This is your one and only opportunity at TODAY! Yes tomorrow is right around the corner but there is no guarantee that the same situations, circumstances or people will be available. Whether you are truly in a once in a lifetime situation or simply building the inertia that will be necessary to get you over the mountain that your climbing; TODAY CANNOT BE DISCOUNTED! So give it the attention and forethought that an opportunity like this deserves. If you treat today like every other day, then that is exactly what it will be. However if you treat it like the unique opportunity that it is, you’re more likely squeeze all of the juice out of it. So ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want long term?
What do I want short term?
What can I do today that will bring me closer to both?
Once you’ve identified those three things, then take action! You can’t do everything today but you can do something. Your life is a series of one day sales. Can you become the best possible shopper or leave the store empty handed because you didn’t notice the signs? The choice is up to you!
In my junior year of college, I traveled to Ecuador as part of a winter semester program. I lived with a local family and took a class on literature. It was a life altering experience on a variety of levels. Although I went there to improve my Spanish abilities, I can link many of my fundamental beliefs back to that trip. I changed as a person during my time there. One of the simple ways that I changed was that I became the “King of Introductions”. There was no official coronation! It’s an unofficial title that I developed for myself but it was a key component to many later successes.
Two days after Christmas in 1996, I arrived in Ecuador. After a few days of touring, I was paired with my ‘Ecuadorian family’ on New Year’s Eve. For the next two days, I attended no less than three family parties. If I had to guess, I was introduced to over fifty people in less than 48 hours. Obviously all of those introductions were done in Spanish. It was nothing that I had planned but the more times that it happened, the better that I got at introducing myself. With the first few people, I was only saying ‘hello, nice to meet you’. Eventually the conversations got more robust with full explanations of why I was in Ecuador and my thoughts about the country so far. The repetitions were the key. Even though all of conversations were slightly different, each one gave me another opportunity to organize, edit or add. By the end of those first two days, I was definitely the “King of Introductions”.
It seems so simple but often people ignore this methodology. People give up on things quickly because they’re not “good enough”. The need to not look foolish is ingrained so strongly within us that we tend to avoid even chancing it. So we never get past the peasant status much less reach to the level of king. With something so simple, it would seem like everyone would follow this recipe but often we don’t. Any success requires that you:
Notice what’s working/what’s not
Adjust the approach
Pay attention to those already getting the result you want
It’s almost too easy, isn’t it? The problem usually isn’t a lack of role models to follow. It’s a failure to take any action at all. When there is no guarantee of success, a lot of work and a possibility of looking foolish; peasant status is what is chosen. In the minds of so many, it is better to be the peasant that never tried rather than the one who went for the crown and failed. The most important thing for you to recognize though is that the walls between you and the crown are usually built by you. The world offers all kinds of riches and above is the plan for how to get any of them. We just need to be willing to follow it long enough to get them!
In about a month and a half, I’ll be moving to Virginia. It’s an exciting time! Filled with all kinds of possibilities. While we’re looking forward to that future, we must first deal with the daunting task of moving all (or most or some) of our stuff. The process of packing is a necessary evil where you must decide what is going with you and what things just need to go! Some people have trouble letting go of the things that they’ve accumulated over the years. For better or worse, we get attached to things from the past and have trouble letting go.
The same holds true for the events from our past. Some are vital and need to be packed in bubble wrap to make sure that they never get damaged. While others should be sold at a garage sale or taken to the dump. It’s difficult though. Somehow the events of our lives feel like part of us and letting go of anything seems like a mild betrayal to who we really are. Much like the physical moving, the weight of carrying the past into the future is a consideration to be made.
Since we are talking about emotional weight rather than the physical, the process for unloading or putting old memories into deep storage is different. It is actually the process of making the memories that support the new future bigger/more important or re-purposing those unhelpful memories. Talk about, envision and feel the stories from your past that you want to carry forward with more intensity and belief that it is who you are. Let the less than helpful ones fade or flip them to support where you are going rather than where you’ve been. That breakup or firing does not need to be a scar on your self-esteem. It can be a rallying cry for better performance in the future. Those “small” accomplishments that you overlook when you discuss what you’ve done can be made larger and more vivid. It is simply a process of focusing on it in a different way.
So regardless of who you are or what portion of your life you are in. You’re always packing for the future. What are you going to bring with you? Are you going to allow yourself to be weighed down by things that are probably insignificant to where you want to go? Or are you going to be selective about the “baggage” that you carry with you? It’s all your baggage but you don’t need to carry it all.
“It’s my industrial strength hairdryer. AND I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!!!”
I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!
In the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered. The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.” While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite. Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison. Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia. Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism. The key to balance is a counterweight. Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.
Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this. So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view. Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife. This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player. At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him. At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.
Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”. That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever. Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own. We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends. No matter how big you get, McBride it! When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there. It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with. Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it. You’re going to need them on the climb!
We’ve all got them. They lurk around and create mischief in our daily lives but we have trouble letting go of them. Bad habits. The things that we realize that we should not do at all or possibly overindulge in them. There power over us can be based in our childhood, boredom or addiction. No matter who you are, you’ve probably got a habit, vice, addiction or pattern that is less than favorable.
On the other hand you’ve got those good things that you cannot seem to get yourself to do. You know it! If you did that thing, it would help you in either the short or the long term. Regardless of how much good you know that you’d get from it, you still don’t do it. Perhaps you make up excuses about time. Or you tell yourself that next week would be the right time to start or you need some other resource. Again you’ve set yourself up to not follow through because your reasons are just not strong enough.
If you’re like me and you have this scenario in your life, I’m going to suggest that you use the bad to create the good. Most recently I’ve been publishing, my blog on a daily basis. In order to facilitate that happening, I do not eat until I have posted (WARNING: This is not a good course of action for everyone! Eating disorders are a real thing for millions. Know yourself and your issues. Act responsibly!) For me it is putting my bad habit of overeating against my need to follow through on my positive. This requires a level of self-control but it is completely doable.
So if you are in need of a positive kick in the butt from yourself, try it. Don’t use your cellphone until you’ve gone for a walk or run in the morning. Don’t have that morning cup of coffee until you’ve done the laundry. The habits don’t even have to be “bad”. You just need to leverage the things that you do in order to have yourself take action on the things that you would normally skip. It can be a powerful tool if you’re willing to hold yourself to it.
I just wept in front of a room of teenagers. It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it. Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen. It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story. That’s because I’ve let it happen. The memory does not have to be painful. It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.
It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions. They are things that happen to us rather than our creation. Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party. As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse. Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant. So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly. But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.
The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen. So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times. Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol. It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies. Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other. The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.
Physiology is the way that you use your body. It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial. Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.
Focus is the things that you pay attention to. At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses. We can only pay attention to a finite number. So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.
Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head. For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel. Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.
These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside. It is by no means an easy fix. Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.
I remember playing soccer as a kid pretty vividly. There’s a smattering of games, practices, camps, travel and associated activities swimming around inside my head. Perhaps I’ve forgotten but there was only one time that I ever considered “quitting” soccer and that was near my transition to high school. However that was because I was considering going out for football. So other than that, I truly don’t have a recollection of not wanting to play anymore. Perhaps I’m wired differently because I also ran track through high school and into college. Basketball got left behind as a sophomore in high school. That was more of a “talent” and interest thing than burnout. When you’re getting the token minutes as a freshman, the writing is on the wall. I needed to get a lot better in order to be successful at the sport that was not my priority.
Define Burnout – With the quick anecdotes above, it’s obvious that I am defining burnout differently than just discontinuing participation. There are seasons for everything in our lives and sports are no different. Allowing one season to end in order for others to begin or become more prominent is not something to bemoan. It is the natural order of life.
So what we are specifically talking about is the idea of saturation to the point of generalized overwhelm, exhaustion with and possible contempt for the activity. Notice the underlined word, generalized. Everyone has moments where the things that they pursue can become difficult in the moment. Burnout is much more than that, it is a constant rather than a one off.
The following suggestions are not the only possibilities nor a silver bullet but rather the beginning of a conversation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a relevant metaphor here.
Give them an “out” – Even though they may never take it, giving kids a visible way out of something can be an antidote to burnout. This can come with some stipulations such as finishing out the season/year but the message should be clear “if you don’t want this anymore, that’s ok.”
Renew the contract – This may seem like the same thing as giving them an escape route but it’s not. Kids do not process things in the same way as adults. Even though they may know that the can get out if they want to, they may not evaluate that “want” regularly. At the end of the season AND before the next, check in to make sure that they want to continue.
Align the goals – “I love soccer/football/hockey/badminton/etc.” may mean something completely different to your child than it does to you. Make sure that the goals that you and your child have for the sport are aligned. If you’re thinking, “college scholarship” and they are thinking, “I love hanging out with my friends and the games” that disconnect is going to cause friction at some point. There’s always room for changing course but if parents and kids are pointed in different direction, problems may arise.
Find the model – If your youth athlete has expressed an interest in play at some higher level whether it is high school, club, academy, college or professional. Find someone who is at that next step and talk to them about what it takes to get there. Do not try to jump steps. Your 8 year old does not need to understand the training regimen of a professional athlete. Most young players would say that they want to go pro. That’s not the question in the beginning. The relevant question in the beginning is do they want to practice when no one tells them to?
LOVE THEM, no matter what – This should be obvious and it probably is to you, as the parent. Often messages get convoluted in the day to day grind of all of the responsibilities that we have. Regardless of the outcome of games, tryouts, tournaments or anything else; your child should have an overwhelming sense that their performance and your love are completely separate items.
I hope that after reading this that you’re saying to yourself “I didn’t need this article!” Nothing would make me happier! The unfortunate thing is that many people do. So if you could spread it, that would be great! I’m extremely passionate about my sport of choice, soccer, and also helping young people. Almost nothing is more disappointing to me than to see a child who had a love for a sport driven out of them.
Sports are a great opportunity to bring the best out of our children. Let’s take that opportunity to raise our children up and not wear them down.
Every weekend the players line up on the field, the referee blows the whistle and the microscopes come out. I’m speaking figuratively of course. Although a fusion between youth sports and science would be great, I’m talking about the tunnel vision of the fans on the sidelines. It’s actually not their fault. It is in our nature to pay attention to the things that we care most about. So a parent’s focus on their child at a time of high emotion is both normal and expected. Our youth sports culture has definitely swung toward the extreme with cost, intensity and behavior. The thing that we often lack as we go through life is perspective. We tend to think that the way we perceive the world is the way that the world is. It is only our version. There are billions of others and none of them is completely correct either. So it may be valuable to gain a different perspective.
Go to a youth sporting event of someone else’s kid, not a niece or a close friend’s son but two levels of separation. It may just be a different age group at the club that your child plays for. Choose a child that you’re going to “support” for the game. If you’re a cheerer, then cheer. If you’re the quiet pensive fan, then be quiet and pensive. Whatever you would normally do at your own child’s game, do you best to recreate it (bring your spouse to bicker about the coach if need be). I understand this will be uncomfortable and feel odd for most people but here are some things that will probably happen.
You’re probably going to lose focus on “your player” from time to time and watch the overall game. All of the reactions that you would normally have will be slightly muted. You may be able to look at the player and pick up on subtle cues about them. Do they like the sport? Do they play with joy and look like they are having fun? Are they afraid to mess up/of contact/of trying too hard? Are they embarrassed by the stranger cheering for them (keep it under control)? At the end of the game, was success or failure based solely on the score/outcome?
The payoff in this experiment will be different for everyone. If the difference between the fan that you are in the two situations is small, that’s probably a good sign. If the difference between the fan that you are is vast, it might be helpful to consider why. In the grand scheme of the world, both games probably meant about the same amount. Sports bring out some of our best and worst characteristics as humans. The kids are practicing regularly in order to be their best, let’s be at our best as well!
I’ve not watch a NFL game for about four years. I used to love it but now I can’t stomach to sit through a play or two. The exorbitant contracts don’t bother me. Although the blind eye to domestic (or just regular) violence off the field do bother me, that’s not it either. It’s the fact that the people inside the sport no longer want to play the game. They want to play the system. Rather than going for the ball, they go for the call. Games are more about referees than players. The game has become a sad shell of what it was. I’ve got the same complaint about my preferred sport of soccer but it has not reach the point of boycott YET! There are millions of dollars (or whatever currency) on the line, I get it. The problem is that the we’re all being robbed, not just the fans.
The reason why sports are such an ingrained part of our world is that they are a metaphor for what it is like to be alive. Whether it’s football, soccer, badminton or any other athletic endeavor; it is a meeting of body, mind and spirit that is a test on what we are capable of. When you look at sport in this light, it is easy to see that every time that someone tries to dupe the referee and succeeds, we lose. The fans, the players, the coaches and sport itself loses because we are no longer testing what we are capable of, we are finding out what we can get away with. I’m not picking on professional athletes because unfortunately it has become a cultural norm. The reason why I point them out specifically is that they are in the spotlight and have the ability to move the culture. They train for most of their lives to become the best of the best on their field but then become snake oil salesmen when it truly counts. And none of us will ever know!
We’ll never know what they could have done. Had they just played through the foul, the contact or the almost contact of their opponent. It puts the result of the day on the line for sure and I know that everyone loves a winner but at what cost? If gaming the system is the most common way to win, then we need to consider very heavily what it is that we’ve lost. More than likely it is the willingness to put it all on our own shoulders. Until we do that, we’ll never know what we were capable of and that is the point.
So I beg of you, as you go out into your own life today, don’t take the dive. Don’t look for the loophole or the shortcut. Even though you’re not a professional athlete, we all have the opportunity to find the greatness within ourselves. The key to that is that you must demand a higher standard of conduct. Because if you don’t give it your all, you’re just never going to know!
The spring season brings rejuvenation and tryouts. Soccer tryouts, hockey tryouts and I’m sure many others. The constant evaluation of players is now a cultural norm. While it may seem like a necessary evil, it is our job as the adults or forward thinkers to ensure that it doesn’t become pure evil in the mind of a young player. The constant question can go swirling through their head “Am I good?” While it may be a common question, it is probably the wrong question.
Comparison is all around us. There are grades, likes, follows, rankings and so many other ways to compare people and anything else. Some of them are objective and others completely subjective. They are easy to focus upon because they feel real. A sense of power and prestige can be derived from comparison but the opposite is also true. It is often easier to feel powerless and insignificant because we are usually comparing our worst with our projection of other people. Neither of these pictures is completely accurate but the feeling of inequity can be overwhelming. So we often look for validation from others, such as coaches, teachers, parents or others with the question, “Am I good?” The answer is never going to satisfy in the long term. It becomes a button that needs to be hit every so often to keep things in balance. Multiple choice is not your friend in most instances.
Although most people avoided them in school, it is two open ended questions that allow for a more compelling look at one’s self. “How am I better than I used to be?” “How can I progress forward?” Both questions are asked with a leaning toward positive self discovery. Our brains are an amazing piece of machinery that will answer almost any question that we ask of it, even if it needs to make the answer up. Consistently asking “Am I good?” will inevitably lead to plenty of instances where the answer will be “No” because metric and competition change frequently. However by asking the open ended questions, the question sends a subtle signal that in some small way you are better than you were. Also there are ways to progress forward if you’re willing to look for them.
These are obviously not the only questions that can be asked. They are simply two examples that can break the comparison chain. Done consistently, proactive questions like these can be life altering because we are evaluating ourselves and our lives continuously. Wouldn’t it be better to stack the deck in your favor?