Tag Archives: life lessons

Stop Talking About What You Want To Do

We are all guilty of telling our friends and family about the things we hope to do one day, and then doing nothing towards achieving those goals.  

Inaction costs us our desires.  Think about the inventions, art, music, literature and financial gains that are lost because we never take the necessary steps.

Could it be that we are all lazy?  Or do we just derive enough pleasure from picturing our perfect scenario without having to do any of the work it will take to get there?

The problem with this is that one day we will begin to have feelings of regret and disappointment.

I see it all the time in the gym.  People come in to get into shape. They know they need to do something and yet they just cannot persevere or push through mental/physical obstacles.  Sometimes they blame it on “not having time,” which simply means it is not a priority. We all have time for the things that matter to us.

Then, a year passes, and inevitably they are worse off.  

I have seen it in Jiu Jitsu so many times. People come in and want to learn, but they just are not willing to put the time into learning.   I can tell you this observation I have made. Those that have become black belts in Jiu Jitsu that I have trained with are not the loud, weight-lifting braggart types.  They are those that showed up day after day and put in the work and the time to learn.

I also observed it in my writing career.  People often talked about their projects, took classes, seminars and did everything they could, except actually putting pen to paper day after day.

The problem comes from the inside.  Each of us must ask ourselves if we are content maintaining our current life without making any changes.  If the answer is no, then we must make changes.

Dreams, goals and destinations will never happen without first taking solid steps that will build the momentum to reach them.  Each of us holds the power to change, no matter what our situation is at this moment. We cannot blame anyone else for our failure to accomplish our goals.  The decision is up to us, we alone must take action.

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Internal Battles That We Win

I know that I am not the only person to have big internal battles, so today I will share a little about mine.

When my day begins roughly around 2:30 am five days a week, the first of my daily battles kicks off.  I may wake up just before my alarm, in which case I wonder to myself if I should close my eyes or just get up.  Often I am shocked into alertness by my alarm and I dream about what it would like to just turn it off and roll back over.  I always get up, because a few minutes extra sleep will make no difference. It may sound crazy, but I enjoy getting an early start on my day.

After I have read the news and enjoyed a cup of coffee, I take my dogs out for a long hike at about 3am.  During my walk I judge how banged up I am from the day before. My leg, foot, shoulder, back or a combination of them all, may hurt.  

It may play out in my mind something like this: I am not going to do everything today. Maybe I’ll just do half a workout or I’ll just move around.  Then I think about my end goals and I know I will do what I need to do.

The bottom line is we all struggle with many things every day.  We know what we should do and yet we often settle for what is easy to do.  

This is where personal responsibility comes into play.  We as adults should know the cost of any decision as well as understand the reward.  We are the ones who will ultimately need to take action to reach our goals.

It is hard, not fun or popular and at times we may feel like we are missing out.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all know deep down what choices we should make for ourselves.

Making better choices is a learned behavior and it takes work. The good news is if we practice it, it gets easier.  It may be really hard to get up before the time you usually do to get in a workout, but after a few weeks of doing it, it becomes a habit.  Keeping our ultimate goals in mind is a great help when we become distracted by something. Immediate gratification is tempting, but if we change the way we look at life, we come to understand while it looks, tastes or feels good at the time it is not greater than the alternative prize.

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.

Better Lived Lives

 

 

DCIM132GOPROG0061618.JPGSomeone asked me the other day at the gym if I have changed the way I eat over time.  I thought about it for a moment and then said to him, yes, I have. At different points in my life the knowledge I had at the time led me to believe that what I was consuming was the best for my body.  As I learned more about my body and my diet, I adjusted and my diet changed.

That same idea applies to life.  When we gain insight we respond with change.  Before I was a Christian I chose to live my life in a hedonistic way. Once I became a Christian, I began to change. Instead of living for myself, I had surrendered my life to God.  This brought about change in some profound and meaningful ways.

Now, my life is about doing what God created me to do, and has called me to do.  I am determined to no longer be distracted by all the small things that really mean nothing in the scheme of eternity.

There are many things I wish I could do.  I miss prospecting for gold in the desert.  I would love to go train with UFC fighters in their fight camps.  My life right now does not allow these things, and the reality is I do not need to do them.  What I do need to do is take care of the body God has given me so that he can use me.

Living a healthy life is one of the ways I keep on the right track.  If I am healthy, strong and full of energy it is much easier to make an impact on others. I have come to understand that everything I put into my body has an effect on the way I feel.  It comes down to this for me: how bad is it really for my body? What will I miss if I give it up? Is it worth it?

Life is not about what we have or where we are. My location will not change my problems, or me, because I am the same person whether I am here or there.  

We all have things we want to do, but putting our priorities above the things we are called to do could take us away from the path God has called us to.  If our bodies break down because we don’t take care of them, we will spend our time being sick instead of useful.

 

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.

 

Consistency Is King

Success comes with being consistent. It does not matter what you wish to accomplish in life, the key to achievement is working on it day after day.

I am not talking about some self help, new age mastery technique. I am talking about backing up your dreams with action.

Pablo Picasso wrote “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

John Steinbeck wrote “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers writes that greatness requires enormous time. In fact, he recommends investing 20 hours every week for ten years in order to achieve success, and he calls it the 10,000 hour rule.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

A great start on the road to reaching our goals is just showing up.  I think that first step is hardest sometimes. It could be putting words to paper, sketching on a pad, showing up to the gym, opening a book or even making a good food choice. No matter what we wish to accomplish, we must start somewhere or it’s nothing more than wishful thinking.

Most people fail to begin.  Once you begin, you are on your way to success.  This is where it becomes so important to be consistent.  You must put in the work each day in order to progress.

Find something that stimulates you deep down.  A dream you want to accomplish, and commit to it.  Start working today. It will get tough, life will come up, temptations, distractions… you may ask yourself if it is worth it or if you will ever see results…. It is so important to just keep doing it.

It is only through proper repetition that we become a master at anything. Becoming a better version of ourselves takes work.

 

Israel

I have taken many trips in my life but none have affected me as much as my recent trip to Israel.  During my ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land I packed in a lot of sites.

I have visited other Holy sites around Europe in the past, including the Vatican, but they never made me think of anything beyond the beauty of the craftsmanship.  Israel is a different place entirely.  It is the living history of our Living God.

It is a land dripping in history and bloodshed. It has been conquered and reconquered for many centuries. The land is not rich in terms of resources.  They have to irrigate the land and desalinate the soil to make it fertile.  It varies greatly around the region, but overall it is very rocky with little water.  One plant seems to thrive there naturally, and that is the Olive tree.  Olive trees grow all over.  The olive is a hearty tree that lives for many centuries, so if you plant them today your great-great grandchildren can enjoy their fruit.

The modern State of Israel has turned a once barren land into rich fields of crops.  They have planted countless trees and made many improvements, despite being surrounded by enemies on all sides.

“Israel cannot bring you to God, but experiencing Israel can bring you closer to God.”

I heard these words shortly after landing in Israel.  This phrase went through my head a number of times as I explored the country.

People travel to Israel for many reasons.  My main reason for the trip was my love of the history.  I wanted to walk where Jesus and the disciples walked.  I wanted to see the land they knew, worked and loved.

I saw first hand the small desert village where a child, fully man and fully God, was born.  He would go on to impact people’s lives around the world for over two thousand years.

I could feel the tug of history when I visited Caesarea and its great theatre.  I knew Paul had been on trial and yet here I was sitting in the same arena where it took place.  It was there that the Pilate Stone was discovered by archaeologists. The stone was a dedication stone from Pontius Pilate to the emperor Tiberius.

Capernaum is a small fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is written about in all four of the Gospels and it is at the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus taught.  The house of the disciple Peter is located a couple of blocks from the synagogue. When you walk the streets of Capernaum you can begin to appreciate what the early Christians went through.

Traveling the country by bus is easy with modern highways and roads.  A trip from the shores of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi takes under two hours. Jesus and his disciples walked it, and it took weeks!  

The Dead Sea looks amazing when you first set eyes upon it.  It is only when you wade in and feel the water that you fully realize why it is called the Dead Sea.  The high saline content of the water feels more like a syrup.  You cannot sink and there is absolutely no life in it.

I was highly anticipating my trip to the old city of Jerusalem and when I first saw it up on the hill it took my breath away. It was when I arrived at the Western Wall of the first temple that I felt my trip was complete.  It was a huge victory for me, not because it is a holier place than any other place, but because of my former life.  I had only ever expected to see the wall in pictures.  

I saw people crying all along the wall.  I saw others who were clearly praying and had been for hours.  In other places on my pilgrimage I saw worshipers falling on their knees crying, brought to tears by the act of touching a rock Jesus may have touched.  

The best sign I saw was inside the Garden Tomb, which was most likely the Tomb of Jesus. It reads “He is not here, for He is risen”  That pretty much sums it up if you are a Christian.  There is no place, no rock, no statue, no clothing and no ritual that will bring you closer to God.

God is accessible whether you make it to Israel or not.  He wants to have a personal relationship with you regardless of your location, background or station in life.  If you do get a chance to visit Israel, I urge you to go.  It was a life-changing trip for me.

 

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 

Don’t Ignore Today for Tomorrow

I must have read and heard the following advice thousands of times throughout my life:

Always do your best. Make do with what you have.  Life is a journey, not a destination.  You get the idea.  Instead, I always viewed everything I did in life as a means to an end.

Let me explain what I mean. I have always been goal-oriented.  I would have a big long-term goal in mind and I would work towards it. The problem is that whatever I was currently engaged in did not matter to me. It was just a step toward reaching my bigger goal.  I wasn’t worried about the quality of my work or life, as long as I was closer to the next big thing.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

In my former criminal life, bookmaking (sports bets) was my bread and butter.  It was the fuel for everything else. It paid for my travel to chase after the big scores. It paid for every side project I launched. I did not care about it other than it kept putting enough cash into my pocket to do what I wanted. I also ran stores and other businesses but I would neglect them, to focus on a new venture or bigger money-making scheme.  

The problem I encountered in my life, again and again, was this: I would make enough money doing something to get what I wanted in the short term, and then I would be off again on some crazy adventure.

I wasted years of my life not giving one endeavor my full, undivided attention.

I caution you to learn from my mistakes.  No matter where you are at in life, no matter what you are doing – make the most of it!  Give it all your attention, work hard, master it, make it work and you will have no regrets. Don’t spend your life looking for the next big thing, make the most of every day and be the best version of yourself today.  

God has given each of us a specific set of skills that sets us apart from everyone else.  Invest your time in growing those skills and working with what you already have right now.  Stop viewing your time and your job as a means to an end. Each day is a gift and an opportunity to improve.