Blogpost

Facing The Super Villains

SuperVillainsMarvel and DC have been churning out movies for years now.  For many reasons, the Marvel Universe is leading the charge in this genre.  One of the main reasons is that they don’t just have the heroes face the obvious Super Villains.  They also continually show their heroes struggle with the more difficult Super Villains that are hiding within themselves.  Whether it is Tony Stark battling his own ego, need for control and alcoholism* or Captain America’s conflicting values of friendship with right and wrong; these are all battles that we as mere mortals can relate to.  So what do you do when the enemy that you must face resides within you?  Identify your foe.  This is usually the most difficult step.

It’s easy to identify an alien invasion through a wormhole in the sky above New York.  It’s a problem that needs immediate attention and the longer that you ignore it, the worse it gets.  Often the same is true of our internal Super Villains but since they reside within us, we excuse them or think that they’re the reason we got this far in the first place.  Regardless of the story that we tell ourselves, they are nevertheless an enemy.  And you’ll need to do battle.  Battling the villain inside is the more difficult and subtle battle.  Drop a nuclear bomb on that villain and the hero dies too which is not what we’re looking for at all.  So it requires deliberate thought and often daily work.  Some of these villains can be tamed but others must be destroyed.  So it is important to remember that you’re a starfish!

Of course I only mean this in the metaphorical sense.  In reality, starfish can regrow parts of their anatomy that are cut off.  In the practical sense for us, this is also true.  You can “cut off” a band habit, poor thought pattern or addiction BUT something is going to grow back in its place.  If you’re not deliberate about replacing it with something more constructive, the villain will come back and be stronger.  So as you are doing battle with those things that you want to change about yourself, have a plan to replace them.  None of this is easy but it is necessary to get you to the super hero status that you deserve.  And that is usually first battle that people have to fight, BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE SPECIAL IN SOME WAY AND DESERVE BETTER.  You won’t sprout wings tomorrow but maybe you can find another way to fly!

Suit up!  And fight the good fight!

Pete

 

Blogpost

Travel Sites Never Suggest the Barcelona Police Department?

BarcelonaMetroIn 1998 my best friend and I traveled to Europe for the World Cup which was held in France.  Despite our main goal being to watch soccer games, we also made side trips to other cities inside and outside of France.  One of our stops was the Spanish city of Barcelona.  It’s a beautiful city on the coast with the architecture of Gaudi, the shopping of Las Ramblas and hosted the Olympics only a few years prior.  Despite all of those  magnificent characteristics, whenever I talk about that trip, I usually talk about the Police Department.  Let me explain!

My friend and I were staying in a hostel* about a mile from the beach.  So we usually took the metro from our hostel to other parts of city.  On our second to last day in Barcelona, we were at a metro station waiting for the train to come.  My friend was rearranging items in him money belt when the train arrived.  We hopped up and got onto the train.  After the train pulled away, he realized that he’d left his passport on the bench at the station.  By the time that we got to the next station and took a train back, the passport was gone.  This was early internet days, so we relied on maps and locals to make our way to the US Consulate in Barcelona.  Upon arriving there, we realized it was closed because it was a Saturday.  The only person there was a guard who only spoke Spanish.  Luckily I was able to use my Spanish to explain the situation and he put me on the phone with someone to help.  Since we were traveling to France the next day, he explained that we needed to go to the Barcelona PD and file a police report.  With that and a copy of his passport, we would be able to cross the border and get a new passport in Paris on Monday.  Luckily our visit to the Barcelona PD went off without a problem and we made it to Paris as scheduled.  The Barcelona PD is not actually a tourist attraction!  However it is one of the places that I mention whenever I talk about this trip.  The reason is simple, the destination matters but the road is more important.

Almost none of the stories that I tell from my travels are about the view from the Eiffel Tower or standing in front of the Mona Lisa.  They are the stories of what went wrong, things that were odd and personal.  If the point was to see the Mona Lisa, then Google is all that you need in order to have a fruitful life.  To the contrary, the journey to get to the Mona Lisa is more relevant and full of impact.  We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and that is clearly the point.  Goals are merely the excuse that we have for going on a magnificent journey.  The mistake that most people make is that they forget to enjoy the journey.

Every day is your chance at adventure.  If you choose not to see it, then you will be swallowed up by all of the petty and seemingly insignificant crap that you encounter.  Or maybe, just maybe going to the Barcelona PD could be one of the best times you’ve ever had!

Hit the road!

Pete

*If you’ve never traveled abroad, a hostel is like a VERY bare bones hotel.  You sleep in a room with many other people and have shared bathrooms etc.

Blogpost

You’re a Plane, Not a Helicopter!

takeoffI have a friend who has pretty strong anxiety about flying.  It’s actually not so much the flying but specifically the taking off and the landing.  Proximity to the ground is the cause for most of the anxiety because hitting it in some unwanted fashion would be a real bummer.  I’m not sure how she would deal with riding in a helicopter.  With the liftoff being so instantaneous when compared with a plane, I’m not sure if it would be easier or harder to deal with.  I’ve never been in a helicopter but my guess is that the sensation of it is very different.  Since I’ve never been in a helicopter, I just assume that most people haven’t been either.

Despite that fact it seems as though people have a generalized desire for the Helicopter experience in their lives and work.  The overwhelming feeling that I get (and sometimes have) is that success should require effort for sure but then you just lift off from there.  While I recognize this is irrational, it does not stop people from wanting it.  The lottery winner type story seems almost ingrained in our consciousness to the point that it overrides our rational brain.  So it is time to embrace the fact that we need a runway.  As humans, we’re generally not going to reach the heights of our potential in a “straight up” way.

As you go out into the world to make big things happen, realize that you need to build a runway.  Reaching the highest heights is difficult when you’re running into trees, rocks and walls.  You need to clear a path for yourself to take off.  This may take a finding a new location or lots of elbow grease.  Regardless, building a good runway is better for the process of your takeoff rather than expecting your plane to be a helicopter.  The world tends to work in specific ways, so lay the groundwork and eventually you’ll be “ready for takeoff”.

Enjoy your flight!

Pete

Blogpost

We Lived In Castles

castleAt certain point in history, in particular parts of the world, the wealthiest people such as kings lived in castles.  I’m sure many people have fantasized about living in a castle.  The fantasy probably does not mirror the reality of what it was like hundreds of years ago.  By comparison, the comforts of most of our modern day houses outshines castle living.  Castles were made of cold stone without heat or air conditioning.  Although they served as protection from the elements in some ways, there was no escaping the fact that survival was the order of the day and not comfort.

In the past month, I’ve challenged myself to take cold showers every morning.  This has been an eye opening experience for a variety of reasons.  Although I started it for a variety of health benefits, it has actually been the change in perspective that I’ve noticed the most.  The key to making it through the cold exposure is control.  Not control over the external world but control over the internal world.  Recognition of the discomfort that you are in and finding a way to become comfortable with it is a revelation.

WE LIVED IN CASTLES!  The wealthiest people used to live in a discomfort that we don’t really understand but they survived.  The human body, mind and spirit are actually set up to endure much greater discomfort than we put ourselves through on a daily basis.  The thing is that we’ve lured ourselves into the comfort trap.  We’ve trapped ourselves into a 10 or even 5 degree window of comfort.  It’s not the circumstance but rather our perspective on it that traps us.  We believe that we cannot handle the discomfort, so we live as if it were true.   The space between where you are and where you want to be is filled with the discomfort that you think you’re not ready for.  So the question becomes, do you want to live in comfort of your present life or in the castle of your dreams?  Neither of them requires your circumstances to change, the latter requires that you do!

Get moving!

Pete

SoccerLifeBalance

80’s Hair Band Soccer Logic

PoisonAlthough the 1980’s were memorable for many reasons, the crazy hair is probably one of the most prevalent.  Big hair was all the rage at the time.  Many of the 80’s rock bands invested a lot of time and money on their hair.  Image was almost more important than the music.  I’ve even heard interviews with bands who tried to gain information on the hair products of more successful bands in order to copy their formula.  It’s a silly image isn’t it?  Grown men hanging their hopes of musical success on the type of hairspray that they use.  There is a disconnect that should have been obvious to all involved but sometimes people are too close to the situation to see their own ridiculousness.

A similar phenomena is rampant in the soccer world and a good hard look in the mirror is more than overdue.  Each and every week, millions of kids and adults practice their skills of passing, dribbling, heading and shooting.  Coaches spend hours trying to help these players improve their skills and coalesce the group’s talents into tactics.  Meticulous care is given to all facets of the game including set plays on both the offensive and defensive side.  After hours of preparation, game day finally arrives.  The first whistle blows and that training seems to take a backseat.  It’s overshadowed by telling the one person not displaying any soccer skill about how badly he or she is doing.  The referee takes center stage in a contest that should be focused on the soccer skills of the players.  Much like the hairspray obsessed rock bands, the coaches, players and fans have taken something that should be incidental and made it THE big deal.

Having been a high school and youth coach for years, I’ve seen the lower level of refereeing on display.  While frustrating at times, the arbiter of the game should not overshadow all of the preparation that has been done.  Here are some suggestions that I have to put refereeing in its proper context.

  1. Audit yourself – If more than 25% of the things that you say are directed at the referee, then you’re focused on the wrong thing.  Your players need guidance, your teammates need information, your children need encouragement.  The referee does not need more reminding that you have disagreed with all of his calls.
  2. Walk a mile – Not literally but figuratively.  Get certified and start refereeing some low level games.  Or referee a scrimmage between two teams that you’re not associated with.  Either way the experience will change how you view the job.
  3. Try a new strategy – Rather than berating the next referee that you encounter, try something new.  If you’re a player, in a calm voice during a stoppage, ask him or her to watch for something that has been happening regularly.  “Sir, could you keep an eye out for #15 fouling after the play.  Thanks!”  If you’re a coach, ask the referee to remember a particular foul or incident for discussion later.  If you’re a fan, concentrate on the play of your team.  This is what your team has worked for, see their play.  Otherwise it’s like going to an opera but spending all of your time focused on the conductor’s outfit.  He’s supposed to be invisible.
  4. Recognize the long term – Donuts in small quantities are not by themselves dangerous.  If they are a small part of an otherwise balanced diet, the occasional treat is not harmful.  However constant abuse can be destructive.  The same is true for our refereeing situation.  The constant abuse of referees has led to a shortage that eventually could cripple the game.  That position has to be held by a human.  Who would sign up for the pervasive abuse that referees receive?

So as you prepare for this weekend’s contest, make a decision to focus on the game rather than the official.  After over 35 years of playing and coaching there are exactly two things that I’m sure of:  1.  All referees make mistakes.  2. They don’t get better or change their calls because you tell them that they suck.  For the love of the game, let’s all try to do better out there.  The hair bands can look back and be amused.  Let’s not all look back and be ashamed.

Pete

It’s a bit older now but still a good message from the English FA.

Blogpost

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 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

Uncategorized

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

Uncategorized

The Chewing Tobacco Solution

tobaccoMy cousin who is fifteen years older than me used to go on vacations with my family each summer.  At the time, I was a teenager and he was in his early thirties with a very successful career in retail.  Despite my seemingly inferior station in life, I was able to change his life for the positive with little more than a few words.  I’m hoping that the process can give some hints about making big changes in your life.

It was completely unintentional but it sticks out in my memory as if it were scripted out.  My cousin was and is pretty fanatical about health and fitness.  He would run everyday, do push-ups and sit-ups in order to maintain his chiseled physique.  Despite this relentless pursuit of fitness, he had a habit that seemed out of place to me.  He used chewing tobacco daily.  It wasn’t anything that particularly bothered me.  I had friends who used it.  The thing that felt out of place was that it seemed contrary to all that he valued.  So as we were driving home from North Carolina and he got his spit bottle ready for his next lip full of tobacco, I made the simple statement.  “It seems odd to me that you do that.  You are so healthy in all other parts of your life but you do something that you know is horrible for you.  I just don’t understand.”  That was all that it took.  He didn’t tell me until much later that he had quit using tobacco and that was the reason.

Many of our decisions break down to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  It could be true or it could be bullshit.  The main thing is that the story is effective at moving life forward in a positive manner.  The reason why my simple statement was able to change my cousin so quickly was that it showed an inconsistency in his story about himself.  In that situation, I knew his story about himself and showed him how the tobacco didn’t fit.  People want to stay consistent with the image that they have of themselves.  That’s the entire reason why the term “midlife crisis” exists.  Men (usually) make poor decisions in order to maintain an image that they have of themselves as young, cool, etc.

The first step to changing a behavior in yourself or someone else is to know the person’s story.  What is an identity that they want to uphold at all costs?  Is their family the center of their world?  Do they think of themselves as an athlete?  Do they think of themselves as successful?  Once you know the story, take that thing that needs changing and flip it against their story about themselves.  I keep saying they but I really want you to do this to yourself.  So if your family is extremely important but you are obese, then you actually don’t care about them very much.  If you truly cared, you’d do your best to guarantee that you’ll be around for them.  The combinations of stories and behaviors is infinite.

The key is to find the one that works.  Results are what we are after, not an excuse to feel bad about one’s self.  Your mind can play tricks on you.  It is time for you to play tricks on it to help you get where you want to go.  The possibilities of your tomorrow need to be forged in the thoughts that you have today.

Have a great day!

Uncategorized

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

Uncategorized

The Dead Black Cat?

blackcatThis morning on my daily run, I saw something on the sidewalk in front of me in the darkness.  I had assumed that it was a garbage can lid or something of that sort.  When I got close enough to make out what it was, I realize that it was a dead black cat.  It was not what I was expecting but I veered to the right and continued past the feline that had met its demise under a car tire.  As I finished my run, I gave some thought to what a “luckologist” might have to say about my experience.

From one point of view, the cat was not able to cross my path.  So my fate should be clean and clear.  On the other hand, black cats are supposed to carry all sorts of bad omens.  So having a dead one show up in your path could not be good.  Before writing this I did a cursory search of the interwebs and found nothing concrete about dead black cats.

So here I am at the end of my day that basically started with dead black cat.  It was a pretty good day overall.  Although it was busy and filled with lots of “to do” list items rather than “want to do” items, I really cannot complain.  My day was not a product of the luck of the draw.  I was the major factor in the fortune or misfortune that I experienced.  Life is not a set of circumstances to avoid or omens to look for.  It is a string of possibilities that we choose to act upon or let pass.

The greatest predictor of your destiny is not how many mirrors you’ve broken or four leaf clovers that you’ve found.  It is the actions that you take.  The words that you say to a loved one when they need it most.  It’s the helping hand that you give to someone that you barely know.  Choosing to stand up when all you want to do is run away.  These are the decisions and actions that decide your “luck”.  Your good fortune is not something mystical that you have to fear.  Your good fortune comes from a life of good action and recognition that you were “lucky” to be alive today, no matter how it went.