George Costanza would not accept it! Upon being dumped by a significant other, she tried to employ the most common of breakup cushioning. “It’s not you! It’s me!” This is an age old ploy to deflect a super direct hit to the ego of the person being dumped. Rather than telling the person the real reasons that they no longer want to be with you, the softener is used. While it may cushion the short term blow, it does nothing for the long term development of the person as a viable mate. Costanza, as usual, is an outlier in his stance on “It’s not you! It’s me!” He doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to know that it is his fault that the relationship is falling apart. While a little aggressive in his approach, maybe it’s time to learn from George.
The finger of blame is wielded around like an oscillating sprinkler head. It blankets the surrounding area effectively enough but the source never becomes a target. It creates a two-fold problem that compounds over time. People, who are unable to hear the truth of their shortcomings, never get beyond them. Despite being adept at avoiding the mirror’s reflection, they usually become better at noticing the faults of others. From a perch of perfection, the mere mortals that surround you seem almost foolish in their daily mistakes. So the cycle of delusion and dispersion continues. Until there is that extremely uncomfortable face to face meeting with the reality of imperfection.
The way to combat this is to cut it off at the beginning. Assume that it’s you! At least partially, if not wholly. You’re to blame. You didn’t do enough or did too much. Put it onto yourself first because at least then you’re in control of it. You can change something: an action, a habit, a relationship or even just your outlook. When you take total responsibility for yourself and the things you can control, you’ll find yourself on much more stable ground to influence the people around you to do the same. You’re not a victim! You’re a contributor! If all you have to contribute is blame and excuses, then you’re going to end up alone on your perch of perfection. Waiting for it to fall!
“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!
This story comes directly from a dream that I just had. I was brought in to help a javelin thrower with some issues that he was having. Despite his great potential that everyone could see, he was underachieving and plagued by injuries. As we started to talk about his issues, we walking near a lake. He was confused and upset by all of the issues that he was having. As he talked, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the lake. His words became more heated as he described his disappointment in his lack of progress. Another stone farther into the lake. Then his disappointment turned to anger as he focused in on how many opportunities he’d wasted. Stone lake farther. In a crescendo of shouts and rage, he picked up a rock larger than all of the stones that he’d hurled so far. With three steps forward and a shout of “why?”, he threw the rock as far as he could but it did not reach the water. He winced slightly in pain and stared at his failed effort. I woke up.
Everything was a javelin. He had taken his own existence and reduced it down to one thing. Nothing else mattered. Farther, stronger, better. These were the ways that he was judging himself. It was not that he was on a path of progress that would get him to: farther, stronger, better but rather that those were metrics.
Measuring yourself by metrics is not always a negative thing. There are all kinds of things that we can use to quantify aspects of our lives: grades, weight, time, distance and many others. The issue comes from using those measurements as a punishment device rather than a measuring stick. Dissatisfaction with where you are because it is not where you’ll be is a recipe for disaster. The process of living is just that, a process. Each step has inherent value as it leads you toward your destination or destiny. To devalue the step because it is not the destination is devaluing the destination. Because in the end you have sacrificed all of those steps for a moment. The joy of accomplishment is compounded when the process is enjoyed.
So go out there today and pursue something that you love. But pursue it with the joy of a child chasing a butterfly, not the angst of a man paying his taxes. Most of life is the process, so enjoy it!
Man has created several “boxes” to travel in. They have been created to make certain types of travel quicker and safer. The most literal box is the elevator. It makes travel between floors of a building faster. In the beginning there was danger of cables breaking or other malfunctions but elevators have become ever faster and safer over the years. We have several other boxes, which gain in speed and safety as we pass through time: the car, the train, the airplane and the list goes on. Traveling in boxes has become a way of life for most people. We depend upon them heavily.
As we progress further into the modern world, we seem to desire for all things to be safe and efficient. We sanitize everything to protect us from unseen germs. Our laws call for the use of helmets, belts and harnesses. Parents do their best to keep their kids from all kinds of harm by watching their every move. Some schools don’t give an F as a grade because it might hurt a child’s self esteem. It is almost as if people want a bubble to protect them from any kind of danger.
The problem with bubble living is that it takes away our humanity. All things worth having involve some form of risk. I’m not a thrill seeker by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not talking about life and death risk but rather the risk of failure, discomfort or embarrassment. It is only when we take those chances that we are truly alive. Trees were not created with elevators because you need to chance the fall in order make the climb. Only in the climbing do we find out what we are truly capable of. Look for the people who stretch beyond comfort and safety, you will find the people that you admire most. Look for the people who live inside “the bubble” of safety, decide if they are the model for what you want for your life. Most likely you’ll want to burst the bubble and get outside the box!
Imagine there was a Happiness Lottery. Once per week some lucky person would be awarded a lifetime supply of happiness. Of course there would need to be some payment for the ticket. Since the normal lottery requires a small amount of money in exchange for the chance at the big cash prize, it stands to reason that the Happiness Lottery would require a small happiness sacrifice to get into the big drawing. How many times would you play? How much of your daily happiness would you sacrifice on the long odds of Happiness Lottery? My hope is that you wouldn’t hang your hope for happiness on luck but rather come up with a systematic plan to create happiness and compound that which you already have.
The first step would be to take stock of what assets you already have. Be grateful for the people and situations that are already in your life that cause happiness. Write down the happiness assets that you have in your life. The more grateful you are for what you already have, the less likely that you are to squander it.
The second step would be to look for ways to create more. Accentuate the areas where you are creating great happiness and put more time into happiness areas that may be lagging.
Diversify your portfolio. Don’t expect all of your happiness to come from one area. If you lean to heavily on one happiness source, tough times in that area will leave you living very thin. Friends, family, hobbies, entertainment and a slew of other possibilities exist for you to have a balance to happiness.
Cut down on waste. Recognize where you are putting in great efforts but getting little returns. Perhaps an area that used to be your biggest happiness producer is now a leach but you don’t see it.
Watch out for thieves! There will be thieves looking to steal your happiness if you let them. With money we use banks, vaults and safes to protect our assets. With happiness we need to vigilant watchers of our world and who we allow access to it.
Happily ever after is a nice idea for the end of a fairy tale but it’s not a realistic plan. The lotteries, both monetary and happiness, are not a plan. They are a pipe dream. Happiness and finances both need to be cultivated through some strategic planning. Very rarely are either the result of the luck of the draw.
Most of the time soccer is a noun but today I’m going to use it as a verb. Of course when you are creating a new word, it’s important to define it. Here is my explanation of the term.
The action of “soccering” is not the act of playing soccer. We already know how to say and do that. And NO! It doesn’t mean acting like you’re injured when no one did anything to you. The action of soccering is the real life application of the virtues that are possessed within the game. In soccer, players must make real time decisions about what to do, based on the stimuli that they take in from both teammates and opponents in order to achieve the outcomes of simultaneously reaching a goal while defending their own. The soccer paradigm puts the impetus of decision onto eleven individuals acting as a collective rather than following the pre-scripted orders of an overseer. Although positioning and style of play may be directed, principles and judgment are the main directors of decisions.
America needs to soccer! It needs to take back the very impetus that this country was founded upon. Regular people doing things as a collective that move us all forward and protect us against failing. We need regular citizens who want to be self-determining within the existing system and help to influence that system. At the moment we seem to be overwhelmingly passive and extremely willing to look for someone else to be accountable rather than looking to be responsible ourselves.
We can soccer by trying to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can soccer by changing our perspective from a “they” to “we” mentality. We can soccer by doing the right thing even if we know that no one else will notice but us. We can soccer by deciding to take a chance on something that might not work, rather than doing it “the way we’ve always done it.” There are so many ways to soccer but the thing about soccering is that it has to start with you. You can’t tell someone else to soccer. You can only show them how by doing it first and being an example.
Below is a long description of the historical paradigms where this thought came from. If you are inspired to do something right now, then don’t read the bottom, act now, read later.
Why do I believe that America needs to soccer? The historical successes of the United States have in large part been attributed to a football paradigm. Land acquisition and forward progress are the hallmarks of the All-American sport. In the past, both politically and economically, we have pushed forward in the name of progress and it has served us well. Manifest Destiny is the perfect example. Presidents and other decision-makers laid out a playbook for the American people to score a touchdown on the Pacific coast. Americans led the charge across the continent through wars and promised economic success, the way football players might listen to a play called from the sidelines. The Space Race, the Arms Race, the Cold War and Industrial Revolution were all perfectly suited to the football paradigm. So why change?
The reason for change is that the football paradigm is fundamentally flawed in a few different areas. The idea of neverending progress is unrealistic. At some point stock prices level off, profits decline and progress slows and stops. In a paradigm that preaches forward motion as the truest indicator of success, it is not surprising that we have: insider trading, big CEO bonuses for bailed out companies and strategic layoffs to protect profits. Individuals, companies and the government have all pushed toward their given marker of success whether it be money, land, power or prestige. These success markers are not inherently evil or negative but their acquisition without thought to the human equation has created an imbalance in our perspective on success.
There are also the separations in the football paradigm. The coach is the one who calls the plays. The offense scores the points and the defense stops the other team. Although all are members of the same team, it is easy to point the finger at another individual or group when things go wrong. In the Industrial Revolution this system was completely acceptable. Henry Ford brought forth the assembly line. He took men who were making fifty cents per day and paid them five dollars per day because of his efficiency. People were more than willing to be a cog in that machine because it was a better life than what they expected. They were linemen but were happy to be that. Now with modern technology and globalization that deal doesn’t work anymore. That deal is being shipped overseas and no one wants to be a lineman anymore. Everyone thinks they’re a quarterback and expects to be paid like one.
America needs to soccer because you’re part of the problem and part of the solution. You’re on the field. The decisions that you make on a daily basis matter. The President, the senator, the governor, your boss, your wife, your children, your friends, your teachers are part of it all but so are you. So before you point the finger, point the thumb. What can you do today to SOCCER?
In this extremely fast paced world, it’s easy to get distracted from that which is important in favor of that which seems important. It is the reason why we make shopping lists and set reminders for ourselves. Getting caught up in the moment is not only normal, it seems to be a way of life. Despite all of the technological and societal distractions, it would seem as though we might have accidentally thrown out all of our babies in order to make room for more bathwater. Perhaps it is time to decide what is truly important and focus on it.
There are plenty of people who will get married this year. They will painstaking search for a great venue, a photographer, delicious food, the right guest-list and register for the perfect gifts. But before they did all of that hard work, they forgot to find someone worth spending their life with.
We have access to amazing communication devices in our pockets and at our fingertips. There is the capability to reach the other side of the world, translate to almost any language and do it instantaneously. But we rarely say things that mean much of anything. There is so much coming at us that it all becomes devalued. We tend to only listen in order to respond, not to understand or empathize.
Students and teachers are no longer bound by the bricks in the walls of their buildings. All facts are available at a moment’s notice and the greatest minds are within reach. Yet our young people are worried about grades that will soon not matter and facts that have little value. The word educate comes from the root educe which means to bring out or develop. The cramming information in might not be the best way to draw out our young people’s genius.
These are just three examples where we seem to be so caught up in the process that we have forgotten why the process was invented. When broken down to the core, the world is a relatively simple place. We are here to survive first. Once that is taken care of we look to progress and we do both more effectively together. So get back to the core of what you do and why it is done at all. If you are in school, then learn, regardless of the grades. If you’re in a relationship, then relate, give of yourself and be willing to be changed. The superficialities of life can only sustain us for so long. Our true progress depends on depth of experience and it needs to be found again. Right now are you focused on ANYTHING BUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER?
There are plenty of commercials from my childhood that stick out. Growing up at the beginning of the Super Bowl Commercial craze gave us plenty of memorable advertisements. “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s. Bird vs Jordan shooting contest. This is your brain on drugs. These all caught my attention because they were either clever or memorable for positive reasons.
One commercial that stood out for another reason was for GOYA beans. The catch phrase “GOYA, oh boya!” was so inane that it stuck. Inevitably when I am food shopping for my family, the big letters G O Y A stick out and remind me of the stupid tag line. So I have decided to associate something new to that can and the beans that sit inside. GOYA is now an acronym. It stands for “Get Off Your ASS!”
It is a call to action and action is all that matters after all. The commercials that are running in our minds should be moving us forward. I’m sure that if you’re anything like me, there are commercials running for sleep, junk-food, relaxation, sex and beer… sweet beer. The commercials for these things are not hard to run because they represent our surface level desires. At a much deeper level, we want to have health, wealth and good relationships. These things require a much greater effort than the shallow desires of the moment. So it is up to us to stick deliberately put in those commercials for beans, ACTION BEANS. Those less than sexy items that we need in order to get where we really want to go. You’re running the show and when you stop for a word from the sponsors, make sure they’re the ones taking you in the right direction!
Despite being a 41 year old man, I really like the Harry Potter movies and watch them regularly. My wife would say that it’s because of Emma Watson but that’s not quite the truth. The story itself is what draws me in. It’s a pretty classic story of good vs. evil with enough twists and turns to make it unique. I’m also very interested in young people and how they learn to find their way through the world. Obviously completely fictitious but in parallel to the real world, one major failing of Hogwarts is to maintain a consistent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. In that world, the imminent danger of Voldemort made that post important. In our much less magical world, the danger does not come from a completely evil dark lord but rather other young people trying to find their way in the world.
Just prior to sitting down to write, I was watching the Today Show and their guests were the parents of the twelve year old girl who killed herself in Rockaway, NJ. With an eleven year old son and many young people in my life, I truly feel for these parents as they’ve gone through the worst pain that a parent can bear. That story is not fiction and no matter the result of the lawsuit, it will not end completely happily.
I do not believe that social media is inherently bad or evil. It does create a loosely guarded gateway for evils to be perpetrated. While most of the focus is on stopping cyber-bulling and the perpetrators, I’d suggest that young (and older) people need to learn how to defend themselves against the dark arts of bullying. Let me say here, I am not condoning bullying in any way shape or form. Schools and organizations need to respond to these types of actions. Unfortunately the adults in a child’s life can only protect them so much. At a certain point, a child (or adult) is going to need to know how to protect themselves; not just from bullies but from friends, strangers, rejection, failure and loss. Knowing how to cope with and defeat these “dark arts” is crucial but rarely taught or even discussed. The two best Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers were Remus Lupin and Harry himself. Both were effective because they were practical in their approach. They did not deny that their students might face dark times like Dolores Umbridge. The beauty of the Order of the Phoenix is that students organize in order to protect themselves because they know that danger is out there.
In the real world, young people are increasingly living their lives in a virtual world where the perceived becomes as important or more important than the real. So they are fighting in a world of perception when they are still learning how to perceive themselves. If you know of someone who is struggling to manage the world, here are some starting points:
Keep your phone/iPad/etc. in another room while you sleep.
Do not log onto your device of choice for the first 30 minutes of your day.
During that 30 minutes, take about 15 to do the following:
Write down or think of people, things, experiences that you’re grateful for.
Write down or think of the positive things that you’d like to have happen today (things that depend more on you than other people)
Write down or think of the person you want to be in the future. Don’t get caught up in the space between where you are and where you want to be. Allow yourself to be in the future.
After you’ve made these first 3 a habit, add in some form of body movement. Enough to get your blood pumping above a resting rate.
The point behind all of these items is to focus your mind on the things that matter most to you before it gets distracted by the desires of others. Decide what it is that you want out of your life/day before anyone else gets to add their input. If you need a helping hand, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.