This is your one and only opportunity at TODAY! Yes tomorrow is right around the corner but there is no guarantee that the same situations, circumstances or people will be available. Whether you are truly in a once in a lifetime situation or simply building the inertia that will be necessary to get you over the mountain that your climbing; TODAY CANNOT BE DISCOUNTED! So give it the attention and forethought that an opportunity like this deserves. If you treat today like every other day, then that is exactly what it will be. However if you treat it like the unique opportunity that it is, you’re more likely squeeze all of the juice out of it. So ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want long term?
What do I want short term?
What can I do today that will bring me closer to both?
Once you’ve identified those three things, then take action! You can’t do everything today but you can do something. Your life is a series of one day sales. Can you become the best possible shopper or leave the store empty handed because you didn’t notice the signs? The choice is up to you!
I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!
In the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered. The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.” While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite. Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison. Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia. Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism. The key to balance is a counterweight. Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.
Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this. So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view. Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife. This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player. At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him. At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.
Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”. That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever. Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own. We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends. No matter how big you get, McBride it! When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there. It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with. Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it. You’re going to need them on the climb!
I just wept in front of a room of teenagers. It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it. Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen. It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story. That’s because I’ve let it happen. The memory does not have to be painful. It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.
It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions. They are things that happen to us rather than our creation. Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party. As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse. Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant. So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly. But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.
The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen. So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times. Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol. It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies. Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other. The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.
Physiology is the way that you use your body. It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial. Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.
Focus is the things that you pay attention to. At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses. We can only pay attention to a finite number. So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.
Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head. For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel. Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.
These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside. It is by no means an easy fix. Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.
I’ve not watch a NFL game for about four years. I used to love it but now I can’t stomach to sit through a play or two. The exorbitant contracts don’t bother me. Although the blind eye to domestic (or just regular) violence off the field do bother me, that’s not it either. It’s the fact that the people inside the sport no longer want to play the game. They want to play the system. Rather than going for the ball, they go for the call. Games are more about referees than players. The game has become a sad shell of what it was. I’ve got the same complaint about my preferred sport of soccer but it has not reach the point of boycott YET! There are millions of dollars (or whatever currency) on the line, I get it. The problem is that the we’re all being robbed, not just the fans.
The reason why sports are such an ingrained part of our world is that they are a metaphor for what it is like to be alive. Whether it’s football, soccer, badminton or any other athletic endeavor; it is a meeting of body, mind and spirit that is a test on what we are capable of. When you look at sport in this light, it is easy to see that every time that someone tries to dupe the referee and succeeds, we lose. The fans, the players, the coaches and sport itself loses because we are no longer testing what we are capable of, we are finding out what we can get away with. I’m not picking on professional athletes because unfortunately it has become a cultural norm. The reason why I point them out specifically is that they are in the spotlight and have the ability to move the culture. They train for most of their lives to become the best of the best on their field but then become snake oil salesmen when it truly counts. And none of us will ever know!
We’ll never know what they could have done. Had they just played through the foul, the contact or the almost contact of their opponent. It puts the result of the day on the line for sure and I know that everyone loves a winner but at what cost? If gaming the system is the most common way to win, then we need to consider very heavily what it is that we’ve lost. More than likely it is the willingness to put it all on our own shoulders. Until we do that, we’ll never know what we were capable of and that is the point.
So I beg of you, as you go out into your own life today, don’t take the dive. Don’t look for the loophole or the shortcut. Even though you’re not a professional athlete, we all have the opportunity to find the greatness within ourselves. The key to that is that you must demand a higher standard of conduct. Because if you don’t give it your all, you’re just never going to know!
The spring season brings rejuvenation and tryouts. Soccer tryouts, hockey tryouts and I’m sure many others. The constant evaluation of players is now a cultural norm. While it may seem like a necessary evil, it is our job as the adults or forward thinkers to ensure that it doesn’t become pure evil in the mind of a young player. The constant question can go swirling through their head “Am I good?” While it may be a common question, it is probably the wrong question.
Comparison is all around us. There are grades, likes, follows, rankings and so many other ways to compare people and anything else. Some of them are objective and others completely subjective. They are easy to focus upon because they feel real. A sense of power and prestige can be derived from comparison but the opposite is also true. It is often easier to feel powerless and insignificant because we are usually comparing our worst with our projection of other people. Neither of these pictures is completely accurate but the feeling of inequity can be overwhelming. So we often look for validation from others, such as coaches, teachers, parents or others with the question, “Am I good?” The answer is never going to satisfy in the long term. It becomes a button that needs to be hit every so often to keep things in balance. Multiple choice is not your friend in most instances.
Although most people avoided them in school, it is two open ended questions that allow for a more compelling look at one’s self. “How am I better than I used to be?” “How can I progress forward?” Both questions are asked with a leaning toward positive self discovery. Our brains are an amazing piece of machinery that will answer almost any question that we ask of it, even if it needs to make the answer up. Consistently asking “Am I good?” will inevitably lead to plenty of instances where the answer will be “No” because metric and competition change frequently. However by asking the open ended questions, the question sends a subtle signal that in some small way you are better than you were. Also there are ways to progress forward if you’re willing to look for them.
These are obviously not the only questions that can be asked. They are simply two examples that can break the comparison chain. Done consistently, proactive questions like these can be life altering because we are evaluating ourselves and our lives continuously. Wouldn’t it be better to stack the deck in your favor?
There is so much fear at the moment about failure, rejection, looking foolish or being called out. These are not new fears by any stretch but they seem to have become more pervasive as each of us lives a half-public life. At times, I feel slightly sorry for the people who have grown up in a world with the internet and social media. Largely because they’ve never known anything different. Since I am not a digital native (first time on the internet was in college), I remember a time where I could fall flat on my face and only the people there to see it could really laugh. So taking chances on things that might not work felt “safer”. Although it may not always seem that way, it is a choice to feel safe or afraid.
In my early twenties, my best friend, Schaef, was about to get married in two months. At the time, I was living in NJ but was spending a lot of weekends in Baltimore. One particular night, I was hanging out in the Fell’s Point area with my friend, Damion. A problem was lurking for me because I did not have a date to my friend’s wedding. So I decided in that moment to ask the most attractive girl in the place to be my date. I don’t remember exactly what Damo said but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “that’s not going to work.” And common sense would tell anyone that he was probably right. Random guy, asks random girl to a wedding two months in advance when he lives in a different state. Slim to no chance!
This is not exactly what I said but it is pretty close. “Hi! I was wondering if you could help me. I’ve got an issue with my best friend. You see, he’s getting married in two months and he made his brother his best man. I’m a little upset with him because we’ve been extremely close for years now and I should really be his best man. So in order to get back at him, I’m going to bring a date to his wedding that is so beautiful that no one will look at the bride and that woman is you!” I did not get a yes right away but what I did get was a date for the next weekend and an eventual yes to the wedding.
Most of the time the problem isn’t that other people tell us “no”. It’s that we tell ourselves “no” before we even make the attempt. The world gets very few chances to reject us because we cower in the shadows afraid to gamble our self-image. And therein lies the problem of the day. We are protecting the image that we have of ourselves and it seems magnified by the device that sits in our pocket. The fact that we can beam out our most perfectly angled selfie for all the world to see, also makes us afraid that anything less than that level of perfection will be chastised. The world is not waiting for you to fall. It’s actually not waiting for anything from you at all. But maybe… just maybe… if you’re willing to risk those slim odds that you’ll end up finding out what you’re truly capable of. Then next time it will be easier for you to say “YES!” to yourself because until you do, no one else will get the chance!
This month I will post at least once per day. Seven days per week for all of May! It’s something that I’ve balked on before. I’ve had streaks that have lasted weeks but not an entire month. I can get ahead of the game by writing a bunch in one day and releasing them individually as I see fit. BUT if a post is not out, then I don’t eat until one is released. Now right there I’ve done some of the things that I know but do not always apply.
I made a definite goal.
I defined my terms.
I’ve broken it into manageable pieces.
I set the stakes.
If you’ve got something that you have been putting off or know that you need to do, then MAYbe, May should be your month too. Thirty days to make something big happen is not too much to ask. The question is are you willing to commit to yourself? Or do you need to commit to someone else who won’t let you off the hook? Promises can be powerful things when used by people who mean them. If not, then they’re just words. So let’s keep each other honest. Are you up for thirty days of action?
There are plenty of nicknames for the police. The most common comes from the city of Chicago where the badges were made out of copper. So eventually the name “copper” became associated with the job. That of course got shortened to the word “Cop”. Whether it is the fuzz, popo, Five – O or any other version, the code is usually developed by someone who is doing something wrong and trying to hide the discussion of the over-watching force. So with all of that code in mind, it is probably time to Five – O – U.
In a combination of code for police and text speech, I’m suggesting that you police yourself. It’s easy to put the responsibility onto someone or something else. Police, parents, teachers, trainers, coaches and so many other overseers can be used to keep us away from our lesser self. However the only person that is there 24/7/365 is YOU! So the absolute best person to put on watch is you….”BUT THAT’S HARD!” I can hear it now. The cries from the people that are only half committed scream through the silence of inaction. Somehow we delude ourselves into believing that the time when we’re on our own counts less or not at all. Those calories don’t count, the skipped reps or workouts don’t count, the lies that I tell myself or others about what I’ve done or not done DON’T Count! This is at least partially true because in many cases our internal police have been asleep on the job for so long, they don’t even recognize the things that should count.
So the challenge has been put forth, Five – O – U! Police yourself! You’re the one who reaps all of the rewards and pays all of the prices. If there are people who care more about your results than you do, take a long hard look at what you’re doing because there is an imbalance somewhere. Remember that you can only control one person in this world and you should!
My first car was a 1977 Chevy Nova! I inherited it from my great aunt and it was the perfect first car. It had holes in the floor boards where you could actually see the road below you. It had an 8 Track tape player in it that never really worked. It was pale blue and covered with rust spots, as you can tell from the description, I loved it! There were plenty of reasons to love it that had nothing to do with how looked or how it ran. And now looking back on it, I understand even better that it was the perfect first car exactly because it was a piece of junk. At no point did I ever have to worry about messing it up. I learned how to change the oil, replace the bulbs and change tires on that car. At no point did I think, “If I mess this up, I’m screwed!”
Fast forward to the present day and I don’t even change my own oil anymore. Cars have become computers and more complicated, therefore the idea of doing my own maintenance while possible is much easier to outsource. There are so many things like that today. Complexity of many systems within our world have changed us from capable amateur mechanics to people in the waiting room in anticipation of someone else fixing our problem.
While this may be helpful or even necessary with many of our possessions, it seems to have become pervasive to the point of a cultural norm. Day care, personal trainers, landscapers, etc. are all examples of outsourcing things that used to be done by the amateur ‘owner’. While these services can be helpful and possibly ‘necessary’ in a modern context, there is one thing that we can never turn the complete management over to someone else: your mind.
The best therapist in the land can be employed for multiple hours each day and still, it is on the individual to get their hands dirty and do the work. No one can change you without your conscious or unconscious consent. Recognizing this fact, I am amazed at how many brain owners keep waiting for the world or their life to make them happy. That is like expecting your neighborhood to take care of your lawn without ever communicating with them about it. And even if you did make that request, I’m sure that you’d get some raised eyebrows or questions like “why is that my responsibility?” So in this area, we need to realize that that amateur mechanic ethos is absolutely necessary. Help is not only desirable in most cases, it is necessary but it is on each and every one of us to maintain, diagnose or even overhaul our mind at times. With the amount of anxiety, depression and other mental concerns that seem to affect most of the population, it is time for all of us to recognize that we are all broken in at least a small way but we are also the mechanic. Learning about yourself, your habits, fears, triggers and so many other components of your mindset is no longer an option. Developing the tools to navigate this complex world is not only your job, it’s integral to your survival. So remember, you’re broken (but so is everyone else) and you’re the mechanic.
Marvel and DC have been churning out movies for years now. For many reasons, the Marvel Universe is leading the charge in this genre. One of the main reasons is that they don’t just have the heroes face the obvious Super Villains. They also continually show their heroes struggle with the more difficult Super Villains that are hiding within themselves. Whether it is Tony Stark battling his own ego, need for control and alcoholism* or Captain America’s conflicting values of friendship with right and wrong; these are all battles that we as mere mortals can relate to. So what do you do when the enemy that you must face resides within you? Identify your foe. This is usually the most difficult step.
It’s easy to identify an alien invasion through a wormhole in the sky above New York. It’s a problem that needs immediate attention and the longer that you ignore it, the worse it gets. Often the same is true of our internal Super Villains but since they reside within us, we excuse them or think that they’re the reason we got this far in the first place. Regardless of the story that we tell ourselves, they are nevertheless an enemy. And you’ll need to do battle. Battling the villain inside is the more difficult and subtle battle. Drop a nuclear bomb on that villain and the hero dies too which is not what we’re looking for at all. So it requires deliberate thought and often daily work. Some of these villains can be tamed but others must be destroyed. So it is important to remember that you’re a starfish!
Of course I only mean this in the metaphorical sense. In reality, starfish can regrow parts of their anatomy that are cut off. In the practical sense for us, this is also true. You can “cut off” a band habit, poor thought pattern or addiction BUT something is going to grow back in its place. If you’re not deliberate about replacing it with something more constructive, the villain will come back and be stronger. So as you are doing battle with those things that you want to change about yourself, have a plan to replace them. None of this is easy but it is necessary to get you to the super hero status that you deserve. And that is usually first battle that people have to fight, BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE SPECIAL IN SOME WAY AND DESERVE BETTER. You won’t sprout wings tomorrow but maybe you can find another way to fly!