Fox or Hedgehog

I.

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” -Archilocus

The fox is crafty and intelligent. He can create elaborate strategies to gain a hunting advantage over the hedgehog.

The hedgehog on the other hand is simple. He knows how to do one thing. When danger is on the horizon, he will roll into a prickly ball.

II.

Ask me a few months ago which I would rather be, a hedgehog or a fox, I would have said a fox. Why not? A fox can do so much. Not being a one-trick pony, he can use the full array of his skills to plan, strategize, and execute. Why be simple when you can be complex? Complex is alluring, even sexy, whereas simple is just that, it is simple, maybe even a bit boring.

I have lived my life as a fox. And now I wonder, where has it gotten me? I can perform a multitude of odds and ends but not well enough to make it a profession. I can spout off a ton of random knowledge, yet who would be willing to hire me as a consultant? Even worse, I can dabble here and there on a plethora of projects. How many of these get finished? Not enough! As much as I try to be a fox, I have never successfully hunted a hedgehog.

III.

Oh, that I was a hedgehog! What would it be like to know one thing perfectly? How excellent would it be to execute, without flaw, one single task? The foxes may scoff, but they will never be able to compete with a hedgehog. A handyman may be able to perform a wide array of activities, but will they be able to compete with a master carpenter?

As I look to a new business, the allure is to do a little of everything. But touching upon a little of a lot will prevent the mastery of one. Do I want to be an amateur dabbler, or do I want to find mastery in the one big thing that will take my little upstart from mediocrity to excellence?

IV.

Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.

Jim Collins

In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins writes about businesses that employ the Hedgehog Concept. These companies made a transition from being average to leading their respective industries. To do so, they found the intersection of three circles based on the following three questions:

What can you be the best in the world at?

What drives your economic engine?

What are you deeply passionate about?

Understanding and finding the intersection between these three questions, one can determine where to put the focus. This is the essential business of the hedgehog. Everything else should be ignored.

Day by Day

Each day is another link in the chain. Chains are no good if the links are weak. We can’t go back and fix our chain, but we can strengthen the newest links as we go along. We can build our links to handle a greater load, to be more resilient against outside forces, and to bolster us in times of need. We can create our chains of destiny to serve us and others when the need is the greatest. Everyday we forge a new link which means everyday counts. Throwing in a bad link every once in a while will do us no good. How can we build this chain?

Choice

What are our options? They are too numerous to count. But every choice matters; every decision counts.

The choices you make today will be your biography tomorrow.

James Altucher

One day, David decided to stay home. This was a choice. His country was at war. As the king, he should have been the one leading his men out to battle. In those days, that was his job. Instead, he made a self-serving choice that cascaded into a chain of subsequent bad choices. Laziness led to adultery which then led to murder. What started with one choice ended with a decree from God that the sword would never leave his house (2 Samuel 11-12).

Hopefully, the choices we make will not be as catastrophic as David’s. Yet,  they can quickly spiral downward if we do not remain vigilant.

Thought

Maybe, it is too simple to believe it is true. But here it is: We become what we think about (Emerson). If our minds are focused on violence all day, then in time we will become desensitized to it. We will begin to justify it in the behaviors of others. Eventually, we will even be able to justify it in our own behaviors. The same could be said for all the vices–slothfulness, drunkenness, gluttony, lust. Thankfully, this also holds true for the virtues—wisdom, discipline, justice, courage, love.

So, when we think about adding quality to our lives or subtracting undesirable traits, it begins with our thoughts.

Persist in visualizing the ideal man you are determined to be, and always think of yourself as you are ambitious to become. This mental attitude will help you to match your dream with its reality.

Orison Swett Marden

Action

Thoughts will set into our minds the types of people we wish to become. But at the end of the day, they must harmonize with our actions. Action is the testimony by which the world will view us. The houses we build in heaven are constructed by the works we do on earth. This is the Karma we set into motion while dwelling in our bodies. Every action has a reaction. Jung said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Not our words and thoughts, but what we actually do. This is the mark by which we will be known.

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.

Thomas Jefferson

We cannot control the outside forces that fate imposes upon us. Weather, fortune, and the deeds of others are often fickle and inconsiderate. Despite this, we can determine to be champions in this life, not victims.

Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.

Heraclitus

Don’t Fool Yourself

I look in the mirror. Whether good or bad, I only see what I want to see. My eyes only see what they have been trained to see. Everything else mysteriously gets dismissed. I find it amazing that a still image rarely matches what I saw in the mirror.

I take another bite. Today, the food looks good. It is pleasant to the senses and delights the palate. Sadly, it is not the best choice of food from a nutritional standpoint. Therefore, I will tell myself to only eat a little. Tomorrow, I am going to have a different opinion. Tomorrow, I am going to look back and wonder what I was thinking. Why did I pick that and why did I eat so much of it?

It is Sunday afternoon. I am feeling a little tired and decide to take a short nap (probably from all the food I ate). I set the timer for twenty minutes and get up two hours later. What happened?

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman

It is easy for me to look around and mentally note everybody else’s flaws. Why is that person so self-delusional? Don’t they know how foolish they look? Why do they eat such garbage and so much of it? Why aren’t they more active? Instead, they are just wasting away the time God has given them.

How is it that I am not so quick to notice my own flaws? In the moment, I acquiesce and give in to my base desires. These are the same desires that I am quick to notice and question in others. Yet, I have fooled myself to such an extent that I can no longer see these same behaviors in myself. The first principle is to not fool myself. Unfortunately, I have broken this principle too many times to count.

How do I improve knowing that I am so easily fooled?

  1. Have a plan. Without one, I am lost.
  2. Have a partner. I need someone to hold me accountable. Even more important, I must listen when someone calls me out.
  3. Check my ego. My ego says I can get away without consequences. It wants me to compare myself to others in a way that only points to my perceived goodness and to their inherent flaws.

To not fool myself is no easy task. Yet, it can be done. It requires vigilance and an honest appraisal of my actions.

A Straight Pathway to Achievement

A Tuesday night soccer game. Before the game, I was a little worried how our team would play. We were missing three players and would take the field with one less player than our opponent. At game time, I realized neither team would have any substitutes. It would be eight versus nine with the winner standing at the top of the league standings.

After 5 minutes of play, we went down 1-0. The star player on the other team scored the first goal. Oh no! This could get ugly fast. Yet, our team didn’t surrender. They never gave up and continued to run and play hard. Our defense collected themselves and became relentless in their pursuit of the ball. And in the proudest of dad moments…

My son, Alec, began to shine. He coached his teammates on what to do and where to go. He took over on offense with multiple break-a-ways. He  employed a few tricks that left the defenders watching him as he passed them by. After the dust settled, Alec had four goals on the tally sheet. We won 4-1.

Sometimes, a player gets lucky. Other times, a player just has a little more natural talent. But this performance wasn’t luck. It wasn’t natural talent. So, what was it? What separated him from the rest of the pack?

Having conceived of his purpose, a man should mentally mark out a straight pathway to its achievement, looking neither to the right or the left.

James Allen

Last season, Alec was good. He was one of the four best players on the best team in the league. He finished the season with one or maybe even two goals. He was happy to win and happy to provide key passes to the goal scorers. But he wanted more. He wanted to capitalize on the “oh so many close” shots. Last season was when he started to really get hungry.

During the offseason when he wasn’t in school or wrestling, Alec was outside kicking the ball until the sun went down. He would bring his iPad outside with him, watch a video, and then practice what he saw over and over until he learned the skill. If the weather kept him indoors, he was watching more videos, watching games, or playing soccer on his Nintendo Switch. Soccer was his focus, and it was laser sharp.

Of course, I love to see his work bear fruit. But what impresses me the most is seeing his work ethic. He found something he is passionate about. And to become the best version of himself, he never looked to the right or the left. He marked out his pathway and began the journey only the most dedicated are willing to take.

I spend so much of my time teaching and working with him. But watching him practice, I realized he was really teaching me. At his age, I never worked as hard as he did. And as an adult, I tend to waver from one pursuit to the next. I am a middling Jack-of-a-bunch-of-stuff, but a master of nothing. Alec, on the other hand, is on a path to mastery that I can only hope to be on one day. He is becoming my inspiration to be better, to try harder. Maybe, there will come a time that I can be like him.

One Link at a Time

I dream of the future. If unchecked, my dreams can take many twists and turns. The dreams are part of who I am. The ones that I find suitable, I chase like a hunter in pursuit of its prey. Unfortunately, I am not a master of hunting. I tend to get distracted. Rather than pursue the one big target, I find myself chasing multiple targets. All this chasing and nothing to show for it. Tired and hungry.

It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.

Winston Churchill

One link in the chain at a time. One target that is a link on my chain and not a link on a different chain. What are the requirements? Focus and Presence. Too many irons in the fire wastes too much material and leaves too many unfinished works. And whatever work does get done will most likely not be of the highest quality. In my chain of destiny, this is not what I want. I want a link that is solid and will stand the test of time. One link at a time. Oh yes, one link at a time.

The Game Board

The Creator sat down at the game board. He surveyed the pieces in play and then reached into the draw pile. He grabbed my piece and placed it on the board. Next, he took the hourglass and turned it over. I am now in play and the clock is running.

There is a reason why I am in play right now in the world we live in. There is a reason why my name was called. I don’t need to know why I was chosen. All I need to know is that I was chosen. Everything I do matters. Every choice is made based on previous choices. Every action is a culmination of past action. Momentum is built, or it is lost. My words and my deeds are the drivers of that momentum.

Will I outwork and outperform the other players on the board? My environment and circumstances had everything to do with my starting position, but it has nothing to do with where I will finish. The sands of time are running. I either play the game, or I risk going back into the draw pile.

Will I:

  • Forget that I am playing by drinking away my evenings. This is surely a “Lose a Turn” situation as it effects my performance the next day.
  • Go to jail because I keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. Creating my own prison is the result of bad habits never addressed.
  • Be a victim of chance. Fortune comes and Fortune goes. What will I do with the good? Even more important, how will I respond to the bad?

This life is a only a game but one of the highest stakes. I can either play the game, or I can let the game play me. What would the Creator who put my piece on the board want me to do? Okay then. I will play the game because that was what I was meant to do. Game on!

The Work

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.

Michael Jordan

When I was younger, I didn’t always do the work. Consequently, the outcomes I was hoping for rarely came. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I needed to do more work. This became my faith:

Do the work. The results will come.

How often is my faith tested? Am I only entitled to the work but not to the fruits? I try not to compare myself to others. But when I pick my head up from the work, I only seem to see the results others are getting. Where are my results? Where is the payoff from these years of struggle?

Do the work. The results will come.

I know I made mistakes. The track I am on is not the fast track. Heck, it is not even the medium track. However, this is the bed I made. I must sleep in it until I can produce a better bed. This is my race no matter how slow I go.

Do the work. The results will come.

I want to believe the results will come. Doing the work is all I have. I know for a fact that I won’t get the results I desire if I don’t do the work. Therefore, all I have is the work. if the amount of work I am doing is not getting the results, then I must do more work. The work must be smarter. It must be relentless.

Do the work. The results will come.

I pray for the strength to be able to do it. I pray that I may continue to fight this good fight. My mind and my hands were built to work. I have no other choice but to do that which I was called to do: the work.

A Revelation in Defeat

The Merchant.

Somewhere in the late 4th Century B.C., the ship casted off with all the merchant’s wealth invested in the purple dye contained within in the holds. This was the big score. Once traded, he would be at the top of the game. His family and business would be secure well into his retirement. There was only one problem. The ship never made it to its destination. His fortunes, hopes, and dreams lay at the bottom of the sea.

The Baller.

After 2 NBA championships, the sky was the limit for this 11x all-star. He was at the top of his game with many years still left to play. The preparation he put into his craft both on and off the court was paying off in spades. In February 2016, He was gearing up for another championship run with his team when things turned bad. A blood clot put him on the sidelines. At first, it was a setback. Then, it became a career-ender.

The Boxer.

He was a petty thief sent to a reform school at the age of ten. At fourteen, he learned to box and won a gold medal in the Olympics three years later. At twenty-one, he was the Heavyweight Champion of the World. But like most fighters, he eventually lost the belt.

It is easy to do anything in victory. It is in defeat that a man reveals himself.

Floyd Patterson

Life was good for the merchant Zeno. But what happened to his life after he lost it all? Zeno turned inward. Not in a depressing, moping kind of way. He didn’t turn to drugs and alcohol, binge watch the local circus, or engage in idle amusements to while away the time before his death. Nope! Instead, he got to work. He realized the tragedy he faced was not the end of the world. He started a school and created a philosophy that still is practiced by many today. Now, he is known as the father of Stoicism.

Players give their lives to their sports. At an early age, they trade their childhood and teenage years for the game. When the other kids are sleeping in, playing around (or goofing off), they are in the weight room, on the track, or at the practice facility going through their drills. The fraction of the percent of the players who become professionals had to rely on more than talent and the gifts their Creator endowed them with. It was their discipline, persistence, and tenacity that pushed them onto the big stage.

And what happens when it is all over? What’s next when their bodies can no longer handle the rigors of playing at an elite level? Many ride off into the sunset and into obscurity. Others become regular people working regular jobs. And then there are some, like Chris Bosh, who after being forced into retirement from a blood clot, became an author, community leader, and inspiration for the next generation. It is people like him that see meaning beyond the game. They see that winning is more than numbers on a stat sheet. It is the tally at the end of one’s life of bringing value to the world.

It is a fact that fighters get hit. They will get knocked down, and they will lose. The mark of a champion, however, is that they get back up. They don’t stay down. When Floyd Patterson lost his championship belt, he could have said he had enough. Instead, he became the first two-time heavyweight champion of the world. And though he never recaptured the belt a third time, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. It wasn’t in the easy times that he became a champion. It was in the struggle where his true self was revealed.

We have all suffered setbacks and losses in our lives. We have all been knocked down. This is nothing new. Losing doesn’t make us special. Not everybody will get back up. But the ones that do, they are the true champions of life. The true strength of a person is revealed in the struggle. It is in getting back up.

Emperor’s Log #24: If Possible, You Can Do It

I know my son is only nine. And maybe he is a little too young for the lectures and consistent push to become better. But I take the responsibility as a father very serious. If I don’t push him now, who will? If he doesn’t learn these lessons early in life, will he be like me and learn them way too late? Looking back, I wish I had someone to push me when I was his age. I wish there was someone that explained to me the why’s and the reasoning. Mostly, I remember the “do this” and more often “don’t do that” commands. And though those rules helped, the logic behind them would have been of far greater benefit.

It was another sub-par wrestling practice. Alec went through the drills half-heartedly. He was distracted, emotionally uninvested, and lacking a positive energy. It was every coach’s frustration. When it came down to the actual wrestling at the end of the session, my bigger, stronger, and fitter son lost every time. EVERY TIME! He was frustrated and knew another lecture was coming. What did we talk about?

Everything Matters.

The drills, the practices, what one eats, drinks, reads, and watches matter. The little things that seem unimportant—they matter. How we do the little things in life will ultimately determine how we do the big things. When Alec tells me that he wants to be a professional soccer player when he grows up, he is basically telling me that he wants to be in the top .001% of soccer players in the world. Well, that is elite, and elite players don’t practice half-heartedly, regardless of the sport.

One sport helps the other.

Wrestling and soccer are on the opposite ends of the sporting spectrum. Since these are the two sports Alec plays, we need to find the commonality between them. How can one improve the performance of the other?

A great wrestler needs to be in peak physical condition. There needs to be mental toughness, strength, and the ability to adapt. With hundreds of possible moves that are only applicable in certain situations, we went over the need for practice. Practice goes beyond the actual scheduled days. We must be able to drill on our own. We must become students of the game. The discipline and attentiveness that we develop in wrestling will make us better soccer players.

Soccer, on the other hand, is a team sport that requires speed, endurance, and great communication skills. The great players are both followers and leaders. They can coach as well as play. These are also great skills for a wrestler.

As individual as a sport as wrestling is, it is still a team sport. The team is not only hoping for great individual performance, but they are also hoping for the team’s overall success. We are only as good as those around us. Our teammates elevate us to greatness, we elevate them.

The brains behind it all.

Success in both sports requires some serious mental processing power. Strategy, split-second decision making, and understanding all the little nuances is not a talent we are given at birth. It is developed. To become a master at anything, we must first become students. The more we read, study, and learn, the better prepared we are for whatever life throws at us whether on the soccer pitch, on the wrestling mat, or in the board room. What is between the ears is just as important as our bones and muscles.

Wanting to reach the elite level at anything is a huge endeavor. He wants it. Can he do it?

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

Marcus Aurelius

It is a tall order. Some would say it is impossible. But, if it is humanly possible, then yes, he can do it too.

And before someone thinks I am some evil tyrant of a father, let me explain. I am not trying to pursue my athletic dreams through him. Alec and I are in this together. If he wants to be out there, then all I want for him is to give his best. When he is no longer wanting to compete or no longer enjoying it, he can move on to other more enjoyable pursuits. I want him to be happy. I want him to have fun. But I also want to prepare him to meet the challenges of an uncertain future.

Correct, not Critical

A dinner with family and friends led me the realization of how much I have grown up. A small victory, and I will take it!

I have only met the gentleman sitting across from me on a few occasions. All of them consisting of only a few brief words between us in a way of introductions and greetings. This dinner was the first opportunity to get to know him better.

As our food arrived, I noticed he had a vegetarian sub. So, I dove right in and asked a potentially loaded question. “Are you a vegetarian,” I asked. He said he wasn’t but was thinking about making the change. After watching the Netflix documentary Game Changers, he began a trial to see how he would like it. Of course, the show wasn’t his only reason for giving it a try. He also wanted to reduce the amount of prescription medication he was taking. I applaud any who makes the decision to make dietary changes to improve their health. Well done!

Where is my victory? In the past, a conversation like this could open a deep rift in nutrition ideology. I may no longer adhere to the carnivore diet, but I am still an avid consumer of meat. This admission may be offensive to those on the other end of the spectrum. My goal in the conversation was not to get him to change his mind but to understand his reasoning. It was not to criticize. Criticism often comes from ideological beliefs based on science, or doctrine, that supports those beliefs. This often leads to a shallow knowledge base that highlights a few key talking points while neglecting a complete understanding of the subject. When it comes down to it, criticism is the easy path.

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli

To be correct, one must dig deeper than the surface. It requires going beyond the thirty second video clips and the social media one-liners that are aimed at garnering “likes” by those in the same camp. Those posts aren’t designed to create understanding. Rather, they are meant to be polarizing. The result is a greater gap between factions. If we want to bridge the gap, we must seek to understand the other’s viewpoints.

So, what is my take on nutrition? It is simple: EAT REAL FOOD. The best thing we can do for our bodies is eat the foods we find in nature. If we can do our best to eliminate an excess of packaged, processed, preserved, chemically enhanced food, our bodies will thank us for it. And if we choose a diet that eliminates vegetables or meat, we must consider what else we are missing. Are we getting all our essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins? Are we giving what our bodies need to thrive? Instead of critical, we must seek to understand our unique bodies and how best we can fuel it to perform at an optimal level.