Siddhartha by Herman Hesse


Do you ever read a book that just seems magical? I’m not speaking about magic in a book, but the words, the content, the meanings all seem magical. When I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, that was what I experienced magic.

Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret.

When I was young, I was very passionate about living a “holy” life. I had thoughts of becoming a missionary. I wanted to run away from the things of this world and live in obscurity in the most meager way. Reflecting back on it, I think part of me was scared and lost. I wasn’t ready for the great, big world and instead wanted to seclude myself in the smallest part of it I could find.

In my 20’s and 30’s, my eyes  were opened up to the ways of the world. I left the part of me that wanted to live as an ascetic behind. I began to live for pleasure. The things I consumed were not because I needed it, but because I wanted it. It was during this time, I allowed the undesirable things to slowly creep into my life. The darkness began to seep into my soul and threatened to corrupt the things I once held precious. During this time, I was still trying to escape. The memories of my youth haunted me. I began to live in the past, dulled in the present, and blind to the future.

Then a time came when those worldly things were no longer important. They began to lose their luster. Food became less about pleasing my belly, and more about fueling my body. Alcohol no longer became a tool of escape to dull the senses. My mind and my body even started to reject the idea of laziness. Those things of the world now seem vain and fleeting. Worthless.

This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn’t let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal.

img_0471As I move into this next stage of my life, I am also drawn to a goal. I am attracted by the things which are greater than myself. I am striving toward that which goes beyond this lifetime.

Even with him, even with your great teacher, I prefer the thing over the words, place more importance on his acts and life than on his speeches, more on the gesture of his hand than his opinions. Not in his speech, not in his thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.

Check Your Response

I know I have done it. Chances are so have you.

Someone is in a mood, and you are the next target. He is coming at you at you and likely has the intention of provoking an argument. He is not happy. He doesn’t want to be the only one wallowing in the muck. He wants you there right there by his side.

It could be he is not even looking for a fight. It could just be a misunderstanding. Some poor communication, bad timing, or a feeble attempt at humor that went a bit sideways.

It is easy to get caught in the trap. Maybe you are in a bad mood yourself, and this is what you have been waiting for. Don’t take the bait. You could end up in an argument you may soon regret. Once you let those words fly, you cannot get them back. Depending on your environment, your upcoming spat could have a negative impact on others.

There is another choice. There is a different path. Choose that one and immediately spot the difference.

A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1


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Open Your Eyes

My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. It was Sunday morning. The house was quiet. Everything was quiet. Instead of getting up, I hit the snooze button. My body was stiff from the day’s previous training. The comfort and warmth of my bed was enough for me to stay in it. After all, it was 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t really have to get up. I finally rolled out of bed a few minutes past six.

This morning I was doing a EMOM workout. Every minute on the minute I was doing 70 skips with a 1 lb. jump rope. After the 13th minute, I was beginning to feel fatigued. During the 14th minute, my little boy opened the door to the garage and told me good morning. I finished the 14th minute. I was done. I could have gone longer. I hadn’t possibly done all that I could, but the motivation changed. My priority shifted from myself to my son.

1 lb. Intensity Rope By far the best set of jumpropes I have ever used, Crossrope!

What would have happened if I was up at 4:30? First, my workout would have been completed no later than 5:30. The next hour could have been spent reading or writing. My plan this day was to write. Then, by the time the family was getting up, I would have been knocked out the two biggest personal time goals that I had for the day. The rest of my waking hours would have been devoted to spending time with the family. But because I slept in, I got in an abbreviated workout and did not write.

IMG_0360This was just one day, actually several weeks ago. The days after this, with consistent practice I was able to get up earlier, stay up, and get the things done that needed to be accomplished. Everything was becoming more and more routine until I hit the Christmas holidays. Then the travelling began, and really didn’t end until this weekend. It wasn’t really possible to get up early without the risk and waking up the house I was staying in. With the exception of 1 or 2 days, that was about 16 days of sleeping in. I worked out when I could, barely wrote, and read a ton. In my mind I had a plan, and that plan was not executed. And now, I feel like I am back to square one.

Tomorrow, I am back to work. My alarm will be set for 3:55. It is imperative that I get up and start completing on my before work tasks (workout and reading). If I do not, then I won’t get another chance that day. By the time, I get home after six in the evening, the opportunity to work out will be gone. Evenings are reserved for family.

I remember the way it was last winter. I wanted to wake up and workout before work but did not have the discipline to do it. I had good intentions, but intentions without action are useless. I did not want to get out of shape, but I allowed it to happen. My waistline kept getting larger, my appetite kept growing, and the weight started creeping in. I had lots of desire just not the action to back it up.

Fitness is just one measurable part of my life that impacts almost every other aspect. Being conscious of my fitness causes me to be conscious of all my other actions. I tend to make better choices about the things I eat and drink when I am thinking about the impact it has on my body. The structure and time I plan for working out are all part of a larger daily plan for accomplishing tasks throughout the day. I start with the workout, scratch it off my list, and then move on to non-fitness related activities that need to be done. To have a successful day, I have to get my list done. To have a successful day, I have to be able to turn off that alarm and get up.

My son:

Open your eyes, and you will have bread. -Proverbs 20:13

The Hand of the Diligent Will Rule

I received a call from a girl in Ireland. She has a been a friend for over 10 years and was coming back to the States for the first time in about 8 years. She wanted to know if my family was willing to meet for dinner at her parent’s house. I told her it should be no problem, since I was off on that day, December 23.

Roughly two weeks after that call, my schedule at work changed. I mentioned to my supervisor that I had plans for the 23rd. She said it would be no problem, seeing that it wasn’t my fault that the schedule changed. After another two weeks, on the 18th, my supervisor came up to me and said there was no way she could give me that day off. If she did it for me, she would have to do it for everyone else.

This announcement was disappointing. For the next two hours, it was the only thing on my mind while working. It wasn’t shocking, because this was the norm for my supervisor. By the time I made it home that evening, I was already over it. I delivered the news to my wife, and as expected, she was very upset. She wanted me to start calling everybody and anybody that could help me. We had made plans and were given the okay to follow through with them. This was injustice! But in my mind, it was over. In my mind, I already knew. This was my fault.

“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.” –Proverbs 12:24 (NKJV)

This proverb is telling me that not getting that day off is my fault. All the other perceived injustices by my employer(s) over the years, they are really my fault. I work at the pleasure of my employer. If I want to provide for my family, I have to work. I don’t make the rules. I cannot come and go as I please. My master gives me a badge and tells me when to come and when to go, when to clock in and when to clock out, when to work, rest, eat, and even use the restroom. If I want money to survive, I follow the rules. If I want to live just a little bit better than my peers, I have two options. I work harder and smarter for my current master with the hopes of being able to move up, or I find a new master.

How did I get myself into this modern age of forced labor? I put myself there. I didn’t do the right things when I was younger. Instead, I just did what seemed the normal things. I got a job and worked hard at it. I kept working that job until another opportunity came up that seemed too good to turn down. I tried to go to school to continue my education, but life always seemed to get in the way. I just kept telling myself to keep plugging away. Things will get better. They will get easier. The money will get better. I will get a raise next year. In five years, I will be making quite a bit more. Just keep going, working for the master. This is not living. This is existing.

My son…

If you don’t want to be made to do forced labor when you are older, then start now, even at five years old. You learn to be diligent. Be diligent in your studies. Be diligent in your extra-curricular activities. That child-like wonder that sparks your curiosity, feed it. Find out why things work the way they do. If you don’t know, then we can find out together or find someone that does know. Do the things that interest you. Do the things that make you smarter, stronger, and better. And whatever you do, do it diligently. It will be the difference between ruling over your own self, or giving that rule to someone else and being made to do forced labor.


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10 Minutes of Coaching

Alec wrestling

I love driving my son to wrestling practice. The drive provides about 10 minutes of coaching. Often the same topics are covered, today was different.

I asked Alec, “What are we going to do today in practice?” Alec’s response was automatic: Listen and Pay Attention. Listening and paying attention are his two biggest goals for each day at school. It is really hard to get into trouble, especially at school, when this is your focus. As our conversation continues, we also cover the following topics:

  • Do the work
  • Keep your head up
  • Have a good attitude
  • Have fun

Listen and Pay Attention

Obviously this applies to the coach.  How else are you going to learn, but from your coach/mentor/teacher? As I attend these practices, I am amazed at the patience of the coaches. They are trying to turn these kids, from 5-11 years old, into wrestlers. Very few of the children have the ability to sit and listen to the instruction. Very few have the ability to just sit still. The ones listening are able to take in so much more of the content. At this stage, it just might make the difference in each child’s success.

You need to listen and pay attention to your opponent, as well. This means using more than just your ears. You need to read him. How is he standing? Does he have patterns that can be recognized and exploited? What is his body language? Is he having a good day or even a good attitude? Is he cautious or careless? Does he listen and pay attention?

This is a lot of information for a five year old to grasp. But these lessons are not just for wrestling, they are lessons he can utilize throughout his life. He will not be five forever.


Do the Work

When it comes to the drills and the exercises, we have to do the work. What Alec is lacking in experience, he is making up through hard work. It is not easy. The attention span and work ethic of these youngsters is sporadic at best. Trying to keep them drilling the whole time is a chore. Continuing to do push-ups, when the others are not. is a task easily accomplished.

There is a deep principle here, one of fortitude and determination. How do you keep going, even when you are the only one? How do you keep pushing, even when you do not feel like it? Discipline. It is not something that is inherited. It is forged when no one else is looking. It is developed when you keep working despite your feelings. This is discipline. This is doing the work. Consistent behaviors equal consistent results.


Keep Your Head Up

Drop your head in wrestling, and you give your opponent an advantage. You will not be able to see what is happening. You won’t be able to react to what your opponent is doing. Drop your head, and you allow yourself to be controlled by another.

This is another lesson we have been working on with Alec. He has a tendency to drop his head when he hears something he doesn’t want to hear. He drops his head when he doesn’t get his way. It used to be a minor annoyance. In time, my wife and I would get frustrated with this small act. Now, it is a lesson.You will never get what you truly desire by dropping your head. You cannot continue to fight from this submissive position. You cannot maintain control when your head is down.

This is something I started working on several years ago and continue to work on today. When I shake hands with another, I ensure I am making eye contact. I view it as a matter of respect. By looking away with eyes averted, I feel like I am not giving the respect due to the other person.

I do this also when I am running. I used to wave at motorists in my neighborhood but not make eye contact. In my mind I was thinking, “ Yeah I’m running. It’s tough. I can’t focus on you. I gotta keep my eyes straight ahead.” Maybe it is something the Army taught me. Eyes forward. This is not a joy run. We are out here doing work. This might be why it took me another 15 years after the Army to enjoy running. Now when a car passes by, I wave and try to keep eye contact. Maybe I am trying to send a message, “I am out here getting after it, and I am enjoying it. Why don’t you join me next time?”


Have a Good Attitude

When Alec’s attitude changes, it is very noticeable. This goes along with keeping his head up. Even more so when it comes to doing the work. On occasion, there are mini challenges where the winner will watch the loser do push-ups. In the beginning, he would get upset because he got rolled over and as result would be the one pushing. He would want to get up, but he knew he had to do the work. Now that he is winning more challenges, he is doing the push-ups with the boy he just beat.

I love to watch people who genuinely have a good attitude. It is truly hard to hold a grudge against them. Their attitude is infectious. Their attitude inspires me to do better. Adversity is coming for all us. Our ability to handle it will determine the outcome. I’m reminded of the quote, “Was it a bad day, or was it a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?” – unknown. I know I have been guilty of it. One little insignificant thing, that won’t make a difference in the long run, can set me off in the wrong direction. If I am not self-aware, my day can be ruined. And for what? Whatever it was, probably wasn’t important.


Have Fun

When I asked Alec what else we need to do, he responded with, “have fun.” It might be something I tend to forget, but the concept is not lost with him.  We are trying to accomplish many things with wrestling. But what it is all worth, if we are not having fun? I’m so happy that Alec did not lose sight of this fact. He is not being forced to wrestle. He is doing it, because he wants to. If it is not fun, then there is very little value in doing it.

There are many ways to have fun wrestling. He can go out there and play around. Several kids are doing that at every practice.  Those behaviors have consequences. Don’t do the work, and you struggle. Don’t do the drills, and another kid is going to wipe the mat with you.

To really have fun wrestling, you have to be competitive. You have to win. In order to win, you have to do the work. Some are naturally talented and can have some success solely on talent. The rest of us close the gap through hard work. In the event, you are naturally talented and put in the work, you will be nearly unstoppable. Elite.

Royal Lessons, what is it?

Royal Lessons Banner (Compressed)

Several years ago, I began working on The Royal Lessons. Here’s the reason for the name and its purpose:

The Name

It actually starts with my son’s name.

After 8 long years of trying for a baby, my wife, Bethany, and I finally conceived. During the pregnancy, we began the careful selection of choosing a name. Names are important. Your reputation, your true worth is tied to your name. We did not want to be careless in picking a name. We wanted a name that had meaning, but also included the baby’s heritage. We had a son. We named him Alexander Ong Fine.

Alexander is a special name. We call him Alec for short. It means warrior/defender of man. Many would first think of Alexander the Great. He certainly was a warrior king, but it is the “warrior/defender of man” that I found to be of great importance. What were our hopes for our son, that we would call him a defender of man? We wanted to raise a man that would help those that needed it. We wanted to raise a protector, not a bully.

Ong is my mother’s maiden name. The name is a reminder of a legacy, that I did not want to be lost with my descendants. My mother’s family came from Indonesia. They fled the country in a turbulent time and came to America with hopes of a better life, a safer life. They did just that. They came and did what what was needed to survive. In time, they began to thrive, and my grandparents left an amazing legacy. Ong is a Chinese name as my family’s heritage has it beginnings in China. Ong translates to king.

Fine is also a name with a special heritage. Our ancestors can be traced back to the 1300’s and came to America in the 1600’s. I am constantly amazed how often I run into someone with the same last name. Often, we can find out where our lines branch, which makes for interesting conversations.

So yes, we did name our son King Al. Of course, we don’t call him that. He is our precious little boy who is very aware of his name. He is reminded of it, often when he is not living up to it.

The Purpose

For most of my life, I have been reading from the book of Proverbs. It is almost a daily default habit for me to read one chapter every day. There is so much wisdom from this book. Reading from Proverbs has put me on a quest for true wisdom from a variety of sources.

Having this knowledge is one thing, but I think wisdom is far more than just knowledge. It is what you do with that knowledge. It is action. I have not always demonstrated wisdom. More often it has been the opposite. Acquiring wisdom is a journey. You make an attempt to apply the things you learn. You make an attempt to learn from your past mistakes. There is an ideal of perfection in my mind. Of course, I know I will never be perfect, but I can strive for a type of perfection. I imagine what the next version of myself will be, and then, I go after it.

And what I learn along the way, I can pass it on to Alec. I might even be able to pass it on to others. When I first started writing these lessons for Alec, I called it “Lessons from a king to a king.” What began with the teachings I received from King Solomon’s writing in the Book of Proverbs, are now lessons to my little king. They are The Royal Lessons.