Category Archives: dedication

Pursuing Your Passion

Years ago I wrote a book and I sold the movie rights to FOX studios.  They wanted a screenplay written. I had never given much serious thought to writing a screenplay for the big screen or the small screen.  After writing a book and being approached about a screenplay, I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to be in life – a screenwriter!”

They asked me to write it with an Academy Award winning writer.  The writer invited me to lunch at their home.  It was an informal lunch eaten around the pool with the producer of the project and myself.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from successful Hollywood individuals, so I thought the best course of action was for me to keep my mouth shut and take it all in.

I learned the writer, like me, had never gone to school for writing.  I learned the producer had built up an international production company in Scandinavia and sold it for a huge profit, then moved to Hollywood and started a new company in a new country.  Instead of retiring, he started over and continued to work hard.

During my time working with both of them, I was given a crash course in writing for a studio.  It was like a private lesson in screenwriting.  Looking back now I can see that I was already losing interest in writing for Hollywood, the more I learned about the business.  What I thought I had wanted, I was realizing was not my passion.

Even though I was unsure about my next steps in life, I learned valuable lessons and kept pushing forward.   In the end, my show was not picked up by Fox, but I learned enough to write my own western screenplay and sold that to History Channel.

Through my contacts on that project, I was able to secure a writing/consulting job for a movie production company in Stockholm, Sweden.  I grew up immensely while going through this Hollywood period of my writing career. The screenwriting work was a chance for me to work with people from all walks of life.

People like to talk about overnight success.  I learned that successful writers toil away for years before they get an opportunity to shine, and even then, they may end up losing it all.

Projects will come and go, but the people you work with along the way are important, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  Work hard on every project, big or small, and always go above and beyond.

We each have our own paths with unique wants and needs.  If we follow someone else’s path we may have limited success, but it is fleeting.  We are all on our own journey, and as long as you keep learning from every opportunity and developing your skills, no project is a failure.

Opportunities often come in life when we least expect it, and they often come from unexpected people or places.  Work hard, keep a positive attitude, treat everyone with respect and pursue the passions that God has put in you – and you too will fulfill your purpose in life, even if you aren’t sure what it is right now.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Ecclesiastes 3:1

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 

Clarity Of Purpose

Regardless of who you are today, you had dreams and goals in mind when you were young. Maybe you dreamed of playing professional baseball or maybe you aspired to be an astronaut.  

Life happens.  As a result, those dreams may have fallen by the wayside. Why is that?  A lot of times we settle for jobs we don’t love just for the paycheck, so we can live.  The cash starts rolling in and now you have a lifestyle that you have become accustomed to.  You cannot change and do what you really want because you have so many obligations. Does this sound familiar?

I understand this situation very well because that is how my life played out.  I was on that treadmill for almost forty years.  I did things I did not like, only because of what I could put into my pockets as a result.  Many times, I tried to convince myself that I liked what I was doing. Even though I detest gambling and alcohol, both played a role in my livelihood.

I learned how to “take action,” or bookmaking, from an older gambler named Mark. Mark had been a bookie for at least twenty-five years when I met him.  In fact, I am sure he is still taking action to this day – well into his eighties.

I had expressed interest in making money through bookmaking and loansharking (also known as shylocking) to a number of men associated with the Los Angeles cosa nostra family.  They all knew me as a kid who worked hard and brought in cash, so they put me in touch with Mark.  I began to work for him, and during that time I mastered the art of running a sportsbook.  This was in a time before either cell phones or the internet.  We used a series of payphones, hardlines and answering machines to run the business.  We got our updates on odds and point spreads from what was known as the “Island Line.”  We also had Las Vegas contacts who helped with lines and laying off some of the action.   Mark pulled in a great living from sports gambling and he also ran some after hours card games.

I took to this “job” because I liked the attention, and most importantly, I liked the cash that came with it. I used to tell myself that the money I brought in gave me the freedom to do what I really wanted to do in life.  Looking back that is funny because I can tell you this: I never did much of anything else.  I spent all of my time running the business and living it.

It’s important, to be honest with yourself about your gifts, your goals, and your dreams.  You must decide if what you are doing or will be doing is right for you.  Does it align with your values? Is it what you were created to do?

You will most likely spend years working at something to get it working well enough to put dollars in your pocket.  This where your own personal values come into play.  When I was young I had some vague, at best, personal values – and it showed in how I conducted myself.  Once you have a good personal value system in place, the decisions you make will help guide you toward lasting success.

Clarity of purpose is key to living a successful happy life. Once we find our purpose in life, it will help guide and shape our decisions.  In the end, being successful looks different for every single person.

I was lost for so many years until I came back to living a life that wasn’t about my desires but about God’s purpose for my life.  I was lost and broken, but I could never understand why I  was feeling the way I did.  When I found my faith I realized that life was not all about me, it was much bigger than that.

Matthew 6:33

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

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

2 Timothy 1:9

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.

 

Grateful For My Life

It has been an unusually busy week for me.  Nothing like the go, go go of New York or Los Angeles, but it was more than the regular schedule I have become accustomed to in rural Illinois.

Part of my old world collided with my new world this past week.  On March 31, 2017 my friend King Mo Lawal was coming to town to fight Rampage Jackson in Bellator 175 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. I first met Mo many years ago at Jokers Wild Fighting Academy one day during a fight class. I was told that day that I would be working with him, which was a huge step up for me. We trained a lot more over the following years.

As his trip to Chicago approached, we made plans to meet up when he arrived in town before his fight.  He had told me to bring my gear because we might train.  I arrived at the hotel and left my gear bag in my car since I wasn’t sure what our plans would be.  Right when I walked into his room he asked me if I had my stuff, so I went back out to grab it.

Soon we were inside the “blue team” training room.  It was nothing more than an empty conference room that had wrestling mats laid down wall to wall.  He had his coaches from American Top Team there, and he had Jeff Mayweather started running him through some boxing drills.  They had him do three minutes of boxing followed by three minutes of wrestling with me, back and forth.  It was a surreal moment for me.  Here I was wrestling with the headline fighter for a Bellator fight in front of coaches from one of the premier mixed martial arts gyms in the world – in Chicago of all places.

It got even stranger for me when I looked up and saw former UFC champion Matt Hughes watching us.  After we finished the training session Mo had a press interview to do and I ended up sitting next to him for the interview.  Dinner came next, where I found myself speaking with the matchmaker of the Bellator promotion as well as Royce Gracie, the man who really brought Brazilian Jiujitsu into the mainstream.

The next day I drove back up to the city again to train with Mo.  This time I brought an Illinois friend who is a casual MMA fan with me.  I was worried that he would be bored, but we ended up having a great time.  When we were hanging out with Mo I was watching to see if he was affected by the upcoming fight – less than twenty-four hours away.  Was he stressed?  He was not.

We sat around talked about old times, people we know and politics.  “King Mo” is the character the fans see in the cage, “Mo” is the guy his friends know.  Mo cares about others and is a genuine person.

Driving home later that evening I thought about my life, and all the old memories of helping other fighters prepare for big fights.  I realized I missed the time I spent hanging out with my fighting friends, but not the life that came with it.  I found myself very happy to be headed home to my new life on the farm and the nearby town of eight hundred and thirty-seven people.

I thought about all the things that fell into place in throughout my life to bring me to this place.  I have been truly blessed in life by being in the right place at the right time.  I was able to recognize that and make the most of my situations.

This past week somebody posted an old picture on facebook and I was in the background. It brought back some memories both good and bad of my past life. While I am not proud of many decisions I have made in the past, I am thankful for where they have brought me today.

The army friend I’ve often written about on this blog posted a picture this past week that was taken when he was deployed in Afghanistan, laying against a dirt berm, geared up with his M4.  He wrote, “You know, I kind of miss this. I remember vividly this moment and being so tired. It seems a lifetime away and I have almost completely disconnected myself from this old me.”  I too have disconnected from my old life. I recognize who I was then, but it no longer seems like me.  I have changed.

I was written about in the local papers this week.  This time, the spotlight was not due to my past.  The article was about what I am currently working on.  It made me realize just how grateful I am for my life.  My past has brought me here, to this place. Training with top coaches and athletes for all those years has prepared me for this important endeavor.

This time I am not fighting for money, I am not training an athlete for a big fight or an actor for a big role. Instead, I am using all those skills to train up a new team of people to fight back against Parkinson’s disease and all the degenerative effects that come with it.

I am so blessed.

Philippians 4:11

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

You Get Out What You Put In

There are a few simple rules in life.  One of those is you get out of life what you put into it.If you look back throughout your life history you will come to the same conclusion.

Take stock of your life today.  Are you reaping the benefits of years of work put towards a goal? Or have you been coasting, putting off the work?  Are you letting your circumstances dictate your schedule, or are you making your goals a priority with your time?

So you want to write a book?  I hear this a lot.  What is stopping you from writing?  Common answers: no time, no money, I don’t know how or I do not have the education.

You want to write?  Then you must write.  Everyday you write so you get better. Writing is like a muscle and you have to use it in order for it to work properly.  You have to become a wordsmith, a person who is constantly working on their writing so that they become more proficient.

Writing has got to be one of the cheapest hobbies around, because all you need is some blank paper and a writing instrument. I have a friend, Matthew, who has written six books – good books – in eight years.  Three have been published and the others are in various stages.  He has written screenplays and edited other people’s work, all while holding down a full-time job.

He is married with a child, is active politically and he never went to school to be a writer. He just does it, day after day, until it becomes second nature.

I train a number people in all shapes and sizes in the art of boxing. One group really stands out –  the fighters in Rock Steady Boxing Minooka.  They all have Parkinson’s disease.  It has been over a year since I first watched Leslie Stahl from 60 Minutes do a story on Rock Steady Boxing.  Leslie’s husband has Parkinson’s and he started training at Rock Steady Boxing.  The difference in his life has been huge.  Before the video segment was even over I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.  I went to the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters and took a weekend seminar on working with Parkinson’s patients. It change my life. I realized that everything I had learned and trained over the years could actually be used to help others fight back against a debilitating disease.

My first Parkinson’s fighter has been training with me for almost one year, three times each week.  His wife is his “Cornerman” and she trains with him every workout too.  They have stuck with it and pushed themselves.  They have missed very few workouts in the entire year. All of their progress has been amazing.  It has improved their strength, balance, coordination, footwork, speed, form, posture, health and cardio. Why?  They show up even when they do not feel like it.  They show up when they are tired or have other things to do.  It is important to them.  This is the same for all of us, no matter what age or fitness level. If you put in the time, you will see results.

If you wish to improve your body, you have to do the work.  Any magic plan that promises fitness with no work is a lie.

Have you ever noticed that when you really wanted to do something, you found the time?  When you really do not want to do something, or it is not a priority, something will always come up. If you are just doing something for money or just doing enough to get it over with – it shows.  Quality in = quality out.  Mediocre in leads to the predictable outcome.

The ability to get good at anything takes a lot of work, but to do so as a full grown adult is rare. It is not because we can’t, but because we are not willing to invest the time or go through the hardship of change. We have, to be honest, harsh and merciless with ourselves and most people are too sensitive get a lot better at anything.  If you never intend to work hard, then anything you wish to do well – will be impossible.

This extends to living a Christian life.  If all you ever do is go to church once a week and sit through a sermon, do you really feel you are giving God his worth?  We are all sinners and not one of us is perfect.  It is a constant battle to live a life that honors God.  If you work on every day, you will see change. If you continue to just show up weekly at a service what can you really expect?

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Challenges to Change

What is holding you back? What is preventing change, in your life? In my life, the biggest hurdle to change was myself.  If you look back at your life up to this point, what are some of the things that have caused you a lot of grief?  Could they have been of your own making?

My life was full of what I like to call now, ‘ill-advised short cuts.’ I was always looking for a way around the rules.  I never took the time to build the proper foundation.  That meant everything I did to be a house built on sand.

When it came crashing down, I would just walk away and jump into something new. I did not care, because I thought I knew what I was doing.

Nobody cared what I did because I brought in money enough for everyone.  As a result, not one person ever instilled in me the way to do things right.  I never made long-term plans, because in my words, “Who knows what tomorrow will bring.” I was always one step away from being locked up.

I was in love with my lifestyle, because as long as I kept producing more and more cash, I never had to think about what I was not doing with my life.  The life I chose gave me an excuse not to live like everyone else.  In my mind, the rules of the world did not apply to me. I didn’t have to have normal relationships because, “Hey, my life isn’t normal.”  I could lie, I reasoned, because it was part of my job.  If I didn’t like something, for whatever reason, I could just make it go away.  People wanted to be around me even if I was not a good person, because they felt they could get something from me. This kept me from facing the truth.

It has taken me many years and a lot of mistakes to write this today.  I had to really examine my life and be honest with myself.  I would work on one small problem area and then begin on another.

I kept thinking the life I chose was what caused me problems.  Then one day I knew what caused them.  It was me: I made the choices, I took it on myself to live the way I did.  I was the one who would not listen to normal rational people.  I always felt I knew better than everyone and I knew what was right.

I left what we referred to as “the life” in 2005, but that was just the beginning of my journey.

I had removed the work part of the equation from my life and yet I would still find myself having similar problems.  I had heard often that life was not about making money.  I was still doing things I did not like (legally this time) for money.  My reasoning was simple, I would use the money I made to do what I really wanted to do.  It never worked out that way, because I became involved in producing more and more so I could keep up with something that was only in my mind.

I was not happy and therefore I never felt any success.

I speak to people on regular basis that wish to obtain certain goals.  Most of these goals have to do with fitness and health.  Sometimes they feel they need to lose some extra pounds.  It could be they wish to be stronger or more coordinated. They might want to win a fight.  They need to figure out what their challenges are in order to change.  Whether or not they succeed comes down to one thing, and that is mindset.  In the end no matter what they decide, I can only bring out what they already have inside.

The formula for getting in shape and losing weight is simple.  The diet industry in the world hopes that people will never figure it out.  You have to workout and eat right, that is all. There is no magic formula or easy way.

Just like people are in search of a magic pill that will allow them to lose weight without a change in diet or exercise, I was in constant search for the magical off-road course that would take me where I wanted to go in life.

The whole time the map was in front of me and I ignored it.

I had to admit to myself that I was not as smart as I thought. I had to work hard and even when there was no visible change I had to keep moving forward doing my best.

Once I let God into my life, things became much more clear.  When I started living in faith and stopped believing I was the captain of my soul, I began to really live.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

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.

Life: The Continuous Journey

Our lives are constantly changing.  We are ever changing.  In fact, millions of cells are dying in your body right now and being replaced as you read this blog.

I find it ironic that when we are young learning is stressed, but as we grow older many people no longer see the importance continuing education.  Many motivational and life coaches stress the importance of reading so that you continue to learn.  To me, this is just common sense.   When I finish one book it will usually lead me to another.  I always take away something new from each of them.

My life has been a continuous journey of change, and I love the challenge.  I constantly find something that I feel I could do better.  It might be the way I treat people, or maybe one person in particular.

It takes courage to leave our comfort zone. Getting started on a new path can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful.  When we examine our lives we can see that each small endeavor we have undertaken has added to our journey.

My own life has had many periods of plateaus where I stopped for a bit, learned what I could at that destination, and then moved on. History is one of my favorite subjects to study, because life repeats itself over and over again. Most of what we read is about in the news is the lives of politicians or the super wealthy or successful, but the truth is every person will experience life’s ebbs and flows on some level.

William Barclay Masterson was born in Canada in 1853 into a family that would include five brothers and two sisters.  They moved and settled on a farm in Sedgwick County, Kansas.  After very little schooling William left the farm at seventeen years old with his brothers Ed and Jim in search of work. They found work on a ranch near Wichita, and they worked there until they learned they could make two dollars and fifty cents per bison hide.  That began William’s Buffalo hunting period.  He and his brothers would be a part of one of the great battles with the plains Indians. A number of tribes joined forces to wipe out the trading post of Adobe Wells. At least seven hundred Indians descended on the small trading post at dawn, but William and his brothers, along with a man named Billy Dixon held them off from the store.  Billy Dixon shot an Indian off his horse from almost a mile away with a single shot Sharps rifle.

William and his brothers then helped grade railway beds for a short time before moving on.  William was later hired by General Nelson A Miles as a scout against the Indians.

William went on to become a professional gambler, working in the boom towns of South Dakota.  He started working in law enforcement in Dodge City, where in 1877 he was elected county sheriff.  He worked as sheriff, in a number of small towns across the western United States in the coming years.  He had become friends with President Teddy Roosevelt who ended up appointing him Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York, a job he would hold until 1909.

It was at that point William, now known as “Bat Masterson” became a national sports writer for New York papers.

Bat Masterson lived an eventful life in the American West, but he did not stop there.  When the west began to lose its luster, he moved to New York and began to write. He remained a well-regarded sportswriter until his death in 1921.

Many people take long winding paths to their goals, but one thing they all have in common and that is they are willing to change.

Take Saul of Tarsus, who was an educated Pharisee.  He studied the law and was very respected in his community. He had begun to attain the fame and notoriety in his time by persecuting the followers of Jesus.  He even went on a journey to Syria to help get rid of followers of Christ there, and that is when he had a fateful meeting on a road.

At that point on his journey he changed and his life completely, and his way of life before no longer mattered.  He even gave up his Jewish name Saul and took a Greek name, Paul.  He spent the rest of his life spreading the Gospel of Jesus and learning to live the life God intended for him.

What will you do with your life?  Are you willing to change?  Each of us must follow our own path, but one thing is for certain. We can never be content with just existing, we must constantly keep learning and growing.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

2 Timothy 3:7

Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.