Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Bad Do You Want It?

How bad do you want it?
I have been thinking about this all day, since going to Crossfit for the first time last night.
I am a martial artist.  I have been for over 30 years.  In my peak condition, one look at me and you knew it.
My body was that of a professional athlete, lean and strong; fast and powerful.

Now I am 45 years old.  I look like any other 45 year old businessman, with my suit and tie.  Maybe better than some, worse than others.  I no longer look like a martial artist.  I no longer feel like a champion.  I will change.  I will become the person I want to be.  I will become the champion I know I can be.  Whatever it takes.  How bad do I want it?

I am going to put some serious effort into Crossfit.  It's interesting, the workouts are varied, the teachers are smart and fit.  This will mean getting up earlier to get these workouts in before I go to work.  It will mean changing my diet permanently.  It will mean hard training.  It will mean the pain and soreness of post-workout fatigue.  It will mean feeling tired after.  It will mean developing new habits and breaking down old habits.  I want it bad enough to endure this.

It may involve people not believe I can continue, maybe even myself not believing I can continue.  I am going to be stubborn and fight every inch to get the results I want.  It will mean staying focused on my goals for as long as it takes to succeed.  I want it bad enough for this.

What do you want?
How bad do YOU want it?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


"My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet."
 --- John Cage

Silence is golden.  We are bombarded by a constant media overload every day of our modern lives.  We hear cars, trains, buses, construction, commotion.  We use our telephones, our stereos, our MP3 players, our televisions.  Most of us (myself included) talk too much.
As a species, we have forgotten how to listen.  We have forgotten to appreciate silence.

There are many kinds of listening.  For me the most important is the listening that occurs during meditation.
This is what John Cage refers to above, but it is much deeper than that.

Guro Fred taught me that the essence of us is our soul.  This soul comes to us manifested (currently) in our physical body.  The eternal soul has its own memory and its own mission; to eveolve and grow toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment.  To do so, our soul must cleanse of all wrongdoing.  We purify our soul through our diet, through our breathing, through our meditation.  In meditation we go deeper into our conciousness until we reach the place where we can begin to LISTEN.

What do we hear?  This voice is the voice of the soul.  It will speak to you and tell you what to do.  Not in the simple material sense (such as asking you to pick up a carton of milk), but in the broader, spiritual sense.  The voice will tell you your life work; your mission, and how to proceed down your own path to enlightenment.

I contend that much of our unhappiness, frustration, and unease comesf rom the simple fact that we forgot how to listen to our voice.  Disconnected from our soul, we feel disconnected from everything else.  In this state we cannot truly relax.  If we fail to listen, after we die our soul will go to sleep and start over.  We lose spiritual momentum and our soul will pick up where it left off in our next incarnation.

By contrast, through meditation, breathing, diet we begin to listen again.  By listening we start to change our life to be closer to the path our soul wants for us.  Our unique destiny.  This explains how some people feel they were "born to do something", and in doing so they reach a state of fulfillment that could not have been possible any other way.  This is a happiness which most people will never reach, but which any person could have.  If he/she would just LISTEN.  This happiness is not a delirious, giggling happiness (not all the time, anyway).  Rather, it is a sense of quiet confidence and CONTENTMENT.  This is true and lasting happiness.

There is no magic formula for this.  It is very simple.

Then...LISTEN.  I promise you will like what you hear.

What I Learned From My Dog

This is Butch, our pug.
He is the first dog we have ever had (now we have two).  I never imagined I would have a dog in my family, and now I can't imagine not having a dog in my family.  We have taught him things, and he has taught us things as well.  Here are the top things I have learned from him:

Get Plenty of Sleep
Butch sleeps a lot.  He is never busy just to appear busy.  When it is time to do something, he does it.  When there is nothing to do, he sleeps.  When sleeping, Butch is totally and completely relaxed.  He can sleep anywhere, and sleeps deeply. 
Drink Lots of Water
Butch only drinks clean, fresh water.  He is happy to have it, and doesn't need anything else.

Be Grateful for Your Daily Meals
Butch is always excited at mealtime, even if it is the same thing over and over again.  He really seems to appreciate when we make it for him, and he concentrates fully on eating when he is served.  He eats his whole meal and never leaves any behind.

Take A Daily Walk
Butch goes on a walk every day.  He loves to check out his neighborhood, and generally be outside in the sunshine.  He doesn't go for a walk on rainy days (his choice not to) and he is not too bothered when that is the case.  He prefers going outside for a walk to watching TV (except on rainy days).

Play Hard
Butch loves to play.  He loves to play fetch, and roll around.  He loves any kind of game you can think of.
Playing is very important to him, and he is never too busy to play.

Be Social
Butch knows all the other dogs in the neighborhood.  He loves to see them on walks, and play together when they meet.  He is part of a larger socal fabric.  He knows his place in it and is comfortable with all dogs; all types, all colors.  Some dogs don't like Butch, but Butch is not bothered about that at all.  He knows it is their choice, not his.

Never be Ashamed to Show Your Love
Butch loves us totally, completely, and will every moment of every day for the rest of his life.  He knows we love him too.  We are not his owners, and he is not our slave or possession.  He is our companion, who makes our lives happier becuse he is a part of it.  Butch wags his tail when he sees us or hears us call his name.  He licks our faces to show us he cares about us.  Even if he cannot understand all our words, he always listens intently.

Honesty and Simplicity are the Keys To Happiness
Butch does not pretend to be anything other than what he is.  He does not dream of a better life or a far away place.  Butch does not wish he had a bigger house or longer legs or different food.  He accepts his life as it is, and appreciates and is grateful for it.

Never underestimate the power of Loyalty
Butch has sharp teeth and strong jaws, but he would never use them on us.
He would follow us anywhere and all he would ever ask in return is that we try to love him as much as he loves us (if that could be possible).  Butch is always right by our side, even if we are sad or lonely or angry or frustrated or sick or tired.  He is always loving and supportive.

I wish I was more like my dog.  I wish most people I know were more like my dog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Parenting: Success and Failure

(thanks for the inspiration Sisters)

Yesterday one of my close friends posted on FB  "My parents told me they think I am a failure".  She went on to say that they felt that way because she hadn't decided to pursue a typical high-power, high-stress career such as finance, medicine, or law.  This made me think.

I am also a parent.  What do I want for my boys?

Before I dive into that, however, there are some realities of parenting that I would like to share from my 10 years of experience at it.  Sisters, feel free to have your parents read this blog.

1) You do not OWN your children (neither do they own you)
Last time I checked, slavery has been abolished in the free world.  Giving life to our children is the single greatest thing that can happen to any of us. We have, for that single event, the power to create something everlasting.  We have the power to create something that can change the course of history (good or bad); something that can be independent and individual.  We create change that can then create change.  We do not own the changes, we are merely a facilitator of them.

I am not against children having responsibilities.  In fact, just the opposite.  Having responsibilities is part of understanding our place in any group we belong to - and a family is one of those groups.  However, I always try to leave it up to my children to decide to fulfill their responsibilities or suffer the consequences of that.  They don't do their job; I don't do my job (like cooking for them, playing games with them, reading to them, taking them where they want to go, etc.).  However, it is wrong (and unfair) for parents to expect their children to do everything for them at command like slaves.  This takes away the feeling of control/freedom of choice from the children and leads them to the feelings of hopeless despair that they are unable to influence their own environment.  This is the basis of a fear relationship rather than a love relationship.

2) Your Children Do Not have an obligation to succeed at your failures
We all make mistakes.  It is part of being alive and being human.  Adding mistakes to mistakes does not correct them, it makes them worse.  It is the worst of mistakes to imagine that our children exist for the purpose of becoming the person we failed to become.  It is not their responsibility to become the sports hero we could not be, to get into the college we could not enter, to land the job we could not get, to make the money we did not have, to marry the person we couldn't win over, and so on.  Our failures are OUR OWN, and we have to be mature enough not to project them onto our children (who will have plenty of their own, believe me).

3) Your Children Need Not Follow In Your Footsteps
Likewise, if you are successful (first of all, good for you) it is not your children's responsibility to become your clone.  They need not follow your career path, but instead need to find and define their own.  Hard as it may be to accept, they need not share your particular passion for classical music, pro-wrestling, fishing, or whatever.  They will find their own interests, and as a good parent it is far more important that you share THEIRS, rather than the other way around.  if you don't over time it will become hard to bond with them.

4) Being A Parent Is About Learning To Let Go (so is everything else)
All of life is about learning to let go.  Let go of fear, let go of anger, let go of sadness, let go of expectation, let go of prejudice, let go of attachments, let go of desire.  The list goes on and on.  In parenting, it is very important to accept the family situation for what it is, and not to be disappointed by the many challenges that inevitably are a part of it.  Focus on the joyful moments and it is far, far easier.

5) Your Children Will Learn More from their Friends than from their Teachers (or their parents)
Peer pressure/social pressure is very real.  It is important to surround your children with good, positive peer role models, as well as good teachers.  Pay attention to your childrens' friends.  Meet them.  Engage them and understand what kind of people they are.  This will be far more important than you imagine.

We all want our children to succeed.  In concrete terms, what do I think this means?
I want my boys to be happy.  When I say "happy" I am not talking about the temporary happiness that comes from eating ice cream or watching a favorite TV show (although that is OK sometimes, too).  I am also not talking about the crazy happiness of being at Disneyland (also, sometimes OK, too).  I define happiness as:

"Feeling a state of contenment born of purpose, and of feeling an essential part of one's social fabric, cared for and respected by others.  Valued.  Trusted. Loved.  Important. Challenged.  Rewarded.  Grateful. Free. Curious/interested. Engaged.  Aware."

I personally believe this comes from having a solid academic and ethical/moral education, a strong spiritual education/awareness (not necessarily Christian), and a balanced social network of friends and mentors.

Notice I do not specifically mention any career choices here, since I think you can be happy regardless of the job you do or the career path you choose.  I myself have been on many paths, having started my latest career shift a scant 3 months ago.  Anyone who thinks they can know their lifetime career path when they are still a student is not being realistic or is a very special person indeed (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for example).  Even many of the greatest of us did not know his/her path until they stumbled onto it.

How could I fail as a parent?  What would that mean?
I feel like I have had literally thousands of failures as a parent:  the many, many times I didn't say the right things at the right moment.  The times I felt too tired, or too stressed from work, or too caught up in my own life to give the time and attention my children deserved.  So much more.  Luckily, the big picture has a way of smoothing over the rough spots in the small picture.  I am grateful for this.  Basically,
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children did not have self-respect, self-control, self-discipline. 
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children did not feel loved and respected by me unconditionally. 
  • I would feel like a failure as a parent if my children felt they could not trust me or depend on me no matter what. 
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children were reluctant to talk to me about something important to them. 
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children did not feel they had the tools to make themselves happy (see above).
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children did not have a sense of adventure about their lives and a sense of wonder about the world.
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children did not understand that success requires effort.
  • I would consider myself a failure as a parent if my children were not kind and respectful to others or lacked proper social skills.
I clarify here that although I have had many failures, I do not consider myself a failure as a parent (yet).  Mistakes are part of the process, and I try to learn from them.  I remain focused on the above.

I truly believe the martial arts offers a rich and reqarding experience for any child that can help him/her reach their potential and develop the tools to be happy.  Martial arts are also very important to me as a parent since they help me train myself to be a better person.

In closing:

On Children

by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World


How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World

By: David Wong May 01, 2010

I think The Karate Kid ruined the modern world.

Not just that movie, but all of the movies like it (you certainly can't let the Rocky sequels escape blame). Basically any movie with a training montage.

You know what I'm talking about; the main character is very bad at something, then there is a sequence in the middle of the film set to upbeat music that shows him practicing. When it's done, he's an expert.

When I am fired as the Editor of Cracked and run out of ideas for penis-based horror novels, I want to write this up as a self-help book, probably titled Fuck The Karate Kid: Why Life is So Much Harder Than We Think, by Dr. David Wong. I also have to become a doctor at some point.

It seems so obvious that it actually feels insulting to point it out. But it's not obvious. Every adult I know--or at least the ones who are depressed--continually suffers from something like sticker shock (that is, when you go shopping for something for the first time and are shocked to find it costs way, way more than you thought). Only it's with effort. It's Effort Shock.

We have a vague idea in our head of the "price" of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.

Accomplishing worthwhile things isn't just a little harder than people think; it's 10 or 20 times harder. Like losing weight. You make yourself miserable for six months and find yourself down a whopping four pounds. Let yourself go at a single all-you-can-eat buffet and you've gained it all back.

So, people bail on diets. Not just because they're harder than they expected, but because they're so much harder it seems unfair, almost criminally unjust. You can't shake the bitter thought that, "This amount of effort should result in me looking like a panty model."

It applies to everything. America is full of frustrated, broken, baffled people because so many of us think, "If I work this hard, this many hours a week, I should have (a great job, a nice house, a nice car, etc). I don't have that thing, therefore something has corrupted the system and kept me from getting what I deserve, and that something must be (the government, illegal immigrants, my wife, my boss, my bad luck, etc)."

I really think Effort Shock has been one of the major drivers of world events. Think about the whole economic collapse and the bad credit bubble. You can imagine millions of working types saying, "All right, I have NO free time. I work every day, all day. I come home and take care of the kids. We live in a tiny house, with two shitty cars. And we are still deeper in debt every single month." So they borrow and buy on credit because they have this unspoken assumption that, dammit, the universe will surely right itself at some point and the amount of money we should have been making all along (according to our level of effort) will come raining down.

All of it comes back to having those massively skewed expectations of the world. Even the people you think of as pessimists, they got their pessimism by continually seeing the world fail to live up to their expectations, which only happened because their expectations were grossly inaccurate in the first place.

You know that TV show where Gordon Ramsay tours various failing restaurants and swears at the owners until everything is fine again? Every episode is a great example. They all involve some haggard restaurant owner, a half a million dollars in debt, looking exhausted into the camera and saying, "How can we be losing money? I work 90 hours a week!"

The world demands more. So, so much more. How have we gotten to adulthood and failed to realize this? Why would our expectations of the world be so off? I blame the montages. Five breezy minutes, from sucking at karate to being great at karate, from morbid obesity to trim, from geeky girl to prom queen, from terrible garage band to awesome rock band.

In the real world, the winners of the All Valley Karate Championship in The Karate Kid would be the kids who had been at it since they were in elementary school. The kids who act like douchebags because their parents made them skip video games and days out with their friends and birthday parties so they could practice, practice, practice. And that's just what it takes to get "pretty good" at it. Want to know how long it takes to become an expert at something? About 10,000 hours, according to research.

That's practicing two hours a day, every day, for almost 14 years.

Don't let me act like I'm some kind of guru here, either. I write boner jokes for a living now, but I'm three years removed from looking at the Classifieds and seriously considering making ends meet with night jobs that would have had me cleaning toilets.

I walked out of college at 22 thinking I was going to be king of the world within a few years. Ten years later I had failed at one career, then failed at another, tried to go back to school twice, accumulated $15,000 in credit card debt, and was working at a job where I was one promotion above high school kids.

I felt like I was working myself to death. Year after year. And even then, so many things had to break my way to get what I have now. A company happened to get sold to the right people, a guy happened to quit his job. Another dude died. If those dominoes hadn't fallen in just the right way, instead of Editor of Cracked I'd be behind the counter at Denny's, getting wrestled to the ground by cops because I don't actually work there. Before this happened to come along I had lost hope and lowered my expectations over and over and over and nothing that had happened in my life up to that point prepared me for it. Nobody told me how hard this was going to be.

All I had was fucking Karate Kid.
David Wong is the Senior Editor of and the author of the critically-acclaimed horror novel John Dies at the End, available in hardcover everywhere except the 72 countries in which it has been rightfully banned.