Next month we are going to go through a presidential transition. Whether you’re happy about the results of the election or not is irrelevant to this post. As the commander in chief, the sitting president has a variety of weapons at his disposal including nuclear weapons. The destructive capabilities of these weapons are so devastating that only the president can order their use. This authority is not given out to everyone in the armed forces.
Usually when I talk about this concept, I use the example of keys. I’ll ask an audience who I would trust with my keys. Answers like wife, friends, siblings, parents are all common. Eventually after we’ve established that I would not trust my keys to just anyone, I relate the keys back to the mind. Who do you trust with the way that you think about yourself? Are you as discerning when choosing the people who can impact your self image? Most of the time, this brings to light some judgment issues. People often given power of influence to strangers, acquaintances or even “enemies.” Although this discussion is one that I think is worthwhile, I wanted to take it to that next level. Who has your “nuke codes”?
The difference here is that nukes have the ability to destroy everything. This goes far beyond the ability to influence. Perhaps the best strategy is never to give these codes to anyone. Keep the pushbuttons that could destroy you hidden away. Never let anyone know that they exist. Pretend like you’re invulnerable. Some people seem to go to the other extreme, giving the power of destruction to everyone and everything.
The best strategy that I’ve been able to come up with is to give them to the people who would never use them. An exchange of codes that allows each side to feel a level of safety but also trust. In real relationships (not nuclear standoffs) the key is vulnerability. It is only when we show our weak underbelly that people can feel that. they really know us. Acting like that weakness doesn’t exist guarantees that no one can get close enough to our reality. On the one hand, that might seem safe because then no one else can hurt us. While that might be true, it also means that the only possible destruction is self-destruction. The gamble comes down to vetting people that you trust with the real you or propping up the walls around you while trying not to hit the button. It’s not as hard of a choice or a task as it seems. Most people aren’t interested in pushing your button, they’re just trying not to push their own.
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!
I was going to post this a few days ago but thought that it made sense to wait until Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!
In the modern world, there is a certain leaning toward being self-centered. The pervasiveness of selfies in the social media world sends the message, “Look at me, I’m special.” While I truly feel it is important for people to believe in themselves, things that go too far to one extreme tend to become their opposite. Too much of a lifesaving drug becomes poison. Too much focus on weight loss becomes anorexia. Too much focus on the self becomes narcissism. The key to balance is a counterweight. Brian McBride seemed to have that balance figured out perfectly.
Now I’ve never spoken to Brian McBride about this. So I’m not sure if I am representing his thought process but here is my outside view. Whenever he scored a goal, he would kiss his ring in a form of homage to his wife. This is only one of many reasons why I respected him as a player. At the moment when all eyes were on him, his thoughts were on the person who supported him. At a time when people point to themselves, their own name or have elaborate celebrations; his were a welcome counter example.
Each of us should be striving for whatever we deem to be “success”. That could mean so many things that formulating a list would take forever. Regardless of your chosen endeavor, none of us can make it completely on our own. We all require support, encouragement, love and so many other ingredients that come from our family and friends. No matter how big you get, McBride it! When everyone one is praising you for how great you are, take a moment to pay homage to the person or people who got you there. It makes the victory so much sweeter when you have people to share it with. Maybe it’s even worth it to thank them now, before you’ve made it. You’re going to need them on the climb!
For the past few years, I’ve had a student whose last name is Wolfinger. I refer to him as “Dedo del Lobo” or in English “Finger of the Wolf”. Obviously this translation is completely incorrect because wolves don’t have any fingers. So I looked up the origin of the name Wolfinger and it comes from the German meaning “a person from the area of Wolfing”. Of course my student did not know the origins of his own name. Despite the fact that people have become very self-interested with the advent of the internet. It seems odd that we don’t spend a little more time to find out where we come from.
Going back to my student, wolves definitely don’t have fingers but they do have packs. That is the strength of the wolf. They protect themselves from enemies and hunt more efficiently because of the pack. We used to have packs too. Families, villages and teams used to mean a little bit more than they do now. At the moment, the individual seems more interested in what they can get from the pack than what they can give to the pack. The key factor to the effective pack is that the pack is more important than the individual. No one is more important than everyone.
Perhaps it is time for you to invest in your own wolf-pack. Maybe you need to rediscover your family because you’ve gotten too caught up in you. Or it is possible that need something different than what your given wolf-pack can provide. If that is true, you might want to use the internet to find a new wolf-pack that offers you the things that you need. The one key thing to remember as you join a pack is to figure out what you have to offer the pack in return for what you get from the pack.