U.S.A. at the World Cup (Women vs. Men)

Julie Johnston, our best player in this WC in my opinion.
Julie Johnston, our best player in this WC in my opinion.

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will be playing in the semi-final of the Women’s World Cup tomorrow.  In the soccer world there is a lot of discussion about how the team has played, coaching decisions and comparisons to their competition.  Depending on who reads this post, I may be crucified for my next statement but it is the main point of my post.  The USWNT will most likely not raise the Cup this year.

The reason that this could be an inflammatory statement is the expectation that surrounds the USWNT.  The fact that they have won the Cup twice before has created an underlying feeling that we should do it again.  The casual sports fan can get behind the USWNT because there’s a possibility of a winter.

On the flipside of that equation is the US Men’s National Team.  Success is measured by much smaller milestones.  It is not that the USMNT is horrible but we enter international competition with hope rather than expectation.  A loss in the semi-final of a World Cup for the men is a great success.  The same result for the women is a disappointment, even against an opponent like Germany.  I haven’t dealt with “Soccer Issues” in a while on the site but this seemed the perfect time to meld this thought with a message.

Expectation and hope are slightly different degrees of the same emotion.  The difference lies in the amount of certainty prior to the event.  They both have their place in life and should be used in the proper situation.  With regards to most things, I would prefer to look at most situations with hope.  It is one of the reasons why I support underdog teams.  There is a sense of doubt that brings focus and passion.  Expectation can bring complacency.  Very few things are certain in this life.  With expectation, failure is more crushing because you’ve lost something that you thought was yours.  With hope, you realize that nothing is inherently yours and the possibility is as exciting as the achievement.

“Hope is a good thing, perhaps the best of things” -Andy Dufresne

Good luck tomorrow ladies!

Pete

“Daddy, Watch This!”

“Daddy, Watch this!” is a phrase that I heard about two hundred times yesterday.  My seven year old daughter was saying it as she performed an underwater back-flip or some other trick in the pool.  The consistent request got me thinking about the request.  While she was extremely happy to do the trick on her own, it became even more important that she share it with me.  The perfection of her delivery did not matter, each attempt was important even the “failures”.

As she flipped in the water, I thought about my students, adult friends and myself.  We generally primp, polish and perfect everything before we put it on display.  The obvious reason for this is a form of fear.  We have failure shamed out of us by the time we are teenagers.  The unfortunate thing is that failure is a necessary ingredient to all progress.  Although public display of failure isn’t particularly necessary, I’m not sure many of us seek out failure in private either.  In a society where no one ever fails, we stand still and become spectators watching the same old tired tricks that we’ve seen before.

So now what do you do?  What do I do?  We fail forward.  We try to top what we’ve done before with the childlike optimism that we can.  Then as we get closer and closer to our coveted goal, we can scream at the top of our lungs “WATCH THIS!”  Perhaps we’ll fall on our faces.  However I’d rather be face-down ready to try again than be standing on the sidelines with an empty heart and only criticism to offer the world.

Go fail forward today!

Pete

The Scumbag and Tragedy Report

100_9372My son’s first birthday party is a memory that I will never forget.  The unfortunate thing is that the reason that particular birthday sticks in my memory is not the cake, the presents or the joy of my wonderful little boy celebrating his first year on this planet.  It is memorable because of what happened the next day.  The next day a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 17 others.  The two events are forever coupled in my mind and at the time shook the very foundation of who I am as a person.

In the aftermath of the shootings, there were several practical things that needed to be done.  I was teaching at school less than two hours from VA Tech.  We instituted protocols for locking down the campus and dealt with the grief of students.  There was a lingering problem that I had trouble reconciling.  I had an extreme amount of guilt for bringing a child into a world that was capable of such evil.  After celebrating the life of one of the people that I love the most, this act of evil made me question what I had done.  The tragedy in Charleston is the latest reminder that the evil of man is still here.  My heart goes out to the people who have lost someone in these senseless acts.  The victims, their families and friends are the only ones that matter now.  I know they are hurting much worse than I was over eight years ago but I have hope for them and us.  For my own part, I was able to pull myself out of the pit of despair that I had created for myself.  There were two words that brought me out: focus and hope.

By focusing on the evil of the world, I had made it my reality.  It is an easy thing to do at times because the media shows us regularly what horrible people can do.  This is not particularly their fault because we pay more attention to tragedy and they are giving us what “gets the ratings”.  However I choose to focus on other things now.  I see joy in my daughter’s eyes for big events like “field day”.  My eyes turn to Mrs. Lobby, the kindergarten teacher, who pours her heart and soul into little minds every day.  You’ll never see those things on the “scumbag and tragedy” report in the evening but they still exist and that is the world that I live in.

My other word is hope.  I have hope and confidence that the good in people will spread and win.  It is my influence on my children and the other people that I have contact with that I can affect the future.  I am a small drop in a large ocean but I hope that my small ripple combine with those of others can create a tidal wave of good that reaches around the world.  We must find the good in each other and expose that to the rest of the world.

As my final thought, I’d like for you to imagine two pitchers and a large bucket.  In one pitcher is red colored water and in the other there is blue.  If you only pour red into the bucket, the bucket water will be all red.  If you pour equal of both, you get purple.  The water has no choice what color it is.  However we have a choice what we put out into the world.  If you want the world to be greedy, selfish, hateful and driven by negative thoughts and emotion, then put those out there.  Recognize that you have a choice.  I don’t have rose colored glasses on and I’m not going to break into a verse of “kumbaya”.  The only thing that I want you to realize is that you have a choice.  The world is not inherently evil nor is it inherently good.  People have choices.

Be good to one another.

Pete

The Pepsi Challenge

pepsiLast century (specifically in the 1980s) Pepsi had commercials and other advertising with the “Pepsi Challenge”.  An “unbiased” consumer was asked to try two different colas and give their preference.  Of course the on-camera participants always chose Pepsi.  Perhaps it was what they truly liked or the entire thing was rigged in some way.  In all honesty it doesn’t matter that much to me because I preferred Pepsi to Coke without the seeing choices of others.  It does make for an interesting discussion on why we choose the things that we do.

In a given day, you have literally thousands and possibly millions of choices to make.  Some of these choices are simple and probably automatic.  For example “Am I going to wear clothes today?”  No matter whether the answer is yes or no, it is an easy choice based on your daily life.  Other choices are much more complex and require major deliberation.  Choosing to go to college or the military is life-altering and for many would demand some time and attention.  In the middle of the automatic and grandiose decisions are many moment to moment choices that need to be made by you.  There are many people who treat these mid-level choices as though they were huge.  Others put all of their choices on automatic pilot letting others decide for them.  The worst scenario is that people forget that they are choosing at all.

In each moment, you have choices and some of the most important are about how you are going to feel.  Believe it or not, it is a choice.  If you are feeling sad, it is a choice.  Perhaps there are very good reasons for you to choose that but it is your choice.  By taking the physical state of your body, your mental focus of the moment and your inner dialogue, you determined the feeling that you were going to produce.

So now I put a new “Pepsi Challenge” on to you.  Let’s call it the “Huryk Challenge”.  Can you choose to feel good in all circumstances today?  No matter what life throws at you, can you CHOOSE to feel good.  You do not need to like the circumstances but you choose your feeling despite the poor situation.  I challenge you.

Choose to have a great day!

Pete

Full Throttle All the Time

BoltWe are not machines.  It seems as though we wish that we were at times.  However the human animal is not infallible and fatigues just like any other creature on earth.  If you look at the World Records for running events, there are a few truths that you can learn about humans.

World Records for varied differences.  Please check my math, it’s late and it might not be perfect.

100 meters – Usain Bolt – 9.58  (23.37 MPH) (2 min 34.14 sec per mile)

200 meters – Usain Bolt – 19.19 (23.31 MPH) (2 min 34.38 sec per mile)

1 mile – Hicham El Guerrouj – 3:43:13 (16.13 MPH)

5K (3.12 Miles) – Kenenisa Bekele – 12:37.35 (14.83 MPH) (4 min 02.74 sec per mile)

Marathon (26.2) – Dennis Kiprutto Kimetto – 2:02:57 (12.78 MPH) (4 min 41.68 sec per mile)

After all of those numbers, names and information, what is my point?  You need to know what race you’re running in order to determine “full throttle”.  Each of these amazing athletes ran their race as fast as they could for the distance that they had to cover.  Usain Bolt’s 100 meter record is amazing but his pace is completely unrealistic over a 26.2 mile race.  Dennis Kiprutto Kimetto’s pace for a marathon is astounding but if he ran a 100 meter at that pace, he’d be considered “slow”.  The key is to know the race that you are in and what “full throttle” means for that race.

This is applicable to many areas of real life.  For example intimate relationships.  If you are looking to get married, recognize that it is a marathon.  Expect that the pace is slow and steady in order for it to last for years.  High school relationships are usually over in a few months, so the sprinter’s pace of spending every moment together is natural.

So what kind of races are you in at the moment?  Recognize what “full throttle” means for each of those races.  Perhaps there’s a project that is a sprint, then sprint that project.  Maybe at the same time you need to take control of your health, which is a marathon (figuratively).  Then you need to marathon your health.

Regardless of which form of “full throttle” you are in, realize that you are human.  The expectation that you can maintain Usain Bolt speed for 26.2 miles is ridiculous.  Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations.  Recognize the race and go after it intelligently!

Go full throttle today!

Pete

The Best There’s Ever Been

AliThere are often debates with sports about who is the “Best There’s Ever Been”.  In basketball, names like Michael Jordan, Lebron James and Wilt Chamberlain come up often.  In soccer, the names are usually Pele or Messi.  Muhammad Ali proclaimed himself to be the “greatest of all time”.  Many of these conversations are apples to oranges comparisons that are nothing more than opinion.  The positive side to these debates is that they give a peak model for the newcomers to follow.

For most of us, we were not born with the necessary tools to be the “best ever” in anything.  The books “The Talent Code” and “Outliers” outline many of the factors that contribute to the recipe of greatness.  Despite the lack of ingredients, there is no reason for the everyday person to shy away from the thought of greatness.  We must reach for rungs on a ladder that we are able to climb effectively.  By comparing myself to Messi, I’m setting myself up for failure and disappointment.  In order to find true comparative success in anything, there is one basis for comparison – self!

In ourselves we can find both our truest basis for comparison and our best competition.  “Never try to be better than someone else.  But rather be the best you can be.” is a quote from legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.  As we standardize test and rank everything from our number of friends to attractiveness, it seems as though we’ve become obsessed with comparison to others.  This obsession moves us farther from the comparison that we really must  do in front of a mirror or in our mind’s eye.  You don’t need to try to be the best there’s ever been.  You only need to be the best you that you’ve ever been.

Go do you!

Pete

Where the hell are you going?

directionFor several years, I was a a pizza delivery guy.  I’m good with directions and my eyesight didn’t start to go until I was thirty, so it was a great fit.  Every once in a while, I would completely “zone out” as I was driving.  I would be halfway to my destination when I realized that I was giving absolutely no thought to where I was going.  This form of “auto-pilot” never interfered with my job because the destination was set-up someplace in my subconscious mind.

Life can often feel like this.  You have no idea where you are going but you’re traveling down the road at 50 MPH without a care in the world.  This might not be a problem if you’ve defined your destination and have set up systems to keep you on course.  Unfortunately it is usually not the case.  Especially for young people, speed seems to be more important than direction.  If distance covered is your goal, then speed is your friend.  However reaching the correct destination requires, direction first and speed second.

So it might help to ask “Where the hell am I going?”  Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, in general.  Once you know where you are going, it is much easier to check in with yourself each day to see if you’re going in the right direction.  Then you can decide to go faster.

Sidenote: The GPS has made asking for directions a rare occurrence.  However if you are ever lost, don’t go to a gas station to ask directions.  Go to a pizza delivery place, they actually know how to get places.

Get focused and get going!

Pete

 

 

Levantarse

levitateAs a speaker of Spanish and English, I get a good perspective on the differences between the two languages.  One of the most confusing differences for English speakers is reflexive verbs.  In Spanish, you wake yourself up, wash yourself and brush yourself your teeth.  There are many actions that Spanish specifically tells you that you do to yourself.  For example, the verb levantar means “to lift” but levantarse means “to lift one’s self or get up”.  This simple difference in the way that an idea is expressed can change our perception of self.

Our language sometimes limits our thought process because we often think in words.  The idea that we lift ourselves up is not a difficult one to understand.  However it is one that we may take for granted.  We’re too busy getting up every morning to remember who is lifting us up and why.  Even though we are always lifting ourselves up, we may feel forced to do it.

There is power in choice.  Deciding on the reasons why you are getting up in the morning gives you the power to live with purpose.  It is much easier to slog through difficult times when there is something waiting for us at the end.  If all you see is the slog, then life is the slog.  So even though the day has already begun, it’s not too late to decide what today is about for you.  Why did you get up this morning?  If you don’t like the answer that you give then re-ask the question with a broader scope of possibility.

Make it a great day.

Pete

The Man in the Arena

MITAphotoIn 1910, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in Paris called “Citizen in a Republic”.  It outlined several of the characteristics necessary for citizens in a republic to have.  There is a particular excerpt from that speech that talks about the “Man in the Arena”.  It bemoans the role of the critics and praises the value of the “doer of deeds”.  Despite this speech being a century old, it’s message rings true today.

In 1988, I was in the 7th grade and the “Man in the Arena” excerpt caught my eye.  It was framed in the front of Mr. Tomlinson’s classroom.  Since that year, I have had that quote basically memorized.  In the beginning, I was drawn in by the gritty language, “whose face is marred by dust and  sweat and blood.”  Over the years, the meaning and the gravity of the words have changed.  I no longer picture gladiators or sportsmen when I read it.

Now I picture everyday people choosing to do important things or choosing to become critics.  Mostly I see young people who are being thrust into a new and uncertain world.  Their willingness to “get into the arena” may be our hope for the future.  As we leave a century where there was a pre-scripted plan for success.  The new century has already proven tumultuous and the winners seem to be the ones who are willing to “dare greatly”.

I hope that you are willing to step into the arena.  The arena of life that demands that you act and not critique.  The place where you find your greatest passions and devotions.  In the arena, you will not be shielded from failure but instead will face it and learn to dance with it.  “There is no effort without error and shortcoming.”  Be willing to fail forward, so that your triumph is greater because it came with a cost.  The cost of action, passion and bravery that not everyone is willing to pay.

Get in the arena!

Pete

The Energy Transfer

energyYour body and mind work on a form of energy.  Thoughts are electrical impulses.  Muscles contract based on signals sent from that system.  You are a ball of “wet” energy.  Consuming and expending energy every day.  I am going to expand this a bit further to look at transferring energy.

Imagine, if you will, that you actually transferred energy to everything you touched.  At the moment, I’d be putting energy into the keyboard through my fingers and into the chair through my butt and legs.  If I were to catalog my energy transfers through the day, I might find out that I am supplying energy mostly to my bed, couch and cellphone.   While this idea is mildly fictitious, it is a useful thing to consider.

Are you pouring energy into things that really matter to you?  Or is your ass supplying so much energy to your couch that it might overload?   As you go through your day, pay attention to where your energy is flowing.  Is it reaching anything important to you?  If not, it might be time to make some changes.