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!
Do me a favor and breath deeply. Pull it in and then release it. The air is incidental, isn’t it? It’s the breathing that you noticed. You probably gave little thought to the air itself. That’s because air is all around and it feels pliable and weak. It is only when air is marshaled into a formidable force, like a hurricane, that it gets the respect that it deserves. We need the air that we breath, it a building block with the potential to give life or take it away. It is a resource of infinite importance that is invisible because we only see it when it smacks us in the face like in a hurricane.
Air is not the only resource that we besmirch on regular basis. Even for those that are visible, we cannot always see because we are too busy with our present lives to notice. The world is not lacking for resources or opportunities but rather people that can see them in their dormant state. Most of us are waiting to get picked up in a hurricane of opportunity. The problem is that the hurricane is never coming. You need to go get the hurricane, possibly even build it from the ground up; one molecule at a time.
The world has already gifted you the component pieces. Are you going to complain that it has not put them together for you? Or can you find the joy in the noticing, finding, building and creating? If you don’t build your own hurricane, you’ll need to chase someone else’s and take the chance of being blown away.
Go find what you need today!
Each week in fourth grade, we had a folder that contained all of our work. On Friday, if you had everything done, the word ‘Complete’ was written on your folder and you got to do some craft or game. If you didn’t have everything done, you received a note of ‘Incomplete’ and you needed to finish your work before getting any free time. In the entire school year, I think that I was ‘Complete’ only twice. It took me most of the year to finish my macrame owl due to my limited free time. I’m quite certain that I only passed fourth grade by the skin of my teeth. Perhaps I should have (or continue) to feel badly about my incomplete track record or tendency. The fact of the matter is that I don’t.
Having been raised catholic, part of the prayer for the confession of sins always hit me hardest was be sorry for the things that “I have left undone”. That’s a long list, even for the most accomplished person in the world. There are many things that each of us leaves undone everyday. Should this be a point guilt or shame? Probably not. People are not meant to be machines focused on efficiency. We have choice and can decide what is worth doing. That discernment of the value in activity should be exercised regularly.
The things that we choose or choose not to do are the elemental level of who we are as people. None of us is incomplete. Our choices may not meet with the standards of others but incomplete; NEVER! You are what you do and the person who must set the standard is YOU. The world is out there, waiting to see what you’ll do. Go show it.
Make it a complete day on your terms!
The world is filled with things that cut. Like walking through a patch of thorn bushes with exposed skin, injury is an almost certainty. In the short term, bandaging the cuts is the right strategy. In time, the wounds will heal. If too many cuts pile up, the bandages become wrappings. You become a mummy. Movements constrained by the bandages on wounds that never healed. Avoiding cuts completely is an impossibility but choosing a new path and learning how to wield a machete are both options. Band aids are not a long term solution, they are a short term fix. This concept is obvious when thinking about real wounds but with metaphorical wounds, this is a common strategy.
The key has always been preventative medicine/measures. Solving old problems with solutions that minimize or eradicate the issue is the best way to get better problems. That is an understanding that everyone needs to have: PROBLEMS AREN’T GOING AWAY! The most that you can hope for is to have the best problems possible because you’ve solved the old and boring ones. Why would you choose to flail around in that same old thorn bush when you can figure out how to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
I know that many of you out there are bleeding and it hurts. My heart goes out to you and I hope that this message will help you move on. Break free of the thorns and find the path to the mountain where you can see for miles. It won’t be easy but it may be worth it!
Have a great day!
Living with a teenage boy can be disgusting. Having grown up in a house with three brothers, any one of us had the ability to make everyone else leave the house based on a bodily function. We were delighted by our own disgusting-ness. Since the offensive odor belonged to us, we were almost immune to it. Eventually we all turned into civilized human beings but I’m sure there was some real doubt from my mother for a while. I’m sure that most mothers occasionally envision their sons growing up to be lifelong bachelors. Not by choice but by necessity. Her grownup boy would be alone in a one bedroom apartment playing video games, farting and giggling. He would be completely nose-blind to his effect on others. Luckily most boys figure out their effect on others and keep their crap to themselves.
The things about other people’s actual crap is that we generally don’t have to deal with it. It’s a private thing that they must take care of. However when it comes to their figurative crap, it’s easy for you to see what they should do with it. Think of it now. All of the brilliant things that you’ve thought up for other people. It’s a pretty pervasive thing. I’ve worked as a garbage man where my coworkers had “great ideas” for the government, the boss, that CEO or the president. The crap is so much easier when it’s not yours.
So maybe it’s time that you write down the solutions to that other person’s crap. Write a nice little letter or email to Jane or John Doe. Sending the message will be easy because their address (physical or email) is the same as yours. You’ll be intimately aware of all of their issues because they’re the same as yours. The letter is your chance to be separate from the issues and come from the outside perspective. What would you tell a friend, colleague or loved one to do with your situation? You’d know how to help them wouldn’t you? Sit down, take the time to actually write out one problem and one solution. DON’T FIX EVERYTHING AT ONCE! Just one. Start small. There will be more crap tomorrow. It’s not going anywhere until you do something about it. Because other than your mom, no one’s cleaning up after you.
Get sponge and bucket!
The Rolling Stones are iconic and endured long past most of their contemporaries. That type of longevity mixed with commercial success is worth noting and aspiring to but not manufacturing. Trying to manufacture the Rolling is not only impossible, it feels foolish to suggest trying. Despite this realization in the folly of trying to manufacture the next Rolling Stones, people seem obsessed with being the next Uber, AirBnB, Amazon or Lebron. Either individually or organizationally at certain point, we all must break away from the icons that we adore in order to stand in our own right.
For the moment, my daughter is listening to Twenty One Pilots. I’ve enjoyed their music because much like the Rolling Stones, they have their own style. It has been a long time since a musical group has not sounded like some derivative of a style or past performer. It’s possible that I missed who they are copying but for now I’ll stay impressed.
The mixture of uncertainty and pervasive broadcasting of “success” through social media leads to a desire to impersonate. Trying to emulate the airbrushed life of a quasi-celebrity is an exercise in futility and disappointment. Regardless of the person, what you see is not 100% of who they are. It is the public version or the highlighted reel. Holding yourself to that standard will end in failure.
So hold yourself to your own standard! Can you be influenced by others? Absolutely! Borrow, experiment and test but in the end your product is going to need a huge helping of YOU at its core. Keeping that in mind from the outset will allow you to be a much happier version of yourself. Comparison can be a killer because you know everything about only one person in the comparison, you. You know every thought, fear, desire and screw up. No matter who you’re comparing yourself to, you’ll never know all of that. So you’ll either be too hard on them or yourself and usually it’s the latter.
So go out there and be you today. Wear your flaws and shortcomings like they’re some of your best accessories because in all honesty, THEY ARE! Just imagine, there is probably someone out there who would love to be you and the message to them is the same. They can’t be. So go be yourself.
Have a great Monday!
In this country and around the world Champions are lauded for their accomplishments. Usually the scene of victory is filled with a trophy to be kissed, confetti falling, champagne popping and players/fans rejoicing. The reason that this scene is so easy to recreate in one’s mind is that it is pervasive throughout sport. Depending on the particular sport, one could be even more specific about the scene. Regardless of which championship is one there is an invisible specter that is ever-present but has seemingly been forgotten by many who are watching. The fruits of the labor are on full display but the labor often gets overlooked. In a world where instant gratification is becoming more of the norm will we be seduced by the empty triumph of getting the small reward now or choose the labor that creates real results? The answer is that both will happen.
There will be many people who get swept up in the power of the “Now Economy”. They will take the short term rewards and overlook some of the long term consequences. It is not a surprising phenomena that people take the easier path. On a biochemical level, our reward system is easily seduced by the immediate regardless of its hollowness. It takes time and training to override this system.
The greatest of all time were able to train themselves to be long term greedy. Rather than giving in to the temptation of the moment, they put in the work now in order to reap the benefits later. Often that was months or even years later. The prize at the end may have been what drove them but the process of attaining greatness is won daily.
Each of us has the power within to choose. There probably won’t be a championship trophy at the end for most of us. Our accomplishments won’t be on ESPN. It will almost all happen on the inside. The triumph will be over self and circumstance with only a few fans (friends and family) there to celebrate. Will you be able to hold your head high based on what you have done? Or will you be looking down at the path of shortcuts that you took to run yourself in circles? You have the power to choose and you’re choosing right now. Choose wisely!