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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wanting to Win

Hey all - made my annual sojourn to Buffalo.  Ran a good, hard, fast race today, and shared it with some good people.  I gotta say, I got high hopes for this year's NYC, if the last two Halfs I've run are a good indication of things to come.

This race comes on the wings of a recent field day story.  An elementary school sent out a flyer to parents expecting that any competitiveness was to be kept to a minimum.  This brought outrage from many - how can we keep rewarding kids for doing the bare minimum, and telling them that winning and losing don't matter?  They'll never make it in the real world, where winning and losing do count!

They're not wrong to say this.  However, I think that school took this approach to stop bullying more than they did to neutralize the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  I don't think children are damaged so much by "sucking" at some game as much as they are by having that fact rubbed in their face by someone else who thinks their win gives them free reign to bully and harass those they defeated.  If they were able to accept defeat without these undeserved consequences, the growth needed to accept defeat, but use it to learn how to win next time, would be more likely to happen.

For example, look at my sport.  In running, the fastest athletes do not shame those who are not as fast.  There is no trash-talking, no nose-thumbing, no jeering, and no "you suck" chants for those who fall short of the Olympic ideal. Instead, there is plain old sportsmanship.  Sometimes, the faster runners will stop by the finish line after their race is over and cheer for the slower runners.  

Nobody wants to hear that "we're all winners."  But in running, it's true.  In this sport, the main idea is not to compete against someone else to win a race over them.  The fact that each runner has chosen to sacrifice creature comforts simply to enter a race REALLY DOES make each runner a winner, whether or not they place.  This attitude is adopted and encouraged throughout our sport, and it persists.

I think that's the message the field day organizers really wanted to convey, but didn't.  It's not about discouraging the more athletic kids from doing something they're good at, or selling short their accomplishments for someone else's bruised self esteem.  It's about letting those who are NOT all-stars realize that there is merit in making an attempt, that there is pride in taking your best shot at any goal, win or lose, and that every defeat, setback, or mistake has a lesson hidden within that just begs to be learned.  But those hard lessons are best delivered with a sense of respect, and not with being booed off the "field," if you will.

As beta males, we are living proof that "hard knocks" and "tough love" are not the fail safe methods some believe them to be.  Sometimes they make things  worse.  Sometimes a pat on the back does more good than a smack in the ass.  Maybe if these field day organizers had recognized this, instead of punishing athletes for being athletic, this story would not have been newsworthy.

That's my story from the Frontier.  Congrats to everyone who ran the Buffalo Full and Half Marathons this year - a great day for a great race.  And I invite all of you Western New Yorkers to come on down to the Big Apple and watch the City play host to a race that runs a close second to Buffalo in friendliness and encouragement from the crowds along the course!  :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Place I Became A Man

Hi All -- hope you had a good weekend!

Mine was pretty good -- I ran in the increasingly popular Brooklyn Half Marathon for the first time.  This race is so hot it sells out faster than Billy Joel!  Started out in beautiful Prospect Park, then took Ocean Parkway down through the next three neighborhoods, all the way to the Coney Island Boardwalk!  Stuck with my usual tactic of drinking fruit punch flavored Powerade, courtesy of my fuel belt, every two miles like clockwork.  Felt like I was pulling 8's, turned out to be a little bit faster than that, so I was pretty jazzed.  Several of us runners went over to a bar called Peggy O'Neill's, on the Surf Avenue side of MCU Ballpark (home of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones), and had to be patient with our bartenders, who were clearly not used to a Saturday morning rush.  :)  Still got my Sammy.

Next week, I'm hoping for a similar experience -- going up to the farthest reaches of our state to run in the Buffalo Half Marathon.  It's become my annual Memorial Day trek, looking forward to running this new course that includes Delaware Park, and seeing some good friends of mine.

Yes, we always look forward to our old traditions, and sometimes start new ones.  But what about the ones that disappear?

My childhood synagogue is closing its doors.  The congregation is merging with another temple on the other side of town, but the building is for sale.  It seemed like the temple would be there forever, but all good things must end.

It brings back memories.  Learning the traditions of my ethnic group.  Preparing to lead services on my Bar Mitzvah day and beyond.  Feeling the comfortable, safe, and home-base feeling that I got within its walls.  

The Bar Mitzvah day stands out, of course.  The satisfaction of learning to recite sacred and ancient words in a language difficult to pronounce.  The rewards of preparing for a performance that your entire family and all of your friends appreciate.  The knowledge that, in some circles, you're recognized as a man, and no longer as a boy.

And, oh yeah . . . I got to give a speech, too.  :)  Now that I think about it, that was David's first blog post, before there were blogs!  Preparing for it helped me develop confidence, and performing it taught me to love having an audience.  :).  Oh yes, I did become a man in that sense -- I was no longer shy, looking for excuses not to speak.  Once I got over that hump, my years on stage in drama club and college theater were a breeze.

It was also the place I got close to G-D, appropriately enough.  I learned that there was something bigger than me, that handled all things in life beyond my control.  A source of justice truer than anything that could be handed down by any mortal authority figure.  And sometimes, when I didn't really expect it, it "saved" me from possible and unpleasant consequences.  Lesson really learned when that happened!

Ironically, my high school was just down the street.  The values one learned in that building were like night and day, in comparison from the values learned at temple.  Yet some people think that's the place a boy becomes a man.

I respectfully disagree.

Rather, for a true example of manhood, I look at the elders who organized our old temple, and their actions.  Giving of one's time.  Kindness towards children and the elderly.  Respect for tradition.  Greetings and friendliness towards all who entered.  Pride and values.  They had lives of their own, they could have chosen to let someone else "run things," but the leadership roles they took in synagogue life were rewarding in and of themselves.  

Yes, that temple is gone forever, but I still owe it a great deal.  It connected me with a tradition dating back millennia.  It gave me a chance to learn and express some good talents.  Most importantly, it taught me examples inspired by G-D, and those values made a man of me.
And so let it be with the rest of this beta tribe.  Gentlemen, don't recite or adopt the falsehoods of the alphaganda.  Don't be led astray by groupthink.  Don't bow down to false gods, and don't give them the power deserved only by Him.  You're better served to emulate the kind of righteousness those gentlemen showed.

So MUST a beta male believe in G-D?  Entirely up to you, friends.  I have no authority to save or damn any soul in my audience.  I can only vouch for my own, and nobody else's.  But I gotta admit, faith in a higher power and trust in all things beyond your control (provided you've handled everything within your control) is a far better way to go through life than to dread and malign one's own existence.

That's my sermon.  I've already discussed how my religion is disappearing.  Here's to finding a replacement once it does.

DISCLAIMER:  The above is not meant to besmirch, smear, undercut, or look down upon, those who belong to other faiths, or to no religion at all.  And trust me, I'm not saying that I'm perfect.  It's nothing more than memories of a treasured and uncorrupted part of my youth.  Please indulge me.  :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chinks In The Armor

Hey All!

Had the kind of Saturday afternoon where I really needed to focus on something good to post.  Yes, the cleaning lady was over, relieving me of an otherwise unfortunate menial household task.  Still, had to stay here to "supervise," rendering me immobile.  Hey, that's the price of having someone else keep your place presentable.  :)

The reason why many of us, beta or otherwise, encounter so many obstacles in life is that we have a weakness.  We have an Achilles' heel, we have a kill switch, we have a virus that freezes up the hard drive known as our brain, and sets us back.

This could be many different things to many different people, but rest assured it's something that happened in the past.  My dearly beloved adversaries in the "we don't care, we're too cool" crowd will instantly pooh-pooh this fact because they've always "gotten over it," so they think nothing from their past weighs them down, and if anyone else does, there's something wrong with them.  I'll let them say whatever they feel, with the knowledge that everyone has something from the past weighing them down, no matter how much they deny it.

Your past is a part of you, that's unavoidable.  History cannot be altered.  You can't do what George Lucas did to the original Star Wars trilogy and change what already happened.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, that's the way it was.

Notice I emphasize . . . was.

Here in the present, there are number of ways you can handle the past.  You can suppress it, ignore it, and pretend it never happened, like the "cool kids" say they do.  If you're able to do that, that's nice, but you may face bigger problems.  As my father loves to say, "He who does not learn the lessons of history is forever condemned to repeat them."

You can also allow it to rule you.  Because someone yelled at you really loudly as a child, you could become a sweet, docile, non-assertive people-pleaser, because you'll do anything to avoid having anyone angry at you.  Because someone hurt you in your younger years, you could become guarded, snippy, suspicious, defensive, and cold-hearted to anyone who crosses your path, because you just can't trust anyone not to hurt you.  Because somebody rejected you, you'll just reject everyone else to protect yourself.

Or . . . you can make peace with it.

You can accept that what happened, happened, but is not happening now.  You can realize that those events cannot affect the here and now.  You can become emotionally detached from it.

You can accept it as a part of history memorialized only in old books and photos.  You can reduce it to dry references and footnotes, instead of allowing it to define you.  You can keep it for informational purposes, but not as a reflection of current values.

How you do it is up to you.  You should know how your own mind works better than I do, or anyone else does.  But if you want to fill in the chinks in your armor, and really be a bold and bulletproof beta, then you need to take these lessons of the past, scan them into some kind of psychological zip drive, and save them somewhere other than your active thoughts.  If they are somehow manifesting themselves subconsciously in your present thoughts and actions, then engage in some redirection.

You cannot afford to let your past affect your present to your detriment.  If you let it, it will ruin you.  It will sap your strength.  It will stunt your growth.  It will leave you stranded on a psychological plateau, leaving you incapable of advancing or improving yourself for the rest of your life.

This blog is about the Advancement of beta males.  As long as you stay in a state of arrested development, forever fighting with ghosts and memories, seeking vengeance on those who got away with it, and mourning over unfinished business, you will not be successful.

It's also about the Redemption of beta males.  Not just from outside sources who've held you down, but from holding yourself down.  You must free yourself from anything that holds you back, especially yourself!

And it's also about the Self-Actualization of beta males.  And part of that means that you can only live in the here and now.

Whatever happened is done.  The past will always be a part of who you are, but it should not, and cannot, be the strongest part of you.  Your passions and drive should only be centered on the present, or on preparation for the immediate future, and not on things that have already transpired and cannot be rearranged.

Once the past is filed away where it belongs, you will become bold and bulletproof.



Have a great weekend, all!