Hairy Animals

I pride myself on my physical fitness. It’s one of the few things in life that I’ve truly earned, not just inherited.

Fitness wins competitions. Talent only matters for the 1% of competitors at the highest level.

In the NBA, or NCAA basketball, every player has peak physical conditioning. This means that the fitness “playing field” is actually quite level. Only after fitness becomes a non issue, do skill and focus become the game changers. The best teams have the most talent and the most drive.

But if you yank two Joe Bobbys off the street, and you put them in a game of one-on-one against each other… Or maybe you have them race 500 meters… Or maybe swim across a pond… Or teach them any new game: rugby, soccer, baseball, anything…

The winner is the fittest person. Not the most skilled, because both have low skill levels, but the person who can breath steady the longest.

Somebody once said that if your life has gone to shit, if you’ve really hit rock bottom and don’t know which way is UP – then the first thing to do is go to the gym. (I hate gyms and would never recommend them, but it’s still a good quote.)

This is important because if 20 people go to a job interview. If 20 people take a piano class. If 20 people learn to dance. If 20 people learn how to invest money. If 20 people fall into loving relationships…

The physically fit people always have an advantage.

Life will drag you across the concrete by your pinky toe one day, and when that day comes, you want to have all the advantages you can get. You want cookies in your lunchbox, not rocks.

The skills above don’t require you to run five miles or throw a rubber ball around. But they do require that you sleep well, eat well, show up on time, think clearly, take criticism, give criticism, stand your ground, follow through, negotiate with honesty, speak clearly, meet goals, compensate, judge a situation objectively, and relax when it’s time to relax.

 

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One Step Ahead

summer in january

It’s Friday man and I’m still half young. Two things worth celebrating in 2017.

This is how I look after two hours of Muay Thai training. Now matter how whiny I wake up feeling, how stuck, how full of self-loathing… I’ll always be smiling and skipping by the end of a good workout.

There’s something about movement that directly combats the feeling of stagnation. Depression is a kind of stagnation (nothing is changing, nothing is getting better, nothing seems to help). Physical movement takes that snow globe world where nothing ever changes, flips it on it’s head and sends an army of serotonin snowflakes to sparkle your city towers.

We all experience depression, minor or major, daily or weekly. But I’ve never once felt depressed during a backpacking trip.

I don’t know what the doctors say and anyway, I don’t trust them as much as I trust myself. I can distinguish some very clear patterns if I look back on my life with an objective eye.

When I was trail-running in Alaska this past summer, I quickly learned that I had to stay in a constant state of motion, otherwise I’d get blanketed by bitch-crowd of mosquitos in no time.

Depression is a buzzing black cloud of mosquitos. No amount of sitting and swatting will make them fly away. The universe is yelling over the megaphone that I need to move. I need a change and I need it fast.

Absolutely No Bullshit

Jackson Tandy Seoul Tournament

Imagine if your boss really was the hardest grinder in the company. Imagine if teachers got paid based on the quality of their teaching alone, (not by seniority or outdated credentials). Imagine if your president really was the most intelligent, pure-natured, socially aware, forward thinking person in the nation?

When I practice Jiu Jitsu, I experience something very rare and very profound. I experience a culture where nothing is given and everything is earned. For two hours a day, I live in a world of zero bullshit.

Here’s what happens when you start Jiu Jitsu:

1) Your instructor gives you a white belt

2) You wear that belt at ALL times

3) Your belt advertises your true skill level to everyone else in the room.

The belt system advances like this: White->Blue->Purple->Brown->Black. On average it takes 2 years to advance a belt. And here’s the beautiful part: you absolutely cannot buy a promotion or fast-track your way to the top. In some other martial arts you find things like group promotions and annual promotions. Not in Jiu Jitsu. You could potentially practice 20 years and never make black belt. You ONLY get promoted when your instructor sees that you have mastered the necessary skills for your level. There’s only one way to advance, Hard Fucking Work.

My Jiu Jitsu coach is a short man, but he really IS the alpha lion of the group. Simply because trains harder and longer than any of us. The first time I fought him, I remember thinking that I just might give him a run for his money…

You wear your belt. Everyone knows your true worth at a glance. We’re like video game characters with our personal attributes scrolling overhead. For me that blatant level of honesty was… refreshing.

And I can’t help but think that a dose of that honesty would be good for everyone. Especially in the work place. Especially for teachers and trainers everywhere. Especially for young males who are innately susceptible to the ‘invincibility’ delusion. Especially for everyone in the world who desperately needs a sense of worth, a sense of unadulterated pride, something real that they earned through sweat and honest self assessment.

I’ll never be proud of my height or my race or my nationality, all things gifted to me by way of the universal lottery. But the day that I earn my Blue Belt, ooh baby I’ll run that thing up a flag pole. A really tall flag pole.

Flex Your Muscles: Friday, May 8th

There are no shortcuts to health. There are no shortcuts to fitness.

People WILL pay top dollar for a magic pill that builds muscle and reduces fat. But even the nerdiest scientists and chemists can’t create one.

Well the brain works the same way. The writing muscle is just like any other muscle.

When I got back from my vacation, I had big plans to write 2 or 3 stories in one month. I wanted to kick the year off with a bang. I had all the free time I needed; all I had to do was write the stories. But I couldn’t do it. My muscles had atrophied. I finished one story that month, but it was an ugly slugfest. I crossed the finish line crawling on all fours.

Now that I’m back into the swing of things, the words flow a little bit easier. I wrote some words yesterday and I’ll write some more tomorrow.

I don’t care how determined you are. You can’t run a marathon if you haven’t put in the training. You can’t write a novel if you haven’t been exercising your writing muscle. It sounds a little bit silly but it’s true.

We have to start small. We have to give ourselves itty bitty goals that are easily attainable. And we have to build on those goals.

I have zero authority to speak on such things, but I think that the key to success is routine. I think that successful people have one or two things on their list that absolutely must get done, every day, no matter what. And over time those little efforts stack up.

Work for the sake of work is absurd. But work from your heart, exploding like a supernova into the emptiness – that’s what’ll help you sleep peacefully at night. Long after you close your eyes, the sparkling images are still dancing across the inside of your eyelids.