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Attract Opportunity

Opportunity. It comes in many shapes and forms, often appearing without warning when we least expect it.  I have had a lot of time to contemplate the topic of opportunity over the last two years. I dug deep into my past in order to better understand the missteps I made, with the intention of using that knowledge to improve.

Two men, both named Jerry, had a big hand in shaping my views during my younger years.  They both left a lasting impression that ultimately impacted my actions.

One was Jerry the Cop.  He was not the kind of law enforcement officer that you would want coming to the rescue.  Jerry and I spent a lot of time hitting nightclubs and bars. He urged me to go into a place radiating confidence.  He taught me to convince myself and everyone else I was “the man.”  His approach worked great for attracting a superficial crowd.  That was what I was looking for at the time, so I embraced it. I was a criminal on the rise, and I wanted to get bigger.

Jerry Z. was the other man instilling life lessons on an impressionable young Kenji.  Imagine that at the age of twenty you are standing in the office of a six-foot-eight-inch Jewish gangster, well known for running with a Colombo crime family crew. In fact, Jerry Z had just stolen a couple hundred million dollars in gas tax from the government, and he was about to take me under his wing.

He is sitting behind the desk schooling me on how to meet guys who can make me the big bucks.  He says, “Listen, kid, you have to relax. Let ‘em come to you. You got to act as if ‘I am the man,’ and you got to plant the Greed Seed.”  He was telling me to keep my mouth shut.  Let people see what I capable of, let them see I am earning, because nobody wants to work with a bust out.

Jerry Z. and Jerry the Cop had that same philosophy about working with others. You let people think they can make cash with you and you let them come to you.  Make them feel like it is their idea.

That worked for me to a point, just as hard work and determination work, but something was missing.

When I moved to Illinois, I was really starting over.I didn’t know anybody. I thought of Jerry Z.  He used to say, “You can drop me in place in the country.  As long as I got a place to hang my hat, I’ll make money.” This time, for me, the money was not the main goal.  I had recently placed my faith in God, and this time, I was building my life on a different foundation.

It hit me one day that yes, hard work is part of what I need to do to realize new opportunities, but I would be selling myself short if that was all I did.  I needed to change the way I approach life. Instead of the old days, where my dark past was an asset, I had to change my character to match my foundation, so that the right opportunities would come.

I had worked for twenty years to have a bad reputation, so I knew I could not expect to build a good one in just a few years.

I needed to surround myself with people who had the type of character I wanted, and those who are successful in the fields I wished to work in.  If I could not physically be around the people who helped me excel in certain areas I was working on, then I could contact them and keep up the friendships. I could also immerse myself in books about other people who had successfully embarked on a similar path.

I needed to change my life by doing new and different activities. If I kept doing what I always did, then the results would ultimately be the same, as the old saying goes.  We are what we think about and do on a daily basis. I needed to change up my familiar daily patterns and be prepared when the right opportunity came into my life.

I began dedicating time every day to reading the Bible and at least one other book that I could learn something from. I love reading, but I can also admit that I had become lazy, reading only fun books for entertainment.

Regardless of your beliefs, the Bible is full of wisdom and important life lessons.

I also kept focused on my health. If you exercise and feel good, everyone can see. With a healthy body and mind, you are ready for anything that comes your way.

James 2:18

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

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Does Complaining Make life Better?

I have made an effort to stop complaining in the past year. I never liked to complain in public, but  I would complain to those closest to me.  It is a terrible thing to do to anyone.  Complaining drives people away and only serves to solidify the thing you are complaining about in your life.  

Complaining is a disease.  I’ve heard it said that what you think about on a daily basis is what you become.  Dwelling on something bad only causes it to become a bigger part of your life.  It gives power to the negative instead of to the positive.

The gym is where I interact with a diverse group of people. I can look back over the years, and thanks to social media, I can see where most of the people I have trained with at different points in my life have ended up.

For the most part, the guys who never spent time complaining at the gym, they just showed up, trained hard and even took extra time to practice after the rest of the team had finished, have gone on to accomplish big things in life.  One such person that comes to mind is a lawyer in Orange County.

I remember the day he first walked into the gym I was at.  At that point he was overweight.  I was paired up with him during practice, and to be truthful, my inner dialogue of complaints started in my head.  He is not in shape…. he is not going to stick with this… why am I stuck working with him?  He proved me wrong, and I am ashamed of the way I judged him.  He lost weight, he got in shape and he became a friend.  The last I heard he was still training Jiu Jitsu, moved up to a purple belt and became very successful in his law office.

I can think of many others over the years who have come across my path for periods of time and moved on to accomplish big things.  Why were these people able to overcome obstacles that to others, like me, appeared to block their path in life?

Combat sports teach those who participate that it is up to the individual to do what it takes to achieve goals.  If you want to succeed, quitting is not an option.   If you give it your all and fall short, you must come back again and keep working hard.

I have other friends I have known for years and years who I cannot speak to for more than a couple of minutes before they start in with the complaints about life and its unfairness.  It is hard for me to speak to them for long because of their bad attitudes.  They have never understood that their problems stem from within. They do not want to hear it and they just keep on blaming everything else – circumstances, people, bad luck, the weather – anything at all except themselves.

 They do not realize that they have to go straight to the source and tackle that problem head on.  The solution is within you.

When I feel myself start to voice a complaint I stop myself both vocally and mentally because I know it is a waste of valuable time that I could instead use to solve my problem.

I can see why people fall into the trap, and when I watch it happen I wish I could help them.  Most are so caught up in their own perceived misery that they cannot accept any solution.  They never realize they alone hold the key to their happiness.

I enjoy doing many things in my life that most people would consider work.  I go to bed early so that I can wake up early so I can enjoy walking my dogs each morning.  I like to eat the right foods so I feel good and get the most out of what I put in my body.  That, in turn, makes me want to push myself in the gym because that also makes me feel better.  Being in shape and strong makes boxing, kickboxing, and Jiu Jitsu fun.

Life is hard.  A big part of it is adjusting to changes, challenging ourselves, finishing what we start and knowing that in the end, hard diligent work pays off.  Complaining will only work against each of those tasks.

I am reading a book at the moment in which the author points out that we all have access to the greatest mentors from history, and we can sit down with them on a daily basis.  He is referring to the Bible, and that is the truth. Each time I spend time reading in the Bible I find a new lesson to apply to my daily life, and the lesson to stop complaining came directly from there.

Philippians 2:14

Do all things without grumbling or complaining.

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

 

Challenges to Change

What is holding you back? What is preventing change, in your life? In my life, the biggest hurdle to change was myself.  If you look back at your life up to this point, what are some of the things that have caused you a lot of grief?  Could they have been of your own making?

My life was full of what I like to call now, ‘ill-advised short cuts.’ I was always looking for a way around the rules.  I never took the time to build the proper foundation.  That meant everything I did to be a house built on sand.

When it came crashing down, I would just walk away and jump into something new. I did not care, because I thought I knew what I was doing.

Nobody cared what I did because I brought in money enough for everyone.  As a result, not one person ever instilled in me the way to do things right.  I never made long-term plans, because in my words, “Who knows what tomorrow will bring.” I was always one step away from being locked up.

I was in love with my lifestyle, because as long as I kept producing more and more cash, I never had to think about what I was not doing with my life.  The life I chose gave me an excuse not to live like everyone else.  In my mind, the rules of the world did not apply to me. I didn’t have to have normal relationships because, “Hey, my life isn’t normal.”  I could lie, I reasoned, because it was part of my job.  If I didn’t like something, for whatever reason, I could just make it go away.  People wanted to be around me even if I was not a good person, because they felt they could get something from me. This kept me from facing the truth.

It has taken me many years and a lot of mistakes to write this today.  I had to really examine my life and be honest with myself.  I would work on one small problem area and then begin on another.

I kept thinking the life I chose was what caused me problems.  Then one day I knew what caused them.  It was me: I made the choices, I took it on myself to live the way I did.  I was the one who would not listen to normal rational people.  I always felt I knew better than everyone and I knew what was right.

I left what we referred to as “the life” in 2005, but that was just the beginning of my journey.

I had removed the work part of the equation from my life and yet I would still find myself having similar problems.  I had heard often that life was not about making money.  I was still doing things I did not like (legally this time) for money.  My reasoning was simple, I would use the money I made to do what I really wanted to do.  It never worked out that way, because I became involved in producing more and more so I could keep up with something that was only in my mind.

I was not happy and therefore I never felt any success.

I speak to people on regular basis that wish to obtain certain goals.  Most of these goals have to do with fitness and health.  Sometimes they feel they need to lose some extra pounds.  It could be they wish to be stronger or more coordinated. They might want to win a fight.  They need to figure out what their challenges are in order to change.  Whether or not they succeed comes down to one thing, and that is mindset.  In the end no matter what they decide, I can only bring out what they already have inside.

The formula for getting in shape and losing weight is simple.  The diet industry in the world hopes that people will never figure it out.  You have to workout and eat right, that is all. There is no magic formula or easy way.

Just like people are in search of a magic pill that will allow them to lose weight without a change in diet or exercise, I was in constant search for the magical off-road course that would take me where I wanted to go in life.

The whole time the map was in front of me and I ignored it.

I had to admit to myself that I was not as smart as I thought. I had to work hard and even when there was no visible change I had to keep moving forward doing my best.

Once I let God into my life, things became much more clear.  When I started living in faith and stopped believing I was the captain of my soul, I began to really live.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”