It’s one of my favorite lines from a song by one of my favorite bands “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a word your saying!” The song is called “I want to conquer the world” and it juxtaposes the idealism and the reality of people. It’s a punk rock song and due to soccer’s historical underground following in the US, I usually equate the two on a few levels. At the moment, the youth soccer world is caught in an almost Jekyll and Hyde scenario. Many of the positives of the sport that is loved by millions are regularly mangled and deranged in the pursuit of momentary glory. In each paragraph, I will start with the ideal and follow it with the real.
Soccer is fun! – That’s absolutely right. The game is or can be fun. It is played worldwide in streets and fields by kids who truly love to express themselves with a ball. More than ever though in the United States, we are heaping pressure on younger and younger players to perform. Not for the joy of the game but for the reward of the result. The players being indoctrinated into a system where they’re sent a very direct message, “perform well or else!” The consequences are being benched or being cut. As young as 8 years old, players are treated like performing fleas. The actions send a clear message that fun is at best secondary and probably tertiary behind results and development.
Sportsmanship is important! – Of course, treating other people with respect is an important lesson to learn in sports. Unless it’s the referee that’s missed five hand balls already! He or she deserves to be told exactly how horrible they are. It is hilarious to think that kids practice for hours each week but a comment about their actual skills from the sidelines is rare. A majority of comments are directed at the one person who no one is there to see perform. Our children are learning a dangerous lesson about their place in society. Do your best and if anything doesn’t go your way, blame the authority because they are supposed to be perfect. Those people in charge are not human and deserve to be treated horribly. Could this be why we have a referee shortage?
We support you! – Youth soccer is a multi million (probably billion) dollar business because parents care enough to give their kids the very best! The best trainers, the best camps and the best tournaments are all purchased for a premium price. That financial investment shows exactly how much parents care for their kids. Or perhaps the lack of their personal time investment says something else as practice becomes a convenient babysitter. I can hear the justification now, “But the trainer is better than me coaching.” That might be true but can you line fields, be a club board member or practice with your child. If a child truly loves to play, then they would probably enjoy playing with their parent from time to time. Relegating your involvement in your child’s athletics to spectator is a low level of involvement. Children need their parents. Outsourcing may be a sign of the times but there are some jobs that are too important to be left to hired hands.
Perhaps it is time to reign in the beast and start walking the talk. The ideas are all out there in the world. Generally speaking people know the answers but lack the fortitude to follow through. Whether it is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality” or a lack emotional control in the moment. People need to realize that the macro is made up of the micro. The small decisions, that we make about how relating to our children through sport, will inform the larger decisions that they make about their lives. Are we setting our kids up to be the best versions of themselves? Or are the mixed messages going to create a noticeable disconnect between the sent and received? “It is what it is” may be a popular statement but it’s not a plan. Let’s make it what it should be.
Before Amazon, there was (at least in my world) the Sears Catalog. It was a huge “magazine” that had just about every product in the Sears store. It was a place that my brothers and I would peruse some time before Christmas to find things we wanted. I remember that I always focused in on the guitars. They weren’t overly expensive at the time and I fancied myself as a future guitarist. Despite my desire, I never told my parents nor did I save up money to purchase one. In hindsight, I really didn’t want the guitar. I liked the idea of the guitar but if I had truly wanted it, I’d have found a way.
That’s the way that life really works. Look down and look around. For the most part, the things that you have are the things that you really want. They are your musts, non-negotiables, have to haves. People often think that they have wants but most of the time they have dreams or fantasies. I have a fantasy of weighing 170 lbs again. Unfortunately I don’t really want it. If I did, I’d be there. My weight is a direct reflection of my true wants: taste, dietary freedom, comfort food and convenience. When I truly start wanting that ideal weight, I’ll take the actions that will get me there. Until then, it’s not true. I don’t want it unless it’s easy.
The things worth having are never easy. Value is usually associated to scarcity or uniqueness. This is a tough thing to remember in a life of convenience. There are so many good things that are easily accessible that we bury ourselves in the good, foregoing the truly valuable because it’s inconvenient. What you wanted is all around you. If you truly want for more, you’ll find a way. In five years will you be surrounded by more mediocre trinkets? Or will you have something better? In the end you’re going to find the ultimate thing that you’re looking for is that best version of you. It won’t come easy and it’s not in a catalog or on Amazon. So get what you want by being who you want to be.
Have a great day!
It was January 2nd 2003. A clever little trick of mine to always remember the day that I proposed to my wife 1/2/03. As I waited in her apartment with dinner ready and candles lit, I was extremely nervous. That feeling was only compounded when she arrived. Then I started to ask and I could feel my legs shaking. This was gut-wrenching but necessary. The fear and the nerves came from risk. The risk of putting myself out there and the possibility that the answer could be “no”. It ended up going in my favor but I think that risk is an important factor to the things that really matter. You need to care enough to be willing to lose.
Perhaps it is part of being American or the popular culture of my youth but the idea of the underdog or long shot is ingrained within me. The Rocky movies were an unofficial soundtrack to my young life. The story of a nobody fighter who takes on the undefeated champion. He knows that he is going to lose before the fight even happens. That is the risk that the people who truly care must take. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence knew the risk of the pen strokes but chanced the loss of life for something greater. Elon Musk risked the wealth he had accrued in order to start a solar energy company, an electric car company and a space company. Each venture had very long odds. Those odds are not the ones taken on by a man looking to turn a quick profit. They are the risk of a man who cares about the change he wanted to make in the world. These are just three examples of caring enough to risk losing.
I’ve heard it too many times to count “What grade do I need to get on this quiz to bring my grade up to a __________?” The lack of the math skills from my young students is not the most troubling part. The most disheartening part of this question is the refusal to put forth any effort until a concrete exchange has been mentally negotiated. Effort will only be employed if the target seems reasonably attainable. This is not a statement about educational malaise or the disconnect between schools and our modern society. It is a reflection on a pervasive attitude toward loss. No one should fail. The ref or the coach cost us the game. The aversion to loss seems to be correlated to risk of losing one’s self. If I give my all and fail, then I am not worthy and that is too much to bear.
In a world where we are better insulated from death than ever before in history, it is the death of our image of ourselves that we seem to fear most. Much like the avatars that represent us online, we have created mental pictures of who we are. Most of us will defend that image regardless of its accuracy or usefulness. Playing within the boundaries of that existence may comfortable but is the lack of risk truly safe? More than likely the risks that truly matter are worth taking because they force us to stretch. Reaching out into the void is not a failure if it is done with true intention. Failing to reach out is the bigger loss because the possibility of knowing yourself better and having what you actually wanted is left on the table. Don’t aim to lose but don’t only play if you know you’re going to win. All of the true joy on the back end lies in the fact that you risked yourself on the front end.
Have a great day!
Each week in fourth grade, we had a folder that contained all of our work. On Friday, if you had everything done, the word ‘Complete’ was written on your folder and you got to do some craft or game. If you didn’t have everything done, you received a note of ‘Incomplete’ and you needed to finish your work before getting any free time. In the entire school year, I think that I was ‘Complete’ only twice. It took me most of the year to finish my macrame owl due to my limited free time. I’m quite certain that I only passed fourth grade by the skin of my teeth. Perhaps I should have (or continue) to feel badly about my incomplete track record or tendency. The fact of the matter is that I don’t.
Having been raised catholic, part of the prayer for the confession of sins always hit me hardest was be sorry for the things that “I have left undone”. That’s a long list, even for the most accomplished person in the world. There are many things that each of us leaves undone everyday. Should this be a point guilt or shame? Probably not. People are not meant to be machines focused on efficiency. We have choice and can decide what is worth doing. That discernment of the value in activity should be exercised regularly.
The things that we choose or choose not to do are the elemental level of who we are as people. None of us is incomplete. Our choices may not meet with the standards of others but incomplete; NEVER! You are what you do and the person who must set the standard is YOU. The world is out there, waiting to see what you’ll do. Go show it.
Make it a complete day on your terms!
The world is filled with things that cut. Like walking through a patch of thorn bushes with exposed skin, injury is an almost certainty. In the short term, bandaging the cuts is the right strategy. In time, the wounds will heal. If too many cuts pile up, the bandages become wrappings. You become a mummy. Movements constrained by the bandages on wounds that never healed. Avoiding cuts completely is an impossibility but choosing a new path and learning how to wield a machete are both options. Band aids are not a long term solution, they are a short term fix. This concept is obvious when thinking about real wounds but with metaphorical wounds, this is a common strategy.
The key has always been preventative medicine/measures. Solving old problems with solutions that minimize or eradicate the issue is the best way to get better problems. That is an understanding that everyone needs to have: PROBLEMS AREN’T GOING AWAY! The most that you can hope for is to have the best problems possible because you’ve solved the old and boring ones. Why would you choose to flail around in that same old thorn bush when you can figure out how to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
I know that many of you out there are bleeding and it hurts. My heart goes out to you and I hope that this message will help you move on. Break free of the thorns and find the path to the mountain where you can see for miles. It won’t be easy but it may be worth it!
Have a great day!
The life of the single celled organism, the amoeba, must be tough. In order to survive, it needs to change its shape in order to “absorb” its food. It is the ultimate “go-getter” in the microscopic universe. It’s survival is completely predicated on how much and how often it “puts itself out there”. A lazy amoeba would be a dead amoeba.
Living in the world of higher order organisms, we are not as dependent on stretching ourselves in order to survive. In fact over the past century we’ve been rewarded for being small amoebas. Stretching or standing out was discouraged. Get good grades, get into a good college, do your job and follow the rules. Being a small amoeba is not as smart as it used to be. The systems that rewarded the small amoeba are breaking down all over the place and we’re being asked to stretch again.
The opportunities to stretch are all around. The problem is the same as the amoeba “Am I stretching in a direction that will help me survive?” The trial an error method is probably a big part of the amoeba’s life and may be required of you. This is uncomfortable. The old system was predictable, repeatable and safe. Even becoming a big amoeba only required adherence to the system that almost told you where to stretch.
The question is not whether the world will require you to stretch or not. The question is whether you’ll allow yourself to be stretched, pulled apart or reach of your own volition. Do you believe that you are a small amoeba with very defined limits? Or are you consistently able to reach out into the void and find what you need and stretch yourself? You are much less rigid than you think. Most of your limits are not based on DNA but rather WTT (Willingness To Try). The old rule book is slowly being torn apart. You don’t need to go with it. Reach out into the void and see what you get. Then do it again!
Keep the Nucleus Strong!
Mike – “This is Trent. We call him Double Down.”
Trent. – “Stop right there! Ladies, don’t you always double down on an 11?”
Lisa – “No matter what. Like splitting aces.”
It’s a smart play to double down on an 11 in Black Jack because your chances of hitting 21 are worth the extra gamble. On the other hand, it’s foolish to double down on a losing hand. In cards your chances are based on mathematical probability. Playing the odds is the name of the game. Avoid the slim odds!
In our lives, the game is not entirely mathematical. Decisions are made for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with probability. Emotion, prior programming and a host of other variables lead to the less than logical decisions that we humans make regularly. For example I double down on mistakes. It’s not something I do intentionally. It happens less today than it did a few years ago but it happens. Most of the improvement in this area is due to habits and pre-scripting.
Like doubling down on an 11, daily habits that have the greatest possibility of working are key. Usually these habits are not hard to find. You know what they are but in the moment people get overwhelmed by emotion and choose the easy/comfortable route. The path to where you want to go is not hard to find, it’s just hard to follow. The more times that you follow that path, the easier it becomes to stay on.
Actors can definitely ad-lib their lines but for the most part, they work from a script. Pre-scripting particularly difficult actions in your mind can be an effective way to get past them with the best results. Visualizing the event in advance puts you into a proactive state of mind rather than reactive. It does not resolve the situation in advance but can reduce the amount that emotion carried to it.
So go out into the world and bet on yourself. Double down on the things that lead you to the life that you want. Don’t allow yourself to bet on lottery number odds with your life. Getting what you want is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of time if you set the game up right!
About a year ago, I was having a discussion with a friend and she said she had hit “bock-rottom”. It was a moment of mental dyslexia. I really liked the word but wasn’t sure what it should mean. This morning on my run it became obvious what bock-rottom was. Rock-bottom is the place lowest point that a person can hit. “Hitting bock-rottom” is the act of hitting your lowest point, bouncing up and hitting the lowest point again. It is so disorienting that it mixes up the letters.
Negative circumstances can be so discouraging that they thwart positive action. Even worse is the discouragement of getting up from poor circumstances only to be knocked down again. Look at that word again “discourage”. Break it apart “dis-courage”. The situation has taken away courage. The thing is that courage is not created by circumstance, courage is created by people, INSIDE. It is a choice to be courageous and one that can be made at any time. Even in the worst of circumstances, courage is possible but are you really at bock-rottom?
If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re not at bock-rottom. You’re most likely in the “pit of perception”. You’ve made the hole that you’re in seem deeper inside your head. Or you have a negative situation but you’re ignoring all of the positives that are working in your favor. If you’re reading this, you have advantages that you’re probably ignoring because you’re focused on how bad it is. You can read, you have internet access, you probably live in the US (but a shout out to my friends in India & Brazil), you have a mind that is searching for answers. These are all advantages that can be used as weapons in the battle with your poor circumstances. Complaining, whining and sulking are not going to help you. Depression is not a strategy! It’s an emotional state. Just like a hole, you can climb out of it.
So take a moment to see where you are, since most of us are not truly at bock-rottom. We’re in a bad spot that we need to get out of. The fight is yours to make. Is there any value in giving up? Don’t surrender to circumstances. Make your circumstances! Here’s the theatrical version!
Make today a better day!
At one point in my life, ketchup was not a condiment, it was an ingredient. Ketchup sandwiches were a staple of my diet. Any undesirable food such as broccoli could be made digestible with an ample serving of ketchup. Obviously this is not an ideal system for a balanced diet. It was more of a survival tactic for an extremely picky eater rather than a conscious decision about eating good food. Eventually I learned that ketchup was not the answer to all of my food issues. It wasn’t versatile enough to be an everyday ingredient.
When putting together the ingredients for a great day, it is easy to think of all of the garnishes and forget about the main ingredient. If asked what are the ingredients to a great day, what would you say? Sunshine, a beach, friends, family, food, and drink are all things that I typically hear. People usually don’t lead off with the number one ingredient to every day of their life. You are the only person that will be there every single moment of every single day of your life. So shouldn’t you be the first and most important ingredient regardless of all of the garnishes. No matter the other circumstances that surround you, you should be the ingredient that defines the dish.
Despite the extremely broad reach that the internet gives us, people seem to feel as though they are at the effect of their circumstances. If circumstances were what made people, then a frail asthmatic doesn’t become a president revered for his adventures. A stutterer doesn’t become one of the most recognizable voices of his era. And an actor with a partially paralyzed face doesn’t become the face of multiple film series. The truth is that we all know that circumstances are only part of the recipe. It is just easier to use poor circumstances as an excuse for poor results. Or a lack of resources as a reason for no results. You may not have everything you need to make today great but you have the most important thing and that is you. You’re the ingredient that you’ve been waiting for! If you’ll step up to the challenge and be what today needs.
Go be the best you today!
In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge famously said that “The business of America is business.” Almost a full century later, those words are still quoted often enough for it to be recognized. Since the proliferation of the internet to most households, the pace of information exchange and communication has continued to increase almost exponentially. The problem is that with so much information flying around, very few people are taking the time to communicate or do anything to the best of their ability. It seems that with technology as our guide “The business of America is BUSYness.” There is no soap box under my feet. I am not chastising, judging or pointing a ridiculing finger. This post is as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it.
Distraction is a way of life in the country at the moment. Not only is completing tasks without getting distracted difficult but the fear of missing out (FOMO) seems to be an almost pervasive issue. People have divided their focus between too many activities and are simultaneously getting distracted from them. It’s a recipe for disaster no matter how you slice it. No one can be everywhere for everyone every time. Distraction always comes with a price tag and it is not you who is profiting. The losses are felt by you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and classmates. The people who are actually in your life are the ones who are missing out on a key component of their experience and that is you. All of you, not the partial you that has a technological device in hand “JUST IN CASE!” The cyborg version of you that cannot let go of the phone, tablet or computer has a distinct weakness, it is never fully present.
So many of our systems are built largely upon attendance but that model is at best flawed and at worst catastrophically broken. Absence, attendance, presence, engagement and immersion are very different levels of an inverted pyramid of human involvement. While attendance is a nice start, it is just barely above absence and meets only minimum requirements. Showing up is just not enough. To really take full advantage of this life that you have been gifted, you must strategically move up the pyramid with the things that you have decided really matter. And there lies the problem we must DECIDE. Decide comes from the Latin meaning to cut off. We must cut off the things that don’t matter in order to preserve the things that do. Our focus needs to be cut down to that which we value most.
The only person who can win this focus battle for you is you. Anyone can suggest, plead or punish you to do it but you do not have to comply until you choose. In the end there are so many companies and individuals who want your focus. It is your job to divvy it out as you see fit or scatter it without a care. Where you put your focus determines your life. If you decide to immerse yourself in Facebook, that is your choice and far be it from me to judge. As long as it is a decision and not a resignation to the world of distraction. Choose what you want for yourself before others choose for you.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt