Remember that you are but a man…

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four of five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

~Brandon Lee, 1965-1993

Mastery over self includes the wading into the depths of the existential, the mysterious, the spiritual. It also includes coming to grips with things that are inevitable and beyond your control. And sometimes, like contemplating the subject of your death, they cover all of the aforementioned depths at once.

Death is certain; inevitable for every living thing on this planet. It is by and large out of our control. It is mysterious, spiritual and by it’s very nature existential. We all must face the understanding of our own inescapable passing, or avoid it and try to put it out of our minds until the very end.

Self Mastery dictates we face it, and face it long before it happens.

I’m obviously not the first person in the long line of humanity to have these thoughts. So, while these might be my thoughts, I understand that the majority of them are not “original” by any stretch of the imagination.

 

I planted some seeds for this post on mortality in “Eulogy” and in my more recent post regarding transformation.

So, let’s begin.

Memento Mori

 


First, Memento Mori has gained a lot of traction over the last few years. It is being brought back into the consciousness of the culture and I think that is a good thing. The saying might be new to you, but I’ve seen it popping up in so many places.

My first introduction to the phrase itself was from an article over at The Art of Manliness back in 2012. Here is a small excerpt from that article, giving the brief background of the phrase itself:

Memento mori is Latin for “Remember death.” The phrase is believed to originate from an ancient Roman tradition in which a servant would be tasked with standing behind a victorious general as he paraded though town. As the general basked in the glory of the cheering crowds, the servant would whisper in the general’s ear: “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!” = “Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”

Memento mori. Remember that you will die.

Memento Mori, Remember that you will die.

Indeed. It is in the remembering that I think the challenge lies. Which is why we need reminders. The very reason I got that tattoo pictured above was to have a constant reminder that I am choosing to understand, contemplate and face my inevitable death now instead of coming to terms with it later in life. As we understand something, that understanding changes, develops and hopefully ripens and gets better with age. This is my goal, my aim with death. That by the time it comes, my understanding has gotten better with the days, years and decades that will hopefully pass before I die.

If you think about it, your life is like a movie. What I mean by that is you only see it from your lense, your particular camera angle. No matter how emphathetic you believe you are. You literally cannot see the scenes in your life play out through someone else’s eyes. You can only witness everything that happens from your seat in the theater, like a fully interactive movie experience built for one.

I am fully aware and recognize that I will die one day; my movie will end. It is the way of this world and I accept that. At the same time, I find myself still having those, “Oh shit! I’m going to fucking die!” moments.

Some questions come to mind when I think of the possible endings of my movie.

  • What will I see when death comes?
  • Will I be able to grasp/comprehend that I am dead?
  • What happens to my consciousness?
  • Will “I” live on?
  • Will my consciousness live on for a few moments after death and then fade?
  • Will “I” just cease to be completely?
  • What if this life is all there is, and then nothing?
  • What if there’s more to come? What will I see on the other side?
  • Why do we not have 100% proof either way?

I’ve played a mental exercise regarding my death multiple times. The scene is usually me on my death bed, breathing my last. In my mind I am trying to picture what happens next, but I’m only left with a black curtain. As I am mortal, I haven’t the luxury of peering through the Void.

My consciousness fades to black.

My physical body is now as inanimate and non-sentient as a coffin nail.

There is no “me” anymore. I do not and cannot even comprehend it, I’m just… gone.

All my thoughts, desires, dreams, my essence, my “soul”… gone.

Just…nothing.

Everything that is “me” has crossed the event horizon, spaghettifying into the black hole of mortality and death in the blink of an eye… forever.

“I” remain only in the memory of those that remain.

Daily Stoic has a great, short piece on this exact thing. Literally short enough to include in it’s entirety:

It’s scary to think that we will someday die. What of our family, we think? What of our possessions, our potential, and our plans? Death in this way, is a great loss. The poet Lucretius described it in haunting language: “Never again will your dear children race for the prize of your first kisses and touch your heart with pleasure too profound for words.”

What we forget, of course, is pointed out in the next line. “You will not care, because you will not exist.” Jack London, speaking like a Stoic, has an equally clever and profound line. With death, he says, man “does not lose anything, for with the loss of himself, he loses the knowledge of loss.”

Nothing after death is the most haunting and most liberating thought to me, leaning more on the haunting side than liberating. What’s funny to me is, for the most part, the same reasons it is liberating are the same reasons it is haunting.

All I have ever known, is my own personal movie, and contemplating that sort of emptiness is hard to grab a hold of. I don’t want that movie to end. I want more. You don’t feel, think, nothing. You are just gone. You will not exist. We get this small little vapor of life as sentient beings able to grasp, think and wrestle with complex thoughts… and then it’s all gone… with no meaning.

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Dying in many respects, is a leap of faith.

I’ve spent the majority of my early teens through adult life as a Christian. I’ll be thirty-eight in just under a month. The whole of the Christian faith hinges on a Resurrection: Life after death of the Savior. And if there wasn’t a Resurrection and if there is no resurrection for the believers, like the Apostle Paul said, we are the sorriest and most pitiable of creatures**. I still believe that the Christian faith holds merit, but if compared to the whole majority of my Christian friends and family – or even myself five years ago – I’m practically an atheist. Like the boy in “The Polar Express”, I want to believe. But, for both our sakes I won’t unpack that box here.

**I’m going off memory here. You get the gist. Save your time, I don’t need a deep theological exegesis on the nuances of the scripture/s I paraphrased.

Faith – or lack thereof – not withstanding, I find it hard to accept that death would be the end.

Maybe its cognitive bias or some other form of bias on my part. But, we are sentient beings, conscious and self-aware. God-like in our potential for thinking, creating, destroying and reproducing. Demon-like in our potential to scorch the earth in tragedy, bloodshed, despair and destruction.

We humans have so many spiritual like qualities that makes us “us” in our spirit, soul, and/or consciousness, it is hard to accept that it would just end. With so many examples of life in a cyclical nature and so many other examples of transformation where there is a kind of death and a newer life comes from it, it is hard to accept that we would not transform yet again in some way.

Action

Regardless of whether life will end at death or continue on in some other way, we are still left with a decision to make.

We can’t sit on our ass and waste the time away.

We must decide what to do with the time we have here, right now. It is seen so much on social media, inspirational quotes and memes, motivational videos and the like that it has become white noise, despite the truth it holds: You only have this one life.

We have been given a small sliver of time on this amazing planet.

The only solution is to make the best of it, yes?

The only solution is to embrace this life, yes?

 

Search yourself, we, all of us, make space for what is truly a priority in our lives. We constantly complain about not enough time or money for the higher things in life yet all one needs to do in order to know what our real priorities are, is to take a look at what people will make time for or spend their money on.

Human nature is fairly simple sometimes.

I was going to try and wax eloquently in this action section regarding living your passions, etc. However, there is a lot of that out there and without the conviction of mortality, I think much of it is just white noise.

So I will just end this post with these last four short sentences.

 

You will die.

It is coming.

It could be today.

Act accordingly.

 

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BJJ White Belt: First Stripe

It’s been about two months since I started the path of learning Brazilian Jiu-JitsuGoing forward, I’ll be writing a series of “BJJ White Belt” posts mixed in with what I write here at In Pursuit of Mastery. I figure it would be cool to document the journey from a white belt perspective.

For those farther along the path it might help remind them of the “good ole days” of being a white belt or maybe even rekindle the fire if things have gotten “blah” in their training. For me, I know that I’ll be able to look back on these posts and see where I’ve come from.

 

So yeah, the title of the post? That happened last Monday, 05/08/2017.

For those who don’t have any martial arts background, stripes on a belt basically indicate progression along the way to the next rank or belt. Depending on the system a stripe can mean anything from a quarter, a third or even halfway to the next level. For example, in another life I studied Tae Kwon Do (ITF) for about eleven years. In that system, a stripe was the halfway mark to the next belt. From what I understand in BJJ, a white belt earns four stripes before being close to eligibility for testing the next belt.

Monday night was a great session, ending like we do most nights with some rolling. I was dripping sweat and lining up with my fellow students for dismissal. I noticed our Coach, Shane, had grabbed the tape he uses for stripes on belts. Like most systems I’ve encountered, the white stripes are usually medical tape (some use electrical tape as they come in various colors). I’m thinking to myself, “Cool, somebody might be getting a stripe tonight, wonder who it is?” And then he walks up to me!

It was an awesome feeling: surprise, acknowledgement, accomplishment and a little sprinkling of pride (the good kind) all rolled into one.

From talking with him after it all went down, our Coach looks for certain indicators in our progression before giving that first stripe out. For the sake of intellectual honesty, the thought had crossed my mind within the past week about “when” I’d get that first stripe but, I also figured that I was at least another month from getting there.

So, it definitely came earlier than expected and I am grateful to have earned it. Like my Coach has said, it is really about your own journey in this art. You can look to others as markers and examples, but you can’t necessarily compare yourself to them. In many ways, it is you vs you. Improving daily, weekly, monthly. One step at a time. Am I better than I was yesterday? Last week? Last month?

Me VS ME: that is definitely something I can relate to.

As far as BJJ is concerned. There is improvement, a little bit at a time. Things are beginning to click, a little bit at a time. My defense is getting a little bit better. I’m a little bit more aware of what’s going on around me, even if it is a case of, “Now what the fuck do I do?!?”. I’ve been able to successfully execute a move or two that we’ve practiced earlier in class before getting into some live rolling. For me, the exciting part of that was actually finding the opening, “Ah, there it is!” and getting it done.

I still feel like a fish out of water most times, but I feel like I’m flopping closer to the water than I was before.

I’m still loving it.

I enjoy the balance that our Coach places between getting many reps in on a move we’ll work that night and on stress testing it with live rolling. This helps me see how important it is to find the harmony between the two so I get the mechanics of the move down and also understand how it can or can’t work in a roll, especially when your partner knows what you are trying to do.

I’m enjoying through both personal experience and witnessing in real time, how there is a place for strength, but also a place for technique. I can see now from just a little “inside view” why BJJ blew up the UFC and changed the game completely. So much goes into this, body mechanics, positioning, leverage, etc.

I’ve noticed how strategy can and is a big factor. Many…many times I’ve been sidetracked by my coaches or a senior student with what I thought was the “attack” only to be baited or flanked into the real trap. Humbling, eye-opening and fucking brilliant. Again, keep in mind, this is just a new white belt speaking. I know I’ve got a way to go.

Going forward, I’m currently rethinking/retooling my weight training and conditioning programs. I think I am on the right track but I still feel something is missing so I’ll have to play with it a bit and do some fine tuning. I also either need to find a way to put a hard drive in my brain to playback what I’ve learned, or start taking notes. I think the notebook would be easiest…

I’ll get there.

Pursue Mastery. One step at a time.

Acta Non Verba

“A good man doesn’t go around begging people to believe in his goodness. His actions and behavior speak for him.” ~C.H.

As the Scripture goes, “by their fruit you shall know them”. Actions and behavior, these things prove what you are about; these are the fruits of what you really believe or value. You can emote, prattle on and make convincing cases about all the things you believe or support and the positions you take. But without corresponding action, it doesn’t really matter.

Men. Fucking. Do.

Acta Non Verba. Actions not words. Like it or not, this is the plumb-line. You’ve heard it a million different ways: Talk is Cheap. Put up or Shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk the walk. Prove it.

If you pause and listen to all the talk around you from your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc., and compare what they say versus what they do, you can very quickly make assessments as to who is full of shit. Their behaviors and actions prove what they are really about. This is very disruptive, I know, because talk is always the easier and more comfortable path. It’s disruptive because it is the wind that will cause our house of cards to tumble and be scattered. Politics, Religion, Work, Relationships, Passions, Hobbies, Businesses, etc… all of these and more are weighed by what you do over what you say. Well, except maybe politics and religion, people seem to eat up massive amounts of bullshit in this area before calling leaders out on what they actually do… but I digress.

Acta Non Verba not only sifts the wheat from the chaff, but it can actually help us find the harmony in our own beliefs as well. Notice, I said harmony and not balance. Balance is like a see-saw with no motion. Harmony is more like two people working in cooperation with each other on that see-saw. The tides ebb and flow, bands and orchestras work together, peoples and tribes find a way to create civilization. It is all more harmony than balance. Applying Acta Non Verba helps find the harmony by prioritizing and executing; sifting through and finding the most important things and then acting on them first.

I’ve been putting Acta Non Verba into action in my own life over the last few years; taking inventory of what I do versus say and focusing on the doing more than saying. And if I don’t do then I shut the fuck up. It is a great reminder to continually strive to become a better man. To show, through my consistent actions and behaviors, the kind of man I am and am becoming. Talk is cheap. Actions have value.

No more, “I’m gonna do…”. No more, “I’m planning on doing…”. No more, “I should do…”

No more. NO MORE.

“Talk – Action = ZERO”

There is much more that could be unpacked here, but I am trying to keep my posts shorter and to the point.

ACTA. NON. VERBA.

Pursue Mastery.

 

Ingredients of Transformation

Some of this may seem obvious. Hell, all of it might. However, this is part of pursuing mastery. Mastery isn’t just about learning more and more things and having a shitty understanding or ability to execute on them just because you have reached a certain level. No, Mastery is about refining. Perfecting the understanding, the execution of the basics and applying that level of mastery to each area.

There are three key ingredients in order for transformation to take place: time, struggle and change. Unlike a progression of steps, these things work in harmony with each other. It might seem obvious, but if time is cut short, the transformation isn’t what it should be. If there is no struggle, the transformation will not keep. If there is no change, the transformation did not happen. For lack of a better word, there is work involved in the transformation and if these three elements of work are not present, the transformation is stunted at best and completely non-existant at worst.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these ingredients.

Time 

Time is our most precious commodity.

I’ve said it many, many times in one form or another: our shared destination is six feet underground – or a pile of ash, the choice is yours, possibly. Regardless of the final destination of our bodies, we are going to die. Full stop.

Time is precious. Memento Mori. Some of us realize the value of this early on, some only realize it when it is close to expiring. We want our lives to be better, our families whole, our bodies to look good, our marriages repaired. The flaw we usually share is that we want the results RIGHT-THE-FUCK-NOW!! We don’t want to be inconvenienced with a time factor holding us back from what we want.

But it doesn’t work that way. (reread this as many times as you need to)

Time is crucial to the process of transformation, it is a requirement that must be met. There is a price to be paid. The “cost” depends on the kind of transformation taking place. In transforming a business, a relationship, in recreating a brand, none of it happens overnight. We don’t have the same rules as fairy tales. I cannot waive a magic wand or say some incantation and have what I desire.

Like it or not, time is the price. But this payment is an investment, not a squandering of resources.

You might as well embrace this truth.

Time is part of the struggle.

Struggle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~Frederick Douglass

Take a look at the examples of transformation in the natural world: plant, animal, mineral or human. There is the factor of time, time overlaps the entire process, and there is a struggle.

Struggle is 100% necessary to the process.

Prices must be paid. Those things that come to us easily with little to no price to pay usually aren’t as highly valued as something you have poored blood, sweat, tears and time into. You can deny it all you want, but it doesn’t change this universal rule that if it hasn’t been worked for, fought for, bled for… their is little value.

Further, the struggle must be complete. It cannot be stopped prematurely or aided where struggle is no longer a factor. Like a bird breaking out of it’s shell or a baby giraffe learning to walk, that struggle is helping forge the survival instinct. If that animal is assisted, that instinct is stunted; not fully developed.

Go to Instagram and type in the hashtag #transformation, pay special attention to the pictures that show progressions over time. I’m talking about the pictures that document one, two, or five years of progress. They have fought, they have struggled, they have paid the price over time. “Sticking with it” is part of that struggle. This is where time can take its toll. Persistance can and will beat resistance. Whether it is in relationships, business, physical fitness, you name it. Continually striving to improve, push forward and staying with it, even when you are hitting the plateaus where nothing seems to work. That is part of the struggle.

Change

You are human, you are not an immovable statue of granite. For better or worse, both time and struggle will change you. The kind of change and transformation that takes place is entirely up to you.

In the context of what I’ve been writing, we are speaking of intentional transformation. As you intentionally put in the time, the effort, the struggle, the transformation will begin to take hold. Maybe you are trying to change certain mindsets you have, maybe you are trying to improve your health, or change the branding of your business. All of these things take time and effort.

If the transformation isn’t happening, check the factors of time and struggle. Has enough time passed? Are you doing the work? Is it the right kind of work for the transformation you seek?

Apply patience for the time that is needed and endurance for the work and struggle.

Pursue Mastery.

 

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Promethean Fire

I get asked, “Tom, how do you stay motivated?” at least once a month. Somehow, I give the impression that I am a nuclear reactor of full of motivation, sunshine and unicorns. I give the impression that it is easy.

It’s not, really.

So, how do I stay motivated? In a word: Darkness.

Like Bruce Banner says in the first Avengers movie about becoming The Hulk, “That’s my secret, I’m always angry.” Despite my positive outlook (or stubbornness to eschew being pessimistic or negative) and despite my trying to find out what I can do versus what I can’t do, I’m “always” in Darkness.

Let me make an attempt to “wax poetically” for you, maybe it’ll make better sense that way.

Over the years, I’ve heard this little voice from the darkness say, “Give up.” It happens at least weekly, sometimes daily. Give up on the vision I am creating, give up on everything I am working for, stop believing, stop struggling, stop fighting, stop dreaming, just give up on your hopes and dreams.

fire-on-match-head-2633x4470_27123

In Greek mythology we are told the tale of Zeus snuffing out all the fires in the world, and Prometheus bringing it back (yes it’s a gross oversimplification of the myth, get over it). I have recognized that through the years there has also been this light, a Promethean-like fire, within me. Defiant of the assault that is hell-bent to snuff out the light of my world. By its presence alone, the fire says, “keep going. Keep moving forward.” The quest to snuff out this light has been a harrowing trial over the last little bit, for sure. All I know is, if this fire goes out, then my world will grow cold and a plague of death will spread throughout it.

So, guarding and clinging to this light, I don’t turn to run away from the darkness, despite everything in me screaming to run away. No, I run towards it. I might be fearful and the darkness is certainly the holder of things unknown, but I move towards it.

I do the only thing I know how to do right now.

I struggle and fight. Like the fire, I burn and I defy.

I get to the gym, I train, I challenge myself. Hitting the gym, lifting weights, doing my boxing/conditioning, and now training BJJ helps me put the darkness in perspective. It has helped keep the light going. The training is used as a transcendent tool. Yes, my body gets stronger, but my mind, my will, my spirit are strengthened even more. I read, challenging myself on a different mental level than how my mind is challenged on the physical level. I read, I learn, I reflect, I plan and execute.

From this place of self-inflicted hardship, discipline, sweat and toil, and learning, the light brightens and things don’t seem as bad, they feel more manageable.

To me, it is of the utmost importance to protect this “light”. It is mission critical.

Mission Critical. I can not fail. I must not. That is how I stay motivated. Guard your light. Stay vigilant. Make it mission critical.

Pursue Mastery.

BJJ White Belt: Starting from the Bottom

Keeping in line with pursuing my goals for 2017, I recently opened a new chapter in my life and began learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Day 1, Intro Class.

For the first time in years I joined a martial arts school, put on a uniform (Gi) and donned a white belt. It is a newer school in the area led by both an experienced brown belt and a purple belt. The rest of us are white belts of varying degrees and as of this writing, I only have five sessions under my belt. The other white belts are light years ahead of me.

And I don’t mind it at all.

In fact, I’m loving it.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a “white belt” in many areas over the last few years. Weightlifting for one; learning the proper form for the big lifts and slowly progressing upwards until I hit my goals.

Taking an amazing Pistol Course last year is another.

Although the feeling of being a fish out of water or not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground or being shown just how much of a “white belt” you really are can be frustrating, to say the least, it is one that I enjoy in a twisted sort of way. There is always room to grow and become better.

Ego and Hubris (the way I view them), don’t get along.

Ego is a positive force in your life as it drives you to do better, to want to become more and strive to go to the next level. Hubris is the part that has to be checked.

Hubris will tell you, “You’re good enough, just the way you are.”

Ego says, “You can do better. You can improve.”

Hubris says, “Just practice on your own. You got this.”

Ego will reply, “You should practice on your own, but you also need to seek training. You need to get around people who are better than you so you can be challenged, stretched and step your game up.”

And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to either let my ego push me towards growth or let hubris pull me towards stagnation.

Humility is a necessity to furthering your training.

Like I mention in the above linked article about humility, I like to approach training with an “empty cup” mentality. It helps me to keep hubris in check, even in “familiar” territory, so I can learn and absorb as much as possible in order to grow and become better. It can be hard at times, but I’ve found that taking the empty cup approach usually yields the most return on investment for me.

So now I’m learning BJJ, starting from the bottom in so many ways. I’m still green. I’m in unfamiliar territory. Flopping around on the mat, trying to learn how to roll my body. I am dripping wet with sweat after each session. I’m learning that while what I’ve accomplished in the gym regarding strength and endurance is good, it’s not everything against a younger, lighter training partner who is even a month or two ahead of you in practice. There are different breeds and degrees of strength and endurance needed for this new chapter. To top it all off, I’m nursing a weakened/strained shoulder due to over-training at the gym.

There are ample servings of humble pie for me to digest during this new season of my life.

My cup is so damn empty.

And I’m fucking loving it!

Another day of training, another opportunity to improve.

Use your Ego for good. Check hubris at the door. Become better.

Pursue Mastery.

Eulogy

graves

There is a man in my community, I’ve never met him, he passed away about ten years ago. However, his impact was huge. There are still ripple effects happening because of the way he added value to people’s lives and made an impact. Think about that… ten years later, his name is still being spoken and he is still having an impact. No foundation in his name, no organization. Just a man who made a difference.

“He had a lot to say. He had a lot of nothing to say. We’ll miss him…”

~Eulogy, TOOL, Aenima

Take a moment to ponder your death. Think about the people that will attend your funeral. Think about the people that can’t or won’t attend. Enemies. Acquaintances. Friends. Family. Community. Tribe.

What are these people going to say about you when you are gone?

Will you be truly missed once you pass from this world or will there be a great sigh of relief?

Will your name be spoken of ten years after your death? Ten months? Ten weeks?

“Standing above the crowd, he had a voice that was strong and loud. We’ll miss him. Ranting and pointing his finger at everything but his heart. We’ll miss him.”  ~Eulogy

Don’t fool yourself. Are you adding value to those in your life, especially those that are closest to you? Or, are you sucking all the damn life out of every relationship and interaction you have? Are you truly engaging people to bring the best out of them and yourself (again, adding value) or are you just being an asshole who wants his opinion heard and submitted to?

How do you know?

I’m not saying to seek to be everyone’s best friend.But don’t be that miserable fuck that everyone sees coming and mutters a curse word or two under their breath, frantically looks for something else to do before putting on the facade and having to deal with your unbearable ass.

Check yourself. Build yourself up. Build others up. Reciprocate the value they bring and add value of your own.

Not everyone is going to like you. Don’t waste your time on trying to make people like you. Great people always have a metric shit-ton of haters. All the haters can do is talk shit while you build. That’s what the greats do. The haters try to heap on shit, the hated keep building and let their work speak for themselves.

“The world lost a great man when he died…” This could be said in one of two ways at your funeral. The first can be said in an emotional kind of lip service. They are saying what they feel at the time, but more than likely it is only based in emotion and how they wish things to be. The second option is that the world truly lost a great fucking man.

Which do you wish it to be?

You don’t need to make headlines to be a great man. Think of the gentleman I mentioned at the beginning of the article. There are countless “unsung heroes” like him out there. They are unsung, only because on a macro level, they weren’t well known by even the local media, much less nationwide. However, within their community, friends, family and tribe… that’s another story altogether. Their names will be sung for decades…

Pursue Mastery… even in this.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

~Marcus Aurelius

 

This isn’t LOST…

At almost 400 words above my self imposed limit of 500-ish words, it was interesting to watch how this piece ended up taking shape, I started in one direction and the final product took me by surprise.

This is the closest thing I believe I’ve  actually written to what I would call a “political post”in quite some time. Other, more well thought out articles I’m sure have been written that cover what I am about to cover. This is me chiming in. Fuck it. Overall, this is about you and how you approach your life, on the ground level.

Here’s the “Too Long Didn’t Read”:

TLDR: Don’t focus on and be limited by amalgamous memories of the “good ole days”. Focus on improving yourself and creating something better and let that create a ripple effect into your circles of influence.

 

And now…the post itself. Thanks for stopping by!

“In every age ‘the good old days’ were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.” ~Brooks Atkinson

Ah, the “good old days….”

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There is no going back. You should realize the futilitiy of this by now. We rehash movies, TV shows, activities, relationships, political movements, etc., etc., in order to try and “bring back” some nostalgic feeling of how things “used to be”… used to be. Success here is limited and usually short lived.

Trust me, you may not know it, but you don’t want to “go back”.

The memories you have of how things “were” are just an amalgam of memories, stories and things that happened, rolled into one thing called “the good old days”, whatever that is for you. Like the quote above, there have been times of trial and shittiness for every generation. Maybe some were simpler than others, maybe some more dire than others, but each generation faces their own crises.

If we think about this in terms of building upon our past, then each successing generation should be “better” in some way,shape or form than its predecessors. So why wish for things to regress? Let’s look at making things better than they were.

Read into this paragraph what you will but despite having a nice ring to it, the MAGA mantra just doesn’t do it for me. There has been plenty of great and terrible over the span of this wonderful country. I get it, for all intents and purposes, its a “meme”, it relates a specific idea very quickly.

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(joke, chill the fuck out)

Do I like how certain things have played out over the last sixteen years or so? Absolutely not, there was some good with the bad. Would I like to see a “return” to certain things from the past of this glorious country? I would actually like to see a product improvement. Give me version 2.0 or 3.0 instead of a return to the original, something that enhances the features that we loved of the original product.

For the record, I have an abundance/growth mindset. I see a metric shit-ton of potential. I see a whole lot of fucking good that I and you could make of our lives. This is still THE LAND of Opportunity.

I guess the overall point so far that I am trying to make here is nobody really wants to go back. What they want is to have all of the idealized good and none of the bad. Whether that is represented in things of the past, or ideas of a utopian future that disregards human nature. Regardless, moving for sweeping change from the top down will never fix things permanently. Doesn’t matter if you have a D or an R in The Office. It’ll band-aid some stuff, but then in four or eight years, the band-aid is ripped off and a different method is applied…all while the problem never gets fixed. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Absolutely not. We should do what we can to lay a good foundation and foster the resources and potential for the next generation to springboard into creating something better than we had.

Guys, good and bad are going to come with every age and generation. Gandalf and Frodo had the best conversation regarding this:

Frodo: “I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

So, how do we do that?

Start small. Start with yourself.

Too many people want to put shit out on blast and try to create “awareness” when they aren’t even fucking aware of their own weaknesses, failures and shortcomings. It just ends up being masturbatory virtue signaling and white noise.

Work on you.

Improve and add value to your life and then to the lives of others, your family, your job, your neighborhood, your community, your town, your county, your state, your region, your country.

I get it, we will always have a lot of top-down. Maybe if we focus on a bottom-up approach, also, we can get shit fixed on a level where we can meet in the middle with the top-down and actually see some lasting, positive change.

 

Do More.

One of the hardest things for people to get over when it comes to becoming a better version of yourself is the fact that there is always something more you could do. I know that I wrestled with this a bit myself. There is no such thing as the finish line. The only time you are “finished” is when your body ceases its life and your consciousness takes that step across the final barrier.

Let’s relate this to climbing a mountain, it certainly feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?We, ourselves, feel like our own journey is constantly going up and down, trudging onward and upwards. We descend or we see people descend into different kinds of valleys and ravines. We also see people climb up to great heights and partake of breathtaking views. As long as you are alive, negotiating this terrain, it doesn’t have an end in sight. Rather, you should be encountering waypoints, markers indicating you are on the path to your particular peak or final destination.

There is always something more that we can do to improve ourselves and our situation. One more step, one more level, one more area. One more waypoint to reach on the journey.

Because, why the fuck not!

Now, to circle back real quick on the first few paragraphs of this post, you can have one of two mindsets when it comes to knowing that there is always something more that can be done, one more thing you can do….

  1. Have a fixed, limited mindset. This means that you see a long line of drudgery ahead of you. It’s useless. Why even try.
  2. Have a growth, abundance mindset. This means that you see nothing but opportunities ahead of you. If you go down into a ravine, you can find your way out. There is more than one way to climb the mountain.

The choice is yours, but given the amazing lottery called life on earth that you’ve won, I’d encourage you to choose growth and abundance for your mindset.

choose-wisely

If you want a good reason, go listen to how Gary Vaynerchuk explains that lottery you won. Basically, you are more likely to hit the lotto something like nine times in your lifetime than you are being born on this earth. The odds are 400,000,000,000,000:1.  Yeah, Four-Hundred-Fucking-Trillion-to-One. Live in America? Do you know how fucking good you have it, even if you are among the lowest earning income bracket compared to the rest of the world?

So, why aren’t you working on yourself?

If you always stay the same, you become stagnant. Like water, there is nothing good that comes from being stagnant. If you’ve fallen for the lie that “you are fine just the way you are, just be yourself…” I have news for you: you are being fucking lied to. You being you is great and all, but you being you and not adding value to yourself, your community, your tribe, your job, or whatever isn’t good.

Choose wisely.

Become more.

Poetry.

Coming out of a rather intense training session a couple weeks back, I had a few lines in my head.

Poetry?

Song?

Not sure.

So I played around with it, rewrote, rephrased, reworded. And I think its done. So, fuck it. Mastery is about exposing weaknesses and  can also be trying new things, or old things once more.

This would fit into the category of “all of the above”.

 

 

“Fire Resides Within”

A fire surrounded me and I was afraid.

I saw pain and destruction; hopeless, unavoidable.

I was tempted to run, escape, evade!

Futile thoughts, where could I go?

No way but through, they say.

Turning, I walked in, embrancing the fire.

Facing my fear, the fire raged around me.

I sought to work with it, channel it, turn it for good.

A deadly dance.

Immolated, like a living sacrifice.

Singed, scarred, burned.

Rejuvenated, like a ragged and worn Phoenix.

Rrenewed, reconstructed, repurposed.

Educated, like an eager student.

Learning, adapting, growing.

Raging, destroying, creating.

Everything I touch feels the flame.

The fire no longer surrounds me.

I am a host of the fire.

The fire resides within.