Blogpost, self-reliance

WTFN!?!?

Although I’m able to understand text speech, I still tend not to use it very often. Since it is my fourth language, I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I was also raised in the 80s. So periods, commas, etc. were sold as important and old habits are difficult to break when you don’t really want to. Despite some similarities, I’m not Phil Dunphy. I know what the usuals mean. However, I do enjoy making up my own from time to time. WTFN?

The power of text speech is expedience but it can come off softer than the words themselves. In this particular case, I believe that brevity is everything. The message needs to get ingrained in your brain before it has time to formulate excuses, alibis, or arguments. Time is not your friend when it comes to action. The longer that you delay on goals, desires and dreams. The less likely it is that you’ll start. So now that I’ve built this up with too much explanation. Think of something that you want to do. Then ask yourself “WHY THE F%$# NOT!?!?”

Why not you? Why not now? Why not here? Usually the answers are just BS excuses that you’ve built up over the years. Their major purpose is to protect you. Protect you from the possibility of failure while also hiding the possibility of success. Those two go hand in hand. You cannot separate them. Am I suggesting that you completely throw caution to the wind? HELL NO! Forty-five years old is a bad time to start your NBA career. You’ll know the difference inside when your heart leaps and your head only half reacts.

So put it into regular use when a friend asks you to do something. WTFN? That way it’s on the tip of your tongue or thumbs when an opportunity comes your way. WTFN!?!? Give that thing a go because you’re more likely to regret not acting than you are the failure.

Give it a go! WTFN?

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Just Say It!

One of the more embarrassing moments that I had in high school was during my sophomore year. I did not possess anywhere near the self-confidence that I have today. There was a girl in my grade that I was interested in. I was walking down the hall during class time and serendipitously she was getting things out of her locker. It was just she and I in the hallway. NO ONE ELSE. The moment was perfect for me to strike up a minor conversation. Ask her about homework. Compliment her backpack. Say hello. Any one of those options would have been completely reasonable and probably effective. What did I choose to do? I ran into her with my shoulder as I walked by. We were the only two people in the hall! This was well before everyone had a cellphone, so I was not distracted by technology. I was just an unconfident boy who didn’t know how to get my message across. So I did something that made no sense other than it protected me from telling the truth out-loud.

High School Soccer from Senior Year
It may look foolish now but at the time, we LOVED these jerseys!

These types of situations happen everyday. The question is not whether you’ll have opportunities to act on the things that you want in this world. You absolutely will! More than anything, the question is whether you will succumb to the fear that surrounds that opportunity or will you act? I’ve not done a statistical analysis but anecdotally I can confidently say that I rarely regret acting fully rather than hiding regardless of the result.

Regret is the leftover debris from a losing battle with fear. Sometimes that debris is easy to sweep away because another moment comes to replace it. Other times that regret lasts a lifetime. Being true to yourself and putting efforts out into the world honestly is rarely a mistake in my experience. When we hedge to protect the little coward inside, we actually only make him feel smaller. Not because anything has really happened to us in the real world. It is because in that internal world we live a half life that is strewn with failures and successes but none of them truly happened. So we don’t get to know the truth about what was possible, if we had just given it a shot! Life is meant to be lived. Not dreamt about.

So let me be clear here! This is a call to action for you to push your best self in the direction of the things that you want. Not to be an a$$hole just because you’re being “authentic.” Consider the people around you. Whatever that thing is that is calling you, you may need help or you’ll want to share it or at least have people around to enjoy the time with. The real world does not revolve around you like the internal world does but you need to jump on the train before it passes you by. The opportunities are there. You just need to take them!

Go get ’em!

Pete

P.S. – Just in case you’re wondering, the situation from above is an embarrassing moment, not a major regret on the relationship side. We both ended up where we needed to be.

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Compress The Penalty Area: Anxiety at Both Ends

Whether you’re Christian Pulisic breaking through the lines at Stamford Bridge to score or a U9 goalkeeper defending a corner, the penalty area or 18 yard box can be a place of high anxiety. That’s why the best strikers are worth their weight in gold at the highest levels and goalkeepers who are consistently good play until they’re almost 40 years old. Proximity to the thing that you want or that which you want to defend raises the stakes of the moment. The people who cope with that pressure well are considered special or talented. The truth is that like almost anything else it is a skill that can be trained. Also, the players who cope well have just compressed the penalty area.

A few weeks back I blogged about the relationship between the lines on the field and daily life. There’s also a video but more people read than watched. I guess I need to hire an actor or an editor. Regardless of my video issues, the 18 yard box at each end represents anxiety. At the defensive end, the anxiety linked to something that is going to hurt your self-esteem. It could be anything from fretting about a poor grade on a test, denial of college admission, the negative opinion of a boss or a multitude of other situations that might cause a dip in your self-esteem. Recognize, this isn’t the thing actually happening. It is just the anticipation of it. At the other end it is a similar situation. The 18 yard box represents anxiety around something that you want, a goal of some importance. Again the examples are numerous but a few might be college acceptance, a date with a special someone, a promotion and the list goes on. Notice at both ends, the goal represents the actual event happening. The box just represents the anxiety around it. So I suggest that you compress the box.

The idea that I’m suggesting is that you develop that same skill that world class strikers and keepers have mastered: being calm under pressure. This is not easy!!!! However it is also not impossible. Each of us have a different sized penalty area of anxiety. For some it is the tradition 18 yards. For others, it reaches all the way to the center circle (read about it) or beyond. The people who are best at dealing with their anxiety compress it down to 6 yards or less. How? Like any other time when dealing with emotions, I go back to the triad.

  1. Physiology – The way that you use your body is going to influence how you feel immensely. Breathing is a great place to start. Building a breath practice into your day can be a game changer. Habitual movement patterns are another place where huge changes can be made. Your body sends signals to your brain and vice versa. It is possible to move yourself in and out of emotions. If you’re feeling anxious, how are you using your body? You can train “calm states” into your brain by doing particular movements. It just takes practice. Don’t expect it to just happen.
  2. Focus – The things that you focus on become your reality. In this particular case, I suggest trading anxiety for excitement. It’s not a huge step. Each emotion has the same basic component pieces of anticipation, desire, uncertainty, etc. but excitement drops the negative connotation around the possibilities. I can hear you now, “That’s great when going to goal (a positive) but what about when I’m anxious about something bad about to happen.” Excitement can still work because just like the field, being under life pressure allows for acres of space to move forward after the crisis. Once this attack has subsided, the event will have happened or not. At that point, you can move forward with renewed possibility. There is also value in reframing the situation. It is more than likely that you are not going to die from this situation. So actually deal with the worst case scenario mentally. If this bad thing happened, how could you get past it with letting it damage your self-esteem?
  3. Inner Dialogue – The words that we say to ourselves inside of our own head are extremely important. I just finished Trevor Moawad’s book “It Takes What It Takes” and his points about neutral thinking could be game changing for many people. However one of the key things that he talks about is not saying negative things out loud. Although I suggest working on your focus, everyone has messed up thoughts from time to time. It is crucial that you don’t say those things out loud because saying it amplifies the message to your brain by 7 to 10 times. Keep those negative thoughts out of your mouth!

None of these things are easy but they can be practiced and therefore improved. Compress your penalty area as small as you can. That way no matter what comes at you, the ability to stay calm will be at your fingertips. The astronauts who are thrust into space go through all kinds of training on keeping their wits about them in pressure situations. Their lives truly do depend on keeping an even keel. Most likely you’re dealing with something that you’ve seen in the past and you can handle it!

Make it great people!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A Fat Coach Is A Bad Coach?

It was proposed as a thought experiment at a coaching course that I attended. The coaches in attendance were asked to imagine that another coach at their club show up to every practice smoking a cigarette. What should be done? The answers ranged from removing the coach completely to a discussion about appropriate behavior. Then the coaches were asked to consider what actions should be taken if a coach is overweight. The prompt was used to spark debate among the participants. I was reminded of this last night when one of my favorite pundits mentioned on Twitter that it bothers him when professional managers are unfit. He got a large number of negative comments and I think deleted the tweet. My intent is not to start a huge debate nor to get lambasted on Twitter. More than anything, I’m looking to unpack this idea with a bit more than 140 characters (or however many it is now).

A coach’s job is to influence her/his players regardless of the level. Whenever thinking about the subject, I always consider Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence.” It breaks people’s ability to persuade into six principles: Reciprocity, Commitment/Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity. Although it is not the end all be all to influence, it creates a simple model for dissecting people’s ability to persuade.

Taking the discussion back to coaches, making a blanket statement about any one characteristic being bad or good is probably inaccurate. The question becomes whether or not the coach is able to achieve desired outcomes with her/his players. In the professional ranks, the desired result is more victories than defeats. At the youth level it could be a variety of things: skill development, character building, physical fitness, or a variety of other possible outcomes.

The professional coach is the easier discussion. Does it matter if a professional coach is overweight? Probably not. As long as she/he is performing at a level commensurate with the desires of the club management, then it isn’t all that relevant. Players who are at or near their athletic peak will not particularly be looking to their coach to be a physical role model. It may help or hinder their ability to influence their players in specific area around diet and fitness. However other authorities can be brought in to handle that aspect. It’s the wielding of the other principles of influence in other areas that determine the worth of a professional coach.

The discussion of a youth coach brings in a multitude of variables that muddy the waters. Youth coaches can be role models to their players on a variety levels. Their appearance is a form of social proof. A message that is subliminally received is “at a certain point in adulthood, exercise/fitness is not as much of a priority.” The amount to which that aspect will influence is unknowable considering all of the other influences in children’s lives. Our fast food culture is much more complicit in that area than any one individual. Hopefully an overweight coach is delivering in a variety of other ways that influence the players in a positive manner. Reducing a coach down to one characteristic is not a fair estimation of their overall value. So a fat coach does not make a bad coach. Nor does a slender coach make a good one.

The final bit of consideration that I would offer here is a revisit to the 6 principles of influence. Although I believe that people can be over weight and be a good coach, I’m overweight at the moment and I’ll leave the other part up to my players. The idea I’d like to visit is, can any of us be the best coach that we can be while carrying around that extra bit of ourselves? We ask our players regularly to give their best to the team but do we respond in kind?

Reciprocity – Is it possible to give back to our young players the energy, enthusiasm and effort that they put in?

Consistency/Commitment – Are we staying consistent with the values that we profess to our teams about the importance of fitness and commitment to the team? Perhaps a team looks a lot more like a family.

Social proof – Are we adding to an already broken cultural model of what adulthood looks like?

Authority – Are we harkening back to a “do as I say, not as I do” ethos of leadership? Because if we know what’s best, then why aren’t we doing better?

Liking – Do we like ourselves enough to have people emulate us? It’s an interesting question.

Scarcity – There is a shelf life on this existence that we have. Should the message be that we are trying to conserve the precious resource of time through better decisions or toss it with all of the other disposable things in this world?

All of these questions have personal answers. Blanket statements rarely work. The only thing that I’m sure a coach should never be is abusive. Beyond that, the shades of grey are infinite. Each of us must look ourselves in the mirror and also imagine the view of us from the people that we coach. If you like what you see, carry on. If not, then change. No one is going to force it on you because they have their own baggage. As a coach, you are intended to be a leader. The most important person for all of us to lead is ourselves!

Team on 7! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, TEAM!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Attendance Will Be Taken

I showed up on Senior Skip Day! That is probably the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever admitted in my blogposts. It’s pathetic for two reasons that I can think of. 1. Because of the fact that I went. 2. Because no one cares. There’s no moral judgment placed on the kids who don’t go. The valedictorian didn’t even show up if I remember correctly. It was the kids who had too many unexcused absences, the kids who got 100% attendance every year and me. Another sad fact is that I wasn’t one of 100% attendance kids. I would take days off from time to time, just not that day.

The 100% attendance kids were a bit of a mystery to me. I was never quite sure if their parents made them come everyday, they got some kind of prize, or they valued their education that much. Although I’m not going to ask you to follow directly in their footsteps, I am going to suggest that you have a stellar attendance record.

Your goals require a stellar attendance record. Every goal is going to have its own schedule. Some goals might be oncer per week. Others may be every day. Regardless of the schedule, there are going to be days when you don’t want to show up. Most likely those are the days that you need to show up the more than any other. We all desire comfort, a rest or a day off. The problem is that once those desires are exercised, they grow stronger.

If you wait for motivation, you’ll get very little done in this world. Motivation is neither a consistent state of being nor is it a power that is bestowed by God upon a select group. Those people who seem as if they are extremely motivated, just have better established habits. “First you make a habit, then the habit makes you.” Stolen from Trevor Moawad. So what do I have to do to make a habit? ACT!!! Don’t wait for motivation, until you feel like or someone tells you that you have to. Once you act, your mind will catch up to your body and send a message about why you are doing that thing. If you act consistently enough, eventually your mind will get ahead of your body and start calling on you to do that thing.

Just like me, it’s possible that you’re the only one who will remember that you showed up. There won’t be a gold star put next to your name. You’ll just be a step, an inch or a millimeter closer to that thing that you want. That stellar attendance record will eventually start paying dividends. The sooner you start, the farther that you’ll be along the path in a week, a month, or a year. So ACT NOW!!! No one else is checking to see if you show up. Therefore, you have to!

Bueller! Bueller!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Are You Hot Water This Week?

NO! The word “in” is not missing from the title. It is exactly as it should be and you need decide right now, if you’re only going to be HOT water this week. Hot water is useful but it is a few necessary degrees short of boiling. I’m not the first person to use this analogy. Boiling water happens at either 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees celsius. Anything less than that is just hot water. Boiling water gives off steam which has powered locomotive engines in the past. It is a separation point between ordinary and extraordinary. That little bit extra, one degree even can make the difference.

Water has no choice! If it is put into the right environment, it will comply to the demands of heat that is put beneath it. Humans are quite different. We have to give ourselves permission to boil most of the time. Each of us have a set of criteria that will create that extraordinary behavior. It is most likely different for the varied areas of your life. Regardless, let’s revert back to the original question. Are you just hot water this week?

The time to decide is now. If you wait until the moment, there is a good chance that you’ll come up short. You’ll be missing some key ingredient that will give you those all important final degrees. Set yourself up to boil now! You know who you are and what you need to succeed in almost any area of your life. Draw up a plan and then put it into motion. Have the mental, physical and emotional components of extraordinary action put into place. That way when the moment comes, you’ll be ready to boil!

Fire it up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Short But Not So Sweet

There are many things in our lives that we wish were true. Many that we hope are true. The others that we know are true. The other side also exists of things that we want to not be true. Let’s cut out the wishing, hoping and wanting for just a moment and get to what’s true true.

You are a contributor to 100% of your successes and 100% of your failures. No one else can claim that much influence on your life. You are an accomplice in everything that has happened to you. That trend is going to continue until the day that you die. At a certain point then the realization needs to be made that any complaints that you have about where you are, should be laid directly at your own doorstep. So if you like where you are, GREAT! Pat yourself on the back. If you don’t, then you need to change you because no one else has the amount of influence that you do. Get to it. Today! You can’t turn this ship around on a dime but you can do it!

You’re up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You Have NO Choices, IF…

It was one of my favorite films from the 90s. Then Russell Crowe released a movie with the same name in 2000 and almost no one remembers “Gladiator” the boxing movie. The movie is set on the rough streets of Chicago where an underground boxing kingpin rules the lives and futures of several teenagers. Most of the kids in this movie have to deal with some real life problems. (Spoiler alert) Toward the end, the main character, Tommy, is put into a no win situation where he either fights his best friend who has a possible brain injury or his girlfriend is going to be hurt by the thugs of the boss. High drama! A young Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers a strong performance where he tells his friend Tommy that he’s got “no choice” but to fight despite his injury.

The movie is obviously taken to an extreme in order to make for a good story. Everyone’s personal conflicts come together on a collision course because that’s how it was written. Our own lives tend not to be as extreme nor lacking in choices. It seems as though we are making choices all of the time because we are bombarded by variety. The truth of the matter is that if you are making a lot of choices, it means that you have very few commitments. In order to get high level results, you need to take a lot of choices off the menu.

Fitness, academia, career, marriage, athletics, and so many other commitments demand that the number of choices that you have go down. The higher level of these outcomes that you want, the more that the situation requires specific actions rather than any action. So choices reduce down to “what needs to be done.”

I hope that this does not come off as preachy because I am actually writing this post to myself more than anyone. The desire to “do what I choose” in a few particular areas has led me to dislike the results. The truth is that my desire for choice has undermined my results and put into question my commitment. Although I am not getting the results that I want, those old choice patterns has lulled me into a sense of comfort. The fear of giving up the things that I want right now is winning the battle against the desire for the things that I want in the future. At some point, it comes down to a commitment to the end product and therefore the path become extremely clear. The choices just disappear because the laser like focus allows for very little wiggle room.

Decide what’s important. Then don’t choose because it should be obvious what you need to do next!

I’m talking to me but hope it helps you too!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The New POSH Path

The POSH path has been relatively well defined for over a decade. They recruit “young and hungry” players from the lower leagues with a sprinkling of experience for good measure. Especially under Ferguson, those young players who follow “the POSH path” end up developing into good professionals. Usually they move on to the Championship or even the Premiership. It has been consistent enough that it is not a surprise. Players know it and so do owners/managers from other clubs. The unfortunate thing about the POSH path is that the players who follow it end up moving up the leagues while the team has been consistently rooted to League 1. It could have been different but we cannot change the past, only use the present to create a brighter future.

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. Photo Credit Max Flego

Paths are caused by consistent foot traffic along the same track. Nothing will create a new path faster than crowd, in this particular case, a squad. The reason for the possibility of the new path is the academy players who are pressing their way forward to help blaze the trail. The young and hungry model is still in full force. However these young guns do not particularly see Peterborough as a stepping stone but rather their home. So moving to the Championship is still the goal but they’d rather bring their friends with them. Ferguson forecasted the direction of this journey before his last departure. Now all of the pieces are in place but as Morpheus said, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” POSH are in an ideal position to do what had always been the vision of owner, Darragh MacAnthony. They can get promoted to the Championship where they can keep most of their talent and stabilize at that level. That’s been the dream for over a decade. 2021 is a perfect time for the POSH and each of us to live into our dreams.

Even when the timing and ingredients are right, it can be difficult to break old patterns. After a certain amount of time, past results can seem like they are linked to the future like destiny. THE PAST IS NOT PREDICTIVE. The results of a moment ago have no bearing on the future. However our past can invade our future through our thoughts and action. Almost nothing else can hold us back from whatever heights that we want to reach. Our thoughts and actions need to be focused on the desired future rather than that unsatisfactory past. The path that will get each of us where we want to go is directly in front of us. We simply need to believe it, see it and then do it. One step at a time!

This year is a brand new opportunity for each of us. Whether you are a POSH fan or not, we all have the ability to tread a new POSH path. One that can take us to new heights. The other option to stay on the path that you are on. I am not here to judge. Only here to point out what is possible for those who are looking for a bit more. Today is a new opportunity. What are you going to do with it?

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Do You See the Goal?

The usual dimensions are eight feet high by twenty-four feet wide. That’s one hundred ninety two square feet of target. It’s no small thing considering a team of full grown men cannot cover it when standing shoulder to shoulder (depending on the width of the men). Despite the relatively large space that the ball has to pass through, goals are elusive. Games with three or more are considered high scoring. It is not so much the target itself that creates the challenge, it is all of the obstacles that stand in the way of the ball’s path. Ten normal defenders and a goalkeeper who can use her/his hands. The most talented goal scorers are worth their weight in gold. Their value eventually gets translated to their limbs but it starts with their eyes. They see the goal!

Ivan Toney shoots for Peterborough United. Photo by Joe Dent

At this point, a part of your brain is screaming “everyone sees the goals! It’s 192 square feet!” Unfortunately that’s what makes those goal scoring maestros so valuable. Most players do not see the goal. They see the defender, the goalkeeper, the disappointed face of their coach if they miss, the last three shots that went over, and so on. The vision that they have in their mind’s eye is not a clear path to success that they need to follow. Instead it is a neural pathway that is littered with past events or projections that they believe are partially related to a predictable future. Getting the ball into the goal would be a surprise rather than an expected outcome. The ability to believe in the newness of each attempt is a skill of extreme value.

Most people in the world aren’t trying to hit a perfectly visible 192 square feet. The area of their targets is much less defined and so are the defenders. However the greatest indicator of success or failure still resides in the mind of the person going toward the goal. Some goals are forgotten about because they’ve been mastered for so long. Tying ones shoelaces used to be something but now it is nothing. No defenders, no goal keeper, an open space to be hit with almost no effort. However that final exam, talking to that special person, starting that project: those goals are defended by giants. The goalkeeper is a jungle cat with hands. While the goalmouth itself is covered with well cemented bricks laid by a master mason. Or at least that’s what is represented in their mind. The truth of the matter is there are very few goals in this world that are completely defended.

The question truly becomes “Do you see the goal?” Not the entire general space but the little undefended area where you can get through. With your desired objective can you see past all of the obstacles and find the route to victory? Or can you build up enough desire and strength to muscle through the giants and the jungle cat and blast through the wall that stands in your way? Both are possible strategies but just like those maestros, first you need to see it. Then take the first step to get there. Even the simplest goals don’t score themselves. You need to act first!

Take aim!

Pete

PS Here is a video with the goals of Ivan Toney. He’s one of those special ones.