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Building Confidence: Exchange FEAR for MIRE

Recently I was asked by a young player to give some thoughts on building confidence on the field. Although the request was made with a very specific goal in mind, building confidence is possible for anyone. The component pieces are the same regardless of the specific pursuit.

The first step is to focus on skill acquisition. Competence leads to confidence. This should be an obvious step but it is overlooked by many. People generally do not want to take the time to become good at something. They want to believe in themselves before they have any reasons to support that belief. Take the time to develop the necessary skills. Do the work when no one is watching.

As the physical skills are building, it is also important to build a mental framework. The opposite of confidence is fear. Fear as an acronym is False Evidence that Appears Real. The reason why most people are not confident is that they have the pictures of all of the ways that it could go wrong in their heads. Combating these images takes deliberate practice. In order to get to the point where you can admire your own abilities, you must have Mental Images Rehearsed Everyday. It is important to see what you want in your mind’s eye before it happens. Before things happen in the external world, they have to happen in your internal world.

Finally there is a component of faith to any endeavor. A belief that things are going to work out. With this faith there is a certain amount of emotional equilibrium that one must possess. The ability to see setbacks and obstacles as part of the process is crucial. Ultimately humans lead with belief and the willingness to leap out into the void at some point is necessary.

The most confident people did not develop that ability in a day. Nor is it a super power that is kept from us mere mortals. It is simply a process like so many others. Follow the steps to get similar results. Unfortunately it is easier to succumb to fear than to take action. However even the most difficult things can become a habit if they are practiced enough.

So go out there today and face your fears. Build your skills and become confident based on your new abilities. Nothing is so big that it can’t be broken down into bite sized pieces. Be careful because if you picture it, you just might do it!

Go forth with confidence!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Don’t Assume That You’re Weak…

IMG_4454You 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!

Go get some!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

King of Introductions/The Ultimate Success Formula


Ecuador28In my junior year of college, I traveled to Ecuador as part of a winter semester program.  I lived with a local family and took a class on literature.  It was a life altering experience on a variety of levels.  Although I went there to improve my Spanish abilities, I can link many of my fundamental beliefs back to that trip.  I changed as a person during my time there.  One of the simple ways that I changed was that I became the “King of Introductions”.  There was no official coronation!  It’s an unofficial title that I developed for myself but it was a key component to many later successes.

Two days after Christmas in 1996, I arrived in Ecuador.  After a few days of touring, I was paired with my ‘Ecuadorian family’ on New Year’s Eve.  For the next two days, I attended no less than three family parties.  If I had to guess, I was introduced to over fifty people in less than 48 hours.  Obviously all of those introductions were done in Spanish.  It was nothing that I had planned but the more times that it happened, the better that I got at introducing myself.  With the first few people, I was only saying ‘hello, nice to meet you’.  Eventually the conversations got more robust with full explanations of why I was in Ecuador and my thoughts about the country so far.  The repetitions were the key.  Even though all of conversations were slightly different, each one gave me another opportunity to organize, edit or add.  By the end of those first two days, I was definitely the “King of Introductions”.

It seems so simple but often people ignore this methodology.  People give up on things quickly because they’re not “good enough”.  The need to not look foolish is ingrained so strongly within us that we tend to avoid even chancing it.  So we never get past the peasant status much less reach to the level of king.  With something so simple, it would seem like everyone would follow this recipe but often we don’t.  Any success requires that you:

  1. Take action
  2. Notice what’s working/what’s not
  3. Adjust the approach
  4. Pay attention to those already getting the result you want

It’s almost too easy, isn’t it?  The problem usually isn’t a lack of role models to follow.  It’s a failure to take any action at all.  When there is no guarantee of success, a lot of work and a possibility of looking foolish; peasant status is what is chosen.  In the minds of so many, it is better to be the peasant that never tried rather than the one who went for the crown and failed.  The most important thing for you to recognize though is that the walls between you and the crown are usually built by you.  The world offers all kinds of riches and above is the plan for how to get any of them.  We just need to be willing to follow it long enough to get them!

It’s good to be the king!

Pete
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Blogpost, self-reliance

Pack Your Bags (Or Don’t)

BaggageIn about a month and a half, I’ll be moving to Virginia.  It’s an exciting time!  Filled with all kinds of possibilities.  While we’re looking forward to that future, we must first deal with the daunting task of moving all (or most or some) of our stuff.  The process of packing is a necessary evil where you must decide what is going with you and what things just need to go!  Some people have trouble letting go of the things that they’ve accumulated over the years.  For better or worse, we get attached to things from the past and have trouble letting go.

The same holds true for the events from our past.  Some are vital and need to be packed in bubble wrap to make sure that they never get damaged.  While others should be sold at a garage sale or taken to the dump.  It’s difficult though.  Somehow the events of our lives feel like part of us and letting go of anything seems like a mild betrayal to who we really are.  Much like the physical moving, the weight of carrying the past into the future is a consideration to be made.

Since we are talking about emotional weight rather than the physical, the process for unloading or putting old memories into deep storage is different.  It is actually the process of making the memories that support the new future bigger/more important or re-purposing those unhelpful memories.  Talk about, envision and feel the stories from your past that you want to carry forward with more intensity and belief that it is who you are.  Let the less than helpful ones fade or flip them to support where you are going rather than where you’ve been.  That breakup or firing does not need to be a scar on your self-esteem.  It can be a rallying cry for better performance in the future.  Those “small” accomplishments that you overlook when you discuss what you’ve done can be made larger and more vivid.  It is simply a process of focusing on it in a different way.

So regardless of who you are or what portion of your life you are in.  You’re always packing for the future.  What are you going to bring with you?  Are you going to allow yourself to be weighed down by things that are probably insignificant to where you want to go?  Or are you going to be selective about the “baggage” that you carry with you?  It’s all your baggage but you don’t need to carry it all.

“It’s my industrial strength hairdryer.  AND I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!!!”

Pete

 

Blogpost

It’s Not Going To Work!

SantaSchaefandIThere 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!

Put that first foot forward today!

Pete

 

Blogpost

I’m Broken (The Only Mechanic Is Me)

meaningMy first car was a 1977 Chevy Nova!  I inherited it from my great aunt and it was the perfect first car.  It had holes in the floor boards where you could actually see the road below you.  It had an 8 Track tape player in it that never really worked.  It was pale blue and covered with rust spots, as you can tell from the description, I loved it!  There were plenty of reasons to love it that had nothing to do with how looked or how it ran.  And now looking back on it, I understand even better that it was the perfect first car exactly because it was a piece of junk.  At no point did I ever have to worry about messing it up.  I learned how to change the oil, replace the bulbs and change tires on that car.  At no point did I think, “If I mess this up, I’m screwed!”

Fast forward to the present day and I don’t even change my own oil anymore.  Cars have become computers and more complicated, therefore the idea of doing my own maintenance while possible is much easier to outsource.  There are so many things like that today.  Complexity of many systems within our world have changed us from capable amateur mechanics to people in the waiting room in anticipation of someone else fixing our problem.

While this may be helpful or even necessary with many of our possessions, it seems to have become pervasive to the point of a cultural norm.  Day care, personal trainers, landscapers, etc. are all examples of outsourcing things that used to be done by the amateur ‘owner’.  While these services can be helpful and possibly ‘necessary’ in a modern context, there is one thing that we can never turn the complete management over to someone else: your mind.

The best therapist in the land can be employed for multiple hours each day and still, it is on the individual to get their hands dirty and do the work.  No one can change you without your conscious or unconscious consent.  Recognizing this fact, I am amazed at how many brain owners keep waiting for the world or their life to make them happy.  That is like expecting your neighborhood to take care of your lawn without ever communicating with them about it.  And even if you did make that request, I’m sure that you’d get some raised eyebrows or questions like “why is that my responsibility?”  So in this area, we need to realize that that amateur mechanic ethos is absolutely necessary.  Help is not only desirable in most cases, it is necessary but it is on each and every one of us to maintain, diagnose or even overhaul our mind at times.  With the amount of anxiety, depression and other mental concerns that seem to affect most of the population, it is time for all of us to recognize that we are all broken in at least a small way but we are also the mechanic.  Learning about yourself, your habits, fears, triggers and so many other components of your mindset is no longer an option.  Developing the tools to navigate this complex world is not only your job, it’s integral to your survival.  So remember, you’re broken (but so is everyone else) and you’re the mechanic.

Get your hands dirty!

Pete

self-reliance

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Revisited)

BoywhocriedwolfCautionary 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!

Get ready people!

Pete

Uncategorized

Manufacturing the Rolling Stones

Rolling stonesThe Rolling Stones are iconic and endured long past most of their contemporaries.  That type of longevity mixed with commercial success is worth noting and aspiring to but not manufacturing.  Trying to manufacture the Rolling is not only impossible, it feels foolish to suggest trying.  Despite this realization in the folly of trying to manufacture the next Rolling Stones, people seem obsessed with being the next Uber, AirBnB, Amazon or Lebron.  Either individually or organizationally at certain point, we all must break away from the icons that we adore in order to stand in our own right.

Twentyone pilotsFor the moment, my daughter is listening to Twenty One Pilots.  I’ve enjoyed their music because much like the Rolling Stones, they have their own style.  It has been a long time since a musical group has not sounded like some derivative of a style or past performer.  It’s possible that I missed who they are copying but for now I’ll stay impressed.

The mixture of uncertainty and pervasive broadcasting of “success” through social media leads to a desire to impersonate.   Trying to emulate the airbrushed life of a quasi-celebrity is an exercise in futility and disappointment.  Regardless of the person, what you see is not 100% of who they are.  It is the public version or the highlighted reel.  Holding yourself to that standard will end in failure.

So hold yourself to your own standard!  Can you be influenced by others?  Absolutely!  Borrow, experiment and test but in the end your product is going to need a huge helping of YOU at its core.  Keeping that in mind from the outset will allow you to be a much happier version of yourself.  Comparison can be a killer because you know everything about only one person in the comparison, you.  You know every thought, fear, desire and screw up.  No matter who you’re comparing yourself to, you’ll never know all of that.  So you’ll either be too hard on them or yourself and usually it’s the latter.

So go out there and be you today.  Wear your flaws and shortcomings like they’re some of your best accessories because in all honesty, THEY ARE!  Just imagine, there is probably someone out there who would love to be you and the message to them is the same.  They can’t be.  So go be yourself.

Have a great Monday!

Pete

Uncategorized

Temporary Real Estate

RealEstateA plot of sand at the beach, deck chairs at the pool, a spot in line, a seat toward the back of the class and hundreds of other locations are the temporary spots that we mark out for ourselves.  They are important to us only as long as we need them.  Although we know that they are just for now, we defend them and sometimes ruthlessly.  The territoriality of humans and the individually made rules associated with it are complex and seemingly inherent.  We want to have a space to call our own and defend it with fervor.

This phenomena was on full display for me in the past few days when I visited three different amusement parks.  The defensiveness of the space is heightened as the density of people increases.  Also the perceived stakes of the space comes into play heavily.  The value that the individual puts on the space is largely influenced by the scarcity of the “prize” that the space provides.  People waiting in line for entrance into the park are much more defensive than the people in the wave pool waiting to get hit by a wave.  Although it is all temporary, the ownership feels very real.

Ultimately almost all of our space is temporary and will eventually belong to someone else.  Houses, apartments, cars and even our burial plots will eventually belong to another person, creature or to nature itself.  Despite our very temporary hold on these forms of real estate, we spend time protecting and preserving them as if they were indefinite.  There is one place only you will ever own.  Yet many people allow easy access to this space as if it were just a blanket on the beach.

Your mind is your own and will be as long as you defend it.  Like holding your place in line, you need to be aware of those who are trying to sneak in.  Much like the owner of a house who has teenage children, you must be aware of people that you trust having a party at your expense.  No one will care for this space as much as you.  So mark your territory!  Be aware of who is allowed in and who needs to be kept out.  This is your real estate, don’t put it up for auction.

Have a great day!

Pete

Uncategorized

Smeagol vs Gollum

In the movie “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is one of my favorite scenes from any movie.  It is a conversation that the character Smeagol has with his alter ego Gollum.  Peter Jackson and his crew did a beautiful job with the scene.  It was shot as a conversation between two people even though the two exist in the mind of one person.  Gollum is obsessed with reacquiring the power of the ring while Smeagol fights to regain his life from the grips of that obsession.  This scene resonated with me because at times I feel that type of conversation going on in my own head.

Inside of my head I have two voices battling for my attention.  One says all the things that I fear and want to avoid.  It not only points those things out but it also tells me that they are bound to happen.  The other voice tells me that everything is going to work out and that I have nothing to fear.  Neither voice is particularly right.  However believing the first paralyzes me and it was the one that I listened to most in younger years.  Believing the second has gotten me to do more than I thought that I could.

For a moment in the “Two Towers” Smeagol is able to banish Gollum from his life.  However he resurfaces later in the movie much like my own antagonist.  It is a battle that I know will most likely never be won completely.  However with each successive day, I find new ways to unlock myself and others from the paralysis.  The fear is not stronger but giving up is easier than doing what needs to be done.  So the combination of fear and complacency is a two headed monster that squashes our dreams for the future before we even begin.

Love you Dr. Knowles!

Pete