(40) Sweat Equity
Sweat equity. Growing up, I was lucky to always have what I needed. But there were many times that I didn’t have what I wanted, and for that fact, I am all the more fortunate. That deficit between where I was and where I wanted to be, was never a powerball ticket or rich relative away. The distance between reality and possibility, was sweat equity. In my mind, in my heart and soul, I was always wealthy in every way that mattered, regardless of my bank account. And the intellectual property between my ears, was often all that I owned. But I always loved the fact that the only thing spanning the gap from my current circumstances to my dreams was me… And my willingness to work. There are many rich kids in this world. And plenty of folks who have either hit the lottery or have been a lottery pick since birth. But visionaries. Especially those willing to toil and trudge forward during dark times with no guarantee of success… Those cats ain’t growing on trees. Remember that. When you’re fighting to keep the lights on, and it is a struggle to squint hard enough to see any light at the end of the tunnel, your only course of action, is to believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Bet on yourself. Dedicate yaur precious hours to your dream. And accrue the most valuable currency of all—sweat equity.
(39) Be Your Own Hero
On what is an unofficial American holiday, I set aside time to watch some of the best athletes on the planet put it all on the line in the name of their lifelong aspirations. Fighting for their goals on the largest stage imaginable. It was also a perfect excuse to lock the doors, draw the shades and fire up the snacks, spending quality time with those I love. But before the family celebration of Super Bowl Sunday and the pure joy that comes along with all of it, I had to make time for my dreams and my priorities. I learned long ago, that we all have our golden rings to chase, we all have our championship games… Many of which happen when no one is watching. So before kickoff today, I made time for #TheProgram and ten sets with Tara in the squat rack. As the Arnold approaches and the two year anniversary of our upstart, underdog brand looms, I pulled the laptop out and made time to write these words for you. Why? Because those squats and this brand and these words are more important to me, and a select few of you, than the big game in Atlanta. And as I have said many times, Giselle’s husband wasn’t setting aside time this week, missing practice, to watch me work. So why in the world would I sacrifice any of my precious hours on his behalf, not paying the dues my dream demands? At the end of the day, don’t forget that your matinees idols and Instagram icons are just flesh and blood dudes like you. And if they are capable of uncommon greatness, most certainly, so are you. The days of living vicariously through other men and wearing their family names on your back have come and gone. Instead, let’s dedicate our passion and pride and precious power to becoming our own heroes.
(38) Never Give Up
Never give up. There are no days off as a father. Or as the founder of this humble but ambitious brand. Days off and vacations are things I gave up, so I didn’t have to give up on my dreams. Of late, I’ve given up a full nights sleep, buying new Jordans, eating out, any peace of mind whatsoever, all in the name of a greater purpose. I’ve begun to analyze and shed that which I don’t truly need. My priorities have shifted. My goals have come into tighter focus. And things that once seemed so important are now to me simply that—things. Immaterial material goods. Disposable shit from which I’d opt to abstain so that those under my care needn’t go without. Another thing I gave up in the process of my daily process, were days off from training. We used to joke and say A.B.T. aka “Always Be Training” but now I live it every day. Monday through Sunday you will find me in my temple, paying homage and tribute to that which built me. As I see it, days off and free time are luxuries to be earned, and I’ve got much work left to do in every aspect of my life. When my day comes, I’d rather be guilty of doing too much than not enough. I’d prefer to make the most extreme effort than to sell myself short in the name of moderation. As my old friend used to say, instead of running between the raindrops, I’d prefer to rust. When he’d say that shit, I felt like I was the only one in the world who truly understood, in the depths of my being. When we use the phrase “Built From The Ground Up” we mean having our face in the dirt every fuckin day, fighting to defy the odds and create something legendary from the most inauspicious beginnings—a special sort of alchemy that turns the ordinary into the priceless. Laying in place with precision and care each brick, one at a time. To have the bricks one needs to build a timeless structure will take sacrifice. But there are few things I wouldn’t give up, just to make sure I never give up.
(37) The Grind
The grind. I didn’t always have a strategy. I didn’t necessarily have a game plan or a business plan or a backup plan. But I had the grind. I didn’t always have a girl, or a friend to confide in, or a seat at the cool table. But I had the grind. I didn’t always have a dime in my bank account, or my bills paid, or a crib of my own. But I had the grind. I don’t always have a good night’s sleep. Or peace of mind. Or a sunny disposition. But I have the grind. Sometimes I’m sad. Some days I’m afraid. I don’t always have my confidence or any certainty or security. But I’ve always had the grind. My religion. The place where I put my belief during my darkest days, is a deep well within myself. In the quiet solitude of paying the dues alone few are willing to pay… In the pure purpose of thankless toil. In chasing a vision that lives in vivid colors only in my mind. In the hope to be found in the head down, hoodie up, hard work of one more day, on the grind. The cure for my ails, the antidote to my ills, the solution to my problems, has always been the same… The faint glimmer of faith at the far end of the tunnel, as my train charges forward in the dark. The confidence to know you will one day bask in the warmth of the light, I will only find in the shine of the grind.
(36) Resonable Doubt
Reasonable doubt. I’ve long stated that doubt is the companion of the most ambitious among us. It is an unavoidable consequence of a life lived in pursuit of something greater. It isn’t that your heroes and idols don’t deal with doubt and criticism and uncertainty. They wrestle with these foes daily. But instead of letting the derision of skeptics or the voices of fear inside their own heads stop them, they push forward, brushing past the bad energy undeterred. In my day I have trained myself to convert the raw emotions and anxiety of a life on the edge, into fuel… Premium gasoline to power my drive. But in the midst of it all, I have learned to differentiate between the reasonable and the irrational. The mind is a complex web of chemicals and impulses, firing synapses and electrical charges, capable of quite literally changing the course of human history—of creating art and invention from nothingness. It is a wondrous, powerful machine. But left unchecked, untrained, unnurtured, it can run amok. And in equal capacity to build, it too can destroy. We must be mindful of our self-talk—the internal messages with which we communicate with ourselves. We must remain our most staunch advocate, our most loyal ally, our biggest fan… The cool head with measured perspective upon whose good judgement we can rely. In a life generally absent of leisure or relaxation, I have found refuge in the recesses of my mind. In the vacation of a single breath, I clear my head, order my thoughts and focus. I am grateful. I am inspired. I am anchored in the present moment. And I am kind to myself. After all, it can be a cold, unforgiving world out there. The best defense is to turn yourself into a fucking tank. But that barreling, bulletproof brick shithouse can’t constitute only your external shell. Your mind too, must be a steel trap. A well-oiled mechanism capable of both great sensitivity and shrewd analysis… Equal parts caring and calculation. Cool, calm and collected enough to cut through the bullshit. Hopeful. Optimistic. Positive and resistant to panic. Peaceful, even in the furious frenzy of the most stressful days. Capable of envisioning the limitless potential that lives on the other side of this struggle and strain, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Responsibility. At the end of a long day, I often find refuge in my exhaustion. Phone charging out of reach. Mind and body spent. I collapse into my bed, embracing the euphoria of fatigue. Knowing full well that in just a few short hours, the alarm clock will sing my theme song, if my restless mind doesn’t wake me first. When Tara first met me, she said she envisioned me opening my eyes in the morning and a wave of ideas flooding my head. She was right. And the same is still true. But those creative impulses at forty, as opposed to twenty, are now crowded by the concerns of running a burgeoning business and my obligation to feed and properly provide for a family. But I remain grateful in those moments of stress streaming into my conscious mind. As I navigate a dark house, headed to the basement for iron therapy, I seek to wash away that “cortisol bath”, order my thoughts and focus on my fire. For I know that in the pain, is my purpose. And in such profound purpose is the meaning of my life. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Strong becomes the back that carries the weight. Life will bring its demands with force, straight to our face. And as the word clearly states, our responsibility is to respond to the best of our ability. You are the protagonist of this story. The hero of your own epic tale. And you grow in stature and power and ardent resolve by embracing the burden that bears down upon you. So take it all on, the pressure, the struggle, the crushing heft of high expectations, and be accountable to your destiny. Greatness lives inside of you… If you dare to fight for it. If you can weather the storm. After all, being bold and courageous is your responsibility.
(34) History Remembers
History remembers. Before I close my eyes at night, I take a moment for gratitude, counting my blessings, focusing my mind on my priorities and taking stock. This is not a new practice, as this nightly meditation and affirmation has been commonplace for me since I was a boy. The subject matter of my prayers has certainly shifted over the years, however. I no longer pray for success. I simply ask for the strength to be the man I was born to be. I do not request lighter loads, just broader shoulders and a stronger back to carry the heaviest of life’s weights. I ask to be a better man and to better serve the world. And if I am completely honest, I pray to be worthy–of my aspirations, of my dreams, but above all, worthy of my daughters and my wife. I simply want them to be proud of me. With experience I have discovered that status or wealth or influence, are factors, in the big picture, that are ultimately dwarfed by character. Will they be proud, not of what I have or I’ve given them or what I’ve accomplished, but instead of the person I am and the values I have consistently instilled? And even more, did I live what I preached? This is the baggage I bring to the symbolic ceremony of signing the social contract. As a father. A husband. A leader. A man. In 2018, I feel manhood is under assault, in large part by other men. Toddler souls filling a void of rejection and insecurity with overcompensation. So desperately needing love, they cannot show affection. So profoundly in need of acceptance, they are intolerant. So frightened, they seek to intimidate. So scared of being a loser, they must always line up with those in power. So fragile, they are incapable of showing mercy to the vulnerable, for fear they will be seen as weak themselves. I often contemplate life in the 1960s, and how just a decade or so before my birth, people literally laid their lives on the line in the name of justice and equality. And how only fifty or so years later, in the cold retrospect of a half century, right and wrong are so obvious and indisputable. Having always been “one of the good ones” I hope I would’ve had the courage to stand with the oppressed in the darkest days. In that same way, I know my conduct and judgement in these tumultuous times will one day need to stand up to the hindsight analysis of my four girls, who will question what the “code” really was in which I believed. I may be able to wax poetic about tough choices and lesser evils, scamming the whole world. I could weave a tale that spins alternative facts and fake news into a tapestry you’d find appealing, so much so that the truth you might forget. But history will always remember where I stood… And so will those four beautiful girls.
(33) Time Marches On
Time marches on. I’ve long said that time is our most valuable resource. That you can earn spent money back, but time that is gone, is gone forever. It is the great equalizer—with no concern for class or race or creed. It rolls forward, unstoppable. Bulldozing everything in its wake. I contemplate this brutal truth on the ninth anniversary of the passing of my father. My best friend, who my brother Sko once referred to as a “rock of a man”. I can remember the paralyzing numbness of the initial news. The immediate responsibility I took on to not let my little family fall to pieces. And a phenomenon I can’t quite articulate other than to call it “an infusion”. I have come to understand that energy is infinite—it does not dissipate or die, but goes on forever, taking new forms. And when I lost my father in the physical realm, I gained a new strength, of the sort I had only encountered before in my interactions with him. A sort of hardy constitution that refused to bow or break when days were dark. Tough as nails, but the first to love and display affection. He was complicated and flawed and self-destructive, but he was a lion of a man. He was my father, my motivator who lit the fuse, my trusted counsel, the seed from which I grew. And his spirit rages inside of me every day. As I helped my muse manage the mayhem of a brisk Autumn weekday morning getting the girls ready for school, I realize that a day will come when these beautiful babies won’t be so dependent on their Daddy. That time will whip through our lives like the cold wind on a sunny October Friday. And sooner than I’d like to admit, they will grow strong and stubborn and passionate, with dreams all their own. And one day, long from now, I pray, they will think fondly and lovingly of their father, who gave so much of himself, so they could have a chance to be great… Just as his dear Pops did before him. This is the whirling cycle of life, in the midst of which we are all so blessed to spin our precious days away. Learn to truly appreciate it all, as time marches on.
(32) Believe That
Believe that. As a monumental moment has arrived in the young history of our brand, with us bringing a first-of-its-kind innovation to the marketplace, I was asked by a friend and a distinguished member of the GCode family, “How’s it feel to see your dreams come alive?” And the answer, while incredible and nerve-racking and exhilarating, was also that, I had no time to smell the roses, pat myself on the back or to rest on my laurels. With the dedication and determination of some of my closest friends, by the skin of our teeth, we were able to execute the highly unlikely. And from the moment this vision became real, and since before we shared this creation with you, we have been under the gun. As you see, I’m no company founder parking my Lamborghini at the private airstrip for a social media meme. I’m a dude who put his life on the line to try to chase the impossible, with only the help of a few trusted cohorts and the grace of God to thank. I’m a Dad with his non-verbal daughter at the emergency room at 3:00 AM barely able to breathe with a respiratory infection. I’m a business owner figuring out how to get his bills paid and make sure his family is fed and clothed. I’m a husband struggling to prove his life mate right for believing in him. I’m a friend desperate to be successful in order to validate the life choices of his brethren who believed. I’m a kid from nothing willing to bleed and suffer to be something his family can be proud of. In the still moments of a late night, as I stare at the ceiling trying to order the complex, complicated cryptogram in my mind, I find solace in a simple truth. I have successfully survived today. And inherent to that survival, is victory. And for a second, I can breathe. Never lose sight of the fact that every day you live up to your responsibilities, every day your people eat, every day you keep a roof over your head, every day you invest time and effort in your dream and keep its pulse beating, you are a fucking champion. It is easy to forget in the struggle and stress of each day, but it is so very true. Believe that.
(31) The Village
The Village. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’ve long dreamt of extracting and building and refining what I have within, so I might one day be the child who raises up my people. What I’ve witnessed firsthand, however, is that it takes the care, concern and contribution of a great many to make a dream real. Truth is, the self-made man is a myth, and as much as I am a work in progress, product of the process of determined self-actualization, I am proof of this false premise. Anyone who really knows me, understands that below the surface is a sensitive artist, a lonely only child, who is terrified of letting his loved ones, as well as himself, down. Tara and Sko and Dirt will tell you that I spend an inordinate and impractical amount of time contemplating how what I’m doing or thinking or not doing or thinking, is impacting others. And how the more I’m paying attention to one thing, the less I’m focusing on another. Spreading myself thin, well aware that something or someone will always suffer neglect that I struggle to reconcile or abide. It ties me in knots. Because I care. Because I want it so bad. Because it all matters. Because you matter. And I don’t want to let you down. Sometimes I wish I knew the freedom of not giving a fuck, but I just don’t have it in me to be so casual. In the midst of facilitating what we refer to as “Phase Two” of the GCode era, we have endured much stress and many sleepless nights. White knuckles and cold sweats. And through it all, the beacon in the storm was you. You see, as we’ve endured and grown and gained momentum, it was you who was in the trenches, in the street, fighting the good fight on our behalf. It was the barber from Pennsylvania putting in the good word, a Jersey gymnastics coach lobbying on our behalf, schoolteachers educating their kids with our principles, a roughneck crew from Toledo spreading the gospel in the wilderness… Allies and advocates all, who believed from the jump, and transmitted their faith in us to the masses within their spheres of influence. As we struggle and strain up this mountainside, we know that on that arduous ascent, we are not alone. Harnessed to the unyielding stone face by the hopes and hard work of a great many, we climb, one defiant, deliberate step at a time. Knowing that when we one day reach the apex, we will not stand by ourselves. On the mountaintop with pride will reside the village.
(30) You Are More
You are more. You’re more than your job. More than your present social class. More than the circumstances into which you were born. You are more than your worst decision and your biggest mistake… More than your regrets and the toughest beating that you ever took. You’re more than any degree on your wall. More than your biggest trophy. More than the accomplishments and accolades of your best day to date. You are more than any title or stereotype. More than the regard of your loved ones or the derision of your harshest critics. In a world of eight billion, you’re one of one. The genuine article. The only of your kind. The last of a dying breed. The first of your prototype, and when they built you, they broke the mold. Do away with the baggage of the past. Cast aside that unnecessary weight and refuse to allow it to slow you down one minute more. You have no laurels upon which to rest, and rest is a luxury you cannot yet afford. Your failures. Your victories. All past. All prologue. All irrelevant. You are no longer who you were ten years ago, ten months ago, ten days ago. All there is, all you have, is right here. Right now. The vision. The work. The gift of the present… The present of endless possibility. What you will do now will determine your future. What you believe is what you will become. In owning this moment, in all its chaotic splendor and explosive potential, you are powerful beyond your wildest imagination. The opportunity is here to be what you’ve dreamed. To define yourself. To live life on your terms. The day is here. The time is now. And you are more.
(29) Bet On Yourself
Bet on yourself. The cold truth is, at various points in our lives, we each must make a decision. Do we allow our future to be dictated by others, our course to be charted by the will of the winds, or do we bet on ourselves? Such a dilemma is not always so easy to solve when face to face with the practicalities of life in the real world–a riddle riddled with responsibilities not so simply resolved. I have been there. As a matter of fact, that is where I stand right now. At a precarious precipice. On the brink of opportunity with no ceiling, my innate instincts always hyper-aware of the lack of safety net below. But I’ve always known, that for a common man of modest means and uncommon dreams to ever transcend his assigned seat in the social order, he would have to grow oblivious to oblivion. The Summer of 2018 saw me coming face to face with my fears and my fire. My faults and my flaws and my fortitude. All as it relates to my future. At a fork in a road that many wiser and more successful have faced, I went straight. I put my faith forward and doubled down on the only commodity upon which I’ve ever truly put stock. Myself. As the stakes are raised, I brought to the table the only resource I own in abundance, all that I am, my entire capacity within. And under the nervous gaze of all who love me, of all who ever cared… The watchful eye of those who support me and all of those for whom I care, I pushed it all to the center. In this temporary, solitary existence we are blessed with on this planet, nothing but death is guaranteed. Every time we leave the house, our fortune is a roll of the dice, our destiny tip-toes gingerly on a razor’s edge. Our lives are precious and limited. Bold blazes burning brightly but so briefly, illuminating the dark void of the universe. Better to dare greatly while you still can. Better to bet on yourself.
(28) No Big Deal
No big deal. Part of my parenting process is the use of a simple phrase to provide measured perspective in instances that one of my daughters overreacts to a negative turn of events, melting down disproportionately. “No big deal”, is uttered quite often in my house, to a hysterical three to five year old child. Unfortunately, we don’t ever truly outgrow that propensity for dramatic, over-the-top response. And while first things should come first and few of us have the luxury to take lightly important matters in our lives, as my Pops used to say, most of our issues are “not the atom bomb”. Everything seems so hyper-consequential—paying bills and piling up material goods and managing the typical stresses of life in the real world, until shit gets real. You think you have problems, until you encounter someone you know who is really going through it. Their child or spouse is ill. Their parent died. Their loved one is struggling with crippling addiction. You witness this from the outside, and like a backhand blast upside your mug, perspective straightens your ass out, properly ordering your priorities. A statement I use to stay centered and focused on what is truly of the greatest import in my life is a simple one… “All the things we take for granted are the only things that matter.” Your health and that of those you love… The roof over your head…The food on your plate. The things that seem like “givens” until fate takes them away. Survive enough shit and you grow wise. You come to realize that nothing is the “end of the world” other than the end of the world. And in finding our gratitude and cherishing the small blessings of each day we are lucky enough to breathe again, we come to the understanding that so much of what we tie ourselves in knots over, in the grand scheme of things, is no big deal.
(27) One Dat At A Time
‘One day at a time’. We program ourselves, those most goal-oriented among us, to keep our eyes on the prize. To delay the momentary gratification of today in the name of the ultimate satisfaction of tomorrow. Hood up and head down, we push toward the horizon. That’s just how we’re wired. But what I’ve learned over time, is that the victories of three years from now are won in the conquest of today. Next months’ bills are paid with the work done now. The most daunting physical endeavor is inched toward incrementally through this early morning’s workout. Everest is climbed one deliberate step at a time. But move too far back for perspective, and it all becomes overwhelming—your goals and aspirations, your responsibilities and duties, life itself. It all seems huge and impossible and impractical. Weighing down upon us like a cargo van on our chest, it becomes hard to breathe. Which is why I made a promise to myself to be present in the now. To conquer today. To seize the day. To dominate the small tasks in front of me. And to gather my strength by letting go—of worthless worry, of stagnating stress, of the fears and fruitless fret that flood an unfocused mind. I am instead committed to winning what I can control—this momentous moment in all of its quiet magnitude, where the man and the mind inside presently reside. Generating the momentum my dream demands, meditating on cranking the gears of destiny’s machine the only way I’ve ever known… One day at a time.
(26) Blank Pages
Blank pages. Some days, I gaze in a trance, mesmerized by the blinking black cursor. A white page stares back at me, defiant. The whiteness of the blank canvas before me, simultaneously represents two polar opposite states of being… Vast emptiness. Nothingness. The lack of accomplishment. The pressure that comes with knowing nothing has been done, when so much needs doing. At the same time, the white page symbolizes infinite possibility. Unlimited potential. The chance to do something that has never been done before. In theory, every time I sit down to write words on a page, the opportunity exists—though admittedly highly unlikely, to craft the greatest story ever told. To pen words designed to pierce the hearts of all who read them and set their soul ablaze, like an ink-soaked arrow lit on fire and shot with precision accuracy and serious intent. This writing process is not unlike the potential inherent to the rise of each morning sun. When your eyes open, you fade-in from black, and today’s film begins in vivid color and surround sound. You are, at the same time, the hero of this tale and the author writing each word of the story. The future–whether grand or bland, rests solely in your hand. Self-determination is real. And the outcome you seek will often be determined by how determined you truly are. Our days are malleable lumps of clay, waiting to be molded by the skilled hands of a creator. Our epic story begging to be crafted with care, word by profound word, one at a time, filling with inextinguishable fire life’s blank pages.
(25) What Do You Think?
What do you think? It is said, that what comes to being in the physical world, is first born in the abstract recesses of the human mind. Put simply, thoughts become things. Ideas become outcomes. Mantras manifest. As such, of all life’s battles, of all rugged terrain to be conquered, none might be as daunting, as winning the turf war going on in the space between your own two ears. No conquest could be of greater import. The ability to control your impulses, to quell panic under pressure, to properly manage stress, to remain positive and optimistic when dark clouds circle above, is quite literally the ability to create your own reality. We are luminous beings, bone and sinew sewn together with magic and music. At one at once with the sun, moon and stars and with every living thing that walks, crawls, swims or flies… What came before and what will one day follow. Infinite energy cascading off the cliff at the edge of the galaxy. A stream of stars and electron charges disintegrating into the black abyss, like a comet’s tail. What we send out into this vast Universe—like moisture evaporating into the clouds, will one day pour back down upon us. What we believe in the depths of our being, in the core fibers of our soul, will take root within and grow. Maybe we weren’t a mistake. Maybe we’re not a cosmic accident. But instead were put here, at this exact time in human history, for an express purpose. And that our destiny is not to be fulfilled for vanity or our own petty wants and needs, but instead is a higher calling of the highest order. Perhaps we are the noble warriors. Perhaps we are the conquering kings. Perhaps we are the heroes who win in the end. What do you think?
(24) You Never Know
(22) The Thin Line
(21) The New Standard
The new standard. The social media society in which we exist paints a perfectportrait of an ideal life. Carefully curated pictures, meticulously mediated messages. Things of more import than thoughts. Images of greater value than ideas. I’d be lying were I to claim that I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me… I am an extension of my parents, the living legacy of my father, the primary role model for my children, a reflection of my spouse, the figurehead for my burgeoning company–and I have strived to lead by positive example since adolescence. But I am so very far from perfect. In every aspect of my life, I need dire improvement. From parenthood to professionalism, time management to organization. Food as fuel to physical prowess… I could do a lot better. I’m a product of the process, and as a work in progress have much work to do to progress as I desire. And it is in this unyielding pursuit of a better me, that I scrape closer to unearthing my own inner greatness every day. What I’ve realized, is that how I can best motivate and inspire my peers, is not by furthering a flawless fallacy, but instead to keep it real, and reveal the blemishes and bruises visible on my visage once you’re allowed to see under the veil. As the self-anointed patron saint of never giving up, I hope to demonstrate daily that there is glory to be found on the grind and strength that results from struggle without cease. Life can be hard, but it is in facing the challenges of each day head-on, that we become harder. In resisting the resistance of circumstance with defiance and dignity that we may redefine excellence, with our own words, one our own terms, in our own times, establishing for all who dream of a better life, a new standard.
Unreasonable. So many of our attitudes are adopted. Adaptations born out of a desire to survive—to avoid discomfort and inconvenience at all costs. To prevent conflict. To avoid confrontation. To be free of controversy. To properly align ourselves with the powerful, to stand in a straight line—lined up with the agenda of those in authority. Play it safe. Save face. Find a safe space. Stay in the right lane, assured to arrive safely at the destination of your destiny—an inevitable death unavoidable by pharaohs and philosopher kings alike, since multicellular organisms first oozed out of a swamp in the motherland at humanity’s dawn. Tiptoe through the tulips and run between the raindrops for all of your days avoiding bruise and blemish and broken bone… Only to die anyway. What I’ve realized over time, is that so much of our common sense shackles us to a common existence–our practical realism, practically cementing a very practical reality. To be extraordinary, we must, by definition, do more than the ordinary, making those extra efforts as a matter of course. I remind myself of this fact in instances of decision, often opting to go straight when the fork in the road presents itself. Common sense becomes the common course of action, because that is what the masses typically choose. What we must train ourselves to do is to overcome our conditioning in order to overcome our circumstances. I choose to make the attempts from which wise men often run… I opt to take the chances at which more conservative types shudder… I yearn to get my hands dirty in a way the beautiful people find themselves too prim and proper to ever dare deign. Life, as I see it, is far too short to wrestle with the regret of having the more lazy and timid voices in your head rule the day. Let me be the dude who did the things in pursuit of his dream that most were not willing. Let me be the one bold and and brave enough to be unreasonable.
(19) Never Forget
Never forget. The loftier your ambitions, the bigger your goals, the further off on the horizon your dream, the louder the voices. The naysayers. The critics. The cynics. On the sideline of life’s marathon sneering and jeering as you often crawl an inch at a time with your face in the dirt, determined to keep moving forward at all costs. They mock your seemingly futile efforts, as pointless. Because, they don’t know what you know. They haven’t lived in your head all this time. They don’t understand the pain and the sacrifice. They haven’t fought the daily doubt. They haven’t wrestled with existential crises and meditated on their purpose on this planet since they were children. They haven’t lived on the margins, in the lonely shadows, preparing in solitude, paying dues each day surrounded by skeptics and cold souls, shrouding the smoldering flame that burns within. They haven’t protected their dreams for decades, dialing in their vision daily, refining their craft. But you have. So keep that in mind, when times are tough and the cacophony of criticism cascades down upon you. Know in your heart that a day ofreckoning approaches. Where the fair-weather friends become fans and followers. Where the snakes in the grass slither on their belly to your side, warming themselves in the rays of your sun. One day soon the non-believers will see the light. The detractors will be converted. And what you’ve always known in your heart to be true about yourself and your destiny will manifest. Irrefutable and undeniable. Make no mistake, those who once rejected you, will one day come to for validation. Keep striving. Keep believing. Keep grinding. Your time is coming. Never forget.
(18) The Gospel of “Just Wait”
The gospel of “just wait”. There has always been a phrase in the back of my mind, one I could go to, to find solace and strength in times of turmoil or disappointment. A “good word”, that was actually a bisyllabic internal utterance… Something of a mantra. When I’d observe those more advanced than myself in my various endeavors, and I’d assess the sincerity of their commitment, I’d say to myself two simple words… “Just wait”. I knew inside of me was a burning desire, a bubbling cauldron of a pressure cooker. A singular vision and an uncommon confidence rarely found within the circumstances I was confined. I was aware that there were those more naturally inclined, those more traditionally “gifted”. But I knew what those phenoms didn’t have, was my heart. I knew deep within, I wanted it more. And that the flames of that “want” burned so hot, they would endure. You see I knew, eventually, those ahead of me, would give up, or burn out, or get lazy. And that during the times that backs were being patted, and laurels rested upon—the spoils of their many victories spoiling in the sun, I would be in the shadows working, dreaming, preparing for my shot. And one day, when no one was looking, or paying attention, I would pass them… And never look back. Like a violent storm that materializes seemingly out of nowhere to level structures and uproot trees–the sky a billowy black blanket of clouds, lightning strikes. In what appears to the unsuspecting like the blink of an eye, the landscape is altered in a manner so profound that it can never be the same. That storm brews inside of you, too. And a change is going to come when they least expect it. Just wait.
(17) The Chase
The chase. Hunger, of the sort that burns in the pit of a person, I have long posited, is a gift from on high. It is an ambitious urge that cannot be satisfied by common means. A hunger to prove yourself to yourself—to the world, to destiny. To affirm ourselves worthy of the gifts of life and liberty, of self-determination. Such hunger is an honor to harbor within, for its yearning is the compulsion that can pull a common man from the dark daily doldrums into the glowing rays of a life less ordinary. It is not unlike our mammalian cousins, hunting not because they are “savage” but instead because it is their only means to survive. That lonely wolf on the mountainside chases its next meal, driven instinctively by the sensory recollection of scent and sound, and the satiated sensation of a full belly. For those wolves among us, stalking in the shadows, searching for our next opportunity to eat, we do not forget that smell, we do not dismiss that feeling. It is programmed into our very being, etched onto our genetic code. Make no mistake, we will go to the ends of the Earth for this vision. We will stop at nothing for this dream. For we know our true nature and what is necessary to push humanity forward. Some live for the glory and comfort of the feast. Others among us are born for the chase.
Resist. I don’t believe audacity is learned. For some, I think it is simply engrained in the very fiber of who we are. Code written into our DNA, if you will. I’ve never been one for authority, never one to bow to titles. Just as I must earn my respect every day, I’ve felt the same for those in seats of power. Don’t tell me how great you are, show me. Don’t throw around your status, instead display true humility in your willingness to work. Don’t bully the weak and wield force carelessly, but be strong in your mercy and kindness. It is easy to follow. It takes nothing extraordinary to blend in. It is safe in the anonymous consensus of the forming mob. But there is no glory to be found there. When I pray, I ask for the strength to be the man I was born to be. For the courage to be unpopular. For the fortitude to do the right thing, even when inconvenient. For the wisdom and love to be a better father. For the discipline and integrity to be a worthy role model. The truth is, some of us simply were not meant to go with the flow. Not born to kiss ass with feigned interest and fake smiles. Not flexible enough to contort ourselves into the box the world built at birth for our burial. Instead we are to rebel against the establishment, defiantly holding our ground, holding fast to our ideals. Fighting fiercely for all of our days, in pursuit of a crown that was never supposed to be ours. Our character swells under that strain. Our identity comes into sharpest focus in that struggle. Know that you are valuable… That your life has meaning… That greatness resides within you. So that when the weight of oppression is the heaviest, and the winds of fortune blow the coldest, you will remember your purpose on this planet. Resist.
(15) The Only Way We Know How
The only way we know how. Nostalgia is a powerful force in my life. I’ve long believed that every epic hero needs an origin tale–the back story that illuminates why you are, who you are. For that very reason, I try my best to take mental notes, to gather photos and mementos, to document my travels up life’s winding mountainside gravel road. Because it all matters. We did not wake up this morning a self-made, finished, polished automaton of self-actualized virtue. We are works in progress, products of the process, the sum parts of a vast many people and places, wins and losses, broken dreams and hopes held onto for dear life. The self-awareness to recognize all that was responsible for molding you, most often manifests itself in gratitude. As such, as the one year anniversary of our humble but ambitious movement came to a close at the end of March, we were compelled to go home. Back to the Brigantine Fitness Center, where a sixteenth birthday present from a mother to a son, literally changed the trajectory of my life. Where I found myself–finding myself many late nights, early mornings and countless afternoons, at times when many friends had no direction. Where I built myself up, day after day, more deeply coming to realize that the world can eventually be gained by simply putting one grain of sand in your pocket at a time. So when I hear of old machines or tattered flooring, dust or rust, and the wear-and-tear of a life well-lived and dues paid daily, all I see is beauty. This past Saturday, I went home to pay homage. To break a sweat and break bread with my brethren. To breathe the salt air with the salt of the earth. And to give thanks. To get under the crushing weight of a loaded barbell. And to stand up to it defiantly. As this place has taught me to do, again and again, for decades. To rise when the weight of the world presses down upon us… The only way we know how.
(14) The Hour Of Power
The hour of power. Society has convinced you that ideal conditions are required in order to make the progress your dream demands. An open schedule, ample free time, sizable financial resources, a full night’s sleep. Bullshit. Perhaps we have been sold that bill of goods by those seated on the mountaintop as a means of discouraging the rest of us from climbing. I will tell you this, that I know in my soul to be true—every real person who ever accomplished anything great had to do so against resistance, resistant to derision, most often despite their circumstances. They had to make time, they had to find a way, they used what they had. Instead of focusing on all I didn’t have in the pursuit of my dreams, I’ve always used the things I lacked as fuel, and made the best of that which I did have in abundance. Hunger. Enthusiasm. Self-confidence. Originality. Experience. I’ve channeled these assets into doing the work I determined necessary in making the progress I desire. And I make the time. As I have said countless times by now, as much as a reminder to myself as any sort of directive for my audience, there are 168 hours in a week. For that which is truly important, you will find the time. If you can dedicate one hour per day to your dream on a religious zealotry-consistent basis, you can truly reach astounding heights. Because after all, the little things—the small investments, add up over time. An hour of power every day becomes thirty hours in a month—more than a full day or ¾ of a full-time work week invested in just one month. In a year it equals more than 15 full days or 9 traditional work weeks—all to a single objective. Imagine what could be possible. One of my “Revolution Resolutions” for 2018 was to be better to myself. And one way I have always been able to ensure my own happiness, well-being, and fulfillment, has been to spend time wisely and regularly working on my craft and making incremental advancements toward a better life. So if it is twenty minutes I can find to grip the iron and let its transformational energy course through my veins… Or fifteen minutes to sit my daughter on my lap to read a story… Or a quiet late night hour to weave together words to share with my brethren, it is precious time well spent. After all, time is the most valuable commodity we have in this singular, fleeting life. There is priceless power to be found in just one hour. And you, your dreams, your life, are worth that investment. Instead of making excuses, make the time. So much of our potential can be unlocked in a simple hour of power.
(13) In The Dark
In the dark. I can trace back so much of the man I am today, to a warm Spring day in 1990. After school at St. Philip’s, I walked three blocks from my apartment building to the 42nd St basketball courts on the south end of Brigantine. I met up with members of the diverse cultural gumbo that comprised my peer group—dudes of every walk of life, background, race and age, and we played all day long. There was something about that day, and my twelve-year-old state of mind, but it was as if a switch was flipped. That one perfect Spring day, friends came and went, games began and ended, daylight faded and the lights came on. And I remained. Until eventually, my Pops came for the second time to drag me off the courts at the urging of my mother, to find me working on my game with the lights off. As I convinced him to give me another ten minutes to shoot, he had a revelation, one of the sort that I’m sure brought him joy… One that his son was having at the same time. That in the still darkness of a Jersey Shore late night in early May, a boy was finding his purpose in this world–tapping into his passion and finding an uncharted territory within himself. The epiphany of that moment resonates to this day and transcends a mere game… That the growth and progress we fight for, comes without fanfare. Our passions bloom in private. And that the work that is required to differentiate us has little inherent glamour. But do not make the mistake of believing that in this labor, there is no love. For it is in finding ourselves that we find joy. It is in making the efforts others shun, that we create our fullest self. And there is no greater glory than grinding each day to unlock the uncommon greatness that hides deep inside. There are no red carpets or flashing lights here… No selfies or sellout crowds. Only a beating heart, hard work and the boundless hope that can be found in the shadowy recesses, where no one cares to look or pay attention. Make no mistake, what will one day bring the average man into the blinding light, always happens in the dark.
(12) One Year
One year. It is truly remarkable all that can transpire in such a short period of time. Seasons change and change and change again–ice can thaw and melt for flowers to bloom, just to die an icy death once more. A child can be conceived, born and crawl among us for three months. And a squad of outsiders and underdogs can chip away at a vision relentlessly enough to go from a provocative notion seemingly dropping from the sky, to a mature movement that has carved out space in the fertile hearts and minds of its true believers. Looking back 365 days, I remember the earliest moments… A sleepless, white-knuckled, stomach-knotted free fall of faith that landed me directly into a cramped economy seat hurtling through space toward Columbus, Ohio. A very familiar place for me, this time of year. But not this time… No, this moment was so very different. Met eyeball to eyeball with a put-up or shut-up scenario that I had secretly worked for and prayed for in the long shadows of countless late nights for years, it would’ve been so easy to play it safe. I had every reasonable excuse in the world to back out and back down. And instead, I decided to meet this moment head on, quite literally pushing my entire life to the center of the table. Because there was this voice in the back of my head, one that has spoken to me since childhood. One that urged me on and breathed life into every crazy dream I’ve ever dared to conjure. One that has given voice to every defiant word of ambition and inspiration I have bled onto paper, to share with you, for years. And I knew deep down, in places folks don’t openly talk about at parties, that if I had let this opportunity slip away and not pursued this endeavor with all my heart, I would not earn the right to write these words right now. And that I would be letting myself down, and that voice in my head, and every one of you to whom I had ever dared preach, in a way a guy like me could never abide. I sought to be living proof. And though I’m still neck-deep in this fight, struggling daily to build something real that can endure, I took that leap 52 weeks ago, in many ways, for you. To prove to you that it was possible. That one of your dreams that seems so far off in the distance—that you safely hide inside, could truly be one more attempt or sustained effort or daring declaration of self-confidence away from a breakthrough. The sort of catastrophic crack in the walls that bind you, that you could never be contained again. It all begins with a decision. It all lives within you. Everything in your reality could be altered, lives changed forever, and history could be made… A lot can happen in just one year.
(11) Stay Woke
Stay woke. It has been said that many people die young, but aren’t buried until they’re old. A lot of that early demise is, to me, simply rooted in a numbness that overcomes us with time. Part of that detachment can be found in the blinding blur of the days as they pass by, morning after night, year after year, as if we are mere passengers on an NJ Transit train–one headed at a breakneck clip through the pitch-black tunnel of life. Our faith tenuously rooted in the hope that there might be light at the other end. The doldrums of every day place us in a state simultaneously both intense and relaxed, as if hypnotized with clenched fists. Many of us are so asleep at the wheel we lose the inclination to give a fuck anymore, often about many of the most important things. We care less. Not because we’re careless, but because we’re tired. We feel less. Not because we have no feelings, but because that emotional baggage can often be the heaviest to hoist. It isn’t just that we grow numb, but shortsighted as the days pile up. The further something exists from our front porch, the seemingly less important. If it doesn’t impact us and those in our immediate inner circle today, right here and now, it may as well have never happened. And that detachment is dangerous. The more isolated and sheltered we become, the more cold of heart. The less engaged we become with matters of consequence, the older our tastes, the duller our blades, the more quickly we fade into irrelevance. Calloused, not unlike your rugged hands, from the wear and tear of life… Tougher, but less sensitive in order to survive. There are people in this world who profit on your indifference. Those who will seize on your lack of awareness and exploit you. And make no mistake, your apathy could rob you of all that you hold dear. The best defense against the snakes and charlatans seeking to lead you astray? Read. Watch the news. Listen to current music. Discuss important things. Stay intellectually engaged. Remain skeptical of the agenda of those in power or positions of influence, always. Keep your edge. But never lose your optimism, and hold fast to your faith in your fellow man. Lift your head from the fog of reality TV, Facebook fake news, Netflix and fuck, and the Food Network. And when they try to catch you sleeping, send them back to the hole from which they crawled. I implore you, my brethren, to stay woke.
Toxic. Among the most dangerous forces in all the world is the lazy, resigned inaction of apathy. In doing nothing we must expect less. You throw your hands up and surrender whatever last shreds of dignity and will you once clung to so dearly. “That’s just the way it is. It is out of my control.” Repeat that enough and you come to believe it. But we cannot deny the obvious. Effects have causes. The powder keg of our population is not prone to spontaneous combustion. So when I hear people speak of “evil” as if it is a random phenomenon occurring out of nowhere, I am sickened by the depths of their apathy. When I see things go so awry, I need to know why. Why matters. With a world in crisis and a nation torn apart–its fabric in bold red, white and blue tatters, I want to know why, and what I can do, in my own small way, to help. So much of what ails us, I feel, is rooted in a very basic emotion—fear. We are afraid of change. Afraid of that which is different. Afraid of loneliness. Afraid of our lack of control. And being afraid all the time has a way of making a person angry. Being so scared and pissed all time makes us vulnerable. Weak to the will of those seeking to manipulate and control us based on our fragile emotional state. We are angry, afraid and alone. And struggling to project strength and act hard all the time isn’t easy. Wearing that brave mask can be exhausting. The pictures of your weaponry arsenal or memes of lions feasting on their bloody prey on the plains of Sub-Saharan Africa all start to feel hollow. Your worldview becomes increasingly cynical and negative. Darkness begins to infest your interactions with others, in real life and online. Until you find yourself spewing poison into the collective reservoir from which we all drink. And then we wonder why we’re all so sick. The symptoms of the illness that ails us are everywhere, and easy to identify. The cure, I’m less sure. But it is probably rooted in a fundamental value for human life, a basic respect for your fellow man. One we lost sight of at some point, playing John Wayne on the internet. Maybe we try being decent for once, because the other strategy is clearly not working. The truth is, that tough guy shit is toxic. In fact, it is killing us slowly, if not in semi-automatic bursts that take out a dozen of us in a blink.
Create. One of the most basic of human compulsions is the desire to make something new. The existence of all living things is predicated on an innate, instinctive yearning to make more living things. Any understanding of a benevolent God infers intelligent design, and more often than not, a divine deity who crafted us in his or her own likeness. But beyond people producing and reproducing new people or gods reaching down from Mt. Olympus to form mortals from crude materials, it is in our makeup to make. As I sit here and choose each of these words carefully, I am stringing together phrases and sentences that may have—in this order and sequence, never before been written down in the entirety of human history. The desire to do so, for me, is very special. And very powerful. I cherish that ability. And I do not take it lightly. For just as with my mind I am creating literature, with my will I am creating myself. The lightning bolt that doubles as the crack in the weathered crown comprising the GCode logo, is not merely a cool graphical element. It represents the strike of inspiration. One we all know well. Among life’s greatest of sensations, where in the dark doldrums of the daily grind, we are struck from out of nowhere with an idea. An electrically charged impulse that causes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck to stand up. It is at this moment that we are called to be great—we are called to create, often in a way we never before believed or intended. We owe it to destiny to answer this call. The closest a man will ever come to being a supreme being, transcending the flesh and bone of mortality, is to be found in the undertaking that finds him making something out of nothing… Willing to form and fruition that which did not exist before. Write a book by first writing a single profound word. Paint a picture first by simply striking the canvas with a single stroke of your brush. Build your ideal physique by first gripping the iron with true intent. It is natural to make things better. It is in your nature to make new things. Your life is your masterpiece, work on it. Be inspired today. Create.
(8) Takes One To Know One
Takes one to know one. Over the years, I’ve come to a sobering realization about human nature… That no one knows how they will react in a situation, until they are actually presented with those circumstances in real life. The tough talk and declarative statements, I’ve heard them all. And instead of being enthralled by the masculine bravado of such saber-rattling, I’m typically left disappointed. Because I understand the source of such empty rhetoric. It is the product of a sheltered life, where at no point was a person faced with the prospects of backing up their bullshit. I’ve heard about “hardening up” as a method of enduring in this world, and I know it to be sage advice. Life can be arduous and unforgiving. You’ve gotta have “thick skin” as my folks would say. To stand up to the wear and tear of the grind, I’ve found one foolproof tactic—to turn myself into a motherfucking tank. That said, I think all the hard talk is usually overcompensation. As I’ve found that the tough people who have lasted through the tough times generally have been rubbed raw by life to the point that they are more sensitive to the plights, perils and pitfalls of their neighbor. As a kid, I was a judgmental asshole, pontificating from atop my high horse. But the reason for this high and mighty attitude is now so clear—I was a child who hadn’t yet experienced shit. But once I came to know loss and pain and disappointment, my perspective was altered. It is that war-worn wisdom that allows you to see the world through the eyes of another, realizing how we are all flawed and fragile, even the fighters. There were moments in my life where I was barely getting by–when it was an accomplishment just to get out of bed in the morning, when I was emotionally limping through the day, unbeknownst to just about everyone that surrounded me. But through that quiet struggle, I became strong. Not only of body and in my mentality, but in my soul. That life experience bred mercy and empathy and understanding. Strength that many “tough guys” have yet to gain, but survivors know well… And it takes one to know one.
(7) Be ANTI
As I recently apologized to my brother Dirt Malone for declining a social engagement, he responded brilliantly by stating, “You’re not anti-social… You’re just ANTI.” I moved out into the downtown Los Angeles night alone, opting for squats and IHOP over sushi and cocktails., and I laughed. He was right. As much as any opportunity came my way because of what I did or who I was, a critical ingredient in my recipe for life, was all that I purposefully wasn’t adding to my pot. It can be a spicy, and piping hot gumbo for some to swallow. But that’s OK. I strive to remain current and relevant with my finger on the pulse, without succumbing to trends and fads. I seek to remain an individual with my own perspective and tastes in a world that demands conformity and uniformity and squeezing your own unique size and shape into the cramped confines of a pre-fabricated box. I believe that when we follow, we surrender a part of ourselves to the will of the mob or the whim of the man in charge. And I have been resisting that submission my whole life. A man’s moments in this mortal realm are fleeting and few, he must spend them wisely on that which will be worthy in the long rearview-mirror-gaze of history. And those retrospective moments of pride rarely reside in shuffling along like sheep. Often in discovering who you are and sharpening your internal focus to envision who you want to be, you must define yourself by that which you could never abide becoming. To reach a level of comfort not only with all that you are, but what you are not–that is true freedom. To be exceptional without seeking to be accepted. To be seen without being a part of the scene. To be heard without blending in with the herd. It’s true, everything I’m not made me everything I am. Anti-social. Anti-establishment. Anti-authoritarian. The antithesis of all that is cliched and expected… The antidote for the plague of mediocrity. Or maybe, we don’t have to explain ourselves at all. Like Dirt said, just be ANTI.
(6) If Only We Cared
If only we cared so much about things that mattered. If you’ve paid attention to anything I’ve written n the past few years, you know how fond I’ve become of the phrase “Kill Your Idols”. To me, all that ever really was, was a provocative way of beseeching folks to re-order their priorities. My walls as a child were literally covered with my athletic heroes. I still hold on to the old Champion jerseys and baseball cards of my youth. They are all critical in my development, and dear to me. Both in terms of nostalgia and relevant sources of current inspiration, The Archives have an impact. But the further and further I traveled away from emulating Jordan and Bird, and to merely being a common “fan”, the less and less of a place of prominence Sportscenter could play in my life, the less the allure. I had my own plans. And sports were only a small part of it all. These pastimes that we use to pass the time, are mere entertainment—no more or less significant than a show you enjoy, or a film, or a song, or a hamburger. Public events packaged to entice us into watching corporate advertisements. Not to be a buzzkill, as sports have always been an important part of my life, and it is an enjoyable and generally harmless diversion from the stresses of every day in the real world. But it is not worth crying over, or fighting over, or hurting someone over, or humiliating yourself over, or embarrassing your kids over… Tom Brady wouldn’t do any of that for us. I remind myself to pour more of my available energy into the game in which I’m actually, actively participating—the one I play each day I’m lucky enough to open my eyes. The rest, after all, is just make believe. To be honest, there’s a lot of really consequential things happening all around us every day. A nation at odds. A world in chaos. Your children growing. Your loved ones aging. Your dream ripening rapidly on a vine, hanging heavy just over your head, begging to be picked. The sweet nectar of which we might taste, some day soon… If only we cared so much about the things that mattered.
(5) Never Forget
Never forget. Caught up in the rat race, the paper chase, the regimented routine of the daily grind, it is easy to lose sight. With the seeming weight of the world bearing down on your mortal frame, often it can be hard to expand your lungs enough to breathe, to clear your head and to order your mind. You don’t pat yourself on the back, or powder your own nuts. You simply do the job that the day demands. And you have no laurels upon which you’d care to rest. In the midst of it all, you forget. Forget about the dues paid, the lessons learned, the scars earned, the opponents bested, the conquests of yore. The prior lives. The old friends. The losses endured. The triumphs… All that you are. All that you did over the many years to build your rep. It all seems like preface and prologue of an irrelevant past that matters not to someone so driven… Driven to build an unimaginable future through the white-knuckled dirty work of today. But it all matters. Likely more than you know, as each of these instances was instrumental in building the man you are today. Each of these tiny investments laid a slab of stone into the mountainous foundation upon which you now stand, arriving in this moment, right here and now. When I lay in bed at night and stare at the ceiling, I count my blessings. And I have learned over the years to keep my prayers simple. I pray to be worthy of my daughters and my wife. And I humbly ask to be the best me that I can possibly be. Blind to the possibility that, maybe my best could be the best there ever was. Though I’m just another face in a crowd of eight billion, I’m doing all I can to never forget.
(4) The Last Thing
“That’s the last thing in the world I feel like doing right now.” These were the defeatist words I uttered to my better half recently in a moment of mortal weakness. The curtain pulled down by fatigue, I was not keeping up appearances. It was a very human occurrence. And though an honest depiction of my mindset in that instance, as those words escaped my lips, I immediately felt great shame. For there was an undeniable, sobering truth on the business end of the negative rhetoric leaking from my face hole. If ever I was to truly be who I claimed I was, there was a fact that was unavoidable. The difference-maker for a guy like me, is that when encountered by the last thing I feel like doing on planet Earth, I’m the guy that actually does that thing. Not because of any esteemed character or noteworthy work ethic or otherworldly virtue… But because, in fact, I have no other choice. It’s my only chance. The boxes in which life places us endure for a reason, their walls often seemingly impenetrable. Class and circumstance, capital and connections–our access to a better life is not always equal. What can bridge the gap and make up the difference in talent and opportunity is effort. Not simply “trying hard”. But doing what is difficult, especially when inconvenient. Going the extra mile, even when no one is watching. Paying dues diligently, particularly when everyone else thinks you’re wasting your time. Doing literally the last thing in the world you feel like doing right now, simply because that is what you do. Because you know in your heart that the last thing you feel like doing, may very well be exactly what needs to be done. And maybe you’ll be the only one willing to do it.
On this January day, some fifty years after his assassination, I’d prefer to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in a manner somewhat unconventional. To think that a man at my age, 39 years old, could create a timeless and enduring legacy, gives me pause. It makes me examine his motivations, as they might compare to my own, and it serves as a reminder. Dr. King did not live his life in the pursuit of material wealth. Instead, his selfless mission was the equality of all men—for our nation to live up in actual action to the true promise of its word. His life was lived in service to others… His life was lived in honor of principles and ideals… His life was lived in courageous defiance to corruption and injustice. Remember, there is safety to be found in the homogenous anonymity of the gathering mob. There is prosperity to be found in lining up your value system with that of those in power. But there is no glory there. In the times of my life that I have felt the most pride and the greatest sense of accomplishment, it was when I was seeking to achieve greatness–not in the interest of my own petty wants and needs, but with the lofty but attainable ambition of in my own small way, making the world a better place. To tap into this essence of sincere, altruistic, empathy… To hold yourself to a standard of purity of purpose that puts your brother in need–the least among us, first, is to live in his spirit. As I see it, Dr. King’s message was not one of humility. But of bold bravery. To have the audacity to believe that one man, driven by virtue, could change the course of human history by adhering to a dogged dogma of love, selflessness and moral rectitude, is not the thought of a timid soul… It is the burning ambition of a visionary leader–one who could not enjoy the longevity of old age, for his sights were set on a promised land off in a distance that only he could see… One ready to lay down his life to realize a dream. I pray each night to have such courage of conviction, for the content of my character to be worthy of such a king.
(2) The “Fuck It” Effect
A brief self-analysis quickly indicates that I’m not the type to take shit lightly. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, hauled around a heavy chip on my shoulder, and if not careful, I can easily overthink the simplest situation, turning speed bumps into skyscrapers in my mind. At a certain point, in order to facilitate the progress I seek, I must deafen the better angels in my head, put my trust in my ability to figure shit out and step off the ledge. It doesn’t come naturally for me, but I have found “fuck it” to be among my greatest mantras. A leap of fuck it-powered faith has served me well, many times over the years. My father before me had much more “fuck it” engrained in his DNA. So often, in moments of anxiety, I call upon his wisdom, the memory of his gravelly voice grounding me and giving me strength. Doubt is a shadowy apparition in the dark internal recesses of every great man’s head. I have found that it is not your ability to eliminate doubt, but instead to manage it, that will ultimately translate to your success. I have combatted doubt over the years, the best way I know how. With preparation. With practice. With confidence born of experience. With an abiding conviction that I am on a righteous path. Wiser folks than me have given the sage advice to keep up appearances in a manner that sets the table for your eventual successes. “Fake it, til you make it”, they say. And even as a lifelong practitioner of “keeping it real”, I must whole-heartedly agree. But my best advice would probably be slightly different. The critics jeering from the sidelines of life will always be there to concur with the voices of self-doubt that linger in your mind. It is up to you to silence them. It is up to you to summon the courage to urge yourself forward into the disorienting darkness of the unknown night. It is up to you to say “fuck it” and make them believe.
(1) Hard to Earn
They don’t erect statues to just anyone. Most often, those who are to be remembered forever are already hardened by the process of growing worthy of an immortality etched into stone. You must arrive at destiny’s door prepared for a fight. Come to your dream with only sincerity of soul and purity of heart, with calloused hands ready for work. When I took the dogleg left beginning this leg of this dogged pursuit, I held my breath, closed my eyes and turned the wheel. I steered this vessel due North and moved in the direction of my desired destination, knowing well who else was aboard the boat. I thought only of the potential–the manifestation of years of work and preparation, the unlimited possibility of it all. I did not spend time contemplating the rollercoaster of emotions, the restless sleep, the sleepless nights, the friction with friends… I already knew these stresses well. And would rather deal with the doubt and anxiety of audacious efforts than live a safe and anonymous existence that squanders my gifts. Fuck that. This is what I wanted. What I worked for. What I prayed for in the dark of another late night hustle. As the old adage goes, I do not ask for a lighter load, but for broader shoulders. Let me carry the crushing heft of an improbable dream. Let me internalize the fear and hopes of all that I love. Let me be a beacon in life’s midnight for those lost at sea. Ease and comfort are not yet luxuries I have earned, so instead let my neck grow strong under the heavy weight of a war-worn crown. One I wrestled from the vice grip of circumstance, while the rightful heirs and noblemen slept cozily in their warm beds.