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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
We’re packing up our lives in Los Angeles, saying goodbye, and ditching the Hollywood Hills for the flatland of the Midwest.
Space. There is not much space in Los Angeles. And way too many people, IMHO.
Not much water either (its a desert).
Time to take a different path, break away from the crowds and find our own space. This is the first step, and who knows where it will lead us.
To quote Robert Frost, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”