BJJ White Belt: After the Tournament – Part 2

 

img_7825.jpgIf you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be training in Jiu-Jitsu, I would’ve liked the sound of that and more than likely believed you. It was on my radar. As someone who takes an interest in self defense and protecting my family, I knew that I needed to improve my “ground game” (read as: non-existent ground game).

If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be training and competing in Jiu-Jitsu, I would’ve been highly skeptical. Full contact competition was a far off dream; an aspiration that I had discarded to the “I missed my window” bucket of my life.

On Friday morning, the day before the tournament, I reflected on everything I had gone through and endured in the last two-plus-years to arrive at this point. Participating in this tournament was very meaningful to me. Meaningful as a martial artist. Meaningful as a man pursuing mastery in his life. Meaningful as a father and husband. Meaningful to my life’s journey as a whole.

Getting there Saturday morning, standing in the gym with the noise of the cheering, the coaches yelling to their students from the sideline, the announcements over the PA system, the buzz and vibrant energy…it was an interesting experience, to say the least.

I hope that I remember this tournament for a long time to come. Not only to build off the things I learned, but also to remember it from the white belt viewpoint. I like helping people, so I want to use this experience to help my teammates who are yet to join our ranks as competitors, and also to help you, dear reader, if you should raise your hand and step on to the mat for the first time. Perhaps what I write here and the words of wisdom from my Coach, will help you to be successful in more ways than just medals, when you get to your first tournament. Perhaps you are farther down the line and you have forgotten what it’s like to be a white belt. Hopefully these BJJ White Belt posts are helpful.

The Footage

Looking Back, Being Real

I’ve watched the above footage of my fights handfuls of times. As I watched, I would recall as best as I can what was going through my mind, what my body was feeling. As I watched, I would pay close attention to my performance, listening to the words my coach was shouting from the side of the ring, and above all seeing where I made mistakes. From all of that, I’m making notes of things I think I need to work on; resolving to get back on the mats and do better.

Pause.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in not securing the win.

Bluntly?

It fucking sucked.

With my coach, my teammates and friends and my wife and children watching – I didn’t come through… twice.

Fucking. Sucked.

You, like I, could have the best attitude in the world. You could understand and accept that you win or learn and be dedicated to learning from your mistakes. You could be a good sportsman, sincerely congratulate your opponent and be mature about your loss. But if you lose, you are going to be disappointed, upset and maybe even a bit pissed off.

I think that it should happen, if you want to get better and improve. You should be disappointed. You should be pissed. That is the part of your ego that pushes you to do better, to become more than you are, to learn from your fuck ups and blast through them next time. The wrong path, of course, is to be so upset, so disturbed, that you are a puddle of melted snowflakes. Don’t be that person. Be the other. The one who brushes himself of, gets up and moves forward.

If you lose and can’t think of a single thing you did wrong, I think that’s hubris trying to cover your feelers from getting hurt.

Embrace the fail, the suck, then move forward.

That’s the step I’m on. Moving forward.

Mind and Body

I mentioned above that I tried to recall how I was thinking and how my body was feeling.

I mentioned in the previous post about my nervousness. The nerves quieted down when I committed and stepped on the mat. The first round was exhausting, it felt more exhausting than the second even though I think I expended more energy in the second round fighting and keeping my opponent in my closed guard. Correction, I know I used more energy. That’s one thing my coach and I went over regarding the second fight.

As far as the mental plane is concerned. I wasn’t afraid. I just got frustrated… a lot. This is an area Coach and I have been working on and will keep working on. I didn’t execute with conviction. What I mean by that is this: there were techniques that I have successfully executed during live rolls in class, techniques that were part of my game plan for the tournament, and I didn’t have enough faith in myself to pull them off. I heard my Coach, I barely saw the openings, but my lack of confidence in executing instead of listening to my coach, drawing on the successes and executing with belief and conviction in them, led to that failure.

Reviewing the footage, it was painfully obvious the openings that were presented to me.

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Back to the physicality of the tournament. I’ve trained, I’ve conditioned and I’ve regularly hit the gym as well as the mats and those two rounds were extremely taxing. In a prior post I spoke about how my body and mind shut down during some rolls with my team. During that first roll, those same physical and mental things began but I was able to push through it and it was easier on me.

The unpredictability and uncertainty of an opponents game, plus the fight or flight physiological responses your body generates, added to going full on against said unknown opponent add up to an entirely different experience when compared against rolls with teammates. Even those taxing and exhausting rolls with your teammates where you feel like collapsing on the floor afterwards. Its just different.

My grip was shot by the end of the second roll. My forearms, especially my right as I favored the cross collar grip on both fights, were pumped out and it took almost ten minutes before I could unscrew the cap for my water bottle. Seriously.

I woke the next morning sore. Primarily my upper back, arms and forearms but I did have some stiffness in my legs and glutes. I only did two rolls, going the full five minutes each time, but it had felt like I had gone through a harder workout. That’s the physiological response, the adrenaline, the amped senses and muscles, etc.

The Team

We’ve spent a great deal of time coming together and fostering the environment for both competitors and non-competitors to come together as a team. We had spent countless hours preparing, drilling, rolling, sweating and nursing our bodies back to health only to do it all again over the last three plus months. We truly wanted the best for each other and looked out for one another as best as we could all the way to the tournament and back. The camaraderie, the support and care for each team member was evident

Coach tried his best to be ringside at every match, but when it came down to multiple team members being on multiple rings at the same time, we all made sure to have at least one team member ringside to help the one in the ring. Coach had instructed us on this prior to the tournament: things to say, things not to say. Our primary objective would be to help the teammate in the ring keep track of time and points if Coach couldn’t be there.

“Okay, you’ve got four minutes left. Take your time.”

“You’re up by 3 points, keep going, you’re doing great!”

“Okay, you are down by 2, don’t worry about that. Let’s look a better position to even the scales. You’ve got three minutes to go, you can do this.”

Things like that.

Now, to preface what I’d like to share next, you need to understand that there were three brackets in which at least two of our teammates were competing together. This means that there could potentially be a fight for 1st and 2nd place at the top against our own teammates. Some gyms are fine with this, but as Coach explained to us before the tournament, we wanted to shut brackets down, not go against one another at the top. We roll against one another all the time at the gym and we didn’t drive two+ hours, spend extra time training, extra money on food, lodging, gas and entrance fees…just to roll against our own teammates. So if it came down to going for first and second place, we agreed that we would not fight, we’d have pre-arranged who took the gold and silver medals.

Hopefully, you see where this is going.

One of my teammates was competing in the same bracket as I. I have to give him massive props for his performance, sportsmanship and being a solid teammate. He lost his first round and won his second. His third round he was bracketed against me, which would’ve been my second round. It wasn’t a fight for first and second. We were in the consolation bracket going for third.

So, he and I were taken back for a second.

We told the judges as they called us up that we were from the same school/team and didn’t want to fight each other. Instead of arranging it differently, they told us “that’s just what happens”. My teammate then replied, “He’s going through, then. We’re not fighting each other.” The judges agreed to the request and they changed the bracket up.

Double elimination. He was out of the tournament.

Read the last two sentences again. Appreciate them.

He gave up his third fight so I could have a solid second fight against a different opponent. It was an honor that I still don’t believe I deserved. So for that reason alone, you could appreciate why I am so disappointed that I couldn’t secure the win on my second fight. I owed it to my teammate to give my best and secure the win.

I owe him one.

So, yeah, the team is solid. Continually getting closer as a unit, a tribe, a family.

We, as a team, did amazingly well in the tournament. 8 competitors, 6 medals including one double gold! A medal in each bracket that we competed in, save for mine. That’s pretty damn impressive! As a new school, going on 1 year old in early October, we were barely a blip on the radar on the day of the tournament. By the end of the day, each of us had multiple conversations from people we either competed against or others we didn’t know coming up to us and asking where we were from, who we were, etc.

We turned heads.

Back to the Garage

“It’s just like building a race car – you run it, see what works and doesn’t, back to the garage to tweak and mod until the next race.” ~Coach Shane

By this Wednesday’s training, as I said, I had reviewed the footage multiple times. I knew what I did wrong. Coach knew what I did wrong. Coach knew that I knew what I did wrong and he confirmed that as we reviewed the film together at class.

  • I fought too long and hard to keep my opponent in my guard, tweaking and modifying is needed here, back to the garage.
  • My framing for someone getting into side control on me is getting better, but it needs some tweaks, back to the garage.
  • I need to look at setting up multiple attacks instead of working one really hard then switching entirely to something else, back to the garage.
  • My sweeps need improving, back to the garage.
  • I need to put more confidence and faith in my takedown ability, back to the garage.
  • There are things that I am looking to implement in my workouts to continue increasing my strength conditioning as well as my cardio (sprints and steady paced), back to the garage.
  • Props to my opponents for their wins, but I allowed them to dictate the pace of the fight instead of setting the pace myself, being more aggressive and more assertive, back to the garage.

Back to the garage I go. Back to the garage our team goes, pushing each other and working with each other to improve and hone our game. There are a couple tournaments before the end of the year. I’m not sure if we will compete in those. For now, I’m sticking in the garage, but for any of my teammates who want to get out on the track sooner, I’ll be doing my part to help out. I know they’d do the same. I’ll be looking to compete at least twice in 2018, maybe more.

We’ll see what the year brings.

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Moving Forward – It’s Over

“What you’ve gotta understand is that it’s over. Seriously! Nobody cares anymore. That win is only as good as that day. If the day were done over again, a lot of the people who won could’ve lost. It’s like Any Given Sunday that way.

The only thing that matters is how good your Jiu-Jitsu was on that day, and now it’s over. It doesn’t matter anymore.

When the next tournament comes, it doesn’t matter if you medaled three times in the prior tournament. You still start from square one. Your prior wins don’t count at the new tournament.

Those who won might not have taken as much away, learning-wise, compared to those who lost. It’s hard to win gold and then try and dissect that performance, why mess with it?

It’s over.

Everyone, even the gold medalists have room to grow- that’s why we do this, to measure ourselves and then improve.” ~Coach Shane (an amalgam of a handful of recent conversations)

It’s over. Something I needed to hear.

I’m moving forward. Something I needed to do.

I know I am harder on myself than anyone else is. I’m well aware of my flaws, my shortcomings, my failures and mistakes, as a father, husband, friend and even in BJJ. But I move on. No navel gazing. No “woe is me”. No bullshit.

It no longer matters what happened. What will I do today to improve?

Back to the garage.

Pursue Mastery.

**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in the writing you find here, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of it. Thanks again for reading!**

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Be True

“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Polonius, Hamlet, William Shakespeare

You cannot control how people feel about you or treat you. Ultimately, this is beyond your control.

You might do all the “right” things: be honest, kind, faithful, interesting, adventurous, amazing, add value, etc. … and they can still grow to dislike you, be bored of you, use you, betray you, hate you.

Therefore, do not put any equity into those emotional anchors designed to drag you down and keep you fettered to someone else’s actions and feelings. The more independent you are of the anchors, the more free you shall be to be yourself.

To thine own self be true.

“First, decide who you would be, and then do what you must do.”

Epictetus

Take stock of yourself, your life, your dreams and goals. Are you living in accord with your true self? Are you living in accord with the mission, the direction you have set out? Is your course True?

Act.

Achievement of your goal; arrival at your destination won’t happen immediately, but with each small step, you become more and more in line with who you want to be – the values, both tangible and intangible that you wish to have in your life.

Build yourself up to live in accordance with your true self. Add to yourself skill and knowledge, depth and life, meaning and contentment. Bring value to your life.

Be True.

To be anchored by anything else is a living injustice.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum – Let justice be done though the heavens fall.

If you anchor your emotions, your thoughts, the value of the desired outcome to others and how they think, act/react, emote about you – then you do yourself a great injustice. Self enslaved, you are the only one that can free yourself.

Staying True, then, requires an independence from those anchors. You must free yourself of these anchors and do what you must in accordance with your mission, in accordance with the direction you let your arrows fly.

Then you must free yourself from emotional ties to your own desired outcome. Focusing on the process, the learning, the self mastery.

As you draw and take your shot, you may miss – but how you missed is more important than the miss. What did you learn?

Adjust, take aim, loose the arrow once more.

Are you closer or are you on the mark?

Assess, fire again.

Take every shot.

Be True.

Pursue Mastery.

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**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in the writing you find here, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of it. Thanks again for reading!**

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.

 

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

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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.

Do whatcha can with watcha got!

So, life decided to throw you another curve and your exercise program is out?

Great!

Let’s take a few moments to talk about that.

Currently, my area, like many across the nation, is getting hit hard with winter storms. Really bad road conditions, record snow days for schools around the area, etc. Which means it makes it hard for many people, myself included to get to the gym. So what do we do?

Success Starts (and ends) in the Kitchen

If you literally can’t do anything at all for your PT goals, whether it be from a crisis of life or from weather or whatever, being mindful of what you fuel your body with is crucial. It’s a hard mentality to break from, but, you don’t “earn” junk food. That’s like saying, “Hey, I’ve earned putting this poison into my body!” WTF?

Depending on your goals, 80-95% or more of your success is going to start and end in the kitchen. Again, that 15%+ differential is due to your specific goals: lose weight, build muscle, cutting fat, etc. The fuel you put into your body is just as important during rest days or down time, as it is on the days you are working out.

Good fuel in. Continuously.

Think of it this way. The meals you have today are resulting in how your body looks, feels and responds tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that. It is a cyclical process. If you want your body to perform good at the gym on Wednesday, then what you have put in your body Monday and Tuesday can and will effect your performance. Again, I’m no licensed dietician or personal trainer. But the information I am giving you is from the trenches. Actually doing it myself and speaking to others who are in the trenches themselves and getting after it.

Take it as you will.

Move, now!

You can do something. If you can’t get to the gym, you can adapt, improvise and overcome. For those getting hit with severe winter weather, we are getting plenty of opportunities to shovel our walkways and driveways. Put the kids in the sled and pull them around the neighborhood. Go for a walk in six inches or more of snow. Do bodyweight squats and lunges inside. Do push-ups.

The point is there is always something you can do!

For example, I wasn’t able to get to the gym this morning for my upper body routine, so, do you know what I am doing?

Pushups. All day long.

Seriously.

Final Thoughts

So, no excuses. I know it is tempting to want to hibernate. It is tempting to start eating all the warm comfort food in sight. Move against that urge.

Find a way to move, every single day.

Be mindful of the fuel you put into your body.

The kind of ROI you get later will be up to your actions today.

Pursue Mastery.

 

Making something out of a “Shit Sandwich”

Or: “Using anger, depression, rage and other shit in a positive way.”

So, life has hit you pretty hard, huh? Looks like you have a few cuts, a bloody lip and a couple of bruises from life’s little beat down… yeah, that does suck. I feel for you. So, let me be the first to extend my hand to you and pull you up with a hearty, “Welcome to the human experience!”

Now, I don’t mean to be glib about whatever has happened to you or whatever you are going through. Maybe you lost a job, or a friend/loved one, maybe your spouse decided that they were no longer in love with you and wanted out. It all sucks. I’ve been there.

Now, I’m not a doctor or other sort of licensed professional, however, let me share a few things that I have found to be helpful. One word before moving on, don’t take these things as listed in order of importance. Granted, you might have to take one on or two of these things before the others, but I like to view them in a holistic manner, much like in a circle. Each of these things can, should and do weave in and out of the other, complimenting and working with the other areas. Got it? Good. Let’s go.

Positive Ownership

No, ownership isn’t about “everything” being your fault. However, I have found that taking ownership of the things I can control and/or change help me avoid falling into a victim or “why me?!” negative thought process and mentality.

Let’s take the disintegration of a relationship for example. Say your spouse is leaving you. I know that you didn’t force your spouse into this situation, but what role did you play in the disintegration of that relationship and bringing your spouse to that point?

Own that shit and move forward.

Yeah, owning your faults and mistakes is hard. But it is really hard, if not impossible to move forward, if you can’t acknowledge it. What good does denial do you? When all you are doing is ignoring or denying any part you may have played in the situation, history will repeat itself. Why? Because you have refused to acknowledge it; to work on you so the situation doesn’t repeat itself.

Now, there is a lot in this world that we cannot control. But we take ownership of what we can, and the rest is up to the battle in your mind.

Mindfulness & Mindset

Are you of the mindset that you can grow, or are you fixed? One leads to adaptability, change and survival, the other leads to stagnation and death. You choose.

I have found that on top of ownership, taking on certain mindsets will help you continue to move forward. Having a growth mindset, for example. You are going to learn, improve and grow out of this, no matter what. Adopting the mindset of an indomitable spirit, you will not let whatever is coming at you win. Meaning, if you can’t overcome and move past this, then that thing, whatever it is, wins. You will win, you will overcome, move past, learn, improve and grow.

Embracing a Stoic approach regarding the situation can be helpful as well. It is what it is. The only thing to do is move forward. The situation might improve, it might not, but it will not hinder you.

Now, move.

Physical Challenge

Actual, physical movement is crucial. I have found that getting up off of my recently knocked down ass and hitting the gym is one of the best things that anyone can do to improve their overall well-being during a time in your life when you are going through a shit-storm.

I’ve already mentioned some of the by-products of PT in earlier posts. However, the release of chemicals that your body goes through during an intense PT sessions has to be one of the best natural highs known to man. I’d say its up there with really good sex. And yes, I am doing it right. I’d go so far as to say, I’ve had something akin to a spiritual worship experience many times when I am training hard. As I’ve visualized funneling all the shit I was going through into the weight bar, or training apparatus I was using and began to push myself to my limits, I’ve come to a place where it felt as though all my mental, emotional and physical energies, synapses or whatever you want to call it, were firing all at once and all at “11”. It is an un-fucking-believeable feeling.

Sure, the burden of whatever you are going through is there. But, it is lighter. And when you compare it to the PT “torture” you just put yourself through in spite of your situation… it feels lighter, more manageable, and you know you’ll make it through another day, another week, another month.

Continued Growth

You are taking ownership, challenging yourself physically and keeping a proper mindset. Good. Don’t overlook the power of adding value to your life by way of learning. There are excellent resources out there for little to no cost, from Amazon to Libraries to iTunes.

Make strong the mind as well as the body.

I read a ton of books last year, and I am looking forward to everything I will be learning and exposing myself to this year. I want to improve my mindset, improve my thought processes, understand more, learn more. I do this because I want to add value to my life and in turn, add value to the lives of my family and those who are in or will come into my Tribe.

Sometimes, the bst way to take ownership, to improve your mindset or to know what to do in order to challenge your body is to R E A D. Don’t underestimate the power of self development and improvement in the realm of your mind.

Blood Brother

Have the balls, be vulernable and reach out to someone you know.

Not everyone can understand your situation. Not everyone is strong enough to weather the storm with you and give you the space to breathe, mourn, rage and improve. Not everyone will stick with you. Not everyone has gone through what you have.

But there is at least someone who will understand, stay the course and has been where you have been. Find them.

Check in with them and spend time with them. Share what you have learned, ask questions, give them the opportunity of being a sounding board for you. That person or group of people can even recommend books, podcasts, or other resources that either they have used or think might help you.

Doing all the other stuff is great and you can go far, but nobody is an island. We are genetically wired for human interaction and companionship.

Final Thought

Like in The Matrix, you can either take the red pill or the blue pill. If you take the blue pill, you can believe whatever you want to believe and go about your business, stumbling and repeating mistakes, stagnating and regressing. Or you can take the red pill. Change, adapt, learn, improve, grow, move forward and overcome.

The choice is yours. It always has been.

Has this helped you? Let me know in the comments!

Do you think this could help someone you know? Share it!

Pursue Mastery.

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Goals: Make ’em, Dominate ’em.

I am breaking my self-imposed 500 word limit for this post. Here is your “TLDR” (too long didn’t read):

Make goals, write them down, review them often. Do the work. You will surprise yourself.

And now, the post…

During the last week of 2015 and into the first days of the new year, I sat down, reflected on everything that had come my way that year and wrote out my goals for 2016.

What did I want to accomplish in the realm of PT?

What books did I want to read?

What goals did I want to achieve for my family?

What tasks did I want to tackle around the house?

What did I want my body to look like?

What did I want my thought life to look like?

Why did I want to improve?

I wrote down affirmations and mindsets that I wanted to maintain through the year, things that would help remind me why I am doing what I am doing. It wasn’t a “New Year, New Me!” New Years Resolution thing. It was deliberate, detailed, and direct. All in all, I had about six pages written out. I reviewed it daily, going over the affirmations and mindsets as well as the goals. Many times, I would say them out loud.

Halfway through the year, I modified the affirmations and mindsets to better reflect the things I had learned, as well as buttressing the goals I had already made. Did I hit all the goals? No. But I did make quite an impact to my list and I learned a lot along the way.

Out of the nine specific performance goals I had in the realm of physical fitness, I fulfilled two. In November, I was able to Squat and Dead-lift five sets of five reps/set at 225lbs. Among the others were goals regarding running, hitting a specific amount of pull ups, Bench Pressing and Overhead Pressing a specific amount of weight in the 5×5 model, as well as having a “defined six-pack abs”.

I set out with seven supporting goals for PT, things like “working out every day with intentionality and purpose”, getting proper rest, taking “no more than two consecutive rest days in a row”, limiting alcoholic drinks to “two per month”. And I noticed that the more specific my goal was, the more apt I was to hit it. The more vague it was, the least likely it was that I would hit it. I solidly fulfilled four of the seven.

Now, I don’t view the other goals that I didn’t hit as complete failures. By and large they weren’t. I made progress in all of them and I learned by the end of the year that some of the goals were a bit too high and would take more calculated steps to eventually achieve. The Bench Press, for example, I wanted to do the same work as the Deadlift and Squat. I’m not wired for those kinds of rapid gains, so, for the Bench, I need to take a slower and more methodical approach. Having six-pack abs was also unrealistic in that I focused solely on strength gains and didn’t do any sort of “cutting”. Did I build my core? Absolutely! You can make out a slight “design” of abs, but I still have a layer of fat to take care of. Of this, I am not ashamed.

Moving on to other goals.

I made nine miscellaneous goals, ranging from taking my family on an out-of-town Christmas vacation, to cleaning up the garage, to getting back into writing on my blog. I was able to accomplish six of these, including the Christmas vacation.

Regarding expanding my mind and learning, I set out with a list of thirteen books that I wanted to read. They ranged in topics from Leadership to Influence to Relationships to Finance. I read a total of twenty-two books, plus one carried over from December 2015 and as of the end of December 2016, I was juggling three others. As I learned and read, the reading list began to evolve. I began listening to podcasts as well. I can say with confidence that I have been exposed to some great thinking, interesting ideas and challenging reads. I haven’t regretted a single book. It was because of everything that I have read that I changed the name of the blog from “Strong 4 Family” to “In Pursuit of Mastery”. Maybe I’ll create a recommended reading list sometime.

The point of everything I have written above isn’t to brag. Just go back up to the TLDR disclosure:

Make goals, write them down, review them often. Do the work. You will surprise yourself.

 

 

I learned that, even though doing what I did yielded some good fruit, I can do more and I plan on trying a different approach this year to see what I can accomplish.

For example, in the realm of PT, instead of writing out goals with a year-end time stamp like I did in 2016. And yes, I do have a reading list for this year. It is starting much bigger than last year, with twenty-four books so far. I’ve left some blank spaces so I can write in further works. I’m looking forward to seeing how much I read by the end of the year. I am making all of my goals revolve around each quarter of the year, areas such as blogging, to-do projects for the house, things to do with my family, etc. I want to see how effective I can be by focusing on the quarter in front of me, while being mindful of the rest of the year because the goals ultimately contribute to the year-end goals

Yes, I have revised or added new and different mindset focuses and affirmations. I’ve also included a section for mindfulness, which is new for me, so I can review and reflect on each day and week’s progress. I also learned that five, six or seven pages to review daily can really add up in time spent being more effective in another area. Since I do not want to abandon the practice altogether, I have broken up the pages to review specific sections once a day. My hope is that I will not fall off the review wagon late into the year, as I did in 2016.

All in all, I have nine pages written out this year. And just like last year, I will carry these pages in a three-ring binder. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes…

Hopefully you have gleaned something from this. Want to change? Like really change? Then don’t fall for the New Year Resolution bullshit!

The process really isn’t anything new or groundbreaking.

Make goals – Make them matter to you, they need some umph and purpose behind them!

Write them down – Be as specific as possible, include deadlines.

Review them often – Keep them fresh in your mind.

Do the work – Nobody will do it for you, cupcake! Get to work!

You will surprise yourself – Seriously, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you accomplish.

As in all things, the picture below goes far beyond PT…

disciplineorregret

Pursue Mastery.