The Survivors of the Mental World War

mindworldThis morning on my run I was listening to the Inside Quest interview of Carol Dweck.  Her book “Mindset” is one that I have not read yet but has been suggested to me over and again.  The basic idea is that of a “fixed mindset” versus a “growth mindset”.  People who believe that their intelligence or skills are set and cannot be improved upon have a fixed mindset.  While a person with a growth mindset believes that they are always able to improve in any given area.  Although this is an oversimplification it gives a basic understanding of her thesis.  The effect of each mindset is astounding and either can be developed largely without the person’s knowledge.  The fixed mindset puts emphasis on the outward appearance of skill rather than the internal development of skill.

For some reason listening to this conversation about growth and fixed mindset started me thinking about the present international economic situation.  The European Union in particular has had a tumultuous period because some of their member nations seem to have a growth mindset: Germany especially.  While others seem to be contented with their situation as it is with little thought of growth.  It seems almost odd that Germany, a country that has twice “lost”  World Wars would be an economic leader.  However when compared with a country like the United States, it becomes clear that “winning” and being a “super power” can lead to a fixed mindset.  After the end of the Cold War, the extrinsic competition no longer existed.  Therefore a conservative fixed mindset seeks to maintain a position of authority rather than progress for its own good.  Perhaps wars should not be won but rather survived.

In no way am I a pacifist but I’m also not sure that war should have a winner.  Everyone loses: lives, money, peace of mind, land and the list stretches on for all sides of a war.  People, land and nations survive wars, they don’t truly win or lose them.  I’ve never studied history in a German school but I’m confident that their historical loses are the exact reason why they are thriving because first they had to survive.  Survival is an instinct that runs deep within the human spirit.  Once we get above the line of survival, we look to improve life incrementally.  When survival is assured, comfort is readily accessible and no “enemies” seem to threaten that station, it easy to develop a fixed mindset of protecting that which we have acquired.

The problem is that there seems to be a new “World War” coming and the combatants will not be nations but rather individuals.  Each of us will be challenged to either grow or be the cog in someone else’s machine.  The industrial revolution gave mass production to the world and allowed a few key bosses to give direction to the masses.  It was a system that was based in a fixed mindset.  That system is disintegrating and the new one requires people to be human and think progressively.  The growth mindset will be required to survive in the world’s new economy.  The US or Germany or any other set of people can survive the “Mental World War” if they realize that it is never over.  Even if drones are farming our food and jobs in the traditional sense are obsolete, we need to hold fast to the idea that there are only three positions in the world: dying, surviving and thriving.  It is important to remember while thriving that you got there not by doing what you’ve always done but pushing for better at all times.

Be better today than you were yesterday!



Interview with Laura G.

This past week I got the chance to talk with my good friend Laura on her show “Thoughts, Tools and Tough Love”.  Her show is every Thursday at 4pm on the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce Radio. (http://www.hunterdonchamberradio.com/)

Minus a few microphone issues, it was a great conversation.  I hope you enjoy it.

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

When Heroes Endure

Ricky Davis 79Time brings everything into perspective.  It is only with time that we can look back and see the moments that have shaped us.  Deciphering which moments will be truly important as they happen can be almost impossible.  It is amazing to think that a chance meeting from my childhood started me down a path that I follow to this day.  Even more surprising is that another encounter with that same person gave me more inspiration in my present day life.

Ricky Davis was a member of the New York Cosmos in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  He was a young American player on a team of international superstars.  It was during this time that he was invited to attend a block party by a fan, Tony Gonsalvez.  I was a seven year old kid at the party who knew nothing about soccer.  However when Ricky started kicking the ball around with a group of kids, I was happy to jump in.  That is my first memory of kicking a soccer ball, it changed my life and I’ve never forgotten it.

At the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s annual Convention, I got the chance to sit down with Rick and talk about some of his experiences and beliefs about soccer both then and now.

Q: Did you view yourself as a trailblazer or pioneer for soccer in America while playing for the Cosmos?

We didn’t look at ourselves as trailblazers or pioneers.  We felt extremely fortunate to play with an awesome team and for an awesome organization.  Reflecting back now it’s easier to see how things have developed but at the time, we just felt fortunate.  It’s awesome to look back and say “I played a part in that” but at the time it was hard not to think how lucky we were to be playing for that team.

Q: What do you think about your legacy?  How does it feel to have players like myself say that you were the reason we started playing?

It feels great!  It’s part of the evolution of the game in this country.  I came into the situation with possibly a naive perspective because I believed that professional athletes were the closest thing there was to perfect human beings.  They didn’t drink or smoke.  Doing things to help keep themselves fit were all part of a value system that I brought with me when I came to the team.  In many ways I learned that wasn’t the case but did that mean that I needed to change?  I feel that I’ve got this debt to the game.  I was fortunate to have all of these experiences and memories and now I’m just trying to pay it back.  Much of what I did was to invest in the game and the community because I wanted people to love the game that I loved.  

Q: What were some of your attributes and life experiences that allowed you to be successful at that time?

It started because I had a good family.  My parents were actively involved.  Much of my values came from my parents.  My dad used to joke that everybody should work a solid half day (12 hours).  When there was extra stuff to be done, the clinics, public appearances and other things were part of that twelve hours.  Whether I needed to work on my own or do those other things, I needed to give 100%.  I was raised with a strong work ethic.  Also had great influencers within the team, Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Neeskens, I couldn’t be them but I could learn from them.  My belief was that I could learn from anybody.  After the games, I would go into the parking lot and talked to fans.  They would give suggestions and there were gems there for me to take.  If nothing else, I heard things that were important to them.  These were things that I took from my parents and tried to pass onto my own kids.  It’s not what you want to get out of it, it’s what you put into it and you’ll get back.

Q: What do you believe is special about this game?

It’s a game for everybody.  Almost anyone can get involved unlike many of the traditional American sports.  The reality is that a kid can be a part of something regardless of their size or ability and they’re equally part of the team.  You can be small like Messi or Maradona.  You can be big like Ibrahimovic.  Soccer is truly the game of the people.

Q: Where are we going as a soccer nation? 

As a nation we’re going in a great direction.  When I see soccer touching our little part of Kansas, it makes me believe that soccer is taking strides forward.  Soccer is becoming part of America’s fiber.  Was the NASL a bad thing?  No, it was a part of our evolution.  I see a national team that is way more competitive than my generation was.  The public is much more accepting of the sport.  The Cosmos was unique.  Even though many of our players were in the twilight of their careers, we were able to play with almost any team in the world.  Set the Cosmos aside though.  If you look at the teams now, they are drawing good sized crowds. Soccer specific stadiums are huge.  The people investing in soccer in this country, it obvious that it’s a long term commitment to the sport.  

Q: What is your involvement in Futpong?

The idea is not new.  We played similar games with the Cosmos.  If you thought the games on the field were intense, you should have seen these games.  The games used to be very improvised but we’ve now standardized it with a small net and a small ball.  Futpong is designed to develop their touch and fine motor skills.  Our hope is that this will help develop the touch and control.  We want it to be fun and stimulating.

Rick Davis 2016It was a great treat for me to be able to sit down with Rick.  The nostalgia factor would have been enough for me  in this interview but our discussion made me respect the man behind the memory even more.  His commitment to family, hard-work and openness to learning from anyone were all examples of why my respect for him has grown.  Anyone who has read my material long enough knows that I don’t truly believe in heroes because we should strive to be our own hero.  However I do believe in role models.  Even though I didn’t know it as a 7 year old, I chose a very good role model and learned a few things from him as a 40 year old.  The game does not make us who we are but rather draws out that which is already inside of us.  I’m glad that the game brought Rick and I together twice.

Thanks Rick!



High Jump and Long Jump

high jumpIn high school, I was an above average high jumper.  My secondary event was long jump.  I was only slightly above average in long jump and did not enjoy it or practice it as much.  In my senior year, I started to notice that I had better results in high jump at meets where I was also long jumping.  If there was a meet that I was only competing in the high jump, I tended to fall short of my best.  Despite the fact that long jump was never my primary focus, it helped me not to “over-focus” on high jump.  The slight distraction was valuable because too much mental and emotional energy spent in one direction had diminishing returns.  This realization was made about a very specific activity but has influenced the way that I think daily.   In the fast paced world that we live in, it is easy to get distracted.  Distraction for the purpose of others is usually not helpful.  However release of the pressure of intense focus is both helpful and desirable in many respects.  Most activities and even people can be put into one of these groupings.

Less to get more – There are some things that it’s better for me to not focus on all the time.  Writing and other activities that I enjoy would become burdensome quickly if I was over-focused on them.  The amount of mental and emotional energy that I put in would begin to deteriorate the positive feelings and outcomes.  On the people side of things, in the past I have smothered certain relationships through over-focus.

None to get more – There are things that it’s better if I ignore them completely.  Complete ignorance is not particularly healthy.  However there are things that I should not let into my brain at all.  I’ve gotten better at taking away extraneous activities and thought patterns to be in a better mental and emotional state regularly.  This has become even more important for people.  There are some people that I’ve just had to cut completely out of my life.  Their presence was a drain on time and energy.  The positive effect on my life was minuscule compared to the drain.  So they needed to be cut out or ignored.

From ostrich to eagle – There are things that I ignore wholly or partially that I should really be paying attention to.  Usually these things are fear based.  The fear is not real, it’s a story that I tell myself inside of my head.  It is a story about disappointment, rejection, pain and failure.  Most of the time when I break out of the ostrich perspective, I realize that it is not anywhere near as bad as I thought.  The hardest part is pulling my head out of the ground or my ass and start doing things.  Unfortunately this also works for people.  There are people in my life that deserve attention but I don’t give it to them.  Again the investment of time seems much bigger than it probably is.  So ignoring is easier in the short term but there is a price that is paid in the long term.

Your focus determines your reality.  So as you go through your day and your life, it is important that you choose what you focus on and how often.  If your life or relationships are not working in one area or another, it is at least partially due to the focus or lack there of that you are putting in there.  More does not always translate to better!  Find the right balance to the ingredients in your life.

Focus on making today great!  But not too much.




The Wolfinger

WolfpackFor the past few years, I’ve had a student whose last name is Wolfinger.  I refer to him as “Dedo del Lobo” or in  English “Finger of the Wolf”.  Obviously this translation is completely incorrect because wolves don’t have any fingers.  So I looked up the origin of the name Wolfinger and it comes from the German meaning “a person from the area of Wolfing”.  Of course my student did not know the origins of his own name.  Despite the fact that people have become very self-interested with the advent of the internet.  It seems odd that we don’t spend a little more time to find out where we come from.

Going back to my student, wolves definitely don’t have fingers but they do have packs.  That is the strength of the wolf.  They protect themselves from enemies and hunt more efficiently because of the pack.  We used to have packs too.  Families, villages and teams used to mean a little bit more than they do now.  At the moment, the individual seems more interested in what they can get from the pack than what they can give to the pack.  The key factor to the effective pack is that the pack is more important than the individual.  No one is more important than everyone.

Perhaps it is time for you to invest in your own wolf-pack.   Maybe you need to rediscover your family because you’ve gotten too caught up in you.  Or it is possible that need something different than what your given wolf-pack can provide.  If that is true, you might want to use the internet to find a new wolf-pack that offers you the things that you need.  The one key thing to remember as you join a pack is to figure out what you have to offer the pack in return for what you get from the pack.

Happy hunting!



Be a M.O.M.

meaningI was heartbroken!  Disappointed!  Slightly angry and my self-esteem had definitely taken a hit.  It was 1998 and my best friend and I had just returned from a month in Europe.  The trip had been amazing!  Despite the US playing horribly, Schaef and I had enjoyed a great World Cup.  We had toured England, Spain, France and Germany seeing five World Cup matches along the way.  The only downside to the trip had been that my girlfriend and I were never able to connect on the phone.  Either we were traveling or she was working but we kept missing one another.  Then when Schaef and I got home, the worst possible scenario came true.  She was breaking up with me and was possibly seeing someone else.

After a month of pure joy, I was paying the price with pure agony.  My life had basically fallen apart.  I had lost my girlfriend, my place to live (we were moving in together when I got back) and my future (in my head marriage was the next step).  Now I was left with nothing and all alone to build things back up again.  As much as I would love for the theme song from Rocky to start playing in the background and tell you that I got myself right in about a week, it took about a year.  The details of my rise from the ashes are not as important as the recognition of who/what turned me into ashes.  The person who was responsible for my agony was me and the tool that I used to inflict it upon myself was meaning.

There are many things that happen throughout life.  Although some may have positive or negative connotations to them, most are subject to interpretation.  It is not particularly the situation that causes the most pain but the meaning that we associate to the event.  My breakup meant all kinds of things at the time.  It meant that I was worthless, hopeless, helpless, lonely, a loser and a bunch of other things.    It took time to gain perspective and put new meaning onto that experience.  It was freeing, challenging, educational and the best thing for both of us.  Obviously this all came with time but it didn’t need to.  That experience did not need to be so destructive, had I been a Master of Meaning (M.O.M).

At the time, life happened to me more than I influenced it.  For better or worse, the events of my life would happen and THEY made me feel good or bad.  This is of course nonsense.  The events of our lives can influence but do not completely control how we feel.  Any event can be made to feel like it is positive or negative based on the meaning that we attach to it.  A million dollars is nothing but currency with pictures of dead presidents on it.  How someone reacts to receiving a million dollars is based completely on the meaning that they attach to it.  For many it represents possibility, happiness and freedom.  For others it means obligation, mistrust and greed.  The meaning that we put onto any event is crucial to how we feel about our lives.  Our habits of making meaning will make our lives seem like it is heading in one direction or another.  Until we take our power to decide, we are at the mercy of circumstance.  That is a difficult life to lead!

What will today mean for you?




The Reason You Cry

This post is meant for one particular person but as I usually do, I’m putting it out into the world just in case someone else needs it.

tearThe reason you cry is that the words are hard to hear.  They don’t sound right because they’re the opposite of what you’ve said a thousand times in your head and in your heart.  It seems so foolish that these words would cause you pain.  They are, of course, what you’ve wanted for someone to say for so long.  To tell you about the beauty that lies inside you.  The special things that so many people have overlooked.  The reason you cry is that this moment is fleeting and you’ll be back on your own soon.

There’s no reason to cry because if you look deep enough you’ll see.  The only thing that has happened is that you’ve forgotten.  Forgotten that you are special in everything that you are.  You’ve forgotten that those who have called you ugly are only projecting their cold hearts onto you.  It’s nothing more than a lie that you were told but you believed it.  You took it and wore and made it your own.  Now it is time to shed it and remember.

Remember that this is your life.  It belongs to you and you will decide.  Decide to want for more.  Decide that your value is not in the eyes of those around you but inside of the very fiber of your being.  You are more than they’ll ever realize because they can’t see you.  They can’t see through the reflection of their own hatred for themselves.  Today you will decide to shed the cloaks that they’ve put upon you because you are so much more than they can see.  Now you can decide that your tears are not for you but for them.  Because you know that they could be beautiful too but they have chosen to be ugly and tried to put it on you.  And their unaccepted gift will stay in their hands and their hearts as you walk away.