There was a point in my life where I owned a decent amount of furniture from IKEA. It just made so much sense at the time. Every piece was cheap, easy to put together and impermanent. I didn’t love my IKEA furniture. It was functional and I’m glad that it was there for that time of my life. At this point, all of those items have been left behind or discarded. They fulfilled their purpose and now I’ve moved on.
So many parts of our lives have begun looking like IKEA furniture. Either we have opted for them because of their simplicity or their disposability. While these are qualities that may be attractive in some areas, the IKEA mindset seems to have crept into places where it probably shouldn’t be. Areas like education, fitness, relationships and mental health often fall prey to this (lack of) thought process. Short term solutions are implemented while long term consequences are ignored or at best given lip-service. Divorce is the norm of marriages. Education is not about learning but about grades. Fitness is not about being healthy and feeling good, it’s arbitrary metrics like steps. Mental health is not about having control of a strong mind, it’s about existing in a safe space and removing obstacles.
These are oversimplifications of course. However they bring into focus the fact that we might be valuing the wrong things. IKEA is great for an answer to a certain type of furniture problem. Just like these answers to life’s problems work in specific circumstances. Unfortunately herd mentality and general malaise have brought us to the point where they are almost ubiquitous.
So if you’re in the market for solutions, the convenient answer may not be the one that will yield the best results. Shop around a bit! Consider the problem that you’re trying to solve and your unique circumstances. It will surely take more time and effort than the simple solution but it may yield better results.
Formations in soccer are popular solution to game time problems. Often one formation or another is viewed as a cure-all but in reality, they are mainly aimed at defining responsibility. Soccer is such a fluid game that very rarely after the first whistle will the alignment of players look like a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. The positions morph to respond to the moment. It is completely possible in a moment of crisis that all eleven players could be called upon to defend in their own box. We don’t call that a 1-10 because generally those players responding to the crisis have a role that is at least partially defined by their position in the formation. If you never told a striker that they were playing that position, it’s conceivable that they spend all of their time defending in their own box.
One of the many jobs that a coach has is to align the team in a fashion that will lead to success. Perhaps that will mean crawling into a defensive shell, initiating an all out attack or finding a balance. Each of us must do the same thing within our own lives. Decide on a strategy that moves us toward our goals and protects against conceding our self-esteem. And the people that surround us are also part of that equation. Some are on our team while others are opponents to our cause. Putting the right people into positions that will help move you forward and protect you as well is important. Obviously I can’t do this for you but the suggestions below may help you begin to decide if people are in the right positions or not.
Your goalkeeper: This should be someone who will defend you with everything that they have. Depending on your station in life, this may be your parents or spouse. I wouldn’t normally put a best friend in this position. The reason why is that you don’t usually want your last line of defense to also be constantly helping to move you forward as well. However this is your team. You may do as you see fit.
Your backs: Similar to the goalkeeper, these people are interested mostly in your protection. The difference is that they are also part of your progress forward. Family, friends and possibly selected colleagues who truly have your back. There’s no perfect number to delineate their responsibility but 75% defense and 25% attack would be reasonable. So these people are invested in your protection more than your progress forward, REMEMBER THIS!!! It becomes important later.
Your midfield: These are people who are half protection and half defense. Again, friends and family are the most likely to make up this group. However there are plenty of sections to your life that may produce people to help in this area. Work colleagues may be helping to push you forward, possibly even a boss who sees potential in you. Personally in the past, significant others were almost always a catalyst for improvement, either personally or professionally.
Your forwards: This is the group that is most likely to help you to achieve (score) your goals. This may be the most diverse group. It is possible that you don’t even need to know these people. Inspiration to get you close to your goals can come from anywhere: books, podcasts, videos, speaking events. However the people that we’ve mentioned before could also play this role. It all comes down to who it is best equipped to help you in this area.
Your formation: Depending on where you are in your life, you may be playing defensive or offensive. It may also be a different strategy depending on the portion of your life that you’re considering. Regardless, it’s worth considering the roles of each person. Some people may need to be put on the bench. Others may need to become more important players. Remember that your team isn’t the only one that is playing. You can have direct or indirect opponents. Some will show up in places that you wouldn’t expect.
Opponents: These are the people who are looking to take shots at your self-esteem or just thwart you from achieving your goals. They might be “enemies” but more often than not they are people that you probably thought of as we worked through your teammate list. Remember the people who were 75% protection. Although they have your best interest in mind, they may be trying to protect you from going beyond their comfort zone and not yours. It’s worth considering the fact that the line between teammate and opponent could get pretty blurry at times. The most difficult opponent to get past is usually yourself. You know your fears and weaknesses. So it easy for you to stand in your own way at times.
As the coach of your life, it is up to you to get the right people in the right positions on your team. It’s also your job to read the opponent and change the game plan to get around them. None of this is easy! Especially when we’re not talking about getting a ball into a net but rather our lives. Regardless of whether it is easy or not, it’s necessary. Surrounding yourself with the right people and having them serve the right roles in your life is important. Only you can make those decisions though. Find your formation but don’t fall in love with it. It needs to be adjusted when necessary.
As a player, I slowly moved from the front to the back in terms of position. Originally I was a forward or wing (playing in a 2-3-5). As a player in men’s leagues, I was usually center back. If I weren’t horrible at it, I probably would have ended up in the net at some point. This progression was not surprising. When I was young, I was pretty fast but eventually my most prominent skill was my ability to talk. Center backs and goalkeepers have some of the best views of the field. Therefore it is their job to help organize everyone in front of them. A perfect use for my big mouth! If it weren’t for my height, I probably always should have been playing in the back because it fits with my personal ethos to help people.
Recently I had been thinking about all of the overlaps that find and point out between soccer and life. My intention behind this exercise is always to help the people in front of me (literally or virtually). Despite the fact that it is a transformed version of a negative American Football term, I’d like to use it as a positive. I’d like to be a “Monday Morning Center Back.” Rather than someone who second guesses your mistakes after you’ve made them. The point would be to help people to be ready for the week going forward.
Monday has gotten a bad rap because people are living for the weekend. Generally they want to “survive” 5 out of the 7 days of the week. I get it! But it’s also a pretty big waste of time. Finding the joy in the mundane is a skill that needs to be developed. Otherwise the source of our joy is dependent on circumstances beyond our control. During my time as a garbage man, I developed this skill out of necessity. Eight hours in the heat of the summer, throwing trash into the truck while smelling horrible and encountering maggots and other fun things. I had so much fun! Literally, I found a variety of different ways to enjoy the job and the time. The first time that I conceived of writing a book was on that truck and I “wrote” much of it inside my head during that time. So whatever you’re doing on a regular basis, it is probably not maggot infested. Make the best of it because this time is all that you get. Don’t give away 5 out of your 7 days without a fight.
Now that I have the concept inside of my head, be on the lookout for more Monday Morning Center Back ideas. I’m here to help and I’ll try blogging, videos, podcasts in order to see what sticks. Have a great week! Yes I realize that it’s Wednesday but hey, nobody’s perfect!
At the turning point in the movie “Tommy Boy,” Chris Farley’s character offers to take a dump in a box and mark it “GUARANTEED.” It is part of a sales pitch to undermine his customer’s confidence in other products that offer a guarantee. After that, he gets on a sales hot streak, saves the company, gets the girl and impales Rob Lowe’s nuts. Cinematic gold! Despite my love for the movie, my focus is really on the concept of a guarantee or actually the inverse of that, the “Nothing Guarantee.”
As a teacher especially, I see the effort to reward analysis happen constantly. From time to time, it is overtly questioned. “What do I need to get on the next test in order to bring my grade to an ‘A’?” The math isn’t that hard and the effort in extra study to achieve that feat isn’t either. However the calculating still happens in the student’s brain. “How much effort do I need to exert for the promise/guarantee of what I want?” My suggestion is that this calculation is occurring in the heads of far too many people and it’s almost dangerous.
In a world where we can measure almost anything, we have begun to do so and rely upon measurement. The problem is that many of the endeavors that are truly worth our effort and attention cannot be measured and have no guarantees. People, who start businesses, families, cultural movements and the like, often have no idea how much work is going to be necessary to make it a success. The success is also not guaranteed and that’s the point! The reason that something is worth pursuing is because it’s not a guarantee. If we knew for certain that it was going to work, then anyone could do it.
So as you are reading this, I’m asking you to embrace the idea of the “Nothing Guarantee.” The concept that you are willing to put effort into things that might not work but you are willing to give it a go. My suggestion would be that regardless of the success or perceived failure of the situation that you’ll be happier with the version of you that is created. However I need to be fully transparent that even that is not guaranteed. Farmers have to plant more than they need in order to compensate for some of those seeds not maturing. The same needs to go for you. You’re probably need to put in more effort than you think to get that result but do it! So that when you make that team, achieve that goal or become that better version of yourself, you have a story to tell more than “I knew it would work.”
Throw away that guaranteed crap in a box and scale that mountain!
In my neighborhood as a child, kickball was the game that we played most often. I lived near the local middle school and the blacktopped area behind the school was our regular play area. The beautiful thing about that time of my life and in our history was that there was almost no adult supervision. Our parents knew where we were but they were not watching us directly nor directing our activity. The organization, rules, procedures and culture was completely up to us. It usually started with knocking on doors to assemble enough players. Team selection was usually done by captains but almost never the same ones. Our preferred game ball was an old volleyball but we tried a soccer ball and even a basketball once. House rules said that two fouls was an out. Pitches couldn’t bounce and littler kids got a slow roll. The rules themselves are not what matters because we probably inherited them from a gym class or somewhere else. What does matter is that we had to decide regularly. We had to consider a number of variables as a group of young kids and figure out how to make it work so that everyone would want to play again tomorrow.
Despite the fact that kickball still exists and kids play it, my sense is that the autonomy and decision making are gone. A quick YouTube search produced at least five videos on the rules of kickball. There are a lot of positives to having that amount of access to desirable information. However a negative consequence that comes along with it is deniability when it comes to responsibility for decisions. If people are not used to making up the rules, they struggle when a new situation arises.
Each of us is playing our own game. It’s nowhere near as simple as kickball and we have to come up with the rules. There are definitely common practices out there that may inform our game. However the decisions are ultimately up to us. Do we greet people that we dislike? Do we work hard on something that no one will ever see? Do we prefer to play on our own or in groups? These are all things that we must answer for ourselves. It’s completely possible to defer all decisions to other people like your parents, teachers, bosses, friends, etc. Eventually though, you’ll most likely end up playing a game that you dislike.
So perhaps it’s worth considering. What game are you playing and what are your house rules? You don’t need to keep score like everyone else unless you want the same results. Your boundaries may not be the same. The game that you’re playing may be unrecognizable to others and that’s alright. This world can be a playground or a prison based on these decisions. Some people who have all of the freedoms in the world feel trapped. While others who seemingly have every disadvantage find a way to win on a daily basis. It’s not about the external factors. The game that they’ve organized for themselves is one that they’re set up to lose or win internally.
They are really quite useful! Maps with that drawing or sticker that tell you exactly where you are on the map. It gives you a frame of reference for your future movement. Whether in a shopping mall, amusement park or any other area with twists and turns, this added feature to a helpful guide to the territory can be invaluable.
In the real world though, there is rarely an indicator of this sort. Sure we generally know where we are geographically but in a larger context, we’re often lost! There are traditions and conventions that we may follow. Paths that others have trodden which gives us some assurance of success. However it’s not the precision of a map with our exact location of the moment spelled out for us.
At the moment, I have no idea if this is the blogpost that will skyrocket me to stardom. I don’t even know if that is on the map nor if that would get me closer to my goal of helping people. Since there is no map, it’s even more important to have a compass. Something that helps you know if you’re heading in the right direction. Do you have yours? If not, it’s worth developing or considering. Getting lost is part of most journeys but losing yourself shouldn’t be. Define for yourself the direction that you’re heading so that when you reach obstacles, you understand why you must get past them.
There will probably not be a convenient map for you to follow through your life. Life is rarely set up for your convenience. However if you set yourself up with the right tools for keeping you on track, you won’t even need the sticker because you’ll know “You are here!”
As the Euros are on at the moment, there is plenty of buzz around different players. The value of a player can go up or down massively during a tournament like this. Some stars are born out of these circumstances and others that have shown bright in the past fade. Gareth Bale used to be worth nearly 100 million pounds. Now his market value is around 19 million. Is he one fifth the player that he used to be? Probably not, his chipping has definitely improved! Haha! But seriously, a player’s value is not a fixed thing, nor is it ever completely accurate. It is based on many perceived factors including consistency and potential. No one can see what tomorrow will bring but those who guess right consistently enough, create value for their clubs.
Luckily for the past decade and a half, the POSH have had a relatively consistent combination of a gambler and a teacher who have maximized player value. This season that value is no longer going to help finance the club’s future young starlets. It is going to pay the rent for a year in the Championship. While the POSH haven’t done any transfer business yet this summer, the core of their promotion winning side is intact. This side’s fate will depend largely on the “dynamic duo” of DMac and Fergie to do what they have for so many years, see value where others don’t and improve it.
Although it’s easy say after the fact, that Boyd, Gayle, and Toney were “destined” to be great, no one can ever truly say. The order of the moment is to believe. Consistently through the years, the DMac/Fergie combination have delivered results. Although the Championship is a different level, lessons have been learned and the course is clear. There is nothing magical about the Championship. No one has a divine right to play there but there are teams that it’s almost a given that they are going to stay up. The bookies know who they are, that’s how they set the odds. However they have made a slight error in setting the POSH at 15/8 to get relegated. They are discounting the gambler and the teacher. The track record of turning potential into POSH should not be overlooked. Perhaps it’s for the best though. Long odds can create strong mentality of belief in teams and individuals. Us against the world is an idea that can be sold because people who are undervalued have something to prove. This season is all about the things that POSH does well. Finding diamonds in the rough and getting them to shine for all to see. Patience.
Today the family and I visited Alcatraz Island. Despite the very moving and exhibit about the Native American occupation of the island, our main purpose for the visit was the prison. This was my second visit to “The Rock” but it was my children’s first. It’s easy to forget how small the cells are and the solitary life that must have been led by the prisoners. Surely their past actions put them into that position. However can’t that be said about all of us? The size of the cells in Alcatraz was 5 feet by 9 feet. How big is the cell that confines each of us? Are we only confined by the limits of our imaginations? Or is the size of our cell around 3 inches by 6 inches?
It easy and enticing to believe that we’re not confined by anything. The optimist inside of me would love to believe that we are all limitless, no bars, no guards, no walls to keep us in. Largely that could be true if it weren’t for us. We confine ourselves, punish ourselves and obstruct ourselves. The prison around us is man made but the man or (wo)man who made is also the prisoner. This knowledge is important but not liberating. It can help us to see past the bars and wall but escape is not particularly any simpler. Depending on how old you are, those impediments seem as real as the stone and steel of Alcatraz.
There is still debate about whether or not anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz. There is no debate that people escape their self-made prisons every day. The question is how far they get and whether or not they lock themselves back up in the same cell with the same number. It’s possible for you to make it! You don’t need to use a spoon from the commissary to tunnel through concrete. The escape plan needs to center around you and the amount of freedom that you’ll allow yourself to believe in. No one is stopping you! Unlock the cell and walk out! Freedom awaits but you need to believe.
You can find a recipe for almost anything online. On a frustrated Sunday afternoon, I looked up a recipe for a fake Chik-Fil-A nugget recipe. Since the restaurant is closed on Sundays, I took it upon myself to make my own nuggets. The first batch wasn’t great. The recipe didn’t exactly meet my expectations. So I changed it up and developed my own version of the recipe (see below). It became a family tradition for a while that every Sunday I would make my chicken recipe.
Life has become a lot more convenient since I was a kid. Almost anything that you want is a click away. The problem is that since we can have our desires met without much personal effort, we tend to undervalue things abhor effort. It seems to take too long, be too hard or even impossible to make those things of true value come about. So we tend to settle. We settle for the prepackaged, knock off version of the real thing because it’s just easier. Searching for the solution to our problem is often too difficult, so we put a poll out on a forum or Twitter. Who has the recipe that will fix my problem? If this is just research then, have at it! Much like my chicken problem, looking at someone else’s recipe was helpful. However it was missing that most important ingredient: ME.
In many ways we’ve put ourselves on the substitute’s bench in our own lives. We look outward for so many things. Whether it is validation on social media or an endless stream of entertainment from our streaming services. The problem is that you cannot ignore this “missing ingredient”. You are the most important person in the story of your life. Every single day of your life, you’ll be there. Putting yourself on the bench makes no sense. Even in times when you need the help of an expert, you still need to be there. Otherwise your life is happening to you, not for you. I did not care for piece of the recipe that I took off the internet, so I changed them to my liking. Perhaps, you’ll not like what I’ve created below. That’s ok! It might be a starting point for you to find your own recipe.
No matter who you are. You are the main character and chief script writer of your own TV show or movie. It’s largely up to you if you have a starring role or play a minor character. No one else can make that decision for you. If you’ve started to notice that you’re not a major ingredient in your life. Perhaps it is time to make a change! Put down the phone. Stop reading this blog and go do something that makes you, YOU! Come back later for the chicken recipe.
Go make it happen!
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup dill pickle juice
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour
½ cup House Autry hushpuppy mix
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine chicken, pickle juice and 1/2 cup milk; marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain well.
Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
In a large bowl, whisk an egg. Stir in chicken and gently toss to combine.
In a large bowl, combine Kentucky Kernel flour, Hushpuppy mix and confectioners’ sugar; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Working in batches, put chicken into flour mixture. Then add chicken to the skillet and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
To fully understand the situation, it may take you an extra five minutes to watch the video that is linked here. That is the video from the 1990s for a song called “Outside” performed by Aaron Lewis from the band Staind and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve heard of either of them or the song. The story behind the song and how it relates to the rest of us is really what matters.
The performance of that song was recorded during the “Family Values” tour in 1999. The relevance of the performance is that it was the first time the song was performed anywhere. Quite literally, Aaron Lewis was making up the lyrics as he went along. At the time, Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst were the big name headliner of the tour and Staind were the opening act. Lewis asked Durst to come on stage during their set and perform as a backing vocalist. Fred agreed but didn’t like the original song selection. He wanted to sing the backing vocals on “Outside” which Lewis had been workshopping months before but never finished. He had the first verse and the chorus. With the pressure of a live audience and a “star” performing with him, he was able to produce a song that still strikes a chord twenty years later.
This is the story of all of us. The stakes may be different and we may not be on a real stage but it is how we exist. We are making it up as we go along. Some of it we have prepared but much of the performance is ad libbed in the moment. The audience size is different every time and sometimes we’re a solo act. Regardless, this is the gig of being a human being. Producing something in the moment. Despite our desire to be consumers, we are actually producers!
Although I love the idea behind the performance, the song is worth noting as well. The reason that I still listen to it from time to time is the universality of many of the lyrics. “Inside you’re ugly, ugly like me.” I haven’t met a person yet who is not self-critical on some level. We spend so much time with ourselves and know our deepest and darkest secrets, it’s easy to get fixated on our imperfections. “I feel all this pain, stuffed it down, it’s back again.” Perhaps this one is just me but the demons never go away! I get far better at fighting them off and taking away their ammunition. However they are still there waiting to attack in my moments of weakness. They’re there because they are part of me. I’m both on the outside and the inside. The enemy and the ally at the same time.
It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one who is struggling in the moment. Perhaps you’re playing in front of a big crowd with huge stakes with no back up. I hope that it helps you to know that you’re not the only one who is fumbling for the right chords in the moment. We all are! Anyone who isn’t, must be in the audience and they are more afraid than you are. They’re afraid of criticism. That someone will see through them. You’ve gotten beyond that. “It’s not the critic who counts…” Hopefully your performance will blow up in the best possible way like it did for Aaron Lewis. Regardless of whether it does or not, you still have tomorrow to get back on stage and give it another go!