For some reason, I’ve always had an issue deciphering between what I would call “2nd tier candy.” I don’t usually eat that much candy and other than a former colleague who used to love telling me the jokes from her Laffy Taffy, never had them thrust upon me. So Now and Later candies could be bitter, sweet, sour or all of the above and I really wouldn’t know. However, I do recognize the bitter and sweet relationship between now and later in life.
As humans, we respond so much better to now. It’s extremely concrete, urgent and gives us immediate feedback. Whether it’s a piece of candy or an Amazon Prime purchase, we get that rush of the moment and often it whisks us away.
Later is a much tougher concept. Yes! We can rationalize long term benefits because our brains have developed to do so. However, it takes slightly more effort because we have to get past a lot of nows to get to later. That can be difficult, especially today because so many people and corporations want to hijack your now.
So it’s really up to you and what you want. The original title to this blogpost was going to be “there’s no six pack in your future without crunches in your present.” That might have been a more specific post meant just for me but you get the point. So many of the things that we want for ourselves require a long term view. It’s not easy. It’s not convenient and often we must forego a lot of sweet moments in favor of bitter ones. Swallowing down all of those difficult moments is necessary and we know it. Unfortunately, many of us tend to lose heart and focus because of all the now that we’re sacrificing. So make sure that this thing is something that you really want, then pony up all of the now that’s necessary.
Later is on its way and no one can stop it. The version of you that shows up is dependent upon how you spend the nows in between. How will you feel when later shows up? Proud that you held onto that vision of later and stayed the course? Or regretful for all of the nows that were squandered? As usual, it’s up to you!
One of my favorite thoughts to come back to regularly is David Foster Wallace’s talk “This Is Water!” If you’ve never heard it, the video on YouTube is worth the ten minutes! It basically outlines a need to be conscious of your default thoughts because they can become invisible like water. They surround and permeate our lives in ways that we tend to not even notice. We run on a form of autopilot through situations. Seeing the world much like we did yesterday and the day before that. Problems arise when the water or picture no longer serves. In an effort to not throw out the proverbial baby (or fish) with the bath water, the picture metaphor works much better in this case. We can have a picture for different portions of our lives that can independently be reworked.
As a kid, one of the most pervasive toys that all kids seemed to have was the Etch A Sketch. It was a drawing toy that you used knobs to draw on a “screen” and shaking it would give a new surface to draw on. Perhaps it is time to shake the Etch A Sketch on different picture models that you have for your life. Seeing yourself, a situation or your life differently can be complicated and difficult. Some of the pictures we have of who we are can be decades old. Yet, it may be necessary to shake those longstanding ones up. Our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of shape our thoughts and actions. The things that we will or will not consider are based largely upon these models. So take a look and decide if you need a shake up!
It’s far easier for me to say than for anyone to do! BELIEVE ME I KNOW! Some of the pictures that I have in my head seem like they are etched in stone, not a child’s toy. Even if they are, it is incumbent on me to fix it, redraw it and yes shake it up! (Not off, that’s Taylor Swift). So despite the discomfort and difficulty, take a look at your pictures of the world and decide if they work or not. Maybe you’ve actually had some of them since your Etch A Sketch days.
It’s official! The paperwork just came in from the state and my son’s name is officially Lionel Messi! I fully anticipate that his goal total will skyrocket in the coming seasons. If you’ve not screamed “You’re an idiot!” yet, you’ve at least thought it. I felt stupid just typing it! A name is not particularly an indicator of quality, it’s a way to differentiate one person from millions of other similar people. This truth is so easy to realize when talking about a person’s talent. Then why do so many people trap themselves into the soccer club name game? Like soccer, the answer is simple but at the same time complex. Perception helps us form our reality.
In college, I worked at a beer and wine store. On the beer side of the store, I got very few questions. Occasionally someone would ask about a new micro-brew but generally people knew what they were looking for. The Coors guy would rarely change things up and would walk in grab a case, pay and walk out. On the wine side of the store, there were much more questions and a posturing of perception. If a wine was highlighted in the “Wine Spectator” magazine, we were likely to sell out of it especially if it was priced under $30. Most of the people were looking for the popular wine, even if they had never tasted it and often it wasn’t even their favorite varietal. They had been sold on a perception not their own reality. Being seen as a person who knew about wine was much more important than getting what they wanted in a wine.
At the moment in the soccer world, we’re going through a similar perception economy. Names are just a part of the equation that includes trainers, sponsors, equipment, etc. The name is just the asset with no inherent value other than perception. It’s a longstanding joke with a coach friend of mine that we are going to start a club with all of the standard soccer club cliches of quality. My most recent version is “Select Elite Academy Soccer International Club Kickers” or S.E.A.S.I.C.K. for short. I’m sure that the players of SEASICK would be bursting with pride in the fact that they were playing for an “elite academy”, though they might be neither. Since they tried out, that would make it “select”. Although they might be confused by the “international” tag but I’m sure we’d find an English or Dutch trainer to squelch that thought. Finally I’m sure that they would have preferred to be an FC but let’s face it, you can’t fight the draw of a good acronym! Again I’m being ridiculous but not inaccurate.
The youth soccer world is based heavily on perception but with more real consequences than my wine example. This is not a mistake of serving chardonnay with steak (which is actually fine if that’s what you like). It’s a mistake of hanging children’s self-worth on a false status. It may not be prudent to invest a child’s one non-renewable resource (time) into a pursuit of athletic “excellence” rather than personal development. Does an “elite” soccer player translate this time and financial commitment into love from his/her parents? Do they have the tight bonds of friendship with their elite teammates that they have with kids from their school? Are the elite coaches also elite role models of how to be a good person? If these questions were all asked and well considered before the tryout, then stay the course. However my fear is that many people have blinders on with a very narrow view of the course that they are putting their children on. By age 25, most people’s playing careers are over but their lives are not yet close to half done. Will memories of warm-up jackets embroidered with half true adjectives be enough to sustain them through their adult life? Or are the actions, relationships and mentors of the individual the true creators of great memories?
Eventually the packaging fades away and the true substance of what’s been sold shines through. Go in with an idea of what you really want and see past the packaging. The world is filled with people who will sell you something for their own benefit rather than yours. Not everyone is elite but anyone can receive the gifts that the game has to offer without a price tag.
At the end of the first season of Ted Lasso, Rebecca reveals that she has been sabotaging Ted from the beginning. After that revelation, Ted says that he forgives her because “divorce is hard!” And it’s the truth. Rebecca’s reaction to her divorce was to destroy the one thing that her ex loved the most in the world. Ted’s reaction was to give space and let his ex go (with panic attacks spotted in there). The reactions to divorce can be very different but unless the people just did not care, then it’s hard. It’s such an odd thing because we all know the statistics, 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Yet people continually bet all that they are on the equivalent of a flip of the coin. If it is just cultural conditioning or the tax break, we should really reconsider.
As someone who recently got divorced, I completely agree with Ted. Divorce is hard! It has hurt me in ways that I never could have anticipated and made me doubt things that I believed in on a gravity level. The unraveling of the ball of twine that I am as a person has been most unsettling. Deciphering the difference between which twine is really me and which got placed there because of my marriage has made me wonder when I’ll just get to be me again because I refuse to throw something away simply due to association. If something has inherent value, I’d rather keep it. So reevaluation is a constant. The loss of some different relationships due to the breakup has also been difficult and unforeseen. And probably the most difficult thing to deal with recently has been the question of whether I even knew the person that I walked through life with for so long. All of these things and more have made divorce “hard”. Yet at this very moment, I sit here completely convinced that I will make another lifelong commitment to a woman in the future. What is that?
It’s not a need for division of labor. All of the chores, responsibilities and projects get done. They just get done at my pace and in my style. Nor is it a need for a new focal point in my life. There is more than enough to focus on without bringing that level of disruption. It’s not a security blanket to help me sleep at night, I’ve always slept pretty soundly regardless of location or company. I’m a decent cook and social life is not a problem. So why go back to that gamble?
Like so many things that are linked with the show Ted Lasso, it comes down to belief. I believe that the right relationship can be a force multiplier where 1+1 doesn’t equal 2. It is an equation that brings out the best version of each individual that leads to a product greater than the sum of the parts. Perhaps I’m a fool for believing in such things. I can accept that. Maybe a good dose of pessimism would save me some heartache or a possible broken heart. That may be true. But it feels more like a coward’s mindset toward living. Running away doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get hurt. It just guarantees that you’ll never know what was possible.
Divorce is hard! Unless you didn’t care, prepare to be broken. BUT that one experience is not the end of you. You could be the exact ingredients that someone else is looking for in order to “fill the gaps”. There’s not a perfect person out there but maybe there’s a person who is perfect for you. Believing in that seems like such a better idea than giving up because you don’t like the odds!
“Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.” -Rilke
Look at yourself, in a mirror or just what you can see. Now look again. No change right? Wrong. Just in that moment, thousands of cells died, new ones were formed and plenty of tiny electrical signals were sent. Things are changing all of the time. Whether or not we notice the change is often irrelevant because seeing change as it happens is usually impossible. Like the bamboo plants that are often referred to regarding patience, the progress is invisible. Our job is to see past the stasis.
Progress is not a matter of seeing in order to believe, believing in order to see. That may seem like (and may even be) nothing more than a semantic shift but that is how simple it is. Getting a few neurons going in a different direction makes the difference between giving up and stepping up! Quitting and gritting! Hoping and deciding! For most of the journey, the results are going to look the same. Like grass growing! Almost imperceptible. That’s not the point! The stasis is not the point. It is acting despite the stasis. Believing with an almost certainty that the elves are working their magic while the cobbler sleeps. The easiest thing in the world is getting disappointed by a lack of results. Our expectations are largely arbitrary. Even the things that we have hard scientific data on come with some variability. Human babies are born after nine months (give or take). Even their growth at the beginning is at the cellular level, largely imperceptible.
The stasis doesn’t matter! The willingness to persist in the face of it does. That can be a hard pill to swallow because in some instances, there is no bamboo plant growing. You’re just watering dirt. In most instances, that’s not the issue. It comes down to impatience. All of the rewards are there in the stasis but you can’t force them out into the open. They need to come in their own good time!
“With a little love and some tenderness. We’ll walk upon the water. We’ll rise above the mess….” If you were in your teens or older in the 1990s, there’s a strong possibility that you could finish the lyric. It’s not a surprise because Hootie and the Blowfish songs were all over the radio in the 1990s. I distinctly recall trying to get away from Hootie and his friends by changing the station, not once, not twice but three times. Falling back into their grips again and again. It may have been annoying but even the annoyance created something for the people of that generation, common experience. The pervasive experience of culture gave basically everyone a common frame of reference. Now that culture has switched largely from macro to micro, there is less overlap of experience. Not everyone is annoyed by the same redundant song being played on the radio. However, this creates silos of interest that give rise to separation.
At face value this is not a horrible thing because micro culture creates individuality. However, we are a social species and our silos are creating separation. In no way am I suggesting that Hootie and the Blowfish are the key to happiness. Far from it! The common is experience is truly what is needed. After a long period of siloing, a pandemic and years of divisive politics; it seems as though we’re not able to connect as easily. There is a standoffishness that comes with interaction. As if every person is a possible threat to the silo because different people are just that DIFFERENT! They have their own ideas and that’s a threat to silo living. I have my phone, my friends and my Facebook feed, why would I need anything else? (sorry tick tockers and Instagramers, the alliteration was too perfect!)
I know that the silos aren’t going anywhere and nostalgia cannot fix what ails us. A recognition might be helpful though. The self-discipline to realize that we need to get outside of our silo from time to time. Find a person who lives in a different silo and check out what’s going on there. You don’t need to stay or even particularly like it because that’s not what macro culture was about. It wasn’t for everyone, everyone was just aware of it. Therefore even contrarian opinions could lead to fruitful discussion because we were accustomed to being outside of the silo and interacting with other people. It doesn’t take a ton of time, just a little intent.
Maybe we’ll find enough in common to break down the walls and allow others to “love you the best that” they can! Damnit Hootie!
The exact year is difficult to remember but I have the moment in mind. I was riding in my friend, Brian, father’s pickup truck the first time that I heard “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. It’s odd what memories stick with you but for some reason this one did. Perhaps, it’s the format of the song because it tells a story with a memorable chorus. Regardless of the why, it stuck despite my not being a gambler at all. I tend to shy away from betting because I don’t believe that I understand card games well enough to bend the odds in my favor. However, I see the gambling metaphor in life all the time and Kenny was right! “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser!”
Despite my reluctance to gamble myself, it is obvious that poker (especially) is not a game of chance. It’s a skill game. The player matters more than the cards. With very few exceptions, the hand doesn’t get won when the cards are dealt. The player needs to assess what they are holding and decide how to intelligently play that hand against the opponents in front them. It’s so much more than the cards. An effective player can win with nothing and an ineffective player can lose with a great hand.
Each of us was dealt a winning hand from the beginning. We weren’t born a dung beetle! We were born a human being. There are major advantages that come with that initial deal. Regardless, that’s not enough! It takes a savvy player to continue to press that advantage as the hands continue throughout life. The base hand stays the same but the cards and other players keep on changing. No one wins every single time and in the game of life, things are so fluid that multiple people can win simultaneously. It’s a beautiful game that we are playing but it can be easy to get caught up in the cards that you are being dealt. I cannot say that the cards don’t matter at all but every hand is a winner.
So as you go out into your day, find a way to assemble the cards in front of you into a winning hand for you. We’re all playing an interconnected game but your scorecard is not the same as anyone else’s. You’re more than skilled enough to make today a winning hand or you’ll learn something that might help you win tomorrow. I don’t think that the best that we can hope for is to die in our sleep but that’s for another time.
It’s a ridiculous concept on both sides! Isn’t it? Just imagine the message to be sent or received. “Hi! I’m in constant burning agonizing pain and there’s no end in sight. Wish you were here!” Sending it is meaningless because the person at the other end isn’t going to alleviate your suffering. Receiving it does nothing other than possibly pull you into the pain slightly. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unfortunately, I know I’ve been guilty of doing something that has the same net effect. Replaying of painful memories.
Just like the postcards from hell, my past self gets no reprieve because I’m putting focus back on that memory. Whatever has happened is done and I cannot change it now. My present station in life is no comfort to the past version that endured the pain. On the flip side of that equation, the present version of myself only tends to get sucked back into the pain of the past. It’s not particularly conducive to progress or growth. It’s allowing this moment to be corrupted by something that I know to be poisonous. The problem is that our prehistoric minds are set up to remember pain in order to avoid it. So those memories are strong! Since the postcards are probably going to keep coming. Interpret them differently.
It’s easy to say and so much more difficult to do but don’t get sucked in by the postcards. Change the meaning of the memory entirely. Since you can’t fix the past, learn from it or redefine it. What COULD that past pain mean that would be helpful to you today? Looking back on your memories of hell is counterproductive. And emotionally transporting yourself back there is worse. Yet there is probably big difference between now and the hell. At the barest of minimums, take stock in the fact that you’re not there anymore! Notice the turns that you took to get there and see if you can avoid revisiting. Pain can be instructive if we don’t just focus on the hurt. It came from somewhere and chances are we can avoid it next time. The postcards from hell aren’t particularly going to stop but that doesn’t mean they have to stop you!
As I’ve traveled through this life, I’ve been waiting for a lot of things: movie tickets, a job opportunity, a phone call, etc. I must admit that sometimes Tom Petty was right. The waiting truly is the hardest part. From time to time, I remember to hustle while I wait by thinking or doing other things while I wait. Sometimes the waiting is all that can be seen. Putting our lives on standby is such a human thing to do. As John Lennon put it “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s easy to get fixated on the things that we want for the future because it’s where we’re heading.
The present on the other hand is fleeting. By the time that you notice that it’s here, it’s gone. Yet it’s all the time we get. Much of it gets squandered in the waiting for what is next or longing for what has passed. Now is often the hardest place to live because it takes focus, discipline and urgency. That’s right, the present is an urgent circumstance that needs your attention NOW. Yet it requires a delicate hand because forcing the present to be more than it is creates an imbalance in perspective. While every moment is urgent, not every moment is of equal importance. So it is incumbent upon us to use the now that we have in order to prepare for the now that we want. It’s an odd idea to be urgently patient but it is all that we can do.
I’m not sure that anyone will ever get this perfectly right and I might very well be the worst at it. However I’ll endeavor to get better. Be urgent in my pursuit of the moments that are here while preparing for the moments that I want in the future. Spending as many nows as I can moving forward, possibly millimeters at a time. It may not be much but it is progress, however slight.
It’s one of two songs that I would consider my “theme song”. Since it has been around longer, I tend to give it deference. It also is a great song to encounter on a playlist during a long run when you need a boost… but I digress. Although I’m sure there would be some who would disagree, I like to think it congruent with who I am as a person. Prone toward doing. While I view it as a positive, it’s not arrows to “right” action. Just action. Therefore mistakes are made, possibly more than my fair share. It’s a source of tension between me and…. myself! Despite the fact that I love my willingness to get my hands dirty, pitch in or step up, I end up with some egg on my face and that’s uncomfortable. No one wants to look the fool, especially when you have nothing but good intentions.
Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that more than anything, I’m talking to myself and just hope it helps someone else through my publishing it. Much less than any other recent blog do I have any definitive thoughts than I’m just talking out loud. I want to continue to to do, to act, to say, to relate the things that I think are right. Yet the world often disagrees with me or the results aren’t what I would have hoped. Since we are always dealing with an incomplete data set, action is always a gamble. Yet it is necessary. Being paralyzed by the consequences is the true embarrassment. I’m never seeking poor results, just not afraid of them. My theme song isn’t Arrow to the Failure. Being raised catholic, the part of repentance that said “the things that I have left undone” always bothered me more than things I had done. At least the things that I had done, I knew the result and could feel badly about it or not. The things left undone were a variable, a floating possibility of results. At least if the action is out there, you know.