You can only win the game you’re playing

Sprout’s soccer season is over. We made it!

She was playing on an Under-8 team: 4-on-4 with no goalies. It was her first team of any kind, and the first time I ever coached a sport.

My qualifications? Glad you asked:

  • I was a parent of a child in the league
  • I have successfully directed one youth theater production
  • I played more than one full season of FIFA 64 when I was in high school
  • I was willing to do it

So I did some homework on drills and strategy. Asked other parents for advice. Quickly watched Ted Lasso. Bought some colorful cones for practices.

Then we lost every game.

Don’t act surprised.

After those first few losses, I felt like I was doing them a disservice. The other teams were punishing. And some of the coaches encouraged their kids to rub it in our faces.

I wasn’t about to go down that road and try to respond in kind. The world has too many toxic sports parents already, thanks.

I stopped attaching my sense of success from the win-loss record, and it got easier to focus on what could help them.

If I only pushed them to win, it would’ve meant the only way to have fun would be to win.

There was no Gordon Bombay moment coming. I stopped looking for it.

Instead, I motivated them to get back up when they fell. To line back up as fast as they can if the other team scores a goal. To care more about the next point than the final score.

Here’s how we ended the season:

  • The team had fun
  • The parents told me they were glad their kids had a nice coach this year who kept things positive instead of the jerks they saw coaching other teams
  • Several players had their best performances in the final games, even when we were losing
  • Sprout actually wants to play again next season

So no, I’m not going to get any offers from the Premier League. I played the game that made sense to me, and it turned out pretty well.

The last few days I’ve worked on revisions in Google Docs and Highland 2 for different projects.

You get an expected word salad on your screen when collaborating on a virtual document that tracks changes. It takes a few extra moments to parse what you’ve actually written. Small changes can have outsized influence, interfering with the legibility of a sentence or paragraph. But I can get past that pretty quickly.

Even when the markup is more subtle, like the revision mode in Highland, there’s a false sense of security that comes from looking at something that shows you what you’ve changed.

“Oh, I already revised there. It’s probably solid enough.”

When I used to print drafts out and mark them up in pencil before heading back to the keyboard, the friction of looking between two separate documents made me re-evaluate every change. I always found more tweaks and changes I wanted to make.

I’m not about to call for abolishing digital revision tracking — It makes remote collaboration possible.

Still, additional friction helps me slow down and make sure I haven’t missed an opportunity to put my best work forward. I appreciate that.

The conspiracy believer in your home

Sean Donnelly’s mother got sucked into the world of QAnon conspiracy theories, so he made a little video about it, including documenting some bets he made with her about whether or not Biden would still be in office 3 months after the inauguration or if Tom Hanks & Oprah would soon be arrested for pedophilia. Remember when Baby Boomers were all concerned that the internet was going to be harmful for their Gen X and Millennial children and grandchildren? And now all these Boomers are getting brainwashed by Facebook and Fox News?

QAmom via

I see a lot of distressing things in this short video.

The way that the family of this woman are stuck in a position of treating her complete separation from reality as a quirk or something to avoid talking about. She’s something to work around.

The way that even when there are consequences for believing things that are patently false, she holds fast to those beliefs and the identity that comes with them.

The knowledge that there are people like this in so many families across the country. Families struggling with how to live with delusional members who need more than a quick fix to rejoin the world around them.

There’s a kind of mourning that happens when the person is still there, but the person you knew them to be is gone. Maybe forever.

What to do with a blog

When it comes to a(my) blogging method for writing longer, more synthetic work, the traditional relationship between research and writing is reversed. Traditionally, a writer identifies a subject of interest and researches it, then writes about it. In the (my) blogging method, the writer blogs about everything that seems interesting, until a subject gels out of all of those disparate, short pieces.

Cory Doctorow, The Memex Method

This post got me thinking about sharing more on the blog and less on social media. If I’m interested enough in something to want other people to see it, it makes sense to post it somewhere it will stick around and connect to other ideas.

It also reminds me of two quotes I keep in Highlighted:

“Talking to yourself can be useful. And writing means being overheard.”

Zadie Smith, Intimations

You can’t put a tweet on a shelf. Things stick around for a reason.

Jonathan Safran Foer

It also gets me thinking about Bean Dad (sorry to remind you about that).

How does the tool address the task? What do I accomplish sharing something on social media instead of here?

It’s all got me thinking.

Re-starting the chain

I try to meditate every day. Sometimes I don’t. The other day I had reasons for why it just didn’t happen, and I broke a 90 day streak.

I’m supposed to feel bad, right? That’s what a lot of people tell you — That if something is important to you and you don’t do it every day, without fail, then maybe it’s not actually important to you and you’re bad at it.

But look at what one missed day really means.

Here’s one week.

You see the missing day, and that 1/7 (or 14%) looks meaningful.

It’s not a majority. It’s not even a plurality of my week.

But it looks like something to take note of.

Until you look at the view from one month and three months back.

At one month, it looks like a big dip. Remember how I said I had a 90 day chain going?

Now pull back to three months, and you can barely tell where the dip is. It’s just one small curve on a fairly smooth line.

Then look at six months of records.

That dip furthest to the right? That’s the missing day.

It’s nowhere near the biggest dip on this chart. It’s not significant in any real way.

Now look at a full year of keeping track of my meditation:

That single missed day? That’s nothing. Barely worth noticing.

Thinking back to how even the best professional baseball players have “low” batting averages, this looks like further evidence toward the point that there’s value in being gentle to yourself and setting realistic expectations.

Discipline for the sake of discipline isn’t a virtue.

A single bad day or bad portion of a day comes out in the wash.

Executing on the purpose of the habit can be just as meaningful on executing on the habit itself. I don’t meditate to unlock a trophy in my meditation app. I do it because it helps ground me, and it’s part of how I do the work of surviving with depression. The product of the habit is a better version of me.

There’s a world of difference between giving up on a habit and its benefits versus letting go of the compulsion to keep up a habit at any cost when you have a need to give yourself space for other things.

It’s part of why I like James Clear’s take on missing days from a habit:

Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.

Atomic Habits