At a certain point too much of something becomes its opposite. The drug that could save your life becomes poison. Too much time and attention from a significant other, no longer feels warm and fuzzy, it feels weird and creepy. The key to keeping this from happening is to keep from overdosing on something. At the moment, if I’m being honest, I’m LIKED out.
Growing up in the ’80s and the “Vally Girl” movement, you would have thought that it would have happened earlier. However it is only recently that the word like has become so pervasive that it feels like its opposite. No longer do I want to ‘like’ anything because it feels meaningless, a throw away compliment because it’s time to move onto the next thing. Perhaps it is time to dismiss the notion of ‘liking’ every thing that you like and only ‘like’ the things that you love. By putting this plan into action, it reduces the number of ‘likes’ to go around. Only the truly special will be donned with this moniker.
In life our most precious resource is our time. If all we do is like the time that we spend on this earth, then maybe we should hold out for more loves rather than drowning in likes. They might take some more effort to find but at least everything won’t feel like different flavors of vanilla.
It’s extremely easy to get caught up in your own narrative. Look at it as if it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. History is often told from only one perspective. The English probably don’t spend much time on the Battle of Bunker Hill in their history books. However there are always at least two sides to the story, if not more. It is difficult to avoid getting caught up in one narrative because we experience the world from only one perspective. No matter how difficult it may be to remember, it is key to relationships to understand that people are fighting a battle that you probably don’t understand.
The convenient thing about history is that there is too much of it to uncover every single situation and devote pages in books, areas of museums or time in documentaries. So historians must edit history to fit a narrative about a nation, people or group. We do the same things in our minds but our editing faculty can be skewed by emotion. We are rarely objective about the importance of the moments of our lives. So it stands to reason that we would have even more trouble being objective about someone else’s experience or stepping into their subjective experience and the emotion that goes with it.
So it is in all of our best interest to see the people around us as fellow soldiers. We are all in a fight of some sort. Although we may think we have a front row seat to the battle that other people are fighting, there is a layer that we cannot cross without letting go of our own struggle to reach out with understanding. Recognizing that we have common ground as soldiers but separated by a distance that cannot be measured in miles. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting “The Great War”, every battle matters most to the ones who are in it.
It has been said many times that soccer is a “religion”. While this may be taken as an exaggeration or possibly a slight against religion, there is reason to take the claim with a certain amount of seriousness. Although the sport does not call for the fealty to a superhuman controlling power, it could be considered a form of faith and worship. Routinely throughout the year, people flock by the thousands to sport cathedrals to have their faith tested by the team of their choosing. Much like a religion, an individual must decide to keep believing in the face of conflict. Although the teams, managers and players are the facilitators, it is actually the mass’s belief in the sport itself that makes it most like a religion.
The belief structure of soccer is not something that is written in a holy book but there are some universals that are worth mentioning as they relate heavily to life.
You’re never fully in control. Although the ball can be “possessed” by anyone on the field, that possession is tenuous at best. Even the goalkeeper has a time limit on their ability to hold the ball.
Progress and protection must be balanced. Even the most forward thinking teams recognize the need for a form of balance. Those who do not recognize the need for balance pay the price eventually.
No one can stand alone. Even the best players in history needed a supporting cast in order to be successful. Much like life, the individual is part of a larger whole and therefore is dependent on others.
There are many ways to meet your aims. Style of play, formations, personnel and other components are merely ingredients to an eventual product. The path does not always follow the plan or the map but actually doing is the key.
The tools may be finite but the possibilities are infinite. Each player has a finite number of tools to use but their ability to respond to the situation with those tools is what brings people back repeatedly.
These are not commandments or any form of religious doctrine but rather a few ideas that are inherent to the game. It is because of these ideas and many more that the game of soccer is so universally beloved. It mirrors life in so many ways that the people who love it may not even realize the overlaps. The game encapsulates in ninety minutes (or thereabouts) the struggle of what it means to be alive. Collectively and individually we are all caught in a struggle and the game is an available guidepost to help us along the road.
Things were different before the internet. There’s just no denying it. I told a group of young people recently about how we used to caravan to soccer games. Most of the group of parents would meet at a predetermined spot and follow each other to the location of the game. It may seem ridiculous by the modern day standard. Ten cars following each other down the highway to reach a youth soccer game. That was just how things were done. The positive side was that we combined cars a lot. People would ride together. One of my best friends from that time came from the fact that his mother didn’t like to drive on highways. So he and his mother would ride with us. So even though it’s not how we do it now, it had its virtues.
The convenience of the GPS has made for less people getting lost but we’ve lost our sense of people. The chance to become part of a clan that travels together has dwindled. We are a species that has historically worked together in order to reach our greatest heights. Will we find the convenience to be a consolation for traveling alone on the road? It’s not particularly how fast we get there. It is a question of whether or not we got there well. Bringing people together is a key to our survival. Let’s find ourselves by coming together.
Growing up playing soccer in the 1980’s was kind of like the Wild West. Not everyone fully understood the rules. Cultural norms were not fully established or recognized. Those players/teams who had a parent or relative who understood the game were an anomaly and an advantage. The first unwritten rule that I learned was “if you wore white cleats, you’d better be the best player on your team or even the field”. I learned this by accident because I wore white cleats for a season when I was young. They weren’t my choice. My mother bought what was cheap and these were definitely cheap! Either Patrick or Wilson, I don’t even recall. If anyone can tell by looking at the photo please put it in the comments below. Regardless of the brand, my attire sent off conflicting messages to people who understood. The color of my cleats sent the message, “I’m the best”. The fact that they were cheap said, “I don’t have the best tools (either through poverty or ignorance)”. My play sent the message “I don’t realize that I’m sending any messages!”
Ignorance and youth go hand in hand. Lack of experience is part of life. We pick up little pieces of information along the way that help us, mold us and allow us to move into a bigger world. It was plain to see that I was not sending a message with my cleats. They were simply a means to an end. I’ve never worn white (or colorful) cleats again. My skills don’t support them. Even though that cultural norm has changed, I still subscribe to it.
So what messages are you sending to the world on a regular basis? The cultural markers are different for all walks of life. Whether it is the clothes that you wear, your hair style, your walk, or your smile; you are sending messages for sure. But are they deliberate or clear? This is not a post about conformity. By all means, buck the cultural norms of the majority. Rather it is about the subtle clues that you are giving to people about who you are. Perhaps the message you want to send is “I don’t care what you think about me.” And it is expressed with your clothes, hair, shoes, facial expressions and language patterns. That’s completely fine! However if you’re sending that message but want to be accepted by everyone then you’ve set yourself up for a losing battle. The key is alignment.
You need to align the message that you are sending with the one that you want people to receive. The first thing that you must do is DECIDE. Decide on the message that you want people to get about you. Keep it simple though. No matter how deliberate you are about the signals that you send, no one is going to fully understand the complexities of you at first glance. So lead with something. Once you know what signal you want to send. See if people are getting it. Go to the people that you trust to tell you the truth and ask. If you’re off the mark, it is up to you to adjust or accept that you’re not sending the right message. The world is not obligated to understand you.
At this point, you will need to do a lot of observation. Are you getting the results that you’re looking for? Do people seem to be getting the signal that you’re sending? This will probably be easier to read from people that you do not know well. Those who know you well will take time to adjust to a new version of you. If you’ve been a downer in the past, smiling more will tell those people that you see every day “she’s happy today” not “she’s a happy person”. Changing long held perceptions will take time, effort and consistency.
So as you go out into your day. Recognize that you’re sending signals. You can keep sending the ones that you always have or change it up. That’s completely up to you. It just helps to have people receive the message that you want to send. Those white cleats might be holding you back from opportunities that you don’t even realize!
It’s actually quite amazing when you think about it. The fact that pessimism can even exist in a world where we have achieved so much. The internet, space travel, self-driving cars and a myriad of other examples should really give us hope that anything is possible. In a short span of time, we’ve gone from living a relatively meager existence to bending the world to a place of our own design. I recognize fully that not all of the progress come without cost. However even the problems that we have created are well within our scope to solve. The problem is one of vision.
In many ways we hang onto the ways of our ancestors. Some of those traditions and habits have value that justifies their persistence. However there are many that are anchors to our progress: both personally and societally. The one in particular that I am thinking of at the moment is our vision.
The phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it” seems to encapsulate the way that many people, with whom I deal daily, view the world. Their belief, effort, support, etc. are completely dependent on proof positive before they will take the leap. Unfortunately that level of conservatism will only ever produce the same results to which we are accustomed. The realm of possibility encompasses far more than we can imagine. So in order to get where we truly want to go, “I’ll see it when I believe it” is the mantra of the day. This may seem like semantic double talk but it truly is the way forward. Human beings lead with belief. Too many of us are being held back by our need for the world to give us proof before we are willing to leap. Absolutely! Put on a helmet if necessary! But most of us are not afraid of the moon shots, we’re afraid to be disappointed, to try, to give everything we’ve got! The unfortunate thing about this is that although we’re not dead, we’re not fully alive either. We live in a time when anything is possible but exist day to day only in what is probable. Our vision for the future should not look exactly like the past.
It is graduation season! Whether high school or college or even pre-school, millions of students will be walking forward to receive their diplomas. This tradition has carried on for centuries and will probably continue into the foreseeable future. The act of public recognition of achievement is extremely important. It releases a cascade of chemicals into our systems that act as a reward/marker for the accomplishment. Our feelings are what drive us to do almost everything in our lives. So the event is important but what about the paper? What does it say or not say about us as individuals?
The things, that a diploma is, are numerous. It is a certificate of completion of requirements. Depending on the level of study, it may indicate certain levels of outstanding performance. It is a signal of a certain level of commitment. At the university level, it is almost a form of tribalism that uses the reputation of the institution to in theory say something about the individual. All of these and many more are things that a diploma may say. But even more important for graduates at the moment is what a diploma does not say.
It does not say:
That you’re done learning.
That you’re smart.
That the world now owes you something.
That you won’t need to reprove that you deserved to earn the diploma.
That you are less than, equal to or better than anyone else with a diploma or without one.
That you’re stuck pursuing that one thing for the rest of your life.
That the value of the diploma won’t change over time.
Obviously this is just a short list but at this point you probably get the picture. A diploma is a piece of paper. In the end it is not the paper that matters, it is you! You are the one who will go out into the world to make things happen. Pinning that paper to your chest to use as a shield against all future challenges is a poor strategy. INSTEAD use the diploma as a milestone. A marker that delineates the difference between one portion of your life and another. The story that we tell ourselves about ourselves is extremely important. So recognize that the paper is flimsy, easily tarnished and not very valuable on its own because another copy is available at a price. However you have the ability to be anything that you decide to be regardless of the paper. You are what truly matters and your continued pursuit of life will be the record that you will be judged upon. There is no other copy of you, even if you’re a twin. Take your individuality and mix it with what you have learned and pursue those things that create energy within you. Build a life that you will be excited to get up and live every day!
In the 1970’s Philippe Petit walked a high wire strung between the Twin Towers in New York City. It was an amazing feat that was a result of a slow but steady progression of skill and daring over years. The film “Man On Wire” is a great documentary about the planning and execution of his walk. A slight warning that if you are afraid of heights, you may feel uneasy. Even though you are safe from any imminent danger, you may feel dizzy or tingly based on the images. I cannot imagine how Philippe Petit felt during the walk, over one thousand feet in the air without a net! Sure, he had years of experience and successful walks but the scale of this endeavor dwarfed everything else. It is easy to look at Philippe and say that he is special, talented or even crazy. Closer to the truth is probably that he was passionate about pursuing something to an extreme level. The use of a net negates the entire reason that he was walking in the first place. Under no circumstances and am I suggesting that a tight rope walk from dizzying height should be be in anyone’s future (I’m one of those people who tingles just seeing the photos). I am suggesting that the intersection of passion and stakes is a place of power. It’s someplace that we need to become more comfortable going to.
Unfortunately at the moment, we seem to be faced in the opposite direction. The formative years of youth and adolescence are spent with nothing but safety nets around. Whether it is literal foam padding to avoid injury or systems that are meant to insulate young people from failure, responsibility or any other stakes that could injure physically or emotionally. The dichotomy of these systems are interesting because they protect in the short term and potentially injure in the long term. Finding the balance of those two extremes is the name of the game. Philippe did not start out on the roof of the World Trade Center. Those stakes would have been overwhelming. His passion for walking the tight rope also would not have grown if he never went higher than six inches off the ground.
For each one of us, we have things that could grow into passions but we are afraid to raise the stakes. Failing, looking foolish and uncertainty are being trained out of our young people. We have given many young people a “safe space” but the counterweight needs to be put into place as well otherwise we do not have a creative space. All creation is messy, uncertain and possibly even dangerous. We are born from a series of chances taken with an element of risk. So to protect our future generations from that risk is robbing them of what is to be human.
As I often say to my players, “to be a leader, you need to go first”. So if you have young people in your life, be a model of a balance in both passion and risk. Perhaps you also need to break out of the foam rubber because comfort and security are things that many of us desire. Unfortunately they also allow for little emotional intensity which is what passion is all about. Go! Take a chance! Maybe even a small one and be an example for those onlookers who need someone to show them what is possible!
Philippe didn’t leap but he had to take a step off the edge and you can too!
I was raised in the Catholic faith but have some major misgivings about the history and present of the religion. Regardless of those feelings there are certain things that stick out from my childhood experiences of religion. One phrase that always stuck out for some reason was part of the act of contrition. When repenting for sins, the prayer asked for forgiveness “for what I have done and what I have left undone.” The second part is what always hit me. That I was not only responsible for seeking forgiveness for the actions that I had committed but also the ones that I had omitted as well.
Several years ago, I had a student in one of my classes. He was one of those kids that was smart but did not care about the class enough to put forth much effort. Since he was a senior, his only goal was to graduate. So that he could get into the army and get away from the problems at home. On a particular day, he and I got into a conversation about his lack of effort. He said “Mr. Huryk, I’m not worried about this class. I’m worried about what I’m going to eat today.” After class I asked him to hang around for a minute. I took out the container that held my lunch and handed it to him. He refused but thanked me for the gesture. After that day, I paid a lot more attention to his mood and weight. It became pretty obvious that he wasn’t lying. He had gotten skinnier. So I packed up a brown paper bag with a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, Clif Bars and other low maintenance foods and put his name on it. I had the secretary in the office call him down right before the end of the day and tell him that someone dropped it off for him.
No one knew who had sent the food but there was no secret that problems ran deeper than just hunger. I talked to my wife about it and she knows how much I try to help people who need it. She said if the situation was that dire, I could offer to give him a place to stay temporarily. I just didn’t know him well enough to take that step. Besides the year was almost over. He was going to pass my class and be able to graduate in order to get into the army and move on. On the last day of class, he asked me if I had been the one who had given him the food. I admitted that it was. He thanked me and said he appreciated it. At that point, I thought I had done my part and I would never see him again. I was right on half of that equation.
Upon returning to school in the late summer, the secretary who had helped with my covert food operation informed me that he had passed away over the summer. The combination of his poor circumstances and some poor judgment sent him to a far too early grave. All he wanted to do was escape the situation that he was in but it just didn’t happen fast enough.
I know that I shouldn’t tear up every time that I think about this. In reality it was not my responsibility to make sure that this kid got off to the army safely. I was almost inconsequential in his life. The issue is that I know the outcome now and can see all of the things that I left “undone”.
We cannot do everything. We cannot save everyone. Regardless of how hard we try. Bad things are still going to happen to good people who deserve better. The reason why I relive this story in my mind often is because even though we can’t save everyone, I want to live in a world where we try to or at least want to. Hate, malice and indifference are easy because they take nothing from the person who puts them out into the world. Kindness, generosity, caring and love require that you give something of yourself and may not get it back. That is a bargain that many people are just too afraid to make. However the easy road ends with us all being alone and separated because the caring muscle atrophies when you use it infrequently. So although it is a painful memory, I will continue to dwell upon what I left undone because I don’t want to believe that it’s not my responsibility to care for my fellow man.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are!