Monthly Archives: January 2015

My Black Belt

I am a black belt in a particular martial art.  This is not conceit or delusion.  I am the best in the world at this particular discipline.  Within fractions of a second, I am able to leave my opponent as incapacitated as I want.  I strike fear into my opponent enough to paralyze him.  If I wanted, I could leave my opponent lying in a twisted heap on the floor sobbing.  However I use restraint and do not practice this art with the regularity that I used to.

The martial art that I possess a black belt in is “self-deprecation”.  I was better than anyone that I know at tearing me apart.  It was almost second nature.  I knew all of the pressure points, the soft spots and how to land a knockout punch.  Sometimes other people would get involved but for the most part, I gave their punches much more power.  I remember starting out as a white belt.  It seemed like a smart move at the time.  I would say something bad about myself in the presence of a female.  She would refute it and I got a bit of a boost.  A small dip in ego for a bit of a raise in ego.  It was a simple con that I played on myself but eventually, I got too good at the dip and dismissed anyone that tried to pick me up.  As I realized the ridiculousness of my martial art, I started to practice less and less.

My guess is that most people have some degree of mastery at this skill.  We know the buttons to push and weaknesses.  Although it may be an easy art to learn and master, it is not one that should be practiced often.  A tempered conscience is a healthy thing to possess but a self-deprecating mindset only hurts.

 

The Book and The Movie

In most cases when a movie is made from a book, the general consensus is that the book is better.  There are many reasons for this but the main one is that a book uses words that the reader must employ to create pictures in his mind.  Books may be written in black and white but they exist in the world of imagination.  The writer’s words are a map that reader uses to create a world without compromise.  I love this medium because of its limitations being based only on the mind of the reader.

As I have mentioned before, I am also a huge movie guy.  The experience is completely different because it happens in “real” time.  The emotions caused by the combination of director, actors, scenery and etc. are much closer to the surface.  Everyone in the room can have a simultaneous reaction to the sights and sounds on display.  Movies inch closer toward reality because we are visual creatures.

The disappointment of the adapted book comes from expectation and compromise.  The viewer wants to see the pictures from their head come to life on the screen.  Movies have several limitations which cause compromises.  If the viewer goes in with the expectation that the movie will be different, it leads to less disappointment and an appreciation for each in their own right.  In all honesty they are two very different things.

Now the point.

We all have this war of Book vs. Movie going on inside of us.  The book is our thoughts.  The way that we envision that our life will go.  The movie is the reality of how things actually go.  In this situation, the same factors cause most of the upset: expectation and compromise.  Your life will almost never match your mental picture perfectly.  As soon as you add in other actors and their interpretations of the script, the movie is bound to stray.  Finding your own balance of expectation and compromise is the way to be satisfied with the movie version of your mental book

.Shakespeare

Your Game and Keeping Score

As a soccer coach, I will often use games in practice to work on different skills.  A game of keep-away with the number of passes being the objective is a way to work on possession.  The key to success is that everyone understands what the game is and how to keep score.  In your life it is important to understand what games your are playing and are you keeping score in a way that allows for you to win some times.

As you go through your daily life, it is important to first pay attention to the “games” that you are playing.  There are literally millions of “games” that the human race are playing.  You have chosen to engage in some and ignore others.  For example, you might be really invested in the “make my parents proud” game or the “be attractive to the opposite sex” game.  Depending on which game you’ve decided to make important, you’ll act very differently.  I am not going to moralize on which games are more important.  The only thing that I would suggest is that you are aware of the games that you’ve made important and if they’ll help get you  where you want to go.

Now that you are sure of the games you want to play, how do you keep score?  Be sure to line your game up with a score that is appropriate and attainable.  If your game is “helping other people” but you keep score by how much money you make, you might need to reevaluate.  The game and the score are not directly related, so you might be really good at the game but feel like failure.

The other thing to be wary of is making the goal unattainable for you.  If your game is “being fit” but you keep score by a ridiculous set of criteria including: 10% body fat, huge lifting numbers or extremely low running times, you may want to revamp.  Humans thrive on progress.  If your goal and the way to score are the same thing, it decreases your chances for success.  So small benchmarks can make your possibility for success much better.

What game are you playing and how do you keep score?  Answer these two questions. Perhaps you can give yourself a better chance of winning the games that you actually want to play.  Also you might be able to quit some games that you didn’t realize you were playing.

Who Deserves It?

Nothing is infinite regarding human beings and our lives.  Time, money, love, adoration, fame and respect are all commodities that run out at some point.  Since we know that all of these are meant to deplete, why don’t we spend them more wisely?  Shouldn’t we be asking regularly, who deserves it?

The world travels at such a fast pace that many of our daily interactions seem to be reactionary or on some form of auto-pilot.  It may serve us in some ways by helping us to get things done but we need to make sure that important things are not left behind.  Our Facebook timeline, Twitter feed and Snapchats may seem important at the moment.  Perhaps they connect us to the people that we love most because they are far away.  The technology is not inherently evil or disruptive.  We make it that way by our choices.  Do you have a better relationship with your cell phone than your: mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend?

We are surrounded by devices that are “connection tools”.  Are we using them to connect or to distract?  Take a moment and use your phone or a piece of paper and a pen.  Write a list of the five most important people in your life.  Within the next five days, contact each one of them in the most human way that you have available to you.

1. Face to face

2.  Facetime, Skype, Google Hangout

3. Phone Call (that thing actually makes calls still!)

It doesn’t have to be the most Earth shattering conversation.  You just need to relay the message however subtly or bluntly that you can, “You’re important to me.”  In a world of unlimited connection, shouldn’t we spend most of our time connecting with those we love rather than with strangers who are “Trending”?  Make these five people trend for a few days and notice how you feel.

This Is What You Wanted

As we are moving past the time when most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions, I offer this subtle reminder.  THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED.  It is sometimes a difficult thing to swallow.  Goals and resolutions are pretty and shiny when we create them.  Everything will go great!  You’ll be able to maintain this level of excitement until you get to the end!  The problem is that we usually forget or don’t know the following.

When you set up a goal or make a resolution it is much like ordering your favorite dessert.  For me that would be the classic chocolate milkshake.  Unfortunately you forgot to read the fine print.  Before you will be served your delicious dessert, you have an appetizer of pain coming.  That will be followed by a main course of discipline with self-sacrifice sauce and side order of humility.  Once you are able to choke down those mammoth size helpings of something that YOU DIDN’T ORDER, you’ll finally get that thing that you wanted.

Just remember that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, all of it is part of the deal.  Embrace it.  You’ll actually find at some point  halfway through the main course that you like the taste of it.  Those things that you overlooked on the menu are actually something that you want for yourself.  The problem is that most people retreat too early because THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED!  At the end of the meal you’ll have to settle up the check.  If you stuffed yourself full with meal and goal, the bill is paid with PRIDE.  If you left your meal unfinished, then you have a debt of REGRET that is difficult to wipe away.

 

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The Paper Collection

DiplomaIn college I was a Spanish major and there was a girl in several of my classes who was a Spanish minor.  She was very attractive but her Spanish skills were lacking.  One day she told me that she didn’t even like speaking Spanish that she was just taking the classes to get the minor.  This prompted my question, “why get the minor?”  “Because it will look good on my resume.”  At this point, I was flabbergasted.  “Isn’t the company that is impressed by that going to expect that you’ll be able to use the language?”  This thought had never occurred to her.

In this world of standardization, classification and certification, the papers that we are able to collect seem to hold too much weight.  The story of my Spanish-challenged classmate is not made up and unfortunately not uncommon.  Our diplomas and grades are collected in the hope that it will bring us to that promised land in the future.  The issue is that when we have all of the papers that someone says we need, will we be able to do anything?

Perhaps, paper is not the thing that we need to collect.  Maybe there are better commodities out there to be sought.  Rather than collecting paper, we should be collecting: thoughts, hearts, minds, influence, respect, trust, love, esteem, help, counsel, ideas, laughter, smiles, jokes, hugs, handshakes, pats on the back, kisses, and the list goes on and on.

I’d rather struggle to get in the door because I lack the paper rather than being pushed out the door because my paper was meaningless.

Choose Your Near Death Experience

Rocky Feet

This photo was taken on January 18th 2015 at approximately 7:15am.  If you don’t recognize the location, this is the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art affectionately known as the “Rocky Steps”.  The relevance of the time and the date is that it was lightly raining that morning but the temperature dropped suddenly and the steps became extremely slick.  About thirty seconds after I took this photo, I started my descent, slipped and fell on the steps.  My upper back and pelvis both hit the points of two steps.  I lay there on my back for a moment with no air in my lungs trying to decide just how hurt I was.  Thirty seconds after standing on a spot of personal inspiration, I was on my back wondering if I could get up.

After peeling myself off the ground and determining that I was battered but not broken, I slowly worked my way back to my hotel.  As I walked, I thought of how close I could have been to real injury.  The “what if” question ran through my mind several times when finally, my thoughts rested on George Lucas.  His fate was changed by a near fatal car accident.  It changed his entire perspective on his life and what he was doing.   Many people have near death experiences that change their lives forever.

The key to the near death experience is that it reminds us how temporary life is.  We often forget for long stretches of time that in essence we’re dying.  The number of tomorrows that we will get is limited.  So today’s value is enhanced because we got so close to not having a tomorrow.

Rather than waiting for that experience to come, shouldn’t we just choose it instead.  Choosing a life that recognizes how close death could be.  What if your actions of today were what determined whether or not you got a tomorrow?  How would you live?  Would you have any doubts about the things that were priorities?  It all becomes clear when tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

I’m Sting, Not Mozart

We each have multiple groups of friends and colleagues with whom we have a certain amount of influence.  Within one of my colleague groups, I am referred to as Sting.  Much like the famous singer of the Police, I am a few years older than the other group members and my input carries a little more weight.  The role of “Sting” is one that I embrace and take seriously because I want to help my colleagues along their journey.

Influence is a currency that varies in value based upon the group.  Much like monetary currency, the dollar may be valued more than the Mexican Peso but less than the Kuwaiti Dinar.  The key is recognizing your influence and when you should be giving versus collecting.

I embrace my role as Sting but also recognize that I’m not Mozart.  Sting’s influence is in a very specific genre over a specific time period.  I’m sure that he has influenced millions of people with his music.  However Mozart influenced music itself and that influence has lasted for centuries.  If it were possible for Sting to be in a room with Mozart, I am sure that Sting would know to listen first rather than tell Wolfie about his Grammy for “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”.   Perhaps Sting has something to offer Mozart but assuming that is true is foolish.

There are so many people in this world to learn from.  If you are too busy shouting the autobiography of your greatness to everyone, you may not recognize the possible treasures in front of you.  Be comfortable with who you are.  Whether you’re Sting, Adele, Greg Graffin or Steve Zarodnansky, you have something to offer.  Just don’t assume you’re Mozart because even he has more to learn.

Finish Him/Her/It!

For any of us who spent way too many quarters at an arcade, that phrase is easily identifiable. In “Mortal Kombat” that phrase meant that your enemy was basically beaten and all you needed to do was perform one last lethal blow to add an exclamation point to your victory.  I remember vividly spending countless hours mastering special moves or trying to complete a level on a range of video games.  As meaningless as the games might have been, we were finishers.

In the megapixel world of video games things are much easier and more defined.  There is a sequence to things.  Levels become incrementally harder.  Resources show up basically right before you need them.  The problem is that as fun as the game might be, life is the game that counts.

There are a hundred different directions to take this metaphor but I’m going straight for the throat.  FINISH IT!!!!  Whatever it is that you set in front of yourself.  Being a great starter means nothing if you’re not a finisher.  Anyone can tell you about the two pounds they lost, the two weeks that they lifted weights or the book they started five years ago.  It’s all worthless without the finish.  That moment when your goal is teetering on the edge of defeat and you deliver that lethal strike.

Finish it.  Be methodical, don’t cut corners but finish it.  Decide before you start that you’re going to finish.  If you’re not committed to the finish, then don’t commit to the start.  Finish it!