Tag Archives: get after it

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turning Point

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO

 

I wrote about my friend who went into the Army to change his life last week, but how did the first of many turning points in his life come about?

In the 1990’s my Army friend’s mother passed away.  This threw his life into a tailspin because he had largely relied on her for his lifestyle.  With her went the business, the house, the cars etc.  He still tried to live the same lifestyle and it did not work. He ended up with no car working at a hotel where he cashed his paycheck and carried around the cash in his pocket.

One week he was robbed and he couldn’t pay rent to the friend he was living with, and as a result, he was kicked out.  He moved from place to place.  He knew his chaotic lifestyle was not working to get him ahead, and that it was time to make a drastic change or he would end up on the streets.

He faced his fears and took that first step: walking into the US Army recruiting office. He was then forced to tie up loose ends before going to basic training. It was there that he began to understand what his previous choices had done to his life.

Another friend of mine changed his life around completely in the last few years.  He came to this country from the Ukraine with his parents and they settled into the close-knit Russian community in Hollywood. He was soon part of a Russian gang, doing and selling drugs.  He was taking up to thirty painkillers a day along with anything else he was given.

He started doing armed robberies for the rush and to hustle up money.  In his words, “The devil took over for awhile.”  He was picked up on a weapons charge and it cost his parents around a hundred thousand dollars in lawyer’s fees, but he continued on the same path.

The pills and drugs distorted his thought process, until one night at a rave he nearly overdosed on a mixture of strong drugs.  He describes that experience as being in hell for many hours.   When he finally came home he found his mother reading the Bible and crying because she thought he was dead.

Something clicked inside him that day, and he knew that he would be dead unless he turned his life around.  The guy he did armed robberies with had his house shot at one night and disappeared.  Many others in the Russian community had died from drug overdoses.

He knew that he needed to go to school, establish a career and help his parents pay off the debt. He realized that all of his problems were the results of his choices, and that all the pain his family was dealing with was because of his life actions.  A lot of us never take into account how much our choices affect others, both directly and indirectly.

He took the first step and threw away his pills.  He went cold turkey – no rehab, no group, just stopped.  It was a difficult six months, but after he got over the withdrawals he knew that he could accomplish anything that life threw at him.

My friend Andre, on the other hand, has made good choices since he was very young,  but things haven’t always been easy for him.  He grew up with a father that did cocaine and gambled, never paying much attention to him.  If Andre had turned out bad, it would have been no shock to anyone.

There were key turning points early in Andre’s life. One was when he wanted a BMX bike so badly and his father laid out a challenge for him that seemed impossible for him to accomplish.  When he met the challenge, he decided there wasn’t anything in life he couldn’t accomplish.

He made a decision that he would never do anything his father would do or did, so that he would not end up like him. Andre used his father as a reverse role model.  If his father drank, he never would.  If he gambled, Andre would not.

He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and an master’s degree in Social Ecology, both from the University of California at Irvine.  He kept his eye on his end goals, and he uses his story to encourage others and has been a huge encouragement to me personally.

Andre’s Ted Talk, if you would like to see more of his story is here: http://tinyurl.com/TedX-Andre

Regardless of the hand, you’re dealt in life, our current circumstances boil down to our own choices.   It is difficult to accept and many never do accept it, because it is just easier to blame others or bad luck.

My life has had many turning points, and one I remember happened at an Italian Restaurant in Culver City, California. I was at what is called a “sit down” in the mafia world.  It is where two higher ups decide your fate. At the meeting I was told that I was now out of an operation we had going on.

I was so mad that when I left the meeting I was planning revenge.  I felt that I deserved to remain part of the operation and that they were stealing from me by taking it away – nevermind that it was all stolen money, to begin with.  As I analyzed the situation and looked back on everything I was invested in and angry about, I began to see my life for what it was – a series of bad choices that had left me an angry criminal.   I had wasted my life and I knew that I wanted out of it altogether.

It would be only months later that the FBI offered me a way out.  I began to make different choices.

God had another plan for my life, I just didn’t realize it yet.

No matter who you are or what your life has been like in the past, our lives are shaped by the choices we make. Throughout our lives, there will be many turning points where life can become something else.

Big changes in your life can grow out of very small seeds of the choices you make.

Matthew 13:32-32

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.