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

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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

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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

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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

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Put On Your Iron Man Pants and Run!

This past weekend, the family and I took a trip down to Philadelphia to meet up with my best friend and his family.  It was a great opportunity to catch up and for our kids to spend some time together.  I’m also training for a ten mile race in a few weeks and needed to do a six mile run.  Luckily our hotel was almost exactly three miles from the “Rocky Steps”, one of my favorite running destinations.  It was a perfect scenario for me to enjoy myself and get in work that needed to be done.

The problem arose at 6:30 am on Saturday morning.  I woke up ready to run and realized that I had forgotten my running pants and shorts at home.  I had two choices: go back to bed or wear my Iron Man pajama pants on the six mile run.  I chose the latter.  They were warm enough and have pockets to carry my iPhone.  The only negative was my appearance.

Far too often our appearance to others dictates our behaviors.  I am not saying that appearances do not matter at all.  However there is a calculation that needs to be done to decide when it should matter.  In this situation, my long term goal of the ten mile run was far more important than the short term appearance.  Did I feel foolish?  Not for one second!  I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it.  The opinions of strangers that passed by did not matter because they are judging me on only one metric.  I must judge myself on many others.

Defining ourselves completely by the opinions of others is a losing game.  The odds of pleasing others 100% of the time are so minuscule that is bound to lead to disappointment.  Define yourself in your own terms and decide when the opinions of others matter or not.

IronManPants

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Stop Believing!

StopOur 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.