Blogpost, self-reliance

Ticks and Leeches

Spring has definitively sprung and the ticks are everywhere! In the past twenty-four hours alone, I’ve removed six from my body. Despite the fact that they are my jumping off point for this post, it is actually the song by Tool that is the inspiration. Even though the song is about people who are parasites, the line “this is what you wanted” is overwhelmingly powerful at the moment. How many times in life do we think that we want something? Only to end up getting exactly what we asked for and being disappointed, frustrated or angry. It’s obviously happened to enough people that it’s now cliche, “be careful what you wish for.” It’s usually not the full package that we lament but rather the unexpected side-effects or difficulties.

Life offers up a myriad of possibilities but each of them comes with costs, circumstances or even problems attached. Like ticks and leeches, these parasites that we didn’t anticipate can drain us. We forget about that thing that we wanted and only see the difficulties when we notice them hanging on. It’s not easy! Our imaginations don’t usually include all of the issues that are coming along for the ride. Regardless though, this is what you wanted! You don’t get to line item veto out all the unwanted circumstances. They’re along for the ride!

So now the time has come to accept the fact that, this is what you wanted! You wanted all of it! Ticks, leeches, problems, chaos and anything else because it can’t be separated out. Your desire for a perfect life has nothing to do with reality. That’s just not the way that it works. Perhaps you can find a way to get the parasites to work for you or even learn to love them for what they do. It’s a major shift in thought process but it’s far better than being disappointed with a reality that should be expected.

This is what you had in mind! So this is what you’re getting!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

If I’d Only Known

One of the best job interviews that I ever went on was for a position that I didn’t know anything about. Before you judge me too harshly, this was about twenty years ago. At the time, I don’t even think I had a cellphone and the world was very different. I wanted to get out of teaching for a variety of reasons but didn’t have any strong convictions about where my career should go next. My friend Matt’s father was pretty high up at the New Jersey Department of Transit. Matt told me that his dad could get me an interview for something entry level. One day I got a call from the NJDOT that I had an interview scheduled for the next week. I tried many times to call Matt, got the answering machine. On the day of the interview, I walked into a high rise building in Newark, NJ and took the elevator up to the twelfth floor with no idea what job I was interviewing for. As I walked into the conference room faced with a conference table and four professional people staring at me, I debated intently what I should say. In true Pete Huryk form, I told the truth. I had no idea what job I was interviewing for. For the next forty-five minutes, I had a great conversation with the people who were not as upset as I’d have expected them to be. The people part of the process went pretty well. Afterward, I had to take a written examination of traffic code and writing accident reports. It turns out the job was being a field agent who would go to accident sites of NJDOT vehicles to assess the state’s liability. A week later, Matt called me. He and his dad had been on vacation. I didn’t get the job and I’m pretty sure that I’m fine with that.

Recently, I got into another situation where I had no idea what was going on. The problem this time around was that I thought I did. I saw the situation through my own lens and basically said every wrong thing and made every wrong move. My naïveté was not endearing this time around. It just took an opportunity off the table. Perhaps it wasn’t anything worth pursuing or maybe it was. When you’re in the middle of a wooden court with a hoop at each end, showing off your foot skills isn’t getting you anywhere! It’s important to know what type of game you’re in.

The world/people/situations are not always going to give you all of the information. Filling in the blanks with your own agenda isn’t always the best strategy. Opportunities will come and go. Some are completely right for you. Others are completely wrong. The rest are possibilities that need more attention. Believe in yourself enough to know that you can do almost anything but that doesn’t mean that you should try to do everything. Many opportunities are meant to be left behind regardless of how good they may look on paper. As I tell my students often, “you are the product”. So do and be the things that make you the best version of yourself. That job at NJDOT was perfect for someone, just not me.

There’s opportunities everywhere. Find the ones that are for you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Keep Rollin’!

It is one of the most ridiculous but still extremely cool (in my own head) memories from my twenties. I had just bought my first new car! Later that week, I had an appointment to put a six disk CD changer into the trunk. However at that very moment, all I had was the car’s cassette player to blast music. Another problem was that I hadn’t planned ahead with the perfect “New Car Mixtape”. With limited options, I went into Walmart in Newton, NJ and picked up the Limp Bizkit album with the song “Rollin'” on it. So there I was in my green FOUR DOOR Honda Civic with the censored version of Rollin’ playing at full blast. I was boppin’ my head like I was the coolest person on the planet. My guess is that at least one or two people heard me coming, took a look and thought “what a f’ing idiot?” That scene is probably less ridiculous than me bopping my head to the same song walking down a nature path with joggers and mom’s with strollers walking by. My twenty something self had the excuse of youth. What’s my forty-six year old excuse? I don’t need one!

Yep! I was a guy in my 20’s with a 4 door car because I was planning ahead! SMH 🙂

Those “new car smell” moments don’t come along often. There’s often a long time between the standout memories of our lives. Some of them we don’t see coming and others are so scripted and planned out, they might even lose their luster. The imperfections of that day actually make it that much better in my mind. If I had done it all perfectly, then it might not have stuck in the same way. All of the ridiculousness of my actions made it mine and I didn’t really care what onlookers thought. Isn’t that what the best moments are like? When you don’t give f%$# what anyone else thinks because this one is important to you.

Thousands of filtered pictures, perfect poses and choreographed photos are nothing compared to that moment when you actually feel alive. Where you know exactly who you are and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. From the outside it may look like a dumpster fire next to a manure pile but who cares? If you are being yourself in the moment and people don’t fully get it, that’s fine! Keep rollin’! More than likely, the people who are looking at you with shock and horror aren’t your people anyway. The way you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself is extremely important. I know for my own part, I’m going to keep going after those authentic moments. Even if I do sometimes “look like a fool.”

Alright partner! Keep on rollin’ baby!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and the Archer Must Bend

Archery is largely a lost art form. At one point, it was a staple of combat and a desired practical skill. Now it is largely relegated to a summer camp activity or something hunters do to “challenge” themselves. Although anyone could pick up a bow and arrow, very few people do. The skill is not as useful as it was and it’s not easy! The bow does not do all of the work. It is a force multiplier for sure but the archer needs to put everything in motion first. They must pull back against the tension and aim precisely at a target before allowing the arrow to fly! All of the power comes from the tension of the bow but the archer must bend as well.

Occasional interaction with a child is one of the best ways to see the changes in people. They morph into different versions of themselves over time. If you see them infrequently, the metamorphosis is obvious but they do not notice. We are in a constant state of flux. You are not the person that you were yesterday or even five minutes ago. How much of a difference there is between each version is up to you. No doubt the change that can happen in five minutes is minuscule regardless of the tension. However multiplied over time, any consistent action “bends” us. Like a tree in an area with constant wind, we begin to lean in a particular direction. There are all kinds of leanings that we can take but the person who bends often doesn’t notice the changes.

Life changes almost never come as fast as we may want. Rarely are we shot like an arrow toward our “targets”. Over time, the tension that we create brings slow results followed by bigger ones. The concentrated effort for an extended time period becomes a force multiplier. We are all bending in every moment. The question becomes whether or not we’re bending toward something with reason or if we are simply bending to the circumstances of our lives. Use the tension between where you are and where you want to be in order to fire yourself forward. Nothing and no one can do it for you. It’s on you to bend!

We are arrows to the action!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

What Are You Waiting For?!?!

“Just Do It” is the slogan from Nike shoes that most people know. The origin of the slogan is less well known. It was the final words of a death row convict before he was executed. Although the phrase has been on billboards and advertisements for decades, it’s not that simple! Is it? Doing anything takes a bit of will. That will can falter depending on what’s at stake. Everyday activities or actions of low consequence are easy! But what about the things that really matter? JUST do it! has two different perspectives depending on where the phrase is coming from. If it comes from outside, it seems to imply simplicity as if doing it is no big deal. Unfortunately when that voice comes inside of our own head, it tends to carry a different tone. One of pressure, possibly even anxiety because we know we’re capable and the only thing that’s stopping us is us!

The actions necessary to garner the prizes that we want in this life are usually not a surprise. We know exactly what we need to do or at least have a good idea. It’s also more than likely that we can estimate our possibility of success. So why do we hedge, delay, or even doubt? Because our present comfort is easier to accept than the consequences of leaping into the void! Unfortunately, humans can get comfortable with all manner of things. Certainty is the drug of choice for many people. It’s why watching the same movie over and over is a thing. The predictable outcome is intoxicating! It’s also less than fulfilling. It leaves us asking the question “what if?” That question is not an easy one to swallow because it conjures images of what might have been. At that point, the comfort of the known become less desirable. It’s an ache that is not easily soothed.

So what is there to do? Just do it! You know all of the reasons and the possibilities. What are you waiting for? At no point are the things that really matter going to show up without a price tag! There will always be something at stake. Possibly a bit of comfort, some effort or yes! Even a bit of your old picture of yourself. You cannot expect to get better things into your life while remaining the same. It just isn’t realistic. So let’s you and I agree right now that tomorrow we’re all in! Just do it! Because I can’t see any of the reasons not to but I can absolutely see why it’s necessary!

I’ve been afraid of changing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A House Money Life

Not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before but I almost died when I was two and a half. I had meningitis and it was less than certain whether or not I’d make it. The only recollection that I have of the entire ordeal was the action figures that I got in the hospital. However it is not lost on me that I received much more than cheap toys through that ordeal. And quick shout out to Dr. Chi who was my physician. Almost anyone who grew up in the Hackettstown area went to Dr. Chi. Regardless, I got a second chance at life. I’m playing with house money and I know it!

There are several different ways to view playing with house money. It could be a time to be frivolous because it’s “on someone else’s dime.” Bet on long odds and throw caution to the wind! While this could be a way to approach the situation, exhausting house money ASAP doesn’t prove anything. The other extreme is to become extremely conservative and fear chancing anything. “Almost went bust in the past” could be a reason to never risk again. While I can understand the sentiment, the past does not equal the future. So hiding from possibility because of a near miss is just foolish.

My preference is to look at the entire equation differently. We’re all playing with house money and the house gave it to us! Therefore it’s ours! We can go optimistic or pessimistic with our bets but the wins and losses end up on our account. The house is not going to bankroll us forever. Regardless of how much or how little we were given at the beginning, we need to play it for all that it’s worth. We’re lucky just to be here, no doubt! Whether Dr. Chi saved your life or you’ve never had a sniffle, cough or fever; today is about all that you can expect. So do something with it! Build a huge pot if you like, or always play on the edge because that’s where the joy of life is for you. Just play! Ante up in the morning and see what you’re dealt. It’s not about luck! It’s a skill game!

“I’m just going to outplay the guy this hand!”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A Simple Souvenir

Whether it is an “I love NYC” t-shirt or a particular shell picked up off the beach during a family getaway, humans seem to be almost preprogrammed for the collection of souvenirs. Our memories are weak and without some tangible link to the physical world, they tend to fade. Unfortunately the mass production of souvenirs doesn’t particular make our memories stronger, it actually dilutes the keepsakes like a form mental inflation. When we take a photo of every moment and everyone has the same souvenir that you do, it takes away the reason behind picking up those artifacts in the first place. Our minds may not know what’s truly special when we have so many pictures and trinkets.

My box of memories. It was originally an 8 track cassette holder. Yep! I’m THAT cool!

It’s not an easy thing to decipher what moments are going to be really important. A baseball cap doesn’t appear out of thin air when you meet your best friend for the first time, although I’m sure someone somewhere is working on it. We sometimes have no indication whatsoever that a moment is going to change us forever. So we have nothing to carry with us. The reverse is also true that utterly meaningless events have gotten reinforced either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s not a perfect system and if we just go with the flow, McDonalds and Instagram are going to own the lion’s share of who we think we are.

I used to be so much more deliberate about collecting memories. For decades, I’ve had a box with pictures, cards and keepsakes. Some of it is trash at this point because the memories represented by the items weren’t worth keeping. However, some of them are simple and priceless. The shell that reminds me of a friend who has stood the test of time despite distance and turmoil. Ribbons from events that proved my friend’s theory that being “aggressively mediocre” can get you to the cusp of being great! Others that I won’t mention because it’s just too much.

The question that we may want to ask ourselves is two-fold. Do I have any simple souvenirs that can instantly bring me to the verge of tears? The second question is: If not, did I truly live? The items are far less important than the memories. So if you’ve got a storage unit full of items and your heart is empty, then I’d say you’re out of balance. However, if you have recollections of people, places and events that leave you in awe of the past, then maybe you don’t need the t-shirt!

A simple souvenir

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The “Do Over”

Considering the reduced amount of free play with kids today, I’m not sure if it exist but in our playground games there was sometimes reasons for a “do over”. Some of them were legitimate but more often it was a way for someone to cover up their own error. It’s exactly the type of thing that you would expect kids to invent. Kicking, hitting, throwing a ball or doing some other activity is often difficult for young kids. Having to worry about other added variables creates less chance for success. So they give the kids (especially younger and less experienced ones) another chance. Other than policing abuse, having the do over built into a game can make for a better experience.

The do over rarely exists in adult life because we know that even a repeated attempt is a new experience. Our world is also not built upon “being fair” or people’s feelings. Life’s not fair, GET USED TO IT! It may not feel good but it’s usually true. We need to take opportunities when they are given to us and live with the results. That’s the place where an adult do over might be helpful.

Generally when results don’t go our way in the adult world, we tend to beat ourselves up about all of the places that we went wrong. This tends to be a downward spiral that is neither productive nor good for the self-esteem/self-confidence. What if we took the time to give ourselves a “do over”? A mental repeat but changing actions until a more favorable outcome came our way. “Where did it go wrong?” and “How could I have gotten it right?” are much more valuable questions than repeating “I’m such a f%$#ing idiot” 43,265 times. Perhaps in the ashes of that colossal dumpster fire, you’ll find some diamonds that are worth picking up and carrying forward!

No one’s going to give you a do over. You need to create it!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Skip the Details

The band Knapsack’s album “This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now” lingers as one of my favorites. With one of my theme songs “Arrows to the Action” as a major reason for it to stay relevant in my listening preferences, the entire record is strong from start to finish. There is no title track though. In the song, “Skip the Details” Blair Sheehan belts out the album’s title. It’s a phrase that doesn’t need to be said. Just stop talking and walk away. Done!

Often in our desire for significance, we do far more than is necessary. We get into the minutia and draw other people in too. It’s not necessary nor relevant but it makes us feel better because we have reasons. There are reasons why we did this or didn’t do that and we need to explain because otherwise we’re just left with results.

“You’re blowing your chance
You’re slow at the start
Showing your hand, you’re falling apart
And this argument is getting confused”

None of us wants to come up short, especially in areas that matter to us. Although the devil may be hiding in the details, most of the formula for success comes down to big ticket items: showing up consistently, not losing your head, keeping focus on what you want rather than all of the reason that you might not get it. Skip the details until they’re necessary. The key component to a rock solid house is never the curtains! It’s the foundation.

This conversation is ending starting right now, so you can get back to work on that really important thing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Against All Odds

My affinity toward the character, Han Solo, has been mentioned more than a handful of times before. The man who has admonished a well meaning robot to “never tell me the odds”. Is it foolishness or a desire to keep doubt completely out of his focus? I’d like to believe that it’s the latter. The odds are there but he is the crucial factor in the equation. In the oddest left turn of 80s movie/music, I’m going to juxtapose the swashbuckler’s attitude with the song by Phil Collins from a movie that I’ve never seen, “Against All Odds”. I suppose that I should watch the movie at some point but the song and accompanying video depict a man waiting out a lost love “against all odds”. It’s a heart-wrenching description to say the least and the pain is probably Phil’s point. The odds being against something so longed for is a feeling that most of us can relate to on some level. Yet the ultimate in self-confidence is not. Although these seem to almost exist at opposite ends of the spectrum, I think there is validity and power in both.

People love the lottery because it is long odds with low commitment and high reward. It’s a completely acceptable gamble that doesn’t come with any real consequences. The rewards that each of us are after will be based on personal preference. Although not always true, the odds of success are often linked to the reward. So the main variable is commitment. How much of ourselves are we willing to commit to any particular endeavor? The chances of success go up exponentially in situations when we are “all in” and I believe that’s where Han Solo gets his allure. Especially as he continues down his path and is not “in it for the money”. Full commitment and action toward the reward regardless of what comes his way. The other end of the spectrum also has its own beauty. Recognizing all of the ways to lose and be hurt but going anyway. This is not a cry for a defeatist attitude but rather a sizing up of the obstacle and deciding, THIS IS WORTH IT.

Our predisposition should never be to risk everything in every moment. However I feel like at times, we’ve become too conservative and think of ourselves as too “smart”. We can read the situation and analyze the risk/reward. Therefore we do not push forward because the outcome is against the odds. While this attitude will keep you safe, it may not allow you to feel fully alive. There will be these things lingering out there in the ether that you could have gone for but didn’t. Whether you are as self-assured as Han Solo or running headlong into a losing situation fully knowing the odds, I think we need to take those chances from time to time. Our job in life is not to see how comfortable we can become but rather see what we can create with this life that we were given. Perhaps you’ll look the fool at times but that is part of the price of being fully alive.

“Never tell me the odds!” May the 4th be with you!

Pete