In 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.
It 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!
Idols 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.
It 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!
It 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?
I’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!
Sometimes 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!
About a year ago, I took my daughter to a Devils game. To be honest, she didn’t seem overly interested in the game. It appeared that she was more excited by the cotton candy and Devil horns. I was extremely surprised when she said at the end of the game “I want to play hockey.” At that point we had only taken her ice skating a handful of times. I told her that I fully supported the idea of her playing hockey but that there were some steps she needed to go through first. She needed to spend this winter improving her skating and starting to learn how to play the game. This past weekend she had her first hockey tournament.
This is not a story about some miraculous discovery of talent that blossomed over the past year. My daughter spends a large amount of time on the ice. Literally, she falls down more than anyone on her team, usually during the handshakes at the end of the game. Her team lost all of their games this past weekend by an average margin of over 10 goals. They did not score once. I loved every minute watching her play! Not because she played great, she didn’t. Not because she gave it everything she had, she didn’t. I loved it because she went out there to pay the price of entry: FAILURE.
This is the thing that stops most people. They don’t want to feel bad or look foolish, so they move on quickly from things that invite failure into their lives. The truth is that failure is the “ante” that we all must put in to play the poker games of life. We must risk failure in order to play. It’s unfortunate that we’ve become so completely risk averse that people don’t want to play unless they’re guaranteed to win. The joy in a “for sure” victory is relatively hollow. It is only in those times where we truly risk failure that we are living fully. Taking the chance to learn from missteps, blunders and shortcomings is a major ingredient of later success. The leap is a prerequisite.
So as you go out into the world today and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive, do it with the joy of a 9 year old girl. One who had such a big smile on her face most of the weekend that no one would have ever known her team lost by large margins. I do not believe that you should want to fail. I just believe that you should be willing to RISK IT!
I 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!
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the old school gods and their importance in the lives of our ancestors. Although we have so many technological and societal advantages, there are some aspects to their belief structure that could be helpful if implemented. I’ve joked several times that I may start worshiping Zeus and the other Greek gods because of their idiosyncrasies. You’re less likely to beat yourself up over work snafu when your god is regularly cheating on his wife. Despite the possible comedy arising from this, I don’t know that there’s much to it. The main area that most of the ancient religions have in common is the concept of “sacrifice”. I will be focusing on the non-human variety.
With a scientifically inferior way of understanding the world, our ancestors intuitively seem to have comprehended something that has become lost recently. Despite the fact that their reasons for sacrificing crops, animals, etc. was founded in mythology, it is a practical lesson. The recognition of giving something up in the hope of influencing the greater system. I’m sure that the phrase “give up” came from the ceremonial act of giving a thing up to a deity. As our world has more, we are less willing to go without. We don’t see the point. Our parents and grandparents worked hard for the prosperity that we now enjoy. Therefore we “deserve” everything we have. Unfortunately the word DE-SERVE, could be hyphenated and it means “from service”. To keep that which we have, we must continue to serve. Or to get more we must serve more. At a certain point the words service and sacrifice tend to intertwine.
So the give up bargain is simple. Recognize that on some level, you’ll need to give up something that you have in order to get that which you want. Not in any religious context but in a more practical way. Giving up your anger will allow you to find peace. Giving up your excessive eating will allow you to find the slimmer you. The reverse is also in play. If you are not acting in the service of what you already have, it will eventually be taken from you. You are not an independent force in this world/universe. Your actions have consequences. Giving and taking are two sides of the same coin. Therefore they are linked. Keep this in mind as you give things up. The lottery mentality is a losing strategy because it applies in such a small number of cases. Practical sacrifice and service of that which matters most to you. When you decide what you want, also decide on what you’re willing to give up to get it. Usually this bargain will involve trading now for later and so many of us are in love with NOW.
Give up today!