Blogpost, self-reliance

Pack Your Bags (Or Don’t)

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

 

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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

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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