Blogpost, self-reliance

The Test Is Never Tomorrow

Although I’ve been a teacher for almost two decades, I’m not a huge believer in many of the standard operating procedures that we associate with school. We live in a world with rules and norms that are very different from the ones that we learn in school. This is not an indictment of the education system. There is still a reason for the system to exist and although it could be improved, we don’t seem to be able to agree on how to pivot. My point is actually on a much more personal level. For each and every one of us, the test is never tomorrow. It’s right now.

In school we are usually moving toward some form of informational crescendo where we will have a quiz, test or exam. Eventually we amass enough of these to warrant a graduation or certification. The documents that we accept are a proof of past knowledge. Passing a test on the War of 1812 would be pretty tough at the moment. However we’ve accepted this system to give ourselves titles of high school graduate, bachelor, or PHD. No matter whether we passed with flying colors or barely scraped by, we still hold the title. It is part of our identity and helps to form beliefs about who we are.

Each and every one of us has a variety of identities that we would use to classify ourselves. I’m a father, husband, teacher, coach, blogger, author, speaker, uncle, etc. Depending on the moment, I could be filling any one of those roles. Let’s dissect this, starting from the base and working our way up.

  • When I am being a coach, it’s possible that I’m 100% ignoring my role as an uncle. Does that mean that I’m a horrible uncle? No, just like in school, it’s possible to take multiple classes in order to be “well rounded” while majoring in other things. If I only had one role for myself, that role would get boring quickly.
  • Following along from the point above. Even though diversification of roles is important to stave off boredom, your attitude toward each role is going to usually determine your success more than your aptitude. A soccer player who pours his/her heart and soul into training and matches will often get farther than a similar level one who sees it as drudgery. (Another reason to revamp school)
  • The next step up is that very few of the tests in life are going to be based on extremely predictable information that we are just regurgitating from past situations. We need to interpret new circumstances and apply past knowledge while adapting with changes. It’s almost never multiple choice. Usually it’s multiple intertwined problems that we’ve never seen before and people are watching while we work.
  • Life’s tests are almost always “pop quizzes.” You’re rarely going to know when they are coming up. They are almost never representations of our cumulative knowledge in an area. Little combinations of information and skill are needed to navigate situations. There is almost no way to predict what tests are coming your way and what will be on them. There is no curve and often, you’ll never truly know if you passed or failed.

Life is less like school and more like juggling. You don’t pass or win at juggling. Invariably everything is going to fall down at some point. Some objects that you are trying to keep up will be more fragile or heavy. The only way to get better at juggling is to juggle, to chance the missteps and off balance situations. The performance and the practice are the same exact thing except one has an audience. Ultimately many of the variables can be changed but you are the constant. If you drop everything, it’s on you to pick up the pieces and start again. A teacher can tell you how to be a better juggler but it’s on you to make the throws.

This long post really only has one point. Now and you are all that you have. If you’re not ready for the tests/pins/bowling balls that life is throwing at you, then you need to use this moment to practice for the next time. Don’t expect it to be easy or that you’ll get extra time or extra help. If they come, great but they’re not a given, this isn’t school!

Practice and perform! You can do it!



HMS Questions from 4-14-15

IMG_0663At the end of my talk today at Hackettstown Middle School, I didn’t have time to answer all of the questions.  Here are the ones that I missed.  They are in no particular order.

What is the moral of this presentation?/What’s your motivation for this?

The thing that I was trying to sell you on, is you.  I want you to buy into the idea that you are capable of great things.  There will be a lot of obstacles in your way.  However I want you to have some of the tools that you need to be able to get wherever it is that you want to go.

What’s your favorite food?

My mom’s macaroni and cheese.  Please don’t tell my wife.

How does this relate to moving on to high school?

In my eyes, the transition to high school is a step into a bigger “pool”.  After it is over, you can go to college or be dropped directly into life.  The tools that I suggested throughout the talk were intended to help you mainly do two things.  Begin a process of discovering who you are as a person and help develop some more self-esteem and self-reliance.  High school can be a difficult transition for many and worse for people who do not believe in themselves.

Have you ever been bullied through your time in school?

Yes, there were several times that people attempted to bully me.  I was fortunate though.  Every attempt to bully me was physical intimidation and I always pushed back (literally).  At that time they backed off because bullies want easy targets.  I’m not an advocate for violence but always felt I was right to protect myself.  Today’s cyberbullying is much more difficult to push back on.  As we talked about today, knowing who you trust with your “keys” is very important.

Do you like your job?

I have many jobs but the answer is yes for all of them.  I enjoy the things that I do.  When I stop enjoying them, I’ll most likely stop doing them.

What do you love about life?

There are so many things that I personally love about living: laughter, travel, learning, exercise and the list goes on and on.  The underlying theme is that I like to feel like I’m progressing.  That tomorrow I’ll be in a different spot mentally, emotionally or physically but that I enjoy the process.

What is the best part of high school?

For me, it was my friends and sports.  I really enjoyed being close with a bunch of people that I’d known for years.  Also I love soccer and track.  So those were fun times, getting to compete for the school and do it mainly with friends.

How did you find your strength?

I found my strength by taking some real stock of who I am.  There are many ways to do this but keeping a journal and writing were really important parts for me.  I also took time to figure out if I was following a map that was the right map or not.  In some ways I needed to redefine who I wanted to be.  I’m Peter Powell Huryk III.  So I am named after my dad and grandfather.  It was an important part of my identity for a long time.  I felt almost compelled to follow in my dad’s footsteps.  Sometimes that worked out well and others horribly.  Once I separated myself from that picture, it was easier to make decisions in line with who I wanted to be.

Is there really a freshman Friday?

I graduated high school in 1994.  That was over 20 years ago.  There wasn’t when I there.  I don’t know what it is either but I’m guessing it’s not good.

What influenced you to realize what you were doing to yourself was … different?

I’m guessing you’re referring to the “loser” self-talk habit.  It was actually in my parent’s living room when I was a sophomore (I think).  I remember having an argument about something with my mother and telling her that I was a loser.  It wasn’t her reaction but the instant when I said it out loud to her that I think jolted me.  I was arguing in favor of something that I didn’t want.  It was weird, like being a fan of the Yankees but wearing a Red Sox jersey.  I saw the fact that it didn’t fit.  It took a long time to get rid of the habit and the thought but that was the moment.

 Did you ever overcome the “loser” feeling?

See the answer above.  After that day I would make strides forward and fall back some times.  It was also different for all areas of my life.  For example, my academic confidence was pretty strong throughout HS.  However my confidence about girls took a long time to develop.

Can you do an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression?

No, the only impression that I pretty well is Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

What is life?

It is the search.  Trying to create and find meaning is what life is about for me.

What do you like to do?

There are a lot of things.   I love spending time with my family, playing soccer, coaching, running, hiking with my brother, swimming, reading, spending time with friends and the list goes on.

Who inspired you to talk?/What inspired you to do what you do?

My inspiration to talk/write was my son, Luke.  I started a journal before he was born.  My family is my inspiration for most of the things that I do.

Why are you recording this?

A few reasons.  First, I’m always looking to improve.  I enjoy speaking to audiences but I want them to enjoy it just as much.  I want to see what worked and what didn’t.  Also when people hire speakers, they don’t usually do it blindly.  Having some video to show someone is always a good idea.

First day of freshman year advice.

Breathe!  You’ve gone to school for nine years already and survived.  So you’ll survive this as well.  Wear something that makes you feel comfortable.  Know who you are before you walk in the door.  There are lots of people that will want influence you, decide if you want to let that happen or not.

Do you have any children?

Yes, I have a son and a daughter.  They and my wife are the loves of my life.

Do you have any pets?

Not at the moment.  My dog, Kelme, died about a year and a half ago.   He was my buddy.  My kids are asking to get a new dog.  We might this summer.

What happened to Mark, your friend?  How is he now?

He is doing well.  He lives in Pennsylvania.  He’s great supporter for what I do.  He was one of the first people that I sent a copy of my book to because his story is in it.

How did you make it through high school?

One day at a time.  I wish I could report that I had it all together in high school but I didn’t.  I had some real successes through my four years.  I felt really good about where I ended up.  However it wasn’t always easy.  Good friends were important.

How do you stop yourself from walking down the wrong direction?

I’m guessing that your question is about avoiding things that you know are wrong.  This can be easy or difficult depending on the thing that is tempting you to do wrong.  Most of the time I think about how I will feel after it is over.  Since feelings are what we’re truly after, regret is something that I want to avoid when I can.

What year did you gain back confidence?

My junior year in high school was probably the time when I got back to an equilibrium with confidence after the “loser years”.  However there were still ups and downs after that.  I really have hit my confidence stride in my 3o’s.  I know that seems old to you guys but I’m on an upward climb and don’t plan on stopping.

Who is going to win the NBA Championship?

I don’t know and honestly don’t care.  I haven’t paid attention to the NBA since Bird retired.  I love basketball but the NBA hasn’t been a league I’ve been interested in for a long time because it’s more about “show” than “substance”.

Where can I buy your book?

It’s available online.  You can go to this address:  Or I will have some at my talk on April 21st at 6:30 pm at the Warren County Library in Independence.  I’ve also donated a few to HMS.  Go see Mrs. Brotzman to borrow a copy.

How do you act on potential?

Consistently.  You have the potential to do a lot of things in your life.  Do the ones that are most important to you and you feel will get you closer to where you want to be in life.

I feel like I am as smart as my friends who are in higher classes as well.  I talked to the guidance counselor at the high school but she said I could not get into the college level classes.  This really shut down my self-confidence.  Do you have any advice for me?

If you truly believe that you belong in the college level classes, spend your freshman year getting high A’s in every course you take.  Prove to yourself and the counselor that you deserve to be in those classes.  You used the perfect word “SELF-confidence”.  The only person that can shut it down is YOU.  If this is truly what you want, then make it happen.  Don’t complain about being stuck, do everything within YOUR control to get where you want to go.

 If we’re one of the richest countries, why is there child poverty?

This is a tough socio-economic question.  I’m not fully qualified to answer it.  An economist might do a better job.  Wealth on a national level does not mean that wealth is evenly distributed.  I don’t think there is anyone in the world that wants to see children in poverty.  As human beings, I think most of us want to help other people.  I’m not sure if it is a problem of getting the help to the right people, the people not wanting the help or not enough help being given.  Identifying the problem is the first step.  If you’re truly passionate about this, maybe you’ve found your calling.