Blogpost, self-reliance

The Teenage Ten (The 10 Movies High School Boys Should Watch and Why)

Movies are a spectacular medium for telling a story and also relating a message.  One of the main reasons that I believe that movies can be so transformative is that they work a lot like memories.  They are not the full story because showing every small detail would be exhausting and detract from the overall point.  Also they tend to be “larger than life” which is what we often do with our memories.  We do not have a completely accurate recollection of the situation, often our emotion about the situation tends to give more color to them.

For these reasons and many others, movies are great teachers.  They give us audience to experiences that we may have never had.  It’s done in safe environment.  We can have peak emotions while taking whatever information is on display and assimilate it as our own.  Below is my list of movies that a high school age boy-man should see in order and what they should extract from them.  They are listed in a tenuous order where the lessons build on top of each other but in the binge watching culture of today, the order may not matter as much.  By the end of this list there may be an accusation that I have a “man crush” on Matt Damon but that crown belongs to Ryan Reynolds!

There are a ton of spoilers in the descriptions of each movie.  So if you want to go in with a clean slate, just refer the list below to start and return to this post for the descriptions and takeaways:

  1. The Martian
  2. The Matrix
  3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  4. Rocky
  5. The Breakfast Club
  6. The Wizard of Oz
  7. Dead Poet’s Society
  8. Rounders
  9. Swingers
  10. Good Will Hunting

 

MartianThe Martian (2015) – This movie has probably the most overarching message that young men need to have ingrained.  Each of us has exactly one job on this planet or that planet:  FCO (Figure Crap Out).  Throughout this great story, Matt Damon’s character keeps getting sucker punched by circumstances.  Every time that he comes up with an answer, a new problem arises.  Despite all of issues that he has, his determination to FCO is the key component to his success and the lesson that needs to be carried out of the movie.  I use the acronym FCO because “responsibility” seems stuffy and oppressive but that’s all that I’m talking about.  The ability to respond to a situation coupled with the recognition that it’s on you to do so.  Thumbs are a feature that separates humans from much of the animal kingdom.  Although they help with our ability to grasp things, I believe in the concept of “thumbs before fingers.”  Point at yourself first with the thumb before pointing at anyone else with the finger.

matrixThe Matrix (1999) –  After the Martian, the next step is to recognize that each of us has exactly one possession in this world: the mind.  The body and the mind are definitively linked but “the body cannot live without the mind.”  This movie can be taken to so many places philosophically.  The main one that I would focus on to begin with is that of belief.  While the Martian had a focus on the ability to respond, it takes belief in one’s abilities to engage with situations.  Although uploading information directly to the brain through a computer program has not happened (yet), the picture painted is relatively accurate.  In order to navigate successfully through life, one must acquire skills.  As skills are layered one on top of the other, belief is constructed.  Unlike the Matrix, this takes time and deliberate effort in the real world but it is worth it.  Believing in yourself long enough to make things happen is crucial.

Walter mittThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – I would absolutely love for all of the philosophical concepts covered in this movie to hit home with the young men who watch it.  Right down to the LIFE motto which has so much to offer.  However if just one thing was to be extracted from this film, the idea of connecting your dream world to the real world would be it.  Humans are special in a variety of ways but our ability to imagine things then make them happen is one of our greatest strengths.  Walter’s life starts out as a collection of day dreams where he escapes his reality.  In the end, he starts engaging with life and has better experiences than most of his daydreams.  All of our actions start in our minds but if they stay there, then they only exist in the hypothetical.  We must transpose our dreams into the real world in order to give them life.

RockyRocky (1976) – You’re going to lose!  This may not seem like a very positive message to take in.  However at times, the odds are going to be so astronomically against you that it may seem like trying isn’t worth it.  People are going to tell you that you’re crazy.  In those circumstances, you need to find a version of success that is in line with who you are and stretch yourself.  There are magical moments throughout this film including the 14th round knockdown.  Probably the most important comes prior to the fight where Rocky admits to himself and the woman that he loves, exactly who he is and what he expects of himself.  Power is not always displayed through a punch.  Often power is ability to be vulnerable and defenseless to the people that matter.  Although most of the movies thus far have focused on going for the prizes that are out there to be won, Rocky is a reminder that winning is not everything.  There are ways to go through life as a “success” without winning every time.  So be prepared to be punched in the face!

wizard of ozThe Wizard of Oz (1939) – Like so many of the movies on this list, there are a variety of takeaways.  Even though the main character is a teenage girl on an adventure to get herself home, I’ll focus on the great and powerful Oz.  This is a man who has created  a reputation of great prestige and power for himself.  In the end, he is only a small man hiding behind a curtain who is trying to project a fearsome alter ego.  Each and every one of us will have to put a version of ourselves out into the world.  Many of the people that you will meet will be exactly like the Wizard of Oz, lots of theatrics to make themselves seem important.  Eventually we realize that the Wizard was valuable because of what he had to offer the travelers, not his big persona.  So as you project yourself into the world decide who you will be.  Also be on the look out for people who are hiding behind the curtain.

BreakfastThe Breakfast Club (1985) – I’d like to believe that the walls of cliques in high schools have broken down slightly since this movie came out.  Unfortunately I don’t know that it’s true.  Even if it is, there are still valuable things to be taken from the film.  Mostly it involves self-reflection and understanding your place within the social strata of your world.  Ideally everyone in your school, town, etc. would get along wonderfully.  Unfortunately that’s not very realistic.  So recognizing how you perceive and are perceived by others is extremely important.  You don’t need to live in the box that others try to put you into but knowing that you’ve been put in the box helps if you want to break out of it.

DeadPoetsDead Poet’s Society (1989) –  Similar to The Breakfast Club, the ideas of conformity and living in a school community are on full display.  Whether it is teachers, parents or peers; there will always be pressures to become what other people want you to be.  There is nothing wrong with people trying to influence you.  Generally it is done with a certain amount of caring for your well being.  However the teenage years are a time for self-discovery.  Figuring out who it is that you want to be.  I’m not calling for all out revolt against the powers that are trying to influence you.  But rather a recognition of the pull of the things that make you feel most alive versus the push of those in positions of power in your life.  In most cases there is a balance to be struck.  The death of Neil toward the end of the film is a cautionary tale about failing to communicate.  The Dead Poet’s Society is all about expressing one’s self honestly.  Try to find your voice.

RoundersRounders (1998) – On a surface level this movie is absolutely about poker but it has several layers underneath that are worth exploring for a young man.  First is the concept of friendships and loyalty.  The movie does a good job of putting loyalty on full display while also warning against blind loyalty to people who may no longer deserve it.  The reason why I truly put this movie on the list is the scene with Mike in the Russian bath house.  He tells Joey Knish about an encounter with Johnny Chan.  “I’m just going to outplay the guy, this hand.”  So many of us get overwhelmed by how big our goals are in this world when it all comes down to this.  Are you going to give it your all in this moment?  Are you willing to bet on yourself?  If you’re not, then who else will?

Swingers.jpgSwingers (1996) – This movie is on the list for a very specific purpose.  As a young man gets into the dating world, there is bound to be rejection either external or internal.  Although you may never hear the word “no” from a girl but there is still rejection because you rejected the idea of asking.  The story that each of us has running inside of our own heads about who we are and what we are capable of is crucial.  After years of being tentative with women in the singles world, Swingers gave me a new insight.  If I approached a girl and she “rejected” me, it had very little to do with me and more to do with her perception of me and the perception I projected.  This is a skill like any other that must be honed and practiced over time.  The “bear” discussion between Mike and Trent in the middle of the movie is the key.  There are ancillary parts about dealing with a breakup but overall this movie got me to believe in all that I had at my disposal to “kill the bunny”.

GoodWillGood Will Hunting (1997) – This is another film that has layers to it.  Although it could be dissected from a variety of angles.  We’ll focus in on the romantic relationship.  Will has put up walls and created masks to protect himself from both past and future pain.  That constant state of protection keeps him from all of the possibility that is banging at his door.  He is so afraid to admit who he is that he creates a fake world that he shows to other people and denies possible opportunities to move on to a better existence.  His relationship with Skylar is tumultuous at best but that is a result of his protection strategy.  The movie Swingers was all about how to get your foot in the door long enough to get someone interested.  Once you are inside, you need to let the other person see who you are.  Teenage relationships are supposed to be like chemistry experiments.  They are supposed to blow up in your face from time to time but you learn and progress based on what you’ve learned.  If you are always in protection mode in order to avoid being hurt, no one will see your imperfections.  That may seem like a great strategy until you actually find someone who you want to let in, you’ll have no practice.  

These are most definitely not the only movies available that could have an impact on a young man’s life.  These are just the ones that I’ve selected at the moment.  I’m sure that each person out there has at least one that could be added with good reason.  So in the comments below, give me your suggestions.  Even I had trouble keeping it to just ten.  Below is my honorable mention.  So with that film in mind as I finish this post up, don’t just be a consumer!  Take these films into your life (RESPONSIBLY of course!)

Enjoy!

Pete

Honorable Mention

VeterinarianFight Club (1999) – This is a film with great possibility but it comes with a lot of distractions for the young teenage mind.  So I put it on the list very tentatively realizing that many will get sidetracked by the sex, violence and mayhem; missing the point completely.  Although Fight Club focuses principally on the underground club that encourages violence and eventually mass destruction, the key component to the entire story is the relationship between the “two” main characters.  The two is in quotations because they are both Tyler Durden.  Tyler is split in two.  Each version brings something to the table but Brad Pitt’s character leads the charge into uncharted territory.  He is everything that the other version of himself is not.  He’s confident and capable!  This is taken to the extreme of course but it is something all of us have within us.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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McBride It!

I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!

McbrideIn the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered.  The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.”  While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite.  Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison.  Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia.  Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism.  The key to balance is a counterweight.  Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.

Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this.  So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view.  Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife.  This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player.  At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him.  At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.

Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”.  That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever.  Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own.  We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends.  No matter how big you get, McBride it!  When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there.  It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with.  Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it.  You’re going to need them on the climb!

Have a great day!

Pete

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Using Your Bad for the Good

weightWe’ve all got them.  They lurk around and create mischief in our daily lives but we have trouble letting go of them.  Bad habits.  The things that we realize that we should not do at all or possibly overindulge in them.  There power over us can be based in our childhood, boredom or addiction.  No matter who you are, you’ve probably got a habit, vice, addiction or pattern that is less than favorable.

On the other hand you’ve got those good things that you cannot seem to get yourself to do.  You know it!  If you did that thing, it would help you in either the short or the long term.  Regardless of how much good you know that you’d get from it, you still don’t do it.  Perhaps you make up excuses about time.  Or you tell yourself that next week would be the right time to start or you need some other resource.  Again you’ve set yourself up to not follow through because your reasons are just not strong enough.

If you’re like me and you have this scenario in your life, I’m going to suggest that you use the bad to create the good.  Most recently I’ve been publishing, my blog on a daily basis.  In order to facilitate that happening, I do not eat until I have posted (WARNING: This is not a good course of action for everyone!  Eating disorders are a real thing for millions.  Know yourself and your issues.  Act responsibly!)  For me it is putting my bad habit of overeating against my need to follow through on my positive.  This requires a level of self-control but it is completely doable.

So if you are in need of a positive kick in the butt from yourself, try it.  Don’t use your cellphone until you’ve gone for a walk or run in the morning.  Don’t have that morning cup of coffee until you’ve done the laundry.  The habits don’t even have to be “bad”.  You just need to leverage the things that you do in order to have yourself take action on the things that you would normally skip.  It can be a powerful tool if you’re willing to hold yourself to it.

Have a great day!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Bio-Chemical War on Yourself

cannonI just wept in front of a room of teenagers.  It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it.  Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen.  It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story.  That’s because I’ve let it happen.  The memory does not have to be painful.   It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.

It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions.  They are things that happen to us rather than our creation.  Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party.  As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse.  Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant.  So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly.  But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.

The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen.  So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times.  Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol.  It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies.  Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other.  The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.

Physiology is the way that you use your body.  It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial.  Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.

Focus is the things that you pay attention to.  At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses.  We can only pay attention to a finite number.  So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.

Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head.  For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel.  Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.

These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside.  It is by no means an easy fix.  Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.

You’re fighting for your life, literally!

Pete

 

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You’re Never Going to Know

DivingI’ve not watch a NFL game for about four years.  I used to love it but now I can’t stomach to sit through a play or two.  The exorbitant contracts don’t bother me.  Although the blind eye to domestic (or just regular) violence off the field do bother me, that’s not it either.  It’s the fact that the people inside the sport no longer want to play the game.  They want to play the system.  Rather than going for the ball, they go for the call.  Games are more about referees than players.  The game has become a sad shell of what it was.  I’ve got the same complaint about my preferred sport of soccer but it has not reach the point of boycott YET!  There are millions of dollars (or whatever currency) on the line, I get it.  The problem is that the we’re all being robbed, not just the fans.

The reason why sports are such an ingrained part of our world is that they are a metaphor for what it is like to be alive.  Whether it’s football, soccer, badminton or any other athletic endeavor; it is a meeting of body, mind and spirit that is a test on what we are capable of.  When you look at sport in this light, it is easy to see that every time that someone tries to dupe the referee and succeeds, we lose.  The fans, the players, the coaches and sport itself loses because we are no longer testing what we are capable of, we are finding out what we can get away with.  I’m not picking on professional athletes because unfortunately it has become a cultural norm.  The reason why I point them out specifically is that they are in the spotlight and have the ability to move the culture.  They train for most of their lives to become the best of the best on their field but then become snake oil salesmen when it truly counts.  And none of us will ever know!

We’ll never know what they could have done.  Had they just played through the foul, the contact or the almost contact of their opponent.  It puts the result of the day on the line for sure and I know that everyone loves a winner but at what cost?  If gaming the system is the most common way to win, then we need to consider very heavily what it is that we’ve lost.  More than likely it is the willingness to put it all on our own shoulders.  Until we do that, we’ll never know what we were capable of and that is the point.

So I beg of you, as you go out into your own life today, don’t take the dive.  Don’t look for the loophole or the shortcut.  Even though you’re not a professional athlete, we all have the opportunity to find the greatness within ourselves.  The key to that is that you must demand a higher standard of conduct.  Because if you don’t give it your all, you’re just never going to know!

Don’t give up!

Pete

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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

 

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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 his 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.

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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

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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.