winterroadDear Reader,

I would like to thank you for your continued support in 2014. Every year, I take the opportunity of the holidays to express my gratitude to everyone who has impacted my life in the last twelve months, and since this blog is a big part of my life, you’re one of those people.

This has been a very rough year for me. After the success of launching my first ebook in 2012 and gaining a big following in 2013, I let my expectations get out of control. I got frustrated and the quality of my writing suffered. I lost focus. I feel like Warrior Spirit has lost a lot of what made it a great blog.

The Good

That said, there were a lot of good things that happened, too. I got engaged, which was a big step for me, reignited my love of games, am taking a chess class (see below), and started work on my novel, which is now almost halfway written. I managed to pay down half of my credit card debt and began working with a money, career, and business coach to take my lofty ambitions and give them some focus. I started an internship, increased my income, and established a regular meditation practice.

Overall, it’s been a good year, but the biggest hole has been the spotty posting here. I know (because you’ve told me) that Warrior Spirit provides a lot of value for its readers, and that gives me a lot to work with. So I’ve committed to getting back to twice-a-week postings, which seems to be the sweet spot based on previous years.

Warrior Spirit in 2015

I assert that anyone can become a hero in his or her community and life, the kind of person that changes the world for those they care about. I have always wanted to support people in doing that by helping them live up to their greatest potential.

Now, in 2015, I am making the blog all about that and committing to taking concrete, specific action on helping you achieve your goals, whatever they are, by empowering you to be the best you can be. …Read More

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questionPerhaps you’ve heard the old advice that it’s important to psych yourself up before a big test or meeting. Remind yourself how awesome you are! Tell yourself, “I can do this! I’m a rockstar!” Maybe you’ve even done this, despite all feelings to the contrary.

If you’ve ever been in an airplane during extreme turbulence, you don’t want to overhear your pilot insisting, “I can do this! Yeah!”

If they are talking at all, you want to hear specific actions that they will be taking to make things better.

There’s a reason for this. Our minds actually interpret insistent statements like these as a sign that there is something really wrong. After all, if you were confident, you wouldn’t even need to bother with the motivation at all, right?

Well, it turns out there’s a better way to motivate yourself, one that feels less like a desperate plea to convince yourself of something you just don’t believe, and that actually helps you do better, rather than simply feel better.

Ask the simple question, “Can I do this?” …Read More

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catSome books change our lives. Daring Greatly was that kind of book for me. In the midst of an internal crisis this summer, I came across this book by Brene Brown, renowned researcher and author on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

One of Brown’s key points is that, in order to do great things, we have to embrace vulnerability. That feeling of exposing yourself is scary, but it’s necessary because only by really reaching outside our comfort zones, by risking real pain or loss, can we achieve something really worth striving for.

Basically, if you risk little, you’ll gain little, and if you want to achieve or experience great things, you’re going to have to put yourself on the line.

What does this look like for those of us who aren’t leading armies or starting revolutions?

Embrace Vulnerability

One example in the book involved a young man telling his date that he loved her, even though she didn’t feel the same way. She said so, and that ended the relationship. But what is important is that the guy wanted something more than a casual relationship, and he was willing to put his heart on the line to reach for it. Sure he got hurt, but that’s the kind of action that leads to fully realized living.

It takes courage to live fully.

For my part, the book taught me that if I wanted the relationship I said I wanted with my now-fiancé, I needed to be willing to be vulnerable instead of keeping my feelings one step removed. Always afraid of losing her, I had not allowed myself to really dive in.

This of course, had led to a lukewarm relationship that was at that point unraveling.

So, I finally let myself really care, right at the point when it would have been most likely to fall apart.

Vulnerability vs. Weakness

One reason we are afraid to be vulnerable is because we confuse it with weakness. When you are vulnerable, you are open to being hurt, but when you are weak, you are actually unable to defend yourself.

Vulnerability is a choice. Weakness is not.

It’s also important to realize that being capable of being hurt doesn’t mean you are not resilient. Being open to attack doesn’t mean you will necessarily crumble.

And in fact, from a social psychology standpoint, the willingness to be vulnerable denotes strength. Humans and other mammals use overt displays of physical vulnerability to show dominance. Alpha males walk or sit with their legs spread wide, exposing their genitals. Men sitting can appear more confident by putting their arms behind their heads, which is a terrible position for protecting your face but sends a clear message that you are not afraid, even when you are totally exposed.

Similarly, a willingness to be emotionally vulnerable shows strength of character. It tells people you aren’t afraid to be yourself or have your ego bruised…because you’re THAT self-assured and resilient.

It is the most insecure among us who are least willing to be vulnerable. And we take that unwillingness as a cue of insecurity and weakness.

Vulnerability as a Path to Strength

One lesson I’ve learned from martial arts is that you can’t win fights, or even avoid them, by balling up and simply trying to protect yourself. You have to at some point strike out, which does make you vulnerable because it is hard to defend and attack at the same time.

In a similar way, living life in a protectionist mindset, avoiding risk and trying to avoid notice, will inevitably lead to a life of reacting, struggling to stay afloat. At best, you’ll get by. At worst, you’ll be assailed by others and a system that takes advantage of those who can be cowed by fear into submission.

The ideal state is to take (calculated) risks that make you vulnerable for the sake of attaining something greater.

One thing I’ve learned is that life rewards those who demonstrate a full commitment. Choose a course and see it out, or don’t even start. Maybe halfhearted attempts work for some people, but they haven’t paid off in my life.

Are you vulnerable, or do you stay closed off to protect yourself? Does this limit your reach or your capabilities?

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treeMost people don’t think much of acorns, but are very impressed by oak trees. Thus, most people think of an acorn as nothing more than a means to an oak tree. The acorn itself is worthless. All that matters is the tree that comes out of it.

But then we may make the mistake of creating an environment that is ideal for a fully grown oak, not a young acorn.

Or we simply don’t appreciate the acorn, rushing it or failing to give it the care and cultivation it needs.

The result will be that the acorn never grows and you never get your oak tree.

The point of the story is that we can’t afford to diminish ourselves now, no matter how incapable we feel, in favor of focusing solely on the life we wish we had. The reason is that the life we  want and the person we want to be are the result of the life and person we are right now.

To deny this moment is to deny every moment that might grow out of it.

To diminish this person is to exile the person that we might grow into.

***

Sometimes, I get caught up in striving, constantly reaching for something better, something bigger. It’s gets so bad that just walking by nice apartment buildings sends me into a spiral of jealousy.

This mindset leaves me bitter and frustrated. I used to take out my frustrations on my current life, focusing on all the things I was missing, instead of all the things I had.

I get so focused on my oak tree that I can’t be the acorn.

To use a martial arts metaphor, it’s like being constantly off balance, reaching forward, with the result that you never really have your feet and you have a weak foundation from which to act or move.

Only by being solidly Where You Are do you have the resources and the presence to act with effectiveness.

So, when I learned this lesson, I tried be grateful for my acorn-ness. It contains within it all the makings of a great oak tree.

If we only let ourselves be who we are now, we can grow from a foundation of strength into what we could be.

Where in life are you striving, focusing on what you would rather have, do or be, instead of appreciating what is and how it could transform?

- (**

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karatekick

This is a reader story from Claire Higgins, a coach, yoga instructor, and martial artist who is sharing her story of returning to the core of her passion for training: Karate itself. It’s a great story illustrating how easy it can be to get pulled off track from doing the things we love in the name of supporting the things we love (like the classic case of a parent working so hard they don’t see their family, justifying it all by saying it’s for the family’s well-being, when in fact, all they want is to spend more time together).

***

I entered personal training to get fitter for Karate (it was CrossFit inspired). Soon, I was expected to work out several times a week on top of a demanding Karate schedule, dedicated yoga practice and teaching, and driving 4 hrs a day for my last (very stressful) job. So I built a home gym, complete with an olympic bar that I didn’t use often enough as I was so exhausted. My Karate performance improved a lot but I was so tired I felt miserable at training.

My personal trainer was fabulous but my aim was never to get better at lifting or scoring bigger numbers. It was to swing a faster punch, build more stamina, and develop more explosive speed so that I could get my 2nd dan. My Karate teacher smiled patiently at me, explaining that the heavier weights, hanging, and handstands wouldn’t help there. He recommended lighter weights, faster reps, and working out THROUGH Karate training, not FOR it. But for some reason, I couldn’t yet change my mindset. …Read More

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loner

I was recently offered what seemed on the surface like a great job opportunity. It would have solved all my money problems, set me up for a good four or five years, and been a great resume builder.

But I said no.

It was not an easy decision. There’s so much in our culture prioritizing money and career advancement. A solid, steady income often trumps all other concerns, and we usually excuse our friends and family for blowing off commitments because of work. It’s just the expectation that we will prioritize our income over anything else.

However, I don’t believe that is an authentic way to live. And so, when it came time to make my final decision, I asked myself if I really would be a good fit for this position, which was implementing a fitness program I didn’t believe in, in a very rigid environment.

And as much as I wanted to say, “Yes, I’m a good fit. Sign me up and send me that paycheck,” that would not have been at all authentic. I’ve been there before, and it drove me crazy, to say nothing of my employer’s experience. It would be like trying to get a round peg into a square hole.

So, as hard as it was, I explained this and turned down the offer.

***

What was really amazing was how good I felt afterwards. I expected to feel disappointed in myself, frustrated, or at least sad. But I felt true. I had acted with integrity and it felt amazing. I had a sense of possibility instead of a feeling of having lost an opportunity. I guess when you make a commitment to living up to your greatest self, and actually follow through, you can do things you never imagined.

I mean, sure I’m still struggling, my career prospects are foggy, and I’m drowning in debt, but I have the great honor of having been authentic with myself when it really counted and when the stakes were high.

And I say “honor” because that’s what it was all about: honoring my principles and values, what I’ve been calling my Greater Self. Not in a pushy or prideful way, but in the way you might honor your parents or a beloved teacher. You respect their ideas and their values. That’s what I was doing for myself.

I’m not sure if that’s a valuable trait in today’s economy, or any economy, but I wasn’t going to get very far with the alternative.

So, yeah, life is uncomfortable, but I get to be at peace with myself, which is not something everyone can say.

***

I’m not saying great jobs and great opportunities are bad, just that looking to them to rescue us from our problems is a dangerous mindset. Definitely work hard in pursuit of your golden opportunity, but realize whether it happens or not is up to you, and the effect it has on your life is totally up to you.

Act in accordance with your greater self, the one that isn’t afraid and cannot be coerced, bribed, or, perhaps, even reasoned with.

– (***

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Why You Should be Unreasonable

October 26, 2014

Being reasonable: The excuse for staying small, quiet, and obedient. Let’s not do that anymore.

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How Listening Makes You Powerful

October 23, 2014

Giving someone your full attention ends the conflict and gives them space to hear you too.

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Holding on to Burnout

October 16, 2014
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The small self is concerned with asserting its own importance. The large self can let go of that in order to actually get stuff done.

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Big Problems, and A Promise

October 8, 2014
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There will always be problems in life. Whether you grow or shrink as a person depends on the kinds of problems you focus on.

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