Thursday, July 10, 2014

In search of the edge ...


I have always had this belief that I was mentally strong. I liked the idea that I could push through, that I could tough it out. It was not just something I told myself to build confidence, Instead, I believed I had built a competence in toughness through a lifetime of doing  things the hard way. Through triathlons, marathons, MMA fights, wrestling, CrossFit style fitness competitions, I’ve learned and been taught how to fight through that desire to stop.


I have a buddy that I trained with. He has never been a boxer and wanted to learn some skills, not so much to learn to box but to learn to get hit -- inoculation. Learning to sport fight (boxing, MMA etc.) is a painful process. You don’t always see the attacks, the punches coming at you. If you don’t see them, it’s tough to block or slip them. You have to get hit a lot to learn to see them. After a few sessions, he told me he didn’t think he’d ever connect with a good punch on me.


“It’s impossible,” he said, “Every time I think about hitting you, you punch me in the face.”


But then after a few weeks of training, as we were wrapping our hands and warming up, he came to me with another perspective.


“You probably already know this” he said. “But it’s not really that bad (getting hit). It doesn’t really hurt. Yeah, it sucks but it is more like it’s uncomfortable. Once I realize it is just uncomfortable and I’ll make it through, it’s not so bad anymore. ”


He told me this one afternoon before we geared up and boxed a few rounds. He caught me with his first good straight right at the end of one of the second round. It was the first time he connected with me good. I remember thinking that I liked boxing him better when something like that was “impossible.”


Most things are rarely as bad in reality as we make them in our heads


I competed in the inaugural Endeavor Team Challenge last year. It was a 30+ hour, 40+mile adventure race that included hiking, running, rock climbing, mountaineering, orienteering, obstacle courses, and CrossFit Style workouts.I teamed up with Brian, a 50-year-old Marine fighter pilot turned commercial airline pilot. Outside of our standard CrossFit training, neither of us did anything different to prepare for the race.
Brian on the mountaineering portion of the course.
Photo courtesy of the Endeavor Facebook page.


The day started at 6 am with a undisclosed distance hike with all of our gear at a higher altitude than this flatlander was used to. At one point the trail led to a lake and a rock over a lake. We had to waterproof our gear, toss it in the lake and swim with it to the other side. I leapt and as I submerged, I heard one of the onlookers comment, “Now, that’s a big boy.”


I remember thinking, “No, shit,” as I plummeted all the way to the bottom, scraping my foot on rocks. “This thing was planned for the little guys.”


After the six-hour hike, we spent the rest of the day doing land navigation, mountaineering, rock climbing, a strength challenge, an obstacle course, river swim and a mental challenge. At dark we were loaded up on a bus, driven 30 minutes into the wilderness and dropped off with a map and a compass, and a “good luck.”


The first few hours were fun as we found some of the way points, running around in a dark forest with head lamps. But navigating through the darkness turned out to be like the first time I used a jackhammer: It seemed pretty cool until it wasn’t.


I remember plodding along, watching the dust float through the light beam from my headlamp.. I had blisters. I was hungry and honestly, I was annoyed. This race, I told myself, turned out to be over programmed. I knew it was based on a test that they gave to the Army Rangers as a part of their indoctrination training. But, the difference, I told myself, was that they took weeks and months to build them up to that point. They just threw us into the fire with no preparation. While for Army Rangers it was training, for me it felt like hazing. Fortunately, after this hike, we were going to get some time to rest.


Good thing. The way I figured it, I was at capacity. I knew I had enough in the tank to get back to the camp but that was it. I was already on reserves. I continued along, angry that I brought such a heavy pack, angry that they hadn’t told us to bring extra dry socks in the gear list, angry that they made me bring rain gear (the sky was cloudless), angry that the race organizers had clearly over planned this course, angry at the pain in my foot from scraping the rock in that lake. Everyone, it seemed, was struggling. I could finish this, but without rest, anymore would be impossible.
Strength Challenge portion.
Photo from Endeavor Facebook page.


We found the last trail junction, the one that we knew would take us in. Even though I had nothing left, I picked up the pace. Just one step at a time. Then it came into sight: the camp and race organizers. I would be able to rest and sleep for a bit. As we came across, one of the event organizers took the bricks we’d collected and congratulated us on our efforts.


“But we have a surprise for you,” he said.


“You mother f*****er.”


I remember the words coming out of my mouth without passing any of the sensors that typically restrain us from uttering phrases like that to people we don’t know well. But I knew what he meant. They had advertised the “OPT challenge”, three CrossFit style workouts. I could see the jump boxes sitting out in the wet field. See, it was just hazing.


Brian reached up and put his hand on my shoulder, “We got this man. This is right in our wheelhouse. Let’s get it done and get some rest.”


I breathed and walked away to get ready for the workouts. Damn him and his older and wiser Yoda bullshit. I figured, I’d do it, but I wasn’t happy about it.


I don’t recall what I was thinking during the workouts. I am sure it was mostly grumbling and cursing. I remember getting to the third workout and Brian asking me if I wanted to take a break before we started.

Nope, lets just get it done.


So we did. Burpees and broad jumps. And finally, they let us sleep.


Briefly. That hour or two felt like a blink but the next thing I heard was an announcement that the final event would begin in 20 minutes. The final event was a 10 mile run to the lake. We wouldn’t, they told us, have to take our packs.   


I was surprised at how good I felt at the beginning of the run.. I was surprised that after the previous days and nights worth of physical and mental abuse, I was able to run at all. But actually, I was going at a good clip, enjoying the trail, the mountain, breathing the air. Even the water tasted great. I realized I was just running and closing in on the finish, not thinking about the pains and the work.


I realized I’d had both good and bad during the race. When I was in a bad, a good would follow and so on. That is the good thing in a long race … whatever you are feeling now will change.


So I enjoyed the run for a while, knowing that somewhere in that 10 mile run, there would be bad times. And I thought back to that moment, the night before, when I’d hit one of those bad times. Actually, one of my worst times. One of the times when I KNEW I had reached my end on that night hike/navigation -- where I knew it would be IMPOSSIBLE to hike another mile, let alone perform three workouts.


But, guess what.



It wasn’t impossible. Not even close. Not only was it possible but here I was feeling pretty good a few hours later on a 10-mile mountain run.


Muhammad Ali said, “Impossible is just a big word, thrown around by small men who find it easier to accept the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it is a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”  


He was right. The night before, one of the bigger guys in the competition had become very small. I found it easier to believe it was impossible than to just take another step, do another push up or jump on another box. This was a weird spot for me, as I’ve always thought that I believed that nothing was impossible. Not always easy to admit, but there I was.


But impossible was temporary.


And I thought about how many times I might have told myself something was impossible when it wasn’t. How many times had I imposed limits that only existed in my head. How could I possibly have ever known where the edge was, as Hunter S. Thompson said, as I had never gone over?


And really, there was no injury. I was tired and my body and brain wanted to rest, but apparently didn’t require it. It was like my buddy said when we were boxing, I wasn’t hurt, just uncomfortable. For someone who is usually pretty comfortable with being uncomfortable, I was in new territory and that scared me. I was lucky to have Brian to calmly bring me back to the moment and allow me to grow from the experience.


It has been said over and over again, but that is how we grow. Get broken down some and build back up stronger. We all have things that we want to do but anxieties and fears keep us from doing them. I have those fears and anxieties too. But moments like that one in the dark in the Stanislaus Forest reminded me that if I remember I am just uncomfortable and not broken, I can sometimes do the “impossible” because, impossible is just an opinion.


So I kept running through that good feeling until I got to a crappier one. I kept running through that until I felt better again. And on and on because I realized I could. We got to the lake and had to paddle a mile across, climb a mountain, rappel down and paddle back. As we got off the kayak there was a 100 yard or so run to the finish. Brian and I started running. We were exhausted but we had to finish with a run. I couldn’t help but smile, but then the smile faded with a thought, “What if there is another surprise?”


And I remembered back to the night before when I realized we wouldn’t sleep. We’d workout instead. And I remembered that moment on the run, when the trees and the dirt and the sky and the air all smelled and felt and tasted great - when all was awesome.


If this wasn’t the real finish line and there was more, than fine, I’d do that too.  I knew I hadn’t reached the “edge” yet. Impossible was nothing. I smiled and crossed the finish line. Completed.




NOTE: Brian and I signed back up for the Endeavor Team Challenge again on September 6, 2014. Check out the link at www.endeavorteamchallenge.com. The event was amazingly well run despite all the logistical nightmares that must go into planning for an event like that. Sign up and do it. It will be an experience you will never forget.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I am the Common Denominator


In every problem in our lives, one thing is constant. Every time someone screws us over or does something to us, every time some stupid system or rule gets changed and it affects us, one thing is the same. When our job (or jobs) prevents us from making a workout or eating right - when outside forces cause us to not have time to spend with our family and do what we want to in our lives, one piece is always the same. 

I am the common denominator.

And so are you. 

I don't typically like angry rants or blogs. As a coach, I think it is better to build people up then break them down but I think this concept is so elemental, so critical to our growth that there is no easy or nice way to put it. 

Suck it up. 

I am the common thread in all my problems. So are you in yours. 

And when I talk to people about this they nod and agree.

"Oh that is so true," they tell me. "No one wants to admit it."

But … 

Then the "but," as though it is true for everyone else except them. I know. I use the "but" sometimes too. Everyone does.

Right, it applies to everyone else in the world "but," you are the exception. Wrong. You are still the common denominator. 

We all know people that are always angry at someone else for what they are or aren't doing. 

"Everything would be better if so-and-so did this … " 

"Everyone around me is the same …"

See, I think as egos, as humans who have a certain image of ourselves, we hate accepting when we are the problem. While our logical mind, our brains, understand that there are things we are doing to screw things up, our egos, the side that deals with our beliefs about ourselves, gets in the way. It is easier to blame it on someone else than to really solve it. 

Now, engage the logical side again. 

If it is time to make a change, will it be easier to change yourself, the only thing you completely control, or someone else, something you have absolutely no control over? 

A friend of mine, a Marine, put it to me this way, "If things are fucked up, un-fuck yourself first."

Translated: "You are the common denominator."

The issue is simply one of perception 

You are the you you choose to be. But you are not the you you think you are. That is why this concept is so difficult to accept sometimes. Accepting that you are responsible for what happens, or at a minimum how you respond to it, means that you are not the you you think you are. Most of us see ourselves as capable. If we were capable, we wouldn't have these problems. It must be someone else's fault. We don't like to question our perception of ourselves, our identities. Admitting it is our fault not someone else's means we may not be who we thought we were. 

But it doesn't matter if we don't like it or it makes us uncomfortable or we don't believe it. It still is. And you can read this and tell me it's wrong. It won't matter. But it won't change it either. 

I am the common denominator. 

So are you.

Your life is the one you picked. 

Years ago I read book called Execution: The Art of Getting Things Done. My favorite quote (actually the only thing I really took from the book) was this: "We don't think ourselves into a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking."

Daydreaming and planning are not action. Neither is complaining and bitching.  

In your life, you are a participant, not a victim. Stop believing stuff happens to you and start making things happen for you. It is not someone else's fault.

Even when it is. 

They don't care and they won't fix it. You are the thread that runs common -- the common denominator. Take credit for the failures at least as quickly as you take credit for the successes.

Stop complaining to everyone about everyone else. No one wants to hear it. I don't and neither do you. It doesn't mean I don't care it just means I know it won't get you anywhere better than where you are. All we are doing when we bitch to others is trying to build allies, get them on our side and strengthen our case that we are not the problem. 

But I am the problem.

So are you.

Look at it this way: If it is a problem for you then it is your problem. 

Mahatma Gandhi said it clearest, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

Grandiose? Maybe, but what if Gandhi wasn't talking about the whole world? What if he just meant yours?

Even if you don't think you can change the whole world, you better recognize that you can change yours. Besides there is no one in that world better positioned to do it.


NOTE: I felt very Hemingway-esque today writing and editing this from a European coffee shop.  I am in Copenhagen to teach a course for guards in the Danish Federal Prison System for Blauer Tactical Systems . I spent most of the day wandering through the city, checking things out. There must be a million bikes in the bike racks, almost none are locked. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

FEAR: Mongering or management?


Finding the "Personal" in Personal Defense Readiness


A couple weeks ago, just days before I was going to a local high school to teach Personal Defense Readiness to a sophomore physical education class, I got a text from my wife about a school shooting in nearby Sparks, Nevada. She didn’t have the school name or the grade level. She just heard it happened. 
CrossFit Defense at CrossFit Love, Philadelphia (Top)
SPEAR Instructor Certification, York, PA (Bottom)

My sister is a teacher in Sparks. My nephew goes to school there. Despite the tragedy that occurred, there was a huge feeling of relief when I learned no one I knew was involved.

That same week several police officers I know, some friends, were injured when an parolee at large allegedly shot at them, trying to get away. One of the police officers was shot in the face and taken to the hospital.

A week later, I was across the country working in my role for Blauer Tactical Systems. I was in Pennsylvania teaching CrossFit Defense and SPEAR System for Law Enforcement Courses. I got several texts and emails from students and friends about a woman that was abducted from the local Wal-Mart, raped and dropped back off at the store. The folks who sent me the information, former students, believed I should remind people how important it was to take a self-defense course. I hated that I was across the country and was grateful that no one I knew was hurt.

See, one of the worst parts about being a self-defense or Personal Defense Readiness Instructor is that you always feel like you are using tragedies to promote your business.

When I refer to these stories I feel like I am standing on a pedestal with a megaphone shouting, “Look at the news, the world is scary. Learn how to defends yourself for $29.99!!!!”

It makes me feel kinda’ dirty. How do you inspire people to face their fears and train for something they don’t even want to consider without fear-mongering?

My self-defense coach Tony Blauer told me  that his system, the SPEAR System, is just like a fire extinguisher -- No one buys one, excited for their house to catch on fire, hoping to get a chance to use it. Self-defense is similar. No one learns self-protection skills and then goes out looking to get mugged. Most, I believe, will never want to have to put their new skills to the test. Like the fire extinguisher, we want them there, under the sink, in case the unthinkable happens.

I heard him say once that statistics are irrelevant, unless you are the one percent. Then, he points out, they mean everything. See, we get in this mindset that these tragedies ... this violence won't affect us. And statistically, that is a good bet -- until it is not. Then, the statistics are not only relevant, but  becoming one can be life changing. 

In the high school class we talked about the shooting in Sparks. I told them about the fear I felt when I heard about it and we discussed the heroic actions of the teacher, Mike Landsbury, who moved toward the danger giving the students time to flee. Investigators believe Landsbury’s actions, sacrificing himself, saved students lives. We talked about the numerous school shootings and lives that were saved when students and teachers who managed their fears moved toward the threat with “indignation” and purpose. We did drills, replicating an active shooter situation. One of the kids who participated confided to one of our coaches that his brother was in a school during an active shooter tragedy many years ago in Colorado. He has always harbored fears because of that. He said the training helped him face some of those fears and made him feel more empowered.

In the CrossFit Defense Course, we discussed the emails and texts I was receiving about the local assault. Some of the students admitted they had fears of just such an incident. I told them so did I, if not for me then my loved ones. We talked about addressing fears, in light of these types of things happening. We still have lives to live, and none of us, we agreed, were going to live in fear and hide.

Nonetheless, I was relieved to hear an arrest was made. (See the story here)

During the cop course, I was able to tell the students, cops themselves, the good news that the last of the wounded police officers I work with had been released from the hospital and his prognosis looked great. Many of them told me they had seen the story on CNN.

Here is the reality: We are all the one percent at some point. The statistics ARE relevant when the fear of becoming one of them negatively changes the quality of our lives. Even if we are never actually a victim, we suffer if we allow our fears to victimize us and change the way we live our lives.

And really, that kind of empowerment is what I want to market, not the fear.

In fact, the opposite is true. That BTS family of courses (SPEAR, CrossFit Defense and PDR) is the only one I know that provides a forum and a formula for particulars to identify, discuss and manage fear. 

Coach Blauer was recently featured in a CrossFit video. In the clip, he tells the story of the origins and evolutions of the CrossFit Defense program designed around his SPEAR System, the same system we teach at NorCal Self-Defense

"Everyday we're faced with some sort of conflict, some sort of confrontation,” Coach Blauer explained. ”How you manage that determines the quality of your day, and therefore the quality of your week, and therefore the quality of your life. Fear management is everything."

It is not paranoid to prepare. It’s your life, Live Ready!  



Check out the entire NorCal Self-Defense calendar here.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Irresponsibility vs. the ability to respond


I had a conversation with a guy the other day. I was telling him about the self-defense courses I teach. He asked who the clients were and I told him it was a mixture of folks - athletes, teens, housewives, kids …  you name it.
He chuckled.
I asked why.
“It is just not realistic that some small woman could fight off a guy like you. It could never happen,” he said.  “I don’t think it is right to teach them that they can. It’s irresponsible.”
See, the problem is that guy is envisioning a different fight than most self-defense situations really are. He is envisioning a fight where the two go toe-to-toe like some kind of sporting event. He is not envisioning a fight, where the bad guy doesn’t want to get caught or go to jail; a fight with witnesses that may jump in and help the victim or at the least whip out iPhones and film it for evidence; he is not imagining an attacker that may have a family at home, or a job, and he doesn’t want to have to explain how he got the claw marks on his face.  Screaming, flailing and fighting people grab other’s attention. Bad guys don’t want attention.
Besides, I am not exactly sure what the alternative is.
He is, however, not unique in his perspective. Lots of people think that if you fight back, you are at greater risk of getting hurt worse, maybe killed.
My coach, Tony Blauer of Blauer Tactical Systems explains it this way: “If you cooperate with a rapist, you get raped. If you cooperate with a murderer, you get murdered.”
The logic, as I understand it, is that if you just let the bad guy have what he wants, be it your body or your stuff, he will let you leave with your life. But even if you are OK with that, it doesn’t take into account what kind of bad guy he is …
“If you cooperate with a murderer, you get murdered …”
And even if you are willing to accept a lesser form of victimization in trade for the hopes that the bad guy won’t opt for a higher form, bad guys don’t wear shirts stating, “I only rape,” or “I’m a killer.”
Coach Blauer teaches that there are things a bad guy wants and things he doesn’t want. They don’t want to get hurt, they don’t want to get caught and they don’t want it to take too long. He teaches the good guys responsibility is the ability to respond -- giving themselves permission to fight back.
While it may be unrealistic to think we can teach any 110 pound person to knock out a 220 pound attacker … or use pressure points or joint locks, that is not what self-defense is. See “fights” in a self-defense sense aren’t won with techniques, they are won with what Coach calls indignation.  
Bad guys aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking for a victim. Give them a fight, even an unskilled one, and often times they will go look for a “better” victim
But don’t take my word for it. Google “Woman fights off attacker.” This is just a short list of what I found. There were many more from the last two months (more than 2 million results). Check some of the links
And none of them were ninjas either. Lets face it: it wasn’t their physical skills that saved them. None of the stories tell of fancy techniques. Simply that they chose to fight. And that is the reality of self-defense. It is less about how you fight but more simply about the fact that you fight.  

Make the decision you will fight now. You don't want to wait until you have to.
Self-defense classes shouldn’t be so much about teaching people how to fight, and more about empowering them to fight and fight with everything they have.
Watch the video of the 64-year-old woman in the link above. Listen to her.
“I am 64-years-old but I still have a lot of fight in me,” she said. “Had it been some other person … that wouldn’t put up resistance, he would have been able to continue to victimize people.”
So the question is still there. Is it irresponsible to tell a 110 pound woman she can fight off a stronger attacker?
I am glad no one told her.
Don’t let anyone tell you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another brick in the wall ...


I went in to my first high school wrestling practice with a little bit of a swagger. I had already wrestled for three years, gone to camps and placed well in the equivalent of a junior high state meet.


Wrestling for the mighty Tigers of Roseville
in 1992 or 1993.
My friend Jeremiah had never wrestled before his freshman year. He showed up to the first day of practice in jeans.


I went on and had pretty successful first year. As a freshman I wrestled varsity. Not bad for a middleweight. I won some and lost some, finished just above .500 – the expected growing pains. Jeremiah was 0-1 as a freshman and never made the JV team.


At the end of our freshman seasons, both of us said we were going to be state champions.


My senior year, I placed 7th in California. I was disappointed. Jeremiah pinned his opponent in the finals of the state meet, won a championship and was named the top wrestler in the state.


We have talked often about the disparity of where we both started and where we both finished. He is not naturally a much better athlete. He worked hard but I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who outdid me. I would venture to say that if you put us both side by side, there would not have been many measurable differences between us in skill, strength or work ethic.


Few differences except our expectations.

My combatives/self-defense coach, Tony Blauer, created a fear management process called the Cycle of Behavior ™.  He initially created the process based on a quote he heard from social scientist Howard Gardner. Gardner explained that 80 percent of our motivation comes from our expectations. Blauer realized that without proper motivation, we will struggle to accomplish our goals. His study and analysis of great athletes, leaders, warriors helped him create a “motivational performance mind-map” for how we all can make decisions under duress. The Cycle of Behavior identifies a simple path towards our goals that shows how motivation is affected by our expectations, our visualizations, our beliefs and certain neuro-associations (symbols) we see in our path. Every time we visualize failure or a negative outcome it affects our expectations of the outcome and, in turn, our motivation. Blauer calls this the “fear loop.”




It is this fear that we use to build walls around ourselves. Walls that prevent us from accomplishing what we want. I have done a lot of things – had lots of experiences. While some of those experiences have smashed parts of the wall, others have added bricks to it. With experience comes accomplishment and failures. Accomplishments can tear down that wall. Failures too, can tear it down, but they also can add bricks to it. It depends how you view that failure. Each failure gives us another brick to build up the wall – a little taller, a little stronger, and a little more insurmountable.

Subconsciously, we think those walls protect us from the pain of future failure. The reality is that they actually prevent us from seeing what we are capable of.   

See, while I told people I wanted to be the state champion -- and this is tough to admit even now – I am not sure I ever really expected I would. Jeremiah, as a 0-1 freshman practicing in blue jeans, never thought he wouldn’t. I had placed bricks in my wall from past losses, past experiences. He hadn’t even visualized a wall, let alone built a foundation of expectations.

I had heard Coach Blauer talk through the Cycle of Behavior several times and thought I understood it. One morning, I was headed to a local CrossFit competition. The first workout was grueling and I was trying to work out a strategy in my head.  As I thought about it I kept mulling over that concept, “80 percent of our motivation, comes from our expectations.”

For some reason, it clicked. If I didn’t expect that I could do something – truly believe it, I couldn't possibly be motivated to do it, especially when it gets tough. When it gets hard and we meet resistance, it will be too easy to give in if we don’t really deep down expect to be successful. Where is the motivation to push through when it is hard if we don’t really, in our hearts and minds expect to be successful? And when I say really expect too, I mean deep down, in those places we don’t talk about publicly.

I read somewhere once (I don’t recall the source, but I wish I could cite it), that there is really “three selves.” There is the self we see, the self that others see and the true self – the one not tainted by ours or other’s perceptions. The expectations of the true self are the ones I am talking about, not what others want or the ones we want others to believe.  

I looked at all the things I had done. As an athlete there had been great accomplishments and failures, yet I had a tendency to focus more on the failures. I added bricks. Even the victories, I added bricks. When I won an MMA fight, I figured my opponent must not be very good. When I won wrestling tournaments, I figured it was because the competition was weak, not because of my abilities. Brick by brick the wall got bigger. People around me thought I was fearless and confident because of all the things I had done. Others assumed the experiences were liberating. I saw them as constricting. More experiences just equaled more evidence of what I could or couldn’t do. Bricks stacked on top of bricks.

The bottom line is, in order to do anything, we have to truly believe we can. We are only going to perform at as high of a level as we really believe we will. This is the tough part. I can say whatever I want to anyone who will listen: I am going to be a world champion, I am going to be a better husband/father, I am going to start eating healthy.  But in order to really do it, I have to expect myself to ... not just want, wish or hope to. Even hard work, without expectation won’t do it.

And if each failure adds a brick to our wall, provides new evidence of what we can’t do, we become less apt to expect we can. It is easy to recognize that we learn more from failures than successes, it is how our true self applies that lesson that will make the change.

It is easy to say we are going to do something. Our public voice and face has an ego to maintain. It says what we want it to say and more importantly, what we want others to hear. But it is our personal voice, the one that talks to us when no one else can hear, that is the voice we have to convince. That is the voice we are going to hear in the hardest parts of a workout, the middle of an attack or mugging or when we are feeling the least confident or sure of our decisions or abilities. When we are alone, if truly, deep down we expect to fail, it is difficult to be motivated to do anything else.

Instead of allowing successes or failures to add bricks to our walls, I am trying to visualize each win or loss as an emotional sledgehammer, smashing those walls to smithereens. Jeremiah is a leadership coach these days. His company, Forging Leaders, has a quote he uses to remind us: “The walls you've built to protect yourself are keeping out the things you need the most..” He was able to say in 16 words what I have taken hundreds to explain. Damn him, he got me again.

But through training (mental, emotional and physical), meditation, contemplation and exploration we can raise our understanding and confidence and elevate our expectations of ourselves.  The bottom line is simple: you will get what you expect to get.

Expect greatness.

Besides, all those walls block the view.