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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Congratulations on Being Such a Loser, Loser!

Oh, hello out there…  Been a while.  Sorry about that.  New blog coming soon, but until then, please take a look at an entry I just posted to my karate blog:

http://www.southkcshotokan.com/blog/congratulationsonbeingsuchaloserloser

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Obviously Obvious Friday (Feb 26, 2016)

I’m gonna tell ya some things you already know.  Nothing new, just stuff you’ve heard before.

: As you are today, right this very minute, if your dreams are grand and special enough, you will not accomplish them.  You cannot do it.  The upgraded you can, and will, but the you of today cannot and will not.

Have you ever thought of undertaking a grand adventure, a big goal, your dream, only to hear that sneaky little voice in your head say something to the effect of “I’d like to do XYZ, but…I’m just not that person…”?

Or maybe the dream-negator spoke in a much, much more subtle manner.  You see what you want or would like to be, your heart leaps, but then it sinks back, shrinks back, when you remember all the reasonable reasons you can’t, or shouldn’t, or wouldn’t be able to do such great things.

Truth is, you were right.  And, you were wrong.  You were right–you can’t do it because you are not the person you need to be, yet.  Yet.  You can in accomplish your dreams if you are willing to change.  You must become the person who can do it, and who is willing and able to do what is necessary to make it happen.

Key points-

  1. You gotta change.
  2. Start by finding the best, most awesome pic of yourself, one that makes you smile or think “wow…” every time you see it.
  3. Look at that pic every day and say, “That person right there is the type who is A, B, C, D, etc”.  Your A, B, C should be the things you feel you lack, or the thing you feel you need more of in order to accomplish your goals and dreams.
  4. Then say, “This person right here, this person is me.”
  5. Do this every day.  Every day.  Every day until you believe.
  6. Those A, B, C areas in your life that need to change, the knowledge, or skills, or experiences you need to gain if you are to become that person, go after them, get smarter, get stronger, or let #^(@ go and begin to leave the old you behind.
  7. Repeat 3-6, and then keep repeating it, even as you begin to pursue those audacious goals and even as your dreams begin to morph into reality.
  8. When you accomplish those wonderful goals, be sure to stop and take a look back and be thankful not just for what you’ve accomplished, but for who you have become through the journey!

Remember:  Humans are super-adaptable and capable of brilliant, purposeful change.  “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”  -Charles DuBois

There ya go.   TGIOF.

#ObviousFriday #ThankYouCaptainObvious

 

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Obviously Obvious Friday (Feb 12, 2016)

I’m gonna tell ya some things you already know.  Nothing new, just stuff you’ve heard before.

: You cannot do everything, but you can do something.

We all have our “should do”, “want to do”, “need to do” and “must do” lists, and most of us stress out when we don’t finish everything in a day or a weekend, or even a month.   We try to do it all, and fail to do it all, and then we get all pissed-off and frustrated.  But, when we realize success is really about having correct priorities, about doing and completing those things that matter most at the moment, we’ll begin to rest easier, accomplish more, and actually find enjoyment in the tasks and the toils.

Key points-

Prioritize your list(s) according to the following:

  1. What is the most critical item on your agenda, or what will have the greatest positive impact on you or someone else now, if you do it now?
  2. What will result in the greatest negative impact if you don’t do it now, if you put it off in favor of other things?
  3. What item(s) propel you in the direction of your dreams?
  4. What item(s) stall or push you further away from accomplishing your goals?
  5. Delete stuff that matters little in the grand scheme of your current ambitions, or shift them to a list of non-consequentials that can be dealt with later.
  6. Whatever remains, do it; work the golden list to completion.

There ya go.   TGIOF.

#ObviousFriday #ThankYouCaptainObvious

 

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Obviously Obvious Friday (Jan 29, 2016)

I’m gonna tell ya some things you already know.  Nothing new, just stuff you’ve heard before.

: Things will not change until you change some things.

Everyone wants to change something about themselves, their lives, their world, but few actually even begin to make the small necessary changes that yield big, positive results.  We try, but we fall, and then we give up.  Or, we never even get started; we get stuck either wishing for change, or complaining about the way things are…and nothing changes.  But why waste time and energy wishing or complaining when that energy can be channeled into making positive progress?

Key points-

  1. Believe you can change for the better.  Believe you deserve to change for the better.
  2. Make a list.  What do you want to be, to do, to have, to experience?  How must you change in order to achieve these fantastic goals?
  3. Start small.  For example, watch less TV in favor of gaining new knowledge, or getting fitter, or spending more quality time with your family or yourself.  Save $X per day, or per week, money that you would have frittered away on things you don’t really need or that don’t really help you achieve your overriding mission.
  4. Fight for it.  Do not give up.  

Remember: if you keep doin’ what ya been doin’, you’ll keep gettin’ what ya been gettin’.

There ya go.   TGIOF.

#ObviousFriday #ThankYouCaptainObvious

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Obviously Obvious Friday (Jan 22, 2016)

I’m gonna tell ya some things you already know.  Nothing new, just stuff you’ve heard before.

: If you want to get really, really good at something, you have to do it every day, even if it’s just for five minutes a day.  You wanna be a better butcher, baker, candlestick maker, hone your craft by butchering, or baking, or makin’ them sticks every…single…day.

Every day; there’s no other way.

If it’s writing, spend a few minutes or more, every day, puttin’ pen to paper or droppin’ digits on that screen.

Cooking?  Create a new dish, new to you, or new to the world, every day.

Wanna improve some physical or mental skill?  Push that weight, work that brain, today, tomorrow, and the next day too.

Music?  Play on playa!

Key points–

  1. You’ll need to be willing to sacrifice other stuff in order focus on the main stuff
  2. That thing you want to master needs to be something you enjoy doing even when it’s boring, or tiring, or you just don’t wanna do it
  3. It must be something that you can improve at

There ya go.   TGIOF.

#ObviousFriday #ThankYouCaptainObvious

 

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Too Difficult, Don’t Even Try It

Over the past few weeks, I came across a couple articles and finished reading a book that, all summarized, said, “Writing is hard.  Writing is difficult.  If you’re even a little, tiny bit sane, you probably shouldn’t even try it.  But you, you’re not sane, so by all means, go for it–get naked, slather on some honey and jump right in that mound of pissed off fire-ant-scorp-spider wasps.  Enjoy the pain, sucka!”

Well, okay, admittedly, that may be how I, in my infinite weirdness, interpreted their messages.  But clearly, they did seem to infer that it’d be better to bang your head with a hammer than to try being a writer.

It’s true though, writing is not so easy.  Sometimes it is, and it’s like spreading warm peanut butter on hot toast: smooth and silky.  Other times, it’s frustrating, akin to rubbin’ cold, chunky peanut butter on dry, crusty, brittle bread.  Ever done that?  How’d it make ya feel?

But this is a given, right?  I mean, isn’t everything in this life tough at some point, or, uh, most of the time?  Don’t the things (and people) that we love drive us to wanna Hulk-out at least a few days a year, or more?  But is that reason enough not to give up, or worse, to not even try?

Those articles certainly got me thinking…

I’ve been studying traditional Japanese karate for more than twenty-five years now.  I dig it, a lot, but it ain’t easy.  It’s perplexing and the constant quest to attain higher and higher inner and outer-skill levels seems impossibly daunting.  It’s hard work, and sometimes, it’s not all that exciting.  And teaching it, trying to convey the intricacies of the art in a way that others of various backgrounds and abilities can understand…wow, that’s uber-difficult.  Maybe I should give it up, and maybe you shouldn’t even try this ^#@%.

I’ve been an engineer for many, many years now.  I dig it, a lot, but it is not so easy, and it’s downright frustrating at times.  Sometimes, the things we have to do are just stupid.  Ridiculous, I tell you.  And sometimes, when melded with reality, the science makes no sense and the results are absolute nonsense.  Maybe I’ll give it up, and perhaps I’ll advise you not to even look into this field of study.  Yeah, don’t do it.

I’ve been trying to relate to these things called “humans” for quite a while now.  I dig them, a lot of them, most of the time, but they ain’t near easy gettin’ along with.  I mean, they’re irrational, unkind, selfish, fearful, smelly, and downright weird.  Maybe I’ll just give up, find a warm, far-off island in the Pacific and become a long-bearded, karate-studyin’ hermit.  I’d ask you to join me but…

Art is difficult.  Science is difficult.  Faith is difficult.  Love is difficult.  Being loved is difficult.  Leadership is difficult.  Winning is difficult.  Creating is difficult.  Thinking is difficult.  Raising a family is difficult.  Just being you is difficult.  Learning, growing, understanding, eating, exercising, sleeping, changing, evolving, etc, etc, etc, is…difficult.

LIFE is difficult.  Period.

Accept this, really and truly come to grips with this inconvenient truth; until you do, life will be unnecessarily difficult.  But once you’ve accepted this, move forward, ’cause you know what?  For all its difficulties, life is pretty @#%#(&! amazing, pretty %#^& rewarding.

Writing sparks me, and I find it rewarding.  Studying karate sparks me, and I find it rewarding.  Relationships spark me, and I find knowing others rewarding.  Science and engineering, winning, losing, learning, eating, leveling-up, etc, etc, etc, are rewarding, and all are, in their very own ways, simply amazing.

Yep, it’s all tough.  Even so, don’t be afraid to venture out just because a thing you desire to do, or to be, is difficult.  It’s all difficult, but it can all be very, very rewarding too.

So, I guess I’ll keep on trying.  I guess I’ll keep on writing, training, dreaming, stretching, etc, etc, etc.

Will you keep dreaming too, keep trying, despite what others say or think, and despite all the challenges that you’ll surely encounter?

I hope you will, ’cause you’ll find something special on the other side of those challenges.

Please try.

Yeah, please do.

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