Tag Archives: learning

Daily Diet of Cake Icing

IcingoncakeIn kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class.  The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom.  I won everyone that I ran in.  Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion.  First, it’s possible that it is true.  I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class.  Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine.  Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER!  While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.

Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around.  In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races.  Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem.  Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later.  They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.

The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis.  The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things.  Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people.  It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles.  Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste.  These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.

So the daily choice comes down to you.  Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life.  Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself.  Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts.  Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.

Happy birthday!

Pete

 

You Don’t Know Me!

IMG_2967It was an absolute revelation!  Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it  (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business).  The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women.  The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.

Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar.  He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.”  His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way).  They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny.  Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number.  Watch the clip for the full picture.

This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives.  First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations.  Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me.  I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.

The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you.  Keep that in mind at all times.  Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you.  So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself.  It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can.  Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior.  When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.

You’re a big bear man!

Pete

Mr. Magoo, An American Idol?

MagooIdols are supposed to be held in high esteem, the very personification of the things that we want to be.  It hit me like a lightning bolt this morning that Mr. Magoo is truly an American idol for so many people.  For those youngsters out there, Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character whose poor eyesight routinely got him into precarious situations but he always escapes unscathed and sometimes falls into good fortune.  Feel free to watch one Mr. Magoo cartoon on YouTube.  Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all (minus little details).  The overarching idea behind Mr. Magoo is that his problem would be easily fixed if he were just to put on his glasses but he wants to deny his problem rather than face it.

Although it isn’t pretty, this seems to be a scarily accurate description of how many of us live our lives.  We recognize our problem but are too damn stubborn, lazy or indifferent to do anything about it.  Seemingly our greatest hope is that we can meander through life blind to our inadequacies and not have them bite us in the ass.  While this makes for a mildly amusing cartoon, it is a disastrous strategy for living a life of fulfillment and progress.

Rather than turning a blind eye to your inadequacies, stare at them with crystal clear vision, even put them under a microscope if need be.  Decide what you truly want: to feel good in the moment or feel good long term.  If you want the Magoo life, then by all means turn the blind eye.  BUT if you want more from your life, then you and you alone will need to make the decision to systematically work on your areas of weakness until they can no longer hurt you.  Maybe it’s something as simple as putting on glasses but perhaps it will take years or even decades to overcome.  Regardless, it’s up to you to Magoo or not.

Pete

 

 

Bad Gladiators Died

gladiatorIt wasn’t a 100% binary equation.  Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”.  Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death.  Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died.  I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner.  Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case.  Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators.  While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes.  Gladiators got good because they had to.  Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.

By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to.  A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go.  However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward.  The same holds for an individual.  What is at stake for you today?  Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie?  Or is nothing at stake today?  Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday?  Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly.  Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber.  The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword.  That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake.  So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!

Pete

 

 

Wish You Were Here (and I wasn’t)

WishYouWereHereIt is not an uncommon thing at all to wish for a future that is yet to come or a past that is long gone.  Humans have the blessing and the curse to be able to mentally exist in the past and future while ignoring the present.  It is a blessing because it allows us the freedom to live in the most useful plane.  The curse is the propensity to relive or project the worst of experiences or possibilities.  At all times, the mind has the capability of transporting the self elsewhere.  With this ultimate power to determine much of our existence, surprisingly most people defer control to the moment or to their “monkey mind”.  Imagine if you will driving a car with no steering wheel.  The gas and the brake are great tools but without the ability to steer, one is at the mercy of the terrain and the tires.

So the key to moving forward in a direction of your own desire means developing a steering mechanism.  How long would you drive that car without a steering wheel?  Not long at all before you or someone else added that key component.  The key to your mental steering comes down to practice.  Pulling your mind in the direction of your choosing on a regular basis.  When it wanders, you must take control again.  Under no circumstances is this easy.  It’s easy to be swayed by right now.  It’s easy to run the patterns that you’ve been running for years or decades.  Those are the paths of least resistance but I assure you that they will not get you to your destination in a timely or comfortable manner.

So take this moment to decide.  Decide who you are now and who you want to be in the future (you can’t fix the past but you can change its meaning).  Once you have those in mind, start with a half hour each day where you think and act only in line with that vision.  If you mind wanders, bring it back!  As you get better and better at completing that half hour, it will begin to dump over into the other hours of the day.  Eventually the you from the vision and your reality will be one in the same.  The only question for now is, are you willing to take control?

Bon Voyage!

Pete

Left Turns Required

lefthandI’m fully willing to admit that I’m a relatively passive driver.  It’s almost to a fault.  Most of the driving routes that I take for local trips are based on their lack of difficult left turns.  It’s not that I’m incapable of making the turns nor do I lack the patience to wait for openings.  My overarching thought process is that I don’t engage with unknown chaos if I don’t need to.  Overall I’m happy with the strategy.  However recently I’ve been forcing myself to do more left turn heavy routes.  Just to demonstrate to myself that my passivity is a strategy that I want and not character flaw born out of fear.

In many areas of our lives, we tend to become accustomed to things.  There is almost an autopilot type of function that we employ to the regular and presupposed.  This is not a problem until it is.  Often the need for comfort keeps us anchored to the known.  Most of the time the known is a positive but eventually you may end up driving in circles.  “Big Ben, Parliament!”

People have an ingrained need to feel safe and comfortable.  Unfortunately those emotions do not usually help you move forward in the most direct route.  The road to your ideal life is not lined with rose petals, rainbows and unicorns.  It is going to require grit, determination, unwavering faith in that unseen and YES!  Hard left turns through major traffic!  This realization is necessary to reach new destinations.  If you’re happy going where you’ve always gone with path of least resistance, then by all means keep going that way.  If not, then it’s time to recognize the power of the left turn and accept that they are going to be integral to you reaching your destination.

For my international reader who may drive on the left hand side of the road, just reverse all that I just said! :p

Go get there!

Pete

Your Invisible Nose

IMG_2892Sometimes the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of you.  Your nose is always front and center but most of us don’t pay it any mind.  The reason why we tend to forget about it is because it is always there.  Our brains tend to discard or ignore those things that can be taken for granted.  Air, light, food, water, friends, opportunity, etc. are just a beginning to the list of things that we take for granted each day.  This is not to say that we should be spending major amounts of time contemplating air in a recreational effort.  It is simply to point out that your brain is working at all times to determine what is worth your attention and what is not.  This ability to ignore the inconsequential is wonderful until it isn’t.  As they say, the dose makes the poison.

Although our brains were originally designed to act in our best interest, the operating system has not been updated in a long time.  So if you do not intervene on your own behalf, your brain will protect you from things that are no longer relevant.  Most of the fear and anxiety that you feel is supposed to keep you from being eaten by a bear or be kicked out of the tribe.  The latter is more relevant than the former but both need to oversight.  On its default settings, your brain will keep you alive and partially comfortable in the modern world.  If you are looking for more than that, then you need to be more deliberate about the things that you see.

The invisible nose is just a representation of the things that you’re ignoring.  More important things are out there that you should be aggressively pursuing but you just don’t see them.  Opportunities pass you by or better yet you pass them by regularly.  The reason is that you’re not programmed to notice them.  That’s not safe!  Stay where it’s comfortable!  Don’t stand out!  Don’t fail!  These are all things that your brain screams subliminally everyday.  Unless you take control and look for that which is most important to you.  Those things may not be as obvious as you want them to be.  Although they might be directly in front of you, they may be buried under a pile of societal and personal hard-wiring.  Hacking your way through that will be difficult, time consuming and totally worth it once you’re on the other side.

So I’ve give you permission.  Look at the world with fresh eyes and endeavor to see everything.  Hack away at the beliefs that no longer make sense.  Filter your vision to look for the ideal rather than the real.  Your past low expectations will be there to catch you if you fall.  It starts with a moment and builds from there.  Make this your first moment!

Have a great day!

Pete

 

Rails and Trails: The Duality of Learning

IMG_2082The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance.  While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground.  Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems.  At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn.  Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world.  I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains.  The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form.  Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.

RailsIntuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken.  Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity.  There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same.  The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.

The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails.  Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain.  The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own.  In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure.  Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.

At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance.  A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”.  Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.

So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy.  Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel.  Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight.  Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!

Learn today to be better tomorrow.

Pete

 

Exhausting the Thumb

IMG_2786I would not have been surprised if I annoyed the hell out of my former teammates.  It’s not that I’m a bad player, I’m actually OK (or was).  The annoying factor would come from two things in particular.  First, I never shut up.  I talk incessantly.  Almost as if I were the unofficial play by play announcer for our team.  The other would be my tendency to blame everything that went wrong on myself.  Regardless of how small of an influence I had on a situation, I tended to focus on my little component rather than anyone else’s.  If a goal was scored, it was almost always followed by an admission of guilt.  As an intelligent human being and player, I realize that not everything that went wrong was my fault.  It’s just not true.  However I always wanted to exhaust the thumb before I went to the finger.

In a world where almost everything is on video, accountability is an easy thing to track, especially in sports.  Who lost their mark or misplayed a pass is available in HD clarity.  I’m not particularly keen on accountability though.  It has its place.  However responsibility is a much more interesting quality.  People need to take responsibility.  Accountability can be handed out and often leads to separation.  Fingers tend to make enemies and excuses.  Thumbs tend to make leaders and solutions.  By continuously pointing the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger, a few very important things happen.

First, the thumbed individual sees him or herself a part of a larger whole which is influenced by the actions of all.  Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and contributes to an eventual hurricane.  A person willing to exhaust the thumb recognizes that they’re not working independently of the rest of the group, team, company or world.  Every action of the individual has the potential to influence a much larger whole.  Could a tiny gesture of kindness toward a neighbor influence the relations of an entire town or city?  Absolutely!  Especially if those actions are done consistently.

Second, the thumbed individual infrequently or never blames others.  This posture creates fewer separations between people.  Finding fault in others rarely creates better behavior.  It usually only creates resentment for the person doing the blaming.  Most people in this world are their own harshest critic.  Giving them the ability to rectify the situation without judgment can go a long way toward future success.  Fear of letting someone down is a much stronger motivator than fear of punishment.  It also has the added benefit of creating better relations between people who are giving their best to each other and know that criticism (if it comes) will come with understanding.

Like anything else that is really important in life, not everyone will do this because it’s hard.  It’s so much easier to lose your temper or “let off some steam”.  After all things are often other people’s fault.  Taking on this world view doesn’t change that.  However it does get you focus on the only person that you can fully control, yourself.  If you are in control of yourself, then it’s possible that you’ll end up where you want to go.

Have a great day!

Pete

80’s Hair Band Soccer Logic

PoisonAlthough the 1980’s were memorable for many reasons, the crazy hair is probably one of the most prevalent.  Big hair was all the rage at the time.  Many of the 80’s rock bands invested a lot of time and money on their hair.  Image was almost more important than the music.  I’ve even heard interviews with bands who tried to gain information on the hair products of more successful bands in order to copy their formula.  It’s a silly image isn’t it?  Grown men hanging their hopes of musical success on the type of hairspray that they use.  There is a disconnect that should have been obvious to all involved but sometimes people are too close to the situation to see their own ridiculousness.

A similar phenomena is rampant in the soccer world and a good hard look in the mirror is more than overdue.  Each and every week, millions of kids and adults practice their skills of passing, dribbling, heading and shooting.  Coaches spend hours trying to help these players improve their skills and coalesce the group’s talents into tactics.  Meticulous care is given to all facets of the game including set plays on both the offensive and defensive side.  After hours of preparation, game day finally arrives.  The first whistle blows and that training seems to take a backseat.  It’s overshadowed by telling the one person not displaying any soccer skill about how badly he or she is doing.  The referee takes center stage in a contest that should be focused on the soccer skills of the players.  Much like the hairspray obsessed rock bands, the coaches, players and fans have taken something that should be incidental and made it THE big deal.

Having been a high school and youth coach for years, I’ve seen the lower level of refereeing on display.  While frustrating at times, the arbiter of the game should not overshadow all of the preparation that has been done.  Here are some suggestions that I have to put refereeing in its proper context.

  1. Audit yourself – If more than 25% of the things that you say are directed at the referee, then you’re focused on the wrong thing.  Your players need guidance, your teammates need information, your children need encouragement.  The referee does not need more reminding that you have disagreed with all of his calls.
  2. Walk a mile – Not literally but figuratively.  Get certified and start refereeing some low level games.  Or referee a scrimmage between two teams that you’re not associated with.  Either way the experience will change how you view the job.
  3. Try a new strategy – Rather than berating the next referee that you encounter, try something new.  If you’re a player, in a calm voice during a stoppage, ask him or her to watch for something that has been happening regularly.  “Sir, could you keep an eye out for #15 fouling after the play.  Thanks!”  If you’re a coach, ask the referee to remember a particular foul or incident for discussion later.  If you’re a fan, concentrate on the play of your team.  This is what your team has worked for, see their play.  Otherwise it’s like going to an opera but spending all of your time focused on the conductor’s outfit.  He’s supposed to be invisible.
  4. Recognize the long term – Donuts in small quantities are not by themselves dangerous.  If they are a small part of an otherwise balanced diet, the occasional treat is not harmful.  However constant abuse can be destructive.  The same is true for our refereeing situation.  The constant abuse of referees has led to a shortage that eventually could cripple the game.  That position has to be held by a human.  Who would sign up for the pervasive abuse that referees receive?

So as you prepare for this weekend’s contest, make a decision to focus on the game rather than the official.  After over 35 years of playing and coaching there are exactly two things that I’m sure of:  1.  All referees make mistakes.  2. They don’t get better or change their calls because you tell them that they suck.  For the love of the game, let’s all try to do better out there.  The hair bands can look back and be amused.  Let’s not all look back and be ashamed.

Pete

It’s a bit older now but still a good message from the English FA.