I’ve been extremely fortunate through the years to have won some medals and trophies, either individually or as part of a collective. Most of them are in a box in my basement or in a display case that I don’t have direct access to. Medals and trophies are all pretty similar. They usually have a name of an individual or group, a year and the indication of some accomplishment. As I was thinking about the trophies that teams and individuals are going to reach for this season, I realized that trophies are the tombstones of our past accomplishments.
They do not actually say anything about who we are in this very moment. Instead they are a reminder of our former self. Usually that persona is embellished by a form of nostalgia or selective memory. This is actually not the worst thing in the world if it is employed correctly. The idea is not to intoxicate ourselves with the image of our past self. Deluding ourselves into believing that we are better than the flesh and blood that presently exists. It needs to be used as a stepping stone toward something else. If we worship our past achievements, they become ghosts. If we use them as an indicator of our capabilities, then they become fuel for a fire within and path to possibility.
So don’t let your past self die without leaving an inheritance. Make sure that your trophies are not tombstones but rather mile markers on a path that takes you to higher and higher heights. You are always the product! And there is no quicker way to the grave than to believe that all of your best days are behind you.
We live in a modern world but humans are prehistoric creatures. Obviously we have acquired skills and knowledge that our ancestors did not have. So I am not suggesting that we are on their level in that respect but I do want to point out that we are using the same hardware. The same brain structure that caused us to run from saber-toothed tigers is now tasked with managing a world that moves faster than we were intended to go. We’re overwhelmed and stressed because we created an environment that stresses and overwhelms our prehistoric brains. This is not a blog to suggest that we go back to living in caves. Rather it is intended to point out the fact that there are limits on our bandwidth, therefore we must manage ourselves so the prehistoric brain does not go into overload.
The odd irony to our situation is actually that in a modern world, very few things are trying to kill you. This is an important thing to realize. Our prehistoric brain’s major functions were centered around keeping the self and the species alive. So things like fear and sex were major priorities, while general happiness was farther down the list. The world that we live in requires very little self/species preservation. Despite this fact, the “wiring” for the old world is still intact. So a modern “threat” feels very much like a situation of life or death without any of the true peril. The signals will continue to be sent in this fashion, until we are willing to “re-wire” ourselves.
This process is not like the re-wiring of house. It doesn’t require a professional or a lot of money but it does require time. Humans generally don’t change without time and/or major incentives. A methodical approach to managing your mind can go a long way to creating a better life for you. Regular practice at calming your prehistoric brain will go a long way. Taking the time to recognize that your response to situations is not based on what will help but rather things that are pre-programmed will help you to re-program those responses. Remember that you don’t have to act like a caveman even if you have the same operating system as one.
Go make history by reprogramming your prehistoric systems!
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!
During my sophomore year of college, my two younger brothers were in high school together. One was a senior and the other was a freshman. At one point during the school year, there were “Drug sniffing” dogs brought in to do a search of the school. Students stayed in their classes while the school was swept. If your locker was tagged, you were supposed to report to the office in order to have your locker searched. My freshman brother’s locker had a tag on it. Completely panicked, he went and found his senior brother. One question from the senior brother, “Do you have any drugs in your locker?” The response was “no”. The senior brother went straight to the office and reported that his locker had been tagged. He brought the officials to the locker for it to be searched. The school officials questioned whether this was really his locker or not because it was in a freshman hallway. My brother was adamant! This is my locker! Upon being opened and searched, the locker did not contain any drugs. There was however a half eaten box of crackers at the bottom which the dog must have smelled. I wasn’t there and no one has discussed that incident for years but I still get choked up when thinking about it.
As I am going through preseason as a coach, I am always trying to instill in my players through my words and my actions, the exact sentiment that my younger brother displayed that day. I’LL GO FOR YOU! The idea that I’ll put myself in harm’s way for the good of others. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m still involved in sports after all of these years. It’s not the championships, trophies or victories. It’s those moments when you can truly see that people throughout the team have that simple idea tattooed on their brains “I’ll go for you!” I’ll give you everything that I’ve got and then some because I know that you’d do the same for me.
The ironic thing is that this has become so very rare in our society but the teams that I’ve seen do the best had this. People are usually worried about what’s in it for them and when will they get their due. In my experience, it seems to be that when you are willing to give everything and expect nothing, is exactly the time when you get more than your due. This can be a difficult concept for a large group of people to buy into but when they do, it can be magical.
The best example of this idea that I’ve ever heard of was when Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers had his father pass away. There was some doubt whether or not he’d play the next game. It’s not his decision to play that I find extraordinary but rather his teammates commitment to him. In this video clip about the game at 2:19 Donald Driver (Wide Receiver) describes exactly what I’ve been talking about. “Whatever he throws, we catch.” In a time of pain for their teammate, they were not going to let him fail. That’s what being a teammate and a family member is about.
Now don’t misread my words! Not everyone deserves everything you’ve got but if no one is willing to go first then we all lose. So be the one who is willing to give into the unknown. Tell the people who truly matter with both your words and your actions; “I’LL GO FOR YOU!” Most of the time you’ll find, they’ll go for you too!
“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!
The 90s had many memorable events and people. Kurt Cobain, the OJ Simpson trial, Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were all extremely noteworthy. Both for their own unique reasons and the media circus that followed them. It was not just that something happened but that it was perpetuated daily for probably longer than needed. One of the most ridiculous stories of the decade was the ice skating scandal involving rivals Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. For those too young to remember, the major event was an attack on Kerrigan’s knee orchestrated at least partially by Harding’s ex-husband. There was a movie released last year called “I, Tonya” that chronicles the entire episode.
Reality had to happen first in this case because even Hollywood could not have come up with a story as far fetched as this. It’s easy to look back at a time that was truly “last century” and chuckle. It’s no surprise that from such a chaotic decade sprang reality television. A weekly public reminder that even though your life might have problems, you can feel good about yourself in comparison to “those people”.
Seeing the problem is always so much easier when it belongs to someone else. Each of us has within ourselves the solutions to the problems of our friends and family members. However we all struggle with our own issues that seem so difficult. Time and distance both seem to have a clarifying effect on the problems of the world.
I’m sure that if the issue of youth soccer politics were someone else’s, each of us would have a plausible solution. Since it’s now and it’s close to us, the issues of last decade persist with even higher price tags. Children are pawns and commodities in a game that has nothing to do with soccer but rather egos and territoriality. This coming fall, an unknown number of player who want to play soccer will not have a team. Not due to a lack of resources. Not due an insurmountable distance to travel. The deciding factor will be a focus on “our club” rather than the kids. These players end up being acceptable casualties to a soccer culture that is focused on prizes that are apparent and available now.
In so many ways we are now reaping the rewards of our fast food culture. Rampant obesity, depression, anxiety and others are all symptoms of the NOW culture that we’ve begun to accept as normal. Even though many people recognize that the ultimate prizes come from long term commitment to small improvements made over years or decades, it is so much easier to sell the cash grab of today. Risking that small and almost insignificant prize of the short term seems to be almost unbearable.
So I implore you. Yep! I’m talking directly to you because as I said last week, if the USMNT doesn’t win a World Cup by/in 2026, It’s my fault! So I need some help. If you have anything to do with youth soccer in this country. Take the long term view. See how more kids playing is better for them and better for “US”. Understand that letting your best player move on to a more appropriate team may hurt your record slightly but it could also be the opportunity that makes that player’s life better, both on and off the field. Realize that your small pond is not actually a pond. It’s part of a more expansive body. Trying to keep it separate is an exercise in futility and may cause its destruction when the wrong current comes along. BE the first person to do the right thing. It’s often difficult because there is a culture of short sightedness. People are so used to being hurt that they are either on attack or defense, rarely in a mode to assess. And more than ever that’s what needs to happen.
I’m sure if this was someone else’s problem, we’d have it all figured out but it’s not. It’s ours and it’s close to our hearts. So we get blinded by the shiny thing that’s right in front of us but I swear the bigger jewels are down the road. The hardest part is foregoing the prize of now because it feels like everything.
They are everywhere at the moment. With the explosion of the Marvel movies, Silicon Valley startups and overnight superstars plucked from the internet; origin stories are all around us. All of them, to a certain extent, are made up. The comic book authors crafted those of the super heroes. The others that exist in the real world cannot tell the story of every little thing that happened. So they have to delete and adjust to a narrative that aligns with how they want to be seen by the outside world or by themselves. Since all origin stories are created in one fashion or another, it may be helpful for your daily life to fashion your own. Not pluck it out of thin air but rather weave some real events of your life in with a narrative that propels you forward.
My origin story goes something like this. When I was 12 years old, soccer was definitely my fall sport. However at that time, the term “travel soccer” had not really grabbed hold. In fact, this was the first year in which my town participated in what we referred to as “spring soccer”. My younger brother was going to play for the spring team at his age group and my father was going to help coach. Unfortunately I had either missed the tryouts for my age group or there just weren’t any. Regardless, the first day of practice came along for my brother’s team. They were sharing a field with the team for age group right above mine. I knew most of the players from school. Although the team was already formed, I decided that I was going to get onto that team. At that moment, I did the only thing that I could think of to get the attention of the coach. I RAN! Rather than sitting and watching my brother’s practice, I started running laps around the field where they were practicing. For the entire 90 minute practice, I kept running around the field. When my father and brother were finished, we packed up and went home. Some time around 9pm the phone rang. It was the coach of that older team, they wanted me to play for the team. That was the beginning of who I became. Someone willing to go the distance and use unique solutions to problems.
If you notice as you read that story, it all fits together relatively well. It’s been 30 years since those events and I could not tell you definitively if that story is 100% accurate. All of those events definitely happened. However I’m not sure if there was a player who broke their leg, so they needed someone else. Perhaps the call from the coach came a week later. In the end, those detail DO NOT MATTER. What truly matters is that the story fits my beliefs about who I am and who I want to be. The event was chosen but the story was “created” because I want to see myself in a particular way. I have millions of other events that have happened in my life. I could have easily chosen to create my origin story using a huge failure and rehearsed an excuse around why I could never be a success because of “that thing that happened”. People do it all the time. The question that is most important for me about origin stories is, does it serve you? Is your origin story going to make you or break you?
If it is not going to help, then change it! Your life story is not objective truth. It is a jumble of memories that have been given varying degrees of clarity and importance. So decide on a moment in your life that can act as a catapult for the days that are coming. It doesn’t need to be something from your childhood. It could be this moment right now! “I read this great blogpost about origin stories and I didn’t like mine. So right then and there I decided that I was going to take action. I….” One of the main things about life is how you feel about yourself when you are alone and have a moment to reflect. If you don’t feel good about yourself, then change your story. Even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself, why can’t you?
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!