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

Uncategorized

The Size of Your Cell

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.

Let’s go!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Consistency to Comfort

The moment is forever burned into my memory. I was ten years old standing halfway up the hill that led into a wooded area that we always referred to as the “quarry.” My older brother, his best friend and another kid or two were all in a circle. Since my brother was involved this was an opportunity to do something with the “big kids.” I don’t remember the events that lead up to this event, nor anything that followed. The main memory is that it was my turn to try taking a puff off the cigarette that was being passed around. Although I had a variety of reasons to believe that what I was doing should be considered cool, my body revolted in a most violent way. I coughed, gagged and felt almost like I could throw up. That was the last time that I ever tried smoking a cigarette.

Despite the negative experience with cigarettes, I have the occasional cigar.

The combination of the human body and mind is amazing. As a united front, they can conquer almost anything including things that people would just refer to as reality. The key to the mind/body power is consistency. It has the ability to flip the natural script of any stimuli. The example of my first smoking experience is perfect. Other people had a similar experience but through consistency, took an uncomfortable sensation and made it pleasurable or even necessary. People put poisons into their bodies everyday and get pleasure from the process. Not because the poison is inherently tasty but because consistency can lead to comfort.

Many people and organizations have adopted the mantra “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I’m not opposed to the sentiment especially considering the year that 2020 turned out to be. However this saying skips past the most important ingredient. Discomfort is not the goal, that can be self-flagellation or punishment if don’t haphazardly. The key is to be consistent. Consistently putting yourself into uncomfortable situations will bleed them of their power. For the past two years, I’ve been doing cold showers. They were difficult in the beginning but eventually the consistency of doing it everyday made them “comfortable.” By no means have the sensations of cold turned into warmth. Quite the contrary, the cold is still there in force but I am ABLE to find COMFORT in it.

The same is true of almost any stimuli that you encounter consistently. With today being January 1st, 2021, I thought it the appropriate time to draw attention to this fact. As people usually hope for change at this time of year, the ones who are successful will be consistent long enough that they feel comfortable with this new thing. There’s no magical potion that you can guzzle down to get the things that you want. It’s a drop every day until you can handle more. I inhaled too much smoke that first day and I’m glad I did. Decide what it is that you want and sip or inch your way forward.

This is the way!

Pete

Blogpost

Steam Is Contagious

Huryk-LukeIt was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example.  I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania.  The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game.  One team was extremely adept at the offside trap.  Late in the game, there was a corner kick.  The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up.  The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal.  He shot.  The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post.  The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored.  The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense.  The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic.  He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc.  As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game.  I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.”  He responded, “I know it was the right call!  I’m just blowing off some steam.”

In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation.  It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher.  The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it.  There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion.  We need them to live and color our lives.  However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic.  The word was chosen very deliberately.  REASON!  The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions.  Referees become demons.  Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere.  This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person.  However it seems to have become a societal norm.

The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision.  The ability to see what is right in front of our faces.  Children.  Children who are looking at us for how to act.  Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives.  When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do.  You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand.  You don’t see the bigger picture.  You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with.  Those things aren’t done because they’re hard.  They require effort, judgement and self-control.  These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.

So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe!  Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you.  Put your focus on that.  Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult.  AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING!  So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.

See you on the field!

Pete

 

Blogpost, self-reliance

You’re Prehistoric!

cavemanWe 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!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

I’m Afraid to Try

“You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me.  I’m loner Dottie, A REBEL!” -Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)

DannyZukoThis line is from the quite ridiculous but still entertaining Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  And it was co-opted by the band The Get Up Kids as a song title in the 90’s.  The song outlines one perspective of a short term love affair where the singer refuses to give the relationship a chance.  In his own words, “because I’m afraid to try.”  It’s an old story that probably precedes Danny Zuko in Grease.  Boy meets girl.  Boy likes girls.  Boy wants to leave while things are still fun and casual because a relationship is just too much work.

It’s applicable to so many things but relationships are possibly the easiest target.  In a world where Tinder and OkCupid are facilitators of the present dating scene, this mindset will probably get more widespread.  The fast and easy wins out over the slow build (which is perceived as a grind).  Of course this is only perception.  Reality holds millions of possibilities.  For many, a life with one person is a much more joyous existence than the shallowness of singles life.  Regardless of which way you lean, it’s not really the point.  The point is the actual words.  “I’m afraid to try!”  It’s not, “I’m afraid to commit!” or “I’m afraid that I’ll get hurt!”  It’s “I’m afraid to try!”

This is probably the most dangerous thing that I see from not just young people but people in general.  There is a fear of trying.  Putting yourself out there has the perception of being difficult.  And in the younger generation, it is chastised because for some reason “try hard” is now an insult.  Much like nerd or geek of the past, this is a completely idiotic strategy as a culture.  Demean those who excel in order to make the average feel better about themselves.  (But I digress)  The thing is that people have become so accustomed to guarantees that effort toward an unknown is just too scary.  There’s no point in following a rainbow because a pot of gold is not waiting for us.

It’s time to buck the trend.  TRYING (no offense to Yoda!) is often the point.  Finding our limits.  Pressing up against what is possible.  Discovering new territory is exactly the point!  Imagine where we would be if through history, we were this risk averse.  We’d be dead!  Hunters wouldn’t have had any assurances of catching any prey, so why go out to hunt?

Your survival and progress as human being depends on THE TRY!  So go out there today with the intention and determination to try.  It doesn’t need to be something monumental.  It just needs to be outside of your comfort zone.  An experiment, an attempt, a risk, a small gamble.  That’s the only way to move forward.  One little try at a time.  And I’ll suggest that you deny the teenage ridicule by TRYING HARD!

Have a great day people!

Pete

 

 

Uncategorized

If Everyone Is Limping, Stop Going for the Knees!

wnn_kerrigan_140106_wgThe 90s had many memorable events and people.  Kurt Cobain, the OJ Simpson trial, Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were all extremely noteworthy.  Both for their own unique reasons and the media circus that followed them.  It was not just that something happened but that it was perpetuated daily for probably longer than needed.  One of the most ridiculous stories of the decade was the ice skating scandal involving rivals Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.  For those too young to remember, the major event was an attack on Kerrigan’s knee orchestrated at least partially by Harding’s ex-husband.  There was a movie released last year called “I, Tonya” that chronicles the entire episode.

Reality had to happen first in this case because even Hollywood could not have come up with a story as far fetched as this.  It’s easy to look back at a time that was truly “last century” and chuckle.  It’s no surprise that from such a chaotic decade sprang reality television.  A weekly public reminder that even though your life might have problems, you can feel good about yourself in comparison to “those people”.

Seeing the problem is always so much easier when it belongs to someone else.  Each of us has within ourselves the solutions to the problems of our friends and family members.  However we all struggle with our own issues that seem so difficult.  Time and distance both seem to have a clarifying effect on the problems of the world.

I’m sure that if the issue of youth soccer politics were someone else’s, each of us would have a plausible solution.  Since it’s now and it’s close to us, the issues of last decade persist with even higher price tags.  Children are pawns and commodities in a game that has nothing to do with soccer but rather egos and territoriality.  This coming fall, an unknown number of player who want to play soccer will not have a team.  Not due to a lack of resources.  Not due an insurmountable distance to travel.  The deciding factor will be a focus on “our club” rather than the kids.  These players end up being acceptable casualties to a soccer culture that is focused on prizes that are apparent and available now.

In so many ways we are now reaping the rewards of our fast food culture.  Rampant obesity, depression, anxiety and others are all symptoms of the NOW culture that we’ve begun to accept as normal.   Even though many people recognize that the ultimate prizes come from long term commitment to small improvements made over years or decades, it is so much easier to sell the cash grab of today.  Risking that small and almost insignificant prize of the short term seems to be almost unbearable.

US26_LogoSo I implore you.  Yep!  I’m talking directly to you because as I said last week, if the USMNT doesn’t win a World Cup by/in 2026, It’s my fault!  So I need some help.  If you have anything to do with youth soccer in this country.  Take the long term view.  See how more kids playing is better for them and better for “US”.  Understand that letting your best player move on to a more appropriate team may hurt your record slightly but it could also be the opportunity that makes that player’s life better, both on and off the field. Realize that your small pond is not actually a pond.  It’s part of a more expansive body.  Trying to keep it separate is an exercise in futility and may cause its destruction when the wrong current comes along.  BE the first person to do the right thing.  It’s often difficult because there is a culture of short sightedness.  People are so used to being hurt that they are either on attack or defense, rarely in a mode to assess.  And more than ever that’s what needs to happen.

I’m sure if this was someone else’s problem, we’d have it all figured out but it’s not.  It’s ours and it’s close to our hearts.  So we get blinded by the shiny thing that’s right in front of us but I swear the bigger jewels are down the road.  The hardest part is foregoing the prize of now because it feels like everything.

US26

Pete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

self-reliance, Uncategorized

The Latest Version

IMG_3647
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!

Upgrade today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Small Time Heroes

GrootMarvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero.  They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante.  These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies.  These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities.  Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.

There are two problems with the Super Hero though.  First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes.  Second, they’re not real!  Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality.  So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?

It is really quite simple.  Super Heroes are a distraction.  A way for us to be let off of the hook.  Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary.  Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt.  It’s just me!  What can I do?

You can be a small time hero!  You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary.  Be a little kinder.  Be a little more resilient.  Be a little more intelligent.  Love your family a little more.  BUT what difference will that make?  Almost none.

UNTIL a few people around you catch on.  Then it has the possibility of developing super power.  Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier.  It’s not particularly easy!  Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way.  Super Heroes are not coming!  The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends.  So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us!  Go suit up!

Have a great day!
Pete