Get off your high horse

I try not to be self-absorbed when I am engaged with people. I also try to learn, to not have “expert’s paradigm” when I am talking to people in casual or business conversations, even if it’s a topic that I have a lot of experience in.

This amounts to being interested in the other person enough to learn about them and learn about what they know. It requires not assuming that I know more than them. It also involves a lack of talking about myself and what I know, until it’s truly appropriate.

This doesn’t work as well in today’s world. Perhaps people’s real world views are morphing into the “social media paradigm” where you have a very short time span to sell a persona or a knowledge set to someone. I swear 8 out of 10 people I meet consider themselves pros, or awesome in some other way, and if you don’t literally fight for attention you get demoted to a learner who knows less, has less or has done less. I watch people do this to each other all the time.

Thus is the way of our social hierarchy in the social media era world. What you look like, talk like, drive and have are somehow proportionate to your capabilities and experience. “If he was as good as he says he is, he wouldn’t be driving that.” “He doesn’t “look” like he knows that much.” And so on.

Sometimes, competitiveness is the tone, “You started working in this field in 2002? Oh, well I started working in it in 2001 so I’ve been around for ALL of it…” Instead of being cooperative, “Oh, what have you learned in that time?” and then they in turn try to learn what you’ve learned in that time. Sharing knowledge and ideas. What a concept.

Most often, I would say, people are just self-absorbed. They think they know a bunch of shit, probably more than you, and so they don’t even really listen when you talk. They are here to disseminate information because they know things.

It’s not that they even thought about competing with you, they just automatically consider themselves and their knowledge more important and there’s nothing you could say that would be that interesting to them, so you are tuned out. Their own voice is in their head rehearsing for their turn to talk.

Are you a student, or a know-it-all?

Sometimes just simply asking a question will cause the other person to automatically assume that they know more than you, and they will assume authority in the conversation. This is a tragedy. For example, you see someone doing a workout and posting about it on social media. Now, imagine you yourself have been working out a long time and you know quite a bit about the topic, but you are always curious and looking for new information so you ask them, “Hey, I see you are doing this workout. Where did you get the programming for that, and how is it working for you?” Instead of actually answering the question, they reply, “If you want to understand programming you have to start with [insert arbitrary favorite program here] and research the subject.” Often, they’ll even go on to instruct you or offer suggestions for what you should be doing, even though they have no idea what you know or what you want to accomplish. They are full of themselves. They lack listening skills. The question goes unanswered and another chance to assert social dominance has been exploited. End result, no one learns anything. 

What happened to the concepts of beginner’s mind and always being the student? Sad.

Even worse is the feeling that if you are paid to do a job, like being an instructor or trainer, then you can’t ask any “average” person questions because you are afraid it will make you look like you don’t already know what they know. You somehow think you’re supposed to know everything, so you can’t be seen being “weak” or taking “instruction” from an average person.

It’s a legitimate feeling because people judge you for the surface presentation you put out. Hell, that’s what this post is about. It’s a vicious cycle.

What is even more sad is that you are vulnerable to concealment even when you think you are protected. You can’t even give people a chance to learn who they are and what they’ve done when they are open about it. The one who wants to hide those facts from you? You’ll never see him or her coming. (If you are in the self-defense, tactical, or cool guy badass world and you act this way, your mindset is truly out of touch with your stated goals.)

Listen to people. Ask questions.

People are interesting, and there are a lot of people out there you could learn from. Many of them, though they may not look like it, have done way more shit than you will in 3 lifetimes.

My best conditioning coach–by far–was a fat, silver haired guy that always had a cigar hanging out of his mouth. By today’s standards, no one would even have a training conversation with that guy. The truth is he helped produce several world champions in his younger years (as a trainer for a U.S. Olympic team) and he knew how to pull the best out of every athlete he worked with.

The most capable class attendee I have ever had in terms of self-defense, and who I would put my money on in a street fight, was a skinny, gray haired Nicaraguan guy well into his 60’s that didn’t look like he could do shit. The guy was legitimately dangerous, and though he was small, he was strong as an ox. He grew up in the Revolution Era of a country at civil war. He knew a lot of things about violence and about survival.

Sometimes people are retired, or injured, or have changed careers or family situations and they don’t “appear” to be anything special, but they are. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, this is true in every profession.

And guess what? You aren’t that fucking special, and you probably don’t even know as much shit as you think you do. Putting on a good presentation doesn’t make you a special expert, nor does having popularity on social media, or making a bunch of money (especially if you flaunt it).

Many of the people who maintain these “perfect” images are deeply flawed, and if you look hard enough you will see it. Marital problems, financial problems, regrets, and some are just plain out miserable people seething with envy, jealousy, resentment, fear, cowardice. People can present however they choose to, if they are disciplined enough. Still doesn’t make it real.

Don’t mistake this post as me being upset about someone doing this to me. That shit has been happening and will continue to happen my whole life. I like to keep quality people in my circle, and if you are self-absorbed and full of yourself then you are self-selected out of my circle. If you have anything valuable to say, I’ll listen from a distance. But it’s like everyone does it to everyone, anymore.

What does upset me is how much society suffers and how much our communities suffer because we can’t be real with each other, because everyone has to be damn “expert” or a “pro”.

It upsets me that innovative, creative people are afraid to be vocal or do things because they will be judged harshly. If the old guys that have experience aren’t respected because they don’t look cool, then how can a new guy with no experience survive that social thrashing? (And I’m not even touching on the bullies and trolls, that’s a whole different topic.) They are forced to play the persona game, where substance doesn’t matter as much as your IG game and your wittiness on FB and Twitter.

We all lose

This is my encouragement to you to take the time to actually learn from one another. If someone is trying to learn a new skill, don’t assume they don’t have ANY developed skills. Don’t be afraid to learn a new skill or to ask questions about other people’s views, even if it is what you are an “expert” in. And don’t demote someone’s social rank because they asked a question. Maybe they have a bunch of answers and experience and just want to hear your perspective. Maybe they know more than you because they aren’t afraid to ask questions.

If you are engaging with someone and they don’t ask one follow up question about any of your statements, or about you, they just talk at you, then that person has little interest in you or what you are saying. They are too busy thinking about themselves. It’s not hard to tell.

Take the time to actually listen to someone talk. Ask questions about what they are saying about themselves, ENGAGE with them. You just might start learning things again.

Being self-absorbed is a failure, and it’s one from which we all experience the resultant net loss.

Don’t let their negativity destroy your drive

I was going to post this on Facebook but decided not to. In fact, I’ve quit posting on Facebook to great extent. I even removed the app from my smart phone. The negativity is just too much to deal with and there isn’t one good reason to subject yourself to it. Not one.

For now, I’ll talk about just one aspect of that negativity, not only on social media but from people in general. The problem of people’s propensity to be discouraging and disrespectful towards your ideas and plans.

It’s hard enough to have the courage to do great things in life without the constant negativity of people’s bullshit raining on your thought process. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that not only will people not be able to see or appreciate your “vision”, they will not even respect it. They will outright disrespect it.

They will tell you how your ideas won’t work, and how you shouldn’t do something a certain way, because obviously they know better (despite 99% of the time never having done the thing you are talking about doing). They will shit on your ideas, offer “better” ideas, and overall just inject negativity into your thoughts.

Now, if you were looking for constructive criticism, then fine. But it’s not always constructive, and it’s not always the “analysis” being asked for.

Sometimes, you just want to share your ideas, what you’re working so hard on in life. You want to voice them, maybe hear some encouragement. This is normal, and it should be something you can do, but you have to carefully choose who you share your visions with. Only those close enough to believe in you or selfless enough to encourage you should be included.

The rest of the time, I’ve found it best to keep it to yourself and woodshed your ideas. Let them see you executing later, once you’ve done the work and made it happen.

“You’re too dumb to own horses…”

I used to talk about getting horses for my daughter. I’ve never previously owned horses, or even had been around them for that matter. But I knew I wanted to do that for her. So, I worked my ass off towards it. While doing so, I made the mistake of talking about it a few times, and got responses like, “Oh, horses are so much work, you don’t know what you are getting into.” Or, “They’re so expensive, you’ll regret it once you do.” Or, my absolute favorite, “Horses are a huge responsibility, maybe you should try something smaller.”

These were actual quotes from people responding to me talking about something I was working towards over several years. As if I had put no fucking thought into this idea at all, and I needed someone to tell me how fucking stupid I was for not thinking about basic things like cost of care and the work involved in doing it. Yep, I simply daydreamed that some goddamned horses would show up one day and we would all just romp through the pasture carefree…

Guess what fuckers? I’ve owned horses for well over a year now and it has not one time been a terrible experience that I even close to regret getting into. It’s actually been a joy. My horses are healthy, they perform great, and my daughter will be competing with her horse next month. Sure, there are challenges and expenses, and I’m certain there will be heartbreaks as well. But that’s life with animals, and it has come as no shock whatsoever. Nothing you said came true. It’s been a great experience.

Here is an important detail about every one of those people. Not one of those negative-ass people were horse owners at the time. I’m not sure that they ever were.

“You’ll never succeed in that business”

Another good example was back when I decided to go into the firearms training business full-time. Oh, the negativity was fierce for that move. Before I made it happen, I was telling people what I was planning, the responses I remember went something like this:

“You’ll never make any money doing that.”
“You will never be able to compete with the military and police that are doing it.”
“The field is saturated, too many cops and military trying to make money, no one is making money.”

I went on to not only make money, I’ve made more money in this industry than in any other job or industry I’ve ever worked in. By a giant margin. It also led to one of the most high paying corporate jobs I’ve ever had. And not only was I able to be competitive amongst the military and police in the business, I became good friends with many of the most successful ones.

I even became an instructor on the cadre of police associations and law enforcement training facilities. It has been my most successful and longest running business (out of 5 legitimate businesses I’ve started and ran). Going on 7 years now and I’m looking at manually scaling it back because I’d like to do other things in life. Sounds pretty successful to me.

Of course, not one of those negative people were successful in that business. But they sure had it all figured out why I couldn’t become successful in it either.

Protect your creative process

I wised up eventually, and considered my own moves in solitude. Yes, it sucks. Especially if you are by yourself or have family that is not supportive or understanding, which has been my case more often than not. But you don’t need anyone’s input, and if what you are doing is outside of what they have experienced or accomplished, you won’t want their input.

When I made the decision to uproot my life and move 1000 miles away to Florida, from Ohio, I didn’t tell a soul what I was doing. Only one friend knew because he was the one who helped me load my truck. I made the decision, executed the plan, and made the whole move before I told anyone. This took months to accomplish. One day I just posted on social media a picture of me on a piece of land in sunny Florida with an “Oh, by the way, I live in Florida now…” message.

I knew if I had talked about it, the majority of responses would be the 10,000 reasons why it wouldn’t work, why I wouldn’t like it, and how I would be back. Yet again, they would’ve been wrong. I’ve been here a year and a half and I have never loved a place more. I wouldn’t trade my today for any of my yesterdays. Not even a question.

I have several more plans that I am not talking about openly. There’s just no need for it, and the idea creation phase is too important to have it contaminated with negative talk from people who really do not matter.

This has always been a problem with people in general. But in today’s world with social media, it’s a chronic problem. I know it is destroying many people’s drive to do great things, to pursue visions and big goals, because they are afraid of the attacks from online.

Forget about them. You don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing. You don’t need validation. Could you be crazy and not thinking something through? Of course! You want to know how to get better at making good plans? Fail from not so good planning. You will learn more from failing than you will ever learn from a bunch of people spewing opinions about things they’ve never done. And that is how you get better. My most successful business was my fifth one.

In all things people understand the need for practice, except when it comes to businesses, careers and visions in their life. They think it should be one big shot and success. Let me break it to you, you need practice in those areas too. You have to fail. You will learn. And that is how you get better at all of it: ideas, planning and execution.

If you want valuable input, find a real mentor

If you want input specific to your plans, find a mentor who has done it, and who will be empathetic to your desires. If you want encouragement, figure out who is truly in your corner out of the people close to you and let them support you with encouragement. But for the love of success, you do not need the people of social media and their fucking opinions. Not while you are in the planning or building phase. When it’s time to sell them something, step forward with what you’ve built and show the results.

I am not telling you that the only way to do it is to hide. You can absolutely show your process if you want to. But showing the process is you showing yourself doing it, working on it. It’s not just talking about it or sharing your vision or plans. There is a difference. You will still get naysayers and shit posters, but if you are actively working towards something it’s much easier to maintain your belief in yourself than if you were just talking about ideas and getting beat down.

Control your own social experience

But if there is any doubt in your ability to do something that you really plan on trying to do, don’t let the nasty people on social media get into your head. Very rarely will the negative talk come from someone who has actually done anything notable in that field (or in their lives in general). If you do share your process or journey, BLOCK negative people as soon as they show up. Don’t give them space on your platform. Your social is for you, not them, and you don’t need to be “fair”.

Create your own online experience, or sign off for the most part like I did and just go execute your life visions out there in the real world.

At a time when society is tearing itself apart and tearing each other down over social media platforms, be your own beacon and just do work. Deal with people face-to-face and quit worrying about what some shithead on the internet thinks about something he knows nothing about, especially when that something is you.

Finding your failure points

Recently, I made a post in one of my groups about sparring a professional fighter, and how he reminded me that I don’t know jack shit about “professional boxing.” A few days before that, I made a quiet announcement that I took a side job as a bouncer, for fun and to meet people in my new town. A fellow instructor and good friend commented to me, “Nobody can ever say you don’t throw yourself out there. I really respect that. Door work, boxing gym, red man suit. Most guys with a rep immediately cease testing themselves and go into “authority” mode.”

Yes, I put myself out there. I put myself in losing situations often and I have my reasons for this. If you are serious about being good at something, especially violence, then I suggest you find your own reasons to do the same.

My friend is correct, many instructors instinctively go into “authority mode” once they achieve some recognition. It’s where they no longer test themselves or, more importantly, no longer allow themselves to be seen being tested. Because, they could fail. They could lose or perform poorly. And if that occurred, what would happen to their credibility and the draw for people to give them money for their awesome knowledge?

I believe that those fears along with the ego, are both at fault for the majority of people teaching in this business who decline to step up and get tested. The combatives instructor who never gets in a sparring ring or shows his students demonstrations at the same level he expects them to perform at. The Instagram instructor who is smoking fast and has a ton of followers, yet declines to show up for a professional level UTM force-on-force (FoF) class that’s hosted outside of his “tribe.” The guy who brings his sweetest shooting 1911 to teach a pistol class rather than the one he actually carries (and can’t shoot as well with).

I’m not saying that the guy who doesn’t get tested is automatically faking it, or whatever. There’s a ton of professional guys who are moving into their 50’s and 60’s who don’t feel a need to test themselves anymore. But, those guys have decades of boxing, fighting, rolling, law enforcement, task force, military or special operations under their belts. Some of them continue to get tested, to do work, to go after it and that is how it should be. Some of them spend their energy traveling and teaching others. But, if you didn’t spend literally years of your life doing actually dangerous shit related to what you teach, you better be out there getting tested on a regular basis.

Me? As I move into my mid 40’s in 2019, I’m still getting after it. I personally have tried to get away from it several times, building custom cars, music and guitars, doing sales…only to find my physical and mental health slipping away by living outside of what I know and love to do. So, there’s no way I could imagine actually doing it for a living such as I do now and neglecting to actually get in there and stay sharp myself. That means getting in the ring with an undefeated pro, or working the floor at a busy nightclub, or walking into a State Championship match as my first competitive shooting event. Even with having extensive experience with extreme violence and deadly force, I know I have gaps and I want to find them and fill them as much as I possibly can. It also keeps you humble, and that is important in my opinion.

In doing so, I seek failure. I am trying to find gaps in my abilities, my skills and procedures. I want to know where I am likely to fail. And if people, or even students see me failing, that’s even better. They are getting a real education at that point, from someone who has been involved in deadly violence and dangerous environments. Someone who will not give them some false sense of security of imperviousness through some magical training. Experienced fighters die at the hands of their enemies every day. It’s just bullshit to believe that some particular training, class or instructor can make you unbeatable, and it’s also bullshit to believe that any instructor is undefeatable.

Yet. that is the unintended consequence when we don’t a) help students experience failure and b) show them that we are all susceptible to failure and need improvement somewhere. I don’t fear the loss of credibility or authority, because I deal in realities. And the biggest reality about violence is we ALL can “get got” as they say. No matter how much you know, someone somewhere is better at an isolated set of skills than you are. We also all can “slip” and that is where failure comes in. I’ll step up and shoot anywhere against anyone. I’ll get into the ring and spar with anyone (providing they are trustworthy). Sometimes I lose, most times I learn, and I teach from what I know from years of training, study and direct experience.

I have always believed making yourself look perfect or undefeatable to be a huge disservice in the self-defense training world in the form of false presentation. I don’t think it’s truly a totally conscious scam…usually. It’s anti-marketing to allow your customer base to see you failing at the thing they are paying you to teach them. But we need to stop looking at it like that. It’s just wrong that people who have never been in violence are taught that this certain style or these certain techniques are THE WAY to be a hard to kill warrior, and they are taught this by someone they never see get tested. When they learn it, they are not seeing its failure points. Few dares to teach the failure points of themselves or their own gospel for fear of losing appeal. But the truth is, if you are teaching in a way that makes one believe that you or your methods do not have failure points, you are being dishonest with yourself and everyone who listens to you. And, just maybe, you don’t even realize that you are doing it.

Blog Entry: What Do We Really Want?

In March of 2017, I was in a lot of pain and uncertainty. I was moving into a little apartment in Ohio, going through a painful divorce, quitting my corporate job, and just tired of hating everything about my life.

In March of 2018, I just self-published my first book and made enough off of the first week sales to move to a personal retreat in Central Florida.

How did this happen? It happened because I made it happen. I decided to change my life, because no one was going to change it for me. It’s not like I wasn’t working hard before. No, I’ve been doing this “change my life with hard work” thing for over 20 years, one failed hustle, after failed job, after failed marriage, after failed business, after another. But, this run through, something was different. When I sat down to make a plan this time, I was cutting everyone out, burning down everything that obligated me, and starting with me first. As James Altucher likes to say, I chose myself. It’s not that it was selfish, rather it was empirically the best decision to make. Time and again it was proven to me that I had made bad choices in relationships, partners, jobs and associations, and all for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we need to get to the root of what we really want.

In pursuit of what we want (or think we want) we will entangle ourselves into all manners of messes that will take us sometimes years to painfully extract from: lifestyles, business partnerships, marriages, job obligations…the list goes on. We often find ourselves in these situations because the answers to our happiness were believed to be found outside of ourselves, rather than from within.

Please, allow me to explain why this is not the standard spiel about “finding happiness inside of you,” because frankly that is bullshit. It takes a mix of being self-aware about what you really want, and then doing the work to see progress towards it happening outside of you. Happiness is not only progress and reward, it’s those things moving towards what our soul really wants while in an atmosphere that is nurturing to that progress. And guess what? You have to create that atmosphere to find it in the balanced way that we seek. So, you inherently have the problem of starting out without that nurturing atmosphere, without the progress and reward. That space describes my life from the middle of 2016 through 2017.

It’s simply that our life needs to be grounded in what we truly want, NOT in a means to that end. This is the difference between finding fulfillment in something outside of yourself vs finding fulfillment by manifesting yourself through the world around you. This applies specifically if you consider yourself a purpose driven entrepreneur or creator in any way, but also in a general sense to anyone trying to live a valued life.

For me, I wanted to live a life inspired to create, with the all important freedom of time to do the creating. In order to achieve that, I had to start where I was at, not where I wished I was. I downsized my life, gave away thousands of dollars worth of “stuff” and moved into a small apartment. I made way less money, at first, and used my time to develop myself and my idea of a valued life. I stayed away from relationships and defeated the notion that I “needed” a girlfriend/wife to be happy. I set goals: write and publish my first book, grow my business to a national level, and facilitate a move to a place that inspired my life. I reached those goals. All of them, including the move. For me, right now, that place is Florida. I made it a mandatory change that I would eat well, exercise very seriously for my health and well being, and spend more time in a relaxed state rather than a stressed, worried and unhappy state no matter what I had to give up.

And it was hard. Some  days, it was incredibly hard. At times, you can’t see the goal, you can’t see progress, you feel like you’re being stupid about unrealistic goals, and there is no one there to support you. You have to support yourself with sheer discipline. When the goal gets blurry, discipline is the only thing you have on that day. Discipline, and a desire to leave the unhappiness of a life that is not value driven. I did it. I am seeing progress and change. The world around me is brightening up. My life is starting to inspire me. Now, incrementally I will move towards the goal while living the valued life along the way. I won’t sacrifice anymore by lying to myself like “I will live this life that I absolutely hate to get to the other side.” Too much damage is accumulated that way. Too much time lost in unentangling ourselves from such messes.

Make the hard decisions to go through the brutal tasks of removing those entanglements today, and you will sooner be on your way to a better, value added life. Find the things you really want to do, what would make you most happy, and start working towards building it from the ground up. Your life should be rewarding, fulfilling, and provide a great marketing backdrop for your personal brand. Your home base should fuel you, recharge you, and most of all it should not consume you away from your dreams. I would be better served living my own life on my terms, and showing the world who I am from the backdrop of my inspiring life where I am not enslaved to things I do not like but rather am able to create and serve others at my leisure.

But, you have to know what you really want, and you have to believe in yourself to keep going and make it happen.

Varg Freeborn

Blog Entry: The Right Path

At some point, probably in my second marriage, I figured out that if you constantly feel like you are swimming upstream, and logs and debris are slamming into your face, knocking you back and threatening to drown you, you most likely are not on the right path for your life. This isn’t always an easy distinction to make. It is true that sometimes things are meant to be fought for, and the struggle is the precise experience we need for growth. But there are times when your plans just aren’t the plans that will bring you peace and prosperity (or whatever it is that you value most and are not getting.)

When I was running the nightmare otherwise known as my music store business some years ago, it was quite literally like swimming upstream against a fast moving river full of huge logs smashing me in the face. All day long. Every day. This went on for 3 years, but it felt like a lifetime. At times, it threatened to consume me, including landing me in the hospital for 4 days, only to get a diagnosis of anxiety and likely depression.  It was terrible. But I had a dream, a big dream. I wanted to be the best, and build great custom guitars, and make a lot of money, and prove all of my detractors wrong. The worse it got, the more people talked shit, the more angrily I pushed forward to prove the world wrong. But I also honestly believed in myself and truly believed that this was the avenue I could use to change the quality of life for those that I loved. That was way more important than vengeance.

It was, in many ways, a great triumph. I had started a business literally from nothing. I rented a storefront with no money down in exchange for fixing the place up, and basically had a month to earn the first month’s rent. I turned that into a store with tens of thousands of dollars of inventory in just a year or two. That is not an easy feat and I am damn fucking proud of that. But, it just wasn’t to be. After 3 years of a little triumph and a lot more defeat, I made a decision to abandon ship and close it down. In the end, my heart truly was not in it. I didn’t really see myself getting a truly valued life out of it. The potential earning ceiling was low, and the effort would always be critically high.

Furthermore, it wasn’t a great contribution to the world that enriched my soul. I was simply performing service work for increasingly entitled, whiney musicians and other people with more money than musical drive. It was terribly unfulfilling work with often shitty customers and even shittier people as competition, which made the frustrations and hardships outweigh any real reason to pursue it. So, I changed gears, let it go down as pretty much an unenjoyable experience and I moved on. I sold part of the business to my tech and I was done.

Learn to drop it, let go, and put even more love into the next project

In order for me to grow, I stood right back up the very next day and filed the paperwork for the next business, which happens to be the one that I still successfully run several years later. I had done this a few times before, from my custom car shop to the fitness training business, for example. You just have to keep moving. You just can not quit.

The work that I do now is very fulfilling. Even with that, I know that the current configuration is not the ultimate goal. Hell, that’s why you are reading this blog, as I begin to experiment with new directions here. My current business (at the time of this writing) was founded upon teaching violence and educating people on the darker capabilities of humans. While that is a noble cause, it’s not what I want to spend the rest of my life thinking about. But it has been the best work experience of my life to date, and it is clearly opening more doors for me to pursue helping people in other ways outside of just fighting.

You will notice the difference immediately

Literally, it was an immediately noticeable difference when I changed streams. I went from constant struggle and turmoil, to no turmoil, by just changing business plans and verticals. I’m not saying it’s been “easy”. Of course, it’s a business and it has taken the unending hard work and sacrifice that any business takes to be successful. What’s missing are the logs smashing me in the face: the ungrateful customers, the nasty low-level competition, the constant financial deficit, and so on.

When you are on the right path, not only are you not getting smashed in the face everyday, but opportunities will open up and branch off of the path you are on. This can help in determining whether you are in that flow, or not.

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer and a speaker. I never quite understood how someone can make a living at that, until I had enough experiences to begin having interesting things to write and speak about. My training business morphed from teaching people how to fight, into speaking at seminars, and to writing a book, and now is transitioning into writing, teaching and speaking on more positive life subjects. The doors are opening as a direct result of the platform that I built for myself in the violence education vertical, which I built with the help of the experience I gained in the custom car business, the fitness training business, and the countless jobs I was an employee at.

I’m not trying to drive home a precise point with this article, just throwing a thought or two into my blog encouraging you to examine the turmoil you are experiencing and to follow your heart. Our plans don’t always end up looking like what we thought they would, but if you follow your heart, life can be good. Sometimes, it ends up way better than your best “plan” could ever be.

The days when the light isn’t there

When you pursue long-term objectives in life, there are inevitably grueling days when it just does not seem like you are going to make it. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. No one supports you. The goal is not tangible, and you don’t feel you have the energy, or money or drive to even make it.

The worst part is, you may still be years away from the objective.

I’m not even talking about failure. No. Failure is in some ways an easier thing to deal with. Why wouldn’t it be? You have no choice, because it’s over. You failed. You’ve burned it to the ground and now you get to start over. You learned some valuable things and now you are stronger and smarter for the next round. Start over, or start something new. It’s that simple.

But, what I am talking about here is not that easy. It’s about that day when you really just start to question all of your decisions to even be pursuing this goal in the first place.

You haven’t really failed, but you can’t tell if you are even moving forward. You are doubting yourself. And guess what? Every fucking person around you is doubting you, too!

It’s also not like you can just look to a long list of people who have done what you want to do, from the position you’re in, either. You just flat-out do not have any support, not even from yourself.

The self-talk goes on the attack, “I am crazy for even thinking I could do this.” “It is going to be so humiliating when I fail in front of everyone on social media.” “What makes me think I can accomplish such things?”

When these days come, how do you deal with it? How do you push through and come out on the other side with your drive and your confidence intact, ready to take on the next few years, to get to where you want to be?

I am interested in what others do in these moments. I have those days, for sure. I have climbed some pretty big mountains: legal wins against the State, achieving rare restorations of my rights, working and excelling in fields that I literally was not allowed to be in under any other circumstances. I’ve even owned and operated multiple businesses, some of which I literally touched the top of the industries in…

So, I’ve taken a few hills. But no matter how many impossible things you pull off, the black cloud of self-doubt will have it’s way with you for a full day (or week, or month) every now and then.

Honestly, the best cure I have developed is to just not care. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this is more intricate than it sounds. There are a lot of things tied to my success that I care about very deeply.

How my success or failure affects my children and what my patrons and consumers get from our relationship being among the top of those concerns. I’m speaking more about the things that cause negative feelings and negative stress in your own mind.

Here are my top 3 reasons for not caring enough to fear failure:

1. The Opinions of Others

I ask myself, “If I lay dying tomorrow, which would I care more about: what someone thought about my failures, or what great things accomplished with my one shot at this short life?” Ultimately, anything someone says will be forgotten, at some point.

Most things are forgotten pretty quickly, especially in the age of social media because, quite frankly, you’re just not that damn important! Unless you’re caught red-handed burning down the proverbial church full of orphans, everyone (the haters) will quickly move on to the next tainted thing to mock.

So, I just don’t care what people think, or what failure makes me look like to the world. What I do care about is the quality of my own life and knowing that I am doing the things that enrich my soul. I care about my customers, my students, my patrons and supporters.

I exist to bring value to them, it is what I do. The critics? I won’t even remember most of them in a month or two. And in a few years, they slip into oblivion due to the lack of significance that they really have in my life.

So, for those pursuing a public persona as part of your personal brand:
Bless the haters, because they always come bearing gifts.

This applies if you are ambitious and are constantly working hard to be at the top of your game. If you are doing it, the haters will come. Understand, they are essential in the process of bettering yourself and hardening a bulletproof presentation and reputation. 

The hater is driven, by who knows what, to attack whatever they can find to attack. They will seek out your percieved vulnerabilities attack them. Like a lower-order predator, they only attack what they percieve as weakness.

Like the vile coyote, they wait for the wounded, or swarm the less aggressive prey with numbers.

For the strong, haters are like small dogs nipping at your calves. It may sting, but the information they offer is more than worth thier shallow teeth marks. They point out small vulnerabilities you may have missed.

Even when their perception is erronious, you learn enough to strengthen your presence and further eliminate any indication of vulnerabilities, whether real or imagined, that your foes would want to use to take you down. That lack of intelligence we despise, often gives us the gift of greater intelligence.

So, as you work hard to push yourself up and be the best you can be, be thankful every time the little hater shows up to remind you of some exposed skin you’ve left uncovered.

Simply kneel down, cover the vulnerability, and give the little hater a nice pat on the head in thanks for making you now that much harder to attack.

2. Losses are Training and Practice

I also don’t care about losing, I have already suffered some pretty catastrophic losses: being sent to prison as a teenage kid for 5 years, two divorces, two business failures with one pretty much destroying my life at the time…just to name a few.

If I am doing good work, failures are powerful training and practice for the continued education and improvement to make that good work even better. When self-doubt is pouring in on you, ask yourself, “what is the worst that could happen?” Your next question should be, “how tough am I, really, compared to that worst case scenario?” I’ve probably been through worse.

In my case, I’m damn sure I’ve been through worse than going bankrupt and failing at a business like, I don’t know, an abusively violent childhood and a young adulthood in prison maybe? And I obviously survived those with my soul intact.  

But what each loss or failure did was to teach me things of great value that I would not have learned anywhere else. It’s kind of like sparring or competing, if you never get out and validate your ideas, skills and strategies, you never will know if they actually work or not.

When life exploits your weaknesses or slip-ups, you learn to build those into strengths, avoid putting them first, and better cover your ass the next time. Life and business and fighting are no different. Take your knocks, and you become stronger, faster and smarter at your craft.

3. It’s Never THE BIG ONE

I gave up on thinking my next big move was THE BIG ONE! upon which all of my future success depended. It just isn’t true. You will always have new ideas, new opportunities, new ways to approach your dreams.

Hell, your dreams and visions will change, and so will your strategies, as you get out and validate which one’s work and which ones don’t. James Altucher, a wildly successful businessman and best-selling author, has started 20 businesses 17 of which failed miserably. Walt Disney went bankrupt and had several failures. It’s just a fact of life in the pursuit of virtuous accomplishments!

I have owned a personal fitness training business, a custom car shop, a music store and custom guitar shop, and a self-defense training company. For those first three, each time I thought I was going to get rich, accomplish “success” and be done.

How wrong I was! And how absolutely happy I am about being wrong. The truth is, they weren’t fully aligned with my purpose. However, they did teach me immense lessons about business, and dealing with people both as customers and in interpersonal relationships in my life.

All of this knowledge is still a part of my current business model and future plans. It’s never a true loss. Looked at appropriately, it’s always a net gain in lasting value, albeit sometimes an expensive one.

My fourth and current business, the training company, was one I approached very differently after a while. I began to realize that it is all just training for the next step. It’s really not “the one”, it’s just another part of the path to this self-actualization that people like me seek.

Once we are able to detach our project or business from that all-inclusive, life-or-death notion of importance, we can step back and relax about our decisions and our losses a little more. Which then, in turn, let’s us have less days of self-doubt and fear.

It also allows me to feel free to expand in other directions (which is partially why this blog exists) and take advantage of opportunities outside of my singular business vision. This is all beneficial.

Choose Fear, or Choose Relaxation

The opposite of fear is not courage, at least not in my mind. The opposite of fear, for me, is the ability to relax and have confidence in my course and decisions. It’s not even having the need to muster courage because I am relaxed and confident.

I used to live under such an immense amount of stress. Unbelievable amounts of it. In fact, I’ve landed myself in the hospital over it when I fought desperately to hold on to some singular idea that just wasn’t working out in the real world.

I failed to adapt, to take advantage of different opportunities, and I paid the price. It’s not worth that. It’s not worth your quality of life, and it’s definitely not worth your health. The truth is, once you have your vision, your flexibility and you have removed negative or unsupportive people from your immediate circle, your mind can begin to relax and you will honestly make better decisions.

You might even find out that you have already “made it”, if you just take the time to enjoy today and stop worrying exclusively about tomorrow.