Time passes without us. We are incidental passengers riding through time. The future is coming regardless of our disposition toward it. The future just showed up… and there it goes again! Despite the fact that the future arrives without our help, what future will show up for us is very much dependent on us. A future that looks worse than the present need minimal effort, probably even a little carelessness. If you want tomorrow to look like today, keep doing what you’ve been doing. A better future is a BATTLE!
When I use the word battle, I don’t mean literal war or something ugly and distasteful. I just mean that it will take more effort than we may want to give but it’s about survival. If you want the better future that is off in the beautiful horizon, it needs to be taken. The horizon doesn’t come to you, you must go to it! People hope that the future is going to be improved just through happenstance. That the planets will just align without any real effort or focus applied. Unfortunately that future that you desire is not a willing hostage. It is going to fight against capture then it will try to escape. Anything worth having is going to take this type of effort. Be prepared for it and enjoy it in the moment. Despite the horror that is war; intense bonds, lifelong friendships, feelings of accomplishment, etc. have all come from those times of intense fighting. In the metaphorical battle for your best future, even better outcomes are available.
So now it is your turn to “fight”! Perhaps it is not physical but more mental and emotional. Regardless, the future that you want is not going to lay down at your feet and surrender. It is going to demand that you pursue it until you eventually win the day. And if you haven’t realized it yet, sorry to tell you that the battle never ends because another future is right around the corner! It’s never over! “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Heck no! The battle for your better future never ends but it is possible for you to move the front forward today.
Over the years, I’ve claimed that I’m not “obsessed” with Peterborough United. Like so many _____aholics, I’m in at least partial denial about my addiction. Since our form has been poor for much of the season and goals have been lacking, I find myself desiring a bit of help from the football gods. When one of our players streaks forward, I find myself shouting “get in the box” to people on a computer screen who can’t hear me from across the ocean. Perhaps someone out there can relate. It’s not that I want my team to dive in order to get the penalty. I just know that the opportunity is there for an “easy road” to a goal. Torn by the desire for a score but not wanting the dive either.
The easy road mentality is one that we all adopt in different amounts. Lottery ticket buyers, crash diet enthusiasts and overnight success seekers are just the extreme versions of a person that we’ve all been in small or large quantities. We’ve all wanted the big reward for the least amount of effort before. There is nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s a natural inclination but it just cannot become an overarching strategy. The person or team that is relying on something for almost nothing will find that cash cow dead sooner rather than later.
Since I know that this type of thinking is not a long term strategy, my belief is that my team will start finding the net from open play regularly. When those lucky breaks come, I won’t lament them but I know that we cannot rely on them. The plan needs to be more than hope in this world. Hope is not a strategy! Even as a feeling, it seems a little flimsy to me. Hope feels almost desperate and passive. Belief is much more positive and proactive. Despite the positive connotations though, belief is not enough.
Once you believe, you need to act. Take the feedback that the world gives you and adjust. There is not one way to break down an opposing team or get to a personal goal. Literally thousands or even millions are possible but you need to find one. Once you find success, you can build upon it. Here in lies the problem of relying on the penalty. It requires other people’s input that is less than reliable. So believe in yourself enough to create your own results. The “easy road” is there but it doesn’t make you better. It makes you dependent.
My distaste for Man City the club has been stated before but that’s not really what this is about. The second season of Ted Lasso had a great episode that did a masterful job of slaloming through stereotypes of male behavior and some of their antitheses. My love for this show is well documented but this is one time where the message hits a little deeper than the positivity that Ted disperses so willingly. Men are shown being the worst versions of ourselves while other moments are almost aspirational about what we could be. If you’ve not watched the series or the episode, there are spoilers below, so hop to it before you read farther or just deal.
Although Ted is the namesake of the show, several characters step up in this emotional episode. Jamie Tartt’s strained relationship with his father is one of the main storylines. Jamie’s need for a positive father figure was set up in the first season and put on full display in this episode. Although his father is an extreme version of a stereotype, he conjures the feelings that many of us men have had. The desire to make our father proud while also seeing their faults as we grow older. It is never as simple as a TV show must make a situation but all of the markers are there. The dynamic between fathers and sons is often strained due to the desire for independence and the inherent factor of emulation. Through the influence of Ted and Tartt’s own experience, Jamie sees his father’s negatives and begins to move in a different direction. Eventually he literally fights against his father’s way. At that moment, he is distraught, feeling the weight of what has just happened. Roy Kent, who usually puts forth a caveman-like persona, shows empathy and understanding by hugging his former rival. It’s a scene that jumps right out of a Brené Brown Ted Talk. Vulnerability is a superpower that men do not always employ.
Following along the vulnerability track, Ted opens up to his staff about the fact that a panic attack and not food poisoning had him running for the locker room in the Tottenham match. Each man in the group admits to something that he’s been holding back for some time. Ted’s vulnerability is seen as an opportunity by Nate who uses what he’s learned to expose and undercut Ted. This is the fear that most men have about vulnerability. It leaves us open to enemies, detractors and the like. The problem with this fear is that it is completely accurate. People can take advantage of a situation and many do. It’s a short term game but it works to their advantage enough to make it enticing. There is a balance to be struck here. Putting on the facade of invulnerability is an overall losing strategy. However, being vulnerable with everyone has its own perils that should definitely be avoided. It’s more art than science, like so many things.
Although Nate hasn’t fully shown his true colors in this episode, we get glimpses of the fact that he is employing a “fingers before thumbs” mentality which is the exact opposite of what I suggest regularly. Nate wants to blame others for anything and everything. He claims that he wants to be in charge. However, he lacks the mental fortitude to accept criticism when things go poorly despite wanting praise when they go well. His newly found power and fame make him into a bully who regularly victimizes people that he views as weaker. The willingness to see one’s own faults is a strength that needs to be developed over time. A mirror can be a powerful tool provided that it is not turned into a weapon used to self-flagellate. Another art of manhood is knowing when to point the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger. It’s more than likely that it will be employed incorrectly at times but my preference is always to find my faults before I start looking for others’.
Despite my dislike for Man City, the club, I am very happy with Man City, the episode. It brings to the forefront a discussion of modern roles of masculinity. By no means does it develop a definitive set of directives. However, it does juxtapose antiquated stereotypes with newer ideals. Being a man in a modern world can be a bit confusing. The messaging that is thrown at us from the past, present and future can sound like white noise. In the end, we need to see our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.
It’s a quote that I like on so many levels, “The man who invented the ship, also invented the shipwreck.” There is often a duality to things that people want to ignore. Complexity exists to the way that we all show up in the world. We tend to turn a blind eye to the outcomes that we do not like or make us feel uncomfortable. There is a pretend part to the things that we do. Power can be found in recognizing the fact that life is not a straight line, nor free of pitfalls. Building a fire feels like a creative process but as soon as the match is lit, destruction is following and eventually burnout. It’s not all warmth and light!
For a positive person, this may seem like a pessimistic slant to things. In my eyes, it is nothing of the sort. The fact that your parents gave you life and death in the same moment is not tragic, it’s beautiful! Scarcity is one of the criteria that creates value. An infinite supply of something reduces its value to almost nothing. It is in the lack of permanence that we gain urgency. We are invited to press forward because there is a constant state of breaking down. Every time that we eat, we are satiated for a moment. Only to become hungry again! This duality of creation and destruction being bound together is part of our cyclical lives. While we would love to be able to workout once and be fit, the system of constancy allows for us maintain purpose over time rather than needing a new one at all times.
So now that we know that building a fire is a degenerative creation that will require our maintenance for as long as we look to keep it alive, what are you willing put that effort into? What is so important to you that you realize that you must FIGHT to keep it alive? Who are the people that you desire so fervently to be connected to that you are willing to travel long distances and chance contracting a pandemic level virus to be near? These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves! Since nothing is forever and all of our endeavors are dying as soon as we birth them, we need to be sure that we are creating with care!
This new year, like so many others, gives us the idea of a fresh start. A line of demarcation between the old and the new. So as you begin this new year, what are you willing to create and keep alive for as long as possible? The fire within you needs to be built as well. We do not become ablaze with passion without reason. It needs to be created and stoked. So decide in this moment, where are you building those fires? You have limited time and limited resources. Be intentional with both!
Freshly fallen snow puts a blanket of white over the landscape. It can look almost magical. Icicles hanging from the trees and buildings add to the spectacle. The sun doesn’t shine brighter but the reflection off of the white makes it seem that way. Snowmen, sledding, eating snow, snow angels, snowball fights and forts are all possible. It almost makes the world look as though it is brand new. Unfortunately, none of that lasts for too long.
Two days after the snowfall is less picturesque. There are yellow and brown spots in the snow that are not meant for tasting. The salt from the roads has made the plowed snow look grey and ugly. Snowmen lean to one side or the other unless they’ve frozen into icemen from the frigid temperatures. The freshness and sense of renewal have devolved into a chaotic mess that is less than ideal.
We live most of our lives in the “two days after snowfall” world. It’s not ideal but reminders of more perfect times are all around us. Honestly, those times weren’t perfect either but we have nostalgia for those moments that we’ve chosen to remember. Everyone has had a moment like a wedding, championship winning season, perfect date, theatrical performance or any other memorable occasion. There’s a desire to live in those moments forever but you can’t. That pristine world does not exist for long, if it ever did. So the choices come down to lamenting the “imperfection” of most of our lives or embracing it.
Since most of life is going to be chaos with spots of urine, feces and salt strewn about, perhaps it would be better to see the beauty in those days. They are not devoid of their own glory. It just may be harder to see because there is so much variety to take in. The beauty and awe doesn’t smack you in the face! You have to work to see it. Despite that fact, the effort that is taken to endure the chaos until the next perfect moment is much greater. Seeing the world with its pock marks and still loving it is a skill that is worth developing. Otherwise you’re in a perpetual state of fourth grade where you’re hoping for a snow day, only to be disappointed by people forcing you to learn and grow! Damnit! Develop the eyes to see the daily beauty. It will make those perfect days even better!
Almost everyone is interested in winning championships. It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream. I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers. The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy. The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic. The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments. In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”. We were just the best team on that particular day. That is nothing to be concerned by. Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.
To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter. A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like. Then preparation must be done to endure that and more. Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections. Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker. Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily. Then broken down again into the hourly. Then broken down again to the moment. When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles. You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run. Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion. Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion. Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times. That will keep you grounded when success comes your way. These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most. Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition. Leading with belief is key to any grand success. Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult. Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do. Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it. Oh yeah! That’s the gamble! You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail. It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short. Can you live with that? I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!” For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want. They don’t want things to be hard. So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem. Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements. Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches). The statement is true however. Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action. So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them. “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.” These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action. A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix. It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air.
Your championship level is also something that you should consider. Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment. Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal. The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group. The moment will fade. The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps.