We 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!
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!
Life can often feel a lot like walking a dog. You’re getting pulled forward by a force that you only partially control. All the while, you’re carrying bag of crap that you’ve picked up along the way. If you don’t ever look up and enjoy the scenery, this can feel like a huge chore. However if you’re able keep what you’re doing in perspective, it can be a truly enjoyable way to pass the time.
Most of the time soccer is a noun but today I’m going to use it as a verb. Of course when you are creating a new word, it’s important to define it. Here is my explanation of the term.
The action of “soccering” is not the act of playing soccer. We already know how to say and do that. And NO! It doesn’t mean acting like you’re injured when no one did anything to you. The action of soccering is the real life application of the virtues that are possessed within the game. In soccer, players must make real time decisions about what to do, based on the stimuli that they take in from both teammates and opponents in order to achieve the outcomes of simultaneously reaching a goal while defending their own. The soccer paradigm puts the impetus of decision onto eleven individuals acting as a collective rather than following the pre-scripted orders of an overseer. Although positioning and style of play may be directed, principles and judgment are the main directors of decisions.
America needs to soccer! It needs to take back the very impetus that this country was founded upon. Regular people doing things as a collective that move us all forward and protect us against failing. We need regular citizens who want to be self-determining within the existing system and help to influence that system. At the moment we seem to be overwhelmingly passive and extremely willing to look for someone else to be accountable rather than looking to be responsible ourselves.
We can soccer by trying to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can soccer by changing our perspective from a “they” to “we” mentality. We can soccer by doing the right thing even if we know that no one else will notice but us. We can soccer by deciding to take a chance on something that might not work, rather than doing it “the way we’ve always done it.” There are so many ways to soccer but the thing about soccering is that it has to start with you. You can’t tell someone else to soccer. You can only show them how by doing it first and being an example.
Below is a long description of the historical paradigms where this thought came from. If you are inspired to do something right now, then don’t read the bottom, act now, read later.
Why do I believe that America needs to soccer? The historical successes of the United States have in large part been attributed to a football paradigm. Land acquisition and forward progress are the hallmarks of the All-American sport. In the past, both politically and economically, we have pushed forward in the name of progress and it has served us well. Manifest Destiny is the perfect example. Presidents and other decision-makers laid out a playbook for the American people to score a touchdown on the Pacific coast. Americans led the charge across the continent through wars and promised economic success, the way football players might listen to a play called from the sidelines. The Space Race, the Arms Race, the Cold War and Industrial Revolution were all perfectly suited to the football paradigm. So why change?
The reason for change is that the football paradigm is fundamentally flawed in a few different areas. The idea of neverending progress is unrealistic. At some point stock prices level off, profits decline and progress slows and stops. In a paradigm that preaches forward motion as the truest indicator of success, it is not surprising that we have: insider trading, big CEO bonuses for bailed out companies and strategic layoffs to protect profits. Individuals, companies and the government have all pushed toward their given marker of success whether it be money, land, power or prestige. These success markers are not inherently evil or negative but their acquisition without thought to the human equation has created an imbalance in our perspective on success.
There are also the separations in the football paradigm. The coach is the one who calls the plays. The offense scores the points and the defense stops the other team. Although all are members of the same team, it is easy to point the finger at another individual or group when things go wrong. In the Industrial Revolution this system was completely acceptable. Henry Ford brought forth the assembly line. He took men who were making fifty cents per day and paid them five dollars per day because of his efficiency. People were more than willing to be a cog in that machine because it was a better life than what they expected. They were linemen but were happy to be that. Now with modern technology and globalization that deal doesn’t work anymore. That deal is being shipped overseas and no one wants to be a lineman anymore. Everyone thinks they’re a quarterback and expects to be paid like one.
America needs to soccer because you’re part of the problem and part of the solution. You’re on the field. The decisions that you make on a daily basis matter. The President, the senator, the governor, your boss, your wife, your children, your friends, your teachers are part of it all but so are you. So before you point the finger, point the thumb. What can you do today to SOCCER?
I have a very clear recollection of the day that I passed the test that told me that I was ready to be a father. I was on the bottom floor of my in-laws’ house on a lake in Virginia. A strange sound came from outside that I didn’t recognize. A few seconds later my wife screamed my name. It was the kind of scream that I knew something was wrong. I jumped up and sprinted out the door. When I reached my wife on the deck outside, I quickly found out the source of the sound and why she screamed. Our dog, Kelme, was pinned down by another dog that was attacking him. The two dogs were about ten feet below the deck on the rocks that sloped down toward the lake. Without a moment’s hesitation, I jumped over the deck’s railing and dropped the ten feet landing next to the two dogs. Luckily my sudden appearance and loud shouts were enough to scare the dog off without my having to fight him. I picked up Kelme and raced him to the vet with my wife. His wounds were very minor and he made a full and energetic recovery. It was after that incident that I knew for sure that I could be a father.
Not everyone gets that type of real life test that tells them something important about themselves. Generally people have to take a leap of faith that they can handle the situation. The phrase there is not unimportant, “leap”. I can’t say for certain whether I would have gotten the same type of self-assurance from that situation had I run down the stairs to Kelme’s aid. The jump was important because it separated me completely from safety and put me directly into harm’s way: both from the rocks and the dog. The willingness to take the risk of the leap was key. Lives don’t need to be at stake. Broken limbs and dog attacks don’t need to be risked.
The keys to any endeavor of creation: child, book, movie, relationship, song, poem, etc. are the leap and the foregoing of self. Neither is particularly easy to do. Leaping requires a detachment from the stability of the known world for something much more uncertain. Putting something else before ourselves is also an exercise in chance. With both, fear is a major opposing force. While fear is an emotion that is intended to protect us from pain, it is often the force that keeps us from living fully. A full life is one that requires creation and therefore risk. There are no diplomas, courses or tests that can prepare you to live fully. It is something that needs to be done on the fly everyday with consistent action. The act of leaping may never become completely comfortable but it may just become completely worth it.
I had blood all over me. I didn’t know where I was. It was the coldest that I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t see a thing. All that I could do was scream. Luckily help was nearby and I was able to calm down. It had been a difficult trial but I was alive and in the hospital. Just when things seemed as if they would be OK, a complete stranger came along and chopped off a quarter of my penis. All of that trauma happened in the first twenty four hours of my life. Despite that very rough beginning, I’ve done quite well for myself.
This story is at least partially true for almost all of us. We were all thrust into this world naked, afraid and unable to speak, read or write. It is not something that we give much thought to because it happens to everyone. However birth (or creation) is a messy and traumatic business by all accounts. Not just the human producing ones but also the birth of companies, relationships, art or anything else. There is always that starting point of conception that is magical and exhilarating. Eventually that moment is replaced by some form of hard labor in order to get the creation out into the world. Just because it’s painful, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. The narrative of the present day is about safety and comfort. Our world has had most of its sharp edges taken off. While I’m all for vaccinating against the next Bubonic Plague, there are some struggles that are important for people to go through. Not all pain is trauma.
As you conceive the next dream of where you’re going or what you’re doing, do a little pre-trauma planning. Like a person that is preparing for a marathon, it is important to understand your “quit points”. Quitting is not shameful if it is done for the right reasons. A broken leg is a justifiable quit inducing occurrence. Cramps are a nuisance to be fought through. The difference between trauma and possibility is perspective and the next few steps that are taken. Expectation that everything will be easy is a sure fire way to turn every problem into trauma. Traumatizing yourself with things that should be expected is recipe for disaster. Imagine freaking out because your newborn child couldn’t walk. It’s a process not a fully completed miracle. Take the possibility and run with it.
The life of the single celled organism, the amoeba, must be tough. In order to survive, it needs to change its shape in order to “absorb” its food. It is the ultimate “go-getter” in the microscopic universe. It’s survival is completely predicated on how much and how often it “puts itself out there”. A lazy amoeba would be a dead amoeba.
Living in the world of higher order organisms, we are not as dependent on stretching ourselves in order to survive. In fact over the past century we’ve been rewarded for being small amoebas. Stretching or standing out was discouraged. Get good grades, get into a good college, do your job and follow the rules. Being a small amoeba is not as smart as it used to be. The systems that rewarded the small amoeba are breaking down all over the place and we’re being asked to stretch again.
The opportunities to stretch are all around. The problem is the same as the amoeba “Am I stretching in a direction that will help me survive?” The trial an error method is probably a big part of the amoeba’s life and may be required of you. This is uncomfortable. The old system was predictable, repeatable and safe. Even becoming a big amoeba only required adherence to the system that almost told you where to stretch.
The question is not whether the world will require you to stretch or not. The question is whether you’ll allow yourself to be stretched, pulled apart or reach of your own volition. Do you believe that you are a small amoeba with very defined limits? Or are you consistently able to reach out into the void and find what you need and stretch yourself? You are much less rigid than you think. Most of your limits are not based on DNA but rather WTT (Willingness To Try). The old rule book is slowly being torn apart. You don’t need to go with it. Reach out into the void and see what you get. Then do it again!
The act of being human is not always an easy one. Despite all of our advantages, we still run into plenty of obstacles and potholes. There is an odd feeling that I have inside that I am more than one person. I’ve written before about my fascination with a scene from Lord of the Rings that personifies that internal struggle. However today I’m thinking of a much more strategical breakdown to the human animal. We are all in a constant cycle of -ing.
Human Being – This is our general state. Much like an idling car, we all have our own base state. This may be influenced by outside factors but in general it is within our capacity to control. Who are you being on a regular basis? The -ing is important because it is a present progressive. Who you’ve been in the past is not important. The present is a new choice for you to be.
Human Meaning – As we are being our way through the day, things are going to happen. It is inevitable. Humans are not always objective creatures. We generally put meaning onto the things that happen. Something happened, that means; I’m going to be late, people appreciate me, I’m worthless, it’s a complete success or a million other things that we’ve made up in our own heads. Since the stories inside of our heads about the meanings behind things are completely made up by us, then wouldn’t it be intelligent to give things a meaning that helps us? As the writer of your own programming, this seems the most sensible thing to do.
Human Doing – Once we’ve put ourselves into a position for a successful day by being in a winning state. Then putting the most helpful meaning onto all external events. The only -ing left is what to do. Doing is the end step that brings the cycle back around. There is definitely enough evidence around to support the fact that the internal human game is extremely important. However we were always meant to be creatures of action. Man was meant to MANufacture, MANifest, MANage and MANeuver through this world to greater heights.
So as you are going through your day. Pay attention to the -ing that you are in. Are you being in your best interest? Is the meaning that you give to your circumstances helpful? And especially, what are you doing with what you have? It won’t always be perfect but that’s alright because you weren’t meant to be either. My hope is that you’re at least progressing!
In these hot summer days of New Jersey, an air conditioned house, store or office is a sanctuary. Relief from the pounding heat and humidity seems as if it is a necessity. I often think about our “pre-AC” ancestors and how they reacted to days like this. Most likely, they had to be slightly more intelligent about breaks, shade and water. The prospect of artificial cool was long off in the future. Like so many of our modern conveniences, the advancement of technology seems to come attached to a double result: the desired effect and it’s opposite.
An air conditioner is thought of as a cooling mechanism, unless you visit the back end of the unit. There you will realize that the AC unit is producing almost as much heat as cold. So the cool factor is for a selected space and temporary. When the heat and cool reunite, the entire equation is most likely a wash. The effect for us as the recipients is not particularly a wash. The perception of cool and hot becomes skewed. While we have in theory “beaten the heat” by creating air conditioning, we’ve made ourselves less able to adapt to it when it is thrust upon us. This inverse relationship is evident in many areas. The internet has connected us all but we are losing our ability to communicate. Everyone has a phone in their pocket but people are talking less. We have more information than ever about the human body and how it works best but obesity and diabetes are rampant. It is as if we have forgotten something that could bring us back to the center. The thing that we have forgotten is that we are animals. Specifically we are mammals who were intended to find an equilibrium with our surroundings in order to survive.
The technological advances that we have created have brought us off of our center where we feel like we need to adapt. The world is supposed to adapt to us, right? Not quite, when we forget our heritage, not too subtle reminders will be visited upon us. So my message is pretty simple: Find out, without! Find out who you are without all of the gadgets that you use to cause comfort. Think, plan and execute some time in an outdoor environment that slightly tests who you are as a human animal. An overnight hike, a day without air conditioning, a period of time with no cell phone or any other exercise that allows you to come back to a natural center. (Yes! I realize that I’m asking you to unplug while writing an article over the internet. Hypocrisy? Only if I did this without doing what I prescribe.)
So find out, without! Find out whether or not you can have a face to face conversation with one of your Facebook friends. Find out if you really would shrivel up in this heat or do you just need to have a plan for hydration and find shade. The human animal has conquered this world and found now that his biggest adversary is himself. Don’t get crushed by your comfort!