Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Celebration Day: Reflections of 2012

Hello all, it's been a hot minute since we've just chatted. This past year we've discussed numerous subjects ranging from my travels throughout the US and Israel, leadership and personal development ideas, meditations on being an ethical protector, thoughts about some of the darker side of humanity regarding protecting self and others from various forms of violence and finally path notes of mental chatter as we wind down this rambling road called life together. That said, I am sitting here reflecting on this past year, as well as some years prior and of course, the year to come, as I watch Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day, the latest cd/dvd pack from their 2007 London performance. If you are a Zep fan (or want to be) I would recommend that you pick it up!

Ahhhh 2012... Don't get me wrong, it wasn't without its challenges (some bigger than others) but overall, I have no complaints. I am surrounded by people who inspire me; I am following my bliss and seeing more and more success doing it; I have my health (aside from my usual aches, pains and injuries); I have amazing family, friends and colleagues; I'm not (financially) rich, but I'm not living in a cardboard box (yet) and although sometimes times are a little tight I have to remind myself that I still live better than about 95% of the worlds population and I am able to do some pretty amazing things, so I never let myself lose sight of how fortunate I really am! Much of that fortune is because of you... Yes, that's right, I did say YOU! Most likely you my dear reader have contributed to my success in some small or not so small way, so thank YOU! I can't express how much I appreciate all of you. But I can say this: I don't know exactly how 2013 will unfold, but I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities that it brings with it. Judging from my calendar, I am off to a fantastic start. My January is booked solid; February is pretty busy with events, including being key note speaker for this years West Michigan Counseling Association's Winter Conference and a 3 day workshop I am doing with Israeli Krav International Head Instructor Moshe Katz (Click here for details). As for the rest of my year? Can you say: Resolution Group International - Israeli Krav International - Budo Taijutsu - The Conquerors - Babacita - Ronin Krav Maga - The PeaceWalker Project - Ronin Empowerment Group - and many others! I won't spoil the rest of the surprise for you, but, it is already filling with numerous trips, workshops, video shoots, book openings, seminars, presentations, proposals, teaching, learning, donating, contributing, growing, exploring & creating!

So enough about me, tell me what do you have to be thankful for? What does next year have in store for you!? What kind of year will you create? I hope some of you write in and tell me what's going on in your lives.

As you start strolling down 2013's path, remember the four (4) principles of the PeaceWalker:

1) See Conflict as an Opportunity.
2) Embrace the Universal Life Value - That ALL Life is to be Protected and Respected.
3) Work Toward Most Good / Least Harm for Everyone.
4) Share Through Inspiration.

If you follow that recipe you're bound to have a more fulfilling year!

I look forward to sharing our journey next year. So let's all...

Keep Going!

All the best,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give Me The Courage To Change The Things I Can


 Arbor Circle Grand Rapids, MI

I was hoping that my last blog post about the tragedy in Connecticut wouldn't be followed up so soon by yet another tragic event that has impacted our community so greatly. The incident that occurred a few days ago (December 17th, 2012) at Arbor Circle mental health clinic here in Grand Rapids Michigan when a 27 year old man shot and killed two acquaintances who had drove him to his therapy session. After the man got out of his counseling meeting he got into the car that drove him there and shot the two women that drove him to his appointment then turned the pistol on himself. When the police arrived at the scene the two women were already dead and the shooter, still alive was rushed to hospital where he died shortly after. Read the story here on WZZM 13.

Due to the shooting at the Newtown Connecticut school this recent event seems to have struck an already sensitive nerve in all of us in the Grand Rapids community. Some find their feelings to be overwhelming: Remorse for the loss of the three lives; sympathy for their families and friends; empathy toward the therapist who was treating and something else. Fear. Fear for what could have happened, fear of what might happen in the future.

I personally know many of the therapists and support staff who are current or former employees at Arbor Circle. Some had come to our RGI Conflict Management Workshop or one of my PeaceWalker workshops or attended one of my presentations at the West Michigan Counseling Association or Michigan Counseling Association or are simply friends. My thoughts are with each of them as well as the family and friends of the three people who lost their lives that tragic day. 

Being in the field that I am in, it is not uncommon for me to receive e-mails and phone calls from people who are looking for answers to many of life's challenges, namely that of empowerment, protection and conflict management. And due to the recent events, my phone has been ringing off the hook, my e-mails and facebook messages have been out of control as well. People are looking for answers; more accurately people want to feel safe.

I was on the East Coast when the Connecticut incident happened and driving back to Michigan when I heard about what happened at Arbor Circle. I was out there teaching a tactical defense seminar at Warrior Fitness before doing some training with conflict resolution and martial arts expert Jack Hoban. Jack and I were riding together in his Jeep when we heard the news of the Connecticut elementary school. As you can imagine, the news became the topic of our conversation.

Jack shared his perspective with me regarding what he thought of situations like this. I liked Jack's analogy of circumstances such as these being similar to natural disasters like tornado, hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes, etc. He explained that humans are part of nature and like nature we have seasons, weather patterns and sometimes when conditions are just so, we experience immense storms. If you look at human nature you can see that each one of us is capable of great things as well destructive things. I like to say, "The good, the bad and the ugly." Like nature, sometimes storms happen and depending on the circumstance, innocent people can get caught in their destructive path(s). Situations like what recently transpired in Connecticut and Arbor Circle are examples of this.

So is there anything that we can do? Yes, there are somethings: Try to be prepared. Understand what some of the warning signs are. Watch for the conditions to be conducive for a storm and when things begin to take shape try to prevent, prepare for or avoid it to reduce its impact as much as possible. But remember that even if you see the pending signs you can still sometimes get caught in the devastation. The human condition can be more unpredictable than the weather, so it is no surprise that even the most seasoned professional(s) can sometimes miss interpret the warning signs or simply just be wrong. It's difficult to predict the improbable and virtually impossible to reason with crazy or fanatical. So trying to stop or legislate a force of nature can be... well futile. We can only do our best to prevent or prepare for it; be aware of the warning signs; manage it as best we can if it happens and deal with the aftermath in a empathetic and insightful way. 

Are there specific tactics to deal with an active shooter, suicide bomber, psychopathy or sociopath? Yes of course. Just like there are specific tactics to deal with hurricanes, tornado and tsunamis. But they are guidelines and no guarantee that anyone will survive unscathed or sometimes at all. But try not to worry too much about these things, because they are outliers, meaning that they are not the norm. Statistically they are unlikely, however due to their high profile nature they feel more likely than they actually are. You could win the lotto tomorrow, however I wouldn't quit your job today or stop contributing to your retirement fund quite yet.

I hate to be overly redundant, but (if you read my last blog) I'm afraid I have to be:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

By Reinhold Niebuhr

Stay safe out there and...

Keep going,


Saturday, December 15, 2012

When Words Aren't Enough


Words cannot begin to describe my feelings toward the tragedy that happened at the Newtown Connecticut Elementary school on December 14th, 2012. My sincere condolences go out to those families and loved ones who lost someone that they loved. I can't even imagine what those poor families are going through, it tears me up inside thinking about it. I'm sure you parents out there are both grateful and fearful. Grateful for your children being safe and fearful hoping that it never happens to your family. Even a single incident like this is one too many, however the world is no stranger to violence and violence will continue to plague our human condition as it always has. In its wake it will leave people afraid, confused and in search for meaning, answers, security and comfort. Each of us will come to various conclusions on how to deal with our feelings of vulnerability to the uncertainties our world brings us. Each of us will think of ways to protect ourselves; those we love; the life we have grown accustom to and feel entitled to. Our rational minds will try to put logic to the events that have passed: How? Why? How could it have been stopped? And (maybe) most importantly, how can we stop it from happening again? Everyone has a different opinion on these answers; our need for some type of meaning, for things to make sense is deep and visceral. We need answers to our questions to feel safe, even if the answers that we come up with end up being completely wrong, misguided or even create larger problems, the sense of stability is still so important to us that we are often willing to believe in lies or things that will later seem preposterous.

You may be wondering what my point to all of this is? So here it is: I don't know how you are going to make sense of all of this, but however you do choose to put things together, be mindful of your decision because it will continue to shape how you live in your world around you. The decisions you make today will determine the life you live tomorrow. 

To feel emotions is healthy, but taken to extreme, fear will make your world small and painful. Anger and hate toward others will eat you alive and bleed into your own relationships leaving your life hollow and empty. Fearful people are those who feel dis-empowered and who have no clarity and faith in something bigger than themselves. Fearful, angry, hateful people are reactionary and dangerous.

Do you want to feel more safe? A good start is to follow Reinhold Niebuhr's famous words:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

More answers lay with: 
  • Clarifying the Universal Life Value, that all life is to be protected and respected.
  • Empowering more protectors.
  • Work toward most good least harm for all.
  • Inspire others to be leaders.
There will always be someone or thing that will threaten us and those we care about. Seek peace, but be prepared to fight to protect life, empower others to do the same. Go and tell someone who you care about that you love them; give your kid a hug; don't just appreciate your life, go live it. Be present in every moment. Because in the end moments are all we have, so don't waste a single one.  

Be well and keep going.