Choose Death #274

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles – Sun Tzu

It is easy to sit back and tell yourself and others “what is”, while it is another thing to go out of your comfort zone in order to know your truth. On a daily basis I am inspired by the few who choose to confront the fears that reside beneath our skin in order to pursue their own greatness by facing and knowing our true self that hides behind the mask or persona we have created. We are all victim to this rationale as it serves as a method of preservation, physically and emotionally, by not showing weakness or mortality we might be more accepted by our peers, or so we think. Beneath the surface of every human, so magnificent in appearance, lies the same beautiful soul that is plagued by the earthly desires, flaws, insecurities, and temptations we are no strangers to. “We are all human”, as the saying goes. The difference lies in the fact that some possess a greater sense of the principles needed to deal with the negative emotions we all face like greed, jealously, anger, hate, slothfulness, deceit, along with the challenges that we are certain to encounter through this life. Philosophically speaking it is fair to say that over the course of our life we each face an equal enough number of opportunities to choose between good or evil, decisions that will ultimately spell our fate. In the book Bushido, based on the Hagakure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto, the opening line communicates , “I have found the essence of bushido: to die!”. What this means to me and as the book further elaborates is that we are constantly presented with two choices in life, a fork in the path if you will, one being comfort and life (cowardice) and the other being death (the right thing). The aim of the bushido principles was to develop discipline within the samurai in order to better serve the community, those around them and most of all themselves. Those who lacked such principles were the infamous Ronin (masterless samurai), who acted on emotion and impulses, satisfying their carnal wishes and desires. While choosing death over life is a very black and white perspective it delivers an advantage to anyone attempting to better themselves and foster a higher level of discipline within. It is 4:00 a.m. and the alarm goes off… Hit snooze or “choose death”? You realize someone accidentally gave you $100 instead of $20, keep it and accept your karma or choose death? Time to choose death and do your cardio or push it back until tomorrow? While it may sound extreme, I find it to be an ingenious and clever compass to guide me in the right direction. Oftentimes I am tempted to do the easy thing, the thing that serves me best, ignoring the principles of honor and what will likely add to my legacy or future in exchange for the short-lived bliss that accompanies choosing comfort over sacrifice. If life is about improving and changing yourself to ultimately find your happiness and live your best life, I hope you too find it within yourself to choose death.

We Are All Artists #273

A student, a teacher, an artist, a warrior, a family man, a killer, a peacemaker, a destroyer, a creator all woven from the same fabric. This is a martial artist.

Life is a canvas and we are designed to create as much as we are to consume and destroy. Only a human being can give life to a piece of wood with steel strings and produce an Album like Abbey Road or Let it Bleed. Ever since we were young the desire to build burned within us. Think back to the days of building a Lego set of gargantuan dimensions with infinite possibilities only to tear it down and start over again. You could’ve chosen to build the Death Star or something abstract that reached beyond the limits of imagination, like the artwork we see from Beeplecrap. By recognizing that life is art and we each play a unique and special role in adding to it we unlock a part of ourselves capable of unimaginable contribution to ourselves and society. Around ten years ago I watched a video by Steve Jobs titled The Secrets of Life which impressed upon me that life was not always what you were told (get a job, get married, have kids, retire.. not that there is anything wrong with that if you so desire it) but in fact you were capable of having a direct impact on the world itself. It is worth mentioning that Steve Jobs was one of the most influential figures whom I studied in my early twenties who, while not infallible particularly in his personal life, taught me to think in terms of pursuing your passion over money, along with the importance of fostering creativity and the necessity of developing other positive attributes such as public speaking or communication. Not to say that I do any of those things well, certainly not to the degree which he did, but watching videos of him releasing the iPod nano, iPhone years later or in interviews, etc. were awe-inspiring to say the least and motivating to see someone articulate such revolutionary ideas in an eloquent and compelling manner. Even communication itself is an art form that we are all in someway connected to the benefits of.

For in everything that we do the body is useful; and in all uses of the body it is of great importance to be in as high a state of physical fitness as possible -Socrates

Starting with one’s physical state, many Greek philosophers spoke about the importance of seeing the full potential of the human body. The benefits mentally, functionally, sexually, practically are not beyond anyone’s comprehension. In my humble opinion, this is your first canvas and the decisions needed to express brilliance are common sense but peppered with a need for discipline. I feel sorrow for the many who fail to ever experience the beauty in life that accompanies peak physical health. If someone told you that tomorrow you would be able to fight, perform every physical task you wanted to, have great sex or look good naked would that not be of interest? While overnight successes do not exist, look at your self physically with acceptance and honesty while treating “your canvas” as if you were the famous Michelangelo creating the famous sculpture of David. You will love yourself for it and experience life in its fullest capacity and the richness it has to offer. If our ancestors were able to understand this without a computer and the wealth of information at our fingertips you can easily become the Picasso of your own health. It starts with a single step. The biggest realization for many is that they have more power than they think as artists. An artist doesn’t wait to be told what to do, their fascination lies in play. With their tools, they get to work and through trial and error, failure and loss they produce a work of art that is timeless. I am inspired by people in their seventies and eighties who have truly lived and take their health seriously, who show up on a daily basis with vigor and energy that would put your average twenty year old to shame. It is not meant to be a criticism on anyone, but merely a comparison that should incentivize us to paint our greatest work of art which is ourselves. Steve Jobs started with a typewriter, others with a brush, or a musical instrument, all you need is your mind followed up by the traits of a martial artist that will see the job through to bring your perfect picture to life.

Still don’t give a f*** #272

In 2019 I made a commitment to get myself to the gym at 5am Monday through Saturday.. This was a huge catalyst for much of the discipline I have today.

In the spring of 2018, my life had met an all time low. I had just undergone reconstructive surgery after sustaining a fully torn ACL and meniscus, which had kept me from training at any championship capacity, once the MRI revealed that surgery was in fact the necessary step to return to competition. On top of it, my girlfriend of five years had left me just weeks following the surgery, leaving me a crippled shell of a man. On the business side, the Jiu Jitsu academy my brother and I had decided to salvage was in its infancy which presented a host of challenges and consequently stress. Our main business was suffering, partly due to the Jiu Jitsu academy hemorrhaging money under the management of the black belt who was formerly in charge and other dynamics that I won’t bother to disclose. My brother Steve whom I share unconditional love and admiration for, were at a rocky point in our relationship. Another consequence of my surgery was that I found myself using it as a crutch to escape from work and try to deal with my problems, which no doubt burdened the other business partners involved. Furthermore, I used addiction as a coping mechanism, mostly in the form of alcohol, women, and occasionally cannabis to distract from the root of the problem which unbeknownst to me at the time was myself. Of course, in the fog of my own self obsession I failed to see a problem that didn’t have to do with anyone but myself. Hindsight really is 20/20, and if I had continued down the path I was on, who knows where I would be although presumably nowhere good in relation to work, my athletic career and most importantly the relationships of the people close to me. In my present state of mind I struggle to see any value that alcohol or other mind altering substances add to your life. That is just my opinion, however, before my commitment to sobriety I held the belief that as long as I was able to perform when called upon and accomplish everything I needed to do, it didn’t matter if I was out till 3am, so long as I showed up at five or six o clock in the morning to carry out my due diligence. At this time, I hardly consider that word to be appropriate, seeing as there was little to be perceived as “diligent” when it comes to staying up late and catering to your carnal desires. If it were not for the journey of Martial Arts to help keep me somewhat honest, it would be hard to see myself, or anyone for that matter, achieving any semblance of a heightened state. Call it luck or fate, somehow I chanced upon a book by Mark Manson titled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. My brother Steve would call it “a dangerously named title” for reasons to come. To honor this impactful shift in my thinking I titled my blog as appropriately as I could and growing up a fan of the artist Eminem, who has the same title of a song, but for the reasons a rebellious teenager would relate, I found it fitting. While it is easy to assume what “not giving a fuck means” explicitly, what the book actually entails is “giving a huge fuck… about very few things” such as your goals or your purpose. This was a key shift for me in my thinking because over time it helped me eschew many habits that most would consider to just be a natural part of life, like drinking. This is not a judgement either on people who do drink or party, if you have your life together and that is how you “live”, who am I to say what’s right or wrong. I am simply sharing my experience and how removal of things that I never questioned like having a drink when you went to a bar, elevated me in unimaginable ways. December 26, 2022 will mark three years of alcohol sobriety for me and I can’t see it ever changing. Nonetheless, slowly but surely, I began to remove aspects of my life that didn’t necessarily cause problems, or so I thought but we’re not essential to my life’s purpose.

Perspective is certainly an interesting thing. While there were definitely low moments, there is often good depending on how you choose to see it. For example, I was able to greatly explore the extent to which one can operate with a fully torn ACL, which helped me understand how an athlete such as Yianni Diahkomihalis could win the NCAA championship with a torn ACL, or perhaps Kim Jae Bum (2012 Judo Olympic champion) could win his finals match with his leg dangling from a thread. I also learned a great deal about recovering from surgery and taking my preparation more seriously. The two years that I missed (also due to a shoulder surgery) put me behind in my competitive career and in my opinion drove me to cultivate a level of work ethic and discipline that I had lacked prior to my injuries. I also believe that these hardships were necessary in order to learn some hard lessons which led to me becoming my most improved version. Ultimately from all of this, what I have come to understand is that no matter how hard you fall, no matter how dire your circumstances, how bleak the present and possibly future may seem, you are always capable of getting back up and rising from the ashes by being willing and determined enough to reinvent yourself at any stage in your life. This way of handling life’s problems and challenges is the ethos of a true Martial Artist. Over time, you should look back on your journey and see the undesirable layers of yourself that you once shed while understanding that there is always a higher peak for you to climb. The way you will reach such heights is by using martial arts as a vehicle to transform yourself by developing such traits as discipline, integrity and honor within. This will ultimately lead to astrong sense of character needed to act as a leader and create a ripple effect within the community. This also falls in line with the thinking professed by philosophers such as Ludwig Von Wittgenstein that “those who want to change the world must start by changing themselves”. I’m paraphrasing but the point should be crystal clear. While it is also understandably easy to think “who I am to try to change the world or help those around me?” but the truth is that much of life’s enrichment is in fact correlated to how we go about improving ourselves intellectually, spiritually, physically, emotionally and we all have loved ones around us we want to affect in a good way. So start with the man or woman in the mirror and see what a year of working on yourself does not only for you but those you want to affect positively.

Acceptance #271

In Jiu Jitsu, one of the most challenging aspects that we face is learning to accept force or energy from your adversary. This valuable tenet stems from the understanding that in order to manipulate your opponent’s energy, you must first absorb it rather than meeting it head on with your own strength and energy. This is the principle of ju yoko go o seisu interpreted as “softness controls hardness”, one of Master Jigoro Kano’s rudimentary philosophies. A prime example of this being applied in a Martial Arts setting, is a situation where you are faced with a larger, stronger opponent. When they push into you, if you push back with all your strength you will accomplish little and perhaps tire before eventually becoming overwhelmed. Alternatively, if you chose to move yourself in an effort to off balance your opponent it may result in their strength being equalized or diminished in comparison to yours while presenting you with an opportunity and angle to attack them as they attempt to regain their balance. Additionally you could use the momentum created through your elusive movements in an effort to off balance them, creating yet another series of off balancing maneuvers and attacks. In life too there exists a fascinating parallel. While our nature is to resist many things that have the potential to benefit us, such as wanting to stay home rather than attend a school function or work party where we might otherwise come across the future love of our life, grand business opportunity or run into a old friend with whom you instantly rekindle a former relationship. I in my teenage years, for example, hadn’t a chance of knowing that my destiny lay in Martial Arts. Even as I grew older I never envisioned it to the extent of owning an academy or enjoying building leaders in the community. Which leads me to the idea that part of the reason we avoid leaving what some will call the comfort zone is because we have in some way, arrogantly or naively, “made up” the outcome that should take place instead of accepting that so much of life is beyond our understanding or control and that many of the greatest experiences are completely unintentional. It’s worth pointing out that the experience itself is oftentimes the reward. A great example of this to me is found in competition, many athletes are hesitant to try a competition for the first time because they have convinced themselves that they are not ready, yet they were conceivably also “not ready” when they stepped into a dojo or tried a new sport for the first time. Oftentimes students begin their journey to achieve some higher state, whether it is fitness, security, confidence etc. which requires that they surrender themselves enough to come in and accept the guidance of a Sensei or a coach. A tournament or competition is arguably no different, one must accept it for what it is, a method of developing oneself through trial and error from raw feedback that oftentimes stings your ego. This is the part that is far more terrifying about competing than the risk of physical injury or bodily harm, after all, it can all be over as soon as you decide it’s over. It’s no different than the Navy Seals in BUDS training who ring the bell when they’ve had enough. So why the hesitation? Is it in fact the ego’s reluctance to risk losing in front of everyone? It escapes me which Greek philosopher declared that public humiliation is the single greatest human fear and no one is truly immune to this way of thinking as long as they are human. I recently had to overcome such a mental block that had me fixating on whether or not I could win a tournament that I was considering attending, little did I know that I had been distracted from the reason I fight to begin with. It took a close friend to remind me of the fact that I compete because I enjoy it and overcoming the challenge is what excites me more than the fight itself. The upside of a mindset that constantly seeks challenge rather than wins is that you will eventually find that you are capable of more than you ever thought. It’s important to know that we are capable of becoming victim to the obsession with winning or losing rather than being grateful or excited for the opportunity to be where you are and try something new. Sometimes those lessons are what it takes to realize that the biggest achievement we can gain from sports and competition is identifying with the process of becoming a champion, not a medal or trophy to validate our self worth. We are all capable of falling victim to this way of thinking which results in our esteem being directly correlated to whether or not we won or lost, not recognizing that the competition serves us as vehicle into the unknown where our true merits can be uncovered (courage, discipline, humility, toughness, persistence) and thus applied into your every day life. This is the meaning of living like a true samurai, having purpose and a martial practice to keep you grounded and connected to your mortality. Such a lifestyle where your ego stands to be crushed intermittently demands the ability to accept that which is beyond giving your best and the fortitude to let things go, knowing in the end that your actions are steered by principle and the rest is in the hands of the ever powerful force of life itself.

#270 What is legacy?

My brother Steve (right) and I (left) after winning the 2022 IBJJF National Championships in July – An incredible moment to share.

It was in 2016 when I started to hear the term “legacy” used in great frequency around me, just shortly after I had began training under Sensei Saulo and Xande Ribeiro at the University of Jiu Jitsu in San Diego. At the time I was far too undeveloped in my thinking and ways, or so I make up, to truly grasp the meaning or the significance of the word. Nowadays I understand legacy to mean “what you will be remembered for after you leave this earth”. A pure and fundamental measure of one’s impact, their body of work in this seemingly long, all the while short time on this earth. I say short because in the scheme of things you could live to be one hundred years old and hardly be remembered by anyone on a global scale and if so, forgotten in a fraction of the time you spent on this giant rock. While the fatalists and/or pessimists might take this to mean that life carries little significance I think regardless of whether or not that is true, it is an easy way out. A cop out or otherwise coping mechanism. I say this because rather than taking on the responsibility of trying to achieve something great, it can easily become a way to avoid pushing yourself to your limits and discovering how much juice you can squeeze out of the fruit of life itself. Life is after all a fascinating escapade, a movie where you are the star character accompanied by endless twists and turns, only to be concluded by a truly unimaginable destination as “the movie” comes to an end. But, the show must go on, so why not make your movie as interesting, exciting or meaningful as possible? I estimate that many of you did not see yourself being exactly where you are at this moment in time but I digress. In regards to the significance of legacy and the impact your life can or will have, try this thought experiment. Envision yourself lying in a casket. Who will be there, what will make up the contents of the eulogy that is being read? Will your funeral or celebration of life be joined by many or few? This is a way I learned to view your “dent in the world” as Steve Jobs used to quote. While financial security has it’s cachet, how many lives will you affect and how? The likes of Thomas Edison, Da Vinci, and Copernicus are still remembered to this day as are Stalin, Mao and Hitler, although one group obviously left behind a legacy of oppression and terror while the other contributed to endless innovation and advancement of technology still used to this day.

Why do I think legacy important? Because it is a nutshell of the person you were or tried to be. While not everyone can be Mother Theresa or Mahatma Ghandi, one can still aspire to leave a lasting ripple effect on this earth. Your legacy can also be directly correlated to the life you wish to live. But only once you choose to define it. Like any goal, until clearly outlined its fruition is unlikely to manifest. In my case, I want to be remembered for kindness, courage and humor. My feeling is that when I leave this earth, those who know me will only remember me for how I made them feel rather than what I did, so I choose to be remembered as a compassionate soul who was very capable of danger. Men and women of historical significance are often identified by their courageous acts, but their remembrance should not serve as the reason courage is important, rather that ALL the greatest gifts of life are made possible through such merit. The greatest innovations, food, wars, love and accomplishments were all made possible through acts of bravery and fearlessness. It is far more difficult and honorable to choose courage, to stand up for others or what is right. Giving the gift of laughter or a smile to someone is equally priceless because the world needs more smiles and laughter over than scowls and frowns. When you go what will your memory serve as? I hope it’s as great as you are capable of.

The Importance of People and Staying Busy #269

One of the best things we can do that has shown to benefit our state of mind is keeping our mind occupied with tasks. When we are “left to our own devices” for prolonged periods of time, it’s easy for our thinking to get muddled. That’s why for many, work or really even accomplishing the smallest of tasks can offer a profoundly therapeutic effect. Like any child I had imaginable disdain for chores like dishes or sweeping a floor whereas nowadays I have grown fond of the feeling that follows seeing a clean floor or kitchen. One perspective is that such work can act as a way of organizing our minds. Yes, this implies that a messy room can indicate an equally cluttered mind. If this is you don’t worry, you are probably still a good person but there is definitely room to improve. The result of working to create order in your life is twofold, bringing you not only peace of mind knowing that your life is well managed but it can also help you avoid the snare of “paralysis by analysis”, a tendency that has crippled many entrepreneurs and ambitious types when it comes to getting the most out of their lives. By maintaining a constant state of doing, we are more likely to find ourselves motivated to get out and do things oftentimes alongside people who are on the same mission which is another huge benefit in itself. As humans, we are social animals who knew that teaming up afforded us the greatest chance of survival which nowadays might simply equate to achieving our goals and living in abundance. Therefore we need to develop a mindset of accomplishing goals (even if it’s getting more rest or spending quality time with a partner) which can in turn, demand that you seek the help of others. You will find it is oftentimes a lot more fun too! Have you noticed that people usually don’t like to go by themselves to pick up stuff for the party or make a food run? It is, in fact, the main contributing factor as to why people in isolation often go insane. Part of the reason for this is that (A) we are not meant to exist in isolation and (B) thoughts by themselves are abstract, we need people and social interactions to make sense of them. As infants we learn from our parents that when we cry or scream they will often look to soothe us or at the very least give us attention, occasionally in the form of disciplinary action. As we mature we develop the ability to rely on social cues from people to learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not. When isolated, this feedback is absent, allowing us to get lost in the maze of our mind which can carry us in the direction of negative thinking or “fantasy land”. In order to find our optimal state, we need socialization (NOT to be confused with socialism lol) to gain valuable perspective which we can then apply towards understanding our environment and how to better interact with the world in order to get the most out of our lives.

As far as tasks go Not only does our brain enjoy the reward of getting things done but such work can serve as a necessary distraction from stress and life’s hardships, helping us clarify our purpose or mission to help us get back on track towards our goals. To be clear, we’re not just talking about clocking in and collecting a paycheck either. You have to be invested in the end result whether it is to build a successful school or even reach a financial goal so you can dedicate more time towards your passion. I myself have always found rescue in my life’s work when dealing with bad break ups, disappointing losses and financial stress. Part of the reason is that besides having to be present and focus on what you are doing at that moment, which can get you out of your head and away from potentially negative thought patterns, working and helping others makes you feel better about yourself. If you haven’t already gone out of your way for someone today, try it and see how it makes you feel. It can be as simple as getting the door for someone or grabbing a co-worker a coffee. It just feels good to do nice things for people, would you find it bothersome to have people do nice things for you? No! Of course not. Once you start to make a habit out of doing things for other people, no matter how small, you will familiarize yourself with the good feeling that follows and it will encourage you to do it more often. Using myself as an example I work with kids in our Jiu Jitsu program as young as age three to four and I can’t tell you how many times I showed up tired or in a poor state of mind and left the class feeling energized and happy. Part of it was the energy and happiness from the kids but it was also the fact that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and do my best to help each kid on the mat. If you aren’t already aware, teaching one or two dozen four to six year olds at once can also be a challenge, which requires attention and problem solving like a video game but with, what I would argue, significantly greater gratification following.

Once you realize that much of life’s experience has to do with people, it can really simplify your vision for how you want to live life. For example, if you didn’t realize that your relationships greatly impacted the direction of your life you may not find it worth the effort to call an old friend on their birthday or help someone out who needs it. Now contrast that with someone who realizes that the care they exude directly correlates to opportunities, happiness and friends who want to do things for you or with you. Imaginably the result is an entirely different outcome all together. We are all born with a limited amount of time and energy, what we choose to do with that can spell our successes and our failures.

How far can you go? #268

One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities. -Abraham Maslow

Have you ever encountered someone who attempts to complete a task, only to give up after a few tries? While they may very well still be a good person, chances are that they not only lack the ability to think critically but they have not developed a mindset of “going until the end”. Such a mindset was and is vital to the survival of civilization. This mentality is what allowed some to survive harsh winters and famines and others not. From a young age, many of us are undeveloped in this area until we begin to develop goals that demand the persistence needed to continually and consistently solve problems to finish the job. I’m not talking about delegating a task because your time was utilized better elsewhere, in business this is commonplace to allow you to solve multiple problems at a higher rate of speed, what I’m talking about is when people choose to simply give up before exhausting all possible options. This is why Martial Arts and Jiu Jitsu in particular are so fascinating to me.

One of the best demonstrations of this, in my mind, happened recently at the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation) Ultra-heavyweight championship finals, in a match with Gutemberg Pereira and my good friend and teammate Victor Hugo. Early in the match Victor narrowly escaped a nasty arm bar attack which left him unable to use his left arm for most of the match. This sequence also caused him to give up two points to his opponent in a finals match where matches are decided by the smallest of margins. For context, the finals matches of the world championships can be decided by a penalty, an advantage (somewhat of a half point for a near score which supersedes penalties) and points or even a referee decision in the case of no points being scored by either competitor. This made a two point score early on all his opponent needed to ice the clock to take the win, especially with Victor’s arm being less than functional. After a couple instances of his opponent almost securing the back position where one looks to then finish their opponent with a series of chokes and armlocks Victor managed to escape into a less than ideal position where he was being pinned and controlled by the other fighter where the match appears it will seemingly end 2-0. Then, out of nowhere Victor escapes and secures the top position to tie the score in what could only be described as a Houdini act. Immediately following this transition, he passes his opponents legs and pins him for another three points, to make it 5-2 before securing the mount position in the last minute to become the 2022 IBJJF Ultra Heavyweight World Champion with a score of 9-2.

This match was easily my favorite match of the tournament and possibly overall. Not only due to Victor and I being teammates. There is so much I learned from this match, in terms of resilience and perseverance, and being able to “go deep” in all things that you do. It’s easy to see a match like that and assume that the outcome is the result of the past ten minutes (the length of a black belt match) but champions know that while much of the outcome is decided in the match, there is an immeasurable amount of work, challenge and effort that culminated in the days, months and even years leading up to a single moment of being crowned world champion. For example, you don’t learn how to escape bad positions on the fly, if that was the case his opponent could have done the same and held onto his lead to win. This comes from placing yourself in difficult positions in training in order to get better. Such a mentality shows true humility and commitment to the result, knowing that rather than you looking good and feeling good in training, you are dedicated to eliminating your week links which sometimes means getting tapped by lower belts in order to truly discover your limits. This becomes a powerful mindset shift for anyones life if they are willing to apply themselves. Learning to push yourself to exhaustion, failure and places you never knew is the only way to know where your capabilities lie, and while it’s certainly not comfortable the champion has the target fixed in his or her mind and will stop at nothing until they get it, and that is exactly what Victor Hugo did. When you are able to actualize this at the highest level of sport and can then apply it to your personal and business life you will be guaranteed the ultimate wealth and success you so deserve.

Arm yourself with knowledge #267

Many of you will find yourselves familiar with the adage “knowledge is power”, and while that statement may hold true for some, others find the objective of collecting information as the optimal way to traverse through this adventure we know as life. By examining the lifestyles and traits of those who carried out some of the most impactful existences in history such as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Da Vinci, and many others, you will undoubtedly find yourself in agreement. Life is, after all, a sequence of decision making where those in possession of experience and insight will consequently find themselves to be the product of better decisions than their counterparts. Ultimately, having more intellectual resources will find you well and lead to a better trajectory through life. When we commit to the act of obtaining as much knowledge as we can gather, the result is a heightened set of skills, abilities, and/or reasoning with which we can use to our benefit. Therefore, an incentive to acquire as much knowledge as possible not only exists, but can be directly correlated to our manifestation of the many wonderful possibilities that shape our human experience. For example, by educating yourself about automobiles, you are less likely to get ripped off by a sleazy mechanic. Reading “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes, will give you a better understanding of the relationship between calories and adiposity so you don’t have to endure repeated failure with each passing dietary fad. Understanding how guns work and obtaining one, can dramatically heighten the security of you and your loved ones. Take into consideration the the value of simple and powerful, yet wasted tools of reading and writing and what they could spell (no pun intended) for one’s life. Not only do these skills raise the rate at which you consume information but they also enhance your ability to communicate, an important skillset in any endeavor involving multiple humans. Strangely, many are comfortable squandering such a gift. In A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester, life in the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome was unimaginably void of progress and innovation. Your common peasant lacked the ability to read or write which removed many of the common skills we take for granted today such as reading a map or instructions from IKEA. In a millennia’s time, the best roads that existed were still those built by the Romans. Surnames didn’t exist for peasants which resulted in imaginable confusion and your average person had no concept of time irrespective of the change in seasons. The average lifespan was also a mere 20-30 years. In comparison with our modern world, there is a far better way to live due to the amount of education and knowledge that was amassed and applied over time.

In today’s world, the quest for knowledge remains an endless pursuit. Particularly for those looking to get ahead in life, the battle is never ending as we are but a little speck in an infinitesimal universe full of complexities far beyond our understanding. With such a vast universe where does one apply themselves? For starters, we must recognize that there are different forms of knowledge, practical forms, such as hunting, farming or cooking. Intellectual forms such as appreciation for art, mathematical skills, reading and writing. The categories are but an attempt to differentiate “types” of knowledge as we know understanding and working with horses demands a different type of intelligence than writing code, also due to the physical prerequisites needed to handle them. Regardless of how you choose to separate them, what is important is that the skills relate to your life’s overall mission. For example, I am a Jiu Jitsu academy owner which means my life involves running a brick and mortar business (versus e-commerce), working with people of all ages, and being physically fit. Therefore, the areas with which I look to obtain information are in the body, business, psychology, people, along with some other interests such as golf or guitar which contain more social applications. The main point that I believe is worth arriving at, is the primary reason for your existence is to survive, and by survive I mean make that survival badass by learning as many skills as possible in order to live life to the fullest. Your best life is waiting, but you gotta get to work and apply yourself daily! Every solution demands work, we must never forget!

Transform #266

Ludwig Von Wittgenstein “Just improve yourself; that is the only thing you can do to better the world.”

The only constant in our lives is change, for better or worse. Every day we are faced with the choice to evolve or accept the fate of stagnation. While seemingly straightforward in nature, especially prior to the distractions presented in today’s world (technology, electronics, marketing), staying focused on the goal of improving oneself daily is a challenge. As vague as the notion of “improving daily” might seem, there are a few areas I believe are worth focusing on, for the modern day man or woman, in order to live the best life we are capable of. They are as follows:

Physical health – There is an undeniable beauty that accompanies a robust and healthy body. The ancient Greeks spoke frequently about the importance of discovering one’s own physical strength and physique, both a science and art form. Many overlook the satisfaction that accompanies a state of good health. The importance of vitality relates back to when we were children who ran around with our friends, while engaging in one of the most therapeutic forms of learning which is play. Being able to run, jump, swim and express yourself physically, is a critical component of our health or even being human. Unfortunately adequate use of this gift is eroding in our society, as our minds and virtues become more adapted to indulgent and sedentary lifestyles. I have two parents nearing the age of seventy who are both incredibly active and enjoying their life as grandparents along with various hobbies (hiking, BJJ, gardening, music) therefore I can conclude, with great certainty, that the benefits of having good health are worth the effort.

Financial health – This nowadays represents the security you offer to your family, a potential mate or even just yourself. Without it many of life’s pleasure are unavailable to you. Fine food, travel, a good home, education and many of life’s other experiences are all made possible through currency. This requires dedication, persistence and the lack of fear to get your hands dirty and eat crow or live frugally for many years as you navigate the path towards fiscal stability. Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People introduces the concept of us as humans going through stages of codependence to independence to finally interdependence. The correlation we can make is that in our youth, financial stability is less important as we have someone (parents, guardians, foster system) to take care of us. As we mature, not only do we need to take care of ourselves but possibly others (spouse, kids, loser family member) who need our support. It’s critical to understand that while your need for money and generating profit is low during your state of codependency, it affords you the opportunity to develop the skills that will be used later in life to avoid worrying about your next meal or finding a potential mate.

Emotional health – Often overlooked, our state of being and how we deal internally with life’s external problems can relate greatly to how our life turns out. It affects what sort of relationships we have, who they are with along with the life span of the relationship. As humans, we all share a desire for autonomy, the need to feel loved and respected, as well as be apart of something greater than ourselves. When these psychological truths are undermined, our health suffers. This is one of the reasons the Jiu Jitsu community can be such a good place for so many people. It offers friendship and camaraderie, as well as the greater mission of improving the world around us by bettering ourselves.

One might ask, how could bettering myself impact the world? As philosopher Ludwig Von Wittgenstein said, it starts with improving yourself. You at your best is enough to create a ripple effect of good in the lives of many around you. By having good health you inspire and physically contribute to the lives of your family and community. By creating wealth, you can engage in acts of charity. By maintaining an emotionally sound state you offer motivation, inspiration and positivity to everyone around you. Before you begin change the world, you must first change yourself.

Question everything #265

“The science of today is the laughingstock of tomorrow.” -Stefan Aarnio

Have you ever had that childhood friend who wouldn’t quit asking “why?” till you were ready to pull your hair out? As irritating as it was, there is a benefit that comes with incessant questioning. You could liken it to peeling back the layers of an onion. Even after uncovering the answer, or so you think, the truth can often change. This is evident in the fact that not too long ago, we (doctors) used to bleed patients by cutting them in fifty or more places to cure disease. It would be problematic, to say the least, if this rationale wasn’t questioned. After all, as humans, continuous investigation is how we assess and measure the practicality of what we do. Such scrutiny lends itself to innovation and efficiency. In our primordial years questioning the factors that made up our environment (weather, seasons, predators, game) equated directly to survival.

In our younger years we are filled with brimming curiosity and the need to question everything around us, “why is the sky blue?, how do bees fly?, etc.” yet, later on in life this quest for knowledge or understanding seemingly starts to erode. Is it that we are too fearful of being shamed to ask a silly sounding question or that are we conditioned to not question things? Perhaps we’d rather choose to “know” what is true rather than question further? In some cases there is clearly no need for questioning as we know that if submerged underwater for long enough we’ll drown, but there are many subjects such as nutrition, where people are quick to cement their position, rather than continue to question the validity of their own information. This becomes problematic when two experts are telling you opposing ideas such as “low carb diets are good and low carb diets are bad”. A good nutritionist will give you some information that will help you find the answers for yourself as they will possess the understanding that they don’t really know what will work for you themselves. As experts, we are really making educated guesses. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of crap. You really think the first astronauts knew things were going to work out? One thing is for sure, there are no guarantees in this game of life!

A field I dwell in, riddled with closed minded thinking, is the exercise realm, filled with so called “experts” who live in a world of sound bites and generalizations they got from YouTube. I myself have quoted smart people in the past thinking it was a viable enough solution. When in reality memorizing the words of smart people doesn’t make you smart, or perceptive, a problem solver or a good critical thinker. Nor does it contribute to good dialogue and communication. You have to understand that the way to succeed in your realm is to learn constantly, treating a patient falls under this category. Practice constantly, and over time maybe you won’t be totally stupid and you’ll have some good guesses/experiments and help some people along the way. That’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

As much as getting a college degree is valued. I continue to be astounded by the number of doctors, physical therapists, or people with masters degrees who fail to exercise critical thinking. Assuming that because they read something in a textbook or a study that led them to understand “knee extension machines are bad”, it is then an indisputable fact. Which is also the same as saying “hammers are bad”. While I’m not discouraging people from going to college, depending on your goals it may be completely necessary, an important skillset (maybe the most) needed for any trade/occupation is the ability to take in information, form a hypothesis before conducting a series of mini-experiments and then investigate the results. Some might call this “the scientific method” or something like that…

This sort of reasoning and constant questioning can and should be directed towards ourselves, always evaluating what we know and conducting experiments in an attempt to find what works. There is a saying in Jiu Jitsu “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”. While nobody is perfect, in my younger years I was definitely guilty of the presumption that I knew the answers, it is never a bad idea to question yourself and your ideas. While you might come across as that annoying childhood friend, you may also find yourself closer to the truth.