Blogpost, self-reliance

Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Talent

Children around the world are taught to believe in some things that just don’t exist. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are two western world creations that give excitement and anticipation to children around their respective holidays. Eventually these particular mythical creatures are revealed for what they are: cultural fantasy. I’m not sure that they do any pervasive psychological harm because the fantasy is replaced by a functional reality that young people can understand. The same cannot be said for the cultural ghost of “talent.” I’m sure that my argument is going to get someone’s knickers in a twist. So let me be as specific as I possibly can be. I am referring to the seemingly “god given” ability that comes without effort, training or intention. The ability that comes from nowhere.

Unlike Santa Claus and the Eastern Bunny, this myth is extremely dangerous and erodes the possibility of personal achievement in so many lives. It breaks the confidence of young people and older people alike. People are left feeling like a child on Christmas with nothing under the tree but they don’t seem to ever realize that they’re waiting for something to appear that really doesn’t exist. The way that people generally think of talent has set them up for disappointment. Sure there are people that are born with some slight advantages such as height, intelligence or kinesthetic awareness. However these advantages are the beginning of a path, not the end of the road. Someone who is dedicated can catch up to those with a head start. It happens all of the time. The stories of people like Michael Jordan are told often in order to dispel the myth of talent. However the truth isn’t what most people are looking for. They are actually looking for an excuse.

Talent is the perfect alibi for low achievement. The lack of it can be used to explain away the poor results that were unwanted. People want to receive positive results but often are unwilling to put forth the time and effort required to get them. It’s so much easier to point the finger at the people who are getting better results and brand them as having “talent.” Then their conscience is free because God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or some other deity did not bestow upon them the magical power necessary to become something special. It’s a lie and it needs to be called out.

Unfortunately we don’t put “talent” into shopping malls every year in a costume where everyone older than ten years old can see the farce. We perpetuate the lie because most of us want to be protected by it in some way. However we have to realize that it is not protecting us from anything more than all that we could be. So let go of the myth! Your lack of talent can be overcome with grit, determination and consistency. When you eventually become so good at something that people call you talented, you’ll know the truth. It will then be up to you to tell them or let them believe in fairy tales. Either way, you’ll be free!

Merry F#$@ing Christmas!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Waving at Passing Cars

The road near where I live has no sidewalks. It is also has several curves that drivers tend to take too fast. The combination of these factors make it a little treacherous for walking my dog. I need to be attentive, have my dog a short leash and consistently wave to the passing cars. The first two could pass as common sense. The third seems to be a waste of time or possibly even embarrassing. I’ve been told as much by people who will remain nameless. So what is the point in the wave? I don’t know a vast majority of the drivers and probably never will.

Casting things out into the void is not particularly good strategy. A football team that relies heavily on hail Mary passes will mostly find their prayers unanswered. Regardless of the mathematics of the situation, I persist. The simple reason is that I believe in ripples, paying things forward and micro influencing macro. In a world where everyone seemingly wants to be seen, it’s easy to forget to see others. This is why I wave.

Human beings have been tribal animals for centuries or even millennia. Our need for community is hardwired deep within us. There is also a desire for status within that tribe. Balancing this “need to be an individual” with the “need to be part of a community” is a key component to us making it through this time in history. Selfish acts are far too easy. We experience the world through our own perspective therefore our needs, our desires and our priorities tend to dominate our point of view. So going fast down a curvy road is a self-serving act that has no malice in it but it fails to consider others until forced to do so. Therein lies the problem. Our world is a spinning sphere with billions of independent people living upon it. If it is only when we are forced to “see” one another that we actually do, our interactions are reactive and less thoughtful. So I wave.

I wave in the hopes that the people passing by will see me seeing them. Perhaps that recognition will make them consider me the next time that they drive down the road. The mutual recognition may be just enough for each of us to make it through this life unscathed by the carelessness of others. Because we only have one spinning sphere and we need to care more, not care less!

I see you!

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, posh

Inflation of the Moment: POSH on the Cusp

With three matches remaining, the POSH are on the cusp of returning to the Championship. Three points is all that it will take to push them beyond the reach of Lincoln and Sunderland. Everyone can feel the excitement of possibility. Despite the desire to achieve promotion on Tuesday night, the players cannot go into the match trying to do that. Winning promotion will be a byproduct of their actions, not something they can force. It will be a sum total of quality actions leading up to and during the ninety minutes of the match. Keeping one’s nerve is much more difficult when the moment is inflated into something that it isn’t.

Aaron Mclean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue on Sun Nov 9, 2008

Anticipating the key moment to a match or someone’s life is almost impossible. So it is really not worth doing. Putting the extra pressure of anticipation or anxiety is not usually a recipe for success. A moment is just that, a moment. Its meaning will come clear to us after the fact. Most of our performance in life comes down to things that we’ve done hundreds, thousands or possibly millions of times. Freeing one’s self from the weight of expectation comes down to the knowledge that when given an opportunity, you won’t run from it. You will give the moment the attention that it deserves, no more, no less. Consistency is key.

The reason that the POSH are in this position is that they have consistently strung together enough moments to earn this opportunity. They do not need to be better than who they have been all season long. They simply need to be who they have been consistently without the weight of expectation. No one needs to score a hat-trick, a bicycle kick or a goal from a half field. A deflected ball off of any player’s butt will do.

So the key to winning promotion is simply winning the moments. Focusing on the things that are actually within one’s control: playing a ball to feet, being first to the ball, seeing the goal rather than the keeper, and getting back to neutral if anything goes awry. Winning the majority of the moments gives us the best chance and afterward, we’ll all be able to see which ones were the biggest. Those 7 minutes only become famous because the moment wasn’t bigger than the men.

Up the POSH!

Blogpost, self-reliance

Two for the Price of One: UROK

My uncle served in the military. Our last name is Huryk (pronounced Yer-Ick). Due to the unusual spelling of our name, there were always mispronunciations. At one point, the best mispronunciation ever emerged: UROK. It stuck within his group of military friends and as a young kid, my brothers and I used it as well. This was the best moniker that could have been created at the time. I idolized my uncle and it just sounded cool! For a while, the name got forgotten because my uncle was no longer in the military and we didn’t see him as much either. My intent is to resurrect the word but not for my own purposes. It has more possibility in the hands of others. With the widespread use of “text speech”, the cool version of my last name has a dual meaning.

If each letter is said individually, then it reads “You are okay.” This is a most important message in our present circumstances and HELL, we’ve got a lot of circumstances at the moment. Since I principally work with young people, that’s where my mind goes automatically. Unfortunately a lot of the underlying message of what kids perceive now is the opposite of this message. They are bombarded by images and videos of other people and comparing themselves incessantly. It’s a losing battle but one that they feel like they are trapped within. My hope would be that each and every person has someone in their life that is regularly telling them “You are okay.” Each person has inherent value that cannot be determined by the number of likes or follows that they get. Despite all of the turmoil in the world, if you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that “You are okay.” There may be a lot on your plate and it could be overwhelming at times but if you’re reading this blog, you’re not in immediate peril. The problems that you have can most likely be worked out.

The other version of the name brings it back to how we used to say it in my childhood: “You Rock!” In the era of hair metal bands, this was a compliment and I still mean it as one. This might take a little longer depending on how much or little that one person believes that “You are okay.” That has to come first. But once you believe that you are okay, it serves as a foundation. Eventually it is possible to construct self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance on top of that very basic belief. However most of us, regardless of whether we believe it or not have someone that would say, “You rock!” Because in some special area basically everyone does. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the best in the world at something. It merely means that you pour yourself into a part of your life that makes you unique. Unfortunately many people are so caught up in the noise of the world around them that they have trouble hearing their own song. Nothing could be sadder! Each of us is special in our own way but if we let the world turn up its volume too loud inside of our own heads, it makes it impossible to play our own tune.

So here is your homework. Yes, I said homework!

If you feel that you are more in the “You are okay” headspace, then take a few minutes each day for the next week and write down 3 good things in your life. By the end of the week, you should have over 21 (no repeats) things. Before writing the next 3, take time to read the others.

If you are more of a “You rock” person, then put your talent on display in the best way that you can think of. If you’re a great dad, then double down on all of the things that you do to be great at that job this week. Act like it is your concert at Wembley Stadium and everyone is watching at you rock at being a dad. Or perhaps you’re an artist, this week draw, paint, sculpt or sing like your hair is on fire. Don’t hold back and self-edit. Rock was never about being perfect. So make some noise within your space.

As is almost always true, I say things in my blog that I need to hear. So if you want to start a conversation about where you’re at, drop me a line. None of needs to be alone in this world but it can often feel like we are. Just remember, no matter what!

You are okay and you rock!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Happens for a Reason…. Kind of

While stacking chairs after an assembly today with a student, we got to talking about his college choices. He gave me the list of schools and his plans to visit soon in order to make a decision. After getting through his ranking of the schools, he expressed how anxious he was about the decision. When I asked why he was anxious, he said that he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. After which he said, “everything happens for a reason.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard many times over the years and possibly used once or twice. In this instance, I thought it was important that this young man understand something. Sure! Everything happens for a reason but the reason comes after the fact.

People are amazing creatures and one of our best superpowers is the ability to build a narrative around our lives. No matter which school this student chooses, he cannot go back and redo that choice. Even if he transfers to one of the other schools after his first year, it will not be the same experience that he would have had going there as a freshman. So as we (and he) move forward in life, we connect the dots of our lives after things have happened to us. We can only guess about how the dots will unfold in front of us. Even when we choose the most tried and true path, life tends to throw a few roadblocks in our way. AND THAT’S OK!

In 1998 I went to the World Cup with my best friend. We went to 5 matches, visited the Louvre, saw La Sagrada Familia, drank beer at the famous Hof Brau Haus and toured London for 3 days. When I talk about that trip, do I talk about seeing France beat Paraguay in a penalty shootout? Nope! I talk about my friend getting his passport stolen, having to file a police report in Barcelona in Spanish and traveling across the border into France with him not having a passport. These unexpected twists and turns give texture to life that we cannot put a value on before they happen. It is afterward that we get to make up the reason.

I chose to go to Salisbury State University for a lot of good reasons and a few bad reasons. One of the bad reasons was that my girlfriend at the time liked the school and could see herself going there. We broke up a few months later and luckily she didn’t go to SSU. Out of my stupidity though, I found my best friend and fell in love with that place for so many reasons that I could not have predicted.

Best of friends ready to travel together.
I didn’t go looking for a best friend but I found one anyway!

So whether you’re 18 and about to choose a college to attend or in your 50 deciding on switching careers, remember that everything happens for a reason…. but you’re going to make up the reason after the fact anyway. Do the best that you can with the information that you have because no matter what happens, you’re collecting dots that you’ll put together later!

Go get those dots!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

The Relegation Battle

During one of my first few seasons supporting Peterborough United, they faced a relegation battle. I was riveted! Even though I had no way to watch the matches, I followed the results intently. When I went on a skiing trip where I would have no internet access, I had my brother text me the score of the match that day. The saga ended with the POSH playing in League 2 for a few seasons but I could not help being engrossed with the situation.

At the moment, POSH are on a push toward promotion and I am equally (but differently) riveted. Success breeds an entirely different set of emotions than possible failure. Fear is an emotion that is hardwired within us, our fear response is almost literally set up to “short circuit” our brain’s higher functions in order to deal with a threat. Whether it is a real mortal threat or simply a perceived situation of importance, our brains don’t know the difference.

The Peterborough United squad and management celebrate winning promotion as captain Grant McCann lifts the Play-Off Final winners trophy

Most of the time, we don’t live in a relegation battle nor a promotion push. Our existence is usually a collection of “mid-table” events. Life tends to find some form of equilibrium where this year tends to look a lot like the last and the one before. It can be comforting or frustrating depending on your perspective. I am a firm proponent of being grateful for all that you have but aspiration is not a sin. Being grateful simply gives you a firm foundation to start from.

So if you have been living a mid table life, then perhaps it is time to put yourself into a relegation battle. Not by allowing yourself to hit rock bottom but by raising your standards. Move the line of your “bare minimum” up. Expect a little more from life but recognize that this will most likely require more output from you. A mid table life does not create the emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis. While a life of fear is not something that I would suggest, the emotional tools that you have at your fingertips should be used for your own progress. If you push that line of minimum standards high enough, then promotion is on the horizon. Next year you’ll be playing and a different league and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Go for it today!

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

Results vs Resluts

If I had been born about ten years later than I was, I’m quite sure that I would have been tested for and found as dyslexic. However due to my age and a few other factors, there was no diagnosis. It’s never been a major issue, numbers are my biggest problem. So it made perfect sense for me to start out as a math major in college. For the most part, I’ve just had to police myself throughout my academic career. Now I’m not sure if my recent typing issues are related or if my fingers have just gotten fumbled up. I’ve been having a lot more instances of typos where I only switch two letters in the middle of the word. From time to time, results turn into resluts! Despite the obvious error, I gave some thought to my error and its possible uses. My fear is that far too many people are going for resluts!

The thing about resluts is that anyone can get them. They are readily available with little effort. Like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the resources needed to make that result happen are available to most people. It’s nothing special but it is still something. If they are needed in order to build confidence, habit or a streak of some kind, then by all means! Go get those resluts! Just don’t celebrate too much.

Results are what should be desired and chased. They inject enthusiasm and motivation into our lives. Although they are within our reach, they are elusive, coy or possibly aloof. They act as if they are too good for us and if we’ve lowered our standards drastically, they might be right. However it’s more than likely that we are more than good enough. It might take some extra effort, a bit more primping or charm but there’s no reason to let that stop us. Just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it!

So as you go through your day, recognize whether you’re chasing real results or not. Are the things that you’re after worth pursuing? If you’re only after them because they are easy, then it might be time to move on to better things. You deserve the top level prizes in this carnival game we call life. But first you need to realize that you do! Don’t settle for the participation trophy because you can do more than just show up!

Go get your results!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Unpickle the Cucumber

One of my favorite places to eat in the entire world is called “The Sub Shack” in Hackettstown, NJ. As a kid, we would go there from time to time and as an adult I make it a point to go whenever visiting home. They had a barrel of pickles soaking in brine that were sold for one dollar a piece. As a child, I didn’t realize initially that pickles were cucumbers (or other vegetables). Traditionally it was done to prevent spoilage. In modern times, it seems to principally be done for taste. Once pickled, it is almost impossible to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. By soaking the cucumber in brine, that liquid permeates the entirety of the cucumber. Even if it is soaked in water for a long period of time, it can’t go back. Luckily humans are not pickles but we may be “pickled” to a certain extent.

The Sub Shack located on Main St. in Hackettstonwn, NJ.

This discussion of brining and pickles was brought about as I was thinking about my own mindset and habits. Much of who I am today is due to being immersed in a particular set of circumstances. My upbringing, education, friends, experiences, etc. form the brine that my mind has been soaking in for these forty-five years. Some components have been thrust upon me while others have been deliberately chosen. All of the “flavors” that I am can be changed on some level by “re-brining.” My American flavor would be affected to some degree by living in England for a decade. However it is almost impossible to completely “unpickle the cucumber.”

Just because you can’t start over, doesn’t mean that you need to continue on your present path. It is completely possible to change the you that people see everyday. However it takes more than an inspirational Instagram post or a week’s worth of discipline. You need to become immersed in the change that you want to create. People, location, media, schedules, etc. can all help to “brine” you in one way or another. The key is to figure out exactly what you want to taste like (did I take the analogy too far? That felt like a bit too far.) REGARDLESS the person that you are is who you will stay unless you immerse yourself in something different. You’ve already been pickled. Now it’s up to you to decide if you like the recipe that was used!

Bon Appetite!

Pete