In kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class. The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom. I won everyone that I ran in. Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion. First, it’s possible that it is true. I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class. Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine. Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER! While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.
Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around. In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races. Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem. Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later. They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.
The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis. The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things. Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people. It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles. Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste. These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.
So the daily choice comes down to you. Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life. Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself. Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.
It was an absolute revelation! Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business). The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women. The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.
Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar. He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.” His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way). They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny. Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number. Watch the clip for the full picture.
This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives. First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations. Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me. I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.
The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you. Keep that in mind at all times. Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you. So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself. It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can. Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior. When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.
You’re a big bear man!
Sometimes the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of you. Your nose is always front and center but most of us don’t pay it any mind. The reason why we tend to forget about it is because it is always there. Our brains tend to discard or ignore those things that can be taken for granted. Air, light, food, water, friends, opportunity, etc. are just a beginning to the list of things that we take for granted each day. This is not to say that we should be spending major amounts of time contemplating air in a recreational effort. It is simply to point out that your brain is working at all times to determine what is worth your attention and what is not. This ability to ignore the inconsequential is wonderful until it isn’t. As they say, the dose makes the poison.
Although our brains were originally designed to act in our best interest, the operating system has not been updated in a long time. So if you do not intervene on your own behalf, your brain will protect you from things that are no longer relevant. Most of the fear and anxiety that you feel is supposed to keep you from being eaten by a bear or be kicked out of the tribe. The latter is more relevant than the former but both need to oversight. On its default settings, your brain will keep you alive and partially comfortable in the modern world. If you are looking for more than that, then you need to be more deliberate about the things that you see.
The invisible nose is just a representation of the things that you’re ignoring. More important things are out there that you should be aggressively pursuing but you just don’t see them. Opportunities pass you by or better yet you pass them by regularly. The reason is that you’re not programmed to notice them. That’s not safe! Stay where it’s comfortable! Don’t stand out! Don’t fail! These are all things that your brain screams subliminally everyday. Unless you take control and look for that which is most important to you. Those things may not be as obvious as you want them to be. Although they might be directly in front of you, they may be buried under a pile of societal and personal hard-wiring. Hacking your way through that will be difficult, time consuming and totally worth it once you’re on the other side.
So I’ve give you permission. Look at the world with fresh eyes and endeavor to see everything. Hack away at the beliefs that no longer make sense. Filter your vision to look for the ideal rather than the real. Your past low expectations will be there to catch you if you fall. It starts with a moment and builds from there. Make this your first moment!
Have a great day!
The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance. While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground. Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems. At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn. Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world. I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains. The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form. Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.
Intuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken. Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity. There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same. The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.
The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails. Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain. The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own. In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure. Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.
At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance. A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”. Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.
So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy. Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel. Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight. Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!
Learn today to be better tomorrow.
The Rolling Stones are iconic and endured long past most of their contemporaries. That type of longevity mixed with commercial success is worth noting and aspiring to but not manufacturing. Trying to manufacture the Rolling is not only impossible, it feels foolish to suggest trying. Despite this realization in the folly of trying to manufacture the next Rolling Stones, people seem obsessed with being the next Uber, AirBnB, Amazon or Lebron. Either individually or organizationally at certain point, we all must break away from the icons that we adore in order to stand in our own right.
For the moment, my daughter is listening to Twenty One Pilots. I’ve enjoyed their music because much like the Rolling Stones, they have their own style. It has been a long time since a musical group has not sounded like some derivative of a style or past performer. It’s possible that I missed who they are copying but for now I’ll stay impressed.
The mixture of uncertainty and pervasive broadcasting of “success” through social media leads to a desire to impersonate. Trying to emulate the airbrushed life of a quasi-celebrity is an exercise in futility and disappointment. Regardless of the person, what you see is not 100% of who they are. It is the public version or the highlighted reel. Holding yourself to that standard will end in failure.
So hold yourself to your own standard! Can you be influenced by others? Absolutely! Borrow, experiment and test but in the end your product is going to need a huge helping of YOU at its core. Keeping that in mind from the outset will allow you to be a much happier version of yourself. Comparison can be a killer because you know everything about only one person in the comparison, you. You know every thought, fear, desire and screw up. No matter who you’re comparing yourself to, you’ll never know all of that. So you’ll either be too hard on them or yourself and usually it’s the latter.
So go out there and be you today. Wear your flaws and shortcomings like they’re some of your best accessories because in all honesty, THEY ARE! Just imagine, there is probably someone out there who would love to be you and the message to them is the same. They can’t be. So go be yourself.
Have a great Monday!
The sport of skiing is one that I did not acquire until I was well into my twenties. My wife took me for the first time while we were engaged. I enjoy it but because I learned to ski later in life, I feel a certain amount of hesitance about pushing my limits. Skiing is an activity that allows for a good amount of self-policing. Generally speaking, there are no official representatives of the mountain telling you what trails to take. You need to have enough self-awareness to know if you’re a green circle, a blue square or a black diamond. Incorrectly gauging your level could have disastrous consequences. Despite this possible peril, most people make it down the mountain unscathed because they accurately police themselves.
It is amazing to me that in certain areas, the idea of self-awareness is ingrained and almost automatic. While in other places people are seemingly unable to see themselves at all. Perhaps it is the number of variables in the given situation. Or it is the perceived risk of bodily, emotional or social harm. Whether it is in sports, dating, business, school or any other area, we all know someone who does not know their own level. Either they think they’re an expert when they’re truly a novice. Or they think they should be on the bunny hill when they could truly handle or deserve so much more of an experience. Regardless of the situation, there are rewards to reaped from self-awareness.
So where do you belong in a particular area that means something to you? Are you a green, a blue or a black diamond? Take a real look inward and decide where you think you belong? Then take your self-assessment and bring it to people that you trust. Depending on the area, it may be worth it to take it to the streets and see what the common person thinks. Regardless of the outcome, the exercise is valuable because a map of Chicago is worthless if you’re lost in New York. Having a knowledge of where you are is a key component to getting where you want to go. Denial is not a strategy for progress.
So go out there and hit the slopes!
At one point in my educational career, transparencies were the height of technology. By today’s standards they are obsolete but at the time they were extremely helpful. The ability to manipulate and project for a group to see was used daily. My most vivid memories of them were from history class. A territory could be shown with a variety of borders and other influencers. Depending on the transparency that was placed onto the territory, a force like the Roman Empire could be all encompassing or completely inconsequential. The territory was always the same but the translucent lines of borders and boundaries changed. Even though the transparency projectors have all but disappeared, the influence of invisible and imaginary lines has not.
They are truly all around us, the transparent lines that often direct our lives. The boundary lines, goal lines, bottom lines, traffic lines and party lines are subtly informing our every day experience. So many different ways that we can choose to box ourselves in or direct our movement by using these lines. The issue comes when the lines become walls that imprison.
Many of us have constructs that we have developed or have been developed for us. Some are almost invisible until we look for them. For example you are reading this blog in English. If it is your first language, it changes the way that you look at the world compared to other languages. A simple sentence like “I dropped the plate.” illustrates the point. There is an underlying sense of responsibility attached to action because of the subject “I”. Conversely the Spanish representation of the situation, “Se me cayó el plato.” literally translates to “The plate fell from me.” For better or worse, the influence of simple things such as this can monumental and often taken for granted. So the first step is to recognize as many of the lines that are influencing you as you can. Then decide what makes sense.
When you peel back the layers of transparencies from your life, you will most likely find things that you’ve taken for granted that just don’t make sense. Driving on the right side of the road may be a useful constraint to keep. However there are probably others that can be amended or dropped in order to better service you in the pursuit of what you want today. Perhaps you’ve always believed that you’re not smart, that planning isn’t important, that sex is REALLY important, that you need to make it on your own or a million other things. Maybe you’ll keep most of your beliefs but it is worth the examination to see if you’ve painted yourself into a corner with beliefs that don’t make sense anymore. If you want to be a millionaire but think that making minimum wage is the best you can do, you’ve got a problem. Do the lines that you’ve painted for yourself point you in the direction that you want to be going?
Physically, mentally and emotionally; what do you believe about yourself, people and the world? Write it down in your notebook, iPhone, laptop or anything else that works for you. Then pick through it to see what you’re keeping, tweaking or tossing. It’s up to you to clean up whatever mess you might have. If you’re honest in your assessment, you’ll be able to see through the person that you need to read better than anyone else: yourself.
Go get your hands dirty boys and girls!
During my recent trip to Baltimore, I walked by a woman throwing pieces of bread to the pigeons near the docks. It was obvious from the amount of bird poop that this was a regular occurrence. The next day as I walked by that spot at the same time, the woman was not there but the birds were there in force. They had a learned to at least partially depend on the “bird lady” for food. The pigeons had mildly abandoned their heritage as scavengers and become slightly domesticated. I don’t know that these birds were completely reliant upon the bird lady but they were definitely foregoing the hunt for the comfort of waiting for the “sure thing”.
These birds represent many of us that are caught up in the paradigm of modern civilization. Humans were at one point hunters and gatherers. As we developed means of food production, individuals could sustain themselves and others with their crops and domesticated animals for slaughter. Eventually fewer people were producing food and the majority of us became consumers that relied on their work. In many ways this is an unnatural state for man to be disconnected from his hunting instinct. We have built systems of competition in business and sport that mimic the hunting instinct. However in recent years it seems that people are being trained to accept only what is handed to them. For the moment the “bird lady” is showing up regularly and handing out the bread. What happens when the bird lady doesn’t come back?
The birds will most likely find a new place scavenge while the more “evolved” creatures will blame and complain about their circumstances. People who have had everything handed to them fight to maintain that situation rather than adapt. So even though a proactive approach would lead to more self determination, people abdicate the power for comfort. Those in power will never beg you to take the initiative remove their control on your situation. They will try to perpetuate the status quo because it only costs them scraps in exchange for keeping you under their thumb.
So look at the life that you’re leading. Are you dependent on the bird lady for your survival? What would you do if she disappeared? Begin to take your independence back. Perhaps she’s got you financially, emotionally or physically. Regardless of the hold, you owe it to yourself to break free.
Flying high again!
In recent weeks in my house, music has become a regular topic of conversation. I’m going to go on a music tangent for a few posts. So what better place to start than my “favorite” song. I use the quotations because much like a teenage girl having five different “best” friends, I am unable to etch the title in stone with complete certainty in all situations. Despite my uncertainty, I will take this opportunity to speak on its behalf.
“Quality or Quantity” by Bad Religion is a one minute and thirty four second barrage of aggressive guitars and drums only to be paralleled by the thought provoking lyrics that are sung over them. As a young man, I was drawn to the group and their songs because their rebellious nature matched my own. Songs like “Do what you want” were irreverent enough to align with the feelings of a teenage boy searching for his place. The surprising thing is not that Q or Q became my favorite song but that it has stayed in that position for so long.
The reason for its longevity is the fact that it sparks a new thought in my present situation each time that I hear it. As it has been said by many others, “you can never step in the same river twice because each time, the water is different and you are different.” In the 1990’s Q or Q was an angry rally against the materialism of the world. It made me think long and hard about the perception of the US to the rest of the world. At the time I also thought there was an answer. Obviously quality was the more desirable of the two in all situations. Leave it to a young man to think he knows everything.
Now as an older and hopefully wiser man, the song hits me in very different ways. The answer is not so simple and I’m not as angry. There truly is a choice to be made between quality and quantity in each day. Circumstances are rarely such that we can choose highest quality in every single moment. The choices that we make on a moment to moment basis add up to a sum total of our life experience. The choices are almost infinite and that particular quantity puts a huge responsibility on each individual. We must be filters of our own experience. Being deliberate in the way that we spend our time and emotion is essential to finding balance.
I’m not sure how it fits but I am now less concerned about finding the answers. Now I revel more in finding myself in the search.
Enjoy the search today.