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

3 Concepts Top Youth Sport Leaders Master

1103424851-01486e1e2d9de010d7448aa41af89d3bDirecting a youth sport organization has the opportunity to be a rewarding experience in which your thoughts, processes, and philosophies are introduced to enrich the lives of the athletes, families, coaches, and all other followers connected to the group. The privilege granted to be a resource to many while controlling the final decision on significant organizational matters is a desirable leadership position.

But in our world of youth sports today, when does reality set in?

  • Following a significant loss to another local organization?
  • When a coach questions your methods?
  • When a parent questions your processes?
  • When families no longer come back to participate in your organization?
  • After your work week lengthens from 40 hours to 90 hours?

Is it possible to create an environment on and off the field that indoctrinates families to become repeat customers and trust the decision makers through thick and thin?

Do you have the fortitude to stand by your ideas…

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Dividing Your Fire Power

unforgivenEach of us has a potential amount of fire power in a given year.  If you think of your energy to finish projects as gunpowder, some of us have a barrel full and others could barely fill one of those Chinese novelty snap pellets.  While knowing how much powder you have is helpful, it is also important to divvy it up intelligently.  Even the barrel-full may not be sufficient if divided a thousand times and put into the wrong weapons.  By contrast, an intelligently used pinch could be life-changing.  So how much firepower do you really have and where are you going to use it?

red-ryderAt the end of this year will you be basking in the glory of your successful hunt?  Or will you be left standing with your Red Ryder Carbine in denial that you’re full of hot (but compressed) air?  That’s completely up to you and it starts right now.  Pick out your targets, if you haven’t already.  Write them down and decide how you will take them down.  Although truly ‘How’ is very rarely the problem.  It is usually getting the focus and commitment to the target that people fail to do.  So write them down now!

caddy-shackOnce you have your targets, then you can plan out how to systematically deal with each one.  It’s a simple enough process once you commit to it.  What you need to do is “fall back on superior firepower and superior intelligence.  And that’s all she wrote!”

 

He’s Got a Bad Motivator!

badmotivatorIt’s a throwaway line from Star Wars: A New Hope.  The purists will point out that the actual line is “This R2 Unit has a bad motivator!” but either way it is enough to stop the red droid in his tracks.  At that point, it’s back in the sand crawler with the Jawas.  There is something all too familiar about this situation.  At times motivation seems like an illusive force that some people have the power to wield while others struggle to find it.  There is nothing supernatural about it.  The reason to do or not do something (don’t get me started on trying) is a mixture of chemicals that are released in our brains and the story that we tell ourselves.   So if you’re not doing something that you want to (or know that you should), it’s because you’ve got a bad motivator.

In our society, we are rarely threatened by starvation, predators or a lack of resources.  These were the things that motivated our ancestors.  Theirs was a life linked heavily with necessity.  Our needs have been replaced by our desires.  Unfortunately for those with bad motivators, most of the things that are easily acquired come with bad side effects.  Also the things that have true value often require a decent amount of effort.  So the choice becomes do very little  to gain the trivial or find the motivation to get the things that matter.  The motivation that you seek is in the story that you tell yourself about your desired outcome.  If you don’t have it, then your story sucks!

The story has to be consistent, compelling and relevant daily in order to get you to act.  For example, many people continue to smoke despite the impending health risks.  The story that they have for smoking must be very strong while their quitting story must be weak. Since the story that you have is made up by you or at least approved by you, you also have the power to change it.  The power is in your belief.  If you believe that you need to lose 20 pounds before October 15th or you need to donate $100 to an anti-charity, you will (I did that).  It was surprisingly simple once the story was in place.  I didn’t change the story for anyone.  The monetary amount was enough to make it compelling.  It was an important part of each and every day.  I’d made myself the main character in a success story that I wanted to see come true.  That was enough.

So do you have a bad motivator?  Tell yourself a different story about that important thing that you want.  It’s the most important thing to get this right because you’re the main character in the movie of your life.  Why in the world would you settle for a crappy script?  Start small with the chapter of today then build on that success.  Most likely the only person stopping you is you.

Pete

The “Gymcensus”

gymmirrorIt’s January 9th and the gyms are getting less crowded by the day.  The “Gymcensus” is almost over.  With the holiday season having just ended, the story behind Christmas should be in mind but I’ll recap just in case.  The story of Christmas starts with Joseph bringing Mary, his betrothed, to Bethlehem to be counted for the census.  Due to the large influx of people, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary were forced to stay in a stable because there was no room at the inn.  In that stable Jesus was born.  Then he and his family had to flee in order escape the wrath of King Herod who intended to kill the child.  Now we have created the modern equivalent.

The Gymcensus is a slightly skewed reenactment of the story of Jesus.  After the holidays, all people who want to believe that they will be fit this year must travel to a gym.  They must go as often as possible during the first few weeks of the new year in order to be counted in the Gymcensus.  Since it is so crowded and there are a limited number of elliptical machines, people are forced to lift weights or run.  At that point these people must flee the gym because they are afraid that exercise might kill them.  Either that or they flee from their friends that they told about the gym commitment because they cannot face their “failure”.  While this depiction of a New Year tradition may be comical, it does not need to be so pervasive.  Most gyms give you the tool that you need in order to stay through the census and actually become more fit.  That tool is the mirror.

The mirror is an underused tool in and out of the gym.  In all honesty, the trip to a gym is completely unnecessary.  The main action that needs to happen is to look in the mirror and come face to face with your opponent.  Once you have looked your opponent in the eye and sized him or her up, you’ll have a very good idea of what he or she is capable of.  Then all you need to do is beat your opponent by 1%.  Perhaps I grazed over that too quickly.  The only person that you are competing with is you!  You just need to start by doing a little bit more than the lazy version of yourself would do.  If you do that, then you’ll gain momentum.  DO NOT COMPETE WITH A PICTURE IN YOUR HEAD OR A PHOTO IN A MAGAZINE!  You’re setting yourself up for failure by doing that.  Only compete with you, the you of today.  Don’t take part in the Gymcensus!  Use the mirror in your gym, bathroom or wherever to regularly challenge your greatest opponent to be better.  If you don’t, then no one will.

You’re not here just to be counted, you’re here because you count!

Jocko Willink does an AMAZING job of illustrating a more intense version of this lesson when he talks about the “man in the cave” in his interview with Tim Ferriss.  It’s worth a listen.

Pete

Transparencies

transparencyAt one point in my educational career, transparencies were the height of technology.  By today’s standards they are obsolete but at the time they were extremely helpful.  The ability to manipulate and project for a group to see was used daily.  My most vivid memories of them were from history class.  A territory could be shown with a variety of borders and other influencers.  Depending on the transparency that was placed onto the territory, a force like the Roman Empire could be all encompassing or completely inconsequential.  The territory was always the same but the translucent lines of borders and boundaries changed.  Even though the transparency projectors have all but disappeared, the influence of invisible and imaginary lines has not.

They are truly all around us, the transparent lines that often direct our lives.  The boundary lines, goal lines, bottom lines, traffic lines and party lines are subtly informing our every day experience.  So many different ways that we can choose to box ourselves in or direct our movement by using these lines.  The issue comes when the lines become walls that imprison.

Many of us have constructs that we have developed or have been developed for us.  Some are almost invisible until we look for them.  For example you are reading this blog in English.  If it is your first language, it changes the way that you look at the world compared to other languages.  A simple sentence like “I dropped the plate.” illustrates the point.  There is an underlying sense of responsibility attached to action because of the subject “I”.  Conversely the Spanish representation of the situation, “Se me cayó el plato.” literally translates to “The plate fell from me.”   For better or worse, the influence of simple things such as this can monumental and often taken for granted.  So the first step is to recognize as many of the lines that are influencing you as you can.  Then decide what makes sense.

When you peel back the layers of transparencies from your life, you will most likely find things that you’ve taken for granted that just don’t make sense.  Driving on the right side of the road may be a useful constraint to keep.  However there are probably others that can be amended or dropped in order to better service you in the pursuit of what you want today.  Perhaps you’ve always believed that you’re not smart, that planning isn’t important, that sex is REALLY important, that you need to make it on your own or a million other things.  Maybe you’ll keep most of your beliefs but it is worth the examination to see if you’ve painted yourself into a corner with beliefs that don’t make sense anymore.  If you want to be a millionaire but think that making minimum wage is the best you can do, you’ve got a problem.  Do the lines that you’ve painted for yourself point you in the direction that you want to be going?

img_1844Physically, mentally and emotionally; what do you believe about yourself, people and the world?  Write it down in your notebook, iPhone, laptop or anything else that works for you.  Then pick through it to see what you’re keeping, tweaking or tossing.  It’s up to you to clean up whatever mess you might have.  If you’re honest in your assessment, you’ll be able to see through the person that you need to read better than anyone else: yourself.

Go get your hands dirty boys and girls!

Pete

Might Never Get to Poland

polandFor the past six months or so, I’ve been learning Polish using a program called Duolingo.  It is a completely free online language learning tool.  I started using it to prove the point to my students that you can learn a foreign language by using such a tool.  When summer hit, I took a Polish hiatus but now I’m back on the train.  The funny thing is that I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to Poland.  It is the homeland of my ancestors and I love to travel but it is not a huge priority.  So then why bother to learn the language?  There is no foreseeable return on my daily investment of time and energy into this language.

Return on investment is an almost pervasive calculation in the modern world.  Kids and adults alike seem to be in a never-ending calculation of whether or not things are “worth their time or effort”.  This is not particularly the troubling thing.  Time is a nonrenewable resource.  So being conscious of how you are spending it just makes sense.  Energy is renewable but often feels like it is linked to the time.  As if the addition of energy to invested time multiplies it and can magnify any possible waste.  “I’m only applying if I know I’ll get the job.”  “I’m not going out for the team unless I’m on varsity.”  “I’m not going to ask her out, she might say ‘no’.”

The problem with this almost ruthless avoidance of wasted energy/time is that very few limits get pushed.  Possibility is viewed as a negative rather than a positive.  Life tends to shrink into a smaller and safer box that confines and disillusions us.  Investing in only sure things expends nothing extra.  It is a transaction of time and effort for a result.  In this type of mindset, there is no room to give true gifts.  People become hoarders because giving of themselves is too risky and scary.  In the end giving of one’s self is the best way to come to know yourself better.

The sure thing may be comforting but it is not progressive.  Putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone or spending ourselves in an uncertain endeavor are the places where we become a new version of ourselves.  Much like a software update, we have the possibility of becoming more but it requires some risk to the old version.  Perhaps I’m throwing away ten minutes per day by learning Polish.  Or maybe risking that small amount of time each day will take me somewhere that I never would have imagined.  In my eyes, I win either way because of who I’ve become; a person willing to move forward.  Where you are is most likely not where you want to be forever.  The opportunity is there for you to move forward but you have to risk the time and energy of the step.  It’s time to step up!

A funny little reminder

 

Club Soccer and Dunbar’s Number: Is bigger better?

dunbarHumans are social animals.  Our ability to survive and thrive has been based on our interconnections.  Although technology has created the ability to “connect” with anyone around the world, our greatest and most meaningful connections are with those around us.  The people that we interact with regularly make up our “tribe”.  Despite the infinite number of possible connections, Dunbar’s number is a suggested limit to the amount of people with whom one can maintain social relationships.   Although it is merely a guideline, it makes for an interesting starting place when discussing organizations such as soccer clubs.

Soccer clubs in the United States have become a pervasive part of the landscape of the sport.  While many of these clubs are entities that improve the sport and the lives of its members, there is definitely room for improvement in the establishment and organization of a larger number clubs.  In essence, the successful club needs to find a balance in a two front battle of: where clubs come from and where the particular club is going.

Where Clubs Come From

Clubs start with people.  During my last trip to England, I went to an academy match at Dagenham & Redbridge.  It’s a small lower league club on the outskirts of London.  I was early for the match, so I went into the club house to stay warm and grab a beer.  It was obvious to the twenty or so people that were there that I was an outsider.  Perhaps I was pegged as an American because of my clothes but even without that, it was pretty obvious that all of these people knew each other.  That is the whole point!  Clubs are communities.  Although soccer is now the focal point, the social aspect is the starting point.  People’s need to be together is where clubs truly start.  Soccer clubs are just a subset of something that people have been doing for centuries for a variety of reasons.  Since being together is so integral, it should not be forgotten.

Club Direction

The second consideration is the club purpose or direction.  At some point (hopefully at the beginning), a club needs to define a purpose.  This is probably the biggest issue that most clubs have.  They are unsure of why they exist and therefore struggle to do more than be the administrative support for individual teams.  While this may seem like a completely acceptable arrangement, it is a neutered version of what the organization can be.  Clubs can improve young talent, be a force for good in the community, build confidence in young or it can do all of the above and more.  Often this is done by default rather than design.  The results are felt by a small number of the members rather than the culture perpetuating them.  The vision and the actions of the club need to be in alignment with one another.  Being the club that helps develop the self-esteem of young people, is a fine vision for a club.  However this vision is inconsistent with having twice-annual tryouts.  Be who you are.

Once the vision is in place, Dunbar’s number can be applied in a variety of ways.  Although it may seem that Dunbar’s number lends itself toward the organization of smaller clubs, it can actually be applied to any size club but needs to be done with intention.

The Community Club – A local club that encompasses both a recreation an travel program can be an extremely effective environment.  With the shared surroundings, schooling and history, these types of clubs represent why Dunbar’s number was developed in the first place.

The Travel Teachers – A small club with a team at each age U9-18 hits Dunbar’s number almost perfectly.  While this may seem to max out the number, it truly depends on the structure and direction of the club.  Truly the U18 players do not need to relate directly with the U9s.  However if that is part of the culture that is being built, the older players can be mentors to the younger ones.  This type of scenario can have a virtuous cycle of development over the years.

The Talent Incubator – At some slightly larger clubs, it may be beneficial to have players of the same age group practicing and interacting regularly.  Rather than players being sectioned off as teams, an entire age group becomes a tribe unto itself.  The players see the competition at their own level regularly.

The Regional Behemoth –  A larger club can effectively apply Dunbar’s number by sectioning itself into smaller subsets.  All of these subsets need to understand the overall vision of the club.  This type of club is usually the most difficult to manage because of the sheer numbers.  However effective management can be achieved by each subset having a direct link to the central structure.  The name or the club reputation usually bring the players in but often teams tend to splinter off when they feel separated from the organization.  People are more loyal to friends and teammates than they are to logos and reputations.  So the club must always try to maintain its humanity regardless of size.

These examples are just generalizations of possible application.  However these short descriptions represent what many clubs have failed to do which is create a structure based on a thought process.   Dunbar’s number is a guideline that helps to avoid the pitfalls of over expansion without planning.  Humans are social creatures by nature.  Realizing and embracing that fact from the beginning gives anyone looking to build an organization a much greater possibility for success, whatever that word means for your organization.