Blogpost, self-reliance

Opposite Day and Chinese Finger Traps

Since I’ve not taught at the elementary level for a long time, I’m not sure what grade “opposite day” becomes a thing. Not even 100% sure if it still happens where good becomes bad. Hot becomes cold and a multitude of other variations. More than anything, it seems to be a tactic to frustrate someone or create an insider and outsider grouping. It doesn’t usually make it an entire day because the additional thought gets exhausting for those playing the “prank” and they move on. Or as the prank persists, the pranksters realize that they are in the minority in larger world. Either way this tends to be short-lived because the payoff isn’t worth the effort. Contradicting the tried and true is not the best strategy. Unless you’re in a Chinese Finger Trap!

If you’ve never experienced one, a Chinese Finger Trap is a novelty item that holds your fingers tighter the harder that you pull away. The trick is that only by pushing your fingers together can you free yourself from the “trap”. It’s a gag to be sure and not a difficult one to solve. Enough people have seen them to know the trick. Unfortunately in life, we run into Finger Traps from time to time. They are not always so easy to decipher or free ourselves from. Often we persist in the “normal” action that is actually getting the opposite result than we desire. For example: normally to build a connection with a person, you need to spend time together. In theory, more time should equate to more connection. However there comes a saturation point where even a good thing becomes a negative. It’s a finger trap!

So as you go into your day, pay attention to the efforts that you’re putting in and the results that you’re getting back. It’s possible that you’re wasting effort in a finger trap. Freeing yourself from that situation may give you more energy, time or focus to put elsewhere. Or perhaps a smarter application of your efforts might get you exactly what you’re looking for rather than frustration. If life were simple, it would get boring pretty quickly. And isn’t that possible the biggest finger trap of them all? We want things to be easy, so we won’t be stressed. But then when things get too easy, we get bored!

Enjoy the push and the pull of life today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Your Life Directive – FCO

This may be an extremely short post because it is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech. I am nowhere near as eloquent as Neil nor is my message as lofty. However its repetitious nature puts them in a similar category. Your life directive is simple. Figure crap out! That’s what you’re supposed to do every day from your birth until your death!

All of these large humans are making noises with their mouths that seem to mean something – Figure that crap out!

Laying on the floor and want to get from here to there – Figure crap out!

There’s all of these symbols in these books that other people are able to decipher. – Figure crap out!

Started getting unsettling feelings when this particular person is near. – Figure crap out!

Just got punched in the face figuratively or literally. – Figure crap out!

The plan for the next 20 years just got ruined. – Figure crap out!

The crap is not going to stop coming! Sorry if that word is offensive to someone reading this but that’s another thing for you to figure out. Problems, challenges, opportunities, moments, obstacles, etc. Whatever label works for you does not matter! The thing that does matter is your disposition toward the things that come your way. If you constantly lament everything that comes down the pike, then you are bound to dislike this journey. Plenty of people with all of the reasons in the world to enjoy life have checked out of their existence because they could not see the positives of their directive.

It’s not always going to be easy but now you know what to do every day!

FCO!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

What You Need To Hear… Why Best Friends Matter

What you need to hear is usually not the same as what you want to hear. Generally we want to hear about how well we’re doing, how special we are or how we cannot be replaced. All of these are true to a degree. When all variables are considered, there’s a certain amount of truth to almost anything that someone tells you. There are, of course, some truths that have the power to change everything in an instant. The problem is that a force of that magnitude is overwhelming. It can destroy just as easily as it can create change. So the truth needs to come from a source that is trusted to a degree that malice is not even a consideration. That is the space of a best friend. They cannot do it often but it’s possible for a best friend to tell you exactly what you need to hear, right when you need to hear it.

Best of friends ready to travel together.
Older now but still have each other’s back!

I was lucky enough to have that experience this weekend. A truth bomb was dropped from a person that I trust with anything that I have, including my perception of myself. For a moment, he held up a picture of how he sees me. At first I discounted it because the message sounded a lot like things that I’ve said to myself before. But he stuck with it and it hit me. He was right in all of the best ways. Not because it was easy to hear but rather the exact opposite. It was hard to hear and the only reason that he was telling me is because he cares for me so much.

So now it’s on me! I’ve been told the hard thing and I know the magnitude of truth that comes with it. I could choose to discount it but that doesn’t serve me. So I need to lean into it. Learn from it and change. Many people in our lives don’t want us to change because they’ve become accustomed to a version of us that makes them feel comfortable. My friend wants the best version of me to show up! Shouldn’t I want the same thing for myself?

Thanks!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Notes from an ice bath

This will largely be a stream of consciousness as I am cold and have no time to self edit. Why do I do this? Largely for the health benefits and my knee which swells from time to time after years of soccer and running.

Yes! My toenails are green! I go for pedicures with my daughter once per month. I decided that getting a color was ok. Are you judging me? That’s ok. I love you anyway!

Normally I watch a video of David Goggins talking or something like that. It keeps me distracted from the cold. I decided to go in the opposite direction today and focus on the thoughts running through my head and put them out there into the world. So here it is! I’m cold but calm. I feel myself shivering but then breath and it goes away. My body can handle the cold. I know this because I’ve done this before. We are amazing creatures, humans, we can endure so much but often give into our own weakness because of its convenience or our disbelief.

This year has been hard. It might be the hardest of my life. Given into my own weakness? Yep, at times. Disbelieved my own resilience? Yep, at times. I’ve doubted a lot but I’m still here. Doing what I can to make the best of the now that I have. Trying to be a good example for my children and others. I shiver and shake for sure. Sometimes I cry! Mostly I look for the ways that this is a good thing. I don’t always see them. Overwhelm is part of it! But I breathe! Try not to let moments of weakness stretch out into minutes or hours, it doesn’t serve!

I care and I want to help. I’ve seen through my dating experience how easily things can get misconstrued. We tend to forget other people when emotions are high or we’re worried about being judged. Be resilient! Like all moments, this one will pass and you’ll be faced with the next thing. Time is up! This was fun? I don’t know but I enjoyed it.

Stay cool!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

It’s NOT a Problem…

Arnold Schwarzenegger has had many classic lines come through in his Austrian accent. Probably the most famous would be the menacing “I’ll be back!” from Terminator. Despite that fame, his most comedic is “It’s not a tumor!” The combine ingredients of the accent, his size and kids talking about him having a tumor make for a special moment. Kindergarten Cop was the first time that I saw Arnold take on a comedic role and he did it well.

Each of us plays a role in our own lives, the main character! We’re also the main script writer. The ingredients to each scene are not fully in our control. However once the elements show up, it’s our job to do something with it! If the Terminator version of Arnold showed up in Kindergarten Cop, there would just be lots of dead kids. A different version of the man was written into the script though. He may have been type cast but he broke that type! We each have that opportunity too. We don’t have to keep playing the same role over and over. It’s possible to flip the script!

It’s not a problem! It’s an opportunity! Arnold had no alternative to the diagnosis of the kids. It was either a tumor or it wasn’t. As you go through your day, you’ve got thousands of options but one of the biggest script changes you can make is changing problems to opportunities. That’s usually what they are anyway. All of the things that people told Arnold were “problems” with him being a leading man became opportunities. His size, accent and robotic mannerisms all served him as he developed into the superstar that he became.

It’s not a problem! It’s an opportunity!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Reading The Signs

By no means am I a baseball fan but I attend our local minor league team’s games regularly. It’s an enjoyable activity with a low investment of time, money or attention. The players are not top level professionals. They are a few levels below and hoping to make it there. One of the more interesting things for me about baseball is the signs. Players and managers sending subtle or not so subtle signals to each other in order to be on the same page. Catchers probably send the most signals to the pitcher and do their best to hide them, so the opponents don’t crack the code. Due to the fact that everyone is competing, trying to get that subtle advantage is crucial. Teams need to be in sync and opponents want to take information if they can.

Most of us are not professional athletes nor even aspiring ones. We live relatively independent lives not particularly on teams but in different groups as we make it through our days. Despite the fact that we’re not usually competing, there are still signals all around us. The question is whether or not we see them and use them. Since I’ve recently gone back into the dating world, reading the signals has become even more important. I’ll fully admit that at times, I’m bad at it. Just like in baseball, pitchers and catchers develop a working knowledge of each other and the signals become second nature. In longstanding relationships, the signs can be so subtle that no one else would even notice. However as we meet new people and develop new relationships, “cracking the code” is something that must be done because people do not always say what they’re thinking. A hand over a mouth, folded arms, a slight shift of weight forward or backward can all tell a little something, if you’re looking.

Therein lies the most important factor: the receiver! The messages are out there, being sent. It’s whether or not the information is being received and acted upon. Or are we all just too engrossed in our own stuff or worse the computer in our hand to notice? Your signals won’t always match other people’s. So decoding becomes your job if you care enough to do it. As a species built on community, we need to communicate. Notice how those two words are similar. Do you want to pay attention enough to get the message?

Knock it out of the park today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Can You Dig It?

It definitely didn’t win an Oscar! The Warriors is not that type of movie. It’s a cult classic that was banned for a while. The premise is that all of the gangs in New York City are going to unite in order to take control. This plan is hatched by the leader of the biggest gang, Cyrus. His speech outlining the plan is ended with several repetitions of the question, “Can you dig it?” It’s very late 70’s! Almost everyone in attendance seems like they’re along for the ride except the leader of the Rogues who shoots Cyrus and blames the Warriors. Cyrus had a vision but never got to see it through because he was shot down by a coward with personal agenda. It happens all the time!

Each of us has our own causes to move forward. It’s not usually a gang insurrection of a city. More than likely it’s a smaller scale mission but that doesn’t make it unimportant. Regardless, most of have people taking shots at us anyway. It’s usually not about us or our plans, they just “like doing things like that” as Luther puts it near the end of the film. Killing Cyrus, undermining others and poking holes in plans are much easier than doing something of note. Standing up and putting yourself in the crosshairs of others is not a comfortable place to be but if you believe in what you’re doing, that’s where you need to stand. On a scaffold, yelling “Can you dig it?” Maybe no one else will at first. Perhaps it’s all going to rest on your shoulders because nobody “digs it.” That’s alright! Can you dig it? Enough to be shot at, laughed at, rejected and humiliated because often that’s what it takes. Can you dig it?

If you can, then today is the day to start executing your plan. You don’t need every gang in the city to buy in at first. It needs to start with you! Can you dig it? Don’t try to do it all at once, even Cyrus was going one borough at a time. Can you dig it? Think of a plan that might work and then work that plan! CAN YOU DIG IT? If the answer is no, then no one else will either. So you’d better believe enough for a dozen people or more. Otherwise, no one is showing up to the conclave!

Come out to play-ay!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Relative Feeling of Heat and Hard

It’s the middle of summer and a heat wave recently passed through. If the temperature dropped to 60 degrees, people would be throwing on sweatshirts and jackets because of “the cold”. In the middle of the winter, that same 60 degree weather would prompt t-shirts and comments on “the heat”. The 60 degrees is objective but our experience of it is not. We place our subjective observation onto the situation based on our recent past. It’s our relation to the facts, not the facts themselves.

Since my recent weeks have been filled with summer preparations for the upcoming season, I’ve seen this same phenomena with hard. Something is only hard in comparison to the recent activity of the individual or group. A mile is nothing when you’re used to running 5 or more. Humans have an amazing ability to endure great difficulty. We can make the hard, easy with the right amount of time and effort. Unfortunately the flip side to that coin also exists! We can make easy, hard with a lack of effort over time.

We all think that we want an “easy” life. The thing that we tend not to realize is that the easy is all based on our perspective from what we’ve done recently. There is no objectivity here! We’re playing the game of life from exactly one perspective that no one else can have. So whether it’s easy or hard, mostly that choice is up to you but it’s made through your actions over time. If you choose to take it easy, just remember that hard is waiting around the corner!

Have a hard day!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Show Up or Blow Up

This year I’ve been focused on my fitness in a different way. I’ve been training for and racing in sprint triathlons. For the most part, I changed to triathlons because 2/3 of the training/event is non-impact. My knees were in need of a rest from all of the running and soccer playing. The swimming was by far my weakest portion. Much to my surprise, during the races, people were asking for helping or tapping out of the swim within 200 meters. As someone who thought I was a bad swimmer, the training that I’d done carried me through. Consistency over the months prior to the race had kept me from “blowing up”.

Training montages from the Rocky movies and advertisements for quick fix workout solutions have far too many people convinced that they’re 15 minutes away from their goals. As if one huge effort over a short period of time will produce grandiose results. Usually that formula doesn’t work. The prescription that I set out for myself was to show up every day and do something. Not everything. Slowly but surely, something turned into more and more. Showing up is key.

The difficulty of showing up for the long haul isn’t the work, effort or time. It’s the fact that results are invisible for so long that people lose interest. The paycheck is so far out in the future that it makes an easy job seem difficult. The frustration that comes from lower level consistent effort is seemingly worse than the roller coaster of variable returns.

So my hope for you today, tomorrow and all of the days that are coming, that you show up! It’s most likely not going to be sexy or get you a standing ovation but it will get the job done if you stick with it!

Present!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Potential Is My Currency… Kind Of

Through the years on this blog, I’ve talked about the different currencies that we use in life. There are so many but love, time, actual money are some that I’ve discussed here before. Sometimes we exchange them for like, other times we seek another in exchange. Regardless, we’re all wheeling and dealing throughout the day. As an optimist, one of the currencies that I deal with is POTENTIAL. I see it all around! From that dilapidated house that could be refurbished to the D student with a winning personality that’s just waiting to come out; I notice it all around.

The problem with potential is that it’s not truly a currency. At some point reality sets in the potential is either met or it isn’t. It’s almost impossible to know which potentials will become reality and which will come up short. Many are going to be disappointments and that makes it easy to become discouraged. It’s easy to do the analysis, know the low rate of return and hedge your bets. That’s the safe play and I get it! It doesn’t really excite though.

We live in a world that is becoming more analytical and skeptical. So potential is not something people have time for. They want results! Or else! Leaving yourself open to the possibilities that come with potential, also leaves you open to possible ridicule. Believing in the long shots and slim odds is what fools do. And I’m willing to take that moniker. Being branded a fool for believing is far better than never being wrong but feeling empty because there wasn’t any emotion behind it.

Smells like potential!

Pete