The son jumps into the pool and starts swimming toward his father who has backed up at least one step, maybe two. It is a simple story that has played out millions of times through the years. Here is a different version of the same story.
On December 28th, 2001, my friend, Gary, and I went out like we would on any other Friday night. We ran into his younger brother, another friend and the friend’s sister. The sister and I talked for a long time that night. Although I was very interested in her, I didn’t ask for her number or anything. The next day, Gary called me and I was told that she was very interested in me and she wanted to do something with the group again for New Year’s Eve. Later that evening, I called her up in order to make plans for all of us to go out again. When she answered the phone, I said, “Hi, this is Pete.”
She said, “Pete who?”
That’s when I found out that it was a lie. My friend had conjured up most of the story just to get me to call her. She was going to Philadelphia for New Year’s and had no plans to go out with us again. However she was happy to hear from me and the rest is history. She is now my wife and we’ve been married for 16 years.
Both the son on the edge of the pool and I were duped by someone we trusted. Honesty may be the best policy in most cases but from time to time, dishonesty is exactly what is needed. Although it was a lie, what Gary told me was more valuable than the truth. It took away the fear that normally would have paralyzed me into inaction. The lie made me act. It made me believe with certainty that I was going to be successful. It was a placebo of the best kind. I had taken the drug of self-confidence and it work magic on me.
There are so few things in life that are absolute. We tend to think of our thoughts as truth. Perhaps the “truths” that you’ve been telling yourself haven’t helped you very much. The divide between the truth and a lie is often based on perspective. So consider your perspective often. Rather than looking for the 100% truth, decide to believe the things that serve you. We usually need just a little push in order to get us started. Push yourself by believing the things that get you to act!
It was 2003, I believe. As I was driving north toward Hyannis, Massachusetts, even I was having trouble making sense of what I was doing. Everyone else had bailed out and I had the same exact option. I was supposed to be part of a 4 or 5 person group who were all going to compete in the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon. My girlfriend (now wife) and her friends had made all of the arrangements. I was tagging along for my first triathlon experience. On the day of our departure at the last minute, everyone decided not to go but for some reason I went. Due to all of the uncertainty about the others, I got a late start. After 11pm when I arrived to town, the bed and breakfast where we had reservations was shutdown for the night. So I started scouring the town for a hotel room. The first place that I went had nothing. Luckily the Days Inn had one room left, the “honeymoon suite,” complete with mirrors on the ceiling and a heart-shaped bed. It was not ideal considering I would only be sleeping for about 5 hours but I took it.
Although the race didn’t start until later in the morning, I got to the headquarters around 5:30am because I needed to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike. My first triathlon was off to a bumpy start to say the least. Luckily my registration was done ahead of time and that was the first thing to go off without a hitch. Ill prepared, on my own and completely unsure of the task in front of me; I sat and waited. The swim was by far my weakest event and it is first. Despite being a triathlon newbie, I had received one piece of good advice from a veteran weeks prior, wear a wetsuit. It helps to keep you afloat slightly. Even though I had that slight help, I still swam very slow. Out of nearly 1000 competitors, I was around 800th after the swim (from results after the race, no idea at the time).
My ability on the bike was definitely better than my swimming but my equipment was not. I had borrowed my older brother’s mountain bike for the weekend and although it was functional, it wasn’t set up for speed. Of course I really can’t use that as an excuse because a few miles in, I was passed by an older gentleman on a bike from the 1950’s (I’m guessing). He had no gears or special clipped in shoes and he passed me like I was standing still. Luckily I was also moving up in the pack. I focused on one by one passing the person in front of me. By the end of the bike, I had climbed into the 500s out of 1000.
The run was by far my best event. Having been a track athlete and soccer player, I knew how to pace myself over long distances. However my legs were heaviest during this portion of the race. After about a mile, the weight of my legs was starting to get into my head. What was I doing? No one was here to cheer me on. I was alone. Whether I ran harder or not, that fact was not going to change. Then I started thinking about my girlfriend. Even though I knew she wasn’t there, I became fixated on the thought of her and my legs felt lighter. So I picked up the pace and began catching as many people as I could. Although I knew it really wouldn’t matter one way or another to her, I was able to mask the pain of the moment by associating my performance with her. Much like the knights of the past used to go into battle to win the favor of a lady, I put that emotion into my legs. By the end of the run, I had progressed to the low 300’s.
When I crossed the finish line, I still did it alone but I had a full heart. Although I had entered the race ill prepared and unsure, I walked away from the event feeling more certain. Since I had already paid for a hotel room that I used for about 5 hours, I wolfed down as much post race food as I could. Then I had just enough time to go back to the “honeymoon suite” to take a shower before checking out and going home.
This story is about me but it applies to many more people. There are battles to be waged throughout our lives. Some are simple and fleeting like a triathlon. Others are complex and life altering like cancer. Regardless of which you are engaged in, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to be alone in that fight even when you are alone. People believe in you. They care about you and want you to win. Sometimes that can be hard for them to say. Perhaps they don’t even know that you need to hear it because they just think it’s implied. In a world where we can send and receive messages from around the globe through a device in our pocket, we can forget to send the simplest of messages to the person next to us. Perhaps we need to turn off that “connection” device and get reacquainted with the device inside of our chest. It can also send and receive.
Now more than ever we have the opportunity to connect with those that we love in order to raise each other up. There are things in this world worth fighting for and most of us have more ability than we realize. Sometimes it just takes the right person believing in us to bring it out. Don’t wait around for them to say it though. Just trust that it is out there. No matter how many people are cheering you on, you need to show up first. You’re worth fighting for!
A good friend of mine had a great night tonight. He is a high school basketball coach in Iowa and they won their first game of the season. The victory is more impressive because they did not win a single game last season. As I’ve known this man for many years, I know that he has been selling an idea to his team for months. The idea that they are better than their record from last year. I am sure that he has been trying to convince his players that they could win. While I like to believe that everyone is as optimistic as I am, there were probably a few of his players that believed he was full of it. The truth is that he was, up until tonight.
Magellan, Galileo, Tesla, the Wright Brothers and yes! John Windham were all kidding themselves at one point. At least that is what the people around them tend to believe. The reason is that it is easier to be pessimistic. It takes almost no effort at all to see the obstacles. The struggle of believing is just too hard for many people to bear. We’ve become enamored with the ideas of predictability and consistency. As we go through our lives, the monkey wrenches that get thrown into the gears of our perfectly planned days cause major upsets and anxiety. Everything is supposed to work like Starbucks where things are predictable but make you feel special at the same time. Believing something into existence is just too much work! What if I fail!?!?!? What if I’m full of it?!?!?! You will and you are. The people above were all branded fools up until and often beyond their successes.
If it’s all bull$#%t until it’s not, then what are you willing to be mocked for? The pessimists are always going to be there, no matter what. So the key is believing in something more than you care about what people will say. Time and tenacity are all it takes to change the impossible to the possible. Now is your time!
It has been said many times that soccer is a “religion”. While this may be taken as an exaggeration or possibly a slight against religion, there is reason to take the claim with a certain amount of seriousness. Although the sport does not call for the fealty to a superhuman controlling power, it could be considered a form of faith and worship. Routinely throughout the year, people flock by the thousands to sport cathedrals to have their faith tested by the team of their choosing. Much like a religion, an individual must decide to keep believing in the face of conflict. Although the teams, managers and players are the facilitators, it is actually the mass’s belief in the sport itself that makes it most like a religion.
The belief structure of soccer is not something that is written in a holy book but there are some universals that are worth mentioning as they relate heavily to life.
You’re never fully in control. Although the ball can be “possessed” by anyone on the field, that possession is tenuous at best. Even the goalkeeper has a time limit on their ability to hold the ball.
Progress and protection must be balanced. Even the most forward thinking teams recognize the need for a form of balance. Those who do not recognize the need for balance pay the price eventually.
No one can stand alone. Even the best players in history needed a supporting cast in order to be successful. Much like life, the individual is part of a larger whole and therefore is dependent on others.
There are many ways to meet your aims. Style of play, formations, personnel and other components are merely ingredients to an eventual product. The path does not always follow the plan or the map but actually doing is the key.
The tools may be finite but the possibilities are infinite. Each player has a finite number of tools to use but their ability to respond to the situation with those tools is what brings people back repeatedly.
These are not commandments or any form of religious doctrine but rather a few ideas that are inherent to the game. It is because of these ideas and many more that the game of soccer is so universally beloved. It mirrors life in so many ways that the people who love it may not even realize the overlaps. The game encapsulates in ninety minutes (or thereabouts) the struggle of what it means to be alive. Collectively and individually we are all caught in a struggle and the game is an available guidepost to help us along the road.
It’s actually quite amazing when you think about it. The fact that pessimism can even exist in a world where we have achieved so much. The internet, space travel, self-driving cars and a myriad of other examples should really give us hope that anything is possible. In a short span of time, we’ve gone from living a relatively meager existence to bending the world to a place of our own design. I recognize fully that not all of the progress come without cost. However even the problems that we have created are well within our scope to solve. The problem is one of vision.
In many ways we hang onto the ways of our ancestors. Some of those traditions and habits have value that justifies their persistence. However there are many that are anchors to our progress: both personally and societally. The one in particular that I am thinking of at the moment is our vision.
The phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it” seems to encapsulate the way that many people, with whom I deal daily, view the world. Their belief, effort, support, etc. are completely dependent on proof positive before they will take the leap. Unfortunately that level of conservatism will only ever produce the same results to which we are accustomed. The realm of possibility encompasses far more than we can imagine. So in order to get where we truly want to go, “I’ll see it when I believe it” is the mantra of the day. This may seem like semantic double talk but it truly is the way forward. Human beings lead with belief. Too many of us are being held back by our need for the world to give us proof before we are willing to leap. Absolutely! Put on a helmet if necessary! But most of us are not afraid of the moon shots, we’re afraid to be disappointed, to try, to give everything we’ve got! The unfortunate thing about this is that although we’re not dead, we’re not fully alive either. We live in a time when anything is possible but exist day to day only in what is probable. Our vision for the future should not look exactly like the past.
You are the ancestor of survivors! Cavemen and women who braved the bitter cold, extreme heat and dangerous predators just to continue the species. Their successors improved hunting and developed farming in order to make survival more probable. Eventually they were succeeded by people who developed technological advances that gave us every advantage and the ability to bend many of the laws of nature to our will. This is your lineage!
Despite that fact, you feel weak, uninspired, defeated or out of control. For so long our species had one objective: stay alive. Now that survival is less of a concern, we seem to have forgotten how to live. The words “successors” and “succeeded” were used intentionally because they illustrate a point that has been lost in the shuffle of the demands of modern life. Success is now an arbitrary term that people often conflate with money, possessions or other status symbols. It was originally about passing something on to those who would come after.
So don’t balk at the opportunity that you have. You are the descendant of people who were brave, resilient and strong. They left us every advantage and that has tricked us largely into believing that we are weak that we are nothing without them. That we can’t handle the cold or the heat or the difficult or uncertain. DON’T ASSUME THAT YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET! Inside of your very DNA is the stuff that made survivors. Now it is your turn to do whatever you can with the time that you have. Your strengths, the things that you were meant to do are out there, waiting for you. Your belief in them and your ability to find them will beckon them eventually but first you must act! You must do things that take you outside of your comfort zone. Test the limits to see where your strengths lie!
There is so much fear at the moment about failure, rejection, looking foolish or being called out. These are not new fears by any stretch but they seem to have become more pervasive as each of us lives a half-public life. At times, I feel slightly sorry for the people who have grown up in a world with the internet and social media. Largely because they’ve never known anything different. Since I am not a digital native (first time on the internet was in college), I remember a time where I could fall flat on my face and only the people there to see it could really laugh. So taking chances on things that might not work felt “safer”. Although it may not always seem that way, it is a choice to feel safe or afraid.
In my early twenties, my best friend, Schaef, was about to get married in two months. At the time, I was living in NJ but was spending a lot of weekends in Baltimore. One particular night, I was hanging out in the Fell’s Point area with my friend, Damion. A problem was lurking for me because I did not have a date to my friend’s wedding. So I decided in that moment to ask the most attractive girl in the place to be my date. I don’t remember exactly what Damo said but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “that’s not going to work.” And common sense would tell anyone that he was probably right. Random guy, asks random girl to a wedding two months in advance when he lives in a different state. Slim to no chance!
This is not exactly what I said but it is pretty close. “Hi! I was wondering if you could help me. I’ve got an issue with my best friend. You see, he’s getting married in two months and he made his brother his best man. I’m a little upset with him because we’ve been extremely close for years now and I should really be his best man. So in order to get back at him, I’m going to bring a date to his wedding that is so beautiful that no one will look at the bride and that woman is you!” I did not get a yes right away but what I did get was a date for the next weekend and an eventual yes to the wedding.
Most of the time the problem isn’t that other people tell us “no”. It’s that we tell ourselves “no” before we even make the attempt. The world gets very few chances to reject us because we cower in the shadows afraid to gamble our self-image. And therein lies the problem of the day. We are protecting the image that we have of ourselves and it seems magnified by the device that sits in our pocket. The fact that we can beam out our most perfectly angled selfie for all the world to see, also makes us afraid that anything less than that level of perfection will be chastised. The world is not waiting for you to fall. It’s actually not waiting for anything from you at all. But maybe… just maybe… if you’re willing to risk those slim odds that you’ll end up finding out what you’re truly capable of. Then next time it will be easier for you to say “YES!” to yourself because until you do, no one else will get the chance!
I inadvertently ruined Santa Claus for my son this morning. Late last night I typed up a letter to a former professor and friend. This morning my son asked to use my laptop to look up something for school. I had completely forgotten to close out the document where I had talked about our holiday season and our kids still believing in Santa. Ultimately it could have been a lot worse because he is old enough to move on from that belief.
Our beliefs are extremely important tools that we use to form who we are and who we can be. Although the title of this blog may seem negative, it is intended to have a positive outcome. It is intended to add some inner dialogue that will help you to achieve a goal, create something, improve something, change a habit or any other endeavor that is difficult.
Stop believing that it will be easy!
Stop believing that anyone will do it for you!
Stop believing that it’s too big for you to pull off!
Stop believing that “You Suck” voice inside your head!
Stop believing that you need to wait for the time to be right!
Stop believing that you’re too tired!
Stop believing that people will laugh at you!
Stop believing that anyone is going to help you more than you help yourself!
Stop believing that there are too many obstacles!
Stop believing that your past failures matter enough to stop you from trying again!
Stop believing that there’s nothing you can do!
Start believing in you, in possibility, in the future!
Stepping on the gas pedal of life may get you there fast but without the steering wheel, you don’t get to decide where that is.
It’s something that every single one of us went through at one point or another. The hard-wiring is built deep within us based on our ancestors’ need to survive. Fear of the dark, unknown, bumps in the night, the boogeyman and the like are so natural that I do not blame anyone for that response. Even at the ripe age of 41, I still have that response to some situations. Even though I know that this is to a certain extent instinctual, it is possible to train it out. I no longer check for monsters under my bed at night. The question on my brain tonight is, would it be possible (and advantageous) to not only train the fear out but instill a sense of dominance over the monsters?
The beginning assumption of the child is that they need to be afraid. In the ultimate Chuck Norris reversal, couldn’t the monsters be afraid of us? If they are such badasses, why do they need to skulk in the dark anyway? It’s probably because the sneak attack/sucker punch tactic is their only hope. Flipping the script on a situation like this opens up a new world where the victim becomes the victor. Since most of our world is no longer based on an “only the strong survive” system, a large majority of the shifts that change victims to victors are of mentality and not physicality.
Since there is less to need to fear and the game is mostly mental, perhaps it is time to change the assumptions that we make about ourselves. Each of us has jumped to conclusions about ourselves based on limited or weak data. “I’m not smart enough.” “They’d never take me.” “I’m just really bad at ______.” All of these are assumptions that may not be true or can be flipped. The difference between a weakness and a strength might be as simple as perspective or selection. Being 4 foot 10 inches is a major liability in the NBA but for a horse jockey, it’s an asset. The world that you live in is based largely on perspective.
DON’T ASSUME YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET! The world offers so many opportunities to each and every one of us. The problem is that many of us make assumptions about what those opportunities are supposed to look like. People want opportunity to look like a lottery ticket rather than an unpaid internship. The latter will probably make a stronger and smarter person but the former is sexier, so we ignore. We ignore our strengths or opportunities to become stronger all the time because it’s easier to complain about being weak. Flip the script and attack those monsters under your bed and inside your head. You’ll find that that they’re no match for you when you believe and you act.