Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Dawn of a New Year

Here we are at the end of yet another year! My, my they are going really fast now-a-days! It surely doesn't feel like it should almost be 2017! Shouldn't we be flying around w/jet packs, beaming ourselves on Mars, basking in the afterglow of world peace and prosperity for all by now?!

Not so much...

Some of my 2016 goals worked out about that well too!

I don't know about you, but I get excited to look at my New Years goals from the previous year.  I  compare what I set out to do with what actually transpired. If you remember from my blog last year, I had three main goals which were:

#1 - Finish my Book
#2 - On-Line PeaceWalker Classroom Mgt Course for Teachers.
#3 - (Monthly) PeaceWalker Webinar Series

Well, so how did I do?

Um... Oh... *blush* I didn't actually accomplish anything on that list. I know, I should be fired! (Good thing I'm self employed!)  So what the heck happened? What DID I do then? No more excuses Gray!

Here's the rundown:

My book - In March I finished a complete manuscript on my book and had a couple people look at it. I made some changes from their suggestions and then had my mentor and publisher take a look at it in September (yep, it took me a while to go through it and actually make the changes). In October he gave me some really good suggestions and constructive criticism. He thought I had some good ideas, but it was too broad and it wasn't really what they were looking for. I was gracious for the suggestions and insights. In hindsight I could've done a number of things differently, but I am good with what and how I did things. It was a necessary process for me.

RGI wanted me to write a conflict communication book, which I did... Sort of. What I wrote was my overall perspective on conflict management, beginning with where it all started for me: The story of my brother and I Than I meandered through different elements of what I learned about how to LIVE - PROTECT & INSPIRE. One of which was conflict communication, but it was surrounded by a bunch of other contributing topics and dialog.

I knew from the start that I was trying to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. I was trying to write my own perspective and journey regarding empowerment and conflict management,  as well as fulfill my commitment to RGI to write a book about conflict communications. I knew it was a long shot and, well, it didn't work out. However it was the way I needed to do it. It took some time to put myself out there, try and grow a thicker skin (even if just a little).

So, where is the book at now?!

I wrote a new outline, extracted all of the chapters regarding conflict communication out of my manuscript, rewrote a number of chapters and am about two thirds of the way to completing the RGI conflict communication book. It will be a much shorter book, probably about 145 pages rather than the 347 pages of my first frankenbook. =)

I'll submit chapters to my mentor, sooner and more frequently, so that we can collaborate more on the project. Once completed, I will take what's left over and figure out what I'm going to do with that.

I am shooting for completion of the RGI Conflict Communication Book (don't worry, this isn't actually the title!) by July of 2017.

12 Week On-Line PeaceWalker Classroom Management Course for Teachers - I vexed with this project on many levels, which lead me to consult with a few on-line marketing consultants to bounce some things off from them before I went too far down any one particular path. Each project idea can literally take hundreds of hours to flesh out just the marketing, let alone putting together the course itself.

I got a number of conflicting perspectives which didn't help me or my forward movement. I struggled with these two main things:

(1) Membership site vs. On-Line Course
(2) Broad reach course (conflict management) vs. specific reach course (i.e. - Teacher Classroom Management Course, PeaceWalker for Parents, etc.)

Well, I went down both rabbit holes to a degree. I revamped an online course and I built a membership site, however neither were to my liking, so I didn't release either. Something still didn't feel right; I needed to get yet another opinion to help clarify my vision.

My questions were heard... Russell Brunson's book Dot Com Secrets gave me some new insights which, along with some more consultations with marketing coaches, helped me to get my game plan squared away regarding what direction to take.

Funny, I came back full circle to producing a course rather than a membership site. However I do this with new clarity of how to do it to produce a more effective product that garner better results for the client.

On-line PeaceWalker Course release: April, 2017.

Monthly PeaceWalker Webinar Series - This goal was dependent on the the course (or membership site), so I had to have that course worked out before I move forward with this. This is not a priority this year (2017) unless it supports the success of on-line course.

So what about some of the other things in 2016?

Super Seminars: The 2016 "Super Seminars" went really well! February's iConnecti Protectors Conference was a success! We had eight police departments represented, three school systems, and a gaggle of protector citizens participating. We had just shy of 100 people total at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids.

Krav 2.25 was a complete success as well. We maxed out our mat space, having just under 40 people total. What are the Krav 2.25 events? They are a Krav Maga Self Defense Crash Course. The course runs for 2 hours of training on Friday, followed by 8 hours of training on the following Saturday and Sunday. Because the last two years they have been so popular, we are planning on two more Krav Maga 2.25 events in 2017 (keep an eye out for the next one coming in April!).

Click HERE for our 2017 Seminar Schedule!

The Active Shooter Defense Seminar although technically wasn't a "Super Seminar," it was one of our most attended workshops of the year hailing almost 50 people attending the event.

RGI Events:  After our involvement with Camden PD wrapped up, we went back to more of our regular schedule. We did three, 3 Day events in 2016, working with over a dozen police departments. I don't know how many RGI events we'll have in 2017, but I'm looking forward to working with the team and participants!

Seminars, Training Courses and Speaking Engagement: 2016 was another busy year regarding traveling, teaching and training. I taught just over 40 seminars, training courses and speaking engagements this year, working with dozens of different organizations including:  Michigan Dept. of Corrections, Caledonia Public Schools, Mel Trotter, Covenant Defense, West Michigan Academy of Environmental Sciences, iConnecti, Leadership Advancement Network and many others, not to mention too many Police Departments to List. 

 Caledonia Public High School - Caledonia, MI

Caledonia Public High School

Caledonia Public High School

Mel Trotter Ministries - Grand Rapids, MI

RGI Infamous Beach Picture - New Jersey

 RGI - New Jersey

Leadership Advancement Network - Grand Rapids, MI

Covenant Defense - Traverse City, MI

Diakomyosai - Spring Lake, New Jersey

Ronin Krav Maga Academy - Grand Rapids, MI

 Mich. Dept. of Corrections Statewide 2016 Conference 
(Before the Event) - Mt. Pleasant, MI

Buyu Camp - New Jersey

Buyu Camp 2016

Protectors Conference
JW Marriott, Grand Rapids, MI

 Protectors Conference, Grand Rapids, MI
(Hey, it's Mike Benson!)

It was only a few years ago when I was doing over 120 engagements per year... About 80 too many! I was committed to decreasing the number of engagements I was doing per year. I was running ragged to keep up with everything. It is a process that is much more than just changing your fees. It's an art and a balancing act consisting of many things. Not an easy process at all. There are people and organizations out there that charge nothing for their services and others that charge their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars (no joke!). The spectrum is pretty broad. I tried hiring an agent, but he didn't work out. Hopefully someone will in the future, but for now I will continue to represent myself and "eat what I kill" so to speak (an old sales saying meaning you are responsible for bringing in your own sales that support you). 2017 is booking up, currently I have just under 30 seminars, speaking engagements and workshops already scheduled!

The martial arts academy is doing great! Our record numbers at the academy made it possible for us to finally purchase new mats! We almost tripled our floor space. It is long over due! Good thing too, because I think we had as many people training off the mats as we had on them! Now we have a 24' x 44' section of mats! We have space enough for everyone and a little room to grow!

In September we updated our current site and experienced a lot of connectivity problems that were due to our website host provider, after a few weeks of back and forth we seemed to get things to work, however we decided to change providers to squarespace (which hosts our Ronin Empowerment Group site). Squarespace have some snappy new formats that are really sweet. I have had really good luck with them since 2010 and their new format is even better! I'm still working on some details, such as transferring our URL's over and a few other items. Check out the new "almost finished" Ronin Krav Maga Site:

Some of the other things from last year are listed below w/the result:

~ Facebook Ads  
(good results, will continue in 2017)
~ Google Adwords  
(didn't do too much w/them. We'll see in 2017)
~ A New PeaceWalker App  
(Cancelled the app after 1yr. Will be replaced w/a membership site)
~ Lunch & Learn(s)  
(did a couple... putting more effort in on-line resources in 2017)
~ Promotional Speaking Engagements & Workshops 
(Many more scheduled for 2017)

So what's in store for 2017?! A lot!  Like you, along with juggling the usual stuff, I get to take another shot at my focus list from last year!

#1 - On-Line PeaceWalker Program
#2 - RGI Conflict Communication Book

Necessary forward progress was made in 2016, but it's time to finish these project, put them to bed and move on!

So what are your goals for 2017?! I hope you are taking time to review your past, learn from it and plan for your future. Even when things don't work out as you hoped, it's still beneficial to have a map of expectations. 

I thank each of you for sharing and supporting my 2016 journey! I look forward to what 2017 has in store. Remember we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Each of us continues to make a difference...

Welcoming the dawn of 2017!

All the best,

Friday, December 23, 2016

Keep Calm & Drink Coffee

A wonderfully gray and chilly Michigan winter day. Roads are icy, so its slow going to my chiropractic appointment at Chiropractic Unlimited. After a little snap, crackle, pop, I walk into one of my favorite coffee shops to do some work on my newly designed Ronin Krav Maga website (Link is to the current site. The new one isn't quite ready yet). There are a group of about six young ladies ordering and asking the barista a number of questions about the coffee selections, so I go to my usual spot and start unpacking my gear. I take off my coat, stuff my scarf into my sleeve. Out comes my computer, plug in the cord, get my earbuds, put in my thumb drive, grab my notebook, get situated. Forgot my phone is in my jacket pocket, I'll need that. Oh, my calendar is in my pack too. Have to have that too. Finally after all of that's done I sit down and see that the internet connection isn't working.  I screw around with that for a few minutes... still not working. Get up check to make sure I have the correct password... Yep, so why isn't it working?! Oh, only one person in line now... Put my computer down and wait behind a lady with two very energetic little boys about 3 years old. Cute, they were giving their mom a run for her money. Climbing on the shelves, rearranging the merchandise, re-climbing the shelves, re-rearranging the merchandise... She orders three bags of coffee beans, one Milky Way Blend, one Ursa Major Blend and one large bag of Burundi. 

"Oh, can I get those ground too?" She says. 

"No problem." Comes the reply. "Of course. Regular coffee machine right?"


"Do you want a bag?"

"Yes please, that'd be a big help." She exclaims as her two monkeys squeal joyfully and continue to climb all over the poor lady. 

Finally, I'm up. My big moment! I lament as I take my place at the counter to place my order.

"Your usual?" The barista says casually.


By now my mouth is watering as I think about that frothy goodness touching my lips and the energizing caffeine from the Latte God coursing through my veins. I'm ready! 

"Oh, we don't have any 2%." The heartless barista says nonchalantly as only a millennial can.

You gotta be fu*#ing kidding me?! After all of that?! That would have been nice to know two hours ago! I thought as I did my best to paint on a slight smile of indifference. 

Suppressing the knee jerk emotional response to throw a Bruce Lee style nuclear reactor beat down on the kid and then burn the fn place to the ground. (Cut away to a scene from something like Sly Stallone's cheezy 80's movie Cobra.... "You're the disease my overly casual millineal barista and I'm the cure... BOOM! hahahahaha! Or the ever popular Scarface... "Say hello to my little friend.... ratatatatatatat... hahahahaha!!).  

Yes, it IS sometimes hard to believe that I am 46 year old man who teaches conflict management for a living! My inner child is, well, still a child. Picture Calvin, from Bill Watterson's beloved Calvin & Hobbes comic series. =)

You may be wondering the same thing the barista was; why couldn't I just change my order to one of their other offerings like whole, almond or soy milk? Well, whole milk slaps my stomach around like a red headed step child and the other two choices just taste like crap. If I'm going to pay $95 for my pretentious coffee, I was going at least get what I wanted. But that wasn't going to happen here today. So, what seems like an hour later I finally get my gear packed back up and go on my way.

Ahhhh... The Holiday Season! 

As you might suspect (hopefully) I am over dramatizing the interaction, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Yes, a little frustrating, maybe even disappointing, but no big deal, it wasn't even really worth mentioning. In reality the interaction took maybe 10 or 15 minutes. They told me they didn't have my usual, I smiled, thanked them, wished them a Merry Christmas and went on my way. I embellished the story to drive my point home. So what is my point? 

Don't let the small stuff distract you from your Holiday Cheer!  

It's so easy to become overwhelmed with life especially this time of year, but don't loose sight of what we are supposed to be celebrating. "Goodwill toward all" and stuff! That's right! This is a time to be thankful! A time for empathy, compassion and love! So, 
Take care of yourself. You'll enjoy the Holidays so much more if you don't loose your baseline. 


I'm glad you asked. 

Here are some suggestions:  

  • Get some sleep!
  • Don't over do it on the junk food and drink 
  • Exercise (even a little)
  • Be grateful for who and what you have in your life
  • Keep it simple
  • And Breathe, damn it, Breathe!
Happy Holidays Everyone!

All the best,

Monday, December 19, 2016

Drinking From a Firehose

I was out in New Jersey training with Jack Hoban this weekend. It takes some time to traverse the 1600 mile round trip, so I get to catch up on my emails, phone calls and reading. On this trip I was able to make it through two books: Nicole Zaagman's Bee Badass and Brilliant and Russell Brunson's DotCom Secrets. A good way to make use of down time on planes, trains, layovers and such.

Brunson's book was about marketing on the web and was full (and I mean FULL) of so many good marketing strategies that by the end my head was spinning how to use them in my own business. He must have been reading my mind because in his conclusion he wrote:

Being overwhelmed is actually a good thing because even though you feel like all that information is a big, jumbled MESS upstairs, your brain is subconsciously making the connections. Right now, without you consciously doing anything, it's figuring out how to use all of the knowledge you just took in. All this is happening, even though you might feel overwhelmed. 

Funny I thought, that is exactly what Masaaki Hatsumi (Jack's teacher) said to everyone the last time I was training with him out in Japan! That's what Jack often says to us and it's what I say to folks who train with me. Sometimes the seeds being planted need time to grow. Just because you can't see them growing beneath the soil doesn't mean they're not reaching up to break the soil toward the sky!

I suppose it could be a bunch of BS just to console us from being confused and frustrated or worse yet, to separate us from our hard earned money. But in both of these cases, I don't think so. However, you have to KEEP GOING in order to reap the true rewards! Otherwise, it will just end up being at best entertaining and probably just a bunch of confusing mumbo jumbo that was expensive to obtain, easily forgotten and of no use.

Yet another lesson that translates into life on deeper levels, if you have the right perspective... or not. =)

Anyway, Happy Holiday folks!

Keep going,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

215lbs Lifestyle

We are smack dab in the middle of the Holiday Season. That means family, friends, food and fun. It can add meaning to our lives and inches our waistlines! As I've gotten older it's getting more and more difficult to maintain my weight. Since my late thirties my standard weight hangs around 190# take or give. More if I don't watch what I eat, less when I do. If I didn't workout, I'd easily be well over 210#. Yep, I want a 180# body but live a 215# lifestyle. When I was younger I could cheat. My eating lifestyle didn't matter much. Although I did watch what I ate, you could barely tell if I fell off the "healthy eating wagon" so to speak. I was lean, active and had a decent metabolism, so if I cheated at my diet it didn't effect me much (unless I was competing where I had to make a specific weight class). Weight dropped off with ease. Not to mention I held that weight in different places than I do now (hello belly and love handles!). Naturally as I've aged my metabolism continues to slow down and I've noticed over the years that where I hold weight continues to change. Ahhh middle age!

Anyway my point is this; if I want my body and health to be a certain way, I have to have a lifestyle to support that goal. Yes, we can go on crash diets and short term intense workout programs, but this becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. It is not sustainable. We have to cultivate habits and lifestyles that create what we want the results to be.This goes for anything in life. Relationships, family, career, martial arts practice, shooting ability, writing skills, parenting, getting that masters degree, living a happy, healthy, fulfilled life!

But... (There's always a but...) things change. Just like at one time my lifestyle DID support (at least) my body image, I changed, so either my lifestyle habit has to change or I have to be alright with where things are at now. I can't have my cake and eat it too (quite literally in this case!).  Something's got to give.

You can probably think of a number of people who want their lives to be one way, but refuse to do what it takes (to develop the habit and lifestyle) to support that vision. They often ping pong back and forth, or give up all together. Some accept that they are where they are. Is that giving up or really being alright with where you and sometimes who you are? That's not an easy answer. It depends on the person and circumstance. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say, "I'm alright with the way I am," but not really mean it, or worse they just don't have it in them to change and then tell themselves (and others) stories to make excuses or feel better about themselves.

How do you want your life to be? What lifestyle are you willing to create to support it? Remember what Gandhi said about your beliefs, thoughts, words, actions, habits, values, destiny! Change your habit, change your life!

Happy Holidays Gang!

Keep going,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


You could look at an anchor in a number of ways such as a heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom. An anchor can also be meant figuratively in a negative way like, "they're holding you down like an anchor." The reference can also be said in a positive way; such as, "that really anchors me."

The reference I would like to discuss is meant in a positive way. Things that anchor us, giving us stability, safety and comfort.  The holiday rituals that some of us have developed can act as an anchor (obviously they can have the opposite effect as well!). Doing the same things over and over can bring a sense of structure and comfort. Sometimes we may not even realize the calming effect some of these things bring into our lives until they are no longer there. These "things" include people (and other companions), places, events, routines, songs, etc.

I realize how lucky I have been to have had many positive anchors in my life. My family, wonderful friends, rock solid mentors, steadfast traditions, routines and even pets that have all helped me gain a stable foundation in which to grow and gain balance when weathering storms.

This idea of an anchor can encompass other things in life as well. For me, training in the basics of  martial arts anchors me. The class structure gives support and a platform for flexible creativity. The same basic movements done over and over again for decades, ingrains an equilibrium that makes it easier to wander and adapt those principles.

Sometimes during life chains break, ropes fray, and anchors are lost. It could be from death, stormy seas, drifting apart or ships that grew to large to be anchored in the same way. Whatever it is don't lose hope of the power of having an anchor. Repair that chain, tie that rope, make room on your ship for a new anchor to help ground and stabilize you when you need it. Anchors allow you safety during rough seas as well as the ability to dive off your boat to go exploring!

What are your anchors in life? Who anchors you? Who do you anchor? Don't forget, just like you have anchors, you ARE someone's anchor too.

Sail on and anchors away!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Drawing Boundaries

We often see how being too assertive or gung ho can be hazardous, however, so can being too gun shy or passive. Failing to define and communicate clear boundaries can get us (and others) into trouble as easily as being hot headed. The first step of this process is being clear on what your boundaries are. This may sound easy, but it's not always as clear cut as one might think. Take something "simple" like losing weight. Going on a diet to limit your calories (setting a boundary) sounds easy enough, however people fail at it because it is more difficult than just eating less. Being clear about what and why you are doing something is necessary. The clearer you are able to connect your why, what and how (and leave some room for a little flexibility) the more successful you'll be. It is easy to drift off target, so clarity is important. The clearer the better.

The how involves communicating your clarity to others in a way that gets your point across non-verbally, verbally and of course with your actions. Communicating boundaries consistently over time will build a habit. That habit can often carry you through times when your resolve falters. Also, the better your communication skills are, the more effective you will be able to outline the parameters of your request to others. If you have difficulty communicating your boundaries, it's only a matter of time until they are challenged. Heck, they will be challenged even if you do communicate them well, let alone if you communicate them poorly or not at all.

Lastly, have a plan "B" in place so you know what you are going to do if and when your boundaries are not respected.

This entire process can be difficult for obvious reasons, not to mention there is usually incentives for us to not see or communicate our boundaries. These incentives may be simply keeping inside of our gun shy comfort zones, or they may be because of other tantalizing distractions, such as some tasty cake to fill our dieting bellies. The short term satisfaction will eventually give way to longer term regret, drama, and sometimes even dangerous side effects of not holding one's boundaries. 

It gets easier once you get used to it. Start with small things and train a habit of clarifying and communicating boundaries that are most good / least harm for everyone.  And as always... Keep going!

All the best,

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Put "Thanks" Back in Thanksgiving

It's the day before Thanksgiving. A cold rainy day. A good day for contemplation. But, instead of eagerly awaiting tomorrows festivities with family and thankfulness, I sit here at my favorite coffee house feeling anxious about other things. Many things. Too many things. It is easy to let the uncertainties of life erode your feelings of well being. It's also easy to let your "certainties" get at you too. Sometimes its difficult to feel thankful for those things that you have, when you are too busy being anxious about what you don't have, can't do or want to change. Grounding yourself can help you to be in this moment, so you can let go of all of the things that prevent you from being thankful and enjoying your time with your loved ones and yourself. There are many grounding methods, but here is a simple one that only takes a couple seconds and you can do anytime, anywhere:
  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Straighten your posture (spine straight, shoulders back & down).
  3. Tense every muscle in your body for a three count, then relax.
  4. Smile. 
  5. Fill your mind with things you are grateful for.
That exercise along with avoiding political conversations may save your holiday experience... or maybe not... I suppose that it all depends on you!

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

BTW: Thank YOU for reading my blog post.

All the best,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Split Decision: The 2016 Presidential Election

 Image result for trump clinton debate

It has been an emotional time for many as this tumultuous election season comes to a close. Many Americans are satisfied with the outcome of the election and many aren't.  It saddens me to read the venom on facebook from people on both sides of the political spectrum. Winning with grace and losing with dignity seems to be a lesson just out of reach at the moment. 

I am fortunate that I have a diverse group of friends ranging from staunch Republican to ultra liberal Democrats. From my LGBT and professor friends to my military and law enforcement com padres', perspectives often clash in their views of how things are and should be. I love them all (people not views), even when I don't agree with them.

The greatness of our country is that we have a government where we hold public elections, choose and change political officials without the violence of a bloody revolution (for the most part). We have a system of checks and balances and term limits. We live with compromise. Compromise means that everyone doesn't always get what they want all of the time. It ebbs and flows.

If you don' t like what's happening in our government right now don't get too upset, it can change. We designed it that way. If you like what happening and are happy with what's going on, don't get too comfortable, because this can change too! Get involved! The least thing you can do is vote. If you want to make more of a difference get more involved. Go to meetings, communicate with your elected officials, serve on a committee or run for office!

Each of us has the power to influence. If you want people to consider another viewpoint, overly negative emotional rants, hate filled social media posts, arguments and other forms of brow-beatings will not change the minds of people who are on the other side of the argument. Venting your feelings and fears in a negative way may feel good in the moment, but after it passes the feeling of regret generally settles in to replace the fervor of the previous moment. Debate and colorful discussions are good, but when respect, empathy and dignity is lost, typically so is the chance to persuade. Live your message, treat people with dignity, be educated on your subject and lead through inspiration. Remember, we're all in this together. Although we have our differences, we are on the same team.

I am fortunate to travel a fair amount (more than some, less than others) and although the US isn't perfect, IMO we're still the best game out there. There's no other place I really want to hang my hat (no, not even Canada... well, maybe Australia, at least in the winter).

Keep going America!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Jar of Life

My last post, Embrace the Suck I told you that I would talk about priorities, so here you go! Fellow RGI colleague  Joe Marine tells this wonderful tie-in story called the Jar of Life. It's about priorities. It's an oldie but a goodie. You can find it here in his book: Tie-Ins for Life.

The Jar of Life

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember a jar, golf balls, marbles, sand and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of marbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The marbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The marbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the marbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”


Keep going!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Embrace the Suck

People often ask, "What do you want out of life?" The responses you get are pretty standard.

"To have a good job."
"To have a fulfilling career."
"To have that special someone who I love and loves me." 
"To have a  happy family."
"To have good friends."
"To be healthy."
"To be thin."
"To be physically fit."
"To look good."
"To be financially secure."
"To feel safe."
"To be happy." 

Those are all good things, but that's the easy question. Here's the real question: What are you willing to sacrifice to get those things? What pain are you willing to endure to achieve and maintain the things in your life that you say you want? Everything costs you something, be it time, money or attention, so what suck are you willing to embrace to get what you want?

Have you every seen someone play "air guitar" to their favorite rock song? They mimic the movements of their favorite guitar hero to a tee. However, throw them a guitar and have them actually play the song and they would sound like crap. It turns out those random lightening fast finger movement aren't so random!

If you want to learn how to play the guitar, it will take a lot of practice. To get really good you'll probably need to hire a teacher, buy a guitar and spend hundreds and hundreds of hours practicing. Most of this time spent practicing (at least at first) you will sound like shit and suck! Not to mention your fingers will really hurt. For the first several weeks, your fingertips will feel as if they are about to bleed, your hands will cramp and your fingers are required to move in ways you won't think are physically possible. You practice and practice and your fingers just don't move well enough to play that Van Halen song you dreamed about for so long. However, if you stay with it long enough, you will slowly begin to hear progress. You trade your pain for something else. If you don't embrace the pain, you'll never achieve the happiness of jamming like a rock star! It's almost, the more suck you enjoy, the better you will be. The more pain you are willing to endure (to a point) the more success you will have.

All of that money and time you have spent doing this could have been spent to do something else. The "pain" of all of this practice has been transformed into the happiness you feel when you pick up that guitar and rock it out like Jimmy Page. The satisfaction from the feeling of belting out a tasty groove and seeing people's faces light up with pleasure at your performance can make all that pain and sacrifice seem worth while. You would have never gotten there if you didn't embrace the suck.

This same analogy could be used for pretty much anything worth while in life. There is a certain amount of pain and sacrifice attached to anything that is worth having. If you want a good relationship you have to risk being vulnerable. In order to enjoy the good times, you really have to work though the bad too. If you want to have a successful career, you have to embrace the pain of hard work, often long hours, sacrifice and putting yourself "out there."

As if embracing the suck to get what you want wasn't enough, remember that you can't do or have "it all." I know you're thinking that you know that already, but really, you can't. Really, I mean it, you can't. You are going to have to balance what suck you will have the time, energy and finances for vs. the happiness that will be extracted from that pain. That said it really isn't a question of what do you want, that's easy, I want it all. I want all of those things listed above AND a whole bunch more! The real question is what pain are you willing to endure? What suck are you willing to embrace to achieve what you want?

If you want that hot bod, you will have to trade it for pain and suck in the gym and diet department. If you want that happy family, well that will take a lot of sacrifice in other areas of your life. If you want to be your own boss, you'll better enjoy the pain of the process that it will take to get and stay there.  As a professional photographer buddy of mine says to people who think he has it so good. "Yea, I'm self employed, I get to pick any of the 80 hours a week I work."

If you want those awesome ninja like moves of Jason Bourne or Laura Croft what pain and suck are you willing to endure to train to move like that (not to mention hire a bunch of stunt men to help you look cool?!). If you want to get good at Krav Maga, Ninjutsu, Silat, MMA, BJJ, or any other martial art, how much pain, sacrifice and suck are you willing to embrace on a constant basis to achieve the level you want?

The people who I know and respect in various fields have learned to enjoy the process, they have embraced the suck so much and so often, that they are now masters of their field. The really good ones make the process sustainable and not harmful to themselves or others. But wait, there's more! They have also learned balance. They know how to balance out all of the areas in their life, rather than trying to "have it all" and ending up with nothing. We'll talk about balance and priorities on my next post! For now, think about this:

Knowing what you want in life is much easier than knowing what suck are you willing to embrace to get those things! 

Keep going,

Friday, October 7, 2016


A beautiful fall day. 70 degrees, sunny with a breeze. My mind is full yet restless on this Autumn morning. It won't be long before the snow will begin to fly. Winter's fine through January anyway. Luckily this year I'm off on a Caribbean sailing trip in February to break up the cold. Shortly after, Spring will arrive, followed by Summer. Then of course Autumn will come once again repeating the cycle.

Life and training is like this as well. There are seasons. The things we practice, the lives we live, the people we become, the generations we represent all change, yet if you look, there are noticeable patterns and cycles.  If we are open to it we can broaden and deepen our experience with each new cycle, but to do this we must be in this moment while we connect the dots from our previous experiences.

If it's fall, but we act as if it is still summer, not only will we miss the beauty of the season we are in, we may do inappropriate and ineffective things. Wearing short sleeve shirts, shorts, flipflops and no jacket is appropriate on warm days, but not when the temp dips in the 40's. This happens to us a people as well. For instance, I have been fortunate enough to have been training [martial arts] my entire life, so I have seen many [training] seasons come and go. I don't train the same way now at 46 as I did in my teens, 20's, or 30's.  I won't be training the same in my 50's, 60's or beyond either. Luckily I have teachers who are further down the path than I am, so I can see how they are training and learn how I can keep going as well.

We see this in life too. Women in their 40's dressing and trying to act like their 20 something daughters. Older men getting caught up in their egos and competing with the young studs for respect and/or attention from the ladies.

There is nothing wrong with being young at heart, looking, acting and dressing modern and youthful. People are in better shape mentally, physically, emotionally and socially than they ever have been, but some are trying too hard to hang on to a season that has past.

Another aspect of this season analogy is referring to our training. Eventually when you've been training a while, you will get to a point where it gets difficult to cover everything you know into a training session or even a number of training sessions. For instance in our Krav class, we rotate our curriculum so that we cycle through different situations, strategies, tactics and techniques. Each time we come back to a particular topic we hit it in greater depth. Also, each time a student cycles through the same material, they can have a different experience to either broaden or deepen their knowledge of what they are training.  Some cycles are longer than others. Like the earth revolving around the sun, some subjects come around quite frequently, while other things like Haley's Comet, may take longer to orbit. Days, weeks, months, years, decades may pass between a rotation, however the person who treats their training like a laundry list to be checked off will never benefit from this, because they may believe that everything to know about the subject they've learned from their first exposure to it in that first training. So when it comes around again they shut off learning believing that it is boring and something they already "know." Therefore they'll miss the opportunity to deepen their understanding and ability.

Live in each season. Learn from each season. Appreciate each season.

Now I am going to go out to live, learn and appreciate this season! What a beautiful day!!

Keep going!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

You Have to Steal It (Part 2)

In You Have to Steal It (Part 1) I talked about when you want to be successful at something you'll have to steal it. Meaning  that it can't be given, you have to want it. You can read that post here if you need to get up to speed! =) Today, I want to discuss learning, applying and making it your own.

After you learn something, you have to learn to connect the dots. You have to take whatever it is, embrace it, understand it, make it uniquely your own and apply it. No one can do that for you, even if they wanted to, they can't, that's your responsibility.

There is a Japanese concept called Shuhari. Aikido Aikido master Endō Seishirō explained this concept in the following way:

"It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that we understand and absorb the correct forms that have been successful in the past. There is no deviation until we have mastered the form. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws."

This concept can be used in anything in life. Many people get stuck in one of stages. Some never learn the form, they would rather just improvise without understanding the principles, resulting in less effectiveness, efficiency or insightful creativity. Others get caught in the form, never learning to break out and apply the principles the structure was teaching. They adhere so tightly to the form that they never gain the ability to make it their own or to adapt it to other variations. Some break out of the form but have a hard time transcending to creatively adapt the principles to other circumstances and applications.

Because most things in life have many facets and nothing typically unfolds in a vacuum, this shuhari process rarely happens in exact sequential order. More often you are in various stages simultaneously. Learning, applying and growing in a spiral fashion rather than a straight line. While you are learning the form of one element of something, you may be breaking the form of some other aspect of that skill set, all while you have transcended yet another part. The transitions are more organic than static

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet, but infinite ways to use them. Learning how to draw the letters, spell words, construct sentences, draft paragraphs and craft stories all comes from the same foundation. How the individual uses and expresses those elements can vary dramatically, from basic communication to the art of sophisticated literature. What will you choose to express?  

Keep going!

All the best,