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!
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!
Today my son’s game had an extremely good referee group. The center referee and his two linesmen called the game very well. Despite the fact that they did a great job and got the majority of the calls right (even the ones that went against my son’s team), there were still complaints from parents. Which made me wonder if people really have any idea what makes for a good referee or if they just want calls to go in their team’s favor? Here are some thoughts to consider.
The level matters – Recognize that the job of a referee changes as the age and the level of play changes. At the lowest levels, the referee is part of a learning process. Their job is more about managing the understanding of the game rather than calling “fouls”. Often the sidelines are complaining about things that are poor body control and not actually a foul. The higher levels require much more reading of the flow of the game. A good referee will identify possible problems developing in the play. Their use of cards, advantage, player discussions and fouls called/not called will depend largely upon their reading of the game and individual’s roles within in it. So as you are watching a game, give some thought as to the level of soccer being played and what the referee’s role truly is at that level.
Perspective matters – By design, referees are intended to be a neutral third party at the game. So they are not carrying the bias that most of us bring to the game. Their decisions are based upon what they see and not what they feel. This creates another issue for most fans because their vantage point is completely different from that of the referee’s. So it is not only possible but actually completely accurate to say that fans and referees have seen a different game. Most of the time this is done with no instant replay, no VAR with different camera angles. This is done live with twenty two players running in all directions and possibly screening the view. Despite these major obstacles, perfection is the standard that many expect.
The Laws are the Laws – A good referee will call the game based on the laws of the game, not public perception of what the laws are. There are many things that are commonly shouted from fans or even coaches about things that do not apply to the Laws of the game. “Winning the ball” for example does not make a player immune from having a foul called against them. If the play is deemed to be reckless, then a foul is appropriate regardless of who won the ball. A large number of players, fans and coaches have only a cursory knowledge of the Laws that are based more on hearsay rather than actual study.
Obviously this is just a small sample but each is worth considering. The game requires referees and the good ones need to be identified, praised and promoted. I fear that many people involved in the soccer world would not be able to identify a good referee if they saw one. That is unfortunate because that means that people are unable to see past their own desires. Most of the soccer played in this country is youth soccer. Therefore the majority of children are getting a skewed view of right and wrong. Right means in my favor and wrong means anything else. The ability to be objective could be lost.
I am your new coach. That’s a role that I take very seriously. It’s a mixture of teacher, mentor, psychologist, personal trainer, confidant and many other jobs that coalesce into a position of great possible influence. The word possible is in there because people are put into roles like this every day but just because someone leads does not mean that anyone will follow. A position of power does not make someone a leader. Leaders must be willing to go first. My hope is that I am able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am.
At this point, I could list all of my past experiences and accolades but they are only slightly relevant. Prior success is not a guarantee of future success. Also that term is something that we will have to define together. So what am I offering? Commitment… A similar commitment to the ones that I make to my wife and children. I take it that seriously. The commitment to do what I believe is best in the long run. Not particularly today. Not the things that are easy. Not the things that most people would do but rather the things that few people would do. Things that may lose games but improve lives. Ultimately that is the game that I care the most about: LIFE. Eventually everyone’s playing career comes to an end. The things that we carry with us after the games are over are the true victories. The friends, confidence, self-discipline, self-awareness, and so many others are the trophies that we not only carry with us but can rely upon for years to come. In the end, your ability to control a ball will probably amount to very little but your ability to control yourself will give you everything.
So where do we go from here? Forward! We are going to take the necessary steps in order to prepare for what lies ahead. There is no way to predict what those things might be. Every team and every season is different. So we will do our best to anticipate the challenges and prepare for them. We will endure hardships. Face opponents external and internal. Enjoy the successes but no matter what it will be done together. Every one of us will contribute to whatever we accomplish. From the starting captain, all the way down to the last person on the bench of the lowest level team, we all have something to give. It may not be goals, saves or minutes but there is value in all of it.
I could go on but rather than talking about starting, we should just start. So for now, let me just say that I am extremely excited to be working with you.
See you soon!
P.S. Below is something that I wrote a few months back. Not sure how it will play into my plans but I’m putting it here for your consideration.
“Toward Full Stature”
I go out today in search of victory,
Not over the opponent who stands in front of me
But the lesser self that resides within me
Before I can conquer anyone or anything else
I must first conquer and control myself
And if today I am able to stand victorious,
I know that tomorrow will bring a new challenge
Each day my ability to stand tall will be tested
But I am confident that I will reach my full stature
My overall purpose in this world is to help people get the best out of themselves. Whether I do that work in the classroom, soccer field or elsewhere is irrelevant. Most of the time it is done through helping people see the possibility within themselves and breaking through the self-imposed limits that they have. Although my messages are usually positive in nature, I’m not against the idea of leveraging the dark space inside each of us. It is probably the reason that I’ve been a successful coach for many years.
It was my senior year in high school and there were no big expectations for our soccer team. There had been lots of talent in the prior year’s senior class and the season had no trophies or accolades. My senior class had only a couple players of impact. The junior and sophomore classes were full of talented but untested players. As the only senior captain, I believed it was my role to help get every last bit of effort out of our team. If we kept the idea that we were all in it together, we’d do OK. In all honesty, we shocked a lot of people, even me. We had an impressive record with only one loss and one tie as it was getting close to the playoff portion of the season. Our record was good enough to win the conference title. Against all odds in a penalty kick shootout we were able to beat a much bigger school for the county title. We were ranked highly by the papers in the area and the number one seed for our section in the state tournament. I’m not sure if it was one factor or a combination of things but we lost in the first round of the state tournament.
That was over twenty five years ago. Despite that fact, it is one of the reasons that I have so much to give to my athletes from the sidelines. Winning and losing are not actually my concern. The reason why that is such a hole inside of me is that we didn’t give it our all. I, as the leader, was possibly complacent and overly confident going into that game. Sure there were other things that impacted the outcome but I know inside that it was at least partially my fault. So I’ll have this hole inside of me forever because I can’t rewrite the past.
The only option that I have is to leverage that dark space into something positive. That cautionary tale that I lived through is a driving force on the mundane days where no one feels like giving their best. It is that pain that gives me the energy to work harder than others and leave it all out there. I don’t talk about it often or even replay it in my head. I don’t have to, it’s just there in the background.
We all have these experiences. There is nothing particularly special or unique about mine. The question becomes whether or not you can use it toward a future positive end. Even the greatest lose from time to time but it is what you do with that setback that matters. No moment is a definitive statement for the positive or negative on who you are as a person. We are what we’ve done consistently. With todays challenges you should absolutely give them everything you’ve got. But if you come up short, take the lesson from it and allow it to propel you forward. Sometime you win and sometimes you learn!
You are the ancestor of survivors! Cavemen and women who braved the bitter cold, extreme heat and dangerous predators just to continue the species. Their successors improved hunting and developed farming in order to make survival more probable. Eventually they were succeeded by people who developed technological advances that gave us every advantage and the ability to bend many of the laws of nature to our will. This is your lineage!
Despite that fact, you feel weak, uninspired, defeated or out of control. For so long our species had one objective: stay alive. Now that survival is less of a concern, we seem to have forgotten how to live. The words “successors” and “succeeded” were used intentionally because they illustrate a point that has been lost in the shuffle of the demands of modern life. Success is now an arbitrary term that people often conflate with money, possessions or other status symbols. It was originally about passing something on to those who would come after.
So don’t balk at the opportunity that you have. You are the descendant of people who were brave, resilient and strong. They left us every advantage and that has tricked us largely into believing that we are weak that we are nothing without them. That we can’t handle the cold or the heat or the difficult or uncertain. DON’T ASSUME THAT YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET! Inside of your very DNA is the stuff that made survivors. Now it is your turn to do whatever you can with the time that you have. Your strengths, the things that you were meant to do are out there, waiting for you. Your belief in them and your ability to find them will beckon them eventually but first you must act! You must do things that take you outside of your comfort zone. Test the limits to see where your strengths lie!
In 1998 I spent almost a month in Europe with my best friend, Schaef, attending the World Cup. When you think of life experiences, it really doesn’t get much better than that. Spending a month engrossed in the thing that you love the most with one of the people that you love the most. It truly was an amazing trip but when it was over he and I didn’t speak for almost two months. The experience of that trip has helped me in a variety of ways, one of which I’ll share here.
The trip was planned extremely well by my friend. He was the planner and I played the role of translator because I spoke both Spanish and French. We flew into London and saw the sites there briefly. Our main focus was the games. So site seeing was kind of a fast paced game. We tried to see as much as possible in the smallest amount of time possible. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc. were all done in a day and at a quick clip.
Then we took trains down to Barcelona where we spent a few days touring and watching games in the afternoon. Again, the Olympic Village, La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s buildings and all were seen but not studied as we had to block out times for the matches which were almost social events along Las Ramblas. Unfortunately Schaef lost his passport on our second to last day there. For that story, CLICK HERE.
Our next stop was Paris. There was of course the visit to the US Embassy in Paris to get a new passport which took longer than we would have liked. After getting it we had to rush to pick up our tickets to the five games that we were going to attend. Our first match was Germany vs USA. Despite both being American we were following Germany through the group stage. The most memorable thing from following Germany for me was the warm-up. Watching Jurgen Klinsmann get crossed balls for him to side volley from head height was amazing. He was obviously a world class player honing his craft and I loved seeing it up close. In addition to that match, we saw the Louvre in less than 2 hours. Art lovers we are not! Next was Germany vs Yugoslavia which was in Lens, a much smaller venue and not much around.
We fit in a quick trip to Munich Germany to experience Schaef’s heritage. This was the first time that I felt like we needed some space. I didn’t speak German but I felt there was an expectation that I was still on translation duty. I learned quickly how to say “Zwei biere, zwei pretz” (two beers and two pretzels) which was about all we needed to survive. That feeling of unnecessary expectation faded quickly because we were back on the road to Montpelier to see our final group stage match, Germany vs Iran, which ended with Germany winning the Group. Montpelier was also the first place that we were able to kick a soccer ball around. We met a girl from Chicago who got her brother to lend us a ball. Her father’s only directions were “don’t pop it”. Now I’ve never popped a soccer ball before in my life. But sure enough, the very last kick of the ball took a weird bounce hit this tree with spikes on it and POP! We felt so bad for the kid, I think we gave him around $140 in Francs to replace it. At this point, the togetherness was getting difficult. I even started smoking cigars on a daily basis just to get away for a bit.
Our final day of matches was filled with drama both on and off the field. We went to the knockout stage match in Lens between France and Paraguay which Les Bleus won in overtime. This was inconvenient for us because we had another match to attend in Paris that night and OT almost made us late. On top of that we had to navigate around riot police due to an altercation that happened during the match outside the stadium. Despite the difficult circumstances we got onto a fully packed train back to Paris. Denmark beat Nigeria handily that night.
We traveled back to England in order to catch our flight home. At this point, we have not had one argument or negative word said but we don’t speak much on the flight. The next day we part ways and don’t talk for about two months. Eventually we pick right back up in a good spot but we obviously needed some time apart.
This experience taught me so many things about relationships but the two main ones were: most upsets come from a mismatch of expectations and no matter how much you love someone, space is necessary at times. These both came into play in the best possible circumstances.
On a daily basis, we are not dealing with the best possible circumstances but we are cultivating our most important relationship. Each and every day we are in the closest possible contact with our key associate: the self. Although it may seem odd to apply the same concepts to an internal relation as an external but they can be used to good effect.
First the mismatch of expectations with who you think that you are or should be is a common cause of upset. We have a narrative about who we are inside of our head. Some of it is conscious and other parts unconscious but when our external environment fails to meet our expectations of who we are, it creates issues. Those issues can manifest in a variety of ways but the underlying problem is that our life does not match our expectations. One way to combat this is actually create a definitive description of who you expect yourself to be on a daily basis. Not the “best case scenario” or “ideal self” but rather standard operating procedure or bare minimums description. This way you are setting yourself up for success. Exceeding these expectations will be a gold star to shoot for but at least you have a definition of who you will accept going out into the world each day.
The second is slightly more complicated because getting distance from yourself can seem difficult. I’m obviously not talking about physical distance but rather psychological distance. The daily opportunity that we have for this space is sleep. I truly believe that people who do not sleep well have a more complicated internal life because they are caught up too directly in their own story. The inability to take a break from being puts additional stress onto the relationship with the self. Other forms of psychological space from the self are meditation and exercise. These can both be extremely effective provided that they can be done without intense focus on “results”. Using these tools to take a mental vacation will have great effects provided that the vacation is not turned into a business trip.
So recognize that you’re on a lifelong trip, living out of a purse sized “bag”, with the same person that you cannot get rid of. It would make sense for you to make them a friend, possibly your best friend. In order to make it work though, you’re going to need to set expectations and give each other space. Otherwise you could end up hating the person inside your head and that seems like a bad way to spend this great trip that you’re on.
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!