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.

Helping others

This past Sunday I had a great, sold out pistol class in Okeechobee. This class had a lot of new faces that I had never met before, and a few things really set in on me while I was teaching it…
 
The class had a good amount of beginners in it. For a few it was actually their first real training course, while some others were still working off of 15 to 30 year old government/law enforcement training (that probably had not been practiced in that time gap).
 
There was also a wide spectrum of gear, from unacceptable holsters that I had to immediately remove from the range for safety reasons before we even started, to Serpa’s and other subpar examples. There were also some very tuned up shooters in the course with tricked out Glocks and solid gear to run them with.
 
After spending some time working in the training industry at a national level (traveling throughout the year to teach, attending SHOT Show and NRAAM, training at national level events like OTOA, working for companies in the industry, etc.) I’ve seen the spectrum of students and instructors from the local levels to the widely known popular level.
 
One of the things that sticks out to me is how the level of student can change the more well known you get. It’s like a hierarchy, and the higher you are in popularity the more you can charge, the more you charge the more “serious” the students become, and so on.
 
At that level, “the industry” (everyone who considers themselves “in the know” about gear, weapons, training and tactics and falls into similar choices and beliefs) gets pretty harsh in their views of the average gun owner. If you are on social media, which seems to be where “the industry” actually lives, you will no doubt run into this harsh attitude.
 
Name calling and shaming for weapon and gear choices, making fun of people for being poor (“the poors” as they call them) and just a general negative attitude towards anyone who is not at least making a good attempt at being in the cool club is pretty much the norm.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I do get it. The gun world is full of absolute bullshit. The NRA, the glossy magazines and the TV shows all pump out garbage information about garbage guns and gear and the masses eat it up because they don’t know any better. In fact, they believe it is good information because all of those named sources are actually the most well funded and best looking sources out there. I mean, they’re on TV, right?
 
So, we have this general gun culture that is at best misguided and misinformed on a large scale. It is a problem. I am saying this after years of working in gun stores, working at public ranges, working for holster manufacturers and other companies in the industry as well as running my own training company for many years. (To the NRA, the magazines, the gun shows on TV, the manufacturers, you ARE the problem.)
 
Many of the people at my class this weekend would fall into those categories of dislike: less than optimal gun choices, a lack of fundamental skills like grip and trigger press, beliefs in myths about gunfighting and, especially when it came to gear and holsters, it was a serious struggle.
 
I even had one contraption calling itself a “belly band” that was basically an oversized Ace bandage with no velcro and a patch sewn into it to “hold” a gun. (If you make such a contraption and sell it to the public to carry guns around, you should be absolutely fucking ashamed of yourself, whoever you are.) It literally hit the top of my list as the worst holster ever seen with my own eyes.
 
To the guy’s credit, he immediately recognized that his rig was unsafe and told me it was not going to be suitable for the course, so he did recognize his poor choice just by being exposed to the introduction of the course in the morning.
 
It took some of the others a few hours of struggling with gear failures to get the idea that their choices were not only poor for training, but that such failures in a life or death situation on the street would be catastrophic.
 
I was patient. I was helpful. I kept the class safe. If something was unsafe, it was not permitted to be used. The failures that did happen, were well within the safety margin so I let them happen for their educational benefit. I didn’t attack anyone. I didn’t shame them.
 
I did my best to balance the class out and deliver the goods to everyone who showed up, no matter their skill level. People learned on Sunday, and when I asked the question at the end of the day, “Did you feel like I provided a safe and comfortable training environment for you today?” It was a quick and resounding “Yes!” that followed.
 
I ended up with this group for a few reasons. I am not established yet in Florida locally, so I am attracting new people into the fold by design and that is a good thing. Another reason is because the course was intentionally priced very affordably. My overhead is lower because I am a short drive away, and I want to build the type of local training culture that I had successfully built in Ohio for so many years.
 
I am intentionally declining more and more opportunities to travel and teach, opting to stay close to home for my family now. So, I end up with beginners, newbs, bad gear, and all that comes with them.
 
All I could think about at certain points throughout the day is how interesting it is that I have traveled full circle to come back to where I started: teaching average people how to be safe and effective with the guns they carry.
 
Average people. People who do not eat, sleep and breath training. People who work jobs, raise families, have hobbies, who do not live on social media talking about grip stippling, flashlights and triggers for the 57,000th time. I was very happy to see these people showing up for a course. I am happy to be of service.
 
I am happy to be of service because that is why I am here. To help people. I did not become a firearms instructor because I thought it was going to be super awesome, or because I want to be some famous instructor guy. I sure as hell don’t do it because it’ll make me rich, because it definitely will not. I started out doing it because I saw bad things happening and I wanted to fix it as much as I could.
 
I saw cavalier attitudes with little experience to back them up, macho personas based on purely bad information, and flashy bullshit based on just plain garbage (the days of plate carriers at “pistol” classes comes to mind).
 
I saw good people trying to be prepared to defend themselves and stay out of the cemetery or prison while doing it, and they were being fed information that would lead them directly to those places.
 
That is why I started this, and that is why I still do it.
 
As I make my long talked about and planned for partial exit from the industry, I look to maintain my ability to help the average people who are genuinely looking for help. I intend to teach a limited number of courses annually.
 
I have very little interest in making the cool club person feel “cooler” by having attended my course. I have very little interest in working with someone who is looking to shave that next 2/10ths of a second off of their Bill Drill time. Not only is it not my lane, but it’s not what I prioritize in fighting and self defense. Glory seekers will not find satisfaction in my classes.
 
That is where the most money is. But unfortunately, it’s not where the greatest need is. The greater good is served by welcoming more good people into the fold of the knowledgable and trained populace, and eliminating the dangerous misguided information that saturates the concealed carry population as a whole.
 
I have also found over the years that many professional students who think they are really tuned up are nothing more than great shooters. This is because there is still a shortage of classes about fighting, and a ton of classes about shooting.
 
At best you can work your way up to CQB courses, which are limited to working inside of structures and largely founded on team-based military or law enforcement doctrine. Solo foundational fighting knowledge is hard to pass on in a one or two day course, and even harder to find someone attempting to do it.
 
If my course is “open” enrollment without prior training requirements, you are welcome to make it your first training course. Those who are “tuned up” are also welcome to attend. You will see the foundational levels of how I prioritize what is important in fight training.
 
If my course lists having “developed fundamental skills and equipment choices” as a requirement to attend, then you should not show up unless you clarify with me directly that you are where you will need to be.
 
It was no shocker to me to get these students of course, because it was a no pre-requirement course. I am just happy that I have retained the ability and humility to be able to help these people raise their skills and equipment to be safer in their defense plans.
 
I will still run advanced level courses, as well as my favorite: the application-approved-only limited spot courses where I take 6 hand picked people out and we go hard on a specific skillset or procedure. There is no money in that, I do it because I love it.
 
I don’t have any tolerance or time for shithead people who think they know something, that they actually have no idea about, and they are unwilling to learn any different.
 
I have all the time in the world for the average person who doesn’t know any better, but they are genuinely out there trying to learn what they don’t know and improve their position.
 
As I go forward, progressively I want training to be something I do because I enjoy it and because I enjoy helping people, not something I do to strictly for money. It has a higher purpose than that for me.
 
 

 

Writing your life into your fitness programming

Dealing with life events that “disrupt” programming is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in a fitness routine. Time consuming work projects, travel, vacations, family and other intermittent life demands all have a way of knocking you off of that “perfect” workout groove you’ve been trying so hard to stay in.

Here’s a way of looking at it from a programming standpoint that can help keep you on track by actually turning these temporary situations into opportunities rather than disruptions. 

Programming is not just a static workout plan

Programming, in its most effective form, is individualized. The best program is not only one that is written specifically for you, but one that constantly evolves as you change physically and psychologically, and as your life changes around you.

If you are paying a trainer or a coach, hopefully they are listening to you and asking the right questions to take all of that into consideration while guiding that evolution towards optimizing the results of your efforts. 

Listening to, recording in detail and then synthesizing the information from your workout performance, your results and your life are the best practices that separate high-level programming from the rest of what’s out there. If you are self-coaching, you need to be doing these practices

This includes taking into consideration vacations or travel that will remove access to your regular gym/equipment/schedule, as well as any psychologically stressful events in your life and how they affect your drive and susceptibility to fatigue.

For many, sticking to a program and not missing the workouts, meals, and rest required for success is a huge struggle even when everything else is going right in their lives. Throw a change in that pattern and it’s extremely easy to “fall off the wagon” and lose your momentum.

It can take weeks to get back on track, only to have something else come up the following month and here we go again…

Disruption vs Microcycle vs Back-off Week

If you are like most normal people, this will sound familiar to you. Jobs, kids, taxes, life…they all can be emotionally stressful and cause real fatigue, if not keep you from getting to the gym at all.

Much of the internet would yell, “Power through it!” or “No crybabies!” But this just is not always practical or even safe. Not considering fatigue in its these forms can push you into dangerous territory resulting in injury or burnout if you “just power through it.” And sometimes, you just can’t get to the gym as planned.

There is a better way. 

Instead of viewing these events as disruptions, we need to look at them as opportunities to work in microcycles (single week plans) or back-off weeks (rest microcyles) that can optimize and sometimes supercharge your results and performance. 

For example, last month one of my online personal coaching clients had two “disruptions” coming up in his schedule. He had been working very hard for about three months uninterrupted and was disappointed and very worried that these events would set him back. This posed a real threat to his progress, as well as a psychological threat to his motivation.

The first event was a 4 day conference that involved travel and a hotel stay. This, of course, basically knocked out a week of his time. The second event was the physically and psychologically stressful task of moving out of his apartment and into a new space. These events were spaced with only one week in between them. 

Where he saw worry and disruption, I saw an opportunity. We programmed a very light week for him during the travel utilizing the hotel gym just two nights, reverting back to some hypertrophy and maintenance intensity and volume levels.

This allowed him to focus on his conference, network with associates, and have a much needed rest from what had been an unbroken eight week mesocycle of moderate intensity and volume work. It also served the purpose of preventing the emotional stress of feeling like he was sliding backwards (this is very important). 

We used that time to prepare him for a maximum effort week that would fit perfectly in between two weeks of being off program.   

The following week, we set a maximum effort goal for a microcycle (one week) of high intensity/high volume. It was perfect timing for a test of strength, work capacity and will power, and an awesome way to kickstart his mind back into feeling motivated about his progress, even though he had “missed” a week of regular programming. 

That week he produced the highest numbers of his life. He was well rested, he felt good about his work, and lifted an astounding 42,600lbs of tonnage for the week. His usual tonnage prior to the trip was just under 30,000lbs.

This obviously took a lot out of him, which created the perfect time to take a week off and get that functional movement and cardio work of moving his household items to his new place. He still managed to get to the gym that week once as well, making up a great active rest week. 

Upon returning to the mesocycle phase, he is putting up numbers that are 15% higher than before the three weeks of back-off/max effort/rest, and doing it at the same perceived exertion.

This is success. He feels great. Not only did we not lose momentum, but we were able to write his life events into his programming in a way that actually maximized his results during that time period.

This produced great results emotionally and psychologically as well, turning what would have been a negative situation into a very positive one. This will work for functional training or sports specific training cycles just as well as it worked for his strength training cycle. 

Thus we see, under good coaching, “disruptions” don’t have to exist as much as you may think. They are merely back-off weeks or focused microcycles that need to be written into the program to extract maximum value from what is available. Any good programs will have back-off weeks written into them. A little bit of adjustment in a program goes a long way toward creating a positive out of a negative. 

The trick is to plan ahead as much as possible using naturally occurring life events to implement them. Sometimes this has to be done on the fly and can’t always follow the pre-planned schedule. Use it in your program and it will push progress forward rather than slow it down or stop it.  

You may even be able to work a little harder when you realize how often life forces in rest days and back-off weeks where you did plan them. More rest can allow for higher intensities and volume in your program. 

Instead of fighting the realities of life to fit a “cookie cutter” program, we can use our real schedule and results data to optimize our program to come out even better in the end. Just a few things to think about.