Blogpost, self-reliance

Bio-Chemical War on Yourself

cannonI just wept in front of a room of teenagers.  It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it.  Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen.  It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story.  That’s because I’ve let it happen.  The memory does not have to be painful.   It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.

It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions.  They are things that happen to us rather than our creation.  Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party.  As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse.  Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant.  So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly.  But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.

The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen.  So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times.  Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol.  It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies.  Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other.  The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.

Physiology is the way that you use your body.  It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial.  Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.

Focus is the things that you pay attention to.  At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses.  We can only pay attention to a finite number.  So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.

Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head.  For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel.  Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.

These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside.  It is by no means an easy fix.  Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.

You’re fighting for your life, literally!

Pete

 

Blogpost, self-reliance

Am I Good? Is the Wrong Question

TestThe spring season brings rejuvenation and tryouts.  Soccer tryouts, hockey tryouts and I’m sure many others.  The constant evaluation of players is now a cultural norm.  While it may seem like a necessary evil, it is our job as the adults or forward thinkers to ensure that it doesn’t become pure evil in the mind of a young player.  The constant question can go swirling through their head “Am I good?”  While it may be a common question, it is probably the wrong question.

Comparison is all around us.  There are grades, likes, follows, rankings and so many other ways to compare people and anything else.  Some of them are objective and others completely subjective.  They are easy to focus upon because they feel real.  A sense of power and prestige can be derived from comparison but the opposite is also true.  It is often easier to feel powerless and insignificant because we are usually comparing our worst with our projection of other people.  Neither of these pictures is completely accurate but the feeling of inequity can be overwhelming.  So we often look for validation from others, such as coaches, teachers, parents or others with the question, “Am I good?”  The answer is never going to satisfy in the long term.  It becomes a button that needs to be hit every so often to keep things in balance.  Multiple choice is not your friend in most instances.

Although most people avoided them in school, it is two open ended questions that allow for a more compelling look at one’s self.  “How am I better than I used to be?”  “How can I progress forward?”  Both questions are asked with a leaning toward positive self discovery.  Our brains are an amazing piece of machinery that will answer almost any question that we ask of it, even if it needs to make the answer up.  Consistently asking “Am I good?” will inevitably lead to plenty of instances where the answer will be “No” because metric and competition change frequently.  However by asking the open ended questions, the question sends a subtle signal that in some small way you are better than you were.  Also there are ways to progress forward if you’re willing to look for them.

These are obviously not the only questions that can be asked.  They are simply two examples that can break the comparison chain.  Done consistently, proactive questions like these can be life altering because we are evaluating ourselves and our lives continuously.  Wouldn’t it be better to stack the deck in your favor?

Have a great day!

Pete

self-reliance

Prove It!

Geometry was probably one of the easiest classes for me in high school.  Despite its relative ease, I had trouble staying engaged with it.  I found it tedious to give all of the reasons why something was true.  It was usually pretty obvious whether a problem was going to withstand the scrutiny of the different theorems that we were learning at the time.  So it seemed like a relative waste to my teenage self to write out all of the steps in proving or disproving a problem.  Especially when the answers (to the odd problems usually) were in the back of the book.

In our every day lives, there aren’t a lot of ‘proofs’ to be done.  Very few things are black and white.  So regardless of how SURE you are of your argument, there’s someone out there with the exact same information screaming the opposite (just think of our present political situation).  So if we have nothing to prove, maybe the aim should be to improve.

Although there are few cold hard truths that we encounter daily, we do have a sense of who we are personally and what it is that we want for ourselves.  So recognize the fact that you have nothing to prove.  Even if you were to prove something, the circumstances of tomorrow may wipe away the thing that your proved today.  However, each day we have the ability to improve.  In small and subtle ways, it is possible for you to see progress in yourself, your life and your circumstances.  Almost nothing about you is going to stand the test of time like Pythagoras’ Theorem.  That does not mean that your life is meaningless.  You are a sand castle that can be improved and enjoyed for the time that it exists.  Get digging and sculpting because when the tide comes in, you’ll wish that you had!

Have a great day!

Pete

 

self-reliance

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Revisited)

BoywhocriedwolfCautionary tales like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” seem to be less prevalent than in the past.  Perhaps that is just my perception or my own implementation of life lessons to my kids.  I remember exactly who told me this story and for what reason.  It had the desired effect.  In third grade, I would frequently “not feel well” in order to be sent down to the nurse’s office.  Once my visits became frequent enough, the nurse recounted the story of the boy who cried wolf.  My visits to her office became more legitimate.

Although the moral of the story is extremely clear, it might be worth a revisit because it could go further.  In the end, the boy gets hurt because the townspeople don’t believe him.  His dishonesty lead  to pain because it short-circuited the system that was intended to protect him.  While this moral has served me and countless others well, let’s go further.

The boy not only put himself in peril, he also robbed himself.  He robbed himself of the experience of watching how the townspeople dealt with wolves.  His deception was a short term diversion that took away his long term solution.  If he had been diligent in his duties, he may have seen that scaring off the wolves was something that he could eventually do on his own.  Developing this skill set over time could have saved his life in the future.

This revisited moral is possibly even more useful than the original now.  The world is full of alarms, warning devices and security systems that keep us safe from “wolf attacks”.  However with all of this “protection” are we going to be ready to act when things go sideways.  If we are always providing our young people with a “safe space”, will they know how to handle themselves when real dangers show up?  Hope is not a strategy.  Hoping that the systems in place will be enough to cover all eventualities actually leaves those on the inside helpless.  So don’t hope that nothing will happen, take steps to prepare for those possibilities.

Systems can be great and it is completely fine that we depend on them, until it’s not.  Following the credo of the Boy Scouts, “be prepared!”  You don’t know what is coming in your future but if you never consider what’s possible in either the positive or the negative, then you’re bound to be unprepared.    We’ve all got exactly one objective in life: FCO (Figure Crap Out!).  That’s it!  You don’t deserve a problem free life.  You can only create one.  Not by eradicating all problems but by preparing for so many eventualities that you’re never caught by surprise!

Get ready people!

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

self-reliance, Uncategorized

The Latest Version

IMG_3647
It’s so common to us that we are almost blind to it at this point.  The release of the latest version of something.  Whether it’s a car, an app for the phone or a video game; the old version is eventually replaced by the latest version.  Sometimes this comes with huge upgrades that revolutionize the way that we think about the product.  Other times it messes up something that was working to our liking.  The thing is that even if we don’t see the changes, they’re happening all the time.

It’s so much easier to understand with technology especially.  The cellphone does not change shape or size when you add a new app or update it.  It simply acquires the new programming and moves on.  Often bugs need to be fixed but I’m pretty certain that Bill Gates does not lament the fact that Windows 7.1 was not as good as Windows 10.2.  There is an understanding that each new version is intended to build upon the past.

In a very similar way, here you are.  Version 2018.193 of yourself.  You may look at yourself as the same person that you’ve always been but that’s most definitely not true.  You’ve learned new things since version 2015.125 (after the decimal is the number of days past in that year).  The question becomes whether or not you want to just maintain what is working or truly upgrade.  Unlike Windows, you’re not going to be rereleased.  Your bug fixes and big upgrades have to all happen at the same time.  AND YOU ARE THE LEAD DEVELOPER!  Only you can make changes to the system.

So what is the latest version of you going to look like?  Is it just like today’s you but with a few more miles worn off the treads?  I hope not.  I hope that you believe that you are capable of a big jump.  A leap from the version that you are today to the version that you’ve always wanted to be.  My hope is that you’re making the plans and putting in the code to launch yourself to a whole new level.  So that people who haven’t seen you in a while will take notice to the fact that the latest version of you is a huge upgrade!

Upgrade today!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

The Javelin Thrower

lance-150317_960_720This story comes directly from a dream that I just had.  I was brought in to help a javelin thrower with some issues that he was having.  Despite his great potential that everyone could see, he was underachieving and plagued by injuries.  As we started to talk about his issues, we walking near a lake.  He was confused and upset by all of the issues that he was having.  As he talked, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the lake.  His words became more heated as he described his disappointment in his lack of progress.  Another stone farther into the lake.  Then his disappointment turned to anger as he focused in on how many opportunities he’d wasted.  Stone lake farther.  In a crescendo of shouts and rage, he picked up a rock larger than all of the stones that he’d hurled so far.  With three steps forward and a shout of “why?”, he threw the rock as far as he could but it did not reach the water.  He winced slightly in pain and stared at his failed effort.  I woke up.

Everything was a javelin.  He had taken his own existence and reduced it down to one thing.  Nothing else mattered.  Farther, stronger, better.  These were the ways that he was judging himself.   It was not that he was on a path of progress that would get him to: farther, stronger, better but rather that those were metrics.

Measuring yourself by metrics is not always a negative thing.  There are all kinds of things that we can use to quantify aspects of our lives: grades, weight, time, distance and many others.  The issue comes from using those measurements as a punishment device rather than a measuring stick.  Dissatisfaction with where you are because it is not where you’ll be is a recipe for disaster.  The process of living is just that, a process.  Each step has inherent value as it leads you toward your destination or destiny.  To devalue the step because it is not the destination is devaluing the destination.  Because in the end you have sacrificed all of those steps for a moment.  The joy of accomplishment is compounded when the process is enjoyed.

So go out there today and pursue something that you love.  But pursue it with the joy of a child chasing a butterfly, not the angst of a man paying his taxes.  Most of life is the process, so enjoy it!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Small Time Heroes

GrootMarvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero.  They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante.  These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies.  These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities.  Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.

There are two problems with the Super Hero though.  First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes.  Second, they’re not real!  Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality.  So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?

It is really quite simple.  Super Heroes are a distraction.  A way for us to be let off of the hook.  Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary.  Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt.  It’s just me!  What can I do?

You can be a small time hero!  You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary.  Be a little kinder.  Be a little more resilient.  Be a little more intelligent.  Love your family a little more.  BUT what difference will that make?  Almost none.

UNTIL a few people around you catch on.  Then it has the possibility of developing super power.  Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier.  It’s not particularly easy!  Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way.  Super Heroes are not coming!  The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends.  So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us!  Go suit up!

Have a great day!
Pete

 

 

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Choosing the Bench

BenchIt’s such a common conversation that in each instance, I really need to work to not get fired up.  A player (or a parent) will complain to me about the fact that their coach is not playing them for __insert reason here____.  Usually it is some combination of “playing favorites” or “doesn’t know what he/she is doing”.  The reason why these conversations are so difficult is that the player almost invariably refuses to see that they are choosing the bench.  That sentence and the title of this post must sound ridiculous but I’ll do my best to make my argument for its accuracy.

The player who is complaining about playing time is almost always ignoring the fact that they have control over the key component to their PT, themselves.  When people don’t get what they want, the easiest thing to do is  blame someone else or circumstances.  While this is the easiest thing to do, it rarely has positive results.  In these situations of complaint, I usually direct the player’s attention to how much extra time they’re putting into their skills, fitness, tactical awareness, relationship with key players, etc.  Upon asking about these things, I usually get a blank stare or a halfhearted explanation of their “extra” work.

In all of my years of playing and coaching, I’ve never met a coach who kept talent on the bench without a reason.  Therefore the equation of playing time becomes quite a simple one.  GET SO GOOD THAT YOU CAN’T BE IGNORED!  The truth of most of these situations is that the player only wants to do enough to get what they want.  They do not truly want the playing time because if they did, they’d be doing all of the work to get it and a ton extra.  The obstacle of the coach is just an excuse for them not to do the work.

“Thumbs before fingers!” has been a mantra of mine for years.  It simply states that you need to acknowledge your contribution to any challenge before you blame someone else.  By seeing your faults first, you have the power to change them.  If you ignore the fact that you have any fault, you become powerless.  You are completely at the mercy of the person or situation.  So I implore you!  Don’t put yourself on the bench!  Become so good that you can’t be ignored!  Give so much effort that the coach has to feel guilty about taking you off the field!  Then other people can talk about you being “the coach’s favorite” but you’ll know the truth of how hard you worked to get there.

Go get your goal today!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Desire for Perpetual Triage

ERUnless you are brought to the hospital in an ambulance, the first place that you visit is triage.  It’s the station where the severity of your injury or illness is determined in order to prioritize treatment.  Broken bones take precedent over upset stomachs and so on.  People who can wait, often do, for long periods of time in the waiting room.  However no one stays in triage for very long.  Once your situation is determined, it is time to move on to get the help that you need or wait your turn.  Triage is not an outcome!

This is so apparent when dealing with a medical emergency.  No one would forego seeing the doctor so that they could stay with the triage nurse longer to describe their situation.  However when it comes to our lives, many of us seem to desire eternal triage.  Describing the horrible situation that we are in with excruciating detail to friends, family, classmates, coworkers and even strangers.  Rather than doing something about the situation that we lament, we pile on more and more description.  The unfortunate thing is that many people seem to want to turn their paper-cut into a shotgun wound.  This situation is at the forefront today because it is Monday.  A day that many people dread because it is just too far away from the weekend.  Does this day carry with it any particular issue?  No, it is just the story that we’ve made up in our heads.

So here we are at the door to the emergency room.  What are you going to do today?  Spend the entire day describing your issues to the triage nurse in order to make your headache seem like a stroke.  Or check yourself for bullet holes and if you need real help, go get it.  Or most likely, you can handle this on your own/with the help of those close to you.  Describing the problem with more clarity is rarely the answer.  Moving forward takes action, no matter how small.  Clawing your way toward a destination is far better than hoping it will be attracted by the sound of your complaints!

Today is an opportunity, not a punishment!

Pete