Writing Down What You’re Grateful For

Being home with my kids each day is a mental challenge for me. Recently it feels like they have sucked the life energy out of me and left me for dead. Naturally I want to throw the towel in when they misbehave and when they drain me of my life force, but that is too easy. What would that teach them? What good would come if they see their father as the quitter, the push over, the exhausted parent who lets them get their way? Being a dad is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My patience is short and my anger is tested each day. I try my hardest to not yell when something happens that shouldn’t have and in the recent months it’s greatly improved.

Each morning I started talking to my kids about gratitude. I ask them each what they are grateful for today and it’s been fun to hear them say Daddy most of the time, or Nana or Pop-pop or Mommy. For awhile I got away from writing down my three things each day that I’m grateful for but recently started to again after hearing Cornell Thomas speak. This simple practice is amazing. Nobody knows what is behind the energy that it brings but there are many lessons to be learned as you do it each day.

It’s hard to be upset, angry, and down when you search for what you’re grateful for. You’ll think of things like- my family, my eye sight, my job, the roof over my head. The little things we take for granted like the roof over our head or the clean water we can bathe in and easily heat or the gasoline in our cars all make a major difference to the ease of our life. Millions of people around the world do not have half the luxury that we do in the United States. What we take for granted, millions of people would, and probably have, killed for. When we wake up pissed off that our life is out of whack, we forget about the little things that truly matter. When you write them down in a gratitude journal, it helps you realize it and keep the thought in the top of your mind awareness.

Start today. Try writing down three things each morning and/or each night that you’re grateful. Do it with no expectations. If you expect something to happen like magic, you’ll be let down. Do it with love and with the full expression of the goodness inside of you.

From Nothing to Something: Going from Rock Bottom to Living Activated

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If we go back just ten years ago my life was very different from what it is now. Ten years ago I was hiding from the world around me. I literally was hiding from the law over a traffic violation that I failed to pay, which led to a warrant. I was young and afraid. The real world in front of me was a scary place and I had no clue how to deal with it and make it in a world of sharks and lions. I was terrified of trying and therefore, I hid. Unfortunately this did nothing good for my life and I ended up being homeless. At one point I delightfully gave up all of my possessions and moved forward with the clothes on my back and maybe ten other items.

Drifting through life with no plan was the order of the day and most of the time I was under the influence. Much of my time was spent like a hermit. I hardly went out, I had few friends, I didn’t care for my appearance or health, and I was broke. For awhile I was coasting through a shitty job as a lighting salesman slash stock boy slash driver slash cleaner. The job actually wasn’t shitty, but I would have rather been partying with my friends hiding from people. But I did what I had to do. Once I lost that job because of my lack of caring about anything, I was broke. I couldn’t afford food, I couldn’t afford car or health insurance, and I couldn’t afford a place to live. A few months was spent squatting in my Grandmother’s house that was for sale. I stayed until the last possible day. The heat was turned off and I slept on the hard floor with a sleeping bag I had from my days camping.

Once I was forced to leave because the sale of the home was finalized, I had nowhere to go. Twelve or so days was spent hanging out at my friend’s house on his recliner. His parents had no idea I was sleeping there. Once they found out, I was toast. A few nights were spent sleeping under a bridge and I came to a point of life or death. Do I march forward or quit like a whiny ass punk? Luckily I decided to move forward and caught a break when my Aunt allowed me to stay in her home.

Within a few days I got a job as a landscaper, doing mostly hardscaping work. Which for those who don’t know is the construction of paver patios, walkways, retaining walls, and such. It was hard work but looking back now, I miss it. Being outside in the hot sun working your ass off, sweating like a pig, lifting heavy objects for ten or twelve hours a day was brutal, but it built character and I never felt better. I was doing exactly what our biological DNA is built for. Working with your hands and heavy objects and the weather around you is good for the soul. Sure it sucked when it was a hundred degrees, but the ice cold beer and steak dinner afterwards always sat nice.

About a year of doing this while pretending I was a licensed driver, it was suspended because I failed to appear in court, it was time to face reality. I couldn’t keeping hiding and had to address the law. Thankfully, it was silly and the prosecutor actually laughed about it. My warrant was dismissed and I received a fifty or sixty dollar fine. That was a brutal lesson on why it’s important to get the job done right away and to face my unrealistic and blown out of proportion fears.

Once I got my license back and a car I started working for my mother. For quite awhile I enjoyed the air conditioning, the heat, the convenience of a kitchen and bathroom, and sitting by a computer. That quickly changed when I realized my primal nature was to be active and not sitting all day. I started to get a little stir crazy, even though I wouldn’t accept to believe it.

During my time as a medical biller I met my now wife and we quickly hit it off, got married, and bought a house. All while I wasn’t ready for any of it. Coming from what I went through in the previous years before meeting her, I wasn’t ready to be the man of the house, let alone have a house. But like the day I left my Grandmother’s house to become homeless, I rolled with it and went to work. As life as a new homeowner and married man unfolded I began to realize I wasn’t happy about my work. I didn’t want to be there but knew I had to be. I also knew there was more in store for me and more I can share with others, I had to figure it out.

So I spent most of the first year as a newly wed new homeowner working on becoming a personal trainer. I wanted to help people get in shape. For the past two years I was working out and lost about sixty pounds of fat. I thought I knew what I was doing and wanted a way out of the office and into a world of my “own thing” being my own boss.

Here’s the thing about training and having my own business… I knew nothing. I thought I knew everything but I quickly became aware of the fact that I was in for a big surprise. Through my focused efforts and intense studying I received my personal trainers certification and then promptly hid the fact, out of foolish fear, that I was a trainer. For several months I did nothing about. Finally after some pep talking from my wife, I decided to give it a go and offered my services as a personal trainer for free.

Now this was about five years ago from today. When I first started Activate Fitness, I was scared shitless. I was afraid of the other trainers in town, I was afraid of internet trainers, I was afraid I didn’t have the skills and knowledge to get the job done right. I was afraid of gym owners in a twenty mile radius. I absolutely did not want to take action on my dream. I was frozen in place and had zero dollars to make something from nothing.

But I said FUCK THAT and ultimately took control of my life and destiny and decided to do it anyway. Starting out training others for free or for five dollars is how I had to get things going. It took years for me to finally be able to open my own gym and when I did, I was just as broke as I was when I started. My wife was pregnant and we had no money to lose but we took the risk and I threw myself in the middle of the street, ready to help people change their lives.

I stood there in the arena and took my bumps and my bruises and kept coming back fighting. I failed hundreds of times during my years of owning Activate Fitness. I worked through competition opening all over the place and kept my vision pointed straight ahead, success or die. There is no room for failure. It’s do it or lose it. Mornings came when I said Fuck it and wanted to quit. I waited patiently and silently begging for my wife to throw in the towel on my dream and bring me back to safety. I cried because of the stress of dealing with others. I cried because the numbers weren’t good. I cried because I missed precious time with my family and neglected them, especially my wife, for years.

They can stab me with their sword and dare to declare victory but with courage and hope I won’t stop. I choose to live my life activated. I choose to live awake and alive. I choose to be the one in control and refuse to let others control my life, my way of being, my destiny. I stand here today a man who has seen rock bottom but a man who also braved battle and decided winning was the only option. I refuse to lose. I will not lose.

You can choose to live life activated.

You can choose to take control of your life.

You can choose to chase your dreams and gear up for the war you’ll definitely face.

You can choose to wake up and live awake and alive.

Will you?

Join us here for support and accountability in your journey to living your best life: Your Life Activated

The Hardest Parts of Being Dad

When my wife first got pregnant over four years ago I knew I wasn’t ready to be a Dad. I hardly ever spent time with little kids and my patience for anything in life was a thin sheet of ice. There wasn’t one part of how to take care of a child that I knew. We went to the local Barnes and Noble one day and I bought several books on being a dad and on what to expect when my wife was pregnant. I probably read a chapter of one book and never picked it up again. Going in as a rookie was going to have to work.

Now, I stay home with my munchkins every day and bring them to the gym with me when I have to go workout and train classes. I can tackle any task involved with caring for my children. Each day is a new adventure and it’s surprising how much I learn from my children. Watching them is like sitting down to catch an old school Animal Planet show where the narrator gives a play by play of the lion stalking the gazelle. They certainly are interesting creatures.

But it’s not all fun and games. There are some hard things about being a dad that get to me and as is for any parent anywhere in the world, it’s exhausting. I feel I’m in the position of being home with them every day as a spiritual lesson on how to be a better human being. It’s part of my life experience to be there for them and teach them how to live. But often, I just want to escape.

It’s not easy being dad, or mom. One of the hardest parts is understanding the simple fact that my children are exactly that, children. They’re going to do crazy things. They’re going to destroy my rug, slime up my chairs, throw things, break things, climb things, and turn everything upside down. There will be long nights of screaming kids fighting to not go to sleep. There will be battles at the dinner table when my daughter doesn’t eat her carrots or when my son won’t keep his filthy feet off the table top. Keeping composure is tough. We want to scream and yell to release some of the tension their behavior creates, the hard part is being calm.

One of the toughest challenges of my life has without a doubt been the fight of exhaustion. As an introvert who thrives on alone time and regains mental clarity and energy during that time, being with kids every day drains me completely, by ten o’clock in the morning. It wouldn’t be fair to not say this, but without a quick nap when they nap, I’d probably operate like a Walking Dead zombie. When my kids drain my mental energy it’s easy for me to lose control of my work, my purpose, and my attitude. “I don’t give a fuck” has been a statement I’ve declared many times in the last three years, because quite frankly, when I’m exhausted I honestly do not give a flying fugazi.

Caring for them when they don’t feel well, finding them another option when they don’t want pork, trying to contain them in the play gate at the gym during class, and having an adult conversation in their presence sucks the life out of me. But before I know it, they’ll be in school and gone all the time. They’ll be going to wrestling practice or jiu jitsu class. They’ll be sleeping over friend’s houses and partyting until the sun comes up. They’ll be asking for gas money and looking at colleges.

The hardest part of being dad is that knowing one day, they won’t be hanging on my shoulders and spilling my water on my computer and paperwork. For now, I need to enjoy the moment.

In the Gym With The Little Ones

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I love watching my kids at the gym. Today as I was working on my Sumo Deadlifts I glanced at my daughter as she set up a few two and a half pound plates, perfectly in line on the mat she chose to lay on. She began lifting them up and down, much like I would do a floor press with dumbbells. Most likely she picked this up by watching either me or the members at the gym. My son was running around touching everything. Climbing up the elliptical and hanging off of the TRX straps. He walked over to the kettlebell section and tried, unsuccessfully, to lift the fifteen pound kettlebell. He does however usually walk around with the ten.

At the gym, when it’s just me doing my thing, my kids run free and explore this awesome place in their eyes. In one corner there are tires, a one of them is the car tire from my wife’s old car. She got a flat and instead of letting the repair shop keep it and throw it away, I kept it and my daughter flips it. The other corner has medicine balls that my kids pretend at times are Atlas stones. If you ever watched the World’s Strongest Man contest on ESPN, the atlas stones are those big concrete balls that the lifters pick up and place on a platform. Some days the medicine balls are used as soccer balls.

My kids are always watching me when I am working out. They see me do pull-ups and they laugh hysterically. I wonder what they think is funny. Exercising in front of the kids will hopefully develop in their minds the desire for them to exercise, to live a healthy lifestyle. They see Daddy do. There’s no talking about some day, one day, maybe, or I wish.. it’s action and they see it.

There is a lot of things a young child can do to start to develop fitness. One thing parents can do too, which is very hard to accept, is to allow their children to crawl as long as possible and NOT push for them to become walkers fast. It’s not a sign of baby genius or being advanced. Crawling is important for core strength and the strength children develop crawling will carry over into the rest of their adult life.

My daughter is four. She lifts medicine balls, pulls sleds, lifts kettlebells, does bear crawling and crab walks, and carries two to five pound weights around the gym. She does everything we should be doing. The basics. And she loves it.

Most important is the fact that my children see me working on improving my strength and my body and my mind. They see me not settling for easy or excuses. They see things getting done, as they should, and the lessons will continue as they grow and my only hope is they learn to love the fitness lifestyle and adapt training into their lives.

 

5 Things I Learned So Far From Being a Stay At Home Dad

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In the morning when I get home from the early classes at Activate Fitness I rush to make shakes for my wife and I. With the sound of foot steps and ice being crushed and blended for our morning smoothie, the little critters begin to stir. Our neurologically impaired cats tip and tumble their way to their food bowl and begin begging for breakfast. The other little critters yell for Mommy or a show. They want to sit and watch Bo on the Go or Care Bears or some other stupid children toon show. But we have to go. I run a mid morning class at the gym, and they come with. It’s a dash to get out of the house early enough to make it to the gym so I can get my personal workout done before the next wave of awesome Activators rolls through. Some days I get half a workout done, and I’m cool with that. Once the members come in and class begins it’s often a fight to get my kids to sit in their gated area away from swinging kettlebells and flying jump ropes. But they listen and usually it’s only because I promise them Turkey Bacon Jerky or a lollipop.

In between the mid morning class and the evening classes at Activate Fitness, it’s home for us and the insanity ensues. Being a stay at home dad has changed my life and while it’s for better there are times when it’s been for the worse as I’ve had to battle with emotions and feelings about getting the job done and handling the constant need for attention. Here are five things I have learned in my time staying home with my two silly fun kids.

1. I have more Patience than I thought.

Screaming kids, spilled milk, carpet stains, nap fighting, and kids not listening on a consistent basis is nerve racking and mind blowing. Some days I feel like mush and brain fucked but I realize that I have more patience than I ever thought I do. While it can get crazy and completely overwhelming, it’s just spilled milk. I’d rather see spilled milk than baby shit on the walls.

2. Tend Your Field

As a business owner and someone who enjoys books and writing, I find it extremely difficult to get the job done. There are too many days that go in a row where I don’t write or read with total concentration. This used to infuriate me until I heard a man named Earl Nightingale talk about “tending our field” and doing the best we can. What he means is that in this moment we have a field that needs to be taken care of. It could be driving to the store or giving your children a bath. That moment is the field of life that you’re in and your purpose at that moment is to take care of that field to the best of your ability. So when I am home and I’m stressed out about setting up consultations at the gym and my kids are telling me they’re hungry, my field isn’t booking a consultation. It’s sitting down and feeding my children a healthy meal and being present with them. This is by far the hardest struggle I face each day but recently after a talk I heard by my mentor, I’ve been working on stopping and smelling the roses.

3. Each Day Is A New Day

Kids have much to teach us, especially about letting things go. Each day is a new day for my kids and they act like it. They don’t concern themselves with yesterday’s matters or tomorrow’s worries. They just be. Part of me tries hard to let it be and I think that’s the problem. Trying to let it be and actually letting it be are different. I believe there is no trying, it’s just being. This lesson is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my kids. Circumstances arise each day and being like water and going with the flow is a lot easier on the mind and creates less stress than trying to plug the holes and mend the dam.

4. Their Eyes Are On You

And they want me to put my eyes on them, they want you to see them. Kids watch our every move and listen to everything we say. They create their personalities based off of what ours are like. Kids only want love and approval from their parents and each day they want to learn something new about life. They spill milk and they look at us to see how someone should react. They build a fort out of sheets and toys and look at us for approval of a job well done. They look at the problem they face and look at us to see if they have the ability to find the solution or for advice on how to solve the problem. Kids are watching every move we make and every move they make they are watching us to see if we notice. Stop and take it in.

5. Time Management

I believe there is a need for three to five things to be done daily to help my business grow. I believe they can be tackled in an hour or two. The rest of the time is spent wasted and by being constrained with time because of tending to the needs of children, I’ve learned that with focused effort the work needed to be done can be done quickly. There is a lot of time spent wasted when we don’t concentrate on the vital tasks that need action. Many people create useless meetings, useless reports, useless filing, and instead of doing the three to five things that create progress, they waste time that could be spent building relationships, loving family, or taking care of our self. It’s amazing what can be and how fast when you have kids running around.

Get Your Health in Order

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Stop being lazy and get your health in order. No more running around like a teenager on a Friday night eating ice cream and crap. It’s time you stand up and get your shit together. Throw away the cookies, the candy, the chips, and all the pastas. Stop eating added sugar and fix your health through the foods you should be eating.

Get off your ass and start to move, every day. No more excuses about exercise. It’s time you get up and put the effort in to fix your health. Walk every day, do a fitness class a few times a week, go to the gym and lift. Do something. You never know how needed exercise is until you’re in the hospital staring at the ceiling with your clothes ripped open.

You have loved ones that need you around. You have loved ones who wouldn’t know what to do if your health took a devastating blow. You are the captain of your life and nobody can make you do anything, but wouldn’t you feel better about yourself and life if you exercised and ate well?

Damn right you would. When you exercise, your body releases feel good hormones and operates better. When you eat well, you burn fat, build muscle, and your body feels better.

It’s time to stop acting like a lazy lump and take control of your health and ditch the excuses. There is nobody that is too busy or too out of shape for exercise and good nutrition. Start with a walk and a salad. Do it again tomorrow and then do it the next day. Find a professional to help you if needed. Go buy food at a farm instead of the Quickie Mart. Stop eating sugary snacks and say you have cravings.

When you don’t control your cravings, it’s weakness that doesn’t need to be there and shouldn’t be either. You can grab a healthy snack instead of cookies, but you choose not to. Stop making childish choices and act your age. I don’t want to come off as harsh but instead, honest and straight forward. What I am writing here you already know and there are days when you think about that. You know a healthy food from a shitty food. You know walking is good for your body and mind. You know exercise gets easier when you practice.

Why don’t you do these things?

I’ve seen people who were walking heart attack risks turn their lives around and completely change their life. It wasn’t easy, but they did it and they didn’t give up. They asked for help. They asked questions. They made sacrifices. They saw results.

You can do this too. You have the power, the energy, and the willpower to do it. Stop defeating yourself before you get started and tackle this journey. There are people close to you who can help you. There are people close to you who want to help you. ASK. Get your health in order, right now.. before it’s too late!

Showing My Kids The Warrior Side

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In the gym it was Eight in the morning. I got my kids in, grabbed my coffee and water and proceeded to the squat rack. A few leg swings, deep squats, hip mobility movements, bird dogs, and squat jumps and I was ready to go. Training time. Some days it’s comes good, some days it’s a fight. Most days a little built up energy and anger helps me get through the movements. Most of the time I’m training the kids are wild. They run around the gym, play with the jump ropes, grab the five pound weights and do heavy carries, mimic the burpees I do, or play with the cars I have. Sometimes my daughter puts on the boxing gloves and goes to town on the heavy bag.

Recently I started pushing a little harder during the workouts. It’s eight o’clock and I have class at nine. I need to get done before people start showing up. It’s fascinating to see how little one must truly rest. I used to see guys resting three, four, or five minutes after doing a sub maximal load movement like it was a heavy deadlift and they needed to fully recharge. My rest periods are thirty seconds. Some times less. First I do the main movement whether it’s squats or deadlifts and then I go into the accessory work. I super set everything. It helps me get done, keeps the heart pumping, and by the time I finish the last set I have enough time to wipe the sweat from my face and start class.

If I didn’t train before my nine o’clock class I would find every excuse in the book to skip it. I’ve learned to get moving when the mind doesn’t want to. The days I train I am up at four in the morning. I usually don’t roll out of bed for twenty minutes and hate getting started. The lack of sleep has caught up with me and anyone who says sleep is for pussies is an asshole. Sleep is crucial and when you don’t get enough, you miss it. I get to the gym to open up for my five o’clock class and by the time I’m done with the early morning sessions, I’m shot. I want my bed, I want to close my eyes, I want more sleep. I get home and grab a smoothie and coffee and the kids and head right back for my time.

Lifting weights is more than physical appearance or strength. It’s like a drug. The body creates “feel good” hormones and the negative thoughts fade away. There’s nothing like testing your body through physical movement and resistance. Heavy squats bring more than physical strength. They bring mental toughness and feelings of accomplishment. Heavy carries, sled drags, pull-ups, and dips build muscle, strength, and they conquer the inner bitch in the mind that tries to settle for comfort. When the training starts to feel easy, you know you’re drifting into the comfort zone and convenience. It’s time to change a thing or two.

Training with the kids in the gym is fun but at times ridiculous. When your less than two year old walks under the bar of your heavy squats when in the deep position you kind of freak out a little. What if he grabs my leg? What if the plates slide off since I don’t clip them when training alone? But when he gets close it’s a surge of Adrenaline. I love having my kids in the gym with me. They watch me test myself three times or more a week. They see me put my body through the stress of resistance training. They hear me grunt, curse, sweat, and scream. They see me breathe heavily and give it one more shot. Then they get to watch me work, like the old days when men would bring their sons to the field, the farm, the shop, the railway, or the mines. Kids used to see their fathers bust their ass and I’m grateful mine see it almost everyday. They see me crush weakness and build strength. They see me fight the inner bitch. They see me act with courage and fight fear as I add more weight. Then they see me help other people. I couldn’t ask for anything more. At times it’s crazy but looking at the big picture, it’s beautiful.

10 New Things I Will Teach My Daughter

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Two years ago I wrote a post titled 10 Things I will Teach my Daughter and in the time that has passed I’ve learned and experienced a few things I want her to know when she becomes a young lady. Over the past year I have the fortunate opportunity to spend most of my time with her and my son. As they grow I can see some of the things I teach them finally cementing into who they are. The journey has been crazy but worth it.

Cutting right to the chase, here are ten new things I will teach my daughter.

1. Be Direct and Honest

There is a lot of sugarcoating in the world. A lot of political correctness that hides the truth. Many people are afraid to speak their minds and say what they really want to say. I want my daughter to not hide her truth and the realness of her feelings and opinions. If there is something bothering her, I want her to say so and not hide around metaphors or hidden messages. Just be direct and be honest and confront the fears of doing so. Too many people lie to others about what they are thinking or feeling and try to hide it behind a mask, a cloak, or propaganda. Be direct. Be honest.

2. Keep your friends close

There is nothing more important to the success and happiness to both men and women than good friendships. As she grows she will undoubtedly move from friendship to friendship but it’s important to keep your friends close. As she gets older and moves onto a career and family, I want her to know the importance of having good friends and being with them regularly.

3. Treat Food As An Energy Source

Developing a good relationship with sound nutrition is something to embrace. During the childhood years it’s easy to wants cookies, ice cream, chips, and all kinds of junk foods and candies. While your body may be able to handle it when you are young, you will come to a point where it doesn’t. Developing a good relationship with food will help you stay healthy, active, and happy. Poor nutrition will lead to problems that can be prevented with a good diet. Treat food as an energy source for your livelihood.

4. It’s Okay to Not Fit In

As a coach I’ve seen my share of women who have problems with their body image. In fact, we all do and if you say you don’t, you’re a liar. But, part of the problem of poor esteem and self-beliefs about our body image is created by society, media, and expectations of those around us. You want to be healthy and that is all that matters. A tummy tuck, a crash diet, purple lipstick, the latest fashion trends do not. These messages that we are bombarded with daily are not positive messages and you’d be best to ignore them. It’s okay to not fit in to society’s expectations. Be the real woman you are, no matter what “they” may say.

5. Learn the Real Story

As you grow through the years and you continue to learn in schools or wherever you choose, learn to be objective and to question what you’re learning. There is always the story and then the real story. It’s okay to stand up and question the truth of the story you are learning. The facts matter more than the opinions. If the real facts don’t match what you’re learning, find out why. Even if you get sent to the office.

6. Practice Self-Defense and Martial Arts

And not just to be able to fight if needed. Practice martial arts because of the lessons it will teach you about life. Practice martial arts for the education you will receive in your strengths and weaknesses. Practice martial arts to help you find a clearer path to the real you.

7. There is a Difference Between Men and Boys

If I could go back to the day I asked my wife to marry me I’d tell her to say no. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t a man. I was a little boy, scared of the real world, of real responsibility, and I hadn’t taken my bumps and bruises fully yet. I was learning but nowhere near ready to take her hand in marriage. If my daughter decides to marry a man one day I want her to be sure that he has passed the stage of boyhood and developed into a man. A real man and not a broken child. This is going to be hard. There are many problems with the raising of boys today and if it continues the way it has for years, boys may never become real men.

8. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure.. or trying.

You know what stops most people from living their life activated? Fear.

Fear of failure and fear of the unknown stop us from ever getting to where we want to go. I want my daughter to know that we all fail and there is nothing wrong with failing. Don’t ever be so afraid to try that you don’t DO. Act and if you fail, dust yourself off and TRY again.

9. Be “Outdoorsy”

There is nothing finer than fresh air and being outside in nature. As the technological advances in society continue to change the way we live, remember that you are an animal and your real habitat is outside, under the sun, in the grass, in the river, up the tree, wherever the dirt and trees grow. Fishing is fun and relaxing. Camping is quiet, peaceful, and rejuvenating. Floating down the river in a tub is refreshing. Do it often.

10. Learn to Listen

Yeah I know you’re young now and don’t listen to anything I tell you, but what I’m talking about is learning to listen to other people when they talk to you. Listen to your friends, their problems, their dreams and share your own. Listen to the weatherman. Listen to your father when he tells you to pack extra clothes. Listen to your teacher when she tells you to try harder. Listen to your mother when she tells you women things. Listen to your doctor when they advise you. Listen to your coaches, they’ll help make you better. Advice, education, and information will come from every direction. Some of it is wise and some of it isn’t. Listen to it but the most important thing to listen to is your heart. It won’t lie to you.

Chicken Fingers and French Fries

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This weekend we planned to go to the St. Patty’s Day parade in town but with sleepy kids and a long and very quiet and peaceful nap, it just didn’t happen. No problem. Sometimes it’s better to just hang out and do nothing. But my daughter was upset and I felt bad so I blurted out “Go in your room and get ready. You’re going on a date.”

My daughter was stoked. She smiled and ran and picked out a cute outfit. I was taking her to dinner. Just Her and Daddy. Since it was a last minute deal I decided to just bring her down to the local pizza joint. If you know me, a former fatty and still a fatty at heart, I love chicken parm sandwiches. So we get to the pizza place and I ask the girl “What do you want to eat?” “I want chicken fingers and I want french fries and I want milk please.”

Have to love it! We ordered, me getting a sub, and waited for the food. My daughter played with her purse and said she had lots of money. Probably about five dollars and sixty cents. She gets her milk and says to me “Daddy, I really love you.” Pretty good way to melt a man’s heart.

She walked into the pizza place with a fancy jacket on and her purse around her shoulder like she was twenty one and shopping in 90210. The questions were endless. “Daddy, what are they doing?” “They’re having a pizza party.” “Why?” “Because the season must be over.”

We get our food and mine is done in thirty seconds. I look over at my peanut and she’s dipping her fingers in marinara sauce. “Dip. Dip. Dip.”

“Hey, you need to eat.”

“No, I’m just going to dip and dip and dip.”

“and drink my milk.”

Whatever. She’s cool. No problem. But I tell her if she eats some of the food that we’ll go to a store.

She grabs a chicken finger and takes a bite.

“Target! I want to go to Target.”

“No, we’re going to another store where you can buy anything you want with your money.”

We finish up eating and I have to say, the waiter.. he was weird. I asked him a few questions about the food and he had no idea about any of it. He gave me a diet coke with like a drop of the last of the syrup and said “Yeah, I should have known it was done. Looked it.”

Cool story bro.

I still tipped him well because men tip well. No two dollar tips for lunch and always twenty percent or more. Bad tippers are assholes. And people remember people who tip well. Even at a bar. I watch derpheads order light beers and fruity drinks and they never tip. I just want to smack them and I know the bartender does too.

Here’s an important life lesson on bar etiquette: Tip for every drink and don’t be a clown who doesn’t. One buck a drink. Don’t be a cheapskate chump.

So we’re done eating and we leave to go to the store. She asks where we’re going and we walk down to the dollar store.

Kids.. big deal with the dollar store right?

Wrong. It was like she was in Disney.

I told her, go get whatever you want. And in no time, she was done. Walked right up to the register and told the lady “I’m going to buy these with my money.”

She got a flower for Mommy.

This lady was great. And patient.

I tried this one time with her at Target and the people behind me in line and the cashier gave off this unpleasant impatient vibe that kind of ruined it for me. The sigh of the cashier when my daughter fumbled through six one dollar bills made me want to bitch slap her. The young lady and her boyfriend or fiance or husband or just boy-friend behind us crossed their arms and leaned on their hips like they were tired from standing for thirty seconds. Again.. Stockton slap.

Anyway, the whole point of this story is this..

Dads… take your daughters on dates. Even if it’s to the pizza joint or the dollar store. They’re going to love every second of it and you’ll never forget those moments. You’ll never get another chance for your daughter at that age to experience that meal with you. Take the time to be a good man and show your daughter how her future man should act.

And when you hear “Daddy, I really love you.”, it makes your day.

 

Some of What I’ll Teach My Son

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Becoming a father wasn’t always in my life plan and I felt like having children was not something I’d be able to do.. or deal with. In my early twenties I was a race car going two hundred miles, the wrong way on the track, head on towards danger. Kids and being married probably crossed my mind once or twice and I shrugged it off as “That life isn’t me” and went about being a wild man.

Then one day I met the woman who would change my life and through the power of nature, I got married.

Our first year of marriage was a crash course in how to NOT do being married. I had no idea what I was doing but through the ups and downs all marriages go through, I came out a better man. We decided it was time to have a child. Several months later we had a beautiful little girl and my life changed again and that first year, of being a dad (or parents), wasn’t pretty. But once again, I came out a better man.

As my daughter grew and I became a better father, my wife and I decided to have another child. This time, a little boy.

When my son was born I was going through a tough time again. I juggled business ownership with being a father, and a husband, and a full-time employee at a job. To say the least, I didn’t do the best I could. Things got crazy again and I failed to live up to my end of the bargain. It wasn’t until my son was four or five months old that I realized, I was f*&king up. Again.

There were a lot of painful growing experiences from the point of marriage to the point of realizing that I was not being a good man. The problem was, I felt like I had nowhere to go with my struggles and inner battles and I felt that I needed to tuck my chin down and keep moving forward. I felt pressure to perform. I felt pressure to live up to expectations and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

I’m not alone. There are men out there who experience the same problems. Work, wife, kids, commutes, societal expectations, down time, stress, and living up to what it’s meant to be a man. Many of those men are lost without a plan. No road map of how to navigate the pressures of life. Men get married, buy homes, and start a family when their skill in handling these responsibilities is not there. I was one of them. I believe a percentage of divorces happen because men fail to meet these responsibilities to the degree they should. Some may be so overwhelmed with their situations that they check out and become distant, caught in routine cycles of destruction. Men often emotionally and physically abandon their women trying to make ends meet, to get ahead in life, to enjoy their hobbies and free time, and often never realize they’re doing so.

What I’ll teach my son will be the building blocks of how to avoid this. How to avoid the trap of materialism and the problems of being a blindfolded go-getter. How to treat women, especially his mother and any of the future women he courts. How to make relationships thrive and if they don’t, how to grieve if needed.

My son will learn from me that it is okay to fail in life. We don’t always get it right. Failure is expected at points in life and we must remember that is safe to do so and we can’t be concerned with the opinions of others. We must stand back up and continue our journey with happiness while being grateful for the lessons life teaches us.

My son will learn that it is okay to ask other men for help and he MUST ask for help. We can’t do this alone and if you think so, you need to stop pretending. Men don’t like going to other men and expressing their emotions and feelings and hardships. But by doing so, we can understand that we learn from these experiences and have the strength, and courage, to move on.

My son will learn that when he is in a relationship the most important thing for him to do is to be present in the life of his woman. With millions of distractions around us all day in the forms of cell-phones, careers, sports, hobbies, friends, and entertainment, it’s easy for men to become distant from the woman in his life. Without a serious conscious effort to be aware, present, and understanding, he will run into problems. “Make her your queen and treat her as such.” will be the first advice I give him when things get serious with a woman. This means you give her your time and you give her your attention and never stop.

I will teach my son that his education never ends and that he should continue to learn new things each day. There are men (and women) who do not continue their education after formal schooling. Many people never read a book again. Some never read books about their careers, relationships, finances, and spirituality. Not doing so leaves you behind in the wake of life. To believe you know everything is foolish and to not educate yourself on all of the things you experience in life is a fast way to suffocate your growth. In the past year I have continued my education on many areas of life: Jiu-Jitsu, Fitness, Nutrition, Sex, Marriage, Manhood, Survival Skills, Finance, Politics, and more. It never ends.

If my son decides to one day become a father I want to teach him what it means to be a father, a dad, and not a child with a child. When I became a father the only thing I had to teach me what it meant to be a good dad was a book. I don’t want my son going into parenthood without knowledge of what makes a good man become a good father. I’ll teach him that the mother of his child will always be the most important person in his life and if that means making the child the most important person, you do it. You don’t get a second chance at being their for the mother of the child during the early years of a child’s life. Don’t make it harder than it should be. It’s teamwork. Never forget that. It’s also okay to fail at trying to be a good father, as long as you dust off your pants and try again. Nobody gets it right the first time. Not even Mom.

There is more to come on what I believe is important to teach my son, even my daughter, and I believe these things can help anyone in any stage of life. The journey is better when not alone and there is much to learn that we are unaware of. My son will learn many of the struggles I’ve been through and I can only hope the lessons help him become a better man than I will ever be.

Want to learn about being a better man, a better father, a better husband and lover? Check out the Free Online Group at The Activated Alliance to learn more and to join the conversation starting now!