#119 Do it well!

Humans are among the most intelligent, amazing, creative and resourceful creatures.

At our best…

At our worst, we are comparable to paint on a wall left to dry, providing no more than something uninteresting to look at.

So give your best, no matter who you are or where you are. Demand more of yourself than anyone, because you can. Henry Ford said “whether you think you can or you can’t either way you are right”.

I say this because we all struggle with this. No matter where we are in life. At Hargett Company we have a saying “complacency kills” because it is our number one enemy forever and always from the CEO to the cleaning person. Every task matters and where ever you want to go in life, you deserve. IF you are willing to be honest with yourself and put in the work.

#118 Show Yourself

What an inspiring day with the boys from Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Martial Arts along with Xande Ribeiro, Victor Hugo and the other Six Blades Jiu Jitsu representatives who attended the IBJJF Oklahoma City Open.

The night prior, Lovato and Xande gave beautiful speeches to most of the 88 competitors on the topics of mindset, giving your best, having fun, being happy and displaying your true self. It’s easy to get so caught up with the nerves of competing that you forget what matters. It’s important to stay in the moment, reminding yourself that you do this because you truly enjoy it. Like a dog with a bone, you love the art, and competing and testing yourself you could give a shit if you take first or not.

This is tricky because of course we want a gold medal, as we should. What we have to learn is to value our performance and display of the art over our ego. Bruce Lee was one of the first to promulgate this idea in the Martial Arts scene in the 70’s (see here). It makes sense you would hear it from Lovato as his father comes from the Jeet Kun Do discipline, the formless system created by Bruce Lee himself who valued self expression over any one discipline.

Lovato’s words must have struck a chord with the competitors as they certainly did with me because his dream of having a tournament in his hometown by a major organization and taking a first place team trophy WAS ACHIEVED! A beautiful day that could only be experienced watching Lovato take two gold medals in the adult division, at 37 years of age – in his weight and closing out the open class with Victor Hugo – in his hometown with both his parents and his academy there to watch it is something out of a movie. Congrats to him on realizing a dream that has been 27 years in the making and has finally been actualized, can’t wait to see what’s ahead!

#117 It’s not ok to be weak…

In Sam Sheridan’s book “A Fighter’s Heart” he witnesses the scene of a dog fighting ring in Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines – something that would be quite a shock to your average yuppie from the suburbs here in the United States. In western cultures, dog fighting is viewed as an inhumane act whereas countries who lack the “man’s best friend” ideology, view them in a much more animalistic manner. In any case, the parallel that Sam makes is that dogs who are bred for fighting, just like fighters, are motivated by a thirst for blood that escapes most.

It’s easy to see the need for compassion in the world but we mustn’t confuse kindness with weakness, we must also accept the need for strong men who are capable of violent acts. There is an idea being propagated where weakness is acceptable or even superior in instances to being a strong toxic man. This thought runs completely contrary to what is seen in nature or history. While it’s nice to envision a utopia where everyone is courteous and fair, organizations such as ISIS and Antifa still exist. Just like dogs, some cultures only respect violence and strength. There isn’t a single scenario in the animal kingdom where it is an advantage to be weak. So ask yourself this: What happens when the strong and powerful people your country are gone? Who will stop the soldiers from another country from crossing your border, seizing your capitol, slaying your countrymen and laying waste to your women and children? The answer is nothing, that is why it is every man’s duty to become as strong and powerful as they possibly can. This is why Martial Arts is so beneficial for a child, to develop a strong and dangerous human who is governed by a set of values and principles (bushido).

#116 You are an Investor

In life we are constantly faced with decisions, some big some small, some seemingly important and unimportant. One of the biggest decisions we make is where we invest our resources.

One of the biggest determining factors in how one does this your definition of “success”. For some, money is important so their career or the stock market are both reasonable investments. And money is important but some hold the value of their health higher. We’ve all met those who declare that they want to get in shape but choose to spend their money and time on a PlayStation rather then spend it on a gym membership or education.

The reality is that we are choosing to invest all the time whether it’s time, money or effort. Many of us just happen to do so unknowingly, we say we want security yet we’ll choose weekends at the beach over a Jiu Jitsu membership or handgun courses. How many of us have gone through our bank statements and been shocked by the thousands of dollars we spent at Starbucks over the course of the year? There’s no right answer but if every decision should lead to an investment that ultimately results in your happiness. Unfortunate this is not the case for many.

For as long as you live there will be a process of:

1. Determining “your success”.

2. Making decisions that contribute towards achievement of your success (Education, savings, etc).

3. Constantly re-evaluate.

Enjoy your investment years and good luck!

“The best investment you can make, is an investment in yourself… The more you learn, the more you’ll earn. -Warren Buffet

#115 Own It

At a young age, it’s normal to have little responsibility or desire for it. Having your mom make you meals or your dad go to work and pay the bills can be nice. As children our responsibility is often centered around good grades as well as some chores. The problem with having no responsibility as you age is that nothing is yours. What I mean by that is that if you live in your parents home, the day they decide to sell the house and move that means the same for you. This may seem fine to some, it’s nice to be around your parents and even care for them as they age but one of our three psychological needs is autonomy – the ability to make decisions and own them. This demands responsibility and accountability for oneself. For those who would like a deeper explanation see Self-Determination theory here.

How this ownership of one’s decisions translates to one’s life is evident in the highest level organizations from business to the military. Jocko Willink (a former navy seal) lays it out in his book Extreme Ownership as he shares stories of their violent encounters in the city of Ramadi and the leadership and mindset necessary to win. I highly recommend this for any young man or woman looking to become more accountable and start taking control of their destiny.

On the topic of war heroes, yesterday my brother (who is also a combat veteran) and I practiced Jiu Jitsu with Tim Kennedy, a green beret who’s history of service is even more impressive than his record in the UFC. Tim is also a 3rd degree black belt under Royler Gracie so you could say training with him was a real experience. He also happens to be one of the friendliest and most humble people you will meet as is typical among the most dangerous people in the world. This is the type of person who is crafted by ownership in one of the most real senses, where decisions mean lives. It’s great that after my brother and Tim’s service in Iraq, Jiu Jitsu not only connected us all together but gives us all a good time. Nothing but appreciation to all the heroes out there on the front lines who own it day in and day out!

Left to right (Shane, Steve, Victor, Dennis, Me, Miguel and Kennedy) after a BJJ session at Cornerstone BJJ

#114 Three Generations

When you’re exposed to something frequently it’s only natural to lose your sensitivity to it as you grow familiar. For me, this happens with my parents, who will be sixty eight soon, who like me train Jiu Jitsu (my Dad has even done a couple tournaments and placed silver). Last night I was reminded of this fact when both parents joined my older brother Steve and I in a class taught by my brother-from-another-mother Victor Hugo (P4P #1 in the world) at Robbie Rabadi’s Jiu Jitsu and MMA academy in Pfluegerville, (Austin) Texas.

Upon arriving and exchanging warm greetings, as is custom in Texas and especially Rabadi’s, I met multiple students who approached me to comment how amazing it was to see my parents (39 years of marriage) on the mats together with us full of good spirit. In a previous post about how inspiration is everywhere I referenced them but it makes me happy to know that even to this day I can find new levels of appreciation for them. After all, I can’t think of any 67 year olds who:

  1. Are active
  2. Train Jiu Jitsu
  3. Sparr
  4. Have done a tournament over the age of 65 (mom excluded)
  5. Have goals of achieving the rank of black belt

Not to mention that they are also a couple, and seemingly happy as ever. Having witnessed this at my academy and others I can honestly say that being on the mats with your parents or with your kids is something every parent should experience at least once… Ok a few times. The first obstacle is getting on the mats and being comfortable which is a breeze if you find THE RIGHT academy. One can only hope to be doing so well at that age, I sure do.

(Left to Right) Niece Aria, Dad, Me, Victor Hugo, Steve, Robbie Rabadi after a great class

#113 Rain rain, go away.

There’s something satisfying about rain. While it can seem like just another perturbance by Mother Nature, cancelling a trip to Disney Land, ruining an outdoor trip or photo shoot, it may be a way of reminding us to sit back and let things unfold.

“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.” -Epictetus

Just North of Big Sur with AK

At the same time some of us fully enjoy sleeping in to the sound of pitter patter on your window or enjoying a warm fireplace while nature gets a bath. In the same spirit those with health interests often enjoy the feeling of a good sweat. Lululemon, the athletic wear company, has their own fraternity of the world’s sweatiest leaders Sweat Collective.

Kauai circa 2018

Some of the most beautiful places I’ve visited (Washington, Oregon, Kauai, Northern California) are known for their torrential downpours resulting in an exceptionally green and scenic landscape. They are also home to a rich and abundant wildlife. Interestingly enough most animals seem to avoid the rain as well and seek shelter. Luckily for the BJJ Community, Jiu Jitsu is an indoor affair 🙂

Private lesson with my good friend at his home Jiu Jitsu Church!

The little things #112

After a long day at yesterday’s competition I took advantage of a full night’s rest. Through the course of my Sunday morning which is usually spent on my MacBook with a coffee or two, i was just getting ready to join the rest of the family outside for some water activities (paddleboard, canoe, swim) in the creek at our Airbnb when the doorbell rang.

At 12pm on a Sunday we weren’t expecting anyone but perhaps one of our visitors from the night before had left something. As I went to answer it, I was surprised to see an older woman and her daughter or granddaughter standing there, mask and all, with a tray full of fresh cookies.

“Hi we’re the neighbors, we just wanted to stop by and give you guys some cookies.” To which I thanked her and accepted their gift after some small talk. What struck me was the casualness of her visit. Is this somehow the norm? I wondered. To which I discovered from all my Texan friends after a quick post on my social media that it very much is.

This got me thinking. Growing up in Vietnam, even being a “foreigner” we experienced this from the locals. Neighbors would often bring food, drinks or fruits from their house and vice versa. Living in California however, I have never experienced this. While I’m sure there ARE Californians who do extend this hospitality as I’m sure there are Texans who do not, in the few times I have been to Texas the people have shown to be more genuine and friendly.

My point of this is that it’s easy to forget how little it takes to extend a kind gesture to those who make up our community. Being on the receiving end, although I’m not a big sweets person (yes the cookies were delicious) I am reminded of the fact that it doesn’t take much to make someone close to you feel good. Long love cookies as gifts!

More cookies, less problems.

The return of IBJJF #111

Me (left) and the #1 in the world Victor Hugo (right) keeping it safe!

We kicked off the weekend with the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation) Austin Open, the organization’s first tournament since Covid-19.

Big bro Steve taking second place in the gi division (with uniform)

Six Blades Jiu Jitsu also claimed it’s first IBJJF medals finishing 7th overall with Professor Xande leading a small batch of competitors mainly from the Texas area (Team Rabadi, Team Tooke, Six Blades Austin) including my brother Steve representing Six Blades La Quinta. Although it was a small tournament, there was stiff competition due to the layoff brought by the virus. It was also refreshing to see people behaving almost as normal and a sign of good times ahead.

Next week we head to the Oklahoma City Open where another student of mine along with Rafael Lovato Jr and Victor Hugo will be representing the Six Blades association. As always there will be the stresses that come with fighting or spectating followed by good times with friends.

Iron sharpens iron #110

One of the hardest things in life is to simplify. Whether it is communicating, teaching Jiu Jitsu or creating a fitness program we find ourselves facing the same challenge. Ironically as I mention health I am also sitting in the drive-thru at my local In n Out burger ready to inhale a 4×4 and shake with animal style fries.

Sitting in the drive-thru I couldn’t help but notice the simplicity of the In n Out menu. When compared with Carl’s Jr or Jack in the Box where you can get everything from tacos to apple pies it’s no surprise every In n Out is packed. Even throughout Covid-19 the In n Our drive-thru line managed to stay packed. Simple is always cool, never “basic” as they woke people like to call it.

My conclusion is that simplicity boils down to mastery of the basics, an endeavor few are willing to take. When my brother Steve and I formed our company Hargett we included the tagline “it’s not a gym” because we aspired for a culture built around education and practice regarding strength and health. You will. Not experience this at your typical box gym which is riddled with insecurities, egos and confusion.

In anything, when we aspire for mastery, we are forced to simplify by breaking down again and again. Like a swordsmith who pounds on a katana millions of times to craft the razor sharp blade fit for a samurai, we too must take a beating to produce the beautiful result. Pressure makes diamonds.