Blogpost, self-reliance

Stupidly Iconic

It’s happened so many times throughout history, yet people still believe that there is a secret. Movies, books, musicals, songs, etc. Many of the most popular were a complete surprise when they came out. The directors, authors, composers and musicians were hopeful but more than likely unaware that they were about to strike gold. Some even believed that they were creating absolute trash. Despite the doubts, they persisted on to find their way into our hearts and into history.

It’s easy to look back at the success stories and believe that they were inevitable. We have the benefit of hindsight. The dots all connect in a perfect pattern that make us believe that destiny had her hand in the equation. Perhaps she did but the people who were in the thick of the moment had no idea. They had doubts, insecurities, failures and fear. In a lot of ways, they are very similar to me and possibly you regarding that thing that you’ve put off doing for a week, month, year or years!

We all have that project that we’re afraid to start or worse, have started a hundred times but stalled. All of the emotions that are tied to the outcome do not serve you in the day to day. So many times, we don’t start or give up because we’re so uncertain about the final product. The possibility that it could flop paralyzes us into inaction. We need to remember that success is not completely up to us but progress is! Our job is to keep things moving forward in incremental steps. So many projected blockbusters have gone belly up that it’s laughable to think that anyone can predict them. The reverse is also true. The hits are often a surprise. Since no one will know the outcome until you finish, it is in your best interest to keep moving forward. The sting of failure will be with for a much shorter time than the ache of regret.

Make it happen! Your flop might fly but there is only one way to find out!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Scrooge Yourself!

Last night I watched one of my favorite versions of “A Christmas Carol”. Being raised in the 80’s makes me preferential toward the George C. Scott incarnation of the Dickens’ tale. Since the story is well over a century old, it truly is a Christmas classic. Regardless of which version you prefer, the basic story is the same. Scrooge is given a chance to turn his life around after decades of being a rich but stingy and hard-hearted man. In the night leading up to Christmas, he is visited by three spirits who show him visions of what his life has been and will become. Through this experience, he makes a drastic change in his mindset toward Christmas and his fellow man.

Although the story is well known, I doubt that the experience of Scrooge is one that many have had. A full sensory experience where one’s fundamental flaw is put on full display through the years. An awakening to the realization that a part of one’s personality has kept joy and fulfillment at bay would be heart-wrenching but also transformative. While I doubt that any of us has “Scrooge-level” personality defects to attend to, each of us has kept our best self from shining through at times. Perhaps a look at our past, present and future through the lens of a habit that we know we need to change is exactly the gift that each of us needs.

So take five minutes and choose a habit that you know you should change. For a minute, think about all of the ways that this action has held you back in the past. Put the picture in your mind and see the things that you’ve missed out on or lost. Then take another minute and reflect on how this is affecting you in your present life. Just like with Scrooge, the most powerful is probably the future. We can justify our pasts in a variety of ways. However seeing in your mind’s eye, all of the ways that your future can be impacted by an action may just carry enough weight for change. Since this has a greater possibility for impact, take two minutes with these pictures. Finally write down some notes on the experience. If you were interested in changing, maybe the thoughts that you had about your future will be enough of a catalyst to make it possible. In the end, Ebenezer changed himself. The spirits only helped him along the way.

God bless us everyone!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Baking Soda Doesn’t Taste Like Pepsi!

Baking soda isn’t even a liquid! For those who don’t bake, it’s a white powder that gets put into a large number of recipes. Those who do bake might be thinking that I’m an idiot for the title. Cool your jets for a moment. I’ve never tried to drink baking soda nor have I substituted it with a tablespoon of Pepsi in my cakes. The foolishness of both is obvious to most. It does bring an interesting juxtaposition though. One thing is an item that many people use for its pleasurable effects. The other is a necessary ingredient to make a finished product. It puts a want in direct contrast to a need.

Most of us run into this issue on a daily basis. Our wants and our needs are put at odds with one another as we combine the ingredients of our days. It is not usually a case of knowing. We tend to know the things that we need in our life: exercise, healthy food choices, sleep, a meditative practice, etc. Unfortunately those things are often in conflict with things that we want: free time, stimulating food, exciting nights out, an ample amount of social media, etc. This is not a call for all things in moderation nor is it a finger waging sermon about how you must choose only from the “need” column. I’m not your mom or your dad for that matter. Your choices are your own. All I am here to point out is that the cake that you’re producing is based on the ingredients.

Your life is a sum total of the choices that you’ve made up until this point. Some of it has been DNA and parenting but it’s more than likely that you could counteract those forces on some level. Most of it is the daily ingredients that you are adding, subtracting or maintaining. There are few hard and fast rules about what a person should be putting into their life. I know people who need a lot more baking soda and others who need more Pepsi. It’s not an exact science much like baking there is a bit of artistry to it. Yes there are measurements and instructions but the people who do it best tend to “eyeball” it. Following someone else’s recipe will get you similar results but that may not be the right thing for you.

The main thing is that you want to be conscious of the ingredients that you are putting in. Too often people want a particular result but it requires need and they are busy choosing their wants. No doubt substitutions can be made but they have to make sense. Pepsi and baking soda are not the same thing! Don’t allow yourself to believe that they are. Instead, decide what it is that you truly want and stick to the recipe! It’s usually not a matter of not knowing. It’s a matter of being willing to do what you know!

Enjoy!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Human Fruit

My first job was working at an apple orchard. My brothers and I were paid twenty-five cents per box of apples that we picked up from the ground. Since these apples had already fallen, they were not able to be sold for eating. So they were used to make cider. There was a decent amount of opportunity to make some money from this deal. If we were diligent about our work, filling a box was not too difficult or time consuming. Generally speaking though, we weren’t overly effective at our job. We semi-lazy preteens who spent as much time talking as we did picking, probably more.

Outside of Hackettstown, NJ. My first job was at Best’s Fruit Farm. It’s apple season now.

Although we were not titans of the cider industry, that experience held a lot of lessons in it. Recently I started thinking about the actual apples though. The most valuable apples are the ones that are picked at the right time and sold for eating. The ones that fall to the ground are worth far less as cider or possibly worth nothing if they rot. Although it doesn’t happen much with apples, there are fruits that “die on the vine.” Usually this is due to a lack of nourishment. While most of don’t give much thought to the growth of fruit, we just buy it at the store, have it sit on the counter for a week and forget to eat it before it goes bad. Or maybe that’s just me at the moment! Regardless, it is a great metaphor for our dreams and goals. It got me thinking about how most dreams die. Do they die on the vine due to a lack of nourishment? Or do they fall before they’ve been picked, essentially a lack of timing or attention.

It’s really hard to say because it depends on a lot of factors. However, if I was pressed for a guess, I’d say that it was more than likely that most dreams die on the vine rather than falling to poor timing. Humans are amazing creatures with so many positive attributes. Despite all of the positives that we possess, there is rampant pessimism within our species. We tend to see all of the things that could go wrong before we even start. Therefore we do not pump the metaphorical juice into things. Our preference is to only give resources to the fruits that we “know” will ripen. On the one hand, this is not a bad strategy. We do not have infinite resources: time, energy, attention, etc. These are only a few of the ingredients that are needed to bring anything to life. So the high probability (low hanging) fruit may seem like the right move. Unfortunately it tends to leave almost nothing for the low probability but more valuable dreams. So much of life is spent producing results that just about anyone could.

We watch as our dreams shrivel and die as they get none of our time and attention. Yet our boxes are filled with “cider apples” that do not inspire us or anyone else. They represent a variety of minimal effort endeavors that we do not long or ache for. We only chose them because they were basically guaranteed to work out. So maybe this apple season, it is time to let some of those easy dreams fall to the ground in favor of a few long shots. It’s possible that you’ll come up empty handed. Or maybe you’ll find that that sweet juices were worth the extra effort!

You won’t know until you try!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

VCR, an old school approach to dreams

Before every company had a streaming service, there was the DVR. Before that, it was the DVD. And before that, the VCR! With its clunky cassettes and a clock that almost no one knew how or cared enough to set to the correct time. Therefore it always showed 12:00. By modern standards, the VCR is a dinosaur. Its limitations make it laughably simplistic but it was a necessary step in the evolution of entertainment. It was quite possibly the last one that required real time interaction with its human operator. Regardless, I’m going to use it as a quick representation on moving toward one’s dreams.

V – The first letter stands for VISION! It is necessary to have some sort of picture inside of your mind’s eye about where you want to go or what you want to do. If you don’t have the target inside of your head, you won’t hit it. This is obvious and simple but often people have too general of a target and therefore anything looks like progress. Be specific about what it is that you want or else you’ll only get something that looks a little like it.

C – The second letter stands for CHUNK! Specifically I’m talking about breaking that vision into chunks that will be achievable. A vision can be huge and overwhelming. When broken into chunks, it feels much more manageable and achievable. I love the old phrase, “there’s only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” Of course I’m not a proponent of eating elephants but the statements holds the greatest truth. Anything can be broken into enough pieces that it is achievable. So whatever your vision is, break it into small enough pieces for you to digest.

R – Even though it is last, it’s probably the most important, REASONS! Having a vision and breaking it into pieces are both easy. I just had a vision of me running a marathon. My chunks would be slowly increasing distances over the coming months in order to prepare with long runs on the weekends and shorter more intense runs during the week. It’s meaningless!!! I’ve run a marathon before. It was a great experience but at the moment, I don’t have any reason to run one. Of course I could create all kinds of reasons. The reasons are where the power is and that is all up to you! People quit smoking because their kid coughed in the back seat of the car, not because of the pain of lung cancer. Humans have an amazing ability to create reasons to do anything and everything.

So now it is on you! What is your vision? What are the individual steps that will get you there? And why do you want to make it happen? It’s not overly complicated but if you follow through on doing each step well, you’ll get where you want to go. No doubt about it. Just make sure the reasons are enough. You want to find “rocket fuel” reasons rather than charcoal. Charcoal may get you to some places but if you’ve got a big vision, it may take a long time.

Dream big!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Unsporting Behavior

There are many things that can be considered “unsporting behavior” within the game of soccer. However I believe that the one that encompasses them all most concisely is “Shows a lack of respect for the game.” Whether it is a reckless foul or attempting to deceive the referee, all situations that can be characterized as unsporting behavior show some level of disrespect toward the game. Generally speaking most people tend to respect the game at levels that allow for the game to move forward. If too many people disrespect the game, there is no continuity and possibly, not enough players left to make the game worth playing.

This situation almost never happens. Games are infrequently abandoned due to a high number of players being dismissed. It would be counterproductive. Players inherently want to play. So excessive disrespect to the game is not in their best interest. Even implementors of “anti-football” had to recognize that the more egregious their actions, the more they gambled with the tactic backfiring. Stifling the opposition can be a team’s undoing if they take it too far.

Taking a step back from the rectangular field with lines and focusing on the spherical one with continents. The same logic seems to fit. A lack of respect for the game is counterproductive and can stifle us all. The problem in the bigger game comes from the fact that not everyone is aimed at the same goals, each person has their own set of rules and mostly people referee themselves. So a lack of respect is even more subjective than in a soccer game. Playing within the rules can get frustrating when confronted with opponents who seemingly have no rules. Your goals and ambitions may be nothing more than trash to other players in the game. Therefore many people end up disillusioned or overwhelmed by the world. The game of life was never set up to be fair, equitable, convenient nor consistent. So as the player, it is important to decide how you are going to play the game and the rules that you’ll live by.

From time to time, it may be necessary to revamp your personal “laws of the game.” However you should not adopt someone else’s just because it’s popular, easier or more convenient. Your laws need to match who you are and where you want to go. The feeling of being aligned with these components is worth the difficulty of defining them. Playing the game in a fashion that makes you miserable is probably not ideal. So be as deliberate as you can defining your goals and laws of the game. That way you can hold yourself accountable for unsporting behavior. Almost no other referees are watching. So you need to be.

Game on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Results vs Resluts

If I had been born about ten years later than I was, I’m quite sure that I would have been tested for and found as dyslexic. However due to my age and a few other factors, there was no diagnosis. It’s never been a major issue, numbers are my biggest problem. So it made perfect sense for me to start out as a math major in college. For the most part, I’ve just had to police myself throughout my academic career. Now I’m not sure if my recent typing issues are related or if my fingers have just gotten fumbled up. I’ve been having a lot more instances of typos where I only switch two letters in the middle of the word. From time to time, results turn into resluts! Despite the obvious error, I gave some thought to my error and its possible uses. My fear is that far too many people are going for resluts!

The thing about resluts is that anyone can get them. They are readily available with little effort. Like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the resources needed to make that result happen are available to most people. It’s nothing special but it is still something. If they are needed in order to build confidence, habit or a streak of some kind, then by all means! Go get those resluts! Just don’t celebrate too much.

Results are what should be desired and chased. They inject enthusiasm and motivation into our lives. Although they are within our reach, they are elusive, coy or possibly aloof. They act as if they are too good for us and if we’ve lowered our standards drastically, they might be right. However it’s more than likely that we are more than good enough. It might take some extra effort, a bit more primping or charm but there’s no reason to let that stop us. Just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it!

So as you go through your day, recognize whether you’re chasing real results or not. Are the things that you’re after worth pursuing? If you’re only after them because they are easy, then it might be time to move on to better things. You deserve the top level prizes in this carnival game we call life. But first you need to realize that you do! Don’t settle for the participation trophy because you can do more than just show up!

Go get your results!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

This Is Not The True Pain

“Regret is momentary pain made permanent through inaction.” I first wrote that as part of a post called “The Fearometer“. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the momentary decisions that we make and how they carry forward. Decisions are forks in the road that take us in a particular direction. While some decisions only make us veer slightly one way or the other, it’s possible to take abrupt turns or even turn fully around. Without a GPS, it can be easy to get lost with so many possibilities. So more than anything, it is important to know where you want to end up.

Pushups today give possibility to muscles tomorrow. Avoiding the “pain” now may mean pain later.

Many of us (including me) spend our days in almost constant avoidance of momentary “pain.” This is a great strategy UNTIL it’s not. Each of us has a myriad of destinations in front of us. Would we choose the path that is leading to the most physical, mental or emotional pain? Or would we choose long term physical, mental and emotional comfort? My guess is that the choice is pretty obvious. However our momentary decisions may be cutting us off from that possibility. Avoiding that exercise program or food decision is leading you down a path that will be painful in the long run. Unfortunately we are not programmed to think that far ahead. We are set up to think about the here and now.

So it is on you to break from your programming in order to avoid that eventual pain that is on the horizon. Cancer, loneliness, heart disease, divorce, alcoholism, obesity, addiction or any other destination that you’d rather not visit. This is not my call for a return of the straight-edge movement. It’s simply a recognition of the fact that we carry these momentary decisions with us, especially when they become consistent. Regret is momentary pain made permanent through inaction. Decide who your future self is going to be. Then work your way backwards to the decisions of today. People usually know the right thing to do. However they have difficulty short circuiting the emotion of the moment. Put the power in the plan rather than the moment!

You’re on your way!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

WTFN!?!?

Although I’m able to understand text speech, I still tend not to use it very often. Since it is my fourth language, I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I was also raised in the 80s. So periods, commas, etc. were sold as important and old habits are difficult to break when you don’t really want to. Despite some similarities, I’m not Phil Dunphy. I know what the usuals mean. However, I do enjoy making up my own from time to time. WTFN?

The power of text speech is expedience but it can come off softer than the words themselves. In this particular case, I believe that brevity is everything. The message needs to get ingrained in your brain before it has time to formulate excuses, alibis, or arguments. Time is not your friend when it comes to action. The longer that you delay on goals, desires and dreams. The less likely it is that you’ll start. So now that I’ve built this up with too much explanation. Think of something that you want to do. Then ask yourself “WHY THE F%$# NOT!?!?”

Why not you? Why not now? Why not here? Usually the answers are just BS excuses that you’ve built up over the years. Their major purpose is to protect you. Protect you from the possibility of failure while also hiding the possibility of success. Those two go hand in hand. You cannot separate them. Am I suggesting that you completely throw caution to the wind? HELL NO! Forty-five years old is a bad time to start your NBA career. You’ll know the difference inside when your heart leaps and your head only half reacts.

So put it into regular use when a friend asks you to do something. WTFN? That way it’s on the tip of your tongue or thumbs when an opportunity comes your way. WTFN!?!? Give that thing a go because you’re more likely to regret not acting than you are the failure.

Give it a go! WTFN?

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Attendance Will Be Taken

I showed up on Senior Skip Day! That is probably the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever admitted in my blogposts. It’s pathetic for two reasons that I can think of. 1. Because of the fact that I went. 2. Because no one cares. There’s no moral judgment placed on the kids who don’t go. The valedictorian didn’t even show up if I remember correctly. It was the kids who had too many unexcused absences, the kids who got 100% attendance every year and me. Another sad fact is that I wasn’t one of 100% attendance kids. I would take days off from time to time, just not that day.

The 100% attendance kids were a bit of a mystery to me. I was never quite sure if their parents made them come everyday, they got some kind of prize, or they valued their education that much. Although I’m not going to ask you to follow directly in their footsteps, I am going to suggest that you have a stellar attendance record.

Your goals require a stellar attendance record. Every goal is going to have its own schedule. Some goals might be oncer per week. Others may be every day. Regardless of the schedule, there are going to be days when you don’t want to show up. Most likely those are the days that you need to show up the more than any other. We all desire comfort, a rest or a day off. The problem is that once those desires are exercised, they grow stronger.

If you wait for motivation, you’ll get very little done in this world. Motivation is neither a consistent state of being nor is it a power that is bestowed by God upon a select group. Those people who seem as if they are extremely motivated, just have better established habits. “First you make a habit, then the habit makes you.” Stolen from Trevor Moawad. So what do I have to do to make a habit? ACT!!! Don’t wait for motivation, until you feel like or someone tells you that you have to. Once you act, your mind will catch up to your body and send a message about why you are doing that thing. If you act consistently enough, eventually your mind will get ahead of your body and start calling on you to do that thing.

Just like me, it’s possible that you’re the only one who will remember that you showed up. There won’t be a gold star put next to your name. You’ll just be a step, an inch or a millimeter closer to that thing that you want. That stellar attendance record will eventually start paying dividends. The sooner you start, the farther that you’ll be along the path in a week, a month, or a year. So ACT NOW!!! No one else is checking to see if you show up. Therefore, you have to!

Bueller! Bueller!

Pete