(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

You never know. From the outside, you can’t really tell. With the external trappings of fame and success… The accolades, the regard, the material wealth, the opportunities, it is difficult for folks like you and I to imagine how those with so much could be so profoundly unhappy. Authors and actors and chefs and designers alike, seemingly living the dream—a charmed life free of much of the stress and worry so many of us carry every day, it is hard to understand. But nonetheless it happens, where someone with so much acts in opposition to the most basic of human instincts—self-preservation. And in an instance of despair and distress, they take their own life. I look back on moments in my development, where those who I felt had so much going for them—so many advantages and positive attributes, yet they simply couldn’t find the light they sought in life’s often dark corridor, or when they did see the light at the end of the tunnel, they realized all too late, that it was an oncoming freight train. In the spirit of never taking things for granted, I remind myself—in the form of imploring you, to never assume too much about your fellow traveler. It is often the strong ones who need a helping hand. It can be the stoic ones who could use a shoulder to cry on. It is the tough guys who really just wish they had a friend who cared. Many people who seem to have it all figured out, are silently struggling more than they might ever let on. Ours is a glorious and wondrous existence with boundless potential, but we can easily become overwhelmed simply in the process of living up to it all every day. Be a trusted ally to a brother in need, simply by reaching out and checking in. A twenty second text message or a quick phone call at the end of a long day, could quite literally be a matter of life and death. You just never know.

(23) Heavy

Heavy. Much of the currency in which we trade involves the laws of gravity being proven again and again, bearing down upon our mortal frames, being tested by loads of cold iron pressing down with unforgiving heft. But I’d argue that the heaviest weight I’ve ever known, is that of expectation. Most of which I’ve placed upon myself, by choice. But also by birthright—an inheritance of my own birth and that, later on, of my children. The beautiful burden I bear is that of legacy. Carrying forward my late father’s and building one of my own. This sizable weight is one that many often don’t hoist by choice. But I’ve always wanted it… Wanted to represent my family name with honor. Wanted to do my folks proud. Wanted to make the memory of my father before me eternal in the hearts and minds of all that I’d encounter. Wanted to do my daughters proud in a manner that could live beyond my days on this Earth. That, over time, became my every day challenge. Years back, I reached a point in my development where I could no longer justify using the rhetoric of war when writing about the gym. Knowing that my peers gave life and limb for my freedoms, made the tough talk of “battles” related to working out seem cheap and silly. In the same way, at a certain point I realized that my beloved gym was as much a vacation as it was a vocation. And the weights, compared to true matters of life and death, were not all that weighty. The responsibility of building something that lasts—a life as a monument of grand consequence, one that pays homage to the past and endures with looming stature into a limitless future… That can be a lot for a regular man to shoulder. As another Father’s Day comes and goes, I am reminded again of my life’s charge—of my responsibility to history, to my father, to these little girls. I embrace the glorious struggle and strain to come, for I know it is my life’s calling. And like always, I am well aware that the most dramatic strength and growth to be gained will be unearthed when the weight gets really heavy.

(22) The Thin Line

The thin line. There’s a thin line that separate genius from madness. Love from hate. Beauty from vanity. Righteousness from hypocrisy. Lust from disgust. That which motivates us most, pushes right up against our deepest fears. The places where we are weak or vulnerable are often on the outer edges of our most dominating strengths—that devastating upper cut we throw, leaving us the most open to getting knocked out cold. Our confidence remedies our insecurities. Our knowledge illuminates how ignorant we truly are. We must toe that line daily. We struggle with every fiber, down to our core, to maintain balance. A razor wire we walk so gingerly, perched high above the concrete circus floor. But beneath us, there is no safety net. Only oblivion. And a crowd gawking in anticipation. So we keep our head up, our gaze straight, our steps sure, our breathing steady. And we move forward. If only an inch at a time, we proceed. Thin lines abound, like spider webs. Both intricate and simple, both delicate and strong…. Thin lines within us. Thin lines under our feet. We navigate this precarious path above their heads, because there is no alternative. We know the greatness we seek is just a hair beyond the confines of the most mundane and ordinary existence. On the other side–of stress, of pain, of loss, destiny awaits. So we take another deep breath, calm our nerves and gather ourselves, a collection of thin lines and thick skin, walking the tight rope of life.

(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.

(20) Unreasonable

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.

(16) Resist

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.