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Why Details Matter

Sometimes I like to just hang back, watch people to see what they do and how they act.  If you pay attention you can easily determine why some succeed and others fail at certain endeavors.

It has become easy for most of us to skip over the small details in life.  We live in a quick on the go society.  In reality every detail, no matter how small, matters. I have the luxury of hindsight because I am able to look back on my life and determine why I was successful at certain times. I can also be sure of why I failed at other incidents.  It comes down to the details.

Why are Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art so amazing and thought provoking?  After all anyone can paint a starry night.  In reality, very few can capture the mood and feel with a brush.

Last week I watched a championship fight between two fighters at the top of their game.  One of them was hit by a huge hook and right away he came back with a wicked cross.  The hook seemingly had little effect on the one hit.  Two still pictures reveal the reason behind it.

The hook was “winged,” which means the hips were not used and it was only a palm strike.  He didn’t hit with his knuckles, but his opponent did use his hips and turn over his punch.  Those tiny differences made the difference between being able to walk through a punch and being thrown against the ropes.

How many times do we fail to take each step we need to accomplish our goals? Are we using our hips to throw our hooks (hypothetically), or are we just slapping with our hands? I have been and am guilty as the next person when it comes to cutting corners.  I used to never worry about the small things, I always figured I could go back and fix them. This faulty way of thinking has cost me a lot over the years.  I think about all the time and heartache I could have saved myself and I realize how ignorant I had been.

We walk through life without realizing that God has provided us with everything we need to live a prosperous life of fulfillment.  It is hard because we cannot see the big picture or the final outcome. This is where faith comes into the picture and helps us get through the rough periods.  The good news is, that even though we can’t see the future, our job is not to blindly walk in faith, he has given us clear guidelines of how we should live in the Bible.

Our lives are made up of thousands of tiny actions that take place every hour of the day and night.  A chef cannot put a culinary masterpiece on the table without careful attention to each of the ingredients.

I listen when someone is explaining something unfamiliar to me and I absorb the information.  If I don’t understand something, I will ask questions.

I make every effort to do whatever task I set out to do right in the first place. I know I will fail at times, but I learn and I never continue to make the same mistakes again.

How could paying attention to details make your life easier?  The next question is why are you not sweating the details?  When we cease to learn, life is over.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

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Digging out

 

I am sure many of you have experienced the art of digging yourself out of a hole. I have spent my most of my adult life coming back from many poor decisions I have made.

I was on a perpetual merry-go-round of highs and lows as a criminal until 2005 when I was finally finished with the streets.  I had the next two years to work on myself and figure out how I was going to live as a normal citizen for the rest of my life.  My main objective was to keep being myself and doing things I was good at, but this time without breaking any laws.  

In the past, I didn’t have to worry about anyone but myself.  I did whatever I wanted.  In my new life, I would have to consider how my decisions would affect those around me.  The stakes were much higher.  In my past life, I had many experienced criminals mentoring me.  Now I was unsure of what steps to take or even who to speak to for advice.

Life presents many opportunities to us, we must keep our eyes and our minds open.  I had to change my way of thinking and my outlook on life.  Writing this now, I can tell you it is much easier said than done.  

I had to learn to trust that God had a plan for my life.  I had to have faith, which is something I never put much thought into other than believing in myself.  I stopped looking at what I could do to bring in the most money and instead starting thinking about where I felt God could use me the most.

It was hard to walk away from the life I had built in Los Angeles because it was comfortable to me.  It was even harder when life did not go my way in Illinois right away and I had very few friends.  I felt like I kept hitting dead ends, and to be honest I felt like giving up and moving back to California at times.  Instead, I kept pushing forward, putting in the days, with the belief that with hard work and prayer the right doors would open.

One of the turning points in the past year was when I threw myself completely into my work and decided that no matter what I was doing, I would do it to the best of my ability.  It was hard when I could not see immediate results, when doors always seem to close as I was looking for a space to teach or open a gym.  Even when I found space and started out, there were so few people I wasn’t sure if we would make it.  But I kept at it.  Kept showing up, putting in the work and praying for direction and God’s blessing.  

Life is by no means perfect, but I know I am on the right track.  I wrote out my goals and started chipping away.  Slowly but surely I have made progress. We all can…. with hard work, determination, and prayer.

Philippians 3:13

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission: Live A Fulfilling Life

No matter who you are or where you are in life, odds are you feel that there is more you could be doing. It is easy to fall into the habit of just going through the motions. To step outside and throw our lives for a loop would be crazy, right?

If you want to grow, you cannot do it from staying in the same spot, doing the same thing. The good news is, the ability for growth never stops, no matter how old we are in years.  There is always room for improvement and room for new goals.

What do you want out of life? What are you happy with in life?  What are you unhappy with?  And finally, what steps do you need to take to bring about change? This is where we have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we figure out what is important to us and what we would like out of life, it’s time to ask ourselves what’s stopping us?

Maybe it’s.. I can’t..If only… I would… I should.. I’m just not lucky… I have no money.. It’s hard.

If you have held onto certain beliefs for a long time, you probably have convinced yourself that this way of thinking is fact. The fact is, what we hold in our minds on a daily basis becomes reality. It is time to change the way we visualize ourselves and our lives in our minds.

Life is unfair, tough and arbitrary.  Time to accept it and move forward.  No matter what horrible situation we are in today it will pass.  Look for the good. It is up to us to get through the tough situations. We must stay alert, there will be lessons to be learned and in the end, we will be stronger.

Next, it’s time to remove the clutter from your life. What brings us down or fills us with negativity?  What sucks up our time like a black hole?  Think about it and then begin the process of cutting those things out.  Don’t go overboard and try to cut them all out at once!  When we do that, we often set ourselves up for failure. Take one step at a time.

Once more I will go to examples that are prevalent in my business.  “I really want to get in shape, but…. I don’t have the time, I’m busy, my kids, my back, my work.” If those are your excuses, then it is time to face the truth: health is not important to you.  This same idea applies to many situations in life.

On the other end of the spectrum, people will come to the gym every day, but they are unwilling to change their nutritional habits, so they see little results. Change does not happen without sacrifice.

We all know the person who goes all out, one hundred and ten percent for a short time, but soon burns out and never completes anything.

Think about some of the things you have always wanted to do, but just never did.  Pick one, start working towards it, and follow through until you have accomplished it. It may not be your biggest life goal, but it will show you that you can accomplish what you set out to do. A bonus in these situations is where they may lead you or the new people who may come into your life as a result.

It is now time to direct our focus on the positives of life, those things that make us happy. It might be hard for some of us, but every time we feel our mind beginning to wander into dark territory, replace it with positive thoughts.

We are not a stick in a stream being pulled along by the current. We are highly intelligent beings who have the ability to make choices.  If you carry around hate and resentment, free yourself by letting it go.  

For most of my life I was consumed by hate.  If you crossed me or I perceived that you did, I would dwell on it and let it fester in my mind. I would make elaborate plans for revenge. What a huge waste of time!  All of that energy and thought I put into getting even with a person just set me back and ate up valuable time and energy.

It did not happen overnight, but I finally took the advice to let it go. This has freed up an enormous amount of my life so I can participate in activities that will advance my life instead.

It’s also important to focus on more than just improving your own life.  There are always people who are worse off than us in the world.  Look around and find a way you can make a difference in someone else’s life. We all have skills that can help, so we should use ours to make the world around us a better place.

An added benefit to helping others is it gives us no time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.

Ok, so you are not where you want to be in life, yet. Make the best out of where you are now. Get into your work and become the best employee you can be. If you hold yourself to a standard of excellence, others will take notice.  Doors will open.  Be patient. Understand that big dreams take time. There will be many roadblocks along the way, this is when we must persevere because it is part of our journey.  

This last week I was witness to two people coming to the conclusion of their quest for a goal.

One was a person who wanted to get into the best shape of his life and drop a hundred pounds. It has been over a year and a half of putting in intense workouts and changing his diet.  It has been a long trial and error period of learning what foods to take in and when. On Saturday I was there when he stepped on the scale and was a mere two pounds away from his goal. He looked at me and said, “Forget it, I’m going beyond this! I’m going to keep going until I have a six pack.”

The other person started writing a book in 2011.  They held down a full-time job, got married, had a baby, life became complicated.  The real life character who was the subject of the book also made it a tough task. My friend had to shape a story out of a bunch of random thoughts and some less-than-interesting situations. In the end, he put such a positive spin on the character that it is a book everyone would enjoy reading.

The company who purchased the manuscript folded, and the book was acquired by another publisher who decided they didn’t want to publish it.  The book looked like it was a dead issue, which was sad because my friend had written a great book. A couple of months ago, he worked out a deal to buy back the rights from the publisher.  All this time my friend continued to write other books, but he never gave up hope that this book would one day be published.  Last week he told me it would be out in December.

We never know where life will take us or what will happen if we keep a positive attitude and stay consistent in the face of closed doors.

This is where faith comes into life. I had to learn that God had plans for my life and that it was time for me to open up myself for them. I could not force them or make them happen, they would come when the time was right.  God’s timing is perfect. Once I started living my life, not for myself, but for Him, everything else became less important. I learned that money will not bring fulfillment, because you cannot buy it!

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

James 1:12

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

 

 

 

Aftermath: Rebuilding Your Life

We have all heard the saying, “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are ready to change.” This is something that I know first hand. I also know others who have gone through the same experience.  In fact, most of us will have to rebuild our lives at some point in life.

It may come from an unexpected loss, the death of a loved one, a job, or it could be our own self-destructive behavior. It does not matter the cause, because the outcome is the same. A life in shambles, the feeling of no hope, bitterness, and blame. You can feel the walls of despair closing in on you as depression sets into your life.

Life seems overwhelming and we become frozen in place, shut down.  For some, it sends them into a self-medication period or an overeating binge.  All the while we distance ourselves from friends and loved ones.

When you find yourself at rock bottom, It is time to examine your life and figure out what has brought you to this place. Make a list, because when you write it down you can easily decide what is most important. You can also devise a plan to begin the journey of rebuilding.

A good approach is to begin by controlling what you can.  We can all control what goes into our bodies. Alcohol and drugs will just bring us down, even more, the problem still exists but now our minds are clouded.

What we eat also has a huge effect on how we feel.  If we eat sugar or foods heavy with fats, we will feel it. Excess sugar will cause us to hit highs and then come crashing down feeling worse than ever.  Unhealthy food will make your whole system feel sluggish.  Cut it all out. We do not need them and once our system begins functioning better on healthy fuel, we will not miss them.  Challenge yourself by being strong and watching your food intake.

The more you start to take control of your life, the better you feel.  It is time to make commitments with some new habits. A lot of hugely successful people start the day early with some exercise. I am not suggesting that you begin with a gym membership.  We must crawl before we can walk, so start small.  Try walking around your neighborhood every day for thirty minutes in the mornings, without distractions and without stopping.  I am not talking about a treadmill! Get outdoors where the weather and terrain varies daily.  Use this alone time to think about life and plan your day.

After a series of events in my life, I found myself all alone in a place I had never been. I was depressed and fat, with no idea what I would do with my life from that point forward. The first day I shut myself inside the hotel suite and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t want to face reality. My old life was no more.  The people I knew would never and could never be a part of my new life. I had brought everything on myself because of my actions, so the only person I could blame was myself.

I decided that I should begin walking every morning for an hour. I was out the door before light that second day. I walked every day for the rest of that first week. After my walk, I would come back to the suite and watch TV.  Eventually, I ventured across the street after dark to a huge bookstore and bought some books and a notepad.  I developed a routine.  Walk, read, write about my life and eat fresh unprocessed food.  After that first week, I found a Mixed Martial Arts gym and I started walking past it every day.  Martial arts had been an important part of my early life, but it had been a few years since I had been in a martial arts gym. I checked out the class schedule and thought about joining.  It took me almost a month to finally decide to walk into the gym.  When I did, I decided on a whim to take a class.

The class gave me over an hour a day when the only thing I could think about was the class. My head was clear and focused when I trained. I developed a new schedule.  I would walk every day for an hour, come back and watch two shows, then go take a class, read a book for learning (history, science, etc), eat lunch, work on writing the story of my life, and later read another book for pleasure. This routine pulled me out of the hole I had dug for myself.

Writing about my life laid bare the fact that all of my problems had been caused by the choices I made.  I started a list of things that I had to change, and believe me it was a huge list. I started working on one of them at a time. I am still working on the list and it grows all the time.  I have found that I gain confidence every time I conquer a personal dislike.  People might feel my life is too regimented and strict, but it is actually freeing.

Find something that you can get into.  Something that allows you to forget about your problems and clear your mind for a time, even if you can see no immediate benefit.

When you develop a new routine, make a pact with yourself that you will not stop for a month.

Write about your thoughts and problems.  Keep a diary, even if it is just a short e-mail you send to yourself at the beginning of each day. This is enormously helpful and it is between you and you alone.

As I was writing this post, I counted at least five times that I have hit bottom and started to rebuild my life. The best thing to come out of those experiences is that I have tread familiar ground repeatedly. I do not know what the says about me, but at least I know what choices I no longer wish to make.

I spoke to two others about the aftermath of their destructive lives.  I asked them both what helped them come back from the brink.  One told me that when he was doing his thing it was about him.  When it all came crashing down it affected those close to him.  He let everyone down. He had support and he decided that he would take it and better himself.  The second person told me he realized he was a grown man and if he did nothing he would be wasting his life. The life he had was no longer part of the equation, so he started one step at a time and day by day it got better.

Ephesians 4:28

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

 

Self-Made Prison

Life is either a marathon or a sprint.  Regardless of the length, we do not know when the race will be over.  Yesterday is the past. Whether it was good or bad, today is another chance to get it right.   Our attitude, beliefs, actions, and fears have brought us where we are. Many of us have built up walls in our lives. We see the world in a certain way, and we tell ourselves that they are barriers to keep out the unwanted, but in reality they are prisons.   

Some of us think of a water glass as half empty while others see the glass is half full.  Neither is wrong.  A positive outlook, regardless of what we face, will help us as we move forward.  Nothing in our lives is permanent, change will always come. Bad attitudes magnify the negative and destroy hope.

Have you ever felt, that something may work for others, but not for you?  I have on more than a few occasions.  The problem with my thinking was that I was not willing to open up to new methods or ideas.  I was stuck in the mindset that my long held beliefs and preconceived notions were always right because I had been there before.  What I really had to learn was that the old way life played out that way because of the way I went about it. It was time for me to stop passing the blame and stop the never ending cycle I was on. It is never easy, but you must retrain your mind to stop with the negative thoughts and keep working to get out of your cell.

Every morning there is a new problem.  Leaving the house brings a new set of challenges. Do we stay home? Feel sorry for ourselves and cry? Turn to a vice to ease the suffering momentarily?

Evaluate everything and start with the things that you can fix now.  Come up with a game plan.  No journey is complete without a map – a route and a destination. Accept the facts and no matter how uncomfortable it is, face them, because each of holds the key to set us free from the walls that are holding us back.

The biggest and most formidable wall in life is fear. The fear of failure always looms.  The fear that we will go too far and be left alone.  The fear that we are just not good enough.  The fear that we do not have what it takes.  The fear that we will not be accepted by our peers.  All of these seem real, but the truth is we have built them up in our minds. The more we dwell on them, the more powerful they become.

At one time, I lived in a constant state of fear.  I had a fear that a normal life was for everybody except me. The fear paralyzed me and kept me from growing or reaching for my goals.  We can either become prisoners bound by our own outlook, or we can change our thinking.  It will be hard, breaking habits by retraining your mind, building new habits and learning all take time.

Saul of Tarsus is a man I have brought up before.  He grew up Jewish and by all accounts, he was set to be one of the great ones. He had a prejudice against Christians, and believed that they were wrong about Jesus and his way of thinking was right.  He went after the early Christians with a vengeance, even sending some to their death. It was not until he was blinded by Jesus himself and later regained his sight that he was freed from his self-made prison. He went on to accomplish great things that we still benefit from today.  He wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament of the Bible.

It’s time to let go of the preconceived notions in your life that are keeping you locked up, and move on to accomplish the great things set out for you.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.