Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I am 39 years old today.
One year removed from "old" standing on the precipice of obsolescence I humbly submit the following 39 thoughts:

Life is too short to read bad books. If you are reading a novel and 1/3 of the way through it is terrible, put it down. Non-fiction gets a bit of a pass as there is learning to be gleaned.

Read people you agree with for pleasure, read people you disagree with for edification.

Understand why you admire whom you admire. It shows your true values.

The things you've always been interested in learning, learn them. Start today.

Take care of your body. You are it, and it is you.

Exercise should be fun. (Re)learn to play.

Having children will reaffirm everything you know about yourself. Some of these lessons will be unpleasant.

No one has the capacity to make you more angry or bring you greater joy than your own children.

Pay attention to your breathing.

Everything you think you know or are good at, there is someone better. Keep practicing, learning, expanding.

Don't excuse the things you can't do because of the number of years you've existed. Too many or too few, doesn't matter. Your abilities are yours to manipulate.

Don't know or don't care where you're going? any road will get you there.

What are your goals? What are the steps to those goals? what are your actions? do they line up?
Amend 'I can't' with a 'yet' or by admitting that you don't want to do that thing enough to get it done.

It is acceptable to say "I'd like to do that, but it's not worth the effort."

Stand on the shoulders of the giants in your areas of interest. People have done the things to which you aspire, find out who they are and figure out how they've done it.

Start at the beginning. If you aspire to be a world class powerlifter, but can't do a push-up start there. Do not start with a world class plan for a novice.

When seeking instruction, let people know what you know. However, don't presume your expertise in a tangentially related subject makes you any less of a novice.

Stay the course longer than you think, but when it's time to change let go completely. I see this all the time with programming. People either hop from plan to plan every two weeks, or do the same thing regardless of progress.

Be honest where it counts. Particularly with yourself. I know people who are outwardly honest to a fault. They wield their 'honest opinions' like a cudgel, but constantly lie to themselves. Start by being honest with yourself.

The internet as we know it has created a strange issue. We gain access to a level of information unfathomable to our grandparents, we also get access to bad ideas unscrutinized. Often this comes from people, experts in one field, postulating outside of their own garden. Look closely for agenda, and take the time to read refutations honestly.

Make friends with your critics. Don't confuse disagree with dislike. The inverse is also true.

Don't confuse ad hominem attacks with criticism. Critics will have refutations, not insults.

All specialists sacrifice something to their specialty, no generalist will come close to the ability of a specialist in their discipline of choice. Weigh the merits of each.

The older you get, the less you can specialize.

The younger you are the less you should specialize.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, NRL, MLB, UFC probably aren't going to call.  And that's ok.

There is no "friend zone." In spite of what movies and TV may have told you, persistence in the face of overwhelming disinterest is not attractive.

Ask him/her out in an easy non-confrontational way "hey, would you like to go out sometime? here's my number" and then let it go. You don't need validation from someone else, get your own life, you'll be more interesting to people you find attractive if you have stories to tell.

It has to be acceptable to not be an expert in everything.

Take the long view. Training, learning, sport.. think in terms of a career not a workout, paper, or match. or even a block, class, or season.

Find one food you really like and perfect a recipe for it. Study and deconstruct it. Make it your signature.

If you play a sport competitively,  play a pick up game at a different position. You'll learn something.

We've always done it this way, is not a valid reason for choosing a methodology.

People who say 'always' and 'never' are generally wrong.

Learn how to swim, change a tire, cut off the water to your house, the basics of survival, and the workings of an internal combustion engine.

Don't go into the wilds without a knife, first aid kit, fire starting materials, metal container and 1 more layer of clothing than you think you will need at the very least. If you live somewhere cold, or dry you may need more than that.

Try to be nice.

Be mindful, understand why you feel what you feel, let go of the things that you're not doing in the current moment. Take notes, and use reminders to help you let go of things not in the present moment.

Here's to another year.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Park bench, bus stop, and mindset in training jiu jitsu.

Dan John has a sort of parable that he uses when discussing physical preparation for sport. Training days can either be like sitting on a park bench, or at a bus stop (he says 'bus bench' but that sounds odd to me. So I am amending to bus stop.. same concept). When one sits at a bus stop one expects, nay demands, punctuality and measurable results. The bus should be here at 4:31 if it arrives at 4:36 it is an outrage! I want results on schedule so that I may move to the next level/bus stop/destination. Results must meet expectation or feelings get involved.
On the park bench, there is no expectation of 'on time.' You're there as long as you're there, and if you get the ducks fed, or see some nubile young things running by in tight clothes that aides in the experience, but the experience lasts for as long as it lasts.
We generally enjoy the park bench, and almost never enjoy the bus stop. 

There are two lessons jiu jitsu players can learn from this parable.
First, new players need to learn that training is the goal. That one can only be where one is, and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. We are at a bus stop with no timetable, so you might as well enjoy the scenery. Jiu jitsu is a learned activity. It requires both feel and innovation. Neither of which can be hurried. So train and train and enjoy the training. Roll as if you are on a park bench, not fervently, impatiently awaiting a bus that may not turn up. That is to say, work your rolls. Follow your partners into the dark deep water where you're uncomfortable. Make the unfamiliar familiar. The Gracie brothers use the phrase "keep it playful." I think this is an oversimplification. It implies not to take the studious aspects of jiu jitsu seriously. It also implies that training 'hard' isn't playful. One of my most valued training partners and I go after each other. We do our best to break down each others strategies and test our abilities. He is the litmus test for my game, and to me that is the ultimate in "park bench" rolling. I see exactly where I am, and thoroughly get to know my current surroundings. However, it does not feel playful. I'm being tested, and with this gentleman in particular I fail the test to one degree or another (he outranks me and taps me nearly every time we roll). The model of a park bench is more complete.

The second way this parable works is one should have a few "bus stop rolls." Particularly with lower belts, one should go in with specific things to work on. I want to work xyz sweep, and only submit with this sequence. Then have the fortitude to stick to those constraints. If you are honest, you will get a result. The bus will be on time or not. If it is, great. Move on. If not, you now know where the weakness in that part of your game is, fix it. One should understand that this is an unnatural state. It isn't an indicator of where your game is or your value as a human. For that you take it back to your park bench. Where you roll and flow and be yourself. Keep in the moment and enjoy the place you're at.
Within jiu jitsu there is a third location: competition roll. That is only 'A' game stuff. Where you set yourself to only roll in your strong areas, and circumvent your weaknesses. These rolls should only be used for times before competition (when a teammate gets a new belt or similar 'wood shed' moments). If you're not competing then you should rarely find yourself in this mindset. It's stunting, you don't grow as fast if you're only rolling comfortably.


Tony Gentilcore goes into depth on how this applies in the gym.