So I disappeared for a little bit

You may not have heard from me much for the past few weeks. I decided to take a vacation. It wasn’t one of those decisions that is based on the best time off work, or whether the budget worked or not. Nope. I HAD to go, and I had to go right then. I was really losing my mind, becoming irate and snapping on everyone, and as a friend put it, it appeared I was going off the deep end. It was certainly true…

Anyhow, my vacation started with what was supposed to be a “quick” project on my Harley, install a set of 14” ape hangers, new cables, new brake lines, new rear brake system, new rear shocks, and change all the fluids. Easy, should have been a few days on the side, tops. 

Hell no. 

Everything that could go wrong went wrong. I worked on that bike for 6 days straight. I didn’t do anything else other than the minimal contact with my strength and fitness clients. Every other minute awake was spent in my shed (actually a converted chicken coup) working on that damn bike. I was trying to get it done because I was leaving for a week and returning right when Daytona fall bike week starts and I did not want to miss it. 

By day 6 the bike wasn’t done, but I jumped on a plane and flew to Boston because it was time to go. After spending the afternoon with a good friend in Arlington, I drove to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I stayed with a friend of a friend in an 1850’s farmhouse with the most amazing porch views.  

On day one, my first full day there, I drove up to Conway, NH and rode the vintage Conway rail through the mountains and out to the base of Mt. Washington. I sipped wine and wrote in my private booth while the train slunked its way through the notch and some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. 

On day two I drove south to an undisclosed location in NH to see a relic that I have wanted to see for 25 years. (Read about it in my upcoming article, A Writer’s Pilgrimage.) It was amazing to make that journey after so many years. 

On day three, I hung around the farmhouse with the two dogs that live there, which I inherited as companions when the owner went off to work. I wrote on the porch and took in the beautiful views. 

Day four sent me on a drive out to the coast to Hampton Beach, NH. What a cool little spot. Although everything was pretty much shut down for the winter I could tell it was a fun and happening place in the summer. I found one place open on their last day and had two whole lobsters for lunch. I really caught that 80’s beach movie-boardwalk arcade-fun place vibe there, and my mind labeled it the northern counterpart to Daytona Beach in Florida (my other favorite). I’ll be back in the summer for sure.

From there, I drove up the rocky coast on 1A to Ogunquit, ME where I met another friend for a memorable dinner. I ended that night in a beautiful “cabin” (more like a mid-sized modern home) in the woods of Maine. 

Day five was rainy but very comfortable temperature wise, which was great for northern New England in October. I drove back south to Portsmouth, NH. I couldn’t see much in the rain, but what an amazing little town, founded in the early 1600’s!! Like, the town was founded in 1630, and the streets for the most part still retain the original layout. I would love to go back and spend some time there in the summer, and as luck would have it, it is not far from Hampton Beach. The rain prohibited any pictures unfortunately.

I finished that day out meeting with yet another good friend for dinner in Maine, and had a great conversation about strategic planning and what is to come professionally for me next. In fact, this trip was largely for the purpose of me getting some clarity to make some tough decisions, and we ironed out the final draft of that that night. 

Day 6 I boarded a plane back to Florida. I cut my trip short by one day because the bike still was not finished and I wanted to end this vacation in Daytona Beach for bike week. I drove from Maine to Boston, flew from Boston to Orlando, drove from Orlando to north of Ocala, and then went straight and worked on the bike for a little bit. 

Woke up the next day and spent the whole day on it again. I literally put in the 7th full day spent on that bike and I finally had it up and running again. What a pain in the ass it was. Literally just complication after complication, but I finally got it back together, mostly. 

On Day 8 I got my daughter on the back and we rode the 75 miles to Daytona Beach. The first thing I did was to make a quick stop at Ormond Beach, strip off my boots and jeans and headed straight into the ocean for a walk around in the warm water (don’t worry, I had swimming trunks on). We were privileged to watch two dolphins playing and jumping right near us. I really love the beach, it’s my place for sure. 

We got suited back up and hit A1A for some cruising. The bikes were crazy. We hit Main Street a few times, cruised up and down and then parked to go walk and watch all the bikes go by. We went for another nice drive through the back streets of Daytona and stopped for wings and fries before heading out for the 75 mile ride back through the forest to home. 

I have to say, riding a motorcycle through the national forest in Florida at night is quite an experience. I’ve had a bear run out on me before while I rode through there, and there were signs this week about “high bear activity” with orders to not stop on the highway. So, it made sense that I saw a bear and a deer on my side of the road on the way back. It’s pitch black out in that forest, and it’s like a 40 minute ride through that section and at 65mph+ it’s pretty exhilarating. 

I’m ending my vacation with a day at home, a beautiful Central Florida day on my farm, relaxing and collecting my thoughts about the trip and my upcoming plans. I made a lot of decisions over the last few weeks, from the long nights of solitude cussing at my motorcycle in the shed, to the flying, driving and scenic sitting covering roughly 1700 miles or more, I did a lot of thinking. 

I will be making some big changes in my life and businesses very soon. Make sure to keep an eye out for those announcements.

Advanced Safety: A recent podcast

“Advanced safety” is a term I began to use about a decade ago when I started training firearms on a professional level. It refers to a level of safety that is required if you are going to operate a firearm in a public space, under extreme pressure, with innocent bystanders around. 

This goes way beyond the “range safety” taught to everyone by their local gun instructor guy, all that stuff about keeping the muzzle downrange or down, and not treating the gun as if it’s unloaded, etc. But what about the complex problems of controlling your muzzle during a real fight, when there are running, screaming and freezing panicking people all around you? What about when you have your family, or small children with you? 

In this episode Daniel Shaw and I go in depth about our unique views on safety and how to train it for the fight. 

165 – Advanced Safety | Thinking Beyond the 4 Firearm Safety Rules

When your identity is tied to dogma

A little background on this post: This is primarily about a conversation that didn’t happen around a strength training concept. Even if you are not interested in strength training specifically, there is a general component to this post that should interest any thinker who seeks to pursue meaningful discussions.

It is just one example of the type of things I see in conversations about strength and fitness, gunfighting, combatives, politics, medical issues, and everything else every asshole in the world gets to share their opinion about on social media.

The thing that sparked this particular post came from attempting to have a conversation with another barbell trainer and “author”. In a social media post, he made an absolute statement about “always” doing barbell slowly as a mandate for success.

I politely responded that I agreed with him about having strict form and barbell discipline, but also that velocity based training has been producing great results as well. I linked in an article about VBT velocity based training, from Travis Mash, one of the top strength coaches out there who was not only 3 time world powerlifting champion but also coach to countless D1 athletes, world team weightlifters and professional level athletes.

The response I got was so one-minded that I simply replied, “Ok” and proceeded to completely block the person on social. Here’s why:

VBT is very data driven and has been studied at the high academic level many, many times. Google has an entire search of scholarly articles from major universities and sports performance facilities to look through. The consensus is that it is very useful for measuring performance, periodization can be much more accurate by bypassing 1RM protocols and working within the athlete’s current fatigue level for optimization by basing prescriptions on actual performance vs percentages or unmeasurable RPE, it allows for similar measures of force and power output with less time under tension which lowers training stress overall, the time to perform a workout can be significantly reduced (saving time and costs for coaching) but VBT produces reliably similar enough results to slow eccentric training to qualify based on cost benefit analysis alone. It also works well for peaking an athlete due to lower intensity loads producing less fatigue and quicker recoveries while still improving performance, and it helps to offset exclusively training the body to move slowly when the athlete’s sport or fight will require speed, and there are many more reasons it is practical and applicable.

This “trainer” had a simple response, “No. They are all wrong.” Here, read my articles about me saying that slow lifts recruit as many muscle fibers as fast lifts, and probably more, with no data to back it up.

Sure. All these studies, universities, and more importantly real coaches who are themselves world champions and have been producing D1 and championship level athletes from scratch, are all wrong. Meanwhile, you in your garage gym, you have all the secrets…

Is VBT the absolute truth to performance? No. But I would never make a statement like that. It’s a tool in the toolbox of a competent coach who knows shit. Periodization is a thing, and the more tools you have the more optimization capabilities you have for any of your athletes or clients. Can you achieve fast twitch fiber fatigue with slow bar speeds, probably, but that doesn’t mean you throw out everything else that may work. Sometimes, one method will be better, other times another method would be more optimal. And let’s not forget that there are other benefits and goals outside of just looking for fast twitch recruitment.

Even crazy ass Louie Simmons was incorporating VBT as a component at Westside back in the early 90’s within his conjugate system, and subsequently he produced over 150 world records out of that gym, so this shit isn’t new. It’s just that now we have the technology to accurately measure it and gain data from individual lifters under various conditions.

To ignore ANY of the data driven and tried & true methods and say many of the top performing coaches, teams and athletes are wrong? No, you’re wrong. Too wrong to correct. Incorrigible. Sure, I could destroy you in front of all of your followers, but it would only devolve immediately into an argument in which you will never concede anything and I don’t have time, nor am I getting paid, to correct you or the countless other assholes out there full of their own bullshit.

Choosing a hill like that to die on is the mark of an amateur, primarily because it’s a sidebar. It’s a tool that has limited uses, as with ANY method out there. To stand on one method to the point of completely disregarding any other evidence based methods is just unacceptable. It’s sad that influencers like this are sapping money from people while not pursuing a high standard of knowledge for themselves as an obligation to those who follow and pay them.

If he came back with, “Well, I don’t agree with it because…” or “They may not be totally wrong, but I believe slow bar speed creates the same effect based on…” then maybe there’s a conversation. But “No. They are all wrong, go read my articles about why I am right” is not a response that will engage me. Your opinion suddenly becomes about as meaningful as any homeless person I may encounter on the street.

It brings to mind the central problem here, that the belief in your method becomes so strong that you see other methods as either threats or competition, so you must shut them out or call them names. Much like the attitudes I encountered during my foray into Crossfit coaching for a year and their prevalent views that “globo gym” workouts are stupid and Crossfit is the ULTIMATE method for strength and fitness (an attitude that completely disrespects and ignores about 80 years of developed barbell wisdom, and it shows).

And as I stated in the beginning, this isn’t just limited to the fitness world. You see it everyday in the vicious arguments on social media and now in our streets about politics, race, religion and medical issues. People’s beliefs are so tied to their identity now that they can’t step back and learn anything anymore.

The “gurus” and “experts” have latched onto a dogmatism so tightly that they can’t relinquish it without sacrificing their credibility (although in reality they already have). And average people then become the parrots of these influencers, even adopting their dedication to beliefs or methods and the willingness to fight other ideas for them.

Unlike many of my associates with high tolerances, my own cost benefit analysis of my time expenditure leads me to immediately drop people online, opting to better spend my time doing work that is doing one of the following: helping someone directly or reaching larger audiences. It’s a bonus when I am also getting paid to do it.

I also truly believe that one of the solutions to this problem is to not give them an audience. Giving them attention and an audience is what they need. Starve them of it. They don’t deserve it. Block and forget, that is what they are worth.

Half a day of going back and forth with a knuckledragger online is half a day of real programming I could do for my real clients. It’s half a day of writing I could get done, writing that I get paid for and/or that goes out and guides others on a larger scale (like this post). Forget wasting energy on one lost cause, when there are plenty of opportunities to help the receptive people in our lives.

Security in an era of Violence

So, it’s been an eventful weekend here in the U.S. The presence of guns, as predicted, has escalated to even more shots going off- some intentional, some not, all are equally dangerous. While I would love to write another pleasant lifestyle story about me learning to trim horse hooves or my journey to re-open my training gym, here I am compelled to write about the pressing issue of the clear escalation of violence in our nation today…

I’ll start this post off by stating that I am not here to pick sides in any of these arguments. My business is safety, health and security, and my perspective is solely based on those goals. I caution all of my readers to think objectively and to stay firmly in line with your personal mission in life. Don’t get dragged into an emotional fight unnecessarily.

Armed protester shot to death in Austin

The guy in the attached video was shot to death not long after this, his last interview ever.

A few points to remember:

  • Don’t show up strapped unless you’re ready to lay it all down.
  • Any time you open the door to violence, you don’t get to pick who comes out at you, and you can’t put them back in once they’re out.

Details are unclear, but it appears that a vehicle attempted to drive through the protest and this man approached the vehicle with his rifle. He got shot to death by the occupant of the vehicle.

It’s interesting to listen to the deceased mother talk about what an amazing human being her son was. While this may or not have been true, the reality is he showed up at a protest openly armed and that means he invited conflict, whether he truly realized that or not. An unnecessary conflict ended in death, and that’s what happens when you venture out into the public posturing with weapons and “standing your ground”.

Protests, Weapons and “militias”

In other news, an estimated 350 armed NFAC militia members descended on Louisville, KY. This is notably a significant number AND a significant distance away from their home base in Atlanta, GA.

They had a negligent discharge and injured their own members. While not surprising, it shows how dangerous they really are, both in terms of open carrying locked and loaded weapons and in the fact that they are careless enough to accidentally kick something off if not deliberately.

This same group showed up just as strong at a confederate monument in Georgia and were seen harassing drivers at gun point earlier this month. 

It’s important to remember that a lack of training or discipline is in no way a reduction in the dangerousness of any individual or group. From 95-pound rice farmers in Vietnam, to illiterate goat herders in rural Afghanistan, all the way to teenage Somali children emerging from grass huts with AK’s in Africa, hundreds of thousands of souls have been laid to rest at the hands of determined, scared and angry untrained fighters.

We are entering a new era, ladies and gentlemen. Prepare yourselves, and always act in line with your mission.

Self-defense and staying safe

Here are a few tips to keep yourself safe in the coming months in the ongoing destabilization of our country.

  • Establish your mission with complete clarity. If your mission is to keep yourself and your loved ones safe so you can live out a happy, long life together, simply stick to that and don’t go seeking out conflict over some arbitrary principles. Know your mission and let that guide your choices always. For more on “mission” and how to recognize and prepare for extreme violence, check out my book Violence of Mind.
  • Avoid mob violence by avoiding mobs. Don’t show up at protests and your likelihood of having a violent altercation or of being injured as a bystander to one will diminish to pretty much zero.
  • Keep an eye on what is happening in your area as well as in any area you will be traveling to. Avoidance doesn’t happen by accident, it must be a deliberate effort. Protests and violence are popping up all over the country and you have to be proactive to avoid it. Places to look would be local reddit threads, local Facebook groups and Snap Maps, to name a few. Find ways to quietly watch active groups on all sides of the divisions in your area.
  • If you are caught in a mob situation, find the fastest way with the least resistance to the nearest exit out of the situation. If you choose to “stand your ground” or plow through the protest, people (including you and anyone with you) can and will be in great danger. Act accordingly.
  • Angry mobs are easily incited. It’s the proverbial “powder keg” that only needs a match. Don’t be the match. Yes, it may anger you. You may even feel threatened. Remember the rules of self-defense: Don’t initiate or escalate any conflict, avoid and evade whenever safely possible, defend yourself effectively and justifiably when you have exhausted all other avenues of avoidance and are left with no other choice when presented with a clear threat that shows the means, opportunity and intent to do serious harm.
  • Keep a cool head. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged down into the psychological swamp of division and hatred getting pushed by all major media outlets and platforms. If you feel yourself having an emotional reaction to a headline or social media post, STOP yourself right there and re-take control of your thoughts. Remember, the foundation of an effective combat mindset is self-control under all conditions. The minute you allow an outside stimulus to anger or excite you from a remote distance, you are forfeiting control of your emotions and decision making, and you will compromise your mission to failure.
  • Have the provisions for both self-defense and self-treatment for medical emergencies. Don’t get caught without a means to equal forces and defend yourself against armed or numerous attackers. Likewise, have the equipment to self-treat yourself and others in the event that someone is seriously injured and you need to buy time to get them to primary care. A CAT tourniquet and a few trauma medical “stop the bleed” supplies is a minimum requirement.
  • Seek out training. Take it seriously. If you haven’t done so yet, you are behind the curve. Training with your firearm is only part of the equation. You should be taking care of your fitness and strength. You should be seeking out force-on-force training like my upcoming class in Okeechobee, FL August 23, or my shoothouse based class in Alliance, Ohio in October, to gain the experience of simulated gunfights, learning how to deal with fast, complex problems when lethality is the consequence.

I am deeply disturbed by the condition of the world we are living in today. From the devastation and confusion surrounding the cornonavirus pandemic, to the destabilization caused by violent protests and growing group clashes, this world is just not in good shape right now. I would personally much rather live in a world where we are all working towards greater things, in our own lives and for the world around us.

But we are not in that world right now. We have to continue to try our best to live good lives and impact the world in positive ways, but we also have to prepare for the worst and deal with reality accordingly. While I sincerely hope that we can get ourselves back on track and out of the path of mass casualty violence, it doesn’t appear that we will be able to do that anytime soon.

Prepare accordingly. Clarify your mission and stick to it in all decisions. One way or another, I will work to see the good in us victorious on the other side of this.

Lessons from Seattle: Shooter Rughi

Lessons from Seattle

I recently co-hosted an interview with @_shooter_rughi_ on the Gunfighter Cast with Daniel Shaw. He’s the guy often referred to as the “Weapon Snatcher” during the Seattle riots a few days back. This is a particularly good episode for several reasons. He did it right. He was legitimately the “grey man” (a badly overused term) in that crowd. He went into the operation with mission clarity, an understanding of deep concealment, pragmatic weapon and gear selection (not just carrying a bunch of kit because it’s cool or people say too)…there are a lot of good lessons in that one, including a couple practical demonstrations of things I talk about in Violence of Mind.

For a little background, “Rughi” (the moniker is a nickname turned into an Instagram handle) is a former Marine turned security contractor who was working personal security for a local news team. He was actually in comms with Shaw before he went into the Marine Corps back in the day.

Check out The Weapon Snatcher: Shooter Rughi.


In the firearms training world we preach “practice practice practice!” In fitness it’s often, “Train hard! Train often!” However, there is a point where putting in more effort will result in negative results rather than positive rewards. I’ve personally hit my own wall of degradation of skills many times as the result of putting a massive effort out. I’m sure most of you have as well.

There are 3 ways to look at diminishing returns for training.

  • Diminishing Returns in the Training Session
  • Diminishing Returns over the Long Term
  • Diminishing Returns of Lifestyle

 Saturation: Diminishing Returns in The Training Session

This is a pretty simple concept. There is a certain point during one single training session that if you keep going, you are not going to gain any more improvements. In fact, in fitness or firearms training you could actually hurt your progress or yourself. Think about physically working out to the point of exhaustion, where your muscles can not successfully perform the movements any more. Continuing to work through that post-fatigue level of exhaustion can not only work against you but eventually it becomes dangerous as the muscles can no longer do the job of protecting the tendons, cartilage and joints from damage while under load.

The same thing happens in firearms training, and it can be as much mental as it is physical. I’ve found in running my own courses that the average student typically hits a serious wall at about 6 to 7 hours of range time and coursework. There’s mental and physical fatigue, lack of concentration, degradation of skills and most importantly, a degradation of safety awareness. You can tell when it begins to happen. Groupings that were good all day will begin to open up, and mechanics such as draw stroke and reloading will become sloppy. When the instructor calls out another course of fire, your eyes slightly roll back and an expression of “oh joy” drapes over your face. You’re tired, spent and your commitment to each movement is waning fast.

When it comes to firearms, this is the point to call it a day and be happy with a full effort for a full day of training. If you did not hit specific goals, it’s ok. Pushing past this point won’t help you reach them and the harder you try to push it the farther away those goals will get. It’s also the point where safety awareness begins to fade under the weight of mental drain and physical fatigue and mistakes become more likely. With firearms, there is no room for mistakes, since they can be life-changing or life-ending.

There is a technique of training just into the point of diminishing returns that I am a fan of. Basically, it means not quitting at the first sign of becoming weary. There’s that point where sometimes you’re ready to quit, but it’s well before you’re spent or drained. There’s a short opportunity there to push your limitations, force yourself to pull it back together and perform at your higher level for just a bit longer. 

I would argue it’s more of an exercise for mindset than for improving skills. Overcoming the desire to shut down and forcing yourself to focus is a form of stress training and does work. Doing this correctly will help you perform better under stress and helps to build stronger character. But remember, this in no way means pushing into that dangerous territory of mental and physical fatigue or forgetfulness when it comes to safety awareness.

The same holds true for accomplishing strength gains or increases in capabilities in fitness training. Pushing past that first urge to quit, to give in and not do another set, another run, is where the boundaries of your work capacity begin to get pushed out. But eventually fatigue both physical and mental will take over and your form will deteriorate with your capability. You will, at that point, be doing too much damage and risking injury. 

The trick is knowing when to actually walk away and save it for the next session, which is another reason to have the guidance of an experienced coach or instructor. 

Adaptation Threshold: Diminishing Returns over The Long Term

This is the one unavoidable instance of diminishing returns. Basically, the better you get and the more capable you become, the less improvements you will gain from training sessions. This applies to fitness activities as well as to fighting skills such as firearms training. In the early days of your training endeavor, you are brand new and have close to zero skills or fitness level. When you start at the bottom you get your first gains quickly. 

In fitness training, nearly any program or method you try at first will give you good results. Basically just getting off the couch and becoming active will make you better rather quickly. But as time goes on, those methods, workouts, rep ranges, etc. will not have the same affect. Your body will adapt and you will become more resistant to adaptation, which is the desired result of training. That is where quality coaching, experimentation and good programming come in to help you continue to grow.

For firearms, with decent instruction you can go from unsure and cumbersome, lacking the ability to hit a target, to confidently handling the weapon and hitting a target in really short order, often after just one day. Spend a little more time and you start to get better groupings of your shots. However, as those groups start to tighten up, the improvements begin to come a bit harder. It’s easier to go from not grouping your shots to shooting 10” groups in the torso of a silhouette than it is to work 5” groups down to 2.5” groups. Patience and persistence will overcome this. You just have to be aware that you will hit plateaus and you have to push through and keep working at it.

Diminishing Returns of Lifestyle

Diminishing returns due to lifestyle is a bit more complicated, and probably the most important one to fix. There are endless factors that combine to affect your training abilities and the rewards you will get from that training. I am speaking mainly to those of you who are ambitious and are actively pursuing an increase in your shooting performance and/or physical fitness on a regular basis. I mentioned that I’ve hit my own walls of diminishing returns. The worst wall, for me, is due to lifestyle. 

Everything affects your performance: how much sleep you get, what you eat, when you eat, stress levels, work schedules…every factor will enhance or diminish your performance. As you get older, the impact those factors have on your performance becomes magnified. Once I hit 40, even something as simple as not getting a full night’s sleep can seriously affect a day of fitness or shooting performance for me. 

We all have our own physical and mental issues that need tending to on a regular basis. For example, if you are sensitive to carbs, or you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, you can forget about shooting nice groups at any considerable distance if you don’t eat correctly that day. Likewise, if you try pushing through a hard workout you could end up unconscious on the floor. The examples are endless but it’s easy for you to understand what your own issues are if you take the time to log your inputs and your outcomes and compare the notes after a few times. 

Using my own example, I used to have a habit of letting my ambition run me straight into the ground. I can remember working 80 to 100 hour weeks regularly. This resulted in a multitude of problems. The administrative tasks of my business ran late into the night causing me to lose sleep consecutively day after day. The busy work schedule prohibited proper eating. The stresses wear my mind down to mental fatigue. Do you see the negatives stacking up there?

Nothing will destroy your performance or your ability to recover from performance like the accumulative effects of insufficient sleep, poor nutrition and stress. On top of this, we can allow a busy schedule to prohibit regular practice and training. It can happen even if you work in the business; it’s easy to be the proverbial mechanic who’s own car doesn’t run properly. So, it’s no mystery why over a few months you will watch your groups begin to open up, your mechanics become sloppy, and eventually you venture out onto the range or into the gym and your performance is nothing other than bad. 

Why is this an example of diminishing returns? All of our hard work each week is put toward a goal. At a certain point you’re just putting out maximum effort but you are spread out too thin and you are hurting your performance and thereby hurting your ability to attain your overall goal. The returns for your efforts are diminishing. 

In some ways, you are hurting your goals because you are repeatedly performing things incorrectly, which makes them a trained performance. You are training yourself to do it poorly. 

Of course, this is reversible. When I get fixated on a goal I pursue it relentlessly and will burn myself down to get to it. I’ve ran across a lot of students and athletes who exhibit this same intensity in their desire to shoot well or perform well on the field or in the gym. If you are forcing your shooting training into your life where it doesn’t fit, you will not get what you want out of it. Sometimes we need to sit down and prioritize and, sometimes, sacrifices need to be made. The fix is there. If you are unhealthy or unhappy, figure out why and fix it.

 Breaking the Plateaus of Training

When you reach plateaus, places where diminishing returns seem to halt all progress, take the time to examine your regiment and your lifestyle to determine what you can change to disrupt that plateau. It’s that old saying about not getting different results as long as you keep doing the same things. Sometimes, it’s technique related. For example, if you have spent a lot of time doing speed, tactical and “combat” type drills, your accuracy could easily suffer. For fitness, if you spent a lot of time doing slow, heavy lifting, after a while your body is trained to move slow, it makes sense that you will find fast, explosive movements to be subpar in performance. 

The easy remedy is to change up your routine and start doing some work to push your effective range out to farther distances and holding yourself to higher accuracy standards, or to change your fitness training to include more movements and methods. You have to cycle your workouts, vary your rep ranges and intensity levels and venture into different programs to reach new goals.

Lifestyle causes are a bit harder to change, but it can be done. While most people can’t quit their jobs and go on a quest to achieve a mystical level of skill, you can adjust how you sleep, eat and improve your fitness level. Shooting, especially the active endeavor of defensive shooting, is also a physical activity. Improving your strength and fitness level will improve your abilities in defensive or competition shooting. Your core and grip strength increases, your speed improves, and your “combat stress” is more easily regulated due to a lower resting heart rate, a slower climbing heart rate and a faster heart rate recovery time.

The point is that there is a solution for most problems leading to diminishing returns. But it does require change. It requires doing things sometimes that are not fun, or working on things that might not be the “focus” of your goals but will hoist you over the plateau and on to the next level of your performance potential. Working hard is a good thing, but working too hard for diminishing results is not working smart. Identify your goals, work hard to reach them, and improve or change any factors in your routine or lifestyle that might slow or obstruct those goals in any way.

Physical Conditioning: In Conclusion

         There are many great ways to get in shape, be stronger, healthier and live longer. Some are definitely better than others so you need to find what fits your lifestyle and your goals. Seek out proper guidance and coaching if possible; if not, then get on YouTube and make a go of it.  Much of what I talked about in this section can be done with moderate equipment at home that can be purchased $50 to $100 at a time. The important thing to remember is that no matter what your “mission” is, whether it is to be a warrior, a professional in law enforcement, or a hard to kill civilian, none of it is realistic without the physical fitness to carry your ass through to it. And, as I have said before, if your mission is to be safe so you can live a long and happy life with your family, then you will be just as concerned about your health as you will about all of the cool tactical shit.

Reflecting on four years of change

Yesterday was a typical weekend day here in Florida: I hiked in the forest to a hidden lake with my daughter and my Great Dane. We had a picnic by the lake and hiked some more. Then we went home and got the Road King out and took a ride into the National Forest to do some swimming in the beautiful springs of the forest. I floated around under the palm trees on a huge pink flamingo, swam with my daughter, and then we rode back through the forest on a beautiful sunny afternoon and headed back to the farm for dinner.

Laying on that float, I did some reflecting:

Two years ago this week, I was quietly packing my things to move 1000 miles away to Florida. I didn’t tell anyone, aside from the one friend who had to help me pack and swore an NDA to not tell a soul.

I had finally made some strong decisions in my life. First, I was never going to let anyone abuse me again in any relationship–girlfriend, wife, family member, boss, co-worker–no one. I decided that a peaceful life in solitude is better than a tormented life in servitude.

I also made the decision to put my own health and wellness first, above relationships, jobs or projects. Having been a fitness professional and at least a part-time athlete for much of my life, I knew better.

But I was misled into believing that “being responsible” meant sacrificing your own health and wellness to accomplish external (usually financial) goals. That could not be more incorrect. If you are not strong and healthy, everything you put forth diminishes. It’s just how it is.

All this had gone on for a year and a half before the move to Florida, so I had a good head start. In that time, I accomplished a lot, including publishing my first book (and it was very successful for a self-published work).

I also took ownership of my own story, choosing to embrace who I am and take the power away from those who would use my story against me. No more hiding my past. It’s mine. If you don’t like it, then go away, I don’t need you.

I didn’t tell anyone about my plans to move because my mind was made up, and there was no reason to listen to all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work, or that I would be back, on and on ad nauseam.

People are always quick to tell you how something you want to do or some idea you have will not work. I knew to just not even give them the chance.

Now, for two years, they’ve watched me through social media living a pretty good life in the sun down here in the FL. I live on a few acres out in the country, with my horse, my dog, and now my oldest daughter.

Like anyone else, I have some problems, and I struggle still with rebuilding my life after divorce, custody battles, and a life of mistakes and hardships.

I fought an intense custody battle for the past year and a half for my two daughters, against a woman I have been divorced from for 13 years now, and ultimately got to have my oldest with me full-time for her entire senior year of high school, which was worth every bit of it.

That battle put a damper on my financial health, and also on my business with my being emotionally drained and distracted for much of 2019. I wasn’t able to finish the next 3 books I’m working on in that time, either. I lost my youngest daughter for a second time, which was one of the three hardest losses I’ve felt in my life. I suffered it all quietly, in peaceful solitude.

But here’s the difference now: I cut off the patterns. I cut off the toxic people. I cut off the neglect of my own heart, mind and body. All of my problems today, are residual from a life of bad decisions, and they are one-by-one being eliminated and cleaned up. Not one significant problem I have today was created solely and independently in the last 4 years. After 40 years, I finally stopped the madness.

And I waited.

I waited for the right people to come into my life. I did not settle. Not for friends, not for work, and not for a companion. I didn’t let loneliness drive me into bad relationships, or to hang out where I would simply be around people without regard to what type of people they really were.

I didn’t hang out with people or be “friends” with people just because it could help my business or career. In fact, choosing not to do so hindered my career growth in many ways. But that’s ok…

I was patient. I created my standards, and no matter how high or seemingly unattainable they were, I stuck to them, resigned to a life of peaceful solitude if they could not be met.

That patience paid off. I may not be wealthy, and could even be considered financially poor by some standards, but my actual life is pretty dreamy. I wake up on a beautiful piece of property in rural Central Florida.

The sun is almost always shining, I walk out into my yard and am greeted by my faithful dog, and my beautiful mare, an American paint, in my pasture (who happens to be quite an amazing horse). The birds are almost always singing. The neighbors have horses and goats and small cattle that border my fence line. I’m surrounded by wildlife, nature, animals.

Within a 1.5 hour drive I have both coasts of Florida, beaches, springs, rivers, the National Forest and several State Parks full of amazing beauty. There’s also the cities, theme parks and lots of attractions if I’m in the mood for that. I have a few Harleys, and live where riding weather is year round and great.

I have my outside gym platform, sufficient equipment, a firepit, and I can sit in my yard and never see a neighbor. I coach in the evenings at the most awesome Crossfit/weightlifting gym in the region helping people improve both through Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting.

I also run my own remote coaching business with several great clients who work hard, which allows me to watch them develop into stronger, healthier humans.

I am well into my life-long dream of making a living as a writer, with a successful book and some other lucrative writing deals going. I largely make my own schedule and my time is owned by me.

Most of all, I am cultivating relationships with some great people; people of amazing quality that I previous thought didn’t even exist. Comparing the people I meet now–after spending years to turn life around and focus on living my own quality life–to the people I used to meet on my path before, it just really blows my mind.

Relationships like this were unattainable to me in my prior mindset. It took real change to make this happen, and that change was not easy or quick. It’s not that I was a bad person or doing bad things, I just hadn’t understood the difference between true motivation and surface presentation, and how important it is to clearly know that difference both in yourself and in others.

Here’s what I have learned four years later:

A peaceful life in solitude is always better than a tormented life in servitude.

Your health and wellness have to come first, it is the foundation for all things you want to be or do in this life.

A peaceful life of solitude focused on health and wellness cultivates you into a high quality person, and will lead you to attract high quality people into your life.

Patience is the way to true fulfillment. This is true for self-development as much as it is for skill development and even for finding fulfilling relationships.

Your real motivations, and the real motivations of others, are exposed through the totality of actions. See what is there, and you will be able to make great decisions with good outcomes.

Anything worth having will take patience, work, fortitude, incredible amounts of faith, planning, spontaneity, pain, joy, fear, courage, and every other strength or skill that you can muster. We have to earn the great things in life, and we have to be strong enough to cultivate and maintain them. The universe has a way of doling out what we earn. If you don’t control what you earn in this life, someone else will, and it will not be pleasant.

And last but not least, Florida is beautiful and fun and I am not leaving any time soon.

I share this reflection with my readers to offer both some insight and encouragement. You can change your life, and if you want it to change, YOU have to do it.

That faith word got a seemingly passing mention in this article, but believe me it is at times the only thing you will have to go on. You will need it. Faith in yourself and faith in God, or the universe. The rest is hard work and the willingness to fight for what you want.

Fighting isn’t always forceful or violent. In fact, the hardest battles are the ones that go on in quiet, lonely solitude. I’ve suffered some great injustices in my life, many before I was even old enough to understand. This led to many mistakes on my part. But today, I am in control.

Be strong, cultivate your faith, raise your standards and don’t stop moving forward and growing. You’ll get there. If I can travel the great distance I did to get here, surely you can cover the distance that sits in front of you.

I guess I forgot to tell you…

Recently, it came to my attention that I was not posting on social media enough. I thought I was, but I guess I forgot to tell you what I’m doing.

I’m living my life.

If you watch my Facebook stories, or IG account, I’m demonstrating what I teach. I’m riding my horse, riding my motorcycle, planting flowers, going on hikes, and sitting by hidden lakes in the forest for hours on a Sunday morning. I’m coaching athletes and everyday people in the gym. I’m spending quality time with the ones I care about.

But, this is seen as me being “inactive” by the self defense training community. I guess unless you are beating your chest with a Glock in your hand, or posting yet another B8 target, you are not “active”.

Granted, I am less active on social media than other instructors in the field. One reason is that I think social media is a net negative as used by the masses; a drain on valuable time that could be used for productivity and quality of life.

Another reason is because I have a particular mission to not let violence rule my life anymore, whether real or imagined (training). It literally was the concluding point of my first book, and has remained a central point of my teaching for many years now:

don’t forget to live the life you are supposedly so worried about protecting.

Living a strong, safe life full of quality experiences is the goal. At least it is for me. Some of you say that is your goal, but your true goal is more closely related to things like: maintaining a “cool guy” status in the training community; showing people on social media how smart you are, or how good of a shooter you are, every day; proving how much you can lift over and over, and so on.

I say it’s your more prominent goal because that is how you present yourself. You are one dimensional in your brand.

Now, I’m not passing judgement, just pointing out the perception you put out. You can live your life however you want to, I could care less.

But for me, I want to avoid presenting a one dimensional persona. If you can’t pick up on the nuances of a person very experienced in violence just living a serene or enjoyable life without talking about said violence every day, then you are missing the point.

For example, I planted flowers last month. It was a truly meditative practice, digging with my bare hands in the soil, carefully moving each flower so as to not disturb their roots. Not to mention the joy the flowers bring into my environment.

If you mistake the gardener for always having been a gardener, you will never expect the warrior that most certainly is there. This is important because it is true not only for the “good guy” but for the bad guy as well.

They exist in the same way, and quietly live their lives waiting for the next moment to strike. Hiding amongst us, just living their lives.

Most of all, by not recognizing this you miss the opportunity to live a full life yourself.

And while I have capabilities, and vivid memories, of doing extreme violence to other human beings, I don’t need to focus on those capabilities in my days. It’s always there, waiting for when it is appropriate and needed to save lives.

Until then, I will make living my life the priority, and the prime example I leave for others. Not pushing other forms of elite tribalism by showing how sophisticated I am with fancy clothing, my knowledge of cocktails and whiskey, or any other superficial trappings. Just constantly working to improve myself as human being and in how I treat others, able to contribute to the good of the world while remaining as humble as possible about it.

I know I am not perfect and never claimed to be. But making my stated goals and my actions match is a constant effort of mine. Living your life, seeking quality time above all else, and constantly working on self-improvement in areas outside of violence and physical prowess are the more important endeavors we have in this short time on earth.

When I lay dying some day, as will inevitably happen to us all, I will yearn for those memories of the most meaningful and beautiful moments of my life, to warm my heart as the light of life fades. I want as many of them as I can gather in this lifetime. To die without regret. That is truly the warrior’s way.

Momento Mori

The mythology of the “bad guy”

I don’t buy in to the “they are not you” mythology. We are all the same humans in the same cultural space. We have morals and subcultural inputs that separate our actions, but no one person has super powers of good or evil that others don’t.

Everything is a choice, and choices are arrived at and carried out by human thinking with human physical capabilities, which we all have at our access. A person is not “kind”, they choose to be kind. One is not simply “violent”, he chooses to be violent.

This idea of making believe that some people are somehow different than us, or others, is misguided in my opinion. Wolves, crazies, monsters, etc. I have fought with these “monsters”. I have also played cards with them, and shared coffee and meals with them. 

Everything is a choice, and we all at least start on a level playing field. To view the “bad guy” as some heinous, powerful predator experienced in devouring the lives of the innocent puts him above you in your mental imagery, which plays a very important role in your decision making process.

To see yourself as not on a level playing field is a victim mentality that sensationalizes the violent into a stronger creature, and that is the exact mythology that they want you to create in your mind. Trust me, I’ve had this conversation with them more than once. 

I encourage everyone to see themselves on a level playing field. It is how I think, and I encourage others to do so as well.

I do believe if we do not see ourselves as being on a level playing field with the violent criminal, then you are creating positions of physical and mental superiority and inferiority, with you at the bottom in terms of violent capabilities and intentions. That line of thinking will lead you to begin the fight at a psychological deficit.

It is better to begin that comparison on equality, and then set ourselves apart with morals, the rule of law, and most importantly, preparation and training for the fight.

We are all human beings. We all have the same capabilities, tools, resources and thought processes available to us. We all have problems, needs, desires and fears. We all battle with uncertainty at some point.

They are not “different” than you except in one minor detail: when and upon whom they make the decision to victimize or become violent towards. That is not a major differentiating factor and it certainly does not create a separate species.

To ignore this point is to ignore sage wisdom that has been passed down in the warrior philosophies for thousands of years. Everyone from Sun Tzu to Miyamoto Musashi wrote something along the lines of “to know your enemy, is to know your yourself”. There is a giant keg of wisdom and fighting knowledge wrapped up inside of that concept. 

When you discover the things about yourself that drive your decision making: your uncertainties, your fears, your sources of confidence, courage, inspiration and the things you are attached to that drive your will to fight, then you have discovered something very revealing about your enemy.

And when you have learned to control or manipulate those critical elements within yourself, you also have learned to control or manipulate them within your enemy’s mind as well. You should think deeply on this.

Yes, there are psychopaths and sociopaths and people with a myriad of other forms of mental illness and yes, those people are “different”. But they are not different because they are some creature with superior strength or violence, an evil predator. 

No, they are different because they are mentally ill and that needs to be dealt with accordingly. It does not make them “different” in a predator sense, it just means their conclusions are increasingly different than yours, but it is still basic decision making from the same set of decisions that you have. 

If they choose to act on it, they are going to employ weapons or means that are just as accessible to you as they are to them. I say this having personally observed and dealt with many mentally ill people in prison day-in-and-day-out for years, some of whom were quite dangerous.

The other inherent problem built directly into that message is that it cultivates the inability to detect concealed danger. You are looking for someone who is clearly not “you,” someone “different”, and you will fail to see the threat that emerges from someone who looks and acts just like you do. More often than not, the very dangerous are adept at concealing and blending into their environment. 

Creating these subjective differentiations in people who do not have the requisite exposure to violent criminals sets them up for failure when they run across one who talks and acts and dresses just like they do. And trust me, there’s a lot of them out there. 

The point here is to avoid creating these roles in your mind that attribute special powers to the criminally violent. You can choose to be just as deadly, just as violent, just as charismatic and just as deceptive as they choose to be. None of these traits are descriptors of people, they are choices that people make, and every one of them should be used in your favor as much as they are used against you. 

If you practice concealment, there is an element of deception that comes with that. Because you are a “good guy” you know you won’t use this for bad against innocent people. But you want to blend in with everyone else and go about your life with the tools, intentions and capabilities you hold hidden from the eyes of everyone, especially the potential enemy. 

Evil is not defeated with simply a “good guy with a gun”. It is defeated by a good guy with a gun who has the tools, intentions and capabilities to do what is necessary.

Just like the bad predator, you want to remain undetected and position yourself to deliver the highest amount of damage with the least amount of risk to yourself. To do this, you use all of the tools, techniques and strategies available to you. The same ones he will use against you. You want the odds in your favor in every way. The same way he does. Now you both know this.

Now he has to think about you showing up to defeat him as much as you have to think about him showing up to attack innocent people. And if you do your job well, and you didn’t get caught off guard, the first realization he has of you being there will be him seeing a muzzle, and for him that will be too late.

Order Violence of Mind here:

The Successful Home Gym

As I was loading up the like new, $350 half-rack squat rack that I just purchased for $175, the guy said, “I hope you have more luck with it than I did. I intended to use it everyday and it just never got used.”

That was about a year ago when I was replacing the rack I had to leave behind in Ohio, and that rack has seen use 4 to 5 days a week since that time. It doesn’t look new anymore. The pads have been beaten off of the bar hooks, the paint is fading from the Florida sun, and that rack is kicking ass handling everything I throw at it.

Few things in life rival the failure rate of the home gym. Every Marketplace and Craigslist from every city is full of equipment for sale, at a fraction of what the seller spent on it, because they had big plans that “just didn’t work out.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

My absolute favorite place to be is my home gym, but that didn’t happen overnight. I want to share with you a few things that have made the home based gym a success for me. Hopefully it will help some of you to avoid contributing to the pool of under-used equipment for sale on the internet.

Equipment Selection and Mission

One of the first mistakes people make is in choosing the wrong equipment. Hell, some never even get started because they can’t afford the fancy Rogue home gym for $3000 that they think they need to “do it right.”

Bullshit. You don’t need a full rack and high temp bumper plates with $500 bars to get started. You can go to Dick’s and buy the 300# iron Olympic bar set and a half rack with a moveable bench and have everything you need to keep you busy and in great results for as long as you can handle it.

Sure, it’d be nice to have all the fancy stuff. I have some nice Rogue bumpers and bars because I owned a gym business and kept all of my equipment when I moved (because ultimately I will re-open in my new area). But I started out with cheap bars and iron weights.

Is it true that cheap iron weights can vary greatly from their advertised weights? Sure it is. But if you are not an elite athlete where 1 kilo can make a difference in winning or losing, then why worry about it? You want to get strong? Put fucking weight on the bar and move it around.

Dig around on the selling sites and you will find a rack, bench and weights. Get started. Don’t try to be perfect, and for the love of progress don’t worry about what it will look like on Instagram. Just do the work. Just make sure to get a rack with moveable safety bars so you can miss lifts and not die. You will get strong.

Solitude, Focus and Meditation

One of the greatest benefits I have experienced from the home gym is the solitude and focus. If you are not the type of person that can function well completely alone, maybe a home gym isn’t for you. Or maybe, you can keep a cheap gym membership for that once or twice a week trip into a more social setting.

For me, because I live in Florida my platform and “gym” is outside. I placed my gym in the most beautiful setting I could find, so it is generally just an enjoyable place to be, period. This matters.

I can remember some basements I worked out in that were moldy and probably dangerous to be breathing heavily in. If it’s all you have, work with what you have. But if at all possible, make it your goal to put your gym in a space that is inspirational and enjoyable to be in. That will help motivate you to be there more. Decorate it with inspirational props if you have to. Make it your space.

That setting is what creates the mental space to focus. Weightlifting is very close to a meditative practice for me. It is the hour or two of my day where I can tune out all of the things that piss me off and stress me out, and take time just for myself.

I can practice something that is making me better, stronger and faster. I can do it by myself. It’s for me, but then the better version of myself that emerges from there everyday is for everyone I care about.

It is the space of reflection, dedication, perseverance, focus, and self-development. It’s a place of constant challenges and frequent victories. It is precisely where I go to make myself better each day. That’s what my gym is to me.

Understanding Programming 

Another huge failure that the home gym’ers suffer is a lack of programming knowledge. You can’t just grab a program off of the internet and expect it to work. Hell you can’t even rely on a trainer to make it work, because getting an experienced program writer and getting a trainer can be two very different things. (For a primer on programming, check out my article Programming 101 Part 1 and 2.)

Almost any program or workout plan will get results when you are new. Your body is just responding to doing anything more than you have been doing. But it doesn’t mean it’s the optimum program for you. You are uniquely individual in your life, metabolism, habits, and how you respond to stimulus. Programming is an individual task, not a group task.

But life gets in the way…

The second part of the programming problem that causes massive failure is the inability to stick to a schedule. Life does get in the way. One of the reasons that life disrupts the ability to keep working out is because people tend to look at working out as totally a separate activity from the rest of their life.

This is a mistake! Working out is another part of everything you do. Every mental and physical demand on you, from jobs to family duties to house work, needs to be considered in your program. This will ensure you are working as a unit toward a common goal and will keep you from burnout and loss of motivation.

As for life getting in the way, I program heavy on volume and use the 80% to 90% standard. If I can complete between 80% and 90% of my prescribed workout for that week, then I am successful. Often, I can hit that 100% and it feels great! But if not, I am still at an acceptable standard and I feel accomplished for it.

Perfection is the enemy of the good in exercise plans and intentions. Miss a day or two, and your motivation quickly falls away as you feel like you are just getting nowhere.

Kick that volume up in your prescription, allow for some flexibility in your times and volumes, and shoot for that 80% minimum. (For some ideas on how to do this, check out my article on Writing Life into your Fitness Program.)

Video Analysis and No Fear

It is strongly recommended that you find a good remote coach if you are going to use a home gym. If you do so, they will direct you to video yourself doing the lifts to help guide you to safe and effective form and intensities.

Whether you use a coach, or not, you will need to utilize the awesome capabilities we all now have with smartphones. Video yourself doing the lifts and then analyze and compare them to professional videos from Youtube (from proven sources, like Catalyst Athletics, Starting Strength, or whoever does your particular style of training.)

The benefit of doing so in a home gym is the full freedom to set up and video yourself without looking like a social media narcissist in the gym. You can set up the camera where ever you like and get all the angles you need.

You can also go hard, utilizing proper safety bars and equipment of course. There is no fear in a home gym of being embarrassed because you miss lifts with lower weights than what someone next to you in the public gym is easily lifting. Nope. At home you can suck all you want and there is no social consequence.

Just make sure you video yourself sucking so you can stop being bad at it. Use the solitude and technology to your advantage. This is a HUGE benefit of home gyms.

Wrapping it up

This article is just a quick note about just a few of the many ways to be successful in a home gym. These are probably my favorite ways that I have found to make it a success for myself. There are a ton of other reasons and concepts, but I hope the few I outlined here can help you at least get started and keep going.

There are few places I would rather spend my alone time than on my platform at home. I hope you find the same peace and progress in your own space as well.

Feel free to message me with questions or comments, I’m glad to help out where I can.