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.