Quotes like this captivate our imagination because they simplify things to a singular thought. LIFE (and especially your life) is much more nuanced and complicated. Sayings like this are easy to put on posters and Instagram posts but much more difficult to live up to, especially when they are not true. In this case, the truth is that winners quit things all the time. Winners quit making excuses! Winners quit holding low standards for themselves! Winner quit doing unimportant things! Yes! This more nuanced approach is less evident and harder to put on a poster. However it is definitely more powerful. No longer is an average person like you or me under the pressure of “NEVER.”
“Knowledge is power!” is the next lie that I’d like to unpack. Knowledge is not power. It is is only potential power. Knowledge without action is like gasoline without a flame. It has the potential to make a big explosion but is inert on its own. The person with the knowledge must do something with it in order to extract its power. The equation for power is work over time. No doubt that in the real world, knowledge can reduce the time and the work in order to make that equation more powerful. Knowledge is something but it’s far from the only thing. Many people scour books and the internet for all the knowledge that they can find but their inaction keeps them stagnant.
So as you encounter these sayings, dig a little deeper because under the surface is all of the value. Think it through and make it apply to you. Grandiose is often not practical. We all need tools that we can use, not just sayings that look good next to the picture of a famous person. Life is supposed to be meaningful, not just quotable!
It’s actually quite amazing when you think about it. The fact that pessimism can even exist in a world where we have achieved so much. The internet, space travel, self-driving cars and a myriad of other examples should really give us hope that anything is possible. In a short span of time, we’ve gone from living a relatively meager existence to bending the world to a place of our own design. I recognize fully that not all of the progress come without cost. However even the problems that we have created are well within our scope to solve. The problem is one of vision.
In many ways we hang onto the ways of our ancestors. Some of those traditions and habits have value that justifies their persistence. However there are many that are anchors to our progress: both personally and societally. The one in particular that I am thinking of at the moment is our vision.
The phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it” seems to encapsulate the way that many people, with whom I deal daily, view the world. Their belief, effort, support, etc. are completely dependent on proof positive before they will take the leap. Unfortunately that level of conservatism will only ever produce the same results to which we are accustomed. The realm of possibility encompasses far more than we can imagine. So in order to get where we truly want to go, “I’ll see it when I believe it” is the mantra of the day. This may seem like semantic double talk but it truly is the way forward. Human beings lead with belief. Too many of us are being held back by our need for the world to give us proof before we are willing to leap. Absolutely! Put on a helmet if necessary! But most of us are not afraid of the moon shots, we’re afraid to be disappointed, to try, to give everything we’ve got! The unfortunate thing about this is that although we’re not dead, we’re not fully alive either. We live in a time when anything is possible but exist day to day only in what is probable. Our vision for the future should not look exactly like the past.
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.
It’s official! The paperwork just came in from the state and my son’s name is officially Lionel Messi! I fully anticipate that his goal total will skyrocket in the coming seasons. If you’ve not screamed “You’re an idiot!” yet, you’ve at least thought it. I felt stupid just typing it! A name is not particularly an indicator of quality, it’s a way to differentiate one person from millions of other similar people. This truth is so easy to realize when talking about a person’s talent. Then why do so many people trap themselves into the soccer club name game? Like soccer, the answer is simple but at the same time complex. Perception helps us form our reality.
In college, I worked at a beer and wine store. On the beer side of the store, I got very few questions. Occasionally someone would ask about a new micro-brew but generally people knew what they were looking for. The Coors guy would rarely change things up and would walk in grab a case, pay and walk out. On the wine side of the store, there were much more questions and a posturing of perception. If a wine was highlighted in the “Wine Spectator” magazine, we were likely to sell out of it especially if it was priced under $30. Most of the people were looking for the popular wine, even if they had never tasted it and often it wasn’t even their favorite varietal. They had been sold on a perception not their own reality. Being seen as a person who knew about wine was much more important than getting what they wanted in a wine.
At the moment in the soccer world, we’re going through a similar perception economy. Names are just a part of the equation that includes trainers, sponsors, equipment, etc. The name is just the asset with no inherent value other than perception. It’s a longstanding joke with a coach friend of mine that we are going to start a club with all of the standard soccer club cliches of quality. My most recent version is “Select Elite Academy Soccer International Club Kickers” or S.E.A.S.I.C.K. for short. I’m sure that the players of SEASICK would be bursting with pride in the fact that they were playing for an “elite academy”, though they might be neither. Since they tried out, that would make it “select”. Although they might be confused by the “international” tag but I’m sure we’d find an English or Dutch trainer to squelch that thought. Finally I’m sure that they would have preferred to be an FC but let’s face it, you can’t fight the draw of a good acronym! Again I’m being ridiculous but not inaccurate.
The youth soccer world is based heavily on perception but with more real consequences than my wine example. This is not a mistake of serving chardonnay with steak (which is actually fine if that’s what you like). It’s a mistake of hanging children’s self-worth on a false status. It may not be prudent to invest a child’s one non-renewable resource (time) into a pursuit of athletic “excellence” rather than personal development. Does an “elite” soccer player translate this time and financial commitment into love from his/her parents? Do they have the tight bonds of friendship with their elite teammates that they have with kids from their school? Are the elite coaches also elite role models of how to be a good person? If these questions were all asked and well considered before the tryout, then stay the course. However my fear is that many people have blinders on with a very narrow view of the course that they are putting their children on. By age 25, most people’s playing careers are over but their lives are not yet close to half done. Will memories of warm-up jackets embroidered with half true adjectives be enough to sustain them through their adult life? Or are the actions, relationships and mentors of the individual the true creators of great memories?
Eventually the packaging fades away and the true substance of what’s been sold shines through. Go in with an idea of what you really want and see past the packaging. The world is filled with people who will sell you something for their own benefit rather than yours. Not everyone is elite but anyone can receive the gifts that the game has to offer without a price tag.
In high school, I was an above average high jumper. My secondary event was long jump. I was only slightly above average in long jump and did not enjoy it or practice it as much. In my senior year, I started to notice that I had better results in high jump at meets where I was also long jumping. If there was a meet that I was only competing in the high jump, I tended to fall short of my best. Despite the fact that long jump was never my primary focus, it helped me not to “over-focus” on high jump. The slight distraction was valuable because too much mental and emotional energy spent in one direction had diminishing returns. This realization was made about a very specific activity but has influenced the way that I think daily. In the fast paced world that we live in, it is easy to get distracted. Distraction for the purpose of others is usually not helpful. However release of the pressure of intense focus is both helpful and desirable in many respects. Most activities and even people can be put into one of these groupings.
Less to get more – There are some things that it’s better for me to not focus on all the time. Writing and other activities that I enjoy would become burdensome quickly if I was over-focused on them. The amount of mental and emotional energy that I put in would begin to deteriorate the positive feelings and outcomes. On the people side of things, in the past I have smothered certain relationships through over-focus.
None to get more – There are things that it’s better if I ignore them completely. Complete ignorance is not particularly healthy. However there are things that I should not let into my brain at all. I’ve gotten better at taking away extraneous activities and thought patterns to be in a better mental and emotional state regularly. This has become even more important for people. There are some people that I’ve just had to cut completely out of my life. Their presence was a drain on time and energy. The positive effect on my life was minuscule compared to the drain. So they needed to be cut out or ignored.
From ostrich to eagle – There are things that I ignore wholly or partially that I should really be paying attention to. Usually these things are fear based. The fear is not real, it’s a story that I tell myself inside of my head. It is a story about disappointment, rejection, pain and failure. Most of the time when I break out of the ostrich perspective, I realize that it is not anywhere near as bad as I thought. The hardest part is pulling my head out of the ground or my ass and start doing things. Unfortunately this also works for people. There are people in my life that deserve attention but I don’t give it to them. Again the investment of time seems much bigger than it probably is. So ignoring is easier in the short term but there is a price that is paid in the long term.
Your focus determines your reality. So as you go through your day and your life, it is important that you choose what you focus on and how often. If your life or relationships are not working in one area or another, it is at least partially due to the focus or lack there of that you are putting in there. More does not always translate to better! Find the right balance to the ingredients in your life.