Blogpost, self-reliance

Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Talent

Children around the world are taught to believe in some things that just don’t exist. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are two western world creations that give excitement and anticipation to children around their respective holidays. Eventually these particular mythical creatures are revealed for what they are: cultural fantasy. I’m not sure that they do any pervasive psychological harm because the fantasy is replaced by a functional reality that young people can understand. The same cannot be said for the cultural ghost of “talent.” I’m sure that my argument is going to get someone’s knickers in a twist. So let me be as specific as I possibly can be. I am referring to the seemingly “god given” ability that comes without effort, training or intention. The ability that comes from nowhere.

Unlike Santa Claus and the Eastern Bunny, this myth is extremely dangerous and erodes the possibility of personal achievement in so many lives. It breaks the confidence of young people and older people alike. People are left feeling like a child on Christmas with nothing under the tree but they don’t seem to ever realize that they’re waiting for something to appear that really doesn’t exist. The way that people generally think of talent has set them up for disappointment. Sure there are people that are born with some slight advantages such as height, intelligence or kinesthetic awareness. However these advantages are the beginning of a path, not the end of the road. Someone who is dedicated can catch up to those with a head start. It happens all of the time. The stories of people like Michael Jordan are told often in order to dispel the myth of talent. However the truth isn’t what most people are looking for. They are actually looking for an excuse.

Talent is the perfect alibi for low achievement. The lack of it can be used to explain away the poor results that were unwanted. People want to receive positive results but often are unwilling to put forth the time and effort required to get them. It’s so much easier to point the finger at the people who are getting better results and brand them as having “talent.” Then their conscience is free because God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or some other deity did not bestow upon them the magical power necessary to become something special. It’s a lie and it needs to be called out.

Unfortunately we don’t put “talent” into shopping malls every year in a costume where everyone older than ten years old can see the farce. We perpetuate the lie because most of us want to be protected by it in some way. However we have to realize that it is not protecting us from anything more than all that we could be. So let go of the myth! Your lack of talent can be overcome with grit, determination and consistency. When you eventually become so good at something that people call you talented, you’ll know the truth. It will then be up to you to tell them or let them believe in fairy tales. Either way, you’ll be free!

Merry F#$@ing Christmas!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

No Substitutes!

In the present footballing world, a longstanding tradition has been suspended due to COVID-19 concerns. Teams have been allowed to have five substitutes within a match rather than three. This has opened up the possibility for a manager to change almost have the team. For a squad that is deep in talent, this is a lifesaver because a compressed schedule has led to tired legs. Energy and desire can be thrust into the match in order to turn the tide of a game at that is going wrong. I’m sure that many traditionalists have hated this development while others see it as a great addition to a strange season. As I frequently do, I started to think about the overlap of this aspect of the game with life. And in life, there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

It’s harsh isn’t it? Especially at times like these where it might be nice to have someone else step into your life for a day or a week. All of your responsibilities and obligations taken care of by another person while you lounge on the bench, recouping your strength to give it a go in the future. This is not a call for cloning or AI to take our places (this already scares the bejeezus out of me). Just a thought exercise to bring to light the fact that no one gets to take time off from being themselves. It is your position on the field. A role that only you can fill. No doubt that you can surround yourself with teammates who will pick up the slack when you feel tired but there are NO SUBSTITUTES!

In some ways this could be daunting. A lifetime of one position without anyone to take it over when you get tired. However it is also a beautiful thought. No one gets to replace you. Even if you’re an identical twin, your sibling is not you and can never be. So now that you have this position on the field and no one can take it away from you, what are you going to do with it?

Many people lament their role. They see other players of the game with more of this or more of that. Inside their head, they think “I’ve gotten a raw deal.” It’s common but it doesn’t make much sense. The complaint doesn’t progress anything forward, especially the complainer. So it is energy wasted in hope that they might get to substitute someone else. As we know now, that’s just not happening.

So the only sensible action as far as I can see is to play. That’s right! Even if you’re in your 90s or older, play that starting position that you’ve been give with everything that you’ve got. No one can replace you and that’s a great thing! When you’re eventually taken off the field, be sure that your teammates miss you. Give them performances to remember, that inspire them to be a better version of themselves. They can never replace you but they can follow your lead. Sure you’re bound to get tired, bumped and bruised but there’s pride to be found in continuing on.

Regardless of how you decide to play the game, remember that there is NO SUBSTITUTE for you! The world is full of obstacles, difficulties and challenges and we need YOU. Put your hand in because it’s another opportunity for you to play your part.

1, 2, 3, Go get ’em!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Two for the Price of One: UROK

My uncle served in the military. Our last name is Huryk (pronounced Yer-Ick). Due to the unusual spelling of our name, there were always mispronunciations. At one point, the best mispronunciation ever emerged: UROK. It stuck within his group of military friends and as a young kid, my brothers and I used it as well. This was the best moniker that could have been created at the time. I idolized my uncle and it just sounded cool! For a while, the name got forgotten because my uncle was no longer in the military and we didn’t see him as much either. My intent is to resurrect the word but not for my own purposes. It has more possibility in the hands of others. With the widespread use of “text speech”, the cool version of my last name has a dual meaning.

If each letter is said individually, then it reads “You are okay.” This is a most important message in our present circumstances and HELL, we’ve got a lot of circumstances at the moment. Since I principally work with young people, that’s where my mind goes automatically. Unfortunately a lot of the underlying message of what kids perceive now is the opposite of this message. They are bombarded by images and videos of other people and comparing themselves incessantly. It’s a losing battle but one that they feel like they are trapped within. My hope would be that each and every person has someone in their life that is regularly telling them “You are okay.” Each person has inherent value that cannot be determined by the number of likes or follows that they get. Despite all of the turmoil in the world, if you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance that “You are okay.” There may be a lot on your plate and it could be overwhelming at times but if you’re reading this blog, you’re not in immediate peril. The problems that you have can most likely be worked out.

The other version of the name brings it back to how we used to say it in my childhood: “You Rock!” In the era of hair metal bands, this was a compliment and I still mean it as one. This might take a little longer depending on how much or little that one person believes that “You are okay.” That has to come first. But once you believe that you are okay, it serves as a foundation. Eventually it is possible to construct self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance on top of that very basic belief. However most of us, regardless of whether we believe it or not have someone that would say, “You rock!” Because in some special area basically everyone does. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the best in the world at something. It merely means that you pour yourself into a part of your life that makes you unique. Unfortunately many people are so caught up in the noise of the world around them that they have trouble hearing their own song. Nothing could be sadder! Each of us is special in our own way but if we let the world turn up its volume too loud inside of our own heads, it makes it impossible to play our own tune.

So here is your homework. Yes, I said homework!

If you feel that you are more in the “You are okay” headspace, then take a few minutes each day for the next week and write down 3 good things in your life. By the end of the week, you should have over 21 (no repeats) things. Before writing the next 3, take time to read the others.

If you are more of a “You rock” person, then put your talent on display in the best way that you can think of. If you’re a great dad, then double down on all of the things that you do to be great at that job this week. Act like it is your concert at Wembley Stadium and everyone is watching at you rock at being a dad. Or perhaps you’re an artist, this week draw, paint, sculpt or sing like your hair is on fire. Don’t hold back and self-edit. Rock was never about being perfect. So make some noise within your space.

As is almost always true, I say things in my blog that I need to hear. So if you want to start a conversation about where you’re at, drop me a line. None of needs to be alone in this world but it can often feel like we are. Just remember, no matter what!

You are okay and you rock!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Results vs Resluts

If I had been born about ten years later than I was, I’m quite sure that I would have been tested for and found as dyslexic. However due to my age and a few other factors, there was no diagnosis. It’s never been a major issue, numbers are my biggest problem. So it made perfect sense for me to start out as a math major in college. For the most part, I’ve just had to police myself throughout my academic career. Now I’m not sure if my recent typing issues are related or if my fingers have just gotten fumbled up. I’ve been having a lot more instances of typos where I only switch two letters in the middle of the word. From time to time, results turn into resluts! Despite the obvious error, I gave some thought to my error and its possible uses. My fear is that far too many people are going for resluts!

The thing about resluts is that anyone can get them. They are readily available with little effort. Like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the resources needed to make that result happen are available to most people. It’s nothing special but it is still something. If they are needed in order to build confidence, habit or a streak of some kind, then by all means! Go get those resluts! Just don’t celebrate too much.

Results are what should be desired and chased. They inject enthusiasm and motivation into our lives. Although they are within our reach, they are elusive, coy or possibly aloof. They act as if they are too good for us and if we’ve lowered our standards drastically, they might be right. However it’s more than likely that we are more than good enough. It might take some extra effort, a bit more primping or charm but there’s no reason to let that stop us. Just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it!

So as you go through your day, recognize whether you’re chasing real results or not. Are the things that you’re after worth pursuing? If you’re only after them because they are easy, then it might be time to move on to better things. You deserve the top level prizes in this carnival game we call life. But first you need to realize that you do! Don’t settle for the participation trophy because you can do more than just show up!

Go get your results!

Pete

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

The Applause Comes Last

A round of applause, a pat on the back, a few well placed “‘at a girls” or “‘at a boys” are what many of us are looking for from our performance. We want someone who is willing to acknowledge the effort that we just put into that thing. Whether it is a piece of art, a business proposal or a well played game, recognition is something that people crave. It’s not a selfish thing, it is a biological desire that manifests itself in a variety of ways. We are hierarchical animals who survival used to depend heavily on tribal dynamics. Doing something worthy of positive attention from the tribe created such strong bonds between our actions and the approval of others that many are driven principally by praise.

Praise is not the only motivator in the world. People are motivated by all kinds of stimuli. The issue is not really what motivators are behind the actions of a person. It is the need for the reward to come at the right time. In our distraction prone society, a premature prize could lead to a decrease in motivation. The applause of the crowd, the bonus check or better yet that feeling of self-satisfaction cannot be awarded too soon because the whole result is the important thing.

It seems silly but people do it all the time. They come up with a plan for that goal and give up. A week of clean eating and the diet is over. The championship season is over after three wins in a row. Signing up for the gym is enough of a step, why would you go? Goals and objectives are not particularly the aim. The trophy may feel good in the moment but that instant fades over time. The feeling that endures much longer is the way that we feel about ourselves when it’s over. Tasks that we leave half done for no reason weigh on our souls because we believe that we’re capable of more. Despite that belief, the proof is in the pudding or the half-made pudding.

No one else needs to hear the applause but you need to give it to yourself when you’re done. And only when you’re done. That doesn’t mean that you can’t hear the occasional clap along the way but save the applause for the end. The most important thing is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself. If you left something on the table that could have been, you’ll know it. Make yourself proud!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Attendance Will Be Taken

I showed up on Senior Skip Day! That is probably the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever admitted in my blogposts. It’s pathetic for two reasons that I can think of. 1. Because of the fact that I went. 2. Because no one cares. There’s no moral judgment placed on the kids who don’t go. The valedictorian didn’t even show up if I remember correctly. It was the kids who had too many unexcused absences, the kids who got 100% attendance every year and me. Another sad fact is that I wasn’t one of 100% attendance kids. I would take days off from time to time, just not that day.

The 100% attendance kids were a bit of a mystery to me. I was never quite sure if their parents made them come everyday, they got some kind of prize, or they valued their education that much. Although I’m not going to ask you to follow directly in their footsteps, I am going to suggest that you have a stellar attendance record.

Your goals require a stellar attendance record. Every goal is going to have its own schedule. Some goals might be oncer per week. Others may be every day. Regardless of the schedule, there are going to be days when you don’t want to show up. Most likely those are the days that you need to show up the more than any other. We all desire comfort, a rest or a day off. The problem is that once those desires are exercised, they grow stronger.

If you wait for motivation, you’ll get very little done in this world. Motivation is neither a consistent state of being nor is it a power that is bestowed by God upon a select group. Those people who seem as if they are extremely motivated, just have better established habits. “First you make a habit, then the habit makes you.” Stolen from Trevor Moawad. So what do I have to do to make a habit? ACT!!! Don’t wait for motivation, until you feel like or someone tells you that you have to. Once you act, your mind will catch up to your body and send a message about why you are doing that thing. If you act consistently enough, eventually your mind will get ahead of your body and start calling on you to do that thing.

Just like me, it’s possible that you’re the only one who will remember that you showed up. There won’t be a gold star put next to your name. You’ll just be a step, an inch or a millimeter closer to that thing that you want. That stellar attendance record will eventually start paying dividends. The sooner you start, the farther that you’ll be along the path in a week, a month, or a year. So ACT NOW!!! No one else is checking to see if you show up. Therefore, you have to!

Bueller! Bueller!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Break Up With Yourself

A slap across the face, a bucket of tears, possibly even a few curse words thrown my way. These are all components of past breakups. Breakups are infrequently mutual, so at least one person feels like they are on the losing end. I’ve been dumped and I’ve been the dumper. Neither is particularly easy unless you have no soul. Despite the fact that it is hard, there are times when it is completely justified. Some people just don’t know how to treat another human being and it is time to say goodbye.

A breakup can be complicated by factors that make the connection linger. I once dated a coworker and that breakup made work difficult. Living together is probably the most complicated because someone has got to go. No matter what that sitcom with Pam from the Office might try to sell to you, living together after a breakup is no joke. However most people tend to live with the person who is most critical of them. Even worse, they can’t get away from them because that person is inside of their head.

It’s no surprise that the harshest critic is usually inside of our own head. That voice is usually a mismatched combination of different voices from our past mixed with our own self-judgement. Being self-critical is not difficult because we know our every shortcoming, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, etc. The issue is that neither party can leave. This is a true “til death do we part” scenario. As with any relationship, it’s possible to make it better but it requires the right communication.

How could you leave this good looking guy?

Since each of us has our own preferred way of communicating, it’s possible that one strategy will work better for someone than it does for another. My suggestion would be do them all and maybe increase the dose on your preferred way.

  • Write to yourself everyday. This doesn’t need to be a love letter (or maybe that’s a good idea) but it should be a positive narrative to you about yourself. Give the positive reinforcement that you would extend to someone that you care about. Also give thanks for all that you are and all that you will become. That’s right! Give thanks for things that have not happened yet. Keep it in the near future but still project outward from where you stand.
  • Tell yourself positive things. Again, this is a difficult thing to do when you’re on autopilot. So use that technology in your pocket for a better outcome. Record yourself talking to yourself in a positive manner about where you are and where you’re going. You may need a script and summon your inner actor to say these things with some emotion. Don’t say it monotone, like you don’t believe it. Put some feeling behind it. Once you’ve recorded listen to it twice or more per day. Ideally the two times would be right before bed and as soon as you wake up. However you may be embarrassed doing this with a roommate etc. Put in your earbuds and hear what you have to say.
  • Break the cycle of abuse. If you have a habit of using abusive language with yourself, inside of your head or out-loud. The first step is to get that voice to stop or at least detour it. Pay attention to the common phrases and when they come up. Practice thinking the negative thing and attach the inverse. For example if the habit saying is “I’m so stupid.” Flip the script by thinking the “I’m so stupid” and saying “when I’m not being brilliant.” Saying something out-loud gives it more power. The mixed message should scramble your brain a bit. If you’re also doing the other work, it shouldn’t be long until you’re talking to yourself differently.

I suppose I lied to you a bit with the title. You’re not truly breaking up with yourself. More than anything you’re training yourself on how to be a good roommate. If you want to stay in that abusive relationship for the rest of your life, then by all means stick with it. My guess is that if you’ve bothered to read one of my blogposts this far, you’re not going to stand still. You see the potential inside of yourself but also see the ways that you’ve held yourself back. Take off the anchor and propel yourself forward.

You can do it! I believe in you! And you should too!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Repeat Yourself, Continuously

As a father, it is almost my sworn duty to tell dad jokes. My grandfather was a well known joke teller in his neighborhood and the family. Most of the time when he would start telling you a story, you weren’t sure if it was the set up for a joke or not. Since his name was Pete, he would often introduce himself, “My name is Pete and this is my son, RePete.” He specialized in Polish jokes because we’re Polish by descent but he was always looking for new material. There were a quite a few that you would hear over and over again because they worked.

My grandfather, the joker!

Since we have so much choice these days, there is a desire for the new and unique. Despite all of this choice, I still find myself going back to the things that work over and over again: Shawshank Redemption, Knapsack and the Tim Ferris podcast with Robert Rodriguez. Predictability has its place in a world as volatile as ours. The important skill is being able to tell the difference between a track and a rut. The major distinguishing factor is that tracks lead someplace and ruts are formed because you’re just spinning your wheels.

So I suggest that you repeat yourself, continuously……..After you’ve decided who it is that you want to be. Consistency is a key to most endeavors. If you want to be a great version of yourself, that is going to require that you are a consistent version of yourself. Consistent action in a particular direction leaves tracks and people can understand who you are where you’ve come from. Unfortunately in our distraction culture, it’s easy to be led astray but the things that we believe are necessary tools. The latest thing is always going to be around because there’s always a new latest thing.

Even though he looked for new material, my grandfather knew which jokes worked because he had thousands of hours of experience. He didn’t recite poetry because that was not his thing except for that one about the guy from Nantucket…. But I digress. You don’t need to be all things to all people. You need to be you, everyday for the rest of your life. Make sure that it’s a decision and not an accident who it is that shows up.

Did I ever tell you the one…?

RePete III

Blogpost, self-reliance

Parade Float Existence

You’re not supposed to see the wheels of a parade float. The entire idea behind the “float” is that it gives off the illusion that it is above the ground, a piece of art suspended in the air. The right circumstances need to be in place to make a float viable. A relatively straight road that has been blocked off from regular traffic is paramount to a float’s functionality. There’s a reason why we don’t see floats on a daily basis. They are an impractical sham of existence that cannot persist much longer after the parade is over.

Despite these facts about floats, many of us try to drive our own float down the streets of our daily lives. We primp ourselves to hide all scars, blemishes, effort and fatigue. The systems that hold us up are well hidden from the world to give the illusion that we might be floating. Social media is the stop in front of Macy’s where we need to pause and pose or sing and dance like Mario Lopez. Realizing of course that it’s a sham, you’re only there because you don’t have anything more important to do. Millions of people might be “watching” but in all honesty no one is truly watching. You scroll by with the other people pretending to be pitch perfect and are barely noticed or remembered.

There is nothing wrong floats or parades but they should not be daily experiences. As individuals we need to be much more agile and fast moving. Maintaining the facade is at best impractical and at worst dangerous. When life demands more of us than a parade route, we will fall apart at the seams if we’re made of tissue paper and flowers. Keeping it together is impossible in that unnatural state. So only bring out the float on special occasions. There are so many other parade participants to be:

  • The balloon that need eight people to keep it from floating off into the ski.
  • The classic cars that would love nothing more than to ditch the parade for the open road.
  • The tanks that could take out a building if the situation called for it.
  • The high school band who had to compete to get there and are REALLY playing their instruments.

So if you’re trying to be a float, please remember that you’re not fooling anyone. We all know that underneath, you’re a type of farm vehicle. Unless it’s a special occasion, you can ditch the facade and be the real you. Just because we put a camera in everyone’s pocket, doesn’t mean we’re all on TV or need to act like second class stars. Our daily lives require people of true substance! We need the real you!

Show off your wheels!

Pete