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Pursuing Your Passion

Years ago I wrote a book and I sold the movie rights to FOX studios.  They wanted a screenplay written. I had never given much serious thought to writing a screenplay for the big screen or the small screen.  After writing a book and being approached about a screenplay, I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to be in life – a screenwriter!”

They asked me to write it with an Academy Award winning writer.  The writer invited me to lunch at their home.  It was an informal lunch eaten around the pool with the producer of the project and myself.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from successful Hollywood individuals, so I thought the best course of action was for me to keep my mouth shut and take it all in.

I learned the writer, like me, had never gone to school for writing.  I learned the producer had built up an international production company in Scandinavia and sold it for a huge profit, then moved to Hollywood and started a new company in a new country.  Instead of retiring, he started over and continued to work hard.

During my time working with both of them, I was given a crash course in writing for a studio.  It was like a private lesson in screenwriting.  Looking back now I can see that I was already losing interest in writing for Hollywood, the more I learned about the business.  What I thought I had wanted, I was realizing was not my passion.

Even though I was unsure about my next steps in life, I learned valuable lessons and kept pushing forward.   In the end, my show was not picked up by Fox, but I learned enough to write my own western screenplay and sold that to History Channel.

Through my contacts on that project, I was able to secure a writing/consulting job for a movie production company in Stockholm, Sweden.  I grew up immensely while going through this Hollywood period of my writing career. The screenwriting work was a chance for me to work with people from all walks of life.

People like to talk about overnight success.  I learned that successful writers toil away for years before they get an opportunity to shine, and even then, they may end up losing it all.

Projects will come and go, but the people you work with along the way are important, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  Work hard on every project, big or small, and always go above and beyond.

We each have our own paths with unique wants and needs.  If we follow someone else’s path we may have limited success, but it is fleeting.  We are all on our own journey, and as long as you keep learning from every opportunity and developing your skills, no project is a failure.

Opportunities often come in life when we least expect it, and they often come from unexpected people or places.  Work hard, keep a positive attitude, treat everyone with respect and pursue the passions that God has put in you – and you too will fulfill your purpose in life, even if you aren’t sure what it is right now.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Ecclesiastes 3:1

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 

Grateful For My Life

It has been an unusually busy week for me.  Nothing like the go, go go of New York or Los Angeles, but it was more than the regular schedule I have become accustomed to in rural Illinois.

Part of my old world collided with my new world this past week.  On March 31, 2017 my friend King Mo Lawal was coming to town to fight Rampage Jackson in Bellator 175 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. I first met Mo many years ago at Jokers Wild Fighting Academy one day during a fight class. I was told that day that I would be working with him, which was a huge step up for me. We trained a lot more over the following years.

As his trip to Chicago approached, we made plans to meet up when he arrived in town before his fight.  He had told me to bring my gear because we might train.  I arrived at the hotel and left my gear bag in my car since I wasn’t sure what our plans would be.  Right when I walked into his room he asked me if I had my stuff, so I went back out to grab it.

Soon we were inside the “blue team” training room.  It was nothing more than an empty conference room that had wrestling mats laid down wall to wall.  He had his coaches from American Top Team there, and he had Jeff Mayweather started running him through some boxing drills.  They had him do three minutes of boxing followed by three minutes of wrestling with me, back and forth.  It was a surreal moment for me.  Here I was wrestling with the headline fighter for a Bellator fight in front of coaches from one of the premier mixed martial arts gyms in the world – in Chicago of all places.

It got even stranger for me when I looked up and saw former UFC champion Matt Hughes watching us.  After we finished the training session Mo had a press interview to do and I ended up sitting next to him for the interview.  Dinner came next, where I found myself speaking with the matchmaker of the Bellator promotion as well as Royce Gracie, the man who really brought Brazilian Jiujitsu into the mainstream.

The next day I drove back up to the city again to train with Mo.  This time I brought an Illinois friend who is a casual MMA fan with me.  I was worried that he would be bored, but we ended up having a great time.  When we were hanging out with Mo I was watching to see if he was affected by the upcoming fight – less than twenty-four hours away.  Was he stressed?  He was not.

We sat around talked about old times, people we know and politics.  “King Mo” is the character the fans see in the cage, “Mo” is the guy his friends know.  Mo cares about others and is a genuine person.

Driving home later that evening I thought about my life, and all the old memories of helping other fighters prepare for big fights.  I realized I missed the time I spent hanging out with my fighting friends, but not the life that came with it.  I found myself very happy to be headed home to my new life on the farm and the nearby town of eight hundred and thirty-seven people.

I thought about all the things that fell into place in throughout my life to bring me to this place.  I have been truly blessed in life by being in the right place at the right time.  I was able to recognize that and make the most of my situations.

This past week somebody posted an old picture on facebook and I was in the background. It brought back some memories both good and bad of my past life. While I am not proud of many decisions I have made in the past, I am thankful for where they have brought me today.

The army friend I’ve often written about on this blog posted a picture this past week that was taken when he was deployed in Afghanistan, laying against a dirt berm, geared up with his M4.  He wrote, “You know, I kind of miss this. I remember vividly this moment and being so tired. It seems a lifetime away and I have almost completely disconnected myself from this old me.”  I too have disconnected from my old life. I recognize who I was then, but it no longer seems like me.  I have changed.

I was written about in the local papers this week.  This time, the spotlight was not due to my past.  The article was about what I am currently working on.  It made me realize just how grateful I am for my life.  My past has brought me here, to this place. Training with top coaches and athletes for all those years has prepared me for this important endeavor.

This time I am not fighting for money, I am not training an athlete for a big fight or an actor for a big role. Instead, I am using all those skills to train up a new team of people to fight back against Parkinson’s disease and all the degenerative effects that come with it.

I am so blessed.

Philippians 4:11

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

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

 

Accomplishing The Impossible

How many times in your life have you told yourself that something was impossible to do, yet you ended up accomplishing it? We all have the ability to make the impossible possible.  It comes down to mindset.  If you believe you cannot do something, you won’t be able to do it.

If instead, you have an unwavering belief that you will reach your goal, you will.

There is an author that I have admired since I was a little boy. To date, he has sold over 300 million books in many different languages. He was even a favorite of Presidents like Ronald Reagan.

He was never a book critic favorite, but he nevertheless could produce books that people would read.  He wrote over 100 novels and 250 short stories in his lifetime, passing away in June of 1988.  He never went to college and in fact, he only ever made it to the 10th grade. Times were hard, so he had to quit school and begin working to support himself and his family. He might not have had any formal training after that, but he read as many books as he could get his hands on.

He was a professional boxer at times, a trainer, a merchant seaman, and an officer in World War II.  He held so many jobs that I could not even begin to list them all here.  He later used this vast experience and the knowledge of the people, landscape, and history to fill his books.

He had no formal training, he just sat down and wrote.  The man was Louis Lamour, who today is mostly known for his Western books.

People around him early on urged him to get into a career that would pay so he would have something in life.  He believed that he could accomplish what everyone told him could not be done.

Deep down we have to believe that we can do what we set out to do no matter our situation or what others tell us.

You have your own unique ability to do what most people will tell you is impossible.

 

Throughout my life, I always felt that I could do anything that I worked hard enough towards.  I directed my energies in the wrong direction many times, but I did complete what I set out to do.

My main problem was I would take short cuts. I was willing to do whatever it took to get to where I wished to be.  This works on the short term, but it has long-term effects and nothing is on solid ground.  In a society where there is so much emphasis on the outcome and reward it is easy to fall into that trap.

I decided that I wanted to fight an MMA bout years ago and my coach told me that I would have to fight at 145 lbs, which was much lighter than I walked around.  He based it on my height, body type, strength and skill set.  I thought he was kidding because even in high school I was never that small.  I doubted I could get that low.  The good thing was that I was in a good gym and we had many fighters that passed through. One of those was a fighter named Cub Swanson.  Cub was getting ready for a fight and he was cutting weight.  We all rolled with him and trained hard.  Cub was going to fight at 145 lbs at the end of the week and yet he was stronger and bigger than me.  Cub made weight and won his fight.  After watching Cub make weight, I knew that it was possible for me.

My time came and with the help of two fighters: Tim and Arian, I was able to make weight.

I learned that I could lean out and I learned that I could stay fit and strong while weighing less.

We can never forget that what seems today impossible will only be so until we complete it.  If others have done, it so can you.  If you have the courage and drive there will never be anything out of your reach.

There was a man who died 1,983 years ago who was only actively teaching for 3.5 years, yet today 2.2 billion people claim to follow his teachings. When he was alive he had 1/1000 of a percent of the Roman population following him. In just a few centuries 56 percent of Romans were believers.  That man is Jesus.  His story would seem impossible, yet here we are today.

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 17:20  For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Jeremiah 32:17 ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Self-Discipline

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Every dream, goal and plan comes down to being self-disciplined enough to get through the rough parts and the ability to stay committed until completion.

Self-discipline is our unique ability to control our urges, wants, desires and our emotions in order to reach our goals. It is a mindset that must be built upon so that we make the right choices daily to guide our lives in the direction that is best.  It means we must give up small momentary pleasure in order to gain lasting happiness.

I was thinking about where I learned self-discipline.  One place I am sure I learned it was when I was at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California.  The morning wake-up bugle call reveille would sound at 6:15am.  Your bed had to be made, you had to dress with shined shoes, brass for inspection.  I used to get up at 5:30am so I could shower with plenty of hot water and take my time.

I was never in a rush to get ready and out to the quad for formation.  There really is something special about being awake while the world around you slumbers.  I committed to waking up early at a young age, and it has followed me through my whole life.

When I lived in New York I used to walk two miles every morning at 5am, then get two newspapers and a coffee before I came home.  This would set the pace for my day. I felt like it let me get in front of the day before others were awake.  I also feel like I have been able to get more finished in my life with this “extra” time.

People always talk about how they do not have any extra time.  Why not find that time before the day starts?

Many people feel that being self-disciplined will mean that they will have to give up much of what they feel is good about their lives.  There is no doubt that when shifting towards a more disciplined lifestyle your life will change.  It does not have to be bad or painful.  Examine your life and decide what is important to you.  If eating and drinking whatever you wish with no limits is what is important then look at the inevitable outcome.  You get to live with obesity, heart disease, and a host of other ailments.  How about staying up late to surf the internet or binge watch your favorite show? You must accept being tired at work or school the next day, and not performing well.

What if instead, you choose to eat food that is filled full of nutritional value.  Drink more water, keeping yourself hydrated. How would those choices harm you? Eating healthy foods does not mean a diet, it just means choosing the right tasty things to fuel your body. How about choosing to read a chapter of a book each night before bed and get to sleep at a reasonable hour?

Everyone has heard the phrase, “You just have to do it.”  It is much easier said than done for the average person with years of bad habits ingrained in their life.

So start small with something that you can do very easily.  If you need extra time in your day, how about waking up an hour earlier?  If you would like to lose weight, how about starting with a walk every morning before breakfast without fail.

If you make a commitment and stick with it, no matter what, it will translate into other areas of your life.  That means you must throw out all the excuses of the past… the  “I’m too tired,” “I have no time,” “My alarm did not go off,” or “I’m not feeling well.”

Once you make a habit of the first small change for a month, it’s time to commit to another small change. After a few months of these small victories under your belt, you can clearly see the changes that have come from your new found self-discipline.

This is something that you cannot buy.  There is no magic pill.  You have to be committed and work on it a little bit every day.  Think about this for a minute: why does the diet and self-help industry bring in billions a year?  They know that people do not want to put in the hard work necessary for lasting change.  A lot of people are looking for the easy way because we all hope there is a way.

The bottom line is that every journey begins with that first step and then continuing to step even when you don’t feel like it.

You must decide what it is you want in the long term. Once you have the goal in mind it will help you push aside the many distractions that will inevitably arise. You may feel discomfort along the way, but knowing that is part of the process makes it bearable. It is time to make decisions that benefit you for the long term.  Surround yourself with other people who are self-disciplined and cheer each other on.

Hebrews 12:11

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 5:21-23

21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. 23 For lack of discipline they will die,  led astray by their own great folly.

 

Christmas For Everyone!

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I would like to share my favorite Christmas memory with you.  I was very young and I woke up during the night and went out to the living room to see the Christmas tree.  It was dark, but I could see a tricycle with red wood blocks on the pedals.  I heard something outside and I looked out the window and I thought I saw Santa Claus take off in his sleigh.

I really enjoyed the holiday season as a kid.  We did Christmas shows at school, we told the tale of the three wise men and the star of Bethlehem.  Christmas decorations were up all over the city of Los Angeles. It was a very special time spent with family.

As an adult, I went through a phase where I grew less fond of the holidays, but one thing I could never understand was why it was offensive to some people to be told, “Merry Christmas.”  It does not hurt anyone and it certainly never hurt me to hear it.  While I do not drink alcohol, when someone offers me a drink I just say, “No thank you,” but the kind thought behind them offering one to me is not lost.  Yet, some people today find the idea of Christmas offensive and would like to erase the holiday.  Just how many people find it offensive?  According to some statistics, in the United States, ninety-two percent of Americans celebrate Christmas.  That is nine out of ten.  Still, society makes an attempt to change the greetings to not offend the few, losing the meaning and some of the history of the holiday for the rest of us.

During the bitter winter of 1777 George Washington and his closest men celebrated Christmas Eve with a dinner of rice and vinegar in their winter encampment in Valley Forge.

During the American Civil War both sides celebrated Christmas with special food and celebration.  President Lincoln held a Christmas party in the White House in 1861. He also visited troops and soldiers in the hospital on Christmas Day with his son. Union Soldiers pulled carts through parts of Georgia decorated like a sleigh with horse dressed to look like reindeer and handed out food.

During World War I on Christmas Day the fighting stopped in the trenches and they sang carols and exchanged cigarettes and chocolates.  There was even a soccer game between the English and German soldiers.

The founding fathers were Christians, and when they wrote the First Amendment they wrote that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They did not want a state religion forced on the people, and they did not want the country to be ruled by the church.  The term I hear so many people speak about so often is “the wall of separation between church and state.”  To set the record straight for all those people who like to throw it out there: it is not and never was in the US Constitution. It was written by Thomas Jefferson to a church that heard a rumor that Congress was going to make a national religion in 1802.

Christmas is a celebration of the gift of God to us: the birth of Jesus.  It is a celebration of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and grace. It is the unselfish act of God sending his son into the world so that we may all have everlasting life.

The whole world benefits from Christmas, no matter who you are or what you believe in or don’t believe in, there are no negative effects of a celebration of our savior.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving

 

This week is known as a big week for food. Thanksgiving. When you think of Thanksgiving, do you think of turkey, Pilgrims in funny hats, Christmas shopping and football games? The true spirit of Thanksgiving can get lost among everything else.  

A lot of us were taught that the first Thanksgiving in the new world was celebrated by the Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower and landed in what they called Plymouth Harbor.

The truth is: more than half of the Pilgrims did not survive that first winter 1620-21, due to the harsh weather and lack of nutrition.  They were not the first to struggle.  

The local natives, encouraged by an English speaker named Tisquantum, or “Squanto,” taught the colony how to plant and grow corn, how to fish and how to trap Beaver. The harvest of 1621 that came just before winter was much more bountiful than they had hoped for that year. They decided to have a feast that would last three days to celebrate. They invited the Pokanokets, a local tribe to join them.  There were ninety Pokanokets, fifty-three  Pilgrims in attendance at the the Thanksgiving of 1621.  

It was not the first Thanksgiving in the new world. There were other colonies and settlements that had celebrated the fall harvest with a festival for many years before the Mayflower arrived.  They also had them every year in Europe to celebrate the harvest.

The first national proclamation in the United States for Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777. Later, in December of 1777, General George Washington also declared a day of Thanksgiving after defeating the British at Saratoga.

President Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be held on the last Thursday in November.

Finally, in 1942, the US Congress declared Thanksgiving to be held on the fourth Thursday in November and they made it a holiday.

Thanksgiving is not about turkey, pie and football.  It is a time to give thanks for everything that we were blessed with during the past year.  

It is a celebration of all that we have been blessed with in this country and in our lives.  It is a time to spend with family and those close to us.

What do you have to be thankful for?  Even if you had some rough times or just plain bad times, you are still here and you have things to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving I have a lot more to be thankful for than I ever thought possible.  Even the bad times this year I can say helped me grow.

I am healthy, I have the gift of words and freedom to express my feelings.  I live in a beautiful country.  

I am blessed with opportunities to encourage many people that I meet to live a healthy lifestyle.  I have the love of my wife.

I thank God, for being both creator and provider.

People may want to rewrite history, but the real truth is that this is a holiday where we thank the Lord. And make no mistake, our Founding Fathers believed it too!

The Continental congress wrote.

“Commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.”

President Lincoln wrote.

Set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Psalm 136:1-26

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;