self-reliance, Blogpost

How the Future is Won

Time passes without us. We are incidental passengers riding through time. The future is coming regardless of our disposition toward it. The future just showed up… and there it goes again! Despite the fact that the future arrives without our help, what future will show up for us is very much dependent on us. A future that looks worse than the present need minimal effort, probably even a little carelessness. If you want tomorrow to look like today, keep doing what you’ve been doing. A better future is a BATTLE!

[Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan] / by William Dinwiddie. LOC

When I use the word battle, I don’t mean literal war or something ugly and distasteful. I just mean that it will take more effort than we may want to give but it’s about survival. If you want the better future that is off in the beautiful horizon, it needs to be taken. The horizon doesn’t come to you, you must go to it! People hope that the future is going to be improved just through happenstance. That the planets will just align without any real effort or focus applied. Unfortunately that future that you desire is not a willing hostage. It is going to fight against capture then it will try to escape. Anything worth having is going to take this type of effort. Be prepared for it and enjoy it in the moment. Despite the horror that is war; intense bonds, lifelong friendships, feelings of accomplishment, etc. have all come from those times of intense fighting. In the metaphorical battle for your best future, even better outcomes are available.

So now it is your turn to “fight”! Perhaps it is not physical but more mental and emotional. Regardless, the future that you want is not going to lay down at your feet and surrender. It is going to demand that you pursue it until you eventually win the day. And if you haven’t realized it yet, sorry to tell you that the battle never ends because another future is right around the corner! It’s never over! “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Heck no! The battle for your better future never ends but it is possible for you to move the front forward today.

So go for it!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

My Own Shame in the Beautiful Game

Over the years, I’ve claimed that I’m not “obsessed” with Peterborough United. Like so many _____aholics, I’m in at least partial denial about my addiction. Since our form has been poor for much of the season and goals have been lacking, I find myself desiring a bit of help from the football gods. When one of our players streaks forward, I find myself shouting “get in the box” to people on a computer screen who can’t hear me from across the ocean. Perhaps someone out there can relate. It’s not that I want my team to dive in order to get the penalty. I just know that the opportunity is there for an “easy road” to a goal. Torn by the desire for a score but not wanting the dive either.

The easy road mentality is one that we all adopt in different amounts. Lottery ticket buyers, crash diet enthusiasts and overnight success seekers are just the extreme versions of a person that we’ve all been in small or large quantities. We’ve all wanted the big reward for the least amount of effort before. There is nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s a natural inclination but it just cannot become an overarching strategy. The person or team that is relying on something for almost nothing will find that cash cow dead sooner rather than later.

Since I know that this type of thinking is not a long term strategy, my belief is that my team will start finding the net from open play regularly. When those lucky breaks come, I won’t lament them but I know that we cannot rely on them. The plan needs to be more than hope in this world. Hope is not a strategy! Even as a feeling, it seems a little flimsy to me. Hope feels almost desperate and passive. Belief is much more positive and proactive. Despite the positive connotations though, belief is not enough.

Once you believe, you need to act. Take the feedback that the world gives you and adjust. There is not one way to break down an opposing team or get to a personal goal. Literally thousands or even millions are possible but you need to find one. Once you find success, you can build upon it. Here in lies the problem of relying on the penalty. It requires other people’s input that is less than reliable. So believe in yourself enough to create your own results. The “easy road” is there but it doesn’t make you better. It makes you dependent.

Go for the goal with intention!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

MAN City: A Need for Change and Reflection

My distaste for Man City the club has been stated before but that’s not really what this is about. The second season of Ted Lasso had a great episode that did a masterful job of slaloming through stereotypes of male behavior and some of their antitheses. My love for this show is well documented but this is one time where the message hits a little deeper than the positivity that Ted disperses so willingly. Men are shown being the worst versions of ourselves while other moments are almost aspirational about what we could be. If you’ve not watched the series or the episode, there are spoilers below, so hop to it before you read farther or just deal.

Ted and his staff being vulnerable before a match.

Although Ted is the namesake of the show, several characters step up in this emotional episode. Jamie Tartt’s strained relationship with his father is one of the main storylines. Jamie’s need for a positive father figure was set up in the first season and put on full display in this episode. Although his father is an extreme version of a stereotype, he conjures the feelings that many of us men have had. The desire to make our father proud while also seeing their faults as we grow older. It is never as simple as a TV show must make a situation but all of the markers are there. The dynamic between fathers and sons is often strained due to the desire for independence and the inherent factor of emulation. Through the influence of Ted and Tartt’s own experience, Jamie sees his father’s negatives and begins to move in a different direction. Eventually he literally fights against his father’s way. At that moment, he is distraught, feeling the weight of what has just happened. Roy Kent, who usually puts forth a caveman-like persona, shows empathy and understanding by hugging his former rival. It’s a scene that jumps right out of a BrenĂ© Brown Ted Talk. Vulnerability is a superpower that men do not always employ.

Following along the vulnerability track, Ted opens up to his staff about the fact that a panic attack and not food poisoning had him running for the locker room in the Tottenham match. Each man in the group admits to something that he’s been holding back for some time. Ted’s vulnerability is seen as an opportunity by Nate who uses what he’s learned to expose and undercut Ted. This is the fear that most men have about vulnerability. It leaves us open to enemies, detractors and the like. The problem with this fear is that it is completely accurate. People can take advantage of a situation and many do. It’s a short term game but it works to their advantage enough to make it enticing. There is a balance to be struck here. Putting on the facade of invulnerability is an overall losing strategy. However, being vulnerable with everyone has its own perils that should definitely be avoided. It’s more art than science, like so many things.

Although Nate hasn’t fully shown his true colors in this episode, we get glimpses of the fact that he is employing a “fingers before thumbs” mentality which is the exact opposite of what I suggest regularly. Nate wants to blame others for anything and everything. He claims that he wants to be in charge. However, he lacks the mental fortitude to accept criticism when things go poorly despite wanting praise when they go well. His newly found power and fame make him into a bully who regularly victimizes people that he views as weaker. The willingness to see one’s own faults is a strength that needs to be developed over time. A mirror can be a powerful tool provided that it is not turned into a weapon used to self-flagellate. Another art of manhood is knowing when to point the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger. It’s more than likely that it will be employed incorrectly at times but my preference is always to find my faults before I start looking for others’.

Despite my dislike for Man City, the club, I am very happy with Man City, the episode. It brings to the forefront a discussion of modern roles of masculinity. By no means does it develop a definitive set of directives. However, it does juxtapose antiquated stereotypes with newer ideals. Being a man in a modern world can be a bit confusing. The messaging that is thrown at us from the past, present and future can sound like white noise. In the end, we need to see our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.

Blogpost, self-reliance

Building a Fire

It’s a quote that I like on so many levels, “The man who invented the ship, also invented the shipwreck.” There is often a duality to things that people want to ignore. Complexity exists to the way that we all show up in the world. We tend to turn a blind eye to the outcomes that we do not like or make us feel uncomfortable. There is a pretend part to the things that we do. Power can be found in recognizing the fact that life is not a straight line, nor free of pitfalls. Building a fire feels like a creative process but as soon as the match is lit, destruction is following and eventually burnout. It’s not all warmth and light!

For a positive person, this may seem like a pessimistic slant to things. In my eyes, it is nothing of the sort. The fact that your parents gave you life and death in the same moment is not tragic, it’s beautiful! Scarcity is one of the criteria that creates value. An infinite supply of something reduces its value to almost nothing. It is in the lack of permanence that we gain urgency. We are invited to press forward because there is a constant state of breaking down. Every time that we eat, we are satiated for a moment. Only to become hungry again! This duality of creation and destruction being bound together is part of our cyclical lives. While we would love to be able to workout once and be fit, the system of constancy allows for us maintain purpose over time rather than needing a new one at all times.

So now that we know that building a fire is a degenerative creation that will require our maintenance for as long as we look to keep it alive, what are you willing put that effort into? What is so important to you that you realize that you must FIGHT to keep it alive? Who are the people that you desire so fervently to be connected to that you are willing to travel long distances and chance contracting a pandemic level virus to be near? These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves! Since nothing is forever and all of our endeavors are dying as soon as we birth them, we need to be sure that we are creating with care!

This new year, like so many others, gives us the idea of a fresh start. A line of demarcation between the old and the new. So as you begin this new year, what are you willing to create and keep alive for as long as possible? The fire within you needs to be built as well. We do not become ablaze with passion without reason. It needs to be created and stoked. So decide in this moment, where are you building those fires? You have limited time and limited resources. Be intentional with both!

Throw another log on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Two Days After the Snowfall

Freshly fallen snow puts a blanket of white over the landscape. It can look almost magical. Icicles hanging from the trees and buildings add to the spectacle. The sun doesn’t shine brighter but the reflection off of the white makes it seem that way. Snowmen, sledding, eating snow, snow angels, snowball fights and forts are all possible. It almost makes the world look as though it is brand new. Unfortunately, none of that lasts for too long.

Two days after the snowfall is less picturesque. There are yellow and brown spots in the snow that are not meant for tasting. The salt from the roads has made the plowed snow look grey and ugly. Snowmen lean to one side or the other unless they’ve frozen into icemen from the frigid temperatures. The freshness and sense of renewal have devolved into a chaotic mess that is less than ideal.

We live most of our lives in the “two days after snowfall” world. It’s not ideal but reminders of more perfect times are all around us. Honestly, those times weren’t perfect either but we have nostalgia for those moments that we’ve chosen to remember. Everyone has had a moment like a wedding, championship winning season, perfect date, theatrical performance or any other memorable occasion. There’s a desire to live in those moments forever but you can’t. That pristine world does not exist for long, if it ever did. So the choices come down to lamenting the “imperfection” of most of our lives or embracing it.

Since most of life is going to be chaos with spots of urine, feces and salt strewn about, perhaps it would be better to see the beauty in those days. They are not devoid of their own glory. It just may be harder to see because there is so much variety to take in. The beauty and awe doesn’t smack you in the face! You have to work to see it. Despite that fact, the effort that is taken to endure the chaos until the next perfect moment is much greater. Seeing the world with its pock marks and still loving it is a skill that is worth developing. Otherwise you’re in a perpetual state of fourth grade where you’re hoping for a snow day, only to be disappointed by people forcing you to learn and grow! Damnit! Develop the eyes to see the daily beauty. It will make those perfect days even better!

Snow day!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Beautiful Game Has Become Ugly

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” – Oscar Wilde

There are many people who would push back on me suggesting that soccer is an art form. That’s completely fine! A bunch of paint splatters or a urinal hung in a museum are not my cup of tea either. Given that art is subjective and mediums have change through time, I don’t think that I’m out of line to call the beautiful game, ART. Some of the best actors do not read from a script. Musicians jam and vamp with their bandmates far from the notes that are on the page. So in my estimation, a group of eleven people trying to find rhythm from chaos is a form of ballet as much as it is a sport. Whether you buy into my belief or not, at bare minimum, you understand where I’m coming from.

Painting of Pele by Andres Ramos.
Art imitating art!

Now let me take it back to the Oscar Wilde quote. Other people can dissect his words in any way that they like. For me, the idea that life imitates art comes from the fact that artists take their medium to extremes. Generally, life is not an extreme sport. In the beginning, humans needed to be conservative with their actions because our survival depended upon it. Even though there were cave paintings, they weren’t of spaceships or a flying squirrel suit. They showed hunters going after an animal. The art was in line or one step ahead of the time but it gave others something to imitate. As we progressed forward, the media of arts expanded and gave expression to the order of the day as well as more extreme ideas. Did the myths about the gods come about to explain them or give people license to emulate them?

Now that I’ve taken you through my thought process, I believe that our world is in distress due to our art. It’s not as simple as Tipper Gore would have liked. Her labels on explicit albums did not change the releasing of the art that she disliked. She simply made it taboo and therefore more desirable. Since the art that I care about is soccer, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I am concerned about the artists on the field.

Soccer is called “the beautiful game” because it is a glory to behold when it is in its natural state. Eleven people trying to get the ball into the goal of the other team while defending their own. A match can have the highs and lows of a great symphony and all of the drama of a Greek tragedy. There is no lack of opportunity to raise the emotional experience to the heights that only artists can. An actor can give an audience chills when they personify a moment so perfectly with their earnestness. Unfortunately the hack actor can also nauseate an audience by faking it, not being true to the role and using tricks to skate by. It’s sad to see but that’s where we are. Players looking to game the system for the outcome rather than earnestly trying to get the result through their art. None of this is new and I know that my short musing about it will change little.

However, I truly believe that the flopping, diving and play acting has affected the world because soccer is art. Therefore, this writing, which is also an art form, could help to counteract it. A pebble in the pond, no doubt but I hope that it will ripple. If the artists who are playing at the highest level were to give up the hack tactics for a short time, would it change everything? Would kids stop flopping and taking the easy way? Would government officials stop taking shortcuts that hurt the people in their care? Would life again imitate art as it has so many times through history? I don’t know! I’d like to believe that it could. The problem is that so many things have become a business and art is a gift! So hopefully, some of the artists on the field can remember that they are making art to give to the world and it’s more than just the result. We’re all watching to be inspired toward our future selves. If you make “hack art” we’ll believe that that is en vogue. BUT if you give the gift of true expression with earnest effort, we’ll reflect that back as well.

Be an artist today!

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Knee, Balls, Chest: The Anti-Neymar

There is no doubt that it was a foul. He had never even attempted to get the ball. His body barreled through mine with such great force that we were both lying off the field by about a yard. He got up first and as he did, stepped on my knee with one foot, then my balls with the second and the first foot returned on my chest. Since Neymar was only one year old when this happened, I did not know that I was supposed to roll around on the ground like I’d been shot twelve times. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I got up! We were leading in the game against our biggest rival. Although we couldn’t be certain that a win would lead to a Conference Championship, a loss would make it impossible. There was no choice. I had to get up because that’s exactly what team needed me to do.

Wrapped within that decision was a lot of programming that came from my parents, brothers, coaches, teachers, friends and generation overall. Yes! I had been fouled horrendously. Yes! I had also been stomped on. Yes! I was in pain. And YES! I did not want to get up!

There is nothing special about my actions of that day. It was a moment in time similar to those of many people. The trifecta of the knee, balls and chest did strike a chord with me recently when I was thinking about how many people tend to deal with set backs.

In my mind, I’m equating the KNEES with faith. Many religions use the kneeling position in a variety of ways. Faith that things are going to live up to our expectations is a pretty usual pain point. As soon as something is “out of whack”, it stings a little. Our faith is shaken, even if it just for that event. While faith is a necessary ingredient to many endeavors, it is not an inexhaustible resource. Also the amount needed varies greatly.

Sorry that this is a semi-exclusionary descriptor. Although female readers have never gotten hit in the BALLS, I’m sure that there must be an equivalent. The soft spot where the pain is greater than a normal hit and it lingers. While the shot to the knee hurts our faith, the shot to balls leaves an ache that possibly we are less than we were before. Even though it’s not always intended to be, a shot to the balls feels personal.

The final shot was to the chest which represents the HEART. It is the place that our literal lifeblood is pumped throughout our body. A shot to the heart (and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name…. sorry Bon Jovi flashback) can be deadly if it happens at the wrong angle on the wrong day. That’s why our heart is housed in a literal cage of bone. It must be protected at all costs. Although it’s possible to recover, the heart is necessary to move forward.

So now that I’ve taken a minuscule moment and broadened it out to almost any emotional pain that we might feel as humans, what is the point? The point is that we must get up. We’ve become far too comfortable with Neymaring the fouls that we encounter in life. Turning a mere tap on the knee into a 12 gauge shot to the chest. Rolling around on the figurative ground as if life had dealt us a bad hand by putting any impediments between us and our goals. It would be one thing if we were simply that fragile. If our metaphorical bones were as brittle as “Mr. Glass” from the M. Night Shyamalan movies, it would make sense. The thing is that they are not. Our bones are the same stone-like implements that our ancestors had. We’ve just made some poor assumptions about what we can handle or been sold on the idea that struggle isn’t necessary.

My hope is that you don’t get hit at all but when you do, don’t Neymar it. Get up! Or even better, don’t fall down in the first place. More than likely, you can handle what has been thrown at you. You’re a descendent of the people that helped to make humans the apex predators on the planet. The tools that you have at your disposal are all that you need.

Don’t flop! You’re better than that!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

NeverGiveUpitis

This is a disease that lots of people think should be spread far and wide. Before I go into my counterarguments, let’s go through the symptoms. People who have caught NeverGiveUpitis will have: a burning desire, some sleepless nights, aches, chills from excitement and many others. These symptoms are not really a problem if they are endured in service of something worth chasing. Unfortunately we have collectively told ourselves generalized lies about “quitting” and giving up. The common refrain is something similar to “Winners never quit and quitters never win!” This is simply not true.

Winners, producers, successful people, etc. quit things. They just quit the right things. They give up on excuses, lost causes, distractions, toxic people, antiquated thinking, etc. It is not a question of absolutism. Quitting is an art form that needs to be studied and perfected. Once the “weeds” of distraction have been culled from the garden of their mind, they have the energy, focus, resources and motivation to catch NeverGiveUpitis on the things that truly matter.

We do not have unlimited time, energy, focus or resources. So the idea of never giving up on a host of things means that all of them will be done poorly. Sure! You could say that you never gave up but you probably didn’t progress either. There are some losing battles that should not be fought anymore. Be willing to decide when to wave the white flag on something.

Give up the unimportant, so you never give up on what matters!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Red + Green = Judo

We were little kids and made up a silly game as children do. The concept was that a color combination was given as a kind of “math” problem. Green + Yellow, for example. The other person had to guess what that combination was equal to out of a variety of fighting styles: judo, kung-fu, boxing, etc. I’m not sure exactly how or why the game developed but the only thing that kept the game mildly interesting was that the person posing the question didn’t have to follow the pattern of past combinations. “Red + Green = Judo” one minute and the next “Red + Green = Boxing”. While that variety added some intrigue, it also could create frustration as the person guessing starts to feel like they can never win. Childish game right! Despite the fact that it was a silly game, it mirrors two ideas that are worth considering.

We were the coolest!

Sunk costs – This term is used to describe investment of time, money, effort, etc. into an endeavor. Some people get extremely hung up on sunk costs. The amount of investment that they’ve put into something makes the situation more difficult to walk away from regardless of the prospects of success. It’s difficult to walk away from Judo because that’s what Red + Green was before. Unfortunately the game is fluid and does not really care what happened before. Sometimes “sunk costs” need to be allowed to sink, so that you don’t go down with them.

Set up your rules to win – There was nothing won or lost in our silly little game. So nobody got overly worked up about the results. It was obvious that the person posing the question also had control of the answer. It’s a great idea for going through life that many people ignore. Pain + Reflection = Progress is a completely acceptable equation for people to use regularly. It sets the user up for success rather than failure. Unfortunately for many people Pain = Pain + Complaining = Frustration. This equation is a disaster for the person who adopts it but many do. It’s easy to forget that you are making up the rules for your mind. If your rules have you set up to lose, then change them.

We’re always playing games, whether we are conscious of it or not. Most of the games are played inside of our own minds. Keeping score (if we do) and determining success are largely up to us. It’s not the childish game that my brothers and I played. However it is just as malleable. Almost nothing is set in stone. There is no rule definitive rule book that everyone follows. Most of it is a mismatch of experiences from our pasts that create our defaults. Just remember that those defaults are not particularly right. The world has many shades of color combinations and it’s your job to figure out how to fight what life throws at you.

Red + Green = Judo!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Born Ready!

BS!!! I was born just like everyone else! Naked, afraid, unable to read or write or even hold up my own head! Yet I persisted through those difficult circumstances. After many failed attempts at walking, my parents tried to convince me to move on to easier modes of transport but I wouldn’t hear of it. Probably because I only understood basic words and phrases. I was stubborn and knew that one day I would walk. Now here I am! Decades later celebrating my imperfect birth. 46 years worth of fumbling and stumbling through life but celebrating nonetheless.

My brother holding me when I was just a blob of potential.

It’s odd isn’t it?!?! We come from such humble beginnings and the plan is very much laid out for us. “You’re not perfect from the beginning but through trial and error, you will figure things out.” Eventually we tend to forget that formula. We give up on things quickly because we’re “not good” at them. Actually we’re not good at anything in the beginning but we forget that is the modus operandi. We weren’t born ready! We were born horribly, laughably, disgustingly inadequate! But the people around us didn’t chide or berate us. They propped us up and encouraged us along the way. It was a beautiful thing for many years.

Hopefully this year, you can give yourself that same encouragement and support that you received in the early years. Maybe you’re not ready for what’s coming right now either but you can be with time and effort. You used to be a miracle! It stands to reason that some of the miracle remains, no matter how old you are. None of us was born ready. So give up on that story because the truth is much more useful. You were born as a little blob of potential. Now you get to see how much of it you can realize in a lifetime!

Happy birthday to everyone!

Pete