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Never Stop Learning

Becoming an expert in anything is never quite as simple as taking a weekend course to get certified by an organization.   The journey for knowledge is never-ending. Many people expect to go to school, take a class or two and become a master at something.  In reality, a true master never stops their quest for knowledge.

With martial arts, in particular, I’ve learned that when you teach others you quickly realize how much you still do not know. You realize what faults you have, and if you take the right steps to remedy your faults, it helps you grow.

No matter what you do well, there is always someone who does it better.  If we become so conceited that we believe our own hype, we will never continue to grow.

Even if you receive the highest award in your field, you cannot relax and quit working on your craft.  If you do not consistently grow, you will soon be outdated.

There is a documentary I have watched a few times called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It is about a man who found something he loves to do, make sushi, and he works tirelessly to perfect it. He is never content and is constantly looking for ways to make better sushi.  That is why his small restaurant is rated the best sushi restaurant in the world.

In life, we must constantly keep learning in order to stay relevant.  If we want to stand out in any endeavor we must keep learning and it must be quality knowledge that we gain.  

We must change our mindset. Instead of doing something to win, we instead will choose to do something to gain knowledge and grow.  It can be humbling to work at things we are not good at, but in the end, it is a valuable lesson. To grow, we must let go of our fear of failure, humble ourselves and often it means forgetting about what the rest of the pack is doing.  

I encourage you to pick something you are not good at, and start learning, growing and developing new skills.  Each of us has at our fingertips a vast amount of knowledge, why not use it?

When it comes to our faith, the same thing is true.  We can never just sit back or coast on our faith. We must constantly strive toward growth.  As a Christian, it is up to me to put in the work to continuously grow and become more like Jesus.  None of us is without faults. I need to realize what my faults are, and work on them.

Proverbs 18:15

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

 

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2018 Is Here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happiness Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 6:9

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

Proverbs 22:29

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

 

Gratitude

Life is hard.  We all face periods when it feels like our world is collapsing in on us.  During those tough times, we can either face the hard times and deal with them, or let ourselves become prisoner to our circumstances.

The holiday season is here and it tends to bring many feelings to the forefront – many good, some bad.  One of the most important is gratitude.  

I am coming up on my third holiday season in the Midwest.  Being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, I have truly learned to enjoy a slower pace of life.  I have learned to treasure the small things that come up on a daily basis and enjoy the beauty of the country around me.

I had it in my mind, for a very long time, that the only things I should be thankful for are cash money and freedom. The funny part about that, is that the money never made me happy and freedom is something I never really had.  I held on to that warped sense of “what life should be” for far longer than I should have.

It took me many years to reach a place where gratitude became an important part of my daily life.

It is easy to let life distract us with what we don’t have, but the reality is that here in the U.S. we live very blessed lives. No matter what our economic level is, we have clean water, electricity and there is always food available.  

It is time for me to not only be thankful for my many blessings, but to also step it up and do what I can for others because I have been so blessed.  I always talk about my “goals” and this is a big one:  I will pay it forward.  I will help others just as people along the way have helped me.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

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

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Expectations

What drives you? If you are driven by money, you are setting yourself up for a disappointing life. No matter how much money you bring in, the temporary happiness of success will wear off, and it will never bring lasting fulfillment.  I lived that way for many years.

Maybe you are driven by relationships.  If you are looking to another person to make you happy, you may find yourself jumping from one person to another as each one lets you down.  

So should we lower our expectations?  Never!  We just need to adjust our goals.  If we place all our hope on the people in our lives, or on material goods, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Life is not about raising or lowering our expectations, it is about making sure our expectations are in line with our God-given purpose.  Each of us has a purpose.  We have special skills that will enable us to make an impact on the people around us.  

Get to know who YOU are. What makes you tick? Dig deep, find that inner passion, because it will show.  When you find things you are passionate about, dive in.  Keep growing and strengthening your skills in those areas.  Become the best that you can at it.  Then use it to make a positive impact on the world.

I spent so much of my life searching for fulfillment and yet wherever I turned, for so many years I never found it.  I had a lot of high expectations of myself.  I was willing to work hard, put in the time needed to move up in the world.  I became successful in many areas, but it never brought me peace or joy. At one point I even spent a period of eighteen months all alone working on myself – focused solely on building my mind and body. Even then, I was left looking for something more.

Fast forward a decade.  I was living in Los Angeles, working in Hollywood.  For most of my life I had been a guy who thought people who needed “religion” were weak.  Yet over that decade, people kept coming into my life who I respected, and they would talk to me about their faith.  They would give me a Bible or tell me they were praying for me.  They would share their story with me.  They were not weak. They were not pushy.  They made an impact on me and they got me thinking.  Thinking about things I had learned when I was a very small kid in church but had not thought about since.

I decided I wanted to look into the matter a little deeper, and I started attending a local church.  Immediately, I realized I had it all wrong.  I became a believer and slowly started changing my life as I learned about what it meant to be a Christian.  Instead of living my life for myself, I needed to live it for my creator.

Soon after that big change, I was headed for another big change.  I was driving away from Los Angeles, leaving behind the life I knew and was comfortable in.  I had always been a city boy.  Now, I live in the Midwest.  I wake up in the country each morning. It is peaceful and beautiful here.  I have a new perspective on how I want to spend my days on earth.

Training Rock Steady Boxers with Parkinson’s disease has also changed my way of thinking.  I see first hand their struggles.  I also see how they respond to my encouragement, how they learn and push themselves to be stronger and sharper. I get to share in their triumphs. It is so rewarding as a trainer to see them fighting back, and winning, against something like Parkinson’s that will take over their lives if they let it.

The money-driven younger self I once knew would see my life at this point as a failure.  But the funny thing is, I am much more fulfilled using my strengths to help others and living my life in faith than I ever was when I was moving “up” in the world.  

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.

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

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.