Check the Ingredients

IngredientsAt one point in my life, ketchup was not a condiment, it was an ingredient.  Ketchup sandwiches were a staple of my diet.  Any undesirable food such as broccoli could be made digestible with an ample serving of ketchup.  Obviously this is not an ideal system for a balanced diet.  It was more of a survival tactic for an extremely picky eater rather than a conscious decision about eating good food.  Eventually I learned that ketchup was not the answer to all of my food issues.  It wasn’t versatile enough to be an everyday ingredient.

When putting together the ingredients for a great day, it is easy to think of all of the garnishes and forget about the main ingredient.  If asked what are the ingredients to a great day, what would you say?  Sunshine, a beach, friends, family, food, and drink are all things that I typically hear.  People usually don’t lead off with the number one ingredient to every day of their life.  You are the only person that will be there every single moment of every single day of your life.  So shouldn’t you be the first and most important ingredient regardless of all of the garnishes.  No matter the other circumstances that surround you, you should be the ingredient that defines the dish.

JamesEarlJonesDespite the extremely broad reach that the internet gives us, people seem to feel as though they are at the effect of their circumstances.  If circumstances were what made people, then a frail asthmatic doesn’t become a president revered for his adventures.  A stutterer doesn’t become one of the most recognizable voices of his era.  And an actor with a partially paralyzed face doesn’t become the face of multiple film series.  The truth is that we all know that circumstances are only part of the recipe.  It is just easier to use poor circumstances as an excuse for poor results.  Or a lack of resources as a reason for no results.  You may not have everything you need to make today great but you have the most important thing and that is you.  You’re the ingredient that you’ve been waiting for!  If you’ll step up to the challenge and be what today needs.

Go be the best you today!

Pete

 

 

The Worst of the Best

KeanuTo a certain extent, I feel like I’m in therapy or at an AA meeting about to admit one of my biggest weaknesses but here it goes: I like a lot of Keanu Reeves’ movies.  It really shouldn’t be that embarrassing because the man’s movies have made millions (maybe billions) over the years.  Unfortunately he gets a bad rap because he’s pretty goofy and doesn’t have a lot of range.  The interesting thing is that for the most part, this anti-Keanu sentiment comes from people who have never acted before and have paid to see his movies.  So is it really that he is THAT bad?  Or do people simply have a need to pick apart a mediocre swan because it’s easier than looking in the water to see an ugly duckling reflected back?

While wading through all of the photos, videos, memes, tweets and posts, it is possible that some of us get a little judgmental.  It’s easy to forget when looking at a screen that the people on the other side are human.  They have hopes, fears, idiosyncrasies, habits and faults.  These are all things that we expect from the people that we are close to.  However when looking at people on social media or especially people in the spotlight, all understanding goes out the window.  The best of the best need to be as close to infallible as possible.  If they fall anywhere short of that standard, then we of the judging majority can swoop in to point out their shortcoming.

But it is not the critic who counts*.  The internet has given each of us a voice.  That voice should be used to make your own special contribution to the world.  Not to tear down that of another.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena*.  So take that chance to put your own stamp on the world.  Don’t worry about the haters because even Keanu has got them.  Would you rather be the worst of the best or the best of the worst?  Put another way.  Would you rather have produced something that wasn’t great?  Or never produced anything but gotten really good at calling out other people’s failures?  One’s easy and one’s hard but the decision should be obvious.

*Lines from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne.

 

Leaders and Followers

LeadButtonIn a world where almost anyone can have 1,000 or more followers, who is doing the leading?  It seems as though there should be a connection between the two: leaders and followers.  Unfortunately the act of following has such a low threshold for involvement that many have it as the default option.  Following is easy, semi-rewarding and comes with little to no responsibility.  The problem is that just because people are following, doesn’t mean that anyone intends to lead.  Following the car in front of you is a good strategy if you’re going to the same place.  It’s a horrible strategy if your intentions are different than the person you’re following.  Leadership should be an intention, not meandering with followers in tow.  So the question is, who should be a leader?  You!

You should be a leader of at least one person if not more.  Leadership is needed now probably more than ever before in the history of the world.  The reason that leadership is in such high demand is because we as a people got so damn good at following.  We’ve become so exceedingly talented at following that we barely recognize our power to lead.  That power starts with you and your choices.  Are you leading your own life or following the rules, path or suggestions from someone else?  There is nothing wrong with following the path, if it leads where you want to go.  The issue comes from following out of complacency, fear or doubt.  These are not usually the emotions that cause greatness.

Desire, courage and self-belief are the kindling that begin the fires of greatness.  We were all meant to be leaders of at least one person.  Lead yourself in the direction that you most desire to go.  Have the courage to take steps forward.  Believe in your ability to string enough of those steps together to succeed.  Perhaps when you’ve developed the leadership muscle enough, you’ll be ready to take on followers.  Just make sure that they are following you with intention.

Pete

Good song below!

 

You Won Already!

It can be difficult to be positive at times when it seems like the world is against you.  Each and every one of us has had a day that brings us to the point of cracking.  When you have a moment like that, do you best to take a breath and remember that you won already!

  • This blog is only published online which means you have internet access.  This puts you ahead of a large portion of the world.
  • You’re able to read the words and understand them which means that you’ve had some form of education.  This again is a win regardless of how much you may have disliked school.
  • You’re reading this in English which means you are either a native English speaker (congrats US, Australia, England are all pretty great places) or you’re multi-lingual which means you’ve got some advantage over most people in the US 🙂
  • You weren’t born hundreds of years ago when survival for humans was much more difficult.  Hunting is most likely a leisure activity or something you protest, not a means of survival.
  • You’re alive and picked up all of the things above which require as least a few years.  The life expectancy of a mosquito is around 50 days for females and 10 days for males.  So if you’re a male, you’ve got one fifth the life expectancy.  Or worse if you’re a male praying mantis, the females might try to EAT you.  What a horrible way to end a date!
  • Of the huge number of organisms in the world, you inherited so many advantages it’s amazing!

So with all of these advantages that you have, don’t let a poor experience with another overly advantaged creature ruin your day (less than 1 one hundred of your life).  Perspective is an amazing thing.  Keep your life in one that helps you, not hurts you!  Have a great small percentage of your life!

Lost in the Woods

Huryk Unlimited

IMG_1359As anyone who has ever read my blog knows, the reason that I start writing anything is to help myself through a struggle.  I publish them in the hopes that it may help someone else.  I’ve not written in a long time.  The main reason being is that I’ve been lost for a while.  So many different things have happened or not happened in the past few months that I’ve lost my sense of direction.  This has helped me create many feelings that are uncomfortable to wear on a daily basis: uncertainty, confusion, timidity but more than anything fear.  The odd thing about this mental situation is that I don’t have the same reaction to physically being lost.  In fact, I believe that it is almost impossible for me to be lost in the physical world.

Last year on my annual Appalachian Trail hike, my brother and I got physically…

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An American Soccer Manifesto (Part 1)

lukesoccerSoccer in the United States is gaining undeniable momentum in American culture.  While the progress of the sport in this country has been slow, its impact is becoming more widespread.  Through the various parts of this “Manifesto”, I will plead a case for the reasons for the proliferation of the sport and the impacts on the country at large.  Physical, social, psychological and philosophical outcomes can be reaped through the more widespread acceptance of soccer as a national force.  It may be a difficult argument to the general public because as Tom Weir of USA Today wrote in 1993, “Hating soccer is more American that apple pie.”  While this sentiment may be changing, a deep dive into the facets of a transition is in order.

History

The history of the kicking game has been chronicled at length by others.  Therefore my historical narrative will not be about the development of the game in the country but rather a juxtaposition of our historically American sports’ positive impacts on the country at large.

Despite baseball being considered the “National Pass Time”, American football has largely been the dominant sport of the past century.  This is due in large part to the sport developing during the emergence of the US as a world power while also sharing the American ethos of progress.  Football (American Football)* served the country well in the 20th century as it ingrained ideals that were instrumental during the manufacturing age.  The ideals of teamwork, coordination and positional hierarchy ran deep within the factory system and football.  Plans and decisions were centralized to management and passed down for execution by the line.  Statistics are used to track progress, performance and predict the emergence of talent.  The school, industrial and sports models of the 20th century complimented each other in structure and values.  Therefore football, baseball and basketball became dominating forces in the sports landscape of the United States.  Their appeal was compounded because of the community component and inherent aspiration of the team.  Professional sports teams created a sense of belonging to cities or regions.  High schools fed players and students into colleges.  Colleges fed players into professional leagues and students into jobs.  The systems worked almost seamlessly for a long time.

Identity Crisis (My independent film about soccer’s place in the US)

Times Change

Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.  While nostalgia may feel good and there may be good reason to long for times past, the present is the only place where we truly exist.  The past cannot be recreated.  While this may seem sad due to things that are perceived as “lost”, there are many gains that have come from that passage of time.  So where are we now?

factoryAs we progress even further into a new century and millennium, several of the rigid systems of the past are crumbling under the pressure of technology and the democratization of information.  The old systems are being replaced for the very same reasons that they thrived a century ago.  Cheap/efficient labor, mechanization, standardization and a consumer culture brought forth prosperity to the US.  Now, cheap labor is found elsewhere or replaced entirely by machines.  Standardizing of products has made many of them generic where cost and convenience become the most sought features rather than quality and craftsmanship.  The model of consumerism has left many bankrupt financially, depressed emotionally and weighed down physically.  The mantra “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” is the calling card of those primed for a fall to irrelevance or extinction.

The new economy of the United States is a connection economy that no longer depends on exclusively on commodity production but rather the unification of resources with opportunity.  Entrepreneurship is not a buzzword of the silicon valley.  It is an integral component of the new American economy that requires a more nimble approach to business.  Bigger is not particularly better.  Growth is not particularly the marker of success as people are often creating lifestyle businesses to balance work and life.

entreprenThe traditional American sports do not fit as effectively into this new economic paradigm.  The industrial model of tracking productivity in order to become more efficient in the name of progress does not hold.  The measure of a good worker in the new economy is not a mindless cog that produces more than the other cogs.  It requires a mixture of technical ability mixed with the emotional intelligence to make decisions based on varying factors.  In the traditional American sports, these decisions were made solely by the coach, quarterback or point guard.  Most other players were doing their assigned job as a part of an orchestrated unit.  Divergence from the rules of the system was not desirable.  The new economy needs more decision makers rather than rule followers.

This new system is more in line with the processes of soccer.  Eleven people working toward a common goal with principles in mind rather than plays.  Each individual must analyze what they see in front of them and decide what to do next.  Although there are statistics available in soccer, they do not particularly indicate good or poor performance.  The intricacies of the game are human.  There is a balance between pushing toward a goal while not overextending to the point of being exposed defensively.  While there is a coach with a certain amount of control, the players and their decisions are the key components to the performance of the team.

The individual has greater power to impact the world than ever before in history.  Our games, systems and education should be centered around the improvement of the decision making faculty while maintaining an empathetic compass.  Realizing how our individual decisions impact the rest of our team, community and world is a skill that needs to be developed in the generations to come.  Although soccer is implicitly a sport, there are components to its play that can have a greater societal impact.  This is not at the exclusion of the other sports but in addition to them.  The 20th century American ethos has a place in the amalgamation of our future as a nation.  It is through our diversity that much of our strength comes.

*From here on, I will refer to American Football as Football and International Football as soccer.  I’m sure this will upset someone somewhere but it is not my intention to please everyone but be as clear to as many people as possible.

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

 

Mind the Gap

mindthegapIn the English subway system, there are both visual and auditory reminders to “Mind the Gap”.  This is a call for attention to the space between the platform and the train.  It is a helpful reminder but probably almost unnoticed by most local people.  However for the American tourist this is an out of the ordinary bit of speech.  “Mind” is rarely used as a verb in American English and “the gap” is a store or possibly brings thoughts of Michael Strahan.  Due to its unique wording and situational use, it tends to have sticking power with tourists.  It is helpful to “Mind the Gap”.  While it is a everyday practicality in the UK, it seems as though there is a gap issue in the USA.

The gap that I am referring to has nothing to do with the subway but rather the “gap” between you and your goals.  It is a space that many people do not want to acknowledge.  The gap represents all of the undesirable aspects of the goal: the work, the discipline, the sacrifice and persistence.  These are the bricks that form the path to the object of our desires.  Unfortunately the easy road is so seductive that you forego logic and buy the false lottery promises.  So you ignore the gap and sit on the couch to dream the impossible dream.  The only reason that the dream is impossible is that you never take enough action to get there.  All of that action happens in the gap.

Since the gap is a necessary part of eventual success, why not mind the gap or even better learn to love the gap!  It’s the place where you will be spending most of your time.  So why waste it by avoiding or hating it?  Take it as the place where you find out who you really are.  Anyone can sit on the thrown of triumph without effort.  It takes a totally different mentality to wear a medal that was buried under a mountain of muck.  So can you mind the gap?  It is a difficult task but your up to it.  Don’t get discouraged by the other people (even those who care about you) who are afraid of the gap and try to protect you from the gap.   They are invested in their own comfort, not your goal.  If you succeed, then they might have to mind the gap.  So take the step!  Start now because the gap isn’t going anywhere and right now, neither are you.  Your goal is not magnetic, you need to go to it.  Get in the gap!

Pete

Living in the Echo or the Tidal Wave

tidal-waveThis morning on my run I had a glitch with my headphones.  Only part of the sound was coming through.  The guitars, bass and backing vocals all came through crystal clear while the drums and lead vocals were inaudible.  Occasionally the vocals could be heard but only as a kind of echo.  Each song that played was a muted version of what it normally is and those echoes were the only reminders of the lyrics of the normal song.  The only song that came through relatively clearly was “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction because it was from live recording rather than a chopped studio version.

As I ran, I thought about how we are always living in the present but we experience the past as a form of an echo.  The moment that we remember is long gone, much like the source voice to an echo.  However these echos shape much of what we think about ourselves.  Some of these memories are more than echos because they push us in particular directions, more like waves of water rather than sound.  If you’re anything like me, there are probably memories that act more like tidal waves that can crush you at a moment’s notice.  The question becomes why?  Why give something that much power?  The answer should be simple, only give that much power to constructive rather than destructive forces.

Since the past is gone and only represented in these echos, they should be used to serve and not to destroy.  It is possible to turn up the volume on those echos that can carry you forward and mute the ones that do not serve.  It comes down to a decision about focus.  Take the memories that will help you and make them a daily part of your.  Make them a tidal wave if it’s warranted.  If you don’t have any that will do that, make future memories, if your mind is inundated it cannot tell the difference.  The waves of your past can put you on the rocks!  Unless you use your rudder and your sails to get caught in the positive current.  The future should be a destination to behold not a rerun of the old.

Pete

Completely Focused On Being Scattered

In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge famously said that “The business of America is business.”  Almost a full century later, those words are still quoted often enough for it to be recognized.  Since the proliferation of the internet to most households, the pace of information exchange and communication has continued to increase almost exponentially.  The problem is that with so much information flying around, very few people are taking the time to communicate or do anything to the best of their ability.  It seems that with technology as our guide “The business of America is BUSYness.”   There is no soap box under my feet.  I am not chastising, judging or pointing a ridiculing finger.  This post is as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it.

focusDistraction is a way of life in the country at the moment.  Not only is completing tasks without getting distracted difficult but the fear of missing out (FOMO) seems to be an almost pervasive issue.  People have divided their focus between too many activities and are simultaneously getting distracted from them.  It’s a recipe for disaster no matter how you slice it.  No one can be everywhere for everyone every time.  Distraction always comes with a price tag and it is not you who is profiting.  The losses are felt by you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and classmates.  The people who are actually in your life are the ones who are missing out on a key component of their experience and that is you.  All of you, not the partial you that has a technological device in hand “JUST IN CASE!”  The cyborg version of you that cannot let go of the phone, tablet or computer has a distinct weakness, it is never fully present.

So many of our systems are built largely upon attendance but that model is at best flawed and at worst catastrophically broken. Absence, attendance, presence, engagement and immersion are very different levels of an inverted pyramid of human involvement.  While attendance is a nice start, it is just barely above absence and meets only minimum requirements.  Showing up is just not enough.  To really take full advantage of this life that you have been gifted, you must strategically move up the pyramid with the things that you have decided really matter.  And there lies the problem we must DECIDE.  Decide comes from the Latin meaning to cut off.   We must cut off the things that don’t matter in order to preserve the things that do.    Our focus needs to be cut down to that which we value most.

The only person who can win this focus battle for you is you.  Anyone can suggest, plead or punish you to do it but you do not have to comply until you choose.  In the end there are so many companies and individuals who want your focus.  It is your job to divvy it out as you see fit or scatter it without a care.  Where you put your focus determines your life.  If you decide to immerse yourself in Facebook, that is your choice and far be it from me to judge.  As long as it is a decision and not a resignation to the world of distraction.  Choose what you want for yourself before others choose for you.

Pete

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  -Theodore Roosevelt