On Wednesday, my Aunt Rhonda passed away after a heroic fight against cancer. This was my mom's little sister; and the youngest daughter of my Mawmaw; the same grandmother who had to bury her husband five months ago.
Honest to goodness, Aunt Rhonda was one of the nicest human beings you would have ever come across. Always smiling, always cheerful. Sacrificial. Loving mother. It's incredibly sad how much we take people like that for granted...assuming they will always be around...that we can send a photo or a text tomorrow. We aren't guaranteed a thing, especially more time.
I do not believe that death was part of the initial game plan for us. I do not believe that it was intended a natural part of this cycle we now find ourselves in. I believe that death crept in, like a bandit and is now the ultimate enemy.
You believe that too, even if for different reasons. You eat healthy and take your vitamins. You exercise and try to live a relatively safe life. You do that to prolong this life for as long as possible...to hold the enemy at bay; but, in the end, death will come for all of us.
One of my favorite lyrics, to one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs goes like this:
"Yeah I'm a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah others they got none"
If you're lucky like I am, make sure those people know.
From Tsukahara Bokuden's The Hundred Rules of War:
"You should know that Samurai who prefer thick handles and thicker scabbards for their swords are, frankly, not very adept."
Basically, if you want "the big one" just because you think it will make you better...you're a moron.
Aside from swords, I see this warning every day with vocabulary. Don't you love it when someone uses big, fancy words...and it's clear they're not using them properly? Now, I'm all for taking risks, but there needs to be wisdom and humility there too.
In my career as a teacher, I've often got young children commenting on my size. They want to be as big as me one day. Sure, being huge has some real, practical benefits but it also has it's drawbacks. Being a physical "big guy" I:
- often scare small children
- appear to be angry, unless I'm smiling
- continue on my 38 year journey to find a pair of pants that fit properly
- same with shoes
- and long-sleeved dress shirts
- cannot hide in a crowd
- stand no chance at hide-and-seek with my kids
- have hit my head on numerous doors, ceiling fans, lights, etc.
- HATE visiting Colonial Williamsburg...I don't fit in those old buildings
- have found that my actions are more likely than not, interpreted as being more aggressive because of my size
Wanting the newest "thing" because it's supposedly the biggest or best is silly. All things have drawbacks. Be wise and careful what you wish for. Instead of wishing to be big, wish rather, to be the best you-sized-you possible.
It's simple. Get to the dojo and train.
Want to have a strong week? Get to the dojo.
Want to have a fulfilling week? Get to the dojo.
Want to improve balance and posture? Get to the dojo.
Want to get fit, or at least start? Get to the dojo.
Want to work on focus? Get to the dojo.
Want a work off some steam? Get to the dojo.
Want to learn how to throw a punch? Get to the dojo.
Want to learn how to take a punch? Get to the dojo.
Want to feel proud of yourself? Get to the dojo.
It's seriously that simple...getting to the dojo will help you create a pretty amazing week!
It will quite literally change your quality of life!
I played a lot of baseball growing up. Admittedly, I wasn't nearly as good as my brothers, and none of us could hold a candle to our dad.
In Tsukahara Bokuden's The Hundred Rules of War we read that "Identifying a bad sword by the sound and vibration it gives off when cutting is something that a Samurai must learn to do."
In the fight game, you know when you've landed a good technique. It feels different; sweet even. There's a different sound to landing a solid punch compared to one that's just a little "off".
And oh the sounds of the fight game! The wheezing of your opponent when you knock the wind out of them. The deep thud from a solid leg kick. Music to a sensei's ears!
Learning the difference between the sound and feel of solid technique comes after many repetitions. It takes a lot of practice and effort. In today's culture of wanting immediate success, learning the sensations of great technique requires the one thing we least desire to offer: time. It's a sacrifice, but oh so worthwhile!
Ever watch a baseball game and noticed how a batter seems to know when they've hit a homerun the moment the bat meets the ball? That comes from practice folks. Get to the dojo, and train.
I've almost made it to Spring Break of my 17th year as a teacher. Every year I'm reminded of those awesome teachers that invested in me when I was a younger knucklehead. Odds are, you've had at least one awesome teacher that you can still hear with one of their "isms".
This week, I want you to write a letter to that one awesome teacher who made an impact on your life in a real way. WRITE a LETTER. Don't type an email. Don't send a text. Get paper and pen and get that thing in the mail!
Expressing gratitude is a tremendous blessing for both the giver and receiver. Be a blessing this week. Receive a blessing this week. Take 10 minutes to get this done, and I can almost guarantee that your week will be an awesome one!
Had trouble falling asleep last night. The winds were crazy and I kept having thoughts of various debris flying around the neighborhood. About 2am I realized something...I was friggin hungry.
I hadn't eaten since dinner on Wednesday and there was definitely a rumbly in my tumbly. This scene, from one of my favorite movies, came to mind in that moment:
If you read my post on Monday, this week has been about “going without”. What’s it like for someone to go to bed hungry? A kid? How does a kid, who regularly goes to bed hungry function in school? Are they afraid of their stomach making noises in class? Are they embarrassed? I can only imagine. I can choose to go hungry for a while.
Trying to explain it to some people is like talking to a brick wall. Some think I’m crazy or full of crap. I’ll ignore them.
Why am I taking some time to go hungry? I want to know and feel and experience what people around me experience on a daily basis. Me being hungry isn’t about me. It’s about connecting with people around me who live the situation.
So what have you gone without this week? Your car? A coat? Electricity? (Oooh that might be my next one). Whatever you’re doing, make it meaningful. Pursue going without as a means to build your character but also, more importantly, to build relationships with those around you.
Have an awesome weekend!!!
"Bigger is not always better when it comes to bowstrings. However, if it is too thin then your arrowheads will not stick in anything." Tsukahara Bokuden, The Hundred Rules of War
Most of us aren't running around with bow and arrow on a regular basis, so how in the world is this applicable today?
Read the quote again and replace "bowstrings" for "character" and "arrowheads" for "words".
Let that simmer for a bit.
Want to see a change this week? Go without.
Folks who know me well know that I practice intermittent fasting. I'll bore you with all of the details later if you want, but it's not always for nutrition/fitness...
Sometimes I'll go 24-48 hours without eating because I can. No, I'm not being a tough guy or anything like that. What I mean by "I can" is this:
I live in a affluent nation where I can choose to go a day or two without food.
I can go a day or two without food because I know that when I'm ready, I can find something to eat.
I can choose to go to bed hungry.
I can choose to wake up hungry.
I can choose to go to work hungry and I can choose to train in the dojo hungry.
I can choose to do this. For literally millions across the globe, the idea of going to bed hungry or going to work/school hungry is a way of life...not a choice. So sometimes I like to put myself in their shoes (as much as I can) and feel what it's like to go without.
Note...I'm not a doctor so I can't recommend you to fast for an extended period of time; especially in our litigious culture. However, I can say that going without (food, or technology, or your car, or something) can be a deeply emotional and spiritual endeavor.
Is there something that you can go without, for just a day or two this week that would be a meaningful sacrifice?
You know the answer is "yes".
Let's have an awesome week!
For a relatively short week (had Monday off) it sure seems like a doggone marathon. Haven't always been grateful, but I:
- appreciate the small group of men that sacrifice sleep in order to faithfully meet together each Friday morning.
- am thankful for the way that two of my students took criticism as a means to positive change.
- am thankful for my health, and the ability to train regularly.
- am indebted to my family for their sacrifices which allow me to run the dojo.
- have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others.
- am incredibly proud of the hard work, and positive attitude that my students show day in and day out.
- have been consistently reminded of how blessed I am.
That's just a start. What's been going on this week to spark gratitude in you? Have you shared that thankfulness with others? It's not too late!
Oh, I'm also thankful that the weekend is just about here. Hope yours is a great one!
"It does not matter whether you are firing at an enemy near you or an opponent some distance away, you should be adept at selecting the the best arrowhead." The Hundred Rules of War
This one builds nicely on the topic from last week in that, for the vast majority of us, our words are our greatest weapon. We use different speech for our closest friends; our inner circle, than we typically use for casual acquaintances. Whether the conversation is encouraging or corrective, we have different words for different folks.
Think you don't have enemies? Deep down inside, how do you feel or respond when criticism is brought to you? How do you react when someone shares a corrective observation? Maybe it's just me, but I take it as a personal attack. Not bragging. In fact, it's one of my many great flaws. Historically, I've not done well with choosing the best arrowhead when responding at times like that. It's something that I definitely need to work on.
This literally just crossed my mind:
What's the difference between a good friend and a vile enemy sharing the same criticism? Intent. That's it. The friend means to build you up. The enemy means to tear you down. It's all in the intent...and THAT is exactly where I mess up. How about you? Do you find yourself assuming the intent of the person speaking to you? Emailing you? Texting you? If they're a close friend, shouldn't we always assume that their intention is to make us better? If that's the case, let's try to choose the perfect arrowhead (word) as our response.
Let's keep it simple. One key to make this week one of the best ever. Let's also keep it simple by revisiting a key from a few weeks ago.
This week, be obnoxiously grateful. Express that gratitude to others. More important...express your thankfulness FOR others.
The more I train, the more I believe that stretching is what keeps me functional throughout the day. A quick stretch routine early in the morning has been helpful!
Trying to "be there" more. It's definitely a struggle to change habits and mindsets that have developed over the months and years. I've tried, with limited success, to unplug and have found that when I do, my presence is more felt.
As far as poetry reading has gone...I keep going back to an old favorite: Ozymandias. It helps keep me humble, realizing that when I'm gone, I won't be able to take anything with me, but odds are a few of my words may be remembered.
Have an awesome, wacky weather weekend (for my DC Metro friends).
"When selecting arrowhead, long thin ones are best because these will pass out the other side of the target they strike."
Each tool has a specific purpose. When we use them for their intended purpose, great things happen. With the rule for this week (from The Hundred Rules of War) we are reminded to choose our tools carefully.
In a fight, each technique should have a purpose. The more techniques, or tools, you have, the better.
Truth is, we're always in a fight. Except most of the time we're not worried about which punch to throw. No, in the daily grind the fight is more about choosing the right words, or posture, of facial expression.
Words, like arrowheads, can go right through your target, or they can stick. Combine the wrong word with a lack of eye contact, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I'm honestly terrible at this. The hardest part is that recovery from an ill-timed word often takes a lot longer than an ill-placed punch. Oi! Some days I'd rather just get back in the ring with Anatoly Polyakov or Bazooka Joe and get beat up again.
But, we keep fighting.
Here are your 3Keys for the week!
1.) Stretch in the morning. Just 5 minutes somewhere in your morning routine will work wonders. You'll feel better immediately. Might mean getting up a couple of minutes early.
2.) Be there. We all have at least one item on our schedule where we usually check out mentally. Look ahead and plan. Whatever that event is this week (a class, meeting, etc.) be all there. Commit yourself to making that time as productive for everyone attending.
3.) Read poetry. Poetry will reach you in a way that's different that fiction or history. If you're completely lost and don't know what to look for, contact me. There's something out there for everyone!
Easy week this week. Be generous. Each day, give away three things. How have you done? Were you more willing to give away some of your time? Did you share more than usual? Did you buy something with the sole intent to give it away?
When you found yourself being generous, what did you feel? Anything different? Anything like what this guy says?
Having is great. Giving is better.
Have an awesome, generous weekend!
”You should enter the field of battle with your bow set to a higher draw weight.” Tsukahara Bokuden
When I step into the dojo, I’m ready to go. Sure, there may be a few jokes (some of them good even) and laughter, there is a mission each day...and I make sure that I’m prepared.
Prepping for a fight or a tournament, you want to make sure your training sets you up to be as successful as possible. Again, you’ve got a mission...be make sure you’re ready!
The fact of the matter is that most of us don’t fight, or train in a dojo. However, I bet you that the most successful people in every field are those that are most prepared. Successful students have great study habits and put the work in BEFORE the test. Great teachers plan and put together the lesson BEFORE class starts. Those in business know that the work you do today is really to set up a successful tomorrow.
Look ahead. What’s coming at you in the next week or so? What can you do now so that you enter that experience as ready as possible?
Keeping it simple, but adding a new challenge this week. Really, we’relooking at one key for the week in 3 parts.
Motivated by by the tragedy of a friend, our key for the week is to give away three things each day. Anything counts, except the flu. Seriously, if you give me the flu I will have to hurt you.
Each day, give three items away. A piece of gum. Part of your meal. That shirt that you know you haven’t worn in months or years. The bread maker that you’ve never taken out of the box. All of that stuff would be a blessing to someone around you.
So, it’s probably the simplest weekly challenge so far in 2018, but presents something a little different. Post your story. How does your giving, great or small, bless someone else?
It's funny...every week has the exact same number of hours and minutes, but I'll be darned if some weeks don't seem longer than others. Honestly though, one of the greatest blessings this week was getting up a half hour (at least) early each morning.
Was it easy? Heck-to-the-naw, but totally worthwhile. That chunk of extra, undistracted time before the sun comes up gave me just enough of an edge before moving into the regular schedule for the day. I was able to read, run errands, and take care of a few other tasks that are normally crammed into the busyness of the morning. Thirty minutes to help stretch the routine out was a lot more beneficial than I thought it would be.
Can I pull it off on the weekend? Man...THAT is going to be tough!
Have a great one!
"Whether it is the bow, or any other weapon, it should only be adjusted to suit your body and be bereft of any sort of decoration. Even the slightest bit of decadence on your weapon can bring about hesitation and cost you the battle." Tsukahara Bokuden The Hundred Rules of War
Most of us don't concern ourselves with bows or others weapons of war, but I think the quote speaks to each of us. Let me explain.
There's a school in my area (CESJDS) that my school competes against in athletics. Now this school is always tough...it seems every sport, every game is a tough, close one. This school's sports program doesn't appear to have a fancy bone, there's no sense of flair or showy behavior. You know what they do well...what the excel in? They are absolute monsters, across the board, at the fundamentals. The basics of every sport have been near perfected by the varsity level. That makes you tough to beat.
If you're in business, you know that mastery of the basics help you build success.
The most successful students I've taught haven't been the most gifted, though many of them have been exceptionally bright. No, the most successful students are the ones who do the basics well. They attend, participate, and elaborate on concepts.
Just this morning I sat in my old 3rd Grade classroom; where I was the teacher, not the student. It brought back memories of students that I taught in that very room who are graduating high school this year. The strongest students, in 3rd Grade and now in 12th, are the ones who do the little things right.
Build a strong foundation. Perfect the basic.
I don't know about you, but my week has already started off on a great foot with celebrating my wife's birthday. As we look ahead to another work/school week, here are your 3 Keys to an Awesome Week:
1.) Get up 30 minutes early. Do it. No excuses. You'll find that the extra half hour can be incredibly productive. It'll be tough, for sure, so accountability is key in the beginning. I'm going to start by posting a picture of the clock when I get out of bed...
2.) Plan for February. We're wrapping up January this week. Look ahead; what are three things that you want to accomplish over the next month? If you don't set a goal, you'll be in the same place next month. January is the month when we all make great goals...only to see the practice drop off in February. Don't let it slip!
3.) Look for practical ways to help others. Hold doors. Help neighbors carry things t0/from their car. Pick up trash instead of just walking by it again. ACTIVELY hunt for ways to help/bless others.
Here. We. Go!
So far, so good. Well, not actually. I've been doing great at stretching each morning and jotting down one day that I could have made each day better; but I've slacked on showing thankfulness. I wish that I could say that I didn't know why it was harder than normal this week, but I can't say that. I know that, without regularly reviewing that small goal, I tend to slip into an egocentric worldview and shift from having a producer mindset, to one of a pure consumer.
It's never too late. Reflect. Figure out where you need to improve. Take small, measureable steps toward progress.
Right now, I'm going to hunt someone down to thank.
Have an great Friday to cap off an awesome work/school week!
Week #4 in Tsukahara Bokuden's The Hundred Rules of War, and I've found a gem! Seriously, I LOVE this one.
Early on, only into page 20 at this point and I read:
"You should neither sleep late nor talk too long."
Because we've got work to do!
Want to experience one of the most peaceful days of your entire life? Wake up early and get your day started. If you've got young children at home like I do, getting up BEFORE them will likely be the only distraction free part of your day. You can get a ton accomplished in just a short amount of time.
Want to have a productive afternoon at work? Skip the lunchroom talk. Eat lunch on your own. You'll find you use fraction of the time. Now, I'm not saying you should be an antisocial hermit at work, but doing this once or twice a week will reap huge rewards.
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.