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The Fog Barrier

FoggyThe future is out there and you’re going to arrive at it whether you’re ready or not.  The problem is that the future is unclear like on a really foggy morning.  The haze itself is nothing to fear.  It will dissipate as you get closer.  It’s possible to move at full speed in territory that is known and clear.  On new and uncertain paths, it’s important to manage your speed with your field of vision.  Going too fast on a new road could end in a crash.  The thing is that most people are not afraid of the ditch, pothole or even the wall.  They’re afraid of the uncertainty that the fog brings.

The fog is the barrier that they can’t get past because it is SO frightening not to know.  Fear is the fog and avoiding it shrinks the world down to almost nothing.  The only way to get the fog to disappear is to go into it.  It doesn’t disperse with time, compliments from friends or likes social media.  Motion/action is what is needed to break through the fog barrier.  By all means, manage your speed and watch out for potholes but never let the fog stop you in your tracks.  It’s not a wall!  Unless you make it one.

Move on through today!

Pete

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Manufacturing the Rolling Stones

Rolling stonesThe 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.

Twentyone pilotsFor 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!

Pete

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Are you a Black Diamond?

black-diamondThe 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!

Pete

 

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The 3rd Person

3rd PersonIt’s full blown election season and this one is a doozy!  Now I know that it is a “faux pas” to talk politics but I will keep it clean.  Regardless of who you personally support there is the ever-present idea that if another side is elected that the country is “going to hell in a hand-basket”.  Having heard this type of fear during many elections and never seeing it actually happen, this race may be heated but not particularly new.  The major problem that I see is not with the election but the bigger problem: the 3rd person.

At the end of the National, State and Local elections, a large majority of people will submit themselves to being victims of the 3rd person.  “They”, “he” or “she” will cause all kinds of problems in the lives of regular citizens.  This point of view leaves those citizens completely powerless and it is completely contrary to the founding principles of this country.  The very first words of the Constitution are “We The People”, not “They The Politicians”.  At a certain point, that fact got lost in the shuffle of daily life.  We do not all have to run for political office.  However the elect, complain and blame model is not progressing us toward a better life.  While it is obvious in politics, it is evident in other areas as well.  The 3rd person seems to ruin many people’s lives daily.

The boss, the guy in traffic, the gossipy bitches at work, the carbs, the alcohol and so many other 3rd persons can be blamed for where we are.  These are easy scapegoats but much like the view of politics today, this is a losing long-term strategy that leaves us powerless.  It is time to say I and WE before giving power up to “THEY”.  Regardless of how real your complaints about they are, it will get you much farther to focus on what you CAN do rather than what they are not doing.  Have the constitution of your life start with “I”.

Have a great Labor Day!

Pete

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On Your Feet!

ConnorWhen I was a kid, my grandparents were one of the only families that I knew who had HBO.  After we were supposed to be asleep, my brothers and I would hide on the steps and watch whatever movie the adults had on.  This was the 80’s so we got to see some great stuff like Star Wars etc.  One time the movie was the Terminator which terrified me for weeks to come but there was always one scene that struck me from that movie.  For basically the entire movie, Sarah Connor is being hunted by the Terminator and her protector from the future, Kyle Reese, is her savior.  It isn’t until almost the end of the movie, when Reese is barely able to keep himself up that Sarah takes over as his protector.  She yells at the almost lifeless man, “On your feet soldier!” and does her best to support him as he struggles to move forward.  This morning as I was running this scene popped into my head.

It gives a great example of the step that many of us need to take in our lives.  We need to get ourselves up on our feet.  Eventually we must realize that it is our responsibility to save ourselves.  People can help us along the way but relying on someone or something else to carry us forever is unrealistic.  Our parents, friends, teachers and government are not responsible for carrying us through life.  At some point it is our responsibility to take that scary but necessary step of self-reliance.  Deciding to take charge rather than play the victim is not an easy choice.  It is so much easier to lean on and blame others for the lives that we lead.  The problem with the completely dependent life is that it robs us of all of our power.

So my suggestion to you is exactly that, “On your feet!”  Only you can carry yourself through this life.  That’s your job.  Only you can lose those 10 lbs, exercise every morning, start that new business, ask out that special someone or write that screenplay.  Other people can help and support but if you don’t consistently act then it won’t last.  There is always something out there that is trying to kill your dreams.  Only you can keep them alive by staying on your feet and moving forward.

Live today like it’s on purpose.

Pete

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Filling the Void

voidIn evolutionary terms, humans have not changed much in a long time.  There is talk that redheads might disappear from the human race eventually.  This is a relatively small change in the dominant (in certain ways) species of the world.  Our historic and prehistoric ancestors generally lived an existence more focused on survival.  Their lives were based on filling the void in their stomachs before anything else.  Some civilizations began to fill the void in understanding the world around them and the heavens above.  Regardless of the time period, man has been trying to fill a void in his life.

Today in the hyper-individualized world of the 21st century, each person seems to have their own personal void which needs filling.  Generally speaking in the US, we have conquered the void of the stomach to an alarming amount of overkill.  The internet has given many the excuse of bypassing the void of the mind.  Since all knowledge is available, it becomes less important to know it.  In a world where the stomach is full and the mind is subject to whims of the shiniest things that shows up in front of us, it’s no wonder that people are struggling.  They are not struggling with staying alive but they are struggling with truly living.  Survival is a 24/7 job.  What do you do when that job is no longer necessary?  How do you fill that time that used to be spent surviving?

It should be spent living the life that you want.  You have ten, twenty, sixty more years of void.  What are you going to do with it?  That is the true question.  I do not stand in judgment of what you want for yourself.  It is after all, your life.  The thing that I ask is for you to truly consider what it is that you want, rather taking what you are given.  Fill your life, fill your time, fill your mind, fill your heart with the things that truly want.  Do more than just stay alive.  Live as if you’ve only got one shot at this.

Thanks guys!

Pete

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Better Mediocrity

mediocreMediocre means “ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, unexceptional, lackluster and forgettable.”  In many ways, I would put myself in the category of mediocre.  I’m 5 foot 9 inches tall and weigh 190 pounds.  My bench press and squat numbers are nothing impressive.  I got a 1060 on my SATs (the old version).  My yearly income is nothing to “write home about”.  By most accounts, I am pretty mediocre.

The thought of mediocrity has been one that has entered my mind several times over the past year.  The realization of my own mediocrity was nothing new.  I have little chance to become exceptional in most areas.  Even for my age, the benchmarks of excellence are pretty high.  This divide creates a chasm that stagnates improvement.  With the possibility of excellence off the table, it is easy to see why so many people lose their drive.  However it is actually in this chasm that I believe we actually have the greatest of societal opportunities.  As a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans), we can choose to strive for better mediocrity.

In the past, I have written about the “Bannister Effect” and how the breaking of new ground creates possibilities for others to follow.  That is a concept that I still endorse wholeheartedly.  However as I thought about my own mediocrity, I came to realize that we need a “second wave”.  There must be another push from the middle.  The outliers pulling forward will only have an effect on those that are close to their level.  For example, the 10s only pull the 9s forward but the effect is almost unnoticeable by the time that it reaches the critical mass in the middle.

This second wave needs to be created as an individual and a  collective undertaking.  The mediocre individual competes for the most part with himself.  Improving with a partially selfish desire to take a step up one rung on the ladder.  Despite this selfish motivation, the individual also recognizes his membership of a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans).  The “mediocre Americans” are getting better.  The middle of the road changes from 5 to 7 and there is a pride in self and the collective.

Better mediocrity would change so many things about our lives and expectations.  Perhaps mediocre would no longer be a slight insult but rather an identifiable force pushing the forerunners to greater excellence.  If you happen to be mediocre, choose to be better mediocre!

Pete

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Know Thyself (Protect Your Baby)

emily 60608 010This is by far one of my favorite pictures.  It seemingly represents a father “asleep on the job”.  The parenting books say that you shouldn’t do this.  However I have this identical photo with my son and I never had a mishap.  There are many reasons why I love this picture.  One is that it is a reminder of a period of time when I learned a lot about myself.

The learning curve for a first-time (and even second time) parent is pretty steep.  Your life is filled with turmoil and you work on less sleep than seems humanly possible.  A key to survival as a parent is self-knowledge.  My wife and I were a good team through the infant stages because we knew our own and the other’s strengths.  My cuddle naps were a piece of the puzzle that made a difficult time more manageable.  I knew that I wouldn’t roll because the cargo was too precious.  Raising a child is a mixture of trial and error with a complete belief that you will not fail no matter what.

Babies teach you a lot about yourself because you can’t bargain with them.  They let you know their needs on a constant basis.  Your complaints, excuses and convenience do not matter to a new born baby.  They will test your limits and then retest them the next day.  Ultimately you end up finding strength that you never thought you had before.  It is inevitable because you have no other choice.

What is your baby?  Is it making the varsity team?  Is it singing a solo in the concert?  Is it running a marathon?  Is it asking that special someone to prom?  Is it finishing that book that you started six months ago?

Take care of your baby.  Keep it warm and safe.  Feed it with the best fuel that you can find.  Help it get on its feet.  Stand it back up when it falls flat on its face.  Help it find its legs and walk on its own.  Protect it from the ridicule of others.  Watch it grow and be proud of what it becomes because it is yours.

Sea Isle City 089Take care of your baby!  Even when it throws up in your face!

Pete

 

 

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Life is…

1998In 1998, my best friend, Schaefer, and I spent a month in Europe.  We truly went to watch five matches at the World Cup but we also traveled to England, Spain, Germany and France.  In many ways you could not have picked a more perfect vacation for me: soccer, best friend, Europe and soccer.

We actually arrived prior to the Cup starting and did some traveling in England and then headed to Barcelona, Spain.  After spending about three days in Barcelona, we were scheduled to take a train to Paris on Sunday in order to pick up our ticket and start the soccer part of our trip.  That Saturday, we were taking the Metro down to the Las Ramblas area.  We sat on the bench waiting for the train.  Schaef was rearranging some things between his money belt and backpack when the train arrived.  Thirty seconds after the train pulled away, Schaef realize that he’d left his money belt on the bench with his passport in it.  (Don’t judge Schaef here, out of character moment.)  At the next stop we turned around and went back but the money belt and everything in it was gone.

We figured out where the US Embassy was and took the train to get there.  Please bear in mind that the internet was not as widely accessible at the time.  Upon our arrival we were hit with the next problem, it was Saturday and the Embassy was closed.  The only person at the Embassy was a guard who only spoke Spanish.  I explained the situation to the guard and he put me on the phone with an official from the Embassy.  In order to cross the border into France (pre European Union), we needed a copy of his passport (we had) and a police report explaining that the passport had been stolen.  My Spanish abilities were put to the test by filling out a police report.  So the next day we went to the train station with our flimsy documents and a great deal of hope.  Luckily we made it across the border.

On Monday morning we had our next hurdle to clear.  We needed to pick up our tickets before 5pm at a hotel on the outskirts of Paris.  Since the tickets were in Schaef’s name, we needed his passport first.  We went to the US Embassy in Paris and spent hours waiting.  I don’t recall what time we got there but I know what time we left 4:30pm.  As fast as we could run with our large packs on our backs, we got to the Metro.  We found the street we needed on the Metro map.  There were two stops on that street but we had no idea which would be closer to the hotel.  50/50 chance and we blew it!  The hotel was about a mile up the road and it was 4:55.  So again, we ran as fast as we could and with our packs on our backs did about a 7 minute per mile pace.  At 5:02, we reached the hotel!  Upon entering we were informed that the pick up time for tickets had been extended two hours.

From a month long trip to Europe with my best friend, going to the biggest soccer event in the world, this is the story that I’ve told the most.  I remember who won all of the games that we saw but I can’t remember the scores.  How is it possible that my favorite part of the trip is when everything went wrong?

Life is not a spectator’s sport.  It is intended for people to take what God, Allah or nature has given to them and do the most that they can with it.  The times when you are going to figure out what you are truly made of are the times when things fall apart.  ANYONE can take the guided tours at the Louvre or Prado.  It takes little thought or ingenuity and it teaches you very little about yourself.  The limits of you are not found on the guided tours.  Easy, comfortable and failure-free are the lives of spectators.

We spend much of our life avoiding something that we call “failure”.  Usually failure is associated with mistakes and we try to avoid making big ones at all costs.  Schaef made a pretty big mistake.  It wasn’t fatal and it allowed us to live in a scenario with an outcome that was uncertain.  Uncertainty is something that we need at times in life.  Balance between certainty and uncertainty is what makes life interesting.  The thing is that we spend so much time trying not to fail that we often fail to live.  Anything that is truly worth having is a gamble on some level.

Life is a scenario where the outcome is uncertain.  That is part of the deal.  If you are looking for a life without failure, discomfort and difficulty, then you are looking for boredom.  Don’t go looking to fail but don’t avoid it either.  Failure is often where you learn the most about yourself and what you’re made of.  Make yourself better by learning from failure.

Get out there people!

Pete

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The Pepsi Challenge

pepsiLast century (specifically in the 1980s) Pepsi had commercials and other advertising with the “Pepsi Challenge”.  An “unbiased” consumer was asked to try two different colas and give their preference.  Of course the on-camera participants always chose Pepsi.  Perhaps it was what they truly liked or the entire thing was rigged in some way.  In all honesty it doesn’t matter that much to me because I preferred Pepsi to Coke without the seeing choices of others.  It does make for an interesting discussion on why we choose the things that we do.

In a given day, you have literally thousands and possibly millions of choices to make.  Some of these choices are simple and probably automatic.  For example “Am I going to wear clothes today?”  No matter whether the answer is yes or no, it is an easy choice based on your daily life.  Other choices are much more complex and require major deliberation.  Choosing to go to college or the military is life-altering and for many would demand some time and attention.  In the middle of the automatic and grandiose decisions are many moment to moment choices that need to be made by you.  There are many people who treat these mid-level choices as though they were huge.  Others put all of their choices on automatic pilot letting others decide for them.  The worst scenario is that people forget that they are choosing at all.

In each moment, you have choices and some of the most important are about how you are going to feel.  Believe it or not, it is a choice.  If you are feeling sad, it is a choice.  Perhaps there are very good reasons for you to choose that but it is your choice.  By taking the physical state of your body, your mental focus of the moment and your inner dialogue, you determined the feeling that you were going to produce.

So now I put a new “Pepsi Challenge” on to you.  Let’s call it the “Huryk Challenge”.  Can you choose to feel good in all circumstances today?  No matter what life throws at you, can you CHOOSE to feel good.  You do not need to like the circumstances but you choose your feeling despite the poor situation.  I challenge you.

Choose to have a great day!

Pete