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,