If success has eluded us, when we know we could be doing so much more, the time to reevaluate life is here. We must be honest with ourselves, the hard choices made, a plan with defined goals, yet with the flexibility needed in the real world should be thought out. Change begins when we recognize that must master ourselves, holding in check our desires, passion, and excesses.
We close out another year and usher in a new decade. All of us tend to make resolutions on New Year’s day and yet how many of us follow through? We often give up within a month, why? Change is hard, leaving our comfort zone is not easy, does it mean we do not want to improve our lives? We all have dreams and aspirations, but are we willing to put in the work that it will take to reach them? If we want something bad enough, we will make the time, find the funds, be consistent and throw away the excuses.
It has been two years since my wife and I made the decision to relocate to the Midwest from Southern California. It was actually a decision that came fairly easy, because we were both ready for change. We thought about it, prayed about it, and things fell into place quickly.
We set the move date, loaded a moving truck up with our belongings and sent it on its way across the country.
We arrived at the farm on July 1, 2015. It was the first time I had ever seen it – the place where my wife grew up. A farm that had been in her family for over a hundred years.
I had two things on my mind. The first was to unwind after the long drive, and the second was finding a gym where I could train martial arts. A friend of my wife’s family stopped by that day and invited me over to his farm the following weekend to help butcher broiler hens. I was trained on the spot and soon our freezer was full of delicious farm raised chickens. I hadn’t realized that you raise some chickens to eat, and another kind to lay eggs. There was so much more to learn.
After googling local MMA and Jiu Jitsu gyms, I found one nearby and headed over to check it out. That day was the first time I thought maybe I had made a mistake moving to the Midwest.
I introduced myself to the man who ran the gym, and asked if I could train. He invited me back for a Jiu Jitsu session later that night. When we returned, he was extremely rude to both my wife and I. I didn’t realize what had changed in the past few hours until he confronted me about being “a rat,” and told me that I wasn’t welcome in his gym. This was after he made me wait an hour to speak with him. Apparently, he had googled me and felt I wasn’t worthy of his gym based on my past. What a welcome to my “fresh start.
It turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to rethink about the things that were really important. It took me out of my comfort zone, but looking back now I can see how much I was forced to grow.
The next week I found a great gym with talented fighters who were not interested in my past, but in how I trained as a fighter. They have always treated me well and I like the guys I have gotten to know there.
My wife had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and she headed back to school. I knew deep down what I wanted to do – open my own gym and write- and in reality, I could do both wherever I was located.
I have been passionate about three things in life consistently: Martial Arts, fitness, and writing.
The word passion is overused a lot today, so I will explain what I mean by it. To participate in each of the arts I love I was willing to put in the years it takes to become proficient in them. To me one of the greatest attributes of all three “hobbies” – Martial Arts, writing, and fitness – is that you are never great, you can always improve.
I was introduced to Martial Arts in the 1980’s when I had just turned 13 through David Miller and Ted Lucaylucay. David owned Musashi Martial Arts Supply which was an equipment wholesaler. He also taught kickboxing to a few people at his warehouse. I met Ted through David and I was soon taking Jeet Kune Do at Ted’s Dojo in Huntington Beach. In those days I would ride my bike to both places which would take over an hour. I had to settle for boxing after David and Ted stopped teaching because there was no other place to train back in those days.
Throughout my teens, twenties, and early 30’s I trained sporadically when life wasn’t too crazy. I later started training Mixed Martial Arts and I found out I really liked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2005 when my life stabilized after two decades of craziness, I began training Jiu Jitsu twice a day. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to take it up a notch, so I started training with the fight team at Joker’s Wild in Orange County. It was there that I met a lot of future world champions. During that time of my life I would get to work by 4:30am so that I could leave to train at noon and again at night. I never turned down an offer to train with any fighter, because I knew that was the way to improve. When I entered the gym I would look around. Whoever was the best, that was who I would train with that day. I cannot begin to count all of the black eyes, bloody noses, bruises and injuries I have had over the years, but I never quit.
I have a lot to say about a lot of things so writing has always intrigued me. There is nothing better than a great storyteller who can bring you into the world they are writing about.
I never took the time in school to learn anything useful about writing, so I had to do it the hard way. I started writing a blog around the year 2000. It was called Crimeman and it almost cost me my life.
After that, I used to write on legal pads and in binders, but it was just thoughts with no direction. Once I decided to really tell my story, it took about four years of hard work to get the book Breakshot into a form that could be further shaped and edited. That book was rejected by publishers close to a hundred times before it found a home.
Breakshot brought me into Hollywood where I learned to write screenplays. I wrote seven over a period of years and to date I have only sold three.
Looking back my life has been a rollercoaster ride because I was always in search of the next thing. Once here in the country, life slowed down there were fewer distractions.
I knew I had to rededicate myself to my endeavors. I began to write every day on a schedule that I set for myself. The words began to flow from within and I realized that I no longer wanted to write about criminals and their world. It no longer held my interest. In fact, it brought me down. So I began to write about what it takes to make changes in your life, and other topics that did hold interest for me.
Training people in Los Angeles was easy for me. If a client did not meet my standards I could always find another. In the gym, we had a constant stream of new clients. In Illinois, I had to rethink my approach and learn some patience when working with people.
It was in this process that I learned a lot about myself and what I really like to do. I found out that while I enjoy training people that fight or want to fight, it is those people who will never fight that I enjoy training the most. I found that I can help those people change their lives through their experiences in the gym.
It seems like so much more than two years have passed since I have started over in the Midwest. I have grown and learned a lot. My wife says I have changed a lot (for the better). I have truly witnessed what God can do in my life. I have seen God close some doors and open others. I have worked hard and have met great people. I am looking forward to my future.
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Recently, when I was taking inventory of my life, I realized that there were several activities that I have always had a passion for in life. The first I wrote about last week: my love for martial arts. Another passion is books. I love all kinds of books, on a broad spectrum of subjects. In the old days, when there were bookstores all over Los Angeles, I would go inside a used bookstore or a chain bookstore and spend hours looking through the shelves, discovering new subjects and new authors.
There is no way to replace the lost environment of a good bookstore. Sure, Amazon will still sell you just about any book. The problem is, you have to know the title or the author ahead of time. Publishers pay for advertising on Amazon, and so you are in their algorithms viewing the books they want you to buy. When I used to frequent book stores I enjoyed the fact that many of the employees were avid readers and they would recommend their favorite authors or set aside books for me. I could browse the aisles and subject matters until I saw a book spine or a title that caught my eye. I would find wonderful obscure books that might lead me to others. I was never big on following the New York Times Bestseller list.
I would find an author I enjoyed and then I would read everything they put out. I’d be sad if it turned out that they had been dead for twenty years and would not put out any new books. I would research their lives, read their interviews, etc. I wanted to find out where they got their ideas from, find out what helped them put words to paper.
Today, researching an author is much easier. Thanks to Youtube I can see many authors speak on many subjects. In all of the available interviews and talks, I found a few things that all authors seemed to have in common. They are passionate story tellers, most never attended special writing programs. They never gave up, they did not listen to the doubters around them.
I wanted to be a writer. The problem I faced was that even after all of my research, I still had no idea what it took to write a book. I never paid much attention to writing or grammar in school.
To begin, I found books on writing and started reading them. This didn’t get me fired up to write. So I tried another approach. I started seeking out authors. Many told me to emulate the writers whose style I liked. I was also told I had to put in the time it would take to learn to write. This is where most people would give up, because the task seems daunting. I had no college education and no background in writing, but what I did have was the desire to write.
I started by writing a blog, which was a relatively new thing at the time. It was bad: lots of typos and technical errors. Yet my content was finding an audience and it became popular. I had a tremendous amount of traffic. I had just as much negative feedback on my blog as I had positive feedback, and I would respond to it all. The blog served two purposes for me: it got me noticed and it helped me gain experience writing stories.
As a result of the blog, I was able to get an agent for my writing and a co-author who was willing to work with me and help me with the storytelling and the editing. Our agent sent the finished manuscript out to over fifty publishers. They all rejected it, most answering with, “Whoever heard of a Japanese mob guy?” It finally found a home by accident, a young woman who was running a publishing house and heard the story mentioned by a friend read the manuscript and wanted it.
Being a published author was an awesome experience. I quickly let go to my head. I started getting contacted by Hollywood producers and directors. Some took me out for meals, others just had me over to hang out. I sold the book rights to Fox Studios and I was soon writing the screenplay with an Oscar winning screenwriter. Through that experience I learned that anything in Hollywood labeled “based on a true story” means that there is only a very vague resemblance to something real.
The end product was not something I was proud of. In fact, I was relieved when Fox passed on it two years later and it didn’t get made into a movie after all. I learned some valuable lessons, but I still wanted to be a screenwriter.
I decided to write something in a different genre. Another screenwriting partner and I wrote a story about a former Confederate Cavalry soldier named Clay Allison who became a successful cattleman in Texas. Clay Allison referred to himself as a “Shootist” because he was a known gunfighter.
We went to History Channel with the script and we sold the idea of the show. We then spent the next year working on it, until they decided to pass on actually taking it to the production stage.
I was pretty devastated at that point. I had been given two bites at the screenwriting apple and failed to have either make it to the screen. I kept thinking about it. Then one day it dawned on me. I had lost my passion for the story. I was writing for money, for the fame and success that would come with the money. I had compromised myself as a writer for the sake of the paycheck. I knew that I needed to return to my passion for writing stories that would connect with the reader, inspire them, the way I had been inspired by so many important authors in my life.
That is the point that I decided to move away from Hollywood. I still pursue writing, but not for the same reasons. If you keep at something and work hard at it, learning the attributes you need to succeed at that endeavor, you will be successful. God will provide opportunities to open up where you never thought they existed. It is easy to quit, to give up when you realize you have hit a dead end in one part of your journey. It is important to keep learning and moving forward after a defeat. Keep in mind that after your worst defeat many times your greatest victory is just ahead.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
We are down to the final days of 2016. Many of us are looking back on our year and making plans for the one ahead.
The first day of the new year comes with a tradition in western culture where we promise ourselves that we will accomplish certain actions. We call them new year’s resolutions and while many people make them every year less than 8% actually accomplish them.
I have watched this unfold year after year at various gyms across the country. January rolls around and they are slammed full of people for the first week making it hard for the regulars to get in a good workout. Some people begin the month doing two-a-day workouts. By February 80% are no longer working out. The excuses are always the same: I’m sick, my children are sick, I have no time, I got hurt, work is busy, I’ll do it home. Sadly, by March 98% have quit. The key is not two-a-days, the key is patience: slow and steady progression.
Last year I decided that I would not eat refined sugar and I decided to stay closer to my former fight weight. It seemed an impossible task. I eat healthy for the most part, but I enjoy a few treats. One in particular that I enjoyed is candy corn. I love candy corn, and they have recently come out with so many new flavors that I have wanted to try! The end of the year is now here and I have made it the whole year without eating a single candy corn!
Another goal I had during 2016 that has been very hard for me to do is to let go of grudges and anger that I had towards others. I have made progress, but this is a lifetime goal and will take a lot more work.
I had a few other goals in 2016, all of which I worked on bit by bit, and accomplished. This year I have a few new ones.
I will start by defining my goals with a definite finishing point. Goals don’t begin with, “I will try,” or “I would like to.” They will be goals that while difficult are achievable with hard work.
I will have to be patient, because nothing will happen over night or even in a month if it is worth it. It is hard to see progress, but change will come.
If your goals are fitness related, you will reach a plateau – most likely more than once – on your quest. This is where it takes strength to keep going. When you make it past these difficult points you will notice notable, change.
I speak to a lot of people who tell me they wish to write a book. A common reason for not writing it is time. Everyone can find an hour a day to write. If you cannot write at home, go to a coffee shop or a library for an hour. It is work, you have to do it on a regular schedule. The more you do, the better your work will be. Don’t worry about getting it just right at the beginning, because the first draft never will be right and neither will the second. Instead, get it on paper from beginning to end and then go back and make it better.
Vocalize your goals to others, they become real when you state them. It helps when others are involved and keep you accountable by asking about them.
If you do something every day it is like putting money in the bank. Some days I do not feel like training, but I do. Writing is the same, but as long as I do something, it will be better than nothing.
If something beyond my control happens or even if I just get lazy, I make myself get back into it right away. You might feel that you are starting over. It will be easier if you string together as many days as you can without missing any.
People often say Friday is my cheat day, or rest day. Try to avoid that and keep a floating day off instead. This way if something comes up on Sunday or Monday take that day off from your schedule and then go right through the rest of the week.
This year I will read the Bible start to finish. I will also write two books. My last goal is to have a podcast or a radio show of my own.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.