Blogpost, self-reliance

The Missing Ingredient

You can find a recipe for almost anything online. On a frustrated Sunday afternoon, I looked up a recipe for a fake Chik-Fil-A nugget recipe. Since the restaurant is closed on Sundays, I took it upon myself to make my own nuggets. The first batch wasn’t great. The recipe didn’t exactly meet my expectations. So I changed it up and developed my own version of the recipe (see below). It became a family tradition for a while that every Sunday I would make my chicken recipe.

Life has become a lot more convenient since I was a kid. Almost anything that you want is a click away. The problem is that since we can have our desires met without much personal effort, we tend to undervalue things abhor effort. It seems to take too long, be too hard or even impossible to make those things of true value come about. So we tend to settle. We settle for the prepackaged, knock off version of the real thing because it’s just easier. Searching for the solution to our problem is often too difficult, so we put a poll out on a forum or Twitter. Who has the recipe that will fix my problem? If this is just research then, have at it! Much like my chicken problem, looking at someone else’s recipe was helpful. However it was missing that most important ingredient: ME.

In many ways we’ve put ourselves on the substitute’s bench in our own lives. We look outward for so many things. Whether it is validation on social media or an endless stream of entertainment from our streaming services. The problem is that you cannot ignore this “missing ingredient”. You are the most important person in the story of your life. Every single day of your life, you’ll be there. Putting yourself on the bench makes no sense. Even in times when you need the help of an expert, you still need to be there. Otherwise your life is happening to you, not for you. I did not care for piece of the recipe that I took off the internet, so I changed them to my liking. Perhaps, you’ll not like what I’ve created below. That’s ok! It might be a starting point for you to find your own recipe.

No matter who you are. You are the main character and chief script writer of your own TV show or movie. It’s largely up to you if you have a starring role or play a minor character. No one else can make that decision for you. If you’ve started to notice that you’re not a major ingredient in your life. Perhaps it is time to make a change! Put down the phone. Stop reading this blog and go do something that makes you, YOU! Come back later for the chicken recipe.

Go make it happen!

Pete

HURYK-Fil-A Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup dill pickle juice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour 
  • ½ cup House Autry hushpuppy mix 
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •    peanut oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, pickle juice and 1/2 cup milk; marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk an egg. Stir in chicken and gently toss to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, combine Kentucky Kernel flour, Hushpuppy mix  and confectioners’ sugar; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Working in batches, put chicken into flour mixture.  Then add chicken to the skillet and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
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

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

King of Introductions/The Ultimate Success Formula


Ecuador28In my junior year of college, I traveled to Ecuador as part of a winter semester program.  I lived with a local family and took a class on literature.  It was a life altering experience on a variety of levels.  Although I went there to improve my Spanish abilities, I can link many of my fundamental beliefs back to that trip.  I changed as a person during my time there.  One of the simple ways that I changed was that I became the “King of Introductions”.  There was no official coronation!  It’s an unofficial title that I developed for myself but it was a key component to many later successes.

Two days after Christmas in 1996, I arrived in Ecuador.  After a few days of touring, I was paired with my ‘Ecuadorian family’ on New Year’s Eve.  For the next two days, I attended no less than three family parties.  If I had to guess, I was introduced to over fifty people in less than 48 hours.  Obviously all of those introductions were done in Spanish.  It was nothing that I had planned but the more times that it happened, the better that I got at introducing myself.  With the first few people, I was only saying ‘hello, nice to meet you’.  Eventually the conversations got more robust with full explanations of why I was in Ecuador and my thoughts about the country so far.  The repetitions were the key.  Even though all of conversations were slightly different, each one gave me another opportunity to organize, edit or add.  By the end of those first two days, I was definitely the “King of Introductions”.

It seems so simple but often people ignore this methodology.  People give up on things quickly because they’re not “good enough”.  The need to not look foolish is ingrained so strongly within us that we tend to avoid even chancing it.  So we never get past the peasant status much less reach to the level of king.  With something so simple, it would seem like everyone would follow this recipe but often we don’t.  Any success requires that you:

  1. Take action
  2. Notice what’s working/what’s not
  3. Adjust the approach
  4. Pay attention to those already getting the result you want

It’s almost too easy, isn’t it?  The problem usually isn’t a lack of role models to follow.  It’s a failure to take any action at all.  When there is no guarantee of success, a lot of work and a possibility of looking foolish; peasant status is what is chosen.  In the minds of so many, it is better to be the peasant that never tried rather than the one who went for the crown and failed.  The most important thing for you to recognize though is that the walls between you and the crown are usually built by you.  The world offers all kinds of riches and above is the plan for how to get any of them.  We just need to be willing to follow it long enough to get them!

It’s good to be the king!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Pack Your Bags (Or Don’t)

BaggageIn about a month and a half, I’ll be moving to Virginia.  It’s an exciting time!  Filled with all kinds of possibilities.  While we’re looking forward to that future, we must first deal with the daunting task of moving all (or most or some) of our stuff.  The process of packing is a necessary evil where you must decide what is going with you and what things just need to go!  Some people have trouble letting go of the things that they’ve accumulated over the years.  For better or worse, we get attached to things from the past and have trouble letting go.

The same holds true for the events from our past.  Some are vital and need to be packed in bubble wrap to make sure that they never get damaged.  While others should be sold at a garage sale or taken to the dump.  It’s difficult though.  Somehow the events of our lives feel like part of us and letting go of anything seems like a mild betrayal to who we really are.  Much like the physical moving, the weight of carrying the past into the future is a consideration to be made.

Since we are talking about emotional weight rather than the physical, the process for unloading or putting old memories into deep storage is different.  It is actually the process of making the memories that support the new future bigger/more important or re-purposing those unhelpful memories.  Talk about, envision and feel the stories from your past that you want to carry forward with more intensity and belief that it is who you are.  Let the less than helpful ones fade or flip them to support where you are going rather than where you’ve been.  That breakup or firing does not need to be a scar on your self-esteem.  It can be a rallying cry for better performance in the future.  Those “small” accomplishments that you overlook when you discuss what you’ve done can be made larger and more vivid.  It is simply a process of focusing on it in a different way.

So regardless of who you are or what portion of your life you are in.  You’re always packing for the future.  What are you going to bring with you?  Are you going to allow yourself to be weighed down by things that are probably insignificant to where you want to go?  Or are you going to be selective about the “baggage” that you carry with you?  It’s all your baggage but you don’t need to carry it all.

“It’s my industrial strength hairdryer.  AND I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!!!”

Pete

 

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Cheering for Someone Else’s Kid (An Exercise in Perspective)

Huryk-LukeEvery weekend the players line up on the field, the referee blows the whistle and the microscopes come out.  I’m speaking figuratively of course.  Although a fusion between youth sports and science would be great, I’m talking about the tunnel vision of the fans on the sidelines.  It’s actually not their fault.  It is in our nature to pay attention to the things that we care most about.  So a parent’s focus on their child at a time of high emotion is both normal and expected.  Our youth sports culture has definitely swung toward the extreme with cost, intensity and behavior.  The thing that we often lack as we go through life is perspective.  We tend to think that the way we perceive the world is the way that the world is.  It is only our version.  There are billions of others and none of them is completely correct either.  So it may be valuable to gain a different perspective.

Go to a youth sporting event of someone else’s kid, not a niece or a close friend’s son but two levels of separation.  It may just be a different age group at the club that your child plays for.  Choose a child that you’re going to “support” for the game.  If you’re a cheerer, then cheer.  If you’re the quiet pensive fan, then be quiet and pensive.  Whatever you would normally do at your own child’s game, do you best to recreate it (bring your spouse to bicker about the coach if need be).  I understand this will be uncomfortable and feel odd for most people but here are some things that will probably happen.

You’re probably going to lose focus on “your player” from time to time and watch the overall game.  All of the reactions that you would normally have will be slightly muted.  You may be able to look at the player and pick up on subtle cues about them.  Do they like the sport?  Do they play with joy and look like they are having fun?  Are they afraid to mess up/of contact/of trying too hard?  Are they embarrassed by the stranger cheering for them (keep it under control)?  At the end of the game, was success or failure based solely on the score/outcome?

The payoff in this experiment will be different for everyone.  If the difference between the fan that you are in the two situations is small, that’s probably a good sign.  If the difference between the fan that you are is vast, it might be helpful to consider why.  In the grand scheme of the world, both games probably meant about the same amount.  Sports bring out some of our best and worst characteristics as humans.  The kids are practicing regularly in order to be their best, let’s be at our best as well!

Go!

Pete

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Blogpost, self-reliance

Am I Good? Is the Wrong Question

TestThe spring season brings rejuvenation and tryouts.  Soccer tryouts, hockey tryouts and I’m sure many others.  The constant evaluation of players is now a cultural norm.  While it may seem like a necessary evil, it is our job as the adults or forward thinkers to ensure that it doesn’t become pure evil in the mind of a young player.  The constant question can go swirling through their head “Am I good?”  While it may be a common question, it is probably the wrong question.

Comparison is all around us.  There are grades, likes, follows, rankings and so many other ways to compare people and anything else.  Some of them are objective and others completely subjective.  They are easy to focus upon because they feel real.  A sense of power and prestige can be derived from comparison but the opposite is also true.  It is often easier to feel powerless and insignificant because we are usually comparing our worst with our projection of other people.  Neither of these pictures is completely accurate but the feeling of inequity can be overwhelming.  So we often look for validation from others, such as coaches, teachers, parents or others with the question, “Am I good?”  The answer is never going to satisfy in the long term.  It becomes a button that needs to be hit every so often to keep things in balance.  Multiple choice is not your friend in most instances.

Although most people avoided them in school, it is two open ended questions that allow for a more compelling look at one’s self.  “How am I better than I used to be?”  “How can I progress forward?”  Both questions are asked with a leaning toward positive self discovery.  Our brains are an amazing piece of machinery that will answer almost any question that we ask of it, even if it needs to make the answer up.  Consistently asking “Am I good?” will inevitably lead to plenty of instances where the answer will be “No” because metric and competition change frequently.  However by asking the open ended questions, the question sends a subtle signal that in some small way you are better than you were.  Also there are ways to progress forward if you’re willing to look for them.

These are obviously not the only questions that can be asked.  They are simply two examples that can break the comparison chain.  Done consistently, proactive questions like these can be life altering because we are evaluating ourselves and our lives continuously.  Wouldn’t it be better to stack the deck in your favor?

Have a great day!

Pete

Blogpost

Borrowed Time

PokerOur concept of time is messed up to a certain extent.  Not the measurement of time.  Seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. are effective units to use for measuring time.  It is our relationship with it that may be in need of a revamp.  Perhaps I am only speaking for myself but I generally don’t think that I’m so unique to have a completely new thought.  Time is something that in our younger years we waste so often it is as if we believe that there is an infinite supply for us.  Then as we get older, we lament its passing, wishing that we had some of that wasted time back.  It seems that the only people who truly grasp the limited resource which they have are the people who have a brush with their own mortality.  There are a multitude of stories including George Lucas, Franck Ribery and so many others who gained clarity from a near death experience.

For me, I was too young.  Too young to remember and I never got the lesson.  When I was two and a half, I had meningitis.  I almost died.  Despite knowing this story since I was a kid, it never really sunk in that I was working with borrowed time.  At this moment I am forty one years into a lease on a life that easily could have passed by already.  So what does one do with this realization, even if it comes extremely late?  Like so many things in this world, the first thing is most likely to be grateful.  None of us is owed anything in the world.  So gratitude for all that has sprung out of that borrowed time is the most natural course.  Then comes the projection forward.  If you’re playing with house money, do you play it conservative only betting on the best odds?  Or do you look for some long shots that would pay off big because let’s face it you were supposed to be cashed out long ago?  I’m sure that you had a gut feeling about what you would tell me to do.  The question is can you follow your own advice?

We’re all living on borrowed time.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve beaten a terminal disease or been healthy as a horse since birth.  It’s not completely up to us when we cash out.  So with that little bit of clarity from your gut, you need to decide, what are you doing with the chips that you have today?  There’s no particularly wrong answer, just an answer that’s right for you.

Deal ’em!

Pete

Blogpost

Make The Promise

cropped-hurykunlimitedlogolarge1This month I will post at least once per day.  Seven days per week for all of May!  It’s something that I’ve balked on before.  I’ve had streaks that have lasted weeks but not an entire month.  I can get ahead of the game by writing a bunch in one day and releasing them individually as I see fit.  BUT if a post is not out, then I don’t eat until one is released.  Now right there I’ve done some of the things that I know but do not always apply.

  1. I made a definite goal.
  2. I defined my terms.
  3. I’ve broken it into manageable pieces.
  4. I set the stakes.

If you’ve got something that you have been putting off or know that you need to do, then MAYbe, May should be your month too.  Thirty days to make something big happen is not too much to ask.  The question is are you willing to commit to yourself?  Or do you need to commit to someone else who won’t let you off the hook?  Promises can be powerful things when used by people who mean them.  If not, then they’re just words.  So let’s keep each other honest.  Are you up for thirty days of action?

Then let’s go!

Pete

Blogpost

Facing The Super Villains

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

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

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

Suit up!  And fight the good fight!

Pete