Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It Matters


One day after a high tide thousands of starfish were washed up on the shore. They started drying up in the sun. A boy, walking down the shore started throwing them back into the ocean, so they would live.

 A person came up to him and asked,  "Why are you doing this? Look around! There are thousands of starfish; the shore is covered with them. Your attempts won’t change anything, it doesn't matter!"

The boy picked up the starfish at his feet, thought for a moment, threw it into the sea and said, "It matters to THIS one!"


Stay grounded, we can only do so much. There is a lot that we cannot do, but when you have the opportunity to help, do so, no matter how insignificant it may seem. It matters a lot more than some may think. A wave begins as a ripple.

Keep going,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

First Listen


Once there was a team of very educated men who were doing aid work in Africa. They were helping an impoverished village develop agriculture for sustenance and financial development. They were sure that they had an answer that the native people must have never thought of.

The team of PhD's were so pleased with themselves that they were eager to get started. Immediately they mobilized volunteers to began tilling new fields and planting crops. They tended to the crops and within weeks their hard labor was rewarded with lush fruits and vegetables.

"Look how easy agriculture is!" The team beamed as they gloated to the local African natives.

Overnight, when the crops were ripe and ready to be picked hundreds of hippos came from the nearby river eating everything and trampling what was not eaten.

"My God, the hippos!" The team exclaimed!

The natives laughed and said, "Yes, that's why we have no agriculture here!"

"Why didn't you tell us?" The team asked.

"You never asked." The natives responded.

The moral of the story should be pretty obvious: Don't plant crops by rivers where hippos live... and if you really want to help someone, first listen to them.

Keep going,

*Story paraphrased from Dr. Ernesto Sirolli's 2012 Ted Talk

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Palette or Toolbox?


I spent this past weekend out in New Jersey training, teaching and learning at the annual Buyu Camp East.  It's always a wonderful time filled with outstanding people from all over the world and of course great training. Among the many people who attended, this tale involves a gentleman by the name of Murray Taylor. Murray is a long time practitioner of Budo Taijutsu, former British Army Officer and Israeli Defense Force Soldier. He is a pleasure to know, so I enjoy the times that I get the chance to share his company.

Murray is the handsome gent w/the hat

We were having a brilliant discussion on that first evening after training, when the conversation inevitably came around to martial arts. Murray went on to describe how his teaching started and continues to evolve. One of the analogies that I really liked that he used involves a palette rather than toolbox.  

For decades I have used the toolbox analogy. I thought it rather clearly described what I was trying to communicate. What is the toolbox analogy you ask?! Well, in case you don't know what the heck I'm talking about; it goes something like this:

Each of us is a "mechanic" of sorts and posses a "toolbox" filled with "tools" or skills that are used to build or fix things that need to be worked on. It's an analogy that could be used for just about anything that requires one to have skill to perform.

We often hear someone say, "Here's just another tool in your toolbox." Meaning that what they are teaching is another skill, tactic or technique that may be beneficial for you to use during a situation 
in which it would be appropriate.

I have often expanded this analogy a bit by using the example that I have friends that are great mechanics who can use duct tape, chicken wire and a butter knife to fix about anything and others who have a $50k SnapOn toolbox and couldn't change a flat tire.

Hopefully you get the idea.

Well, Murray's palette analogy is similar but more... colorful =):

Each of us are artists w/perspective, palette, paint, brush and canvas. When we choose to create a picture, we use our artistic ability, paint and palette to mix our colors together in just the right way and then with each stroke of the brush, we begin to orchestrate a picture on the canvas. Some paintings are remarkably realistic, others come from the depths of imagination. Some artists are talented, where others are primal. Some simply communicate in the most basic way, others are so beautifully expressive that their art becomes cherished for generations. Some paintings are down right ugly to most, save one... the artist mother. And a few special pieces are works of art that are looked upon as examples of civilization itself.

Because each artist has a different perception, skill level and materials, each painting is uniquely different. Murray went on to say that if you asked five different artists to paint the exact same thing, you would get five different paintings. Each artists' interpretation of what they were painting would be different. Some subtly, others substantially.

I thought that was a great way of describing it.

So, the next time you are learning or teaching something, think of Murray's palette analogy!

As always...

Keep Going!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

9/11 Tribute & Training

The New Jersey beach was silent as I warmed up with the the Camden County police officers in preparation for Lt. Col. (Ret) Joe “Marine’s” infamous partner combat conditioning course. The day was September, 11th  2015, the anniversary of a dark day. A day that most professional protectors are especially respectful of. A day that we hope is never repeated. 

I can think of many good ways to commemorate 9/11: Showing respect for those fallen; extending condolences to loved ones of the victims; giving thanks to the protectors who are now on duty and of course, training to be a better protector. And that is exactly what we were doing this past Friday, September 11th 2015, in the morning beach sand of a small New Jersey town not too far from where the Towers stood in New York City.  

When we think of what happened and what we can do to prevent something like that from happening again, I am reminded of our diversity, our strength and our resilience. We are ALL protectors and each of us contributes in our own way. Some of us are professional protectors, be it firemen, police officers, military personnel, medics, nurses, etc. others protect in different ways, maybe financial, maybe helping with the clean up or the rebuild. In the moment of crisis many civilian citizens become the warriors and protectors of others who were hurt, frightened, or somehow incapable of protecting themselves. 

Out on that Jersey beach early Friday morning working side by side with those officers my mind was focused on my task at hand as Joe Marine put us through the paces. The bigger picture was that we were coming together as ethical warriors. Sharpening our skills to become better protectors to hopefully prevent another 9/11 from happening and when something does happen again we trust that through our training we are more equipped to deal with whatever we are up against.

After we were finished making sugar cookies out of ourselves my friend and colleague Artie Mark shared his first hand experience of the 9/11 terrorist attack. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Artie is the real deal, a true protector and hero. He is one of the humblest, coolest guys that I know. He looks like an average Joe. He doesn’t boast or act like some arrogant ‘delta bravo.’ If you didn't know him you wouldn't suspect that he spent over 20 years on some of the toughest assignments in New York, including a special crime unit that put him in the most dangerous neighborhoods in NYC. His job in those days was to seize illegal guns and drugs to of course protect people from the violence that was out of control at that time. I am honored to work with Artie and call him a friend. 

9/11/2001 began as a normal day. Artie was on his way to a court hearing when a plane hit the first tower. He was only blocks away when he got the call and rushed to the scene. Still believing that the incident was some accident Artie saw the second plane fly right over his head striking the second tower. It wasn’t until he heard about a plane hitting the pentagon that the realization came over him that we were under attack.

Artie made four trips into the building helping people to safety. On his fourth trip Artie was helping an elderly woman leave the building, when he ran into an old schoolmate who he hadn’t seen in years. Now a NYPD officer as well, the two quickly reconnected. After Artie helped the lady, his old friend asked him to help him tape off the parameter around the first tower. An act that actually saved his life!
While Artie scrambled to tape off the first building a bike courier (like the character Kevin Bacon played in Quicksilver or Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2012’s Premium Rush) sped past the barricade. Artie yelled for him to stop, but in true New York fashion the courier ignored the cry. It was a mistake that cost the courier his life. The bike messenger got no more than thirty feet from Artie when a giant sheet of plate glass fell from the burning building cutting him in half, right before Arties eyes. 

“It was just like out of a movie,” Artie said as he shared the experience. 

A moment later the entire tower collapsed, causing Artie and anyone in the area to run for their lives for a moment, before returning to assisting others. 

Artie said that if he hadn’t stopped to help tape off the first tower he would have certainly died as the building collapsed with him in it. 

“It was like the world was coming to an end.” Artie shared with me and the rest of the RGI team. 

He, the other officers and emergency rescue personnel worked frantically to save as many lives as possible. Artie remembers the legs of his pants being soaked with the blood of the bodies that were exploding all around him from the people jumping out of the buildings. It was like the scene of a movie. Sublime. 

A couple days before this beach training Artie picked me up from the airport. We drove through downtown Manhattan and he showed me exactly where he was standing when he saw the tower collapsed. 

After the attack, Artie pulled security and search and rescue efforts on Ground Zero. 16/6/6: For sixteen hour days, six days a week for six months Artie and other NYPD/NYFD protected, searched and recovered the remains of the victims of the attack.otal, the attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 people and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage; $3 Trillion in total costs. It was the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed respectively.

After Artie finished with his story and we took a moment of silence to show reverence and respect, he went on to say that he knows many of his fellow protectors (and many citizens as well) who suffer from PTSD from the incident, however he never did. He believes that it is his training regarding being an ethical warrior that shielded him from the psychological effects of the experience. 

This is why we train. 

Did I mention how much of an honor it is to know, work with and be able to call Artie my friend? I love you brother! Thanks for sharing some of your path with me! I'm glad you are here. My life and the lives of so many others are not only safer because you are here, we are truly happier whenever you come around. We know that anyone in need has a friend in your presence. How can we tell? You communicate it with everything you do, even when you don't say a word, we can even see it in your eyes alone.

All the best,