Every action will have a reaction, we may not see it for years, but there will be one. That is why the choices we make every day are so important, even those we deem small. A prime example is food, many of us do not give a second thought to what we put into our body. It matters, we will see the obvious, which is weight gain, the part we do not see until we are in trouble is our health. Nothing will taste as good as healthy feels.
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.
We are only free when we conquer our ignorance and weakness while taking personal responsibility for our actions. It is when we put away selfish thoughts, stopping giving into animal indulgences that we realize just what our purpose is on this planet.
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.
There is no escape, no way to hide. It will find all of us at one point or another during our lifetimes. It has been said that a book of failures would be a great book to read, so that we could learn from other’s mistakes.
Have you ever noticed that there are never any “failure seminars”? There are plenty of speakers on the topic of success. You can catch a motivational seminar online or in a conference room in a hotel most any weekend.
I have failed at so many things I could not even list them all here. The good news is, I took a valuable lesson away from each one. One of the best thing about pushing yourself hard and ultimately hitting your goals, is that our minds tend to gloss over the periods of heartbreak and failure, focusing instead on our successes.
One day I decided to take up a new hobby: prospecting for gold in the mountains and deserts of California. I really did not know much about it at all, but when my wife and dog and I hiked in the mountains we had seen several people panning for gold in the streams and it got me interested. I started reading everything I could about gold prospecting and the history of the gold bearing regions in California.
The next weekend, instead of heading off on our usual hike, we packed our lunch, a few shovels, and some tools we had picked up for gold panning. We headed to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. We parked our car and hiked a mile or so up a path along the river. We found a giant boulder and I started digging out buckets of dirt and passing them to my wife who would pan it out in the water. We dug for hours and found nothing, not a trace of that elusive gold. We did have a great time! Our dog fished in the river, we enjoyed the sunshine, cool water, amazing scenery and our hike.
We went back to that river many times. Each time we dug deep holes and found nothing but black sand and tiny gold flakes in our pan. One day, an older prospector came by our hole to chat. He told me where I should dig based on his experience. Later that day we found a small “picker,” which is what you call a tiny gold nugget that is big enough to pick up with your fingers.
We were doing almost exactly what the 49ers did during the gold rush. Instead of iron pans, we used plastic pans, and unlike them, we were not trying to make a living from it.
It turns out that most of the gold is still there, undiscovered. The early miners took the easy gold that they could find near the surface. It is back breaking labor with little payoff to keep digging and looking for the deeper gold. I enjoyed it because it was a challenge and a treasure hunt.
We graduated from panning to setting up a sluice in the water. The next stage was learning how to metal detect in the Mojave desert – which meant getting out there in the early hours before the temperatures rose. Hunting for gold nuggets in the desert with a metal detector is called “nugget shooting.” We joined the Prospector’s Club of Southern California, which gave us access to claims all over the region. Then I graduated to operating a dry washer in the desert.
I learned to love the peace and quiet of the dry, desolate Mojave desert. We started finding “color” almost every time we went out.
I wanted to find a good sized nugget with my metal detector before I left California, but it was not to be. On my last attempt before moving, a solo trip early in the morning, I saw some fellow prospectors find a gold nugget just a few yards away from where I was looking. I guess you could say I failed because I never found that fist-sized nugget I was seeking. Instead, I would say that I gained some useful knowledge and made some great memories.
Prospecting mirrors so much of what we do in life. Each one of us is seeking some kind of treasure. There’s no guarantee you will find that big nugget. Successes and failures: they all come with valuable lessons. I look back on the hours I spent digging dirt holes and wandering the desert not as a failure, but as some of my favorite memories.
My friend Mark and I spoke about the topic of failure this past week. After a successful high school and college wrestling career at Oklahoma State, where he was a two time All-American, Mark began his mixed martial arts career with the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting). He did well enough to be picked up by the UFC when they bought the WEC.
When I first met Mark, I noticed that he carried himself differently than most of the guys I knew, and he was open about being a Christian. Mark was not pushy with his faith, but he was setting an example by the way he lived and he was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed one.
I trained with Mark for his first fight in the UFC, which he lost. It was a bad loss, but he was back to training within a week. Mark Munoz went on to have a long UFC career and while he never won the belt, he always left the ring a winner. He was voted as “the nicest guy in MMA” by the UFC. I learned from Mark that in MMA, a loss does not equal failure. When you keep fighting, improving and moving forward, you are succeeding, regardless of what the outcome of any one fight may be.
Mark told me that if you have a fear of failure you will fall backward. If you embrace it, you will take away a valuable lesson. We all fail. We have to learn from it and keep moving forward.
Resilience, Adversity, and Desire: A real champion in life, whether you are fighting in a cage, prospecting for gold, or trying to get a promotion in your job, is the person that shows resilience even when they fail. Adversity is something to use to make us better, not break us down. We will all face it, but how we view it and push past it will define us. Desire is what will make you get up each day with determination: study harder, work harder, train harder.
Mark also reminded me that what we speak about every day is what we become, so choose your words wisely.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
We are down to the final days of 2016. Many of us are looking back on our year and making plans for the one ahead.
The first day of the new year comes with a tradition in western culture where we promise ourselves that we will accomplish certain actions. We call them new year’s resolutions and while many people make them every year less than 8% actually accomplish them.
I have watched this unfold year after year at various gyms across the country. January rolls around and they are slammed full of people for the first week making it hard for the regulars to get in a good workout. Some people begin the month doing two-a-day workouts. By February 80% are no longer working out. The excuses are always the same: I’m sick, my children are sick, I have no time, I got hurt, work is busy, I’ll do it home. Sadly, by March 98% have quit. The key is not two-a-days, the key is patience: slow and steady progression.
Last year I decided that I would not eat refined sugar and I decided to stay closer to my former fight weight. It seemed an impossible task. I eat healthy for the most part, but I enjoy a few treats. One in particular that I enjoyed is candy corn. I love candy corn, and they have recently come out with so many new flavors that I have wanted to try! The end of the year is now here and I have made it the whole year without eating a single candy corn!
Another goal I had during 2016 that has been very hard for me to do is to let go of grudges and anger that I had towards others. I have made progress, but this is a lifetime goal and will take a lot more work.
I had a few other goals in 2016, all of which I worked on bit by bit, and accomplished. This year I have a few new ones.
I will start by defining my goals with a definite finishing point. Goals don’t begin with, “I will try,” or “I would like to.” They will be goals that while difficult are achievable with hard work.
I will have to be patient, because nothing will happen over night or even in a month if it is worth it. It is hard to see progress, but change will come.
If your goals are fitness related, you will reach a plateau – most likely more than once – on your quest. This is where it takes strength to keep going. When you make it past these difficult points you will notice notable, change.
I speak to a lot of people who tell me they wish to write a book. A common reason for not writing it is time. Everyone can find an hour a day to write. If you cannot write at home, go to a coffee shop or a library for an hour. It is work, you have to do it on a regular schedule. The more you do, the better your work will be. Don’t worry about getting it just right at the beginning, because the first draft never will be right and neither will the second. Instead, get it on paper from beginning to end and then go back and make it better.
Vocalize your goals to others, they become real when you state them. It helps when others are involved and keep you accountable by asking about them.
If you do something every day it is like putting money in the bank. Some days I do not feel like training, but I do. Writing is the same, but as long as I do something, it will be better than nothing.
If something beyond my control happens or even if I just get lazy, I make myself get back into it right away. You might feel that you are starting over. It will be easier if you string together as many days as you can without missing any.
People often say Friday is my cheat day, or rest day. Try to avoid that and keep a floating day off instead. This way if something comes up on Sunday or Monday take that day off from your schedule and then go right through the rest of the week.
This year I will read the Bible start to finish. I will also write two books. My last goal is to have a podcast or a radio show of my own.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.
I am half Japanese, and thanks to a DNA test I recently took, I also now know I am 13% Lakota Sioux. My ethnicity is a part of my story, my heritage.
My father was born in America, but his mother and father were both born in Japan. They emigrated from Japan legally at the turn of the century. They became farmers and had to lease land because at that time it was illegal for Asian immigrants to own land in America or to become naturalized citizens. Property laws were written to exclude everyone but white immigrants and those of African descent. My father and his sister were born in America, so they were the first US citizens in my family. The family built up a profitable agriculture business on the leased farm land and also exported GE appliances to Japan. My father attended the University of Washington from 1939 – 1941 until the US entered World War II in 1941.
In April of 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. Soon after, 120,000 Japanese (of whom 62% were American citizens) were relocated to concentration camps.
They gave these camps names like “Camp Harmony” which was located in Puyallup, Washington at a fairground. The Japanese were only able to bring the things they could carry with them to the camps. Many people lived in animal stalls of the fairgrounds or in makeshift shanties, which provided poor shelter come winter. Their homes, businesses, and land were lost. Family heirlooms such as swords and paintings left behind were taken by the Americans representing the United States Government.
My father and his family would end up at Camp Minidoka in Idaho. My grandmother died in that camp. My father, along with a number of other fighting-age Japanese Americans volunteered for the Army, which was the only way to be allowed to leave the camp until the war ended.
The war ended in 1945, and at that time the Japanese were free to leave and move to where they wished. Many would start over in new places since their homes and businesses were taken from them. Many who left the camps vowed never to speak Japanese again.
They worked hard to rebuild their lives. Even after the war, Japanese were prohibited from buying land in many states until 1956.
My father rarely mentioned those times to me. Despite prejudices he encountered, he was successful in his career after the war. He introduced me to the Japanese culture from a young age, but it was always made very clear to me that we were Americans.
When I hear people say the worst mass shooting in American history was at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, I wonder where they learned their history. On December 29th, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota over 500 US Army and members of the 7th Cavalry opened fire on 350 Lakota Indians in their camp. They killed 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. The Cavalry dead numbered only 25, many of which were killed by friendly fire from their own Hotchkiss guns. As a reward for the mass slaughter of Lakota Sioux, twenty of the US soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to those in the military service.
These stories are a small part of the struggles of my ancestors, but they do not define me or dictate my future. I am proud of being mixed race. No derogatory words towards my heritage can harm me or derail my dreams. If someone looks down on me because of my ethnicity, I know that I cannot change the way they think. That can only come from within them. I can choose how I will act, how I will react, and how hard I will work for my dreams.
Every ethnicity has a story of struggle at one point in their history. The only way we can make this world a better place is to work on our own behavior. While the setbacks are a part of our story, they do not define or limit us unless we let them. The best way to combat prejudice is with success.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.