Tag Archives: marriage

Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

 

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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.”

 

Delayed Gratification

I have learned a few important lessons in the last two years. I had been under the mistaken impression that I didn’t need to learn anymore, and boy was I wrong.

The road to success is paved with failures.  The important thing is to learn along the way.

When I train Jiu-Jitsu, I enjoy getting myself into really bad positions on the mat, and then patiently work my way out of those positions.  My habit is to then take the first submission that presents itself after I have worked my way out.  I recently realized that I have been cheating myself and those I train with by not letting the whole scenario play itself out before looking for that submission.

So where is the lesson in this?  Well, in the world we live in now we have become used to instant gratification. We get things fast, we save time etc.  It turns out, however, that the most successful people in life tend to be those who delay gratification.  I am not just talking about monetary success, but success in achieving goals and living a fulfilling life.

I did a little investigating into the theory of delayed gratification and I found the Stanford Marshmallow experiment. It was a simple test where they would give a preschool-aged child the option of being given one marshmallow or waiting for twenty minutes alone and being given two marshmallows instead. Years later they followed up with the now grown children, and found that the ones who had opted to wait for a larger reward had lower BMI (body mass index) and higher SAT scores in general.

Take that idea of twenty minutes, and expand it to the time it would take you to reach your goals.  A year or two is nothing in the big scheme of life. Take health for example.  If you lose weight over a few weeks or a month, and then go back to eating the same way, you will soon be back to your original weight or even higher.  If, instead, we change our priorities and reward system to get rid of the instant gratification, we will reap the benefits in the long term.  Isn’t that reward worth the wait?

We can also apply this lesson to living as a Christian.  We are all sinners, not one of us is perfect, but does that mean we can just go ahead and give in to temptation today?  I would hope not, because we have been promised a place in the kingdom. That promise can help us stand strong and strive to live the way we have been called to live during our time here on earth.

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.

 

James 1:14

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

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.

 

Staying Consistent Daily

“Temporary success,” or perhaps, “the illusion of achievement” might be a good way to describe my life in the past.  I would make it to my goals because I did whatever it took to get there, the problem was I could not maintain it.

It turns out this is a common problem among a lot of the population.  We all work hard to get a promotion, but as time passes our performance begins to slip.  

In fitness, I have seen it many times.  People decide to “get in shape” for a marathon or a tough mudder or even a fight. They go all out and they do well for the months leading up to the event.  After they have completed it they go right back to where they started.  Sometimes its the goal to lose five pounds before a vacation or a wedding.  They reach their goal and yo-yo right back to where they started. It is amazing because they feel great temporarily, yet back they go after all the hard work.

I was very money oriented or often times I just wanted to reach a place that others told me was impossible. I would set out to prove everyone wrong and that provided me with the fuel to get it done.  I can see now that this was one of the reasons I had so many highs and lows in life. I had no consistency in my self-control and I always felt I should reward myself for attaining whatever my current goal happened to be.

I was able to focus for a set period of time, but when I felt I was where I should be,  I slacked off.  My solution? A long term plan!  I also knew that if I was going to succeed at anything I was going to have be more consistent in my efforts and outputs.  I had to stop letting myself coast on past deeds. I had to decide to commit myself to excellence in everything I do. No matter what the task or small the detail.  Details are very important, getting through anything without doing it right will cost me in the long run.

I had to make sure all my short term goals were in alignment with my long term goals.  I had to give up looking at what was over the horizon and instead make the best of what I have right now.

I had to get organized.  If I wanted to get somewhere and maintain it, I had to be able to keep a uniform performance and that only comes with organization.

Finally, I had to realize it is not all about me.  What I do to get to my end goal, how I affect those around me on a day-to-day basis as I work toward my goal matters.

I decided that this time I would approach my goals through consistent hard work and the guiding principles of doing what is right. The Bible spells it out for me.  The Gospels have laid out the framework on how to live a fruitful life full of sacrifice, love and joy.

Galatians 5:22-25

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission: Live A Fulfilling Life

No matter who you are or where you are in life, odds are you feel that there is more you could be doing. It is easy to fall into the habit of just going through the motions. To step outside and throw our lives for a loop would be crazy, right?

If you want to grow, you cannot do it from staying in the same spot, doing the same thing. The good news is, the ability for growth never stops, no matter how old we are in years.  There is always room for improvement and room for new goals.

What do you want out of life? What are you happy with in life?  What are you unhappy with?  And finally, what steps do you need to take to bring about change? This is where we have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we figure out what is important to us and what we would like out of life, it’s time to ask ourselves what’s stopping us?

Maybe it’s.. I can’t..If only… I would… I should.. I’m just not lucky… I have no money.. It’s hard.

If you have held onto certain beliefs for a long time, you probably have convinced yourself that this way of thinking is fact. The fact is, what we hold in our minds on a daily basis becomes reality. It is time to change the way we visualize ourselves and our lives in our minds.

Life is unfair, tough and arbitrary.  Time to accept it and move forward.  No matter what horrible situation we are in today it will pass.  Look for the good. It is up to us to get through the tough situations. We must stay alert, there will be lessons to be learned and in the end, we will be stronger.

Next, it’s time to remove the clutter from your life. What brings us down or fills us with negativity?  What sucks up our time like a black hole?  Think about it and then begin the process of cutting those things out.  Don’t go overboard and try to cut them all out at once!  When we do that, we often set ourselves up for failure. Take one step at a time.

Once more I will go to examples that are prevalent in my business.  “I really want to get in shape, but…. I don’t have the time, I’m busy, my kids, my back, my work.” If those are your excuses, then it is time to face the truth: health is not important to you.  This same idea applies to many situations in life.

On the other end of the spectrum, people will come to the gym every day, but they are unwilling to change their nutritional habits, so they see little results. Change does not happen without sacrifice.

We all know the person who goes all out, one hundred and ten percent for a short time, but soon burns out and never completes anything.

Think about some of the things you have always wanted to do, but just never did.  Pick one, start working towards it, and follow through until you have accomplished it. It may not be your biggest life goal, but it will show you that you can accomplish what you set out to do. A bonus in these situations is where they may lead you or the new people who may come into your life as a result.

It is now time to direct our focus on the positives of life, those things that make us happy. It might be hard for some of us, but every time we feel our mind beginning to wander into dark territory, replace it with positive thoughts.

We are not a stick in a stream being pulled along by the current. We are highly intelligent beings who have the ability to make choices.  If you carry around hate and resentment, free yourself by letting it go.  

For most of my life I was consumed by hate.  If you crossed me or I perceived that you did, I would dwell on it and let it fester in my mind. I would make elaborate plans for revenge. What a huge waste of time!  All of that energy and thought I put into getting even with a person just set me back and ate up valuable time and energy.

It did not happen overnight, but I finally took the advice to let it go. This has freed up an enormous amount of my life so I can participate in activities that will advance my life instead.

It’s also important to focus on more than just improving your own life.  There are always people who are worse off than us in the world.  Look around and find a way you can make a difference in someone else’s life. We all have skills that can help, so we should use ours to make the world around us a better place.

An added benefit to helping others is it gives us no time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.

Ok, so you are not where you want to be in life, yet. Make the best out of where you are now. Get into your work and become the best employee you can be. If you hold yourself to a standard of excellence, others will take notice.  Doors will open.  Be patient. Understand that big dreams take time. There will be many roadblocks along the way, this is when we must persevere because it is part of our journey.  

This last week I was witness to two people coming to the conclusion of their quest for a goal.

One was a person who wanted to get into the best shape of his life and drop a hundred pounds. It has been over a year and a half of putting in intense workouts and changing his diet.  It has been a long trial and error period of learning what foods to take in and when. On Saturday I was there when he stepped on the scale and was a mere two pounds away from his goal. He looked at me and said, “Forget it, I’m going beyond this! I’m going to keep going until I have a six pack.”

The other person started writing a book in 2011.  They held down a full-time job, got married, had a baby, life became complicated.  The real life character who was the subject of the book also made it a tough task. My friend had to shape a story out of a bunch of random thoughts and some less-than-interesting situations. In the end, he put such a positive spin on the character that it is a book everyone would enjoy reading.

The company who purchased the manuscript folded, and the book was acquired by another publisher who decided they didn’t want to publish it.  The book looked like it was a dead issue, which was sad because my friend had written a great book. A couple of months ago, he worked out a deal to buy back the rights from the publisher.  All this time my friend continued to write other books, but he never gave up hope that this book would one day be published.  Last week he told me it would be out in December.

We never know where life will take us or what will happen if we keep a positive attitude and stay consistent in the face of closed doors.

This is where faith comes into life. I had to learn that God had plans for my life and that it was time for me to open up myself for them. I could not force them or make them happen, they would come when the time was right.  God’s timing is perfect. Once I started living my life, not for myself, but for Him, everything else became less important. I learned that money will not bring fulfillment, because you cannot buy it!

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

James 1:12

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.