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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

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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

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Don’t Read This Blogpost!

If you’re here, that means one or more of a few things:

  • you have a problem with people telling you what not to do
  • you have a selective reading issue where you miss certain words
  • you clicked on it by mistake
  • you sensed that there was more to this than the title

I’m going to assume the final one because it will get us farther faster!

Don't readThe ability to see past the obvious and simple solution is not one that everyone possesses.  Judging books by their covers or even first chapters is not always the best strategy.  Not everything in the world is completely formulaic.  Even some chemical formulas require a catalyst to increase the rate of their reaction.  Despite these facts, there is a solid majority of people that believe the obvious answer is the only possible answer.  One of the main reasons is that it is comfortable.  Comfort is probably the ethos of our age.  So the reason that I asked you not to read this blog is that I want you act on it.

I’m asking you to be uncomfortable, see past the past and act in spite of any past failures that you might have.  We’ve all got something: talking to that special someone, losing weight, making the team, starting a business, writing a book or whatever.  At this point it has been written off.  You’ve either failed sever times or not tried because you believe that you can’t.  Either way make me (or anything else that you choose) your excuse.  You need to give that thing another go.  Not because you’re guaranteed success this time but because it’s still inside of you somewhere.  I don’t really care if you give up on a goal.  I just don’t want you to ever give up on yourself.

Every moment is a new opportunity.  Pile up the dead carcasses of your past selves and make a staircase to take you to the place where you know that you can get.  If you believe that you’re who you’ve always been, that’s exactly who you’ll continue to be.  But if you believe, even for a second, that you can be different.  You can be stronger, more determine, resourceful, patient, caring, aggressive or anything else that you’ve failed to be in the past.  That’s not who you are!  That’s who you were!  Today, right now before you finish reading.  Take a step!  No!  Take a leap and move yourself forward.  The you from six months in the future is BEGGING for you to do it!  Because he/she doesn’t want to be where you are now.  They want to be five miles down the road or ten thousand dollars richer or in a relationship.  So now I’m BEGGING!  Don’t read this blogpost!  Live it!  Step up and out into the world that you deserve and not the one that you’ve grown accustomed to.  DON’T READ!  DO!

Love you guys!

Pete

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Fatherhood Entrance Exam

FatherhoodI have a very clear recollection of the day that I passed the test that told me that I was ready to be a father.  I was on the bottom floor of my in-laws’ house on a lake in Virginia.  A strange sound came from outside that I didn’t recognize.  A few seconds later my wife screamed my name.  It was the kind of scream that I knew something was wrong.  I jumped up and sprinted out the door.  When I reached my wife on the deck outside, I quickly found out the source of the sound and why she screamed.  Our dog, Kelme, was pinned down by another dog that was attacking him.  The two dogs were about ten feet below the deck on the rocks that sloped down toward the lake.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I jumped over the deck’s railing and dropped the ten feet landing next to the two dogs.  Luckily my sudden appearance and loud shouts were enough to scare the dog off without my having to fight him.  I picked up Kelme and raced him to the vet with my wife.  His wounds were very minor and he made a full and energetic recovery.  It was after that incident that I knew for sure that I could be a father.

KelmeNot everyone gets that type of real life test that tells them something important about themselves.  Generally people have to take a leap of faith that they can handle the situation.  The phrase there is not unimportant, “leap”.  I can’t say for certain whether I would have gotten the same type of self-assurance from that situation had I run down the stairs to Kelme’s aid.  The jump was important because it separated me completely from safety and put me directly into harm’s way: both from the rocks and the dog.  The willingness to take the risk of the leap was key.  Lives don’t need to be at stake.  Broken limbs and dog attacks don’t need to be risked.

The keys to any endeavor of creation: child, book, movie, relationship, song, poem, etc. are the leap and the foregoing of self.  Neither is particularly easy to do.  Leaping requires a detachment from the stability of the known world for something much more uncertain.  Putting something else before ourselves is also an exercise in chance.  With both, fear is a major opposing force.  While fear is an emotion that is intended to protect us from pain, it is often the force that keeps us from living fully.  A full life is one that requires creation and therefore risk.  There are no diplomas, courses or tests that can prepare you to live fully.  It is something that needs to be done on the fly everyday with consistent action.  The act of leaping may never become completely comfortable but it may just become completely worth it.

Leap today!

Pete

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Attack the Monsters!

monstersIt’s something that every single one of us went through at one point or another.  The hard-wiring is built deep within us based on our ancestors’ need to survive.  Fear of the dark, unknown, bumps in the night, the boogeyman and the like are so natural that I do not blame anyone for that response.  Even at the ripe age of 41, I still have that response to some situations.  Even though I know that this is to a certain extent instinctual, it is possible to train it out.  I no longer check for monsters under my bed at night.  The question on my brain tonight is, would it be possible (and advantageous) to not only train the fear out but instill a sense of dominance over the monsters?

The beginning assumption of the child is that they need to be afraid.  In the ultimate Chuck Norris reversal, couldn’t the monsters be afraid of us?  If they are such badasses, why do they need to skulk in the dark anyway?  It’s probably because the sneak attack/sucker punch tactic is their only hope.  Flipping the script on a situation like this opens up a new world where the victim becomes the victor.  Since most of our world is no longer based on an “only the strong survive” system, a large majority of the shifts that change victims to victors are of mentality and not physicality.

Since there is less to need to fear and the game is mostly mental, perhaps it is time to change the assumptions that we make about ourselves.  Each of us has jumped to conclusions about ourselves based on limited or weak data.  “I’m not smart enough.”  “They’d never take me.” “I’m just really bad at ______.”  All of these are assumptions that may not be true or can be flipped.  The difference between a weakness and a strength might be as simple as perspective or selection.  Being 4 foot 10 inches is a major liability in the NBA but for a horse jockey, it’s an asset.  The world that you live in is based largely on perspective.

DON’T ASSUME YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET!  The world offers so many opportunities to each and every one of us.  The problem is that many of us make assumptions about what those opportunities are supposed to look like.  People want opportunity to look like a lottery ticket rather than an unpaid internship.  The latter will probably make a stronger and smarter person but the former is sexier, so we ignore.  We ignore our strengths or opportunities to become stronger all the time because it’s easier to complain about being weak.  Flip the script and attack those monsters under your bed and inside your head.  You’ll find that that they’re no match for you when you believe and you act.

Have a great day people!

Pete

Blogpost

The Fog Barrier

FoggyThe future is out there and you’re going to arrive at it whether you’re ready or not.  The problem is that the future is unclear like on a really foggy morning.  The haze itself is nothing to fear.  It will dissipate as you get closer.  It’s possible to move at full speed in territory that is known and clear.  On new and uncertain paths, it’s important to manage your speed with your field of vision.  Going too fast on a new road could end in a crash.  The thing is that most people are not afraid of the ditch, pothole or even the wall.  They’re afraid of the uncertainty that the fog brings.

The fog is the barrier that they can’t get past because it is SO frightening not to know.  Fear is the fog and avoiding it shrinks the world down to almost nothing.  The only way to get the fog to disappear is to go into it.  It doesn’t disperse with time, compliments from friends or likes social media.  Motion/action is what is needed to break through the fog barrier.  By all means, manage your speed and watch out for potholes but never let the fog stop you in your tracks.  It’s not a wall!  Unless you make it one.

Move on through today!

Pete

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Letting the Right Punches Hit You

RockyBoxing and all of its martial cousins are disciplines based on the idea of avoiding physical attacks while trying to make contact with your own.  Practitioners such as Bruce Lee took a philosophical approach to the art of physical combat.   In no way am I putting myself into his category.  The thought that I want to convey is a slightly more modern predicament that the metaphor of fighting may best explain.

So imagine if you will that in a boxing match, that some of the opponent’s punches gave you more energy.  The object would no longer be just to avoid punches but also discern which ones were helpful and allow those to land.  Despite the ridiculousness of this concept in terms of real boxing, it’s easy to see that the best boxers would be able to max their potential by taking positive hits and dodging the negative.

At the moment, you have millions of punches coming your way from a ton of “opponents”.  Almost like a battle royal, your life has an absolute melee of people and organizations who are trying to punch you in the face with their opinion, product, idea or service.  It’s not all bad but evaluating it all can be difficult.  Here are some steps to help you from feeling punch drunk as you make it through your day.

  1. Avoid the Negative Corner – There are some places where you know that you’re going to be hit repeatedly by people who do not have your best interest in mind.  There are billion dollar industries whose sole purpose is to distract your attention as often as possible and hit you with “BREAKING NEWS”.  Just because it’s happening now, doesn’t mean that it is important or better yet that it is important to you.  Your Twitter feed, e-mail, Facebook, TV, the gossipy coworker and others are not based on important, just recent.
  2. Pay Attention to the Source – Some sources will almost always negative and others will almost always be positive.  The amount of positive missed and negative endured from these consistent sources will be negligible.  Keeping a default position of avoid all or accept all may be the best position to keep decision fatigue to a minimum.  For those wild card sources, usually the most important question to consider is WHY?  Why is this person taking a swing at me, to help or to hurt?
  3. Decide on the Power of the Punches – Since we’re dealing with information here and not actual physical contact, the amount of pain that you feel is dictated by you.  So you can take the sting out of a punch by making it less significant.  Our perspective often dictates our reality.  For example, eyebrows are usually raised when I say that “Fear is a positive emotion”.  People take it as solely negative but if they focus on the signal rather than the sensation, it becomes clear.  Fear is sending a message to help protect you from some perceived threat.  That system is there to help, not hurt you.  Unfortunately many of us have our feelings on autopilot rather than recognizing the influence/control that we have over them.

So today as you brave the modern world and all of the jabs, hooks and sucker punches that it throws at you, remember that you’re not defenseless.  The world does not have to knock you senseless.  You can keep your wits about you and set up a system that protects you.  After all, you’re fighting for your mental life.  The only way that you get to control it is by keeping up the defense against those who are trying to take your control away.

So keep your guard up and only let in the hits that will help you.

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Gravity’s Pull

GravityMy mother is a spectacular cook.  Her cookies are famous among our family and friends.  She makes sensational macaroni and cheese.  Although I don’t eat them, I’ve been told that her apple pie is the best.  I’ve started off with this shower of compliments because my mom is also a bit clumsy.  She has fallen and hurt herself quite a few times.  Once she broke her ankle without even falling down.  She and gravity are not the fondest of friends.

It is a force that sometimes wreaks havoc on her life.  Gravity could be seen as a force that pulls us down but more accurately it is a force that makes us lift ourselves up.  Gravity is not overwhelming.  It is a relatively small amount of resistance to endure.  We’ve become quite adept as a species at defeating gravity in a variety of ways.  At the moment our problem is not that we cannot overcome resistance, it is that we do not face enough of it.

In the modern world, we face so little resistance on a daily basis that we have forgotten or never learned how to overcome it.  The challenges of most days are nothing more than annoyance.  With so little an amount of resistance against us, we should be able to break free of their pull and almost fly.  BUT we don’t.  The reason that we don’t is simple.  We’re afraid.  Afraid that we’ll fail.  Afraid that we’ll lift off but then fall.  Afraid that someone will see us and laugh.  Gravity is a force, a constant that we can work around.  We did not create it but we can figure a way around it.  Why can’t we do the same thing with fear?  Unlike gravity, it does not have to be a constant and we create it.  So getting around it or destroying it completely is well within our grasp.  Fashion your wings and fly.

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