Blogpost, self-reliance

Stupidly Iconic

It’s happened so many times throughout history, yet people still believe that there is a secret. Movies, books, musicals, songs, etc. Many of the most popular were a complete surprise when they came out. The directors, authors, composers and musicians were hopeful but more than likely unaware that they were about to strike gold. Some even believed that they were creating absolute trash. Despite the doubts, they persisted on to find their way into our hearts and into history.

It’s easy to look back at the success stories and believe that they were inevitable. We have the benefit of hindsight. The dots all connect in a perfect pattern that make us believe that destiny had her hand in the equation. Perhaps she did but the people who were in the thick of the moment had no idea. They had doubts, insecurities, failures and fear. In a lot of ways, they are very similar to me and possibly you regarding that thing that you’ve put off doing for a week, month, year or years!

We all have that project that we’re afraid to start or worse, have started a hundred times but stalled. All of the emotions that are tied to the outcome do not serve you in the day to day. So many times, we don’t start or give up because we’re so uncertain about the final product. The possibility that it could flop paralyzes us into inaction. We need to remember that success is not completely up to us but progress is! Our job is to keep things moving forward in incremental steps. So many projected blockbusters have gone belly up that it’s laughable to think that anyone can predict them. The reverse is also true. The hits are often a surprise. Since no one will know the outcome until you finish, it is in your best interest to keep moving forward. The sting of failure will be with you for a much shorter time than the ache of regret.

Make it happen! Your flop might fly but there is only one way to find out!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Put On Your Jersey: Soccer Life Balance

There are some jerseys that are absolute international symbols.  Some jerseys are so well known that a color combination can spark the association.  People do not need to search for the things that they value most, they jump right out of the crowd. 
Therefore it is in your best interest to put on your uniform.  Not that you wear the shirt of your team everywhere but rather that you put your truest self out on display.  There are two people living inside of you.  The person that you are and the person that you want to be.  Although I’m a huge fan “fake it ‘til you make it”, let’s start with getting comfortable in your own skin.  This does not happen in a day.  If you’re there already, AWESOME!  Rejoice in that fact because it’s not true for everyone. 

If you’re not there yet, then there is one place to start: the first person.  There is only one person that will be with you for your entire life, every second that you’re alive, no matter what you can never get rid of them.  That person is you.  You can complain about your disadvantages or idolize someone else but no matter what you can only be you.  Since you only have this one person to spend your life with, it makes sense to have them be a friend.  You need to treat yourself well.  This goes back to all of the things that have been covered so far.  Your chances of feeling good about yourself are exponentially better if you’ve taken control of your internal dialogue and the things that you focus on.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE!  This section was titled, Put on the Jersey.  Jerseys are an outward expression of who you are.  You’re absolutely right!  But the things that we project on the outside are often a representation of what we’re feeling on the inside.  So we need to start there.

Some practical advice on making yourself more of a friend.  Think of the things that you would do to let a friend know that you like them. 
• You’d spend time with them (meditation)
• You’d make them a priority (journaling)
• If they’re going through a tough time, you’d console and try to help them (journaling)
• You’d let the little things go (post-it notes of forgiveness)
• You’d try to work through the big things (letters of forgiveness)

This sounds kind of weird when you consider doing these things for yourself.  So it takes a bit of deliberate practice.  My suggestions on activities usually involve writing because it is tangible and requires a bit of focus.  Thinking is great but lends itself toward the mind wandering.  So putting things down on paper forces you to organize your thoughts a bit more.  As daily as possible, write down gratitude statements.  Write as many things that you can think of that you’re thankful for.  This exercise gets you to focus on what you have.  It’s much like brushing your teeth.  Doing it once does almost nothing.  When you make it a practice, then it becomes extremely powerful.  This type of journaling mixed with a daily discussion of your thoughts will take you a long way down the road of befriending yourself which is the entire point. 

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with the inside world, you’ll be in a better position to project the traits that you want into the outside world.  Who do you choose to be?  What is the story that you tell yourself about yourself?  Personally I refer to myself as the “Sword of Gryffindor”.  I show up when the people who matter need help and I am improved by the things that have the potential to damage me.  This is the story that I’ve created for myself and the one that I do my best to project out into the world. 

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Line the Field: Soccer Life Balance

The boundaries of the field are an essential component to the game.  They dictate exactly how much space, the team or individual has to work within.  In soccer there are well defined standards regarding the dimensions and distances for fields depending on the age and type of game to be played.  Even in practice, a coach sets up areas for players to exercise their skills within.  Setting these boundaries correctly can be the difference between players finding success or failure. 

While the lines on the field are usually some color of paint put onto grass (real or otherwise), the lines on the field of your life are much more metaphorical.  They are the boundaries that you set up for yourself in a variety of ways.  They are the limits that you put on yourself regarding what you are capable of, what you will and won’t do morally, your “comfort zone” and many other versions of mental models.  The first thing to recognize is that some of these “fields” have been lined by other people in your life. You need to decide (eventually) whether or not to move or even get rid of the lines on these fields.

Even though we’re all playing the same game of life, some people have boxed themselves into a small space. Others seems to have almost no boundaries whatsoever. The thing that we must realize on some level is that they are mostly arbitrary. We can decide to change the boundaries: geography, relationships, habits, attitudes, beliefs and rules. Sure there are societal boundaries that we live by but mostly we draw the lines for our own lives. Are the lines that you’ve drawn for yourself allowing you to play the game in the way that you want? If not, then redraw them. No one else can do it. It’s your game and your field. Don’t play on a postage stamp.

Pete
 

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Beautiful Game Has Become Ugly

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” – Oscar Wilde

There are many people who would push back on me suggesting that soccer is an art form. That’s completely fine! A bunch of paint splatters or a urinal hung in a museum are not my cup of tea either. Given that art is subjective and mediums have change through time, I don’t think that I’m out of line to call the beautiful game, ART. Some of the best actors do not read from a script. Musicians jam and vamp with their bandmates far from the notes that are on the page. So in my estimation, a group of eleven people trying to find rhythm from chaos is a form of ballet as much as it is a sport. Whether you buy into my belief or not, at bare minimum, you understand where I’m coming from.

Painting of Pele by Andres Ramos.
Art imitating art!

Now let me take it back to the Oscar Wilde quote. Other people can dissect his words in any way that they like. For me, the idea that life imitates art comes from the fact that artists take their medium to extremes. Generally, life is not an extreme sport. In the beginning, humans needed to be conservative with their actions because our survival depended upon it. Even though there were cave paintings, they weren’t of spaceships or a flying squirrel suit. They showed hunters going after an animal. The art was in line or one step ahead of the time but it gave others something to imitate. As we progressed forward, the media of arts expanded and gave expression to the order of the day as well as more extreme ideas. Did the myths about the gods come about to explain them or give people license to emulate them?

Now that I’ve taken you through my thought process, I believe that our world is in distress due to our art. It’s not as simple as Tipper Gore would have liked. Her labels on explicit albums did not change the releasing of the art that she disliked. She simply made it taboo and therefore more desirable. Since the art that I care about is soccer, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I am concerned about the artists on the field.

Soccer is called “the beautiful game” because it is a glory to behold when it is in its natural state. Eleven people trying to get the ball into the goal of the other team while defending their own. A match can have the highs and lows of a great symphony and all of the drama of a Greek tragedy. There is no lack of opportunity to raise the emotional experience to the heights that only artists can. An actor can give an audience chills when they personify a moment so perfectly with their earnestness. Unfortunately the hack actor can also nauseate an audience by faking it, not being true to the role and using tricks to skate by. It’s sad to see but that’s where we are. Players looking to game the system for the outcome rather than earnestly trying to get the result through their art. None of this is new and I know that my short musing about it will change little.

However, I truly believe that the flopping, diving and play acting has affected the world because soccer is art. Therefore, this writing, which is also an art form, could help to counteract it. A pebble in the pond, no doubt but I hope that it will ripple. If the artists who are playing at the highest level were to give up the hack tactics for a short time, would it change everything? Would kids stop flopping and taking the easy way? Would government officials stop taking shortcuts that hurt the people in their care? Would life again imitate art as it has so many times through history? I don’t know! I’d like to believe that it could. The problem is that so many things have become a business and art is a gift! So hopefully, some of the artists on the field can remember that they are making art to give to the world and it’s more than just the result. We’re all watching to be inspired toward our future selves. If you make “hack art” we’ll believe that that is en vogue. BUT if you give the gift of true expression with earnest effort, we’ll reflect that back as well.

Be an artist today!

Blogpost, self-reliance

That Dead Tree in Your Living Room

It’s completely ok if you have a dead tree in your living room right now. Lots of people do! The tradition is extremely old and has to do with bringing the life force of nature into a dwelling during the winter months. Like most of the Christian traditions, it was a mixture of the old with the “new” when Christianity was trying to convert people. More than likely, that is not why you put a tree into your house. Your tradition is a direct line to your parents, your childhood and/or a recognized social norm. All are completely fine and understanding the origins of the practice does not need to change how you feel about it. As you open presents today, drink eggnog or eat chicken gizzards (a real thing for some people), please recognize that these are patterns of behavior that you have chosen to perpetuate. Our behavior around the holidays is often dependent upon our upbringing or social circle.

The same is true for most of our behaviors. Our habits, routines, beliefs and identities are largely based upon those two forces as well. They feel normal and changing them comes with an emotional price tag even if they don’t really make sense. Calling it a “dead tree” felt different than if I had called it a “Christmas tree.” There is no emotional attachment to a “dead tree.” People could live without having a dead tree in their house but not having a Christmas tree just wouldn’t feel right. We’re looking for that feeling the tree gives, not the reasons that we started getting them. If the feeling stopped, most likely the tradition would stop. OR are we such creatures of habit that we would persist like Clark W. Griswold to have a crappy Christmas because that’s just what happens?

I’d like to believe the former but happy to help with the latter. If you don’t know why you have that dead tree in your living room and you hate the lights, the ornaments and the star, then make a change. Everything is up for consideration. The things that are necessary or bring you joy, then by all means keep them. However it is foolish to have a dead tree that you don’t love in your house.

Look at your habits, routines, beliefs and identities, if they no longer serve you, then it might be time for a change. Yes! You can change even the most engrained traditions. The Christmas tree is an extremely old tradition but you could drop it next year if you chose. Nothing in your life has that much staying power. However there might be a vacuum in the space that you need to fill with something. Not particularly a direct a replacement but something that you can give meaning. It must have value to you and help progress you forward. The Christians adopted the tradition of the tree in order to help spread their cause. What is your cause? How can you move it forward? What traditions can you adopt as soon as possible to move toward the life that you want? Begin today to look for the opportunity to move into the next season of your life free of the weight of the old and useless. Keep what works by all means! Then look to replace that which does not work with the more useful.

Forty years ago Mariah Carey was not a part of Christmas. Things change and so can you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

All That You Don’t See

It’s that time of year where I have a list of Christmas movies that I and most people watch. Although there are several on the list, the most important is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There are some young people who have probably not even seen this classic but it is by far my favorite. A few of the reasons that it may not be as popular in the modern era are as follows. It progresses slowly. There are none of the traditional characters that you hear about in songs regularly. Although it is a Christmas movie, only a small amount of the story has to do with Christmas at all. Despite all of these facts, it is still my favorite because of its enduring messages. Some are said quite plainly but it’s possible that you might have missed a few because they are subtle.

“No man is poor who has friends” – This is the most obvious to viewers of the movie because it is stated very plainly at the end. However throughout the film, George Bailey does not notice all the lives that he has impacted. So he sees himself as a failure, poor and worthless. His main measure for himself is financial and by that measure, he believes he failed. This message is extremely important today and will continue to be. People discount themselves regularly because their self-assessment discounts their true value.

“Greatness in not a solo act” – Mary (Hatch) Bailey is the unsung hero of the film. Why she fell for George when she came back from school is a bit of a mystery in my eyes. However it is evident that she is the support system upon which any success that he has is built. From salvaging their honeymoon, fixing up their rundown house and finally saving George’s financial future twice, Mary is truly the one that makes George who he is. The scene where she is shown as an “old maid” is unlikely. Mary was great and would have made Sam Wainwright or another guy equally great. In my humble opinion, Mary gets slightly overlooked and that’s not just because I have a crush on Donna Reed.

“The hardest person to forgive is yourself” – This one doesn’t slap you in the face but it is there. Whether George Bailey himself, Violet Bick or Uncle Billy; forgiveness is relatively straightforward when it comes to others. Forgiving one’s self for things that were done or left undone is a tricky business. Other people get a little more slack than we generally give to ourselves. Perhaps it is because we know our every thought and action that we are less generous. Or maybe we overestimate our ability to be perfect. Regardless, it is there and forgiving ourselves is usually the right thing to do. Especially when it is something that we would easily forgive another for doing.

Although this movie may not have Santa, claymation or great special effects, it is my perfect Christmas movie. It directly or indirectly reminds people about what is truly important at this or any time of the year. Our time in this world is short and it’s easy to lose focus on the most important things. So these subtle reminders will hopefully keep them at the top of our mind for a little while at least.

Enjoy this time with the people who are important to you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Being a Horrible Ukulele Player

I am horrible at the ukulele! I’ve never learned to play a musical instrument. Even the recorder that they tried to force on us in second grade did not stick in the slightest. Although I would love to have the ability, it’s just not high enough on my priority list to invest the time and effort. There is only so much of these two resources that I have and learning to play a musical instrument is not worth the exchange.

This is a simple example that I’m sure many people can relate to. For some reason the equation shifts with other things in our lives. Fame, money, athletic ability, etc. are all endeavors that seem to cause people emotional pain because they’ve been left unrealized. I’m not sure who the best ukulele player in the world is but you probably don’t envy him. His skillset is not one that you value. The people who have the life that you’ve “always wanted” aren’t all that different from you. They just chose to put the time and effort into gaining the skills that they needed. It probably wasn’t the luck of the draw, fortunate breaks or even superior genetics. Most of it came down to choices.

So don’t lament all of the ukulele’s that you don’t play. BUT decide aggressively what it is that you do want to be great at doing. Don’t leave it up to chance or assume that you have no “talent”. We all have the capacity to become great at something. Most of the time, we’re too busy to make it a priority. We become mediocre in basically all that we do. Not due to talent but due to focused effort. It doesn’t matter what your ukulele is but when you find it, PLAY! Play often, play with passion, play when no one is listening and don’t listen when people tell you “it’s a foolish little guitar.” Most of the neigh-sayers in this world are using their criticism to cover up their forgotten dreams. We were all meant to fly but clip our own wings because they might make us look foolish. Remember that there is nothing wrong with being horrible at the ukulele if that’s your choice. Decide on the place where you want to put your greatness, then take the time.

Your biggest critic is probably you.

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Knee, Balls, Chest: The Anti-Neymar

There is no doubt that it was a foul. He had never even attempted to get the ball. His body barreled through mine with such great force that we were both lying off the field by about a yard. He got up first and as he did, stepped on my knee with one foot, then my balls with the second and the first foot returned on my chest. Since Neymar was only one year old when this happened, I did not know that I was supposed to roll around on the ground like I’d been shot twelve times. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I got up! We were leading in the game against our biggest rival. Although we couldn’t be certain that a win would lead to a Conference Championship, a loss would make it impossible. There was no choice. I had to get up because that’s exactly what team needed me to do.

Wrapped within that decision was a lot of programming that came from my parents, brothers, coaches, teachers, friends and generation overall. Yes! I had been fouled horrendously. Yes! I had also been stomped on. Yes! I was in pain. And YES! I did not want to get up!

There is nothing special about my actions of that day. It was a moment in time similar to those of many people. The trifecta of the knee, balls and chest did strike a chord with me recently when I was thinking about how many people tend to deal with set backs.

In my mind, I’m equating the KNEES with faith. Many religions use the kneeling position in a variety of ways. Faith that things are going to live up to our expectations is a pretty usual pain point. As soon as something is “out of whack”, it stings a little. Our faith is shaken, even if it just for that event. While faith is a necessary ingredient to many endeavors, it is not an inexhaustible resource. Also the amount needed varies greatly.

Sorry that this is a semi-exclusionary descriptor. Although female readers have never gotten hit in the BALLS, I’m sure that there must be an equivalent. The soft spot where the pain is greater than a normal hit and it lingers. While the shot to the knee hurts our faith, the shot to balls leaves an ache that possibly we are less than we were before. Even though it’s not always intended to be, a shot to the balls feels personal.

The final shot was to the chest which represents the HEART. It is the place that our literal lifeblood is pumped throughout our body. A shot to the heart (and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name…. sorry Bon Jovi flashback) can be deadly if it happens at the wrong angle on the wrong day. That’s why our heart is housed in a literal cage of bone. It must be protected at all costs. Although it’s possible to recover, the heart is necessary to move forward.

So now that I’ve taken a minuscule moment and broadened it out to almost any emotional pain that we might feel as humans, what is the point? The point is that we must get up. We’ve become far too comfortable with Neymaring the fouls that we encounter in life. Turning a mere tap on the knee into a 12 gauge shot to the chest. Rolling around on the figurative ground as if life had dealt us a bad hand by putting any impediments between us and our goals. It would be one thing if we were simply that fragile. If our metaphorical bones were as brittle as “Mr. Glass” from the M. Night Shyamalan movies, it would make sense. The thing is that they are not. Our bones are the same stone-like implements that our ancestors had. We’ve just made some poor assumptions about what we can handle or been sold on the idea that struggle isn’t necessary.

My hope is that you don’t get hit at all but when you do, don’t Neymar it. Get up! Or even better, don’t fall down in the first place. More than likely, you can handle what has been thrown at you. You’re a descendent of the people that helped to make humans the apex predators on the planet. The tools that you have at your disposal are all that you need.

Don’t flop! You’re better than that!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Being from New Jersey is a Superpower

Anyone who is not from New Jersey, just thought, “Makes sense, lots of super heroes get their powers from toxic waste!” I can appreciate the humor about my home state which I learned in my late teens is referred to as the “Armpit of America.” If you’re not from New Jersey, poking fun at us is easy and I’ll get to the other forty-nine states in just a moment. For now, I’m going to point out some of the better aspects of being from the “Garden State.”

  1. New Jersey is small. Not Delaware small but small enough that being from NJ means something. Sure the North Jersey/South Jersey thing exists (does Central Jersey exist?) but overall being from New Jersey is an identity.
  2. New York City is right next door. Living in the almost literal shadow of probably the most important cities in the world, puts a bit of a chip on one’s shoulder. People from New York State can associate themselves with the City easily. Much to my chagrin, we have multiple sports teams that take the City name but are in NJ. The owners either want the cachet or are embarrassed by their location. Either way, it breeds a little brother mentality that serves our residents well.
  3. The Turnpike, Newark Airport, the Parkway and Jersey Shore (TV show) are usually the first things that pop to people’s minds about NJ. While they are all eyesores in their own right, they do a perfect job of embodying the Jersey persona. “You don’t know me, until you know me.” People discount an entire state based on the worst of what we have to offer and that’s generally ok with us. Most of the people that I know from NJ are extremely tight with “their people” and a bit suspicious of outsiders. It’s not that we’re unfriendly. It’s more that you need to put in the time to get to know us. We have it all but get dismissed easily because people can’t be bothered.
  4. Pork Roll or Taylor Ham? Not only do we have a meat that is pretty unique to our area. We also fight amongst ourselves about what it’s called. In all honesty it’s a tissue vs Kleenex thing but I’ll move on. Being unique comes in all kinds of packages, even a little bag of meat. But that uniqueness probably comes with a bit of heritage. A tip of the cap to the people that have come before because even though we’re not always nice, respect seems to be a big deal.

If you’ll notice, none of these is particularly positive on their own. They are generalizations that are presented with a positive slant. Is being from New Jersey truly a superpower? Not really. Each person needs to decide to look at the ingredients of who they are and choose to look at those component pieces as positive or negative. Being overlooked can destroy someone, unless it doesn’t and they use it to make them stronger.

No matter what state you’re from! Even if you’re from Pennsylvania and you’re driving in the left lane going 55 (damnit!), having superpowers or weaknesses is a choice. Who you are is an advantage, if you figure out how to make it one. There’s nothing particularly special about being from anywhere. Nothing in the water is going to make you awesome, it might give you cancer, but you need to tell yourself a story about your greatness. Then go out and tell the rest of the world. Being from New Jersey is not enough but it’s not a bad start!

Exit 19 off of Route 80!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

NeverGiveUpitis

This is a disease that lots of people think should be spread far and wide. Before I go into my counterarguments, let’s go through the symptoms. People who have caught NeverGiveUpitis will have: a burning desire, some sleepless nights, aches, chills from excitement and many others. These symptoms are not really a problem if they are endured in service of something worth chasing. Unfortunately we have collectively told ourselves generalized lies about “quitting” and giving up. The common refrain is something similar to “Winners never quit and quitters never win!” This is simply not true.

Winners, producers, successful people, etc. quit things. They just quit the right things. They give up on excuses, lost causes, distractions, toxic people, antiquated thinking, etc. It is not a question of absolutism. Quitting is an art form that needs to be studied and perfected. Once the “weeds” of distraction have been culled from the garden of their mind, they have the energy, focus, resources and motivation to catch NeverGiveUpitis on the things that truly matter.

We do not have unlimited time, energy, focus or resources. So the idea of never giving up on a host of things means that all of them will be done poorly. Sure! You could say that you never gave up but you probably didn’t progress either. There are some losing battles that should not be fought anymore. Be willing to decide when to wave the white flag on something.

Give up the unimportant, so you never give up on what matters!

Pete