Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Unsporting Behavior

There are many things that can be considered “unsporting behavior” within the game of soccer. However I believe that the one that encompasses them all most concisely is “Shows a lack of respect for the game.” Whether it is a reckless foul or attempting to deceive the referee, all situations that can be characterized as unsporting behavior show some level of disrespect toward the game. Generally speaking most people tend to respect the game at levels that allow for the game to move forward. If too many people disrespect the game, there is no continuity and possibly, not enough players left to make the game worth playing.

This situation almost never happens. Games are infrequently abandoned due to a high number of players being dismissed. It would be counterproductive. Players inherently want to play. So excessive disrespect to the game is not in their best interest. Even implementors of “anti-football” had to recognize that the more egregious their actions, the more they gambled with the tactic backfiring. Stifling the opposition can be a team’s undoing if they take it too far.

Taking a step back from the rectangular field with lines and focusing on the spherical one with continents. The same logic seems to fit. A lack of respect for the game is counterproductive and can stifle us all. The problem in the bigger game comes from the fact that not everyone is aimed at the same goals, each person has their own set of rules and mostly people referee themselves. So a lack of respect is even more subjective than in a soccer game. Playing within the rules can get frustrating when confronted with opponents who seemingly have no rules. Your goals and ambitions may be nothing more than trash to other players in the game. Therefore many people end up disillusioned or overwhelmed by the world. The game of life was never set up to be fair, equitable, convenient nor consistent. So as the player, it is important to decide how you are going to play the game and the rules that you’ll live by.

From time to time, it may be necessary to revamp your personal “laws of the game.” However you should not adopt someone else’s just because it’s popular, easier or more convenient. Your laws need to match who you are and where you want to go. The feeling of being aligned with these components is worth the difficulty of defining them. Playing the game in a fashion that makes you miserable is probably not ideal. So be as deliberate as you can defining your goals and laws of the game. That way you can hold yourself accountable for unsporting behavior. Almost no other referees are watching. So you need to be.

Game on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Waving at Passing Cars

The road near where I live has no sidewalks. It is also has several curves that drivers tend to take too fast. The combination of these factors make it a little treacherous for walking my dog. I need to be attentive, have my dog a short leash and consistently wave to the passing cars. The first two could pass as common sense. The third seems to be a waste of time or possibly even embarrassing. I’ve been told as much by people who will remain nameless. So what is the point in the wave? I don’t know a vast majority of the drivers and probably never will.

Casting things out into the void is not particularly good strategy. A football team that relies heavily on hail Mary passes will mostly find their prayers unanswered. Regardless of the mathematics of the situation, I persist. The simple reason is that I believe in ripples, paying things forward and micro influencing macro. In a world where everyone seemingly wants to be seen, it’s easy to forget to see others. This is why I wave.

Human beings have been tribal animals for centuries or even millennia. Our need for community is hardwired deep within us. There is also a desire for status within that tribe. Balancing this “need to be an individual” with the “need to be part of a community” is a key component to us making it through this time in history. Selfish acts are far too easy. We experience the world through our own perspective therefore our needs, our desires and our priorities tend to dominate our point of view. So going fast down a curvy road is a self-serving act that has no malice in it but it fails to consider others until forced to do so. Therein lies the problem. Our world is a spinning sphere with billions of independent people living upon it. If it is only when we are forced to “see” one another that we actually do, our interactions are reactive and less thoughtful. So I wave.

I wave in the hopes that the people passing by will see me seeing them. Perhaps that recognition will make them consider me the next time that they drive down the road. The mutual recognition may be just enough for each of us to make it through this life unscathed by the carelessness of others. Because we only have one spinning sphere and we need to care more, not care less!

I see you!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

Football Club Custody

In light of the recent furor over the “Super League” and my own crusade to spread the fandom of my favorite team, Peterborough United, I thought it was worth taking the time to characterize my view of American interest in English clubs. It may not be 100% accurate nor complete in its description but it may be helpful. In order to make my points, a little imagination is needed. Rather than a club being an organization with a team, fanbase, a business structure and a history; I’d like to characterize a club as a child that can never grow up.

Due to the fact that this child is never going to grow up, someone needs to be put in charge of the child. The creators of the club were truly its “parents” but as those people passed away or moved onto other endeavors, someone new needed to “adopt” the club. For the longest time, these new adoptive parents did so out of genuine love for the club. Like any parent, the economics of care meant that at best they were going to break even. Then football became a business and many people with means saw it as an opportunity to get into the game. Some adopted a club with love for the sport or the club. Others recognized the ability to profit from the sheer number of people who love this “child.” It is a difficult balance to strike. Parents with pure love may not have the means to keep the child alive while people with money may not love the child.

On the periphery of the parent-child relationship are all of the other invested parties: siblings, uncles/aunts, cousins, friends that feel like family. Fans fall into one of these groups depending on their involvement. Like any familial structure, there are people who are more involved in a child’s life or less. A fan who has been raised with the club may have the affection of a sibling for it. It’s easy to squabble over the intricacies of fan legitimacy but I’m not sure that it serves much purpose.

For my part, I’d characterize myself and most American fans as distant cousins. You don’t see us very often but we’re out there in the ether. The upside to having a large “extended family” is that there are extra resources coming in from afar to care for the club. Generally the inconveniences of having this extended family are small. A few events may be moved up or back based on a desire for “everyone to be there.” Regardless, most of us distant cousins gain a great affinity for the club. We watch, we visit, we like to stay involved. Some of us despite our distance, eventually begin to truly “love” the club. Perhaps not the same love that someone who is there day in and day out might love it. However it is love nonetheless.

Therein lies the problem with the Super League and many of the owners who get into football, whether American or not. The key to this entire equation is that love should be a major component to the acquisition of a club. Because there are so many people who love this entity like a child, to treat it like a resource to exploit for profit is contrary to its entire existence. It is completely acceptable for an owner to profit from a club. Businessmen almost never intend to lose money. However if the profit was their only intention, then that eventually hurts the entire family because no one wants their child to be exploited.

My personal crusade is to add more distant cousins to the POSH family. This is an opportunity for me to give back while paying it forward. I’ve enjoyed my time as a Peterborough United fan immensely! It is part of me at this point. The promotion to the Championship puts the club on a more visible platform. My hope is that 10,000 brothers and sisters show up each week in the stadium but 10,000 more distant cousins wouldn’t hurt. So I’m searching for people who are looking to love a club. There are no quick rewards here. It’s not the glamorous pick. The past eight years have been spent in a league that most Americans don’t know exists. Buckle up because it is a bumpy ride!

If you want an instant self-esteem boost from supporting a Champion’s League team, then support Man United. However you need to recognize that the adopted parent of the child that you care so much about doesn’t love it or the extended family. The only interest in keeping the golden goose alive is to walk away with as many eggs as possible. No doubt it is possible to love the club and hate the ownership but when everyone is aligned it feels different. Tears of joy from ownership upon promotion says nothing about return on investment and everything about commitment.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

No Substitutes!

In the present footballing world, a longstanding tradition has been suspended due to COVID-19 concerns. Teams have been allowed to have five substitutes within a match rather than three. This has opened up the possibility for a manager to change almost have the team. For a squad that is deep in talent, this is a lifesaver because a compressed schedule has led to tired legs. Energy and desire can be thrust into the match in order to turn the tide of a game at that is going wrong. I’m sure that many traditionalists have hated this development while others see it as a great addition to a strange season. As I frequently do, I started to think about the overlap of this aspect of the game with life. And in life, there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

It’s harsh isn’t it? Especially at times like these where it might be nice to have someone else step into your life for a day or a week. All of your responsibilities and obligations taken care of by another person while you lounge on the bench, recouping your strength to give it a go in the future. This is not a call for cloning or AI to take our places (this already scares the bejeezus out of me). Just a thought exercise to bring to light the fact that no one gets to take time off from being themselves. It is your position on the field. A role that only you can fill. No doubt that you can surround yourself with teammates who will pick up the slack when you feel tired but there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

In some ways this could be daunting. A lifetime of one position without anyone to take it over when you get tired. However it is also a beautiful thought. No one gets to replace you. Even if you’re an identical twin, your sibling is not you and can never be. So now that you have this position on the field and no one can take it away from you, what are you going to do with it?

Many people lament their role. They see other players of the game with more of this or more of that. Inside their head, they think “I’ve gotten a raw deal.” It’s common but it doesn’t make much sense. The complaint doesn’t progress anything forward, especially the complainer. So it is energy wasted in hope that they might get to substitute someone else. As we know now, that’s just not happening.

So the only sensible action as far as I can see is to play. That’s right! Even if you’re in your 90s or older, play that starting position that you’ve been give with everything that you’ve got. No one can replace you and that’s a great thing! When you’re eventually taken off the field, be sure that your teammates miss you. Give them performances to remember, that inspire them to be a better version of themselves. They can never replace you but they can follow your lead. Sure you’re bound to get tired, bumped and bruised but there’s pride to be found in continuing on.

Regardless of how you decide to play the game, remember that there is NO SUBSTITUTE for you! The world is full of obstacles, difficulties and challenges and we need YOU. Put your hand in because it’s another opportunity for you to play your part.

1, 2, 3, Go get ’em!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

Inflation of the Moment: POSH on the Cusp

With three matches remaining, the POSH are on the cusp of returning to the Championship. Three points is all that it will take to push them beyond the reach of Lincoln and Sunderland. Everyone can feel the excitement of possibility. Despite the desire to achieve promotion on Tuesday night, the players cannot go into the match trying to do that. Winning promotion will be a byproduct of their actions, not something they can force. It will be a sum total of quality actions leading up to and during the ninety minutes of the match. Keeping one’s nerve is much more difficult when the moment is inflated into something that it isn’t.

Aaron Mclean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue on Sun Nov 9, 2008

Anticipating the key moment to a match or someone’s life is almost impossible. So it is really not worth doing. Putting the extra pressure of anticipation or anxiety is not usually a recipe for success. A moment is just that, a moment. Its meaning will come clear to us after the fact. Most of our performance in life comes down to things that we’ve done hundreds, thousands or possibly millions of times. Freeing one’s self from the weight of expectation comes down to the knowledge that when given an opportunity, you won’t run from it. You will give the moment the attention that it deserves, no more, no less. Consistency is key.

The reason that the POSH are in this position is that they have consistently strung together enough moments to earn this opportunity. They do not need to be better than who they have been all season long. They simply need to be who they have been consistently without the weight of expectation. No one needs to score a hat-trick, a bicycle kick or a goal from a half field. A deflected ball off of any player’s butt will do.

So the key to winning promotion is simply winning the moments. Focusing on the things that are actually within one’s control: playing a ball to feet, being first to the ball, seeing the goal rather than the keeper, and getting back to neutral if anything goes awry. Winning the majority of the moments gives us the best chance and afterward, we’ll all be able to see which ones were the biggest. Those 7 minutes only become famous because the moment wasn’t bigger than the men.

Up the POSH!

Blogpost, self-reliance

Two for the Price of One: UROK

My uncle served in the military. Our last name is Huryk (pronounced Yer-Ick). Due to the unusual spelling of our name, there were always mispronunciations. At one point, the best mispronunciation ever emerged: UROK. It stuck within his group of military friends and as a young kid, my brothers and I used it as well. This was the best moniker that could have been created at the time. I idolized my uncle and it just sounded cool! For a while, the name got forgotten because my uncle was no longer in the military and we didn’t see him as much either. My intent is to resurrect the word but not for my own purposes. It has more possibility in the hands of others. With the widespread use of “text speech”, the cool version of my last name has a dual meaning.

If each letter is said individually, then it reads “You are okay.” This is a most important message in our present circumstances and HELL, we’ve got a lot of circumstances at the moment. Since I principally work with young people, that’s where my mind goes automatically. Unfortunately a lot of the underlying message of what kids perceive now is the opposite of this message. They are bombarded by images and videos of other people and comparing themselves incessantly. It’s a losing battle but one that they feel like they are trapped within. My hope would be that each and every person has someone in their life that is regularly telling them “You are okay.” Each person has inherent value that cannot be determined by the number of likes or follows that they get. Despite all of the turmoil in the world, if you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that “You are okay.” There may be a lot on your plate and it could be overwhelming at times but if you’re reading this blog, you’re not in immediate peril. The problems that you have can most likely be worked out.

The other version of the name brings it back to how we used to say it in my childhood: “You Rock!” In the era of hair metal bands, this was a compliment and I still mean it as one. This might take a little longer depending on how much or little that one person believes that “You are okay.” That has to come first. But once you believe that you are okay, it serves as a foundation. Eventually it is possible to construct self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance on top of that very basic belief. However most of us, regardless of whether we believe it or not have someone that would say, “You rock!” Because in some special area basically everyone does. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the best in the world at something. It merely means that you pour yourself into a part of your life that makes you unique. Unfortunately many people are so caught up in the noise of the world around them that they have trouble hearing their own song. Nothing could be sadder! Each of us is special in our own way but if we let the world turn up its volume too loud inside of our own heads, it makes it impossible to play our own tune.

So here is your homework. Yes, I said homework!

If you feel that you are more in the “You are okay” headspace, then take a few minutes each day for the next week and write down 3 good things in your life. By the end of the week, you should have over 21 (no repeats) things. Before writing the next 3, take time to read the others.

If you are more of a “You rock” person, then put your talent on display in the best way that you can think of. If you’re a great dad, then double down on all of the things that you do to be great at that job this week. Act like it is your concert at Wembley Stadium and everyone is watching at you rock at being a dad. Or perhaps you’re an artist, this week draw, paint, sculpt or sing like your hair is on fire. Don’t hold back and self-edit. Rock was never about being perfect. So make some noise within your space.

As is almost always true, I say things in my blog that I need to hear. So if you want to start a conversation about where you’re at, drop me a line. None of needs to be alone in this world but it can often feel like we are. Just remember, no matter what!

You are okay and you rock!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Happens for a Reason…. Kind of

While stacking chairs after an assembly today with a student, we got to talking about his college choices. He gave me the list of schools and his plans to visit soon in order to make a decision. After getting through his ranking of the schools, he expressed how anxious he was about the decision. When I asked why he was anxious, he said that he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. After which he said, “everything happens for a reason.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard many times over the years and possibly used once or twice. In this instance, I thought it was important that this young man understand something. Sure! Everything happens for a reason but the reason comes after the fact.

People are amazing creatures and one of our best superpowers is the ability to build a narrative around our lives. No matter which school this student chooses, he cannot go back and redo that choice. Even if he transfers to one of the other schools after his first year, it will not be the same experience that he would have had going there as a freshman. So as we (and he) move forward in life, we connect the dots of our lives after things have happened to us. We can only guess about how the dots will unfold in front of us. Even when we choose the most tried and true path, life tends to throw a few roadblocks in our way. AND THAT’S OK!

In 1998 I went to the World Cup with my best friend. We went to 5 matches, visited the Louvre, saw La Sagrada Familia, drank beer at the famous Hof Brau Haus and toured London for 3 days. When I talk about that trip, do I talk about seeing France beat Paraguay in a penalty shootout? Nope! I talk about my friend getting his passport stolen, having to file a police report in Barcelona in Spanish and traveling across the border into France with him not having a passport. These unexpected twists and turns give texture to life that we cannot put a value on before they happen. It is afterward that we get to make up the reason.

I chose to go to Salisbury State University for a lot of good reasons and a few bad reasons. One of the bad reasons was that my girlfriend at the time liked the school and could see herself going there. We broke up a few months later and luckily she didn’t go to SSU. Out of my stupidity though, I found my best friend and fell in love with that place for so many reasons that I could not have predicted.

Best of friends ready to travel together.
I didn’t go looking for a best friend but I found one anyway!

So whether you’re 18 and about to choose a college to attend or in your 50 deciding on switching careers, remember that everything happens for a reason…. but you’re going to make up the reason after the fact anyway. Do the best that you can with the information that you have because no matter what happens, you’re collecting dots that you’ll put together later!

Go get those dots!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

The Relegation Battle

During one of my first few seasons supporting Peterborough United, they faced a relegation battle. I was riveted! Even though I had no way to watch the matches, I followed the results intently. When I went on a skiing trip where I would have no internet access, I had my brother text me the score of the match that day. The saga ended with the POSH playing in League 2 for a few seasons but I could not help being engrossed with the situation.

At the moment, POSH are on a push toward promotion and I am equally (but differently) riveted. Success breeds an entirely different set of emotions than possible failure. Fear is an emotion that is hardwired within us, our fear response is almost literally set up to “short circuit” our brain’s higher functions in order to deal with a threat. Whether it is a real mortal threat or simply a perceived situation of importance, our brains don’t know the difference.

The Peterborough United squad and management celebrate winning promotion as captain Grant McCann lifts the Play-Off Final winners trophy

Most of the time, we don’t live in a relegation battle nor a promotion push. Our existence is usually a collection of “mid-table” events. Life tends to find some form of equilibrium where this year tends to look a lot like the last and the one before. It can be comforting or frustrating depending on your perspective. I am a firm proponent of being grateful for all that you have but aspiration is not a sin. Being grateful simply gives you a firm foundation to start from.

So if you have been living a mid table life, then perhaps it is time to put yourself into a relegation battle. Not by allowing yourself to hit rock bottom but by raising your standards. Move the line of your “bare minimum” up. Expect a little more from life but recognize that this will most likely require more output from you. A mid table life does not create the emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis. While a life of fear is not something that I would suggest, the emotional tools that you have at your fingertips should be used for your own progress. If you push that line of minimum standards high enough, then promotion is on the horizon. Next year you’ll be playing and a different league and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Go for it today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Your Dress Code: The Power of Self-Signaling

The school where I work has a pretty standard private school dress code: jacket, tie, khakis and nice shoes. During COVID times, we’ve loosened it up quite a bit in due to masks and other things that needed policing. It just didn’t make sense to keep a strict dress code at the moment. As we start to look forward toward the coming school year, there is some debate about “getting that horse back into the barn.” Is our traditional dress code representative of the modern business culture? Is the tradition worth keeping? These are important questions to ask because as a school, we are a teaching/learning institution. Is our dress code teaching anything? Are our students learning anything from it?

In one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, Neo is first introduced to the idea of his being trapped in a computer program. His clothes, hair and overall appearance is something that Morpheus calls “Residual self-image.” While I’m not going to try to convince you that you’re stuck in a virtual simulation (YET), there is a lot of power in the way that we see ourselves or fail to see ourselves. As a pretty standard jeans and t-shirt kind of person, I am sending a message out into the world and to myself. The world’s perception of me is beyond my control, I can influence it but cannot do much to change other than by changing myself.

Therein lies the problem or more accurately: the opportunity. The world is fickle. It changes its likes and dislikes regularly. Fifty years ago walking down the street with bell-bottom pants sent a message about you. Now it sends a totally different message to the world. Since the world is going to change the way that it feels about you based on arbitrary rules of fashion that are environmental, season and person specific; perhaps the best that anyone can do is send signals to themselves because at least those can be consistent and understood.

The opportunities within this space are infinite. Clothes, hair, accessories, facial expressions and so many other components can be added to your “dress code.” This does not have to take extra money, effort or time. It is a simple alignment between who you want to project into the world and the ingredients that you use. For example: I wear mismatched socks on purpose. Some people would consider this a faux pas but it has been a powerful self-signaling tool that I’ve used for years. I stole it from Seth Godin but the idea behind it is this. A company called Little Miss Matched sold millions (possibly billions) of dollars of socks by doing something that no one else would have considered. They sold socks in a pack of three and none of them matched. This unorthodox but brilliant strategy was able to make them stand out and succeed. Doing the standard thing would have probably led to mediocrity or failure. No I don’t wear the actual “Little Miss Matched” socks. I don’t have to. The only person who needs to understand is me.

Can you undermine your outward signaling through your self-signaling? Abso-fricking-lutely! So it is up to you to decide where and when you need to signal to others while signaling to yourself. Since you set up the rules in the internal world in which you live (or at least you should), it’s completely possible to send yourself signals while meeting all of the arbitrary requirements of the fickle outside world. A special pair of boxer shorts can act like Superman’s cape whenever you need it to. The message is yours to choose! “I am confident in who I am!” “My creativity is inexhaustible!” “I am capable of stepping up to the next level!” “I’m sexy and I know it!” Wear it wherever you go! Even if you’re not particularly wearing anything different, put in your face, walk and posture. The only one who is usually stopping you is you! So send the message to yourself that you’re going places!

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Two Ways to Play

It’s definitely an oversimplification but in essence there are two ways to play a game: playing to your strengths or stifling the strengths of your opponents. The beauty of this oversimplification is that it brings to light a few things. Stifling ones opponent takes the art out of the game and makes it a pragmatic results focused exercise. There is nothing particularly wrong with this. It is inherently a means to an end. However it does not inspire or capture the imagination.

I’ve written many times about the fact that sports are a metaphor for life. The question then becomes do we live with this same amount of pragmatism? How often? And why? What is a result that is worth subduing our natural talents? Perhaps I did oversimplify a bit too much because within a game it is possible to self-express and stifle. Eventually one becomes the dominant strategy though.

Make your life an inspired performance rather than stifled slog.

Today’s your day! Use it wisely!

Pete