That’s What He Said…


“Fear not for I am with you…”

-Isaiah 41:10


I teach a before-school and an after-school karate class at an elementary school near my dojo twice a week.  This happens to be the school I attended for 5th and 6th grade, way back in the day, so I always experience a simple joy, and a hidden smile, whenever I step into that place.  Halfway through the month, the kids in the karate program were going to present a simple demonstration of what they’ve been learning during an evening open house for the parents.  So, we practiced the demo for a couple of weeks; the kindergarten – 2nd grade kids would demonstrate basic karate technique, and then the 3rd – 5th graders would show off the first half of their kata.  After all of that, each kid would do something that both excited and frightened them: break a real, certified, wooden board.

The evening of the event was an unusually busy one.  I left my youth classes at the dojo in the capable hands of three of my assistants.  When I arrived at the elementary school after the three minute drive, I was stunned by the number of cars parked all around the school, clogging up the street.  Inside, the crowd consisted of about 100+ parents, siblings, teachers, and friends, a lot more people than originally expected.  Add this to the fact that none of my kids had ever done a demonstration, let alone broken a board, and you have a potent recipe for anxious, hyped-up, frenetic kids.

Along with our demo, other groups were set to share their singing skills, traditional Mexican dance skills, and a fun holiday skit or two.  We would be the last group to do our thing, and we liked it that way ’cause, you know, save the best for last, and all.  Well, when the group before us exited the gym staging-area to share their song with the spectators, my kids pretty much lost it.  Some started running around as if being chased by killer bees.  Others kept talking, talking, talking, walking, walking, walking, or fidgeting in place.  A handful of them just couldn’t get enough to drink, and one or two stood there on the edge of tears, nervous beyond understanding.

I spoke calmly for several moments, hoping to get them to chill out and focus, but that didn’t work. Finally, I raised my voice.  I spoke strongly and with firm conviction, and told them to stand on the line, feet together, hands to the side, mouths closed, eyes straight ahead, or they were out of the demo; that got their collective attention.   Then, my next words to them got my attention.  I said, not as loud, but just as strong:

“Follow me.”  

“Listen to my voice and do exactly what I say.”  

“Keep your eyes on me.”  

“You can do this.  I believe in you.” 

“I’ve got you.”

Those unplanned words worked, and the kids settled down.  Those unplanned words worked, and they spoke not only to the kids, but they spoke to me too, and I heard them as if He was saying them to me, speaking directly to my situation…  Even now, I hear and feel those words.

What’s my situation?  Well, in short, challenging.  Since the jump, I’ve been pushing and pushing to build my business, and the progress on all fronts is slow, too slow, at least in my mind.  Also, I haven’t been able to work on my novel(s) since October 2017 due in large part to technical issues…  And there’s more, but in it all, He say, “I’ve got you…”

The cafeteria resounded with a multitude of echoing pops, pows, and cracks, and all boards were broken that night.  I could feel their hearts soar, and their confidence explode as shaky fists smashed through those boards.  I couldn’t have been more proud of them, not for breaking the boards, but for facing their fear and not letting it hold them back.

I have many boards to break in the coming days and weeks and months, but I know He’s saying to me, “Keep your eyes on me.  You can do this.  I’ve got you.”  

He says the very same to you as well.

 

Merry Christmas!

EDB

12.22.18


 

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Boys and Girls: Different but Equal

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

-Frederick Douglass

 

Note: this blog entry contains affiliate links. For more information, see disclosure at the end of this post.

 

If you have ever had kids, worked with kids, seen kids in the grocery store, or remember being a kid, you know this truth to be pretty much self-evident: boys and girls are different. That’s right, they are different—they think differently, grow differently, act and interact differently, and they learn differently.

Boys and girls learn differently, in part due to differing brain development, but they can learn, do, and accomplish the same things. But because they learn differently, there is evidence that they should be taught differently. With that last thought in mind, the below may be quite helpful:

Boys, in general:

  • Need to move, a lot, during learning
  • Need to be challenged or they get bored and lose motivation
  • Understand spatial, mathematical, and mechanical reasoning sooner / easier than girls
  • Will challenge authority, a lot, and frequently

Girls, in general:

  • Exhibit greater impulse control
  • Tend to seek to please authority figures
  • Are more sensitive to words, tone, emotional energy
  • Understand verbal directions quicker than boys of the same age
  • May need more encouragement and positive cues
  • Are more in touch with their emotions

Earlier this year, I read two insightful books written by Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, one on boys and one on girls: Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men and Girls on the Edge: Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls. In each book, Dr. Sax presents a generous amount of interesting, easy to understand data and detail about boys and girls, how they learn, what they need, and what can be done to help them overcome the challenges of this present age.

I’ve been teaching boys and girls traditional karate since 1996 and began working with them in other educational and community capacities several years prior to that and I can attest to the truth in the above statements on their differences. Of course there are outliers, those children who buck the system, beat the stats, and just don’t conform to the standard model.

Most of my learning about how to work with boys and girls has been non-academic, meaning, it was experienced right there in the middle of the frying pan, inside the school of hard knocks through trial-and-error.   Now, I’m using more of a “laboratory” or scientific approach: research the theories and test them, research further based on the test results, adjust, and then test again. One of the most interesting challenges for a dojo, church group, classroom, or the home setting, is the fact that kids are creatures of constant change—what worked yesterday probably won’t be as effective tomorrow, but it may work again next week, if you’re lucky. (Sci-fi moment: in this way, kids are like the nearly unstoppable Borg from Star Trek; under most circumstances, they can and will quickly adapt to whatever you throw at them, and then, they take over the world…)

Kids also need order and consistency and actually appreciate routine. While it can be a challenging paradox, finding the correct mixture of allowable change and consistent routine while keeping the kids engaged, it can be done. One of the best ways to do this is to team with the kids to build the right mix. It won’t easy, but it is possible. Just last month I finished what is probably one of the best books on motivating kids by empowering them and partnering with them. Self-Motivated Kids: Creating an Environment Where Children Listen and Cooperate is a pretty quick read filled with simple but effective principles. It is focused on the home, but can be adapted to other settings. As such, I’ve adapted what I learned to the dojo laboratory and I am beginning my experimental implementations of its strategies now (cue lightning flashes, mad scientist laugh, etc).

If you have kids, have worked with kids, or vaguely recall being one yourself, that boys and girls are different doesn’t come as a shock, but it is probably a good reminder that these weird and wonderful little humans are unique with specific, targeted needs, and in order to grow to be their best, we, you and me, have to meet their unique needs right where they are.

EDB

12.06.17

Re-posted from my karate blog.

Affiliate disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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When Skynet’s Mischievous Cousin Screws with You

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
-George S. Patton

 

Remember Skynet from the Terminator movies?  Did you know it had a less-homicidal cousin?  Well, recently, I’ve had several run-ins with said cousin, a rash of very annoying computer related problems that some might describe as “coincidental”.  Coincidental?  Nah.

In early September, I ordered a new tablet for the dojo.  It was set to arrive in late September, and I was so eager to receive it, I’m sure I checked the shipment status twice eight times a day.  Well, one morning, the status read delayed, so I called Company A to learn there was an under-stock issue that would soon be resolved.

Okay, that was going to mess with my plans for unveiling the new dojo management software, but I figured I could adjust by using my personal tablet.  Then, one morning a few days later, I received an email from the company informing me that the tablet was not going to ship at all, and, they were canceling the order.

What the…?

Turns out, that model was discontinued.  Yeah, and yet it was on their site and I was allowed to order it.  Oh well, full refund.

Skynet’s Cuz, 1, me, 0.

No sooner than I got off the phone with Company A, Company B sent me a message about their cool new HD tablet.  It looked sleek and sexy, and by the specs, it was going to be powerful and full of useful stuff, and it was just about 4 bucks more than the canceled tablet.  I considered the loss of the first order a blessing in disguise, so after some research and consideration, ordered Company B’s new device.

A few weeks later in mid-October, before dawn on a Monday, I got up and turned my (non-internet) desktop on, ready to spend a couple hours working on The Hidden.  Groggy, I slipped into the kitchen then stepped back into the room between the kitchen and my writing room and I noticed…a bright blue glow blazing from my computer…  Well, crap.

The white words on the screen read, “blah, blah, blah, Safety mode, BIOS, restart…”  Holding my breath, I restarted the computer.  It restarted, and…blue screen popped up again.  Not quite thinking straight, already starting to notice the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I restarted it again.  This time…it didn’t come back.  Blank, black screen.

Well, %@^&!  @^#%!  @^#%!  Double @^#%!!

I was so pissed that all I could think to do was shut it down and go back to sleep , so that’s I did.   This happened almost a month ago and man, writing about it now still triggers me…  Thankfully, my writings and most of the other important stuff on that computer is backed up on an external hard drive.  Still, what a pisser.

Skynet’s Cuz, 2, me, 0.

A day or two later, the new tablet arrived, but due to a planned trip, I didn’t power it up until the following week.   Eager to use this bad boy, I started it and went through the set-up routine and…it froze.  Hmmm….  Maybe I did something wrong, I thought.  So I tried again.  It froze again.  Calm but just a little irritated, I put it away and waited a couple days until I could devote more time and energy to it.  What happened then?  Same result–it froze.  I got in touch with the company’s tech support and after 2 hours of the same failure occurring no matter what we tried, I decided to return it and the accessories that I’d ordered.  They emailed me the shipping labels, and I dropped the boxes at the UPS store a few days later.

Oh, almost forgot, before I sent the packages back, the faithful tablet that I’d been using at the dojo decided to blink out at the end of classes, right when I was ready to sign up a parent to the new software.  Seriously, what the hell?

The score was now Skynet’s Cuz, 4, me, 0.

Thankfully, the dojo tablet rebounded a day later and has been working fairly well since.

It’s interesting how “when it rains, it pours”, how one challenge after another comes at us at an unrelenting and ridiculous pace.   But we have to remember, whether minor annoyances or major problems, it’s all part of it.  It goes without saying that we will have problems ’cause that’s just life.  We’ll encounter obstacles everyday, yes, and most especially whenever we choose to strike out on a new path, or challenge our own, or THE, status quo.  They, these problems, come to redirect us and / or to test us: will we find another way and keep going, or will we simply thrown in the towel and give up?

I choose to keep going.

While I could connect the external hard drive to a laptop and write on it until my desktop is repaired, I feel the need to wait.  Suspending work on The Hidden is really uncomfortable, like, not cool at all, but I’m still writing.  Last week I finally published my Patreon page and posted the first of many character-building stories designed for kids and youth.  Check it out and become a patron here:  https://www.patreon.com/Eric_unPublished

My technological issues seem to have eased for now.  Well, wait, the other day while doing some light research on Electromagnetic Pulses, EMPs, uh, my power blinked…  No joke.  Coincidence?  I hope so, but I’m still holdin’ my breath…

 

 

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After Fred Jumped

“…fragile but free…”

-Lyric from Something About You by Level 42

 

Stop! Before you go any further, if you don’t know Fred, and “What Fred Did”, take a read now, and the below will make a whole lot more sense, hopefully.

 

Suddenly so aware of even the slightest of sensations, the hairs on his forearms stood on end and he felt the tips of his tattered shoes leave the ground as his body rose into the air. Higher and higher soared Fred when he jumped, that he didn’t think he’d ever come down. The view from up there astounded him and for an eternal moment, he felt the calm, the bliss, the peace that all freed souls must feel upon leaping into the void. Defying physics, chance, statistics, and all imagination, he opened his arms, caught the welcoming winds, and flew higher.

But then, right on schedule and sooner than he would have liked, Gravity’s long, steely fingers wrapped about his ankles and with one hefty yank, ended his ascent. The predicted and predictable post-jump drop began.

Fred fell so fast, he barely had time to brace himself, and he hit so hard that his meteoric impact with the valley far below created a crater and raised a dust and debris cloud so large as to blanket the sky and blot out the sun.

Falling down hurt, but he didn’t stay down for long. Staggered and staggering, arms and legs shaking, he pressed himself up, and in the dim of the darkness engulfing him, with only the fervent glow of his inner vision lighting his way, he went to work building his dream, forging his destiny…

 

I jumped a little over six months ago, and like Fred’s experience, it’s been…interesting…

It’s…a reminder that you must evolve daily if you are to make the vision that brought you to the edge a viable and true reality. It’s letting go of who you have been and embracing the one you were created to become. (Like I wrote about a year before the jump, the “me” I have been cannot and will not accomplish this huge task, but the “me” I am becoming can and will)…

It’s…crap breaking down when you need it not to, and it’s figuring out how to fix it yourself, or finding someone who can do it at a reasonable price, while praying everything else keeps on workin’…

It’s…working 7 days a week and realizing you really need 9 days in a week…

It’s…reams of 3”x5” cards covered in notes, reminders, grand ideas, odd little thoughts, and short and long lists, lying in piles in places in just about every room of the house…

It’s…going to bed sometimes frustrated, but thankful, with a head and a heart full of ideas that you can hardly wait to implement…

It’s…trying those ideas and when they don’t work, trying others, and then wondering what you’re doin’ wrong, learning from the outcome, and then formulating new ideas, new ways and methods, and trying those too…

It’s…finding the power to stay motivated when the light is growing dim…

It’s…cussing more than you probably have in your entire life…

It’s…praying for direction, a simple sign, or a quiet word, but not seeing or hearing or receiving even the barest hint, or tip, or whisper, but staying determined, holding on and pressing forward in faith anyway…

It’s…continually opening your mind to new and greater possibilities…

It’s…staying humble, learning, getting humbled, and learning more…

It’s…getting your hopes up, but then being let down…

It’s…taking a break not because you want to, but because that’s what you need to do…

It’s…pursuing the destiny filling your mind’s eye while questioning the path to that destiny…

It’s…trusting in the Unseen…

It’s…remaining fluid and adjusting to the ever-changing situation, weekly, daily, hourly, and sometimes, by the minute…

It’s…remembering that it really is up to you…

It’s…remembering to enjoy the moment…

It’s…smiling because this is not a dream…

It’s…hardly ever knowing the how but still going forward, remaining focused on the what and the why

It’s…being thankful for this crazy, wonderful, frustrating, pisser of an amazing, eye-opening, ever-evolving journey, this challenging, “fragile but free” life-path that you have chosen and that has chosen you…

It’s…all of the above, and…

It’s…so much more.

 

After seven months, Fred’s hard work began to yield a true, self-perpetuating harvest.   Finally, his dream was a reality, and now, as he peered back over the past year and gave thanks for the learning and grace of that time, he surveyed with peace the abundance of the present, and he gazed into the future with something more than hope and glimpsed the next phase of his strong and ever-increasing vision.

But a sonic boom followed by the most desperate scream interrupted Fred’s tranquil moment. Looking up and turn around, he saw what looked to be a person falling from the sky. Without hesitating, Fred took off toward the fast-falling man. Arms and legs flailing, the man smashed into the ground about a thousand yards away.

When Fred finally caught up with the man, the groaning faller was barely moving, but alive.

“Hey, you okay,” Fred called out, reaching down into the crater and touching the man on the shoulder.”

The man rolled over, and though thick dust coated his face and obscured his sight, he locked eyes with Fred and both men smiled in sudden surprise.

“Bill!” cheered Fred, “Bill! What, what are you doing here?”

“Fred!” Bill croaked, hoarse from screaming, “I, I jumped…”

You jumped? That’s great!”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Bill, “after you jumped, something changed for a lot of us… Some ignored this, this inner shift, stifled it, dulled its shine, others, at least two or four that I know of, jumped almost right away, but some, a few of us, started talking, and planning…” He sat up and paused for a few seconds to catch his breath. “Of, of the handful of us that quietly planned our jumps,” he continued, “I was the only one to actually take the leap… The rest…they backed down…they gave up.”

There was much Fred wanted to say in response, but he sensed Bill’s desire to share one more thing.

“You know, Fred, it’s…it’s because of your example that so many of us decided it was time to change our lives and really begin living. If you’d let the fear and the doubt kill your dream, well, I don’t know where any of us would be. Well, I, I guess I wouldn’t be sittin’ in this smokin’ crater right now, but, uh, I just want to thank you for…thank you for being damn crazy enough to do what you did.”

Taking a deep breath and holding it for a moment, Fred considered Bill’s words and finally understood how his jump all those months ago wasn’t even really just about him. He knew it would affect his life, his family, and his close friends, but he never imagined the impact his jump would have on acquaintances and on people he didn’t even know; because of him, their lives would never be the same. Truly, the domino effect of one man or one woman doing the right thing at just the right time can never be fully estimated or understood on this side of Eternity.

His heart swelling, tears filling his strong, gentle eyes, Fred reached down, grabbed Bill’s trembling hand, and lifted him out of the hole. “Well, Bill, you have a real hard challenge ahead of you, but trust me when I say, you are going to be more than okay. You’ll be so glad you jumped that you’ll not look back… ever. I’ve been through it, and I’ll be here to help you all the way.”

Still a little disoriented, Bill stood on shaky legs and dusted himself off. Walking together and sharing the dreams that had taken them both to the edge, Bill illustrated with vivid clarity the full depths of his vision. He and Fred had traveled barely half a mile when a sonic boom disturbed the calm, natural silence of the heavily cratered land. Immediately after the element-splitting boom, a woman screamed from on high. The pitch and the tone of the voice were immediately recognizable, and as the men turned and raced in her direction, they glanced at each other, nodded, and said, “Sally!”

 

 

 

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How to Develop Master-level Stink Eye

Okay, this is not a post about “The Hidden” or my writing journey, or writing in general, but one that I created for my karate blog.  I think any writing is a good way to hone the skill and try new things, so even if you’re not into martial arts, take a look:


“If ever a face meant death—if looks could kill—we saw it at that moment.”

-Bram Stoker’s, Dracula

Karate Lessons via Ye Ole VCR

I must have been a green belt when my good buddy Martin gave me a VHS tape of a Japanese documentary on Japan Karate Association instructor, Masahiko Tanaka.   Tanaka Sensei was a top traditional fighter and still is considered a world-renowned instructor from the generation of well-known, hardcore sensei produced by the JKA in the 50s, and 60s, and early 70s.  He was in a number of Nakayama Sensei’s Best Karate books (see Vol. 3, Vol. 4, and Vol. 8) and can also be seen in many of the old videos, and in every instance, he looked downright fierce…because he was.

So, as I sat on the edge of my seat, probably eating a snack, I was super-stoked to see this master of the art in action.  As expected, his technique was nothing less than sharp and cutting, powerful and quick, and his timing, impeccable.  In particular, I really dug his kizami mawashi-geri, his front leg roundhouse kick, SNAP—POW! That’s really the only fair way to describe it.

I was soaking up his movements, sometimes standing and trying to emulate them myself, well, as well as an eager green belt could, but when the clip of Tanaka Sensei performing a demonstration at a tournament came up, I stopped.  I stopped kicking.  I stopped chewin’ whatever tasty morsels I’d been eating.  And, I might have stopped breathing.  I sat back down, leaned forward and whispered, “What the heck is this?  What, what is happening?   What…what am I seein’ here?”

What I was seeing was Tanaka Sensei taking on another black belt in a great display of skill, but the physical technique wasn’t what caught my eye; his eyes are what caught my eye.  He moved with a slow, deliberate, cat-like caution before and after confronting his opponent, and he displayed this fiery, unsettling stare—that’s what forced me to stop and take notice.  His gaze was enough to make this other man uncomfortable, maybe even a bit uncertain about his next pre-arranged attacks.   Heck, I felt a mite of concern for him myself because Tanaka Sensei’s face, his energy, his spirit, his entire being seemed to be saying to that unfortunate assailant, “You know, even though we’ll probably grab a beer after this, I must kill you first.”

I’d never heard of, or seen, or felt anything like this before, his sense of total zanshin, of complete dedication to the moment, one purpose, one mission, do or die.  Sure, the whole thing may have been an act for the sake of the demonstration, to make it dramatic and exciting, but I don’t think it was.  Even as they bowed out and backed off the stage, Tanaka Sensei appeared to be watching his now former opponent, casting a slight side-eye glare at the man.  I got the unmistakable sense that he was still very much ready and very much willing to destroy him if the man so much as twitched or coughed or cleared this throat, friend/associate, or not.

While I started watching the tape hoping to steal some of his amazing techniques, I found something else, something perhaps more valuable: a gaze that could melt metal.  But, it took me years to realize that such mental focus can be developed by anyone who is willing to pay the price…
Attaining the Kill-Glare Gaze

How does one reach this crazy kill-glare level like Tanaka Sensei and others?  When I first saw it those many years ago, I wondered if it was a secret reserved for the inner circle, the masters, revealed only after years and years of bruises, beatings, blood, and sweat.  Well, it is, and it is not.  There are many ways to level-up, but I present to you just four simple ingredients for learning to flip the switch and enter into super-deep focus mode at will.
1.  Learn to focus on what matters, exclude that which doesn’t.

This one is obvious, if not circular, and it goes without saying, we live in an age of sensory excess and thereby mental overload.  We’re inundated by too many distractions on too many fronts, whether through the multitude of little screens that constantly flash in our faces, the ever-present radio broadcasting in the background, people talk, talk, talking about…nothing, etc.  Do we really need to know which celebrity is dating or not dating or feuding with whatever popstar today?  Is everything the news media presents really, truly newsworthy, helpful, or informative?  What if we became selective of the things we allowed through our eye and ear gates?  What if we didn’t pay attention to everything that was thrown at us; what if we filtered and weeded out the pointless and the unnecessary?  What would we be left with?  What would that do to our minds and to our thought patterns and our focus?

In training, in kumite (sparring), and especially in self-defense, the ability to zero in on the most relevant data is of paramount importance, but we can’t do that if our minds are always over-stimulated.

 

2.  Give full attention to the things that you do, and to the things that you think about.

How many thoughts go through your mind in a typical day?  How many individual tasks do you perform in a typical day?  How many of these tasks are separated from their action-related thoughts?  What would happen if we really focused on the moment, on its inner thoughts and its outer actions?

To reach a higher level in anything, we can either perform the action 100,000 times or more and hope our attention (and intention) doesn’t drift and remains high all the way through the 99,999 iteration, or we can perform that skill mindfully, soulfully, just 1,000 times, or even 10,000 times, but assimilate it, master it, much more fully and much quicker.

 

3.  Train, hard.

This goes without saying; there’s no other way.  Whatever you do, go all-in, work hard, give your all, sweat buckets, ache even more, but be smart about it—keep your mind engaged in the process.  (Refer to item #2).

 

4.  Practice letting go and entering the flow.

At some level, we seek to understand and control every relevant detail, every minute nuance of our movement, our basics and kata, of our internal and external interactions with others and ourselves, and we must do the same in the other areas of our lives in which we invest our hearts and our energy.  But, there comes a time when we can, and have to, simply let go and let it flow.   That time is different for everyone, but everyone can practice it.

I’m not going to pretend that this one is easy ‘cause letting go is a skill in itself, but it is worth the struggle.  And without learning to let go, one can never really reach that level of mastery that one seeks, the place where mind and body are truly one, where desire, thought, and action meld and become inseparable.

Not only do we find freedom in this letting go, but we also find a simplicity that is masterful and deep, enjoyable and strangely powerful.

 

All of this, I believe, puts us on a good path for developing that intense focus, that forceful zanshin that I first saw in Tanaka Sensei, but like so many things in life, there’s always more to it.  I believe there is an “X-factor” or a certain synergy that can only occur when you combine the four items; separately, each of the items are great ways to enhance your mind and your life, but when put together, they have the potential of taking you to a whole new level.

So, the real secret to it is, ya gotta do the work.

 

There you have it.  Give it a try and please share your progress.  Oh, by the way, if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or you work with kids or youth, you’ve probably already mastered the look.  Your kids know this look, and they fear it.  It’s capable of instantly shuttin’ down their sugar-drunk antics, stopping them cold when they’re acting up at church, or losing their ever-loving minds in the grocery store, or battling it out in the backseat of your car.   You’ve already mastered that metal-melting glare, so please, do share the secret…

 

EDB

07.09.17

 

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(Entry originally posted at http://www.southkcshotokan.com/blog)

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A Simple Truth for You

Stop looking for something or someone to confirm a truth that you already know deep within: you are strong, you are intelligent, you are beautiful, you are loved by a Love that you will never comprehend, and, you are enough.  Embrace the simplicity.

 

That is all.

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What Fred Did

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” -David Lloyd George

“Has anybody seen Fred today,” Bill asked at exactly 8:32 am.

Following closely behind the word Fred, a strong hush quieted the common, everyday, low-level hubbub and an eerie buzz rolled through the office, washing away the Monday morning malaise. A new, crackling energy sprouted from the faces belonging to the ears that heard that name, Fred, and even those who never paid attention to office chit-chat or gossip tuned in to listen.

Bill sensed it, this shift, this odd feeling, so he asked his question again, this time with just a hint of reluctance in his lowered voice. “Uh, Fred… Any…anybody seen him…lately?”

“Fred?” asked Sally, leaning over the cubicle wall separating her domain from Bill’s. “You haven’t heard?”

“No, what? Heard what?”

“About Fred…” she said, her bulbous brown eyes bulging a bit bigger than usual.

Something about her eyes and the way she said that made Bill feel uneasy. “What, uh, what about Fred?” He sat his doughnut aside, pushed his keyboard back, and took a deep breath.

“He, he’s not here anymore,” she whispered, her voice trembling. “He— ” She stopped short, glanced around the room and then gazed into Bill’s half puzzled, half frightened face.

What?” Bill blurted.   Sally’s long, dramatic pause was just too much.  “What? He what?”

“He… Fred… He jumped…”

 

Time travel with me back to late February 2016 and you’ll find me driving to the dojo after work on a nice, spring-like day. See me there, in that cool car coming up the road? I was about to hear something…life-changing…

For years, I’d been developing my arts, two of my deepest passions: traditional Japanese karate and science-fiction writing. I taught karate classes in the evenings two to three days a week and on Saturday mornings. I wrote on the weekends, during holiday breaks, and any vacation that I had, and at that time in early 2016, I was in the middle of my nth revision of The Hidden. I enjoyed teaching and training and working on my books, but felt that I was getting nowhere, that my potential in both areas was not flourishing as I knew it could. So, driving to the dojo that day, I was seeking wisdom, I was praying, asking how I could write more and teach more and do both at a higher level. I asked that question, reached over and turned the radio down and listened. Just as I reached the dojo, I heard, not audibly, but internally as clear as a bell, as loud as thunder, “You could do this full-time…”, meaning, I could teach full-time (and thereby write full-time).

“You could do this full-time…” That’s what I heard. More important, I felt it, deep, deep inside the within.

Now, understand this, I never, never considered teaching full-time and there are many reasons for that, some valid, some less so, but when I heard this, an enlightening vision captured me. My heart rate doubled. My eyes glazed over. A weird, goofy grin covered my stunned face. After classes, I went home and started drafting a detailed “Jump Plan”, and over the next several days, created multiple spreadsheets, I researched, I read, and I wrote and rewrote the plan and soon realized that what I wanted to do…was impossible.

But I also realized that I had to try, that I had to continue developing, and then follow, the plan. Life is too damn short not to try something so outrageous, something that truly lights you up. Besides, if I failed, it would probably hurt but I could always find another job. But, if I succeeded…

And so, with my Jump-date set for February 14th, 2017 (i.e. the date on which I’d give my two-weeks notice), I went at it, hard. I took online classes and I busted out some old books and ordered some new ones to help me on this journey (see short book list at end of this blog). I took off like a rocket, hitting some of my predetermined milestone targets right off, but missing others. Then missing more, many, too many in fact. Why? Because:

Roadblocks.

Fears.

Excuses.

Doubts.

Time.

Setbacks.

Etc.

Etc.

With all of that, by mid to late October 2016, I decided to push the Jump off to June 2017. A summer Jump made more sense anyway, I reasoned.

Then, in November, we had a meeting at work and the powers-that-be clued us in on something we’d all had been noticing, sensing, for quite a while: business ain’t good. Before that year, business had been great, really great, super great. But things changed. It was an informative meeting, maybe a bit disturbing, but no one seemed to be all that worried.   In fact, we didn’t hear much else about the downturn after that.

Fast-forward to January 2017, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to be exact. I’d enjoyed a really good three-day weekend, taught great classes and made massive progress with the novel, and just felt great, but I also caught something, a cold or mild case of the flu, so by Monday evening, I wasn’t feeling well. Tuesday morning came and I decided to call in and stay home that day, so I rolled out of bed at my regular time, emailed my boss, and went back to sleep for another hour or two. When I got up, I recalled having a strange dream. In the dream, I was walking around the campus at work, and everyone was nervous and frantic, repeating this question: “Have you updated your resume yet? Have you updated your resume yet?!?” I was strolling down the stairs when a colleague asked me this pointblank. I just shrugged and answered, “Nah man, I got other plans…”

Strange dream, but just a dream.

I recovered and went to work the next day and as usual, got there an hour early. I liked to spend that time checkin’ emails, drinking hot tea and eating breakfast in the quiet, often dark, pre-work realm of my cubicle. As I scrolled through my emails I saw one that HR sent out the day before while I was at home, a message entitled, “Voluntary Separation Program”…

Holy crap… What the freak…?

Well, crap and freak aren’t exactly the words I used at the time, but I opened the email and yeah, said crap and freak again. The company was, in order to help the business regain its former strength, making some dramatic shifts and they were offering a generous separation package to anyone willing (and eligible) to take it. My heart rate doubled. My eyes glazed over. A weird, goofy grin covered my stunned face. This was it, the window of opportunity had presented itself when just a few weeks before, I hit a new level of frustration, feeling that something had to give, and it had to give soon. Well it gave, and longer story shortened, February 14th, 2017, the date on which I was to give my two-week notice as written in the original Jump Plan I created in March 2016, was my last day, the day I jumped.

Interesting how things work out. There are no coincidences. Nothing just happens. And sometimes, weird dreams occur for a reason. There is a Plan, despite our plans. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

What has happened since the Jump? A whole bunch of stuff, so stay tuned, there’s more coming soon in “After Fred Jumped…”

 

Some said he gave up. Some said he surrendered. Others said he failed. Most said he fell. But when Fred stepped up to the edge, when he jumped, when he leapt off of that cliff, he hadn’t given up, and he didn’t fail or fall—he flew.

Fred flew.

And he did not look back.

 

___________________

Here are just a few of the books that I’ve found helpful of late. I highly recommended them, whether you are contemplating a massive leap-of-faith or simply would like to change your mindset and take your life to the next level.

If you are considering a jump, or you have already leaped, please comment and share your story.  Jumpers, unite!

 

NOTE: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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