F*** Not…

Back in late summer or early fall, I was eating breakfast and thinking about things.   Can’t recall my mood at the time but while in deep thought, I glanced over at my open Bible and five red words caught my eye:

Do not fearonly believe.”

(Jesus, Mark 5:36)

In particular, it was the “only believe” and the word only that stood out.  And in that moment I understood this passage in a way that I hadn’t before. “Only” = “don’t do anything else”.  Don’t do anything else but believe.

Believe that He is Who He says He is.

Believe that He can and will bring victory out of defeat.

Believe that He can and will do what you ask and need Him to do.  

Believe that He has your best interest in mind, no matter how difficult things may be at present, or will get in the future.  

Believe and don’t try to figure it out using your own limited insight and understanding.

Believe.  Even when you can’t see or feel Him working, believe.

Let it all go, and just believe.

Only believe.

Is it really that easy, that simple, to “only believe,” to “just believe”?  By His words, yes. Only believe, and we do that by keeping our eyes and our hearts and our minds on Him. Acknowledge the problem, but look to Him, look at Him, stare at Him, and abide in Him.


No matter what may come, or what may not come, hang on and believe.



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Deep Inside this Armor…

“The Warrior is a Child”

-Twila Paris

As I was falling asleep last night, one of my all-time favorite, old-school, Contemporary Christian songs came to mind.  I hadn’t thought about or heard it in years, if not decades so this morning, I pulled it up on YouTube. Truly, it holds just as much, if not more meaning to me now as it did when I first heard it back in 1984…



This song says it all and so much more.



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Three Hard Lessons I Learned in 2019


Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.

-Vernon Saunders Law

Okay, let’s get right to it.  Looking back over 2019, what were the three most important / difficult lesson you learned or relearned?   My three are as follows:

  1. It’s up to me
  2. Trust God, not my bank account
  3. Embrace and integrate my shadow

It’s Up to Me

Achieving your dreams is up to you.  Achieving my dreams is up to me.  No one can be as all-in as you.  No one will hold in their heart the same level pure, focused passion and commitment for your dream that you carry.  We should surround ourselves with others who are walking a similar path, because yes, we all need help and encouragement along the way, but ultimately no one is going to do the work for for us.  

It’s up to you.  

It’s up to me.

Trust God, not My Bank Account

God. Bank account. One of these is constant and the other is not, at all. Trusting God when the skies are clear, the pizza and ice cream are tasty and plentiful, and the bank account is fat, healthy, and happy is…rather easy.  But what happens when the opposite becomes true?  Do we trust Him still?  If we don’t, does that mean we never really trusted Him to begin with? Conditional trust, even if it is sincere or goes unnoticed, isn’t true trust–its a very shaky foundation that will fail when fire-tested.

We all have (a lot of) room to grow, and this is one of the most challenging areas for most of us.  

Embrace and Integrate My Shadow

You probably already know this, but by “shadow” I mean, in short, the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden from others, and actively deny within our own hearts and minds.  Those hidden traits could be dangerous, aggressive, unmannered, and downright unpleasant, but the odd truth is, we need the shadow side because without it, we will never realize our true strength,  or become our true self.  

Don’t get this wrong; integrating the shadow doesn’t mean giving in to its desires.  It means recognizing our capacity for bad, acknowledging what is within us, but choosing the good.  I’m sure I’ve butchered the whole concept, so please do your own research on this really interesting and important topic.  This video of Professor Jordan Peterson is a good place to start:

The Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within” puts this concept on display in a very understandable way.   In this episode, a transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk into two distinct people / personas: the good side and his shadow side.  While the fact that he’s not really the Captain remains unnoticed by the crew, the shadow-Kirk goes about doing all manner of dark things, acting on his base instincts and desires. The good-Kirk, on the other hand, is growing noticeable weaker and more and more indecisive. 

Eventually, the problem is discovered and they realize that Kirk will die if both sides are not reintegrated into the single person.  

There you have it, three hard lessons the year 2019 handed me…and that I’m still working on.  So, what about you?  What are three lessons you learned or are still learning from 2019?  Please share below or message me!

Happy New Year!  Here’s to a great 2020!



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I’m Going Back to My “Island”…

“We have to go back!”

-Dr. Jack Shephard on “Lost”

Were you a fan of the television show, “Lost”?  Man, I sure was.  I could hardly wait from one episode to the next, anticipating what tiny yet stunning revelation would be revealed, or what magnificent twist or turn we were in for.  From polar bears on a tropical island, to smoke monsters and underground bunkers, to time travel, finely intertwined backstories, and mysterious beings, I never knew what to expect.  I still remember the following scene, and if you’ve not seen it, no worries, let me set it up for you as it relates to, uh, me.

The bearded dude, Jack, is me.  As you can tell, we look a lot alike, well at least as far as we both sport scraggly hermit beards…  The pretty lady in the scene is Kate, or in my case my novel The Hidden / my writing in general.  See, back on October 9th, 2017, my writing computer went all blue-screen on me and since then, I’ve been trying to figure out how and when I can get back to writing.  I’m getting closer to being able to write again, but as I do, I’m feeling like Jack in this scene, and am more than a little concerned my writing and my story will react just like Kate.  Check it out:



When I first saw this scene so many years ago, it was absolutely mind blowing given what Jack and Kate had been through, the implications of what he was asking, and what we as viewers didn’t understand or yet know!  Now, it’s just as emotional; sad for Jack and Kate, yet kind of funny when I apply to me and my writing.  I mean, I actually laughed aloud, hard, when I watched this several weeks ago and put myself in the scene!  But, truth is, there has been some fear and sadness and a lot of uncertainty for me as I have been working my way back to my island for more than two years now.  

Thoughts like, “What if I’ve lost it?”, and, “The story is irrelevant now…”, and, “It’s been too long.  Why continue?” have been prevalent in my inner discourse.  I was so close to completing the final-final(?) revision back in 2017, like just pages from the closing sentence, but now, I’m going to have to go back to page one. That is both exciting and frustrating.  I haven’t forgotten much of the main plots, threads and themes, I’m sure, but I feel I need to re-immerse myself in that world and approach it as if for the first time. And though I think about and continue to shape them in my mind quite often, I need to reacquaint myself with the characters I’ve spent years trying to bring to life, and that may take some time.  

Still, I press ahead…

At the start of the month, I undertook the task of rearranging, cleaning, and reorganizing my writing room space.  I dedicated several minutes to a few hours each of these past three Sundays and just completed the project.  I can’t even explain how excited I am; from the first day that I moved my desk, I couldn’t help but glance into the room just about every time I walked by.  Some days, I went in and simply stared at the desk, shelves, and table with all the crap, computer hardware, CDs, thick dust, and massive cobwebs.  But now, it is done, the space is clean, clear, and ready to go.  Just sitting in the chair after I completed the re-org project energized me; the anticipation of being on the island again, of working on The Hidden again, made my longing heart race.  The only thing that remains is to purchase and download Scrivener, the writing software I’ve been wanting for a good seven or more years now.

Before the end of this year, I hope to begin revisiting my island again.  Stay tuned, I’m sure I’m gonna have a lot to share about the new / renewed journey that lies ahead.  In the meantime, feel free to share your “We have to go back, Kate…” moment, if you dare.



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What to Expect When Giving Birth…to Your Dream

Sooo, you’ve got dreams, a heart overflowing with dreams and big goals, you say?  And, you’ve decided to pursue them; you’ve mapped out your plan and you’re ready to go. That’s great!  Do it.  Go after it as if your life, your destiny and the destiny of those around you, depends on it.  

But Wait 

Before you set out on your new path, let me ask you just one simple question…  What are your expectations as you begin to walk the path for making your dreams reality and fulfilling your destiny?  If the word easy comes to mind, consider it a new “four letter word” and throw it away.  Unless you’re one of the very, very few charmed ones for whom everything just seems to fall into place with little or no effort on your part, this journey will be anything but easy.  In fact, it’s gonna be a fight, a veritable war for what you want.  

And as if that wasn’t enough, just by deciding to pursue your dream, you’ve just invited your new annoying neighbor, Murphy S. Law, to visit.  Oh, no, he’s coming for an extended stay, and he’s gonna campout in your house.  He’s gonna eat your food, sleep in your bed, and he’ll probably use your toothbrush and wear your favorite clothes; yes, he’s going to follow you around where ever you go!  

Didn’t quite see him coming, did ya?   

The Expected Unexpected

So what can you expect to experience when you go all-in and pursue the life you deserve?  Here’s a short list of the fun Murphy will bring with him, but feel free to add to it:

  • Your zippers will break.  Yes, all of them.
  • Ruts will appear in your shoes
  • Your underwear will become quite holey
  • Large appliances will malfunction, slightly, or just stop working altogether
  • Small appliances that should last for years will see their larger cousins give up the ghost, and they’ll throw in the towel too
  • Parts will, without rhyme or reason, fall off your car
  • Not one, but two or three tires will flatten in less than two weeks
  • Potholes, massive potholes…
  • Car batteries will die without warning
  • Windows will break spontaneously.  Yep, seen it.
  • Computers, and electronics in general, that you really, really, really need to keep working will rebel and cease to function at just the right (wrong) time
  • The price of just about everything you usually purchase will skyrocket
  • It will be a very hot summer or a stupid-cold winter and your AC or furnace will decide to “take a break”
  • You’ll get to watch your bank account(s) reach a new low
  • Of the 100 things you try in order to push and pull yourself closer to your goals, only about 3 are going to work.  Two of those three will sort of work, and one will work well, but you won’t be able to figure out why, and you won’t be able to replicate the success
  • Four-legged critters will take up residence in your attic, under your deck, or porch
  • Power will go out just long enough for all the food you just purchased to go bad
  • Pick a number between 1 and 5.  That’s how many dental fillings are going to fall out.  Yep, they’ll just drop right out.

The Truth

After reading that list you might be thinking, “Welp, I’m out.  Forget that.  I’m stayin’ right where I’m at, safe, secure.  I don’t need that smoke.  Destiny is for daydreamers anyway…” But after a few moments, you realize the truth: all that stuff is going to happen whether you go after the life you desire or not, so why not go for it?  The thing that makes it all sting so much more is the uncomfortable fact that at times,  and probably quite often at first, it’s going to feel quite personal, like all of Creation is conspiring against you to keep you from succeeding.  It is going to try you, test you, and you’re going to want to turn back, but don’t do it, do not stop.  You must forge ahead in the knowledge that all of Heaven is for you, cheering you on, clearing the way, and mountains will move if you just keep trying, if you will just keep going!

You’ve come too far to turn back.  

Expect more of the unexpected, plan for it, meet it head on, and above all else hold faith, and fight forward, my friend.  Your victory is vital, not just for you, but also for those you will positively influence by your battle-scars, and by your victory itself.





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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!




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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.



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…





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

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