George Costanza would not accept it! Upon being dumped by a significant other, she tried to employ the most common of breakup cushioning. “It’s not you! It’s me!” This is an age old ploy to deflect a super direct hit to the ego of the person being dumped. Rather than telling the person the real reasons that they no longer want to be with you, the softener is used. While it may cushion the short term blow, it does nothing for the long term development of the person as a viable mate. Costanza, as usual, is an outlier in his stance on “It’s not you! It’s me!” He doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to know that it is his fault that the relationship is falling apart. While a little aggressive in his approach, maybe it’s time to learn from George.
The finger of blame is wielded around like an oscillating sprinkler head. It blankets the surrounding area effectively enough but the source never becomes a target. It creates a two-fold problem that compounds over time. People, who are unable to hear the truth of their shortcomings, never get beyond them. Despite being adept at avoiding the mirror’s reflection, they usually become better at noticing the faults of others. From a perch of perfection, the mere mortals that surround you seem almost foolish in their daily mistakes. So the cycle of delusion and dispersion continues. Until there is that extremely uncomfortable face to face meeting with the reality of imperfection.
The way to combat this is to cut it off at the beginning. Assume that it’s you! At least partially, if not wholly. You’re to blame. You didn’t do enough or did too much. Put it onto yourself first because at least then you’re in control of it. You can change something: an action, a habit, a relationship or even just your outlook. When you take total responsibility for yourself and the things you can control, you’ll find yourself on much more stable ground to influence the people around you to do the same. You’re not a victim! You’re a contributor! If all you have to contribute is blame and excuses, then you’re going to end up alone on your perch of perfection. Waiting for it to fall!
“You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m loner Dottie, A REBEL!” -Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)
This line is from the quite ridiculous but still entertaining Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. And it was co-opted by the band The Get Up Kids as a song title in the 90’s. The song outlines one perspective of a short term love affair where the singer refuses to give the relationship a chance. In his own words, “because I’m afraid to try.” It’s an old story that probably precedes Danny Zuko in Grease. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girls. Boy wants to leave while things are still fun and casual because a relationship is just too much work.
It’s applicable to so many things but relationships are possibly the easiest target. In a world where Tinder and OkCupid are facilitators of the present dating scene, this mindset will probably get more widespread. The fast and easy wins out over the slow build (which is perceived as a grind). Of course this is only perception. Reality holds millions of possibilities. For many, a life with one person is a much more joyous existence than the shallowness of singles life. Regardless of which way you lean, it’s not really the point. The point is the actual words. “I’m afraid to try!” It’s not, “I’m afraid to commit!” or “I’m afraid that I’ll get hurt!” It’s “I’m afraid to try!”
This is probably the most dangerous thing that I see from not just young people but people in general. There is a fear of trying. Putting yourself out there has the perception of being difficult. And in the younger generation, it is chastised because for some reason “try hard” is now an insult. Much like nerd or geek of the past, this is a completely idiotic strategy as a culture. Demean those who excel in order to make the average feel better about themselves. (But I digress) The thing is that people have become so accustomed to guarantees that effort toward an unknown is just too scary. There’s no point in following a rainbow because a pot of gold is not waiting for us.
It’s time to buck the trend. TRYING (no offense to Yoda!) is often the point. Finding our limits. Pressing up against what is possible. Discovering new territory is exactly the point! Imagine where we would be if through history, we were this risk averse. We’d be dead! Hunters wouldn’t have had any assurances of catching any prey, so why go out to hunt?
Your survival and progress as human being depends on THE TRY! So go out there today with the intention and determination to try. It doesn’t need to be something monumental. It just needs to be outside of your comfort zone. An experiment, an attempt, a risk, a small gamble. That’s the only way to move forward. One little try at a time. And I’ll suggest that you deny the teenage ridicule by TRYING HARD!
They are everywhere at the moment. With the explosion of the Marvel movies, Silicon Valley startups and overnight superstars plucked from the internet; origin stories are all around us. All of them, to a certain extent, are made up. The comic book authors crafted those of the super heroes. The others that exist in the real world cannot tell the story of every little thing that happened. So they have to delete and adjust to a narrative that aligns with how they want to be seen by the outside world or by themselves. Since all origin stories are created in one fashion or another, it may be helpful for your daily life to fashion your own. Not pluck it out of thin air but rather weave some real events of your life in with a narrative that propels you forward.
My origin story goes something like this. When I was 12 years old, soccer was definitely my fall sport. However at that time, the term “travel soccer” had not really grabbed hold. In fact, this was the first year in which my town participated in what we referred to as “spring soccer”. My younger brother was going to play for the spring team at his age group and my father was going to help coach. Unfortunately I had either missed the tryouts for my age group or there just weren’t any. Regardless, the first day of practice came along for my brother’s team. They were sharing a field with the team for age group right above mine. I knew most of the players from school. Although the team was already formed, I decided that I was going to get onto that team. At that moment, I did the only thing that I could think of to get the attention of the coach. I RAN! Rather than sitting and watching my brother’s practice, I started running laps around the field where they were practicing. For the entire 90 minute practice, I kept running around the field. When my father and brother were finished, we packed up and went home. Some time around 9pm the phone rang. It was the coach of that older team, they wanted me to play for the team. That was the beginning of who I became. Someone willing to go the distance and use unique solutions to problems.
If you notice as you read that story, it all fits together relatively well. It’s been 30 years since those events and I could not tell you definitively if that story is 100% accurate. All of those events definitely happened. However I’m not sure if there was a player who broke their leg, so they needed someone else. Perhaps the call from the coach came a week later. In the end, those detail DO NOT MATTER. What truly matters is that the story fits my beliefs about who I am and who I want to be. The event was chosen but the story was “created” because I want to see myself in a particular way. I have millions of other events that have happened in my life. I could have easily chosen to create my origin story using a huge failure and rehearsed an excuse around why I could never be a success because of “that thing that happened”. People do it all the time. The question that is most important for me about origin stories is, does it serve you? Is your origin story going to make you or break you?
If it is not going to help, then change it! Your life story is not objective truth. It is a jumble of memories that have been given varying degrees of clarity and importance. So decide on a moment in your life that can act as a catapult for the days that are coming. It doesn’t need to be something from your childhood. It could be this moment right now! “I read this great blogpost about origin stories and I didn’t like mine. So right then and there I decided that I was going to take action. I….” One of the main things about life is how you feel about yourself when you are alone and have a moment to reflect. If you don’t feel good about yourself, then change your story. Even Darth Vader was able to redeem himself, why can’t you?
It’s so common to us that we are almost blind to it at this point. The release of the latest version of something. Whether it’s a car, an app for the phone or a video game; the old version is eventually replaced by the latest version. Sometimes this comes with huge upgrades that revolutionize the way that we think about the product. Other times it messes up something that was working to our liking. The thing is that even if we don’t see the changes, they’re happening all the time.
It’s so much easier to understand with technology especially. The cellphone does not change shape or size when you add a new app or update it. It simply acquires the new programming and moves on. Often bugs need to be fixed but I’m pretty certain that Bill Gates does not lament the fact that Windows 7.1 was not as good as Windows 10.2. There is an understanding that each new version is intended to build upon the past.
In a very similar way, here you are. Version 2018.193 of yourself. You may look at yourself as the same person that you’ve always been but that’s most definitely not true. You’ve learned new things since version 2015.125 (after the decimal is the number of days past in that year). The question becomes whether or not you want to just maintain what is working or truly upgrade. Unlike Windows, you’re not going to be rereleased. Your bug fixes and big upgrades have to all happen at the same time. AND YOU ARE THE LEAD DEVELOPER! Only you can make changes to the system.
So what is the latest version of you going to look like? Is it just like today’s you but with a few more miles worn off the treads? I hope not. I hope that you believe that you are capable of a big jump. A leap from the version that you are today to the version that you’ve always wanted to be. My hope is that you’re making the plans and putting in the code to launch yourself to a whole new level. So that people who haven’t seen you in a while will take notice to the fact that the latest version of you is a huge upgrade!
This story comes directly from a dream that I just had. I was brought in to help a javelin thrower with some issues that he was having. Despite his great potential that everyone could see, he was underachieving and plagued by injuries. As we started to talk about his issues, we walking near a lake. He was confused and upset by all of the issues that he was having. As he talked, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the lake. His words became more heated as he described his disappointment in his lack of progress. Another stone farther into the lake. Then his disappointment turned to anger as he focused in on how many opportunities he’d wasted. Stone lake farther. In a crescendo of shouts and rage, he picked up a rock larger than all of the stones that he’d hurled so far. With three steps forward and a shout of “why?”, he threw the rock as far as he could but it did not reach the water. He winced slightly in pain and stared at his failed effort. I woke up.
Everything was a javelin. He had taken his own existence and reduced it down to one thing. Nothing else mattered. Farther, stronger, better. These were the ways that he was judging himself. It was not that he was on a path of progress that would get him to: farther, stronger, better but rather that those were metrics.
Measuring yourself by metrics is not always a negative thing. There are all kinds of things that we can use to quantify aspects of our lives: grades, weight, time, distance and many others. The issue comes from using those measurements as a punishment device rather than a measuring stick. Dissatisfaction with where you are because it is not where you’ll be is a recipe for disaster. The process of living is just that, a process. Each step has inherent value as it leads you toward your destination or destiny. To devalue the step because it is not the destination is devaluing the destination. Because in the end you have sacrificed all of those steps for a moment. The joy of accomplishment is compounded when the process is enjoyed.
So go out there today and pursue something that you love. But pursue it with the joy of a child chasing a butterfly, not the angst of a man paying his taxes. Most of life is the process, so enjoy it!
Some people get very offended by particular four letter words. Others use them so much that they cease to have any power whatsoever. Despite their semi-taboo nature, the things that they represent are quite common place. The teeth of the matter can be taken out by substituting a word. It’s the word that makes it vulgar and repellent.
By contrast, the word “DO” has almost no connotation whatsoever. It shows up in so many contexts that its meaning is somewhat of an afterthought. When it’s not holding up space at the beginning of a question, do implies some form of action. Therein lies the problem with this seemingly insignificant word. People are not afraid of the word, they’re afraid of what it represents. ACTION that will take them out of their comfort zone or cause them to face their inadequacies. Do may only have half the characters of the four letter words but it has ten times the bite. People are paralyzed by their do’s.
So just like the foul mouthed people who drop the F bomb way too much, the key to reducing the potency of something is to increase the frequency. DO until you’re not afraid to do anymore. Give it a shot! Try! (That’s right Yoda, I said TRY! Go F#%$ yourself.) Succeeding/Failing do not matter anywhere near as much as the feeling that you have about who you are when you unshackle yourself from fear.
Most of the time soccer is a noun but today I’m going to use it as a verb. Of course when you are creating a new word, it’s important to define it. Here is my explanation of the term.
The action of “soccering” is not the act of playing soccer. We already know how to say and do that. And NO! It doesn’t mean acting like you’re injured when no one did anything to you. The action of soccering is the real life application of the virtues that are possessed within the game. In soccer, players must make real time decisions about what to do, based on the stimuli that they take in from both teammates and opponents in order to achieve the outcomes of simultaneously reaching a goal while defending their own. The soccer paradigm puts the impetus of decision onto eleven individuals acting as a collective rather than following the pre-scripted orders of an overseer. Although positioning and style of play may be directed, principles and judgment are the main directors of decisions.
America needs to soccer! It needs to take back the very impetus that this country was founded upon. Regular people doing things as a collective that move us all forward and protect us against failing. We need regular citizens who want to be self-determining within the existing system and help to influence that system. At the moment we seem to be overwhelmingly passive and extremely willing to look for someone else to be accountable rather than looking to be responsible ourselves.
We can soccer by trying to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can soccer by changing our perspective from a “they” to “we” mentality. We can soccer by doing the right thing even if we know that no one else will notice but us. We can soccer by deciding to take a chance on something that might not work, rather than doing it “the way we’ve always done it.” There are so many ways to soccer but the thing about soccering is that it has to start with you. You can’t tell someone else to soccer. You can only show them how by doing it first and being an example.
Below is a long description of the historical paradigms where this thought came from. If you are inspired to do something right now, then don’t read the bottom, act now, read later.
Why do I believe that America needs to soccer? The historical successes of the United States have in large part been attributed to a football paradigm. Land acquisition and forward progress are the hallmarks of the All-American sport. In the past, both politically and economically, we have pushed forward in the name of progress and it has served us well. Manifest Destiny is the perfect example. Presidents and other decision-makers laid out a playbook for the American people to score a touchdown on the Pacific coast. Americans led the charge across the continent through wars and promised economic success, the way football players might listen to a play called from the sidelines. The Space Race, the Arms Race, the Cold War and Industrial Revolution were all perfectly suited to the football paradigm. So why change?
The reason for change is that the football paradigm is fundamentally flawed in a few different areas. The idea of neverending progress is unrealistic. At some point stock prices level off, profits decline and progress slows and stops. In a paradigm that preaches forward motion as the truest indicator of success, it is not surprising that we have: insider trading, big CEO bonuses for bailed out companies and strategic layoffs to protect profits. Individuals, companies and the government have all pushed toward their given marker of success whether it be money, land, power or prestige. These success markers are not inherently evil or negative but their acquisition without thought to the human equation has created an imbalance in our perspective on success.
There are also the separations in the football paradigm. The coach is the one who calls the plays. The offense scores the points and the defense stops the other team. Although all are members of the same team, it is easy to point the finger at another individual or group when things go wrong. In the Industrial Revolution this system was completely acceptable. Henry Ford brought forth the assembly line. He took men who were making fifty cents per day and paid them five dollars per day because of his efficiency. People were more than willing to be a cog in that machine because it was a better life than what they expected. They were linemen but were happy to be that. Now with modern technology and globalization that deal doesn’t work anymore. That deal is being shipped overseas and no one wants to be a lineman anymore. Everyone thinks they’re a quarterback and expects to be paid like one.
America needs to soccer because you’re part of the problem and part of the solution. You’re on the field. The decisions that you make on a daily basis matter. The President, the senator, the governor, your boss, your wife, your children, your friends, your teachers are part of it all but so are you. So before you point the finger, point the thumb. What can you do today to SOCCER?
My soccer career started on a team called the Orange Crushers. I didn’t know what “irony” was at seven years old but our name epitomized it. We crushed nothing and it seemed as though our purpose in the league was for us to be crushed by others. My memories of that season are a complete blur except for one game. In one of our final games of the season, we won and I scored. I was so glad when it happened. The other team from town, Blue Bombers, was filled with friends and classmates and they were undefeated. So that lone victory was important for me because I’d received some ribbing at school. Perhaps that lone victory kept me hanging on despite the poor start to my soccer career.
As the years went on, there was a slow dance that went on between winning and I. One year my team would be a success. The next we were knocked back down a peg. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had figured out who I was as a player. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t quit. That was my first year as a complete “success”. Conference and County Championships were the first two real trophies that any of my teams had ever won. As I thought back to that team, I realized that not one player from the Blue Bombers remained. They had all stopped playing soccer or switched to other sports.
Knowing how to lose and not quit or to persevere through tough times are skills that you acquire from a poor start. These skills are invaluable because no one maintains success forever. Using memories of our failures as stepping-stones is the way we make a staircase toward our success. The examples of poor starts are woven throughout the history of the United States. Lincoln, Ford and Carnegie are three that instantly pop to mind but one of my favorites from the present day is Stallone.
When Sylvester Stallone sold the script of Rocky, the studio wanted to make the film but with someone else playing Rocky. At the time he was completely broke and refused a series of offers from the studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stuck to his guns. He knew how to survive and live with failure but he saw this film as his one ticket to ultimate success. So with very long odds, he bet on himself and won. I used to watch the Rocky films regularly when I was in high school. Later I learned just how much the movies mirror Stallone’s life. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tells his son that life is about “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My guess is Stallone learned this early and never forgot.
A poor start is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be embraced. The power of a poor start comes in the fact that you know where you began is not where you’re going to end. The power of a poor start comes from realizing that failure did not put poison inside you, it put fire inside you. The only negative to a poor start is if you quit and make your start, your end.
Hollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.
What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.
If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.
It’s too hard.
It will take too long.
I might not succeed.
Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
I don’t want people to make fun of me.
No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?
Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.
Stories are an integral part of our society and have been for thousands of years. Whether the Odyssey, the Bible, Star Wars or Romeo & Juliet, the stories of the present and past have almost all been intended to tell us something. Not particularly something about the past although many are historical in nature. More often than not, stories are trying to tell us something about the human condition. Although a form of entertainment, they can also be instructive.
Characters are not just imaginary people to play make believe for us real humans. They represent a myriad of possible traits, life courses and mindsets. Whether Han Solo, Jesus, the Lorax or Hector, each one offers the gift of possibility. The idea of a life slightly different from our own. They offer themselves up in front of us on the screen or the page in order for us to judge them and their value. At that point their power or lack there of is left up to us.
What’s missing from the story is you. If you only admire the heroism of Han Solo or the kindness of Jesus but never transfer it into your own life, then these characters truly are lifeless. However, if you’re willing to take up their plight from the page, then they truly do live. It is not enough for heroism, kindness and love to exist in movies and books because evil and hatred are alive in the real world. So if you truly love a movie or book, then show it by becoming an actor. A person who acts in the stead of those imaginary people. The world is waiting for your story to be told and you’re the only thing that’s missing.