The Anatomy of a Cup

CupCups are an everyday thing that we rarely take much notice of.  They are a utility that must have a few very simple features.  They need to have walls of some sort and a bottom.  Without the bottom, it is just a cylinder.  The bottom is the essence of the cup.  It does not have to sit flush to the table.  It can be raised to any height within the walls that the designer wants.  Tops are completely optional.  Sometimes they are useful but the majority of cups have no need for a top.

It can be helpful to have a bottom in life as well.  A set of standards that you will not go below.  This bottom should not be a goal but a mental barrier that as you approach it, you start to build back up.  Upward movement creates space and the possibility of raising the bottom.  Cap the downside first.

In life and cups, tops are optional.  If you’ve put a limit on what you can be, do or accomplish, flip your perspective and use that top as your bottom.  Cap the downside first.  Perhaps you’ve already done this or maybe you just think that you have.  Regardless having a bottom to your cup is much more important than putting a top on it.  Stay away from the bottom and keep testing if there is a top.

Redefine the top today!




I’m a punk soccer nerd

breakfast clubHigh school is a tough time for many reasons.  It is a time when young people are looking to solidify their independence from their parents.  At the same time they create new relationships that tend to define those years in so many ways.  It is extremely cliche but generally you are the company that you keep.  That is why cliques and labels become so widespread in high school because it is easier to lump people in with a group rather than take each person as an individual.  With everyone looking to discover who they are, they are not all that interested in finding out who everyone else is.

Perhaps I was fortunate that I had absolutely no idea who I was in high school and became quite comfortable with that fact.  I played soccer and ran track, so despite being athletic I wasn’t considered a “jock”.  My best friends smoked and listened to punk, so they would be considered “burnouts”.  Fortunately I liked the music but didn’t wear the uniform or pick up the bad habits.  My other circle of friends included at least four guys in the top ten of our class.  I got decent grades and loved learning things but refused to join the National Honor Society.  The adjective “normal” was used to describe me once and I took major offense.  At the time, I was just hoping for a better label.

In the end I’m not sure who the labels help more.  Does the label give the outside world a quick grouping system that allows them to dismiss the different?  Or does it give the individual a sense of self because they at least know their classification within the social class structure?

No matter who it helps more, it definitely has more possibility to hurt the individual.  This may not be in the “bullying” sense but rather a surrendering of self.  At this vulnerable time of life and in a society of pre-scripted paths, young people are capable of following to the point of almost non-existence.  They become the persona rather than a person.  None of this is particularly new nor likely to change quickly but in a world of almost infinite choices shouldn’t we be getting closer to being able to choose ourselves?

Let me know what you think.  Click here.

Be you today people!



Tattoo Yourself

Burning boyI don’t have any tattoos anywhere on my body.  However I know exactly what I would get if I were to ever change my mind.  Since I was a teenager “the burning boy” is an image that I had set as my tattoo of choice.  It is from the album cover of one of my favorite bands, Bad Religion.  I would remove the “crossbuster” logo from the back of his shirt.

The reason that the burning boy resonates with me is that it represents a feeling that I always want to have.  It’s not the searing pain but rather the idea of being “on fire” with passion.  The things that I have been on fire about have changed throughout the years.  In high school it was soccer and girls.  In college it was soccer and travel.  In my adult life it has been soccer, my family and helping people.

So if I’ve known for years what tattoo I would get, why have I not gone through with it?  There are many people walking around with tattoos that did not put 20 years of thought into the “ink”.  There are two reasons that I have never gone to get this tattoo done.

The first is that I don’t want my wife to have to look at it.  I’m sure that I’ll get some comments about being whipped or something like that.  However I respect my wife very much and the ways that my decisions have an effect on her life.  I don’t have to look at myself very often.  She does, so I know it is something that would not improve me for her.

The second is even more important.  I’m already wearing it.  The reason I don’t need the ink on my skin is because it goes even deeper.  It penetrates into my bones and goes down into my heart.  Inside there is a burning boy that people see every day.  Perhaps people see a slightly different representation when they see me but the basic idea should be the same.  I want people to see the tattoo that I have put on myself.  Rather than paying an artist to put a skin deep impression on me to have people know who I am.  I need to show people through my actions and attitudes who I am.  I’ve tattooed myself as we all do.  Although the Chinese character that you’ve put on your arm may say “peace” or “serenity”, it’s not worth the price of the ink if that’s not the message you put into the world through your actions.

So tattoo yourself.  Put the ink of your daily actions out into the world for everyone to see.

Keep being you people!



You vs. Your Dream Self (a battle to the death)

In movies and books there is a concept called the suspension of disbelief.  It basically means that when you walk into the theater, you are willing to believe things that would normally be ridiculous.  Some of the most memorable movies have been set in completely unbelievable circumstances by everyday standards.  A teenager gets super powers from a radioactive spider.  There is a school to teach wizards and witches with a very special boy who was orphaned.  A farm boy from another planet becomes the hero of a revolution while redeeming his father who was the second most evil man in the universe.  These are all great examples of the suspension of disbelief.

The problem that many of us face is that we know our own back-story.  The back-story is the hero’s life before the movie or book started.  Sometimes we never discover their back-story.  The audience is always dropped into the hero’s life right before they are about to be thrust into their unbelievable adventure.  Imagine if you had to watch Harry Potter’s life from the moment he was dropped on the doorstep until his fateful birthday.  You would walk out of the theater before he turned three.  The back-story is not the point.  The moment that the hero decides to take on the adventure is the point.

So what about you?  One of the reasons that we don’t do the things that we’ve dreamed of doing is that we have an overwhelming back-story.  We have a lifetime of knowing what we can and cannot do.  Our ability to make a huge leap from where we are to where we want to be is unbelievable.  What if you suspended that disbelief?

Imagine that in the future there was a movie made about you because in the coming years you did amazing things.  What if today was the day that the audience was dropped into your life?  You look just like an ordinary person.  However you decide to take yourself into a new direction.  This does not need to be a huge shift.  There are no radioactive spiders.  However there is a half an hour per day.  For half an hour each day, suspend your disbelief.  Think, talk and act like your dream self would.  Do this exercise and see how you feel.  Forget your back-story.  Only focus on the future of what you want to be.  As it becomes more comfortable, let it spread like a virus.  Notice that feeling popping up in times when you did not expect it.  Eventually it can take over all twenty four hours.  When you’ve taken your dreams and made them your life, then you can tell people your back-story.


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.



My Black Belt

I am a black belt in a particular martial art.  This is not conceit or delusion.  I am the best in the world at this particular discipline.  Within fractions of a second, I am able to leave my opponent as incapacitated as I want.  I strike fear into my opponent enough to paralyze him.  If I wanted, I could leave my opponent lying in a twisted heap on the floor sobbing.  However I use restraint and do not practice this art with the regularity that I used to.

The martial art that I possess a black belt in is “self-deprecation”.  I was better than anyone that I know at tearing me apart.  It was almost second nature.  I knew all of the pressure points, the soft spots and how to land a knockout punch.  Sometimes other people would get involved but for the most part, I gave their punches much more power.  I remember starting out as a white belt.  It seemed like a smart move at the time.  I would say something bad about myself in the presence of a female.  She would refute it and I got a bit of a boost.  A small dip in ego for a bit of a raise in ego.  It was a simple con that I played on myself but eventually, I got too good at the dip and dismissed anyone that tried to pick me up.  As I realized the ridiculousness of my martial art, I started to practice less and less.

My guess is that most people have some degree of mastery at this skill.  We know the buttons to push and weaknesses.  Although it may be an easy art to learn and master, it is not one that should be practiced often.  A tempered conscience is a healthy thing to possess but a self-deprecating mindset only hurts.



Webster’s and Facebook Identity Polls

What does the New Year bring you?  Which Greek god are you?  Which Star Wars villain are you?  What character from classic literature are you?  What state should you live in? These are all Polls that I’ve seen on Facebook at one time or another.  They can be an interesting diversion for five minutes but why do we see so many pop up on our news-feed?  They show up because they are popular and people take them regularly.  But why?

Identity is something that is extremely important to people.  We want to know who we are and be sure that others see us that way.  One of the most difficult periods of a person’s life is often called an “identity crisis”.  People realize that they are no longer what they once were.  This can result in major life upheaval.  Consistency in identity is extremely important to most of us.

One of the best examples that I have of this is my cousin Kerry.  He is a distance runner, exercise enthusiast and pretty strict about his diet.  Despite all of his healthful choices, he had used chewing tobacco since he was in college.  The chewing tobacco was a long standing habit, even longer than the running and exercising.  Kerry knew it was bad for him and had tried to quit it several times but the bad habit persisted until I made an random comment to him.  “If you’re the ‘fitness guy’, then why do you still dip?”  That question changed everything.  In order to keep in line with his identity, he had to quit tobacco and he did.  His identity was being questioned by someone else and therefore he had to decide who he really was.

The thing that scares me about the FB polls and online forums is that we seem to be looking for others to define us.  “Tell me who I am because I don’t know.”  As a teacher, I see this too often with my students.  Clothes, hair, opinions, and everything else seems to change with the whims of what is popular.  With the echo chamber of the internet, it exponentially increases the scenario of the blind leading the blind.  The way to know if you’re doing the right thing is if everyone else is doing the same or at least someone famous.  At least if you’re following the crowd, it’s someone else’s fault.  No it’s not, you DECIDED to follow.

Rather than following the crowd or having Facebook or even Webster’s Dictionary define you, do it yourself.  Go to a quiet space with a pen and a paper.  Write down who you are.  Or even better, write down who you want to be, in every area.  Physically, mentally, emotionally and etc.  Feel free to get input from trusted people but don’t ask random people walking down the street.  Even this paper will not be the end of it.  Your identity is work in progress just like your life.  Examine both and define them with your own terms.