Next month we are going to go through a presidential transition. Whether you’re happy about the results of the election or not is irrelevant to this post. As the commander in chief, the sitting president has a variety of weapons at his disposal including nuclear weapons. The destructive capabilities of these weapons are so devastating that only the president can order their use. This authority is not given out to everyone in the armed forces.
Usually when I talk about this concept, I use the example of keys. I’ll ask an audience who I would trust with my keys. Answers like wife, friends, siblings, parents are all common. Eventually after we’ve established that I would not trust my keys to just anyone, I relate the keys back to the mind. Who do you trust with the way that you think about yourself? Are you as discerning when choosing the people who can impact your self image? Most of the time, this brings to light some judgment issues. People often given power of influence to strangers, acquaintances or even “enemies.” Although this discussion is one that I think is worthwhile, I wanted to take it to that next level. Who has your “nuke codes”?
The difference here is that nukes have the ability to destroy everything. This goes far beyond the ability to influence. Perhaps the best strategy is never to give these codes to anyone. Keep the pushbuttons that could destroy you hidden away. Never let anyone know that they exist. Pretend like you’re invulnerable. Some people seem to go to the other extreme, giving the power of destruction to everyone and everything.
The best strategy that I’ve been able to come up with is to give them to the people who would never use them. An exchange of codes that allows each side to feel a level of safety but also trust. In real relationships (not nuclear standoffs) the key is vulnerability. It is only when we show our weak underbelly that people can feel that. they really know us. Acting like that weakness doesn’t exist guarantees that no one can get close enough to our reality. On the one hand, that might seem safe because then no one else can hurt us. While that might be true, it also means that the only possible destruction is self-destruction. The gamble comes down to vetting people that you trust with the real you or propping up the walls around you while trying not to hit the button. It’s not as hard of a choice or a task as it seems. Most people aren’t interested in pushing your button, they’re just trying not to push their own.
The son jumps into the pool and starts swimming toward his father who has backed up at least one step, maybe two. It is a simple story that has played out millions of times through the years. Here is a different version of the same story.
On December 28th, 2001, my friend, Gary, and I went out like we would on any other Friday night. We ran into his younger brother, another friend and the friend’s sister. The sister and I talked for a long time that night. Although I was very interested in her, I didn’t ask for her number or anything. The next day, Gary called me and I was told that she was very interested in me and she wanted to do something with the group again for New Year’s Eve. Later that evening, I called her up in order to make plans for all of us to go out again. When she answered the phone, I said, “Hi, this is Pete.”
She said, “Pete who?”
That’s when I found out that it was a lie. My friend had conjured up most of the story just to get me to call her. She was going to Philadelphia for New Year’s and had no plans to go out with us again. However she was happy to hear from me and the rest is history. She is now my wife and we’ve been married for 16 years.
Both the son on the edge of the pool and I were duped by someone we trusted. Honesty may be the best policy in most cases but from time to time, dishonesty is exactly what is needed. Although it was a lie, what Gary told me was more valuable than the truth. It took away the fear that normally would have paralyzed me into inaction. The lie made me act. It made me believe with certainty that I was going to be successful. It was a placebo of the best kind. I had taken the drug of self-confidence and it work magic on me.
There are so few things in life that are absolute. We tend to think of our thoughts as truth. Perhaps the “truths” that you’ve been telling yourself haven’t helped you very much. The divide between the truth and a lie is often based on perspective. So consider your perspective often. Rather than looking for the 100% truth, decide to believe the things that serve you. We usually need just a little push in order to get us started. Push yourself by believing the things that get you to act!
It was 2003, I believe. As I was driving north toward Hyannis, Massachusetts, even I was having trouble making sense of what I was doing. Everyone else had bailed out and I had the same exact option. I was supposed to be part of a 4 or 5 person group who were all going to compete in the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon. My girlfriend (now wife) and her friends had made all of the arrangements. I was tagging along for my first triathlon experience. On the day of our departure at the last minute, everyone decided not to go but for some reason I went. Due to all of the uncertainty about the others, I got a late start. After 11pm when I arrived to town, the bed and breakfast where we had reservations was shutdown for the night. So I started scouring the town for a hotel room. The first place that I went had nothing. Luckily the Days Inn had one room left, the “honeymoon suite,” complete with mirrors on the ceiling and a heart-shaped bed. It was not ideal considering I would only be sleeping for about 5 hours but I took it.
Although the race didn’t start until later in the morning, I got to the headquarters around 5:30am because I needed to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike. My first triathlon was off to a bumpy start to say the least. Luckily my registration was done ahead of time and that was the first thing to go off without a hitch. Ill prepared, on my own and completely unsure of the task in front of me; I sat and waited. The swim was by far my weakest event and it is first. Despite being a triathlon newbie, I had received one piece of good advice from a veteran weeks prior, wear a wetsuit. It helps to keep you afloat slightly. Even though I had that slight help, I still swam very slow. Out of nearly 1000 competitors, I was around 800th after the swim (from results after the race, no idea at the time).
My ability on the bike was definitely better than my swimming but my equipment was not. I had borrowed my older brother’s mountain bike for the weekend and although it was functional, it wasn’t set up for speed. Of course I really can’t use that as an excuse because a few miles in, I was passed by an older gentleman on a bike from the 1950’s (I’m guessing). He had no gears or special clipped in shoes and he passed me like I was standing still. Luckily I was also moving up in the pack. I focused on one by one passing the person in front of me. By the end of the bike, I had climbed into the 500s out of 1000.
The run was by far my best event. Having been a track athlete and soccer player, I knew how to pace myself over long distances. However my legs were heaviest during this portion of the race. After about a mile, the weight of my legs was starting to get into my head. What was I doing? No one was here to cheer me on. I was alone. Whether I ran harder or not, that fact was not going to change. Then I started thinking about my girlfriend. Even though I knew she wasn’t there, I became fixated on the thought of her and my legs felt lighter. So I picked up the pace and began catching as many people as I could. Although I knew it really wouldn’t matter one way or another to her, I was able to mask the pain of the moment by associating my performance with her. Much like the knights of the past used to go into battle to win the favor of a lady, I put that emotion into my legs. By the end of the run, I had progressed to the low 300’s.
When I crossed the finish line, I still did it alone but I had a full heart. Although I had entered the race ill prepared and unsure, I walked away from the event feeling more certain. Since I had already paid for a hotel room that I used for about 5 hours, I wolfed down as much post race food as I could. Then I had just enough time to go back to the “honeymoon suite” to take a shower before checking out and going home.
This story is about me but it applies to many more people. There are battles to be waged throughout our lives. Some are simple and fleeting like a triathlon. Others are complex and life altering like cancer. Regardless of which you are engaged in, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to be alone in that fight even when you are alone. People believe in you. They care about you and want you to win. Sometimes that can be hard for them to say. Perhaps they don’t even know that you need to hear it because they just think it’s implied. In a world where we can send and receive messages from around the globe through a device in our pocket, we can forget to send the simplest of messages to the person next to us. Perhaps we need to turn off that “connection” device and get reacquainted with the device inside of our chest. It can also send and receive.
Now more than ever we have the opportunity to connect with those that we love in order to raise each other up. There are things in this world worth fighting for and most of us have more ability than we realize. Sometimes it just takes the right person believing in us to bring it out. Don’t wait around for them to say it though. Just trust that it is out there. No matter how many people are cheering you on, you need to show up first. You’re worth fighting for!
I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!
In the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered. The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.” While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite. Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison. Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia. Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism. The key to balance is a counterweight. Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.
Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this. So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view. Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife. This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player. At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him. At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.
Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”. That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever. Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own. We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends. No matter how big you get, McBride it! When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there. It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with. Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it. You’re going to need them on the climb!
It was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example. I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania. The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game. One team was extremely adept at the offside trap. Late in the game, there was a corner kick. The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up. The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal. He shot. The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post. The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored. The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense. The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic. He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc. As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game. I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.” He responded, “I know it was the right call! I’m just blowing off some steam.”
In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation. It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher. The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it. There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion. We need them to live and color our lives. However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic. The word was chosen very deliberately. REASON! The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions. Referees become demons. Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere. This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person. However it seems to have become a societal norm.
The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision. The ability to see what is right in front of our faces. Children. Children who are looking at us for how to act. Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives. When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do. You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand. You don’t see the bigger picture. You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with. Those things aren’t done because they’re hard. They require effort, judgement and self-control. These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.
So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe! Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you. Put your focus on that. Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult. AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING! So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.
During my sophomore year of college, my two younger brothers were in high school together. One was a senior and the other was a freshman. At one point during the school year, there were “Drug sniffing” dogs brought in to do a search of the school. Students stayed in their classes while the school was swept. If your locker was tagged, you were supposed to report to the office in order to have your locker searched. My freshman brother’s locker had a tag on it. Completely panicked, he went and found his senior brother. One question from the senior brother, “Do you have any drugs in your locker?” The response was “no”. The senior brother went straight to the office and reported that his locker had been tagged. He brought the officials to the locker for it to be searched. The school officials questioned whether this was really his locker or not because it was in a freshman hallway. My brother was adamant! This is my locker! Upon being opened and searched, the locker did not contain any drugs. There was however a half eaten box of crackers at the bottom which the dog must have smelled. I wasn’t there and no one has discussed that incident for years but I still get choked up when thinking about it.
As I am going through preseason as a coach, I am always trying to instill in my players through my words and my actions, the exact sentiment that my younger brother displayed that day. I’LL GO FOR YOU! The idea that I’ll put myself in harm’s way for the good of others. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m still involved in sports after all of these years. It’s not the championships, trophies or victories. It’s those moments when you can truly see that people throughout the team have that simple idea tattooed on their brains “I’ll go for you!” I’ll give you everything that I’ve got and then some because I know that you’d do the same for me.
The ironic thing is that this has become so very rare in our society but the teams that I’ve seen do the best had this. People are usually worried about what’s in it for them and when will they get their due. In my experience, it seems to be that when you are willing to give everything and expect nothing, is exactly the time when you get more than your due. This can be a difficult concept for a large group of people to buy into but when they do, it can be magical.
The best example of this idea that I’ve ever heard of was when Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers had his father pass away. There was some doubt whether or not he’d play the next game. It’s not his decision to play that I find extraordinary but rather his teammates commitment to him. In this video clip about the game at 2:19 Donald Driver (Wide Receiver) describes exactly what I’ve been talking about. “Whatever he throws, we catch.” In a time of pain for their teammate, they were not going to let him fail. That’s what being a teammate and a family member is about.
Now don’t misread my words! Not everyone deserves everything you’ve got but if no one is willing to go first then we all lose. So be the one who is willing to give into the unknown. Tell the people who truly matter with both your words and your actions; “I’LL GO FOR YOU!” Most of the time you’ll find, they’ll go for you too!
“You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m loner Dottie, A REBEL!” -Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)
This line is from the quite ridiculous but still entertaining Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. And it was co-opted by the band The Get Up Kids as a song title in the 90’s. The song outlines one perspective of a short term love affair where the singer refuses to give the relationship a chance. In his own words, “because I’m afraid to try.” It’s an old story that probably precedes Danny Zuko in Grease. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girls. Boy wants to leave while things are still fun and casual because a relationship is just too much work.
It’s applicable to so many things but relationships are possibly the easiest target. In a world where Tinder and OkCupid are facilitators of the present dating scene, this mindset will probably get more widespread. The fast and easy wins out over the slow build (which is perceived as a grind). Of course this is only perception. Reality holds millions of possibilities. For many, a life with one person is a much more joyous existence than the shallowness of singles life. Regardless of which way you lean, it’s not really the point. The point is the actual words. “I’m afraid to try!” It’s not, “I’m afraid to commit!” or “I’m afraid that I’ll get hurt!” It’s “I’m afraid to try!”
This is probably the most dangerous thing that I see from not just young people but people in general. There is a fear of trying. Putting yourself out there has the perception of being difficult. And in the younger generation, it is chastised because for some reason “try hard” is now an insult. Much like nerd or geek of the past, this is a completely idiotic strategy as a culture. Demean those who excel in order to make the average feel better about themselves. (But I digress) The thing is that people have become so accustomed to guarantees that effort toward an unknown is just too scary. There’s no point in following a rainbow because a pot of gold is not waiting for us.
It’s time to buck the trend. TRYING (no offense to Yoda!) is often the point. Finding our limits. Pressing up against what is possible. Discovering new territory is exactly the point! Imagine where we would be if through history, we were this risk averse. We’d be dead! Hunters wouldn’t have had any assurances of catching any prey, so why go out to hunt?
Your survival and progress as human being depends on THE TRY! So go out there today with the intention and determination to try. It doesn’t need to be something monumental. It just needs to be outside of your comfort zone. An experiment, an attempt, a risk, a small gamble. That’s the only way to move forward. One little try at a time. And I’ll suggest that you deny the teenage ridicule by TRYING HARD!
It’s so common to us that we are almost blind to it at this point. The release of the latest version of something. Whether it’s a car, an app for the phone or a video game; the old version is eventually replaced by the latest version. Sometimes this comes with huge upgrades that revolutionize the way that we think about the product. Other times it messes up something that was working to our liking. The thing is that even if we don’t see the changes, they’re happening all the time.
It’s so much easier to understand with technology especially. The cellphone does not change shape or size when you add a new app or update it. It simply acquires the new programming and moves on. Often bugs need to be fixed but I’m pretty certain that Bill Gates does not lament the fact that Windows 7.1 was not as good as Windows 10.2. There is an understanding that each new version is intended to build upon the past.
In a very similar way, here you are. Version 2018.193 of yourself. You may look at yourself as the same person that you’ve always been but that’s most definitely not true. You’ve learned new things since version 2015.125 (after the decimal is the number of days past in that year). The question becomes whether or not you want to just maintain what is working or truly upgrade. Unlike Windows, you’re not going to be rereleased. Your bug fixes and big upgrades have to all happen at the same time. AND YOU ARE THE LEAD DEVELOPER! Only you can make changes to the system.
So what is the latest version of you going to look like? Is it just like today’s you but with a few more miles worn off the treads? I hope not. I hope that you believe that you are capable of a big jump. A leap from the version that you are today to the version that you’ve always wanted to be. My hope is that you’re making the plans and putting in the code to launch yourself to a whole new level. So that people who haven’t seen you in a while will take notice to the fact that the latest version of you is a huge upgrade!
Marvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero. They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante. These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies. These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities. Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.
There are two problems with the Super Hero though. First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes. Second, they’re not real! Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality. So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?
It is really quite simple. Super Heroes are a distraction. A way for us to be let off of the hook. Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary. Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt. It’s just me! What can I do?
You can be a small time hero! You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary. Be a little kinder. Be a little more resilient. Be a little more intelligent. Love your family a little more. BUT what difference will that make? Almost none.
UNTIL a few people around you catch on. Then it has the possibility of developing super power. Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier. It’s not particularly easy! Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way. Super Heroes are not coming! The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends. So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us! Go suit up!
Unless you are brought to the hospital in an ambulance, the first place that you visit is triage. It’s the station where the severity of your injury or illness is determined in order to prioritize treatment. Broken bones take precedent over upset stomachs and so on. People who can wait, often do, for long periods of time in the waiting room. However no one stays in triage for very long. Once your situation is determined, it is time to move on to get the help that you need or wait your turn. Triage is not an outcome!
This is so apparent when dealing with a medical emergency. No one would forego seeing the doctor so that they could stay with the triage nurse longer to describe their situation. However when it comes to our lives, many of us seem to desire eternal triage. Describing the horrible situation that we are in with excruciating detail to friends, family, classmates, coworkers and even strangers. Rather than doing something about the situation that we lament, we pile on more and more description. The unfortunate thing is that many people seem to want to turn their paper-cut into a shotgun wound. This situation is at the forefront today because it is Monday. A day that many people dread because it is just too far away from the weekend. Does this day carry with it any particular issue? No, it is just the story that we’ve made up in our heads.
So here we are at the door to the emergency room. What are you going to do today? Spend the entire day describing your issues to the triage nurse in order to make your headache seem like a stroke. Or check yourself for bullet holes and if you need real help, go get it. Or most likely, you can handle this on your own/with the help of those close to you. Describing the problem with more clarity is rarely the answer. Moving forward takes action, no matter how small. Clawing your way toward a destination is far better than hoping it will be attracted by the sound of your complaints!