I remember it all too plainly. Sitting in a cramped seat on an airplane flying back from Europe after almost a month of traveling with my best friend. We had attended five games of the World Cup and visited a slew of sites and cities. It was truly one of the greatest times of my life! However on the plane ride back I repeatedly listened to the song “The God of Wine” by Third Eye Blind. Despite the amazing experiences that I’d just had, I was heading back into a world that I could feel was going to hurt me. For some reason this premonition got stuck within this song and I can return to any time that I hear the song.
The trip ended up being a deathblow to the multiple year relationship that I had forecast in my head to be “the one”. Returning home should have been a step back into a world of known entities but instead it was foreign. My girlfriend informed me that things were over on the night that I got back. Our plans to move in together and any other future we had were now gone. In many ways I was homeless. The person and the future that I had put at the center of my universe were both gone and picking up those pieces was going to be difficult. I’d love to say that the resilient part of me kicked in and I made instantaneous progress. Quite the opposite, there was a long period of self-doubt, reflection and possibly some depression. In the end I found myself sobered by the experience. The song is like a time capsule where I get to travel back to who I was. Looking back on that time I realize how appropriate the song was to the moment. In many senses I was intoxicated by the future that I wanted from the situation. I was running my life under the influence of what I wanted to happen but not acting in a way that was going to get me there. The crash was inevitable.
So as we all move forward it is most important for us to keep our hands on the wheel, foot poised near the brake or accelerator and eyes on the road. Issues arise when the idea of the destination overrides the moments of driving. The process is where we spend most of our time. Yet we allow where we want to be supersede where we are. Remember not to fall in love with your future so much that you forget to live in your present. There signs you must follow and detours you’ll need to take along your route. Becoming intoxicated with your picture of the future may just end you up in a ditch!
Drive safely people!
It’s official! The paperwork just came in from the state and my son’s name is officially Lionel Messi! I fully anticipate that his goal total will skyrocket in the coming seasons. If you’ve not screamed “You’re an idiot!” yet, you’ve at least thought it. I felt stupid just typing it! A name is not particularly an indicator of quality, it’s a way to differentiate one person from millions of other similar people. This truth is so easy to realize when talking about a person’s talent. Then why do so many people trap themselves into the soccer club name game? Like soccer, the answer is simple but at the same time complex. Perception helps us form our reality.
In college, I worked at a beer and wine store. On the beer side of the store, I got very few questions. Occasionally someone would ask about a new micro-brew but generally people knew what they were looking for. The Coors guy would rarely change things up and would walk in grab a case, pay and walk out. On the wine side of the store, there were much more questions and a posturing of perception. If a wine was highlighted in the “Wine Spectator” magazine, we were likely to sell out of it especially if it was priced under $30. Most of the people looking for the popular wine. Even if they had never tasted it and often it wasn’t even their favorite varietal. They had been sold on a perception not their own reality. Being seen as a person who knew about wine was much more important than getting what they wanted in a wine.
At the moment in the soccer world, we’re going through a similar perception economy. Names are just a part of the equation that includes trainers, sponsors, equipment, etc. The name is just the asset with no inherent value other than perception. It’s a longstanding joke with a coach friend of mine that we are going to start a club with all of the standard soccer club cliches of quality. My most recent version is “Select Elite Academy Soccer International Club Kickers” or S.E.A.S.I.C.K. for short. I’m sure that the players of SEASICK would be bursting with pride in the fact that they were playing for an “elite academy”, though they might be neither. Since they tried out, that would make it “select”. Although they might be confused by the “international” tag but I’m sure we’d find an English or Dutch trainer to squelch that thought. Finally I’m sure that they would have preferred to be an FC but let’s face it, you can’t fight the draw of a good acronym! Again I’m being ridiculous but not inaccurate.
The youth soccer world is based heavily on perception but with more real consequences than my wine example. This is not a mistake of serving chardonnay with steak (which is actually fine if that’s what you like). It’s a mistake of hanging children’s self-worth on a false status. It may not be prudent to invest a child’s one non-renewable resource (time) into a pursuit of athletic “excellence” rather than personal development. Does an “elite” soccer player translate this time and financial commitment into love from his/her parents? Do they have the tight bonds of friendship on their elite team that they have with kids from their school? Are the elite coaches also elite role models of how to be a good person? If these questions were all asked and well considered before the tryout, then stay the course. However my fear is that many people have blinders on with a very narrow view of the course that they are putting their children on. By age 25, most people’s playing careers are over but their lives are not yet close to half done. Will memories of warm-up jackets embroidered with half true adjectives be enough to sustain them through their adult life? Or are the actions, relationships and mentors of the individual the true creators of great memories?
Eventually the packaging fades away and the true substance of what’s been sold shines through. Go in with an idea of what you really want and see past the packaging. The world is filled with people who will sell you something for their own benefit rather than yours. Not everyone is elite but anyone can receive the gifts that the game has to offer without a price tag.
As usual Rocky has a good take on the subject.
During college and for the first year after I graduated, I had a job as a poison merchant. It was a really good job for a young person. The pay was above average, the hours fit perfectly into my personal and social schedules. My boss was a great guy who treated me extremely well because he recognized that I was a valuable member of the team. Our customers really liked me and I had banter with the regulars. I knew the preferences of the regulars and was adept at helping the people who didn’t know what they wanted. Despite how well things were going as a poison merchant, I opted to follow a more noble cause: knowledge salesman!
The past sixteen years as a knowledge salesman have been a tough slog. I have plenty of prospective customers who are forced to consider my products. Unfortunately most of them are resistant to buy because of the obligation that is held over their head. Most see no point to my product and think the price is too high. My store is antiquated. Even though I see all of the deficiencies in my company, it’s an old industry that believes that it will always exist. Despite the poor working conditions, I truly do care for my customers and know that my product could help them toward a better life. Unfortunately I have grown weary from fighting with my customers in their own self-interest. I know that in other parts of the world, customers risk death to get my products. While in my territory, low prices are demanded constantly and I know that many of my customers despise me for trying to do my job. The thing that keeps me going at the moment is my former customers who send me the occasional message of thanks. I’ve thought often of going back to being a poison merchant.
Value is not a fixed thing. Currency, real estate, commodities and almost anything else in this world has a value relative to the desire for that item, service, etc. Since value is driven by need/desire, it changes by region, time period or circumstance. It can also be deceptive. Humans put great value on things that are inherently worthless much of the time. They also put little to no value on things that are of great importance. My time working at a beer and wine store and as a teacher are not particularly an indictment of American culture but they do paint a picture of the value that we put on different things. Value is decided both individually and collectively. As each of us presses forward in our lives and communities, it is important to decide what we truly value in both the short and long term.