Category Archives: self-reliance

Daily Diet of Cake Icing

IcingoncakeIn kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class.  The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom.  I won everyone that I ran in.  Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion.  First, it’s possible that it is true.  I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class.  Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine.  Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER!  While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.

Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around.  In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races.  Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem.  Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later.  They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.

The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis.  The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things.  Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people.  It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles.  Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste.  These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.

So the daily choice comes down to you.  Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life.  Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself.  Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts.  Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.

Happy birthday!

Pete

 

You Don’t Know Me!

IMG_2967It was an absolute revelation!  Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it  (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business).  The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women.  The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.

Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar.  He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.”  His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way).  They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny.  Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number.  Watch the clip for the full picture.

This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives.  First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations.  Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me.  I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.

The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you.  Keep that in mind at all times.  Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you.  So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself.  It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can.  Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior.  When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.

You’re a big bear man!

Pete

Mr. Magoo, An American Idol?

MagooIdols are supposed to be held in high esteem, the very personification of the things that we want to be.  It hit me like a lightning bolt this morning that Mr. Magoo is truly an American idol for so many people.  For those youngsters out there, Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character whose poor eyesight routinely got him into precarious situations but he always escapes unscathed and sometimes falls into good fortune.  Feel free to watch one Mr. Magoo cartoon on YouTube.  Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all (minus little details).  The overarching idea behind Mr. Magoo is that his problem would be easily fixed if he were just to put on his glasses but he wants to deny his problem rather than face it.

Although it isn’t pretty, this seems to be a scarily accurate description of how many of us live our lives.  We recognize our problem but are too damn stubborn, lazy or indifferent to do anything about it.  Seemingly our greatest hope is that we can meander through life blind to our inadequacies and not have them bite us in the ass.  While this makes for a mildly amusing cartoon, it is a disastrous strategy for living a life of fulfillment and progress.

Rather than turning a blind eye to your inadequacies, stare at them with crystal clear vision, even put them under a microscope if need be.  Decide what you truly want: to feel good in the moment or feel good long term.  If you want the Magoo life, then by all means turn the blind eye.  BUT if you want more from your life, then you and you alone will need to make the decision to systematically work on your areas of weakness until they can no longer hurt you.  Maybe it’s something as simple as putting on glasses but perhaps it will take years or even decades to overcome.  Regardless, it’s up to you to Magoo or not.

Pete

 

 

Bad Gladiators Died

gladiatorIt wasn’t a 100% binary equation.  Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”.  Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death.  Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died.  I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner.  Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case.  Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators.  While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes.  Gladiators got good because they had to.  Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.

By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to.  A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go.  However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward.  The same holds for an individual.  What is at stake for you today?  Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie?  Or is nothing at stake today?  Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday?  Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly.  Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber.  The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword.  That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake.  So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!

Pete

 

 

Wish You Were Here (and I wasn’t)

WishYouWereHereIt is not an uncommon thing at all to wish for a future that is yet to come or a past that is long gone.  Humans have the blessing and the curse to be able to mentally exist in the past and future while ignoring the present.  It is a blessing because it allows us the freedom to live in the most useful plane.  The curse is the propensity to relive or project the worst of experiences or possibilities.  At all times, the mind has the capability of transporting the self elsewhere.  With this ultimate power to determine much of our existence, surprisingly most people defer control to the moment or to their “monkey mind”.  Imagine if you will driving a car with no steering wheel.  The gas and the brake are great tools but without the ability to steer, one is at the mercy of the terrain and the tires.

So the key to moving forward in a direction of your own desire means developing a steering mechanism.  How long would you drive that car without a steering wheel?  Not long at all before you or someone else added that key component.  The key to your mental steering comes down to practice.  Pulling your mind in the direction of your choosing on a regular basis.  When it wanders, you must take control again.  Under no circumstances is this easy.  It’s easy to be swayed by right now.  It’s easy to run the patterns that you’ve been running for years or decades.  Those are the paths of least resistance but I assure you that they will not get you to your destination in a timely or comfortable manner.

So take this moment to decide.  Decide who you are now and who you want to be in the future (you can’t fix the past but you can change its meaning).  Once you have those in mind, start with a half hour each day where you think and act only in line with that vision.  If you mind wanders, bring it back!  As you get better and better at completing that half hour, it will begin to dump over into the other hours of the day.  Eventually the you from the vision and your reality will be one in the same.  The only question for now is, are you willing to take control?

Bon Voyage!

Pete

Rails and Trails: The Duality of Learning

IMG_2082The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance.  While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground.  Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems.  At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn.  Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world.  I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains.  The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form.  Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.

RailsIntuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken.  Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity.  There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same.  The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.

The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails.  Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain.  The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own.  In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure.  Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.

At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance.  A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”.  Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.

So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy.  Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel.  Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight.  Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!

Learn today to be better tomorrow.

Pete

 

Exhausting the Thumb

IMG_2786I would not have been surprised if I annoyed the hell out of my former teammates.  It’s not that I’m a bad player, I’m actually OK (or was).  The annoying factor would come from two things in particular.  First, I never shut up.  I talk incessantly.  Almost as if I were the unofficial play by play announcer for our team.  The other would be my tendency to blame everything that went wrong on myself.  Regardless of how small of an influence I had on a situation, I tended to focus on my little component rather than anyone else’s.  If a goal was scored, it was almost always followed by an admission of guilt.  As an intelligent human being and player, I realize that not everything that went wrong was my fault.  It’s just not true.  However I always wanted to exhaust the thumb before I went to the finger.

In a world where almost everything is on video, accountability is an easy thing to track, especially in sports.  Who lost their mark or misplayed a pass is available in HD clarity.  I’m not particularly keen on accountability though.  It has its place.  However responsibility is a much more interesting quality.  People need to take responsibility.  Accountability can be handed out and often leads to separation.  Fingers tend to make enemies and excuses.  Thumbs tend to make leaders and solutions.  By continuously pointing the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger, a few very important things happen.

First, the thumbed individual sees him or herself a part of a larger whole which is influenced by the actions of all.  Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and contributes to an eventual hurricane.  A person willing to exhaust the thumb recognizes that they’re not working independently of the rest of the group, team, company or world.  Every action of the individual has the potential to influence a much larger whole.  Could a tiny gesture of kindness toward a neighbor influence the relations of an entire town or city?  Absolutely!  Especially if those actions are done consistently.

Second, the thumbed individual infrequently or never blames others.  This posture creates fewer separations between people.  Finding fault in others rarely creates better behavior.  It usually only creates resentment for the person doing the blaming.  Most people in this world are their own harshest critic.  Giving them the ability to rectify the situation without judgment can go a long way toward future success.  Fear of letting someone down is a much stronger motivator than fear of punishment.  It also has the added benefit of creating better relations between people who are giving their best to each other and know that criticism (if it comes) will come with understanding.

Like anything else that is really important in life, not everyone will do this because it’s hard.  It’s so much easier to lose your temper or “let off some steam”.  After all things are often other people’s fault.  Taking on this world view doesn’t change that.  However it does get you focus on the only person that you can fully control, yourself.  If you are in control of yourself, then it’s possible that you’ll end up where you want to go.

Have a great day!

Pete

The Give Up Bargain

zeusLately I’ve been thinking a lot about the old school gods and their importance in the lives of our ancestors.  Although we have so many technological and societal advantages, there are some aspects to their belief structure that could be helpful if implemented.  I’ve joked several times that I may start worshiping Zeus and the other Greek gods because of their idiosyncrasies.  You’re less likely to beat yourself up over work snafu when your god is regularly cheating on his wife.  Despite the possible comedy arising from this, I don’t know that there’s much to it.  The main area that most of the ancient religions have in common is the concept of “sacrifice”.  I will be focusing on the non-human variety.

With a scientifically inferior way of understanding the world, our ancestors intuitively seem to have comprehended something that has become lost recently.  Despite the fact that their reasons for sacrificing crops, animals, etc. was founded in mythology, it is a practical lesson.  The recognition of giving something up in the hope of influencing the greater system.  I’m sure that the phrase “give up” came from the ceremonial act of giving a thing up to a deity.  As our world has more, we are less willing to go without.  We don’t see the point.  Our parents and grandparents worked hard for the prosperity that we now enjoy.  Therefore we “deserve” everything we have.  Unfortunately the word DE-SERVE, could be hyphenated and it means “from service”.  To keep that which we have, we must continue to serve.  Or to get more we must serve more.  At a certain point the words service and sacrifice tend to intertwine.

So the give up bargain is simple.  Recognize that on some level, you’ll need to give up something that you have in order to get that which you want.  Not in any religious context but in a more practical way.  Giving up your anger will allow you to find peace.  Giving up your excessive eating will allow you to find the slimmer you.  The reverse is also in play.  If you are not acting in the service of what you already have, it will eventually be taken from you.  You are not an independent force in this world/universe.  Your actions have consequences.  Giving and taking are two sides of the same coin.  Therefore they are linked.  Keep this in mind as you give things up.  The lottery mentality is a losing strategy because it applies in such a small number of cases.  Practical sacrifice and service of that which matters most to you.  When you decide what you want, also decide on what you’re willing to give up to get it.  Usually this bargain will involve trading now for later and so many of us are in love with NOW.

Give up today!

Pete

 

At War with the Rainbow

TestImagine it.  A soldier walking through a jungle in a foreign land just as the rain stops.  In the distance there is a rainbow.  All of the sudden there is an attack from the enemy.  The attack is repelled and the soldier marches on.  The next day the rain stops, rainbow, surprise attack.  This pattern continues for a week.  On the eighth day, the soldier comes upon a beautiful waterfall.  With the water plummeting from a height of over fifty feet, a mist above the surface of the water forms a miniature rainbow and soldier discharges his weapon several times into the falling water.  There is no attack, so the soldier is sure that the enemy is dead.  It is ridiculous, isn’t it?  The soldier believing that the rainbow somehow caused or could help the prediction of the attacks.  The truth is that we all do it at one point or another.

The combination of two things that have almost no association whatsoever is quite common.  An undefeated streak and an unwashed pair of socks.  Traffic and the driver in front of you.  School and learning.  WAIT!!!!  That’s blasphemy!  Especially for someone who has spent years as a teacher and vehement proponent of learning.

The problem is that in many ways the statement is true.  School and learning have almost completely been divorced from one another.  People recognize that at one point in history they went hand in hand.  However that relationship has decayed in people’s minds.  School has become a pariah that people only endure because they have to.  Learning has gotten mistaken for its cousin, information.  Since information is everywhere, people have no need to engage in the relationship with learning.  So this once inseparable couple is now separated and only feign a relationship “because of the kids”.

This is an extreme picture of the present situation.  While not completely accurate, it is not altogether inaccurate.  School is in a precarious position because it only ever came into being because of learning.  The point of school was to learn (especially how to think).  In many instances that has been replaced with “The point of school is to get good grades.”  Like the telephone game that many of us played as children, over time the message has gotten garbled and disjointed.  Politicians, administrators, parents and teachers propped up a system that only partially meets its expressed purpose.  Like the situation of rogue traders who bet on speculative numbers with the life savings of others, this could leave many people bankrupt.

So for now, my suggestion is double, triple or quadruple down on learning.  If it happens at school, GREAT!  If it happens elsewhere, GREAT!  Learn about the things that are important to you and the people in your life.  Dive deep into learning about yourself.  How you work.  How your mind works.  How your emotions work.  Not so you can be self-centered but you can find balance with the world.  Learning is not actually the hard part as it happens all the time.  The key is learning things that are useful and meaningful to your world.  So if you are still in school, don’t think of learning as drudgery.  Seek out those opportunities when school style learning overlaps with your life.  If you’re already done with school, realize that you aren’t done with learning.  Don’t try to kill the rainbow just because it was lumped in with something that you perceive to be your enemy.

Have a great year!

Pete

 

Dream Amnesia

amnesiaHave you ever woken up from a night of intense dreaming and not been able to remember much of anything about the dream?  Well that’s not what I’m talking about at all!  I’m talking about your dreams forgetting you!  Those things that you want to have in your life: a goal, a person, an item or anything else you can imagine.  It started as an image in your head.  Then you took some form of action to make it a reality.  You might have even got close.  But then it was gone.  Sorry to say, your dreams have amnesia!

Your dreams don’t know who you are and don’t care about you in the beginning.  Like the most popular girl in high school, your dreams could not pick you out of a line up.  What’s worse is that your dreams have a form of amnesia.  You can walk up and introduce yourself but the next day you’ll be forgotten.  Just like Adam Sandler in the movie “50 First Dates”.  You need to recognize this condition and not take it personally.  DO THE WORK!  The only way for your dreams to remember you and begin to accept you is through constant contact.  Don’t let a day go by that you’re not courting, coaxing and down right harassing your dreams (the last one doesn’t work well with people).  It won’t happen overnight!

I can’t even tell you how long it will take but if you’re consistent daily, hourly and minutely (is that a word?).  You’ll find yourself getting closer to your dreams.  Maybe one day they’ll welcome you with open arms.  Unfortunately that’s going to take a lot of work first.

Dream big and make yourself memorable!

Pete