Tag Archives: New York

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  If you do not consistently grow, you will soon be outdated.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.

 

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Gratitude

Life is hard.  We all face periods when it feels like our world is collapsing in on us.  During those tough times, we can either face the hard times and deal with them, or let ourselves become prisoner to our circumstances.

The holiday season is here and it tends to bring many feelings to the forefront – many good, some bad.  One of the most important is gratitude.  

I am coming up on my third holiday season in the Midwest.  Being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, I have truly learned to enjoy a slower pace of life.  I have learned to treasure the small things that come up on a daily basis and enjoy the beauty of the country around me.

I had it in my mind, for a very long time, that the only things I should be thankful for are cash money and freedom. The funny part about that, is that the money never made me happy and freedom is something I never really had.  I held on to that warped sense of “what life should be” for far longer than I should have.

It took me many years to reach a place where gratitude became an important part of my daily life.

It is easy to let life distract us with what we don’t have, but the reality is that here in the U.S. we live very blessed lives. No matter what our economic level is, we have clean water, electricity and there is always food available.  

It is time for me to not only be thankful for my many blessings, but to also step it up and do what I can for others because I have been so blessed.  I always talk about my “goals” and this is a big one:  I will pay it forward.  I will help others just as people along the way have helped me.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Making Time

Making better use of our time while enriching our lives sounds a little bit like a self help guru’s pie-in-the-sky sales pitch. In all honesty, it is possible to accomplish both of these goals by making a few small changes to our daily routines.

I love to wake up early before most of the world around me is awake.  The early morning is a quiet time when (after a cup of coffee) my mind is working like a well oiled machine.  I can get a lot finished in a short period of time.

I realize that most people will not want to wake up as early as I do.  We can all, however, plan our lives so we have a routine where we go to bed a little earlier, and get up a little bit earlier.

The extra morning time is time we can use to enrich our lives.  How?  Reading, for one.  I always read books at night before I go to sleep. Reading helps me unwind and relax before I go to sleep.  I also enjoy catching up on world news and reading my Bible first thing in the morning.

Books open up new worlds. They let us experience other lives, other periods of history and other places. Books can teach us or entertain us. Often, they do both.   I have read so many books that I thought I would have no interest in, yet once I started I was sucked into the story.

The year is winding down.  It’s time to think about the new year ahead and making some changes.  I encourage you to wake up earlier and enjoy the morning hours.  I also urge you to spend more time reading books.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

 

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.

 

Habits Are they Helpful?

Habits.  Good, bad or slightly annoying, it is our habits that will ultimately determine where we end up: success or failure.  

I was recently sent this article about a man who had studied a group of rich people and outlined the common habits he found they had.  While that article, in particular, was only about a group of people with a high monetary net worth, I’ll go beyond that, and say that good habits can help you succeed in life, not just determine who becomes wealthy.  Money and things are temporary.  Success is also about what we do with our time while we are here on earth.

I really like this definition of a habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. That pretty much encompasses all that needs to be said about habits.

It has also been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  I have been working on creating better habits for myself.  

I will give you two examples from my life.  First, I committed to writing this blog with a new post every Wednesday.  I did it for a full year. Even when I felt nobody was reading or following my posts, or I felt I could better use my time doing something else, I still sat down and wrote.   I enjoy writing and it keeps me sharp while I finish up my book. The point is that I made it a habit to sit down in front of the computer to write every single day, so that I could make sure I produce enough content.

My birthday was June 1st and I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to push myself in the fitness department. I wanted to increase my strength, so I started an intense training program with kettlebells.  I gathered all of the information that I could, buying books on kettlebells and watching training videos by the pros.   I then planned a kettlebell program four times a week to add to my regular training.  I have not missed a day and progress is moving forward at a pace better than I expected. I have made heavy kettlebell training a habit and I can feel the results.

Success in anything new does not come from luck, and it is not free.  

The time I took to examine my life and create new habits has paid off.  It was not easy to admit to myself that I had some really worthless habits.  It was hard to ditch some life long patterns I had, but I have and I will continue to work on replacing them with good ones. I can change my life. If you want to, you can change yours too.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

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.

 

Circumstance

There are many uncertain things in life, but there is one thing I have always been sure of: I am responsible for what happens to me.  In the late eighties, a friend gave me a book he found at a yard sale. It was, “A Man Thinketh,” by James Allen, written at the turn of the twentieth century.  It opened my eyes to how much our mind influences our lives.  I later bought another book by James Allen, “Man: King Of Mind, Body, and Circumstance.”

I cannot even begin to guess how many times I have read and re-read these books by James Allan over the years.  

One day last week there was a brief period where there was nobody in the gym but me.

I had the music up loud and I was moving around in the ring.  I was trying to shadow box, but something someone had said to me earlier kept going through my mind.

They had said I was lucky to be good at boxing and to be in shape.  

So as I was moving around the ring fighting my imaginary opponent I had that thought going through my head.  I chuckled a bit when I thought of James Allan’s books, because now that I am a Christian his books have a much deeper meaning. I used to read them and only take away what I wanted to use. He also writes a lot about being moral and honest and those were the parts I skipped over.

I am today where my actions and thoughts have placed me. There was no luck or chance involved.  My mindset, thoughts and work ethic determine the outcome of my days, weeks and years.  

My current circumstance is actually the culmination of thousands of seemingly unrelated small choices over the years.  I am not saying that I am defined by my past choices, because I know that good or bad they are just temporary.  They will change with the present day and depending on the decisions I make now, they will either put me closer to where I wish to be or set me back.

My boxing skills and fitness are not by chance.  Each day is an opportunity to push myself closer to my goals.  I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward.  Dreaming and setting lofty goals is important, but so is the day-to-day grind and hard work that will get you there.  God has given you the tools you need to accomplish the plan he has laid out for you, and it’s up to you to use those tools to the best of your ability.

Philippians 4:11-12

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

 

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.