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Defiant

Most people who know me well will testify to my great love for football, and one team in particular Manchester United. Excluding the relationship I have had with my immediate family that has been the longest and most rewarding relationship I have had in my life. This relationship dates back to the early 90’s when the the irresistible panache of one particular Frenchman turned out to be the catalyst to a relationship that has lasted the better part of the last two decades. That Frenchman is non other than Eric “The King” Cantona. Cantona was an eclectic and enigmatic character both on and off the pitch. He was also Manchester United’s talisman when they began their dominance of the English game. A dominance that has spanned almost the entire period I have supported the club. Today I won’t bore you with the details of the genesis of that relationship and how it has evolved over the years. Besides I have already written about before HERE.

For many years Manchester United the team have been synonymous with a consistent culture of having a ‘never say die’ attitude , winning against the odds and conjuring up those late and most dramatic of comebacks. This culture has in no small part been due to the stewardship and influence of one manager who was at the helm for 26 years. This man is Sir Alex Ferguson. During his reign as manager of Manchester United football club , the club witness unprecedented levels of success. As a result most of us, the supporters of the club have been relatively spoiled, only having to fleetingly deal with disappointment. The rest of the time it was glory after glory every other season. As a result for most supporters their loyalty or commitment to the club was never tested. The closest were the emotional roller coasters that characterised most of Manchester United’s biggest matches. During the course of 90 minutes you would often find yourself cussing and biting your nails one moment and the next screaming in ecstasy. But even then they almost always won in the end, often leaving right to the very last kick of the game. It had all the hallmarks of those intense relationships that give us our greatest moments of joy as well as take us to our lowest ebbs. It was a tumultuous relationship in the most beautiful and gratifying way. Things always worked out in the end.

This season has been the most challenging that Manchester United have had in a long time. At the end of last season Sir Alex Ferguson retired. At that point no one imagined the depths the club would sink to after he had vacated the manager’s position. The team is pale shadow of itself. It has lost more games than I care to remember and often in humiliating and humbling fashion. That “never say die” attitude seems to be a thing of the past. As a supporter this has proved tasking. It’s an unfamiliar position and there has definitely been a shift in the dynamic of the relationship. Manchester United is no longer just a source of unbridled joy and bragging rights come Monday morning. Of late it has only served to heighten the traditional existential angst of Monday.

Like is often the case when the is a shift in a relationship dynamic introspection has been necessary. And I have surprised even myself with the conclusions that have arisen from that. Like I mentioned earlier because of the success the team has enjoyed over the years it has been relatively easy for most supporters to continue investing their time and resources on all things Manchester United. So much so that other supporter’s of other teams have accused Manchester United supporters of being glory hunters. Whilst I agree that this season has been emotional taxing and disappointing there is one caveat. It has only served to remind me how much I love the team . They have been a source of so much joy over the years and now it’s time to stand by them even more now. There is no guarantee that things will get better, or that we will return to our former glory. But I do know this as in an serious and committed relationship we have in our lives you never walk away at the first sign of trouble. You stick through it. You never stop believing. And sometimes when you just need to clear your head and get some clarity you write about it.

It has been tempting to try and put on the blame on the new manager. And a case can be made against his ability to lead the team back to it’s form former glory but for me this has been purely about learning to love my team in difficult times something I haven’t always been able to always do in all my other relationships. It’s a necessary evil and hopefully I will be able to apply the lessons I am learning in other areas of my life.

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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Dream Team

I have got a story to share. It is about a sexagenarian who finally achieved her dream. A dream that had elude her for 35 years. Diana Nyad is a 64 year old American grandmother who earlier this week became the first person to swim across the Florida Strait without a shark cage. Her swimathon lasted for a total of 53 hours taking her from Florida to Cuba, a distance of 177km. What struck me about her story is that this was her fifth attempt in a period spanning 35 years. Her first attempt coming in 1977. During this first attempt she swam with a shark cage but only managed to cover a distance of 122km before the elements got the better of her. Her fourth attempt was in 2011. She had to abandon this after being stung twice by jellyfish as well as suffering an asthma attack.

Upon completing her swim and before collapsing in the arms of a friend with exhaustion she said “All my life, I don’t know where it came from, I believed in dreaming big. It doesn’t satisfy me to have small dreams and I can’t tell you what a big, big dream this is out here. It’s tough stuff.” She also had these simple nuggets of wisdom to share “I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.” That’s a perfect triad of advice for so much of what we aspire to do in life.

Her friend had this to say  about her achievement “ If you know Diana you would know that if the weather was classy, and there were no beasts she would be the person to do it. “ I found this interesting because it is an approach most of us take when it comes to our dreams. We believe that if everything is ‘perfect’ then our dreams are attainable. But life is hardly ever like that. On our way to achieving our dreams we will most likely face challenges and setbacks. We might even fail several times. And as in the case of Diana Nyad it might take us 35 very long years before we ever realise them. And sometimes

Therein lays the lesson. Anyone can have a dream. It is only the ones who never give up, the believers who will end up seeing out their dreams. Despite the naysayers who thought she was too old to complete the swim (and not just because of venomous jellyfish and the potential for fearsome sharks), Diana Nyad proved that persistence, willpower and fierce dedication to your dreams can trump age.

This story served as a timely reminder just coming after a period when I have suffered a few setbacks with my writing. I sent out a few pieces I had written in the hope that I would get some of them published. Unfortunately I wasn’t successful. I was discouraged and disheartened. Coincidentally, during Nyad’s swim, she mentally sang to herself the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” which includes these apt lyrics about persistence: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look? Anyway the voice of doubt in my head became louder and for a while I stopped writing altogether. I gave up. I shared this experience with one of my close friends recently. This friend is brother to my dreams, as I am to his. He said to me” Stay at it man, you have just got to keep knocking on those doors. Truth be told, you might even get more no’s, just remember the NO is not an absolute, think of it more like not right now”

As Diana Nyad pointed out  it “takes a team.” It’s critical to have encouraging mentors, networking contacts, colleagues, family members and friends who can encourage you and suggest ideas to help you succeed. For example, after each try, Nyad consulted with experts on how best to finish the swim the next time. After her attempt two years ago was foiled by an asthma attack, she invited a pulmonologist to join her 35-member support team.

Diana Nyad’s words suggest that although swimming is a deeply solitary pursuit, even athletes like her rarely accomplish their goals alone. And that’s another important lesson that we can all pick up from Diana Nyad’s swim. Most of are ill prepared to deal with and recover from failures and setbacks when we are still trying to achieve our dreams. We don’t have a Plan B, when Plan A fails. We are even afraid to share our dreams or ask for help. So while your dream might seem like a solitary pursuit, you will most likely need a “dream team” to achieve it.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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