Tag Archives: self awareness

The Fog Barrier

FoggyThe future is out there and you’re going to arrive at it whether you’re ready or not.  The problem is that the future is unclear like on a really foggy morning.  The haze itself is nothing to fear.  It will dissipate as you get closer.  It’s possible to move at full speed in territory that is known and clear.  On new and uncertain paths, it’s important to manage your speed with your field of vision.  Going too fast on a new road could end in a crash.  The thing is that most people are not afraid of the ditch, pothole or even the wall.  They’re afraid of the uncertainty that the fog brings.

The fog is the barrier that they can’t get past because it is SO frightening not to know.  Fear is the fog and it avoiding it shrinks the world down to almost nothing.  The only way to get the fog to disappear is to go into it.  It doesn’t disperse with time, compliments from friends or likes social media.  Motion/action is what is needed to break through the fog barrier.  By all means, manage your speed and watch out for potholes but never let the fog stop you in your tracks.  It’s not a wall!  Unless you make it one.

Move on through today!

Pete

Are you a Black Diamond?

black-diamondThe sport of skiing is one that I did not acquire until I was well into my twenties.  My wife took me for the first time while we were engaged.  I enjoy it but because I learned to ski later in life, I feel a certain amount of hesitance about pushing my limits.  Skiing is an activity that allows for a good amount of self-policing.  Generally speaking, there are no official representatives of the mountain telling you what trails to take.  You need to have enough self-awareness to know if you’re a green circle, a blue square or a black diamond.  Incorrectly gauging your level could have disastrous consequences.  Despite this possible peril, most people make it down the mountain unscathed because they accurately police themselves.

It is amazing to me that in certain areas, the idea of self-awareness is ingrained and almost automatic.  While in other places people are seemingly unable to see themselves at all.  Perhaps it is the number of variables in the given situation.  Or it is the perceived risk of bodily, emotional or social harm.  Whether it is in sports, dating, business, school or any other area, we all know someone who does not know their own level.  Either they think they’re an expert when they’re truly a novice.  Or they think they should be on the bunny hill when they could truly handle or deserve so much more of an experience.  Regardless of the situation, there are rewards to reaped from self-awareness.

So where do you belong in a particular area that means something to you?  Are you a green, a blue or a black diamond?  Take a real look inward and decide where you think you belong?  Then take your self-assessment and bring it to people that you trust.  Depending on the area, it may be worth it to take it to the streets and see what the common person thinks.  Regardless of the outcome, the exercise is valuable because a map of Chicago is worthless if you’re lost in New York.  Having a knowledge of where you are is a key component to getting where you want to go.  Denial is not a strategy for progress.

So go out there and hit the slopes!

Pete

 

Transparencies

transparencyAt one point in my educational career, transparencies were the height of technology.  By today’s standards they are obsolete but at the time they were extremely helpful.  The ability to manipulate and project for a group to see was used daily.  My most vivid memories of them were from history class.  A territory could be shown with a variety of borders and other influencers.  Depending on the transparency that was placed onto the territory, a force like the Roman Empire could be all encompassing or completely inconsequential.  The territory was always the same but the translucent lines of borders and boundaries changed.  Even though the transparency projectors have all but disappeared, the influence of invisible and imaginary lines has not.

They are truly all around us, the transparent lines that often direct our lives.  The boundary lines, goal lines, bottom lines, traffic lines and party lines are subtly informing our every day experience.  So many different ways that we can choose to box ourselves in or direct our movement by using these lines.  The issue comes when the lines become walls that imprison.

Many of us have constructs that we have developed or have been developed for us.  Some are almost invisible until we look for them.  For example you are reading this blog in English.  If it is your first language, it changes the way that you look at the world compared to other languages.  A simple sentence like “I dropped the plate.” illustrates the point.  There is an underlying sense of responsibility attached to action because of the subject “I”.  Conversely the Spanish representation of the situation, “Se me cayó el plato.” literally translates to “The plate fell from me.”   For better or worse, the influence of simple things such as this can monumental and often taken for granted.  So the first step is to recognize as many of the lines that are influencing you as you can.  Then decide what makes sense.

When you peel back the layers of transparencies from your life, you will most likely find things that you’ve taken for granted that just don’t make sense.  Driving on the right side of the road may be a useful constraint to keep.  However there are probably others that can be amended or dropped in order to better service you in the pursuit of what you want today.  Perhaps you’ve always believed that you’re not smart, that planning isn’t important, that sex is REALLY important, that you need to make it on your own or a million other things.  Maybe you’ll keep most of your beliefs but it is worth the examination to see if you’ve painted yourself into a corner with beliefs that don’t make sense anymore.  If you want to be a millionaire but think that making minimum wage is the best you can do, you’ve got a problem.  Do the lines that you’ve painted for yourself point you in the direction that you want to be going?

img_1844Physically, mentally and emotionally; what do you believe about yourself, people and the world?  Write it down in your notebook, iPhone, laptop or anything else that works for you.  Then pick through it to see what you’re keeping, tweaking or tossing.  It’s up to you to clean up whatever mess you might have.  If you’re honest in your assessment, you’ll be able to see through the person that you need to read better than anyone else: yourself.

Go get your hands dirty boys and girls!

Pete

Back on the Horse

HorseThe average person has probably never been on a horse.  It’s not as common as it once was.  For close to a century the horse has been replaced by machines that are more predictable, reliable and economical.  The one thing that these replacement vehicles are not, is natural.  Machines tend to act like machines.  However because of our close association with them over the past century, we have begun to think in mechanical terms.  The old relationship with the horse was one that can teach us so much about our own lives.

While horses can be domestic animals, it is not their natural state.  It takes work!  Daily work is required to take a massive animal and make it ride-able.  The later in life that this training starts, the more that the horse will resist because it is set in its ways.  Work with a horse for years but then leave it alone for a few months and the effects will be noticeable.  Its natural tendency is to buck, kick and fight being mounted.  The horse is not going to be ridden without a plan and consistent action to make it possible.  It is just like life.

We’ve automated and simplified so many things that a human life may not seem very natural anymore.  Despite all of our attempts to domesticate life, it is not going to go along without a plan and consistent action.  There is no single purchase that you can make which will make the rest of your life a breeze.  Life is supposed to buck, kick and fight you at times.  It will most likely come at the times where you’ve neglected something that needed your attention because natural things always do.

So for today, get back on the horse.  Start training it again.  Be prepared to be bucked.  It’s the way it’s  supposed to be.  So enjoy it!

 

Are you a veterinarian yet?

VeterinarianThe movie “Fight Club” is not for everyone but there are a few scenes that are extremely memorable for me.  Probably the most memorable and applicable is the scene with Raymond K. Hessel, the unfortunate store clerk who meets Tyler Durden.  With a gun to his head, Raymond is forced to give an accurate representation of his life.  He lives in a small basement apartment and works a meaningless job after dropping out of Community College.  During his time in college, he had mainly studied biology in order to become a veterinarian.  In that moment, he is given a gun to the head choice.  Tyler Durden tells him that in six weeks he’d better have taken steps toward being a veterinarian or he’ll be dead.  Then Raymond is told to run home.

The gun to the head choice is an easy one because there are only two options something or nothing.  Although completely fictional, I’m pretty sure that (if real) Raymond would have started on the road to being a veterinarian.  People find resources that they never knew they had when put face to face with their mortality.  In our daily lives, it is easy to distract ourselves from the fact that we are not moving forward only perpetuating our present level of existence.

So with the gun to your head, what is the thing that you’re not doing that you really need to be?  Are you twenty pounds over weight?  Are you suffering through a bad relationship because you’re afraid to be alone?  Are you stuck in a job that you hate but see no way out?  Gun to your head moment, feel the barrel against the back of your head, better or nothing, what is your plan to get there?  What you’ll most likely find is that all of the limitations holding you back are create by you.  You’ve gotten comfortable with being fat, lazy, angry and tired.  Your life doesn’t depend doing it, so it’s easier to stay the same.  Don’t kid yourself, you are dying right now.  SLOWLY.  But when you think hard about the possibilities that you’ve not taken hold of, doesn’t it feel like life is slipping away faster than it would if you were on track?

So who is going to put the gun to your head?  No one but you.  Your friends, family and coworkers will never pressure you to be much more than you already are.  Only you know that thing inside that needs to be drawn out with that gun to head choice.  Better or nothing?  It’s time to choose!  Go be a veterinarian!

The Tabernacle

TabernacleIn one of my favorite movies, “Rounders”, there is a character with whom I identify very heavily.  Despite the movie starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, two actors that show up continually in movies that I love, it is a secondary character played by Martin Landau that gets me every time.

For those who have not seen it, a quick synopsis with no spoilers.  Matt Damon plays a talented card player who has sworn off poker after losing big.  He is now in law school and working hard to recover from the loss.  Edward Norton is his best friend who has a troubled past and has just been released from jail.  The movie follows the two friends as they try to pay off old debts, monetary and other.  Martin Landau’s character, Abe Petrovsky, is a law professor who takes a liking to Damon’s character.

Like most characters that enthrall me, it is the reflection of myself in Petrovsky that is engaging.  Earlier in his life, he was disowned by his Jewish family because he did not believe in God.  Law eventually became his religion.  He helps Damon’s character because he feels a form of debt to those who allowed him to be who he was.

Now I am not Jewish and I have no great love for the law.  Catholicism was the chosen religion of my family when I was young.  I attended Sunday school and can recall more biblical text than is probably necessary for someone who is basically agnostic.  Despite my uncertainties about the higher power and all of my reservations about organized religion, there are many things that I carry with me including a sense of duty that springs from that time in my life.

Within most Catholic churches, there is a “box” called the tabernacle that holds the bread wafers and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.  It is usually given center stage and is ornately decorated.  In this instance, the Catholic church has put emphasis on something that is extremely important to it.  Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, there are things in this world that deserve reverence and special treatment.

In a world where information is everywhere and basically everything is for sale, it is easy to lose sight of the things that are truly important.  Luckily, God, Nature, Infinite Intelligence or whatever other force you might believe in has given us our own “tabernacles” for the truly important things.  Two of your possessions are encased so deliberately that it is difficult not to recognize their importance: your mind and your heart.

In very real terms, you exist within your mind.  Every feeling, sight, smell, taste and memory is housed within the tabernacle of your skull.  This should be a most prized possession.   It should be protected, exercised, challenged and never abused.  It should be fed with ideas and filled with memories that make it want to create more.  The day should never come where it is left to the complete care of someone else.  It is almost all that you have.

Then there is the heart which keeps you alive.  Two hearts exist: the physical heart and the emotional heart.  The physical heart should be cared for and exercised.  Neglecting or abusing it will only end in pain.  The emotional heart is also key to your survival.  Although it also needs protection, it needs to be extended to people without safeguard at times.  It should not stay in the figurative tabernacle at all times.  If it does then it wilts and dies in a way that is more tragic than the stopping of the physical heart.

These are just two of things that we should hold sacred in a world that dismisses most things without a price tag.  In your life, I’m sure that there are others.  You don’t need to put them in an ornate box but rather give them what they deserve from you.

I have been given so many things “and for that I owe.”

Pete

 

The Bird Lady

BirdsDuring my recent trip to Baltimore, I walked by a woman throwing pieces of bread to the pigeons near the docks. It was obvious from the amount of bird poop that this was a regular occurrence.  The next day as I walked by that spot at the same time, the woman was not there but the birds were there in force.  They had a learned to at least partially depend on the “bird lady” for food.  The pigeons had mildly abandoned their heritage as scavengers and become slightly domesticated.  I don’t know  that these birds were completely reliant upon the bird lady but they were definitely foregoing the hunt for the comfort of waiting for the “sure thing”.

These birds represent many of us that are caught up in the paradigm of modern civilization.  Humans were at one point hunters and gatherers.  As we developed means of food production, individuals could sustain themselves and others with their crops and domesticated animals for slaughter.  Eventually fewer people were producing food and the majority of us became consumers that relied on their work.  In many ways this is an unnatural state for man to be disconnected from his hunting instinct.  We have built systems of competition in business and sport that mimic the hunting instinct.  However in recent years it seems that people are being trained to accept only what is handed to them.  For the moment the “bird lady” is showing up regularly and handing out the bread.  What happens when the bird lady doesn’t come back?

The birds will most likely find a new place scavenge while the more “evolved” creatures will blame and complain about their circumstances.  People who have had everything handed to them fight to maintain that situation rather than adapt.  So even though a proactive approach would lead to more self determination, people abdicate the power for comfort.  Those in power will never beg you to take the initiative remove their control on your situation.  They will try to perpetuate the status quo because it only costs them scraps in exchange for keeping you under their thumb.

So look at the life that you’re leading.  Are you dependent on the bird lady for your survival?  What would you do if she disappeared?  Begin to take your independence back.  Perhaps she’s got you financially, emotionally or physically.  Regardless of the hold, you owe it to yourself to break free.

Flying high again!

Pete

Sit Down and Shut Up

SitdownSometimes it is directly said and sometimes it is an expectation.  Much of our education system has been working with this paradigm for decades.  The idea is that sitting down and being quiet leads to better grades, more retention, better students and better employees.  In all honesty, I don’t truly have a problem with the idea of sitting down and shutting up provided that there is also an opportunity to stand up and make a ruckus.  This opportunity to SUMR used to happen outside of school but most activities are now adult driven.   In a recent interview, I was asked “why do you think teens are so stressed today?”  The answer to the question is relatively simple but the resolution is much more complex.

The simple answer is expectation.  The modern teenager has been thrust into a world of paradoxical expectation.  For years on end, kids today are taught that the secret to survival is to sit down, shut up and follow directions.  Those who learn these lessons are lauded for a few years until they reach a point where they need to make their own decisions.  At that point, they are expected to know how to use their judgement but that faculty has never been exercised and is therefore weak.  Those who rebel against the SDSUFD model are labeled as troublemakers and given fewer opportunities for advancement.  They see that the system doesn’t like them and they don’t care for the system either.  Systems are only valuable as long as they work.  SDSUFD only partially works and needs to be adjusted.

Humans were built for action.  We were meant to fly!  Unfortunately the mixture of old systems and new circumstances have clipped our wings or made us believe that we have none.  We’ve been made to believe that we are supposed to wait for someone else to tell us what to do.  That we are supposed to be more robotic, more efficient and less emotional.  This is completely contrary to everything that human beings are.  We are animals that are most efficient when our emotions are in line with our objectives.

So what does this mean for each of us?

If you are a teenager, you need to balance your daily SDSUFD with SUMR.  You need to have an outlet, either mental, physical and/or emotional that you choose.  Begin the process of getting your hands onto the steering wheel of your life.  You’re most likely not ready to have full control of your life yet but you should not be in the backseat either.

If you’re in your twenties or older, take a hard look at your life and decide how much of your life belongs to you.  This is not a call to buck all authority or burn every bridge in your life.  It is a call to more action for your own betterment.  Sometimes that action will be that you need to “sit down, shut up and listen”.  Then you need to stand up and act on what you’ve heard.  Step forward and take your role as the star of your own TV show.  If you are playing a secondary role in someone else’s show, then you need to rewrite the script.

Take today as if it belonged to you because truly it does.

Pete

Your Investment Portfolio

DisneyHanging on the wall in my son’s room is a stock certificate for one share of Disney stock.  It was a gift at his birth from his Uncle Peter and Aunt Paula.  More than anything it is decorative.  At the time of its purchase, Disney stock was worth about $35.  With the acquisition and release of Star Wars, it is now worth about $114.  So in theory my son’s stock portfolio has performed very well.  It is worth over 300% of its original value.  The growth is outstanding but it’s not enough shares to create truly meaningful value.  The stock was a gift, never truly meant to turn my son into an investor.

However the truth is that we are ALL investors!  Stocks are a financial investment.  That is the type of investment that most people think about when they hear the word.  The truth is that we can invest in many types of currency.  Right now you’re investing several of your most precious currencies on this blog post: time, attention and possibly trust.  Many people don’t get involved in monetary investing because the markets are too unpredictable.  There is the risk of major losses at stake.  It is impossible to lose money, if you don’t put any in.  People are usually conscious of how they invest their money.  Often they are not as conscious about how they invest their other resources.

Time, attention, trust, love, respect and many others are all currencies that should be invested with more intelligence than money.  Money is a renewable resource while time is not.  If you lose twenty dollars, you can always make up for that loss.  The lost twenty minutes is gone forever with no hope of replacement.  Since money is tangible we give it extra reverence but these other currencies are as or more important.  So perhaps it is time to look at your investment portfolio and decide if it is balanced.  Have you put yourself into a position to be swimming in the assets that you have accrued through careful planning?  Or will you feel bankrupt in the end because you squandered the resources that you had?  You are an amazing human being who is destined to do great things if you’ll use your resources wisely!

Invest wisely today!

Pete

Life of Unopened “Cans”

cansIn my parents’ cupboard when I was a kid, there were canned products that we used all the time.  Chicken noodle soup, tomato paste and green beans were in heavy rotation toward the front door.  They would come in, go out and be replaced by their can cousin at the next shopping trip.  Toward the back of the cupboard were the ancient staples like the can of cream of mushroom from 1985 or its even stranger companion, evaporated milk (no idea what that is).  These cans were born with purpose and hope.  However their lives never reached fulfillment because they were forgotten after they were crossed off of the grocery list and standing by for “someday”.  Having the can in the cupboard was enough.  We never actually had to do anything with it.

As I edge ever closer to 40 years old, I look at my unopened “cans” and I am awestruck by what I’ve left behind.  I’m no longer talking about tin and aluminum but rather the things that I left undone because I know that I can, so I don’t have to.

  • I can lose 15 lbs, so I don’t have to.
  • I can run that 10 mile race in 1:15:00 or less, so I don’t have to.
  • I can reach out to great friends and family at any time, so I don’t have to.
  • I can be a great husband, so I don’t have to be all the time.
  • I can go to the gym daily and get into great shape, so I don’t have to.
  • I can make something better of myself, so I don’t have to.

The knowledge that “I can” has kept me from doing so many things that I know that I should.  The problem with most of these cans is that I know that I can because I’ve done them before.  If these unopened cans were put into regular use, my life would be exponentially better.  Perhaps it’s time to open some of these cans and see, not what’s inside of them but what’s inside of me.  (Note: not everything that you can do falls into the “SHOULD” category.  Some cans are better left on the shelf.)

Is your cupboard full of dusty cans?  Did I just open up a “can of worms”?  Or do you now feel the need to open a “can of whoopass” on yourself and your life?  As you find the courage to do the things that you know that you can, you’ll also see the possibility of doing some things that you thought you could not!

You can!

Pete