The World Cup is always filled with drama. Most of the time it happens on the field. It also usually happens between players, coaches and other people involved in soccer in some way. As the United States Women’s National Team prepares to take on France, host nation and one of the other favorites to win the cup, the biggest drama coming from France has almost nothing to do with France, the World Cup or soccer at all. Many more eyes and ears have become focused on the World Cup because of the comments made by Megan Rapinoe and Donald Trump. Since most news outlets have latched onto the story, I won’t repeat it here. This clash has sprung out of the fact that even though the two seem to have nothing in common, they both like the spotlight. So how can we use all of the light that’s been shone onto this situation? Remember that freedom is responsibility.
In so many ways, freedom has become fashioned into a thought process that “I can do what I want.” While there is some truth to that statement it glosses over one of the inherent costs of freedom. “I need to let other people do what they want, even when it diametrically opposes what I believe is right.” Embracing freedom is easy when it is your own, it becomes difficult when it belongs to others.
So as the lights are focused on these two characters that represent very different factions of our country, my hope is that one or both of them remembers their responsibility. They both represent this country on an international stage and they have the opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech and action for the betterment of themselves OR the people who are watching. This is not Reagan imploring Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. It is a professional athlete who represents several ideals like equality in compensation, LGTBQ rights and racial equality and a president who has promised to “Make America Great Again”.
During their moment in the spotlight together, what will each of them do? Will they choose the spotlight and the clicks or will they choose the responsibility of their freedom? Rapinoe can turn that light from herself “not going to the White House” and shine it directly onto the people that she represents and their stories/struggles. The President could equally use the bright lights of this situation to address those same people and help “Make America Great” for them because Again excludes them. America was not great for women, LGTBQ or minorities in the past.
Both people have the freedom that this country affords them. My hope is that they take the responsibility seriously and see that it is not about them. It’s about us. The US may win or lose today against France. The question is can we find a way to win as a country in our daily lives? Or have we become so enamored with our own freedom that we no longer recognize the freedom of others? Republican, democrat, black, white, brown, green, woman, man, transgender, gay, straight….. at a certain point we need to figure out how to be neighbors and make America great! Even if it is for the first time for everyone.
I had blood all over me. I didn’t know where I was. It was the coldest that I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t see a thing. All that I could do was scream. Luckily help was nearby and I was able to calm down. It had been a difficult trial but I was alive and in the hospital. Just when things seemed as if they would be OK, a complete stranger came along and chopped off a quarter of my penis. All of that trauma happened in the first twenty four hours of my life. Despite that very rough beginning, I’ve done quite well for myself.
This story is at least partially true for almost all of us. We were all thrust into this world naked, afraid and unable to speak, read or write. It is not something that we give much thought to because it happens to everyone. However birth (or creation) is a messy and traumatic business by all accounts. Not just the human producing ones but also the birth of companies, relationships, art or anything else. There is always that starting point of conception that is magical and exhilarating. Eventually that moment is replaced by some form of hard labor in order to get the creation out into the world. Just because it’s painful, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. The narrative of the present day is about safety and comfort. Our world has had most of its sharp edges taken off. While I’m all for vaccinating against the next Bubonic Plague, there are some struggles that are important for people to go through. Not all pain is trauma.
As you conceive the next dream of where you’re going or what you’re doing, do a little pre-trauma planning. Like a person that is preparing for a marathon, it is important to understand your “quit points”. Quitting is not shameful if it is done for the right reasons. A broken leg is a justifiable quit inducing occurrence. Cramps are a nuisance to be fought through. The difference between trauma and possibility is perspective and the next few steps that are taken. Expectation that everything will be easy is a sure fire way to turn every problem into trauma. Traumatizing yourself with things that should be expected is recipe for disaster. Imagine freaking out because your newborn child couldn’t walk. It’s a process not a fully completed miracle. Take the possibility and run with it.
The Women’s World Cup has been a roller coaster ride from the beginning. Although I support the US Women’s National Team, I am much more interested in the women’s game growing and being accepted in its own right worldwide. Most of the results have been in line with expectation. However the results are not all that matters. Even though there are more games to be played, this World Cup is sending messages. Some of them need to be heard and emulated, others need to be learned from then possibly forgotten. Regardless, I thought it was worth the time to recap some of the biggest beats so far.
Lone voices aren’t loud – The absence of one of the best players in the world has largely gone unnoticed. Norway has performed relatively well without their Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg. Her decision to stay out of the Norwegian National Team was a mild source of intrigue but in the end has been overtaken by other story lines. There is just too much happening in a World Cup that the absence of one person is going to invoke great change. If the World Cup is the best platform for female athletes to make a statement (and I believe that it is), then it requires a much more evident and pervasive stance. Perhaps all of the teams deciding, they are not going to play for the first minute of each game because they want to make a statement about inequality. Instead of kicking of an internationally televised game exactly when the whistle blows, a minute, thirty seconds, ten seconds is taken for all of the players to stand together against a common foe of inequality.
Objectively Subjective – Although it has people behind it, one of the loudest voices of the tournament has no voice at all. VAR has all but taken over a tournament that is supposed to be about human beings playing and interpreting the beautiful game. Unfortunately in an effort to “get it right”, it’s all gone wrong. The games have largely been robbed of the emotion of the moment. Referees without VAR get things wrong (and obviously with VAR things still go wrong). Based on what I’ve seen from this World Cup, I’m much less worried about the getting the call “right” as I am the referee doing her/his best to endeavor to make the “right” call. Human error is part of the process but two minute discussions over earphones about a possible infraction have not improved the game, they’ve cheapened it. This is largely the reason that I’ve not watched a NFL game in four years. The game has been taken away from the humans, so they defer, rather than decide.
Entitlement Doesn’t Lead to Titles – As a fan of the USWNT, it pained me to watch the match against Spain. In an almost Rocky IV type moment, I felt myself almost wanting for Spain to win. This was not me renouncing my citizenship. It was the simple fact that I saw more instances of pride producing behavior from the Spanish team. As a fan, pride is one of the emotions that we rely upon to continue our association with a team. When we are no longer proud to support our team, there is little point in being a fan. The Spanish team had a plan and they executed it well. The US didn’t and didn’t. At a variety of moments, it seemed as though the US were waiting for Spain to give up. Rapinoe and Morgan seemed to want the referee to be the one to help them past the defenders. Expectations of calls for any contact were fully on display. Although some of Spain’s tackles were reckless, the general feeling that I got was that they were actually trying to win the game through skill and hard work rather than reputation. My hope is that this was a blip on the radar screen but I am fearful that we are more show than GO!
One last word before she leaves – In one of the most shareable moments of the World Cup, Marta exited the tournament by laying down the gauntlet to the future of the sport. Although the message was intended toward young Brazilian girls, it is a strong message for anyone. The heroines or heroes that we esteem so heavily will not always be there for us to adore. Someone, maybe you, needs to pick up where they left off or possibly challenge for their spot. It is not going to be easy. As Marta put it, you need to cry before you can smile. The picture needs to be painted over and over again that the exceptional do not get there by chance or in born talent. There is work that no one sees and most people fear but if you want to get to the highest levels, you need to embrace.
So even though it is not over, there is so much to take from the World Cup so far. It is one of the reasons why I love soccer so much. The result is only part of the story. Stats and scores can only tell you so much. The experience of the 90 (+7 COME ON! VAR!) minutes is necessary to tell a story about the people that are trying to get that result. Their stories run parallel to our stories and allow us to live more fervently because it resonates around the world!
Just about every year on Father’s Day, I take a short hike with my children and wife to a little waterfall at a local park. Although my wife and kids are aware that it is one of my favorite places in the world, I’d never really given an explanation as to why we return to the same spot. The tradition is based on a quote from Heraclitus. “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river has changed and so has he.” Although I usually don’t set foot into the stream near the waterfall, I recognize the change in us both.
This tradition is meant as a time of reflection for me to realize the changes in my life, my children and the world that surrounds me. Personally I find this to be very helpful because I don’t take for granted the many things that have changed. My son growing taller is an obvious change but juxtaposing our past visits against yesterdays I more clearly see the man that he is becoming. I cannot freeze these moments to keep them from flowing by like the water. The only thing that I can do is notice them. It is my job to remember that each time we return to this place to be grateful for the time that we have had. Unlike the stream that is sourced from a large lake, there is no telling when this time will run out.
So as you go out into your day, take a moment to appreciate the people in your life that really matter. The time of your life will keep flowing by no mater what you do. However you can take this moment to appreciate all that you have. There is not a lack of beauty in this world. There is just a greater amount of distraction. So it is up to us to look for the beauty before it passes us by.
Have a great day! And Happy Father’s Day to the Dads out there!
Movies are a spectacular medium for telling a story and also relating a message. One of the main reasons that I believe that movies can be so transformative is that they work a lot like memories. They are not the full story because showing every small detail would be exhausting and detract from the overall point. Also they tend to be “larger than life” which is what we often do with our memories. We do not have a completely accurate recollection of the situation, often our emotion about the situation tends to give more color to them.
For these reasons and many others, movies are great teachers. They give us audience to experiences that we may have never had. It’s done in safe environment. We can have peak emotions while taking whatever information is on display and assimilate it as our own. Below is my list of movies that a high school age boy-man should see in order and what they should extract from them. They are listed in a tenuous order where the lessons build on top of each other but in the binge watching culture of today, the order may not matter as much. By the end of this list there may be an accusation that I have a “man crush” on Matt Damon but that crown belongs to Ryan Reynolds!
There are a ton of spoilers in the descriptions of each movie. So if you want to go in with a clean slate, just refer the list below to start and return to this post for the descriptions and takeaways:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Breakfast Club
The Wizard of Oz
Dead Poet’s Society
Good Will Hunting
The Martian (2015) – This movie has probably the most overarching message that young men need to have ingrained. Each of us has exactly one job on this planet or that planet: FCO (Figure Crap Out). Throughout this great story, Matt Damon’s character keeps getting sucker punched by circumstances. Every time that he comes up with an answer, a new problem arises. Despite all of issues that he has, his determination to FCO is the key component to his success and the lesson that needs to be carried out of the movie. I use the acronym FCO because “responsibility” seems stuffy and oppressive but that’s all that I’m talking about. The ability to respond to a situation coupled with the recognition that it’s on you to do so. Thumbs are a feature that separates humans from much of the animal kingdom. Although they help with our ability to grasp things, I believe in the concept of “thumbs before fingers.” Point at yourself first with the thumb before pointing at anyone else with the finger.
The Matrix (1999) – After the Martian, the next step is to recognize that each of us has exactly one possession in this world: the mind. The body and the mind are definitively linked but “the body cannot live without the mind.” This movie can be taken to so many places philosophically. The main one that I would focus on to begin with is that of belief. While the Martian had a focus on the ability to respond, it takes belief in one’s abilities to engage with situations. Although uploading information directly to the brain through a computer program has not happened (yet), the picture painted is relatively accurate. In order to navigate successfully through life, one must acquire skills. As skills are layered one on top of the other, belief is constructed. Unlike the Matrix, this takes time and deliberate effort in the real world but it is worth it. Believing in yourself long enough to make things happen is crucial.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – I would absolutely love for all of the philosophical concepts covered in this movie to hit home with the young men who watch it. Right down to the LIFE motto which has so much to offer. However if just one thing was to be extracted from this film, the idea of connecting your dream world to the real world would be it. Humans are special in a variety of ways but our ability to imagine things then make them happen is one of our greatest strengths. Walter’s life starts out as a collection of day dreams where he escapes his reality. In the end, he starts engaging with life and has better experiences than most of his daydreams. All of our actions start in our minds but if they stay there, then they only exist in the hypothetical. We must transpose our dreams into the real world in order to give them life.
Rocky (1976) – You’re going to lose! This may not seem like a very positive message to take in. However at times, the odds are going to be so astronomically against you that it may seem like trying isn’t worth it. People are going to tell you that you’re crazy. In those circumstances, you need to find a version of success that is in line with who you are and stretch yourself. There are magical moments throughout this film including the 14th round knockdown. Probably the most important comes prior to the fight where Rocky admits to himself and the woman that he loves, exactly who he is and what he expects of himself. Power is not always displayed through a punch. Often power is ability to be vulnerable and defenseless to the people that matter. Although most of the movies thus far have focused on going for the prizes that are out there to be won, Rocky is a reminder that winning is not everything. There are ways to go through life as a “success” without winning every time. So be prepared to be punched in the face!
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Like so many of the movies on this list, there are a variety of takeaways. Even though the main character is a teenage girl on an adventure to get herself home, I’ll focus on the great and powerful Oz. This is a man who has created a reputation of great prestige and power for himself. In the end, he is only a small man hiding behind a curtain who is trying to project a fearsome alter ego. Each and every one of us will have to put a version of ourselves out into the world. Many of the people that you will meet will be exactly like the Wizard of Oz, lots of theatrics to make themselves seem important. Eventually we realize that the Wizard was valuable because of what he had to offer the travelers, not his big persona. So as you project yourself into the world decide who you will be. Also be on the look out for people who are hiding behind the curtain.
The Breakfast Club (1985) – I’d like to believe that the walls of cliques in high schools have broken down slightly since this movie came out. Unfortunately I don’t know that it’s true. Even if it is, there are still valuable things to be taken from the film. Mostly it involves self-reflection and understanding your place within the social strata of your world. Ideally everyone in your school, town, etc. would get along wonderfully. Unfortunately that’s not very realistic. So recognizing how you perceive and are perceived by others is extremely important. You don’t need to live in the box that others try to put you into but knowing that you’ve been put in the box helps if you want to break out of it.
Dead Poet’s Society (1989) – Similar to The Breakfast Club, the ideas of conformity and living in a school community are on full display. Whether it is teachers, parents or peers; there will always be pressures to become what other people want you to be. There is nothing wrong with people trying to influence you. Generally it is done with a certain amount of caring for your well being. However the teenage years are a time for self-discovery. Figuring out who it is that you want to be. I’m not calling for all out revolt against the powers that are trying to influence you. But rather a recognition of the pull of the things that make you feel most alive versus the push of those in positions of power in your life. In most cases there is a balance to be struck. The death of Neil toward the end of the film is a cautionary tale about failing to communicate. The Dead Poet’s Society is all about expressing one’s self honestly. Try to find your voice.
Rounders (1998) – On a surface level this movie is absolutely about poker but it has several layers underneath that are worth exploring for a young man. First is the concept of friendships and loyalty. The movie does a good job of putting loyalty on full display while also warning against blind loyalty to people who may no longer deserve it. The reason why I truly put this movie on the list is the scene with Mike in the Russian bath house. He tells Joey Knish about an encounter with Johnny Chan. “I’m just going to outplay the guy, this hand.” So many of us get overwhelmed by how big our goals are in this world when it all comes down to this. Are you going to give it your all in this moment? Are you willing to bet on yourself? If you’re not, then who else will?
Swingers (1996) – This movie is on the list for a very specific purpose. As a young man gets into the dating world, there is bound to be rejection either external or internal. Although you may never hear the word “no” from a girl but there is still rejection because you rejected the idea of asking. The story that each of us has running inside of our own heads about who we are and what we are capable of is crucial. After years of being tentative with women in the singles world, Swingers gave me a new insight. If I approached a girl and she “rejected” me, it had very little to do with me and more to do with her perception of me and the perception I projected. This is a skill like any other that must be honed and practiced over time. The “bear” discussion between Mike and Trent in the middle of the movie is the key. There are ancillary parts about dealing with a breakup but overall this movie got me to believe in all that I had at my disposal to “kill the bunny”.
Good Will Hunting (1997) – This is another film that has layers to it. Although it could be dissected from a variety of angles. We’ll focus in on the romantic relationship. Will has put up walls and created masks to protect himself from both past and future pain. That constant state of protection keeps him from all of the possibility that is banging at his door. He is so afraid to admit who he is that he creates a fake world that he shows to other people and denies possible opportunities to move on to a better existence. His relationship with Skylar is tumultuous at best but that is a result of his protection strategy. The movie Swingers was all about how to get your foot in the door long enough to get someone interested. Once you are inside, you need to let the other person see who you are. Teenage relationships are supposed to be like chemistry experiments. They are supposed to blow up in your face from time to time but you learn and progress based on what you’ve learned. If you are always in protection mode in order to avoid being hurt, no one will see your imperfections. That may seem like a great strategy until you actually find someone who you want to let in, you’ll have no practice.
These are most definitely not the only movies available that could have an impact on a young man’s life. These are just the ones that I’ve selected at the moment. I’m sure that each person out there has at least one that could be added with good reason. So in the comments below, give me your suggestions. Even I had trouble keeping it to just ten. Below is my honorable mention. So with that film in mind as I finish this post up, don’t just be a consumer! Take these films into your life (RESPONSIBLY of course!)
Fight Club (1999) – This is a film with great possibility but it comes with a lot of distractions for the young teenage mind. So I put it on the list very tentatively realizing that many will get sidetracked by the sex, violence and mayhem; missing the point completely. Although Fight Club focuses principally on the underground club that encourages violence and eventually mass destruction, the key component to the entire story is the relationship between the “two” main characters. The two is in quotations because they are both Tyler Durden. Tyler is split in two. Each version brings something to the table but Brad Pitt’s character leads the charge into uncharted territory. He is everything that the other version of himself is not. He’s confident and capable! This is taken to the extreme of course but it is something all of us have within us.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The past was a simpler time in many ways! There’s no doubt about it. The complexity of the world has jumped exponentially. Despite its complexity, human beings remain relatively the same. The complexity is around us, not within us. So it is possible to keep the effects of the world at bay if we remember that we are part of the “natural order” of things. In most cases we act much more like animals than machines. Despite this fact, we expect ourselves to work similar to machines or want results to show up machine time.
Our ancestors understood that the amount of time spent hunting was far greater than the amount of time spent eating. This proportion is a natural occurrence. Obviously there would be times when a quick hunt would happen but it could not be relied upon. The same was true of the harvest. While the farmers did less “intense” labor than the hunters, it was stretched out over a longer period of time. Again the time and effort spent obtaining the desired outcome was far greater than the time enjoying it. However these proportions were in line with expectation. So people prepared and adjusted for them. Now we live in the world of Amazon, INSTAgram, SNAPchat and Uber.
These services and other recent cultural norms are not bad if they are kept in context. The separation of modern expectations from “natural” phenomena is the key component to surviving the complexity of our world. Trust is not one click away. Overnight shipping is not available on love. Physical fitness is not dependent on an application but rather dedication over time. Keeping the expectations for the enjoyment of results in correct proportion to the necessary inputs to obtain those results is the key. This balance can be difficult for people to maintain because the call of the modern context is so enticing. Why would you spend months going to the gym when you can swallow a pill?
My hope for you is that you’re able to see past the false advertising. Many of the things that you want are not available “On Demand” and that’s OK. If everything were as easy as one click shopping, it would cheapen the peak experiences of life. Time, struggle, intention, effort, passion and so many more ingredients are the appropriate price tags for what is truly important in this world. It is those people that keep in line with their nature as humans who will avoid the trappings of the modern world. So go out there today and get whatever it is that you want but don’t click on “one day shipping”! Enjoy the process instead!
I’m continuing to challenge myself going into the month of June. Last month I did not eat until I posted a blog. This month, my focus is on my exercise routine. Each day I will do what I refer to as 2 out of 5. I’ve developed a list of 5 exercises to choose from each day. In order to meet my requirement each day, I must complete two of the five from the list but cannot repeat the same exercises two days in a row. The intention is to build consistency into my regimen while maintaining some variety. We shall see what this does. Below is my list of five:
Run 2 miles or more.
Do 250 push-ups or more.
Do 125 air squats.
Run 10 sprints or more (100 meters)
Do St. Johns for 25 or more. (AB rotation: Each exercise done for 25 reps or more, crunches, jack knives, one legged jack knives (each leg), scissors, heal touches, mason twists, 1 minute plank)
While I’m putting this out in public to hold myself accountable, I’m also happy to help anyone else looking to challenge themselves. If you’d like to take the month of June in order to get a little more consistency to your workouts, feel free to reach out.