Blogpost, self-reliance

I D-TECT a problem!

It is so funny to me at times that life exists in such duality. Humans are odd creatures who desire two things at once and finding a balance within them is difficult. We want things like certainty about our lives but as soon as we know what is going to happen regularly, we get bored! Uncertainty is another desire that we value. In our relationships, we want connection and togetherness but if you’ve ever spent too much time with someone, you know that space is also necessary. So it is unfortunate that I must state very plainly that GRATITUDE for what you have is an absolute superpower. However desire is also necessary to move someone forward which creates a bit of friction with the idea of being grateful. This friction is most likely not a problem because friction makes the world more functional rather than slippery.

Keeping this duality in mind, I’m going to use the same acronym to help people who are stuck in the hamster wheel looking for “success” while also speaking to those are content but know there’ more out there. The silly acronym is D-TECT.

D – is for DECIDE. Decide to be thankful for all that you have. This is not particularly easy but it is a necessary step. Even the “problems” in your life are probably worth being thankful for at some point. Either your problems are a better version of challenge than other people’s. OR this obstacle that you deride is actually making you a better version of yourself.

D – is also for DIRECTION. If you don’t have all that you seek in this world, its is very possible that you have not defined a direction with laser-like accuracy. You have preferences but haven’t really settled on that thing that you really want. Hitting a target is impossible if you don’t know what it is. Being surprised by your desire is possible but its impact will be less because you didn’t actually do anything to pursue it.

T – TAKE STOCK! It can be extremely easy to lose sight of all that you have. Our minds instinctively tend to ignore the familiar or at least value it slightly less. Unless there is some consistent reminder to bring all of our blessings into focus, they can get overlooked.

T – TIME is a necessary ingredient to any endeavor. In our next day shipping culture, it can be easy to forget that things of value often take time. It’s so obvious yet often forgotten. People want results yesterday and it can be frustrating to wait for things that we desire. However that price of time is one of the prerequisites for achievement that will feel like it has value.

E – ENJOY the simple things. Beauty, meaning, joy, etc. can be found in the most common of places. However if we do not take the time to enjoy the moments that exist in our everyday, it makes us addicted to the grandiose. Therefore our life is a series ratchets where we become less satisfied with what we are getting.

E – EFFORT is a requirement for any goal or objective but it also works as an eventual indicator of value. People tend to esteem something greater if it was difficult to attain. That’s why actions like cheating actually erode a person’s self-esteem over time because even though they attained the desired outcome, it came without the necessary effort.

C – COMPARE? This is a bit dangerous for creating gratitude. I’ve heard it said before that “comparison is the thief of joy” and I fully understand the sentiment. Therefore it is important that comparison be used to uplift rather than drag down. No matter who you are, there is always someone who has got it better and someone who has it worse. Seeing yourself on a spectrum can help to underly the fact that you have a lot to be thankful for.

C – CONSISTENCY is a crucial part of any endeavor of meaning. Anyone can do the necessary thing once. It is the person who is able to consistently show up the world with intention that is able to breakthrough. A rocket heading toward outer space requires the consistent propulsion of its engines until it breaks free of gravity’s pull. The same is true to people looking to have some form of success.

T – TRANSFORM everything in your life into something to be grateful for. This is not an easy exercise. It is difficult to look at things that you did not want with gratitude. However, most people have had the experience of seeing tragedy turn into triumph over time. The recognition that trying past events are often the ingredients to our own greatness is transformative.

T – TRACKING is a key component to the acquisition of any goal or objective. Action is a spectacular step but it is possible that your actions are moving you away from your goals. Assessing your progress or lack of it is extremely important.

I’m sure that my setup for this blog was frustrating for someone. The reason that I put each item next to its counterpart is that is how we live. At times, the need for gratitude is going to be directly juxtaposed to our ambition. Most of us do not live at the extreme of either disposition. Every day we are trying to move forward in our lives and feel fulfilled at the same time. Both are skills worth developing and honing.

Go get ’em and be grateful!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

How the Future is Won

Time passes without us. We are incidental passengers riding through time. The future is coming regardless of our disposition toward it. The future just showed up… and there it goes again! Despite the fact that the future arrives without our help, what future will show up for us is very much dependent on us. A future that looks worse than the present need minimal effort, probably even a little carelessness. If you want tomorrow to look like today, keep doing what you’ve been doing. A better future is a BATTLE!

[Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan] / by William Dinwiddie. LOC

When I use the word battle, I don’t mean literal war or something ugly and distasteful. I just mean that it will take more effort than we may want to give but it’s about survival. If you want the better future that is off in the beautiful horizon, it needs to be taken. The horizon doesn’t come to you, you must go to it! People hope that the future is going to be improved just through happenstance. That the planets will just align without any real effort or focus applied. Unfortunately that future that you desire is not a willing hostage. It is going to fight against capture then it will try to escape. Anything worth having is going to take this type of effort. Be prepared for it and enjoy it in the moment. Despite the horror that is war; intense bonds, lifelong friendships, feelings of accomplishment, etc. have all come from those times of intense fighting. In the metaphorical battle for your best future, even better outcomes are available.

So now it is your turn to “fight”! Perhaps it is not physical but more mental and emotional. Regardless, the future that you want is not going to lay down at your feet and surrender. It is going to demand that you pursue it until you eventually win the day. And if you haven’t realized it yet, sorry to tell you that the battle never ends because another future is right around the corner! It’s never over! “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Heck no! The battle for your better future never ends but it is possible for you to move the front forward today.

So go for it!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

My Own Shame in the Beautiful Game

Over the years, I’ve claimed that I’m not “obsessed” with Peterborough United. Like so many _____aholics, I’m in at least partial denial about my addiction. Since our form has been poor for much of the season and goals have been lacking, I find myself desiring a bit of help from the football gods. When one of our players streaks forward, I find myself shouting “get in the box” to people on a computer screen who can’t hear me from across the ocean. Perhaps someone out there can relate. It’s not that I want my team to dive in order to get the penalty. I just know that the opportunity is there for an “easy road” to a goal. Torn by the desire for a score but not wanting the dive either.

The easy road mentality is one that we all adopt in different amounts. Lottery ticket buyers, crash diet enthusiasts and overnight success seekers are just the extreme versions of a person that we’ve all been in small or large quantities. We’ve all wanted the big reward for the least amount of effort before. There is nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s a natural inclination but it just cannot become an overarching strategy. The person or team that is relying on something for almost nothing will find that cash cow dead sooner rather than later.

Since I know that this type of thinking is not a long term strategy, my belief is that my team will start finding the net from open play regularly. When those lucky breaks come, I won’t lament them but I know that we cannot rely on them. The plan needs to be more than hope in this world. Hope is not a strategy! Even as a feeling, it seems a little flimsy to me. Hope feels almost desperate and passive. Belief is much more positive and proactive. Despite the positive connotations though, belief is not enough.

Once you believe, you need to act. Take the feedback that the world gives you and adjust. There is not one way to break down an opposing team or get to a personal goal. Literally thousands or even millions are possible but you need to find one. Once you find success, you can build upon it. Here in lies the problem of relying on the penalty. It requires other people’s input that is less than reliable. So believe in yourself enough to create your own results. The “easy road” is there but it doesn’t make you better. It makes you dependent.

Go for the goal with intention!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Winning Championships: Soccer Life Balance

Almost everyone is interested in winning championships.  It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream.  I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers.  The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy.  The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic.  The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments.  In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”.  We were just the best team on that particular day.  That is nothing to be concerned by.  Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.

To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter.  A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like.  Then preparation must be done to endure that and more.  Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections.  Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker.  Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily.  Then broken down again into the hourly.  Then broken down again to the moment.  When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles.  You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run.  Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion.  Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion.  Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times.  That will keep you grounded when success comes your way.  These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most.  Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition.  Leading with belief is key to any grand success.  Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult.  Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do.  Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it.  Oh yeah!  That’s the gamble!  You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail.  It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short.  Can you live with that?  I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!”  For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want.  They don’t want things to be hard.  So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem.  Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements.  Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches).  The statement is true however.  Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action.  So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them.  “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.”  These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action.  A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix.  It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air. 

Your championship level is also something that you should consider.  Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment.  Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal.  The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group.  The moment will fade.  The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps. 

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Put On Your Jersey: Soccer Life Balance

There are some jerseys that are absolute international symbols.  Some jerseys are so well known that a color combination can spark the association.  People do not need to search for the things that they value most, they jump right out of the crowd. 
Therefore it is in your best interest to put on your uniform.  Not that you wear the shirt of your team everywhere but rather that you put your truest self out on display.  There are two people living inside of you.  The person that you are and the person that you want to be.  Although I’m a huge fan “fake it ‘til you make it”, let’s start with getting comfortable in your own skin.  This does not happen in a day.  If you’re there already, AWESOME!  Rejoice in that fact because it’s not true for everyone. 

If you’re not there yet, then there is one place to start: the first person.  There is only one person that will be with you for your entire life, every second that you’re alive, no matter what you can never get rid of them.  That person is you.  You can complain about your disadvantages or idolize someone else but no matter what you can only be you.  Since you only have this one person to spend your life with, it makes sense to have them be a friend.  You need to treat yourself well.  This goes back to all of the things that have been covered so far.  Your chances of feeling good about yourself are exponentially better if you’ve taken control of your internal dialogue and the things that you focus on.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE!  This section was titled, Put on the Jersey.  Jerseys are an outward expression of who you are.  You’re absolutely right!  But the things that we project on the outside are often a representation of what we’re feeling on the inside.  So we need to start there.

Some practical advice on making yourself more of a friend.  Think of the things that you would do to let a friend know that you like them. 
• You’d spend time with them (meditation)
• You’d make them a priority (journaling)
• If they’re going through a tough time, you’d console and try to help them (journaling)
• You’d let the little things go (post-it notes of forgiveness)
• You’d try to work through the big things (letters of forgiveness)

This sounds kind of weird when you consider doing these things for yourself.  So it takes a bit of deliberate practice.  My suggestions on activities usually involve writing because it is tangible and requires a bit of focus.  Thinking is great but lends itself toward the mind wandering.  So putting things down on paper forces you to organize your thoughts a bit more.  As daily as possible, write down gratitude statements.  Write as many things that you can think of that you’re thankful for.  This exercise gets you to focus on what you have.  It’s much like brushing your teeth.  Doing it once does almost nothing.  When you make it a practice, then it becomes extremely powerful.  This type of journaling mixed with a daily discussion of your thoughts will take you a long way down the road of befriending yourself which is the entire point. 

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with the inside world, you’ll be in a better position to project the traits that you want into the outside world.  Who do you choose to be?  What is the story that you tell yourself about yourself?  Personally I refer to myself as the “Sword of Gryffindor”.  I show up when the people who matter need help and I am improved by the things that have the potential to damage me.  This is the story that I’ve created for myself and the one that I do my best to project out into the world. 

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

That Dead Tree in Your Living Room

It’s completely ok if you have a dead tree in your living room right now. Lots of people do! The tradition is extremely old and has to do with bringing the life force of nature into a dwelling during the winter months. Like most of the Christian traditions, it was a mixture of the old with the “new” when Christianity was trying to convert people. More than likely, that is not why you put a tree into your house. Your tradition is a direct line to your parents, your childhood and/or a recognized social norm. All are completely fine and understanding the origins of the practice does not need to change how you feel about it. As you open presents today, drink eggnog or eat chicken gizzards (a real thing for some people), please recognize that these are patterns of behavior that you have chosen to perpetuate. Our behavior around the holidays is often dependent upon our upbringing or social circle.

The same is true for most of our behaviors. Our habits, routines, beliefs and identities are largely based upon those two forces as well. They feel normal and changing them comes with an emotional price tag even if they don’t really make sense. Calling it a “dead tree” felt different than if I had called it a “Christmas tree.” There is no emotional attachment to a “dead tree.” People could live without having a dead tree in their house but not having a Christmas tree just wouldn’t feel right. We’re looking for that feeling the tree gives, not the reasons that we started getting them. If the feeling stopped, most likely the tradition would stop. OR are we such creatures of habit that we would persist like Clark W. Griswold to have a crappy Christmas because that’s just what happens?

I’d like to believe the former but happy to help with the latter. If you don’t know why you have that dead tree in your living room and you hate the lights, the ornaments and the star, then make a change. Everything is up for consideration. The things that are necessary or bring you joy, then by all means keep them. However it is foolish to have a dead tree that you don’t love in your house.

Look at your habits, routines, beliefs and identities, if they no longer serve you, then it might be time for a change. Yes! You can change even the most engrained traditions. The Christmas tree is an extremely old tradition but you could drop it next year if you chose. Nothing in your life has that much staying power. However there might be a vacuum in the space that you need to fill with something. Not particularly a direct a replacement but something that you can give meaning. It must have value to you and help progress you forward. The Christians adopted the tradition of the tree in order to help spread their cause. What is your cause? How can you move it forward? What traditions can you adopt as soon as possible to move toward the life that you want? Begin today to look for the opportunity to move into the next season of your life free of the weight of the old and useless. Keep what works by all means! Then look to replace that which does not work with the more useful.

Forty years ago Mariah Carey was not a part of Christmas. Things change and so can you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

All That You Don’t See

It’s that time of year where I have a list of Christmas movies that I and most people watch. Although there are several on the list, the most important is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There are some young people who have probably not even seen this classic but it is by far my favorite. A few of the reasons that it may not be as popular in the modern era are as follows. It progresses slowly. There are none of the traditional characters that you hear about in songs regularly. Although it is a Christmas movie, only a small amount of the story has to do with Christmas at all. Despite all of these facts, it is still my favorite because of its enduring messages. Some are said quite plainly but it’s possible that you might have missed a few because they are subtle.

“No man is poor who has friends” – This is the most obvious to viewers of the movie because it is stated very plainly at the end. However throughout the film, George Bailey does not notice all the lives that he has impacted. So he sees himself as a failure, poor and worthless. His main measure for himself is financial and by that measure, he believes he failed. This message is extremely important today and will continue to be. People discount themselves regularly because their self-assessment discounts their true value.

“Greatness in not a solo act” – Mary (Hatch) Bailey is the unsung hero of the film. Why she fell for George when she came back from school is a bit of a mystery in my eyes. However it is evident that she is the support system upon which any success that he has is built. From salvaging their honeymoon, fixing up their rundown house and finally saving George’s financial future twice, Mary is truly the one that makes George who he is. The scene where she is shown as an “old maid” is unlikely. Mary was great and would have made Sam Wainwright or another guy equally great. In my humble opinion, Mary gets slightly overlooked and that’s not just because I have a crush on Donna Reed.

“The hardest person to forgive is yourself” – This one doesn’t slap you in the face but it is there. Whether George Bailey himself, Violet Bick or Uncle Billy; forgiveness is relatively straightforward when it comes to others. Forgiving one’s self for things that were done or left undone is a tricky business. Other people get a little more slack than we generally give to ourselves. Perhaps it is because we know our every thought and action that we are less generous. Or maybe we overestimate our ability to be perfect. Regardless, it is there and forgiving ourselves is usually the right thing to do. Especially when it is something that we would easily forgive another for doing.

Although this movie may not have Santa, claymation or great special effects, it is my perfect Christmas movie. It directly or indirectly reminds people about what is truly important at this or any time of the year. Our time in this world is short and it’s easy to lose focus on the most important things. So these subtle reminders will hopefully keep them at the top of our mind for a little while at least.

Enjoy this time with the people who are important to you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Being from New Jersey is a Superpower

Anyone who is not from New Jersey, just thought, “Makes sense, lots of super heroes get their powers from toxic waste!” I can appreciate the humor about my home state which I learned in my late teens is referred to as the “Armpit of America.” If you’re not from New Jersey, poking fun at us is easy and I’ll get to the other forty-nine states in just a moment. For now, I’m going to point out some of the better aspects of being from the “Garden State.”

  1. New Jersey is small. Not Delaware small but small enough that being from NJ means something. Sure the North Jersey/South Jersey thing exists (does Central Jersey exist?) but overall being from New Jersey is an identity.
  2. New York City is right next door. Living in the almost literal shadow of probably the most important cities in the world, puts a bit of a chip on one’s shoulder. People from New York State can associate themselves with the City easily. Much to my chagrin, we have multiple sports teams that take the City name but are in NJ. The owners either want the cachet or are embarrassed by their location. Either way, it breeds a little brother mentality that serves our residents well.
  3. The Turnpike, Newark Airport, the Parkway and Jersey Shore (TV show) are usually the first things that pop to people’s minds about NJ. While they are all eyesores in their own right, they do a perfect job of embodying the Jersey persona. “You don’t know me, until you know me.” People discount an entire state based on the worst of what we have to offer and that’s generally ok with us. Most of the people that I know from NJ are extremely tight with “their people” and a bit suspicious of outsiders. It’s not that we’re unfriendly. It’s more that you need to put in the time to get to know us. We have it all but get dismissed easily because people can’t be bothered.
  4. Pork Roll or Taylor Ham? Not only do we have a meat that is pretty unique to our area. We also fight amongst ourselves about what it’s called. In all honesty it’s a tissue vs Kleenex thing but I’ll move on. Being unique comes in all kinds of packages, even a little bag of meat. But that uniqueness probably comes with a bit of heritage. A tip of the cap to the people that have come before because even though we’re not always nice, respect seems to be a big deal.

If you’ll notice, none of these is particularly positive on their own. They are generalizations that are presented with a positive slant. Is being from New Jersey truly a superpower? Not really. Each person needs to decide to look at the ingredients of who they are and choose to look at those component pieces as positive or negative. Being overlooked can destroy someone, unless it doesn’t and they use it to make them stronger.

No matter what state you’re from! Even if you’re from Pennsylvania and you’re driving in the left lane going 55 (damnit!), having superpowers or weaknesses is a choice. Who you are is an advantage, if you figure out how to make it one. There’s nothing particularly special about being from anywhere. Nothing in the water is going to make you awesome, it might give you cancer, but you need to tell yourself a story about your greatness. Then go out and tell the rest of the world. Being from New Jersey is not enough but it’s not a bad start!

Exit 19 off of Route 80!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Red + Green = Judo

We were little kids and made up a silly game as children do. The concept was that a color combination was given as a kind of “math” problem. Green + Yellow, for example. The other person had to guess what that combination was equal to out of a variety of fighting styles: judo, kung-fu, boxing, etc. I’m not sure exactly how or why the game developed but the only thing that kept the game mildly interesting was that the person posing the question didn’t have to follow the pattern of past combinations. “Red + Green = Judo” one minute and the next “Red + Green = Boxing”. While that variety added some intrigue, it also could create frustration as the person guessing starts to feel like they can never win. Childish game right! Despite the fact that it was a silly game, it mirrors two ideas that are worth considering.

We were the coolest!

Sunk costs – This term is used to describe investment of time, money, effort, etc. into an endeavor. Some people get extremely hung up on sunk costs. The amount of investment that they’ve put into something makes the situation more difficult to walk away from regardless of the prospects of success. It’s difficult to walk away from Judo because that’s what Red + Green was before. Unfortunately the game is fluid and does not really care what happened before. Sometimes “sunk costs” need to be allowed to sink, so that you don’t go down with them.

Set up your rules to win – There was nothing won or lost in our silly little game. So nobody got overly worked up about the results. It was obvious that the person posing the question also had control of the answer. It’s a great idea for going through life that many people ignore. Pain + Reflection = Progress is a completely acceptable equation for people to use regularly. It sets the user up for success rather than failure. Unfortunately for many people Pain = Pain + Complaining = Frustration. This equation is a disaster for the person who adopts it but many do. It’s easy to forget that you are making up the rules for your mind. If your rules have you set up to lose, then change them.

We’re always playing games, whether we are conscious of it or not. Most of the games are played inside of our own minds. Keeping score (if we do) and determining success are largely up to us. It’s not the childish game that my brothers and I played. However it is just as malleable. Almost nothing is set in stone. There is no rule definitive rule book that everyone follows. Most of it is a mismatch of experiences from our pasts that create our defaults. Just remember that those defaults are not particularly right. The world has many shades of color combinations and it’s your job to figure out how to fight what life throws at you.

Red + Green = Judo!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Born Ready!

BS!!! I was born just like everyone else! Naked, afraid, unable to read or write or even hold up my own head! Yet I persisted through those difficult circumstances. After many failed attempts at walking, my parents tried to convince me to move on to easier modes of transport but I wouldn’t hear of it. Probably because I only understood basic words and phrases. I was stubborn and knew that one day I would walk. Now here I am! Decades later celebrating my imperfect birth. 46 years worth of fumbling and stumbling through life but celebrating nonetheless.

My brother holding me when I was just a blob of potential.

It’s odd isn’t it?!?! We come from such humble beginnings and the plan is very much laid out for us. “You’re not perfect from the beginning but through trial and error, you will figure things out.” Eventually we tend to forget that formula. We give up on things quickly because we’re “not good” at them. Actually we’re not good at anything in the beginning but we forget that is the modus operandi. We weren’t born ready! We were born horribly, laughably, disgustingly inadequate! But the people around us didn’t chide or berate us. They propped us up and encouraged us along the way. It was a beautiful thing for many years.

Hopefully this year, you can give yourself that same encouragement and support that you received in the early years. Maybe you’re not ready for what’s coming right now either but you can be with time and effort. You used to be a miracle! It stands to reason that some of the miracle remains, no matter how old you are. None of us was born ready. So give up on that story because the truth is much more useful. You were born as a little blob of potential. Now you get to see how much of it you can realize in a lifetime!

Happy birthday to everyone!

Pete