Tag Archives: chicago

Live The Dream

What are your dreams and goals? A lot of us use the phrase someday when we talk about them.  We often put off taking that first step until it is too late.  I wonder how many works of art died before they were ever realized? How many great stories were never told?

Kids dream big.  Astronaut? President? Racecar driver?  Sure!

Could it be that we were never taught how to reach our goals?  When I had something I wanted to accomplish in the past I would often get caught up in my own thoughts, holding myself back. I would basically talk myself out of it.  I would think, “I can never actually do that,” or, “I don’t have the education or the training.”  Worse yet, “I don’t have the connections I would need to succeed with that.”  

Do you see how I never even took the first step?

Today when I think about my goals, I investigate them.  I learn everything I can about them and then I begin to chip away.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Each day I make progress in the direction I wish to go.  I keep that mental picture of myself doing or succeeding at what I am dreaming about.

This is when I have learned to be patient.  Let’s say I did arrive at the end without all the hard work in the middle.  If that happened, I would not be ready for the success.  Most likely I would fail.  I wouldn’t have all lessons that I would need to fall back on that I should have learned on the way to reaching my goals.  

God knows what I can handle – success and failure – and where I need to be. I have to trust in him on my journey to accomplish the dreams he has put inside me.

Ambitious dreams are great! Working towards them is part of life.  Letting them die is a waste. I am sure that any cemetery is full of wasted possibilities and unfulfilled potential.

I do not know what legacy I will leave behind when I die, but I do know that I do not want to be remembered as the “Someday I’ll accomplish that,” guy.

There is no better time than right now to take that first step towards your goals.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

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.

Advertisements

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.

 

Habits Are they Helpful?

Habits.  Good, bad or slightly annoying, it is our habits that will ultimately determine where we end up: success or failure.  

I was recently sent this article about a man who had studied a group of rich people and outlined the common habits he found they had.  While that article, in particular, was only about a group of people with a high monetary net worth, I’ll go beyond that, and say that good habits can help you succeed in life, not just determine who becomes wealthy.  Money and things are temporary.  Success is also about what we do with our time while we are here on earth.

I really like this definition of a habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. That pretty much encompasses all that needs to be said about habits.

It has also been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  I have been working on creating better habits for myself.  

I will give you two examples from my life.  First, I committed to writing this blog with a new post every Wednesday.  I did it for a full year. Even when I felt nobody was reading or following my posts, or I felt I could better use my time doing something else, I still sat down and wrote.   I enjoy writing and it keeps me sharp while I finish up my book. The point is that I made it a habit to sit down in front of the computer to write every single day, so that I could make sure I produce enough content.

My birthday was June 1st and I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to push myself in the fitness department. I wanted to increase my strength, so I started an intense training program with kettlebells.  I gathered all of the information that I could, buying books on kettlebells and watching training videos by the pros.   I then planned a kettlebell program four times a week to add to my regular training.  I have not missed a day and progress is moving forward at a pace better than I expected. I have made heavy kettlebell training a habit and I can feel the results.

Success in anything new does not come from luck, and it is not free.  

The time I took to examine my life and create new habits has paid off.  It was not easy to admit to myself that I had some really worthless habits.  It was hard to ditch some life long patterns I had, but I have and I will continue to work on replacing them with good ones. I can change my life. If you want to, you can change yours too.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

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.

 

Baggage

Many of us carry around way too much weight. I am not talking about those extra pounds on the midsection. I’m talking about the dead weight of emotional baggage we drag through life.

Most people do not want to face or hear the truth. That is the way society has trained us. It is not our fault…. all of our problems are because of…  Insert a cause here. If only I had this thing or went to these places or I had a better family or a better job, or a better spouse. If all that fails, blame it on the government of the only truly free nation in the history of the world.

When our problems surface, others may tell us that we should go see a professional who will give you a prescription for whatever the newest drug is today. Yet, despite the blame and the drugs, at the end of the day, we still have the same baggage.

What we carry around could be very visible, or it could be very well hidden inside of us.  

Have you ever watched someone explode in anger? Do you believe that it is a one-time occurrence? On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are others who try way too hard to be a good person or overly helpful. Their emotional baggage is always there, just below the surface.

 We have to address what causes anxiety inside us.  No matter how far we run from it, it will still be there.

In my old life, I used to live in Newport Beach, California. When things got hot from law enforcement, I would take off to my condo in Palm Springs, California. While there I would relax, head out into the desert, sometimes hang out with other bad guys. Then I would come back to Newport Beach where the problems still existed, but were no longer in my face.

I did this for most of my adult life. I would shuttle between South Florida, Southern California, New York and many other destinations.  All I did was stay a step away from my problems.  What I needed to do was stay in one place, face my problems and deal with them.  

The number one task at this point if we wish to free ourselves from the dead weight that drags us down is to identify it. Make a list. Think of your life like a trip into outer space where you can only take the essentials with you. Your life is the suitcase. You must choose each item carefully, deciding if you can live without it or not.

Once this is finished we must decide what we will do about the baggage you no longer need to carry.  Our emotional well being is our own responsibility. There is never a time to place blame elsewhere or ask someone else to do it for us. There will be few things in life we have control over, but the good news is we can control our own emotions.

I have a friend that grew up in the life.  He came from a family that I will call Mafia royalty.  He had all the perks when he was young and more when he came into adulthood.  He never gave life a second thought because he was able to live well.

It all came to an end well over a decade ago and today he is paralyzed by his former life.  He never developed the skills to live, to be a normal human.  No matter when I speak with him, it is always the same issues. He will remain stuck in emotional quicksand until he steps up and takes responsibility for his own life.

I understand why my friend and others cannot climb out of their pits of despair. I have been there.  Admitting to ourselves that our baggage is holding us back gives us power to let it go.  It is a constant battle for me. I constantly find old habits creeping up on me.

My blessing was the day I realized that I could let go of my burden by not living for myself, but by God’s will. That was the day my eyes were opened and the emptiness left my soul. The best part of all my soul searching is that I know where my problems stem from and I no longer let them affect my life. It is not easy for me at all, so through trial and error, I have eliminated triggers in my life.  I have learned to live in the now, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has not come.

It is time for all of us to live a more fulfilling happy life, by letting go of the extra baggage we carry with us.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Attract Opportunity

Opportunity. It comes in many shapes and forms, often appearing without warning when we least expect it.  I have had a lot of time to contemplate the topic of opportunity over the last two years. I dug deep into my past in order to better understand the missteps I made, with the intention of using that knowledge to improve.

Two men, both named Jerry, had a big hand in shaping my views during my younger years.  They both left a lasting impression that ultimately impacted my actions.

One was Jerry the Cop.  He was not the kind of law enforcement officer that you would want coming to the rescue.  Jerry and I spent a lot of time hitting nightclubs and bars. He urged me to go into a place radiating confidence.  He taught me to convince myself and everyone else I was “the man.”  His approach worked great for attracting a superficial crowd.  That was what I was looking for at the time, so I embraced it. I was a criminal on the rise, and I wanted to get bigger.

Jerry Z. was the other man instilling life lessons on an impressionable young Kenji.  Imagine that at the age of twenty you are standing in the office of a six-foot-eight-inch Jewish gangster, well known for running with a Colombo crime family crew. In fact, Jerry Z had just stolen a couple hundred million dollars in gas tax from the government, and he was about to take me under his wing.

He is sitting behind the desk schooling me on how to meet guys who can make me the big bucks.  He says, “Listen, kid, you have to relax. Let ‘em come to you. You got to act as if ‘I am the man,’ and you got to plant the Greed Seed.”  He was telling me to keep my mouth shut.  Let people see what I capable of, let them see I am earning, because nobody wants to work with a bust out.

Jerry Z. and Jerry the Cop had that same philosophy about working with others. You let people think they can make cash with you and you let them come to you.  Make them feel like it is their idea.

That worked for me to a point, just as hard work and determination work, but something was missing.

When I moved to Illinois, I was really starting over.I didn’t know anybody. I thought of Jerry Z.  He used to say, “You can drop me in place in the country.  As long as I got a place to hang my hat, I’ll make money.” This time, for me, the money was not the main goal.  I had recently placed my faith in God, and this time, I was building my life on a different foundation.

It hit me one day that yes, hard work is part of what I need to do to realize new opportunities, but I would be selling myself short if that was all I did.  I needed to change the way I approach life. Instead of the old days, where my dark past was an asset, I had to change my character to match my foundation, so that the right opportunities would come.

I had worked for twenty years to have a bad reputation, so I knew I could not expect to build a good one in just a few years.

I needed to surround myself with people who had the type of character I wanted, and those who are successful in the fields I wished to work in.  If I could not physically be around the people who helped me excel in certain areas I was working on, then I could contact them and keep up the friendships. I could also immerse myself in books about other people who had successfully embarked on a similar path.

I needed to change my life by doing new and different activities. If I kept doing what I always did, then the results would ultimately be the same, as the old saying goes.  We are what we think about and do on a daily basis. I needed to change up my familiar daily patterns and be prepared when the right opportunity came into my life.

I began dedicating time every day to reading the Bible and at least one other book that I could learn something from. I love reading, but I can also admit that I had become lazy, reading only fun books for entertainment.

Regardless of your beliefs, the Bible is full of wisdom and important life lessons.

I also kept focused on my health. If you exercise and feel good, everyone can see. With a healthy body and mind, you are ready for anything that comes your way.

James 2:18

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.