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The Air Conditioning Farce

heatIn these hot summer days of New Jersey, an air conditioned house, store or office is a sanctuary.  Relief from the pounding heat and humidity seems as if it is a necessity.  I often think about our “pre-AC” ancestors and how they reacted to days like this.  Most likely, they had to be slightly more intelligent about breaks, shade and water.  The prospect of artificial cool was long off in the future.  Like so many of our modern conveniences, the advancement of technology seems to come attached to a double result: the desired effect and it’s opposite.

An air conditioner is thought of as a cooling mechanism, unless you visit the back end of the unit.  There you will realize that the AC unit is producing almost as much heat as cold.  So the cool factor is for a selected space and temporary.  When the heat and cool reunite, the entire equation is most likely a wash.   The effect for us as the recipients is not particularly a wash.  The perception of cool and hot becomes skewed.  While we have in theory “beaten the heat” by creating air conditioning, we’ve made ourselves less able to adapt to it when it is thrust upon us.  This inverse relationship is evident in many areas.  The internet has connected us all but we are losing our ability to communicate.  Everyone has a phone in their pocket but people are talking less.  We have more information than ever about the human body and how it works best but obesity and diabetes are rampant.  It is as if we have forgotten something that could bring us back to the center.  The thing that we have forgotten is that we are animals.  Specifically we are mammals who were intended to find an equilibrium with our surroundings in order to survive.

The technological advances that we have created have brought us off of our center where we feel like we need to adapt.  The world is supposed to adapt to us, right?  Not quite, when we forget our heritage, not too subtle reminders will be visited upon us.  So my message is pretty simple: Find out, without!  Find out who you are without all of the gadgets that you use to cause comfort.  Think, plan and execute some time in an outdoor environment that slightly tests who you are as a human animal.  An overnight hike, a day without air conditioning, a period of time with no cell phone or any other exercise that allows you to come back to a natural center.  (Yes!  I realize that I’m asking you to unplug while writing an article over the internet.  Hypocrisy?  Only if I did this without doing what I prescribe.)

So find out, without!  Find out whether or not you can have a face to face conversation with one of your Facebook friends.  Find out if you really would shrivel up in this heat or do you just need to have a plan for hydration and find shade.  The human animal has conquered this world and found now that his biggest adversary is himself.  Don’t get crushed by your comfort!

See you along the path!

Pete

 

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The Chewing Tobacco Solution

tobaccoMy cousin who is fifteen years older than me used to go on vacations with my family each summer.  At the time, I was a teenager and he was in his early thirties with a very successful career in retail.  Despite my seemingly inferior station in life, I was able to change his life for the positive with little more than a few words.  I’m hoping that the process can give some hints about making big changes in your life.

It was completely unintentional but it sticks out in my memory as if it were scripted out.  My cousin was and is pretty fanatical about health and fitness.  He would run everyday, do push-ups and sit-ups in order to maintain his chiseled physique.  Despite this relentless pursuit of fitness, he had a habit that seemed out of place to me.  He used chewing tobacco daily.  It wasn’t anything that particularly bothered me.  I had friends who used it.  The thing that felt out of place was that it seemed contrary to all that he valued.  So as we were driving home from North Carolina and he got his spit bottle ready for his next lip full of tobacco, I made the simple statement.  “It seems odd to me that you do that.  You are so healthy in all other parts of your life but you do something that you know is horrible for you.  I just don’t understand.”  That was all that it took.  He didn’t tell me until much later that he had quit using tobacco and that was the reason.

Many of our decisions break down to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  It could be true or it could be bullshit.  The main thing is that the story is effective at moving life forward in a positive manner.  The reason why my simple statement was able to change my cousin so quickly was that it showed an inconsistency in his story about himself.  In that situation, I knew his story about himself and showed him how the tobacco didn’t fit.  People want to stay consistent with the image that they have of themselves.  That’s the entire reason why the term “midlife crisis” exists.  Men (usually) make poor decisions in order to maintain an image that they have of themselves as young, cool, etc.

The first step to changing a behavior in yourself or someone else is to know the person’s story.  What is an identity that they want to uphold at all costs?  Is their family the center of their world?  Do they think of themselves as an athlete?  Do they think of themselves as successful?  Once you know the story, take that thing that needs changing and flip it against their story about themselves.  I keep saying they but I really want you to do this to yourself.  So if your family is extremely important but you are obese, then you actually don’t care about them very much.  If you truly cared, you’d do your best to guarantee that you’ll be around for them.  The combinations of stories and behaviors is infinite.

The key is to find the one that works.  Results are what we are after, not an excuse to feel bad about one’s self.  Your mind can play tricks on you.  It is time for you to play tricks on it to help you get where you want to go.  The possibilities of your tomorrow need to be forged in the thoughts that you have today.

Have a great day!

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Shipwrecked

OarsMy son and I have taken a few trips down the Musconetcong  River in an inflated two man boat.  The first two trips were successes.  On the third trip, I completely misjudged the river conditions.  We ended up popping the boat, walking much of the trip (in and out of the water) and my cellphone ended up getting waterlogged.  The trip was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.  As usual we were dropped off at the river several miles from our house and then left to make our way home.  The low water levels did not become a true problem until we were about a half hour into the trip.  At that point, it is too late to turn back.  Luke and I had anticipated a few bumps along the way but we got a full on shipwreck and I’m so glad that we did.

Neither of us enjoyed the trek that we made down the river.  Half of the time we were in the boat, half we were out and eventually when it popped we had to walk the river without an exit to the road for a while.  Regardless of our poor circumstances, we kept chatting and dealing with small problems as they arose.  It was not the trip that we wanted but that didn’t mean that we had to hate it.  This was not taking lemons and making lemonade.  This was slogging and knowing it was slogging but moving forward anyway and not lamenting it.  It was something that had to be dealt with.

All too often life hands us poor circumstances.  In the natural world, lamenting your circumstances gets you nothing.  It is only in our overly cushy society that complaints do much to improve a situation.  Generally speaking, the world is not interested in your comfort, preferences or desires.  It gives you circumstances and you can choose to whine or choose to move forward.  A shipwreck is not particularly a death sentence or even a negative occurrence, unless you decide that it is.

 

 

 

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Are you a veterinarian yet?

VeterinarianThe movie “Fight Club” is not for everyone but there are a few scenes that are extremely memorable for me.  Probably the most memorable and applicable is the scene with Raymond K. Hessel, the unfortunate store clerk who meets Tyler Durden.  With a gun to his head, Raymond is forced to give an accurate representation of his life.  He lives in a small basement apartment and works a meaningless job after dropping out of Community College.  During his time in college, he had mainly studied biology in order to become a veterinarian.  In that moment, he is given a gun to the head choice.  Tyler Durden tells him that in six weeks he’d better have taken steps toward being a veterinarian or he’ll be dead.  Then Raymond is told to run home.

The gun to the head choice is an easy one because there are only two options something or nothing.  Although completely fictional, I’m pretty sure that (if real) Raymond would have started on the road to being a veterinarian.  People find resources that they never knew they had when put face to face with their mortality.  In our daily lives, it is easy to distract ourselves from the fact that we are not moving forward only perpetuating our present level of existence.

So with the gun to your head, what is the thing that you’re not doing that you really need to be?  Are you twenty pounds over weight?  Are you suffering through a bad relationship because you’re afraid to be alone?  Are you stuck in a job that you hate but see no way out?  Gun to your head moment, feel the barrel against the back of your head, better or nothing, what is your plan to get there?  What you’ll most likely find is that all of the limitations holding you back are create by you.  You’ve gotten comfortable with being fat, lazy, angry and tired.  Your life doesn’t depend doing it, so it’s easier to stay the same.  Don’t kid yourself, you are dying right now.  SLOWLY.  But when you think hard about the possibilities that you’ve not taken hold of, doesn’t it feel like life is slipping away faster than it would if you were on track?

So who is going to put the gun to your head?  No one but you.  Your friends, family and coworkers will never pressure you to be much more than you already are.  Only you know that thing inside that needs to be drawn out with that gun to head choice.  Better or nothing?  It’s time to choose!  Go be a veterinarian!

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Empty Trophies (the loss in winning)

LukeSoccerAs the spring season grows closer, fields are being lined, nets are being hung and young players are practicing their skills.  These are all normal steps in the preparation for a season of practices, games and championships.  Each of us has our own role to play in this system: player, spectator, coach or referee.  That role heavily influences our perspective on the process and the game itself.  The game of soccer is always the same, two teams, two goals, a specific number of players and specific period of time.  It is a finite game with a result that is measurable.

The sporting culture is based principally on the finite game.  We are enamored with the result and the perceived spoils that come with it.  Players, coaches and spectators focus on the result of the finite game, often as if that was the only thing that mattered.  The unfortunate thing in youth sports is that the hyper-focus on the finite game has made us forget about the ultimately more important infinite game.

Infinite games are not played to win or lose.  They are played in order to keep playing.  “Playing catch” is not a competitive endeavor.  You don’t throw the ball to make the other person miss.  The enjoyment comes from process and the intrinsic benefits that come with it: progress, togetherness, etc.  Life is another infinite game that we play.  The goal of life is not to get to death.  The experience of living is the benefit that playing the game provides.

The value of the finite game is in its contribution to the infinite game of life.  The players, coaches and spectators who only see the finite game will eventually find the game to be empty.  It is only when those infinite game benefits come out of the finite game that it is truly valuable.  Trophies, ribbons and plaques are worth only as much as the memories of those who were touched by the process.

If the goal is only to win on that day, then the victory is a loss.  It is only when the component pieces of the win are ingrained into a person’s soul that victory is truly accomplished.  Teamwork, focus, progress, sacrifice and a slew of other infinite game lessons are the reason that we play.  Trophies are hollow wood, metal and plastic if the spirit that earned them does not live on in the hearts and minds of those who earned them.

The true value of today’s game shows up in the coming years.

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Finite vs. Infinite Games

This is intended for all of my soccer friends out there but there are lessons that can be taken that have non-sport application.

LukeSoccerAs the spring season grows closer, fields are being lined, nets are being hung and young players are practicing their skills.  These are all normal steps in the preparation for a season of practices, games and championships.  Each of us has our own role to play in this system: player, spectator, coach or referee.  That role heavily influences our perspective on the process and the game itself.  The game of soccer is always the same, two teams, two goals, a specific number of players and specific period of time.  It is a finite game with a result that is measurable.

The sporting culture is based principally on the finite game.  We are enamored with the result and the perceived spoils that come with it.  Players, coaches and spectators focus on the result of the finite game, often as if that was the only thing that mattered.  The unfortunate thing in youth sports is that the hyper-focus on the finite game has made us forget about the ultimately more important infinite game.

Infinite games are not played to win or lose.  They are played in order to keep playing.  “Playing catch” is not a competitive endeavor.  You don’t throw the ball to make the other person miss.  The enjoyment comes from process and the intrinsic benefits that come with it: progress, togetherness, etc.  Life is another infinite game that we play.  The goal of life is not to get to death.  The experience of living is the benefit that playing the game provides.

The value of the finite game is in its contribution to the infinite game of life.  The players, coaches and spectators who only see the finite game will eventually find the game to be empty.  It is only when those infinite game benefits come out of the finite game that it is truly valuable.  Trophies, ribbons and plaques are worth only as much as the memories of those who were touched by the process.

If the goal is only to win on that day, then the victory is a loss.  It is only when the component pieces of the win are ingrained into a person’s soul that victory is truly accomplished.  Teamwork, focus, progress, sacrifice and a slew of other infinite game lessons are the reason that we play.  Trophies are hollow wood, metal and plastic if the spirit that earned them does not live on in the hearts and mind of those who earned them.

The true value of today’s game shows up in the coming years.

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Letting the Right Punches Hit You

RockyBoxing and all of its martial cousins are disciplines based on the idea of avoiding physical attacks while trying to make contact with your own.  Practitioners such as Bruce Lee took a philosophical approach to the art of physical combat.   In no way am I putting myself into his category.  The thought that I want to convey is a slightly more modern predicament that the metaphor of fighting may best explain.

So imagine if you will that in a boxing match, that some of the opponent’s punches gave you more energy.  The object would no longer be just to avoid punches but also discern which ones were helpful and allow those to land.  Despite the ridiculousness of this concept in terms of real boxing, it’s easy to see that the best boxers would be able to max their potential by taking positive hits and dodging the negative.

At the moment, you have millions of punches coming your way from a ton of “opponents”.  Almost like a battle royal, your life has an absolute melee of people and organizations who are trying to punch you in the face with their opinion, product, idea or service.  It’s not all bad but evaluating it all can be difficult.  Here are some steps to help you from feeling punch drunk as you make it through your day.

  1. Avoid the Negative Corner – There are some places where you know that you’re going to be hit repeatedly by people who do not have your best interest in mind.  There are billion dollar industries whose sole purpose is to distract your attention as often as possible and hit you with “BREAKING NEWS”.  Just because it’s happening now, doesn’t mean that it is important or better yet that it is important to you.  Your Twitter feed, e-mail, Facebook, TV, the gossipy coworker and others are not based on important, just recent.
  2. Pay Attention to the Source – Some sources will almost always negative and others will almost always be positive.  The amount of positive missed and negative endured from these consistent sources will be negligible.  Keeping a default position of avoid all or accept all may be the best position to keep decision fatigue to a minimum.  For those wild card sources, usually the most important question to consider is WHY?  Why is this person taking a swing at me, to help or to hurt?
  3. Decide on the Power of the Punches – Since we’re dealing with information here and not actual physical contact, the amount of pain that you feel is dictated by you.  So you can take the sting out of a punch by making it less significant.  Our perspective often dictates our reality.  For example, eyebrows are usually raised when I say that “Fear is a positive emotion”.  People take it as solely negative but if they focus on the signal rather than the sensation, it becomes clear.  Fear is sending a message to help protect you from some perceived threat.  That system is there to help, not hurt you.  Unfortunately many of us have our feelings on autopilot rather than recognizing the influence/control that we have over them.

So today as you brave the modern world and all of the jabs, hooks and sucker punches that it throws at you, remember that you’re not defenseless.  The world does not have to knock you senseless.  You can keep your wits about you and set up a system that protects you.  After all, you’re fighting for your mental life.  The only way that you get to control it is by keeping up the defense against those who are trying to take your control away.

So keep your guard up and only let in the hits that will help you.

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The Beauty of the Strikeout

StrikeoutIn 1998, Mark McGwire hit more home-runs than any other player in MLB history.  I vividly remember watching the games to see if he would break Hank Aaron’s record and I’m not even a baseball fan.  At the time, I remember becoming personally moved by the chase for the home-run record.  It changed the way that I thought about several things in my life and it had nothing to do with home-runs but rather strikeouts.  McGwire lead the league in home-runs that year but he was also near the top of the leader board for strikeouts.  He struck out 2.2 times more than he hit home-runs.  In theory, the strikeouts are failure but in reality they are three more pieces of data.

From the outside, the strikeout seems ugly and unwanted.  I’ve never heard anyone say “that’s the best strikeout I’ve ever had!”  The beauty of the strikeout happens inside.  It’s the internal process of finding the next home-run from the mistakes made in the strikeout.  Personally I always attributed this to dating.  The strikeout/rejection was originally paralyzing and kept me from stepping up to the plate.  It was after McGwire’s record breaking season that I started to embrace the beauty of the strikeout.

Many of us go through life hoping that things will be easy.  We want life to pitch us as many “meatballs” as possible, so that we can get on base.  The problem with this hope is that it guarantees us a life in little league where you hit off a tee or a lobbed pitch from a coach.  If you want to play life at a higher level, you need to be willing to take some strikeouts and get back up to the plate to chance it again.  If they are considered data and not a death sentence for your self-esteem, then strikeouts are an amazing tool.  The key is that something must be learned from each one.

So become a strikeout analyst.  Don’t shy away from the opportunity that your failures give you.  Most failure is not fatal and is only negative if we do not see the lesson.  The beauty of the strikeout is expressed in that next home-run.  So take a swing and use your mistakes as ingredients for your next success.

SWING AWAY!

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Be a Definite Article

Salisbury 1994
Salisbury 1994

In my freshman college dorm, I was known as “Soccer Pete”.  The reason for the name was pretty obvious.  There was another guy named Pete who lived in Pocomoke Hall and it cut down on the confusion.  Since I was on the soccer team and mildly obsessed with the sport, it stuck.  The nickname spread to the point that when I would meet new people, I sometimes heard “Oh you’re ‘Soccer Pete'”.  This all happened organically and through no influence of mine.  However I knew the importance of standing out from one of my soccer coaches earlier that summer.

My coach, Tom Zingale, had a successful soccer career and was trying out for the United States Olympic team.  On the first day of tryouts, each player was given a white uniform and a red uniform.  Tom knew the competition was going to be tough on the field, so he did something to make himself stand out on  the field.  He did his laundry right away!  This was a stroke of genius!  The reason that it was brilliant was that he washed his red uniform and white uniform together.  His red uniform’s colors ran and turned the white one pink.  So when Tom stepped out on the field, he looked like walking cotton candy.  The other trialists  gave him plenty of inventive nicknames but at the end of the tryout he had the last laugh.  He made the team and in a conversation with the coach it became obvious to all that his strategy had worked.

Coach: “We’ll need to find someone to help you with your laundry.”

Tom: “I know how to do laundry.”

Coach: “Yeah right!  Then why is your uniform pink?

Tom: “What’s my name?”

Coach: “You’re…..”

In that silence it became evident that Tom had made himself standout.  Now obviously if he had no soccer skill, then his plan would have failed.  However with the right combination of skill and individuality, he was able to get exactly what he was after.

So my suggestion to you is to be a definite article!  Be THE one that people think about when they think of your thing.  This should be a combination of skill and individuality.  Make yourself the undeniable choice for one reason or another.  DO NOT JUST DRESS UP IN PINK unless that’s you’re thing.  You can stand out by being the definitive best in your field.  Being the only one who is using technology to solve problems in your industry may be your way to standout.  Own it completely and be comfortable with the choice to be you.  This may include having to say “I’m not for you.”  Punk rock is my favorite type of music.  When given the choice, it is THE one that I pick most often.  However it’s not for everyone and embracing that fact is better than being a watered-down version of everyone else.  So go out today, in your work, in your relationship and in your life and be THE YOU that you want to be.  The world won’t know that they were looking for that you until you’ve shown up!

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