In the Forge

It begins as a lump of steel. It gets forged with heat, so that it can be shaped. Then it gets ground down, filed down, and cut down. It experiences extreme heat and extreme cold. The steel continues to get stressed until it is hardened. Once the blade has its shape and its strength, then it can be polished.

The sword arm starts out in a similar way. It begins as a lump of flesh and bone, but in time it can be shaped. On the training grounds, it can be stressed until it hardens. And once it has its shape and strength, it can be the weapon that is worthy to wield the blade.

Without a sword arm, the sword is useless and dangerous. It could be a decoration on the wall, or it could be a grotesque tool in a clumsy hand. The sword’s true purpose can only be realized by the warrior trained to use it.

The pen is mightier than the sword. –Edward Bulwer-Lytton

It begins as a jumble of words and ideas. Thoughts fluttering in the ether waiting to be caught. Moved to paper, they begin to take shape. They begin to become solid. In the forge, they get ground, filed, and cut. All the superfluities removed. In time, once the process is completed, the result may be something beautiful and polished.

Just as a swordsman must prepare for the day of battle, so a writer must prepare. Daily practice. Daily study. The mind has to be shaped, and it has to be strengthened. The writer will experience extreme heat from the critics and extreme cold from the disinterested. If the writer can overcome these trials, the message can indeed be mighty.

A pen, not used as a decoration, can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. A reader’s mind has to be strong as well. This too can come from practice.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. –Proverbs 22:6

It was a proud moment coming home from work when my son showed me a large pile of books and a new library card. This soon-to-be six year-old has a voracious appetite for reading and his skills are really accelerating. It is truly exciting to imagine the opportunities if he continues to cultivate this super-power throughout his lifetime.

Bo's lasting lessons
Could this be when Alec first developed his love for books?

I loved reading as a child but fell away from it as a teen. It wasn’t until a very boring field exercise in the Army that I started reading again. Once that bug infected me, I couldn’t stop. I developed my skill as a reader through fiction in those early days, and it truly has helped in my ability to read non-fiction. It was in those Army days, that I first began to realize that I, too, wanted to be a writer. But in order to be a good writer, a writer, as Epictetus says, has to write. And back then, I didn’t have the discipline to stick with it. I was arrogant and thought it would come naturally. What foolishness. It is on the training ground that a warrior learns the art that prepares him for battle. Likewise, it is in the training of daily practice, that a writer can master his art.

Epictetus: Wanna be a writer, write.

Parenting tip #1: Be the Parent

I have recently started asking some of the veteran associates I work with about their opinions on some of the new hires. The answers were rather similar and can be summed up in two statements, “they are no good” and “they have no work ethic.” Many of these new associates are fresh into adulthood. They are young and inexperienced, and they are viewed as “no good.” I see a few who stand out. They are quiet. They work hard. They show up to work every day. They are in the minority. What a shame. Is this an issue with today’s kids or has it always been this way? They have been thrust out into this world of adults, and they are not prepared.


I try to attend everyone of Alec’s wrestling practice. I am actively involved with the drills. I do it for two reasons. First, I want to make sure Alec understands what it is he is supposed to do and then that he does the work. The second is for his protection. I understand I may be overly protective of my five year old, but I have my reasons. He is one of the youngest in the group and has never wrestled before. With the exception of a few, the boys he wrestles against are bigger, stronger, and wilder. In addition, they lack discipline. Some of these boys have no qualms about applying a rear naked choke to get the advantage. Their actions are not malicious, but they don’t know any better and will do what is needed to win. If I see them or Alec break a rule that could cause an injury, I will not hesitate to stop and reset the action.

Of the boys on the team only about 25% have the ability sit and listen to their coaches’ instruction. One in particular seems to have made it a quest to disrupt the practice. The coaches are continuously telling him to sit down, to stop running, or to leave the other wrestlers alone. While this is taking place, his parents are sitting on the mat nearby not paying attention to their son’s antics. Whatever is on their phones happen to be more important. Do they think they can take a break from their duties as parents since the coach is now the babysitter? Are they not even remotely embarrassed? If this is the norm for practice, I can’t even imagine what the teachers in the classroom have to go through. If the behavior is not corrected now, what will happen in the future? As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”


Thinking of the future, what will these undisciplined children be like when they are much older? They used to be little terrors, and now they are growing up. Will they self-correct into model citizens. Will they recognize their parents’ lack of attention and go on to be better parents with their own children? One could hope, but that may be a bit naïve. Those children, if they survive to adulthood, if they don’t kill themselves or the ones around them, will likely continue to the pattern their parents set before them and raise a new generation of little terrors even more fragmented and torn than their predecessors. A land of undisciplined, unruly children turned to adults will not improve society. If they continue down this course, they will not make this world a better place.

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. -Proverbs 19:18

This is a plea for parents to wake up. Put your cell phones down and pay attention to your children. How can you expect them to pay attention when your lack of attention is the example they follow. Teach them discipline. Mete out a just punishment when they stray off the path. The rod of discipline can take many forms. Taking your kid off to the side during practice and stopping him from causing mayhem now may prevent him from getting kicked off the team in High School. A well-deserved spanking now is more preferable than the punishment found in a prison later. Be their parent. Be their teacher, and maybe we can have a hope for a better future.

Folly is bound up in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. –Proverbs 22:15

Scheduling For Best Results

In regards to writing, what is preventing me from consistency? I know it is something I am passionate about, but something is keeping me from doing the thing that I want to do the most. I have a few theories, and it all starts with planning. I know the direction I want to go, but I struggle with planning. I struggle with finding the right tools that are going to help me stay on task and plan for future events. If I do not have a plan, I am not prepared during my allotted writing times. The effect is my writing is not focused. Even worse, without a plan I am likely to do something else. This is not good. There are things in my brain that do not need to be stuck there. If I can’t get it out of my brain, how can I get it to my readers? If I can’t get the content to my readers consistently, what hope do I have that they will keep coming back? None.

There is this calendar on my phone, which some would suggest is a great scheduling tool. I use it to set the occasional reminder for personal things, but I never have used it for my writing. There is also the pocket calendar I get every year from my employer. I have received seven of these and have never once made an entry into it. Each one sits in my locker until I replace it with the next year’s version.

The great thing about writing out your problems is that you often stumble upon the solution. This year, I want to be consistent. It has to be if I want different results. I can’t expect to do the same things over and over and expect different results. So it has to be different. I have to be different. Tonight I took the first step. I broke out that pocket calendar, dusted it off, and made my first entry. It only took seven years to do so. I downloaded the google calendar app on my iPhone so that it could sync up my non-iOS laptop. It is a great first step. Now I have to stick with it. Consistent behaviors lead to consistent results.

What are consistent behaviors? It is discipline. It is the path that I am looking for in every aspect of my life. Discipline.

Power Combo: Discipline and Knowledge

What does it mean to love discipline? Imagine a person you know that has discipline. What does this person do that classifies her as one with discipline? An individual with discipline does the right things consistently and abstains from the wrong things consistently. The person that loves discipline is also a lover of knowledge.

But why? What does knowledge have to do with discipline? If discipline is the path we should be on, then knowledge is the guide that will keep us on it. How else are you going to know which direction to go?

Knowledge is essential to staying on the path of discipline. Knowledge without discipline, however, will do you little good. There are too many people full of knowledge with no fruits to show from it. Their knowledge is useless if it is not being used. But knowledge coupled with discipline, now that is a powerful combination. It is a combination that allows a person to make better choices, adapt when needed, and move forward. Who can stop a person like that?

Keep moving on the path. Get the knowledge along the way that will keep you on the straight and narrow. This knowledge will come from many sources. Weigh it, consider it, and embrace it if it is true.

My son:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates reproof is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1

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
https://www.crossrope.com/ 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

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.