Blogpost, self-reliance

Find the Wave and Ride It

In one of my favorite places on earth, I love to do a semi-“childish” activity. While at the beach on Topsail Island, I enjoy “riding the waves.” I’ve never learned to surf or boogie board. My brothers and I got into the habit of swimming with the waves until their momentum carries you to the shoreline. It’s nothing overly difficult nor do I imagine that the payoff is as good as riding a wave on a surfboard. Despite its shortcomings, it is an enjoyable diversion.

Not every wave is worth riding and even the ones that are worth it can come at the wrong time or you just miss them. It’s nothing to get overly upset about. There will be another opportunity coming within moments. No one is keeping score of how many rides, distance, frequency or anything else. The effort put into catching the wave is payed off through the individual rides. Often the joy also comes from the waiting and trying.

At the moment, I know that I need to embrace this thought process in so many places other than the beach. Opportunities seem like unicorns, hard to find and unwilling to be saddled. They aren’t, they just seem that way. Expectation is too high and measuring everything against past experience or other people saps the joy out of the moment. I need to remember that some of the best rides I’ve had ended with my face in the sand.

Most of life isn’t meant to be measured, graded or judged, it’s simply meant to be lived. Often that comes with a lot of waiting for that next opportunity. The thing is that if we cannot find joy in the waiting, the riding also loses some of its luster. It’s all part of the package deal and the perfect ride is probably not coming anytime soon. So take some half chances and see how they go!

Get ready, the next one is coming!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

There Was a Time…

There was a time when I didn’t understand my parent’s (and other older people’s) fixation on where they were upon hearing that Kennedy was shot. It was definitely a historical moment, worthy of remembrance but I just didn’t understand. Now that we are twenty years removed from September 11th, I kind of understand. My life basically split into two on that day. Some of that would have happened without the attack but in so many ways, my present life tracks directly back to that day.

It was one of the oddest days of my teaching career. I got called down to the office at one point in early part of the day. In a conference room, they had the TV on where the students wouldn’t see. I was being given a glimpse of events that I needed pretend were not happening for the next several hours. As the day unfolded, parents started picking up their kids and yet I needed to pretend like nothing was wrong. By the last period, few students were left and they all knew something was up. Something was different.

Perhaps everyone who lived through the Kennedy assassination feels the same way. As if that one horrific event had changed their entire existence. Or maybe it was just the period of my life that caused the splitting. Regardless, it’s there. A scar from a cut that I wish never happened but it did. So what do we with an unwanted past? Do we run from it? Forget it? Or leverage it?

One of the beautiful things that seems to happen around many tragedies is that people come together. Differences that seemed important yesterday are cast aside. Humans have an amazing ability to be the best versions of themselves when things are at their worst. Not because we are special or supernatural but rather it is who we are deep inside. We are born literally through adversity. Any mother will tell you that it is called “labor” for a reason. Unfortunately we tend to shield ourselves from adversity because comfort feels better.

My life before September 11th was largely filled with comfort. This second life has had a lot more struggle and difficulty but it’s made me who I am now. This is not a call for tragedy. It is a call for embracing those hard things that instruct. Not pain for pain’s sake but pain for progress! There was a time when I was afraid of difficult periods, I’m not afraid anymore. Hopefully we’ll meet on that other side!

Never forget! You’re stronger than you realize!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Kickball Rules

In my neighborhood as a child, kickball was the game that we played most often. I lived near the local middle school and the blacktopped area behind the school was our regular play area. The beautiful thing about that time of my life and in our history was that there was almost no adult supervision. Our parents knew where we were but they were not watching us directly nor directing our activity. The organization, rules, procedures and culture was completely up to us. It usually started with knocking on doors to assemble enough players. Team selection was usually done by captains but almost never the same ones. Our preferred game ball was an old volleyball but we tried a soccer ball and even a basketball once. House rules said that two fouls was an out. Pitches couldn’t bounce and littler kids got a slow roll. The rules themselves are not what matters because we probably inherited them from a gym class or somewhere else. What does matter is that we had to decide regularly. We had to consider a number of variables as a group of young kids and figure out how to make it work so that everyone would want to play again tomorrow.

Despite the fact that kickball still exists and kids play it, my sense is that the autonomy and decision making are gone. A quick YouTube search produced at least five videos on the rules of kickball. There are a lot of positives to having that amount of access to desirable information. However a negative consequence that comes along with it is deniability when it comes to responsibility for decisions. If people are not used to making up the rules, they struggle when a new situation arises.

Each of us is playing our own game. It’s nowhere near as simple as kickball and we have to come up with the rules. There are definitely common practices out there that may inform our game. However the decisions are ultimately up to us. Do we greet people that we dislike? Do we work hard on something that no one will ever see? Do we prefer to play on our own or in groups? These are all things that we must answer for ourselves. It’s completely possible to defer all decisions to other people like your parents, teachers, bosses, friends, etc. Eventually though, you’ll most likely end up playing a game that you dislike.

So perhaps it’s worth considering. What game are you playing and what are your house rules? You don’t need to keep score like everyone else unless you want the same results. Your boundaries may not be the same. The game that you’re playing may be unrecognizable to others and that’s alright. This world can be a playground or a prison based on these decisions. Some people who have all of the freedoms in the world feel trapped. While others who seemingly have every disadvantage find a way to win on a daily basis. It’s not about the external factors. The game that they’ve organized for themselves is one that they’re set up to lose or win internally.

Set yourself up to win!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

You Are Here

They are really quite useful! Maps with that drawing or sticker that tell you exactly where you are on the map. It gives you a frame of reference for your future movement. Whether in a shopping mall, amusement park or any other area with twists and turns, this added feature to a helpful guide to the territory can be invaluable.

In the real world though, there is rarely an indicator of this sort. Sure we generally know where we are geographically but in a larger context, we’re often lost! There are traditions and conventions that we may follow. Paths that others have trodden which gives us some assurance of success. However it’s not the precision of a map with our exact location of the moment spelled out for us.

At the moment, I have no idea if this is the blogpost that will skyrocket me to stardom. I don’t even know if that is on the map nor if that would get me closer to my goal of helping people. Since there is no map, it’s even more important to have a compass. Something that helps you know if you’re heading in the right direction. Do you have yours? If not, it’s worth developing or considering. Getting lost is part of most journeys but losing yourself shouldn’t be. Define for yourself the direction that you’re heading so that when you reach obstacles, you understand why you must get past them.

There will probably not be a convenient map for you to follow through your life. Life is rarely set up for your convenience. However if you set yourself up with the right tools for keeping you on track, you won’t even need the sticker because you’ll know “You are here!”

Find yourself today!

Pete

Uncategorized

The Size of Your Cell

Today the family and I visited Alcatraz Island. Despite the very moving and exhibit about the Native American occupation of the island, our main purpose for the visit was the prison. This was my second visit to “The Rock” but it was my children’s first. It’s easy to forget how small the cells are and the solitary life that must have been led by the prisoners. Surely their past actions put them into that position. However can’t that be said about all of us? The size of the cells in Alcatraz was 5 feet by 9 feet. How big is the cell that confines each of us? Are we only confined by the limits of our imaginations? Or is the size of our cell around 3 inches by 6 inches?

It easy and enticing to believe that we’re not confined by anything. The optimist inside of me would love to believe that we are all limitless, no bars, no guards, no walls to keep us in. Largely that could be true if it weren’t for us. We confine ourselves, punish ourselves and obstruct ourselves. The prison around us is man made but the man or (wo)man who made is also the prisoner. This knowledge is important but not liberating. It can help us to see past the bars and wall but escape is not particularly any simpler. Depending on how old you are, those impediments seem as real as the stone and steel of Alcatraz.

There is still debate about whether or not anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz. There is no debate that people escape their self-made prisons every day. The question is how far they get and whether or not they lock themselves back up in the same cell with the same number. It’s possible for you to make it! You don’t need to use a spoon from the commissary to tunnel through concrete. The escape plan needs to center around you and the amount of freedom that you’ll allow yourself to believe in. No one is stopping you! Unlock the cell and walk out! Freedom awaits but you need to believe.

Let’s go!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Keep The Game Going: The One With The Ball Game

The “Friends” reunion has put that series and many of its episodes back into the forefront of my mind. There is a particular episode where Joey and Ross start throwing a ball to pass the time. They and several of the other friends continue the ball game for a long time while missing work and other events. In the end Phoebe inadvertently ends the game by putting the ball down on the table. While disappointing, it is not the worst outcome because Monica had already taken most of the fun out of the game. The original intent was to keep the game going but her competitive nature intervened. Although it is just a simple example, it lends itself well to the major ideas of the book by Simon Sinek, “The Infinite Game.”

The premise of the book is based on the comparison between infinite games and finite games. It is also relates them to business, companies and a variety of other things. The overarching idea is that finite games are generally played in order to be won while infinite games are played in order to keep the game going. From the Friends example, Joey and Ross begin playing an infinite game. They are throwing the ball in order to keep throwing the ball. As Monica begins to influence the game, there is more of a finite mindset based on competition and status. Sinek’s book puts a spotlight on the fact that many of our current practices in business (and possibly life) are finite minded. Although these finite practices are culturally supported, they are not actually in the best interest of the businesses that employ them. Using many counter examples, Sinek gives a compelling argument for the profitability and sustainability of the infinite mindset.

Most of us don’t own our own company nor do we plan to do so. However we each have the opportunity to take on an infinite mindset with regards to how we play the games of our lives. The important games that we play are not usually win/lose even if some people treat them that way. Marriage, friendship, health, education, career, etc. are not games that you can particularly win. The idea is to keep playing and hopefully play a little better tomorrow than you did today. Learning to employ an infinite mindset in particular areas of your life may garner better results than always trying to “win.”

Keep playing!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Unsporting Behavior

There are many things that can be considered “unsporting behavior” within the game of soccer. However I believe that the one that encompasses them all most concisely is “Shows a lack of respect for the game.” Whether it is a reckless foul or attempting to deceive the referee, all situations that can be characterized as unsporting behavior show some level of disrespect toward the game. Generally speaking most people tend to respect the game at levels that allow for the game to move forward. If too many people disrespect the game, there is no continuity and possibly, not enough players left to make the game worth playing.

This situation almost never happens. Games are infrequently abandoned due to a high number of players being dismissed. It would be counterproductive. Players inherently want to play. So excessive disrespect to the game is not in their best interest. Even implementors of “anti-football” had to recognize that the more egregious their actions, the more they gambled with the tactic backfiring. Stifling the opposition can be a team’s undoing if they take it too far.

Taking a step back from the rectangular field with lines and focusing on the spherical one with continents. The same logic seems to fit. A lack of respect for the game is counterproductive and can stifle us all. The problem in the bigger game comes from the fact that not everyone is aimed at the same goals, each person has their own set of rules and mostly people referee themselves. So a lack of respect is even more subjective than in a soccer game. Playing within the rules can get frustrating when confronted with opponents who seemingly have no rules. Your goals and ambitions may be nothing more than trash to other players in the game. Therefore many people end up disillusioned or overwhelmed by the world. The game of life was never set up to be fair, equitable, convenient nor consistent. So as the player, it is important to decide how you are going to play the game and the rules that you’ll live by.

From time to time, it may be necessary to revamp your personal “laws of the game.” However you should not adopt someone else’s just because it’s popular, easier or more convenient. Your laws need to match who you are and where you want to go. The feeling of being aligned with these components is worth the difficulty of defining them. Playing the game in a fashion that makes you miserable is probably not ideal. So be as deliberate as you can defining your goals and laws of the game. That way you can hold yourself accountable for unsporting behavior. Almost no other referees are watching. So you need to be.

Game on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

No Substitutes!

In the present footballing world, a longstanding tradition has been suspended due to COVID-19 concerns. Teams have been allowed to have five substitutes within a match rather than three. This has opened up the possibility for a manager to change almost have the team. For a squad that is deep in talent, this is a lifesaver because a compressed schedule has led to tired legs. Energy and desire can be thrust into the match in order to turn the tide of a game at that is going wrong. I’m sure that many traditionalists have hated this development while others see it as a great addition to a strange season. As I frequently do, I started to think about the overlap of this aspect of the game with life. And in life, there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

It’s harsh isn’t it? Especially at times like these where it might be nice to have someone else step into your life for a day or a week. All of your responsibilities and obligations taken care of by another person while you lounge on the bench, recouping your strength to give it a go in the future. This is not a call for cloning or AI to take our places (this already scares the bejeezus out of me). Just a thought exercise to bring to light the fact that no one gets to take time off from being themselves. It is your position on the field. A role that only you can fill. No doubt that you can surround yourself with teammates who will pick up the slack when you feel tired but there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

In some ways this could be daunting. A lifetime of one position without anyone to take it over when you get tired. However it is also a beautiful thought. No one gets to replace you. Even if you’re an identical twin, your sibling is not you and can never be. So now that you have this position on the field and no one can take it away from you, what are you going to do with it?

Many people lament their role. They see other players of the game with more of this or more of that. Inside their head, they think “I’ve gotten a raw deal.” It’s common but it doesn’t make much sense. The complaint doesn’t progress anything forward, especially the complainer. So it is energy wasted in hope that they might get to substitute someone else. As we know now, that’s just not happening.

So the only sensible action as far as I can see is to play. That’s right! Even if you’re in your 90s or older, play that starting position that you’ve been give with everything that you’ve got. No one can replace you and that’s a great thing! When you’re eventually taken off the field, be sure that your teammates miss you. Give them performances to remember, that inspire them to be a better version of themselves. They can never replace you but they can follow your lead. Sure you’re bound to get tired, bumped and bruised but there’s pride to be found in continuing on.

Regardless of how you decide to play the game, remember that there is NO SUBSTITUTE for you! The world is full of obstacles, difficulties and challenges and we need YOU. Put your hand in because it’s another opportunity for you to play your part.

1, 2, 3, Go get ’em!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Two Ways to Play

It’s definitely an oversimplification but in essence there are two ways to play a game: playing to your strengths or stifling the strengths of your opponents. The beauty of this oversimplification is that it brings to light a few things. Stifling ones opponent takes the art out of the game and makes it a pragmatic results focused exercise. There is nothing particularly wrong with this. It is inherently a means to an end. However it does not inspire or capture the imagination.

I’ve written many times about the fact that sports are a metaphor for life. The question then becomes do we live with this same amount of pragmatism? How often? And why? What is a result that is worth subduing our natural talents? Perhaps I did oversimplify a bit too much because within a game it is possible to self-express and stifle. Eventually one becomes the dominant strategy though.

Make your life an inspired performance rather than stifled slog.

Today’s your day! Use it wisely!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Hands of Leadership

Six weeks…..That’s all she was.  This was not part of the plan.  Or the standard operating procedure.  It was fear, anxiety and an entire host of emotions that coalesced into waves that could not be stopped but also could not be indulged.  The fever had spiked for no apparent reason.  And we, as new parents to a peanut of a little girl, took her to the hospital without delay.  After a few attempts to lower her fever were unsuccessful, the doctors asked which one of us was going to stay with her.  My wife had to leave.  It was written on her face.  I had to stay.  Not because I wanted to and not for some macho reason that “I can handle anything.”  I had to stay because my daughter would not be in a room of strangers as she had a spinal tap.  My right hand clasped her little legs and feet.  Under her head went my left palm.  Gently but deliberately I folded her legs above her head, so the doctor could insert the needle into her back.  Never before or since have I been so aware of my every motion and trying to subdue even my heartbeat as much as possible.  The fever broke the next day and the spinal tap came back clear.

There are times when we get to choose to be a leader.  Other times, leadership is thrust upon us.  When we sign up for roles like coach, spouse, parent, teacher, etc., we tend to imagine the circumstances that we’ll face in terms of best case scenarios.  Events that we not only can deal with, but that we want to.  Life does not let the best case scenarios last for very long.  At that point we must choose who we are going to be and the example that we set for those around us.  It is our choices that define who we are.

One of my favorite comparisons to make is between Darth Vader and Teddy Roosevelt.  They have something crucial in common.  Both lost their mother and wife tragically.  Roosevelt’s wife and mother actually died less than twenty-four hours apart.  One chose to become the evil henchman to a diabolical tyrant.  The other chose to become one of our greatest presidents.  

Leadership is a choice that we make.  Over and over again, we are confronted with circumstances.  Our choices define us and the example that we set for others which is the strongest way to lead.  Every single one of us is a leader, even if we are only leading ourselves.

It’s in your hands!

Pete