At one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something. I surely felt like they did during my childhood. Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA. You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point. It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate. As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.
Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here. Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out. Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.
Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle. Smile a little more. Be a little more patient. Be forgiving to yourself. Home-runs can win games but so can singles. If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.
Hollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.
What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.
If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.
- It’s too hard.
- It will take too long.
- I might not succeed.
- Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
- I don’t want people to make fun of me.
- No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?
Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.
The beauty of the art of Self-Rejection is that it is so easy. You only need yourself and the dream of something inside of your head. They are your paint and your canvas. Like an infant sitting in a highchair eating spaghetti, it is possible to create a beautifully horrible landscape of all of the things that could go wrong. You will be laughed at, shunned, ignored, or defeated. And there it is inside of your head, a masterpiece of nothing. Nothing real at least.
On the other hand, in the real world you can chance real rejection. Perhaps you do get laughed at, shunned, ignored or defeated but maybe you succeed.
The road of self-rejection always leads to regret. The road of taking the chance could lead anywhere but you have to travel it to find out.
The 20th Century of the United States was largely dominated by an industrial economy. The US rode the wave of the industrial revolution into prominence on the world stage. Factories flourished thanks to interchangeable parts and largely interchangeable people. Most workers in the 20th Century were able to earn a substantial living by doing simple repetitive tasks under the orders of their bosses.
In this system, it is no wonder that the sport of the century was Football. In so many ways, football was representative of the American way. It was progressive. Moving forward was success and moving backward was failure. It mirrored our historical land acquisition with its own “land acquisition”. The decisions were made by a few bosses and executed by largely interchangeable people. The sport was the perfect corollary for the industrial age and both served the country well in their time.
Now that the industrial age has passed and we have moved into what many are calling the “Connection Economy”. The people who create value in the market place are not interchangeable cogs in a vast machinery. Cogs can be replaced, automated or outsourced to other countries. True value in the modern economy is created by an individual whose contributions are irreplaceable and unique.
This change begs for a different representation in sport. The football model of “run the play” holds little value when the rules of the game change so quickly. Soccer’s flexibility and subjectivity require that players deal with complex problems and must make individual decisions for the betterment of the collective. Since each player is a decision maker, principles rather than directives are the dictating forces. No one person is in control. Therefore players must learn to control themselves and direct themselves in an uncertain environment.
The beautiful game will become “America’s Game”. It is just a matter of time.
In this extremely fast paced world, it’s easy to get distracted from that which is important in favor of that which seems important. It is the reason why we make shopping lists and set reminders for ourselves. Getting caught up in the moment is not only normal, it seems to be a way of life. Despite all of the technological and societal distractions, it would seem as though we might have accidentally thrown out all of our babies in order to make room for more bathwater. Perhaps it is time to decide what is truly important and focus on it.
There are plenty of people who will get married this year. They will painstaking search for a great venue, a photographer, delicious food, the right guest-list and register for the perfect gifts. But before they did all of that hard work, they forgot to find someone worth spending their life with.
We have access to amazing communication devices in our pockets and at our fingertips. There is the capability to reach the other side of the world, translate to almost any language and do it instantaneously. But we rarely say things that mean much of anything. There is so much coming at us that it all becomes devalued. We tend to only listen in order to respond, not to understand or empathize.
Students and teachers are no longer bound by the bricks in the walls of their buildings. All facts are available at a moment’s notice and the greatest minds are within reach. Yet our young people are worried about grades that will soon not matter and facts that have little value. The word educate comes from the root educe which means to bring out or develop. The cramming information in might not be the best way to draw out our young people’s genius.
These are just three examples where we seem to be so caught up in the process that we have forgotten why the process was invented. When broken down to the core, the world is a relatively simple place. We are here to survive first. Once that is taken care of we look to progress and we do both more effectively together. So get back to the core of what you do and why it is done at all. If you are in school, then learn, regardless of the grades. If you’re in a relationship, then relate, give of yourself and be willing to be changed. The superficialities of life can only sustain us for so long. Our true progress depends on depth of experience and it needs to be found again. Right now are you focused on ANYTHING BUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER?
There are plenty of commercials from my childhood that stick out. Growing up at the beginning of the Super Bowl Commercial craze gave us plenty of memorable advertisements. “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s. Bird vs Jordan shooting contest. This is your brain on drugs. These all caught my attention because they were either clever or memorable for positive reasons.
One commercial that stood out for another reason was for GOYA beans. The catch phrase “GOYA, oh boya!” was so inane that it stuck. Inevitably when I am food shopping for my family, the big letters G O Y A stick out and remind me of the stupid tag line. So I have decided to associate something new to that can and the beans that sit inside. GOYA is now an acronym. It stands for “Get Off Your ASS!”
It is a call to action and action is all that matters after all. The commercials that are running in our minds should be moving us forward. I’m sure that if you’re anything like me, there are commercials running for sleep, junk-food, relaxation, sex and beer… sweet beer. The commercials for these things are not hard to run because they represent our surface level desires. At a much deeper level, we want to have health, wealth and good relationships. These things require a much greater effort than the shallow desires of the moment. So it is up to us to stick deliberately put in those commercials for beans, ACTION BEANS. Those less than sexy items that we need in order to get where we really want to go. You’re running the show and when you stop for a word from the sponsors, make sure they’re the ones taking you in the right direction!
G.O.Y.A! And do it!
It wasn’t a 100% binary equation. Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”. Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death. Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died. I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner. Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case. Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators. While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes. Gladiators got good because they had to. Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.
By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to. A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go. However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward. The same holds for an individual. What is at stake for you today? Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie? Or is nothing at stake today? Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday? Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly. Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber. The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword. That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake. So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!
I would not have been surprised if I annoyed the hell out of my former teammates. It’s not that I’m a bad player, I’m actually OK (or was). The annoying factor would come from two things in particular. First, I never shut up. I talk incessantly. Almost as if I were the unofficial play by play announcer for our team. The other would be my tendency to blame everything that went wrong on myself. Regardless of how small of an influence I had on a situation, I tended to focus on my little component rather than anyone else’s. If a goal was scored, it was almost always followed by an admission of guilt. As an intelligent human being and player, I realize that not everything that went wrong was my fault. It’s just not true. However I always wanted to exhaust the thumb before I went to the finger.
In a world where almost everything is on video, accountability is an easy thing to track, especially in sports. Who lost their mark or misplayed a pass is available in HD clarity. I’m not particularly keen on accountability though. It has its place. However responsibility is a much more interesting quality. People need to take responsibility. Accountability can be handed out and often leads to separation. Fingers tend to make enemies and excuses. Thumbs tend to make leaders and solutions. By continuously pointing the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger, a few very important things happen.
First, the thumbed individual sees him or herself a part of a larger whole which is influenced by the actions of all. Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and contributes to an eventual hurricane. A person willing to exhaust the thumb recognizes that they’re not working independently of the rest of the group, team, company or world. Every action of the individual has the potential to influence a much larger whole. Could a tiny gesture of kindness toward a neighbor influence the relations of an entire town or city? Absolutely! Especially if those actions are done consistently.
Second, the thumbed individual infrequently or never blames others. This posture creates fewer separations between people. Finding fault in others rarely creates better behavior. It usually only creates resentment for the person doing the blaming. Most people in this world are their own harshest critic. Giving them the ability to rectify the situation without judgment can go a long way toward future success. Fear of letting someone down is a much stronger motivator than fear of punishment. It also has the added benefit of creating better relations between people who are giving their best to each other and know that criticism (if it comes) will come with understanding.
Like anything else that is really important in life, not everyone will do this because it’s hard. It’s so much easier to lose your temper or “let off some steam”. After all things are often other people’s fault. Taking on this world view doesn’t change that. However it does get you focus on the only person that you can fully control, yourself. If you are in control of yourself, then it’s possible that you’ll end up where you want to go.
Have a great day!
Imagine it. A soldier walking through a jungle in a foreign land just as the rain stops. In the distance there is a rainbow. All of the sudden there is an attack from the enemy. The attack is repelled and the soldier marches on. The next day the rain stops, rainbow, surprise attack. This pattern continues for a week. On the eighth day, the soldier comes upon a beautiful waterfall. With the water plummeting from a height of over fifty feet, a mist above the surface of the water forms a miniature rainbow and soldier discharges his weapon several times into the falling water. There is no attack, so the soldier is sure that the enemy is dead. It is ridiculous, isn’t it? The soldier believing that the rainbow somehow caused or could help the prediction of the attacks. The truth is that we all do it at one point or another.
The combination of two things that have almost no association whatsoever is quite common. An undefeated streak and an unwashed pair of socks. Traffic and the driver in front of you. School and learning. WAIT!!!! That’s blasphemy! Especially for someone who has spent years as a teacher and vehement proponent of learning.
The problem is that in many ways the statement is true. School and learning have almost completely been divorced from one another. People recognize that at one point in history they went hand in hand. However that relationship has decayed in people’s minds. School has become a pariah that people only endure because they have to. Learning has gotten mistaken for its cousin, information. Since information is everywhere, people have no need to engage in the relationship with learning. So this once inseparable couple is now separated and only feign a relationship “because of the kids”.
This is an extreme picture of the present situation. While not completely accurate, it is not altogether inaccurate. School is in a precarious position because it only ever came into being because of learning. The point of school was to learn (especially how to think). In many instances that has been replaced with “The point of school is to get good grades.” Like the telephone game that many of us played as children, over time the message has gotten garbled and disjointed. Politicians, administrators, parents and teachers propped up a system that only partially meets its expressed purpose. Like the situation of rogue traders who bet on speculative numbers with the life savings of others, this could leave many people bankrupt.
So for now, my suggestion is double, triple or quadruple down on learning. If it happens at school, GREAT! If it happens elsewhere, GREAT! Learn about the things that are important to you and the people in your life. Dive deep into learning about yourself. How you work. How your mind works. How your emotions work. Not so you can be self-centered but you can find balance with the world. Learning is not actually the hard part as it happens all the time. The key is learning things that are useful and meaningful to your world. So if you are still in school, don’t think of learning as drudgery. Seek out those opportunities when school style learning overlaps with your life. If you’re already done with school, realize that you aren’t done with learning. Don’t try to kill the rainbow just because it was lumped in with something that you perceive to be your enemy.
Have a great year!
Many sports teams are in the middle of their preseason sessions at the moment. I’m sure that many players are working hard. It is almost a prerequisite for any level of success in the sports world. The reason that I hedge is that there is a higher level of effort that is more in line with the actual effort. That level of effort is called labor.
Work is a scientific or mathematical equation: force x distance = work. It also has particular connotations in our culture. Common words that are associated with work are: hard, job, difficult, employment and pain. While these may be common, I don’t know that I would describe them as positive. Although we recognize the value of hard work. Many people would look to avoid it.
The reason that I would change to labor is not because work and labor are synonyms. It is actually in labor’s secondary meaning that all of the magic happens. Although many people may make work and labor the same inside of their heads. Labor is the process of giving birth. In particular the final part before delivery. Taken as a whole, the process leading up to and including labor is no picnic. Talk to almost any mother and there will be stories of morning sickness, discomfort and pain leading to a crescendo of “ultimate pain”. At this point, work is sounding pretty good! The difference between the two is that at the end of labor, there’s a miracle to behold. Almost any mother will tell you that it is the worst pain but all is forgotten in the end.
So as you start any endeavor, go in with the idea that you are going to labor toward your goal. The pain and discomfort are part of the process toward the eventual miracle that you are looking for. In the end, the pain will be forgotten and you’ll be able to rejoice in the two things that you’ve created: your goal and the new version of you!
Go labor toward your passion today!