The Limits and Fears We Settle For

This morning on my drive into the office I was listening to a Louise Hay audiobook. The totality of possibilities. She spoke of the many limitations we place on our own lives. The voices we hear that tell us we can’t do something and how silly it is to listen. Thinking back on life, I see all of the limitations I put on my shoulders and actions and realize they were placed there out of fear. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of criticism. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death.

When my wife and I decided it was time to try and have a baby and add to our family I was afraid. For the previous twenty something years of my life before that moment, I swore I’d never have kids. Growing up and living, I saw how children, babies, acted. Needing to be fed, changed, burped, and more. It was insane to think I could ever do that. Insane to think I’d ever want to do that. I thought it was impossible for me to be a good father, able to care for an infant.

Before we decided to have a baby I was working on becoming a fitness trainer. When I began my studies on the human body and movement and fitness, I was afraid. Inside I thought I was stupid. Too dumb to ever read a book, remember what was taught, and not good enough to pass a test. The days leading up to the test were some of the most stressful moments of my life. It’s not like the bar exam or a becoming a doctor, it’s just a CPT test, but the fear of failing was killing me. I passed with a near perfect mark. Certified trainer. Now, it was time to get to work.

For six months after I passed my test I sat in a pile of fear and limitations of impossibilities. Fear and my limiting beliefs told me I wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve the opportunity to help someone get into shape. I sat quietly and dreamed of being a trainer. Applications after applications were sent in to local fitness facilities and they all requested interviews with me. Some called back every single day eager to meet me. Instead, I told myself that I wouldn’t get the job and other trainers already working there would laugh at me. A few months later and I was a business owner with my own training company.

Why do we listen to the powerful and restrictive voice within? We settle for less. Our capabilities are limitless and we stand still and watch the moments of life pass us by. We drink fear for breakfast and become intoxicated by our visions of failure or ridicule. We unconsciously choose to not try and settle for whatever we’re dealt by the mighty rivers of life. Powerful thoughts, negative in nature, cripple our dreams and suffocate our true beliefs. It’s hard to speak the truth. Even today as I write this practice session, I’m afraid of speaking the reality of my thoughts. You’ll judge me. You’ll leave my gym and walk elsewhere because “I weirded you out.” We call esoteric beliefs and possibilities “woo-woo” garbage because we’re afraid of looking within for the truth. The immense power of nature and the universe is so strong we’d rather ignore it and settle for the impossible.

Why do we listen?

Why not stand up and push back and tell the truth?

What do we have to lose?

We’re all in this together.

We’re all going to the grave.

Fitness Classes, Home in Bed, and Other Random Thoughts

After classes this morning at the gym I came home and was able to spend some time in bed with the whole family. My son, six months and a tank, was bouncing back and forth in excitement to see our sleepy, but smiling faces. My daughter, still getting over a nasty cold that crushed our sleep time over the weekend, was kind of happy. The boogers and cough have got her upset. She’ll be fine. My wife, gorgeous as ever, took the day to take care of our daughter’s cold. She’s an amazing person. Great mother, great wife, and awesome therapist. It’s perfect to be able to come home and have that moment before our day gets crazy. Even if it was only for five minutes, it felt like forever and I could hold it until the end of time.

Recently at the gym we’ve been having a fat loss challenge. Thirty days. Winner takes all. The person who loses the highest percentage of their starting weight will take the prize. I’m in this challenge as well. It’s a beat the trainer event and if I lose, fifty dollars is coming out of my pocket. The other challengers, they put in twenty and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort they’ve been making. Watching men and women both work hard at achieving success, to possibly get a hold of the fat cash jackpot, fills me with gratitude, happiness, and appreciation.

After another morning class I stopped to pick up my buddy, Cooper, from my brother’s apartment and headed into the office. The ride over was nothing fancy. A quick trip through farm country and the quiet America that still exists if you look for it. There was a farm with several horses outside eating the grass. They each had on one of those blankets that keep their backs and most of the torso warm. A calming sight as I sped into work.

Cooper is a fine young man of a black lab. He’s mixed with something. “Whatever jumped over the fence that day” said the man at the farm where we adopted him. He’s four now, going on five and has started to get more white on his chin, just below his mouth. He comes to the office almost everyday, with either my brother or myself. He’s like our mascot. During the day while we work away on our computer machines, he sits on a chair and dreams about dog world and chasing deer.

As I sit here and write, I’m listening to some Tibetan bowl meditation music that is keeping my mind centered. Normally I’d be distracted within the first paragraph and stop to think about baseball or rap music or the growth of my gym business. When the music centers me, I feel more in flow with my creative nature and I keep the cursor moving. Practice filling up the screen with stories and let the truth be set free.

Don’t judge the work while the fingers are moving. You have plenty of time afterwards to stop and check for mistakes or to be critical of the words coming from within. Normally, I write with a timer. Ten minutes and then post it up. I don’t care about mistakes. What people say is what they’ll say. I have no control over it and maybe nobody will even read it, but here it is.

The other day I decided to let go of the thought about what others think and I began a novel. I hand wrote in a notebook three pages. The story begins. I’m not in a rush to get it done either. This will be good and will have the finest quality of my writing and may take years. Through that time I’m sure I’ll learn a few things or maybe many. For sure this will influence the outcome. At least it’s started now.

The Ocean of the Ordinary Man

The long dark days are behind us now for the next several months. The sweet sounds of spring come forward and plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers will begin to bloom. The sun will shine high and make the days seem happy. Spring creates summer and summer brings the heat. The rivers flow with voices of children playing and echoes of fishermen’s boats going upstream, far away from the swimmers, the dogs, the ducks, and the party animals. It’s almost time for the drunks to get their boogie on. Fun, exciting, a way to release from the boring and stress filled existence they lead during the week. Suffocate your pain man. Drown your sorrows and denials with a little Captain or Mr. Jack. Don’t stop at one or two either man. Go until you just can’t walk or talk and tomorrow morning, do it again.

We hide our feelings from others. We’re afraid of being weak. We are weak. We are vulnerable. We have problems and pain in our lives. We need a friend, an escape, something to remind us it’s not so bad after all. The stress we keep within manifests as disease or pimples or weak knees. Our ideas and dreams hide from the world. Why tell you my dreams young man? You’ll laugh and I’ll cry. We must avoid that pain. No asshole, we have to harness that beautiful power and create. Create for the good of all and in hopes it benefits another empty soul along for the ride.

Stuck in the game without a way out. We submit to this being the way it is, our destiny. Plain, boring, ordinary, and lonely. We come in this world so full of hopes and inspiration and we leave regretting not trying harder. I can’t let that be my destiny. I will not allow the flow of the river to sweep me into the ocean of the ordinary man. I will save myself from drowning in the comfort zone others seem happy to fulfil. That isn’t the way to leave man. Don’t let the outcomes of others lives be the voice of yours which leads you to the ocean of the ordinary man.

For some time I was lost in the ocean of the ordinary man. Treading water slightly, barely able to stay alive, caught in the stream of boredom and self containment. I found an escape. It wasn’t through the beer cans or Jack Daniel bottles either, man. I saw hope floating by. “Is this really happening man?” “This is my chance to give it one more go, to get out of the ocean of the ordinary man.” And I grabbed ahold of hope and hope took me for a wild ride.

Before we reached the shores of the ocean of the ordinary man, hope said to me “This ain’t going to be easy boy. You sure you want on this ride?” The choice was either a certain death, a zombie existence swimming with the other land sheep, or I could try to see where hope brought me. The world is a funny place and it holds no remorse for the sheepish kind. Don’t get stuck in that ocean. It’s blackness, anxious, boring, and redundant nature is enough to suck your life far away to a place you’ll never find when it sweeps you away. Lift your foot and try. Try to swim to shore and don’t look back. The misery and pain is sad to see but when you take control and responsibility, it’s not your problem. You can only extend your hand to others who’ve had enough.

The Ocean of the Ordinary Man

Unleashing The Creative Mind

We’re all creative beings. Inside each of us is the power to create something, anything. There are endless possibilities of creative power in our head and our heart. Take a 15 year old boy who comes home smelling like alcohol and cigarettes. In the face of danger (being yelled at, grounded, and punished) the young man will find a way to make his story not sound as crazy as his night was. When we need to create something, such as the young man’s story to get out of severe punishment, our mind works in mysterious ways. For many, tapping this creativity is mission, and one that is usually fueled by frustration, anxiety, and criticism from within.

We think too much about the things we want to create instead of allowing the process to unfold. I know quite a few business owners who have a hard time writing blog posts about their gyms, their training, or articles about the industry they’re in. They open wordpress and look at the blank screen and writer’s block sets in. In their mind, they want their work to be great (as it should be) but the process is wrong. Coming out of the starting gate and sprinting as fast as possible in a marathon won’t lead to any good further down the road. The same goes for writing, creating, and making art.

When we set out to make our art, to do our work, we have high expectations and want the product to be finished. And we want it right the first time. Unfortunately for most people I know, this won’t happen that easy. Our work will be lackluster and we may find the frustration so great that we decide to quit instead of pushing through. Creativity is not something that is rushed. Creativity needs failure and until you’re willing to fail, you’ll never get anywhere.

One form of resistance we face when creating is our fear of criticism from others, fear of being judged. This is human nature but with a conscious effort, you can overcome this. Last year I self-published four books. They suck. At least in my inner critical views, but the point is, I did the work and let it go. While I was putting those books together I knew it was not even half of what my best work contains, but I also knew I had no choice but to produce them. Thoughts of judgement from others, poor reviews online, and other non productive ideas raced through my mind. The key to getting the work done was to simply just do it. No matter what the outcome was or is, just take the idea and do the work. If you fail, you fail. You’ll learn something that will help you become a success on the next project or idea. To withhold your art out of fear of being judged or failing is more failure than doing the work and having it crash and burn. At least you did something.

To unleash the creative mind you must release your self resistance and allow the true self to shine. This is never easy but it’s something that is helped by one thing we don’t like to do. Practice. If you were a high school football player, you’d be expected to practice football right? Especially if you ever had hopes of going to the next level. So you practice with and without the team. Most likely year long. A drummer in a band doesn’t go on stage with the others to perform new songs he’s never heard before. He practices. This practice of practice is something business owners do not want to consider. They’re too busy being too busy and instead just wish a 1000 word viral post was created in the flick of a switch.

The good news is, it doesn’t work that way and that is what cuts out the weekend warriors from the true professionals. If you’re not writing everyday, even if it’s just ten minutes, you’re fooling yourself and leaving potential on the keyboard. You will never break into the full potential of your creative mind.

If you want to expand your creativity and let the ideas that float around in your mind come forward there are some simple things you can do. Here are five ways to unleash the creative mind.

1. If you want to write blog posts or emails for your self or business, Write Everyday.

Ten minutes at a time. Grab a sheet of paper, a word document, a draft on wordpress and set a timer for ten minutes. Now, put your fingers to work and do not stop until the timer rings. It doesn’t matter what you write about, just let it flow. If you don’t know how to start, write about not knowing how to start. For example:

“I’m sitting here at my desk, slouched over like a fool, wearing a black t-shirt trying to write for ten minutes about something that is relevant to what is in my mind. Nothing is coming. I’m bored. I want to quit….”

That is how you unleash the creative mind, but keep in mind, half the time when you practice, it’s just practice. Nothing might come of it but what you’re doing is breaking the resistance and the act of writing trains your mind for the future.

The same goes for painting or other art forms as well. You won’t ever be good if you don’t just try and practice.

2. Use Post-Its Notes To Find Brilliant Ideas

Grab some post it notes and write on those notes what you want, why you want it, and what you can do to help make it happen. The mind will begin to work and ideas will come. This is another form of practice but it’s a brainstorming session that will open the doorway to successful art.

3. Exercise to release energy and open your mind

If you want to get the mind working creatively, exercise is a simple practice to break through the barriers of perceived blocks. Some people I know wake up in the morning and begin writing or doing their art. This is okay for some but others it just doesn’t work. One way to get around that is by exercising before you sit down to work.

4. Do Something Creative Not Related to Your Work

A lot of writers break through creatively when they paint. Musicians might find inspiration from playing a game of basketball or watching a movie on a Tuesday afternoon, alone. Painters might get inspiration for a piece of work by taking a cooking class. Strength Coaches can get creative with their training by using forms of exercise from a variety of specialties like Strongman, Yoga, and Gymnastics. Plan a time in your schedule where you can get creative in something not related to your work. There are several books that can help this as well such as: Wreck This Journal or Creativity Workout

5. Meditate and/or other forms of relaxation

How can you expect to sit down and create something great if you’re stressed out, wired from the day, or exhausted of your energy? A great way to let the mind open and help you unleash your creativity is to relax. Meditation is a great way to search within and unwind. Floatation is another form of relaxation that can help you search the depths of your mind for creative ideas. One of the best things you can do is simply sit and think. Many of the worlds most successful leaders, visionaries, and artists have contributed much of their work to sitting practice. They simply find a quiet spot and do nothing but think to themselves. Imagine if you removed a lot of stress and fuss from your life momentarily and sat still. You’d run through the mind with ease and unleash it’s creative power. Doing this daily is even more powerful.

You won’t get creative and create good things, come up with good ideas, and get beyond your fear of failure or judgement unless you take action and put in the time. The mind is not working for you creatively at the drop of a dime. It takes work to open the gates and we are all capable of being creative people. We all have million dollar ideas or life changing plans that can alter the world. It’s the people who stand up and say “I have something to say” (quoting Seth Godin at our meeting a few weeks ago) that make things happen.

Take ten minutes right now and do something to unleash the creative mind. GO!

The Meeting With Seth Godin

Thursday morning in Hastings on the Hudson, New York, a group of awesome strength coaches and businesses owners met with the best-selling author of Purple Cow, Linchpin, Tribes, and more, Seth Godin. As the snow started to fall we stood outside what looked like an apartment building on Main Street. Right on time, Seth came downstairs to greet us at the door and walk us in. We rode the elevator up to a hallway with a few studio apartments. He turned this one apartment into his office and it was majestic.

As we walked into his office, he offered us gluten-free muffins and pastries homemade by his wife for her bakery a few blocks down the road. There was tea, espresso, and coffee for the taking as well.  In the middle of the office there was a big table with huge wooden planks on each side, imperfect in their perfect natural state, with the middle being desk material. The table had to extend 16 feet. It was surrounded by orange and purple swivel chairs. Comfortably, easy-going, and not too fancy. On the back wall looking over the table was a giant Barack Obama picture. This one to be exact.

I put my bag down, grabbed my seat and began looking around the room. In one corner there was a linchpin table lamp and on the walls were quotes of his work, framed with a cartoon comic like to them. The view out the windows that made up one of the back walls was great. A ridge in the distance with older buildings snow-capped and perfectly placed. On the ledge behind me was a brick enclosed in a glass case like it was a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball. I have no idea what it was. It just said “Coldbrick”.

Winnie (or Winny) one of his employees sat at the table with us and mentioned a blog contest they were running where the received over 4000 posts in 30 days. Seth Godin’s desk seemed to be a stand up desk. He stood behind his computer working while we waited for the other guys coming who got lost. Throughout the entire office there were books everywhere. Do the work by Steven Pressfield, Purple Cow, and his giant 18 pound book that he created through Kickstarter titled “This Might Not Work.” He spoke about how he made that book while never meeting his editor, the designer, and the printers.

Now into the meeting.

Seth Godin led the meeting with a great story about the first female millionaire in the United States. Her mansion a few miles up the road. Madame CJ Walker. She decided to take her turn and do the work she felt deeply about and created a very successful line of hair products. Today, we have a better chance of taking our turn and making something very special. He said that now it’s like this, “I would like to say something.” and throughout the world there are people who are willing to stop and say “I’ll listen.”

We’re only limited by our guts. The work we do, the people we reach, the lives we change is only limited by what we’re willing to do. Being inside this office made my creative nerd inside go wild. I wanted to stop and write about everything I saw. The amazing feeling of being in this open area with such a driven person made the muse go crazy. He made a roll of brown paper that you’d normally see at a gift wrapping station hanging from the wall and even though I knew what it was for, I had to ask. It is the perfect thing to write notes on, tear off, and take with you. Brilliant.

As he got into our questions he said the most important thing for our business success is doing work that matters and if we weren’t sure it matters to ask ourselves this question: “Would they miss me if I was gone?”

In our line of work as strength coaches and gym owners, we’re doing work that matters. Each guy in the group is passionate about changing and saving lives while helping people become stronger and happier. Our work matters.

Seth Godin is a true professional. A knowledgeable marketer and a brilliant man when it comes to the vision of creating a culture and “movement” based on our passion. He said “If you can’t control it, dance with it.” as he spoke about fear. When we have a fear it’s a false belief that we think might happen and he said not to deny it. Embrace it or don’t do it.

When someone asked a question about writing, writer’s block, and finding the creativity to write he said something that I’ve been learning for the past few months as I’ve read many writing books from authors like Natalie Goldberg and Anne Lamott. He said “Speaking (as in the act of talking to anyone) is not a challenge for most people . We know how to do it. Writing is just writing what you’re going to say.” If you have something to say, and we all do, just write it as if you’re talking to your wife or best friend. We’re all in the storytelling business and nobody will ever know what we have to say unless we let it out there, everyday. It took Seth four years to get over 100 readers on his blog. A long time but he never quit. It’s good to see that as I’ve been blogging for over three years and I’m not sure if even my mother or father read this stuff.

I’ll leave this with a few tips he went over at the end.

- Writing will make you a better person.

- Write everyday and don’t worry about what. Just write.

- Be worth talking about.

- Show up and Be Focused.

- Do it everyday.

- Ask “What did the people I teach, teach others?”

I am very happy at this possible once in a lifetime experience and I will forever remember the day and the business, marketing, writing, and life advice Seth Godin gave our group. I want to thank him and his staff for their hospitality and time. I look forward to getting better through the lessons we were all taught.

Check out his new book “What to do when it’s your turn and it’s always your turn” HERE

A Change For The Better

A goal I brought forward with me in 2015 is “No expectations”. Over the past year the battle between reality and my ego created a brutal war to my energy, my happiness, and my success. Most of 2014 was spent chasing the expectations I had for my business and personal growth, and when things didn’t go as planned, I freaked. I wanted to make the most of 2015 and continue the increasing happiness I was experiencing at the end of the year. Therefore, I said “Two things that I will live by in 2015, this is the year of “no” and no expectations.”.

The past few weeks have been a little crazy and I’m glad I put my expectations to the side for now. I’ve spent more time with my children during this time than at any previous point in time. In a way, I’m sort of a stay at home dad. I’ve brought my children to the gym with me and even had my daughter root me on with “Yay Daddy” as I did some lunge jumps and pull-ups. Most of my work and goals have been put on the shelf for now as I’ve come to terms with the truth that being a good father is more important than anything else.

Two of my last group coaching calls were done on mute as I changed dirty diapers and hung out with my kids. The speed I normally get through books has slowed to about half the pace. I no longer come home from work and dive into hours of more work or self improvement. Letting go of all expectations has freed up my mind and released as much stress as an hour float session.

Saying no feels pretty good as well. I’ve been a people pleaser for a long time. Doing things that caused me to feel stress and subtracted my free time was normal. I put others before myself and my family, but so far in 2015, the “no” is proving powerful.

Truthfully, I’m not sure what has sparked this change in my attitude, feelings, emotions, and lightness. One day, recently, I woke up and felt like I was back. As if I was drifting unconsciously, but consciously, through time in another world. It feels like I was here, writing, doing the gym, being a husband and father but it also feels like it wasn’t the real me. Almost felt like I was faking many parts of my life or so wrapped up in expectations and disappoint that I failed to be truly present. This new found moment is bringing many great changes to my life already. I’m eating cleaner, I’m sleeping better, I’m training harder, and I’m writing more.

I’m doing it all with no expectations and it feels amazing. But, it isn’t easy. Just this morning I experienced the letdown of having an expectation. For a moment I let my emotions and feelings, my ego, become more present than my awareness of self. I showed anger, frustration, and disappointment. It wasn’t long before I realized I was wrong and my expectation of the desire within was selfish. The path won’t be easy and already the roadblocks are falling into place, but being aware of them and taking corrective measures, I am sure I can tackle this goal.

Confessions of A Dad Doing It All Wrong

I sucked as a father. I sucked as a husband. For way too long.

That could be me just talking to the extreme, but the truth is, I have not been a good man and I’ve been a horrible father. The problem? Work has always come first. My family, nearly last. Since I’ve been married to my awesome wife, I haven’t been present. Checked out of life and stuck in a run around Groundhog Day cycle of trying to survive. This is something you won’t hear many men admit, but the fact is, I sucked at being a good husband and role model father to my kids.

Recently, I noticed that it’s not that hard. Why did I fail for so many years? Consciously, my mind was pre-occupied with making money, paying bills, working out, growing a business, and my own personal growth. I built my life around my business. It came first. Putting my passions and work before my family made me a horrible dad and selfish husband.

I failed the expectations of my wife and our life together. Every day was about how I’d make money and not how I’d show my wife I love her. Every day was about what business task needed to be done and not what my daughter wanted and needed from me, her prince charming. It’s a shame I didn’t realize this. As busy men, we get caught up in the chase for money easily. It’s our nature. Our fathers did it and their fathers did the same. How we’re going to earn more money is the first thing we think when our wife says “I’m pregnant.”

Over the weekend I came across a blog post a friend shared on Facebook. I don’t remember what it was about but the site has caught my eye. This site named ScaryMommy.com is full of useful posts for moms and a big fountain of pyshcologial information about what goes on in the minds of women of all ages. After a few minutes, I was shocked at what I read. I never realized how many young women desperately seek attention, love, and help from their “checked out” “dear husbands”. I also did not realize how my wife needs me in the same way. Nobody taught me this growing up. Leave it to angry 35 year old SAHMs (I guess this means stay at home moms) to teach me.

Naturally intrigued, I spent an hour reading some of their “confessions”. I’ve never seen a more raw in depth look into the minds of women then I have read in their confessional portal. On the site, there is a section where anyone can anonymously write a “confession”, and they blew me away. It was then I noticed I have been absent or mentally checked out from my family life for way too long. I failed at my biggest responsibility, my biggest task, my true purpose.

There was a time when every day I would write my wife a love letter, note, email, or poem and there was a time when I would say “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” I made the mistake of putting my family last and now I stand here with a goal in mind to reverse the wrong.

I remember the nights with my daughter when she was under a year old. She would wake up in the middle of the night and I would simply say to my wife, “You do it”, and roll over back to sleep because being “rested” when getting up at 4am to coach my classes was more important than helping my daughter, and I never considered how my wife felt. I remember the nights when I would come home at 8pm after my last training session of the day, selfishly make myself dinner without asking my wife if she ate, jump on the computer to write a stupid blog post, and then like a dickhead, walk right into my bedroom and go to sleep. No interaction with my family. Remember, they came last. Coaching was the only thing that mattered. I let my concern for whether Stacey or Dave lost 20 pounds become more important than what my wife and kids needed from me at home.

When I would go to seminars or mastermind meetings, I’d be gone for two or three days. What would we do with the kids? Not my problem. “You take care of it.”

The crazy thing is, I never stopped to think about this stuff. I never put myself in my wife’s shoes. It never came to my top of mind awareness that maybe I was f***ing up, bad. I thought my daddy daughter day once a week was “enough” to make everyone happy. “I stay home one day a week, I’m a good dad.”

You probably think I’m a jerk by now, and I was, just know that I am not alone. There are other fathers out there right now, maybe some reading this, that are dropping the ball and acting like a child. Dads everywhere are sneaking in ten or twenty minutes a day with their families, thinking it’s all good. Dads everywhere are leaving the house at four or five in the morning and not finishing work and arriving home until their babies are sleeping, thinking it’s all good. Moms everywhere are turning to drinks, pills, scarymommy.com, or other men (and women).

As men, we’re wired differently and we have a laser focus that ties in with our ego. We work hard to make money, grow through self improvement, get recognition, and live our best lives. The problem is, we forget about what really matters. Sure, we do what we have to do to put food on the table, secure shelter, and make sure our families have clothes, but when we jump the gun into marriage and plan our future, we never think about the long hours away from our brides and our adorable but insane children.

I’m just grateful I’m right where I need to be. With the three most important people in the world.

How to Write Without Always Making List Posts

writer1

Each day the inbox fills with several emails from people I’ve subscribed to. There are the fitness coaches who send in emails about fat loss or strength training, tweaked slightly to make it seem new and exciting. A few emails come from internet marketers who I subscribed to as a way to learn how to better promote myself because one day, I hope to make enough money that I can disappear off the face of the map. Then there are the life coaches, motivational training coaches, and writing coaches who send, actually I don’t know what they send. Most of the time, I delete the entirety of the emails sent to me each morning. Rarely does a subject line capture my attention in which I have no other choice but to open it and see just what the wind blew in.

As someone who enjoys the craft of writing, I spend a great deal of my free time trying to get better. Each day I practice this art and write stories about Fred the Pot Smoking Cat or my dog Cooper, or fat loss, or writing, or the muse being on vacation smoking cuban cigars with a cocktail, garnished with a lemon or orange, sometimes a mint leaf. Other days I write stories and blog posts about motivation and how to not be a quitter in life. Some of the most read writings of mine are about how I used to be homeless and what I did to climb out of rock bottom, to become a normal person just chasing the dream. I also enjoy writing stories of my experiences in the float tanks.

Every day I embrace my love for reading and writing and I do enjoy following those people who I subscribe to. The only thing is, most people resort to list posts and it’s driving me nuts. I get it though. Writing is torture. There are moments when we want to sit down and express ourselves in a way that makes you, the reader, interested in what we’re writing about, but words just don’t come out. We sit in front of the screen scratching our heads, wondering where the muse went, if he was still on vacation, and when we’ll get an idea worth sharing. The easiest thing to do is write a blog post or email that is a list. 10 Reasons Why You Need A Vacation. 5 Ways Floating Changed My Life. 1600 Ways to Make a Woman Love You.

I see very popular blog sites that share almost exclusively list posts. It’s quite pathetic actually. It’s the easy way out of doing a hard thing. I’m not saying these posts are bad or that we shouldn’t write them (they are an essential part of writing practice), but there has to come a time when you put your skills to work and write like you mean it. If I wanted to, and I have, I could write out a blog post everyday with a new list..

6 Ways to Open a Fitness Center.

100 Ways to Kick Ass and Live Happy.

36 Things You Don’t Know About Baseball.

55 Things To Do on Vacation.

They’re so easy that when we succumb to “writer’s block” or for better words, a lack of preparation, practice, and skill, we can throw a list post together in 10 minutes. Our hungry for more, fast paced, ADHD society sucks that content up and shares it faster than you post it because it’s easy to skim through and get a nugget of helpful info (usually which is forgotten about 72 seconds later). But, you’re not making yourself better.

When I look back through this blog, I see the list posts I’ve created and I understand why I did them. They were written at points in time where I wasn’t practicing, I was rushing, I was dealing with “writer’s block”, and just felt like getting content out into cyberspace. Those posts are not the posts that improve my writing or mindset. Posts like What I am Afraid Of or Summer Air are posts that help me get better at writing. Stories, ideas, dreams turned into words on the screen. That is what makes you better.

Writing is a brutal art that many people think is easy. It never was. Practice is needed just like practice is needed for Tom Brady to throw several touchdown passes a week. Taking time out of your busy schedule to write about nothing, or maybe the room you sit in, or the cat named Fred who sits in your house and eats all of your Chips Ahoy cookies, is needed for improvement of writing skill. Reading books on the craft of writing by people like William Zinsser or Natalie Goldberg are important to your creative process as well. By simply resorting to list posts on your blog or website you fail to show your true skill and purpose of writing (and while they might go viral, you, the author, is forgotten quickly). More and more people who claim to be writer’s or who love writing are not putting in the effort needed to be magnificent, and neither am I.

I’m not saying that list posts are bad, in fact, they have benefits, but to improve your skills as a writer you need to get deeper inside of who you are and why you want to write. Getting paid as a writer will happen through list posts, but to be memorable and honorable, it might be time to share stories that move people, that motivate people, that entice people to want more. Sure more people will be interested in reading posts that have headlines like “23 Ways to Jumpstart Your Fat Loss” but their real attention won’t be present.

Begin your writing session by taking ten minutes to simply let yourself go. Be free from ideas or agendas. Write about your sore legs or the weather outside. Write about your workout, your daily routine at work, the commute home from a long day, or even your life goals. This is practice and the using a timed writing practice will get the mind working creatively. That is what you want. You want your creative expression to come to life. You want your ideas to begin to pour out in the screen or pad and it takes some time to get the process rolling. One day you might practice for the ten minutes and have nothing left. So be it. Move on. One day you might start the ten minutes and within two you have a brilliant idea with something worth sharing. So be it. Grab that idea and let it flow. So many people have told us content is king, and it is, but rushed content or content lacking a true purpose is wasteful. Of the 400 or 500 blog posts I wrote, I’d take back more than half as they’re rushed lists with no purpose other than a click to my website. True art can never be rushed. True art takes work. Practice makes perfect.

Why Fred is an Important Part of the Creative Process

I hate being in the position where it’s hard to find the words to write to make people understand, maybe teach them something important, or just to clear the clutter of the abundant thought filled mind. Sometimes the words decide to hide behind fears of being laughed at or afraid of the hard work it takes to actually write well. Practice though and you will get around it.

So here’s a quick practice that I have all intentions of publishing, posting, and promoting. Why? Why not? Do people really care whether it’s practice or a legit blog post? Will they ever know? Hey man, maybe it can help someone down the line. Who knows what the 452nd word is going to be or where I’m even going with this.

When I want to practice, I write about Fred. One day Fred is going to make me a lot of money. Our adventures together are crazy insane, or maybe insane crazy. Fred and I are kind of sidekick partners like Batman and Robin. Except I don’t use myself in the stories I write while practicing. Fred’s friend, supposedly me, is named Tim.

Fred is also a fat cat.

Most of the time, when Fred and I are wandering about in adventure land, he’s high off of catnip. A lot of those practice posts are wild, odd, and completely pointless, but they get the creative juices flowing. Also, sometimes those practices do not get my writing creativity flowing, but instead, they get business or home creativity to new levels.

Using being stuck as an excuse to not get work done does no good for your future, career, or happiness. Stuck is nothing but a mindset of laziness, fear, or something else that doesn’t show you the truth. When I get stuck, I don’t stay stuck. I accept that I can’t get to where I want because of something, probably lack of planning or knowing my desired end result, and get to work. Drafts are awesome because they allow you to explore your mind beyond a “stuck mindset”.

See, while writing this I started writing about Fred and our adventures on paper, in cartoon-ish fashion, and then I went into being stuck. But it shows me that Fred is something I can’t just allow to be practice or that maybe Fred acts as a muse. Whenever you’re feeling like your message is “stuck” or you’re mind is empty of creative thoughts, just sit down and find your Fred. Write about a time when you and your Fred went to the local mall and slept on every bench with a hat and sign that read “Wasted and Pretty” and tallied up a couple hundred bucks in “poor me” money. Maybe Fred can climb inside to your deep subconscious and pull some weird, hidden, or suppressed thoughts out of your mind that bring you fortune, good luck, and abundant creativity. Simply let go and allow the path to unwind in real time. And the 452nd word was “me”.

My Up Close and Personal Conversation With My Inner Self

I wrote this post back in January and for whatever reason I never posted it, or finished it, but here’s the up close and personal conversation I had with my inner self after a float in the isolation tank. 

“There’s something you’re not seeing Mike.” Said my Inner Self as I was looking out into the forest behind my house through a small crack in the blinds that were fully extended and shut. Why was I standing there holding the blinds open with my thumb and index finger instead of just simply opening them?

For most of my life I’ve been a daydreamer. My mind would wander through space and entire conversations unheard because of the distraction of something more meaningful, but what? Now, after a couple months of forced relaxation and self education I can see my inner self was trying to talk to me for over 20 years.

Some people call the inner self their soul or “listening to their heart” and to me, it is the soul or “spirit” and it is a separate entity entirely from our humanoid body just hitching a ride through evolution. We have two self’s, the Ego self and the True (inner) self and for most of our waking lives, they are in constant battle of our attention and control.

My inner self has not been strong enough to fight the ego, it’s a battle I still fight today.

What I was not seeing, as the inner spirit told me through feelings and deep emotions, was there is more to life beyond the status quo and conformity we find ourselves in and much of the anger I hold on to and tension is the result of “doing” more than “being”. Listening to the “way it’s supposed to be” has done nothing for my happiness and evolution of self. When “they” said “Do this or Do That.” they were talking from the ego’s point of view, which in a way may not be a bad thing as it protects us and keeps us alive,  but they didn’t take the inner true self into consideration.

We’re exhausted from overwork and stressed from over-consumption and we lack a true deep happiness and satisfaction for our lives. We have the case of “never enough” and “must have MORE” instead of a state of mind that is content with what we have and that is not talking about material possessions. We have a power inside of us that is infinite and limitless but we refuse to accept it or lose against the ego in the battle for control.

My up close and personal conversation with my inner self went something like this:

“There’s something you’re not seeing Mike.” said a feeling that originated deep within the heart. Most people fail to recognize the heart chakra is the entrance through of etheric field which brings us emotions and feelings. That is why we really feel things below our chest and above the belly button.

“What am I not seeing? I know there’s something more, but what?” I said, but I got no response. Just a clutter of thoughts and an annoying itch behind my leg.

Two weeks would go by until my second experience in the flotation tank came around and it was here and then that the inner self would shed light to the reasons behind why I was not content with life, what to do about it, and how to accept the moment.

As I showered, before I sat in the tank, to rid the body of oils and any dirt or dust I may have been carrying around, the feelings of contentment and control became sort of overwhelming and my body began to shake like I was about to go to a new school at the age of 10 in front of people I never met.

Once the tank door closed behind me and I let the body go in a free float the need for a mighty gasp of air took control of my body and everything that was happening in the world around me left my body in an instant.

“What am I going to do with my life? Why am I not happy with all I have?” I asked as a slight sweat appeared from the brow.

At this time in my life I have much of everything I ever could have imagined. Activate Fitness is doing well, I’m married with a beautiful daughter, my son will be here soon, and our life is truly comfortable, but I wasn’t. Why?

As I laid in the tank and drifted into a deep trance, which I mistook for deep sleep at first, all I could feel were thoughts of letting everything go, but letting what go? If you could imagine yourself flying through the inner workings of a fiber optic system or inside the veins of the body as blood cells you can picture what was happening as I floated in the tank and searched for answers. One thought and picture after the other at speeds so fast it would take nearly 3 weeks to figure out what they meant.

Letting go of everything finally came to light when I realized it meant letting go of what I desired through my ego. A nice salary, vacation homes, swimming pools, business programs and much more that really had nothing to do with who I really am. Part of who I am and what I want to bring to the help others was being suppressed and held back against an intense amount of pressure to let free and now I’m releasing it. Helping people through fitness is a blessing I hold true and dearly close to my heart, the passion for it is there and burning bright, but there is more of that help, a different level beyond burpees and push ups, and it was being forced shut by fear, resistance and the ego and my anger was getting the most of my life causing much unneeded pain.