Author Archives: wife.

Life With Purpose

There are hundreds of books dedicated to finding your life’s purpose, yet still most of us are not much closer to actually realizing it.

It’s the standard answer to the question ‘what do you really want to do?’  I’d like to make a difference.  So you would like to help people.  Have you investigated ways in which you may be able to help? What can you offer? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to start.

Long before we can help others we have to get things right in our own lives.  We must learn to live our lives based on our beliefs and standards.  Do you walk it like you talk it, or do you just tell people what they like to hear?  When we know what is important to us, we can live our lives based on accomplishing both short and long-term goals that bring us toward the life we wish to live.

Start “trimming the fat” in your life.  Do the activities you participate in right now bring you closer to your goals?  Do you spend hours watching sports or TV when you could be reading or learning?  Do you take care of yourself by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep? Do you have people in your life that drag you down instead of lift you up?

Keep in mind that the way we live each day and what we do for recreation is what our lives become. We are what we do as much as we are what we eat. That also goes for the type of people we choose to spend time with.

Sometimes we must do things we do not like to pay the bills.  Think about life for a minute and answer this question: If you could do anything what would you do?  Now that you know what you would be doing, ask this:  What are you doing to get to where you wish to be? What is really stopping you?  All these situations, including your current one, are temporary – steps along the way of life.  Life can just be steps to nowhere or steps towards a lifetime of purpose.

I have been up and down in life.  I’ve had many toys and no toys.  Today, I could care less about any of that stuff. I do not care about wearing something with a logo, I do not care that I live in flyover country.  I am happy being me – I enjoy each day.

How many people do you know who seem to have everything in life, yet are not happy?  Maybe they have tied their purpose into stuff or a position.  Maybe they are looking for purpose in another person or they are chasing a high.  Those things bring nothing but heartache.

If you live your life seeking the happiness you see in a tv show, a movie or a magazine, you will never find what you are looking for in real life.  It’s all made up. Every single show is scripted, with many people studying it to make the most impact so they can make money. There is no reality in the media – only in what you see day to day around you.

I used to decide how to spend my time and my money based on what I would get in return – what was in it for me.  Would it make me “happy?”  Then, a few years ago I began to change.  I started to do things for others around me, not expecting anything in return.  Making a difference doesn’t begin when you leave to help people in a third world country, and it doesn’t begin when you give lots of money to a charity.  It begins when you find something you can do for someone around you.  Use your skills to be a blessing to those around you.  

Have faith, trust in God’s plan for your life. Know that you are equipped with everything you need to fulfill his will. You too can live a life with purpose.

Romans 8:28

And we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Makes Us Angry

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This is a post that is close to my heart.  I cannot tell you how many years I walked around with a huge chip on my shoulder.

In the past, any number of things might set me off.   I had all these notions of what it was to be a man.  I wanted and felt I deserved respect.  Whenever I felt wronged, I would spend days, weeks, months plotting how I was going to get back at that person.  I would go over it in my head and work myself up.  You know the old saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different outcome? That was me!  

It’s important to realize that nobody else has the power to make you angry.  When another person does something that we don’t like or that affects us negatively,  we have the power to control how we respond.

When I began to see that I could control my reaction to any situation, and that getting angry to get back at others was only hurting myself, I began to realize that my reactions to situations in life were actually holding me back.

When situations arose and I felt myself becoming angry, I made a conscious decision instead that I was not going that route.  I started to slowly see changes in myself.  Life is a work in progress.  

One of the ways I have learned a lot about anger is through Jiu Jitsu.  Jiu Jitsu is human chess and you must relax and set up moves sometimes six ahead of your opponent. There is no way you can compete when you are angry.  If you react in anger to your opponent, you will make foolish moves, waste energy and take foolish chances that will hurt you in the end.  It’s the same in life when you react to others in anger.

I still struggle with my bad attitude when things are tough or I’m having a bad day. I start to take it out on people around me instead of realizing that they have nothing to do with why I am upset. When I realize that, it is then up to me to put a stop to it.

For now I will keep working on always being aware of my attitude and consciously choosing not to react in anger.

Ephesians 4:26-27

In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

James 1:19-20

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Proverbs 29:11

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Tips from a Self Help Pro

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Everyone has goals and dreams, so why is it that some people reach them and others do not?

Our goals will depend entirely on what you deem to be important in life.  Money and possessions are top of the list for the many Americans, but goals can include spending more time doing the things that bring you joy – maybe taking a daily walk while the sun sets – or,  improving relationships with those you love.

The problem with most goals that aren’t achieved is that they are not specific enough.  Maybe you’re tired of your car breaking down and you want a new car.  What type of car, what does it cost, how long will it take you to save for it?  Maybe you want to spend more time reading or get more sleep.  What books do you want to read? What time do you need to go to bed to get enough sleep? Instead of just losing weight, what size pants do you want to wear, what weight do you want to reach?

Clarify your goals, make them specific.  Write them down.

Hopefully. you have multiple goals, and you take the time to define them all clearly.  It’s also helpful to identify and write down any possible pitfalls you might encounter on the way.

The second step is to come up with a plan on how you will start moving toward your goal.  Let’s say you chose weight loss. Do you want to just take a pill and lose it or maybe have an operation? A more realistic plan for long-term success would be to schedule 45 minutes at least three times each week exercising.  Find a trainer or a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.

Whether you reach your goal or not is entirely in your hands.

Now that you have those first two out of the way it is time for number three: putting your plan into action. Every person who ever began a new path in life began with nerves.  We like to be comfortable, and we feel secure when things stay the same, but there can be no change if you avoid unfamiliar ground.   Doubt will come to mind, but don’t let your mind hold you back.

The fourth part is putting in the work. You are building the foundation of your goal.  You may not notice anything for days or weeks at first, but if you work at it continually, you will.  I like setting small goals that I can hit along they way to my ultimate goal.  If your goal is a new car, set a goal to save $400.  Once you reach that, make a new goal of $1000.  Keep setting a new one after you reach the old.  Progress is all most of us need to keep moving forward.

Start picturing yourself accomplishing what was once only a goal.

 

 

 

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Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s

 

What else could there be?  What else is important?  The fifth step is to keep going!  There are times you will feel discouraged, and there are times you will want to quit.   That is when you must dig deep – go back to the paper where you wrote down your goals and remember the reasons they are important to you.  Re-evaluate your methods and adjust, but keep moving forward.  If a door closes, you open another or go around.  Stick with it!

If this sounds like a chapter out of a self-help book, it’s because over the years I have read a LOT of them.  They all had something to offer – encouragement, a plan.  By following their suggestions I strengthened my resolve and accomplished a lot of goals.  Whether the goals were financial or physical, they brought short-term happiness and feelings of success, but none of them brought me lasting inner peace or joy.

My values changed when I started living my life to serve God instead myself.  The reasons behind my goals in the past were always self-serving.  Now, when I set goals and accomplish them, I do it to glorify Him, instead of myself.

1 Corinthians 10:31(NIV)

 

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

 

Priorities In Life

If you really want to do something in this life, you will find the time.  It all comes down to priorities.   I learned this early on in life.

I decided as a kid that I wanted to learn and become as good as I possibly could at martial arts like Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and kickboxing. I made time for my training every day, and some days I would do two-a-days.  My passion has not waned for it, even now, four decades later.

It affected my life outside of the gym.  I stopped going out late at night so that I would be in better mental shape when I trained.  I ate right, so I could physically train at my best. I went out of my way to find the best people in the area, trying different gyms, meeting new people who were also passionate about martial arts.  I surrounded myself with people who would help me improve.  Many people never want to challenge themselves, so they only train with people on the same level. To learn you must move outside your comfort zone.

When I made the decision to grow closer to God, that became a new priority in my life, and I had to make time for it.  Before I started attending church, I used to spend my Sundays either prospecting for gold or hiking in the mountains and deserts around southern California. Once I started attending church, that was no longer an option.  I knew the IMG_3652 (1)church was more important to my spiritual growth.  I decided that I also needed to join a Bible study, to learn from others who could teach me more about the Bible.  I dedicated another night of the week to those classes.

There are lots of ways to make more time for your priorities.  When we moved from Los Angeles to Illinois we decided we were not going to have cable anymore. I thought I would miss it a little – I liked getting the UFC fights and watching certain shows.  Instead, I learned that I had wasted a lot of time on that distraction, and could make better use of my time.  Now I have time to read more books than I used to.  I take my dogs on more walks than I used to.  I get more done each day and I sleep better.  It’s amazing what I have time for now that I got rid of the extra nonsense.

What are your priorities? What will you accomplish if you use your time for what is most important to you?  As a trainer and an athlete, I encourage you to try hitting the gym instead of watching sports on television, and you will be surprised at the benefits that come your way physically and mentally.  As a Christian, I encourage you to invest in your spiritual life in the Bible and at church.

 

1 Timothy 4:8

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

A Warm Welcome

In California I had slipped into that comfortable pace of life where I was not doing as much as I should or could have been doing.  So we decided to leave Los Angeles behind, took a leap of faith and headed 2072 miles away, to a farm I had never even visited before.  I have lived in big cities all my life.  The times I had moved away from California in the past to live in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Fort Lauderdale, I had always kept a California home to return to.  This time was different.

We arrived in Illinois a few days before the moving truck.  In my travel bag I had a mouth guard and some training gear – gloves, shin pads, mitts.  It had been a week since I had trained last at Fortune Gym in Hollywood, where I had trained 6 days a week for over 5 years straight.  We started looking up nearby gyms where I could begin training in the Midwest.   Jiu Jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, and MMA are all a way of life for me.  Though I had left behind my gym and training partners, I had not lost my passion for staying active as a fighter and would need to keep growing as an athlete and training regularly with people who could improve my skill.

The first gym I found online in a nearby town looked promising.  We drove over and met the owner mid-morning.  I introduced myself as Kenji, and we talked about the gyms I had trained at and the professional fighters I had trained with, and who we might know in common.  He invited me to return later that night for some sparring when his MMA fighters would be there to train.

I came back for a class that evening and waited on the side of the gym for him to finish with a kid’s class he was teaching.  He finished the class and began walking around talking to other people, avoiding me.  After waiting another thirty minutes, I went up to him as he was talking to some people, and he asked me to wait and he’d be with me in a bit.  He had me wait over an hour before he would speak to me. I was new to town, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  As I waited, I talked to some other fighters who were warming up in the gym.

Eventually, he walked off the mat and I tried to speak to him again. He was angry and raised his voice, asking me my name.  I told him my name was Kenji, as I had told him earlier.  He said, “Kenji GALLO?” I answered yes – as that was the name everyone I had trained with as a fighter knew me by.  We hadn’t discussed last names, but I wasn’t trying to hide anything from him about my past.  Kenji and MMA trainer from Los Angeles, who used to teach at Fortune Gym and Reign Training Center is not too hard to find on Google.  He told me to leave, accused me of lying to him and trying to trick him, and added that rats like me weren’t welcome in his gym.  I thanked him for his time and left.

What a welcome to Illinois!  I really missed my California gym and friends at that moment.

The way I reacted to the owner of the gym was not natural for me.  In the past, I always thought I needed to teach somebody a lesson when they were out of line.  That never worked out well for me. You can not fight every perceived wrong. This is part of life, and you had better get used to it because it will happen often. All you can control is how you react to a given situation.

When I walked away, it was amazing how at peace I felt.  His goal had been to punish me for who I was, yet I realized that in reality, he had done me a favor.  The funny part of the evening was how worked up my wife was – the normally calm and collected one.  She had waited with me and witnessed this all unfold.  I told her I knew this was not the right place for me to train, and that God had something better in store for us.

The next gym I decided to try in the area was just the type of place I like to train – and I have been there ever since. The people are professional, I have made friends and I have become a better fighter.

The good news is, no matter how bad your past is, God knows every detail of your life and still welcomes you with open arms.  He is capable of changing you for the better, and has a great future in store – regardless of the difficult people you will run into.

 

The Challenge

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At 20 years old I believed I had life figured out. I knew how to put cash into my pocket and a roof over my head. I was able to do what I wanted whenever and wherever I wished.There was nothing I wanted from church, so in my mind, I didn’t need it. Same with God.

I determined to think positive, work hard and keep moving forward with my ultimate goals always in mind.

The formula was simple: get cash in whatever way possible, and keep it coming.

Why would I need God? I had science.  I knew why the sky was blue and the sun came up every morning. I didn’t need to read a book that was thousands of years old and had no relevance to my modern life.

If you were to ask me how the world was created, I would have said the big bang. If you asked me what caused the big bang, I would have answered, “It just happened.”

That was my limited way of thinking because my world was so small.  I had become a criminal at a young age.  Organized crime is not just about committing crimes, it is a way of life that takes over.  Everyone in the life looks at every situation through tinted glass: how can we benefit on a large scale.  Everyone around me did the same.  I cut my hair, shaved and dressed like I was told. Every person I was around was part of the life, or I didn’t consider them a friend.

I wanted to expand and become more successful which means I wanted more cash each week. I asked my capo, Jimmy, to put me with Mark – an older gambler who ran a sports book.  In other words, Mark was a bookie.  I had sold parlay cards and other sports gambling products so I knew the world.  Mark showed me how to set up my book and balance it.  I learned the lingo and the kind of bets gamblers would place.

The next year I was ready to go out on my own.  My first year I did well because I had older guys like Mark helping me along.  The next year I did even better and I expanded.  Everyone gambles and it does not hurt anyone – this is what I told myself over and over again.  This was a big lie because a person who is addicted to gambling will do anything to feel the thrill. Even when faced with ruin, these people kept gambling.

I soon swallowed up smaller bookies and they began working for me.  The money came easily because I was the house and the house always makes 10% on any bet.  I used the extra cash to loan out and gain more cash through loans.  Gambling is unlike any other business because you are not out any real product, only figures on a sheet of paper.

After twelve years I couldn’t stand my life at all. I wanted out of the life, but I was not willing to go through the uncomfortable period it would take to change.  The criminal’s dream is to find something that will bring in the same amount of cash that they are making except the profit becomes legal.  Until I realized that my way of thinking was broken and had to change, I would go no place fast. It wasn’t until my dream became getting out of the life altogether, profit or not, that I would find the answer.

God’s timing is perfect, but I didn’t know that at the time.  The FBI offered me a chance at a fresh start, and that was the turning point. I spent the next 8 years trying to undo what I spent my life before doing.  While I was still a part of the criminal world for the next eight years, I was no longer there as a criminal but as an informant for the FBI.

God gave me a fresh start, but it took me almost another ten years of trying to start over on my own before I turned to Him.

The challenge for me was to let God guide me instead of trying to find my own way.  It is a process that I am still going through and will be going through for the rest of my life. I know that everything I encounter is part of His plan, and I have to surrender my plans to His. When I look back at my life, I see a lot of mistakes.  I also see God’s hand at work. Success, I have learned, is all relative to what you consider successful.  The things our world considers success we learn in the Bible are very different from what early Christians, like Paul, considered most valuable – knowing Christ as our savior.

Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

I have learned some very hard lessons and all that I have learned about true success has helped me in two ways.  The hard work and positive thinking is still a part of my life.  I learned that I cannot be successful with doing what I feel is right, true success comes from knowing we are flawed and Christ bridged the gap between our flaws and God, offering himself as a sacrifice.  All the success you think you have or aim for will never be enough until you ask God into your life and make knowing and serving Him your definition of success.

 

Is There Grace For Me?

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The Farm

Years before I came back to God, I was under the impression that there would be no more church for me. I had these childhood thoughts in my mind that if I went to church again someday people would judge me. If they did ridicule me or look down at me, how could I blame them?

In 2003 I was still on the streets of Brooklyn as a connected guy to the Colombo family.To all those who knew me, I was just what I had always been: a mafia-connected thug.But I had a secret. I had been working for the FBI since 1996.  I was playing the role of a criminal at this point.  The operation was only supposed to last for six months to a year, and here I was in my seventh year.  It had taken it’s toll on me, both mentally and physically.  I was in the life, but not really – a kind of limbo.  I was constantly facing what all of my actions and decisions had done to people.

It had taken it’s toll on me, both mentally and physically.  I was in the life, but not really – a kind of limbo.  I was constantly facing what all of my actions and decisions had done to people.

One day stands out for me during this time. I was out with Uncle Manny driving around to construction sites.  Uncle Manny was giving me my daily lesson on mafia wisdom.  It was the  mafia’s form of indoctrination.  We were up in the Bronx when I received a call from Eddie G, a Colombo associate who ran a trucking business.  Eddie G wanted to know where I was at that moment.  I told him where I was at, and he told me I had to come see him at his truck yard on Staten Island. I must have looked upset because Manny asked me what was going on.  I told him Eddie G wanted me to go to his yard ASAP.  Manny asked me if I wanted him to come with me.

Eddie G was Manny’s nephew, so really what good would that do? I was scared right then and I had good reason to be afraid.  In the life, nobody wants to get sent for out of the blue.  So many thoughts were going through my mind, did they know the truth about me?

I got back to my place in Brooklyn and was soon in my car. I called the FBI and the New York office was closed, it was after business hours.  I called the Los Angeles office and got ahold of an agent I knew.  I told him where I would be going.  He told me I did not have to go, but in my mind, I had to, because if you did not come when sent for, it was over.

The drive was thirty minutes, which was mostly a blur.  I kept thinking, “This is it.” I hoped it would be quick. I thought about my family.  Would anyone ever know what happened to me?

I didn’t pray, but I thought I could just ask Jesus to forgive me before I died and I would be okay.

I pulled into the yard and Eddie was standing outside yelling at some guy.  He smiled when he saw me and motioned me over.  He told the guy to beat it and then he shook my hand.  He said, “Let’s walk and talk.”

He then told me he was putting together a fund to buy our capo a truck for Christmas.  Instant relief! You never saw anyone give up four grand faster than me that day.  That cash was out of my pocket and in his hand in seconds, and I would live another day.

Did I learn anything? I guess not, because I kept doing the same thing for years.

I felt almost as much dread the day I went to the church in San Marino after thirty plus years of walking away from the one I attended as a kid.  I thought that anyone there would know I was a fraud. I thought they would stare and speak under their breath about me. It had been almost ten years since I left New York and my life in the underworld.  I had gotten my life on a better track, but it was still empty, missing something.  I also carried around a lot of guilt from my former life, which made it hard for me to get close to others.

I felt that sharp intake of breath that I had felt on the street with a slight burning sensation in my stomach when I stepped into the church.  Once we started singing and then when the sermon started, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

I have never felt so welcome and so at peace as I did that day when the service was over.

I found my way to Jesus and I was then fulfilled.

I signed up for and began attending Bible study the next week. I read the Gospels, and if you read them you’ll see the people Jesus chose to minister too.  He did not pick out the rulers, priests, rabbis or wealthy merchants.  He often chose regular people and those looked down on in the society, like a fisherman and a tax collector.

I read about Saul Tarsus who would become Paul later in life.  He was not who you would think Jesus would pick to be his disciple, yet it was who he picked. Jesus appeared to him on the road.  Saul had been a persecutor of Christians, but after his encounter with Jesus, he would be one of his strongest missionaries.

I understand Saul.  I went from meeting in truck yards, planning ways to make more money for a criminal organization, to today studying and sharing the word with anyone who will listen and spending time with fellow believers. This is my second chance.