Blogpost, self-reliance

Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Talent

Children around the world are taught to believe in some things that just don’t exist. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are two western world creations that give excitement and anticipation to children around their respective holidays. Eventually these particular mythical creatures are revealed for what they are: cultural fantasy. I’m not sure that they do any pervasive psychological harm because the fantasy is replaced by a functional reality that young people can understand. The same cannot be said for the cultural ghost of “talent.” I’m sure that my argument is going to get someone’s knickers in a twist. So let me be as specific as I possibly can be. I am referring to the seemingly “god given” ability that comes without effort, training or intention. The ability that comes from nowhere.

Unlike Santa Claus and the Eastern Bunny, this myth is extremely dangerous and erodes the possibility of personal achievement in so many lives. It breaks the confidence of young people and older people alike. People are left feeling like a child on Christmas with nothing under the tree but they don’t seem to ever realize that they’re waiting for something to appear that really doesn’t exist. The way that people generally think of talent has set them up for disappointment. Sure there are people that are born with some slight advantages such as height, intelligence or kinesthetic awareness. However these advantages are the beginning of a path, not the end of the road. Someone who is dedicated can catch up to those with a head start. It happens all of the time. The stories of people like Michael Jordan are told often in order to dispel the myth of talent. However the truth isn’t what most people are looking for. They are actually looking for an excuse.

Talent is the perfect alibi for low achievement. The lack of it can be used to explain away the poor results that were unwanted. People want to receive positive results but often are unwilling to put forth the time and effort required to get them. It’s so much easier to point the finger at the people who are getting better results and brand them as having “talent.” Then their conscience is free because God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or some other deity did not bestow upon them the magical power necessary to become something special. It’s a lie and it needs to be called out.

Unfortunately we don’t put “talent” into shopping malls every year in a costume where everyone older than ten years old can see the farce. We perpetuate the lie because most of us want to be protected by it in some way. However we have to realize that it is not protecting us from anything more than all that we could be. So let go of the myth! Your lack of talent can be overcome with grit, determination and consistency. When you eventually become so good at something that people call you talented, you’ll know the truth. It will then be up to you to tell them or let them believe in fairy tales. Either way, you’ll be free!

Merry F#$@ing Christmas!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Waving at Passing Cars

The road near where I live has no sidewalks. It is also has several curves that drivers tend to take too fast. The combination of these factors make it a little treacherous for walking my dog. I need to be attentive, have my dog a short leash and consistently wave to the passing cars. The first two could pass as common sense. The third seems to be a waste of time or possibly even embarrassing. I’ve been told as much by people who will remain nameless. So what is the point in the wave? I don’t know a vast majority of the drivers and probably never will.

Casting things out into the void is not particularly good strategy. A football team that relies heavily on hail Mary passes will mostly find their prayers unanswered. Regardless of the mathematics of the situation, I persist. The simple reason is that I believe in ripples, paying things forward and micro influencing macro. In a world where everyone seemingly wants to be seen, it’s easy to forget to see others. This is why I wave.

Human beings have been tribal animals for centuries or even millennia. Our need for community is hardwired deep within us. There is also a desire for status within that tribe. Balancing this “need to be an individual” with the “need to be part of a community” is a key component to us making it through this time in history. Selfish acts are far too easy. We experience the world through our own perspective therefore our needs, our desires and our priorities tend to dominate our point of view. So going fast down a curvy road is a self-serving act that has no malice in it but it fails to consider others until forced to do so. Therein lies the problem. Our world is a spinning sphere with billions of independent people living upon it. If it is only when we are forced to “see” one another that we actually do, our interactions are reactive and less thoughtful. So I wave.

I wave in the hopes that the people passing by will see me seeing them. Perhaps that recognition will make them consider me the next time that they drive down the road. The mutual recognition may be just enough for each of us to make it through this life unscathed by the carelessness of others. Because we only have one spinning sphere and we need to care more, not care less!

I see you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Two for the Price of One: UROK

My uncle served in the military. Our last name is Huryk (pronounced Yer-Ick). Due to the unusual spelling of our name, there were always mispronunciations. At one point, the best mispronunciation ever emerged: UROK. It stuck within his group of military friends and as a young kid, my brothers and I used it as well. This was the best moniker that could have been created at the time. I idolized my uncle and it just sounded cool! For a while, the name got forgotten because my uncle was no longer in the military and we didn’t see him as much either. My intent is to resurrect the word but not for my own purposes. It has more possibility in the hands of others. With the widespread use of “text speech”, the cool version of my last name has a dual meaning.

If each letter is said individually, then it reads “You are okay.” This is a most important message in our present circumstances and HELL, we’ve got a lot of circumstances at the moment. Since I principally work with young people, that’s where my mind goes automatically. Unfortunately a lot of the underlying message of what kids perceive now is the opposite of this message. They are bombarded by images and videos of other people and comparing themselves incessantly. It’s a losing battle but one that they feel like they are trapped within. My hope would be that each and every person has someone in their life that is regularly telling them “You are okay.” Each person has inherent value that cannot be determined by the number of likes or follows that they get. Despite all of the turmoil in the world, if you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that “You are okay.” There may be a lot on your plate and it could be overwhelming at times but if you’re reading this blog, you’re not in immediate peril. The problems that you have can most likely be worked out.

The other version of the name brings it back to how we used to say it in my childhood: “You Rock!” In the era of hair metal bands, this was a compliment and I still mean it as one. This might take a little longer depending on how much or little that one person believes that “You are okay.” That has to come first. But once you believe that you are okay, it serves as a foundation. Eventually it is possible to construct self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance on top of that very basic belief. However most of us, regardless of whether we believe it or not have someone that would say, “You rock!” Because in some special area basically everyone does. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the best in the world at something. It merely means that you pour yourself into a part of your life that makes you unique. Unfortunately many people are so caught up in the noise of the world around them that they have trouble hearing their own song. Nothing could be sadder! Each of us is special in our own way but if we let the world turn up its volume too loud inside of our own heads, it makes it impossible to play our own tune.

So here is your homework. Yes, I said homework!

If you feel that you are more in the “You are okay” headspace, then take a few minutes each day for the next week and write down 3 good things in your life. By the end of the week, you should have over 21 (no repeats) things. Before writing the next 3, take time to read the others.

If you are more of a “You rock” person, then put your talent on display in the best way that you can think of. If you’re a great dad, then double down on all of the things that you do to be great at that job this week. Act like it is your concert at Wembley Stadium and everyone is watching at you rock at being a dad. Or perhaps you’re an artist, this week draw, paint, sculpt or sing like your hair is on fire. Don’t hold back and self-edit. Rock was never about being perfect. So make some noise within your space.

As is almost always true, I say things in my blog that I need to hear. So if you want to start a conversation about where you’re at, drop me a line. None of needs to be alone in this world but it can often feel like we are. Just remember, no matter what!

You are okay and you rock!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Happens for a Reason…. Kind of

While stacking chairs after an assembly today with a student, we got to talking about his college choices. He gave me the list of schools and his plans to visit soon in order to make a decision. After getting through his ranking of the schools, he expressed how anxious he was about the decision. When I asked why he was anxious, he said that he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. After which he said, “everything happens for a reason.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard many times over the years and possibly used once or twice. In this instance, I thought it was important that this young man understand something. Sure! Everything happens for a reason but the reason comes after the fact.

People are amazing creatures and one of our best superpowers is the ability to build a narrative around our lives. No matter which school this student chooses, he cannot go back and redo that choice. Even if he transfers to one of the other schools after his first year, it will not be the same experience that he would have had going there as a freshman. So as we (and he) move forward in life, we connect the dots of our lives after things have happened to us. We can only guess about how the dots will unfold in front of us. Even when we choose the most tried and true path, life tends to throw a few roadblocks in our way. AND THAT’S OK!

In 1998 I went to the World Cup with my best friend. We went to 5 matches, visited the Louvre, saw La Sagrada Familia, drank beer at the famous Hof Brau Haus and toured London for 3 days. When I talk about that trip, do I talk about seeing France beat Paraguay in a penalty shootout? Nope! I talk about my friend getting his passport stolen, having to file a police report in Barcelona in Spanish and traveling across the border into France with him not having a passport. These unexpected twists and turns give texture to life that we cannot put a value on before they happen. It is afterward that we get to make up the reason.

I chose to go to Salisbury State University for a lot of good reasons and a few bad reasons. One of the bad reasons was that my girlfriend at the time liked the school and could see herself going there. We broke up a few months later and luckily she didn’t go to SSU. Out of my stupidity though, I found my best friend and fell in love with that place for so many reasons that I could not have predicted.

Best of friends ready to travel together.
I didn’t go looking for a best friend but I found one anyway!

So whether you’re 18 and about to choose a college to attend or in your 50 deciding on switching careers, remember that everything happens for a reason…. but you’re going to make up the reason after the fact anyway. Do the best that you can with the information that you have because no matter what happens, you’re collecting dots that you’ll put together later!

Go get those dots!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

The Relegation Battle

During one of my first few seasons supporting Peterborough United, they faced a relegation battle. I was riveted! Even though I had no way to watch the matches, I followed the results intently. When I went on a skiing trip where I would have no internet access, I had my brother text me the score of the match that day. The saga ended with the POSH playing in League 2 for a few seasons but I could not help being engrossed with the situation.

At the moment, POSH are on a push toward promotion and I am equally (but differently) riveted. Success breeds an entirely different set of emotions than possible failure. Fear is an emotion that is hardwired within us, our fear response is almost literally set up to “short circuit” our brain’s higher functions in order to deal with a threat. Whether it is a real mortal threat or simply a perceived situation of importance, our brains don’t know the difference.

The Peterborough United squad and management celebrate winning promotion as captain Grant McCann lifts the Play-Off Final winners trophy

Most of the time, we don’t live in a relegation battle nor a promotion push. Our existence is usually a collection of “mid-table” events. Life tends to find some form of equilibrium where this year tends to look a lot like the last and the one before. It can be comforting or frustrating depending on your perspective. I am a firm proponent of being grateful for all that you have but aspiration is not a sin. Being grateful simply gives you a firm foundation to start from.

So if you have been living a mid table life, then perhaps it is time to put yourself into a relegation battle. Not by allowing yourself to hit rock bottom but by raising your standards. Move the line of your “bare minimum” up. Expect a little more from life but recognize that this will most likely require more output from you. A mid table life does not create the emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis. While a life of fear is not something that I would suggest, the emotional tools that you have at your fingertips should be used for your own progress. If you push that line of minimum standards high enough, then promotion is on the horizon. Next year you’ll be playing and a different league and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Go for it today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Unpickle the Cucumber

One of my favorite places to eat in the entire world is called “The Sub Shack” in Hackettstown, NJ. As a kid, we would go there from time to time and as an adult I make it a point to go whenever visiting home. They had a barrel of pickles soaking in brine that were sold for one dollar a piece. As a child, I didn’t realize initially that pickles were cucumbers (or other vegetables). Traditionally it was done to prevent spoilage. In modern times, it seems to principally be done for taste. Once pickled, it is almost impossible to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. By soaking the cucumber in brine, that liquid permeates the entirety of the cucumber. Even if it is soaked in water for a long period of time, it can’t go back. Luckily humans are not pickles but we may be “pickled” to a certain extent.

The Sub Shack located on Main St. in Hackettstonwn, NJ.

This discussion of brining and pickles was brought about as I was thinking about my own mindset and habits. Much of who I am today is due to being immersed in a particular set of circumstances. My upbringing, education, friends, experiences, etc. form the brine that my mind has been soaking in for these forty-five years. Some components have been thrust upon me while others have been deliberately chosen. All of the “flavors” that I am can be changed on some level by “re-brining.” My American flavor would be affected to some degree by living in England for a decade. However it is almost impossible to completely “unpickle the cucumber.”

Just because you can’t start over, doesn’t mean that you need to continue on your present path. It is completely possible to change the you that people see everyday. However it takes more than an inspirational Instagram post or a week’s worth of discipline. You need to become immersed in the change that you want to create. People, location, media, schedules, etc. can all help to “brine” you in one way or another. The key is to figure out exactly what you want to taste like (did I take the analogy too far? That felt like a bit too far.) REGARDLESS the person that you are is who you will stay unless you immerse yourself in something different. You’ve already been pickled. Now it’s up to you to decide if you like the recipe that was used!

Bon Appetite!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Is Process

Your life will have milestones! There is no doubt about that. However at only one point in your life will you reach any sense of complete finality, at your death.  In my estimation, that is not a goal to move toward as quickly as possible.  So therefore the thing that is left is PROCESS.  Even the games, matches and contests, that we compete in are steps along the path to becoming.  Becoming what?  That is up to you. 

If you put in the requisite effort, then you are becoming better, stronger, faster, smarter, leaner, calmer and the other er’s in your life don’t ever have to stop.  They are always capable of being improved based on your potential.  Reaching milestones is not a reason to stop, unless that is what you want.  If your appetite is satiated, then by all means, take a bow, revel in your success but don’t believe that it is all you have in you.  That is not something that you will ever reach.  For some people that is daunting. The endlessness of your own capability can intimidate because comfort can be drawn from familiarity. 

In my belief it is liberating to believe in endless potential because no matter what level you’re at there is room to move.  You are not boxed in by a ceiling.  Bowling at the professional level gives me no excitement because it only allows for a certain level of performance, beyond that you can’t do any better.  Perfection or bust is not anything I’m interested in.  The pursuit of something beyond what is now known is interesting. The you of right now is a rung of a ladder for tomorrow’s version to climb upon. Give yourself sturdy shoulders to stand on by believing in the process of every day!

One step at a time!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

Fanmnesia

In the 1980’s, one of my favorite shows was “The Dukes of Hazzard.” A show about two cousins and their jumping car. Despite the fact that the overall plot was mildly ridiculous, it was an enjoyable watch. One of the more memorable episodes dealt with Bo Duke having amnesia. The villain of the show, Boss Hogg, takes advantage of the situation and convinces Bo that he is Boss Hogg’s son. In the end, Bo’s cousins are able to save him from the trouble that Boss Hogg has conjured up for him. The crazy thing is that amnesia episodes were relatively common in the 80’s. I actually thought it would be a much bigger part of my life than it has been but it seems to be coming around again.

Although it is not full on amnesia, it is a close cousin (haha) “fanmnesia.” This is a complete loss of a fan’s memory regarding past performances of their team or individuals. It’s not exceedingly dangerous to the fan. However it seems to be contagious. Players also seem to be more likely to forget their own abilities. It may be transmitted through the internet and specifically social media. I’m obviously being ridiculous but so is the situation.

Athletes (even top level professionals) have poor performances, great performances and anything in between. A player who has been in a slump of form can rebound. Others who have been performing well can have an off game. They are all people who are variables within a larger equation. Teams win, lose or tie based on the combination of these individual variables into a collective. Each player has a floor and a ceiling. Their ability to access their personal ceiling consistently is often the difference between the players who “make it” and those who don’t. The key for the players is to remember and forget.

Players need to be able to gain confidence from success while learning from failure. One of John C. Maxwell’s books has the perfect title for this situation, “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.” Often that process is short-circuited by the ego. Maintaining objectivity is difficult for everyone. Fans can get away with having “fanmnesia” but players need to believe in themselves. They need to believe in their ability to reach the ceiling or even raise it. That belief can’t be a variable. It needs to be as constant as possible. As the manager and the fans forget their past successes, it’s their job to remember. Remember who they are and their value on the field. It’s a difficult equation but it’s made more difficult if a player get “fanmnesia.”

Another word for a fan is a supporter, more than anything that’s what those who aren’t playing need to be. It just makes more sense. These players are wearing our colors. We should want them to do well. We’re part of that equation that helps them to reach and break through their ceiling.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Applause Comes Last

A round of applause, a pat on the back, a few well placed “‘at a girls” or “‘at a boys” are what many of us are looking for from our performance. We want someone who is willing to acknowledge the effort that we just put into that thing. Whether it is a piece of art, a business proposal or a well played game, recognition is something that people crave. It’s not a selfish thing, it is a biological desire that manifests itself in a variety of ways. We are hierarchical animals who survival used to depend heavily on tribal dynamics. Doing something worthy of positive attention from the tribe created such strong bonds between our actions and the approval of others that many are driven principally by praise.

Praise is not the only motivator in the world. People are motivated by all kinds of stimuli. The issue is not really what motivators are behind the actions of a person. It is the need for the reward to come at the right time. In our distraction prone society, a premature prize could lead to a decrease in motivation. The applause of the crowd, the bonus check or better yet that feeling of self-satisfaction cannot be awarded too soon because the whole result is the important thing.

It seems silly but people do it all the time. They come up with a plan for that goal and give up. A week of clean eating and the diet is over. The championship season is over after three wins in a row. Signing up for the gym is enough of a step, why would you go? Goals and objectives are not particularly the aim. The trophy may feel good in the moment but that instant fades over time. The feeling that endures much longer is the way that we feel about ourselves when it’s over. Tasks that we leave half done for no reason weigh on our souls because we believe that we’re capable of more. Despite that belief, the proof is in the pudding or the half-made pudding.

No one else needs to hear the applause but you need to give it to yourself when you’re done. And only when you’re done. That doesn’t mean that you can’t hear the occasional clap along the way but save the applause for the end. The most important thing is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself. If you left something on the table that could have been, you’ll know it. Make yourself proud!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Goal Difference Matters

Points are definitely king of the table. There’s no denying that results are the thing that win championships and get promotions. However as the season progresses, it’s often possible to identify a “sleeper” team when their goal difference is greater than those around them in the table. Usually this is an indicator that the team has lost close games and blown out a few teams. It’s not as good as points in the pocket. BUT if a team doesn’t lose heart due to their present position, a promotion push could be around the corner.

Most of us are not particularly in the position that we want: socially, financially, mentally, emotionally, etc. Your present position is not predictive of the future. Although that’s easy to think because it feels accurate. You’ve been in this same spot for a while. The thing that you need to do is focus on your goal difference. When you lose, don’t let it be a blowout. If you win, make it a big win! What are you talking about?

The experiences of your life are not inherently positive or negative. We put that slant to the situation. So if each instance has no determined value, we get to add it. When you are evaluating the results that you are getting, don’t turn negative situations into catastrophes. Use language that will put it down as a smaller loss. We get disappointed, not devastated and this is an evaluation after the fact. Be professional as we lose. Shake hands and move on. Don’t say those negative things out-loud (Trevor Moawad).

When you do get a win, make it big! Even if it means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things, turn it into winning the FA Cup (for a small club, cause the top clubs barely care). We tend to undervalue our accomplishments because they are ours. If we can do, then anyone can do it. BULLSHIT! Some people couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag! Give some credit but don’t sit back and relax. It’s onto the next contest. A big win in isolation is nothing. Form matters! So take that momentum into the next thing and believe that a string of positive results is on the horizon. It’s the only way to climb up the table!

Most likely you’re the only one who is keeping score in your life. Tip the table in your favor. Stack up some little wins and then go for that title that you’ve been hoping for! It’s within your reach. All it takes is time and persistence. That combination is almost completely undefeated.

Go for your goals!

Pete