Blogpost, self-reliance

X Marks the Spot

Pirates! Those scurvy scoundrels that took to the high seas in order to rob other boats in search of treasure. According to movies and stories at least, they took that loot and buried somewhere. While this practice may be largely fictionalized, it makes for an interesting adventure: the treasure hunt. People trying to find another pirate’s treasure or retrace steps to their own. The use of maps, codes and booby traps may have been common place but the likelihood of an X marking the spot is doubtful. Why would you advertise where the treasure is? Their hope would truly be that no one else would be able to find it.

I’d like to give you a clue where all of the treasure that you’re looking for is buried. Even though the traditional pirates are gone, there are still people around who want to steal your treasure. They are looking to take everything that you’ve got and bury it in their own special spot. If you feel like you’ve lost your treasure and do not have a map to find it, then here is the X that you may need.

Everything that you’re looking for is inside of your own head. It is where everything that happens to you is processed. So regardless of whether you have a chest full of gold or not, you are in control of how you feel about that. Many people who have had “riches” felt poor because they did not know how to control that treasure chest between their ears. By comparison some people who seemingly have nothing, have lived a rich life based on their possession of the keys to their own mind.

While this is a simple idea, it may not be easy to access the riches that I’m talking about. Some people have buried their treasure under years of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, recklessness and other impediments which keep that treasure out of reach. So if you want to have all that life has to offer, dig into that place where everything is kept and demand the gold rather than the lead that weighs you down. The externals of your life are usually a reflection of what is going on inside of your own head. Don’t bury that treasure, use it!

Heave ho!

Pete

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Blogpost, self-reliance

Beautiful Betrayal

Son – “You promise that you won’t move?”

Father – “I promise.”

The son jumps into the pool and starts swimming toward his father who has backed up at least one step, maybe two. It is a simple story that has played out millions of times through the years. Here is a different version of the same story.

On December 28th, 2001, my friend, Gary, and I went out like we would on any other Friday night.  We ran into his younger brother, another friend and the friend’s sister.  The sister and I talked for a long time that night.  Although I was very interested in her, I didn’t ask for her number or anything.  The next day, Gary called me and I was told that she was very interested in me and she wanted to do something with the group again for New Year’s Eve.  Later that evening, I called her up in order to make plans for all of us to go out again. When she answered the phone, I said, “Hi, this is Pete.”

She said, “Pete who?” 

That’s when I found out that it was a lie.  My friend had conjured up most of the story just to get me to call her.  She was going to Philadelphia for New Year’s and had no plans to go out with us again.  However she was happy to hear from me and the rest is history.  She is now my wife and we’ve been married for 16 years.

Both the son on the edge of the pool and I were duped by someone we trusted. Honesty may be the best policy in most cases but from time to time, dishonesty is exactly what is needed. Although it was a lie, what Gary told me was more valuable than the truth.  It took away the fear that normally would have paralyzed me into inaction.  The lie made me act.  It made me believe with certainty that I was going to be successful.  It was a placebo of the best kind.  I had taken the drug of self-confidence and it work magic on me.

There are so few things in life that are absolute.  We tend to think of our thoughts as truth. Perhaps the “truths” that you’ve been telling yourself haven’t helped you very much.  The divide between the truth and a lie is often based on perspective.  So consider your perspective often. Rather than looking for the 100% truth, decide to believe the things that serve you. We usually need just a little push in order to get us started. Push yourself by believing the things that get you to act!

Go dive in!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Paper Wall

My daughter is one of the coolest people that I know for a variety of reasons. A particular instance that exemplifies this was when we moved into our last house. She was very particular about the decoration of her room. Above her bed, she wanted the wall to be brick and the skull of an animal (fake of course) painted gold hanging as decoration. Since the house did not have exposed brick in her room and we were not about to have it put in, she was happy to compromise with brick wall paper. It served her purpose quite well because it looked real enough for her and it could be easily changed.

In addition to her ever-changing sense of style, my daughter’s ability to move past obstacles is one of my favorite characteristics of hers. She generally doesn’t see them as obstacles at all. When she wants to learn how to draw better, she simply finds a way through a video, class or some other method. Upon deciding to play hockey, she was not bothered by the extreme learning curve between her and more experienced players. When she needs to buy something, she’ll make an impromptu business selling hot chocolate. It’s one of the ways that I would like to emulate her.

Most people in this world tend to see a series of brick walls between themselves and what they want. Their boss, finances, circumstances, parents, teachers, opponents, challenges, etc. are all standing in their way. While some of these walls may be solid, most of them are paper. They are as substantial as the stuff that we put up on my daughter’s wall. The problem is that we tend to imagine that they’re not. They look like brick! Or better yet, we’re afraid that they are brick, so we don’t even test them. We don’t even inspect them to see if they are anything more than paper. These walls give us the perfect excuse to do nothing. It’s just too risky to try to run through them. If we fail, we’ll feel foolish. Or worse! We might succeed and figure out that we’re more capable than we thought. Then we would have to push ourselves beyond our present expectations and that might be too hard!

This is not a finger wagging session that I’m having with strangers on the internet. As I usually do, I’m talking to myself more than anyone. There are walls in my path and I’m quite sure that they are paper or at best cardboard. They’re just in a different direction than I’m used to running. So I’m scared. Not that I’ll fail but that I’ll succeed. On the other side of these challenges, I may find another version of myself that was always available to me. Then I’ll need to reconcile why I didn’t do this sooner. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, I’ve got a wall to run through and you probably do too! So let’s get to it!

Love you Emily!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Worth Fighting For

It was 2003, I believe. As I was driving north toward Hyannis, Massachusetts, even I was having trouble making sense of what I was doing. Everyone else had bailed out and I had the same exact option. I was supposed to be part of a 4 or 5 person group who were all going to compete in the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon. My girlfriend (now wife) and her friends had made all of the arrangements. I was tagging along for my first triathlon experience. On the day of our departure at the last minute, everyone decided not to go but for some reason I went. Due to all of the uncertainty about the others, I got a late start. After 11pm when I arrived to town, the bed and breakfast where we had reservations was shutdown for the night. So I started scouring the town for a hotel room. The first place that I went had nothing. Luckily the Days Inn had one room left, the “honeymoon suite,” complete with mirrors on the ceiling and a heart-shaped bed. It was not ideal considering I would only be sleeping for about 5 hours but I took it.

Although the race didn’t start until later in the morning, I got to the headquarters around 5:30am because I needed to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike. My first triathlon was off to a bumpy start to say the least. Luckily my registration was done ahead of time and that was the first thing to go off without a hitch. Ill prepared, on my own and completely unsure of the task in front of me; I sat and waited. The swim was by far my weakest event and it is first. Despite being a triathlon newbie, I had received one piece of good advice from a veteran weeks prior, wear a wetsuit. It helps to keep you afloat slightly. Even though I had that slight help, I still swam very slow. Out of nearly 1000 competitors, I was around 800th after the swim (from results after the race, no idea at the time).

My ability on the bike was definitely better than my swimming but my equipment was not. I had borrowed my older brother’s mountain bike for the weekend and although it was functional, it wasn’t set up for speed. Of course I really can’t use that as an excuse because a few miles in, I was passed by an older gentleman on a bike from the 1950’s (I’m guessing). He had no gears or special clipped in shoes and he passed me like I was standing still. Luckily I was also moving up in the pack. I focused on one by one passing the person in front of me. By the end of the bike, I had climbed into the 500s out of 1000.

The run was by far my best event. Having been a track athlete and soccer player, I knew how to pace myself over long distances. However my legs were heaviest during this portion of the race. After about a mile, the weight of my legs was starting to get into my head. What was I doing? No one was here to cheer me on. I was alone. Whether I ran harder or not, that fact was not going to change. Then I started thinking about my girlfriend. Even though I knew she wasn’t there, I became fixated on the thought of her and my legs felt lighter. So I picked up the pace and began catching as many people as I could. Although I knew it really wouldn’t matter one way or another to her, I was able to mask the pain of the moment by associating my performance with her. Much like the knights of the past used to go into battle to win the favor of a lady, I put that emotion into my legs. By the end of the run, I had progressed to the low 300’s.

When I crossed the finish line, I still did it alone but I had a full heart. Although I had entered the race ill prepared and unsure, I walked away from the event feeling more certain. Since I had already paid for a hotel room that I used for about 5 hours, I wolfed down as much post race food as I could. Then I had just enough time to go back to the “honeymoon suite” to take a shower before checking out and going home.

This story is about me but it applies to many more people. There are battles to be waged throughout our lives. Some are simple and fleeting like a triathlon. Others are complex and life altering like cancer. Regardless of which you are engaged in, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to be alone in that fight even when you are alone. People believe in you. They care about you and want you to win. Sometimes that can be hard for them to say. Perhaps they don’t even know that you need to hear it because they just think it’s implied. In a world where we can send and receive messages from around the globe through a device in our pocket, we can forget to send the simplest of messages to the person next to us. Perhaps we need to turn off that “connection” device and get reacquainted with the device inside of our chest. It can also send and receive.

Now more than ever we have the opportunity to connect with those that we love in order to raise each other up. There are things in this world worth fighting for and most of us have more ability than we realize. Sometimes it just takes the right person believing in us to bring it out. Don’t wait around for them to say it though. Just trust that it is out there. No matter how many people are cheering you on, you need to show up first. You’re worth fighting for!

Thanks Beck!

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

 

Blogpost

We Lived In Castles

castleAt certain point in history, in particular parts of the world, the wealthiest people such as kings lived in castles.  I’m sure many people have fantasized about living in a castle.  The fantasy probably does not mirror the reality of what it was like hundreds of years ago.  By comparison, the comforts of most of our modern day houses outshines castle living.  Castles were made of cold stone without heat or air conditioning.  Although they served as protection from the elements in some ways, there was no escaping the fact that survival was the order of the day and not comfort.

In the past month, I’ve challenged myself to take cold showers every morning.  This has been an eye opening experience for a variety of reasons.  Although I started it for a variety of health benefits, it has actually been the change in perspective that I’ve noticed the most.  The key to making it through the cold exposure is control.  Not control over the external world but control over the internal world.  Recognition of the discomfort that you are in and finding a way to become comfortable with it is a revelation.

WE LIVED IN CASTLES!  The wealthiest people used to live in a discomfort that we don’t really understand but they survived.  The human body, mind and spirit are actually set up to endure much greater discomfort than we put ourselves through on a daily basis.  The thing is that we’ve lured ourselves into the comfort trap.  We’ve trapped ourselves into a 10 or even 5 degree window of comfort.  It’s not the circumstance but rather our perspective on it that traps us.  We believe that we cannot handle the discomfort, so we live as if it were true.   The space between where you are and where you want to be is filled with the discomfort that you think you’re not ready for.  So the question becomes, do you want to live in comfort of your present life or in the castle of your dreams?  Neither of them requires your circumstances to change, the latter requires that you do!

Get moving!

Pete

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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