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Skippy Handelman Is Dead, Long Live Skippy

As a child of the 1980s, many of my thoughts are encased in characters from sitcoms and movies. I wish that I could say that William Shakespeare had a huge influence on my thought processes on love and loss but alas it is Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court. It’s not the worst thing but my references are not particularly known by the world. So you’ll have to indulge me a little as I explain.

Just to avoid any confusion, Marc Price, the actor who played Skippy is alive.

In the TV show, Family Ties, Irwin “Skippy” Handelman is the quirky neighbor to the featured family in the sitcom. The Keatons accept Skippy as an extension of their family because of his kind hearted, although slightly dimwitted by nature. While he is truly Alex’s friend (Michael J. Fox’s character), Skippy is possibly best known for having a huge crush on Mallory. His feelings for her are never reciprocated yet he presses on with little or no hope. Even his best friend, Alex, undermines other love interests that Skippy has. It has been a really long time since I’ve watched Family Ties. So this next part might be just what I want to believe. Eventually Skippy finds someone and Mallory recognizes her loss. That may not have actually happened in the show.

However there is a moment from Night Court that has stuck in my memory for years. The custodian, Art, brings Christine (Markie Post) to a function and it ends poorly. Eventually he puts it all on the line “I’d always treat you right. You would never want for anything.” Upon hearing those words, Christine gets upset. Art lets her off the hook though. It’s not Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet but it represents a part of the human condition. A man who would do anything for someone, sacrifices his own feelings for the other.

The role of the “nice guy” (or girl, this is not gender exclusive) is not an easy one to play. Decisions need to be made about what to do and there isn’t usually much wiggle room. The answer is the right thing. Sometimes that’s hard to swallow because the Skippy and Art characters of the world are not the stars. Their names are not on any marquis and they don’t usually get the girl in the end. So why do they do it? Because someone has to!

I don’t want to live in a world without the nice guy. Despite getting the distinction of “finishing last”, they tend to keep the world in balance. With self-less abandon, they go into every situation trying to do right by other people. This is not in a superhero kind of way, although Captain America could be characterized as a “nice guy”. Mostly this is done in simple ways through small actions that no one notices at first. That’s why I force myself to believe that Mallory has the recognition moment when Skippy has moved on. The nice guy tends to not get noticed until he’s gone.

My hope is that at some point, the nice guy gets his due. The Skippy characters of the world get a little bit more than a pat on the back. If you have one in your life, recognize it because they would quite literally do anything for you. That’s a great person to have around!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Formation of Your Life

Formations in soccer are popular solution to game time problems. Often one formation or another is viewed as a cure-all but in reality, they are mainly aimed at defining responsibility. Soccer is such a fluid game that very rarely after the first whistle will the alignment of players look like a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. The positions morph to respond to the moment. It is completely possible in a moment of crisis that all eleven players could be called upon to defend in their own box. We don’t call that a 1-10 because generally those players responding to the crisis have a role that is at least partially defined by their position in the formation. If you never told a striker that they were playing that position, it’s conceivable that they spend all of their time defending in their own box.

One of the many jobs that a coach has is to align the team in a fashion that will lead to success. Perhaps that will mean crawling into a defensive shell, initiating an all out attack or finding a balance. Each of us must do the same thing within our own lives. Decide on a strategy that moves us toward our goals and protects against conceding our self-esteem. And the people that surround us are also part of that equation. Some are on our team while others are opponents to our cause. Putting the right people into positions that will help move you forward and protect you as well is important. Obviously I can’t do this for you but the suggestions below may help you begin to decide if people are in the right positions or not.

Your goalkeeper: This should be someone who will defend you with everything that they have. Depending on your station in life, this may be your parents or spouse. I wouldn’t normally put a best friend in this position. The reason why is that you don’t usually want your last line of defense to also be constantly helping to move you forward as well. However this is your team. You may do as you see fit.

Your backs: Similar to the goalkeeper, these people are interested mostly in your protection. The difference is that they are also part of your progress forward. Family, friends and possibly selected colleagues who truly have your back. There’s no perfect number to delineate their responsibility but 75% defense and 25% attack would be reasonable. So these people are invested in your protection more than your progress forward, REMEMBER THIS!!! It becomes important later.

Your midfield: These are people who are half protection and half defense. Again, friends and family are the most likely to make up this group. However there are plenty of sections to your life that may produce people to help in this area. Work colleagues may be helping to push you forward, possibly even a boss who sees potential in you. Personally in the past, significant others were almost always a catalyst for improvement, either personally or professionally.

Your forwards: This is the group that is most likely to help you to achieve (score) your goals. This may be the most diverse group. It is possible that you don’t even need to know these people. Inspiration to get you close to your goals can come from anywhere: books, podcasts, videos, speaking events. However the people that we’ve mentioned before could also play this role. It all comes down to who it is best equipped to help you in this area.

Your formation: Depending on where you are in your life, you may be playing defensive or offensive. It may also be a different strategy depending on the portion of your life that you’re considering. Regardless, it’s worth considering the roles of each person. Some people may need to be put on the bench. Others may need to become more important players. Remember that your team isn’t the only one that is playing. You can have direct or indirect opponents. Some will show up in places that you wouldn’t expect.

Opponents: These are the people who are looking to take shots at your self-esteem or just thwart you from achieving your goals. They might be “enemies” but more often than not they are people that you probably thought of as we worked through your teammate list. Remember the people who were 75% protection. Although they have your best interest in mind, they may be trying to protect you from going beyond their comfort zone and not yours. It’s worth considering the fact that the line between teammate and opponent could get pretty blurry at times. The most difficult opponent to get past is usually yourself. You know your fears and weaknesses. So it easy for you to stand in your own way at times.

As the coach of your life, it is up to you to get the right people in the right positions on your team. It’s also your job to read the opponent and change the game plan to get around them. None of this is easy! Especially when we’re not talking about getting a ball into a net but rather our lives. Regardless of whether it is easy or not, it’s necessary. Surrounding yourself with the right people and having them serve the right roles in your life is important. Only you can make those decisions though. Find your formation but don’t fall in love with it. It needs to be adjusted when necessary.

Go team!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Keep The Game Going: The One With The Ball Game

The “Friends” reunion has put that series and many of its episodes back into the forefront of my mind. There is a particular episode where Joey and Ross start throwing a ball to pass the time. They and several of the other friends continue the ball game for a long time while missing work and other events. In the end Phoebe inadvertently ends the game by putting the ball down on the table. While disappointing, it is not the worst outcome because Monica had already taken most of the fun out of the game. The original intent was to keep the game going but her competitive nature intervened. Although it is just a simple example, it lends itself well to the major ideas of the book by Simon Sinek, “The Infinite Game.”

The premise of the book is based on the comparison between infinite games and finite games. It is also relates them to business, companies and a variety of other things. The overarching idea is that finite games are generally played in order to be won while infinite games are played in order to keep the game going. From the Friends example, Joey and Ross begin playing an infinite game. They are throwing the ball in order to keep throwing the ball. As Monica begins to influence the game, there is more of a finite mindset based on competition and status. Sinek’s book puts a spotlight on the fact that many of our current practices in business (and possibly life) are finite minded. Although these finite practices are culturally supported, they are not actually in the best interest of the businesses that employ them. Using many counter examples, Sinek gives a compelling argument for the profitability and sustainability of the infinite mindset.

Most of us don’t own our own company nor do we plan to do so. However we each have the opportunity to take on an infinite mindset with regards to how we play the games of our lives. The important games that we play are not usually win/lose even if some people treat them that way. Marriage, friendship, health, education, career, etc. are not games that you can particularly win. The idea is to keep playing and hopefully play a little better tomorrow than you did today. Learning to employ an infinite mindset in particular areas of your life may garner better results than always trying to “win.”

Keep playing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Who Has Your Nuke Codes?

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.

Go be vulnerable!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Beautiful Betrayal

Son – “You promise that you won’t move?”

Father – “I promise.”

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!

Go dive in!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Worth Fighting For

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!

Thanks Beck!

Pete

Blogpost

McBride It!

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!

McbrideIn 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!

Have a great day!

Pete

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Steam Is Contagious

Huryk-LukeIt 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.

See you on the field!

Pete

 

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I’ll Go For You!

L-Photo9-dog-sniffing-locker-1During 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!

Go team!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

I’m Afraid to Try

“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)

DannyZukoThis 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!

Have a great day people!

Pete