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A Father’s Day Tradition

IMG_4513Just about every year on Father’s Day, I take a short hike with my children and wife to a little waterfall at a local park.  Although my wife and kids are aware that it is one of my favorite places in the world, I’d never really given an explanation as to why we return to the same spot.  The tradition is based on a quote from Heraclitus.  “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river has changed and so has he.”  Although I usually don’t set foot into the stream near the waterfall, I recognize the change in us both.

This tradition is meant as a time of reflection for me to realize the changes in my life, my children and the world that surrounds me.  Personally I find this to be very helpful because I don’t take for granted the many things that have changed.  My son growing taller is an obvious change but juxtaposing our past visits against yesterdays I more clearly see the man that he is becoming.  I cannot freeze these moments to keep them from flowing by like the water.  The only thing that I can do is notice them.  It is my job to remember that each time we return to this place to be grateful for the time that we have had.  Unlike the stream that is sourced from a large lake, there is no telling when this time will run out.

So as you go out into your day, take a moment to appreciate the people in your life that really matter.  The time of your life will keep flowing by no mater what you do.  However you can take this moment to appreciate all that you have.  There is not a lack of beauty in this world.  There is just a greater amount of distraction.  So it is up to us to look for the beauty before it passes us by.

Have a great day!  And Happy Father’s Day to the Dads out there!

Pete

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Blogpost, self-reliance

Amazon Doesn’t Work Like The Amazon (The Balance of Being Human Today)

RightNowThe past was a simpler time in many ways!  There’s no doubt about it.  The complexity of the world has jumped exponentially.  Despite its complexity, human beings remain relatively the same.  The complexity is around us, not within us.  So it is possible to keep the effects of the world at bay if we remember that we are part of the “natural order” of things.  In most cases we act much more like animals than machines.  Despite this fact, we expect ourselves to work similar to machines or want results to show up machine time.

Our ancestors understood that the amount of time spent hunting was far greater than the amount of time spent eating.  This proportion is a natural occurrence.  Obviously there would be times when a quick hunt would happen but it could not be relied upon.  The same was true of the harvest.  While the farmers did less “intense” labor than the hunters, it was stretched out over a longer period of time.  Again the time and effort spent obtaining the desired outcome was far greater than the time enjoying it.  However these proportions were in line with expectation.  So people prepared and adjusted for them.  Now we live in the world of Amazon, INSTAgram, SNAPchat and Uber.

These services and other recent cultural norms are not bad if they are kept in context.  The separation of modern expectations from “natural” phenomena is the key component to surviving the complexity of our world.  Trust is not one click away.  Overnight shipping is not available on love.  Physical fitness is not dependent on an application but rather dedication over time.  Keeping the expectations for the enjoyment of results in correct proportion to the necessary inputs to obtain those results is the key.  This balance can be difficult for people to maintain because the call of the modern context is so enticing.  Why would you spend months going to the gym when you can swallow a pill?

My hope for you is that you’re able to see past the false advertising.  Many of the things that you want are not available “On Demand” and that’s OK.  If everything were as easy as one click shopping, it would cheapen the peak experiences of life.  Time, struggle, intention, effort, passion and so many more ingredients are the appropriate price tags for what is truly important in this world.  It is those people that keep in line with their nature as humans who will avoid the trappings of the modern world.  So go out there today and get whatever it is that you want but don’t click on “one day shipping”!  Enjoy the process instead!

Pete

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Like as a Four Letter Word

IMG_3202At a certain point too much of something becomes its opposite.  The drug that could save your life becomes poison.  Too much time and attention from a significant other, no longer feels warm and fuzzy, it feels weird and creepy.  The key to keeping this from happening is to keep from overdosing on something.  At the moment, if I’m being honest, I’m LIKED out.

Growing up in the ’80s and the “Vally Girl” movement, you would have thought that it would have happened earlier.  However it is only recently that the word like has become so pervasive that it feels like its opposite.  No longer do I want to ‘like’ anything because it feels meaningless, a throw away compliment because it’s time to move onto the next thing.  Perhaps it is time to dismiss the notion of ‘liking’ every thing that you like and only ‘like’ the things that you love.  By putting this plan into action, it reduces the number of ‘likes’ to go around.  Only the truly special will be donned with this moniker.

In life our most precious resource is our time.  If all we do is like the time that we spend on this earth, then maybe we should hold out for more loves rather than drowning in likes.  They might take some more effort to find but at least everything won’t feel like different flavors of vanilla.

Find the peaks of experience today!

Pete

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The Battle You’re Not Fighting

NormandyIt’s extremely easy to get caught up in your own narrative.  Look at it as if it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  History is often told from only one perspective.  The English probably don’t spend much time on the Battle of Bunker Hill in their history books.  However there are always at least two sides to the story, if not more.  It is difficult to avoid getting caught up in one narrative because we experience the world from only one perspective.  No matter how difficult it may be to remember, it is key to relationships to understand that people are fighting a battle that you probably don’t understand.

The convenient thing about history is that there is too much of it to uncover every single situation and devote pages in books, areas of museums or time in documentaries.  So historians must edit history to fit a narrative about a nation, people or group.  We do the same things in our minds but our editing faculty can be skewed by emotion.  We are rarely objective about the importance of the moments of our lives.  So it stands to reason that we would have even more trouble being objective about someone else’s experience or stepping into their subjective experience and the emotion that goes with it.

So it is in all of our best interest to see the people around us as fellow soldiers.  We are all in a fight of some sort.  Although we may think we have a front row seat to the battle that other people are fighting, there is a layer that we cannot cross without letting go of our own struggle to reach out with understanding.  Recognizing that we have common ground as soldiers but separated by a distance that cannot be measured in miles.  It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting “The Great War”, every battle matters most to the ones who are in it.

Put up the good fight today!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The World Cup and Learning How to Love Yourself

Best of friends ready to travel together.

In 1998 I spent almost a month in Europe with my best friend, Schaef, attending the World Cup.  When you think of life experiences, it really doesn’t get much better than that.  Spending a month engrossed in the thing that you love the most with one of the people that you love the most.  It truly was an amazing trip but when it was over he and I didn’t speak for almost two months.  The experience of that trip has helped me in a variety of ways, one of which I’ll share here.

The trip was planned extremely well by my friend.  He was the planner and I played the role of translator because I spoke both Spanish and French.  We flew into London and saw the sites there briefly.  Our main focus was the games.  So site seeing was kind of a fast paced game.  We tried to see as much as possible in the smallest amount of time possible.  Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc. were all done in a day and at a quick clip.

Then we took trains down to Barcelona where we spent a few days touring and watching games in the afternoon.  Again, the Olympic Village, La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s buildings and all were seen but not studied as we had to block out times for the matches which were almost social events along Las Ramblas.  Unfortunately Schaef lost his passport on our second to last day there.  For that story, CLICK HERE.

The LouvreOur next stop was Paris.  There was of course the visit to the US Embassy in Paris to get a new passport which took longer than we would have liked.  After getting it we had to rush to pick up our tickets to the five games that we were going to attend.  Our first match was Germany vs USA.  Despite both being American we were following Germany through the group stage.  The most memorable thing from following Germany for me was the warm-up.  Watching Jurgen Klinsmann get crossed balls for him to side volley from head height was amazing.  He was obviously a world class player honing his craft and I loved seeing it up close.  In addition to that match, we saw the Louvre in less than 2 hours.  Art lovers we are not!  Next was Germany vs Yugoslavia which was in Lens, a much smaller venue and not much around.

We fit in a quick trip to Munich Germany to experience Schaef’s heritage.  This was the first time that I felt like we needed some space.  I didn’t speak German but I felt there was an expectation that I was still on translation duty.  I learned quickly how to say “Zwei biere, zwei pretz” (two beers and two pretzels) which was about all we needed to survive.   That feeling of unnecessary expectation faded quickly because we were back on the road to Montpelier to see our final group stage match, Germany vs Iran, which ended with Germany winning the Group.  Montpelier was also the first place that we were able to kick a soccer ball around.  We met a girl from Chicago who got her brother to lend us a ball.  Her father’s only directions were “don’t pop it”.  Now I’ve never popped a soccer ball before in my life.  But sure enough, the very last kick of the ball took a weird bounce hit this tree with spikes on it and POP!  We felt so bad for the kid, I think we gave him around $140 in Francs to replace it.  At this point, the togetherness was getting difficult.  I even started smoking cigars on a daily basis just to get away for a bit.

Our final day of matches was filled with drama both on and off the field.  We went to the knockout stage match in Lens between France and Paraguay which Les Bleus won in overtime.  This was inconvenient for us because we had another match to attend in Paris that night and OT almost made us late.  On top of that we had to navigate around riot police due to an altercation that happened during the match outside the stadium.  Despite the difficult circumstances we got onto a fully packed train back to Paris.  Denmark beat Nigeria handily that night.

We traveled back to England in order to catch our flight home.  At this point, we have not had one argument or negative word said but we don’t speak much on the flight.  The next day we part ways and don’t talk for about two months.  Eventually we pick right back up in a good spot but we obviously needed some time apart.

This experience taught me so many things about relationships but the two main ones were: most upsets come from a mismatch of expectations and no matter how much you love someone, space is necessary at times.  These both came into play in the best possible circumstances.

On a daily basis, we are not dealing with the best possible circumstances but we are cultivating our most important relationship.  Each and every day we are in the closest possible contact with our key associate: the self.  Although it may seem odd to apply the same concepts to an internal relation as an external but they can be used to good effect.

First the mismatch of expectations with who you think that you are or should be is a common cause of upset.  We have a narrative about who we are inside of our head.  Some of it is conscious and other parts unconscious but when our external environment fails to meet our expectations of who we are, it creates issues.  Those issues can manifest in a variety of ways but the underlying problem is that our life does not match our expectations.  One way to combat this is actually create a definitive description of who you expect yourself to be on a daily basis.  Not the “best case scenario” or “ideal self” but rather standard operating procedure or bare minimums description.  This way you are setting yourself up for success.  Exceeding these expectations will be a gold star to shoot for but at least you have a definition of who you will accept going out into the world each day.

The second is slightly more complicated because getting distance from yourself can seem difficult.  I’m obviously not talking about physical distance but rather psychological distance.  The daily opportunity that we have for this space is sleep.  I truly believe that people who do not sleep well have a more complicated internal life because they are caught up too directly in their own story.  The inability to take a break from being puts additional stress onto the relationship with the self.  Other forms of psychological space from the self are meditation and exercise.  These can both be extremely effective provided that they can be done without intense focus on “results”.  Using these tools to take a mental vacation will have great effects provided that the vacation is not turned into a business trip.

So recognize that you’re on a lifelong trip, living out of a purse sized “bag”, with the same person that you cannot get rid of.  It would make sense for you to make them a friend, possibly your best friend.  In order to make it work though, you’re going to need to set expectations and give each other space.  Otherwise you could end up hating the person inside your head and that seems like a bad way to spend this great trip that you’re on.

Travel well!

Pete

Blogpost

It’s Not Going To Work!

SantaSchaefandIThere is so much fear at the moment about failure, rejection, looking foolish or being called out.  These are not new fears by any stretch but they seem to have become more pervasive as each of us lives a half-public life.  At times, I feel slightly sorry for the people who have grown up in a world with the internet and social media.  Largely because they’ve never known anything different.  Since I am not a digital native (first time on the internet was in college), I remember a time where I could fall flat on my face and only the people there to see it could really laugh.  So taking chances on things that might not work felt “safer”.  Although it may not always seem that way, it is a choice to feel safe or afraid.

In my early twenties, my best friend, Schaef, was about to get married in two months.  At the time, I was living in NJ but was spending a lot of weekends in Baltimore.  One particular night, I was hanging out in the Fell’s Point area with my friend, Damion.  A problem was lurking for me because I did not have a date to my friend’s wedding.  So I decided in that moment to ask the most attractive girl in the place to be my date.  I don’t remember exactly what Damo said but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “that’s not going to work.”  And common sense would tell anyone that he was probably right.  Random guy, asks random girl to a wedding two months in advance when he lives in a different state.  Slim to no chance!

This is not exactly what I said but it is pretty close.  “Hi!  I was wondering if you could help me.  I’ve got an issue with my best friend.  You see, he’s getting married in two months and he made his brother his best man.  I’m a little upset with him because we’ve been extremely close for years now and I should really be his best man.  So in order to get back at him, I’m going to bring a date to his wedding that is so beautiful that no one will look at the bride and that woman is you!”  I did not get a yes right away but what I did get was a date for the next weekend and an eventual yes to the wedding.

Most of the time the problem isn’t that other people tell us “no”.  It’s that we tell ourselves “no” before we even make the attempt.  The world gets very few chances to reject us because we cower in the shadows afraid to gamble our self-image.  And therein lies the problem of the day.  We are protecting the image that we have of ourselves and it seems magnified by the device that sits in our pocket.  The fact that we can beam out our most perfectly angled selfie for all the world to see, also makes us afraid that anything less than that level of perfection will be chastised.  The world is not waiting for you to fall.  It’s actually not waiting for anything from you at all.  But maybe… just maybe… if you’re willing to risk those slim odds that you’ll end up finding out what you’re truly capable of.  Then next time it will be easier for you to say “YES!” to yourself because until you do, no one else will get the chance!

Put that first foot forward today!

Pete

 

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Secret Admirers

IMG_3202It’s Valentine’s Day!  One of my most memorable Valentine’s Days was in my sophomore year of high school.  At the time, I was single but not completely happy about that situation.  So it came as a huge but welcome surprise that I received two red carnations in homeroom.  The card didn’t say who they were from.  It just said, “Someone loves you!”  The rest of that day, I spent trying to figure out who could have sent them.  I’ll fully admit that I had a slight strut to my step throughout school.  My hope was that my secret admirer would reveal herself by the end of the day.  Unfortunately she did not.

So I went home and later that evening my mom asked me, “Did you get the flowers that I sent you?”  I was crestfallen to say the least.  I remember getting on my mom’s case about sending red carnations rather than pink or white.  But in all honesty it should not have mattered.  At the time I didn’t have the confidence or worldview to realize what I know now.  So if you’re one of those people lamenting “Singles Recognition Day”, take some time to consider my perspective.

If you are interested in eventually being in a relationship, recognize that you have a secret admirer someplace.  Perhaps you actually have someone that’s interested in you that you just don’t know about their feelings.  I know that I’ve found out after the fact several times.  Or there is someone out there who is looking for someone like you and they just haven’t found you yet.  And the final but toughest one to face is that perhaps you’re not a good enough version of yourself yet to attract that person you want.  THAT’S HARSH!  But may be completely accurate.

I went to high school with my wife and we did not date until after graduating college.  This was probably the best thing that could have happened.  If we had dated in high school, I doubt we would have ended up together.  I had to become a much better caliber of person in those years, so that I could attract someone like my wife.  My hope, in high school, was that someone was secretly watching and thought I was great.  In reality, I needed to work on being great so that someone great would be watching.

So if you’re not there yet and you’re lamenting your single life, write yourself a letter.  Write down a description of your ideal person.  Describe them in every small detail that you can.  Then write down who you need to become in order to deserve a person like that.  Once you’ve written them both down, put the description of your ideal person in an envelope and seal it.  Write next year’s Valentine’s Day’s date on it.  Take the description of who you need to become someplace where you’ll read it regularly.  If you follow through with this, I’m sure that you’ll be happy with the results regardless if you’re single next year.

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The Tabernacle

TabernacleIn one of my favorite movies, “Rounders”, there is a character with whom I identify very heavily.  Despite the movie starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, two actors that show up continually in movies that I love, it is a secondary character played by Martin Landau that gets me every time.

For those who have not seen it, a quick synopsis with no spoilers.  Matt Damon plays a talented card player who has sworn off poker after losing big.  He is now in law school and working hard to recover from the loss.  Edward Norton is his best friend who has a troubled past and has just been released from jail.  The movie follows the two friends as they try to pay off old debts, monetary and other.  Martin Landau’s character, Abe Petrovsky, is a law professor who takes a liking to Damon’s character.

Like most characters that enthrall me, it is the reflection of myself in Petrovsky that is engaging.  Earlier in his life, he was disowned by his Jewish family because he did not believe in God.  Law eventually became his religion.  He helps Damon’s character because he feels a form of debt to those who allowed him to be who he was.

Now I am not Jewish and I have no great love for the law.  Catholicism was the chosen religion of my family when I was young.  I attended Sunday school and can recall more biblical text than is probably necessary for someone who is basically agnostic.  Despite my uncertainties about the higher power and all of my reservations about organized religion, there are many things that I carry with me including a sense of duty that springs from that time in my life.

Within most Catholic churches, there is a “box” called the tabernacle that holds the bread wafers and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.  It is usually given center stage and is ornately decorated.  In this instance, the Catholic church has put emphasis on something that is extremely important to it.  Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, there are things in this world that deserve reverence and special treatment.

In a world where information is everywhere and basically everything is for sale, it is easy to lose sight of the things that are truly important.  Luckily, God, Nature, Infinite Intelligence or whatever other force you might believe in has given us our own “tabernacles” for the truly important things.  Two of your possessions are encased so deliberately that it is difficult not to recognize their importance: your mind and your heart.

In very real terms, you exist within your mind.  Every feeling, sight, smell, taste and memory is housed within the tabernacle of your skull.  This should be a most prized possession.   It should be protected, exercised, challenged and never abused.  It should be fed with ideas and filled with memories that make it want to create more.  The day should never come where it is left to the complete care of someone else.  It is almost all that you have.

Then there is the heart which keeps you alive.  Two hearts exist: the physical heart and the emotional heart.  The physical heart should be cared for and exercised.  Neglecting or abusing it will only end in pain.  The emotional heart is also key to your survival.  Although it also needs protection, it needs to be extended to people without safeguard at times.  It should not stay in the figurative tabernacle at all times.  If it does then it wilts and dies in a way that is more tragic than the stopping of the physical heart.

These are just two of things that we should hold sacred in a world that dismisses most things without a price tag.  In your life, I’m sure that there are others.  You don’t need to put them in an ornate box but rather give them what they deserve from you.

I have been given so many things “and for that I owe.”

Pete

 

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Your Investment Portfolio

DisneyHanging on the wall in my son’s room is a stock certificate for one share of Disney stock.  It was a gift at his birth from his Uncle Peter and Aunt Paula.  More than anything it is decorative.  At the time of its purchase, Disney stock was worth about $35.  With the acquisition and release of Star Wars, it is now worth about $114.  So in theory my son’s stock portfolio has performed very well.  It is worth over 300% of its original value.  The growth is outstanding but it’s not enough shares to create truly meaningful value.  The stock was a gift, never truly meant to turn my son into an investor.

However the truth is that we are ALL investors!  Stocks are a financial investment.  That is the type of investment that most people think about when they hear the word.  The truth is that we can invest in many types of currency.  Right now you’re investing several of your most precious currencies on this blog post: time, attention and possibly trust.  Many people don’t get involved in monetary investing because the markets are too unpredictable.  There is the risk of major losses at stake.  It is impossible to lose money, if you don’t put any in.  People are usually conscious of how they invest their money.  Often they are not as conscious about how they invest their other resources.

Time, attention, trust, love, respect and many others are all currencies that should be invested with more intelligence than money.  Money is a renewable resource while time is not.  If you lose twenty dollars, you can always make up for that loss.  The lost twenty minutes is gone forever with no hope of replacement.  Since money is tangible we give it extra reverence but these other currencies are as or more important.  So perhaps it is time to look at your investment portfolio and decide if it is balanced.  Have you put yourself into a position to be swimming in the assets that you have accrued through careful planning?  Or will you feel bankrupt in the end because you squandered the resources that you had?  You are an amazing human being who is destined to do great things if you’ll use your resources wisely!

Invest wisely today!

Pete

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Love and Peanut Allergies

Peanut heartRecently I’ve given this advice to some younger people in my life, my hope is that it helps someone avoid relationship potholes.  During my college years, I dated the same girl on and off for almost three years.  We ran on a six month cycle.  Almost every six months we would have some big issue and it would end with us breaking up.  Inevitably we would get back together a few weeks or a month later.  That would start a new six month cycle.

With each breakup came a few friends or family members that would say “she was a b____!” or something like that.  I never felt comfortable with that kind of 180 degree turn.  After spending months of being “in love” with this person, how could I forget all of the positive that quickly and focus on the negative.  It just didn’t sit well with me because although obviously not a perfect fit, she did have many of the characteristics I wanted.  The problem was that I had not diagnosed my “allergies” before we started.

People with acute peanut allergies have to be extremely cautious.  Their life depends on avoiding certain substances.  People with seasonal allergies are often inconvenienced by the amount of pollen in the air.  In both cases, it is intelligent to take necessary steps to diagnose and use preventative measures.  This mode of thinking can be used very effectively for relationships as well.

I did not have a “peanut allergy” to my college girlfriend.  It was seasonal and only became pronounced in certain circumstances.  The problem was not her but the combination of us and environmental factors.  I selected someone that was going to continually provoke my “allergic” symptoms.  We very rarely get into relationships with people who cause major “allergic” reactions because like a peanut allergy, the reaction is immediate and pronounced.  So the key is to go in with a plan.

Write down a description of your perfect partner.  Take as much time and paper as you need.  Go into detail on all levels: physically, mentally and emotionally.  List all of your MUST HAVES but list your MUST NOT HAVES as well.  These are your violent allergic reactions.  SHOULD NOTS will be your seasonal allergies that may crop up from time to time.  With this list, you are more likely to diagnose problems early and make an informed decision on how to proceed.

Too often we start a relationship and “love, lust, attraction” all take hold and we no longer diagnose anything.  We go on autopilot taking in all of the good and ignoring the bad that could eventually cause major problems.  If you’re still in high school, you don’t need to do this yet.  You need some failed experiments to figure out what it is that you want in the first place.  Once you understand your “allergies” (both severe and seasonal), you’ll be able to have a better chance of finding someone for the long term.

Click HERE to tell me about your experiments and findings.

Good luck in your search.

Pete