Obstacles in Life

There was a change in Thursday’s practice schedule. It was a little chaotic, and Alec didn’t have a chance to warm-up. This was my fault. I should have had him do it on his own or work a few minutes with the other class.

Right away, I could tell something was off. So far this season, Alec has had phenomenal practices. He has been attentive to the lectures and has given 100% in the drills. I have been happy with his progress. But at this practice, that wasn’t the case. He was distracted during the lectures which made his drill practice subpar. And then when it was time to wrestle, he had no confidence and was beaten by everyone he went against. What was going on?

After every practice, Alec and I have an After-Action Review (AAR). The one after this practice didn’t go well. I highlighted all the things he did wrong. Usually, I start with all the positives and then proceed to the areas he can work on. But in this case, it was all negative. As his athletic manager, I dropped the ball and didn’t consider the underlying factors. Later that night, we talked about what could have been better. We both agreed this was a one-off event, and we would do our best to learn from it and then move on. We also talked about why he was wrestling and its real-world applications.

The Obvious

The obvious application is how to handle a physical confrontation with another person. Wrestling is a great preventative measure against bullies. Bullies do not prefer to prey on a superior target. It does not enhance their reputations if they cannot defeat their opponent. Therefore, the bully looks to target a victim that is deemed mentally and/or physically weaker. A strong capable body and mind is one’s best defense against the bully.

In Relation to Math

As a part of our conversation, we discussed math. Mathematicians must be able to solve the problem in front of them. These problems range in complexity. Some problems are seen often. Once we understand the steps to solve them,  the problems become easier. But other problems are more complex and require more time and effort. Fortunately, most problems have a solution.

The wrestler’s problem is the opponent. The skillset, speed, and strength of the opponent determines the complexity. And like math, there is usually an available solution. The winner of the match is the one who discovers the solution the quickest.

In NOT Giving Up

Wrestling is one of the great sports that effectively taxes the mind and body. Enough pain and frustration will cause the faint of heart to throw in the towel. For the wrestler, the key to victory lies in overcoming the desire to give up. After all, the last one standing gets the crown.

Alec may not participate in the sport of wrestling his whole life. Yet, he will be wrestling throughout his lifetime. He is going to face situations where quitting will be an available option. Whether it is frustration with friends and family, co-workers and supervisors, or kings and countries, he will have to navigate seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What he does now will develop him to meet those future challenges head-on.

The real obstacles in life lie in the heart of man.

Bertrand Russell

The real beauty of wrestling is that it develops confidence and courage. To show hesitation is to show a lack of both. Currently, Alec has neither as a wrestler. He will get there, but he isn’t there yet. My job as his “manager” is to get him there. Of course, I want him to win, but winning at this stage is less important than his journey to excellence. Time under tension is one the best ways to develop muscles. Time under tension (experience) on the mat is going build both his confidence and courage. It is going to enable him to overcome the obstacles he is facing now and the future real obstacles he is going to face in life.

Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.

Epictetus

A Champ’s Price

The great champions made what they did look easy. Of course they were talented, but that is a characteristic that can only take someone so far. The magic ingredient is the work they combined with their talent. Endless hours went into perfecting the basics. They ate, slept, and practiced.

As Babe Ruth said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Champions don’t give up. They get knocked down, probably more than anybody else, and then they get back up. Again, and again. And after each time they get up, the knockdowns come fewer and farther in between.

If you are going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price.

Bud Wilkinson

The greater price is what separates them from the rest of the field. Comfort is an after-thought. Complacency is unacceptable. Only a select few can be a champion—only those willing to pay a greater price.

The lesser price is for everybody else. It is for the ordinary. And it doesn’t matter if it is in sports or everyday life, champions pay a greater price.

What price am I willing to pay? I don’t have to look far to see the ordinary. If I settle for being like everybody else, if I settle for average, then that is all I will ever be. I won’t be a champion if I settle. If I don’t do things different, then how can I expect to be different?

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Jim Rohn

Feature photo by Steven Erixon on Unsplash.

Home of the Brave

As a parent, the line is razor thin. On the one side is protection. My goal as a protective father is to ensure my son sees adulthood, preferably with a sound mind and all his body parts. On the other side is freedom. I want him to have the freedom to choose, to explore, to do all the mischievous things boys should do. I don’t want him to get hurt. But at the same time, I don’t want him to be coddled to the point that he grows up to be something less than a man.

I think of all the stupid stuff I did as a kid. At least, my hindsight says it was stupid. How many times did I do something dangerous, get lost in the woods, or be somewhere I shouldn’t have been? In some cases, I was lucky to survive. In all cases, I was learning how to live and how not to die. With freedom came risk. And in every instance, freedom was preferable to it counterpart.

This nation will remain the land of the free as long as it is the home of brave.

Elmer Davis

This land was built with freedom as a focal point. To ensure that freedom and pass it down to the next generation, men and women had to sacrifice. The tree of liberty was refreshed in blood (Jefferson). Bravery was the prerequisite to freedom.

Today is a day to remember the brave men and women who have protected Liberty’s torch and ensured its light will continue to shine for the next generation. And the best way to pay honor to that sacrifice is to do more than offer a small word of gratitude. It is to be brave ourselves and to raise the next generation to be brave. This is the only way to guarantee our freedom. It is the only proper way to pay homage to those who gave so much.

Don’t Tread on Me

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

-Excerpt from an article attributed to Benjamin Franklin originally published in The Pennsylvania Journal, 12 December 1775. Click here for the full letter.

The rattlesnake’s warning is distinctive. If you hear it, you know to stop, to look around, and to go the other way if possible. The rattlesnake is a fearsome creature, but he is not mean by nature. Instead, he is quite considerate. Compared to the other poisonous animals in the world, he is the only one to give you a warning. He says, “Think carefully before you tread on me. I don’t want to bite you, but I will if you force me to it.”

For centuries, the British were one of the dominant powers on this planet. They felt they could go wherever they wanted, rule where the profits were greatest, and generally walk all over everybody else. The American colonies didn’t prefer the British tyranny and responded by raising the Gadsden Flag. It was a symbol and a warning: If you tread on us, we will bite.

If we choose to be no more than clods of clay, then we shall be used as clods of clay for braver feet to tread on.

Marie Corelli

The world has changed considerably since those days in the late 1700’s. Does this mean people have changed? There are still those who think the world is theirs for the taking. They have no qualms trying to control those they deem inferior. And if we allow it, then we are no more than clods of clay for their feet. Like the early Colonials, we are faced with a choice. Do we passively surrender our freedoms, or do we do as the rattlesnake? If we choose freedom over tyranny, then we must sound the warning and let the oppressors know we can bite. We can fight back.

Happiness-Freedom-Courage

So many long for happiness, yet so many have yet to find a true and lasting form of it. Some would blame others for their inability to obtain it. Others would look for cheapened versions of it that only lasts a few moments before the rush dwindles and fades away.

Happiness is found within each of us. We cannot trust others to provide it for us. We must determine what it is and then work to discover it.

The secret to happiness is freedom…

The secret is freedom. But what is freedom? Is it the ability to do whatever one pleases? Would this not make one a slave to his desires? Freedom must go beyond base pleasure. It must speak of a higher nature, something more meaningful.

When I think of freedom, I think of the ability to operate without hindrance towards one’s goal. Freedom to pursue happiness.

and the secret of freedom is courage. -Thucydides

Simply stated, one cannot be afraid to take calculated risks. There is a chance of failure. Even the safest bets can go awry. But this should not deter us from trying. After all, our happiness, and our freedom, is on the line. If we fail, we should pause. We should look to see what went wrong and what can be done better. And after this moment, we get back up and try again. It is an endless cycle until we hit the mark, until we find the happiness we seek.


Feature photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

Be Yourself

Popeye was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. He was a somewhat normal guy trying to do the right thing. When times got rough, he would crack open a can of performance enhancing spinach and solve the problem.

That is what I wanted to be like—a normal guy able to overcome the obstacles of life. Of course, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was always getting bullied, where I was forced to drink a cup of courage in my direst need, just able to survive to see the next day.

I yam what I yam and dats all what I yam. -Popeye the Sailor Man

I quoted the quote and sang the song, but back then I never considered taking it to heart. I am what I am. I am not Popeye, not like Mike (Jordan), or any other childhood hero. Nope. I am what I am. I can emulate the actions of my heroes and mentors, but in the end, I must remember:

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

Oscar Wilde

Make Use of Suffering

Suffering is inevitable. That may be something we might not want to hear, but it is true.

Our bodies will degenerate as we age. We can do our best to minimize the effects through nutrition, daily physical activity, and stress management. But despite our best efforts, we will succumb to age. And we can try our best to prevent accidents, but they will still happen. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, rest assured, someday you will suffer physically.

We can guard our souls, but they too will suffer. We will mourn others who suffer. We will mourn loved ones as they pass. Our hearts will long for that which it cannot have. Our souls will suffer.

And then there is the mind. Here the suffering may not be as acute. The body can numb some of its ailments. The soul can as well through the passage of time. Bur our minds are always working. Wanting for the body and soul to be at peace, it wants for the things they cannot have. It longs for something higher, for something better in the future. Although self-induced, the mind will also suffer.

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.

Henri Frederic Amiel

To make use of the suffering is the art of living. Indeed, to suffer gracefully is truly an art! And some do this better than others. They take their internal battles stoically. Suffering is a test of the will. And where some, at the slightest hindrance, will go about in sack cloth and ashes proclaiming, “Woe is me,” others will hold their pains close and look for ways to overcome it. They go forth to do battle, and through grit and resolve return as conquerors. The suffering is looked upon as an opportunity, and they will find the greatest use for it.


Feature photo by mwangi gatheca on Unsplash

No Limits, Only Plateaus

Limits

I can’t.

It is those words that draw the line in the sand. They put up the barriers between success and never really getting started in the first place, which is worse than failure. To say, “you can’t,” is not getting beat, it is only admitting defeat.

Can’t is a self-imposed limit. It is a red light on an empty street. A full stop. And sometimes when you get one red light, you find a multitude of them waiting around the corner.

The Spread

The obstacles in life are only that. They are only obstacles. And when one enters the picture, we are confronted with a choice. We can either attempt to conquer them, or we can stay where we are.

Some said it was impossible to:

  • Run a four-minute mile
  • Deadlift a thousand pounds
  • Travel faster than a horse
  • Fly like a bird
  • Go to the moon

They were wrong.

Hit one red light, you might hit them all. Say you can’t in one area of your life, you might find you can’t in the all the other areas. “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark,” said Dante. One little “can’t” has the potential to burn all your hopes and dreams down.

No limits

Are there really any limits to what is possible in life? Are there any obstacles that are too great? Indeed, there are some that seem insurmountable. But they only just seem. We have been blessed with unlimited potential. We have been cursed with unlimited doubts.

Plateaus

The obstacles in our lives are only plateaus. They are sticking points that attempt to mire us in the mud. They are not the peaks we attain to, and therefore, we must go beyond them. They are but puzzles waiting to be solved. We must solve them and then continue the journey. Often, they will require all our faculties of body, soul, and mind. Our virtues will be put to the test, especially the one of courage. This is no light matter. But be not faint of heart for our first step in the journey was an act of courage. And all our subsequent steps, they were additional acts of courage reinforcing us and preparing us for the obstacles to come.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

Feature photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Do the Things You Have to Do

I watched as my son reluctantly pulled the homework out of his backpack. There were so many other things he wanted to do after a long day of school. Instead of winding down or playing outside before the sun set, he was digging into more math and grammar problems. He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he must.

What must be done

I only partially learned this lesson in school and my grades reflected it. The lesson hit its mark in the Army. You do what you must, or you pay the price. In this case, the price was paid in full through pain. And as John Patrick said, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” [Read: Feel the Pain, Make the Change]

Unfortunately, back then, doing what I must only extended to my professional life. I didn’t have the discipline or the courage to extend it to my personal life. As a result, I suffered. The pain I felt was dull, and therefore, I continued to do what I wanted rather than what I should have done.

Education through pain and experience

Professors Pain and Experience may have been my two greatest teachers. Early on, they were instrumental in my education. It was through pain that I learned the consequences of getting burned, to identify what was toxic if I ate it, and what will hit me if I upset it. Pain taught me how to survive. Experience, how to thrive. In time, they tutored me on how to bridge the gap between the personal and professional. Without them, I would be dead. But with them, I learned how to live.

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.

Aldous Huxley

Is our traditional education system broken? Some would think so. Yet, there is still value in it if we learn from Huxley’s words. Learn to do what you must, whether you like it or not. But consider the things you must do. Weigh them carefully. Is it that which you must do for yourself, or is it that which someone else thinks you must do for your own good? There is a big difference.


Feature photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Rising When You Fall

Go or No-Go

You may even call it pass or fail. I grew up in a world where failure was bad. It was embarrassing. It showed a lack of ability. Nobody wants to fail. And the stigma of failure is often so bad, that to never start at all is a valid temptation.

Why ask the girl on a date? She might say no.

Why try out for the team? You might not make it.

Why sign up for that class? It might be too hard.

In the Army, things didn’t get better. Failure often resulted in an unrelated punishment. Failing at the wrong time could result in your death or the death of your teammates. It was a go or no-go, and well, who wants to be a no-go.

Greenlights

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights may have been one the more enjoyable books I have read this year. A greenlight means go. Catching all greenlights on the road makes for smooth travelling. This is a warm spring day where nothing can wrong. When you have all greenlights, life is good. As McConaughey puts it:

Catching greenlights is about skill: intent, context, consideration, endurance, anticipation, resilience, speed, and discipline. We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the red lights are in our life, and then change course to hit fewer of them.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

Greenlights are good. But taken at face value the above passage would suggest to only look for the easy way. But that is not all that he is saying. He tells us the red and yellow lights are moments to pause, to think, and to reflect. Those lights might be green when looked upon in the rearview mirror of life.

Imagine hitting a red light on the road and thinking the game is over. You have failed to hit all greenlights. Would you stop driving? Would you give up or would wait until the light is green?

It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The Opportunity to Fail

That’s right. Failure is an opportunity. It is not always pleasant. At times, the failure can result in consequences unrealized and undesirable. Should that stop us? Nope. If we do the research and then the work, the failure is a chance to learn. It is a chance to evolve as an individual. Give it a try. If you fail, learn. Try again.

In starting your first business or your hundredth, there is a risk that it won’t succeed. There is a reward if it does. What many don’t realize is that the failure also contains a reward. It is called experience, which is not available to those who never try in the first place.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

Oliver Goldsmith

Glory

Many of us seek it in some way, shape, or form. The greatest glory is getting knocked on your rear end then getting back up. Getting knocked down is okay only if you rise when you fall.


Feature photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash