The Price of Excellence

I met Donovan Waite when he was in his mid-30’s

Donovan was single and supported himself by giving Aikido classes to other students. He lived in the “dojo” where he paid rent for a tiny, spartan-like room yet with with no real privacy.

His back story was that he had achieved the level of black belt by age 14 and spent the next ten years mastering his craft before moving to the New York Aikido dojo.  He then spent 5 to 7 hours per day training at his craft. Aikido is hard, arduous and time consuming. Injuries are common. Bones are broken, knees are decimated and backs are wrenched yet over a 25 year period he never missed one day of practice.

He would show up before practice began and stretch for thirty minutes then stay after practice to do the same. I know this first hand because I used to copy his stretching routine.

He was a paradox: violent yet humble. If pushed, he could be violent. Yet he always adjusted his training to meet his partner’s ability so as not to harm them .

On one occasion, a former student came in and was bragging that he had recently completed Navy Seal training and how hard it was. Donovan walked up to him gently and asked if he could use him in the next class to demonstrate a few techniques. Donovan moved to the front of the class, affording him use of the entire length of the dojo. Within minutes,  he began throwing the Navy Seal from one side of the room to the other!   He repeatedly “launched” the seal over 10 yards in the air until the Seal was spent.

The point had been made. Stay humble.

He and I weren’t friends; but, by watching and training with him I learned more about personal excellence than anyone else I’ve ever met.  Never have I met any as proficient in their field of endeavor as Donovan was in Aikido. I have read books on Warren Buffet and the single minded vision that he had. But for me, Donovan was a  something first hand experience that exemplified a focused and unwavering commitment to a goal. He sacrificed his youth, finances, family, personal health and well being for one goal: to master aikido.  And while I practiced aikido for many years, and was good, I was never jealous of Donovan’s ability. He made sacrifices I was simply unwilling to make.

Interestingly, in aikido these is no end. For Buffett, the tangible gain of his massive effort was wealth. Donovan would never get to experience that. There are no riches on the other side of the  aikido rainbow. There is no payday when he could expect reward. Donovan pursued excellence pure and simple. Nothing more.  In fact, I’d be surprised if he ever made more than $1,000 a month during the 10 years he spent at the dojo.  Today he travels the world and runs his own dojo. I’ve heard that, with age, he now occasionally takes a day off. But, even as he ages, his Aikido techniques are a thing of power and beauty.

I am happy to have trained with him. I took with me 10 things I learned from Donovan Waite:

  • Practice Every Day.
    • Not only did he practice every day, he worked out for multiple hours at a time.  He showed what it means to be a professional.
  • Stretch every day.
    • His stretching sessions were lengthy. He stretched to take care of his body so that it would not get hurt. That preparation made him stronger and more flexible…able to affect throws that most men would never attempt.
  • Push yourself every day.
    • He was forever challenging himself. He would work out with men much bigger and stronger to refine his technique. Alternatively, his practice was slow and deliberate as he tried to break down every part of the move so he could later put it back together…at twice the speed.
  • Teach every day.
    • Donovan took many classes during the day, but he always taught. The teaching helped him become a better student and he used teaching to help him better understand the intricacies of techniques.
  • Clean every day
    • Every day the students in the dojo had to wash the mats. It was a ritual and never missed. A messy and sloppy environment was not conducive to training or excellence!
  • Adjust your technique every day
    • He knew Aikido so well that each and every move had a different and varied adjustment he was able to make. Never satisfied, he was forever experimenting, tinkering and playing with technique.
  • Be a good Ukemi.
    • Ukemi is the art of being a good partner. In boxing, they are called sparing partners. To learn a technique requires someone to receive and take your blows so that you can see if your strikes are effective. In Aikido being a good ukemi is also meant to help you protect yourself from other combatants.
  • Be relentless
    • He never quit. He always showed up and was always on time. He was was always “here.” He was fully present for the task at hand. Some people can do something hard for a few months or even a year. Donovan trained hours, every day, for years.. If he was hurt, he would work on techniques to protect himself or train very softly, but he always trained.
  • Never give up.
    • By the time he was thirty, Donovan was already one of the greatest Aikido practitioners in the world with hardly a peer. He could easily have gone off on his own. But he continued to push to bring his skill set to a place unseen before in Aikido
  • Be willing to sacrifice everything for greatness
    • He gave up everything for mastery. All of his time and all of his resources were spent on one thing: to be great at Aikido. By the time I met him, he was already great; but, he kept on pursuing.

If you are ever in New York City,  try and visit one of his classes because they are truly inspiring. A small part of you will be forever uplifted by seeing something so graceful yet powerful.

Excellence crosses all disciplines. It’s attainment and ultimate achievement require the same steps regardless of the goal. I  strive to apply what I’ve learned to many aspects of my life, not just Aikido.

For this priceless wisdom I am forever grateful to Donovan Waite.

 

Steve Clark

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

The Answer To Suffering

A farmer and a blue collar worker were in line to vote last Tuesday. Someone overheard their conversation in which both were sharing that they had not had a good year financially since 2000. That’s 16 years. They were suffering and they were voting for Trump.

hope

I know a lot about suffering. It’s the same whether it’s an individual or the collective consciousness of a nation.  My knowledge and understanding comes from years of suffering depression which culminated in an attempted suicide at age 24. Individuals, like nations, who misplace hope and choose suicide as an option, don’t really want to die. Notice I said, “misplace” hope. Hope is never gone…but when suffering is prolonged enough and there seems no cure for its cause and no end in sight, hope gets obscured by the pain. And when the pain is bad enough, rational thought is cast aside for any solution, regardless of how irrational or self-destructive.

A person may choose suicide as a seemingly rational end to their suffering. But what does a nation filled with people who have misplaced hope do?

The seeds of national suicide were sprouting in 2008. Barack Obama, and the Democrats recognized this and so, knowing the nation was suffering, offered “Hope and Change”. They ignited the flame of hope that the nation was in need of and with that held out the promise of an end to the early stages of suffering. But the promise was empty and as time passed, the pain and suffering grew more intense.  With that increased pain, came a decreased optimism…hope…that there was a “cure” or light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, from 2008 until now, that light has been progressively (no pun intended) harder and harder to see.

Pain and suffering increased over the past eight years to the point that hope was obscured and with it rational thought.  What resulted was a populace who would, in its desperation, settle for giving the most powerful position in its nation to either a greedy thief or an egomaniacal illusionist. We chose the illusionist.

That is how a nation commits suicide.

My experience of attempted suicide taught me an invaluable lesson. It’s the certainty that hope always exists; it’s just up to us to have the patience and determination find it. Donald Trump will not save us for he was chosen in a period of national darkness. Whether he is well intentioned or not, there are those around him who recognized our perilous time of suffering and glammed on for the ride and for their own agendas, not for the national best interest.

When I was in the emergency room, I had an out of body experience. As they were pumping the drugs out of me, I was up in the corner of the room, looking down at what they were doing, and thinking, “Why don’t they let that body go?” At which point I “felt” a distant voice say, “You have to go back, Carole, you have work to do.”

Our nation is on that table. We are looking at it and wanting the suffering to stop and for the pain to go away. There are no guarantees. But this I know.

Hope exists if we are patient and determined to be the best we can be. No one will save us but for ourselves. Giving it over to someone else is an act of suicide. Its up to us to demand of ourselves personal accountability. Its up to us to demand of our government accountability to the founding principles. So, fellow citizens, we have to go back. There is work to do.

Carole Gold

 

Government Regulation: Socialism On The Move

Death by a thousand cuts shares much in common with the end of home ownership through excessive regulation.

jefferson

In the previous post by Steve Clark, Real Estate Ownership, mortgages and taxing authorities are identified as the culprits in constraining private home ownership. The post sees the trend by Millennials as a possible change of direction, if not a solution.

I think the move towards ending private ownership of property has less to do with financing government than it has to do implementing Socialism, which eschews private property ownership. The entire redistribution of wealth scheme that is at the heart of Socialism is really a means by which an elite few can take what rightfully belongs to some and give it to others without cause. Well, without cause other than if you have too much under Socialism you’re a greedy, bad human being lacking compassion. And so, the government will cure you of those shortcomings by taking away what has otherwise been rightfully earned by the sweat of your own brow.

This is what should concern everyone about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Socialist crowd. Be assured, they will retain their wealth and their possessions. It is your property that will be redistributed. No, they will not suddenly get into office and come with the military to take what is yours. They won’t have to . They’ve been laying the ground work and the means for almost one hundred years.

Its called regulation.

The EPA, the IRS, Homeland Security, the Department of Education…regulatory agencies are death by a thousand cuts to a liberty loving people and, certain death, to our Republic as it was created and intended to be. Just as no one is going to knock on your door in a Clinton Administration and demand that you turn over your guns so, too, no one is going to physically remove you from your home and declare it the property of the Federal government.

At least not at first.

In the gun example, first they will  ban certain types of guns. Then they will prohibit anyone who is on a no-fly list (rightfully or wrongfully as was the late Senator Ted Kennedy) from purchasing or owning a gun. Then they will pass legislation that says anyone who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. Then anyone who has ever been treated for a mental illness. Then anyone who has ever shown mental illness tendencies. Then anyone who has inappropriately exhibited anger. Then anyone who is on anti-depressants.  The anyone who is on pain medication …well, those last two cover about half the adult population in this country.

Its a slow, slippery slope.

In the home ownership example, first the government will hold 95 percent of the mortgages in the country (√).  Then if you default, your mortgage holder can foreclose and take/sell your property (√).  Then if you’re delinquent on your property taxes the tax lien can be sold to a third party and that party has first priority on any foreclosure (√). Then they will say that certain neighborhoods are discriminating because they are not enough minorities living in that neighborhood and so they will force sales to minorities whether they can afford it or not (√) and if those default, well, more economic downturn for the area and more government owned property.  In fact, Obama plans on addressing “geospatial discrimination’ of minorities by ‘mapping’ every neighborhood in America in regards to it’s racial make-up and financial strength.  Then, HUD will impose new rules that will go out to suburbs that are not racially diverse and demand “affirmatively further fair housing” in the suburbs for minorities. Grantees who fail to comply will be denied federal funding.

Then….oh, and lets not just worry about Hilary Clinton. Donald Trump, proponent of the Kelo decision and Eminent Domain thinks the government (or a private individual as Trump did) should be able to take private property for the benefit of another or even social experimentation, as Obama is doing in addressing “geospatial discrimination.”

Yes its a slow, slippery slope.

Its also why each of us has to take a stand someplace along that slide or we’re all going to wind up in quicksand. It may be something small…like an overreaching Homeowner’s Association Board in your community. Or Common Core in your school system. Or an out of control taxing authority in your county. Or, it may be something big, such as your conviction that a Convention of States under Article 5 of the U .S. Constitution is the only way to save the Republic.

Whatever raises your ire, whether large or small, take a stand. Socialism sounds good in theory but it sucks in practice. In fact, its fatal to a free society.. of which we still have enough to do something about politicians who want to use the “free stuff and common ownership for all” lie to make themselves rich and powerful by taking what is yours and…well…taking what is yours.

Carole

contact@carolegold.com

Slavery in America

The black population of Milwaukee is the best example I’ve ever seen of being caught between a rock and a hard place.

slavery

Milwaukee is the 7th poorest city in America. Its unemployment rate among African Americans is 37%. The last time Milwaukee had a Republican mayor was 1908. Yes, 1908. Since then, it has had either Democrat or Socialist mayors. I don’t use the term Socialist loosely. I mean mayors who ran as Socialists.  For 38 of those 108 years the mayors were Socialists.

Now in both theory and practice, there is very little difference between the policies of Democrats and Socialists. Both believe in the collective over the individual. Both believe in massive government programs. Both believe in dis-empowering the individual by keeping them dependent upon 1) the belief that they cannot make it without government assistance and 2) that it is the responsibility of the rich to give up their earned wealth to those who have less and for government to mandate that redistribution.

The effect of 108 years of Democrat/Socialist administration has brought poverty, dis-empowerment and rage to Milwaukee.

Why?

It is human nature to feel good about personal power. It is human nature to feel free to chart one’s own course in life. It is human nature to resent dependency and to feel anger at who, or what, perpetuates dependency.

Progressivism and Socialism are the mainstays of the modern Democrat party. In fact, Hillary Clinton defines herself as “an early 20th century Progressive.” What this means is that she advocates for the very programs that cause outcomes, dependency and dis-empowerment, which run counter to human nature.

Food stamps, Section 8 housing, ObamaPhones, ObamaMoney, endless unemployment income not tied to re-training or efforts to seek employment…these and more keep people, particularly African Americans, dependent upon the very people who falsely claim to be helping them.  And those kept dependent will hate those who give them “things” while denying them the opportunity to become independent and earn their own way in the world. You cannot give enough things to people who are enslaved to get them to like you. However, apparently you can give them enough to get them to vote for you.

This is the “rock and the hard place” between which the poor of Milwaukee finds themselves. They are not alone. The 10 poorest cities in America — Detroit, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, St. Louis, El Paso, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Newark – have all had Democrat mayors from 27 to 108 years!!  They continue to believe the fiction and the lies that their masters tell them and then rely upon those lies to re-elect those masters.

If the language sounds like slavery…well it is. This pattern is modern-day Progressive, institutionalized, slavery as sure as the slavery of the plantations of the pre-Civil War South.

I was never a registered Republican. But I am a Conservative because Conservatives believe in the power of the individual. They are not hard-of-heart nor do they believe that everyone must fend for themselves. They simply believe that those who truly cannot fend for themselves should be helped first by fellow citizens through local communities and houses of worship before responsibility for such assistance falls to government, as a last resort.

Conservatives understand that a person would rather learn to fish than be given a fish…would rather a hand-up than a hand-out. Once you assist someone in standing on their own two feet you empower them.  But when you make someone reliant upon you, when you reinforce a false belief that they cannot make it on their own or somehow need fixing because in some way they are broken…that person will resent you for the condescension and, in the long haul, hate you for the crippling effects of your misguided caring.

This is the rage of Milwaukee. This is the rage of Black Lives Matter. This is the natural and deadly end result of the Progressive approach to government.

The solution to the rage boiling to the surface in our cities is personal empowerment. It is an end to LBJ’s futile and fictitious War on Poverty to be replaced by a Rush to Empowerment. It is the lifting of the veil of illusion that government programs designed to keep people minimally fed and sparingly housed will lead to anything other than cultural paralysis and uncontrolled rage.

We can solve this. But in order to do so we have to, as with any enemy, call it by its name. Its motto is Social Justice. Its goal is slavery.

Its name is Progressivism.

Carole

Cultural Suicide

You can build the wall and still fail to protect the country.Self-destructhThere are two kinds of threat: external and internal.  If we build the wall, and monitor it properly, we can go a long way toward addressing the external threat. The internal threat is quite another matter. It’s less apparent, more difficult to counter and much more dangerous.

Terrorists, or anyone else, seeking to do physical harm by crossing our borders unimpeded can do significant damage. Such damage can draw upon our physical and financial resources, from minor to catastrophic levels, in our recovery efforts. Disaster resulting from terror draws upon our collective will and determination in order not to be brought down by harbingers of hate. But, as with 9/11, we have been there. Our national resolve to repair physical destruction and surmount national grief has been tested and proven fit for the challenge.

But what about threats from within? On this front,I have far less confidence that we will awaken in time or that we can survive.

For decades, our children have been educated by Progressive, history-altering academics both in grade schools and universities. They have been taught a selective and self-serving view of America’s contribution and role in the world. Our “contribution” has been narrowed to one of exploitation. Our “role” has been defined as a global oppressor. We have inflicted upon two generations a conscience of guilt and shame for being American. We have inflicted upon one generation a conscience of guilt and shame for being white.

Nations, like individuals, err. Even the best of us stumble and fall. Even the best of us have moments in our lives, if given the chance, we would seize to do over differently. This is life. This is learning. Mistakes are the fertile ground upon which we grow better and, hopefully, wiser. Nations are no exception.

Yes, there have been grave errors committed in the name of manifest destiny (decimation of Native Americans), commerce (slavery) and fear (Japanese internment camps). But this same fallible nation that committed these grave errors is also the most charitable and giving nation in the world. In 2012, the U.S. gave $30B in developmental (i.e. not peace-keeping or anti-terrorism) public aid. The United States is among the first, if not the first, to send monetary and medical aid to victims of natural disasters.

We are a good and caring people. However, even good people who are daily subjected to falsehoods can be brainwashed into believing what is not true. So, by way of a carefully planned, thoroughly executed Progressive political agenda that has been slowly and systematically implemented since the Woodrow Wilson presidency, our self-image and our self-confidence have been eroded and all but destroyed.

Yet, there is still another internal threat as deadly as the Progressive agenda. It is the insidious melding of foreign cultures that have little in common with our own.  I am not talking about immigrants who come to the United States and retain their own religious and cultural identities within their own homes, communities and spiritual institutions. I am talking about immigrants who seek to impose upon America their home country’s culture with the goal of substituting it for that which is uniquely American.

In the fit of mental illness we call political correctness, there is no difference between the people of, let’s say Turkey and the people of the United States. We all want peace. We all have concern for the future. We all seek a better quality of life. We all want the best for our children.

Well, maybe not so much the children.

This week, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled to annul a provision that punishes all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as sexual abuse. That’s right. Now, if you are 12 years old in Turkey, you can be said to give consent to having sex… say…with a 60-year -old man (apparently even if you were raped and the offender says you consented!).

In case you haven’t noticed, we in the United States have nothing in common with a Court, let alone a culture, that would make such a law. This is anathema to us. Yet the speech police and the PC police here in the U.S. are so busy hurrying to market the “oneness of Bernie Sander’s-like kumbaya” that they step over the obvious to stand firmly upon the absurd.

We have nothing in common with nations, governments or cultures that abuse children, kill homosexuals, torture animals, behead for sport, cut off hands for stealing or enslave women, to name a few… all in the name of God.

So, as we delay securing our physical border, continue to misinform our young, and remain blind to the insidious invasion of our culture by foreign adversaries who seek our destruction, we remain complicit in that destruction.

Oh, and making believe it is not so… only hastens our demise.

Carole

America Lost

It’s hard to defend truth in a world consumed by illusion.

Lost

It’s more than the fact that we have a reality TV host running for President against a proven liar who, at any other time, would have been convicted by now of at least criminal negligence and at most, treason. It’s really about how much we are willing to be complacent and uncaring about the shameless lies we are being told.

I have to take back the “we.” That’s a literary technique to make the reader feel that the writer is part of the group.

I am not. I am neither complacent nor uncaring.  I am astounded at how asleep, or just plain intellectually lazy, most of this nation has willingly become through years of manipulation by the media and years of corruption by the politicians.

As far back as 2008, the majority chose to believe everything on its surface without any regard for whether there was anything of value behind the illusion. The staging of the Democratic Convention in 2008. The orchestrated, messianic themed delivery of the first black candidate. It was all theater. He had no experience. He had no credentials. He had black skin and could read a teleprompter. He got the Nobel Peace Prize for being black…which surely must have been the most bizarre qualification anyone had ever been considered for previously, let alone won.

And whatever past he did have, neither you nor the media cared to inquire of it. It was “shock and awe” Hollywood style and you were such willing participants.  You asked for little more than a bumper sticker slogan of “Hope and Change” and guess what? You’ve gotten little else.

But every day you’re told how wonderful he is. How great the economy is. How much more peaceful the world is. How much more respected the United States is. And you buy it anew…day after day after day.

As 93,000,000 of you are out of work. As terrorist cross our borders, legally and illegally. As Executive Orders override the will of the People, not to mention the Constitution.  As your healthcare premiums rise despite assurances to the contrary. As your children think socialism is the solution to the world’s problems. As you don’t recognize the country you knew less than a decade ago. As public officials are caught lying red-handed concerning most important issues and say, “What difference does it make anyway?” And by your silence, you agree.

Day after day you buy the lies anew.

As if all of that weren’t enough, you’re eager to do it yet again. You buy the lies from Trump or Clinton, depending upon your political affiliation. You reelect those who have not kept their promises. You moan and complain and do nothing while in your heart, perhaps unexpressed, you are living in fear of what comes next.

Yet even that fear does not move you to demand of yourself – action.  Action that stands for what is right and true. Action that stands for principles which others, in our past, felt worth dying for.  Actions that say “I am a free willed being created in the image of something divine and you will not lead me to slaughter. Nor will you destroy the foundation of individual liberty upon which my country was built.”

No, there is no action. Why? You are stressed. You are tired.  You are busy. You have grown comfortable in your discomfort and complacent in you servitude. So you will continue to complain… and be more afraid of action than of slavery.

I cannot find my country or my countrymen. But I have a daughter and so there is the future to tend to.  So I stand for what is right. I speak about what is principled. I tend to my integrity. I trust in my God.

And I pray, every day, for those of you who cannot remember, or do not care, who you are or why you were born in this place and at this time.

Carole

Focus on The Process

“There are no winners here. The point of Aikido is to train and focus on the process of getting better.”

Trust The ProcessIt took me about five years to learn this lesson from my friend, Brian, who helped me with my training. It was a hard concept for me to grasp. The sports I had formerly played were based upon a performance score that would determine the winners and the losers.

With Aikido, I trained religiously for years, going every day, hardly ever missing a practice.  I realized that the only way to get good at the art was through consistency.  It was doubly hard for me because there were very few tests, and very little feedback.

I sucked at the sport for years! It was only through grit and perseverance that I finally attained a high level of mastery by focusing on one thing:  trying to get better every day. By the time I tested for my black belt, it wasn’t really a test at all. I had been doing Aikido so long –  with so much consistency –  that the results took care of themselves.

While I didn’t learn this invaluable lesson until I was in my mid-thirties, I am able to pass this knowledge and training on to my kids. Three of my daughters now play competitive soccer and they train every day. Come rain or shine… they put their time in on the ball to improve.

Understanding mastery takes a long time and so I rarely get mad at the outcome of their games. As long as the effort is there, and they are learning, I know that eventually they will reach their potential. My goal for them is not to be the best soccer player in the world but rather the best soccer player that they can possibly be.

Rick Barry, the former basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, used to shoot the ball underhanded at the free throw line. He was mocked his entire career for shooting in this manner.  His method was seen as too feminine and dainty for the rough and tumble world of the N.B.A.  Yet, Barry became a Hall of Fame player and retired with the highest free throw percentage ever! When he retired, he acknowledged that he was not the best basketball player ever but shooting free throws in this manner helped him become the best basketball player that he could ever be. For him, that was enough.

Contrast that with his peer, Wilt Chamberlain, who was considered the best basketball player of his generation. Chamberlain was a terrible free throw shooter. Even after being coached by Rick Barry and using his technique to improve his shoot, Chamberlain always reverted back to shooting overhand with the same disastrous results. The reason? He did not want to be seen as shooting in a sissy manner. When asked about Chamberlain, Rick Barry said “Although he was a better basketball player than me, Wilt was never the best basketball player he could have been, and for that he will have to live with that gnawing feeling that he came up short.” ( The insights from the Rick Barry story come from this podcast by Malcolm Gladwell)

Youth sports today are indescribably competitive and getting more so for younger and younger children all the time.  The need to win is so great by parents that the events become tortuous.  Just a few weeks ago, I witnessed an indoor soccer game where the parents came close to blows over the fouls the kids were committing. The behavior of the parents was truly sickening. Mind you, the players were eight year old girls!  It was sickening to be a witness to such twisted values.

On other occasions, I have had parents tell me that my daughters were not good enough or lacked certain skills. It seems most parents have forgotten that kids make mistakes and, in order to get better, they need to make these mistakes.  While its never easy, or desirable, to have other parents criticize my kids, for me its more important that they develop the core discipline that they will then be able to replicate in other areas…on and off the field.

In the seminal book, The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey , Tim  walked away from his professional tennis career…get this… to focus on becoming a tennis player. He stopped playing competitive tennis and just focused on becoming a better player. What he realized was that his need to win short-circuited his ability to actually win.  Seeing everything through the lens of “winning” or “losing points” actually impeded his growth as a tennis player.

Once he jettisoned his need to win and focused instead on the outcome of his shots, adjusting accordingly without judgement, his tennis game took off.  He became a much better player.  He came to realize that by solely focusing on winning you actually lose more.

Gallwey’s book on peak performance is considered required reading for many professional sports teams. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks actually make all players read his book to improve performance.

Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was another coach who believed winning was secondary to the process. Walsh, who guided his team to four Super Bowl wins, was almost fired after his first two seasons because of his record: 8 wins / 24 losses.  In his book, he tells the story of how, in the beginning of his career, it got so bad  that one of his assistant coaches complained to the owner that Walsh did not care about winning because he never talked to the team about it.  But Walsh did care about winning. He knew the results were secondary. Before you can win, you have to do things in the right manner that eventually leads to winning. The foundation has to be built first before you can pile up the wins.  The wins are a result of the foundation. It doesn’t work in reverse.

For example, I am fluent in Spanish. However, every day I practice to improve my fluency. There are no guarantees in life, but doings things in the “right way” while staying committed to the process has greatly increases my chances of success in life. In my personal journey thus far, having experienced the highs and lows of life, it is the process that has repeatedly saved me.

Everyone’s process is different; but, for me, getting better every day in every way is the core of my daily practice.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

The Message From “Fields Of Fire”

Rights and responsibilities. These are the themes of James Webb’s book, “Fields of Fire.”

Webb was a platoon commander during the Vietnam War. His book is required reading for all Marines. It details the struggles of a Marine platoon throughout that war from a participant’s perspective.  Webb has said the book is a fictional account based upon his experiences during that war.

Fields of Fire

Although the book focuses upon a cast of characters, one of the most interesting is about a Marine nicknamed “Senator” who was attending Harvard when he was drafted. Most of his Harvard classmates evaded the draft by way of medical waivers, draft deferments and even fleeing to Canada…but not Senator. He serves with bravery and honor, eventually  wounded in combat and sent back home.

Convalescing at his house, he is visited by one of his Harvard classmates who is a fugitive from the law for having evaded the draft. The meeting is poignant in that his friend is healthy and seems to have made the right decision while Senator, in bed, seems forever scarred by the war. The meeting ends with the police showing up as the Senator’s father has called the police to report his friend’s location..

Senator is stunned by his father’s actions and gets into a lengthy conversation with him about why he called the police. His father was no fan of the war and is greatly saddened by what has happened to his son. However, he is none-the-less honored by his son’s sacrifice. He is also repulsed by the friend’s cowardice.

The father explains to his son, “We all have rights and responsibilities. By being born here in the U.S., many citizens have benefited by the sacrifices our forefathers have made. The liberties and freedoms all Americans enjoy have been paid for by those sacrifices. Your friend was willing to enjoy all of the benefits of society without bearing the responsibilities.”

“If your friend was so against the war, he should have protested and gone to jail for his beliefs. If more Americans had done this instead of fleeing, the politicians might have gotten a better sense of the growing discontent for the war and ended it. But your friend was a coward. He was even unwilling to commit the smallest act of disobedience. He fled like a child.”

In the 1960’s, two of the most iconic heavyweight fighters of all time, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, were both called up for the draft during their athletic prime. Both served and honored their country in different ways. Frazier joined the Army and went to Vietnam while Ali went to jail  as a conscious objector, claiming that killing people violated his religious beliefs. Although the military brass was unhappy with Ali, they never treated him with contempt. They respected what he did. Having served in the Marines, I can tell you that there is complete disdain for people who avoided the draft and fled the country; however, I never once heard a criticism of the stand which Ali took.

I have witnessed firsthand the struggles conscious objectors have to war. My radioman during the First Gulf War was a Jehovah’s Witness who struggled deeply with the decision that he made in going to war. For him, it was a daily struggle to reconcile his faith with his participation in the war. So, I can relate in some small way to that with which Ali struggled.

In retrospect, I think the consensus about the Vietnam War was that it was a wasted effort. There are many historical documents that detail the mistakes made by the U.S. and the tremendous loss of life suffered on both sides. Many Americans lost their lives and many more were left permanently disabled, from which they never recovered. However, at the time, U.S. leaders felt that Vietnam was an important stand to take in order to stop the spread of Communism. Some have discounted that notion, but in Asia it is affirmed.

In the book Asia Rising, the last thirty pages recount various Asian leaders’ views of the potential for Asia and its significance within the global economy. What startled me most was the praise given to the U.S. for its initiative in going into Vietnam thirty years earlier.  They said the threat of Communism was real and engulfing all of Asia. Had the U.S. not decided to engage in Vietnam, many of those leaders felt that most of Asia would have fallen, resulting in the enslavement of millions. I was blown away…as this was the first time I had ever seen documentation from an Asian perspective regarding the threat.

The book goes on to say that U.S. intervention did, in fact, halt the Communist initiative by tying up all their resources in Vietnam which precluded further expansion. The actions of our military saved the life of millions. For many Asians, the sacrifices made by the U.S. soliders was not in vain.

The unfortunate outcome of the Vietnam War here in the U.S. was a breakdown of social order. It has been well documented that the political leaders lied to the American public during the conflict and it left the citizenry skeptical of the government. In many ways, this was the beginning of the decline of our confidence in governmental institutions. It made people less inclined to make the kind of sacrifices for the country that they had made previously. The recent Benghazi tragedy, where Americans were left defenseless and unsupported by the government despite repeated requests for assistance during a thirteen hour attack, only continues to fuel this mistrust and cynicism.

The decline of confidence in American institutions has led to an epidemic of abdicating personal responsibility by a nation once willing to assume it. This comes in tandem with a trend toward narcissism, as evidenced by the Selfie generation.  Absent leadership with integrity, and a populace engaged in shared sacrifice, the future is bleak. The actions it took to secure freedom were accomplished with great effort over time. Relinquishing that same freedom, through inaction, will be an easier and more rapid undoing.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Hope For Veterans

The mind can be friend or foe. For twenty Vets a day, it has become their foe. That’s how many U.S. Veterans per day are committing suicide.

Hope2

I want to address this incomprehensible fact but do so with trepidation and humility as I have never served in the military and, as such, am acutely aware that my understanding of the problem is limited. I tread lightly upon this topic. However, in my early twenties I tried to commit suicide and so bring a personal, if limited, perspective to what drives a Veteran to conclude that taking their own life is a reasonable solution to their suffering.

In fact, suicide is not motivated by reasonableness but rather by misplaced hope and a lack of forgiveness.

For every individual, suffering has its limits. Be it mental, physical, psychological or emotional, pain can reach the intolerable. When it does, without hope that the suffering can end, or at least diminish, a perverse form of reason takes hold and death seems a “logical” even “desirable” option because death holds out the promise of an end to pain. In fact, this conclusion is neither logical nor reasonable but is driven, in the moment of choice, by the void created when one misplaces hope.

Hope holds the promise of a new and better tomorrow. Hope holds the promise of a return to happiness. Hope holds the promise of a life worth living. In its absence, despair fills the void and with it comes the illusion of never-ending suffering. Although it was decades ago, I remember that moment of choice as if it were yesterday. The pain is so intolerable and death so seemingly pain-free, that there can actually be a perverse euphoria in the decision to end one’s own life.

The sights and sounds of war, while beyond my personal experience, are also often beyond the mind’s ability to integrate and make peace with their after effects. I was married to a Vietnam Vet. My current business associate is a Marine Vet who served in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.  My experience is that some Vets cope better than others, but all are scarred.  While some develop mechanisms that permit them to return to various levels of functionality in their day-to-day lives, I suspect that those who are unable to do so both misplace hope and find it impossible to forgive themselves for having participated in what the mind cannot accept.

When I look back at my attempted suicide, understanding how I had misplaced hope came relatively easily after I survived the attempt and began to live my life in a more positive direction. However, understanding the importance that forgiveness needed to play in my healing took much, much longer.

I truly believe that with renewed heart and a commitment to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday or today, God forgives us everything. It is we who do not forgive ourselves. And in not forgiving ourselves, we suffer again and again each time we replay who we were or what we did.  Living in the past, rather than in the possibility of the moment, is too often repetitive, self-inflicted punishment that adds to our pain.

While we cannot go back and change the past, it is the present that is malleable. It is the present that holds the opportunity to be the best we can be. It is the present in which we can affect the past by taking the knowledge, and even the pain, of our experiences and using the wisdom gained to take action in ways that heal the wounds of that past and the actions that caused them.  So, yes, hope and forgiveness are partners in overcoming despair and judgement.

If you know a Vet, or are one, I would gift this message: You are more than what you have done. You have within you, still, a spark of hope and the will to let go of the past by forgiving yourself. Dedicate today to doing one kind thing, however small, for yourself and for one other person and let the healing begin. You have never stopped being a child of God. You have only temporarily misplaced the knowing that all is forgiven and, because of that, all is still possible.

 

Carole

A Post of Inspiration

The decision by FBI Director James Comey not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was a devastating blow to most of us.  Blatant criminality knows no political bounds and people with integrity, be they Democrat or Republican, were infuriated by the obvious disregard for the rule of law. The initial anger quickly turned to depression for some and hopelessness for others. It seems we have reached a new low in our national life.InspirationRahm Emanuel, former Obama White House Chief-of-Staff and current Mayor of Chicago, in reflecting the views of the father of community organizing, Saul Alinksy, once said “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. Emanuel was known for his ruthless and intimidating tactics and had made the statement within the context of taking advantage of a bad situation to force through what could otherwise not be accomplished by straightforward and transparent means.

But there’s an upside to everything, including the ill intentions of the likes of Rahm Emanuel and all the other Progressives, Democrat and Republican alike, intent upon radically transforming the United States of American into something unrecognizable.

In the words of Roy McAvoy, the golf-pro played by Kevin Costner in the movie Tin Cup, “When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment…or the moment defines you.

Comey has given us the defining moment.

It is time to stop being distracted by the upcoming Presidential election. On that front, all is lost. There are as many Democrats who dislike and fear the effects of a Clinton Presidency as there are Republicans who feel the same about Donald Trump. These are two terrible choices.

So how did we get here and what is the way out?

As much as we are taught that politics and faith don’t mix, the reality is that faith is the foundation of any lasting culture. It is surely the saving grace (no pun intended) for those moments in each of our lives when the odds and the circumstances seem to outweigh our ability to go on. Faith is what bridges the gap between where we are and where we want to be. It provides the fuel for how to travel the distance between the two.

We, the people, are momentarily adrift. I say “momentarily” because we are simply experiencing a brief moment within the 4.6 billion years of earth’s total life span to date…a moment within the 6000 years of recorded human history. But brevity does not correspond to inconsequential. A moment, like a light in the darkness, can forever change the outcome.

We are not only adrift, we are plagued by darkness. It is the darkness that envelops a people that has forsaken its principles, values, ethics, morals and its Creator in homage to all things material. In this moment, each of us is being called to perform a specific function. That function is to be the light.

Each of us has been born for this moment. For in the void that we created in banishing ethics and faith from our midst remains a space that each of us can now fill with the spark of light that is found within. The spark of light that is the essence of who we are, not what we’ve allowed ourselves to become through fear and manipulation.

Powerlessness may be real in relation to a corrupt political system. It is false in relationship to Source. When we choose to stand for what is right in the face of what is wrong, we are imbued with the power of God and the effects are exponential and beyond our own capacity. However, we are not asked to take on what is not ours to do. When a Christian Polish woman, who hid Jews in her home just a mile from the Auschwitz concentration camp the Nazi’s had constructed, was asked, “So how did you become righteous?” she replied, “The righteous didn’t just suddenly become righteous. We simply refused to go off the cliff with the others.”

So, back to Director Comey’s decision and the 2016 election. It’s a waste of your time.

What is yours to handle is what is occurring within your own life…your family, your business, your community and your congregation.  It is now our responsibility that each of us stands for time tested principles in relationship to what we encounter personally each day within the boundaries of our own lives.

The same way we got these two, terrible choices for President is the same way we maintain hopelessness within our own lives. We take our attention, and our light, off of the darkness and preoccupy ourselves with inconsequential and material matters. Yes, having enough money to feed, clothe and house ourselves and our loved ones is important…but meaningless if doing so is more important than living and exemplifying honesty, integrity, compassion and diligence.

When we, one person at a time, begin to re-prioritize the use of our intellect, our time, and our energy to first and foremost live ethical lives, the environment in which corruption, deceit and manipulation have grown will no longer be fertile ground for such dis-ease.

Nature is an excellent teacher. It is true that we reap what we sow. We are reaping the diseased crop of the seeds we allowed to be planted under our watch. But one acre at time, we can till the soil and prepare it to receive a new crop of seeds, ones that will grow healthy and strong…imbued with life-affirming nourishment rather than disease.

Victimhood and despair are choices as are empowerment and hope.  We are free willed beings who get to choose not only our state of mind but also our actions and our reactions. Director Comey, taking on what was in front of him and his to decide chose cowardice, darkness and the status quo.  So be it. It is his journey.

You are on your own journey. Take a look around at what stands before you. Then choose. You cannot effect the 2016 election but you can affect each and every person and situation you encounter each and every moment. Its one moment at time.

But what occurs in a moment can change the world.

Carole