Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Thankful

Take a Moment to Reflect

I wanted to take this time to urge us all to take a moment and reflect back on all the GOOD things that have happened to us and remember all the NICE people we know and have in our lives.  With so much that goes on in our lives we often get stuck in a pattern where all we focus on is the negative.  Think about it... If you have an exceptionally rude checkout person at a store, or a bad experience at a restaurant, how many people do you tell about that experience?  How about if someone did something nice for you?  Let's say that someone picked up your wallet you dropped and gave it back to you, or perhaps you had an exceptionally pleasant person waiting on you at the bank.  How many people do you relay this story to?  We may mention it in a passing story, but rarely do we let the positive experiences affect us the way we do the negative ones.  That is probably why the business world follows the belief that if a customer has a positive experience, they'll tell one person.  But, if they have a negative experience, they will tell six people on average.  All of us have let a single, simple negative experience snowball into the "worse day ever."  What if we let the positive experiences have the same effect on us?

The Hill

When I was in college, one of our conditioning exercises for football was to jog to a local park near our practice field.  In the park was a short hill, less than 100 yards long, that had a very steep incline.  Looking back on those days, I am convinced this was more a mental exercise than it was a physical one.  We would start with a few simple jogs up and down the hill to warm up.  Surprisingly, the trip down the hill was just as exhausting because you had to slow your momentum down as you got to the bottom, or you would end up in the river.  Sometimes that seemed like an okay thing.

Then the fun started.  We would have to run backwards, sideways, and keep both legs together and hop up the hill.  This would go on for what seemed like forever, with little instruction from our coach other than when to start and what we were doing this trip up the hill.  Eventually you would start to hear the moans, and the swearing of teammates as we trotted back up and down the hill.  Time and time again the coach would promise us this was the last one.  Only to have him play out possible scenarios and say "The defense gave up a long touchdown, offense you have to go back on the field!"  Or possibly "Offense just fumbled, defense you gotta go back out and get the ball back!"  and we would have one more trip up the hill.  Each time we sprinted up the hill hoping it really would be the last one, only to have the coach waiting for us at the bottom of the hill with his whistle resting on his lips.

Here is where I learned what positive thinking can do, and how strong of an effect our thinking has on our brain as well as our body.  Our coach's tone would change and even though he was barking his commands out, it was in a seemingly calm manner.  He would say to us "Complaining is like a cancer, it only spreads.  Maybe the guy next to you wasn't feeling so bad until he heard you complain... all of a sudden he realizes he's tired, and sore, and now he's complaining and wanting to quit."  The team's moans would turn into words of encouragement as we lined up for another trip up the hill.  The swears turned into cheers and hand clapping as those at the bottom waited for the last of the team to come down the hill.  After a few more trips up the hill, the exercise was finally over, though no one really believed our coach when he said this was the last one up the hill.

In four years of football and visiting "the hill" I never saw anyone quit.

Being Thankful

I am extremely thankful for all that I have in my life and would not change one thing that has allowed me to get to this point in my life.  I am convinced that I have gotten to where I am by not giving up on knowing what I want, and not expecting anything else.  I have a great job that I love waking up for everyday.  I am a part of a great Jiu Jitsu school that has filled my life with great friends, relationships, and more importantly, my beautiful wife.  I am thankful that I am healthy and strong enough to compete, learn, and teach in the sport I love so much.

Hopefully, you too can take a moment and think back on all the good you have to be thankful for.  When we sit back and reflect, I'm sure we will see that there is much more to be positive about than negative.  By focusing on the positive and letting that feeling guide us through the day, it will only attract other positive experiences.

Trust me...the trip down the hill is much easier when you have a positive attitude.


  1. re: What BJJ means to you--
    I walked in to Warrior Way about eight years ago, fresh off about four years training in Kenpo, a traditional form of stand-up martial arts. I was about 80% the way to black belt, and had the trophies to prove it.
    WW was one of several schools I visited while shopping for a place to train. I'd visited a few "McDojo's", where I'd been shown contracts within the first five minutes, and been advised on how the chief instructor (Usually "Master" so-and-so) held himself in such lofty status that I would not be allowed to ask questions of him, only of the highest ranking student.
    Then at WW I was welcomed by instructors who came off the mat to greet people by first name. I showed up for my free intro lesson, which was a true lesson in humility. The Master mentality was gone, but so was so my high rank. I had sparred with black belts before, and with some quick hands had gotten past some robust guards and caused my own share of things like bloody lips and those little bluebirds that circle your head in the cuckoo-clock sound before you go down for the count.
    But this was different. Now I was on the mat with a BJJ black belt. 95% of my techniques were already useless. The longs legs I'd relied on as a forcefield could no longer kick. I was given simple instructions to do what ever I wanted to do, including pulling hair, choking, punching in the face-- to beat the crap out of the instructor. He started at a terribly dis-advantageous position, so I thought it would be a breeze. I made my first move, and within seconds found myself wrapped in to a pretzel with my face stuffed in to the mat. I decided at that moment not to even ask if I could keep my rank. It was to be right back to day one; no-stripe white-belt.
    Within a year or so, a boxing ring would show up in the school, where I would finally work up my guts to do some sparring rounds. And again, the apparent, if illusory sense of confidence I'd won in the point-sparring world would have to be surrendered for a whole new game of mental focus. Never had two minutes seemed so intermanible, while I waited to get that one slug of gatorade between buzzers, the shortest 30 seconds of my life.
    Anyway, all of this dovetailed nicely in to what was becoming a theme in my life-- patience, perseverance, persistence in the face of resistance, and enough humility to be open to learning.
    This theme expressed itself to the ultimate in 2007, when my son arrived. Life went from a steeplechase-to-nothing to the journey of a lifetime. The type-A now had to be patient. Mr. Know-it-all now had to start learning all over again, and many of the lessons-learned in my martial arts training correlated quite nicely in to the most important job of my life.
    While I've hung up the gloves for now, I do look forward to the day when I bring my son to train at WW. These years and all they've entailed have helped me see that while the roads do have their share of potholes, they are still paved with gold, and any wise marital artist will take all those good lessons forward on the journey.

  2. Thanks for the post/comment Dave! You are one of the rare few that have come from a high level in another form of Martial Arts and have allowed themselves to start back over again as a white belt and stuck it out. I can not tell you how many people I've seen throughout the years that have not been able to do the same. It's as if they realized they've been lied to all these years and they can not face the reality of the situation, so they prefer to live in their own reality. You have my utmost respect for pursuing knowledge in BJJ to add to what you already know... that's what being a martial artist is.

    I've heard someone say that "Life is what happens in between all your plans." and we've had people come and go from the gym all the time. When they return and start training again, it's as if they've never left. That's the great thing about our gym, everyone is like a family and there's always room for everyone on the mats.

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