Filling Need with Deed

I strive to write clearly, but with the topics I write about, I am sure I fail sometimes. One ridiculously simple point that isn’t always clear: The title of my blog, makingtheplay.com. What does it mean to make plays? What is a play anyway? Hopefully this post will clear that up a bit.

I don’t feel the need to define play strictly. I believe you know the plays of your life when you encounter them. Sometimes they are explicit, such as picking off a pass in football or picking up a check in a restaurant. Other times they are less clear, such as openly honoring someone’s right to disagree or silently changing your experience of a situation by having an epiphany about it.

The importance of a play varies from person to person, and it varies from moment to moment for each individual. I like to think they all have unlimited potential. No play is too big or too small to be worthy of your effort.

Every moment of our lives, opportunities to make plays are available. We make some. We miss some. We move on in the present moment with new plays available for the making.

This past week, three playmakers in my family died. I wrote about my Uncle Jake last week (you can read that article by clicking to the link here It’s Been Fun). This week I want to write about Ron Block and my Aunt Susan Klaus Hoffman. You may or may not know them, but both made plays that were important to me. By discussing them, I hope to shed light on what it means to make a play.

Truth be told, Ron Block wasn’t part of my family. Not by blood at least. But I loved him, and he treated me like family. His entire family treated mine with kindness, so he and the Blocks are family to me.

As a single parent, my mom did her best, and her best was incredible. But she was human (although I think many would consider my mom Saint Kate with the love she has for the world), and after playing the roles of mother, father, and breadwinner, she didn’t always have time left to figure out how to take care of what she wanted for me. That’s where Ron and the Block family often stepped in.

My childhood memories are filled with times I spent with the Blocks. They drove me to countless games and events. As I write this, I have visions from their back of their minivan flooding my head (to be clear, there was a new minivan every year, and I hope more than a few of you are laughing your butts off at the thought of one of Dee’s new minivans parked next to Ron’s old S-10, both immaculately cleaned by Ron’s compulsive hand). Ron was typically at the wheel, unless of course we had been to the beach where Ron had imbibed plenty of fun (and more than a few Black Labels), in which case Dee drove back home. Anyone who knows Ron will have plenty of memories of Ron smiling and laughing as if the point of life was simply to smile and laugh, which very well might be the point of life. The man could celebrate, and he never needed much of a reason.

Once when Ron and I were celebrating at a graduation party, we had a conversation about my personality. I was a pretty serious kid at times (okay, that’s the understatement of the year, quit laughing people), and Ron noted that as I entered my early 20s, I was starting to loosen up a bit and have a little fun. I like to think I’m still on that path, and I like to think I learned some of it from him.

One particular memory of Ron has been popping up in my mind for years. One year Ryan and I had to make Pinewood Derby cars for Cub Scouts. Ron knew mom and I couldn’t handle it on our own. He was good with tools and had a workshop in his basement. So he took Ryan and I, and we designed, drilled, weighted, cut, and finished our cars in the workshop. Unlike so many parents today, Ron didn’t interfere with my design, weighting, or aerodynamics. He let me create and build my own car. He simply made sure I was safe with the tools. It was the perfect level of guidance.

I am pretty sure the design of the car was mediocre and finished with mediocre results, but today the process means much more to me than any result ever could. Ron thought about me and cared enough to step up and make a play. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful things life has to offer: Someone sees a need and fills it with deed. It’s like a dovetail joint that brings together the spiritual with the physical, the intangible with the tangible. It’s common, yet when it’s experienced with great awareness, it seems miraculous. It’s the essence of making a play.

When Ron made plays for me, Dee, Rhondi, Ryan, and Darren should get credit for their assists (and they made their own plays for me too). They shared their husband and father with me, and that’s worth more than a small mention. Sometimes we can’t make plays without assists from others.

That’s where my Aunt Sue comes in. She certainly made her own plays in life, but she also made assists by allowing my Uncle Hank to be another father figure in my life. She and my cousins, Kyle and Tim, shared selflessly and included me in their lives in so many ways.

Aunt Sue also shared her family of origin with me. I have great memories of spending time with her brothers, sisters, and parents, Harold and Ruth Klaus. One of my earliest memories is of her marriage to my uncle at their family farm in Harbor Beach. Another is smelt dipping with Uncle, Harold, and her brother Tim. We fished for hours, then used scissors to gut the fish for what seemed like hours more, then fried and ate them. Talk about filling a need with a deed. It was a perfect adventure for a young boy.

When her brother Tim was a teen, he and Uncle Hank put up a basketball hoop that provided hundreds of hours of fun for me, and I’ll never forget fishing on Sanford Lake with her sisters Jackie and Linda. These were times they used their skills to make plays my mom couldn’t make. That is not a knock on my mom. It’s a nod to their thoughtful efforts to make the plays my mom simply couldn’t. It was filling a need with a deed.

Given all the memories of my aunt from my youth, perhaps it’s a bit ironic that one of my lasting memories of her will be her late-life battle with MS. Truth be told, it wasn’t necessarily the battle that impressed me; It was the grace with which she accepted her disease.

Early on in the course of the disease, she fought through pain and debilitated motion to continue making plays in life. She constantly sought to make contributions to her communities. When she wasn’t teaching a class of her own, she was working as an assistant, tutor, or volunteer. She was always active making plays in her community through the schools, churches, and other organizations. She lived to make plays that helped enrich others.

I am sure she had moments of frustration, but she rarely showed it when I was around. On the contrary, she often seemed to be at peace with her frailty. It was as if she understood: This is my path. It’s the only one I can travel, and I recognize that I am the one who must travel it.

It often seemed as if her greatest strength, her grace, was revealed through her greatest weakness, the weakness that eventually took her life. With her grace, my aunt displayed one of the key principles of what makingtheplay.com is all about. The situations of our lives do not dictate our experiences of them. They do not control us. We have creative power to construct our own experience and meaning of life. We rise above situations when we understand that our experience of life resides in our own awareness. Ultimately, perhaps life becomes what we can make of it. No situation is too big or too small. Every play has unlimited potential, and you may never truly understand the value another person attributes to your play.

Our biological frailty has taken two great ones this week, Ron Block and Sue Hoffman. Even though they are gone from the world, their spirit will surely live on in those who knew them. For me, I hope to remember them by making plays like they made for me. I hope to be able to see needs and fill them with deeds. I hope to understand life is what I make of it. And as I progress toward my own inevitable frailty, I hope to show grace and acceptance of what I can no longer influence.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Ron and Sue were certainly worthy of your time. Whether you know them or not, I have a humble ask. Make a play. Fill a need with a deed. Place Ron or Sue or someone else you know in mind, someone who made plays for you and has now passed. Grab your favorite beverage, and give a toast to them and the plays they made.

Prost. Cheers to Ron, Sue, and you and yours. May you make plays until the day you can’t, and when you pass, may your plays live on in the memories of your loved ones.

I’ve Got You

Individually, we create our experiences of situations (including the emotions we experience) from our own perceptions and thoughts. The outside world is a canvas against which we project and check our own thoughts and emotions. Therefore, we are creators of situations, not passive victims. I’ve called this our mind over matter existence in past writing. We use our minds to create the matters (situations) of the world we perceive in front of us.

While this helps create clarity, freedom, and possibility within individuals, dealing with others is a different issue. Even well-informed people forget the nature of our mind over matter existence and see the world as a mind vs matter power struggle from time to time.

For someone locked into this mindset, blame is a common is a common thought, and people are not always ready to hear about their wrongs. If you try to help a teammate who is locked into a power struggle and blame them for not seeing the world with the clarity you currently posses, you are only pointing toward more blame, and you are likely to become a target for the blame they are hurling at the matters of the world in front of them.

If you are seeing the mind over matter world clearly, you will realize that you can’t make them understand what you know to be true. All you can do is to point in the right direction. As team members, we will all have off days, and as teammates and leaders we need to be ready to pick up our teammates without casting blame.

Instead of blaming them for being off, see if you can point in the right direction. Sometimes the best we can do is to say, “I’ve got you. I’m going to step up and make plays. Join me when you can.” You may not even need to say a word. Demonstrate your love with action. Point in the right direction by making a play with effort and enthusiasm.

Understand that while we live mind over matter, we don’t always remember that fact. Blaming someone for forgetting it is a losing battle.

The World Doesn’t Give a Sh!* about Your Should

A friend and I had an interesting conversation the other day. This friend lives by a strong ethical code. His moral compass points sharply and consistently. It’s part of what makes him very good at his job and a number of other endeavors.

Codes are not laws of the universe. Codes are ideas and principles that describe what should happen for societies and cultures to run smoothly. Codes are necessary, but they can also be a personal source of misery.

“The world doesn’t give a shit about your should,” I told my friend, pointing to the fact that the laws of the universe and human nature don’t behave according to what he thinks should happen.

He laughed. He knew it was true.

Look, I’m not suggesting you should change your codes. Societies, cultures, organizations, teams, families, and individuals should codes. I’m simply pointing out that if you believe the rest of the world is going to conform to your code or even care about it, you might be in for some self-created misery.

If you try to map your code of what should have happened onto what exists, you are in for a particular brand of misery. What has happened and what exists are perfect expressions of the conditions that preceded them. If you want change, do what you can right now to bring about the new conditions you desire. Wishing away what is for what should have happened won’t work and will only serve to increase your own misery.

Wishing away what is for what you believe should have happened is constricting. It takes the mind to another time and situation. It clouds perception. It closes off awareness to the possibilities that exist right now.

A recent example of this was Sergio Garcia’s play in the Masters on Sunday. After losing a 3 stroke lead to Justin Rose, the wheels appeared to be falling off his round. Matters appeared worse when he hit his 13th tee shot into an unplayable lie and had to take a penalty stroke.

In the past, Sergio would have blamed the world for not producing what he thought should have happened. Sunday, he told a different story.

“In the past, I would have started going at my caddie, “Oh, you know, why doesn’t it go through and whatever?'” He took a different approach Sunday. “I was like, ‘Well, if that was supposed to happen, let it happen. Let’s try to make a great five here and see if we can put a hell of a finish to have a chance. If not, we’ll shake Justin’s hand and congratulate him for winning.'”

With expectations that what happened was meant to happen, Sergio remained composed, stayed open to possibilities, and made a play. He saved par, made birdies on the next two holes, and went on to win his first major in a one-hole sudden death playoff (with a birdie no less).

What I love best about this story is that Sergio was prepared to give his best and accept the consequences even if they didn’t conform to what he wanted, what he believed should happen. This openness and acceptance creates clarity, freedom, and possibility. It is a sign of trusting yourself and the order of the universe.

You should give a shit about your should. Just don’t expect the world to return the favor.

There Are No Mistakes

Do not fear mistakes. There are none. 

-Jazz great Miles Davis


If you want to change or improve, belief is important.

If we see mind over matter as a power struggle we must win, we will often believe that matter is winning. We will believe toughness must be built. We will believe that we progress and regress constantly, at best moving slowly but steadily toward our goal destination in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

While this a reasonable view, it’s not necessarily accurate.

Matter is never winning. It just seems that way because our thoughts rise and fall like a roller coaster. This ebb and flow of thoughts creates different characteristics of thinking, and we project these characteristics onto the world we see in front of us.

Beliefs are certain type of thought. Beliefs are enduring thoughts that occur to us over and over across relatively long periods of time. Beliefs do not dictate our thoughts. We can be very inconsistent, but for the most part, beliefs endure.

If we believe mind over matter is a fact of our existence, which is an accurate belief as far as I can tell, it’s possible to see progression and regression as states of mind. Therefore, it’s possible to understand that there is no real progression or regression, rather, there are only changes in the way one is thinking in the moment.

While this might seem like a bland, neutral, vanilla position, it can actually be quite liberating and thrilling. Understanding the neutrality of the world can help free us from the belief that the world has shackled us with limits it imposes from the outside. Freeing yourself from the tyranny of matter can lead to breakthroughs.

Rather than believing there is a goal destination that will do something to us or for us (this is a matter over mind belief), you can see goals within each moment, what I like to call plays to be made. When we live with an accurate understanding of our mind over matter existence, we can see plays to be made every second of every day. This is not bland at all, and indeed can be quite awe inspiring.

As our experience progresses and we make play after play after play (sometimes missing them but always remembering another play to be exists right now), we improve (based on outside perspectives such as a scorecard or scoreboard), sometimes dramatically.

When we don’t improve based on outside perspectives, if we give in to matter over mind, we start to buy into the power struggle and see ourselves as losing . While we sometimes thrive on this challenge, we sometimes see it as a daunting struggle we can’t win.

If we understand our mind over matter existence, we will begin to see that lack of improvement is simply a projection of our own thoughts. If we can do this, we are more likely to value each experience for what it is. This is where the idea, “We learn from our mistakes,” comes from, and if we extend that outward, we might arrive at the conclusion, “There are no mistakes.”

In a matter over mind world, we are oppressed or rewarded by the outside world. In a matter over mind world, we are at its mercy or benevolence. In a mind over matter world, we are free to make of it what we can. Imagine what might be possible if you knew there were no mistakes and focused on doing what you can in each moment.

It’s Not Fair

Yesterday my daughter sent me a picture of an answer she wrote on one of her school assignments. The assignment posed the question, “Is it fair?”

My daughter wrote in her answer to that question based on something she has heard me say dozens, if not hundreds, of times: “Fair has nothing to do with it.”

Truthfully, I use variations of this term. “What does fair have to do with it?”

“What’s fair about life?”

“Fair is for levels of Kool Aid you pour for your friends, nothing else.”

And so on.

When I posted a picture of her answer, I had friends and family chime in on their own favorite versions of this idea. My cousin noted a line from Dirty Harry, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

A friend who is a coach noted he often says something like, “The fair is in July with fattening food, scary rides, and lots of games….that’s the fair. This is life.”

We all seem to have our own version of how we explain that life isn’t fair, and we all seem to get it. Fair has nothing to do with life. At some point, instead of seeking fairness, most of us who get along pretty well evolve past fair to reasonable, sensible, just, correct, and other more applicable terms for life.

At the heart of the matter, most of us probably want some version of fairness, but our own version should really be titled My Way. Sometimes, like when pouring Kool Aid, when our level reaches our friends’ levels, we are cool with stopping. Other times, we believe we deserve more, or we simply want more. We see ourselves as deserving; therefore, we believe it would be reasonable, sensible, just, correct….fair…..for us to have what we want.

Unfortunately, reasonable, just, deserved, and correct often don’t have anything to do with life either. Perhaps the best we can realize is that life is perfectly aligned for the results it gets.

If you want change, you will have to change. Change yourself. Get better. Get more active. Get out of your own way. Show more love to others. Show more kindness. Give more. Help more. Seek reasonable, sensible, just, deserved, and correct for others. If you do, you are changing the system that is currently aligned against what you want.

I have to remind myself of this every day. Sometimes, changing the system means I need to get better. Other times, my actions are certainly good enough, and change simply means I need to get different. At all times, fair, reasonable, sensible, just, deserved, and correct have nothing to do with it. That’s life.

Make Plays Today

The more I think about our lives, specifically our thoughts, feelings, actions, and how it all works together, the more cohesive things appear. Sometimes this seems to be a complicated process, but it really isn’t. If I am not explaining it simply, then I am simply not doing my job well enough. Feel free to let me know when you think that happens.

One of the things that gets lost sometimes is my main overarching theme: Making the play.

Here is the gist: There are plays to be made every moment of every day. Make one.

Then make another one. Then make another. When you miss one, don’t dwell on it. Realize another is available and make it.

Some plays will seem like they are for you. Some will seem like they are for others. Some will be in sports. Some will be in education. Some will be in business. Some will be in rest and relaxation. They are all plays of your life, and they all hold some importance and influence, sometimes more than we first believe.

Be alive with action and make plays today. Get after it with a reckless enthusiasm.

The (Probable) Power of Positive Thinking

I’m a big fan of positive thinking. Why? It feels good. It’s as simple as that. However, I’m only a fan of teaching others about positive thinking if it’s done the right way. Unfortunately, I don’t consider most of what I see these days as teaching it the right way. So let me give it a shot. After hearing this explanation, I haven’t had one person say they used positive thinking less or less effectively, and the majority of people have actually been relieved to hear this view of positive thinking.

There is no doubt in my mind that positive thinking feels good; however, there is one catch. We aren’t always capable of it. Sometimes we seem to be tethered to a type of low mood or mindset. This is inevitable and not to be feared. Momentarily being incapable of positive thinking is a completely normal, natural state.

Now, I hope you are asking a question: Why wouldn’t we be capable of it? Two reasons. One, positive thinking simply isn’t in our thoughts all the time. Occasionally, we are preoccupied with something else. It’s inevitable. Two, sometimes we can think of something positive, but we have a hard time believing it. In other words, we don’t trust the positive thought or we are momentarily trusting a negative one more.

For many people, they hear about the power of positive thinking, and they go out and try it. Sometimes it works great right off the start, and other times it doesn’t work for people. For those who find it works right off the start, they are often let down later and become confused when it doesn’t always work. I have found that this is especially true if they’ve been taught, “It’s really easy. All you have to do is think positively, and all your dreams will come true!”

Often when people believe the power of positive thinking is always supposed to work they believe they are broken or weak if they can’t use it all the time. This belief that they are broken or weak feels terrible, and they often resort to what I call kicking their own ass for being weak or broken. Kicking ones own ass for believing oneself weak or broken feels even worse than just being weak or broken.

Now, in future posts and (hopefully) videos I want to explain more about why the power of positive thinking is variable, but for now, I hope it is enough to say we aren’t always at our best mentally. This is normal. The up and down ebb and flow of thought is completely normal and inevitable.

Sometimes a good positive thought simply won’t occur to you (just as sometimes you lose your keys, forget a name, etc.). When the capability returns, and it will return, you will be back to feeling better.

Other times, you will simply be down and won’t even believe the positive thoughts that appears in your thoughts. Some people have learned to stick with it in this situation and fake it until they make it, but I have found that for me the best I can do is to understand that the down period of my thinking won’t last. It never does. My capability to put positive thoughts in my head and believe them always returns. Always. Knowing that the power of positive thinking will return is freeing and reassuring even in my lowest moments.

Finally, one last observation on positive thinking. You do not need to be capable of your best thinking to be an excellent performer, and this is true even for mental tasks. Performance is deeper than positive thinking alone, and if you understand that you can perform excellently under less than optimal positivity, you will gravitate toward higher levels of consistent excellence. If you doubt that you can perform excellently even when experiencing negativity, keep this in mind: Because we are all susceptible to the ebb and flow of thought, the only alternative to this belief (that you can perform excellently even when experiencing negativity) is to spend time believing, “I can’t do it now. I really can’t.” I doubt if too many high performers spend much time dancing with this thought. High performers understand that they are truly capable of greatness even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment.

Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you turn toward chronic negativity, just don’t sweat it when you aren’t momentarily thinking at your best. You can still be great.

In summary, use the power of positive thinking when you can, and don’t kick your own ass when it momentarily doesn’t occur to you or doesn’t work for you. Trust that it will return. It always does. And trust that you can be great even when momentarily down. If you understand this, you will maximize the effectiveness of your possible positive thinking.

The Right Thing To Do

I thought about writing this post early in the day, and then something that happened later in the morning (Friday 2/10/17) that sealed it. I was talking with a very successful young man, and he essentially said this:

“I am just trying to be a good person, not for what people will think or say about me, but because it is the right thing to do.”

If you are doing something for a thank you or recognition, it’s probably not the best reason. I’m not suggesting you aren’t doing a good deed or that you are selfish. We all like thanks and recognition. I’m just suggesting that the good deed should be enough. If you try to impose your personal shoulds and musts on the rest of the world, you are probably going to create a lot of misery for yourself.

To save yourself some pain and still be a great person, don’t do anything for thanks or recognition. Do it because it is the right thing to do. Make the plays because they are there, and you love making them, not because of what they will get you.