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!
As a father, it is almost my sworn duty to tell dad jokes. My grandfather was a well known joke teller in his neighborhood and the family. Most of the time when he would start telling you a story, you weren’t sure if it was the set up for a joke or not. Since his name was Pete, he would often introduce himself, “My name is Pete and this is my son, RePete.” He specialized in Polish jokes because we’re Polish by descent but he was always looking for new material. There were a quite a few that you would hear over and over again because they worked.
Since we have so much choice these days, there is a desire for the new and unique. Despite all of this choice, I still find myself going back to the things that work over and over again: Shawshank Redemption, Knapsack and the Tim Ferris podcast with Robert Rodriguez. Predictability has its place in a world as volatile as ours. The important skill is being able to tell the difference between a track and a rut. The major distinguishing factor is that tracks lead someplace and ruts are formed because you’re just spinning your wheels.
So I suggest that you repeat yourself, continuously……..After you’ve decided who it is that you want to be. Consistency is a key to most endeavors. If you want to be a great version of yourself, that is going to require that you are a consistent version of yourself. Consistent action in a particular direction leaves tracks and people can understand who you are where you’ve come from. Unfortunately in our distraction culture, it’s easy to be led astray but the things that we believe are necessary tools. The latest thing is always going to be around because there’s always a new latest thing.
Even though he looked for new material, my grandfather knew which jokes worked because he had thousands of hours of experience. He didn’t recite poetry because that was not his thing except for that one about the guy from Nantucket…. But I digress. You don’t need to be all things to all people. You need to be you, everyday for the rest of your life. Make sure that it’s a decision and not an accident who it is that shows up.
With the season of New Year’s Resolutions descending upon us quickly, I thought it was time to give an alternative. “Day Three of My New Life” is actually the name of one of my favorite albums of all time. The band Knapsack released it while I was in college. Through my weekly radio show, I got introduced to the album and the band. None of this is why you clicked on this post, so I’ll move on but the album is worth a listen.
Several times I’ve dissected the title of the album for myself and attributed a thought process to it. For the moment at least, I’m going to say that the following is what I believe about change which is what resolutions promise. It’s unfortunate that the word resolution has gotten associated with so many failed enterprises by people over the years. The definition of a “firm decision to do or not do something” is a powerful alternative to the impotent leanings that most people have. So even though New Year’s Resolutions tend to be weak, the word is intended to be strong.
Day Three of My New Life plays perfectly into this thought process as it puts a line of demarkation between the past self and the present. Humans tend to lead with belief and therein lies the power of this thought process. Normal resolutions fail because it is the same old version of you, trying to do a new action. Unfortunately the life that you lead is resistant to change, especially when giving up something that is coveted. At this time of year, change is all the rage. So it is not truly a resolution but a form peer pressure that most fold under. It is crucial to birth a new version of yourself. So rather than the first, maybe it’s better to start on the number day of your birthday. That makes it personal. A part of your identity that you get to carry forward.
In addition to the decision there need to be reminders of the new you built into the day. You need to have arrows to the action that you recognize and utilize. Few of us have the willpower to overcome all of the obstacles in our way, so we need to be set up for success. Running shoes put next to the bed, reminders in the cellphone, post it notes on the refrigerator or the simple favor of having a friend as an accountability partner are all possible ways to point you in the right direction. No answer will be perfect but functionality is the key. Every day of your new life, you’ll need to put on the boxing glovesand fight the old habits off. It’s a balancing act to be sure but the shape of the fear that you feel is always your own shadow. The feeling that you are not enough to fill the new shoes that you’ve fashioned for yourself.
So as we move into the new year and new possibilities, choose the new life that you want to lead. If you want to stay true to form, that’s great! It means that you’re happy with this version of you. If not, then resolve to adopt this new life and go well past day three!
Happy New Year!
PS – My favorite song by Knapsack is “Arrows to the Action.” Even though Day Three… was the main topic here, This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now is possibly a better album but it’s really close!
A player’s first touch is crucial to their success as they progress to higher levels of playing. Although speed, a great shot, tactical knowledge, etc. may be desired, a quality first touch is a foundation that can enhance any skill stacked upon it and mask defects that would otherwise be apparent. Just like any other skill, a first touch requires physical practice but the skill in and of itself is heavily intertwined with being proactive. The ability to control the ball is not particularly a good first touch. It is the combination of control with the vision to see where it would be most advantageous to put the ball. Many players possess the skill to control the ball in open space. However amongst the chaos of small space, little time and huge pressure is the true proving ground for a quality first touch.
Although I would love for each of us to use this post as a catalyst for improving our first touch on the field, like always, I’m thinking to the bigger game of life. In life, the rules, skills and strategies are more subject to interpretation. That is why I put the word philosophy in the title. Each of us must develop our own stance on how we progress in life. Therefore it is not for me to say what is best for you, the philosophy part is up to you. However I am going to suggest some of the places where you might find opportunities to take great “first touches.” Below is a video of Frank Lampard (not my favorite player) scanning the field during his days with Chelsea (not my favorite team). Although I do not love the player, it’s easy to appreciate the preparedness. Being aware of your surroundings enough that you can make a better decision when the opportunity arises.
First Touch Opportunities
Here are some opportunities for you to set yourself up for success. The decision about how to approach these situations is up to you depending on your goals and strategy.
First thing in the morning. This is the truest of all “first touches.” What do you do when first wake up? Are you reactive to the way you feel? Proactive based on decisions made beforehand?
Meeting new people. This is another spot where you get to choose who it is that you want to be. This person doesn’t know you and no matter what you do, they will never know you 100%. They will only ever get a small percentage of who you are based on what you show them. Do you want to show them your BIG personality? Or are you sending the message that you are more interested in them? This may change based on the circumstances but is there a thought process behind your interactions?
Walking into a room. It’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However I am huge believer in the fact that you should not trust what people say, nor what they do, trust the pattern. So every time that you walk into a room, you have a new opportunity to be the version of yourself that you want on display. What is your pattern? How do you show up regularly?
After making a mistake. This is a crucial time where chaos may be upon you. Perhaps not external chaos but internal chaos. A first touch is all about control and setting yourself up for success. How do you react to mistakes? Do you tear yourself down internally? Externally? Do you relive it in your head? Do you evaluate it in order to prevent it from repeating? Worst case scenario, do you even see your mistakes? Amidst the chaos of life, it is easy to get turned around. If you’ve not defined which goal is yours, it is possible that you’re heading in the wrong direction and don’t know it.
After someone hurts you. Looking for retribution is easy! Sometimes it might be the right answer. More often than not, it isn’t! Usually the people that are given the power to hurt you, have it because you share a relationship. Two ends of a “ship” taking shots at one another almost guarantees that the “ship” is going down. Is it a mistake? Does hurting the other person make you feel better? Do you even need to be hurt by this? In the chaos of the moment, these are hard questions to ask. So it may be helpful to rehearse some situations inside your head before they happen. See yourself acting in a way that will help you.
Obviously this list is not complete. There are plenty of places in your life where you can employ control and a vision for where it is advantageous to go. Just like a first touch on the field, it takes practice before the chaos. Practice is something that starts when you are on your own. Meditation, visualization, journaling and self-talk are some of the best tools that you can use to develop control and vision. These skills need to be honed over time. Then much like Lampard in the video clip, you need to be scanning the field to make opportunities out of the openings that you see or avoid the hard tackle coming from your backside. Life is inherently “out of control”. The only thing that we can control is ourselves. Make the best of the touches that you get today.
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!
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!
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!
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!
In 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!!!”