Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rich Black

OK, now that I have your attention! My seemingly controversial post title "Rich Black" probably isn't what you were thinking. You see, I have a background in printing and there is an ink color that is called "rich black." Rich black in printing, is an ink mixture of solid black over one or more of the other CMYK: (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow and Blac(K) colors, resulting in a deeper, darker, more rich tone than black ink alone generates in a printing process.

This idea of "Rich Black" is true for everything that we do. It is a combination of perspective, skill and execution. How you do what you do and why you are doing it makes all the difference. Take music for example. A novice can play a note, cord or song and even when it is correct, it may lack feel and soul. It doesn't breathe. It doesn't live. Here is a short but very interesting conversation with Rush's drummer Neil Peart and jazz drummer Freddie Gruber about this concept:

I've played guitar with guys that have brought so much depth of tone and soul to seemingly simple notes or phrases, the same thing played by someone else might be unrecognizable in comparison. Simple elegant, powerful.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to study with many talented and gracious teachers that share their experience and knowledge. Take yoga for example. You can practice it as a one dimensional static stretch or if you are like Behnje Masson my instructor at  From the Heart Yoga Center, yoga can be a profoundly deep, multilayered experience that breathes, lives and grows. She is quite amazing really. She can peel open a posture to uncover a deeper understanding and more meaningful experience. Even the people with no experience what-so-ever go, "aha" when they see or feel when a posture done correctly with organization. It shines in a way that is unmistakable. There have been times where we will work on one posture for almost an entire class and it remains challenging, enlightening and beneficial. I have been to other classes where the poses are done like a laundry list, static, thin and dead. To avoid being bored and to fill the time I sometimes see people trying to teach or learn more quantity of techniques and neglect the deeper substance.

Martial arts is like this as well. When my friend and instructor Jack Hoban  teaches his budo taijutsu art, each posture and movement has a depth and sophistication to it that is inspiring. There have been times where we will work for hours on just one element of a stance, move, interaction or idea before moving on to another aspect. Or we may work on how one element of something comes out in a number of different applications. It is this depth of knowledge and expression that makes all of the difference.

Professor Steve Olson once said after attending one of our RGI Ethical Protector workshops:

"It's simplicity on the far end of complexity."

Although he was talking about the ethic of the Universal Life Value, which drives all of our martial tactics and techniques, it can also be applied to the tactical movement of the defensive tactics as well.

This simplicity is not to be confused with easy. As a matter of fact, it takes a lot of work to make things simple. Take Krav Maga for example, this Israeli method of defensive tactics was developed to be taught in a short amount of time. It had to be effective, but not take a year, a decade or a lifetime to learn and use. People needed to learn it in a short amount of time. Or as I say, "Learn to day use tonight."

Storytelling is another example of this "rich black" experience. I remember being mesmerized by my Grandfather's colorful stories of his days in the great depression. I could sit and listen to his stories for hours. I miss those days spending time with him listening as he shared his life with me. Later master storyteller Joseph Campbell captured my attention with his rich tales of exotic lands and strange cultures that maybe weren't as dissimilar as we thought. His revolutionary 1949 book "The hero with a Thousand Faces" changed the way we look not only at other cultures, but ourselves. Joe saw the common thread among the different myths and religions from different cultures throughout the world. His groundbreaking book outlines what he calls the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. It changed my life.

I try to approach and express myself in this way. It's a much different path bringing this amount of attention and depth to what you do, but it's worth it. It's unmistakable when compared to the other experiences. It can be done in anything that we do. Our job, hobbies and relationships. Every aspect of life can be a "Rich Black" experience. At one level you can call it mindfulness.

What is mindfulness you ask?

Well, professor and author Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as:

“Paying attention;
On purpose,
in the present moment, and

Anyway, that is yet another rabbit hole for another post on another day, but for now, it's back to bringing this level of richness to my practice, my teaching, my relationships and my life. Whether it is at my Krav Maga Academy, a PeaceWalker Leadership Workshop and RGI Ethical Protector Course, or anything else I do. I for you: I hope you are creating a "Rich Black" experience in your life as well!

Keep going!

All the best,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Walking Among the Dead

When I run I like to stay off the main roads. I prefer trails. The course I go takes me through a couple of cemeteries. I don't find it morbid or scary or anything like that, rather, I see it as beautiful. The grounds are typically well kept and more to the point, the people who rest there inspire me. The lives they lived and the place of their current state acts as a reminder to use my time wisely. Sooner than later, I will join them.

So the other day I was cutting through one of the cemeteries when a car drove by with its windows down. The lady driving took offense at my course. She thought that it was disrespectful of me to be running through the grave sites. So, she yelled out her window to me, "You should be ashamed of yourself running on those graves, don't cut through there!"

My quick response surprised even myself."Miss, I'm not running on the graves, I'm walking among them." 

My statement completely took her off guard. A strange look came over her face as she opened her mouth to say something, but didn't know what to say, so she tilted her head, looked forward and drove on her way.

I finished my run with a light heart.

My comeback wasn't just me being a smart ass. I really do feel that I am walking among those people in those graves. They inspire me. I imagine what their lives were. What did they do with their "dash?" You know, the dash between their birth date and the date of their death. We can't do much about those two dates, most of the time they are out of our control. What we do have control over is what we do with the dash between. I think of each of those people and what there lives might have been like. Their ups, downs, successes, failures, happiness, sadness, the beginning and of course the end. What did they do with that dash and more importantly what will I do with mine? What will you do with yours? We never know how long we have. Make each moment matter.

All the best,

Monday, August 15, 2016

Running the Yellow Light


I run about 4x a week, but I really don't consider myself a runner, rather just a guy who runs. I typically don't run far, typically 3 to 5 miles. Sometimes less. I can't say that I love to run. I like it. I like the cardio workout. I like running on trails, in the woods or on the beach. I like being outside and the feeling of the fresh air. Most of all I like it when my run is done! The feeling of "Yeah! I did it! It's done!" Some days the thought of just finishing is the only thing that keeps me going. Other days I actually enjoy the experience of running. On the days that I struggle it is good practice to be present, to be in each breath, each foot step, each pumping motion of my arms. Sometimes too big of a picture doesn't motivate it annihilates. On those days I just think, one more step, one more breath, I can do just one more, just keep going! On those days I only think about this moment and doing that one more time without giving up.

When I run near my apartment, there are many stop lights I have to run through on my route to and from the trail that I take. There is one particular light that is about 1/2 mile from the beginning and of course the end of my workout. It is a long light that is typically green when I get to it. Sometimes when I am feeling worn down I hope for it to be red so I can get a minute of rest. Sometimes that happens, most times it doesn't. However every once in a great while, I'll be tired and see the light turn yellow; I think if I really kick it in gear I can sprint to the light and then after my sprint, be able to rest a minute before completing my run. A couple of times I have done this in anticipation of the rest but the light was just a little out of reach. Just enough for me to sprint to it, only to catch it green again, meaning no rest for me, keep running!

There are a lot of life lessons here:

1) We are capable of much more than we think we are.
2) Our minds typically give up before our bodies will.
3) Etc, Etc.

What struck me this time was regarding my decision: Do I sprint and push though the challenge based on the thought of the reward of resting? Do I pace myself and continue running at a steady pace, without anticipating the desire for rest until I've completed my run? Do I just totally push it, sprint and then jog the rest of the way home? OR I could choose to sprint to the light and rest regardless if the light is red or green.

To me it's more about making a life habit out of training. Adapting it when necessary, but overall, Keep Going! Doing something is much better than not. Staying in "shape" so to speak is a habit that you have to do consistently, rather than bingeing, like some crash diet.

Life is filled with choices. We make decisions based on what's going on inside of us, around us and in correlation with others. No matter what choice you need to make in life, the clearer we can be with ourselves and the world around us the better our decisions. Having the right attitude, awareness and ability to act appropriately is essential for greater success and fulfillment in anything we do in our lives. How will those decisions affect you, and everyone around you?  What is the direct effect as well as the ripple effect? Sometimes we need to push it to be successful, other times pacing yourself would be the smarter choice. Under certain circumstances, choosing not to engage at all may be the best choice if possible. In life we can find ourselves in situations that we didn't intend at all, facing circumstances we didn't anticipate or want, making the best choices we can with what we have available to us. Life often gives us the test first and the lesson after. That is why it's important to train and stay healthy, so that you keep yourself better maintained for those journeys that you may not have planned for. Find ways to maintain a sense of Foundational Grounding. Maintaining a strong base Mentally, Physically and Spiritually is important for the long haul! We have a tendency to binge: Crash diets, crash courses, extreme fitness, condensed classes, retreats, cleanses, etc etc. it's not sustainable. After the big push, we exhaust ourselves and then we stop to let it all hang out again. Eventually we feel bad enough again to try again. Like a bad relationship, it continues to cycle.


Tension builds up (You feel that you "should" get into shape, watch what you eat, get training in self defense, leadership, conflict management, get some counseling, help, etc.)  - The Incident: Something "happens" (or is going to happen) to motivate you to take action, but you don't change your life habits, diet, workout, get self defense training, counseling, etc. - Reconciliation: You do your diet, workout, personal protection workshop, get your CPL, whatever, but you haven't changed your life habits, but for now you are sated so that leaves you in the Calm stage, where the incident is "forgotten" or at least not top of mind anymore, you "tried" right?! Eventually the Tension begins to build again preparing you for the next unhealthy cycle!

Stay healthy and Keep Going! It's a marathon, not a sprint! Develop a lifestyle that supports your journey. One reflecting the right attitude, awareness and ability to act. Clarity comes from the inside out, so Foundational Grounding your life is important. What is going to strengthen and support you Mentally, Physically and Spiritually? We have a saying:

Train your...
BODY like a soldier.
MIND like a general.
MOUTH like a diplomat.
HEART like a protector.

Keep Going!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Ah yes, I love those old spaghetti westerns and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of my favorites! Exploring The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (GBU) can also be used for personal development, leadership and conflict management. Let me explain.

It's easy to see the Bad and Ugly in others. Other people, organizations, societies, religions, cultures, etc. It's easy to believe that you're all right and everyone/thing else is all wrong or bad, or stupid. It's easy to judge, to put value on, or take value away based on beliefs, relative values or actions. The more we recognize that without exception we ALL have GBU inside of us. There is GBU in EVERY society, community, country & organization. When you begin to recognize that everyone is capable of Good, Bad and Ugly and that Life has value beyond those actions, thoughts, beliefs and values, we can deepen not only our understanding and empathy, but we then may have a better chance of  dealing with conflict better and inspiring more positive change in our world.

What do I mean Good, Bad, Ugly?
Some of the GOOD:
  • Love
  • Empathy
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Respect

Some of the BAD:
  • Selfishness
  • Greed
  • Jealousy 
  • Shortsightedness

Bring the UGLY:
  • Hate
  • Violence
  • Deception
  • Disrespect 
  • Prejudice

Every human being has each of these things in us and it is up to us what we CHOOSE to feed. What we choose to believe, what we choose to do. How we choose to act has nothing to do with our value, however these things have great repercussions in our lives and the lives of everyone around us. How you experience life is ultimately your decision, your choice. As Charles Swindoll once said, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it."  I call it iexperience. Rather than going into it again, you can click HERE to read my post describing it. 

Leading and managing conflict from a clearer perspective, with greater skill and more courage is necessary for greater success and more sustainable progress. We need more clear, courageous and skilled leaders in our families, organizations, communities, countries and world today. We need YOU!

The more you recognize that  you have Good, Bad & Ugly in you, maybe then you can be more empathetic toward others. Understanding that the Good, Bad & Ugly are all in there for a reason and are a part of the human experience is essential as well. It's not healthy to try and resist the Bad and Ugly. As a matter of fact often the more you resist, the more it owns you. Now that is not to say that when you have to deal with someone who is embracing their bad or ugly, that you let them off the hook. No, you may have to deal with their behavior. You just don't disrespect them when you are doing it. Hopefully this understanding of GBU will make you more effective at dealing with yourself and others.

Here's a simple exercise for you to try:

1) Recognize the GBU in yourself.
2) Choose to feed the Good more than the Bad or Ugly.
3) Overtime, not overnight your choice becomes habit.
4) Keep going!

Simple not easy!

All the best,