Kids pretend all the time. They turn sticks into swords, a backyard into a jungle and anything has the potential to be magical. Then as we grow, it seems to be trained out of us. We tend to see ourselves in finite terms. Our limits are not those of our imagination but rather of our circumstances. We don’t consider the impossible or even the improbable because it has been trained out of us. Pretending is child’s play and most of us consider ourselves too mature to do that. The truth is that we’re all pretenders, we’ve just bought into a more sophisticated game.
If you have a dollar in your pocket, take it out and look at it, try to come up with another use for it other than to purchase something. Possibly a book mark or it could be folded to straighten a wobbly table. Thousands of years ago, someone came up with the idea of money and got enough people to believe in it, that now it largely runs the world. At home I have some Ecuadorian Sucre coins and bills. They’re worthless to just about everyone in the world because Ecuador stopped using the Sucre years ago. New pieces are used in the game that they’re playing.
There are systems that have been put into place for decades, centuries or millennia. Learning to negotiate within those systems is extremely important. However you must always remember that we’re all pretending on some level. I’m pretending to be a writer. If I do a good enough job, more people will buy into that role that I’ve imagined for myself. If I do a poor job, I won’t get to play that game anymore.
So since we’re all pretending on some level, why not go out into the world with all of your guns blazing? Pretend so hard on the things that matter to you that no one will doubt that you are exactly who you’re pretending to be. The other option is to take the role that you’ve been dealt by your circumstances because your not willing to pretend anymore. Acceptance of the boundaries of your life seems a lot like a cage. The origin of the word pretend is Latin. It means “before the stretch”. It is the precursor to growth. So keep pretending until you stretch to your actual limits, not the ones that were thrust upon you.
Have a great day!
It was an absolute revelation! Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business). The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women. The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.
Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar. He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.” His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way). They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny. Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number. Watch the clip for the full picture.
This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives. First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations. Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me. I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.
The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you. Keep that in mind at all times. Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you. So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself. It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can. Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior. When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.
You’re a big bear man!
Idols are supposed to be held in high esteem, the very personification of the things that we want to be. It hit me like a lightning bolt this morning that Mr. Magoo is truly an American idol for so many people. For those youngsters out there, Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character whose poor eyesight routinely got him into precarious situations but he always escapes unscathed and sometimes falls into good fortune. Feel free to watch one Mr. Magoo cartoon on YouTube. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all (minus little details). The overarching idea behind Mr. Magoo is that his problem would be easily fixed if he were just to put on his glasses but he wants to deny his problem rather than face it.
Although it isn’t pretty, this seems to be a scarily accurate description of how many of us live our lives. We recognize our problem but are too damn stubborn, lazy or indifferent to do anything about it. Seemingly our greatest hope is that we can meander through life blind to our inadequacies and not have them bite us in the ass. While this makes for a mildly amusing cartoon, it is a disastrous strategy for living a life of fulfillment and progress.
Rather than turning a blind eye to your inadequacies, stare at them with crystal clear vision, even put them under a microscope if need be. Decide what you truly want: to feel good in the moment or feel good long term. If you want the Magoo life, then by all means turn the blind eye. BUT if you want more from your life, then you and you alone will need to make the decision to systematically work on your areas of weakness until they can no longer hurt you. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting on glasses but perhaps it will take years or even decades to overcome. Regardless, it’s up to you to Magoo or not.
It is not an uncommon thing at all to wish for a future that is yet to come or a past that is long gone. Humans have the blessing and the curse to be able to mentally exist in the past and future while ignoring the present. It is a blessing because it allows us the freedom to live in the most useful plane. The curse is the propensity to relive or project the worst of experiences or possibilities. At all times, the mind has the capability of transporting the self elsewhere. With this ultimate power to determine much of our existence, surprisingly most people defer control to the moment or to their “monkey mind”. Imagine if you will driving a car with no steering wheel. The gas and the brake are great tools but without the ability to steer, one is at the mercy of the terrain and the tires.
So the key to moving forward in a direction of your own desire means developing a steering mechanism. How long would you drive that car without a steering wheel? Not long at all before you or someone else added that key component. The key to your mental steering comes down to practice. Pulling your mind in the direction of your choosing on a regular basis. When it wanders, you must take control again. Under no circumstances is this easy. It’s easy to be swayed by right now. It’s easy to run the patterns that you’ve been running for years or decades. Those are the paths of least resistance but I assure you that they will not get you to your destination in a timely or comfortable manner.
So take this moment to decide. Decide who you are now and who you want to be in the future (you can’t fix the past but you can change its meaning). Once you have those in mind, start with a half hour each day where you think and act only in line with that vision. If you mind wanders, bring it back! As you get better and better at completing that half hour, it will begin to dump over into the other hours of the day. Eventually the you from the vision and your reality will be one in the same. The only question for now is, are you willing to take control?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the old school gods and their importance in the lives of our ancestors. Although we have so many technological and societal advantages, there are some aspects to their belief structure that could be helpful if implemented. I’ve joked several times that I may start worshiping Zeus and the other Greek gods because of their idiosyncrasies. You’re less likely to beat yourself up over work snafu when your god is regularly cheating on his wife. Despite the possible comedy arising from this, I don’t know that there’s much to it. The main area that most of the ancient religions have in common is the concept of “sacrifice”. I will be focusing on the non-human variety.
With a scientifically inferior way of understanding the world, our ancestors intuitively seem to have comprehended something that has become lost recently. Despite the fact that their reasons for sacrificing crops, animals, etc. was founded in mythology, it is a practical lesson. The recognition of giving something up in the hope of influencing the greater system. I’m sure that the phrase “give up” came from the ceremonial act of giving a thing up to a deity. As our world has more, we are less willing to go without. We don’t see the point. Our parents and grandparents worked hard for the prosperity that we now enjoy. Therefore we “deserve” everything we have. Unfortunately the word DE-SERVE, could be hyphenated and it means “from service”. To keep that which we have, we must continue to serve. Or to get more we must serve more. At a certain point the words service and sacrifice tend to intertwine.
So the give up bargain is simple. Recognize that on some level, you’ll need to give up something that you have in order to get that which you want. Not in any religious context but in a more practical way. Giving up your anger will allow you to find peace. Giving up your excessive eating will allow you to find the slimmer you. The reverse is also in play. If you are not acting in the service of what you already have, it will eventually be taken from you. You are not an independent force in this world/universe. Your actions have consequences. Giving and taking are two sides of the same coin. Therefore they are linked. Keep this in mind as you give things up. The lottery mentality is a losing strategy because it applies in such a small number of cases. Practical sacrifice and service of that which matters most to you. When you decide what you want, also decide on what you’re willing to give up to get it. Usually this bargain will involve trading now for later and so many of us are in love with NOW.
Give up today!
Imagine it. A soldier walking through a jungle in a foreign land just as the rain stops. In the distance there is a rainbow. All of the sudden there is an attack from the enemy. The attack is repelled and the soldier marches on. The next day the rain stops, rainbow, surprise attack. This pattern continues for a week. On the eighth day, the soldier comes upon a beautiful waterfall. With the water plummeting from a height of over fifty feet, a mist above the surface of the water forms a miniature rainbow and soldier discharges his weapon several times into the falling water. There is no attack, so the soldier is sure that the enemy is dead. It is ridiculous, isn’t it? The soldier believing that the rainbow somehow caused or could help the prediction of the attacks. The truth is that we all do it at one point or another.
The combination of two things that have almost no association whatsoever is quite common. An undefeated streak and an unwashed pair of socks. Traffic and the driver in front of you. School and learning. WAIT!!!! That’s blasphemy! Especially for someone who has spent years as a teacher and vehement proponent of learning.
The problem is that in many ways the statement is true. School and learning have almost completely been divorced from one another. People recognize that at one point in history they went hand in hand. However that relationship has decayed in people’s minds. School has become a pariah that people only endure because they have to. Learning has gotten mistaken for its cousin, information. Since information is everywhere, people have no need to engage in the relationship with learning. So this once inseparable couple is now separated and only feign a relationship “because of the kids”.
This is an extreme picture of the present situation. While not completely accurate, it is not altogether inaccurate. School is in a precarious position because it only ever came into being because of learning. The point of school was to learn (especially how to think). In many instances that has been replaced with “The point of school is to get good grades.” Like the telephone game that many of us played as children, over time the message has gotten garbled and disjointed. Politicians, administrators, parents and teachers propped up a system that only partially meets its expressed purpose. Like the situation of rogue traders who bet on speculative numbers with the life savings of others, this could leave many people bankrupt.
So for now, my suggestion is double, triple or quadruple down on learning. If it happens at school, GREAT! If it happens elsewhere, GREAT! Learn about the things that are important to you and the people in your life. Dive deep into learning about yourself. How you work. How your mind works. How your emotions work. Not so you can be self-centered but you can find balance with the world. Learning is not actually the hard part as it happens all the time. The key is learning things that are useful and meaningful to your world. So if you are still in school, don’t think of learning as drudgery. Seek out those opportunities when school style learning overlaps with your life. If you’re already done with school, realize that you aren’t done with learning. Don’t try to kill the rainbow just because it was lumped in with something that you perceive to be your enemy.
Have a great year!
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!
With summer almost here, it almost time cotton candy, hot dogs, games and fun. Unfortunately fair’s not coming to town. The trucks, the rides and treats might all show up for a few days but there will be kids and adults alike expecting fair. Johnny whose cotton candy is smaller than his sister’s cries about fair. The father who remembers when the ticket for a ride was a quarter, not a dollar will complain about fair. The Scrambler operator will hear about the pay that his friends get at their jobs and wish for fair. Fair is not coming to town because it’s usually a one sided proposition.
When dealing in many of life’s currencies, it is smart and possibly necessary to pay attention to equity. At times this should be pedestrian and others miserly. Regardless the perception of fair comes from the perceived value exchange. Time, money, love, gold, loyalty and a slew of other currencies trade at different values for each individual. There is no standard exchange rate. Even in monetary terms, there is constant fluctuation in the value of the dollar vs. the yen vs. the pound. Fair is not coming, it needs to be created.
The world is operating on a deficit in many currencies. The problem is that many people are miserly with currencies that are infinite. The ones that we individually create. So therefore we cannot run out of them. Love, empathy, friendship, etc. are worth giving away in the hopes of creating more. Determining a level of fair exchange is individual but why hoard these currencies? We (the world) benefit from their free exchange. Hatred, malice, jealousy, etc. are also infinite but should be wielded with great caution. They tend to injure and despite our great civilizations, we are still animals. Wounded animals tend to cower or lash out. Both perpetuate a black market exchange that corrupts the soul.
Fair is not coming to town. Your exchanges are bound to be imperfect and unbalanced. The question is; do you feel proud of your balance sheet? The sum total of your life cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It can be estimated whether or not your life made sense. Philanthropist, miser or tyrant is your choice to make and it will be decided by your actions. Is that fair?
For most of my life, I’ve had a portion of Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne memorized. “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” It’s moving. It moves me in the sense that I actually take action when I think of it, hear it in my head or in my heart. The issue is at the moment, the critics have such a large megaphone that it becomes hard to hear our heads and our hearts. The echo of other people’s point of view tends to linger, burn and even cut the ones who are actually in the arena. The credit may belong to the man in the arena but that credit is hard earned because people want you to lose and never let you forget it.
The only thing to do is go deaf. Deaf to the jeers, the criticisms and the negativity. The volume of the critic does not matter if you pay no attention. Besides the only reason the words of the critic ever penetrated is because you believed them at least partially. Their message about you being a failure or a loser resonated with you on some level deep within. So the inner critic is actually the one that has the power to take you down.
The way to silence the inner critic is to run. Run straight into the arena. Sleep there, eat there, get your ass kicked there but at least in the arena, the inner critic has to stay in the stands. He can’t get his hands on you as long as you stay fixed in the center of the ring. Perhaps in the end you’ll find out that the critics were right and you didn’t have the stuff. But at least you’ll know for sure, while they’re left wondering about themselves. Outwardly chastising but inwardly envying the chance that you took to gain the credit of the arena.
Have a great weekend!