Blogpost, self-reliance

Consistency to Comfort

The moment is forever burned into my memory. I was ten years old standing halfway up the hill that led into a wooded area that we always referred to as the “quarry.” My older brother, his best friend and another kid or two were all in a circle. Since my brother was involved this was an opportunity to do something with the “big kids.” I don’t remember the events that lead up to this event, nor anything that followed. The main memory is that it was my turn to try taking a puff off the cigarette that was being passed around. Although I had a variety of reasons to believe that what I was doing should be considered cool, my body revolted in a most violent way. I coughed, gagged and felt almost like I could throw up. That was the last time that I ever tried smoking a cigarette.

Despite the negative experience with cigarettes, I have the occasional cigar.

The combination of the human body and mind is amazing. As a united front, they can conquer almost anything including things that people would just refer to as reality. The key to the mind/body power is consistency. It has the ability to flip the natural script of any stimuli. The example of my first smoking experience is perfect. Other people had a similar experience but through consistency, took an uncomfortable sensation and made it pleasurable or even necessary. People put poisons into their bodies everyday and get pleasure from the process. Not because the poison is inherently tasty but because consistency can lead to comfort.

Many people and organizations have adopted the mantra “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I’m not opposed to the sentiment especially considering the year that 2020 turned out to be. However this saying skips past the most important ingredient. Discomfort is not the goal, that can be self-flagellation or punishment if don’t haphazardly. The key is to be consistent. Consistently putting yourself into uncomfortable situations will bleed them of their power. For the past two years, I’ve been doing cold showers. They were difficult in the beginning but eventually the consistency of doing it everyday made them “comfortable.” By no means have the sensations of cold turned into warmth. Quite the contrary, the cold is still there in force but I am ABLE to find COMFORT in it.

The same is true of almost any stimuli that you encounter consistently. With today being January 1st, 2021, I thought it the appropriate time to draw attention to this fact. As people usually hope for change at this time of year, the ones who are successful will be consistent long enough that they feel comfortable with this new thing. There’s no magical potion that you can guzzle down to get the things that you want. It’s a drop every day until you can handle more. I inhaled too much smoke that first day and I’m glad I did. Decide what it is that you want and sip or inch your way forward.

This is the way!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Don’t Assume You’re Weak…

As children we have a sense of misplaced optimism, we believe that we can do anything. Unfortunately as we grow, that overblown optimism is not tempered into realism. Usually it is downgraded into a form of protective pessimism. Either we overtly believe that we “can’t” do things or avoid trying the new and difficult due to judgement. The court of public opinion has a reputation for being harsh against people who are less than perfect.

This pessimistic viewpoint leads to adolescents and teenagers who believe that they can’t. Whether it is a lack of skill, nerve, smarts, money or anything else; falling short is not something to be endured. My message is very straightforward and clear.

Don’t assume that you’re weak just because you haven’t found your strength yet. The safe path of anonymity holds no prizes at its end. Every single one of us had dreams of being an astronaut, cowboy, movie star or a million other things. Some dreams deserve to die, no doubt. It shouldn’t be the ones that we wanted but were too afraid to breath life into them.

Don’t assume you’re weak, just because you haven’t found your strength yet!

Most likely it’s not too late! Pound on the chest of that dream! Blow air into its lungs! Get out the AED paddles and clear everyone away! Every moment that you delay, the less chance that you’ll have to revive it. Unfortunately you can’t expect a miraculous recovery, it will take time and persistence. You might be breathing life into this thing for years. Or you can let it die a quiet death because you labeled yourself too weak to save it.

You can do it or you can’t! More than anything that’s up to you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and The Arrow

Short and sweet for Christmas Eve! Here we go!

Are you the bow? The one who stays in the same spot and gets put under regular tension. You do basically all of the work but are a tool being used by someone else.

Are you the arrow? The one with direction who gets to go places and reach targets or miss them. Regardless you are getting out there. Staying inert is not your thing, in fact it makes you quiver (hahahaha).

It’s not so much that one is better than the other. Both are necessary parts of the equation. However the perspective on how you interact with your world is important. We’d all like to believe that we are flying free toward our targets. That freedom is found in perspective. Kings have been slaves and slaves have been kings. The crown itself is powerless. It is useless on the head of one whose spirit is crushed under its weight. The chains and walls also cannot hold the person who is free where it counts. So go fly before someone puts you under major tension to propel them toward their bullseye!

Barbecue sauce!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

A Bundle of Twigs

Winter has mostly descended on Virginia. So our fireplace has gotten a fair amount of use recently. Although the TV will try to sell us all on the idea that a single log can burn for hours on end with the perfect flame, it’s just not true. This type of false fire advertising leads to people buying fake logs from the store because the shame of not being able to build the perfect fire is too much too bear. Obviously I’m being ridiculous now but there is a disconnect between an effective fire and starting a fire. Big logs are not the start of a quality fire. They come later. The beginnings of any great (non cheating) fire is a bunch of twigs. Once they catch, it is relatively easy to add slightly larger pieces until the log is ablaze. The fact that we rarely have to build a fire anymore creates a disconnect with natural order of the world.

Twigs, sticks and logs were all harmed in the taking of this photo!

In our own lives with American Idol and get rich quick schemes, it is easy to forget that most things that we want to build only require twigs at first. The idea of making a million dollars should be preceded by making a dollar then another. Twigs are everywhere and we overlook them in our lives because we want the blazing fire now. Each of us needs to realize that the big logs or dreams are never going to self-combust. They each need those little twigs or actions to get things started. There is a certain amount of pride that needs to be taken in finding the twigs and small branches to add to the fire. Being smart about not adding the big log too early because the pressure will only snuff out the small flame.

Although it’s possible for a person to become obsessed with their small fire based on twigs, I’ve found that more people are sitting in the dark with their big log and magnifying glass hoping. These pieces could all work at some point but their combination just doesn’t. Knowing where you are in the process and what you need to get the next stage of the fire going is crucial. Your blaze is coming if you build it up right!

Find those twigs!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Lies You Tell… Yourself

It’s something that we all do at one time or another. Whether it is about that New Year’s resolution that you’re going to keep this year or something much deeper, our lives are lived from a particular point of view. Therefore when compared to the objective 100% truth, there are many times where we’re lying to ourselves.

When I looked up synonyms for the word lie, there is fib, fabrication, deception, falsification, invention, fiction, exaggeration, misinformation and the list goes on. This list gives many different levels of untruth to employ. So many shades of grey where the truth and the lie could easily be mistaken for one another. I’ll leave that middle ground up to you.

The lie that I want you to tell yourself is about that thing that is in the center of your being. That goal, desire or objective that you’re afraid to say out-loud because just the mention of it put tingles up your spine. The most naked truth about who it is that you want to be and I want you to tell yourself that it is going to happen. Not in some magical or mystical Disney movie type of way. Tell yourself that it is going to happen and that you need to make it happen through possibly years of slog and failure. But in the end you will get what it is that you’re looking for. Take a moment and with no regret, falsify, fabricate, deceive yourself into believing that it has to happen.

Then decide. Decide if the life that you live right now is any more satisfying than the lie. If it isn’t then it’s time to get to work. Every single person, who has done something great, had to make this type of decision. Greatness does not spring out of sensibility. It comes from being unreasonable. No matter if the entire world is telling you that you can’t do it, stand up tall with a straight face and say “I can!” Just recognize the fact that until you do, you’re a liar. And that’s ok!

Your pants are on fire!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

All You Can’t See

In non-Covid times, my brother and I would go on an annual Appalachian Trail hike. The beautiful views, camaraderie and reconnection with nature were all good reasons to embark on the hike. One very good reason not to go is the first mile of the hike. It is almost all directly uphill that slopes at 25-45% degrees. It is the hardest part of the hike and it is right at the beginning. Once you get to the top, the world opens up in front of you and you can see for miles into Pennsylvania and New York State. It is truly magnificent! The remainder of the 20+ mile hike is far from easy but it is lined with intermittent views that consistently leave you in awe. The bulk of the price that is paid for those views upfront.

This is a concept that is peppered throughout our lives. Many of the rewards that we are looking for are hidden at the tops of steep climbs. From the bottom, it is impossible to see what the effort will produce for you. However it is plain to see the struggle, difficulty and labor in front of you. So most people don’t start climbing. Having been up that mountain several times, I know the payoff that is coming. In many of the situations that we encounter in life, the payoff is less than guaranteed. The secondary problem is that those endeavors also usually require something that you’ve never done before. This is again will stop many people before they start.

The things that can’t be seen before the start are all of the reasons to begin. The possible rewards are surely something. More importantly is the person that you become at the end of that path. While it’s easy to view ourselves as static individuals, we aren’t. You are a totally different person than you were five, ten, fifteen years ago. Keeping that in mind is crucial. Who will you be five years from now based on deciding to “ascend” or not? There is no doubt that either way, you will still be you. However the paths that you choose will impact what version of yourself shows up. Don’t just look up the mountain and see the climb. See yourself on top and envision how much more of your best self will be available from there.

See you at the top!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Paper Wall

My daughter is one of the coolest people that I know for a variety of reasons. A particular instance that exemplifies this was when we moved into our last house. She was very particular about the decoration of her room. Above her bed, she wanted the wall to be brick and the skull of an animal (fake of course) painted gold hanging as decoration. Since the house did not have exposed brick in her room and we were not about to have it put in, she was happy to compromise with brick wall paper. It served her purpose quite well because it looked real enough for her and it could be easily changed.

In addition to her ever-changing sense of style, my daughter’s ability to move past obstacles is one of my favorite characteristics of hers. She generally doesn’t see them as obstacles at all. When she wants to learn how to draw better, she simply finds a way through a video, class or some other method. Upon deciding to play hockey, she was not bothered by the extreme learning curve between her and more experienced players. When she needs to buy something, she’ll make an impromptu business selling hot chocolate. It’s one of the ways that I would like to emulate her.

Most people in this world tend to see a series of brick walls between themselves and what they want. Their boss, finances, circumstances, parents, teachers, opponents, challenges, etc. are all standing in their way. While some of these walls may be solid, most of them are paper. They are as substantial as the stuff that we put up on my daughter’s wall. The problem is that we tend to imagine that they’re not. They look like brick! Or better yet, we’re afraid that they are brick, so we don’t even test them. We don’t even inspect them to see if they are anything more than paper. These walls give us the perfect excuse to do nothing. It’s just too risky to try to run through them. If we fail, we’ll feel foolish. Or worse! We might succeed and figure out that we’re more capable than we thought. Then we would have to push ourselves beyond our present expectations and that might be too hard!

This is not a finger wagging session that I’m having with strangers on the internet. As I usually do, I’m talking to myself more than anyone. There are walls in my path and I’m quite sure that they are paper or at best cardboard. They’re just in a different direction than I’m used to running. So I’m scared. Not that I’ll fail but that I’ll succeed. On the other side of these challenges, I may find another version of myself that was always available to me. Then I’ll need to reconcile why I didn’t do this sooner. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, I’ve got a wall to run through and you probably do too! So let’s get to it!

Love you Emily!

Pete

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Success Is The Distance…

For years I’ve been saying it to my teams, “Winning is not always success and losing is not always failure!” Now this sticks right in the craw of many people who want to put trophies on mantles and points on the board. The problem is that this one metric doesn’t tell the entire story. It’s just the most obvious thing that people measure. It’s also the reason that I REALLY REALLY dislike Manchester City in the English Premier League. We need to dig a little deeper to uncover the metrics by which true success can be measured.

My statement about success and failure is usually followed up by a thought exercise. I’ll ask my high school players, “If we played Arsenal and lost 1-0, were we successful?” The answer is always a resounding “YES!” Then I ask, “If we were to play against a U8 team and won 1-0, were we successful?” The answer is always a resounding “NO!” “Could we even characterize that as a ‘failure’?” Again the answer is always unanimous, “YES!” So if a loss can be success and a victory can be failure, how do we truly measure these contradictory outcomes that are so integral to how we feel about ourselves? It is simple but not easy.

Success is the distance between someone’s resources and their results. Many of the components may be subjective but we have the exemplars written in the fabric of our culture. It is no wonder that Rocky continues to be a classic after all of these years. That movie personifies this idea about success. Rocky has almost none of the resources but uses what he has to get unexpected results. Conversely Apollo has all of the resources and barely gets the minimum expected. These may be fictitious characters but these stories play out in the real world everyday. Possibly even in your own life.

Now that you have a definition for success. Take it, use it, run with it. Measure yourself against it. Are you really succeeding or are you beating up on the U8 team because it’s easy? With the resources that you have at your disposal, are you living above or below that line? Recognition is the first step to moving in a new direction. Then put on the gloves and start swinging.

Fight the good fight people!

Pete

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No One Is Waiting For You To Be Great

This thought hit me the other night as I was watching “A Few Good Men”. Tom Cruise’s character is a lawyer who everyone expects to take the easy route. He has a reputation for plea bargains and that’s what they expect him to do this time around. No one is waiting for him to do anything great.

Our lives are made up of moments and they stack upon one another. We get used to our particular level of performance. Whether your best is better or worse than someone else’s is largely irrelevant. People expect that you are going to show up like you. When you fall short of your normal level, the people who care about you might worry. Your enemies may chuckle but most people are too self-interested to even notice.

The thing that no one is waiting for is for you to be great. It will make your friends uncomfortable because if you do something great, then they feel inadequate. Your enemies want you to fail, not succeed and the general bystander needs more mediocrity or ineptitude from others to make them feel better about themselves. So under no circumstances is anyone waiting for you to do something great.

HighJump.jpg

So it all boils down to you and what you want for yourself. The moments of your life belong to you. There will be peaks and valleys for each of us. The question becomes what level do you want to be your average? Who do you expect to show up every day when you look in the mirror? If no one else is waiting for you to be great, will you demand that of yourself? Or will you live up to the expectations that people have for you at the moment? These are questions that only you can answer. Regardless of whether you do so consciously or not, your actions will tell the story. So what are you waiting for? Make today happen and if at all possible, make it great!

Pete

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A Month on the Hook

IMG_4495For the month of May, I decided to commit to publishing a blog post every day.  The stipulation was that if I did not publish a post, I would not eat until I did.  Today is the last day of my successful endeavor.  I was able to hold true to my word for the entire month.  There were definitely hours of hunger where procrastination seemed like the only thing that was on my plate.  But each day the publish button got pressed before the food went in.  Below are some reflections on the experiment and things to consider moving forward.

Stakes matter! – There were definitely times during the month that I would not have published a post under normal circumstances.  In the past, I’ve averaged about five posts per month.  I would only post when I felt “inspired”.  Even though I forced myself to go back to the keyboard every day, there was always something there to put out because there had to be.

Rules need to fit the actual outcome you want – For this experiment, I wanted to get my production up for sure.  The rules definitely did that but…  If I were to set up rules for posting a certain level of quality more often, I’d amend the rules in order to focus more on quality rather than quantity.  Such as I would require myself to write a blog post every day before eating but the publishing would be done more sparsely.  That way there is more of an editing process.

What’s your word worth? – Holding one’s self accountable is difficult.  Some people have trouble keeping their word when it is only them who knows.  They need an accountability partner or some other form of public pressure.  The key is to know who you are rather than assuming that what works for others will work for you.  I make deals like this with myself often, the other running one is about my consumption of iced tea.  If you need that extra push of being accountable to others, don’t worry about it.   The tools that work in the real world are the ones that matter, not the ones that work in our imagination.

Going the distance – As with any other endeavor, it’s best to sign up for a game that you have a marginal chance of winning.  As a first time experiment, a year would have been an overwhelming amount of time.  I’m not even sure that I would have made it a month if the length was a year.  It would have been too much too soon.  Now that I know that I can make a month, if it fit in with my life goals, setting a six month challenge for myself would be reasonable.  There’s no reason to set impossible goals for yourself just to impress people.  Your results are more important than your intentions.

Results – By writing every day, I was able to beat my average reads for the past year by 400% and the last day of May is not quite over yet.  Now I recognize that I raised my posting by 600% but I can definitely say that there was a positive impact.  My international numbers went up in certain areas.  I also had more “LIKE” and subscribes in the past month than any prior.  Also the number of old posts that were viewed by new readers was impressive.  So overall, I am chalking this experience up as a success.  I’m going to take portions of it and continue using them to improve my blog output.  However next month, I think I’m going to move my focus to my exercise routine and see what improvement I can make there.

Thanks for following!

Pete

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