Today the family and I visited Alcatraz Island. Despite the very moving and exhibit about the Native American occupation of the island, our main purpose for the visit was the prison. This was my second visit to “The Rock” but it was my children’s first. It’s easy to forget how small the cells are and the solitary life that must have been led by the prisoners. Surely their past actions put them into that position. However can’t that be said about all of us? The size of the cells in Alcatraz was 5 feet by 9 feet. How big is the cell that confines each of us? Are we only confined by the limits of our imaginations? Or is the size of our cell around 3 inches by 6 inches?
It easy and enticing to believe that we’re not confined by anything. The optimist inside of me would love to believe that we are all limitless, no bars, no guards, no walls to keep us in. Largely that could be true if it weren’t for us. We confine ourselves, punish ourselves and obstruct ourselves. The prison around us is man made but the man or (wo)man who made is also the prisoner. This knowledge is important but not liberating. It can help us to see past the bars and wall but escape is not particularly any simpler. Depending on how old you are, those impediments seem as real as the stone and steel of Alcatraz.
There is still debate about whether or not anyone ever escaped from Alcatraz. There is no debate that people escape their self-made prisons every day. The question is how far they get and whether or not they lock themselves back up in the same cell with the same number. It’s possible for you to make it! You don’t need to use a spoon from the commissary to tunnel through concrete. The escape plan needs to center around you and the amount of freedom that you’ll allow yourself to believe in. No one is stopping you! Unlock the cell and walk out! Freedom awaits but you need to believe.
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!
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
In a large bowl, combine chicken, pickle juice and 1/2 cup milk; marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain well.
Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
In a large bowl, whisk an egg. Stir in chicken and gently toss to combine.
In a large bowl, combine Kentucky Kernel flour, Hushpuppy mix and confectioners’ sugar; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
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.
To fully understand the situation, it may take you an extra five minutes to watch the video that is linked here. That is the video from the 1990s for a song called “Outside” performed by Aaron Lewis from the band Staind and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve heard of either of them or the song. The story behind the song and how it relates to the rest of us is really what matters.
The performance of that song was recorded during the “Family Values” tour in 1999. The relevance of the performance is that it was the first time the song was performed anywhere. Quite literally, Aaron Lewis was making up the lyrics as he went along. At the time, Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst were the big name headliner of the tour and Staind were the opening act. Lewis asked Durst to come on stage during their set and perform as a backing vocalist. Fred agreed but didn’t like the original song selection. He wanted to sing the backing vocals on “Outside” which Lewis had been workshopping months before but never finished. He had the first verse and the chorus. With the pressure of a live audience and a “star” performing with him, he was able to produce a song that still strikes a chord twenty years later.
This is the story of all of us. The stakes may be different and we may not be on a real stage but it is how we exist. We are making it up as we go along. Some of it we have prepared but much of the performance is ad libbed in the moment. The audience size is different every time and sometimes we’re a solo act. Regardless, this is the gig of being a human being. Producing something in the moment. Despite our desire to be consumers, we are actually producers!
Although I love the idea behind the performance, the song is worth noting as well. The reason that I still listen to it from time to time is the universality of many of the lyrics. “Inside you’re ugly, ugly like me.” I haven’t met a person yet who is not self-critical on some level. We spend so much time with ourselves and know our deepest and darkest secrets, it’s easy to get fixated on our imperfections. “I feel all this pain, stuffed it down, it’s back again.” Perhaps this one is just me but the demons never go away! I get far better at fighting them off and taking away their ammunition. However they are still there waiting to attack in my moments of weakness. They’re there because they are part of me. I’m both on the outside and the inside. The enemy and the ally at the same time.
It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one who is struggling in the moment. Perhaps you’re playing in front of a big crowd with huge stakes with no back up. I hope that it helps you to know that you’re not the only one who is fumbling for the right chords in the moment. We all are! Anyone who isn’t, must be in the audience and they are more afraid than you are. They’re afraid of criticism. That someone will see through them. You’ve gotten beyond that. “It’s not the critic who counts…” Hopefully your performance will blow up in the best possible way like it did for Aaron Lewis. Regardless of whether it does or not, you still have tomorrow to get back on stage and give it another go!
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!
During one of my first few seasons supporting Peterborough United, they faced a relegation battle. I was riveted! Even though I had no way to watch the matches, I followed the results intently. When I went on a skiing trip where I would have no internet access, I had my brother text me the score of the match that day. The saga ended with the POSH playing in League 2 for a few seasons but I could not help being engrossed with the situation.
At the moment, POSH are on a push toward promotion and I am equally (but differently) riveted. Success breeds an entirely different set of emotions than possible failure. Fear is an emotion that is hardwired within us, our fear response is almost literally set up to “short circuit” our brain’s higher functions in order to deal with a threat. Whether it is a real mortal threat or simply a perceived situation of importance, our brains don’t know the difference.
Most of the time, we don’t live in a relegation battle nor a promotion push. Our existence is usually a collection of “mid-table” events. Life tends to find some form of equilibrium where this year tends to look a lot like the last and the one before. It can be comforting or frustrating depending on your perspective. I am a firm proponent of being grateful for all that you have but aspiration is not a sin. Being grateful simply gives you a firm foundation to start from.
So if you have been living a mid table life, then perhaps it is time to put yourself into a relegation battle. Not by allowing yourself to hit rock bottom but by raising your standards. Move the line of your “bare minimum” up. Expect a little more from life but recognize that this will most likely require more output from you. A mid table life does not create the emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis. While a life of fear is not something that I would suggest, the emotional tools that you have at your fingertips should be used for your own progress. If you push that line of minimum standards high enough, then promotion is on the horizon. Next year you’ll be playing and a different league and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
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.
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!
Your life will have milestones! There is no doubt about that. However at only one point in your life will you reach any sense of complete finality, at your death. In my estimation, that is not a goal to move toward as quickly as possible. So therefore the thing that is left is PROCESS. Even the games, matches and contests, that we compete in are steps along the path to becoming. Becoming what? That is up to you.
If you put in the requisite effort, then you are becoming better, stronger, faster, smarter, leaner, calmer and the other er’s in your life don’t ever have to stop. They are always capable of being improved based on your potential. Reaching milestones is not a reason to stop, unless that is what you want. If your appetite is satiated, then by all means, take a bow, revel in your success but don’t believe that it is all you have in you. That is not something that you will ever reach. For some people that is daunting. The endlessness of your own capability can intimidate because comfort can be drawn from familiarity.
In my belief it is liberating to believe in endless potential because no matter what level you’re at there is room to move. You are not boxed in by a ceiling. Bowling at the professional level gives me no excitement because it only allows for a certain level of performance, beyond that you can’t do any better. Perfection or bust is not anything I’m interested in. The pursuit of something beyond what is now known is interesting. The you of right now is a rung of a ladder for tomorrow’s version to climb upon. Give yourself sturdy shoulders to stand on by believing in the process of every day!
This may come off a bit harsh but honestly, no one cares about your problems. Whether you’re overweight, your pet just died, your spouse left you, your candidate lost, or a thousand other issues, nobody cares and they shouldn’t! The truth of the matter is that your friends, family, co-workers, etc. don’t care about your problems, they care about you. So regardless of how many bad situations have aligned themselves against you, no one cares. Once this realization is solid inside of your head, the other shoe must drop. You shouldn’t care about your problems either. “But my debt….my dog….my boss….the election….the pandemic….”
My statement isn’t that you don’t have any problems. It’s only that you shouldn’t care about them. People tend to become invested in the negative situations that surround their lives. They invest tons of emotion into a situation that they wish would go away. It’s like giving keys to the person who keeps breaking into your house. Regardless of the situation, your attention and emotion are only feeding the problem itself or your perception of it. So is the answer to just ignore them? Not exactly! You shouldn’t care about your problems but…
You should care about the solutions because they need your time and attention. Much like a newborn baby, solutions don’t just take care of themselves. Someone has to keep them alive and allow them to grow until they are self-sufficient. Friends and family can definitely nurture a solution for you but let’s be honest, they are less likely to do it if they see that you’re in love with your problem.
People tend to get more of what they focus on, whether in perception or reality. The key is to focus on the things that you want and give only the attention that is necessary to the things that you don’t. The big bucks aren’t earned by people who are best at describing the problem. They’re earned by the people who find the solution.
There are many things in our lives that we wish were true. Many that we hope are true. The others that we know are true. The other side also exists of things that we want to not be true. Let’s cut out the wishing, hoping and wanting for just a moment and get to what’s true true.
You are a contributor to 100% of your successes and 100% of your failures. No one else can claim that much influence on your life. You are an accomplice in everything that has happened to you. That trend is going to continue until the day that you die. At a certain point then the realization needs to be made that any complaints that you have about where you are, should be laid directly at your own doorstep. So if you like where you are, GREAT! Pat yourself on the back. If you don’t, then you need to change you because no one else has the amount of influence that you do. Get to it. Today! You can’t turn this ship around on a dime but you can do it!
Blunt honest, I’ve never been a fan. Although using the offside line to a team’s advantage is an extremely important tactic. Most teams that employ the trap tend to rely on it far too heavily. It is their defensive savior UNTIL it is their demise. From my perspective, defense is all about solving problems and neutralizing threats. The trap turns the multivariable problem of defending into a true or false question. Either the trap worked or it didn’t. When it fails, the team is engaged in the worst game of all, catchup. The success or failure tends to depend on doing one thing well or it all falls apart. The world that we live in is filled all kinds of multivariable problems that continue to get more numerous and complex.
Despite the fact that the challenges are more complicated than ever, we still seem to want the solutions to be simple. A drug exists to fix everything from short eyelashes to testosterone. The internet is full of people ready to tell you how to get rich quick. If anything is going wrong in your world, you can blame the politicians on the other side of the aisle. Despite the fact that these responses to the problems that we face may be convenient, they are not effective in the long term or come with dangerous consequences.
The trap is in thinking that the solutions are supposed to be quick and easy. Applying one size fits all responses to problems is bound to bite us in the end. This is all pretty obvious to say and probably to read as well but I know that I’m guilty of it. We want the world to simple but it’s not. And we want to always get things right but we don’t. The key to avoiding the trap is to stay proactive. Problems aren’t going anywhere and they’re not getting any simpler. Each day we can get ahead of our future challenges: communicate, learn something, don’t assume you’re right, take in differing perspectives, and don’t expect others to solve your problems for you.
The trap in soccer hopes for opponents who can’t break it and referees who will be in position to call it. That’s throwing away a large portion of the available influence on the situation. In life your opponents are going to be numerous and skilled, you need to be prepared for that. The officials in place are rarely going to be adequate. So you need to police yourself. The world is complex but I know you can handle it. Just remember, it’s always a trap!