Blogpost, self-reliance

Getting Back on Track

For those of you who may never have seen one, the picture is a record. Many of us from the older generations are turning back to them as our preferred format for listening to music. There is a certain amount of romance, nostalgia and warmth that comes from listening to a record. The tradeoff is that since they are a “last century” technology, they are very delicate. They are prone to scratches, melting and breakage. Scratches (even little ones) can be maddening because the record will “skip” and play the same few seconds over and over again. I’m not sure when the phrase “broken record” will fade away or if it already has but that’s the idea. Broken records get stuck in a pattern and seemingly can’t get out of it. Old technology needs human intervention to get “back on track” but what about us?

Records can come in a variety of colors!

The first step is recognizing the “skip.” With a record player, it’s easy to hear because the same message gets replayed over and over extremely quickly. It’s annoying! However with people it is far less pervasive. The repeating pattern of complaining about your job, boss, spouse, situation, etc. comes much less frequently. So it doesn’t truly feel like a negative pattern. It’s not the frequency. It’s the consistency. Patterns get myelinated in the human brain and it makes them happen more readily and easily. This is great for positive habits and thought processes but a negative thought loop can have a detrimental effect on your day consistently.

Once you know that the “skip” is there, you need to interrupt the pattern. With a record, this may mean just skipping the song with the scratch. For a human, it’s slightly more tricky. It requires recognizing the triggers and setting a new pattern of thought or action. The record metaphor doesn’t work great here and with train tracks a hole would just be repaired. Neural pathways don’t work like that! A new train track would need to be laid to detour the train before reaching the spot of “bad track”. Inefficient for trains, necessary for humans. Rerouting your thoughts before the skip is the way to getting back on track.

The final piece is playing new music. The human mind does not deal well with a vacuum. An old pattern needs to be replaced with a new one. So create a new track to follow instead of the negative skip. It’s going to take time and effort. The skip is an ingrained pattern that will not disappear on its own. It needs to be overpowered by the new pattern. So make the new track a “hit.”

As I said above, records are old technology. So they need to be treated with care. Our minds are much older technology and they were not designed to make us happy. They were designed to keep us alive. Focusing on threats and fears made sense at one point. It still has its place but there is so much more to be excited about than fearful of. Don’t keep playing that broken record! Start playing a new track! A better life awaits and you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it, you deserve it! I guess not all broken records are bad.

Get back on track!


Blogpost, self-reliance

The Role of a Lifetime!

I got it! Most people would view it as a secondary or even tertiary role but it fits me down to the core! Despite being characterized as an “everyman,” he has depth. The writer throws so many plot twists at him that I’m not sure if the work is a drama or a comedy. Regardless, I couldn’t be more excited. If I’m being honest, I didn’t always love the idea of playing this role but it has grown on me. Anything would after almost forty-seven years. I’m not playing the milkman, Howie Newsome, in my school’s production of Our Town. It’s me. The role that I get to play to the best of my ability is Pete Huryk.

While the role itself is exciting, the working conditions are difficult. There’s no dress rehearsal. Everyone’s lines are ad-libbed. Many of my favorite characters have left the production for one reason or another. As I sit here writing, I’m a little worried that pesky writer has more plot twists coming my way that I never seem to anticipate. Regardless, I love it! Out of all of the parts in the world, this is the one that I want to be playing.

Full disclosure, I don’t always feel like this. There are days when I’m not happy about it. The situations that I encounter are less than favorable and my co-stars don’t feel like they’re on the same page. For whatever reason, today was a great example of acting like Pete to the best of my ability felt amazing. Tomorrow I’m going to try to do the same, if you could make the matinee that would be awesome! Regardless of whether there’s an audience or not, I try to stay in character…method acting, you know!

I’m sorry if I’m the first one to tell you that you’re not getting another part in this play that we call life. Billy Shakes is not penning perfection for you from the other side. This is who you are and your job is to develop that character as best as you can. It won’t always be easy and you won’t always want to do it. But you have no choice, the show must go on and we need you in it. Not just “in it” but “IN IT.” We need the performance of a lifetime to match the role of a lifetime that you were given. Because for better or worse, the lifetime that I’m talking about is yours or mine. It’s all we get. No dress rehearsal. No understudies. It’s just you and the revolving globe theater!

The curtain is already up!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Take the Compliment!

This just came in today. USA Triathlon just let me know that I qualified for Nationals. I have to admit that I laughed when I saw it. This past January I took on triathlons as my preferred exercise regiment because it gave me two things that I needed. First, there was a competition component to it. Second, it took a lot of pressure off of my knees because two thirds of the training is non-impact. I’m not a triathlete! I’m basically a guy who wanted to get fit again and needed a better way to do it. Many months later, I’ve competed in four triathlons (sprint distance) and qualified for Nationals. My initial reaction is to discount it!

This may be a ME problem but I doubt it. The dismissal of my own accomplishments is so easy to do because they’re mine. I know exactly how hard I worked but I also know who I am. Behind these blogposts is a flawed human being just like everyone else. I oversleep at times. I overeat at times. I procrastinate. I leave goals and projects undone. And I know that I could do better with every single facet of my life. So I deserve no credit! WHOA! Hold your horses there! No credit? Not even a little? That seems pretty extreme! It is but that’s the way that I tend to think and it’s probably counterproductive.

The problem that I and others out there have is one of the self. Adding me to the equation reduces the accomplishment slightly. Hogwash! The accomplishment exists as an objective thing. If it were someone else who had done it, I would be giving them a high five or a pat on the back. Why not give myself the same? Am I going to reduce my drive? Or rest on my laurels? Probably not. More than likely it will just feel good for a bit and I’ll move on. No ticker tape parade. Just a bit of serotonin!

Although I doubt very heavily that I’ll go to Nationals, I’m going to take the compliment. It may just be a ploy to get some more money from me but I also worked pretty hard to get in shape. Feeling good about that should be completely acceptable.

Plaudits and congratulations are not just for other people! You should be able to take them too. Remember that the next time that you deflect warranted praise. Don’t get an ego. Don’t overindulge but feel good for the moment. Then step up for the next challenge.

Great job!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Leap Into the Void

The photo is a brilliant piece of art by Yves Klein called “Leap into the Void.” By today’s standard the piece is not overly impressive. It could probably be photoshopped into existence by a ten year old with little effort. At the time that it was produced, it was revolutionary. It required vision and a willingness to try something new and different. The result is both a beautiful piece of art that doubles as a message and a gateway forward for the medium of photography. The “Leap Into the Void” represents a salto mortale. For those of us not fluent in Italian, including me, it means deadly jumpĀ or fateful/dangerous decision. Yves Klein was not hurt in the making of this photo. There were mattresses below when he jumped and a double exposure was used to remove them from the final piece. So his leap into the void was a safe one.

Leap Into The Void by Yves Klein

Our every day walking and running usually have one or both feet on the ground or not very far off. Leaping is not something that we’re asked to do very often. So it is uncomfortable to say the least and terrifying when the stakes are high. Leaps into the void don’t usually feel safe. There is not always padding below, literal or figurative. When we leap into the void, it usually comes with few assurances. It is just necessary to get to that place that is beyond the reach of a normal step. That is why we avoid them. They are beyond our comfort zone and the prospect of pain and injury looms very close. Often the leaps are not physical but mental or emotional. Especially when dealing with other people, we need to put ourselves out into the void because no one can read our thoughts. Saying the thing that’s inside of your head can be scary. The other person might not understand or be ready to hear it.

It’s definitely easier to play it safe. Keep your literal or figurative feet on the ground! It’s practical and predictable. No one will ever judge you because you were being sensible. You’re also going to miss out on so much of the experience that is just beyond that comfort zone. This is not a license to throw all caution to the wind. Far from it! Be discerning, leaping into every void will leave you bruised battered and eventually very disillusioned. However there are going to come those opportunities where the leap is warranted. The risk of the pain is worth it because the moment or circumstance is special. Unfortunately most of us are so used to our normal steps and hops that we’re not ready to leap when the time comes.

So my hope for you today is that you’re at least willing to consider taking leaps in the future and be ready when they come. Say it! Do it! Whatever IT is. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there when it feels right because that’s what living is all about. Our daily routines and safe spaces are a great form of padding for us to fall back on. However it is the leaps into the void that remind us that we are truly alive. To take a chance and not know is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. It is not for the faint of heart! The sure thing is so much easier to justify. Leaping leaves you open to looking the fool and getting hurt. Why risk it? Because it might be worth it!

Fly you fools!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Sweet and Sour

In all honesty, I’m not sure how popular the band Firefall were in the grand scheme of things. My father listened to them regularly when I was a kid, so they are well on my radar. As I sit here listening to my record player, the song “Sweet and Sour” is playing. It’s a tune about a relationship that has gone from the former to the latter. This is easy fodder for a song because it is the human experience. People actually order it regularly at a Chinese restaurant. The juxtaposition of extremes brings flavor to our lives. Often we hope for all of our experiences to be “sweet” but that’s an unrealistic expectation. Even if it were to occur, too much of even a good thing can get boring. Since the sour moments are coming our way from time to time, is it possible to “enjoy” them?

It’s a difficult question that’s worth considering. Perhaps, the ability to enjoy the sour moment comes too close to denial. Maybe the idea is not to enjoy it but recognize its value. The stiff spoon full of medicine that may be tough to swallow but will leave you in a better spot later. That recognition is so simple for the medicine but so difficult for trying times that we encounter. Often too much sour can make people bitter. As if the sweet is never coming back and there’s nothing that they can do about it. It’s an easy assumption to make when the sour is pervasive. There are two things that we all need to remember.

First, this too shall pass! Nothing lasts forever, even bad times. It’s easy to forget this in the extremes but it always proves itself again. Whether going through the toughest times or the best, they are going to come to an end at some point. This moment has something to offer you. Perhaps it isn’t what you were looking for but it has gifts to give you.

Second, you may not have control over your taste buds but you do control your perspective. It’s easy to think that the sour is all that there is. If we focus on it, then that truly is the reality that we experience. Focus on the most minuscule sour portion of your life and you can make it your everything. The reverse is also true. Our focus is our reality! And just like the dish at the Chinese restaurant, there is always some of each. It just may not be as obvious as you’d like.

As you go through your day, the world is going to offer all kinds of flavors up to you. Savor those sweet moment! Just recognize that the sours have their place and make the sweet that much better!



Blogpost, self-reliance

Toe Pick!

It is one of my guilty pleasures that only a few people know about. One of the movies that I’ve watched the most in my life is “The Cutting Edge”. Released in 1992, it is the story of a hockey player who has his career cut short by an eye injury and figure skater known for chasing away partners. In the end, it’s an opposites attract love story that is formulaic in all of the right ways. As the two main characters start skating together, Doug (the hockey player) keeps getting tripped up by a feature of the figure skates that he’s not accustomed to being there, the toe pick. Whenever he trips and falls, his unforgiving new partner points out his failure by saying “toe pick!” As they begin to build a working relationship, Kate (the figure skater) agrees to play a game of hockey against Doug. With the tables turned and her weaknesses exploited, she gets extremely frustrated and hits a slap shot that hits Doug in the face. At the hospital, Kate’s coach points out that she has finally found a partner. When Doug is brought out in a wheelchair with his entire head bandaged, he pulls them off to reveal a black eye and says “toe pick!”

Despite the predictability, I love this movie! It’s simple and hits all of the right buttons. Not least of which is a concept that so many of us need to embrace, getting past the toe pick. We’ve all got them. Those little annoyances that we wish were not there. They trip us up and we lament them because they are just in the way. In truth the toe pick is what allows a figure skater to jump and do other tricks that they could not do otherwise. The obstacle that stops Doug in the beginning eventually allows him to fly through the air.

The impediments in our lives are often more complex than teeth on the end of a skate. They don’t feel like anything that we’re ever going to use. They just persist in annoying us. Most of our results are not based on what happens to us but rather our disposition toward the things that happen. It’s easy to get caught up in your circumstances rather than realizing that you are your circumstances. Most of life is neutral until you get involved. Those teeth on the front of the skate weren’t tripping anyone until you tried to move forward. The world isn’t trying to trip you up. It is just unfolding in front of you. Fly or fall!?!? It’s mostly on you. Be willing to laugh at yourself despite your black eye and try to find the right partners in this world to help you soar!

Ride on time!


Blogpost, self-reliance

Being Around Older People

When I was a teenager, my grandparents lived with my family in an addition that we built onto the house. Like so many of the experiences that we have in life, it didn’t hit me until much later what a gift I’d been given. Initially they were both there but then my grandmother passed away. It brought mortality directly into the house. After her passing, I started doing a bit more with my Pop Pop. I would go to church with him from time to time on Sundays and breakfast afterward. Not exactly the preferred activity of a teenager but I don’t remember complaining much. It was an exercise in perspective.

Our society is moving at a pace and has a “newness” that seems relatively content with discarding people who can’t keep up. While I understand that the shiny things are exciting, there exists a foundation on which things are built. It’s easy to ignore the building blocks when admiring the heights that we’ve achieved. Unfortunately or fortunately, those blocks are integral to the structure. Whether it is recognized or not, the building topples without them. As it is with our older generation. We did not arrive at Instagram in an instant. It took generations of grandparents looking at family photos with their grandkids before we got the idea of valuing our memories through photography. Now we think that our “stories” are the full story. They’re not. Just a flash in the pan.

History doesn’t repeat itself but it tends to echo. So when you get the chance to talk to someone older than you, don’t rush. The echo of your future may be heard within their past. The telegraph is the telephone. Just like the radio is the television. Human beings are still here experiencing life as an organism intended to live in the wild but existing in relative comfort. Ask the questions that you might need answers to in ten years! An older person may not understand Snapchat but they have seen enough of the world to know what things are worth chatting about decades later. Maybe it’s time to sit and chat.



Blogpost, self-reliance

Who saves the hero?

In the 1978 movie Superman, Lex Luther’s lackey Miss Teschmacher saves the Man of Steel from certain death as he almost drowns with a kryptonite necklace weighing him down. She sneaks a kiss before releasing him from the kryptonite’s dark power because she knows it’s not going to happen later. A relatively minor character with a soiled past takes an opportunity to save an almost invincible superhero. Certainly it’s a movie but often truth is stranger than fiction.

Most of us are not running around with a cape or a utility belt filled with gadgets. It can get a little uncertain who the real heroes are. With Superman and Miss Teschmacher, the equation is simple overall but in that moment she gets to be the hero. A moment of generosity and caring when it really mattered flipped the script on who she was. That’s the opportunity that we all have.

Each and every day we walk past would be heroes. There are people with greatness lying dormant within them. They are weighed down by their own form of kryptonite. Drowning in tears of the past or fears for the future. Perhaps, you could help to save them. I say help because we are all at least partially responsible for saving ourselves. But with the right word, right action, right support, just maybe, the kryptonite could be lifted from their neck long enough to get their bearings. They may not notice you or thank you but it might just be enough.

Superman is the hero because he consistently does the right thing. Miss Teschmacher has no ability to fly but she has the ability to choose. She could choose from that moment forward to do the right thing. Capeless but no less a hero. Since Halloween is over, your standard clothes will have to suffice as you go out into the world. Movember is upon us. A kind word or a quick check in may be all that it takes to save a hero that could save another!

It’s bird! No! It’s a plain old person doing what’s right!


Blogpost, self-reliance


It’s such a difficult thing to balance especially in English! The equilibrium between opposing forces that we need to consider. At least in Spanish, they have the verbs SER and ESTAR which both translate to mean “to be”. However they are used very differently. SER is used for things that are either permanent or consistent, while ESTAR is used for things that are temporary. This may seem like a simple distinction but we run into these dichotomies daily and they trip us up. Focusing on the moment is a crucial component to our success. However, long term planning and attention to the horizon is also prudent. How do we balance?

The recognition of the duality is probably the first step. I’m not so sure that perfect balance is possible. It’s one of the many reasons that I’m such a proponent of soccer as a teaching tool. A team that is committed to the attack is now more susceptible in defense. Risks must be taken in order to get to the goal but throwing all caution to the wind is a poor strategy in most instances. Formations and tactics change with time in order to exploit or counter the status quo. The same is also true within our culture as the pendulum swings in one direction or the other, it tends to swing back.

As an individual, it’s on you to recognize the duality within the world and within yourself. Recognizing that there are very few silver bullets for us to use means that we must be conscious. Conscious to the fact that the world is ever changing and there are so many things that are still true from a thousand years ago that it’s staggering. Our job remains, as I’ve put it before, FCO (Figure Crap Out!). Just remember that the answer of today may not work tomorrow.

Good luck and good planning!


Blogpost, self-reliance

White Knuckles

“You were white knuckles, but it wears you down. Hold on hold on!” Like so many songs by bands that Blair Sheehan has fronted, I’m in from line one. Even though I heard this song years before it’s lyrics really took hold of me, the song was a favorite from the first listening. We’re all holding onto something. Often it’s too tight. We’re white knuckled and it’s not good for us but we persist. Usually because we’re invested in the sunk cost. We’ve held on for this long and to let go now means more than it would have earlier. However, we can’t go back to when we should have truly let go. It’s a downward spiral. So now what?!?!

Most likely, the answer is let go. The things that are meant for us and are truly important usually have a hold on us as much as we are holding onto them. Like an embrace or interlaced hands, there usually isn’t a struggle because holder and the held are both invested. The white knuckle situation is a struggle and it’s evident. Often this expression is used with vehicles that cause passengers to hold on too tight out of fear. That’s usually what causes the extremes of the human experience, fear. Fear of the unknown. That thing that we’re holding onto may not be good but it’s known. Therefore it is better than the fearful alternative. Or is it?

We can only do what we can do in this life. With all of the advances that humans have made in recent centuries, we may want to believe that we can control everything. We can’t! Especially when dealing with other humans. So hold onto those things that are important, for sure. But perhaps it’s time to release the things that are causing the white knuckles. Believe in the possibility of better things coming your way. This world is filled with almost infinite possibilities. It’s very unlikely that this thing is the end all and be all of human existence. Once freed, your open hand may just find another that’s reaching out.

“Get in or get out, and stop waiting around!” – Racquet Club