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,