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

Blogpost, self-reliance

Results vs Resluts

If I had been born about ten years later than I was, I’m quite sure that I would have been tested for and found as dyslexic. However due to my age and a few other factors, there was no diagnosis. It’s never been a major issue, numbers are my biggest problem. So it made perfect sense for me to start out as a math major in college. For the most part, I’ve just had to police myself throughout my academic career. Now I’m not sure if my recent typing issues are related or if my fingers have just gotten fumbled up. I’ve been having a lot more instances of typos where I only switch two letters in the middle of the word. From time to time, results turn into resluts! Despite the obvious error, I gave some thought to my error and its possible uses. My fear is that far too many people are going for resluts!

The thing about resluts is that anyone can get them. They are readily available with little effort. Like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the resources needed to make that result happen are available to most people. It’s nothing special but it is still something. If they are needed in order to build confidence, habit or a streak of some kind, then by all means! Go get those resluts! Just don’t celebrate too much.

Results are what should be desired and chased. They inject enthusiasm and motivation into our lives. Although they are within our reach, they are elusive, coy or possibly aloof. They act as if they are too good for us and if we’ve lowered our standards drastically, they might be right. However it’s more than likely that we are more than good enough. It might take some extra effort, a bit more primping or charm but there’s no reason to let that stop us. Just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it!

So as you go through your day, recognize whether you’re chasing real results or not. Are the things that you’re after worth pursuing? If you’re only after them because they are easy, then it might be time to move on to better things. You deserve the top level prizes in this carnival game we call life. But first you need to realize that you do! Don’t settle for the participation trophy because you can do more than just show up!

Go get your results!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Unpickle the Cucumber

One of my favorite places to eat in the entire world is called “The Sub Shack” in Hackettstown, NJ. As a kid, we would go there from time to time and as an adult I make it a point to go whenever visiting home. They had a barrel of pickles soaking in brine that were sold for one dollar a piece. As a child, I didn’t realize initially that pickles were cucumbers (or other vegetables). Traditionally it was done to prevent spoilage. In modern times, it seems to principally be done for taste. Once pickled, it is almost impossible to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. By soaking the cucumber in brine, that liquid permeates the entirety of the cucumber. Even if it is soaked in water for a long period of time, it can’t go back. Luckily humans are not pickles but we may be “pickled” to a certain extent.

The Sub Shack located on Main St. in Hackettstonwn, NJ.

This discussion of brining and pickles was brought about as I was thinking about my own mindset and habits. Much of who I am today is due to being immersed in a particular set of circumstances. My upbringing, education, friends, experiences, etc. form the brine that my mind has been soaking in for these forty-five years. Some components have been thrust upon me while others have been deliberately chosen. All of the “flavors” that I am can be changed on some level by “re-brining.” My American flavor would be affected to some degree by living in England for a decade. However it is almost impossible to completely “unpickle the cucumber.”

Just because you can’t start over, doesn’t mean that you need to continue on your present path. It is completely possible to change the you that people see everyday. However it takes more than an inspirational Instagram post or a week’s worth of discipline. You need to become immersed in the change that you want to create. People, location, media, schedules, etc. can all help to “brine” you in one way or another. The key is to figure out exactly what you want to taste like (did I take the analogy too far? That felt like a bit too far.) REGARDLESS the person that you are is who you will stay unless you immerse yourself in something different. You’ve already been pickled. Now it’s up to you to decide if you like the recipe that was used!

Bon Appetite!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Hands of Leadership

Six weeks…..That’s all she was.  This was not part of the plan.  Or the standard operating procedure.  It was fear, anxiety and an entire host of emotions that coalesced into waves that could not be stopped but also could not be indulged.  The fever had spiked for no apparent reason.  And we, as new parents to a peanut of a little girl, took her to the hospital without delay.  After a few attempts to lower her fever were unsuccessful, the doctors asked which one of us was going to stay with her.  My wife had to leave.  It was written on her face.  I had to stay.  Not because I wanted to and not for some macho reason that “I can handle anything.”  I had to stay because my daughter would not be in a room of strangers as she had a spinal tap.  My right hand clasped her little legs and feet.  Under her head went my left palm.  Gently but deliberately I folded her legs above her head, so the doctor could insert the needle into her back.  Never before or since have I been so aware of my every motion and trying to subdue even my heartbeat as much as possible.  The fever broke the next day and the spinal tap came back clear.

There are times when we get to choose to be a leader.  Other times, leadership is thrust upon us.  When we sign up for roles like coach, spouse, parent, teacher, etc., we tend to imagine the circumstances that we’ll face in terms of best case scenarios.  Events that we not only can deal with, but that we want to.  Life does not let the best case scenarios last for very long.  At that point we must choose who we are going to be and the example that we set for those around us.  It is our choices that define who we are.

One of my favorite comparisons to make is between Darth Vader and Teddy Roosevelt.  They have something crucial in common.  Both lost their mother and wife tragically.  Roosevelt’s wife and mother actually died less than twenty-four hours apart.  One chose to become the evil henchman to a diabolical tyrant.  The other chose to become one of our greatest presidents.  

Leadership is a choice that we make.  Over and over again, we are confronted with circumstances.  Our choices define us and the example that we set for others which is the strongest way to lead.  Every single one of us is a leader, even if we are only leading ourselves.

It’s in your hands!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Is Process

Your life will have milestones! There is no doubt about that. However at only one point in your life will you reach any sense of complete finality, at your death.  In my estimation, that is not a goal to move toward as quickly as possible.  So therefore the thing that is left is PROCESS.  Even the games, matches and contests, that we compete in are steps along the path to becoming.  Becoming what?  That is up to you. 

If you put in the requisite effort, then you are becoming better, stronger, faster, smarter, leaner, calmer and the other er’s in your life don’t ever have to stop.  They are always capable of being improved based on your potential.  Reaching milestones is not a reason to stop, unless that is what you want.  If your appetite is satiated, then by all means, take a bow, revel in your success but don’t believe that it is all you have in you.  That is not something that you will ever reach.  For some people that is daunting. The endlessness of your own capability can intimidate because comfort can be drawn from familiarity. 

In my belief it is liberating to believe in endless potential because no matter what level you’re at there is room to move.  You are not boxed in by a ceiling.  Bowling at the professional level gives me no excitement because it only allows for a certain level of performance, beyond that you can’t do any better.  Perfection or bust is not anything I’m interested in.  The pursuit of something beyond what is now known is interesting. The you of right now is a rung of a ladder for tomorrow’s version to climb upon. Give yourself sturdy shoulders to stand on by believing in the process of every day!

One step at a time!

Pete