Blogpost, self-reliance

Postcards from Hell

It’s a ridiculous concept on both sides! Isn’t it? Just imagine the message to be sent or received. “Hi! I’m in constant burning agonizing pain and there’s no end in sight. Wish you were here!” Sending it is meaningless because the person at the other end isn’t going to alleviate your suffering. Receiving it does nothing other than possibly pull you into the pain slightly. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unfortunately, I know I’ve been guilty of doing something that has the same net effect. Replaying of painful memories.

Just like the postcards from hell, my past self gets no reprieve because I’m putting focus back on that memory. Whatever has happened is done and I cannot change it now. My present station in life is no comfort to the past version that endured the pain. On the flip side of that equation, the present version of myself only tends to get sucked back into the pain of the past. It’s not particularly conducive to progress or growth. It’s allowing this moment to be corrupted by something that I know to be poisonous. The problem is that our prehistoric minds are set up to remember pain in order to avoid it. So those memories are strong! Since the postcards are probably going to keep coming. Interpret them differently.

It’s easy to say and so much more difficult to do but don’t get sucked in by the postcards. Change the meaning of the memory entirely. Since you can’t fix the past, learn from it or redefine it. What COULD that past pain mean that would be helpful to you today? Looking back on your memories of hell is counterproductive. And emotionally transporting yourself back there is worse. Yet there is probably big difference between now and the hell. At the barest of minimums, take stock in the fact that you’re not there anymore! Notice the turns that you took to get there and see if you can avoid revisiting. Pain can be instructive if we don’t just focus on the hurt. It came from somewhere and chances are we can avoid it next time. The postcards from hell aren’t particularly going to stop but that doesn’t mean they have to stop you!

Bon voyage!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Urgently Patient

As I’ve traveled through this life, I’ve been waiting for a lot of things: movie tickets, a job opportunity, a phone call, etc. I must admit that sometimes Tom Petty was right. The waiting truly is the hardest part. From time to time, I remember to hustle while I wait by thinking or doing other things while I wait. Sometimes the waiting is all that can be seen. Putting our lives on standby is such a human thing to do. As John Lennon put it “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s easy to get fixated on the things that we want for the future because it’s where we’re heading.

The present on the other hand is fleeting. By the time that you notice that it’s here, it’s gone. Yet it’s all the time we get. Much of it gets squandered in the waiting for what is next or longing for what has passed. Now is often the hardest place to live because it takes focus, discipline and urgency. That’s right, the present is an urgent circumstance that needs your attention NOW. Yet it requires a delicate hand because forcing the present to be more than it is creates an imbalance in perspective. While every moment is urgent, not every moment is of equal importance. So it is incumbent upon us to use the now that we have in order to prepare for the now that we want. It’s an odd idea to be urgently patient but it is all that we can do.

I’m not sure that anyone will ever get this perfectly right and I might very well be the worst at it. However I’ll endeavor to get better. Be urgent in my pursuit of the moments that are here while preparing for the moments that I want in the future. Spending as many nows as I can moving forward, possibly millimeters at a time. It may not be much but it is progress, however slight.

What are you waiting to hurry up for?


Blogpost, self-reliance

Arrows to the Action

It’s one of two songs that I would consider my “theme song”. Since it has been around longer, I tend to give it deference. It also is a great song to encounter on a playlist during a long run when you need a boost… but I digress. Although I’m sure there would be some who would disagree, I like to think it congruent with who I am as a person. Prone toward doing. While I view it as a positive, it’s not arrows to “right” action. Just action. Therefore mistakes are made, possibly more than my fair share. It’s a source of tension between me and…. myself! Despite the fact that I love my willingness to get my hands dirty, pitch in or step up, I end up with some egg on my face and that’s uncomfortable. No one wants to look the fool, especially when you have nothing but good intentions.

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that more than anything, I’m talking to myself and just hope it helps someone else through my publishing it. Much less than any other recent blog do I have any definitive thoughts than I’m just talking out loud. I want to continue to to do, to act, to say, to relate the things that I think are right. Yet the world often disagrees with me or the results aren’t what I would have hoped. Since we are always dealing with an incomplete data set, action is always a gamble. Yet it is necessary. Being paralyzed by the consequences is the true embarrassment. I’m never seeking poor results, just not afraid of them. My theme song isn’t Arrow to the Failure. Being raised catholic, the part of repentance that said “the things that I have left undone” always bothered me more than things I had done. At least the things that I had done, I knew the result and could feel badly about it or not. The things left undone were a variable, a floating possibility of results. At least if the action is out there, you know.

So despite the possible egg on the face, I think that I shall persist. “We are always over anxious…..We are arrows to the action, it never happens the way I think it should!” My only hope is that I get better with time in finding the right actions. I don’t want to mess any of this up but since I only get one shot at this, I might as well take it.

I’m amazed how perfectly we match today!”


Blogpost, self-reliance

Time Wasting

It’s a pretty typical thing in several sports but soccer is a most interesting example. The end of a close game creates the juxtaposition of the leading team trying to do all that they can to waste time, while the trailing team wants to maximize time. Despite the fact that this equation should be evident, all too often trailing teams act outside of their own self-interest. They inadvertently waste time due to their elevated emotion. An unnecessary foul, a ball kicked too far out of play, arguing with the referee, etc. These all represent actions outside of the trailing teams interest but they happen regularly. Leads are also given away for the opposite reason. A leading team doesn’t realize that time is on their side. The clock is running out and their advantage needs to be protected, not squandered.

The game of life has no definitive score card. The idea of leading or trailing is completely subjective. Time on the other hand is mostly subjective. My reason for saying mostly is that our perception of time varies despite it being a constant. Regardless of the subjectivity of the “score” of life, it is something that can be felt from time to time. Those moments when everything feels right with the world. We are coasting and time is not an issue. As opposed with soccer, we’d love for these periods to last as long as possible. Basking in the positive rewards of that fleeting moment. The reverse perspective is when nothing is going right and we just want it to end. Time cannot go quick enough and in all honesty we’d probably love to be able to fast forward to a better time. We’ve all gone through both. There is nothing overly unique about either situation other than the personal details. More times like these are on their way and less memorable ones as well. The only suggestion that I have is, don’t waste them!

Time wasting is a thing in soccer and other sports because it is a finite game. There is a result usually with a winner or loser. Life on the other hand is not meant to be won or lost, it’s meant to be lived! Each moment has value. Whether or not you value it is up to you! If you’re always looking forward to the next thing or longing for times past, you’re missing out on something. Be here now! Damnit! Didn’t want to quote Oasis but oh well. Your life is too precious to phone it in. So don’t engage in time wasting! Stop reading this blog and take in where you are, who you, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then decide if you’re time wasting or actually living that life that you want. Not every moment needs to be big but you should be a big part of every moment.

Can’t lament the wasted years anymore!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Getting Back on Track

For those of you who may never have seen one, the picture is a record. Many of us from the older generations are turning back to them as our preferred format for listening to music. There is a certain amount of romance, nostalgia and warmth that comes from listening to a record. The tradeoff is that since they are a “last century” technology, they are very delicate. They are prone to scratches, melting and breakage. Scratches (even little ones) can be maddening because the record will “skip” and play the same few seconds over and over again. I’m not sure when the phrase “broken record” will fade away or if it already has but that’s the idea. Broken records get stuck in a pattern and seemingly can’t get out of it. Old technology needs human intervention to get “back on track” but what about us?

Records can come in a variety of colors!

The first step is recognizing the “skip.” With a record player, it’s easy to hear because the same message gets replayed over and over extremely quickly. It’s annoying! However with people it is far less pervasive. The repeating pattern of complaining about your job, boss, spouse, situation, etc. comes much less frequently. So it doesn’t truly feel like a negative pattern. It’s not the frequency. It’s the consistency. Patterns get myelinated in the human brain and it makes them happen more readily and easily. This is great for positive habits and thought processes but a negative thought loop can have a detrimental effect on your day consistently.

Once you know that the “skip” is there, you need to interrupt the pattern. With a record, this may mean just skipping the song with the scratch. For a human, it’s slightly more tricky. It requires recognizing the triggers and setting a new pattern of thought or action. The record metaphor doesn’t work great here and with train tracks a hole would just be repaired. Neural pathways don’t work like that! A new train track would need to be laid to detour the train before reaching the spot of “bad track”. Inefficient for trains, necessary for humans. Rerouting your thoughts before the skip is the way to getting back on track.

The final piece is playing new music. The human mind does not deal well with a vacuum. An old pattern needs to be replaced with a new one. So create a new track to follow instead of the negative skip. It’s going to take time and effort. The skip is an ingrained pattern that will not disappear on its own. It needs to be overpowered by the new pattern. So make the new track a “hit.”

As I said above, records are old technology. So they need to be treated with care. Our minds are much older technology and they were not designed to make us happy. They were designed to keep us alive. Focusing on threats and fears made sense at one point. It still has its place but there is so much more to be excited about than fearful of. Don’t keep playing that broken record! Start playing a new track! A better life awaits and you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it! I guess not all broken records are bad.

Get back on track!


Blogpost, self-reliance

The Role of a Lifetime!

I got it! Most people would view it as a secondary or even tertiary role but it fits me down to the core! Despite being characterized as an “everyman,” he has depth. The writer throws so many plot twists at him that I’m not sure if the work is a drama or a comedy. Regardless, I couldn’t be more excited. If I’m being honest, I didn’t always love the idea of playing this role but it has grown on me. Anything would after almost forty-seven years. I’m not playing the milkman, Howie Newsome, in my school’s production of Our Town. It’s me. The role that I get to play to the best of my ability is Pete Huryk.

While the role itself is exciting, the working conditions are difficult. There’s no dress rehearsal. Everyone’s lines are ad-libbed. Many of my favorite characters have left the production for one reason or another. As I sit here writing, I’m a little worried that pesky writer has more plot twists coming my way that I never seem to anticipate. Regardless, I love it! Out of all of the parts in the world, this is the one that I want to be playing.

Full disclosure, I don’t always feel like this. There are days when I’m not happy about it. The situations that I encounter are less than favorable and my co-stars don’t feel like they’re on the same page. For whatever reason, today was a great example of acting like Pete to the best of my ability felt amazing. Tomorrow I’m going to try to do the same, if you could make the matinee that would be awesome! Regardless of whether there’s an audience or not, I try to stay in character…method acting, you know!

I’m sorry if I’m the first one to tell you that you’re not getting another part in this play that we call life. Billy Shakes is not penning perfection for you from the other side. This is who you are and your job is to develop that character as best as you can. It won’t always be easy and you won’t always want to do it. But you have no choice, the show must go on and we need you in it. Not just “in it” but “IN IT.” We need the performance of a lifetime to match the role of a lifetime that you were given. Because for better or worse, the lifetime that I’m talking about is yours or mine. It’s all we get. No dress rehearsal. No understudies. It’s just you and the revolving globe theater!

The curtain is already up!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Take the Compliment!

This just came in today. USA Triathlon just let me know that I qualified for Nationals. I have to admit that I laughed when I saw it. This past January I took on triathlons as my preferred exercise regiment because it gave me two things that I needed. First, there was a competition component to it. Second, it took a lot of pressure off of my knees because two thirds of the training is non-impact. I’m not a triathlete! I’m basically a guy who wanted to get fit again and needed a better way to do it. Many months later, I’ve competed in four triathlons (sprint distance) and qualified for Nationals. My initial reaction is to discount it!

This may be a ME problem but I doubt it. The dismissal of my own accomplishments is so easy to do because they’re mine. I know exactly how hard I worked but I also know who I am. Behind these blogposts is a flawed human being just like everyone else. I oversleep at times. I overeat at times. I procrastinate. I leave goals and projects undone. And I know that I could do better with every single facet of my life. So I deserve no credit! WHOA! Hold your horses there! No credit? Not even a little? That seems pretty extreme! It is but that’s the way that I tend to think and it’s probably counterproductive.

The problem that I and others out there have is one of the self. Adding me to the equation reduces the accomplishment slightly. Hogwash! The accomplishment exists as an objective thing. If it were someone else who had done it, I would be giving them a high five or a pat on the back. Why not give myself the same? Am I going to reduce my drive? Or rest on my laurels? Probably not. More than likely it will just feel good for a bit and I’ll move on. No ticker tape parade. Just a bit of serotonin!

Although I doubt very heavily that I’ll go to Nationals, I’m going to take the compliment. It may just be a ploy to get some more money from me but I also worked pretty hard to get in shape. Feeling good about that should be completely acceptable.

Plaudits and congratulations are not just for other people! You should be able to take them too. Remember that the next time that you deflect warranted praise. Don’t get an ego. Don’t overindulge but feel good for the moment. Then step up for the next challenge.

Great job!


Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

It Doesn’t Belong to You!

Many times I’ve spoken about the overlaps between soccer and life. There are so many that I’m not sure that I even notice all of them. I doubt very heavily that the inventors of the game did much of it on purpose. They were not intending to create a game that would be almost universally loved. It just happened. However, I believe wholeheartedly that the similarities between soccer and life are the reason for its world dominance. People embrace it because it feels like home to a certain extent and they see themselves reflected back. One of the key components to the game is the idea of possession. Other than the “six seconds” that goalkeeper holds the ball after a save, the ball can never be truly possessed by anyone. The ball doesn’t belong to anyone and if you want to keep it, you’ll have to work for it.

The metaphor of “half possession” could be used for so many things: fitness, relationships, intelligence, money, attention, time, etc. Therefore it’s probably best to deal with the concept rather than the application to one single facet. We don’t own anything! That’s a tough pill to swallow but take a moment to consider anything that you “own” and you’re just renting, leasing or borrowing it. The closest thing that you have to a true possession is your mind but you probably lend that to other people more than you’d like, just like me. Everything is a half possession that you must work to maintain. People will try to steal them from you. Time will erode them away if not counteracted. You will get distracted by other half possessions and let ones go into disappearance or disrepair. Whether entropy or larceny, it’s all going away at some point. This is one of the best things about being human! WAIT! WHAT? How is the fact that I don’t truly own anything a positive? Because you get to choose!

You get to choose the things that you’re going to fight for! Nothing is a given. If you want something to stick around, you need to focus on the steps in order to make that happen. It’s not a foregone conclusion that anything that you have will be here tomorrow. It also makes gratitude a necessity on the level of breathing. Being thankful for the things that you have now is crucial because their presence is only certain for the present.

The best players in the world are maestros with the ball. They make it bend to their will because they have intention and focus. As you go throughout your day, DECIDE regularly what you want to hold onto. It doesn’t belong to you but you can do your best to keep it around for a little while! Respect the half possession that you have on everything in your life. Otherwise you’ll be lamenting all of the things that you’ve lost in the end. It doesn’t belong to you but maybe the fact that it doesn’t will make you care just that little bit more!

Hold on!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Leap Into the Void

The photo is a brilliant piece of art by Yves Klein called “Leap into the Void.” By today’s standard the piece is not overly impressive. It could probably be photoshopped into existence by a ten year old with little effort. At the time that it was produced, it was revolutionary. It required vision and a willingness to try something new and different. The result is both a beautiful piece of art that doubles as a message and a gateway forward for the medium of photography. The “Leap Into the Void” represents a salto mortale. For those of us not fluent in Italian, including me, it means deadly jump or fateful/dangerous decision. Yves Klein was not hurt in the making of this photo. There were mattresses below when he jumped and a double exposure was used to remove them from the final piece. So his leap into the void was a safe one.

Leap Into The Void by Yves Klein

Our every day walking and running usually have one or both feet on the ground or not very far off. Leaping is not something that we’re asked to do very often. So it is uncomfortable to say the least and terrifying when the stakes are high. Leaps into the void don’t usually feel safe. There is not always padding below, literal or figurative. When we leap into the void, it usually comes with few assurances. It is just necessary to get to that place that is beyond the reach of a normal step. That is why we avoid them. They are beyond our comfort zone and the prospect of pain and injury looms very close. Often the leaps are not physical but mental or emotional. Especially when dealing with other people, we need to put ourselves out into the void because no one can read our thoughts. Saying the thing that’s inside of your head can be scary. The other person might not understand or be ready to hear it.

It’s definitely easier to play it safe. Keep your literal or figurative feet on the ground! It’s practical and predictable. No one will ever judge you because you were being sensible. You’re also going to miss out on so much of the experience that is just beyond that comfort zone. This is not a license to throw all caution to the wind. Far from it! Be discerning, leaping into every void will leave you bruised battered and eventually very disillusioned. However there are going to come those opportunities where the leap is warranted. The risk of the pain is worth it because the moment or circumstance is special. Unfortunately most of us are so used to our normal steps and hops that we’re not ready to leap when the time comes.

So my hope for you today is that you’re at least willing to consider taking leaps in the future and be ready when they come. Say it! Do it! Whatever IT is. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there when it feels right because that’s what living is all about. Our daily routines and safe spaces are a great form of padding for us to fall back on. However it is the leaps into the void that remind us that we are truly alive. To take a chance and not know is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. It is not for the faint of heart! The sure thing is so much easier to justify. Leaping leaves you open to looking the fool and getting hurt. Why risk it? Because it might be worth it!

Fly you fools!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Sweet and Sour

In all honesty, I’m not sure how popular the band Firefall were in the grand scheme of things. My father listened to them regularly when I was a kid, so they are well on my radar. As I sit here listening to my record player, the song “Sweet and Sour” is playing. It’s a tune about a relationship that has gone from the former to the latter. This is easy fodder for a song because it is the human experience. People actually order it regularly at a Chinese restaurant. The juxtaposition of extremes brings flavor to our lives. Often we hope for all of our experiences to be “sweet” but that’s an unrealistic expectation. Even if it were to occur, too much of even a good thing can get boring. Since the sour moments are coming our way from time to time, is it possible to “enjoy” them?

It’s a difficult question that’s worth considering. Perhaps, the ability to enjoy the sour moment comes too close to denial. Maybe the idea is not to enjoy it but recognize its value. The stiff spoon full of medicine that may be tough to swallow but will leave you in a better spot later. That recognition is so simple for the medicine but so difficult for trying times that we encounter. Often too much sour can make people bitter. As if the sweet is never coming back and there’s nothing that they can do about it. It’s an easy assumption to make when the sour is pervasive. There are two things that we all need to remember.

First, this too shall pass! Nothing lasts forever, even bad times. It’s easy to forget this in the extremes but it always proves itself again. Whether going through the toughest times or the best, they are going to come to an end at some point. This moment has something to offer you. Perhaps it isn’t what you were looking for but it has gifts to give you.

Second, you may not have control over your taste buds but you do control your perspective. It’s easy to think that the sour is all that there is. If we focus on it, then that truly is the reality that we experience. Focus on the most minuscule sour portion of your life and you can make it your everything. The reverse is also true. Our focus is our reality! And just like the dish at the Chinese restaurant, there is always some of each. It just may not be as obvious as you’d like.

As you go through your day, the world is going to offer all kinds of flavors up to you. Savor those sweet moment! Just recognize that the sours have their place and make the sweet that much better!