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The Thirteen Year Safety Net

HighWireWalkerIn the 1970’s Philippe Petit walked a high wire strung between the Twin Towers in New York City.  It was an amazing feat that was a result of a slow but steady progression of skill and daring over years.  The film “Man On Wire” is a great documentary about the planning and execution of his walk.  A slight warning that if you are afraid of heights, you may feel uneasy.  Even though you are safe from any imminent danger, you may feel dizzy or tingly based on the images.  I cannot imagine how Philippe Petit felt during the walk, over one thousand feet in the air without a net!  Sure, he had years of experience and successful walks but the scale of this endeavor dwarfed everything else.  It is easy to look at Philippe and say that he is special, talented or even crazy.  Closer to the truth is probably that he was passionate about pursuing something to an extreme level.  The use of a net negates the entire reason that he was walking in the first place.  Under no circumstances and am I suggesting that a tight rope walk from dizzying height should be be in anyone’s future (I’m one of those people who tingles just seeing the photos).  I am suggesting that the intersection of passion and stakes is a place of power.  It’s someplace that we need to become more comfortable going to.

Unfortunately at the moment, we seem to be faced in the opposite direction.  The formative years of youth and adolescence are spent with nothing but safety nets around.  Whether it is literal foam padding to avoid injury or systems that are meant to insulate young people from failure, responsibility or any other stakes that could injure physically or emotionally.  The dichotomy of these systems are interesting because they protect in the short term and potentially injure in the long term.  Finding the balance of those two extremes is the name of the game.  Philippe did not start out on the roof of the World Trade Center.  Those stakes would have been overwhelming.  His passion for walking the tight rope also would not have grown if he never went higher than six inches off the ground.

For each one of us, we have things that could grow into passions but we are afraid to raise the stakes.  Failing, looking foolish and uncertainty are being trained out of our young people.  We have given many young people a “safe space” but the counterweight needs to be put into place as well otherwise we do not have a creative space.  All creation is messy, uncertain and possibly even dangerous.  We are born from a series of chances taken with an element of risk.  So to protect our future generations from that risk is robbing them of what is to be human.

As I often say to my players, “to be a leader, you need to go first”.  So if you have young people in your life, be a model of a balance in both passion and risk.  Perhaps you also need to break out of the foam rubber because comfort and security are things that many of us desire.  Unfortunately they also allow for little emotional intensity which is what passion is all about.  Go!  Take a chance!  Maybe even a small one and be an example for those onlookers who need someone to show them what is possible!

Philippe didn’t leap but he had to take a step off the edge and you can too!

Pete

Blogpost

Leveraging the Dark Space Inside

High School Soccer from Senior Year

My overall purpose in this world is to help people get the best out of themselves.  Whether I do that work in the classroom, soccer field or elsewhere is irrelevant.  Most of the time it is done through helping people see the possibility within themselves and breaking through the self-imposed limits that they have.  Although my messages are usually positive in nature, I’m not against the idea of leveraging the dark space inside each of us.  It is probably the reason that I’ve been a successful coach for many years.

It was my senior year in high school and there were no big expectations for our soccer team.  There had been lots of talent in the prior year’s senior class and the season had no trophies or accolades.  My senior class had only a couple players of impact.  The junior and sophomore classes were full of talented but untested players.  As the only senior captain, I believed it was my role to help get every last bit of effort out of our team.  If we kept the idea that we were all in it together, we’d do OK.  In all honesty, we shocked a lot of people, even me.  We had an impressive record with only one loss and one tie as it was getting close to the playoff portion of the season.  Our record was good enough to win the conference title.  Against all odds in a penalty kick shootout we were able to beat a much bigger school for the county title.  We were ranked highly by the papers in the area and the number one seed for our section in the state tournament.  I’m not sure if it was one factor or a combination of things but we lost in the first round of the state tournament.

That was over twenty five years ago.  Despite that fact, it is one of the reasons that I have so much to give to my athletes from the sidelines.  Winning and losing are not actually my concern.  The reason why that is such a hole inside of me is that we didn’t give it our all.  I, as the leader, was possibly complacent and overly confident going into that game.  Sure there were other things that impacted the outcome but I know inside that it was at least partially my fault.  So I’ll have this hole inside of me forever because I can’t rewrite the past.

The only option that I have is to leverage that dark space into something positive.  That cautionary tale that I lived through is a driving force on the mundane days where no one feels like giving their best.  It is that pain that gives me the energy to work harder than others and leave it all out there.  I don’t talk about it often or even replay it in my head.  I don’t have to, it’s just there in the background.

We all have these experiences.  There is nothing particularly special or unique about mine.  The question becomes whether or not you can use it toward a future positive end.  Even the greatest lose from time to time but it is what you do with that setback that matters.  No moment is a definitive statement for the positive or negative on who you are as a person.  We are what we’ve done consistently.  With todays challenges you should absolutely give them everything you’ve got.  But if you come up short, take the lesson from it and allow it to propel you forward.  Sometime you win and sometimes you learn!

Have a great day!

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

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

 

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The Art of Self-Rejection

NOThe beauty of the art of Self-Rejection is that it is so easy.  You only need yourself and the dream of something inside of your head. They are your paint and your canvas. Like an infant sitting in a highchair eating spaghetti, it is possible to create a beautifully horrible landscape of all of the things that could go wrong. You will be laughed at, shunned, ignored, or defeated. And there it is inside of your head, a masterpiece of nothing. Nothing real at least.

On the other hand, in the real world you can chance real rejection. Perhaps you do get laughed at, shunned, ignored or defeated but maybe you succeed.

The road of self-rejection always leads to regret. The road of taking the chance could lead anywhere but you have to travel it to find out.

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The Price of Entry

IMG_1749About a year ago, I took my daughter to a Devils game.  To be honest, she didn’t seem overly interested in the game.  It appeared that she was more excited by the cotton candy and Devil horns.  I was extremely surprised when she said at the end of the game “I want to play hockey.”  At that point we had only taken her ice skating a handful of times.  I told her that I fully supported the idea of her playing hockey but that there were some steps she needed to go through first.  She needed to spend this winter improving her skating and starting to learn how to play the game.  This past weekend she had her first hockey tournament.

This is not a story about some miraculous discovery of talent that blossomed over the past year.  My daughter spends a large amount of time on the ice.  Literally, she falls down more than anyone on her team, usually during the handshakes at the end of the game.  Her team lost all of their games this past weekend by an average margin of over 10 goals.  They did not score once.  I loved every minute watching her play!  Not because she played great, she didn’t.  Not because she gave it everything she had, she didn’t.  I loved it because she went out there to pay the price of entry: FAILURE.

This is the thing that stops most people.  They don’t want to feel bad or look foolish, so they move on quickly from things that invite failure into their lives.  The truth is that failure is the “ante” that we all must put in to play the poker games of life.  We must risk failure in order to play.  It’s unfortunate that we’ve become so completely risk averse that people don’t want to play unless they’re guaranteed to win.  The joy in a “for sure” victory is relatively hollow.  It is only in those times where we truly risk failure that we are living fully.  Taking the chance to learn from missteps, blunders and shortcomings is a major ingredient of later success.  The leap is a prerequisite.

IMG_2824So as you go out into the world today and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive, do it with the joy of a 9 year old girl.  One who had such a big smile on her face most of the weekend that no one would have ever known her team lost by large margins.  I do not believe that you should want to fail.  I just believe that you should be willing to RISK IT!

Fail forward!

Pete

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I Had To F%#$ This Up!

HHS Soccer
Not exactly the right year but the shorts tell the story!

I was in 8th grade and my school soccer team was playing against North Warren.  They were the only team that had beaten us all season.  It was late in the game and the score was still tied.  Someone passed me the ball as I was wide open in front of the unprotected goal.  I shot the ball and it sailed over the goal.  It almost defied physics!  I was so close to the goal that missing seems as though it was harder to do than scoring.  The memory of that shot is almost 30 years old and it still bugs me a little bit.  All of these years later though, I’ve come to realize that I had to miss that shot.  In all of our lives, there are things that we really have to f%#@ up.

No one wants to fail.  The disappointment, the shaken confidence and the negative memory are all reason enough to avoid failure.  People are always trying to give themselves the best chance for success in any endeavor.  Aiming for success is always crucial but always achieving it is both impractical and probably detrimental to future successes.

The path to where you are is probably filled with potholes, detours and the occasional breakdown.  Even though we think that we want a smooth and clear path to our destination, most of the fire that we have in our belly comes from past failures.  Learning how to live through and overcome failure are key ingredients to a growth mindset.  Although we live in a physical world, the beginning of almost everything in our lives starts in our mental world.  That is the space where failure can be taken, molded and turned into a stepping stone for future success.  I’m sure that you want whatever you’re working on right now to be a great success and I hope that it is.  However what if you need to F%#@ this up to succeed later.  Part of the equation is that you really want to succeed but recognize in the long term f%#@ ups are part of the equation too.

Give it your all today!

Pete

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Early Seinfeld

SeinfeldSeinfeld is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  It has so many memorable episodes and characters.  Despite my love for the series, I’m not a huge fan of the early episodes.  Many of the episodes, I just don’t find funny at all or they feel forced.  This is not surprising in the slightest.  It took those early episodes in order to get to the later ones.  Early failures lead to better episodes later.  A few of the story-lines were even repeated with better effect the second time around.  The early episodes of Seinfeld were not a good indication of where the series was going.

JKRowlingDespite all of the examples of enduring early hardship, there is still a pervasive desire for instantaneous results.  People want to be hit right away, if not sooner.  The perception of overnight success is usually due to the glossing over of the hard work done before the big break.  Sylvester Stallone was a breakout start with Rocky!  After he was a starving actor who had to deny a big pay day in order to star in his own movie.  J.K. Rowling had the blockbuster Harry Potter book series followed by movies.  After she was on welfare and had her book rejected by many publishers.  Most of us are looking for the triumph without the trials.  It seems that it doesn’t usually work that way.

The road to success in anything will most likely be filled with potholes, detours and poorly constructed bridges.  The sports car or limo that you’ve imagined yourself arriving in will probably not make the trip.  In fact you’ll probably have to go most of the way on foot.  Are you willing to make that trip?  Or will you take the easy road to Nowhere Near Where You Want To Be?  It sounds like a town that many people live in while they dream about being someplace else.

Get on the road today!

Pete

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The Beauty of the Strikeout

StrikeoutIn 1998, Mark McGwire hit more home-runs than any other player in MLB history.  I vividly remember watching the games to see if he would break Hank Aaron’s record and I’m not even a baseball fan.  At the time, I remember becoming personally moved by the chase for the home-run record.  It changed the way that I thought about several things in my life and it had nothing to do with home-runs but rather strikeouts.  McGwire lead the league in home-runs that year but he was also near the top of the leader board for strikeouts.  He struck out 2.2 times more than he hit home-runs.  In theory, the strikeouts are failure but in reality they are three more pieces of data.

From the outside, the strikeout seems ugly and unwanted.  I’ve never heard anyone say “that’s the best strikeout I’ve ever had!”  The beauty of the strikeout happens inside.  It’s the internal process of finding the next home-run from the mistakes made in the strikeout.  Personally I always attributed this to dating.  The strikeout/rejection was originally paralyzing and kept me from stepping up to the plate.  It was after McGwire’s record breaking season that I started to embrace the beauty of the strikeout.

Many of us go through life hoping that things will be easy.  We want life to pitch us as many “meatballs” as possible, so that we can get on base.  The problem with this hope is that it guarantees us a life in little league where you hit off a tee or a lobbed pitch from a coach.  If you want to play life at a higher level, you need to be willing to take some strikeouts and get back up to the plate to chance it again.  If they are considered data and not a death sentence for your self-esteem, then strikeouts are an amazing tool.  The key is that something must be learned from each one.

So become a strikeout analyst.  Don’t shy away from the opportunity that your failures give you.  Most failure is not fatal and is only negative if we do not see the lesson.  The beauty of the strikeout is expressed in that next home-run.  So take a swing and use your mistakes as ingredients for your next success.

SWING AWAY!

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The Burnt Grilled Cheese Sandwich

grilled cheeseAbout 75% of the grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve eaten in my adult life have been burnt.  The surprising thing is that I only burn about 40% of the sandwiches that I make.  Obviously my cooking needs some work  but even with that, it would seem that I go out of my way to eat burnt grilled cheeses.  Closer to the truth is that I refuse to throw away the burnt ones.  My wife and children get to eat the quality sandwiches.  A burnt grilled cheese sandwich is not a thing to be discarded when you are the cook.  The failure to find the correct temperature and timing is a learning opportunity.

Too often we look to forget, edit or deny our painful past.  We choose to throw it away as if it were a sandwich that had spent too long on the pan.  It is just too difficult to swallow.  We cannot face the fact that we made a mistake.  Silently we blame circumstances or other people for the charred mess.  So we discard it and move on to simpler things that require less skill or timing.  This world is filled with the prepackaged, no preparation, no thought products that will make us feel better.  Or better yet, there is a soup and grilled cheese restaurant that would be happy to do it for you.  In the end, your failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Your thought goes from “I didn’t make a good grilled cheese.” to “I CAN’T make a good grilled cheese.”  Or maybe worse, ” I can’t cook anything.”  This all seems a little extreme for one sandwich but it happens every day with so many things beside sandwiches.

Failure is not fun.  I’m not suggesting that you should enjoy it and it is completely unnecessary to live there.  However it is useful to digest the things that have happened.  Take what nutrients there is to be acquired and improve upon the next attempt.  PAY ATTENTION TO THESE TWO POINTS THOUGH!  1.) You should not feel obligated to eat everyone else’s burnt  sandwiches.  You’re eating your own ONLY in order to get better results in the future.   2.) Don’t get into a competition to prove that your sandwich is the worst.  Winning that competition gives you a prize that you don’t want.

So go out into that kitchen that you call your life.  Take the ingredients that you have and make the best things that you can think of.  When you burn something (and you will), don’t brand yourself a failure.  Swallow it down and move onto the next dish.  NOTHING that you make will be perfect but all of it will be yours.  Own it!  Make today perfectly imperfect!

Thank!

Pete