At one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something. I surely felt like they did during my childhood. Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA. You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point. It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate. As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.
Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here. Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out. Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.
Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle. Smile a little more. Be a little more patient. Be forgiving to yourself. Home-runs can win games but so can singles. If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.
My soccer career started on a team called the Orange Crushers. I didn’t know what “irony” was at seven years old but our name epitomized it. We crushed nothing and it seemed as though our purpose in the league was for us to be crushed by others. My memories of that season are a complete blur except for one game. In one of our final games of the season, we won and I scored. I was so glad when it happened. The other team from town, Blue Bombers, was filled with friends and classmates and they were undefeated. So that lone victory was important for me because I’d received some ribbing at school. Perhaps that lone victory kept me hanging on despite the poor start to my soccer career.
As the years went on, there was a slow dance that went on between winning and I. One year my team would be a success. The next we were knocked back down a peg. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had figured out who I was as a player. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t quit. That was my first year as a complete “success”. Conference and County Championships were the first two real trophies that any of my teams had ever won. As I thought back to that team, I realized that not one player from the Blue Bombers remained. They had all stopped playing soccer or switched to other sports.
Knowing how to lose and not quit or to persevere through tough times are skills that you acquire from a poor start. These skills are invaluable because no one maintains success forever. Using memories of our failures as stepping-stones is the way we make a staircase toward our success. The examples of poor starts are woven throughout the history of the United States. Lincoln, Ford and Carnegie are three that instantly pop to mind but one of my favorites from the present day is Stallone.
When Sylvester Stallone sold the script of Rocky, the studio wanted to make the film but with someone else playing Rocky. At the time he was completely broke and refused a series of offers from the studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stuck to his guns. He knew how to survive and live with failure but he saw this film as his one ticket to ultimate success. So with very long odds, he bet on himself and won. I used to watch the Rocky films regularly when I was in high school. Later I learned just how much the movies mirror Stallone’s life. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tells his son that life is about “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My guess is Stallone learned this early and never forgot.
A poor start is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be embraced. The power of a poor start comes in the fact that you know where you began is not where you’re going to end. The power of a poor start comes from realizing that failure did not put poison inside you, it put fire inside you. The only negative to a poor start is if you quit and make your start, your end.
Fantasy sports are a popular pass time for many people. It is no longer a young male adult game but something that any sports fan can attempt. For me, the only one that has ever held my attention was fantasy football. The scoring is easy to follow and the games are only once per week. The concept behind fantasy sports is a simple one, try to compile the best team that you can in order to earn the most points each week. There are many different perspectives on drafting players but the overwhelming concept is filling your team with as many “superstars/point getters” as you possibly can.
I have friends and colleagues who spend hours or even days planning out their draft selections. These choices are important. Getting the right players off the bench each week and into the game is the key to survival. It is natural for players to be dropped to the bench or even released from the team when more desirable players are available.
It’s easy to see when talking about sports and fantasy that compiling the best team in order to win is important. That you would drop players that are holding you back and look to add players that will bring you forward. Why don’t we do the same thing with our friends and acquaintances?
In many ways our friends are part of our team. They not only support us but they also shape us. There are acceptable norms within relationships. Depending on your friend group, it may be unacceptable for you to smoke cigarettes. Or if you are part of a different group, it may be expected that you smoke. These acceptable norms are not limited to simple things like smoking. They extend out to your expectations of life.
When you add a player like Tom Brady to your fantasy team, you do it because he is going to get you closer to what you want because he’s an all-star. Take a look at your friends. Are they all-stars? Are they helping you get to where you want to go? Do they hold you back?
Like it or not, your friends are influencing who you are. Did you pick them consciously and for the right reasons? Are you going in the same direction? Can you get where you want to go with them around?
Perhaps some of your friends need to be put on the bench or cut from the team. This should not be a decision that is made quickly. People can serve all kinds of purposes, so do your homework on why your friends are your friends.
Also in a very real sense the internet has made fantasy football possible when it comes to the people who influence you. In the past, you might have been limited to your town or school. Now you can listen to leaders of almost any kind, speak about almost any topic. Who are you listening to today?
Hollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.
What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.
If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.
It’s too hard.
It will take too long.
I might not succeed.
Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
I don’t want people to make fun of me.
No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?
Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.
The 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.
I inadvertently ruined Santa Claus for my son this morning. Late last night I typed up a letter to a former professor and friend. This morning my son asked to use my laptop to look up something for school. I had completely forgotten to close out the document where I had talked about our holiday season and our kids still believing in Santa. Ultimately it could have been a lot worse because he is old enough to move on from that belief.
Our beliefs are extremely important tools that we use to form who we are and who we can be. Although the title of this blog may seem negative, it is intended to have a positive outcome. It is intended to add some inner dialogue that will help you to achieve a goal, create something, improve something, change a habit or any other endeavor that is difficult.
Stop believing that it will be easy!
Stop believing that anyone will do it for you!
Stop believing that it’s too big for you to pull off!
Stop believing that “You Suck” voice inside your head!
Stop believing that you need to wait for the time to be right!
Stop believing that you’re too tired!
Stop believing that people will laugh at you!
Stop believing that anyone is going to help you more than you help yourself!
Stop believing that there are too many obstacles!
Stop believing that your past failures matter enough to stop you from trying again!
Stop believing that there’s nothing you can do!
Start believing in you, in possibility, in the future!
Stepping on the gas pedal of life may get you there fast but without the steering wheel, you don’t get to decide where that is.
As we are moving past the time when most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions, I offer this subtle reminder. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED. It is sometimes a difficult thing to swallow. Goals and resolutions are pretty and shiny when we create them. Everything will go great! You’ll be able to maintain this level of excitement until you get to the end! The problem is that we usually forget or don’t know the following.
When you set up a goal or make a resolution it is much like ordering your favorite dessert. For me that would be the classic chocolate milkshake. Unfortunately you forgot to read the fine print. Before you will be served your delicious dessert, you have an appetizer of pain coming. That will be followed by a main course of discipline with self-sacrifice sauce and side order of humility. Once you are able to choke down those mammoth size helpings of something that YOU DIDN’T ORDER, you’ll finally get that thing that you wanted.
Just remember that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, all of it is part of the deal. Embrace it. You’ll actually find at some point halfway through the main course that you like the taste of it. Those things that you overlooked on the menu are actually something that you want for yourself. The problem is that most people retreat too early because THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED! At the end of the meal you’ll have to settle up the check. If you stuffed yourself full with meal and goal, the bill is paid with PRIDE. If you left your meal unfinished, then you have a debt of REGRET that is difficult to wipe away.
Kids pretend all the time. They turn sticks into swords, a backyard into a jungle and anything has the potential to be magical. Then as we grow, it seems to be trained out of us. We tend to see ourselves in finite terms. Our limits are not those of our imagination but rather of our circumstances. We don’t consider the impossible or even the improbable because it has been trained out of us. Pretending is child’s play and most of us consider ourselves too mature to do that. The truth is that we’re all pretenders, we’ve just bought into a more sophisticated game.
If you have a dollar in your pocket, take it out and look at it, try to come up with another use for it other than to purchase something. Possibly a book mark or it could be folded to straighten a wobbly table. Thousands of years ago, someone came up with the idea of money and got enough people to believe in it, that now it largely runs the world. At home I have some Ecuadorian Sucre coins and bills. They’re worthless to just about everyone in the world because Ecuador stopped using the Sucre years ago. New pieces are used in the game that they’re playing.
There are systems that have been put into place for decades, centuries or millennia. Learning to negotiate within those systems is extremely important. However you must always remember that we’re all pretending on some level. I’m pretending to be a writer. If I do a good enough job, more people will buy into that role that I’ve imagined for myself. If I do a poor job, I won’t get to play that game anymore.
So since we’re all pretending on some level, why not go out into the world with all of your guns blazing? Pretend so hard on the things that matter to you that no one will doubt that you are exactly who you’re pretending to be. The other option is to take the role that you’ve been dealt by your circumstances because your not willing to pretend anymore. Acceptance of the boundaries of your life seems a lot like a cage. The origin of the word pretend is Latin. It means “before the stretch”. It is the precursor to growth. So keep pretending until you stretch to your actual limits, not the ones that were thrust upon you.
It has come to that time of year where many American football* fans are without a team to root for until the Super Bowl when they hope for good commercials. If you are a soccer fan and have a football fan in your life who is interested in learning about soccer, then I have some tips below. (NOTE: Do not try to convert the unwilling football fan. Save your energy for the father-in-law who has grand-kids that play. Trying to convert the uninterested usually backfires.)
The most incomprehensible thing about soccer to most football fans that I’ve spoken to is the offside rule. Luckily there is a pretty easy way to convey the concept using football terms. The key is to take the rule that they already understand and tweak it to help them understand the soccer equivalent. If you’re not a football person, you might first need to brush up your understanding of the carrying game first.
Offside in football is a foul in which a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. This foul occurs simultaneously with the snap. Unlike offensive players, defensive players are not compelled to come to a set position before the snap.
In soccer there is no line of scrimmage nor a “snap” of the ball. Since the ball is almost continuously in play, the rule is a bit harder to police but understanding is all that we’re aiming for now. First of all, only offensive players can be called offside and only in their offensive half of the field (nearest the goal they intend to score on). The line for offside is not a fixed yard line but rather it moves with the last defender** equivalent to the defensive position of safety. (See Below)
So since the ball is almost always in play, offensive players are moving around and can even cross the offside line. A call of offside is made when an offensive player is in an offside position and the ball is played toward him or her. In football terms, the wide receiver cannot run past the invisible yard line of the safety until the ball is thrown by the quarterback. So the timing of streak (go), post and corner routes need to be timed very well. If the ball is not passed before the intended receiver gets by the “safety”, he’ll be offside. Curl and comeback routes can be effective in keeping a player onside. But if he is offside at the time of the pass, receiving the ball in an offside position doesn’t matter (like a defensive lineman who tries to jump back as the ball is snapped).
The player possessing the ball cannot be offside. So a player can dribble through the offside line. Therefore if the quarterback or running back carry the ball forward, they are not offside.
That pretty much sums it up. If I’ve missed anything, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll adjust it. Pass this information along to a football fan that cares to learn.
* I don’t like using the term American football but I do it to avoid confusion. I also dislike using one sport to explain another but have done this
**This statement is partially false. The last defender needs to have the goalkeeper behind them. This is something that soccer fans and even referees get wrong from time to time. Two defenders (one usually being the goalkeeper) need to be between the offender and the goal line. If the goalkeeper goes out of the goal a far distance, one defender is not enough to keep an offensive player onside.