is not a problem because we are afraid of different things. My kids are afraid of the dark and an internet concoction called “Slender Man” which freaked my son out last night. Those aren’t the things that scare me.
I am afraid of what I am not. The things I’ll give up on or fall short on. I am afraid that for all of the words that I pound into this little keyboard that I will help no one. My fear is that I will give in to the worst versions of myself. I fear that the people that I love most will not see that I have tried to give them what they need instead of what they think they want. My fear is the same as everyone’s, that I’m not enough.
Tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll begin to dance with these fears again. Perhaps one day, like my fear of the dark, some of these fears will be gone. Until then, I will learn to dance with them so that they don’t step on my toes so often. They are of course the partners that I have chosen.
My daughter is an amazing person especially for a six year old. She is always coming up with entrepreneurial ventures and brilliantly off the wall ideas. Her imagination is amazing and she has created her own world in many ways. Most recently she has asked to have her room repainted to look like “Beezy World” (Beezy is my wife’s nickname for her). The clouds are lower in Beezy World and the blue sky is on top. She has also developed not just one but several languages for Beezy World including Beezy Spanish and Beezy Chinese. It is pretty obvious that she carries this world with her on a daily basis.
Although the creation of a personal world may seem like a childish thing to do, we all do it on some level. We all live in our own version of the world. There are some constants and overlapping but in many ways, we carry our own world along with us. In a very Obi-Wan sense, our world is dependent upon our point of view. For some of us we are semi-passive and the world happens to us. While for others of us, we are active. The world is not what happens to us but rather our influence on our surroundings. So the world is not as concrete as it may seem but is more the result of the ingredients that we add to it.
So the question becomes do you like the world that you carry around with you? Is your Beezy World the one that you want painted in your room? Or is it time to make a change? Since you are the creator of this world, make it what you want it to be!
Stay with me on this one! To a certain extent, I wish that each layer of my skin were a different color like a stack of Lifesavers in a rainbow progression. Each layer would disappear over a set amount of time revealing the next color in the order. Within a week or so, I would be red, orange, yellow, green, blue etc. Beside the obvious reduction in racism, I think it would help get past a problem that I think many of us have. We cannot see past ourselves.
We see ourselves as consistent beings and therefore we act and think consistently with that picture. The truth is that we are always changing but those changes are so subtle that we do not perceive them. So when we truly do need to change, we think that it will be difficult or that we are incapable of change. At some point we need to recognize that we can be more than what we perceive that we are.
We need to be able to see the greatness that is on the horizon. Our progress or lack of it is a decision. Do we allow ourselves to see the person who is six layers of skin away? Or do we accept the “Who I have been is who I will be.” So the challenge is down to you.
Can you see the greatness inside of your own skin? Are you willing to do the things necessary to dig for that person that hides underneath? Or is your skin an imperceptible covering that gets washed down the drain of your shower along with your hopes and dreams? If only we were multicolored and could say, “by the time I turn green I’m going to ______________!” We are always shedding skin, so figure out what your ideal skin looks like and put it on underneath.
I’m busy preparing for my talk tomorrow “Talent Code to Beast Mode”. If you can make it out to the talk, I’d love to see you. However I didn’t want to skip the day. So here is a section from my book.
There are things that carry us much farther than they ever should. Our best self often springs out of something that we take as our own even though it never really belonged to us. This is the story that has been the most influential on my playing and coaching career.
My father played for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. St. Benedict’s is a virtual factory of soccer talent in NJ. Several USMNT players went there. Only my father didn’t play soccer, he played football. His was one of the last classes that played football before the school closed briefly and switched over to soccer.
My father is essentially blind without his glasses. In the late 1960’s, he didn’t have the money for special goggles or contact lenses to wear while playing football. So as a middle linebacker, he basically chased blobs that wore the other teams colors. Despite his vision, he was a pretty effective defender. In the last game of the season, his team was holding onto a slim lead in the fourth quarter. My father’s assignment was to go in on a blitz. He was just about to hit the quarterback when a screen pass was looped over his head to the running back. My father turned and raced after the running back for nearly sixty yards. He came close to catching him, but the running back crossed the goal line first. My father was completely dejected because he had lost the game for his team.
A few weeks later at the football banquet, they were showing film from the season. That play came up on the screen and it played out exactly as my father remembered it. He got beat by a screen pass. The running back was able to outrun him to the goal line. However, with his glasses on, he now could see the one thing that he missed during the game. He passed by at least four of his teammates who were in a better position to stop the runner, but they gave up before he did.
That story has colored my career as a player and a coach. As a player, I have caught many players that I shouldn’t have just because I refused to give up when it looked hopeless. As a coach, I look to instill that same dedication and effort in all of my players because giving of yourself to a worthy cause is always worth it.
A few years back, I had a student that was so indifferent toward his assignments that it seemed as though he was intent on wasting the moments of his life. It is not that I believe that my subject matter is the most interesting nor the most important. However the fervor and reckless abandon with which he wasted time made me coin the word “Anti-Now”. His attitude seemed to go beyond procrastination into a space of total indifference toward himself.
Productivity is a sliding scale and we can never truly live each moment to the fullest. Saving the planet while making a billion dollars and loving all of our most important people equally at the same time just seems too tall an order even for Superman. However I do believe that it is important to make the realization that now is truly all that we have. The past is now a memory and the future is not guaranteed. So now is what our entire life is made of.
There is a definite balance to be struck between enjoying the moment and preparing for that uncertain future. The only thing that I believe truly needs to be avoided is the position of being anti-now. Taking the moment and throwing it away on purpose out of spite or indifference seems unthinkable at my age. I suppose to a certain extent this comes with age. At some point I hope that my former student realizes that he is running out of NOWS. Then perhaps he will spend them with intention.
On the thumb of my left hand, I have a scar that looks something like a horseshoe. It is the result of an accident when I was in sixth grade. My family was putting an addition on our house. We were not wealthy by any stretch, so we had to do much of the work ourselves. My father and I were removing a window from the old part of the house. I’m still not sure what happened but the glass shattered. In a very lucky instantaneous reaction, I cover my face. I felt myself get hit, turned and saw blood.
The one sidenote that I must make about this story is that my father had been known to pass out at the sight of blood. So at that point, I stripped off my t-shirt and started screaming at my father to get away from me. He thought I was mad at him but then I quickly explained that I was bleeding and I didn’t want him to pass out. I ran to the front of the house and got my mother who took me to the hospital for 18 stitches.
I am quite literally scarred for life and I couldn’t be happier that I am. It’s not the accident that I’m happy about. Given the choice I never would want to have a window shatter on top of me. However my reaction to the situation is why that memory creates such a positive feeling about that mark. In a time of crisis, I was able to keep that problem from getting worse by having two people going to the hospital. I was response-able.
In no way do I think that we should go out looking to accumulate scars. However there should be no shame in having them either. They are sign that you were not insulated from life. Life has edges that can cut. It’s very common in today’s world to avoid the edges and play it safe. The problem is that you can’t dull every edge nor anticipate when you’ll get cut. So what happens to someone who has spent a lifetime avoiding those edges and they mistakenly get cut? That wound is catastrophic because they’re not ready to be hurt.
Failure, disappointment, upset, breakups, and breakdowns are all examples of the scars of life. Don’t pursue them but don’t be afraid of them either. Most of the time they are a reminder of who you have become by fighting through them.
I don’t have any tattoos anywhere on my body. However I know exactly what I would get if I were to ever change my mind. Since I was a teenager “the burning boy” is an image that I had set as my tattoo of choice. It is from the album cover of one of my favorite bands, Bad Religion. I would remove the “crossbuster” logo from the back of his shirt.
The reason that the burning boy resonates with me is that it represents a feeling that I always want to have. It’s not the searing pain but rather the idea of being “on fire” with passion. The things that I have been on fire about have changed throughout the years. In high school it was soccer and girls. In college it was soccer and travel. In my adult life it has been soccer, my family and helping people.
So if I’ve known for years what tattoo I would get, why have I not gone through with it? There are many people walking around with tattoos that did not put 20 years of thought into the “ink”. There are two reasons that I have never gone to get this tattoo done.
The first is that I don’t want my wife to have to look at it. I’m sure that I’ll get some comments about being whipped or something like that. However I respect my wife very much and the ways that my decisions have an effect on her life. I don’t have to look at myself very often. She does, so I know it is something that would not improve me for her.
The second is even more important. I’m already wearing it. The reason I don’t need the ink on my skin is because it goes even deeper. It penetrates into my bones and goes down into my heart. Inside there is a burning boy that people see every day. Perhaps people see a slightly different representation when they see me but the basic idea should be the same. I want people to see the tattoo that I have put on myself. Rather than paying an artist to put a skin deep impression on me to have people know who I am. I need to show people through my actions and attitudes who I am. I’ve tattooed myself as we all do. Although the Chinese character that you’ve put on your arm may say “peace” or “serenity”, it’s not worth the price of the ink if that’s not the message you put into the world through your actions.
So tattoo yourself. Put the ink of your daily actions out into the world for everyone to see.
About a year ago my son, Luke, and I went to a Red Bulls game. He was eight years old at the time. On the ride home we were listening to the music from my iPhone. At one point, a song called “7 Words” by the Deftones came on. I quickly switched the song because it is a hard and aggressive curse-laden song. He asked why I changed it and I told him that the title of the song was 7 Words and that it had a lot of cursing in it. He probed further about why it was called 7 Words. I explained that there were seven major curse words that most people recognize as bad.
Much to my surprise Luke said that he thought he knew them all. We seemed to be having a “man to man” discussion, so I gave him the green light to test his seven. He started off two for two with the F and S. Then he stumbled a bit with his next two selections. There was another F in his seven, “frick”. I informed him that it was actually a replacement for his other F. Then he went to another S-word, “sex”. Again I explained that sex was not a curse word which was unfortunately followed by the question “what is sex?” I got instantaneously nervous that I was going to have to have “the talk” with an eight year old. Luckily my explanation that sex was another word for gender or boys/girls seemed to appease him.
I was reminded of that incident several times today as I was speaking to the 8th graders of HMS. It is extremely tough to know until you know. That may seem like cryptic language but I’m being very literal. Until you go through certain things for yourself it is difficult or even impossible to fully understand. My goal was to give them some tools to work with and I hope that I did. However there are things that you need to go through for yourself to understand like how to get over a broken heart or deal with the betrayal of a good friend. We can put these things in the manual with instructions but they can’t particularly be taught.
Life has a series of missteps and pitfalls that we must go through. We can avoid some through the help of others. However some things we just need to experience for ourselves. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. You know?
At the end of my talk today at Hackettstown Middle School, I didn’t have time to answer all of the questions. Here are the ones that I missed. They are in no particular order.
What is the moral of this presentation?/What’s your motivation for this?
The thing that I was trying to sell you on, is you. I want you to buy into the idea that you are capable of great things. There will be a lot of obstacles in your way. However I want you to have some of the tools that you need to be able to get wherever it is that you want to go.
What’s your favorite food?
My mom’s macaroni and cheese. Please don’t tell my wife.
How does this relate to moving on to high school?
In my eyes, the transition to high school is a step into a bigger “pool”. After it is over, you can go to college or be dropped directly into life. The tools that I suggested throughout the talk were intended to help you mainly do two things. Begin a process of discovering who you are as a person and help develop some more self-esteem and self-reliance. High school can be a difficult transition for many and worse for people who do not believe in themselves.
Have you ever been bullied through your time in school?
Yes, there were several times that people attempted to bully me. I was fortunate though. Every attempt to bully me was physical intimidation and I always pushed back (literally). At that time they backed off because bullies want easy targets. I’m not an advocate for violence but always felt I was right to protect myself. Today’s cyberbullying is much more difficult to push back on. As we talked about today, knowing who you trust with your “keys” is very important.
Do you like your job?
I have many jobs but the answer is yes for all of them. I enjoy the things that I do. When I stop enjoying them, I’ll most likely stop doing them.
What do you love about life?
There are so many things that I personally love about living: laughter, travel, learning, exercise and the list goes on and on. The underlying theme is that I like to feel like I’m progressing. That tomorrow I’ll be in a different spot mentally, emotionally or physically but that I enjoy the process.
What is the best part of high school?
For me, it was my friends and sports. I really enjoyed being close with a bunch of people that I’d known for years. Also I love soccer and track. So those were fun times, getting to compete for the school and do it mainly with friends.
How did you find your strength?
I found my strength by taking some real stock of who I am. There are many ways to do this but keeping a journal and writing were really important parts for me. I also took time to figure out if I was following a map that was the right map or not. In some ways I needed to redefine who I wanted to be. I’m Peter Powell Huryk III. So I am named after my dad and grandfather. It was an important part of my identity for a long time. I felt almost compelled to follow in my dad’s footsteps. Sometimes that worked out well and others horribly. Once I separated myself from that picture, it was easier to make decisions in line with who I wanted to be.
Is there really a freshman Friday?
I graduated high school in 1994. That was over 20 years ago. There wasn’t when I there. I don’t know what it is either but I’m guessing it’s not good.
What influenced you to realize what you were doing to yourself was … different?
I’m guessing you’re referring to the “loser” self-talk habit. It was actually in my parent’s living room when I was a sophomore (I think). I remember having an argument about something with my mother and telling her that I was a loser. It wasn’t her reaction but the instant when I said it out loud to her that I think jolted me. I was arguing in favor of something that I didn’t want. It was weird, like being a fan of the Yankees but wearing a Red Sox jersey. I saw the fact that it didn’t fit. It took a long time to get rid of the habit and the thought but that was the moment.
Did you ever overcome the “loser” feeling?
See the answer above. After that day I would make strides forward and fall back some times. It was also different for all areas of my life. For example, my academic confidence was pretty strong throughout HS. However my confidence about girls took a long time to develop.
Can you do an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression?
No, the only impression that I pretty well is Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
What is life?
It is the search. Trying to create and find meaning is what life is about for me.
What do you like to do?
There are a lot of things. I love spending time with my family, playing soccer, coaching, running, hiking with my brother, swimming, reading, spending time with friends and the list goes on.
Who inspired you to talk?/What inspired you to do what you do?
My inspiration to talk/write was my son, Luke. I started a journal before he was born. My family is my inspiration for most of the things that I do.
Why are you recording this?
A few reasons. First, I’m always looking to improve. I enjoy speaking to audiences but I want them to enjoy it just as much. I want to see what worked and what didn’t. Also when people hire speakers, they don’t usually do it blindly. Having some video to show someone is always a good idea.
First day of freshman year advice.
Breathe! You’ve gone to school for nine years already and survived. So you’ll survive this as well. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable. Know who you are before you walk in the door. There are lots of people that will want influence you, decide if you want to let that happen or not.
Do you have any children?
Yes, I have a son and a daughter. They and my wife are the loves of my life.
Do you have any pets?
Not at the moment. My dog, Kelme, died about a year and a half ago. He was my buddy. My kids are asking to get a new dog. We might this summer.
What happened to Mark, your friend? How is he now?
He is doing well. He lives in Pennsylvania. He’s great supporter for what I do. He was one of the first people that I sent a copy of my book to because his story is in it.
How did you make it through high school?
One day at a time. I wish I could report that I had it all together in high school but I didn’t. I had some real successes through my four years. I felt really good about where I ended up. However it wasn’t always easy. Good friends were important.
How do you stop yourself from walking down the wrong direction?
I’m guessing that your question is about avoiding things that you know are wrong. This can be easy or difficult depending on the thing that is tempting you to do wrong. Most of the time I think about how I will feel after it is over. Since feelings are what we’re truly after, regret is something that I want to avoid when I can.
What year did you gain back confidence?
My junior year in high school was probably the time when I got back to an equilibrium with confidence after the “loser years”. However there were still ups and downs after that. I really have hit my confidence stride in my 3o’s. I know that seems old to you guys but I’m on an upward climb and don’t plan on stopping.
Who is going to win the NBA Championship?
I don’t know and honestly don’t care. I haven’t paid attention to the NBA since Bird retired. I love basketball but the NBA hasn’t been a league I’ve been interested in for a long time because it’s more about “show” than “substance”.
Where can I buy your book?
It’s available online. You can go to this address: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=1248605 Or I will have some at my talk on April 21st at 6:30 pm at the Warren County Library in Independence. I’ve also donated a few to HMS. Go see Mrs. Brotzman to borrow a copy.
How do you act on potential?
Consistently. You have the potential to do a lot of things in your life. Do the ones that are most important to you and you feel will get you closer to where you want to be in life.
I feel like I am as smart as my friends who are in higher classes as well. I talked to the guidance counselor at the high school but she said I could not get into the college level classes. This really shut down my self-confidence. Do you have any advice for me?
If you truly believe that you belong in the college level classes, spend your freshman year getting high A’s in every course you take. Prove to yourself and the counselor that you deserve to be in those classes. You used the perfect word “SELF-confidence”. The only person that can shut it down is YOU. If this is truly what you want, then make it happen. Don’t complain about being stuck, do everything within YOUR control to get where you want to go.
If we’re one of the richest countries, why is there child poverty?
This is a tough socio-economic question. I’m not fully qualified to answer it. An economist might do a better job. Wealth on a national level does not mean that wealth is evenly distributed. I don’t think there is anyone in the world that wants to see children in poverty. As human beings, I think most of us want to help other people. I’m not sure if it is a problem of getting the help to the right people, the people not wanting the help or not enough help being given. Identifying the problem is the first step. If you’re truly passionate about this, maybe you’ve found your calling.