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Act Two

Did your life seem to be right on track, and then it ran right off the rails?  Modern life is filled with pitfalls such as divorce, losing your job, sickness and the list goes on. It is filled with distractions that would like nothing more than to keep us from moving toward our goals.  We have to keep moving forward.

Forgiveness is something frequently discussed in terms of the people close to us, but we often forget to forgive the closest person of all: ourselves.

It’s good to look back on your life and acknowledge your past mistakes and learn from them.  It’s also important to forgive yourself for them so that you can move on with your life.

No good comes from putting your life are on pause to live in the past.  We cannot go back and change the things that have happened. What we can do is move on, refusing to repeat the same mistakes.

I can remember the night very vividly, yet it was already almost two years ago.  Fortune Gym, the gym in Hollywood where I had worked for six years, threw my wife and I a going away party.  As I looked around at all the people in attendance, it hit me hard how much I was going to miss them all and how much I was actually going to be missed.

One of the people at the party was a young man I had met at the gym about two years before.  We had chatted briefly and I had taught him a little Jiu Jitsu.  The next time I saw him he told me he had read my book.  He knew someone in the book, so we had a good laugh about it.

Over a two-year, period I trained with him often.  One day I had a talk with him about his line of “work.” He was selling large quantities of pills and marijuana.  I was worried about him because he had not yet been arrested for anything, but he was playing a dangerous game and it was bound to happen.  You commit crimes, you will get caught.

I told him that it may look good and it may seem like easy money, but in the end you will pay the price.  I could see he was unsure of what to do with his life, but I could also see that he took note of the message I was trying to get across.  A few weeks later he had an unrelated legal scare and was facing some serious problems.  The legal problems ended up going away, but I am pretty sure it helped guide him toward making better choices in life.

Although I haven’t seen him since the party, I speak to him about once a month on the phone.  Thanks to social media I can follow the things he is doing with his life. He opened a music studio, started managing talent and even started his own music label.  He got a chance to live his life differently, and he took it.

A second chance is always there if we are willing to sum up the courage it takes to change.  It is never easy giving up what is familiar no matter how wrong it is.

I left Brooklyn, New York and drove to JFK International Airport on a cold November morning.

I parked my car in long term parking and took the train into the terminal. I knew deep inside I was not coming back.  I had two suitcases and a laptop. I knew life was about to change for me, but I had no idea how much.  In that moment, I was just relieved for fresh start.

That was twelve years ago.  I still had many lessons to learn and places to live before I reached where I am today.  I had to learn to forgive myself, to forgive others and to accept God’s forgiveness and plan for my life. Leaving Brooklyn was only the beginning of my second chance.

I have been reading the Gospels this week.  It is clear to me that Jesus took those that were considered broken and gave them new purpose and everlasting life. He even forgave Peter after he denied him in public.  If we know someone who denies Christ, who are we to give up on them when Jesus did not give up?  Who are we to shun away people who may have not done the right thing in the past, if Jesus did not do that? How can we hold our past against ourselves when he does not?

America is the land of second acts, it is still the best place in the world to reinvent yourself.

I am over a decade into my second act, and I am still learning new lessons and moving forward every single day.

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

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Don’t Ignore Today for Tomorrow

I must have read and heard the following advice thousands of times throughout my life:

Always do your best. Make do with what you have.  Life is a journey, not a destination.  You get the idea.  Instead, I always viewed everything I did in life as a means to an end.

Let me explain what I mean. I have always been goal-oriented.  I would have a big long-term goal in mind and I would work towards it. The problem is that whatever I was currently engaged in did not matter to me. It was just a step toward reaching my bigger goal.  I wasn’t worried about the quality of my work or life, as long as I was closer to the next big thing.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

In my former criminal life, bookmaking (sports bets) was my bread and butter.  It was the fuel for everything else. It paid for my travel to chase after the big scores. It paid for every side project I launched. I did not care about it other than it kept putting enough cash into my pocket to do what I wanted. I also ran stores and other businesses but I would neglect them, to focus on a new venture or bigger money-making scheme.  

The problem I encountered in my life, again and again, was this: I would make enough money doing something to get what I wanted in the short term, and then I would be off again on some crazy adventure.

I wasted years of my life not giving one endeavor my full, undivided attention.

I caution you to learn from my mistakes.  No matter where you are at in life, no matter what you are doing – make the most of it!  Give it all your attention, work hard, master it, make it work and you will have no regrets. Don’t spend your life looking for the next big thing, make the most of every day and be the best version of yourself today.  

God has given each of us a specific set of skills that sets us apart from everyone else.  Invest your time in growing those skills and working with what you already have right now.  Stop viewing your time and your job as a means to an end. Each day is a gift and an opportunity to improve.

Ready or Not, It’s Time for Change

When change comes into our lives it is rarely welcomed.  It can turn our lives upside down and take us outside of our comfort zone. It is usually only looked at favorably in hindsight.

So when is the best time to make changes to our lives?  Most of us only change when we are forced into it by a circumstance of life.  There are seldom times when we decide that the way things are now is no longer acceptable so we truly commit to change.  I’m not talking about a three day cleanse or a week without sugar, I’m talking about a permanent lifestyle change.

I’m here to encourage you to stop waiting until you have hit rock bottom or you have a crisis to change.  

There will never be a perfect time in our lives for voluntary change, so right now is as good a time as any.  The world around us is changing every day and there is nothing we can do to slow it down or stop it.

Even if life is going along perfectly and we are content, there is always room for self-improvement.  There is nothing wrong with wanting something better in life. Goals are a great part of living. We should never stop learning or moving forward.

Changing because of what others think is not the answer.  Forget about other people’s opinions.  You are given one chance at your life, and you should stop letting others dictate your life, just like you should stop blaming others for the things in your life that have gone wrong.  

Take responsibility, step up and make positive changes.   If you take ownership of your life and take steps toward your goals, you will arrive where you set out.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

 

Become A Success By Helping Others

I spent many years viewing life through a flawed belief system. One of the faulty views I lived by was that life is a competition and that I need to get as much as I could for myself.

This turned out to be a lonely, miserable way to live, no matter what I was able to acquire.

I falsely believed that in life there are only a few real winners and the rest, well… were losers.

I have no idea when I came to the conclusion that there was only so much success to go around, but it was at a pretty young age.  It has taken me years to realize that there is always plenty to go around! Success is infinite and has no quota, and success is not defined financially or through social validation.

It was a real lightbulb moment for me when I realized that helping others to succeed ultimately helped me, and didn’t hurt my own strive for success.

Martial arts helped me learn that important lesson.  Jiu-Jitsu, in particular, is a sport that you cannot practice alone. You must learn by doing, with the help and patience of others. Many people took their own time to work with me and help me grow when I was just a newbie. I, in turn, pass that along by working with other newbies.  The feeling I get when I watch others reach their goals and grow their skills is actually far better than some solitary success.

What is your skill?  Everyone has something they are good at.  We are each gifted in different areas and we all have invested our own time over the years working toward something.  I challenge you to take your skill and invest back in the people around you who could benefit from your success.  

Our contribution to society can be far greater than a number in a bank account or an exciting biography page on Wikipedia.  Those that we help, will, in turn, be more likely to do the same for others in the future.  You can become the starting point for a big cycle of “pay it forward.” Your investment in one person could affect thousands down the road.

 

2018 Is Here!

2018 is here! What changes will you make? The new year is a great time to commit yourself to better health. Sadly, New Year’s resolutions to get into better shape and go to the gym rarely last out the month of January.  I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself to make fitness a regular part of your life and stick with it.

There is no use getting a gym membership where you either have no real idea where to start or you get into something that’s not a good fit for you.  

Fitness is not a quick fix.  Instead, it is all about the steady, long-term, day-to-day training.  If we all take an honest look at our lives, we can all get an idea of how long we have been abusing our bodies.  The changes for the negative did not happen overnight, and it is going to take some time to get it healthy again. There are no shortcuts.  If something promises a quick fix, run away from it.  

It will be hard to stay committed. You will be tired and sore and there are many days you will not feel like training.  Excuses are a dime a dozen, but those of us that stick with it will find that reward worth it.

There will come a point where you will be amazed at how great you feel.  You will eventually come to the realization that you accepted feeling bad as normal.  

Life is short.  We have no guarantee for tomorrow.  Take care of your body while you are in it.

This could be the year that more of us come to the realization that food is fuel for our bodies. It’s purpose is not to make us happy or comfort us.  Good food, unlike medications, has no negative side effects.  Proper diet is important to our health and can keep us functioning at our best.

You have heard it before,“Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

Eat smart, train smart, make it fun and stick with it. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your life.

 

We Can Achieve Anything

The end of the year is here.  Have you reached your goals, or did you settle for less?

So many of us settle because we are not willing to finish what we begin.  There is no guarantee of happiness.  Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not promised to us in the Constitution.   No person can make us happy, no object we own, and no place we can visit.

There are many excuses we make for failing to reach our goals.  A lot of times we like to play the blame game, passing the buck to someone or something out of our control.

I will (insert) as soon as I get here, or get this, or this happens.

The government is holding me back.

I was born poor.  

I have no education.

I don’t have the time.  

I don’t have the talent.

No matter what our reasons are, if we do not reach our full potential we are hurting ourselves and the people closest to us.

We cannot let fear of failure hold us back.

It is time to get out the pen and paper and start mapping out the things we will accomplish in the coming year.  After we write it down we need to plan the steps we need to take to reach our goals. You are in control of your decisions and your path.

If we never challenge ourselves with new goals we will never grow.  Let’s all make 2018 a great year!

2 Corinthians 5:7

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Bodyweight Exercises

 

 

IMG_8102_webThere are times we can’t make it to the gym, maybe because we are on the road and there is no gym nearby.   If I am taking a road trip, I bring a kettlebell and a jump rope with me in the car.  If I am flying somewhere, I bring just my jump rope, and hope I can find a gym at my hotel or nearby.  

When there isn’t a gym, we can always do bodyweight exercises.  

Here is a list of some of my go-to bodyweight exercises:

  • Plyometric Push Ups
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees
  • Alternating Lunges
  • Jump Squats
  • Dips (can do these on a chair or bench)
  • Planks
  • Bear Crawls

People often overlook bodyweight exercises because they mistakenly think they do not do enough for us.  This is a huge misconception because body weight workouts done right are very efficient workouts that will boost your overall fitness level.  

The best part of choosing to train this way is that there is no equipment necessary.  All you need is a small space and the drive to get after it.  I often use a free timer app on my phone or iPad and time myself doing each exercise for 30 seconds with a ten-second break in between, just as if I were training a circuit at the gym.

Plyometrics and speed exercises done as high-intensity interval training will improve cardio and strength in a very short period of time.  

I recently heard a fighter talking about how he did only bodyweight exercises for four months leading up to a fight, and after fight time when he went back to the weight room at the gym he had lost none of his strength. I’ve found the same to be true for myself and others I have trained.  Body weight exercise training has actually improved my other workouts, because my balance and stability have improved.  

When you use fancy equipment at the gym, most of those machines remove the need for you to stabilize or balance your own body.  They all restrict motion to one plane.  The same is true of a lot of powerlifting.  You strengthen one small part of your body, but the surrounding muscles aren’t involved or used to stabilize you, as the equipment does it for you.

We can increase our flexibility and core strength fast by utilizing just the weight of our own bodies.  From there, we can step it up another notch by using other forms of strength training equipment such as kettlebells, slam balls, and small free weights.  

No more excuses not to workout, because it’s free and we all have thirty minutes we can put in a day.

 

Happiness Here

Sometimes I find myself thinking I’ve learned all of the important lessons in life..  Then life steps up and surprises me again.

One lesson I thought I knew was the key to working with what I have and where I am right now.  Even so, it is always easy to get caught up in “I’ll be happy once I reach this point or have this much” attitude. This year I have really been forced to slow down and take each day, week month one at a time. In the midst of it I really began to enjoy what I have and where I am in the world around me.

We can actually buck the current trend and be happy with less and guess what? It’s okay!

We all see others on social media and think, “Wow they live such a great life.” In reality, we are only seeing what they want us to see.  If we focus on being content in our own lives, there is no need to compare.

Instead of complaining to others or ourselves about how bad our day was, or our life is at this moment, I challenge you to end every day thinking of all the things you are thankful for. I thank God every night that I had another great day. I am thankful for everything in my life and for all that will come.

As you close out your day with gratitude, spend some time planning your next day.  Think about how you will wake up and put in the best work you can.  When you make that plan and follow through, there will be no excuses to be made or blame to be assigned at the end of the day.   

Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Proverbs 22:29

Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.