Blogpost, self-reliance

Unpickle the Cucumber

One of my favorite places to eat in the entire world is called “The Sub Shack” in Hackettstown, NJ. As a kid, we would go there from time to time and as an adult I make it a point to go whenever visiting home. They had a barrel of pickles soaking in brine that were sold for one dollar a piece. As a child, I didn’t realize initially that pickles were cucumbers (or other vegetables). Traditionally it was done to prevent spoilage. In modern times, it seems to principally be done for taste. Once pickled, it is almost impossible to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. By soaking the cucumber in brine, that liquid permeates the entirety of the cucumber. Even if it is soaked in water for a long period of time, it can’t go back. Luckily humans are not pickles but we may be “pickled” to a certain extent.

The Sub Shack located on Main St. in Hackettstonwn, NJ.

This discussion of brining and pickles was brought about as I was thinking about my own mindset and habits. Much of who I am today is due to being immersed in a particular set of circumstances. My upbringing, education, friends, experiences, etc. form the brine that my mind has been soaking in for these forty-five years. Some components have been thrust upon me while others have been deliberately chosen. All of the “flavors” that I am can be changed on some level by “re-brining.” My American flavor would be affected to some degree by living in England for a decade. However it is almost impossible to completely “unpickle the cucumber.”

Just because you can’t start over, doesn’t mean that you need to continue on your present path. It is completely possible to change the you that people see everyday. However it takes more than an inspirational Instagram post or a week’s worth of discipline. You need to become immersed in the change that you want to create. People, location, media, schedules, etc. can all help to “brine” you in one way or another. The key is to figure out exactly what you want to taste like (did I take the analogy too far? That felt like a bit too far.) REGARDLESS the person that you are is who you will stay unless you immerse yourself in something different. You’ve already been pickled. Now it’s up to you to decide if you like the recipe that was used!

Bon Appetite!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

100 Choices (Base Hit Mentality)

Most of us are not dealing with nuclear physics on a daily basis. Our decisions are not all that difficult. For the most part, we know what to do. Given the choice between drinking a Coke and a glass of water, we know which is the right one for our health and wellness. However we often make the wrong choices in many situations because we are overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. Despite knowing the right answer, we make a choice that does not support our best interest.

Although the number is most likely incorrect, let’s say that you make 100 choices in a day. Most of those choices are not unique. They are the same choices you had to make yesterday, last week, and last month. It is more than likely that you’ve chosen the same way consistently. That consistency is great if you’ve selected the right thing over and over again. It’s digging you a hole if you’ve made the wrong decisions, perhaps literally.

More often than not, change is difficult because the emotion of the moment is too much for us to counterbalance with our will. So we stay the same. I’ve estimated a number of 100 choices in a day. Again, it’s probably not accurate and it would be a HORRIBLE idea for you to try to adjust even a quarter of those at once. So I am not going to suggest that at all. The plan that I am going to suggest is start with identifying.

Take some time today to identify as many choices as you possibly can. From what you have for lunch, how you treat members of your family, when you wake up, what you watch on TV, what you do when you have free time. Here is a starter list for you to build from. After you have this list, write down the choices that you are getting right. Then pat yourself on the back or whatever congratulations you feel appropriate giving yourself. Remember that you’re not perfect and whatever you’re getting right now is a foundation.

Once you’ve identified your foundation, look at the remainder of the list and start writing down the ideal choices that you should make. Don’t worry about changing any of them just yet. Only write down the option that would be best for you, your life and your goals. Once that is complete. Choose three that you are going to focus on for the week. Set yourself up to win. If it is a change in your lunch choices, then program a reminder into your phone for 15 minutes before lunch. If you’re trying to use social media less, put those apps in a folder on the third page of your home screen. Set up rules around when it’s ok to go there. You know you. So you know which ones need changing quickly. Don’t be afraid to go there because it is in the service of you. You deserve the best version of your life possible. Now you get to decide what is important to you in your choices.

Hopefully by doing this exercise, you get some clarity on the fact that you can control the moment. Making decisions before they come up in the day is key. If you wait to decide about eating the doughnut when it is in front of you, the odds against the right decision are high. So think of this as your grocery list. If you have a list when you go to the market and stick to it, then you can be efficient about your purchases and get it done. If you have no list, then you wander around the aisles and pick up things that you really don’t need. Choose what you want before the possibilities jump out in front of you.

The idea behind all of this is not that you’re going to hit home runs every day. You are aiming to hit base hits repeatedly. Although people may want the outcomes to be instantaneous and exciting, most of the things that we want for ourselves depend upon consistency. So you don’t need to swing for the fences, just aim for consistent base hits. That’s your winning strategy!

Have a great day or not. The choice is yours!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Who Is In Charge?

With the New Year right around the corner and thoughts of a restart go through the minds of many people, it is possibly worth the time to put all of these cards on the table. If 2021 is going to be better than 2020, then there needs to be a basic understanding of who is responsible for the varied facets of life. Although the answers to all of these questions will be self-evident, the exercise is important because it releases all of the stories that come along with circumstances.

If you are a student, who is in charge of your grades? Your teacher? She/he is responsible for the delivery of the content but in the end, you are in charge of acquiring it. I won’t go on my grades rant here but remember that every teacher that you have will eventually be gone. They transitory figures in your life who are intended to teach you something. EVEN if they are the worst teacher in the world, it is on you to cope with that situation. It is your knowledge that is at stake.

Who is in charge of your health? Your doctor? You go to see her/him a few times per year. Those visits are checkpoints but in no way do they have the impact that your daily decisions do. A doctor can be part of a health strategy but in the end, you must implement that strategy. If you’re out of shape, overweight, or lethargic, that’s on you. The strategies for correcting most ailments do not require a PhD but rather SADD (Simple Actions Done Daily). If you’re in a health hole, you’re the only one who can dig yourself out. People can help but they cannot drag you along or the results will be short-lived. The reverse is also true. If you are fit, strong and flexible, that’s on you! Pat yourself on the back if you can.

Who is in charge of your mindset? Your psychologist? Your parents? Your ex? While your therapist may be able to help you refocus and create new meaning for your situation, the patterns of thoughts and behaviors are ultimately on you. People from your past have definitely contributed to your present mental framework, however you do not have to hold onto it. Blaming your present on others may feel better than owning it but that makes you a victim. You’re not a victim. You are the captain of your ship.

Who is in charge of your career? Your boss? Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a boss who is looking out for your best interest in your career, most people are not that lucky. Most bosses are concerned with your performance in your present position. Their job is not to clear a path for your ultimate success. They already do that for themselves.

Who is in charge of your finances? Wall street? The President? Your banker? Your finances are your responsibility. All of these institutions can influence your financial standing but the decisions are on you. If the market has taken a turn for the worse and you take a hit, that’s based on your decisions not the circumstances. When the situation changes (and it always does), it will be the alignment of your sails rather than the direction of the wind that will dictate your course.

None of these ideas is revolutionary or even difficult to understand. However people are going to struggle this year with the circumstances that they encounter. They are going to look around to find an easier scapegoat than themselves. This protective maneuver is an attempt to make the self feel good in the moment. “It’s not my fault because of ….” Feeling good in that moment is robbing them of the power that they have to make the big changes that they desire.

No one is going to scoop you up like Superman and protect you from all of the bad things in the world. It’s on you to save yourself and help the people around you. So as we progress into 2021, get your thumb ready because it’s the appendage that separates us from most other animals. It’s also the device that will separate you from most other people, if you use it often enough when giving responsibility.

Thumbs before fingers people!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Bow and The Arrow

Short and sweet for Christmas Eve! Here we go!

Are you the bow? The one who stays in the same spot and gets put under regular tension. You do basically all of the work but are a tool being used by someone else.

Are you the arrow? The one with direction who gets to go places and reach targets or miss them. Regardless you are getting out there. Staying inert is not your thing, in fact it makes you quiver (hahahaha).

It’s not so much that one is better than the other. Both are necessary parts of the equation. However the perspective on how you interact with your world is important. We’d all like to believe that we are flying free toward our targets. That freedom is found in perspective. Kings have been slaves and slaves have been kings. The crown itself is powerless. It is useless on the head of one whose spirit is crushed under its weight. The chains and walls also cannot hold the person who is free where it counts. So go fly before someone puts you under major tension to propel them toward their bullseye!

Barbecue sauce!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

First Touch Philosophy

A player’s first touch is crucial to their success as they progress to higher levels of playing. Although speed, a great shot, tactical knowledge, etc. may be desired, a quality first touch is a foundation that can enhance any skill stacked upon it and mask defects that would otherwise be apparent. Just like any other skill, a first touch requires physical practice but the skill in and of itself is heavily intertwined with being proactive. The ability to control the ball is not particularly a good first touch. It is the combination of control with the vision to see where it would be most advantageous to put the ball. Many players possess the skill to control the ball in open space. However amongst the chaos of small space, little time and huge pressure is the true proving ground for a quality first touch.

Although I would love for each of us to use this post as a catalyst for improving our first touch on the field, like always, I’m thinking to the bigger game of life. In life, the rules, skills and strategies are more subject to interpretation. That is why I put the word philosophy in the title. Each of us must develop our own stance on how we progress in life. Therefore it is not for me to say what is best for you, the philosophy part is up to you. However I am going to suggest some of the places where you might find opportunities to take great “first touches.” Below is a video of Frank Lampard (not my favorite player) scanning the field during his days with Chelsea (not my favorite team). Although I do not love the player, it’s easy to appreciate the preparedness. Being aware of your surroundings enough that you can make a better decision when the opportunity arises.

First Touch Opportunities

Here are some opportunities for you to set yourself up for success. The decision about how to approach these situations is up to you depending on your goals and strategy.

  • First thing in the morning. This is the truest of all “first touches.” What do you do when first wake up? Are you reactive to the way you feel? Proactive based on decisions made beforehand?
  • Meeting new people. This is another spot where you get to choose who it is that you want to be. This person doesn’t know you and no matter what you do, they will never know you 100%. They will only ever get a small percentage of who you are based on what you show them. Do you want to show them your BIG personality? Or are you sending the message that you are more interested in them? This may change based on the circumstances but is there a thought process behind your interactions?
  • Walking into a room. It’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However I am huge believer in the fact that you should not trust what people say, nor what they do, trust the pattern. So every time that you walk into a room, you have a new opportunity to be the version of yourself that you want on display. What is your pattern? How do you show up regularly?
  • After making a mistake. This is a crucial time where chaos may be upon you. Perhaps not external chaos but internal chaos. A first touch is all about control and setting yourself up for success. How do you react to mistakes? Do you tear yourself down internally? Externally? Do you relive it in your head? Do you evaluate it in order to prevent it from repeating? Worst case scenario, do you even see your mistakes? Amidst the chaos of life, it is easy to get turned around. If you’ve not defined which goal is yours, it is possible that you’re heading in the wrong direction and don’t know it.
  • After someone hurts you. Looking for retribution is easy! Sometimes it might be the right answer. More often than not, it isn’t! Usually the people that are given the power to hurt you, have it because you share a relationship. Two ends of a “ship” taking shots at one another almost guarantees that the “ship” is going down. Is it a mistake? Does hurting the other person make you feel better? Do you even need to be hurt by this? In the chaos of the moment, these are hard questions to ask. So it may be helpful to rehearse some situations inside your head before they happen. See yourself acting in a way that will help you.

Obviously this list is not complete. There are plenty of places in your life where you can employ control and a vision for where it is advantageous to go. Just like a first touch on the field, it takes practice before the chaos. Practice is something that starts when you are on your own. Meditation, visualization, journaling and self-talk are some of the best tools that you can use to develop control and vision. These skills need to be honed over time. Then much like Lampard in the video clip, you need to be scanning the field to make opportunities out of the openings that you see or avoid the hard tackle coming from your backside. Life is inherently “out of control”. The only thing that we can control is ourselves. Make the best of the touches that you get today.

Go for goal!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Hand Stitched Soccer Balls

There was a point in the past where the mark of a “good” soccer ball was that it was “hand stitched.” Unfortunately most of that stitching was probably done by children in another part of the world but we’re going to put the geo-political implications aside for the moment. Quality was associated with human labor. Someone putting in an effort to create. Doing it with intention that lead to a better result. While technology has improved enough that a machine can make a better soccer ball than a kid in a sweat shop. Some tasks are better done by hand and maybe even by children.

While I have no desire to make a better soccer ball, I do have an explicit interest in helping to make better people. It is nowhere near as simple as manufacturing because the material is inconsistent. The methods are various and not always effective or efficient. However there is one that I am more sure of than ever as we cope with this pandemic. Better people are made by hand. This does not mean that they are stitched together by a low wage worker in another country. It simply means that contact is key. Our ability to become a better version of ourselves depends heavily on the influence of people. While the position of influencer seems to have been reduced to someone who has a lot of followers, it truly is the people that we allow to nudge us in one direction or another. Those little pieces of other people that we pick up can be stitched together into something beautifully functional. Much like the panels of a soccer ball, we have a patchwork design that fits together in a way that no machine could predict. So we need to be “hand-stitched” and at some point we need to do it to ourselves.

There is a societal push toward perfection. Clearer pictures on TV, faster Wifi, smarter automobiles… These improvements seem to positively impact lives. However that same expectation around human existence is more dangerous than anything else. We are born through difficulty and struggle. Usually that is what makes us better as well. We need to be hand-stitched because from time to time, life tears us apart. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, picking up the pieces. Even though we want to protect our kids from anything harmful, they need to learn how to sew. Otherwise they’ll be dependent upon other things or people to make them feel put together.

Get back to work!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Paper Wall

My daughter is one of the coolest people that I know for a variety of reasons. A particular instance that exemplifies this was when we moved into our last house. She was very particular about the decoration of her room. Above her bed, she wanted the wall to be brick and the skull of an animal (fake of course) painted gold hanging as decoration. Since the house did not have exposed brick in her room and we were not about to have it put in, she was happy to compromise with brick wall paper. It served her purpose quite well because it looked real enough for her and it could be easily changed.

In addition to her ever-changing sense of style, my daughter’s ability to move past obstacles is one of my favorite characteristics of hers. She generally doesn’t see them as obstacles at all. When she wants to learn how to draw better, she simply finds a way through a video, class or some other method. Upon deciding to play hockey, she was not bothered by the extreme learning curve between her and more experienced players. When she needs to buy something, she’ll make an impromptu business selling hot chocolate. It’s one of the ways that I would like to emulate her.

Most people in this world tend to see a series of brick walls between themselves and what they want. Their boss, finances, circumstances, parents, teachers, opponents, challenges, etc. are all standing in their way. While some of these walls may be solid, most of them are paper. They are as substantial as the stuff that we put up on my daughter’s wall. The problem is that we tend to imagine that they’re not. They look like brick! Or better yet, we’re afraid that they are brick, so we don’t even test them. We don’t even inspect them to see if they are anything more than paper. These walls give us the perfect excuse to do nothing. It’s just too risky to try to run through them. If we fail, we’ll feel foolish. Or worse! We might succeed and figure out that we’re more capable than we thought. Then we would have to push ourselves beyond our present expectations and that might be too hard!

This is not a finger wagging session that I’m having with strangers on the internet. As I usually do, I’m talking to myself more than anyone. There are walls in my path and I’m quite sure that they are paper or at best cardboard. They’re just in a different direction than I’m used to running. So I’m scared. Not that I’ll fail but that I’ll succeed. On the other side of these challenges, I may find another version of myself that was always available to me. Then I’ll need to reconcile why I didn’t do this sooner. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, I’ve got a wall to run through and you probably do too! So let’s get to it!

Love you Emily!

Pete

Blogpost

Success Is The Distance…

For years I’ve been saying it to my teams, “Winning is not always success and losing is not always failure!” Now this sticks right in the craw of many people who want to put trophies on mantles and points on the board. The problem is that this one metric doesn’t tell the entire story. It’s just the most obvious thing that people measure. It’s also the reason that I REALLY REALLY dislike Manchester City in the English Premier League. We need to dig a little deeper to uncover the metrics by which true success can be measured.

My statement about success and failure is usually followed up by a thought exercise. I’ll ask my high school players, “If we played Arsenal and lost 1-0, were we successful?” The answer is always a resounding “YES!” Then I ask, “If we were to play against a U8 team and won 1-0, were we successful?” The answer is always a resounding “NO!” “Could we even characterize that as a ‘failure’?” Again the answer is always unanimous, “YES!” So if a loss can be success and a victory can be failure, how do we truly measure these contradictory outcomes that are so integral to how we feel about ourselves? It is simple but not easy.

Success is the distance between someone’s resources and their results. Many of the components may be subjective but we have the exemplars written in the fabric of our culture. It is no wonder that Rocky continues to be a classic after all of these years. That movie personifies this idea about success. Rocky has almost none of the resources but uses what he has to get unexpected results. Conversely Apollo has all of the resources and barely gets the minimum expected. These may be fictitious characters but these stories play out in the real world everyday. Possibly even in your own life.

Now that you have a definition for success. Take it, use it, run with it. Measure yourself against it. Are you really succeeding or are you beating up on the U8 team because it’s easy? With the resources that you have at your disposal, are you living above or below that line? Recognition is the first step to moving in a new direction. Then put on the gloves and start swinging.

Fight the good fight people!

Pete

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The Viral Life Expectancy Has Gone Viral

It was the latest thing! The internet was on fire with different videos. Everyone from celebrities to little kids were taking part in this craze. For about two weeks, I saw it go through the entire life cycle. The birth, life and death all happened in such a short period of time that it was impossible to miss it. It didn’t last long enough for anyone to care that it was gone. Of course I’m talking about the “Harlem Shake”. If you had something else in mind, that’s not a problem because I could have gone with other examples. Flappy bird, dabbing, fidget spinners, bottle flipping, etc. Each had their own amount of time in the spotlight but none lasted too long. Fads are not new and by no means am I suggesting that they should go away. My fear is that everything has become a fad.

As a child in the 80’s, I saw the rise and fall of so many fads I could “gag myself with a spoon!” I had Bugle Boy Jeans a year after they were cool. My mullet was never quite right and convincing my mother to buy jeans that already had rips in them was unthinkable. Even though I didn’t fully partake in any of these fads, I was influenced by the culture around me enough to notice what was “in”. As I said previously, it’s not that fads are new. Each of the fads that came and went through my childhood stuck around long enough to be remembered. None were life altering but they usually hung around long enough to get associated with a year or part of life. The life expectancy of a fad was long enough to make it memorable and possibly meaningful.

In the age of the internet, the viral nature of media has caused fads to appear out of nowhere. They disappear almost as quickly. Very few cultural phenomena have the “staying power” to hang on for a year. Often the life of a fad is measured in weeks. While this isn’t a problem on its own, let’s face it, the Harlem Shake didn’t deserve much more of our time. The issue is the cultural impact on our perception of life expectancy. People have become accustomed to the idea of things disappearing quickly. So things that matter or require time to develop and flourish get swept aside because they don’t peak early enough or burn slower than people’s comfort level.

In a world filled with fads that seem like mental candy, have we lost our ability to recognize the things of substance? Are we so accustomed to anticipating the new that we are unable to determine if the thing in front of us deserves the time to develop? Our minds are like muscles in so many ways. I fear that these short spurts of attention are training us for the wrong game. Most of the things that really matter in life are the result of long term thinking. If that long term muscle never gets exercised, it will atrophy. Eventually we will only be equipped to deal with the short term, prepackaged, watered down version of life. While it might be easier, I don’t think it will be more fulfilling. So be aware! Some things, people and situations in your life deserve more than just a passing glance. You need to develop the awareness to recognize them and have the patience muscle to see them through. There will always be another shiny thing laying in the road. Most of it is just trash that you’ll discard. Most of the things of value require some mining!

Play the long game!

Pete

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

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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.”