Here we go...for this week:
1. Within the first half hour of the day, take 5 minutes to stretch. Flexibility is, by far, the most neglected aspect of fitness. I really like the routine below.
2. Before you go to bed, write down one way that you could have made the day better. Even if you're day was already pretty sweet, think about improvement. Do NOT use this as a daily excuse to gripe or whine. Think productive improvement...
3. Thank 5 people (at least) every day. Make it a challenge...be on the lookout for ways to show your gratitude.
Have an awesome week!
Following up on the 3 Keys for this week...
So, to be honest, i haven't event started reading The Horse and His Boy. It's in my lap right now though, and I'm going to start cranking through it asap!
The five minutes of focused breathing that I challenged you with this week...total game changer for me. The more I've read about the studies on meditation and breathing, the more excited I get. You probably know this, but folks who don't breathe have a significantly shorter lifespan.
Seriously though, the five minutes of quiet, distraction free focus has been energizing and grounding at the same time. Awesome practice. If you haven't tried it this week, get started. Don't know how to? Send me a message, I'll help you. It's worth it...you'll notice a positive change immediately.
Have an awesome weekend. My DC Metro area friends, enjoy the warmer temps! Get outside and do something fun. Remember, no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing and planning.
Here we go. Week 3 of going through The Hundred Rules of War by Tsukahara Bokuden.
This week seemed pretty straightforward when I began reading:
"You should think of greed and lust as the enemy." pg. 19.
The more I read and think about it, the more I think about it and read it. After a couple of days, it jumped out to me: greed and lust are listed as a single enemy. They work together to the downfall of the warrior. Now, considering when this was written, we can assume that is was exclusively targeting men. Some enemies never change.
Regardless of the enemy or the victim, I think there are a couple of takeaways here for each of us:
1.) We all have "enemies".
2.) When we boil it down, we don't have as many enemies as we tend to complain about.
3.) All of those enemies are working together to end us. I mean really...do you think greed and anger aren't related? How about pride and lying?
Typically, we have 2-3 big "enemies" or struggles to battle.
Step 1: Identify them.
Step 2: Eliminate them.
Embrace the battle.
Last week was great. Definitely experienced the benefit of using drive time productively. I will definitely be making that a regular practice! Keeping the thankfulness journal too. Simple things, done faithfully, really do add up to a big change.
Enough of that...for this week:
1. Last week it was 10 pushups as soon as you woke up. This week: 10 squats. Whether you want to add them to your pushup routine or use them as a replacement, I'll leave it up to you for now.
2. Somewhere around lunchtime, take 5 minutes to yourself, get comfortable, and focus on your breathing. Block out all distractions. Put on some soft music if you're able. Just clear your mind and feel your breath. If making this a priority requires you to hide in a bathroom...make it happen!
3. Read something that you normally wouldn't. I don't really care for fiction, but this week I'm going to start reading The Horse and His Boy. A lot of folks that I trust shake their head when I tell them I haven't read it (especially considering my background as a teacher) so I am going to fix that.
I love this one...been chewing on it for a week now.
"Anyone who feels that their lord or elders ask the impossible is a person as simple minded as the lowest servant." The Hundred Rules of War, pg. 17
Now, most of us don't really have lords and elders but, if we're honest, we all answer to someone. I've got a couple bosses. I've got a few teachers. As much as I think I'm independent, I have people to answer to.
Here's a thought to consider:
Take the requests of your bosses/teachers/spouses/parents/whoever and a challenge. Want me to do something impossible? Awesome...I will.
But there's a more important word in the quote; a word that drives me nuts sometimes. "Feel". You feel like you've been given an impossible task? You feel like it's too hard? You feel like your boss is overwhelming you? So?
Have you taken time to think? Think, and consider the request from another perspective? Probably not, but it's natural. I think we're naturally geared to complain first when things get hard. It takes practice. Intentional practice.
I hope you're given an impossible task tomorrow and I hope you crush it. I hope you learn to take on the challenge with a smile and an "awesome".
1. Get out of bed (without hitting the snooze button) and knock out 10 pushups. You choose what kind of pushups...just do 10 of them!
2. Use your drive time. Your commute can either be a complete stressful waste, or it can be a pleasant learning experience. Lately I've been listening to podcasts; trying to learn things rather than listen to the same news loop or music.
3. Start a thankfulness journal. Each morning, after you take care of your pushups, jot down 2-3 things that you're thankful for. The benefit here is that you're forcing yourself to set your day up with a positive mindset. Hey, you've already done a little exercise, now you shift your focus to things that you're grateful for.
Think about this. These three keys set you up to arrive at work or school on a positive vibe...crucial for a Monday morning! You've woken up, skipped the snooze, recalled things that you're thankful for, and used your drive time well...work will be a piece of cake!
Just wanted to post a quick note to follow-up on the post from Wednesday. If you live anywhere on the Atlantic Coast, you're probably a bit chilly this morning. If not prepared, you will experience pain and sacrifice the moment you step outside. Can we use that pain to experience pleasure? Is it possible to use the cold in order to experience a bit of joy? Absolutely!
Take a minute (or 4) and watch this, but stick around for the comments below.
Now, this guy had an awesome accidental experience. As it stays cold out there, folks will be gathering in coffee shops. People will be gathering in pubs and restaurants. Look, when it's cold out there, my favorite place to be is at home. I personally find the process of dressing in layers and sitting in a cold car to be annoying at best. But this weekend, I want to get out there and try to create an experience like the one in the video. It'll look different for sure, but I'll try.
What's sacrificed in the attempt? Really?
Well, for me, there's the sacrifice of comfort (which I am naturally drawn toward). It's much more comfortable to stand in line and look at my phone. It's awkward to strike up a conversation with someone I don't know. There's fear there...fear of rejection maybe, but still a little fear. There's the exposure to the cold, which means sacrificing time while I find enough clothes to put on. There's the sacrifice of time which is, in my opinion, THE most valuable thing that we have. There's a financial sacrifice, although likely not a large one.
I'm not sure how it will go, but I'm willing to sacrifice a bit, experience some discomfort and maybe a little pain (it is cold you know) in order to also experience the pleasure of brightening someone's day. I'm willing. Are you?
Tomorrow is the start of a new day, week, month, and year (cue the opening music from Friends). It's a perfect time to make some changes...here are three small things you can do to kick off what could be an awesome year:
#1. No more snooze. Seriously, you set the alarm for a specific time for a certain reason. Grit your teeth and get feet to the floor as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning.
#2. Read for 10 minutes...longer than usual. If you typically read for an hour a day, then this is such a small addition. If you don't read hardly at all, then this is a huge step, but one you will not regret. Read in the morning (since you wont be hitting the snooze button), lunchtime, or whenever. Get it done.
#3. Practice focused breathing. Set a timer for two minutes. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Focus on the inhale and the exhale. Ignore everything else going on around you...just don't try this while you're driving. My preference is to take 3-4 minutes around lunchtime...I find that it helps to stay relaxed, calm, but also focused in the afternoon.
Have an awesome week!
With only a few hours left in 2017, it's good to look back at the adventure that it has been. We have shared some terrific experiences this year, including:
- two new nidans in Sempai Matt and Sempai Mary
- three new shodans in Sempai Lianne, Sempai JI, and Sempai Andrew
- numerous other belt promotions
- The Kyiv Experience
- Spring Gashuku at Mount St. Joes
- Fall Gashuku on the beach in New Jersey
- Sempai Austin's semester in Chile
- the new Free Parent Program
- Wednesday night fight class, led by Sempai Matt
- visits from Shihan Melanson and Shihandai Mazur
There was also a great deal of success in those areas which are more difficult to measure. There are no belts for growing confidence, or stripes for courage. We don't have trophies for every small achievement. There was much growth this year. I'm proud to say the least.
In talking with the other yudansha, we all agree on one very specific highlight of the year: Abby's yellow belt test. THAT was an inspirational day for sure, and it captured everything that we are about: hard work, perseverance, and perfection of character through hard training.
2017 was a great year. Can't wait to see what 2018 has in store.
We're getting set for our first ever New Year training, which will take place outside on January 1st. I've already checked...it's going to be cold. Really cold. Like low to mid-20's kind of cold.
But it's going to be a great time training together and kicking off 2018 doing something pretty cool together.
Those who have trained with me long enough know that I would never ask someone to do something that I hadn't already done myself. So, this afternoon from 3-4 I went out and trained by myself...20 kata and 200 burpees. I've done this before, but never when it's been this cold. The picture is right after I finished and came back in the house. You'll notice that I don't have a sweatshirt on...believe me, it didn't start that way.
When we gather to train on Monday, wear layers. Bring gloves and a hat. I've got a plan in store that will help us create some internal heat...so much so, that you'll probably feel better taking the sweatshirt off by the time we wrap things up.
It's going to be cold...embrace it.
It's a little easier this time of year. Here are your 3 Keys for the week:
#1- Say "thank you" every day. Make it a point to vocalize your appreciation.
#2- Look out for those who need encouragement. Whether it's someone who could use a hot cup of coffee, or a cold beer, be on the prowl for folks you can pour into.
#3- Chill. Use this week to relax a bit. Enjoy the lightened schedule and extended time with family and friends.
Tomorrow the dojo will open for the last time in 2017. By 8(ish) Thursday evening, most of us will likely be getting ready to go separate ways during our annual Christmas Break.
As we begin to ease into the break, I'd like you to intentionally set aside just 10 minutes to look back on the year. What went well? What could have gone better? What are your goals for the upcoming year? How can we begin to work on those in the dojo?
Remember, we are about perfecting character through hard training. While we've all got individual goals, we are walking this path together. Osu!
"Osu Sensei, I won't be able to make it to class this week because I've got a big test to study for."
"Osu Sensei, I can't train this week because we have midterms at school."
I've heard it for years, and for years I've been somewhat "nice" about it, but I'm kind of done.
Want to do better on that test? Come and train.
Want to perform at your peak on that exam? Get thy butt to the dojo.
But how would I know, I've only been teaching for about two decades. Cramming the night before...it doesn't help. Training the night before...that's a different story. Don't believe me, check these articles out.
- Scientific American
- Harvard University
- New York Times
Invest an hour of your study time my getting away from your desk and into the dojo. I bet that you find the ROI will shock you.
I was reminded afresh this morning that there are no lone rangers; we all need a team.
I'm blessed to have a part of some amazing teams and have so many that I can look to and count on. In fact, I find that often when I'm in my lowest of lows, it's because I've isolated myself... not always physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
So, the challenge for the weekend is this...take some time to think of someone on your team who may be isolating themselves; intentionally or without thought. Reach out to them. We're not going to make it alone.
Lately, if you ask how I’m doing, my reply is “living the dream”. I remember Mr. Smith (my high school history teacher) asking me, “Bobby, what are you going to do with yourself when you an adult, assuming you survive that long?” At that time, I wanted to be a teacher and “to have enough children to warrant owning a minivan”. Guess what folks? I’ve finally got the minivan of my dreams as I enter my 18th year as a teacher. I am, according to my teenage self, living my dream.
But there are other dreams I’ve had along the way. I’ve dreamt of serving in combat, working on some high-speed mission in a dangerous land on the other side of the globe. I’ve dreamt of being in school forever; as the student, not the teacher. Seriously, I would love to have degrees in everything; especially astrophysics! I’ve dreamt of running the dojo full-time and wearing my karate uniform for most of my waking hours. I’ve dreamt of making a million dollars in one year, only to give it all away. I dream all the time. You have to.
The thing is though, that I’ve had to put most of those dreams on the shelf; some for a season, others forever. I’ll never serve in a combat zone. I had the opportunity…it could have happened, but when the opportunity came, my oldest son was a baby. I was not going to leave my young family for a dream. There are countless men and women who can…and God bless them. They are rock stars and heroes in my eyes.
For at least the next twenty years, I don’t see myself getting all of those degrees that I dream about earning. That dream is on the shelf for a season.
It’s funny, in the sad sort of way, how we can become so attached to our hopes and dreams; almost as if our entire identity were wrapped up in the image we project for our future selves. Don’t get me wrong…putting dreams away, either for good or just for a season, is tough. There a grieving process that goes along with it…a real, legit process.
Dreams are meant to drive us toward goals, but shouldn’t distract us from the things that matter most. Our dreams and goals are mean to show us a way, not a destination.
Each Sunday, I'll be posting three simple ideas that will help you focus on creating the best week. The keys will always follow a similar pattern, will always present a challenge, and will always prove worthwhile. Oh, they won't be wordy either. Without further ado:
#1 Wake up 5 minutes earlier than normal. That's 5 extra minutes, all to yourself. No interruptions. No questions. It's just you! Parents...I cannot recommend this enough!
#2 Have a 5 minute conversation with someone you don't know. This is a special time of year. It seems everyone is more willing to open up an talk.
#3 Before you go to bed each night, write down one blessing that you experienced.
It's getting cold here in the DC Metro area with lows getting below the freezing point today and tomorrow. In fact, right around the time that the adults begin training tomorrow, it should be right around 35 degrees...nice and chilly. It won't just be the adults...kids and teens will all spend a little time training outside in the cold tomorrow, and here's why it's a good thing:
#1. Being cold makes you tougher. Think about it...the picture many folks have of winter is snuggling up under a nice warm blanket while drinking their coffee or hot chocolate. We will actively be fighting against that tomorrow when we head outdoors. Being cold, and embracing the cold, is an exercise in mental fortitude; and we could all use a bit of a push there if we're honest.
#2. Being cold burns a few more calories. When you're cold, your body is primarily interested with keeping your core warm...everything else take a bit more effort. Your body's metabolism is forced to work harder during cold weather training. Your heart works harder during cold weather training as it tries to keep your body warm. Training in the cold give an additional physical challenge.
3#. You'll be happy when it's over. Winter is dark and cold with heat and daylight bidding us farewell until March(ish). The Kids and Teen Classes will be able to grab onto the last bit of daylight; something that is under appreciated from a wellness point of view. Grabbing some winter sunshine helps to improve mood that may have taken a hit after a long day at school. Have no fear, the adults will also gain the benefit of elevated mood. Research is suggesting that a good workout, especially in the cold, can be up to four times as effective as antidepressants. Through cold weather training, you will experience a spiritual lift.
Don't worry. We're going to have a lot of fun tomorrow, but we will be smart and safe with our training. Remember that there's a thin line between tough and stupid...we're going to stay firmly on the tough side.
I am a slave to my closet. It's one spot that consistently gets away from me. I'll spend an afternoon organizing it, arranging clothes by type and color; only to have it fall apart within a week. When that happens, everything slows down a bit. The bedroom becomes an obstacle course and the morning routine is slowed down. Slowing down that morning routine makes everything stressful, and when there's stress in one parent, the entire family suffers. So, in a very real way, when I am a slave to my closet, my entire family is held hostage. I don't like that. I want to be free from the tyranny of my closet, but to date, I've not been willing to put in the work to keep that thing squared away.
So, I'm resolving to conquer that thing this week. By the time I go to bed Friday night, I will be master of that closet for good. Heck, I'll even post weekly photo updates if you want. Maybe i won't post them, but I'll take them anyway because it will track the two traits that will free me from the emotional bondage of that closet: discipline and consistency. One of resources I've been reading through to help me plan my siege of the closet, is Marie Kondo's book:
To be completely honest, it's not just my closet, but that is the one space that bothers me the most because it's the first thing that I look at in the morning when I get up. Waking up to a cluttered, disorganized mess is a pretty crappy way to start the day...and I'm just tired of it.
What "that space" in your house? What seems to always get away from you? What small, practical steps can you take this week to declare freedom from the tyranny of that space?
<---I probably say that a dozen times a week to a dozen different people, and the vast majority of the time it's to encourage someone to chill out. Truth is, there's not much in this life worth making a big deal out of, but we do it anyway. That car that cut me off on the way home was totally not a big deal until I made it a big deal with my verbal outburst. That email from a parent this evening was nothing until I chose to assume their tone and attitude. We do a great job of blowing things out of proportion don't we?
There is so much of our lives that we have no control over. The weather. The other driver. The poorly worded email we get at the end of a long day. We just don't have a lot of power over those things...but we do have some say in our response. Note, I said response and not reaction. A reaction is thoughtless while a response takes a certain level of reflection. How long does it take to move from reaction to response? Just one deep breath.
There's a reason we tell people who are in a stressful situation to take a deep breath. Besides the physical benefits of a deep breath, it also buys us a bit of time to think through our response. Was that driver intentionally being a jerk, or did they need to head to an emergency? Was that parent's tone one of arrogance, or fearful love for their kids? Taking a deep breath almost always allows us to give the benefit of the doubt and make the kind response. With that breath, you claim control over your flighty (often self-serving) emotions. Don't make it a big deal...just take a breath. Respond, don't react.
Completing the Phoenix 50 in July 2016 was one of the greatest accomplishments. The training in leading up to the event pushed me to new limits one a weekly basis. The actual event...may have pushed me a little too far. After all, I did end up in the hospital with rhabdo and acute renal failure.
Do I regret it? Not in the slightest. Would I do it again? Maybe. Why?! Well, for starters, I know more about myself having gone through that experience. Most importantly, I know where my limit is, or was, and can move on to set other goals.
From a training perspective, pushing yourself is the great risk vs. reward battle. To have or experience a great reward involves taking certain risks...but taking those risks does not necessarily mean you'll reap those reward. No risk, no reward. Yes risk, maybe reward. That's the battle we fight...is the potential reward work the risk? Is working on the makiwara, with the risk of breaking my hand worth the risk in order to strengthen my hand. Is doing a million burpees worth the risk of injury for a reward of improving muscular and cardiovascular endurance? Those are relatively easy battles nowadays.
The more difficult battles, where I almost always need to push a step too far, are relationally. Those battles often require that I continue a conversation one question more, or adding one more comment. The risk? You come off as a pushy jerk. The potential reward? You come off as someone who genuinely cares...and THAT is so needed by so many. Another risk is that by pushing one question more, you may offend someone. To that I'd say that's it's better to offend a friend or coworker and make them think about their actions and behavior than it is to say nothing, and let them continue without observation. Shoot, sometimes just asking that first question might feel like a step too far.
In either situation, relationships or training, I don't recommend pushing yourself too far every single time. There's a wisdom and discernment that goes with knowing when to push and when to relax. My observation though is that we generally don't want to push a little too far because we're either afraid of the risk or don't want to step out of our comfort zone.
You'll never know how far you can go until you go a little too far. You'll never know what you can make of the world, or your relationships, or yourself, unless you push past what you think are your limits.
From a training perspective, try this. Do pushups. How many? Do ALL of them. Do pushups until your arms and chest muscles fail. Then, take a break and do two more. Pushing yourself physically has a direct impact on your courage to push relationally. Find something...do something that pushes you past your preconceived limits this weekend. Be safe:-)