Blogpost, self-reliance

Shake The Etch a Sketch

One of my favorite thoughts to come back to regularly is David Foster Wallace’s talk “This Is Water!” If you’ve never heard it, the video on YouTube is worth the ten minutes! It basically outlines a need to be conscious of your default thoughts because they can become invisible like water. They surround and permeate our lives in ways that we tend to not even notice. We run on a form of autopilot through situations. Seeing the world much like we did yesterday and the day before that. Problems arise when the water or picture no longer serves. In an effort to not throw out the proverbial baby (or fish) with the bath water, the picture metaphor works much better in this case. We can have a picture for different portions of our lives that can independently be reworked.

As a kid, one of the most pervasive toys that all kids seemed to have was the Etch A Sketch. It was a drawing toy that you used knobs to draw on a “screen” and shaking it would give a new surface to draw on. Perhaps it is time to shake the Etch A Sketch on different picture models that you have for your life. Seeing yourself, a situation or your life differently can be complicated and difficult. Some of the pictures we have of who we are can be decades old. Yet, it may be necessary to shake those longstanding ones up. Our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of shape our thoughts and actions. The things that we will or will not consider are based largely upon these models. So take a look and decide if you need a shake up!

It’s far easier for me to say than for anyone to do! BELIEVE ME I KNOW! Some of the pictures that I have in my head seem like they are etched in stone, not a child’s toy. Even if they are, it is incumbent on me to fix it, redraw it and yes shake it up! (Not off, that’s Taylor Swift). So despite the discomfort and difficulty, take a look at your pictures of the world and decide if they work or not. Maybe you’ve actually had some of them since your Etch A Sketch days.

Give ‘Em a shake!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Getting Back on Track

For those of you who may never have seen one, the picture is a record. Many of us from the older generations are turning back to them as our preferred format for listening to music. There is a certain amount of romance, nostalgia and warmth that comes from listening to a record. The tradeoff is that since they are a “last century” technology, they are very delicate. They are prone to scratches, melting and breakage. Scratches (even little ones) can be maddening because the record will “skip” and play the same few seconds over and over again. I’m not sure when the phrase “broken record” will fade away or if it already has but that’s the idea. Broken records get stuck in a pattern and seemingly can’t get out of it. Old technology needs human intervention to get “back on track” but what about us?

Records can come in a variety of colors!

The first step is recognizing the “skip.” With a record player, it’s easy to hear because the same message gets replayed over and over extremely quickly. It’s annoying! However with people it is far less pervasive. The repeating pattern of complaining about your job, boss, spouse, situation, etc. comes much less frequently. So it doesn’t truly feel like a negative pattern. It’s not the frequency. It’s the consistency. Patterns get myelinated in the human brain and it makes them happen more readily and easily. This is great for positive habits and thought processes but a negative thought loop can have a detrimental effect on your day consistently.

Once you know that the “skip” is there, you need to interrupt the pattern. With a record, this may mean just skipping the song with the scratch. For a human, it’s slightly more tricky. It requires recognizing the triggers and setting a new pattern of thought or action. The record metaphor doesn’t work great here and with train tracks a hole would just be repaired. Neural pathways don’t work like that! A new train track would need to be laid to detour the train before reaching the spot of “bad track”. Inefficient for trains, necessary for humans. Rerouting your thoughts before the skip is the way to getting back on track.

The final piece is playing new music. The human mind does not deal well with a vacuum. An old pattern needs to be replaced with a new one. So create a new track to follow instead of the negative skip. It’s going to take time and effort. The skip is an ingrained pattern that will not disappear on its own. It needs to be overpowered by the new pattern. So make the new track a “hit.”

As I said above, records are old technology. So they need to be treated with care. Our minds are much older technology and they were not designed to make us happy. They were designed to keep us alive. Focusing on threats and fears made sense at one point. It still has its place but there is so much more to be excited about than fearful of. Don’t keep playing that broken record! Start playing a new track! A better life awaits and you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it! I guess not all broken records are bad.

Get back on track!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Notes from an ice bath

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

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

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

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

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

Stay cool!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Relative Feeling of Heat and Hard

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

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

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

Have a hard day!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Show Up or Blow Up

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

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

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

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

Present!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Do You Want to Play?

Recently I had a conversation with a player. My compliment to him that he really looked like he wanted to play in our recent sessions. The recognition and statement were actually a culmination of work that he’d done over the past few months. Regardless it was obvious that he WANTS to play!

This statement may seem almost ridiculous. Everyone wants to play! That may be true that they would rather be on the field than on the bench. However many people are not willing to do the work to get there. They hope that whatever effort they put in will be good enough and get frustrated when it’s not. They act as if playing time were a divine right (lower levels, I get it). At the more competitive levels, practice is the player’s job and playing time is their bonus. Some people want the bonus and others don’t.

Everything that we want in life comes with some form of price. Perhaps it’s just time and attention. It’s not enough to want to something! The price for that thing needs to be paid. Bringing enough desire to the table is crucial to getting past the price. Everyone wants something. What do you want and are you willing to do what it takes to get it?

Put me in coach!

Pete

Salisbury 1994
Blogpost, self-reliance

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

If you’ve never experienced it, the comedy special by Mike Birbiglia “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” is on Netflix. It’s one of my favorite things to watch when I’m bored and want something on in the background. It recounts several instances within Mike’s romantic past and weaves them together in an artful way. It’s idiotic and sentimental and truthful and funny! Just like relationships themselves.

I’ve never been confronted directly with my girlfriend’s boyfriend like Mike but anyone who has ever been in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) knows that they run the gambit. Almost nothing is a surprise anymore and no one is ever 100% right. Instead we have craziness that cannot be predicted, even with people that we’d consider rational. So what do we do in the face of that uncertainty? Be certain about who we’re going to be.

The seas can be rough and toss us about but the compass still points north. It’s our choice whether or not we adjust our sails to head in the direction we set originally or let the winds dictate. We’re never helpless! Sometimes we’re overwhelmed, unsure, anxious and doubtful but never helpless. If confronted with your girlfriend’s boyfriend, there’s many ways to shed that problem. It doesn’t require that you “abandon the ship” of you. It’s a change of course, nothing more!

“So I’m scrambling…”

Pete

Uncategorized

We’re All Roller Skating

My grandmother worked at a roller rink for my entire childhood. Despite that fact, I didn’t get “good” at roller skating until there was a rink in my hometown. For a few months, at most a year, it was the place for every teenager to hang out on a Friday night. I definitely got slapped across the face for skating “too close” to a girl by my then girlfriend but I digress! Putting wheels on our feet is a recipe for disaster in so many ways but it’s similar to the way we travel through the world.

Most of us are off balance and uncomfortable but trying our best to look cool and not fall flat on our faces. Some people really have it all figured out but they often get ridiculed for trying too hard or being odd. There’s probably a portion of each of us that’s jealous of those roller maestros but getting really good would probably require a ton of experimentation and painful falls. In the end, it’s easier to stay safe and average rather than get really good at something that could prove to be a fad or get us ridiculed. Why chance it, right?

The truth is that most of the people that you’re worried about judging you for falling on your face are just as scared and will be gone in a moment. The people who came with you will help you get up if they can. If they’re off balance too maybe it’s best that they focus on themselves. You’re more than capable of getting back in your feet by yourself! All you have is an unpredictable number of songs to get in your number of laps around the floor. The disco ball is spinning and this is your chance to shine. It will surely hurt when you fall but it will probably hurt worse at the end of the night if you just played it safe!

Lace ‘Em Up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

There Was a Time…

There was a time when I didn’t understand my parent’s (and other older people’s) fixation on where they were upon hearing that Kennedy was shot. It was definitely a historical moment, worthy of remembrance but I just didn’t understand. Now that we are twenty years removed from September 11th, I kind of understand. My life basically split into two on that day. Some of that would have happened without the attack but in so many ways, my present life tracks directly back to that day.

It was one of the oddest days of my teaching career. I got called down to the office at one point in early part of the day. In a conference room, they had the TV on where the students wouldn’t see. I was being given a glimpse of events that I needed pretend were not happening for the next several hours. As the day unfolded, parents started picking up their kids and yet I needed to pretend like nothing was wrong. By the last period, few students were left and they all knew something was up. Something was different.

Perhaps everyone who lived through the Kennedy assassination feels the same way. As if that one horrific event had changed their entire existence. Or maybe it was just the period of my life that caused the splitting. Regardless, it’s there. A scar from a cut that I wish never happened but it did. So what do we with an unwanted past? Do we run from it? Forget it? Or leverage it?

One of the beautiful things that seems to happen around many tragedies is that people come together. Differences that seemed important yesterday are cast aside. Humans have an amazing ability to be the best versions of themselves when things are at their worst. Not because we are special or supernatural but rather it is who we are deep inside. We are born literally through adversity. Any mother will tell you that it is called “labor” for a reason. Unfortunately we tend to shield ourselves from adversity because comfort feels better.

My life before September 11th was largely filled with comfort. This second life has had a lot more struggle and difficulty but it’s made me who I am now. This is not a call for tragedy. It is a call for embracing those hard things that instruct. Not pain for pain’s sake but pain for progress! There was a time when I was afraid of difficult periods, I’m not afraid anymore. Hopefully we’ll meet on that other side!

Never forget! You’re stronger than you realize!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You Are Here

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!”

Find yourself today!

Pete