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Facing The Super Villains

SuperVillainsMarvel and DC have been churning out movies for years now.  For many reasons, the Marvel Universe is leading the charge in this genre.  One of the main reasons is that they don’t just have the heroes face the obvious Super Villains.  They also continually show their heroes struggle with the more difficult Super Villains that are hiding within themselves.  Whether it is Tony Stark battling his own ego, need for control and alcoholism* or Captain America’s conflicting values of friendship with right and wrong; these are all battles that we as mere mortals can relate to.  So what do you do when the enemy that you must face resides within you?  Identify your foe.  This is usually the most difficult step.

It’s easy to identify an alien invasion through a wormhole in the sky above New York.  It’s a problem that needs immediate attention and the longer that you ignore it, the worse it gets.  Often the same is true of our internal Super Villains but since they reside within us, we excuse them or think that they’re the reason we got this far in the first place.  Regardless of the story that we tell ourselves, they are nevertheless an enemy.  And you’ll need to do battle.  Battling the villain inside is the more difficult and subtle battle.  Drop a nuclear bomb on that villain and the hero dies too which is not what we’re looking for at all.  So it requires deliberate thought and often daily work.  Some of these villains can be tamed but others must be destroyed.  So it is important to remember that you’re a starfish!

Of course I only mean this in the metaphorical sense.  In reality, starfish can regrow parts of their anatomy that are cut off.  In the practical sense for us, this is also true.  You can “cut off” a band habit, poor thought pattern or addiction BUT something is going to grow back in its place.  If you’re not deliberate about replacing it with something more constructive, the villain will come back and be stronger.  So as you are doing battle with those things that you want to change about yourself, have a plan to replace them.  None of this is easy but it is necessary to get you to the super hero status that you deserve.  And that is usually first battle that people have to fight, BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE SPECIAL IN SOME WAY AND DESERVE BETTER.  You won’t sprout wings tomorrow but maybe you can find another way to fly!

Suit up!  And fight the good fight!

Pete

 

Blogpost

Travel Sites Never Suggest the Barcelona Police Department?

BarcelonaMetroIn 1998 my best friend and I traveled to Europe for the World Cup which was held in France.  Despite our main goal being to watch soccer games, we also made side trips to other cities inside and outside of France.  One of our stops was the Spanish city of Barcelona.  It’s a beautiful city on the coast with the architecture of Gaudi, the shopping of Las Ramblas and hosted the Olympics only a few years prior.  Despite all of those  magnificent characteristics, whenever I talk about that trip, I usually talk about the Police Department.  Let me explain!

My friend and I were staying in a hostel* about a mile from the beach.  So we usually took the metro from our hostel to other parts of city.  On our second to last day in Barcelona, we were at a metro station waiting for the train to come.  My friend was rearranging items in him money belt when the train arrived.  We hopped up and got onto the train.  After the train pulled away, he realized that he’d left his passport on the bench at the station.  By the time that we got to the next station and took a train back, the passport was gone.  This was early internet days, so we relied on maps and locals to make our way to the US Consulate in Barcelona.  Upon arriving there, we realized it was closed because it was a Saturday.  The only person there was a guard who only spoke Spanish.  Luckily I was able to use my Spanish to explain the situation and he put me on the phone with someone to help.  Since we were traveling to France the next day, he explained that we needed to go to the Barcelona PD and file a police report.  With that and a copy of his passport, we would be able to cross the border and get a new passport in Paris on Monday.  Luckily our visit to the Barcelona PD went off without a problem and we made it to Paris as scheduled.  The Barcelona PD is not actually a tourist attraction!  However it is one of the places that I mention whenever I talk about this trip.  The reason is simple, the destination matters but the road is more important.

Almost none of the stories that I tell from my travels are about the view from the Eiffel Tower or standing in front of the Mona Lisa.  They are the stories of what went wrong, things that were odd and personal.  If the point was to see the Mona Lisa, then Google is all that you need in order to have a fruitful life.  To the contrary, the journey to get to the Mona Lisa is more relevant and full of impact.  We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and that is clearly the point.  Goals are merely the excuse that we have for going on a magnificent journey.  The mistake that most people make is that they forget to enjoy the journey.

Every day is your chance at adventure.  If you choose not to see it, then you will be swallowed up by all of the petty and seemingly insignificant crap that you encounter.  Or maybe, just maybe going to the Barcelona PD could be one of the best times you’ve ever had!

Hit the road!

Pete

*If you’ve never traveled abroad, a hostel is like a VERY bare bones hotel.  You sleep in a room with many other people and have shared bathrooms etc.

Blogpost

You’re a Plane, Not a Helicopter!

takeoffI have a friend who has pretty strong anxiety about flying.  It’s actually not so much the flying but specifically the taking off and the landing.  Proximity to the ground is the cause for most of the anxiety because hitting it in some unwanted fashion would be a real bummer.  I’m not sure how she would deal with riding in a helicopter.  With the liftoff being so instantaneous when compared with a plane, I’m not sure if it would be easier or harder to deal with.  I’ve never been in a helicopter but my guess is that the sensation of it is very different.  Since I’ve never been in a helicopter, I just assume that most people haven’t been either.

Despite that fact it seems as though people have a generalized desire for the Helicopter experience in their lives and work.  The overwhelming feeling that I get (and sometimes have) is that success should require effort for sure but then you just lift off from there.  While I recognize this is irrational, it does not stop people from wanting it.  The lottery winner type story seems almost ingrained in our consciousness to the point that it overrides our rational brain.  So it is time to embrace the fact that we need a runway.  As humans, we’re generally not going to reach the heights of our potential in a “straight up” way.

As you go out into the world to make big things happen, realize that you need to build a runway.  Reaching the highest heights is difficult when you’re running into trees, rocks and walls.  You need to clear a path for yourself to take off.  This may take a finding a new location or lots of elbow grease.  Regardless, building a good runway is better for the process of your takeoff rather than expecting your plane to be a helicopter.  The world tends to work in specific ways, so lay the groundwork and eventually you’ll be “ready for takeoff”.

Enjoy your flight!

Pete

Blogpost

We Lived In Castles

castleAt certain point in history, in particular parts of the world, the wealthiest people such as kings lived in castles.  I’m sure many people have fantasized about living in a castle.  The fantasy probably does not mirror the reality of what it was like hundreds of years ago.  By comparison, the comforts of most of our modern day houses outshines castle living.  Castles were made of cold stone without heat or air conditioning.  Although they served as protection from the elements in some ways, there was no escaping the fact that survival was the order of the day and not comfort.

In the past month, I’ve challenged myself to take cold showers every morning.  This has been an eye opening experience for a variety of reasons.  Although I started it for a variety of health benefits, it has actually been the change in perspective that I’ve noticed the most.  The key to making it through the cold exposure is control.  Not control over the external world but control over the internal world.  Recognition of the discomfort that you are in and finding a way to become comfortable with it is a revelation.

WE LIVED IN CASTLES!  The wealthiest people used to live in a discomfort that we don’t really understand but they survived.  The human body, mind and spirit are actually set up to endure much greater discomfort than we put ourselves through on a daily basis.  The thing is that we’ve lured ourselves into the comfort trap.  We’ve trapped ourselves into a 10 or even 5 degree window of comfort.  It’s not the circumstance but rather our perspective on it that traps us.  We believe that we cannot handle the discomfort, so we live as if it were true.   The space between where you are and where you want to be is filled with the discomfort that you think you’re not ready for.  So the question becomes, do you want to live in comfort of your present life or in the castle of your dreams?  Neither of them requires your circumstances to change, the latter requires that you do!

Get moving!

Pete

Blogpost

Steam Is Contagious

Huryk-LukeIt was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example.  I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania.  The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game.  One team was extremely adept at the offside trap.  Late in the game, there was a corner kick.  The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up.  The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal.  He shot.  The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post.  The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored.  The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense.  The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic.  He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc.  As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game.  I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.”  He responded, “I know it was the right call!  I’m just blowing off some steam.”

In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation.  It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher.  The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it.  There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion.  We need them to live and color our lives.  However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic.  The word was chosen very deliberately.  REASON!  The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions.  Referees become demons.  Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere.  This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person.  However it seems to have become a societal norm.

The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision.  The ability to see what is right in front of our faces.  Children.  Children who are looking at us for how to act.  Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives.  When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do.  You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand.  You don’t see the bigger picture.  You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with.  Those things aren’t done because they’re hard.  They require effort, judgement and self-control.  These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.

So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe!  Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you.  Put your focus on that.  Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult.  AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING!  So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.

See you on the field!

Pete

 

Blogpost

Medals, Trophies and Tombstones

IMG_3917I’ve been extremely fortunate through the years to have won some medals and trophies, either individually or as part of a collective.  Most of them are in a box in my basement or in a display case that I don’t have direct access to.  Medals and trophies are all pretty similar.  They usually have a name of an individual or group, a year and the indication of some accomplishment.  As I was thinking about the trophies that teams and individuals are going to reach for this season, I realized that trophies are the tombstones of our past accomplishments.

They do not actually say anything about who we are in this very moment.  Instead they are a reminder of our former self.  Usually that persona is embellished by a form of nostalgia or selective memory.  This is actually not the worst thing in the world if it is employed correctly.  The idea is not to intoxicate ourselves with the image of our past self.  Deluding ourselves into believing that we are better than the flesh and blood that presently exists.  It needs to be used as a stepping stone toward something else.  If we worship our past achievements, they become ghosts.  If we use them as an indicator of our capabilities, then they become fuel for a fire within and path to possibility.

So don’t let your past self die without leaving an inheritance.  Make sure that your trophies are not tombstones but rather mile markers on a path that takes you to higher and higher heights.  You are always the product!  And there is no quicker way to the grave than to believe that all of your best days are behind you.

Keep climbing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You’re Prehistoric!

cavemanWe live in a modern world but humans are prehistoric creatures.  Obviously we have acquired skills and knowledge that our ancestors did not have.  So I am not suggesting that we are on their level in that respect but I do want to point out that we are using the same hardware.  The same brain structure that caused us to run from saber-toothed tigers is now tasked with managing a world that moves faster than we were intended to go.  We’re overwhelmed and stressed because we created an environment that stresses and overwhelms our prehistoric brains.  This is not a blog to suggest that we go back to living in caves.  Rather it is intended to point out the fact that there are limits on our bandwidth, therefore we must manage ourselves so the prehistoric brain does not go into overload.

The odd irony to our situation is actually that in a modern world, very few things are trying to kill you.  This is an important thing to realize.  Our prehistoric brain’s major functions were centered around keeping the self and the species alive.  So things like fear and sex were major priorities, while general happiness was farther down the list.  The world that we live in requires very little self/species preservation.  Despite this fact, the “wiring” for the old world is still intact.  So a modern “threat” feels very much like a situation of life or death without any of the true peril.  The signals will continue to be sent in this fashion, until we are willing to “re-wire” ourselves.

This process is not like the re-wiring of house.  It doesn’t require a professional or a lot of money but it does require time.  Humans generally don’t change without time and/or major incentives.  A methodical approach to managing your mind can go a long way to creating a better life for you.  Regular practice at calming your prehistoric brain will go a long way.  Taking the time to recognize that your response to situations is not based on what will help but rather things that are pre-programmed will help you to re-program those responses.  Remember that you don’t have to act like a caveman even if you have the same operating system as one.

Go make history by reprogramming your prehistoric systems!

Pete

Blogpost

It’s Not You! It’s Me! (But It’s Really You)

CostanzaGeorge Costanza would not accept it! Upon being dumped by a significant other, she tried to employ the most common of breakup cushioning. “It’s not you! It’s me!” This is an age old ploy to deflect a super direct hit to the ego of the person being dumped. Rather than telling the person the real reasons that they no longer want to be with you, the softener is used.  While it may cushion the short term blow, it does nothing for the long term development of the person as a viable mate.  Costanza, as usual, is an outlier in his stance on “It’s not you!  It’s me!”  He doesn’t want to hear it.  He wants to know that it is his fault that the relationship is falling apart.  While a little aggressive in his approach, maybe it’s time to learn from George.

The finger of blame is wielded around like an oscillating sprinkler head.  It blankets the surrounding area effectively enough but the source never becomes a target.  It creates a two-fold problem that compounds over time.  People, who are unable to hear the truth of their shortcomings, never get beyond them.  Despite being adept at avoiding the mirror’s reflection, they usually become better at noticing the faults of others.  From a perch of perfection, the mere mortals that surround you seem almost foolish in their daily mistakes.  So the cycle of delusion and dispersion continues.  Until there is that extremely uncomfortable face to face meeting with the reality of imperfection.

The way to combat this is to cut it off at the beginning.  Assume that it’s you!  At least partially, if not wholly.  You’re to blame.  You didn’t do enough or did too much.  Put it onto yourself first because at least then you’re in control of it.  You can change something: an action, a habit, a relationship or even just your outlook.  When you take total responsibility for yourself and the things you can control, you’ll find yourself on much more stable ground to influence the people around you to do the same.  You’re not a victim!  You’re a contributor!  If all you have to contribute is blame and excuses, then you’re going to end up alone on your perch of perfection.  Waiting for it to fall!

Pete

 

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I’ll Go For You!

L-Photo9-dog-sniffing-locker-1During my sophomore year of college, my two younger brothers were in high school together.  One was a senior and the other was a freshman.  At one point during the school year, there were “Drug sniffing” dogs brought in to do a search of the school.  Students stayed in their classes while the school was swept.  If your locker was tagged, you were supposed to report to the office in order to have your locker searched.  My freshman brother’s locker had a tag on it.  Completely panicked, he went and found his senior brother.  One question from the senior brother, “Do you have any drugs in your locker?”  The response was “no”.  The senior brother went straight to the office and reported that his locker had been tagged.  He brought the officials to the locker for it to be searched.  The school officials questioned whether this was really his locker or not because it was in a freshman hallway.  My brother was adamant!  This is my locker!  Upon being opened and searched, the locker did not contain any drugs.  There was however a half eaten box of crackers at the bottom which the dog must have smelled.  I wasn’t there and no one has discussed that incident for years but I still get choked up when thinking about it.

As I am going through preseason as a coach, I am always trying to instill in my players through my words and my actions, the exact sentiment that my younger brother displayed that day.  I’LL GO FOR YOU!  The idea that I’ll put myself in harm’s way for the good of others.  It’s one of the main reasons why I’m still involved in sports after all of these years.  It’s not the championships, trophies or victories.  It’s those moments when you can truly see that people throughout the team have that simple idea tattooed on their brains “I’ll go for you!”  I’ll give you everything that I’ve got and then some because I know that you’d do the same for me.

The ironic thing is that this has become so very rare in our society but the teams that I’ve seen do the best had this.  People are usually worried about what’s in it for them and when will they get their due.  In my experience, it seems to be that when you are willing to give everything and expect nothing, is exactly the time when you get more than your due.  This can be a difficult concept for a large group of people to buy into but when they do, it can be magical.

The best example of this idea that I’ve ever heard of was when Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers had his father pass away.  There was some doubt whether or not he’d play the next game.  It’s not his decision to play that I find extraordinary but rather his teammates commitment to him.  In this video clip about the game at 2:19 Donald Driver (Wide Receiver) describes exactly what I’ve been talking about.  “Whatever he throws, we catch.”  In a time of pain for their teammate, they were not going to let him fail.  That’s what being a teammate and a family member is about.

Now don’t misread my words!  Not everyone deserves everything you’ve got but if no one is willing to go first then we all lose.  So be the one who is willing to give into the unknown.  Tell the people who truly matter with both your words and your actions; “I’LL GO FOR YOU!”  Most of the time you’ll find, they’ll go for you too!

Go team!

Pete

Blogpost

The Fog Barrier

FoggyThe future is out there and you’re going to arrive at it whether you’re ready or not.  The problem is that the future is unclear like on a really foggy morning.  The haze itself is nothing to fear.  It will dissipate as you get closer.  It’s possible to move at full speed in territory that is known and clear.  On new and uncertain paths, it’s important to manage your speed with your field of vision.  Going too fast on a new road could end in a crash.  The thing is that most people are not afraid of the ditch, pothole or even the wall.  They’re afraid of the uncertainty that the fog brings.

The fog is the barrier that they can’t get past because it is SO frightening not to know.  Fear is the fog and avoiding it shrinks the world down to almost nothing.  The only way to get the fog to disappear is to go into it.  It doesn’t disperse with time, compliments from friends or likes social media.  Motion/action is what is needed to break through the fog barrier.  By all means, manage your speed and watch out for potholes but never let the fog stop you in your tracks.  It’s not a wall!  Unless you make it one.

Move on through today!

Pete