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.
In kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class. The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom. I won everyone that I ran in. Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion. First, it’s possible that it is true. I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class. Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine. Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER! While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.
Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around. In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races. Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem. Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later. They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.
The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis. The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things. Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people. It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles. Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste. These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.
So the daily choice comes down to you. Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life. Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself. Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.
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!
It wasn’t a 100% binary equation. Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”. Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death. Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died. I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner. Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case. Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators. While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes. Gladiators got good because they had to. Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.
By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to. A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go. However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward. The same holds for an individual. What is at stake for you today? Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie? Or is nothing at stake today? Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday? Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly. Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber. The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword. That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake. So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!
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?
I’m fully willing to admit that I’m a relatively passive driver. It’s almost to a fault. Most of the driving routes that I take for local trips are based on their lack of difficult left turns. It’s not that I’m incapable of making the turns nor do I lack the patience to wait for openings. My overarching thought process is that I don’t engage with unknown chaos if I don’t need to. Overall I’m happy with the strategy. However recently I’ve been forcing myself to do more left turn heavy routes. Just to demonstrate to myself that my passivity is a strategy that I want and not character flaw born out of fear.
In many areas of our lives, we tend to become accustomed to things. There is almost an autopilot type of function that we employ to the regular and presupposed. This is not a problem until it is. Often the need for comfort keeps us anchored to the known. Most of the time the known is a positive but eventually you may end up driving in circles. “Big Ben, Parliament!”
People have an ingrained need to feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately those emotions do not usually help you move forward in the most direct route. The road to your ideal life is not lined with rose petals, rainbows and unicorns. It is going to require grit, determination, unwavering faith in that unseen and YES! Hard left turns through major traffic! This realization is necessary to reach new destinations. If you’re happy going where you’ve always gone with path of least resistance, then by all means keep going that way. If not, then it’s time to recognize the power of the left turn and accept that they are going to be integral to you reaching your destination.
For my international reader who may drive on the left hand side of the road, just reverse all that I just said! :p
Go get there!
I would not have been surprised if I annoyed the hell out of my former teammates. It’s not that I’m a bad player, I’m actually OK (or was). The annoying factor would come from two things in particular. First, I never shut up. I talk incessantly. Almost as if I were the unofficial play by play announcer for our team. The other would be my tendency to blame everything that went wrong on myself. Regardless of how small of an influence I had on a situation, I tended to focus on my little component rather than anyone else’s. If a goal was scored, it was almost always followed by an admission of guilt. As an intelligent human being and player, I realize that not everything that went wrong was my fault. It’s just not true. However I always wanted to exhaust the thumb before I went to the finger.
In a world where almost everything is on video, accountability is an easy thing to track, especially in sports. Who lost their mark or misplayed a pass is available in HD clarity. I’m not particularly keen on accountability though. It has its place. However responsibility is a much more interesting quality. People need to take responsibility. Accountability can be handed out and often leads to separation. Fingers tend to make enemies and excuses. Thumbs tend to make leaders and solutions. By continuously pointing the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger, a few very important things happen.
First, the thumbed individual sees him or herself a part of a larger whole which is influenced by the actions of all. Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and contributes to an eventual hurricane. A person willing to exhaust the thumb recognizes that they’re not working independently of the rest of the group, team, company or world. Every action of the individual has the potential to influence a much larger whole. Could a tiny gesture of kindness toward a neighbor influence the relations of an entire town or city? Absolutely! Especially if those actions are done consistently.
Second, the thumbed individual infrequently or never blames others. This posture creates fewer separations between people. Finding fault in others rarely creates better behavior. It usually only creates resentment for the person doing the blaming. Most people in this world are their own harshest critic. Giving them the ability to rectify the situation without judgment can go a long way toward future success. Fear of letting someone down is a much stronger motivator than fear of punishment. It also has the added benefit of creating better relations between people who are giving their best to each other and know that criticism (if it comes) will come with understanding.
Like anything else that is really important in life, not everyone will do this because it’s hard. It’s so much easier to lose your temper or “let off some steam”. After all things are often other people’s fault. Taking on this world view doesn’t change that. However it does get you focus on the only person that you can fully control, yourself. If you are in control of yourself, then it’s possible that you’ll end up where you want to go.
Have a great day!
Although the 1980’s were memorable for many reasons, the crazy hair is probably one of the most prevalent. Big hair was all the rage at the time. Many of the 80’s rock bands invested a lot of time and money on their hair. Image was almost more important than the music. I’ve even heard interviews with bands who tried to gain information on the hair products of more successful bands in order to copy their formula. It’s a silly image isn’t it? Grown men hanging their hopes of musical success on the type of hairspray that they use. There is a disconnect that should have been obvious to all involved but sometimes people are too close to the situation to see their own ridiculousness.
A similar phenomena is rampant in the soccer world and a good hard look in the mirror is more than overdue. Each and every week, millions of kids and adults practice their skills of passing, dribbling, heading and shooting. Coaches spend hours trying to help these players improve their skills and coalesce the group’s talents into tactics. Meticulous care is given to all facets of the game including set plays on both the offensive and defensive side. After hours of preparation, game day finally arrives. The first whistle blows and that training seems to take a backseat. It’s overshadowed by telling the one person not displaying any soccer skill about how badly he or she is doing. The referee takes center stage in a contest that should be focused on the soccer skills of the players. Much like the hairspray obsessed rock bands, the coaches, players and fans have taken something that should be incidental and made it THE big deal.
Having been a high school and youth coach for years, I’ve seen the lower level of refereeing on display. While frustrating at times, the arbiter of the game should not overshadow all of the preparation that has been done. Here are some suggestions that I have to put refereeing in its proper context.
- Audit yourself – If more than 25% of the things that you say are directed at the referee, then you’re focused on the wrong thing. Your players need guidance, your teammates need information, your children need encouragement. The referee does not need more reminding that you have disagreed with all of his calls.
- Walk a mile – Not literally but figuratively. Get certified and start refereeing some low level games. Or referee a scrimmage between two teams that you’re not associated with. Either way the experience will change how you view the job.
- Try a new strategy – Rather than berating the next referee that you encounter, try something new. If you’re a player, in a calm voice during a stoppage, ask him or her to watch for something that has been happening regularly. “Sir, could you keep an eye out for #15 fouling after the play. Thanks!” If you’re a coach, ask the referee to remember a particular foul or incident for discussion later. If you’re a fan, concentrate on the play of your team. This is what your team has worked for, see their play. Otherwise it’s like going to an opera but spending all of your time focused on the conductor’s outfit. He’s supposed to be invisible.
- Recognize the long term – Donuts in small quantities are not by themselves dangerous. If they are a small part of an otherwise balanced diet, the occasional treat is not harmful. However constant abuse can be destructive. The same is true for our refereeing situation. The constant abuse of referees has led to a shortage that eventually could cripple the game. That position has to be held by a human. Who would sign up for the pervasive abuse that referees receive?
So as you prepare for this weekend’s contest, make a decision to focus on the game rather than the official. After over 35 years of playing and coaching there are exactly two things that I’m sure of: 1. All referees make mistakes. 2. They don’t get better or change their calls because you tell them that they suck. For the love of the game, let’s all try to do better out there. The hair bands can look back and be amused. Let’s not all look back and be ashamed.
It’s a bit older now but still a good message from the English FA.
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!
If you’re here, that means one or more of a few things:
- you have a problem with people telling you what not to do
- you have a selective reading issue where you miss certain words
- you clicked on it by mistake
- you sensed that there was more to this than the title
I’m going to assume the final one because it will get us farther faster!
The ability to see past the obvious and simple solution is not one that everyone possesses. Judging books by their covers or even first chapters is not always the best strategy. Not everything in the world is completely formulaic. Even some chemical formulas require a catalyst to increase the rate of their reaction. Despite these facts, there is a solid majority of people that believe the obvious answer is the only possible answer. One of the main reasons is that it is comfortable. Comfort is probably the ethos of our age. So the reason that I asked you not to read this blog is that I want you act on it.
I’m asking you to be uncomfortable, see past the past and act in spite of any past failures that you might have. We’ve all got something: talking to that special someone, losing weight, making the team, starting a business, writing a book or whatever. At this point it has been written off. You’ve either failed sever times or not tried because you believe that you can’t. Either way make me (or anything else that you choose) your excuse. You need to give that thing another go. Not because you’re guaranteed success this time but because it’s still inside of you somewhere. I don’t really care if you give up on a goal. I just don’t want you to ever give up on yourself.
Every moment is a new opportunity. Pile up the dead carcasses of your past selves and make a staircase to take you to the place where you know that you can get. If you believe that you’re who you’ve always been, that’s exactly who you’ll continue to be. But if you believe, even for a second, that you can be different. You can be stronger, more determine, resourceful, patient, caring, aggressive or anything else that you’ve failed to be in the past. That’s not who you are! That’s who you were! Today, right now before you finish reading. Take a step! No! Take a leap and move yourself forward. The you from six months in the future is BEGGING for you to do it! Because he/she doesn’t want to be where you are now. They want to be five miles down the road or ten thousand dollars richer or in a relationship. So now I’m BEGGING! Don’t read this blogpost! Live it! Step up and out into the world that you deserve and not the one that you’ve grown accustomed to. DON’T READ! DO!
Love you guys!