Tag Archives: self awareness

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  For close to a century the horse has been replaced by machines that are more predictable, reliable and economical.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

The Most Best on the Earth World!

MostBestAt one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something.  I surely felt like they did during my childhood.  Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA.  You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point.  It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate.  As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.

Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here.  Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out.  Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.

Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle.  Smile a little more.  Be a little more patient.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Home-runs can win games but so can singles.  If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.

Fewer Selfies, More Mirrors

MirrorAt the present moment, the “selfie” has become so common place that it is almost a requirement at any social function involving young people.  It is the photographic representation that “I was there”.  Although showing up is an important part of the equation, it has inexplicably become a standard of achievement rather than the bare minimum.  The problem with the selfie is that anyone can fake it for a fraction of a second.  There needs to be more to life than a collection of rehearsed faces and hand gestures.  We need to look in mirrors rather than practicing our poses.

The beauty of the mirror is that it does not lie.  Stand in front of a mirror for long enough and you’ll realize that your best friend and worst enemy are staring back at you.  In this duplicity you’ll find everything that you could possibly need to achieve your every desire.  You’ll also find most of the road blocks that will stand in your way.   The mirror is going to tell it like it is.  It won’t accept fake poses for very long.  Fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, average or anything else are all there for you to deal with.  As you begin to look at who you truly are in the mirror, you’ll recognize that showing up is not enough.  Faking it for an instant is not enough.  The world expects more!  Now you can either hide behind the mask of poses or accept the challenge to carry the mirror with you.

The mirror may reside in your head or in your heart but it can be with you always.  As you go through your day, you can look to see if you are being true to yourself.  Your best self!  Throughout the day checking to see if you’re going in the right direction to those places that you desire to go.  As you get closer, you’ll notice that the reflection in the mirror gets better and it’s easier to look.  When you finally reach your goal, I suppose you could take a selfie….  But the picture you have inside of who you’ve become is so much better.  So for today, don’t just show up!  Wake up, stand up and look in the mirror.  Then keep working until you’re ecstatic with what you see!

How Does a Scorpion Scratch Its Belly?

scorpionSometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the varied tools that we have at our disposal.  We become “one trick ponies” by choice rather than design.  Losing sight of more subtle talents can happen to anyone who has found success with their preferred tool.  When in possession of a great hammer, seeing everything as a nail comes almost naturally.  The problem lies in the fact that all tools are not constructive and some tools kill better than they build.

The scorpion question is rather absurd.  I doubt very heavily that scorpions are capable of itching.  Even if they were, using their stinger to do it would be both uncomfortable and possibly fatal.  With six legs in the vicinity, the scorpion would have to be pretty self-destructive to choose his stinger as his belly scratcher.  The unfortunate truth is that many of us do this anyway.  The lawyer who cross-examines his wife and children.  The athlete who tries to use his might in order to make right in his world.  The teacher who hopes that special someone will learn how to love them through their example.

We are all scorpions with legs and stingers.  The intelligent scorpion knows there’s a time to use each.  A less intelligent scorpion only uses its stinger because it is his best tool.  When you are scratching an itch, be sure that it does not become deadly because you don’t know how to choose the right tool.

Choose wisely!

Pete