This is your one and only opportunity at TODAY! Yes tomorrow is right around the corner but there is no guarantee that the same situations, circumstances or people will be available. Whether you are truly in a once in a lifetime situation or simply building the inertia that will be necessary to get you over the mountain that your climbing; TODAY CANNOT BE DISCOUNTED! So give it the attention and forethought that an opportunity like this deserves. If you treat today like every other day, then that is exactly what it will be. However if you treat it like the unique opportunity that it is, you’re more likely squeeze all of the juice out of it. So ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want long term?
What do I want short term?
What can I do today that will bring me closer to both?
Once you’ve identified those three things, then take action! You can’t do everything today but you can do something. Your life is a series of one day sales. Can you become the best possible shopper or leave the store empty handed because you didn’t notice the signs? The choice is up to you!
I just wept in front of a room of teenagers. It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it. Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen. It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story. That’s because I’ve let it happen. The memory does not have to be painful. It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.
It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions. They are things that happen to us rather than our creation. Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party. As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse. Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant. So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly. But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.
The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen. So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times. Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol. It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies. Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other. The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.
Physiology is the way that you use your body. It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial. Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.
Focus is the things that you pay attention to. At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses. We can only pay attention to a finite number. So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.
Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head. For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel. Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.
These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside. It is by no means an easy fix. Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.
I’ve not watch a NFL game for about four years. I used to love it but now I can’t stomach to sit through a play or two. The exorbitant contracts don’t bother me. Although the blind eye to domestic (or just regular) violence off the field do bother me, that’s not it either. It’s the fact that the people inside the sport no longer want to play the game. They want to play the system. Rather than going for the ball, they go for the call. Games are more about referees than players. The game has become a sad shell of what it was. I’ve got the same complaint about my preferred sport of soccer but it has not reach the point of boycott YET! There are millions of dollars (or whatever currency) on the line, I get it. The problem is that the we’re all being robbed, not just the fans.
The reason why sports are such an ingrained part of our world is that they are a metaphor for what it is like to be alive. Whether it’s football, soccer, badminton or any other athletic endeavor; it is a meeting of body, mind and spirit that is a test on what we are capable of. When you look at sport in this light, it is easy to see that every time that someone tries to dupe the referee and succeeds, we lose. The fans, the players, the coaches and sport itself loses because we are no longer testing what we are capable of, we are finding out what we can get away with. I’m not picking on professional athletes because unfortunately it has become a cultural norm. The reason why I point them out specifically is that they are in the spotlight and have the ability to move the culture. They train for most of their lives to become the best of the best on their field but then become snake oil salesmen when it truly counts. And none of us will ever know!
We’ll never know what they could have done. Had they just played through the foul, the contact or the almost contact of their opponent. It puts the result of the day on the line for sure and I know that everyone loves a winner but at what cost? If gaming the system is the most common way to win, then we need to consider very heavily what it is that we’ve lost. More than likely it is the willingness to put it all on our own shoulders. Until we do that, we’ll never know what we were capable of and that is the point.
So I beg of you, as you go out into your own life today, don’t take the dive. Don’t look for the loophole or the shortcut. Even though you’re not a professional athlete, we all have the opportunity to find the greatness within ourselves. The key to that is that you must demand a higher standard of conduct. Because if you don’t give it your all, you’re just never going to know!
Our concept of time is messed up to a certain extent. Not the measurement of time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. are effective units to use for measuring time. It is our relationship with it that may be in need of a revamp. Perhaps I am only speaking for myself but I generally don’t think that I’m so unique to have a completely new thought. Time is something that in our younger years we waste so often it is as if we believe that there is an infinite supply for us. Then as we get older, we lament its passing, wishing that we had some of that wasted time back. It seems that the only people who truly grasp the limited resource which they have are the people who have a brush with their own mortality. There are a multitude of stories including George Lucas, Franck Ribery and so many others who gained clarity from a near death experience.
For me, I was too young. Too young to remember and I never got the lesson. When I was two and a half, I had meningitis. I almost died. Despite knowing this story since I was a kid, it never really sunk in that I was working with borrowed time. At this moment I am forty one years into a lease on a life that easily could have passed by already. So what does one do with this realization, even if it comes extremely late? Like so many things in this world, the first thing is most likely to be grateful. None of us is owed anything in the world. So gratitude for all that has sprung out of that borrowed time is the most natural course. Then comes the projection forward. If you’re playing with house money, do you play it conservative only betting on the best odds? Or do you look for some long shots that would pay off big because let’s face it you were supposed to be cashed out long ago? I’m sure that you had a gut feeling about what you would tell me to do. The question is can you follow your own advice?
We’re all living on borrowed time. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve beaten a terminal disease or been healthy as a horse since birth. It’s not completely up to us when we cash out. So with that little bit of clarity from your gut, you need to decide, what are you doing with the chips that you have today? There’s no particularly wrong answer, just an answer that’s right for you.
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!
This month I will post at least once per day. Seven days per week for all of May! It’s something that I’ve balked on before. I’ve had streaks that have lasted weeks but not an entire month. I can get ahead of the game by writing a bunch in one day and releasing them individually as I see fit. BUT if a post is not out, then I don’t eat until one is released. Now right there I’ve done some of the things that I know but do not always apply.
I made a definite goal.
I defined my terms.
I’ve broken it into manageable pieces.
I set the stakes.
If you’ve got something that you have been putting off or know that you need to do, then MAYbe, May should be your month too. Thirty days to make something big happen is not too much to ask. The question is are you willing to commit to yourself? Or do you need to commit to someone else who won’t let you off the hook? Promises can be powerful things when used by people who mean them. If not, then they’re just words. So let’s keep each other honest. Are you up for thirty days of action?
There are plenty of nicknames for the police. The most common comes from the city of Chicago where the badges were made out of copper. So eventually the name “copper” became associated with the job. That of course got shortened to the word “Cop”. Whether it is the fuzz, popo, Five – O or any other version, the code is usually developed by someone who is doing something wrong and trying to hide the discussion of the over-watching force. So with all of that code in mind, it is probably time to Five – O – U.
In a combination of code for police and text speech, I’m suggesting that you police yourself. It’s easy to put the responsibility onto someone or something else. Police, parents, teachers, trainers, coaches and so many other overseers can be used to keep us away from our lesser self. However the only person that is there 24/7/365 is YOU! So the absolute best person to put on watch is you….”BUT THAT’S HARD!” I can hear it now. The cries from the people that are only half committed scream through the silence of inaction. Somehow we delude ourselves into believing that the time when we’re on our own counts less or not at all. Those calories don’t count, the skipped reps or workouts don’t count, the lies that I tell myself or others about what I’ve done or not done DON’T Count! This is at least partially true because in many cases our internal police have been asleep on the job for so long, they don’t even recognize the things that should count.
So the challenge has been put forth, Five – O – U! Police yourself! You’re the one who reaps all of the rewards and pays all of the prices. If there are people who care more about your results than you do, take a long hard look at what you’re doing because there is an imbalance somewhere. Remember that you can only control one person in this world and you should!
Geometry was probably one of the easiest classes for me in high school. Despite its relative ease, I had trouble staying engaged with it. I found it tedious to give all of the reasons why something was true. It was usually pretty obvious whether a problem was going to withstand the scrutiny of the different theorems that we were learning at the time. So it seemed like a relative waste to my teenage self to write out all of the steps in proving or disproving a problem. Especially when the answers (to the odd problems usually) were in the back of the book.
In our every day lives, there aren’t a lot of ‘proofs’ to be done. Very few things are black and white. So regardless of how SURE you are of your argument, there’s someone out there with the exact same information screaming the opposite (just think of our present political situation). So if we have nothing to prove, maybe the aim should be to improve.
Although there are few cold hard truths that we encounter daily, we do have a sense of who we are personally and what it is that we want for ourselves. So recognize the fact that you have nothing to prove. Even if you were to prove something, the circumstances of tomorrow may wipe away the thing that your proved today. However, each day we have the ability to improve. In small and subtle ways, it is possible for you to see progress in yourself, your life and your circumstances. Almost nothing about you is going to stand the test of time like Pythagoras’ Theorem. That does not mean that your life is meaningless. You are a sand castle that can be improved and enjoyed for the time that it exists. Get digging and sculpting because when the tide comes in, you’ll wish that you had!
Cautionary tales like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” seem to be less prevalent than in the past. Perhaps that is just my perception or my own implementation of life lessons to my kids. I remember exactly who told me this story and for what reason. It had the desired effect. In third grade, I would frequently “not feel well” in order to be sent down to the nurse’s office. Once my visits became frequent enough, the nurse recounted the story of the boy who cried wolf. My visits to her office became more legitimate.
Although the moral of the story is extremely clear, it might be worth a revisit because it could go further. In the end, the boy gets hurt because the townspeople don’t believe him. His dishonesty lead to pain because it short-circuited the system that was intended to protect him. While this moral has served me and countless others well, let’s go further.
The boy not only put himself in peril, he also robbed himself. He robbed himself of the experience of watching how the townspeople dealt with wolves. His deception was a short term diversion that took away his long term solution. If he had been diligent in his duties, he may have seen that scaring off the wolves was something that he could eventually do on his own. Developing this skill set over time could have saved his life in the future.
This revisited moral is possibly even more useful than the original now. The world is full of alarms, warning devices and security systems that keep us safe from “wolf attacks”. However with all of this “protection” are we going to be ready to act when things go sideways. If we are always providing our young people with a “safe space”, will they know how to handle themselves when real dangers show up? Hope is not a strategy. Hoping that the systems in place will be enough to cover all eventualities actually leaves those on the inside helpless. So don’t hope that nothing will happen, take steps to prepare for those possibilities.
Systems can be great and it is completely fine that we depend on them, until it’s not. Following the credo of the Boy Scouts, “be prepared!” You don’t know what is coming in your future but if you never consider what’s possible in either the positive or the negative, then you’re bound to be unprepared. We’ve all got exactly one objective in life: FCO (Figure Crap Out!). That’s it! You don’t deserve a problem free life. You can only create one. Not by eradicating all problems but by preparing for so many eventualities that you’re never caught by surprise!
It’s Valentine’s Day! One of my most memorable Valentine’s Days was in my sophomore year of high school. At the time, I was single but not completely happy about that situation. So it came as a huge but welcome surprise that I received two red carnations in homeroom. The card didn’t say who they were from. It just said, “Someone loves you!” The rest of that day, I spent trying to figure out who could have sent them. I’ll fully admit that I had a slight strut to my step throughout school. My hope was that my secret admirer would reveal herself by the end of the day. Unfortunately she did not.
So I went home and later that evening my mom asked me, “Did you get the flowers that I sent you?” I was crestfallen to say the least. I remember getting on my mom’s case about sending red carnations rather than pink or white. But in all honesty it should not have mattered. At the time I didn’t have the confidence or worldview to realize what I know now. So if you’re one of those people lamenting “Singles Recognition Day”, take some time to consider my perspective.
If you are interested in eventually being in a relationship, recognize that you have a secret admirer someplace. Perhaps you actually have someone that’s interested in you that you just don’t know about their feelings. I know that I’ve found out after the fact several times. Or there is someone out there who is looking for someone like you and they just haven’t found you yet. And the final but toughest one to face is that perhaps you’re not a good enough version of yourself yet to attract that person you want. THAT’S HARSH! But may be completely accurate.
I went to high school with my wife and we did not date until after graduating college. This was probably the best thing that could have happened. If we had dated in high school, I doubt we would have ended up together. I had to become a much better caliber of person in those years, so that I could attract someone like my wife. My hope, in high school, was that someone was secretly watching and thought I was great. In reality, I needed to work on being great so that someone great would be watching.
So if you’re not there yet and you’re lamenting your single life, write yourself a letter. Write down a description of your ideal person. Describe them in every small detail that you can. Then write down who you need to become in order to deserve a person like that. Once you’ve written them both down, put the description of your ideal person in an envelope and seal it. Write next year’s Valentine’s Day’s date on it. Take the description of who you need to become someplace where you’ll read it regularly. If you follow through with this, I’m sure that you’ll be happy with the results regardless if you’re single next year.