Monday, December 30, 2013



"Midlife Crisis is when you get to the top of the Ladder and realize it was leaning up against the wrong wall."

~Joseph Campbell

I remember sitting in front of Davenport College (now Davenport University) alternating between looking up at the sky and reading Clive Barker's Weave World. It was the beginning of an interesting path. A couple years later, still at Davenport College I remember my capstone class for my business degree was an outside sales internship. I HATED it! However I felt as if I'd invested so much of my own and my parents resources how could I turn back? Not to mention I wasn't sure what else to do for a career?! All of my other pursuits (music, security type work, martial arts & travel) I did were not providing a sustainable income, so I continued to follow a path that not only was uninspiring to me, it quite literally made me ill. During that sales internship, it was everything I could do to bring myself to do my required cold calls. The sales meetings weren't nearly as bad, but those darn cold calls were killing me.

Instead of using that internship as an experience to say to myself: "I may not know what I want to do, but I know what I DON'T want to do!" I "powered through" it... for the next 20 years!  

I can remember as time went on, that I began doing less of what I loved and more of what I thought I should be doing. I thought that if I could do "this" to make money, than I would be able to do "that" which I loved to do. As it turned out as the years passed by, like so many others I ended up doing more of "this" and less of "that;" until years later, "that" almost disappeared entirely and "this" occupied more and more of my time and energy.

I know, I know, you gotta make a living, I understand. But there's a difference between having a job, making a living and creating a life. And it all boils down to Clarity.

When you are clear about your purpose the rest is simple... if you Keep Going!

The HOW is much easier than the WHAT and the what is easier than the WHY! What do you want your life to be? Do you want to earn a living, or make a life? (Not that they have to be mutually exclusive). Now between starving or earning a living, I choose earning a living, but between earning a living and creating a Life, I choose to create a Life! The people who have really inspired me didn't simply earn a living, they LOVED what they did, they were passionate about it. For them it was more than simply bringing home the bacon, what they did, how they spent their time and contributed was an expression of who they were. They created a life, rather than just bring home a paycheck.

So what do you want your life to be like? A tough question for an adult, let alone a teenager deciding their life's path. When it comes to your life's calling, I always thought that how you are going to get there is really a much easier question than WHAT you want to do. So many people don't know what direction to take. They are looking for inspiration.

One of the first things is: Don't put your stuff in the middle. Your things (house, car, vacation, furniture, boats, etc, etc) end up owning you if you're not careful. Put your LIFE in the middle and the stuff on the back burner.  Your LIFE may include, your loved ones, your passion, your health, your beliefs, your service, your integrity.  Start from there and you will probably have a much more meaningful life and career. Now when I say meaningful, I don't necessarily mean easy. But Keep Going! Trust me, if you follow your bliss (as Joseph Campbell said) the rest will follow. Doors will open that would not be open for anyone else. For some following your bliss will lead to money, for others it will not. Money and things are not the goal. Doing something that is meaningful to you is.

Taking the easy or quick way may not be as quick and easy as you think if you consider doing something that doesn't inspire you or is unhealthy for you for the next decade or four.

Security is also an illusion in today's world. Things change very quickly out there in the job market now-a-days. The people in demand are the ones who are top of their field. Those who are on top of their field are typically the ones who are passionate about what they do.

Also remember that change happens. It can be scary to change. Many people opt for the devil they know over the uncertainty of the unknown. I understand, it is easy to become lulled to sleep by predictability even if it is uninspiring or even unhealthy, especially if you have larger responsibilities like a family. However don't be afraid of change, embrace it. (Change is a lot easier if you live simply and your things don't own you!)

My own journey includes me getting "downsized" a couple years before I thought I'd be ready to leave my day job. Who knows, I may never have left the daily grind hadn't it been for me getting let go. Hard telling. It was a tough period that lead to better things. I almost buckled and went back to what I knew, but I held on and things have been working out splendidly!

I sometimes get asked by people if I feel all those years in Corporate America were wasted? My answer is absolutely not! If it wasn't for that part of my journey, I wouldn't be where I am today. That experience gave me the skills, perspective and CLARITY I needed to be successful on my own today. Without it I don't think I would be here now. If it could have happened earlier it would have. No regrets. I am grateful for being able to do what I am passionate about full time. Even if it is scary a lot of the time.

Clarity is not just useful in our career, it is useful in everything that we do. Once we are clear it is much easier to map out a plan to act on that clarity. Be tenacious, have some faith and keep going and you may surprise yourself on where you'll end up.

So how can we gain clarity or stay clear? Well, there are many ways, here are some ideas:

1) What is important to you?
2) What inspires you? If you aren't sure, then...
3) What doesn't inspire you? (Sometimes knowing what you don't like is a good start to being clear)
4) Does it reflect Most Good / Least Harm for everyone?

Remember: Breathe, Relax, Let Go, have Faith and Keep Going!

Suzy Welch's book 10-10-10 may be helpful. It describes a method of considering how your decision will effect you in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years.

Clarity is really more about simple and less about complicated. More about feel than just logic. More art than science. The heart brings clarity the mind helps you actualize it into being... Just remember to make sure your ladder is leaning up against the right wall. If you find that it isn't, climb back down, move it and start again. It's ok... Life is for living, so live it!

Remember Einstein's definition of insanity:

"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

If you don't like the view, get a different perspective. 

All that said, what I am hoping for 2014 is to have more Clarity. I wish it for me and I wish it for all of you reading this as well.
Have a great 2014!

All the best,

Monday, December 23, 2013

Against The Stream Krav Maga (by Moshe Katz)

 Moshe Katz (Far Left) & I (Craig Gray Far Right) with members of the Yamam 
in Jerusalem during the first IKI Tour & Train in 2010

So Tour and Train November 2013 is over, and my friend Athos is one of the last to leave. We are at my house enjoying one last cup of coffee, l'ultimo caffè. When I was in Italy I purchased some Italian coffee, which is now coming in very handy. Athos, as a proud Italian, prefers making Italian coffee. Anything else is a compromise.
Each morning of Tour and Train Athos prepared us Italian coffee, a little taste of Italy, here in Maaleh Adumim.
As a new student and as a mature man, Athos offers great insights into martial arts and self defense. I have come to understand why he chose IKI Krav Maga for his training. Athos is a respected researcher and professor at a distinguished Italian university, he is a man trained to notice details and make observations. Through many conversations I have come to appreciate his sensitivity and his awareness of details.
As I have noted many times Israelis like to present Krav Maga in a macho sort of way. Daily we are bombarded on youtube and Facebook by the young and dumb, the "Tough Guys" who want to perpetuate the myth of "Military Krav Maga" and the image of the "Bad Ass Krav Maga instructor".

He chose IKI because we do not present this image. As he said, "I am a professor, I do not want to come home injured and handicapped, I was afraid that I would be hurt while in Israel, so I hesitated to join any Krav Maga program."

AT Mt Herzl with Tour and Train. Monument to the Israeli volunteers during World War Two, (an unknown chapter in history). Athos from Italy, front row seated on our right, light green T shirt. His eyes convey his deep feelings about this experience.

He took his time, nearly 6 months, and researched on line. I appeared to be a "more sensible human being", he gambled on me and I met his expectations. "Your techniques are very effective for the street but you do not hurt people while training."
He explained in his native Italian, which he is more comfortable with, that...I am not young, and I am not experienced, I need an instructor I can trust.
I told him that in fact I had written blogs on this topic; when you are fighting, competing, it is your job to defend yourself. But when you training and you are allowing your teacher or your training partner to use your body and limbs, you are trusting them not to hurt you. When a teacher or training partner hurts you, they have broken this trust.
And yet, too many "Israeli Krav Maga" schools do just that and pride themselves on it. In fact they mock teachers such as myself as being "soft". In their "tough guy Krav Maga Training", there is no smiling and many students will walk away badly hurt, sometimes with permanent injuries. To them this is a "badge of honor".
We believe that we can train hard and effectively and yet be gentle and safe. As Athos pointed out, when he teachers, there is a way to teach a first year biology student and a 5th year biology student. If you hit a first year student with the "heavy scientific" load of a 5th year student, you will only harm him. You need to bring him in to the field slowly, step by step. This is how he views our Krav Maga as well.
The way one trains and the one teaches is a reflection of how they view themselves.
Recently we met two instructors, from an outside source. One was older and one was younger, but as Athos pointed out, it was not necessarily because of the age, it was more a mentality and level of maturity that mattered.
The younger man was hard, and, insecure. He kept asking for feedback, "How am I doing? What do people think of me?". The older man only smiled. He never asked for feedback, he did not need it.
The younger man hurt at least 3 participants during the training, the older man hurt no one. Not here, not know. In the past, during active duty, the older man did hurt people, but he prefers not to speak of it, he is a legend among those who know. He is the type of man that movies are made of. Only with him it all happened in reality, not just in the movies.
Athos is my kind of student, a wise man is our best student. He was able to see the truth. The insecure teacher hurts his student, the mature teacher guides his students safely. You can teach effective Krav Maga without hurting and intimidating your students in the process.
When I was a child, a student at the Hebrew Academy  of Nassau County, our great teacher and rabbi; Rabbi Meir Fendel, used to speak of Rabbi Abraham Kook. He referred to him as the "Man who went against the stream". This clearly had an effect on my young mind.

Today at IKI, we are the "Krav Maga instructors who go against the stream", we go against the absurd image of Israelis as "Jewish Rambos", we go against the idea that you must hurt your students and be a "Bad Ass" in order to be a good Krav Maga instructor. We are confident.
And just as I was listening years ago to the rabbi it is good to know that today someone is listening to my words, and observing my actions. 

By Moshe Katz, Krav Maga instructor, Israel

Bullying Only Begins On The Playground

I knew that I was screwed even before I opened the door for the meeting. I knew that my sales manager was going to bully me into agreeing on my new sales figures for the upcoming year. The company had a budget in mind which was aggressive or, in my opinion, unrealistic. Our bonus and commission rate was supposed to be an incentive so it was based on our growth, not necessarily on just the final sales numbers.  An interesting over complicated alga-rhythm that felt more like playing the shell game at some shady carney side show than holding a regular job. 

Now don't get me wrong, I know how difficult it can be to motivate people, especially when you are in charge of overseeing a guy like me who was a spirited, independent, go getter, not overly motivated by money and not to mention, (at the time) young, a bit cocky and probably too smart and intuitive for my own good. What was a sales manager to do?

Well, pushing unrealistic sales goals on to someone while telling them pretty much that they have to agree with them in order to keep their job isn't incredibly inspiring to me. However after the typical corporate dance, I relented and realized I wasn't going to win this battle. Later, upon the quarterly sales meeting when I was asked why my sales numbers were not where they "should be," I could do nothing but smile and say, "well, if the goals were realistic in the first place we wouldn't be having this conversation."

To which my sales manager replied, "these are the goals you agreed to." 


You have to be kidding me!

I only "agreed" to your goals because you gave me no choice. You and I both knew that they were unrealistic, but they were what YOU wanted so they would fit into your budget, not mine. If I had my way, I'd be working 30 hours a week rather than 65. I don't need more money, you do. I am fine with what I have now. I don't need more stuff, I need more time so I don't lose my freakin' mind. More time to spend with my family and friends, more time to be healthy, more time to enjoy life. I'm sorry that you and your organization have an insatiable appetite for the almighty dollar, but I live simply and I would like it if you would allow my job to reflect that simplicity as well. I thought.

In short they wouldn't. They wanted what they wanted, with or without me. Regardless if I was top sales man just moments ago; it's a "What Have You Done For Me NOW" kind of world.

Unfortunately at the time I only had about a quarter of this conversation with him, the rest of it was going on in my head. But I knew I wouldn't last much longer in corporate America. The allure of playing the game was fading; I was sick of the dog and pony show. I didn't get out as quickly as I'd hoped, it took several more grueling years, but the day finally did come when I left... Well, actually I was downsized, but that is a story for another day. 


"Get him out of here..." My partner tried shouting in my ear. It was barely audible over the noise from the music and crowd.

"What?!" I yelled back more out of habit than not knowing I had to get the principle, the son of a prominent politician out of this club before things got further out of hand.

I could see the scene unfolding right in front of me. A fight between our principle and some young, drunk stud who was probably tired of his girlfriend being hit on by this rich, prick with entitlement issues and ego that needed to be knocked down a few pegs.

However, I was one of the "lucky"one's hired to keep this asshole safe. In reality we spent more time trying to protect him from himself than any outside threat.

In slow motion, drink glasses crashed to the ground and fists started flying. I pitched myself forward into the fray toward the two combatants. Only there weren't just two. No, the guy my principle decided to mess with ended up having a couple friends... Oh the joy!

I managed to wedge past the two friends, pushing them back as I verbally directed them to stand down and get help (probably something much more crude than that I'm sure, I don't really remember what I actually said).

Blowing past them I set my sights on the two engaged in (not so) mortal combat. Like the bow of  a ship I split between them projecting them apart, then immediately redirecting my principle around toward the exit.

At first he was stunned but he quickly redirected his attention on the man he was fighting with.

That wasn't an option any longer. I needed to get him out of here pronto, before it got any worse. So I spun him around, yelling at him to move toward the door. Simultaneously I firmly struck him in the abdomen and with the web of my hand pushed his head/neck down protecting him from any further rear assaults. I pushed him through the hole in the crowd that one of my partners was making as he lead the way toward the exit. We were moving quickly as the bouncers began to respond to the incident.

In a blink we were back in the limo where after I made sure our principle was not injured, I told him, "if you try doing that shit again, you won't have to worry about the other guy; I'll knock you out!"

"You work for me buddy, so watch how you talk to me." He said like a spoiled child.

"No, "Skippy," I work for your dad. And he doesn't pay me enough for that kind of shit!"  I said matter of factly.

After a short, quiet ride, we dropped him off home and the next day I quit that assignment.


You see, bullying doesn't stop on the playground, that's where it starts! Little bullies turn into big bullies. And to make matters worse, many people who were bullied often turn into bullies themselves.

On my last two blog post: Sticks & Stones, Social Contracts & Other Lies Experts Tell Us About Bullying (Part 1) & (Part 2) I share some of my path both as a kid as well as now as an adult. I went into some detail about my opinion on bullying as well as policies and programs created to deter bullying.

The short stories I shared with you at the beginning of this blog are just two small personal examples of how bullying manifests itself into our adult lives. If the person doesn't work through their issues, they will continue to create unhealthy situations in their own and others lives. 

Dr. Stephen Karpman illustrated this well in his "Drama Triangle." 

There are three behaviors at work here:

The Victim: They feel that they are powerless.

The Rescuer: The "Fixer," always trying to fix or come to the rescue of someone.

The Persecutor: The Bully. They try to feel better at someone else's expense.

You see, a person with a victim mentality will often become a rescuer or persecutor in other relationships. The victim mentality will cause the person to seek a Persecutor (someone or something that is bullying them) and a Rescuer (someone or something that will "save" them). It is difficult to hold on to that Victim mentality without the other two dynamics at work as well.

Further, the Rescuer isn't rescuing out of the goodness of their heart, they are playing that role for their own reasons. Trying to fill a hole that they have in themselves by playing it out in other ways. This is unhealthy and often hazardous for everyone involved. 

The Persecutor is also typically someone who was victimized by someone else as well. Basically the Bullied turns into the Bully. Each of these rolls needs the other to function. What would Batman be without the Joker?

David Emerald created a model called TED or The Empowerment Dynamic which is a healthy perspective shift from Karpman's Drama triangle. (See the Illustration Below)

It's all about FOCUS. People with a victim mentality will focus on:

  1. The Problem
  2. Their Emotions
  3. Their Limitations (What they CANNOT control)

Where a person with a healthy perspective will focus on:

  1. Solutions
  2. Options (What they CAN do)
  3. Action (Next step)

So, how does one make the shift?

A simple, yet not so easy process.

I call it iexperience. It looks like this:

 Basically the experience that you are having is a result of this process:

Your Perception (glass half empty or full) influences your Choices - Which done enough times become your Habits - Regarding how you deal w/your Emotions, People & Situations. Those habits will contribute to how you Respond To Your Emotions which will then influence the Experience that you are having.

Your power comes with your ability to Choose. If you don't like what your experience is you can make different Choices that, over time will create new Habits that will alter your emotional response which changes your experience, perception and so forth. 

This is a very powerful tool, but it can be very difficult to actually do. As I often say, simple, not easy. =)

Just like in my story in Sticks & Stones, Social Contracts & Other Lies Experts Tell Us About Bullying (Part 1) about my brother and me: When I stood up to him bullying me. It wasn't so much that I "Won" the fight between he and I. It was more that I stood up for myself. That I refused to be a victim any longer.

If we don't stand up for ourselves in the right way (meaning we are not looking for vengeance rather, balance. Most good / least harm for everyone). Many people will often get caught in Karpman's Drama Triangle. They will play the various roles (victim, persecutor, rescuer) over and over in their respective relationships trying to find some relief. It never works. They have to shift to finding balance. To being what I call a PeaceWalker, an Ethical Protector, or Ethical Warrior.

Some people are drawn into certain positions for unhealthy reasons. Seeking positions of power like law enforcement, teachers, officers, managers, politicians, supervisors, dictators, CEO's, warlords, prison guards, foremen, owners of companies, etc. The position is chosen not to help, empower, serve, create or inspire. No, sometimes these positions are sought after so that person has power over others so that they feel protected or because it serves a narcissistic or sadistic tendency. This is not uncommon.    

Not only can the bully on the playground grow up to become the bully in the office, so can the bullied. The tyrannical boss to the ruthless dictator; the power-tripping cop to the sadistic commanding officer; the pretentious teacher to the abusive parent. Abuse creates more abuse, it's as simple as that.

In order to stop this cycle we need more protectors, more PeaceWalkers. People who are confident. People who have the right ethic. People who have the right skills. People who have the right perspective to Live - Protect - Inspire.

Keep going on YOUR PeaceWalking journey!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sticks & Stones, Social Contracts & Other Lies Experts Tell Us About Bullying (Part 2)

Before I begin part 2 of this post I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming response I received from Sticks & Stones, Social Contracts & Other Lies Experts Tell Us About Bullying (Part 1). I appreciate all of the good words, support, personal stories and thoughts that people shared with me on-line, in person and privately. People from all over the world and all walks of life seemed to identify with the story: From special ops military, to insurance salesmen; soccer moms to SWAT team members; Federal Marshall's to factory workers, firemen to financial advisers, Teachers to IT professionals, correctional officers, counselors and car salesmen. Men & women of all ages, backgrounds and social groups; straight and gay; it didn't matter. Almost everyone seemed to immediately identify with that story. Why, because many people have stories of their own either personal, someone they knew or a situation they saw in some way.

For those of you who know me better, you know that I am a bit of a private person. One of my friends asked me if I felt weird or vulnerable when I wrote this past post. I said no. I didn't feel weird until I began getting the feed back from people, then I started to feel a bit awkward. There are probably a million reasons why, but that is for a later blog.

I don't know how she did it, because she never even knew me, 
but artist Jean Nelson painted a picture of me as a kid. 

It's true, I used to rampage around the neighborhood on my 
Big Wheel wearing the cape my grandfather made for me. 
...not much has changed really, only I 'm older now, no longer have 
blond (or any) hair; I traded in my Big Wheel and my neighborhood 
has expanded to include the entire globe! =) 

I want to clarify a couple of other things before we begin with Part 2 of this story:

Overall I feel that I had a GREAT childhood, I wouldn't change it for the world. What happened with my brother although shocking to some and somewhat unfortunate to be endured, is often a part of life and a lesson to be learned for everyone. Things could have been much much worse. Overall I couldn't have asked for a better childhood.

Don't ask me why, but deep down I knew my brother loved me. Even though he could be abusive, he always stuck up for me when it came to other people. Although there were some rough times, I still have many good childhood memories with my brother. It wasn't all bad.

I never held on to any animosity toward my brother. Actually, I felt bad for him. He had a rough time with things. It hurt me to see him struggle with his emotions, with school, with our parents, with the law, with other kids, with substance abuse, with life. I knew he was bullied too and I saw how he carried that and many other negative experiences forward. I may be able to understand that better now as an adult, but for whatever reason I was empathetic for him way back then even without the maturity of knowing why.

In spite of all of his flaws, I love him and always have and I know he does me as well. However, his behavior toward me was unacceptable, so I had to learn how to manage his behavior while respecting him as a person; or in clearer terms, his "Life Value." Just being nice to him wasn't enough; at that time, he rarely respond to that method, he needed a little more "incentive" to not take out his aggression out on me. His behavior had to be managed (in our case back then) physically. So I had to be able to separate the actions from the person, the sinner from the sin, so to speak. I did this unconsciously. This perspective didn't stop only with my brother, I did this with others as well. After time I slowly realized how powerful this viewpoint was regarding getting along with people, managing conflict and leading. Through this perspective one could live a safer, healthier, happier life.

I didn't even realize it, but I began trying to teach others how to do this as well. Later, as I grew up I would more mindfully and systematically begin teaching a method that was tangible and could be replicated. Later yet I met Jack Hoban who introduced me to a vocabulary he learned from his mentor Dr. Robert Humphrey regarding the Universal Life Value and Dual Life Value, as well as the concept of Tactical Space and how it is used not only in combat, but in life. I owe a lot to Jack for helping me not only clarify this perspective, but to be able to articulate it more accurately to others. Some other earlier influences of mine in this area include: My Mom & Dad, some of my first martial arts instructors namely Bob Barss and Master Yen Hoa Lee the writings of  Joseph CampbellAnthony DeMello, Dan Millman, and the ethic, legends and lore of what I saw martial arts and warriorship was to be; a path of empowerment and of being a protector.

Since that fateful time as a boy I have been working on the art of blending the ethic, strategy, tactic and technique of being a protector of Life. Through my own experiences and the experiences of others I continue to practice, learn, and when appropriate share some of my lessons with others the best that I can.

Ok, one last thing before we're ready to go (really, I promise):

Initially I was only going to write this post without Part 1; but before I even started writing the words, I realized that to fully express my perspective of the importance of this element I HAD to share my story.

FINALLY, without further ado:

Sticks & Stones, Social Contracts & Other Lies Experts Tell Us About Bullying (Part 2):

I do work with a lot with healthcare and counseling organizations including: The Michigan Counseling Association, the Michigan School Counselors Association., West Michigan Counselors Association, Forestview Hospital, Hope Network, Employee Assistance Center, Spectrum Health, and many others.

Now, just so you understand the uniqueness of this situation, I don't have a masters degree or a Ph.D. in anything let alone psychology, counseling or social work, so why do these high profile mental healthcare organizations continue to hire me and bring me in to speak and train their professionals?

Simple, I share a perspective and methodology that is beneficial to them and their patients and students; one that their education and training has not provided them. This approach is different from their experience, but it is powerful and life changing none the less.

You see, people come to me to for many reasons, but the underlying motivation for everyone is empowerment. Empowerment over their life in some way. It may be to lose weight, to get in shape, to handle conflict better, to become a better leader or manager, to defend themselves or their family, to be more effective at their job as a police officer, soldier, bodyguard or security personnel, to overcome the trauma of an abusive relationship, assault or rape.

Call it what you want, the bottom line is that people come to me to feel more confident, less afraid, to live safer, healthier, happier lives.

People want a  L.I.F.E. - That is to Live Independent, Free and Empowered. They sometimes don't even know it, but they want to become better Protectors. Better Protector of Life... Their own Life and the Life of others. 

When I speak to schools and school counseling organizations, my presentations often are about how to manage conflict more effectively in and out of the classroom. Now, when I present it is more than just me talking; I always have unique exercises for the participants to do so they can learn more effectively and have fun doing it. I've learned over the years that you can have the best material in the world, but if everyone is bored, not involved or can't see how the concepts relates to them, your wasting both of your time, because no one's listening or attempting to learn. You have to engage your audience quickly & capture their attention.

I, like so many educators have found that this is done by 1) helping the student see how the information can relate to and help them in some way and 2) then telling stories and creating exercises that involve and engage the participants. It is training not just education. My workshops deal with conflict which is more than just words, I began calling what I teach "Integrated Empowerment."  The idea is that we have to integrate: Ethics, Emotion, Mindset, Non-Verbal & Verbal Communication, Physical and Sociological elements in order to be more effective.

Why do we have to integrate all of these items? Because humans embody all of these things and if we are not addressing how this all comes together both inside of us as well as when we interact with others, then we are leaving something out; the approach is not being as effective as it could be.

So, we are about two thirds through my two hour presentation when someone brings up the topic of bullying. The participants (all school counselors and/or psychologists) ask me my opinion on it. Before I commented I asked them if they wanted my politically correct answer or my honest viewpoint. Of course they were interested in my real view.

"We want to know what you really think Craig." Someone from the crowd asked.

"Well," I said. "In my opinion, one of the main problems of many of the approaches embraced by today's schools is that they are coming from the wrong place. They are starting from the wrong foundation. They are beginning from a place of false assumptions and more importantly from a flawed, warped perspective of the human experience."

What?! The crowd mouthed.

"Many of you may be thinking that I am being a bit bold and arrogant by my statement, so let me show you." I said with a smile.

"Could I get a volunteer?" I asked politely.

A small, young lady stepped up.

"Let's say that you have to talk to me. Stand where you normally would to talk." I said with a slight grin.

She adjusted her position slightly and stood there.

"Do you feel safe?" I asked.

She nodded confidently.

"Are you sure?" I asked, as I reached my hand out and put it on her shoulder.

The energy began to change in the room as I began to illustrate my point.

"What is stopping me from hurting you right now?"

My comment didn't quite register with her, so I repeated it slower, more deliberate, more intentional.

"What is stopping me from hurting you right now?"

Her eyes widened as the air was sucked out of the room from my statement.

"If I can touch you, that means I can grab you, hit you, throw you down, assault you, rape you. And what are you going to do about it?"

Now you could hear a pin drop in the room.

"Do you think you can make it to that door (about 25 feet away) before I got a hold of you?"

Before she could answer, I said, "I doubt it, I'd own you before you got two steps off."

"Do you think you could get to your cell phone and dial 911? I doubt it." I said flatly.

"Let's say someone here was able to call for help, how long do you think it would take the cops to get here?" I asked gravely.

"Too long." I exclaimed, adding, "do you know what I could do to you in the 10 or 20 minutes it took them to get here?"

The young counselor was now visibly uncomfortable, so uncomfortable she was frozen in her place. No doubt wondering why she volunteered in the first place.

"OK, what about all of your friends here in the room?" I said, waiving my hands around the room like some magician would before making someone disappear. 

"Do you think anyone would help you?"

"Maybe, but probably not, at least not at first." I said matter-of-factly.

"Do you know how much I could hurt and humiliate you in that time?" I said looking her.

"A LOT!" I pointed out with a menacing look in my eye.

"How do you feel right now?" I asked her.

She didn't say anything at first. So I said it another way.

"Do you feel safe?  Do you feel confident? Do you feel empowered?"

"No," she said barely above a whisper, shaking her head slightly.

I began to soften my words and demeanor. 

On a scale of one to five how safe, confident and empowered do you feel right now?

"One or one and a half," she shared looking up hesitantly.

"This is how kids feel with a bully. The threat of a physical attack is always eminent as well as the emotional and psychological victimization. These are all factors in their world... And they know it." I explained.

"This is not to say that other forms of bullying are not an issue as well, because they can be equally damaging (referring to cyber bullying and other types of victimization that may not involve direct physical contact)." I added.

I went on to say, "The only reason we do not feel (physically) unsafe as adults in this society is because of a social contract we unconsciously agree to which "states" that (pretty much) whatever happens we are not going to try to physically hurt one another."

That social contract doesn't exist for kids in the same way it does for (most) of us as adults. This is one of the fatal flaws that is at the foundation of many of these anti-bullying policies and programs that are so common out there.

We all have a need to feel safe. Research proves that if we don't feel safe we don't do anything well. For starters, just look at the statistic of absenteeism of school kids due to bullying:

Every day, more than 160,000 students skip school because they are fearful of being bullied

If you don't even show up to class, it's hard to learn anything, right?

The feeling of safety is not just physical safety; it is emotional, physical, social, financial, etc. I see it in young and old alike and from every walk of life. I have found that the better protector I can be, the more authentically I can connect with people. I get better data tactically (a fancy way of saying that if I am not the problem the other person will tell me though his words or actions how the situation needs to be managed more safely), while creating an environment that is safer, healthier, more productive and happier.

Remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

If you look at the second tier of the pyramid you'll see the magic word we're talking about, SAFETY.

Now in our overly compartmentalized world, sadly it has gotten to the point that we cannot even protect ourselves without the consent of our society. This is exemplified most predominantly in this case by many of our schools "zero-tolerance" policies. Which says that there is no differentiation between an assault and defending yourself from an assault; no difference between the bully and the bullied; the victim and the one who victimized them. It is essentially saying that you don't have the authority or right to protect yourself, and if you do you will be punished for it in the same manner as that of the person who attacked you.

It seems that we are more concerned with creating someone who follows the rules of the system more than we care about the well being of that individual. It's a shame. 

This communicates to our children that they are not worth or capable of standing up for themselves, that they do not have the "authority or authorization" to protect themselves outside of having the establishment do it for them. If they do not comply with policy it is an equal offense to that of the violence done to them itself. This sentiment conditions people to be dis-empowered victims that are in need of rescuing.  And when our institutions fail to protect us, our learned helplessness becomes even more exposed, which leads to many other problems. Once this learned helplessness solidifies it can be the root of many other personal, interpersonal and social issues.

The professional academics coming up with these policies and programs have good intentions, but a skewed foundational perspective. They come up with policies and programs reflecting how they would like things to be, not how they are. Most do not see the whole picture not because they don't want to see, but because their environment isn't the same as that of the kid. It is easier to be idealistic when it isn't your ass on the line... or rather when you aren't the one feeling unsafe to that level. I was able to demonstrate it a little bit with my young counselor volunteer. Helping her to see and feel what I was talking about.

Let me explain:

In a perfect world people should not hurt one another. You should feel safe to do whatever you want shy of hurting, disrespecting, etc. others. But that is not the real world.

We should have confidence that if I treat someone with dignity and respect that they will return the sentiment. That is a great place to start, but what happens when this method doesn't work? What happens if the person wants to hurt you in some way, regardless of you treating them kindly? How do you manage that situation? How can you protect yourself? How can you protect EVERYONE the best you can?

Imagine our military, police officers, healthcare orderlies and security personnel not being trained in physical management or having the proper tools (ranging from restraints to tazers, pepper spray, ballistic vests and other protective equipment, to emotional, verbal and physical tactics that are designed to deal with an individual who does not want to play nice), as well as ethical, verbal, emotional and psychological skills?

As you might guess, most situations would turn out very differently if our protectors didn't go into these situation with the right mindset, abilities and tools to deal with someone who wasn't playing the same game we were regarding goodwill towards all.

This game as I call it is a social contract; an unspoken agreement of acceptable behavior between two or more people.The social agreement that most adults have with one another is that of non-violence. Under normal circumstance, it is not seen as acceptable to turn to violence to another person. This is such the norm in most of our society that we forget that this is only an agreement if both parties are playing by the same rules. However, some adults such as criminals and sociopaths do not have these niceties, nor do many kids. Kids are still learning the rules of acceptable behavior and emotional management. The ones who don't learn the rules of the game (how to manage this), quickly become outcasts as adults which typically result in difficulty with their relationships, jobs and probably a fair amount of time in our correctional system.

The people creating the anti-bullying policies and programs do not take into consideration this foundational element which as a result makes the strategy incomplete and less effective in some and downright ineffective or wrong in others.

Now back to my story at the conference:

"Would you like me to show you some simple ways that you could raise your confidence in how to handle this situation?" I asked her.

"Yes, of course," she exclaimed as her demeanor began to relax.

I shared a simple yet profound method of how to better manage this concept of "Tactical Space." Where to stand, how to move and what to look for to be safer and have a tactical advantage if someone was trying to physically hurt you. 

It doesn't have to do with teaching people how to fight or hurt others, on the contrary, it is helping them understand that they are already protectors, we just need to help them be better at it by giving them the right tools for the job!

I went on to explain how that this idea of tactical space wasn't only physical; it can be managed and expressed ethically, emotionally, psychologically, non-verbally, verbally, and socially.

The participants were astounded.

After showing her some of the basic positions, movements, tips and tricks. She looked much more confident.

"How confident do you feel now?" I asked smiling.

"A lot more," she said enthusiastically.

"I probably feel like a 4 or 4.5 on that 5 point scale!" She beamed.

"Great!" I exclaimed.

"Is this something you think would benefit your students?" I asked.

"Yes!" She said delighted.

"I hope you can share it with them," I said honestly.

"If you need help let me know." I added.

This is an example of Integrated Empowerment: 

An approach that gives us skills in these areas of:

Ethics - Universal Life Value: Protecting Self and ALL Others.
Emotions - Calm, confident.
Non-Verbal - Stance, posture, position.
Verbal - How you talk.
Physical - How you move, engage or disengage.
Social - How the relationship & group dynamic plays a part.

These element have to be clarified and activated in a simple, effective way that works.

Here is a story that Jack Hoban often tells that explains this more simply: 
You're on the playground and you see a kid getting bullied by a bigger kid. Pretty much everyone sees that as being wrong. Congratulations your moral. You know wrong from right. 
You overcome the embarrassment of being called a tattle tail and the fear of being confronted later by the bully for telling on him and you go get a teacher to help. Congratulations you are ethical: You do the right thing when it is difficult to do so, or you don't have to (ethics = morals in action). 
Now, there are no teachers or adults around to help and if you don't step in, the smaller kid is going to get pounded. So, you over come your fear of being beat up yourself, the anxiety of maybe having to hurt someone else, the reality of possibility of getting kicked out of school and/or grounded by your parents for "fighting." You overcome all of these fears and you decide to step in and stand up to the bully. Now you have the makings of an Ethical Protector (or Ethical Warrior, or what I often call the PeaceWalker).
(...and my addition to the story...)
To take it even a step further, the next day when you see the bigger kid who was being the bully the day before, you approach him and say something like this: "Hey George, is everything alright with you man? You seem like you're a nice enough guy; what was going on with you and Bob?" 
That story helps to simply clarify the concepts of morals, ethics and ethical protection. We have to also remember not to demonize (dehumanize) the person (or group) who are being the bullies.
It only takes ONE person to step up, then others step up as well. But that one person has to have guts to be the first to make the stand!
In order to do this you have to have to be able to STEP UP! It is easier to step up if you have Integrated Empowerment (even if you don't know exactly what it is).

Everyone in the room seemed to not only have a better understanding of what I was talking about, it looked as if they could FEEL the difference within themselves!

After my session several of the counselors approached me asking questions and requesting more information. It was a great day!

It is times like this that remind me why I do what I do. It is also times like this that I am thankful for the experience I had with my brother, because without that experience I might not be here sharing these skills with others. 

For more information about this perspective:

All the best,