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 Brené 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

Winning Championships: Soccer Life Balance

Almost everyone is interested in winning championships.  It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream.  I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers.  The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy.  The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic.  The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments.  In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”.  We were just the best team on that particular day.  That is nothing to be concerned by.  Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.

To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter.  A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like.  Then preparation must be done to endure that and more.  Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections.  Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker.  Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily.  Then broken down again into the hourly.  Then broken down again to the moment.  When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles.  You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run.  Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion.  Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion.  Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times.  That will keep you grounded when success comes your way.  These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most.  Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition.  Leading with belief is key to any grand success.  Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult.  Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do.  Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it.  Oh yeah!  That’s the gamble!  You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail.  It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short.  Can you live with that?  I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!”  For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want.  They don’t want things to be hard.  So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem.  Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements.  Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches).  The statement is true however.  Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action.  So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them.  “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.”  These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action.  A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix.  It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air. 

Your championship level is also something that you should consider.  Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment.  Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal.  The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group.  The moment will fade.  The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps. 

Blogpost, self-reliance

Stupidly Iconic

It’s happened so many times throughout history, yet people still believe that there is a secret. Movies, books, musicals, songs, etc. Many of the most popular were a complete surprise when they came out. The directors, authors, composers and musicians were hopeful but more than likely unaware that they were about to strike gold. Some even believed that they were creating absolute trash. Despite the doubts, they persisted on to find their way into our hearts and into history.

It’s easy to look back at the success stories and believe that they were inevitable. We have the benefit of hindsight. The dots all connect in a perfect pattern that make us believe that destiny had her hand in the equation. Perhaps she did but the people who were in the thick of the moment had no idea. They had doubts, insecurities, failures and fear. In a lot of ways, they are very similar to me and possibly you regarding that thing that you’ve put off doing for a week, month, year or years!

We all have that project that we’re afraid to start or worse, have started a hundred times but stalled. All of the emotions that are tied to the outcome do not serve you in the day to day. So many times, we don’t start or give up because we’re so uncertain about the final product. The possibility that it could flop paralyzes us into inaction. We need to remember that success is not completely up to us but progress is! Our job is to keep things moving forward in incremental steps. So many projected blockbusters have gone belly up that it’s laughable to think that anyone can predict them. The reverse is also true. The hits are often a surprise. Since no one will know the outcome until you finish, it is in your best interest to keep moving forward. The sting of failure will be with for a much shorter time than the ache of regret.

Make it happen! Your flop might fly but there is only one way to find out!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Put On Your Jersey: Soccer Life Balance

There are some jerseys that are absolute international symbols.  Some jerseys are so well known that a color combination can spark the association.  People do not need to search for the things that they value most, they jump right out of the crowd. 
Therefore it is in your best interest to put on your uniform.  Not that you wear the shirt of your team everywhere but rather that you put your truest self out on display.  There are two people living inside of you.  The person that you are and the person that you want to be.  Although I’m a huge fan “fake it ‘til you make it”, let’s start with getting comfortable in your own skin.  This does not happen in a day.  If you’re there already, AWESOME!  Rejoice in that fact because it’s not true for everyone. 

If you’re not there yet, then there is one place to start: the first person.  There is only one person that will be with you for your entire life, every second that you’re alive, no matter what you can never get rid of them.  That person is you.  You can complain about your disadvantages or idolize someone else but no matter what you can only be you.  Since you only have this one person to spend your life with, it makes sense to have them be a friend.  You need to treat yourself well.  This goes back to all of the things that have been covered so far.  Your chances of feeling good about yourself are exponentially better if you’ve taken control of your internal dialogue and the things that you focus on.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE!  This section was titled, Put on the Jersey.  Jerseys are an outward expression of who you are.  You’re absolutely right!  But the things that we project on the outside are often a representation of what we’re feeling on the inside.  So we need to start there.

Some practical advice on making yourself more of a friend.  Think of the things that you would do to let a friend know that you like them. 
• You’d spend time with them (meditation)
• You’d make them a priority (journaling)
• If they’re going through a tough time, you’d console and try to help them (journaling)
• You’d let the little things go (post-it notes of forgiveness)
• You’d try to work through the big things (letters of forgiveness)

This sounds kind of weird when you consider doing these things for yourself.  So it takes a bit of deliberate practice.  My suggestions on activities usually involve writing because it is tangible and requires a bit of focus.  Thinking is great but lends itself toward the mind wandering.  So putting things down on paper forces you to organize your thoughts a bit more.  As daily as possible, write down gratitude statements.  Write as many things that you can think of that you’re thankful for.  This exercise gets you to focus on what you have.  It’s much like brushing your teeth.  Doing it once does almost nothing.  When you make it a practice, then it becomes extremely powerful.  This type of journaling mixed with a daily discussion of your thoughts will take you a long way down the road of befriending yourself which is the entire point. 

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with the inside world, you’ll be in a better position to project the traits that you want into the outside world.  Who do you choose to be?  What is the story that you tell yourself about yourself?  Personally I refer to myself as the “Sword of Gryffindor”.  I show up when the people who matter need help and I am improved by the things that have the potential to damage me.  This is the story that I’ve created for myself and the one that I do my best to project out into the world. 

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Line the Field: Soccer Life Balance

The boundaries of the field are an essential component to the game.  They dictate exactly how much space, the team or individual has to work within.  In soccer there are well defined standards regarding the dimensions and distances for fields depending on the age and type of game to be played.  Even in practice, a coach sets up areas for players to exercise their skills within.  Setting these boundaries correctly can be the difference between players finding success or failure. 

While the lines on the field are usually some color of paint put onto grass (real or otherwise), the lines on the field of your life are much more metaphorical.  They are the boundaries that you set up for yourself in a variety of ways.  They are the limits that you put on yourself regarding what you are capable of, what you will and won’t do morally, your “comfort zone” and many other versions of mental models.  The first thing to recognize is that some of these “fields” have been lined by other people in your life. You need to decide (eventually) whether or not to move or even get rid of the lines on these fields.

Even though we’re all playing the same game of life, some people have boxed themselves into a small space. Others seems to have almost no boundaries whatsoever. The thing that we must realize on some level is that they are mostly arbitrary. We can decide to change the boundaries: geography, relationships, habits, attitudes, beliefs and rules. Sure there are societal boundaries that we live by but mostly we draw the lines for our own lives. Are the lines that you’ve drawn for yourself allowing you to play the game in the way that you want? If not, then redraw them. No one else can do it. It’s your game and your field. Don’t play on a postage stamp.

Pete
 

Blogpost, self-reliance

That Dead Tree in Your Living Room

It’s completely ok if you have a dead tree in your living room right now. Lots of people do! The tradition is extremely old and has to do with bringing the life force of nature into a dwelling during the winter months. Like most of the Christian traditions, it was a mixture of the old with the “new” when Christianity was trying to convert people. More than likely, that is not why you put a tree into your house. Your tradition is a direct line to your parents, your childhood and/or a recognized social norm. All are completely fine and understanding the origins of the practice does not need to change how you feel about it. As you open presents today, drink eggnog or eat chicken gizzards (a real thing for some people), please recognize that these are patterns of behavior that you have chosen to perpetuate. Our behavior around the holidays is often dependent upon our upbringing or social circle.

The same is true for most of our behaviors. Our habits, routines, beliefs and identities are largely based upon those two forces as well. They feel normal and changing them comes with an emotional price tag even if they don’t really make sense. Calling it a “dead tree” felt different than if I had called it a “Christmas tree.” There is no emotional attachment to a “dead tree.” People could live without having a dead tree in their house but not having a Christmas tree just wouldn’t feel right. We’re looking for that feeling the tree gives, not the reasons that we started getting them. If the feeling stopped, most likely the tradition would stop. OR are we such creatures of habit that we would persist like Clark W. Griswold to have a crappy Christmas because that’s just what happens?

I’d like to believe the former but happy to help with the latter. If you don’t know why you have that dead tree in your living room and you hate the lights, the ornaments and the star, then make a change. Everything is up for consideration. The things that are necessary or bring you joy, then by all means keep them. However it is foolish to have a dead tree that you don’t love in your house.

Look at your habits, routines, beliefs and identities, if they no longer serve you, then it might be time for a change. Yes! You can change even the most engrained traditions. The Christmas tree is an extremely old tradition but you could drop it next year if you chose. Nothing in your life has that much staying power. However there might be a vacuum in the space that you need to fill with something. Not particularly a direct a replacement but something that you can give meaning. It must have value to you and help progress you forward. The Christians adopted the tradition of the tree in order to help spread their cause. What is your cause? How can you move it forward? What traditions can you adopt as soon as possible to move toward the life that you want? Begin today to look for the opportunity to move into the next season of your life free of the weight of the old and useless. Keep what works by all means! Then look to replace that which does not work with the more useful.

Forty years ago Mariah Carey was not a part of Christmas. Things change and so can you!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Being a Horrible Ukulele Player

I am horrible at the ukulele! I’ve never learned to play a musical instrument. Even the recorder that they tried to force on us in second grade did not stick in the slightest. Although I would love to have the ability, it’s just not high enough on my priority list to invest the time and effort. There is only so much of these two resources that I have and learning to play a musical instrument is not worth the exchange.

This is a simple example that I’m sure many people can relate to. For some reason the equation shifts with other things in our lives. Fame, money, athletic ability, etc. are all endeavors that seem to cause people emotional pain because they’ve been left unrealized. I’m not sure who the best ukulele player in the world is but you probably don’t envy him. His skillset is not one that you value. The people who have the life that you’ve “always wanted” aren’t all that different from you. They just chose to put the time and effort into gaining the skills that they needed. It probably wasn’t the luck of the draw, fortunate breaks or even superior genetics. Most of it came down to choices.

So don’t lament all of the ukulele’s that you don’t play. BUT decide aggressively what it is that you do want to be great at doing. Don’t leave it up to chance or assume that you have no “talent”. We all have the capacity to become great at something. Most of the time, we’re too busy to make it a priority. We become mediocre in basically all that we do. Not due to talent but due to focused effort. It doesn’t matter what your ukulele is but when you find it, PLAY! Play often, play with passion, play when no one is listening and don’t listen when people tell you “it’s a foolish little guitar.” Most of the neigh-sayers in this world are using their criticism to cover up their forgotten dreams. We were all meant to fly but clip our own wings because they might make us look foolish. Remember that there is nothing wrong with being horrible at the ukulele if that’s your choice. Decide on the place where you want to put your greatness, then take the time.

Your biggest critic is probably you.

Pete