Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You Have to Steal It (Part 1)

USMC  Lt. Col. (Ret) Joe Shusko Instructing Camden NJ PD 
RGI Mentoring Course 2015 

"Good artists copy. Great artists steal."

~Pablo Picasso

Some things in life cannot be given, they can only be "stolen."

You may be thinking, "What the heck is Gray talking about now?!" Well, let me explain. I'm not talking about ripping someone off, plagiarizing or pirating the next Star Wars movie before it's released. I'm talking about learning, applying and succeeding at something.  I have heard this "stealing" idea from many of my martial arts instructors regarding training. However the same idea pertains to other things in life as well. My interpretation of this "stealing it" concept can mean many things. I wanted to explore a few ideas.

First, you have to want it. It seems that we are used to being spoon fed now a days. As a result many people often give up too soon, feeling that the path should be easier and their guide should bend over backwards to make sure the student is learning quickly and easily. Well, it doesn't matter what it is, if you want it, have some conviction, set the pace and work hard at going after it. If it's worth having, it probably won't be convenient. Yes, there will be barriers, that's part of the journey. Don't make excuses. You have to want it enough to overcome the barriers. It won't be given, it has to be stolen. Most will fall one more time than they get up. The successful focus more on getting up than worrying on falling.

Here's a tie-in story for you. It's an oldie but a goodie!

An energetic young business man meets a guru one day while walking along the beach. It's the same guru so many have told him about. Apparently, this guru is the wisest and most thoughtful person in the world, but usually inaccessible. Knowing how to interpret fate, the young man asks the guru a question:

"What must I do to be successful?"

The guru glances at him in that zen, guru-like way and says he'll share with him how to be successful tomorrow morning at 4 a.m. at this same beach.

The next day, the man shows up, nicely dressed and finds the guru near the shoreline. He asks the guru the same question. The guru responds by asking the young man to follow him out into the water. The man is confused at first, but figures the guru must know what he's doing, so the two wade into the ocean together.

The guru turns and says, "Let's keep going." So, they walk in until the water is up to their knees, then their waists, then their chests. The man, suit soaked, now asks, "Guru! What does this have to do with success?"

"Do you want to be successful?" the guru asks.

"Yes! Of course I do," the man replies.

 Just then, the guru dunks him under the water. The young man fights to get back above water, but in addition to being wise, the guru is also strong. After about 15 seconds, the guru lets him back up. Confused and infuriated, the young man rails, "What was that?! What are you doing?!" Immediately, the guru pushes him under and holds him down again. After about 15 seconds, he lets him up. The man is irate now. "What are you doing?! I asked you how to be successful and you're trying to drown me!"

The guru calmly replies, "Do you want to be successful?"

Frustrated, the man looks at him and says, "Yes, I want to..."

Before he can finish, the guru dunks him a third down, holding him down longer than before. He finally lets him up. The man is gasping for air now, trying to regain his bearings.

The guru states, "Until you want success as badly as you wanted air just now, you will never achieve it."

A good instructor will share and make things accessible, but they can't want it more than the student does. A good sales manager can't want the sale more than the sales person. A good spouse can't want the relationship more than their partner (in this case it should be a 50/50 relationship). A good teacher can't want the pupal to learn the lesson more than the pupal is willing to put the work in to complete it.

When it comes to teaching, I'll go 49%, but you have to give me at least 51%. Trouble arises when you want it too much for the other person. If you do, you then have to ask yourself, "Why do I want this so much for them? Why do I want it more then they do? Why am I attached to this so much? Is this healthy for both of us?"

No matter how much your instructor wants for you to be successful, you will have to do the work, overcome whatever barriers life throws at you and keep going in order to succeed. You are responsible for your own training. You are responsible for your own life, even when you don't choose the circumstances you find yourself in. Remember if you really want to be successful in whatever you are doing in life, it can't be given, you have to "Steal It."

Keep going!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Something to Give

It was a hot summer day running the hill during one of our Krav Maga Outdoor Bootcamps. Along with working on defensive tactics, the training consists of four rounds of physical conditioning: Two short trail runs, a half mile circuit training course where you walk, jog or crawl to each station to do push ups, squats, mountain climbers and crunches followed by a (quick?) sprint down and back up an 1/8 mile steep grassy hill, we finish out our day by breaking up into teams where all of the exercises are done with one or more of our team mates.

We were just finishing up the second round of PT (Physical Training) on the hill and there were a couple of the guys that fell behind the pack a bit. When we the main group was done, rather than just sitting down to rest while the others finished, one of the guys got up and jogged over to complete the course with the two people who were still finishing. It only took one person to step up to inspire over half of the group to join in to finish the course with them. Leading from the front. Sharing adversity. Leaving no one behind. 

After we all finished I explained that if we didn't take care of ourselves; were too exhausted or recklessly hurt ourselves during the course, we wouldn't have anything left to help others even if we wanted to.

You have to have something left in order to give. If you are exhausted, depleted and running on an empty tank so to speak you won't have anything left to give to others. This is a big reason to take care of yourself, not out of selfishness, but out of selflessness. You have to have something to give something. "It" could be many things: Time, patience, love, understanding, strength, attention, money, knowledge, influence, etc.

If one of your friend asks to borrow money from you, however you are struggling to pay your own bills, you aren't in a good position to help. If you are attempting to teach someone something, yet you don't know what you are doing, what happens? You have to first learn before you can teach. If you are at your wits end, you may be irritable, not because of what others do, but because you allowed yourself to become so depleted that anything can set you off. Maybe you have difficulty prioritizing your time, so when you son or daughter wants to spend some with you, you put it off for another day. Maybe that day never comes?  If you have to have abundance it's easier to share.

The same holds true in the opposite way. If you are so joyful that happiness overflows from you spilling on everyone around you, you have something to give. If you are taking care of yourself (selflessly not selfishly) so you have something to give, you are in a much better position to help out when someone need it. I explain this in my story of the Olympic Swimmer and the Lifeguard.  Before you jump into the water to save someone make sure you can swim!

What are you doing to take care of yourself so you can be more selfless than selfish? Remember that you have to have something to give!

Keep going,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Living Boldly

Azadi Tower - Tehran, Iran

I have been doing a fair amount of travel lately. I have developed a tradition of picking up a few of the cool trendy magazines when I am at airports. They range from surfing mags, fitness, technology, business, psychology and of course travel. My attention is drawn to the beautiful pictures of exotic and far away lands. I love traveling for business and pleasure (not TOO much travel though, it has to be in balance. I'm still working on that part.). Last week while in-route from New Jersey I picked up a travel Magazine called AFAR. It has gorgeous pictures and some good articles. The moment I read the Founder's Note, I thought, "I need to meet this Greg Sullivan guy sometime. It would be interesting sharing a few beers and stories with him."

Here is his Founder's Note that inspired me:

I'm in Tehran, on the back of a motorcycle being driven by a random guy off the street who speaks no English. We are in a dedicated bus lane passing one bus as another heads straight for us. I yell to my friends behind me (did I mention there are three of us on the bike?), "I hope he knows what he's doing!"

I think back to a recent talk I heard by Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. He said,  

"We are all afraid to die. It's in our DNA. But we should not be afraid to live." 

As the bus closes in on us, I think, maybe I'm pushing this living boldly thing too far. 

Obviously, we survived. It was one of those uncomfortable moments that becomes a good story once you get back home. 

I think  a lot about fear and how it affects us. Our judgment, not our fears, should rule our actions. Some of my friends thought I shouldn't go to Iran. If I had told them I was going to get on a motorcycle, they might have had a good case. But Iran is actually quite safe. Our governments don't agree on a lot, but that doesn't make visiting the country dangerous. When governments are at odds, I believe it's even more important to get to know a place and its people. 

Tehran was fascinating, and full of interesting, curious people. I might not get on that motorcycle again, but I would definitely o back to Tehran. 

We each have to make decisions about what we're going to fear. But if we only do what's comfortable, then what is life?

Good Travels,
~Greg Sullivan 
AFAR Cofounder & CEO


Obviously, you have to be smart when you travel. Being a defensive tactics trainer and having done my fair share of traveling to countries on the "Travel Advisory" list, I'm not advocating that you should put yourself in harms way for a trip. However, I think we have to go into things understanding the risks. Both the risk of going AND the risks of denying yourself the experience of life's adventure. Be a leader. Set the pace. Make a smart decision for you. Life is risky and none of us are getting out alive. So, be mindful about your risk assessment. That's also one of the reasons I train, so I can make better decisions for myself, not just play into fear, whether my own or someone else's.  

Keep going,

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rank, Testing and Other 4 Letter Words

"The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body and polish the spirit."

~Morihei  Ueshiba

I get a fair amount of people asking questions about how long it will take to defend themselves. People want to know:  How long will it take to get my black belt or my next rank?  What should my short and long term goals be? Where should I be in 1, 2 or 5 years? What should I be working on? What should I get out of my training? etc. etc. 

First off, I don't view training (martial arts) like this. Secondly, only you can really determine what you want out of your training and how you choose to fit it in your life.

My approach to training is an ongoing practice, a lifestyle; like working out, going to church or taking yoga, it never really ends. It's something that grows and breathes with me helping me to Live, Protect  & Inspire.

Next month will mark my 40th year training. It started with me and my dad working out in the basement of our house. I have trained, taught and competed all over the world. I have met many, many incredible people and have been  blessed with insightful teachers and mentors throughout my journey. It's had its, ups, downs and everything in between. It's been a great ride and God willing I'll be training for 40+ more years. My goal is to keep going!

How long will it take an individual to defend themselves? You are already a protector, just make sure you are protecting the right things! Training is meant to help us to gain the power to be clearer, more ethical and effective protectors.

As for the structure and purpose of class: It is to provide a healthy environment and community to clarify our protector ethic, increase and maintain our emotional and physical fitness level as we train to protect ourselves and others more effectively and deeply.

Regarding rank; ultimately rank is not the main goal of my teaching, or of class, however testing (for rank) can be a part of a students process if the they choose. It's more of a mentoring relationship (w/yourself, people at the academy and with me) than it is checking a laundry list to fulfill requirements (like in college). Each test rank has guidelines but is also somewhat flexible and unique to the individual. The student receives feedback, encouragement and responsibilities as they move along the process. 

We hold testing 2x per year. Only a portion of the test is actually at class. Most of the challenge resides in making the commitment with everything else in your life to undertake the testing ordeal. Although everyone is different, students typically test about 1x per year when consistently:

Attending class 2x to 3x per week
2) Attending specialty classes when appropriate (i.e. testing class, intermediate and advanced class)
3) Going to the seminars... and of course
4) Practicing on your own!

It may be longer between tests depending on attendance, attitude and ability of the student. Everyone is different, it is individualized. You don't have to kill yourself to come to  every class, seminar, etc, if that doesn't work for you. It has to fit in with your life. Be patient with yourself. The rank process can take as long as you need it to to fit in w/how much time you have to train. It's ok, it's really about staying healthy, re-calibrating and maintaining a protector lifestyle.

In our academy there are 7 basic practitioner ranks (White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, Black) and 6 testing processes.

Earning your black belt at our academy can take between 5 to 10 years depending on attendance, attitude and ability. Longer if the student doesn't have the right attitude, doesn't come to class regularly, doesn't practice on their own or has difficulty with the concepts.

It's about the journey. A PeaceWalker's destination is always just ahead!

As one of my friends and mentors says,"It's (martial arts) is an infinite journey, so we are all the same distance from the finish line."

Keep going!
All the best,