Blogpost, self-reliance

I D-TECT a problem!

It is so funny to me at times that life exists in such duality. Humans are odd creatures who desire two things at once and finding a balance within them is difficult. We want things like certainty about our lives but as soon as we know what is going to happen regularly, we get bored! Uncertainty is another desire that we value. In our relationships, we want connection and togetherness but if you’ve ever spent too much time with someone, you know that space is also necessary. So it is unfortunate that I must state very plainly that GRATITUDE for what you have is an absolute superpower. However desire is also necessary to move someone forward which creates a bit of friction with the idea of being grateful. This friction is most likely not a problem because friction makes the world more functional rather than slippery.

Keeping this duality in mind, I’m going to use the same acronym to help people who are stuck in the hamster wheel looking for “success” while also speaking to those are content but know there’ more out there. The silly acronym is D-TECT.

D – is for DECIDE. Decide to be thankful for all that you have. This is not particularly easy but it is a necessary step. Even the “problems” in your life are probably worth being thankful for at some point. Either your problems are a better version of challenge than other people’s. OR this obstacle that you deride is actually making you a better version of yourself.

D – is also for DIRECTION. If you don’t have all that you seek in this world, its is very possible that you have not defined a direction with laser-like accuracy. You have preferences but haven’t really settled on that thing that you really want. Hitting a target is impossible if you don’t know what it is. Being surprised by your desire is possible but its impact will be less because you didn’t actually do anything to pursue it.

T – TAKE STOCK! It can be extremely easy to lose sight of all that you have. Our minds instinctively tend to ignore the familiar or at least value it slightly less. Unless there is some consistent reminder to bring all of our blessings into focus, they can get overlooked.

T – TIME is a necessary ingredient to any endeavor. In our next day shipping culture, it can be easy to forget that things of value often take time. It’s so obvious yet often forgotten. People want results yesterday and it can be frustrating to wait for things that we desire. However that price of time is one of the prerequisites for achievement that will feel like it has value.

E – ENJOY the simple things. Beauty, meaning, joy, etc. can be found in the most common of places. However if we do not take the time to enjoy the moments that exist in our everyday, it makes us addicted to the grandiose. Therefore our life is a series ratchets where we become less satisfied with what we are getting.

E – EFFORT is a requirement for any goal or objective but it also works as an eventual indicator of value. People tend to esteem something greater if it was difficult to attain. That’s why actions like cheating actually erode a person’s self-esteem over time because even though they attained the desired outcome, it came without the necessary effort.

C – COMPARE? This is a bit dangerous for creating gratitude. I’ve heard it said before that “comparison is the thief of joy” and I fully understand the sentiment. Therefore it is important that comparison be used to uplift rather than drag down. No matter who you are, there is always someone who has got it better and someone who has it worse. Seeing yourself on a spectrum can help to underly the fact that you have a lot to be thankful for.

C – CONSISTENCY is a crucial part of any endeavor of meaning. Anyone can do the necessary thing once. It is the person who is able to consistently show up the world with intention that is able to breakthrough. A rocket heading toward outer space requires the consistent propulsion of its engines until it breaks free of gravity’s pull. The same is true to people looking to have some form of success.

T – TRANSFORM everything in your life into something to be grateful for. This is not an easy exercise. It is difficult to look at things that you did not want with gratitude. However, most people have had the experience of seeing tragedy turn into triumph over time. The recognition that trying past events are often the ingredients to our own greatness is transformative.

T – TRACKING is a key component to the acquisition of any goal or objective. Action is a spectacular step but it is possible that your actions are moving you away from your goals. Assessing your progress or lack of it is extremely important.

I’m sure that my setup for this blog was frustrating for someone. The reason that I put each item next to its counterpart is that is how we live. At times, the need for gratitude is going to be directly juxtaposed to our ambition. Most of us do not live at the extreme of either disposition. Every day we are trying to move forward in our lives and feel fulfilled at the same time. Both are skills worth developing and honing.

Go get ’em and be grateful!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

How the Future is Won

Time passes without us. We are incidental passengers riding through time. The future is coming regardless of our disposition toward it. The future just showed up… and there it goes again! Despite the fact that the future arrives without our help, what future will show up for us is very much dependent on us. A future that looks worse than the present need minimal effort, probably even a little carelessness. If you want tomorrow to look like today, keep doing what you’ve been doing. A better future is a BATTLE!

[Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan] / by William Dinwiddie. LOC

When I use the word battle, I don’t mean literal war or something ugly and distasteful. I just mean that it will take more effort than we may want to give but it’s about survival. If you want the better future that is off in the beautiful horizon, it needs to be taken. The horizon doesn’t come to you, you must go to it! People hope that the future is going to be improved just through happenstance. That the planets will just align without any real effort or focus applied. Unfortunately that future that you desire is not a willing hostage. It is going to fight against capture then it will try to escape. Anything worth having is going to take this type of effort. Be prepared for it and enjoy it in the moment. Despite the horror that is war; intense bonds, lifelong friendships, feelings of accomplishment, etc. have all come from those times of intense fighting. In the metaphorical battle for your best future, even better outcomes are available.

So now it is your turn to “fight”! Perhaps it is not physical but more mental and emotional. Regardless, the future that you want is not going to lay down at your feet and surrender. It is going to demand that you pursue it until you eventually win the day. And if you haven’t realized it yet, sorry to tell you that the battle never ends because another future is right around the corner! It’s never over! “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Heck no! The battle for your better future never ends but it is possible for you to move the front forward today.

So go for it!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Building a Fire

It’s a quote that I like on so many levels, “The man who invented the ship, also invented the shipwreck.” There is often a duality to things that people want to ignore. Complexity exists to the way that we all show up in the world. We tend to turn a blind eye to the outcomes that we do not like or make us feel uncomfortable. There is a pretend part to the things that we do. Power can be found in recognizing the fact that life is not a straight line, nor free of pitfalls. Building a fire feels like a creative process but as soon as the match is lit, destruction is following and eventually burnout. It’s not all warmth and light!

For a positive person, this may seem like a pessimistic slant to things. In my eyes, it is nothing of the sort. The fact that your parents gave you life and death in the same moment is not tragic, it’s beautiful! Scarcity is one of the criteria that creates value. An infinite supply of something reduces its value to almost nothing. It is in the lack of permanence that we gain urgency. We are invited to press forward because there is a constant state of breaking down. Every time that we eat, we are satiated for a moment. Only to become hungry again! This duality of creation and destruction being bound together is part of our cyclical lives. While we would love to be able to workout once and be fit, the system of constancy allows for us maintain purpose over time rather than needing a new one at all times.

So now that we know that building a fire is a degenerative creation that will require our maintenance for as long as we look to keep it alive, what are you willing put that effort into? What is so important to you that you realize that you must FIGHT to keep it alive? Who are the people that you desire so fervently to be connected to that you are willing to travel long distances and chance contracting a pandemic level virus to be near? These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves! Since nothing is forever and all of our endeavors are dying as soon as we birth them, we need to be sure that we are creating with care!

This new year, like so many others, gives us the idea of a fresh start. A line of demarcation between the old and the new. So as you begin this new year, what are you willing to create and keep alive for as long as possible? The fire within you needs to be built as well. We do not become ablaze with passion without reason. It needs to be created and stoked. So decide in this moment, where are you building those fires? You have limited time and limited resources. Be intentional with both!

Throw another log on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Winning Championships: Soccer Life Balance

Almost everyone is interested in winning championships.  It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream.  I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers.  The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy.  The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic.  The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments.  In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”.  We were just the best team on that particular day.  That is nothing to be concerned by.  Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.

To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter.  A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like.  Then preparation must be done to endure that and more.  Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections.  Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker.  Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily.  Then broken down again into the hourly.  Then broken down again to the moment.  When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles.  You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run.  Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion.  Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion.  Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times.  That will keep you grounded when success comes your way.  These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most.  Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition.  Leading with belief is key to any grand success.  Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult.  Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do.  Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it.  Oh yeah!  That’s the gamble!  You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail.  It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short.  Can you live with that?  I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!”  For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want.  They don’t want things to be hard.  So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem.  Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements.  Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches).  The statement is true however.  Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action.  So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them.  “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.”  These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action.  A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix.  It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air. 

Your championship level is also something that you should consider.  Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment.  Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal.  The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group.  The moment will fade.  The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps. 

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Put On Your Jersey: Soccer Life Balance

There are some jerseys that are absolute international symbols.  Some jerseys are so well known that a color combination can spark the association.  People do not need to search for the things that they value most, they jump right out of the crowd. 
Therefore it is in your best interest to put on your uniform.  Not that you wear the shirt of your team everywhere but rather that you put your truest self out on display.  There are two people living inside of you.  The person that you are and the person that you want to be.  Although I’m a huge fan “fake it ‘til you make it”, let’s start with getting comfortable in your own skin.  This does not happen in a day.  If you’re there already, AWESOME!  Rejoice in that fact because it’s not true for everyone. 

If you’re not there yet, then there is one place to start: the first person.  There is only one person that will be with you for your entire life, every second that you’re alive, no matter what you can never get rid of them.  That person is you.  You can complain about your disadvantages or idolize someone else but no matter what you can only be you.  Since you only have this one person to spend your life with, it makes sense to have them be a friend.  You need to treat yourself well.  This goes back to all of the things that have been covered so far.  Your chances of feeling good about yourself are exponentially better if you’ve taken control of your internal dialogue and the things that you focus on.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE!  This section was titled, Put on the Jersey.  Jerseys are an outward expression of who you are.  You’re absolutely right!  But the things that we project on the outside are often a representation of what we’re feeling on the inside.  So we need to start there.

Some practical advice on making yourself more of a friend.  Think of the things that you would do to let a friend know that you like them. 
• You’d spend time with them (meditation)
• You’d make them a priority (journaling)
• If they’re going through a tough time, you’d console and try to help them (journaling)
• You’d let the little things go (post-it notes of forgiveness)
• You’d try to work through the big things (letters of forgiveness)

This sounds kind of weird when you consider doing these things for yourself.  So it takes a bit of deliberate practice.  My suggestions on activities usually involve writing because it is tangible and requires a bit of focus.  Thinking is great but lends itself toward the mind wandering.  So putting things down on paper forces you to organize your thoughts a bit more.  As daily as possible, write down gratitude statements.  Write as many things that you can think of that you’re thankful for.  This exercise gets you to focus on what you have.  It’s much like brushing your teeth.  Doing it once does almost nothing.  When you make it a practice, then it becomes extremely powerful.  This type of journaling mixed with a daily discussion of your thoughts will take you a long way down the road of befriending yourself which is the entire point. 

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with the inside world, you’ll be in a better position to project the traits that you want into the outside world.  Who do you choose to be?  What is the story that you tell yourself about yourself?  Personally I refer to myself as the “Sword of Gryffindor”.  I show up when the people who matter need help and I am improved by the things that have the potential to damage me.  This is the story that I’ve created for myself and the one that I do my best to project out into the world. 

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Being from New Jersey is a Superpower

Anyone who is not from New Jersey, just thought, “Makes sense, lots of super heroes get their powers from toxic waste!” I can appreciate the humor about my home state which I learned in my late teens is referred to as the “Armpit of America.” If you’re not from New Jersey, poking fun at us is easy and I’ll get to the other forty-nine states in just a moment. For now, I’m going to point out some of the better aspects of being from the “Garden State.”

  1. New Jersey is small. Not Delaware small but small enough that being from NJ means something. Sure the North Jersey/South Jersey thing exists (does Central Jersey exist?) but overall being from New Jersey is an identity.
  2. New York City is right next door. Living in the almost literal shadow of probably the most important cities in the world, puts a bit of a chip on one’s shoulder. People from New York State can associate themselves with the City easily. Much to my chagrin, we have multiple sports teams that take the City name but are in NJ. The owners either want the cachet or are embarrassed by their location. Either way, it breeds a little brother mentality that serves our residents well.
  3. The Turnpike, Newark Airport, the Parkway and Jersey Shore (TV show) are usually the first things that pop to people’s minds about NJ. While they are all eyesores in their own right, they do a perfect job of embodying the Jersey persona. “You don’t know me, until you know me.” People discount an entire state based on the worst of what we have to offer and that’s generally ok with us. Most of the people that I know from NJ are extremely tight with “their people” and a bit suspicious of outsiders. It’s not that we’re unfriendly. It’s more that you need to put in the time to get to know us. We have it all but get dismissed easily because people can’t be bothered.
  4. Pork Roll or Taylor Ham? Not only do we have a meat that is pretty unique to our area. We also fight amongst ourselves about what it’s called. In all honesty it’s a tissue vs Kleenex thing but I’ll move on. Being unique comes in all kinds of packages, even a little bag of meat. But that uniqueness probably comes with a bit of heritage. A tip of the cap to the people that have come before because even though we’re not always nice, respect seems to be a big deal.

If you’ll notice, none of these is particularly positive on their own. They are generalizations that are presented with a positive slant. Is being from New Jersey truly a superpower? Not really. Each person needs to decide to look at the ingredients of who they are and choose to look at those component pieces as positive or negative. Being overlooked can destroy someone, unless it doesn’t and they use it to make them stronger.

No matter what state you’re from! Even if you’re from Pennsylvania and you’re driving in the left lane going 55 (damnit!), having superpowers or weaknesses is a choice. Who you are is an advantage, if you figure out how to make it one. There’s nothing particularly special about being from anywhere. Nothing in the water is going to make you awesome, it might give you cancer, but you need to tell yourself a story about your greatness. Then go out and tell the rest of the world. Being from New Jersey is not enough but it’s not a bad start!

Exit 19 off of Route 80!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

NeverGiveUpitis

This is a disease that lots of people think should be spread far and wide. Before I go into my counterarguments, let’s go through the symptoms. People who have caught NeverGiveUpitis will have: a burning desire, some sleepless nights, aches, chills from excitement and many others. These symptoms are not really a problem if they are endured in service of something worth chasing. Unfortunately we have collectively told ourselves generalized lies about “quitting” and giving up. The common refrain is something similar to “Winners never quit and quitters never win!” This is simply not true.

Winners, producers, successful people, etc. quit things. They just quit the right things. They give up on excuses, lost causes, distractions, toxic people, antiquated thinking, etc. It is not a question of absolutism. Quitting is an art form that needs to be studied and perfected. Once the “weeds” of distraction have been culled from the garden of their mind, they have the energy, focus, resources and motivation to catch NeverGiveUpitis on the things that truly matter.

We do not have unlimited time, energy, focus or resources. So the idea of never giving up on a host of things means that all of them will be done poorly. Sure! You could say that you never gave up but you probably didn’t progress either. There are some losing battles that should not be fought anymore. Be willing to decide when to wave the white flag on something.

Give up the unimportant, so you never give up on what matters!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Red + Green = Judo

We were little kids and made up a silly game as children do. The concept was that a color combination was given as a kind of “math” problem. Green + Yellow, for example. The other person had to guess what that combination was equal to out of a variety of fighting styles: judo, kung-fu, boxing, etc. I’m not sure exactly how or why the game developed but the only thing that kept the game mildly interesting was that the person posing the question didn’t have to follow the pattern of past combinations. “Red + Green = Judo” one minute and the next “Red + Green = Boxing”. While that variety added some intrigue, it also could create frustration as the person guessing starts to feel like they can never win. Childish game right! Despite the fact that it was a silly game, it mirrors two ideas that are worth considering.

We were the coolest!

Sunk costs – This term is used to describe investment of time, money, effort, etc. into an endeavor. Some people get extremely hung up on sunk costs. The amount of investment that they’ve put into something makes the situation more difficult to walk away from regardless of the prospects of success. It’s difficult to walk away from Judo because that’s what Red + Green was before. Unfortunately the game is fluid and does not really care what happened before. Sometimes “sunk costs” need to be allowed to sink, so that you don’t go down with them.

Set up your rules to win – There was nothing won or lost in our silly little game. So nobody got overly worked up about the results. It was obvious that the person posing the question also had control of the answer. It’s a great idea for going through life that many people ignore. Pain + Reflection = Progress is a completely acceptable equation for people to use regularly. It sets the user up for success rather than failure. Unfortunately for many people Pain = Pain + Complaining = Frustration. This equation is a disaster for the person who adopts it but many do. It’s easy to forget that you are making up the rules for your mind. If your rules have you set up to lose, then change them.

We’re always playing games, whether we are conscious of it or not. Most of the games are played inside of our own minds. Keeping score (if we do) and determining success are largely up to us. It’s not the childish game that my brothers and I played. However it is just as malleable. Almost nothing is set in stone. There is no rule definitive rule book that everyone follows. Most of it is a mismatch of experiences from our pasts that create our defaults. Just remember that those defaults are not particularly right. The world has many shades of color combinations and it’s your job to figure out how to fight what life throws at you.

Red + Green = Judo!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Born Ready!

BS!!! I was born just like everyone else! Naked, afraid, unable to read or write or even hold up my own head! Yet I persisted through those difficult circumstances. After many failed attempts at walking, my parents tried to convince me to move on to easier modes of transport but I wouldn’t hear of it. Probably because I only understood basic words and phrases. I was stubborn and knew that one day I would walk. Now here I am! Decades later celebrating my imperfect birth. 46 years worth of fumbling and stumbling through life but celebrating nonetheless.

My brother holding me when I was just a blob of potential.

It’s odd isn’t it?!?! We come from such humble beginnings and the plan is very much laid out for us. “You’re not perfect from the beginning but through trial and error, you will figure things out.” Eventually we tend to forget that formula. We give up on things quickly because we’re “not good” at them. Actually we’re not good at anything in the beginning but we forget that is the modus operandi. We weren’t born ready! We were born horribly, laughably, disgustingly inadequate! But the people around us didn’t chide or berate us. They propped us up and encouraged us along the way. It was a beautiful thing for many years.

Hopefully this year, you can give yourself that same encouragement and support that you received in the early years. Maybe you’re not ready for what’s coming right now either but you can be with time and effort. You used to be a miracle! It stands to reason that some of the miracle remains, no matter how old you are. None of us was born ready. So give up on that story because the truth is much more useful. You were born as a little blob of potential. Now you get to see how much of it you can realize in a lifetime!

Happy birthday to everyone!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Baking Soda Doesn’t Taste Like Pepsi!

Baking soda isn’t even a liquid! For those who don’t bake, it’s a white powder that gets put into a large number of recipes. Those who do bake might be thinking that I’m an idiot for the title. Cool your jets for a moment. I’ve never tried to drink baking soda nor have I substituted it with a tablespoon of Pepsi in my cakes. The foolishness of both is obvious to most. It does bring an interesting juxtaposition though. One thing is an item that many people use for its pleasurable effects. The other is a necessary ingredient to make a finished product. It puts a want in direct contrast to a need.

Most of us run into this issue on a daily basis. Our wants and our needs are put at odds with one another as we combine the ingredients of our days. It is not usually a case of knowing. We tend to know the things that we need in our life: exercise, healthy food choices, sleep, a meditative practice, etc. Unfortunately those things are often in conflict with things that we want: free time, stimulating food, exciting nights out, an ample amount of social media, etc. This is not a call for all things in moderation nor is it a finger waging sermon about how you must choose only from the “need” column. I’m not your mom or your dad for that matter. Your choices are your own. All I am here to point out is that the cake that you’re producing is based on the ingredients.

Your life is a sum total of the choices that you’ve made up until this point. Some of it has been DNA and parenting but it’s more than likely that you could counteract those forces on some level. Most of it is the daily ingredients that you are adding, subtracting or maintaining. There are few hard and fast rules about what a person should be putting into their life. I know people who need a lot more baking soda and others who need more Pepsi. It’s not an exact science much like baking there is a bit of artistry to it. Yes there are measurements and instructions but the people who do it best tend to “eyeball” it. Following someone else’s recipe will get you similar results but that may not be the right thing for you.

The main thing is that you want to be conscious of the ingredients that you are putting in. Too often people want a particular result but it requires need and they are busy choosing their wants. No doubt substitutions can be made but they have to make sense. Pepsi and baking soda are not the same thing! Don’t allow yourself to believe that they are. Instead, decide what it is that you truly want and stick to the recipe! It’s usually not a matter of not knowing. It’s a matter of being willing to do what you know!

Enjoy!

Pete