(45) A Game of Inches
A game of inches. Glory isn’t found flourishing out in the open, growing in the daylight, in the broad expanse of a green pasture. It is tucked away in the dark places, in the nooks and crannies of life, where few ever care or dare to look. Because the truth of the matter, is that our existence isn’t a series of cataclysmic occurrences, but instead the stringing together of often unspectacular days, of patterns of bred behaviors, of the repeating doldrums of the daily grind. Our lives are made of up of tiny tiles eventually forming a massive mosaic. Each so small, alone they seem insignificant. But I know better, and my knowledge, if I’m entirely honest, is born of fear. Fear of not giving my all, of not sweating the small stuff, of not sweating enough in my pursuits. Of not doing whatever the fuck it takes to gather up all the inches no one else cared to collect. The 14,965 days I’ve been blessed to open my eyes, are each representative of an inch crawled forward, against the grain of rugged terrain. Often dragging myself on bloody knees. A young lifetime of days, each day a lifetime. From dawn to dusk, from morning to midnight. The seasons of our life. All in a day. Each day a series of minuscule moments. Each minute made up of the ground you either gave up or gained. The minutiae of matter that mattered most all along. The difference between a life lost and immortality won isn’t a matter of miles, but a game of inches.
(44) Invest Wisely
Nothing new. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone borrow an idea, or steal a style, or ride a wave started by the little upstart startup, underground underdog out of Jersey, as I recently told a Invest wisely. No matter where you find yourself in the class warfare of the social strata, your resources will undoubtedly be limited. Even if you have more money than an oil tycoon or Egyptian pharaoh, you still will only have so many hours in the day, so much attention to pay. So your time, your focus, your passion must be seen for what they are—valuable investments. Either in your dreams, or those of another. Properly spent or pissed away. Productive or destructive. My friend Brandon Lilly recently shared an inspired thought, that each aspect of your day is a reduction or an improvement, a “+1 or -1”. A circumstance that either furthers your progress or sets you back. It articulates well, what I’ve always known intuitively. A defense mechanism I have used to protect myself and my goals, since I was a kid–and all the more so, the deeper I’ve submerged myself in this all-consuming GCode vocation, is to step back and to look at each challenge and opportunity in its simplest terms. Making my ambitions less daunting by reducing them to their bare root essence, and then addressing each micro-mission in its moment, independent of the macro-mountainside before me. You see, taking over the world in twenty years can be an overwhelming thought, especially for a father of four with bills to pay today. So better instead, to invest in being my best right here and now. With each word written, email sent, concept articulated, idea executed. Each workout trained, each meal eaten. Each interaction with family, each gesture of love. There is opportunity for progress. There is potential for investment. As is always the case in times of mourning, we are able to reflect on the transient fragility of life. Having just lost a dear family pet, one of unique personality, pure soul and idyllic innocence, it is difficult to not recognize that our days on this spinning orb are with each day, increasingly finite. Gratitude brings with it an inherent understanding of value, of the worth of things too often taken for granted. Today is a priceless resource. One not to be passed by casually or spent frivolously. If we can train ourselves to understand the cost of time wasted, the possibility of explosive growth in each opportunity bested, we will never again see the present moment the same. We will realize the magnificent power that rests in the palm of our hand, the currency of a formidable fortune as yet unknown. And promise ourselves to invest wisely.
(43) Nothing New
Nothing new. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone borrow an idea, or steal a style, or ride a wave started by the little upstart startup, underground underdog out of Jersey, as I recently told a buddy, “I’d have so many nickels.” That kind of stuff used to really bother me, but as I’ve grown and matured, I’ve come to a revelation. With leading, comes the responsibility that others will follow. With blazing a new trail, comes the reality that you have now provided a path of footprints. Always take it as an honor and a privilege, a flattering compliment. Proof that you’re tuned to the right frequency. Besides, nothing is new. We all gain our inspiration from somewhere. The only way to continue the cycle and remedy redundancy, is to keep doing dope shit. Be too busy looking forward, cultivating the next concept, to worry about the imitations of old. After all, this perspective, this vision, this culture, is not a passing fancy or fading fad, it is the lifestyle of a lifetime. Of desire. And dedication. And defiance. And determination. By design. For decades. Consistent and constant. Hammered into place through hard times, clung to for dear life through dark days, an alchemy of blood and sweat, tears and iron. All to find ourselves in a place we’ve never been before. But somehow, through it all, it’s nothing new.
Consistency. Life experience teaches that the best method to become unstoppable, is to never stop. In every instance in my life that I found myself in a deficit or in the back of the pack, there was only one path forward that ever made any sense. To come up with a plan, and gain ground on whoever was in front of me, by outworking them. To slowly and methodically hammer away at my dream in silence, in the shadows, allowing passion to power my process. I’ve long said that with enough practice and enthusiasm, you can become a master at anything. If you are able to work and remain positive and excited when others would throw in the towel… If you can stay hungry while the lead dogs sleep comfortably with their bellies full, you become a dangerous man. You see, there will always be people ahead of you in your chosen field, more accomplished and established. But human nature dictates that with success comes contentment, getting fat on the spoils of victory. When I would identify those in the seats I coveted, I could look them in the eye and I’d know. I’d know whether they’d go to the brink for their dream, if they’d tear themselves to shreds to make it real. That they’d eventually burn out or give up or rest on their laurels, and that all the while, I told myself, I’d be in the darkness working. And when they least expect it, long after they’d forgotten about me or written me off, I would strike. I would make my move and pass them. And never look back. And it wouldn’t be a mere product of God-given talent or dumb luck, but instead the compounding interest of commitment. Of a life dedicated to the determined dirty work a dream demands… It is not sexy or flashy, it is not loud or bold. Here, there’s no glamour or glittering gold. But the distance between who you are and who you always knew you could be, can be found in the daily grind of consistency.
Outsiders. Don’t ever make the mistake of confusing your popularity with your influence. Often respect and fear are intertwined. Respect for your potential. Fear that it could be brought to fruition. Positive energies are often greeted with more contempt than their darker opposites. History teaches, they will often throw flowers at your feet and crown your head as they anoint it with oils, for preaching division and negativity. But talk about love and unity and they will strike you dead where you stand. Remember, it is not our place to play by the rules and follow the accepted norms. It is to reject the status quo and live to a new standard we establish for ourselves. A higher purpose requires setting the bar higher to which we aspire. If they don’t understand your vision yet, take solace in knowing one day they will see it in crystal clear high def. Stick to your guns. Create fire. And treat people right. Every day. Knowing in time you will become undeniable. And if the invite to the gala ball never comes, that’s OK too. We will build our palace outside the city gates. Not subject to their laws, doing it our way… The only way we can. The way only we can. Proud to be the outsiders.
(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 your 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.