Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It’s the close of my first week here in Maine. It’s been one hell of a week I can assure you. Cold showers twice a day while our new place gets renovated. Living on meals provided by my new job as well as gift cards provided by thoughtful friends in Delaware. Lots of time on my own to reflect on my life in Delaware and look ahead at the wonder of what lies ahead for me. I have a folder full of cards, letters and hand drawn pictures from many of the children I have worked with over the years in my EDGE Academy. To most people in business, my EDGE Academy was not a successful venture. I never made any money with the business and was barely able to keep my head above water most months. My body was tired every day. My mind was stressed about money, the challenges of working with challenging kids and the murky terrain of landlords and commercial leases. I struggled to market martial disciplines that nobody had ever heard of and I found myself wondering how much longer I could continue with the daily aches and pains from years of hard training, working in lumber yards and construction sites and the daily grind of 13-14 hour days. Was EDGE successful? Perhaps not. Was EDGE significant? Yes, yes it was. Is there is a difference? Yes. Yes indeed.

I’ve watched martial arts schools rise and fall over the years. I’ve seen mega dojo’s dominate the market only to whither and fade in a matter of a few years. I’ve seen garage gyms flourish and maintain a healthy schedule of weekly training. You could have all the financial successes that a business brings, perhaps have the large building, a large staff, your name could dominate your local market as the “go to” for the product or services you provide. However, if you are not making a meaningful impact, if you are not helping to shape the lives of those you purport to serve, you probably are not very significant to your  community.  As I make this entry, several of my students are enrolling in a  boxing gym back in Delaware so that they may stay connected to each other and continue their  training. This makes me so happy and I am so proud of them for moving forward! A new space, a new teacher/coach can offer them experiences that I can’t and they will no doubt learn a ton of new skills that will enhance their education.  My 5am guys meet at Lewes beach each morning to continue to train and hone their skills. No teacher, no coach could ever ask for a more wonderful gift from his or her students than to see them move on and continue in their journey.  It is the mark of an unhealthy teacher with a ravenous ego that prevents his or her students from cross training and moving into territory that can only further their skills. I’ve had those teachers. They are not my teachers any more.  A life of significance requires a life of exploration and stepping out of and plunging into uncomfortable zones. I’ve been running these huge hills every night here in Central Maine. I’ve been standing under the freezing water in my shower until my fingers start to shake so that I can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I look forward to snow training and pushing my body into new territories of fitness and health.

All the cards, the letters, the messages, the texts, the pictures from my EDGE family have taught me that I did indeed become significant in their eyes. I can assure you, each member, each child, each family became part of me as well and I look forward to seeing those that I can when I get back to visit. For now, I will do what I can while I am here in Maine to perhaps make a difference to the youth that I will be teaching in my new job. While I may not be “Sensei Mike” in Waterville Maine, I will forever be grateful to have been able to be that person to so many for the last eight years.

Advertisements

Roots

I taught the hardest class of my life last week at my EDGE Academy. It was my final weekly class in Delaware and while I will certainly be there again to visit and teach, my routine, my life, my surroundings were about to make a dramatic shift. I’ve been a bit of a wanderer for most of my adult life. Whether it was going from job to job to opening my business or visiting different areas of Canada and New England for martial arts training while in college. I have learned that I have a bit of a restless spirit. I have strong roots here in Maine and while I now live in a part of the state that is all new to me, I am greatly enjoying the new sites and the wanderlust of not knowing what is down the road just ahead of me. I have been blessed to land a really good job that offers a bounty of security and will no doubt grant me the ability to get out more, see more, do more and travel more.

Our roots form our  foundation but they need not anchor us. There is a romance to packing up and not knowing what may lay ahead. If we really only get one shot at this life, take careful aim but don’t be afraid to miss sometimes. You can always reload, step back, adjust, relax and do it again.

Happy travels.

 

Inspire

Everyone loves a hero. Most people love to look up to someone that inspires them, moves them, motivates them and encourages them toward positive growth and change. It’s always so sad to discover that someone you admired turns out to be less than the “real deal.” Scrolling social media this morning, I came across several memes indicating that the popular pastor, Joel Olsteen has an incredible net worth of over $50,000,00. He’s made a living preaching, writing books and encouraging others to pray for the poor, the sick etc. He’s made his fortune on advising others on how to live in spirit, to cultivate the best life possible and become closer to God. Do I know all of this for certain? No. I am not a fan of his work nor have I ever seen a single sermon or read a single book he has written. Is it wrong that he’s made a fortune on preaching, writing and advising others? I don’t think so. Does he live the life he encourages his followers to lead? I highly doubt it. When you’re on top it’s difficult to see further and for many of these figure heads, looking down is far more satisfying. Even at a lesser level, your local guru is only human. I’ve known plenty of self appointed “masters” in many fields and arts. They thrive on the attention bestowed upon them from others. They have no issue with turning every moment into an opportunity to bestow their wisdom on you. It’s all a set up that allows them to toss you bone so that they may receive the blessings of your admiration and attention. Real teachers, mentors and people who inspire seek none of these things. The finest teachers I have known immerse themselves in their work, do not seek nor have any grandiose titles they gave themselves.They are often found walking their talk and blazing a trail that allows them to live in peace and harmony with the choices they have made and work tirelessly to become closer to what they admire. When they listen to you, they do so in an effort to learn more about you and offer a thought in the hopes that it may help you rather than offer you a quip they duct taped together from the books they have read.

It would seem our country is ablaze with politics on the national and global level. People are tired. I know I certainly am. I am tired of people in power doing what they please while people who struggle do what they must. I live daily in the hope that my own trials may shape me. If what I have learned can help someone, then I will do so with an open heart. As an introvert, the last thing I want is attention. As a man of feeling and passion, the last thing I can do is nothing at all. Be wary of people who are all too eager to toss you nuggets of “truth” from their Pez dispensers of wisdom. They are just as lost as the rest of us.  Your time and energy are far too important to nurture and protect. Don’t give it away to people who will lap it up so that they may feel better about themselves.

To be inspired means to be ” in spirit.” Cultivate your spirit, educate your mind, exercise your body. Walk your talk, follow your path and don’t be afraid to go into uncharted waters. Lastly, don’t listen to me! What works for me may not work for you. If you struggle, I’d be happy to listen to your story and perhaps together we can compose your next chapter. Nobody can write the book for you.

Always improve. Always evolve. Never give up.

 

 

Like $500

If you’ve been a reader of my blog then you know that the years I spent working in lumber yards had a major impact on my life. One summer, I was hired into a new company and was assigned the task of being a yard boss. When I signed my paperwork I was dismayed at how little I would be paid. However, it was a good resume builder and I was eager for a new challenge. The first steamy morning in June found me walking the yards, inspecting the storage buildings and assessing the quality and  condition of the forklifts. Two white vans pulled up to the gate and several men got out of each. This was my work crew and I had no idea that these men were on a work release program from the local prison. I was 22 years old and spent the bulk of my summer listening to lock down stories. A few of the men were proud of their crimes, angry at society and vowed to repeat their charges. I can tell you in all sincerity that I had moments of burning anger toward more than a few of them. One of them described in great detail how he used to assault his girlfriend. In a moment of dumbstruck courage, I got in his face and told him to save those stories for the prison. He came flying at me, arms outstretched, swearing, kicking the gravel at me, threatening me. The armed guard pulled him away and I never saw him again.  I looked around the group and said,”Anybody else have any stories they want to share or can we get back to work now?” The men shook their heads and we finished the day. Ironically, as each day passed I got to know the men and they got to know me. A few of them were due to go on probation and talked about the better choices they intended to make once they got out. Sitting on a pile of lumber and eating lunch with inmates is quite an experience. One of the men remarked how low paying most jobs were given his limited options. I shared a quip one of my mentors always told me. ” No matter your wage, go to work each day and work like you’re paid $500 an hour.” I have no idea of what became of these men. I got into a few scuffles with a few of them but they were never serious “fights.” Just young men in a lumber yard trying to figure out who the alpha was.

No matter your circumstances. Rise above them. Work like you’re worth $500 and see what happens.

At least three to four times a month I make it a habit to go a day or two without consuming anything on social media. While I check and reply to messages, I make the effort not to scroll the feed. I do this because I firmly believe it to be healthy to take a break from the digital world and really focus on my actual world. Many of my friends and family do this and we all agree that it’s so refreshing to do so. I am taking a break this weekend and I can’t wait for the peace of mind that it will bring.

Right now we are saturated with news about the border and children being separated from their families. It’s heartbreaking and what’s worse, in my opinion, is to see the posts, memes and snarky comments all over social media regarding this issue. Must be awfully nice to sit in a comfortable home with your family with no perceived threat of your children being taken away from you and post comments and share memes that make fun of what is going on in the world today. Where there should be dialogue and an effort to understand each side of any issue, there is immaturity, political posturing and forced fed ideology. If we continue on this course we will no longer be Americans. We will become further divided into groups of “liberals” “Conservatives” “Snowflakes” and “Truthers” Don’t call me any of these things, please. I can promise my reply will be swift and unfeeling and you won’t like it one bit. I believe in doing the deep work in the world. I believe in getting out there and listening to people to better understand their views especially when they clash with my own. Perhaps, with enough information my ideas can change as a result of their thinking. Being open to such possibilities is where real growth occurs. Clinging to ideas because you’re afraid of change only perpetuates the problem.

I leave this blog with an allegory from an ancient voice. Copy the link below and spend some time with Plato and Socrates as they share their allegory of the cave. Read carefully and then read it again. Come back to it when you’re ready to break your own chains.

 

https://web.stanford.edu/class/ihum40/cave.pdf

To Inspire

Inspiration means to be ” in spirit.” When we are inspired, we can be said to be in the spirit of a thing, an idea, a story or a person. If you have a social media account, no doubt you see countless pictures, memes and quotes from friends and acquaintances who sharing what inspires them. From folks trying to lose weight or embarking on a new career, everyone wants to feel in spirit about and for something.

You don’t have to move mountains and make a radical change in your life to inspire others. Even the small steps become giant leaps when you take those steps with consistent frequency. For the last few years I talked myself into trying not to exercise on Sundays. It’s not for religious or spiritual purposes mind you. It was just the idea that I wanted to rest body and mind before the start of another week.  This evening I decided to break that tradition, suit up in heavy gear and go run 6 miles. It was hot, humid and raining a bit. I loved each foot fall as I ran down back streets and across field roads. I was quickly sweating as I ran but I delighted in the feeling of my clothes becoming heavy from my energy expenditure. No doubt like many people, I struggle with personal image. I loathe having my picture taken. Seeing my image is not always pleasurable for me as the photo looks nothing like how I see myself in the mirror or in my own head. I had the pleasure of attending a dear friend’s wedding this weekend and when I saw photos of myself, for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t mind the image in the pictures. Men don’t often talk about these matters among each other or certainly not in a format such as this blog. However, as a man, I would encourage other men to have the courage to be open and discuss the areas in their lives where they feel vulnerable. There is strength in humility and weakness or perceived lack of “manliness” can become an incredible opportunity for self growth and dare I say it, inspiration for others.

Are you in spirit?

 

Teraforming

Taking on a new way of life is the process of reshaping who you are. Teraforming, is a hypothetical process of shaping a planet into an earth like atmosphere. Imagine taking a celestial body that is unable to support any form of life and with the process of science and mechanized effort, that same planet suddenly can support life and resembles earth in every way. That would be amazing.

Personal study, growth and the forging of excellence are very similar. From my own experience, in my early years of martial arts training, my soft New England demeanor and body were suddenly becoming more hardened due to the heavy training I received. The heat of summer coupled with the intense nature of my instructor and his students served as a laboratory for me to dive deep and find parts of myself that I never knew existed. I was never a good fighter in those classes. When I had partners, they were often older than me, experienced far beyond my imagination and were not always open to giving me quarter despite my youth. Even though I had my share of bumps, bruises and blood, I was always picked up off the mats with a hug and a word of encouragement. This would go on for several years.  Why do this? As a young man I was enamored with the warrior/seeker/sage triad of life and learning. I consumed books and articles and documentaries on famous warriors, scholars and adventure seekers. I wanted more for my life and more from myself. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you are familiar with my stories of being employed in lumber yards. Rough men, angry, drunk contractors, hot days and cold nights in the rain, wind or gusts of furnace like heat would rip through you in the mid afternoon. When my schedule allowed, I loved to frequent a used bookstore in town owned by a retired composition professor from George Washington University. We became fast friends and remain so to this day. I would sit with him and we dialogue about history, poetry, writing, life. I would often select a few books to purchase and sit with him longer. He later gave me the bookstore and I ran it for three years until the building was sold and I had to remove and close the business. That was a sad time for me and I still miss that little shop terribly.

We are all composed of many parts. As we seek to draw those parts together and form a better understanding of ourselves I think its important to look carefully at each aspect of who we are. We are all a bit complicated. It’s in the complexity that we must strive to locate a simplicity. Seize the quiet moments that allow you to carefully examine yourself. The art of shaping yourself won’t be easy. Try to enjoy the process and see what comes!