Tag Archives: self awareness

Your Invisible Nose

IMG_2892Sometimes the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of you.  Your nose is always front and center but most of us don’t pay it any mind.  The reason why we tend to forget about it is because it is always there.  Our brains tend to discard or ignore those things that can be taken for granted.  Air, light, food, water, friends, opportunity, etc. are just a beginning to the list of things that we take for granted each day.  This is not to say that we should be spending major amounts of time contemplating air in a recreational effort.  It is simply to point out that your brain is working at all times to determine what is worth your attention and what is not.  This ability to ignore the inconsequential is wonderful until it isn’t.  As they say, the dose makes the poison.

Although our brains were originally designed to act in our best interest, the operating system has not been updated in a long time.  So if you do not intervene on your own behalf, your brain will protect you from things that are no longer relevant.  Most of the fear and anxiety that you feel is supposed to keep you from being eaten by a bear or be kicked out of the tribe.  The latter is more relevant than the former but both need to oversight.  On its default settings, your brain will keep you alive and partially comfortable in the modern world.  If you are looking for more than that, then you need to be more deliberate about the things that you see.

The invisible nose is just a representation of the things that you’re ignoring.  More important things are out there that you should be aggressively pursuing but you just don’t see them.  Opportunities pass you by or better yet you pass them by regularly.  The reason is that you’re not programmed to notice them.  That’s not safe!  Stay where it’s comfortable!  Don’t stand out!  Don’t fail!  These are all things that your brain screams subliminally everyday.  Unless you take control and look for that which is most important to you.  Those things may not be as obvious as you want them to be.  Although they might be directly in front of you, they may be buried under a pile of societal and personal hard-wiring.  Hacking your way through that will be difficult, time consuming and totally worth it once you’re on the other side.

So I’ve give you permission.  Look at the world with fresh eyes and endeavor to see everything.  Hack away at the beliefs that no longer make sense.  Filter your vision to look for the ideal rather than the real.  Your past low expectations will be there to catch you if you fall.  It starts with a moment and builds from there.  Make this your first moment!

Have a great day!

Pete

 

Rails and Trails: The Duality of Learning

IMG_2082The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance.  While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground.  Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems.  At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn.  Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world.  I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains.  The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form.  Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.

RailsIntuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken.  Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity.  There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same.  The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.

The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails.  Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain.  The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own.  In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure.  Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.

At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance.  A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”.  Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.

So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy.  Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel.  Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight.  Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!

Learn today to be better tomorrow.

Pete

 

The God of Wine

IMG_2492I remember it all too plainly.  Sitting in a cramped seat on an airplane flying back from Europe after almost a month of traveling with my best friend.  We had attended five games of the World Cup and visited a slew of sites and cities.  It was truly one of the greatest times of my life!  However on the plane ride back I repeatedly listened to the song “The God of Wine” by Third Eye Blind.  Despite the amazing experiences that I’d just had, I was heading back into a world that I could feel was going to hurt me.  For some reason this premonition got stuck within this song and I can return to any time that I hear the song.

The trip ended up being a deathblow to the multiple year relationship that I had forecast in my head to be “the one”.  Returning home should have been a step back into a world of known entities but instead it was foreign.  My girlfriend informed me that things were over on the night that I got back.  Our plans to move in together and any other future we had were now gone.  In many ways I was homeless.  The person and the future that I had put at the center of my universe were both gone and picking up those pieces was going to be difficult.  I’d love to say that the resilient part of me kicked in and I made instantaneous progress.  Quite the opposite, there was a long period of self-doubt, reflection and possibly some depression.  In the end I found myself sobered by the experience.  The song is like a time capsule where I get to travel back to who I was.  Looking back on that time I realize how appropriate the song was to the moment.  In many senses I was intoxicated by the future that I wanted from the situation.  I was running my life under the influence of what I wanted to happen but not acting in a way that was going to get me there.  The crash was inevitable.

So as we all move forward it is most important for us to keep our hands on the wheel, foot poised near the brake or accelerator and eyes on the road.  Issues arise when the idea of the destination overrides the moments of driving.  The process is where we spend most of our time.  Yet we allow where we want to be supersede where we are.  Remember not to fall in love with your future so much that you forget to live in your present.  There signs you must follow and detours you’ll need to take along your route.  Becoming intoxicated with your picture of the future may just end you up in a ditch!

Drive safely people!

Pete

 

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