Momentum

Momentum

Things are normally so busy and crazy in our lives. Work all day, run errands, pick up the kids, take them to after school practice, head home to make dinner, do homework, do some late evening work, get mad at the news, them more random stuff… 

Along the way getting through our day we make so many small decisions, talk with a lot of different people, interact with the world in such a hurried state. How many times have you gotten an email reply from someone who, you just knew, didn’t read the whole thing? You asked 2-3 questions and they just answered the first one. You KNOW they read it on their phone and couldn’t slow down long enough to actually reply thoughtfully.

Maybe you’re like me a lot of the time, you’re with someone but not really there. They’re talking to you, but you’re thinking about 100x other things… never to actually remember what the two of you discussed?

Not good…

Let us not be confused
With kaleidoscopic reality.
Using wisdom and courage to act,
Let us not add to the confusion.

Taoist Poem

I’ve often found myself becoming a victim to my day. Being the object and not the subject of my own story. Getting caught up in all the crap I have to do, blaming things externally “happening” to me. Like, i’m just a leaf floating down the river and it’s up to the river if things are slow or fast, smooth or rough.

Learning to act in the “right” way; the way that keeps us moving forward with positive momentum, is really freaking tough. Keeping centered and continuing to make progress on our goals and personal achievements can seem downright impossible. Being present with those we love and actually listening while still keeping your life on schedule…

Can it all happen at the same time?

No it can’t.

But, that’s okay.

It’s enough to make you just want to hide out and do nothing. To shut down.

Sometimes you get the “just get off your butt” speech or see those inspirational meme posts all over your feed that make life seem like it’s so easy and you should already be halfway done with whatever you’re working on. Well, “F’ that… #amirite?

We do have to take action to make things happen… things won’t magically figure itself out… that said, though, we have to do it in the right way.

Have you ever talked to someone who has been consistently personally successful in their life? Someone who has worked hard for what they have and have been able to keep it? The secret here is likely that they did act, and chances are good that they were deliberate in what they did to achieve their success.

This means they had a plan. It doesn’t have to be a Navy Seal quality plan. But a basic one. You need to think it through, just a little before you execute. I’ve always been big on ‘winging it’ – you know, making it up as I go along. Han Solo style. Thing is that shit works only 50% of the time, at best. 

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Don’t over-plan stuff though. You can create “Analysis Paralysis” for yourself. Just a rough outline will help. Like think about losing weight. I’m sure that’s one of those things on your to-do list of life. It’s on mine. Now if you get up in the morning and go from meal to meal with no plan, like you literally don’t know where you’re going to eat lunch or where your dinner will come from. Chances are good that one of those 3 meals in your day will come from a fast-food place. Not good… If you simply think about where your meals are going to happen, you can plan for it and make good choices BEFORE you are forced to make one because you’re hungry or running late in your day. You might even find you can get a few days ahead and prepare some meals you can take with you that are super healthy. It wouldn’t take much, just that little bit of planning will cut out 3-4 bad meals in your week and before you know it, it all adds up to a net-positive addition of 3-4 planned out healthy meals. No over-thinking, just some simple, low-stress planning.

Here’s a secret; When you act, the action must be a singular concept and be easy to understand. If whatever you are about to do is too complex to be a single act then you may be trying to work on too much at one time. Try breaking things down into a load you can carry, then you can tick off one win at a time. Big accomplishments in life are usually made up of many small victories strung together.

We cannot leave anything behind like bad outcomes or lingering traces of our actions such as: unhappiness, destruction, resentment or general sloppiness. If this is the case then your initiative was poorly approached. It was insufficient.

From the Hagakure a Samurai/Bushido text

I think you’d be surprised at how taking control of one small thing will lead to a larger wave of momentum. I know it’s easier said than done. You have to start somewhere, do something small, today, now. Get after it.

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Learn HOW to push through tough times by knowing WHY

Learn HOW to push through tough times by knowing WHY

There’s a secret to getting yourself to push through difficult situations and before you learn how, you’re going to need to know why.

“What have I gotten myself into?” I thought one day after a particularly lackluster day of training in preparation for my Blackbelt test. I mean, i’m doing all the things i’m supposed to be doing, I’m just not making any progress.

I felt like I was hitting a wall. I was pushing the overall volume of work to the limit. The test is 72 hours long, so I knew I would be facing really low points and times when I would need to push through when all I would want to do is quit and go home. I couldn’t seem to get my mind there. The turning-point for me was when I let myself down by “quitting” during a 12k race that I using as a “check-in” point to see how my training was progressing. I was starting to get really bummed out.

I needed to find my set-point…

I needed to revisit why I was doing all this…

MY WHY.

After that race I went back to the drawing board. I reset my training and got back to the basics. I also took one afternoon and wrote down “why” I was doing this. It was an exercise that I had read about a year earlier in the book The Way of the SEAL, by Mark Divine. It really helped me get things right in my mind. In it he asked me to sit quietly, practice my breathing, and think about the reasons why I was doing what I was doing. Then I was to write down a sort of “mission statement” about the reasons why I was doing what I was doing.

This was to become my “why”:

I will prove to my family that I will do what I say I will do. 
I will not give up and leave my training (& testing) partner on his own.
I will NEVER quit. I will FINISH what I start.

My “why” was set. I worked to keep this at the forefront of my mind as I went through the next few months of training. It started off taking real effort to focus on it, but as time passed it got easier and I found myself going to it more and more often.

As I kept this “mantra” top-of-mind, things got easier. Well, not necessarily physically easier, but mentally for sure. I also felt as though I could call upon deep reserves of energy and strength when I needed it. I began to train with a smile on my face and started to find the good in what I was doing.

I was now suffering for a reason. 🙂

During the Blackbelt test there were some dark times for sure. One point I remember vividly; I couldn’t see any way that I could complete the task I was given and Sensei was saying that if it didn’t get done by the time he said, to leave the Dojo… Thoughts of quitting, of giving up, started to creep in, but I went to my “why” immediately and thoughts of finishing the task took over. I was going to get this done, no matter what, I was doing this for more than just me now.

I know for a fact that if I had not determined why I was doing what I was doing that I would not have made it through that test.

There were also times that I was filled with fear. Like that first moment when I stepped out on the Dojo floor in front of 25+ Blackbelts who were there to determine if I passed of failed my test. They all have to unanimously agree that I am worthy before I will be awarded Shodan.It wasn’t for myself alone that I took that first step on the mats.

It was to prove to my family that I will finish what I start and it was for my brother-in-arms who was also walking into this test with me.

My “why” was with me the entire time, I went to it regularly. I know for a fact that if I had not determined why I was doing what I was doing that I would not have made it through that test.

Having a strong set-point and reason for being there fueled me like I could never have imagined before.

Find your set point. Find your why. Lean on it in tough times.

It’ll get you through.

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Earn Your Belt. Every Day.

Earn Your Belt. Every Day.

The Navy Seals have a motto; “Earn your Trident everyday”. There is no doubt that when you see that Seal Trident emblem on someone’s chest you know that they are a quality human being and you understand the ethos that stands behind what they do for a living and their commitment to excellence within that service.

The Navy Seal Trident — Hooyah!

I think about this a lot as a Blackbelt. At the end of each day I worry that I have not lived up to the standard that is implied with wearing that belt.

We must “sharpen the sword of excellence” every day, as one of my mentors Mark Divine would say. So what does it mean to be committed to a daily practice of creating excellence within ourselves and in our community. That seems like a really daunting task. And it is, I struggle every single day. Failing at it more than I succeed for sure.

Let’s examine a few short sections of the Seal creed:

Uncompromising integrity is my standard.

Living life, each day, with integrity takes discipline. Doing what’s right, even when no one is watching you. That’s hard. I ask myself all the time, did I do enough. If something goes wrong with a project at my job, I try to ask myself first; what did I do that made it go wrong. Taking personal ownership of the good is easy and fun but owning the bad is true integrity in my book.

My character and honor are steadfast.

Never flinching in the pursuit of integrity. Making it a priority in your daily activities and not settling for things when you could easily do them the easy way is key. Taking pride in what you do and doing it to the best of your ability will fill you with confidence. This one sucks the most, but it is this DNA that makes up who you really are.

My word is my bond.

Doing what you say you will do. No need to make a “promise”. Just do it. 
Do it because it’s what you said would happen, not because you promised or because you expect something in return. 
Just. Get. It. Done.

Show up on time. Have a good attitude. Putt in the effort. Bring energy to what you are doing. Share your passion. Be prepared. Be coachable. Do a little extra. Help others to succeed.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission.

This is probably my favorite part of the creed. Having both ego and no-ego.

Having enough belief in yourself that you feel confident taking charge of a situation and leading others to success and at the same time, when there are others leading, taking a backseat to them and letting them do their thing without critique (unless asked for.) Having true humility.

I lead by example in all situations.

I think about my two young sons a lot when it comes to leading by example. I want them to grow up to be honorable, hard working men. They will only do that if I exemplify those traits to them.

They learn by watching me, not by me telling them things. This is true for your teammates as well. If you run a team or work in a small or large group, others will follow your lead and respect you for putting your money where your mouth is when it comes time to dig in.


These are all things that will lead you down the path of living life as a true warrior.

My Sensei always tells people that Karate isn’t just about punching and kicking, but that it is about helping others and teaching others about the way.

I believe this, fully.

I want to live my life like this.

This is probably the ultimate in “easier said than done” and I do truly miss the mark with this every day trying to live my life this way. Every day is a challenge because the world (especially these days) is so full of negativity and differences of opinion and even violence in so many sad occasions.

The only failure is the failure to try. So I will try my best.

I am going to adopt this creed from the Navy Seals, but I am going to change it up just a little:

Earn Your Blackbelt. Every Day.

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Kaizen

Kaizen

I feel compelled to write this, I have to get it out of my head. I’ve been on a journey learning more and more about myself the past few months… Looking at myself in the mirror and exploring who I really am — even when no one is watching with a desperate aim to truly get better as a human being.

The story;

I was at a Martial Arts Seminar, i’ll keep the style and date un-named, because it doesn’t matter. I felt, what i’m pretty sure was, for the first time a level of snobbery in the Martial Arts that I have not yet come across. It was subtle and masked with the ego-less approach that most Martial Artists will bring to a conversation.

…but it was there

I was speaking to a gentleman, who is a high ranked teacher in the arts. He has a pretty full, impressive and diverse history as well.

Japanese Kanji for Kai-Zen

The style of Martial Arts I study; Karate, specifically; Zen Shotokai is made up of a mix of traditional forms. We practice Shotokan, Ishin Ryu and Shorin Ryu as well as Kobudo (Weapons.) We work & practice the traditional components that make up Karate; Kata, Kumite and Kihon we also, as students utilize Bunkai and Oyo as we teach and learn and also during general self-defense practice.

By all accounts and purpose we are a traditional Karate Dojo.

This gentleman and I were having a really great and insightful conversation about what we were watching at the seminar so far that day, I was enthralled by not only what he was saying to me but how he was talking to me. Then he asked me what I studied. So I told him and he immediately said to me that he did not like what I studied, that he didn’t understand why anyone would mix things on any level and that it was bad practice not to keep your style “pure”.

He then told me an anecdote. He said to imagine that you are given a tall glass of fresh, pure spring water and you begin to drink, which represents learning the pure martial art form, then what if he would drip into the water a single drop of oil, which represents something that is not directly a part of that martial art.

As he then proceeded to ask me questions about my study, every time he disagreed with what we did he would say “drop”, after a few questions he then said “tell me when you no longer want to drink from the glass of water.”

It’s a fine story in and of itself…

However, I immediately got angry.

Pretty sure I got a bit red in the face.

I felt insulted, I’m a Blackbelt after all, which represents something earned, something I worked very hard to achieve for several years.

I believe in it fully… and who is this guy to question the what, why and how I practice my art…?

Seriously…

Later as we were all back at the seminar and watching the attendees practice I tried to think about why I got angry, what was it that he said that got under my skin.

Was it that he was questioning the validity of what I do? The legacy of my Dojo? Or was it the manner of his delivery?

As I thought on it more, I came to realize it was more that my ego got bruised.

The reality is I don’t really know this person, we don’t train together, we certainly aren’t friends, i’ll probably never see him again and really what do I care about his opinion of me and the way I do things in my life.

I don’t need to compete with public opinion or his opinion.

I only need to compete with myself to get better each day I wake up.

If i’m being honest with myself, I allowed him to insult me, I allowed my need to impress another person be the cause for being insulted.

I don’t think he really meant to teach me the lesson I learned, but he did in fact teach me a good one that day.

He was right, I need to stay pure. I need to stay inwardly focused and look at myself with fresh eyes every day.

Get better even if it’s only just 1% each day.

Kaizen.

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Un-Mindfulness

Un-Mindfulness

In Karate there is a simple test to see if someone knows a Kata or not. You ask them a simple question like; “How many front stances did you just do?” If you get an answer promptly and confidently you know. If not, you also know.

Musashi

This is because when the student is practicing with mindfulness, they will not only just go through the motions of the Kata, but they will internalize it. They will then learn how to learn even when they are not “physically” practicing.

Still with me…?

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
 — Miyamoto Musashi — A Book of Five Rings

Going through the motions…

I do find myself just going through the motions almost every day. I hate it. Quite often I’ll sit back and be unable to reconcile how the week or month has already passed me by so dang fast. I mean, it’s almost the end of the year already. How did that happen?

I got to thinking about this…

I need to spend more time in contemplation. Resting physically but thinking through things mentally. Truly contemplating the meaning of things that happen or are about to happen. Not only for my business but my personal life and interactions with the world as well.

I need to understand why I react the way I do to things and get ahead of those reactions so I can understand how I am, by knowing what I am. This can be done by thinking outwardly about the world but at the same time keeping my focus inward.

In the well known Samurai tomb Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo the author postulates that it would be rare if you asked a Samurai about the true meaning of the way of the Samurai and got a quick and concise answer back:

Although it stands to reason that a Samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, “What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?” the person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one’s mind beforehand. From this, one’s unmindfulness of the Way can be known.

The Hagakure

Negligence of my own mindfulness is a real thing and something I do not spend enough time on. Even the most famous of the Samurai are guilty… we all have work to do apparently.

In the very least if I have experienced something whether positive or negative in my daily routine I should take a minute and just think on it. Find my perspective on how what happened or how I reacted fits with my core principles. Then move on.

Not dwell on it, but catalog it, contrast it and set my mind for the very next time something similar occurs. Find and stay in a “data collection” state instead of a “reactionary” state. Then use that data to learn and improve.

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Gratitude

Gratitude

Ever heard the saying that you can’t control what happens to you but you can control the way you respond to it?

That is a very real thing.

Let me tell you that I regularly suffer with negative thoughts. I am always thinking “why me” or “what next”. I get stuck in these negative mental loops and before I know it, it feels like the world is against me and I physically start to feel like crap.

Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life. 

 Tony Robbins

Something that I’ve started practicing is “Gratitude.” Turns out it takes a good deal of practice. Life is hard and it’s full of bullshit. However if you are waiting for something bad to happen, it will.

The idea here is to take a brief moment every day to just sit, breathe and try to think about things you are thankful for. You can spend just 5 minutes doing this and you’ll be well on your way to some serious self awareness and peace.

Don’t let the world “happen to you” be forward thinking and feeling so that you can shape the way you see and respond to things in your life with a positive spin.

Recent research performed in 2015 showed that patients with heart failure, who completed gratitude journals showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep and better moods thus dramatically reducing their symptoms heart failure after only 8 weeks. — https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-appreciation/

There is a story in the book Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, about a Samurai Warrior who, before going to sleep each night, meditated and visualized that all his belongings, friends and family were all completely consumed in a huge fire. He did this so that when he woke up the next morning he would see things with a grateful light. He would then go through his day just being happy that he had all of his loved ones and belongings returned to him.

Obviously this is an extreme example of practicing gratitude, but this story helps me think of other ways that I can cultivate gratitude in my life and try to live with a thankful mentality.

What are some things you are grateful for in your daily life?

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