Blogpost, self-reliance

Parade Float Existence

You’re not supposed to see the wheels of a parade float. The entire idea behind the “float” is that it gives off the illusion that it is above the ground, a piece of art suspended in the air. The right circumstances need to be in place to make a float viable. A relatively straight road that has been blocked off from regular traffic is paramount to a float’s functionality. There’s a reason why we don’t see floats on a daily basis. They are an impractical sham of existence that cannot persist much longer after the parade is over.

Despite these facts about floats, many of us try to drive our own float down the streets of our daily lives. We primp ourselves to hide all scars, blemishes, effort and fatigue. The systems that hold us up are well hidden from the world to give the illusion that we might be floating. Social media is the stop in front of Macy’s where we need to pause and pose or sing and dance like Mario Lopez. Realizing of course that it’s a sham, you’re only there because you don’t have anything more important to do. Millions of people might be “watching” but in all honesty no one is truly watching. You scroll by with the other people pretending to be pitch perfect and are barely noticed or remembered.

There is nothing wrong floats or parades but they should not be daily experiences. As individuals we need to be much more agile and fast moving. Maintaining the facade is at best impractical and at worst dangerous. When life demands more of us than a parade route, we will fall apart at the seams if we’re made of tissue paper and flowers. Keeping it together is impossible in that unnatural state. So only bring out the float on special occasions. There are so many other parade participants to be:

  • The balloon that need eight people to keep it from floating off into the ski.
  • The classic cars that would love nothing more than to ditch the parade for the open road.
  • The tanks that could take out a building if the situation called for it.
  • The high school band who had to compete to get there and are REALLY playing their instruments.

So if you’re trying to be a float, please remember that you’re not fooling anyone. We all know that underneath, you’re a type of farm vehicle. Unless it’s a special occasion, you can ditch the facade and be the real you. Just because we put a camera in everyone’s pocket, doesn’t mean we’re all on TV or need to act like second class stars. Our daily lives require people of true substance! We need the real you!

Show off your wheels!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Don’t Assume You’re Weak…

As children we have a sense of misplaced optimism, we believe that we can do anything. Unfortunately as we grow, that overblown optimism is not tempered into realism. Usually it is downgraded into a form of protective pessimism. Either we overtly believe that we “can’t” do things or avoid trying the new and difficult due to judgement. The court of public opinion has a reputation for being harsh against people who are less than perfect.

This pessimistic viewpoint leads to adolescents and teenagers who believe that they can’t. Whether it is a lack of skill, nerve, smarts, money or anything else; falling short is not something to be endured. My message is very straightforward and clear.

Don’t assume that you’re weak just because you haven’t found your strength yet. The safe path of anonymity holds no prizes at its end. Every single one of us had dreams of being an astronaut, cowboy, movie star or a million other things. Some dreams deserve to die, no doubt. It shouldn’t be the ones that we wanted but were too afraid to breath life into them.

Don’t assume you’re weak, just because you haven’t found your strength yet!

Most likely it’s not too late! Pound on the chest of that dream! Blow air into its lungs! Get out the AED paddles and clear everyone away! Every moment that you delay, the less chance that you’ll have to revive it. Unfortunately you can’t expect a miraculous recovery, it will take time and persistence. You might be breathing life into this thing for years. Or you can let it die a quiet death because you labeled yourself too weak to save it.

You can do it or you can’t! More than anything that’s up to you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Day Three of My New Life

With the season of New Year’s Resolutions descending upon us quickly, I thought it was time to give an alternative. “Day Three of My New Life” is actually the name of one of my favorite albums of all time. The band Knapsack released it while I was in college. Through my weekly radio show, I got introduced to the album and the band. None of this is why you clicked on this post, so I’ll move on but the album is worth a listen.

Knapsack – Day Three of My New Life

Several times I’ve dissected the title of the album for myself and attributed a thought process to it. For the moment at least, I’m going to say that the following is what I believe about change which is what resolutions promise. It’s unfortunate that the word resolution has gotten associated with so many failed enterprises by people over the years. The definition of a “firm decision to do or not do something” is a powerful alternative to the impotent leanings that most people have. So even though New Year’s Resolutions tend to be weak, the word is intended to be strong.

Day Three of My New Life plays perfectly into this thought process as it puts a line of demarkation between the past self and the present. Humans tend to lead with belief and therein lies the power of this thought process. Normal resolutions fail because it is the same old version of you, trying to do a new action. Unfortunately the life that you lead is resistant to change, especially when giving up something that is coveted. At this time of year, change is all the rage. So it is not truly a resolution but a form peer pressure that most fold under. It is crucial to birth a new version of yourself. So rather than the first, maybe it’s better to start on the number day of your birthday. That makes it personal. A part of your identity that you get to carry forward.

In addition to the decision there need to be reminders of the new you built into the day. You need to have arrows to the action that you recognize and utilize. Few of us have the willpower to overcome all of the obstacles in our way, so we need to be set up for success. Running shoes put next to the bed, reminders in the cellphone, post it notes on the refrigerator or the simple favor of having a friend as an accountability partner are all possible ways to point you in the right direction. No answer will be perfect but functionality is the key. Every day of your new life, you’ll need to put on the boxing gloves and fight the old habits off. It’s a balancing act to be sure but the shape of the fear that you feel is always your own shadow. The feeling that you are not enough to fill the new shoes that you’ve fashioned for yourself.

So as we move into the new year and new possibilities, choose the new life that you want to lead. If you want to stay true to form, that’s great! It means that you’re happy with this version of you. If not, then resolve to adopt this new life and go well past day three!

Happy New Year!

Pete

PS – My favorite song by Knapsack is “Arrows to the Action.” Even though Day Three… was the main topic here, This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now is possibly a better album but it’s really close!

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

These Joyous Means May Not Have Soccer Ends

I was asked about the use of certain “games” in the US with young soccer players such as Stuck in the Mud, Red Light Green Light or Shark and Minnows. The thoughts below do not represent an in depth study of the situation, these are just “thoughts.”

The Strider or Balance Bike is a product that was created to help kids learn how to balance and steer without the additional concern of using pedals. Although it is not a “real bike,” it can make the process of learning balance more joyous than the use/removal of training wheels. Despite training wheels being used for generations, it may inhibit the actual desired outcome. The learner’s reliance on the training wheels keeps them from learning how to counter steer which means they must almost “relearn” how to ride. Finally the strider bike can also be used as a learning tool largely independently from direct supervision. A child learning to balance on a standard bike requires help from someone. Children are not small adults. Their needs are quite different but in the beginning, the strider bike was derided because it wasn’t a “real bike.”

Kids need to enjoy what they are doing. As they begin playing soccer, FUN is paramount to their desire to continue playing. Most players in the US do not grow up in a house where soccer is reinforced as a “way of life.” It is an organized activity that they are introduced to as part of some programming. For their parents, it can be a form of exercise for the child or even a cheap “childcare.” Although youth programs exist throughout the world, there is also cultural norm of individual or “street play.” Games like the ones listed above are intended to create a fun environment to learn skills. Elsewhere in the world, the development of skills is part of a cultural ratchet that values skill acquisition. Often through “unorganized” play, peer groups will create an environment where fun and skill acquisition go hand in hand.

Danny Rojas from Ted Lasso loving the game for all that it is!

There is nothing inherently wrong with playing fun games like Sharks and Minnows with young players. Much like using training wheels, it is a viable strategy. It can add fun to soccer for kids who are not already invested in the game. The issue is that many kids/parents are looking for a fun activity rather than specifically soccer fun. Therefore a disconnect happens when, “it’s just not fun anymore.” This can happen at any point in a player’s development. Learning to play chess, the flute, basketball, monopoly, etc. are worthwhile pursuits for young people. Only a small number of people will make it a lifelong pursuit.

Being honest with ourselves about why we are doing something is a crucial component to any endeavor. Playing monopoly with a 6 year old in order to instill a love of real estate investment is a strategy. However at some point the real thing doesn’t match up with the game. That first encounter is most likely not going to be the crucial component to a lifelong love. There will be milestones along the way that will either add or subtract to the child’s love for the activity. Having kids dip their carrots in ranch dressing is fine but at a certain point, the carrots need to stand on their own.

For me, soccer is a lifelong passion that speaks to me on a variety of levels. For some of my childhood friends, it is a game that they used to play when they were a kid. We spent years with undereducated coaches doing many poorly thought out drills by modern pedagogical standards. They did the best that they could with what they knew and got at least one lifelong convert. The strider bike may be the best possible way to get the intended objective but the training wheels still work. Neither guarantee that a kid will grow up to love bike riding.

The game is all about people. While I’m all for best practices, curricula and methodology; they do not guarantee anything. A kid needs to enjoy what they are doing enough to continue. More than likely, they need to see others enjoying that same thing. So if you are a coach, display your joy for the game! While we all might love soccer, joy is happiness that kids can see. That’s worth more than any activity that you’ll ever run for any age group!

“Football is life!” – Danny Rojas from Ted Lasso

Blogpost, self-reliance

Who Is In Charge?

With the New Year right around the corner and thoughts of a restart go through the minds of many people, it is possibly worth the time to put all of these cards on the table. If 2021 is going to be better than 2020, then there needs to be a basic understanding of who is responsible for the varied facets of life. Although the answers to all of these questions will be self-evident, the exercise is important because it releases all of the stories that come along with circumstances.

If you are a student, who is in charge of your grades? Your teacher? She/he is responsible for the delivery of the content but in the end, you are in charge of acquiring it. I won’t go on my grades rant here but remember that every teacher that you have will eventually be gone. They transitory figures in your life who are intended to teach you something. EVEN if they are the worst teacher in the world, it is on you to cope with that situation. It is your knowledge that is at stake.

Who is in charge of your health? Your doctor? You go to see her/him a few times per year. Those visits are checkpoints but in no way do they have the impact that your daily decisions do. A doctor can be part of a health strategy but in the end, you must implement that strategy. If you’re out of shape, overweight, or lethargic, that’s on you. The strategies for correcting most ailments do not require a PhD but rather SADD (Simple Actions Done Daily). If you’re in a health hole, you’re the only one who can dig yourself out. People can help but they cannot drag you along or the results will be short-lived. The reverse is also true. If you are fit, strong and flexible, that’s on you! Pat yourself on the back if you can.

Who is in charge of your mindset? Your psychologist? Your parents? Your ex? While your therapist may be able to help you refocus and create new meaning for your situation, the patterns of thoughts and behaviors are ultimately on you. People from your past have definitely contributed to your present mental framework, however you do not have to hold onto it. Blaming your present on others may feel better than owning it but that makes you a victim. You’re not a victim. You are the captain of your ship.

Who is in charge of your career? Your boss? Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a boss who is looking out for your best interest in your career, most people are not that lucky. Most bosses are concerned with your performance in your present position. Their job is not to clear a path for your ultimate success. They already do that for themselves.

Who is in charge of your finances? Wall street? The President? Your banker? Your finances are your responsibility. All of these institutions can influence your financial standing but the decisions are on you. If the market has taken a turn for the worse and you take a hit, that’s based on your decisions not the circumstances. When the situation changes (and it always does), it will be the alignment of your sails rather than the direction of the wind that will dictate your course.

None of these ideas is revolutionary or even difficult to understand. However people are going to struggle this year with the circumstances that they encounter. They are going to look around to find an easier scapegoat than themselves. This protective maneuver is an attempt to make the self feel good in the moment. “It’s not my fault because of ….” Feeling good in that moment is robbing them of the power that they have to make the big changes that they desire.

No one is going to scoop you up like Superman and protect you from all of the bad things in the world. It’s on you to save yourself and help the people around you. So as we progress into 2021, get your thumb ready because it’s the appendage that separates us from most other animals. It’s also the device that will separate you from most other people, if you use it often enough when giving responsibility.

Thumbs before fingers people!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer In America: The Question of Lagging Behind

There is a desire among soccer fans to understand why the USMNT is “lagging” behind other nations. “We have great facilities and coaches. Why are we still behind other nations that are much smaller and less equipped?” A colleague asked me to respond to this perspective which I’m happy to do but as we begin, remember that this is not a problem of simple math where 2+2=4. This is an equation of multivariable calculus. The solution is not as simple as everyone would like for it to be but it is there nonetheless.

Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The French Hockey Variable – If you were to research all of the characteristics of the best hockey players in the world, you would most likely find that a large percentage of them speak French. Therefore any hockey club that is looking to build a superior program should teach their players French. Obviously this is a ridiculous idea. However underlying the concept is a nugget of truth that needs to be realized. French is not the common denominator but it is an indicator. The indication is that a large number of the best hockey players come from French speaking Canada. The French is irrelevant but what is extremely relevant is the cultural implications. These players come from a place where success in that particular sport is nurtured and encouraged. The love for the sport is felt through their entire existence.

Largely the United States is still learning French. We are hoping that by playing Frankenstein’s Monster with soccer that national team results can meet the expectations of the few hardcore fans. Unfortunately that is not likely to work. Cultural shifts take a long time especially in a nation as large and diverse as the US. A small nation like Iceland has a much better chance of achieving a cultural overhaul that produces notable results on the international stage. Turning a motorboat is easier than turning an ocean liner. The United States will eventually hit a “tipping point” where an avalanche of cultural practices will reap benefits at the highest level. Again my prediction is 2026 but let’s keep moving on those variables.

The Distraction Variable – Unfortunately many people within the system of soccer are more interested in personal gain rather than altruistic motives for the improvement of the sport. An Icelandic youth player is probably separated from a national team player by a few degrees. So the dream of playing for the national team is real. Also the meaning of playing for the national team is potent with pride because basically everyone in the country cares. Kids in the US have so many more “shiny objects” to distract them before the USMNT is even a consideration. Elite teams, scholarships, academies, etc. are a confusing system of hoops that have some meaning but are not particularly a path leading to the USMNT or the betterment of soccer in this country. Since the system is difficult to decipher, kids and parents need to rely upon people who know the game. Since solidarity payments are not made to developmental clubs, the motivation for lower level clubs is to gain status by keeping talent rather than selling it up the pyramid. This system is changing slowly and many of the “fākademies” are being revealed as nothing more than profit centers rather than rungs on the soccer ladder. Once parents and players can see a direct path from the youth to professional game, the inflation of youth soccer will level off.

The En Vogue Variable – Although soccer is gaining popularity overall, Major League Soccer is far behind the upward trajectory of the sport. There are many reasons for this but eventually they need to break down. At one point, the Serie A was the most popular league in the world. At the moment, the English Premier League holds that moniker. In the future, MLS needs to hit that level and I believe that it will. However before it can, the league needs for soccer fans in the US to embrace it. Lack of great players, lack of history, lack of American superstars, and all of the other excuses that fans give for not supporting this league will eventually fade away. At that point, MLS will become like Marvel. Once something becomes popular then everyone “was always a fan.”

The Generation Variable – One or more of these variables could tip and cause the avalanche that brings the results that hardcore soccer fans want. This variable could have the strongest influence but also would be the hardest to track. My father didn’t play soccer. I started that tradition in my family. So I refer to myself as a first generation soccer player. My son now plays which makes him second generation. He is more educated about the game than I was at his age. The thing about a generational impact is that it is exponential growth. A player has three kids and that has potential of 3X growth. Since the US flirted with soccer throughout the 1900’s and especially in the 1970’s, it’s hard to pinpoint the generational effect. However it exists and if it hits at the right time with some of these other variables, THE WORLD WON’T KNOW WHAT HIT THEM!

Soccer in the US is not lagging behind other countries any more than we are lagging behind in consumption of chocolate. We ranked 8th in that statistic in 2019. Switzerland led the way by doubling our per capita consumption. There are some things that are difficult to determine about the US. One that I am never in doubt about is that we will find a way to achieve whatever we deem important. At some point, we’ll decide that soccer is important and this perceived lag will be history.

USMNT World Cup Champs 2026!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and The Arrow

Short and sweet for Christmas Eve! Here we go!

Are you the bow? The one who stays in the same spot and gets put under regular tension. You do basically all of the work but are a tool being used by someone else.

Are you the arrow? The one with direction who gets to go places and reach targets or miss them. Regardless you are getting out there. Staying inert is not your thing, in fact it makes you quiver (hahahaha).

It’s not so much that one is better than the other. Both are necessary parts of the equation. However the perspective on how you interact with your world is important. We’d all like to believe that we are flying free toward our targets. That freedom is found in perspective. Kings have been slaves and slaves have been kings. The crown itself is powerless. It is useless on the head of one whose spirit is crushed under its weight. The chains and walls also cannot hold the person who is free where it counts. So go fly before someone puts you under major tension to propel them toward their bullseye!

Barbecue sauce!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Who Has Your Nuke Codes?

Next month we are going to go through a presidential transition. Whether you’re happy about the results of the election or not is irrelevant to this post. As the commander in chief, the sitting president has a variety of weapons at his disposal including nuclear weapons. The destructive capabilities of these weapons are so devastating that only the president can order their use. This authority is not given out to everyone in the armed forces.

Usually when I talk about this concept, I use the example of keys. I’ll ask an audience who I would trust with my keys. Answers like wife, friends, siblings, parents are all common. Eventually after we’ve established that I would not trust my keys to just anyone, I relate the keys back to the mind. Who do you trust with the way that you think about yourself? Are you as discerning when choosing the people who can impact your self image? Most of the time, this brings to light some judgment issues. People often given power of influence to strangers, acquaintances or even “enemies.” Although this discussion is one that I think is worthwhile, I wanted to take it to that next level. Who has your “nuke codes”?

The difference here is that nukes have the ability to destroy everything. This goes far beyond the ability to influence. Perhaps the best strategy is never to give these codes to anyone. Keep the pushbuttons that could destroy you hidden away. Never let anyone know that they exist. Pretend like you’re invulnerable. Some people seem to go to the other extreme, giving the power of destruction to everyone and everything.

The best strategy that I’ve been able to come up with is to give them to the people who would never use them. An exchange of codes that allows each side to feel a level of safety but also trust. In real relationships (not nuclear standoffs) the key is vulnerability. It is only when we show our weak underbelly that people can feel that. they really know us. Acting like that weakness doesn’t exist guarantees that no one can get close enough to our reality. On the one hand, that might seem safe because then no one else can hurt us. While that might be true, it also means that the only possible destruction is self-destruction. The gamble comes down to vetting people that you trust with the real you or propping up the walls around you while trying not to hit the button. It’s not as hard of a choice or a task as it seems. Most people aren’t interested in pushing your button, they’re just trying not to push their own.

Go be vulnerable!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Toaster and the Smartphone

A toaster is a useful piece of machinery at breakfast time. Its identity is so certain that it bears the name of what it does. A smartphone on the other hand has many functions. It can take calls, search for information, teach you another language and thousands of other things. It’s just horrible at making toast.

My toaster!

There is no shame in being a toaster if you place yourself in the right spot. In fact you can be the most valuable item in the right kitchen. There is also no value to being a smartphone in the wrong environment. A place with no cell towers and no electricity renders this ubiquitous tool inert. It becomes a paperweight or a good skipping stone.

In the end it is not what you can do or what you cannot. The skills that you have need to match the life that you lead or want to lead. So it is up to you to decide. Is your identity the perfect size for your life? If you’re a toaster, then be the best damn toaster ever and find the right kitchen for your output. Don’t envy the smartphone, it can’t do what you can!

Heat things up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Conviction of Santa Claus

Childhood should be a magical time where kids have the ability to believe in certain things. They should be able to believe in their ability to be an astronaut or a cowboy or an astronaut cowboy. Blind faith dwindles as we gain experience. As a child, there was a time where Santa Claus was something that I believed in without any doubt. He was a real person who had semi-magical powers and brought gifts for me and my brothers on Christmas. Now I believe in the concept of Santa Claus but not the man. The man no longer delivers on the promise of my childhood. He does not show up with presents. However the feeling and belief in what is represented is still there. It has morphed into something much more general and less strong. The certainty has been replaced by a version of realism/skepticism.

If a man in a red suit shows up in my house early Christmas morning, he’s more likely to get the business end of a baseball bat than cookies. This reaction is based on thirty five years of non-belief. The question is not whether that momentary reaction is right or not. The true dilemma is how long do I hold onto my “realistic” belief if the evidence is in his favor. Would I bear witness to convict Santa if his story held up? My hope would be no, that I am able to change my beliefs about what is possible based on new information. We should all have this ability. However most of the time, we are not dealing with a court case. We are living moment to moment making gut reactions on beliefs.

The best version of “A Christmas Carol” is the one with George C. Scott in my opinion.

In all likelihood, you’ll not be face to face with Santa in a few days. However you are going to be face to face with yourself often. Although your chances of becoming an astronaut cowboy are pretty slim (see if Elon Musk has a need), there are probably pieces of yourself that were discarded in the past. An optimism and self-belief that you could use in that new endeavor. The child inside of you believed that you could be anything and while some childish things need to be left behind, there is no reason that you can’t mix that sense of possibility with a dash of common sense. Most of the time that youthful spirit inside of you is trying to leave presents under your tree, not rob you of everything that you have. So put down the bat for a moment and see who it is that’s coming down the chimney in your head. Perhaps the ghost of your childish past is going to fill your stocking with something that you desperately need.

Singfish! Wouldn’t that be the opposite of humbug?

Pete