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Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

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.

 

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Thrive

Here in the United States, we have access to so many things that can enrich our lives, yet many of us never take advantage of any of it.  We all have free time, we all have resources around us – libraries, museums, job opportunities, educational opportunities.  Yet most of us would rather spend our time complaining about all of the things we don’t have and the opportunities that are not handed to us, than to go out and create opportunities for ourselves.  Why?

Did we lose the art of believing that anything is possible with hard work and determination?  It can be easy to forget that we are all truly blessed to live in a place where there is an abundance of food and medical care is always available in emergencies. Instead, we all want more, we feel we deserve more without putting in the effort to earn it.

If we spend any amount of time watching TV or poking around on social media, we will be quickly reminded of the things we are lacking.  The truth is, those things are not necessary to achieve our goals.

Life is always better when we spend our time believing that we already have the things we need to enjoy life and pursue our dreams.  Don’t wait until you achieve your goals to believe in yourself.  Believing you can’t thrive until you have reached your goal is a mistake, we need to thrive during the journey. To think otherwise only fills our days with negativity.  

I am healthy and alive and thriving, even though I have so many goals left to achieve.

The fault in my old system of belief was that I thought everything – both good and bad – happened because of me or to me.  I gave myself too much credit – I believed the world revolved around me.  It is hard not to laugh at myself now looking back.  

I believe that if everyday I put in my best effort, it will pay off in the future.  That doesn’t mean life won’t hold struggles, but it means that I can still thrive during life’s struggles.  I know life as it is at this moment is just temporary and will change sometimes for the better or worse. I believe that no matter which way life may go, I am well equipped to handle it and will continue to thrive.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Hebrews 11:1

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

 

Destination or Journey

Often we focus on the destination with so much intensity that we completely forget about the journey. Each of us has a unique story that goes along with our journey in life.  We are exactly where we are today because of the roads we have chosen.

In 2005 I could have never imagined that I would end up in the Midwest.  I became adapted to living the big city life during my time in New York, and the minute I left, I missed it.

I spent a lot of time in a mountain state after that, but I never enjoyed it or even considered living there.  I spent all of my time training, writing, reading and on Fridays, watching movies.  That was probably the longest time I spent living away from a coastline, until now.  Los Angeles began as my home in my early years, and became my home again.  It was the place I thought I would live the rest of my life.

Looking back, the funny thing is that I do not miss it at all.  I was going over all of the choices big and small that brought me to where I am in Illinois today.  I do not regret my past because it shaped who I am today.  I regret certain choices and actions I chose.  I never dwell on my past in a negative way, because it shaped the person I am today.  I am thankful for my journey and most of all, that I survived.  

I learned a lot of things the hard way. The lessons of my life come from experiences both good and bad.  Now, I hope to pass on my experiences to anyone who cares to listen, and save them the trouble of learning the hard way.

I lived in a state of constant dread.  A life of,  “What if?” or, “How long?”  Even after I began the change process, I still felt uneasy all the time. Looking back, I will sometimes catch myself wondering why did I not seek change sooner.  I know now that it is because I was not ready and God’s timing is perfect.

My journey taught me that we can all accomplish what seems impossible as long as we are dedicated to improving and staying the course.  We may not get exactly what we set out for, but what we do receive will be more than we could have dreamed.

Destination or journey? The real prize is what we learn along the way.
Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Why Details Matter

Sometimes I like to just hang back, watch people to see what they do and how they act.  If you pay attention you can easily determine why some succeed and others fail at certain endeavors.

It has become easy for most of us to skip over the small details in life.  We live in a quick on the go society.  In reality every detail, no matter how small, matters. I have the luxury of hindsight because I am able to look back on my life and determine why I was successful at certain times. I can also be sure of why I failed at other incidents.  It comes down to the details.

Why are Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art so amazing and thought provoking?  After all anyone can paint a starry night.  In reality, very few can capture the mood and feel with a brush.

Last week I watched a championship fight between two fighters at the top of their game.  One of them was hit by a huge hook and right away he came back with a wicked cross.  The hook seemingly had little effect on the one hit.  Two still pictures reveal the reason behind it.

The hook was “winged,” which means the hips were not used and it was only a palm strike.  He didn’t hit with his knuckles, but his opponent did use his hips and turn over his punch.  Those tiny differences made the difference between being able to walk through a punch and being thrown against the ropes.

How many times do we fail to take each step we need to accomplish our goals? Are we using our hips to throw our hooks (hypothetically), or are we just slapping with our hands? I have been and am guilty as the next person when it comes to cutting corners.  I used to never worry about the small things, I always figured I could go back and fix them. This faulty way of thinking has cost me a lot over the years.  I think about all the time and heartache I could have saved myself and I realize how ignorant I had been.

We walk through life without realizing that God has provided us with everything we need to live a prosperous life of fulfillment.  It is hard because we cannot see the big picture or the final outcome. This is where faith comes into the picture and helps us get through the rough periods.  The good news is, that even though we can’t see the future, our job is not to blindly walk in faith, he has given us clear guidelines of how we should live in the Bible.

Our lives are made up of thousands of tiny actions that take place every hour of the day and night.  A chef cannot put a culinary masterpiece on the table without careful attention to each of the ingredients.

I listen when someone is explaining something unfamiliar to me and I absorb the information.  If I don’t understand something, I will ask questions.

I make every effort to do whatever task I set out to do right in the first place. I know I will fail at times, but I learn and I never continue to make the same mistakes again.

How could paying attention to details make your life easier?  The next question is why are you not sweating the details?  When we cease to learn, life is over.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Proverbs 13:4

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

 

Aftermath: Rebuilding Your Life

We have all heard the saying, “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are ready to change.” This is something that I know first hand. I also know others who have gone through the same experience.  In fact, most of us will have to rebuild our lives at some point in life.

It may come from an unexpected loss, the death of a loved one, a job, or it could be our own self-destructive behavior. It does not matter the cause, because the outcome is the same. A life in shambles, the feeling of no hope, bitterness, and blame. You can feel the walls of despair closing in on you as depression sets into your life.

Life seems overwhelming and we become frozen in place, shut down.  For some, it sends them into a self-medication period or an overeating binge.  All the while we distance ourselves from friends and loved ones.

When you find yourself at rock bottom, It is time to examine your life and figure out what has brought you to this place. Make a list, because when you write it down you can easily decide what is most important. You can also devise a plan to begin the journey of rebuilding.

A good approach is to begin by controlling what you can.  We can all control what goes into our bodies. Alcohol and drugs will just bring us down, even more, the problem still exists but now our minds are clouded.

What we eat also has a huge effect on how we feel.  If we eat sugar or foods heavy with fats, we will feel it. Excess sugar will cause us to hit highs and then come crashing down feeling worse than ever.  Unhealthy food will make your whole system feel sluggish.  Cut it all out. We do not need them and once our system begins functioning better on healthy fuel, we will not miss them.  Challenge yourself by being strong and watching your food intake.

The more you start to take control of your life, the better you feel.  It is time to make commitments with some new habits. A lot of hugely successful people start the day early with some exercise. I am not suggesting that you begin with a gym membership.  We must crawl before we can walk, so start small.  Try walking around your neighborhood every day for thirty minutes in the mornings, without distractions and without stopping.  I am not talking about a treadmill! Get outdoors where the weather and terrain varies daily.  Use this alone time to think about life and plan your day.

After a series of events in my life, I found myself all alone in a place I had never been. I was depressed and fat, with no idea what I would do with my life from that point forward. The first day I shut myself inside the hotel suite and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t want to face reality. My old life was no more.  The people I knew would never and could never be a part of my new life. I had brought everything on myself because of my actions, so the only person I could blame was myself.

I decided that I should begin walking every morning for an hour. I was out the door before light that second day. I walked every day for the rest of that first week. After my walk, I would come back to the suite and watch TV.  Eventually, I ventured across the street after dark to a huge bookstore and bought some books and a notepad.  I developed a routine.  Walk, read, write about my life and eat fresh unprocessed food.  After that first week, I found a Mixed Martial Arts gym and I started walking past it every day.  Martial arts had been an important part of my early life, but it had been a few years since I had been in a martial arts gym. I checked out the class schedule and thought about joining.  It took me almost a month to finally decide to walk into the gym.  When I did, I decided on a whim to take a class.

The class gave me over an hour a day when the only thing I could think about was the class. My head was clear and focused when I trained. I developed a new schedule.  I would walk every day for an hour, come back and watch two shows, then go take a class, read a book for learning (history, science, etc), eat lunch, work on writing the story of my life, and later read another book for pleasure. This routine pulled me out of the hole I had dug for myself.

Writing about my life laid bare the fact that all of my problems had been caused by the choices I made.  I started a list of things that I had to change, and believe me it was a huge list. I started working on one of them at a time. I am still working on the list and it grows all the time.  I have found that I gain confidence every time I conquer a personal dislike.  People might feel my life is too regimented and strict, but it is actually freeing.

Find something that you can get into.  Something that allows you to forget about your problems and clear your mind for a time, even if you can see no immediate benefit.

When you develop a new routine, make a pact with yourself that you will not stop for a month.

Write about your thoughts and problems.  Keep a diary, even if it is just a short e-mail you send to yourself at the beginning of each day. This is enormously helpful and it is between you and you alone.

As I was writing this post, I counted at least five times that I have hit bottom and started to rebuild my life. The best thing to come out of those experiences is that I have tread familiar ground repeatedly. I do not know what the says about me, but at least I know what choices I no longer wish to make.

I spoke to two others about the aftermath of their destructive lives.  I asked them both what helped them come back from the brink.  One told me that when he was doing his thing it was about him.  When it all came crashing down it affected those close to him.  He let everyone down. He had support and he decided that he would take it and better himself.  The second person told me he realized he was a grown man and if he did nothing he would be wasting his life. The life he had was no longer part of the equation, so he started one step at a time and day by day it got better.

Ephesians 4:28

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

 

Self-Made Prison

Life is either a marathon or a sprint.  Regardless of the length, we do not know when the race will be over.  Yesterday is the past. Whether it was good or bad, today is another chance to get it right.   Our attitude, beliefs, actions, and fears have brought us where we are. Many of us have built up walls in our lives. We see the world in a certain way, and we tell ourselves that they are barriers to keep out the unwanted, but in reality they are prisons.   

Some of us think of a water glass as half empty while others see the glass is half full.  Neither is wrong.  A positive outlook, regardless of what we face, will help us as we move forward.  Nothing in our lives is permanent, change will always come. Bad attitudes magnify the negative and destroy hope.

Have you ever felt, that something may work for others, but not for you?  I have on more than a few occasions.  The problem with my thinking was that I was not willing to open up to new methods or ideas.  I was stuck in the mindset that my long held beliefs and preconceived notions were always right because I had been there before.  What I really had to learn was that the old way life played out that way because of the way I went about it. It was time for me to stop passing the blame and stop the never ending cycle I was on. It is never easy, but you must retrain your mind to stop with the negative thoughts and keep working to get out of your cell.

Every morning there is a new problem.  Leaving the house brings a new set of challenges. Do we stay home? Feel sorry for ourselves and cry? Turn to a vice to ease the suffering momentarily?

Evaluate everything and start with the things that you can fix now.  Come up with a game plan.  No journey is complete without a map – a route and a destination. Accept the facts and no matter how uncomfortable it is, face them, because each of holds the key to set us free from the walls that are holding us back.

The biggest and most formidable wall in life is fear. The fear of failure always looms.  The fear that we will go too far and be left alone.  The fear that we are just not good enough.  The fear that we do not have what it takes.  The fear that we will not be accepted by our peers.  All of these seem real, but the truth is we have built them up in our minds. The more we dwell on them, the more powerful they become.

At one time, I lived in a constant state of fear.  I had a fear that a normal life was for everybody except me. The fear paralyzed me and kept me from growing or reaching for my goals.  We can either become prisoners bound by our own outlook, or we can change our thinking.  It will be hard, breaking habits by retraining your mind, building new habits and learning all take time.

Saul of Tarsus is a man I have brought up before.  He grew up Jewish and by all accounts, he was set to be one of the great ones. He had a prejudice against Christians, and believed that they were wrong about Jesus and his way of thinking was right.  He went after the early Christians with a vengeance, even sending some to their death. It was not until he was blinded by Jesus himself and later regained his sight that he was freed from his self-made prison. He went on to accomplish great things that we still benefit from today.  He wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament of the Bible.

It’s time to let go of the preconceived notions in your life that are keeping you locked up, and move on to accomplish the great things set out for you.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are What We Eat

We have all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” The phrase originated in an 1826 manuscript written by a French lawyer by the name of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  It read “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

Food is a good thing.  It gives you strength and life.  As a trainer and coach, one of the most common questions I hear is, “How many calories should I eat to lose weight?” Diet companies want you to believe counting calories is the only way to a healthy body. I always get a good laugh when I go out to eat and I see the calorie content on the menu next to the meal.  In my years of experience, I’ve learned that the key to losing weight is eating high-quality nutrient rich food in moderation, combined with exercise and enough sleep.  A healthy body begins in the kitchen and is sculpted in the gym.

“You are what you eat,” also applies to all of the information we take into our minds during a twenty-four hour period.   The things we think about, watch, talk about and listen to are all food for our minds.

Make it a goal to feed your body and your mind things that build you up.  If you ingest negativity, flush it out and move on.  Make changes so that you surround yourself with positivity instead.

Eat food that contributes to your body’s strength and health. The protein, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to function at its peak can all be found in real foods and vegetables. There is no need for expensive powders, supplements or shakes.

Read books that stimulate your mind.  Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you to have strong values.  If you have free time, consider taking free online college courses.  I have had great experiences with free online courses from both Hillsdale College and Dallas Theological Seminary.  There is no need to spend thousands of dollars to learn in today’s world.

It’s also important to have a healthy spiritual life.  After all, our bodies will eventually fail, but through Christ we have eternal life.  I feed my spirit by spending time reading the Bible and time in prayer.  As I’ve increased the quality of the things I’m feeding my mind, body and spirit, my quality of life has improved at the same time.

Matthew 4:4

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you – whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.