This is one thing I've noticed about people (including me): people don't appreciate what's free. Honestly, I don't always appreciate what's been freely given to me. It's as if we have to work HARD for something in order to appreciate it. If we didn't bust our butts to get it, then it has no value. If somebody has given us a valuable gift (which by definition is FREE), we'd neglect it simply because, well, it's free.
One of the main reasons why I don't advertise my ZUMBA classes for FREE (even though it is essentially free), is because I don't want to attract the kind of people who don't appreciate what's free. So I advertise my classes as "donation only" so folks would know that they could give whatever they want, but still have the option to not give anything.
My Body Challenge program I do charge for, because doing that program for FREE would mean that nobody would take it seriously. Plus, I charge people penalties for not doing certain things -- nobody would take accountability seriously if there are no penalties involved.
You know, most things in life were given to us for free. All of you were given something very valuable for free, whether it's a job that you didn't have to apply for, a place to stay, a car, healthcare, gym membership, etc. Some of us treasure what's been freely given to us, while some of us neglect our gifts.
But you know what? There is something else that is free, but you never thought of it as free: an opportunity. Believe it or not, opportunities are FREE because you didn't work for them. You didn't invite them. In fact, you weren't even looking for them. Opportunities are like pests: they just invade your space without asking for permission. For example, back in college, I had a man from the Czech Republic invite me to work with his church in that nation. In his words, he said, "We need more black brethren." So, simply being black (which I never asked for when I was born) gave me an opportunity to be invited to his country. Now, I would have had to raise the funds to go there, but the invite was FREE simply because of my skin color (which was given to me for free).
Back in New York, I worked for Macy's. My mother already worked there per diem (that is, as needed), so she suggested that I apply there. The INVITE, which is the opportunity, was simply given me. I didn't ask about working there. But because of the invite (the opportunity), I applied there and was immediately given the job because I used her employee number as a referral. Because I wasn't working full-time anywhere else, I was able to work many hours at Macy's, especially during the holiday seasons. That job helped me pay for my EMS training, which lead me to getting EMS jobs.
Opportunities are FREE -- and as such, we tend to neglect them. Some opportunities I appreciate, while other opportunities I simply neglect. Why? Because I could get so caught up in what I want to do that I miss truly important opportunities that are presented to me.
I think about a parable in the Bible about the servants who were given a certain amount of money to invest. One was given the equivalent of $5,000, another the equivalent of $2,000, and another the equivalent of $1,000. Each man was given according to what they were able to handle. The first two servants invested the money and doubled it. Both of those servants were greatly rewarded for their efforts. But then we have the last servant who was only given $1,000 who buried the money. When the "master" asked the servant about how he invested the money, the servant returned the $1,000 to him, being afraid to invest the money. The master chastised them, calling him "wicked and lazy" (ouch!). That servant had the OPPORTUNITY to do something great and to get rewarded for it. Instead, he neglected that opportunity because he didn't want it (Matthew 25:14-30).
You know, the FREE opportunities that are presented to you could lead to great rewards -- but you are probably neglecting them because these opportunities are not what you wanted.
For instance, when I was a member of a gym, I was given the opportunity to become a Les Mills instructor. I wanted to teach the Les Mills BodyAttack fitness program, which is about as intense as my ZUMBA classes. But the group fitness manager said that the gym has no BodyAttack programs, so she highly recommended that I go for BodyPump. I didn't want to teach BodyPump, but her suggesting that I go for BodyPump was an opportunity that came with promise. If I got caught up in what I wanted to do, I would have missed other opportunities. But I took her suggestion, went for my BodyPump certification, and I became a very successful instructor in that program. I had a permanent gig at the gym teaching classes. If I was caught up in doing BodyAttack, well, I would have had to go to another gym and I may or may not have been hired. At least with my gym, I knew I could get a job right away by doing what she told me.
Think about this: would you rather work HARD for something that may not have any promise instead of working EASILY for something that does come with promise? Would you rather bust your behind for pure chance, or would you rather ease into something that's given to you? You probably want to be a college professor, but you have a great opportunity to be an elementary school teacher -- and you could get this job right away. Would you stick to your guns and neglect the elementary job, or would you be willing to put your dreams of college teaching on hold?
Whether it's good health, good vision, a job, a place to stay, or a chance to travel to another country, if the opportunity was given to you, think twice about neglecting it. No, not every opportunity is a good one. But if an opportunity presents itself, don't be quick to dismiss it. This opportunity just might be the answer that you're looking for, but it's dressed in different clothes.
If you've attended my ZUMBA classes and wondered how in the world do I have so much energy, well, I'll tell you my secret: I spend the entire day preparing for this class.
As hard as my ZUMBA class is, if I prep well, then that class won't feel like much of a work-out for me. Yes, there are times when I'm struggling in class, but overall, I'm able to do everything in class that I planned to do. There are no exercises in that class that are too hard for me to do, all because I spent the entire day prepping for the class.
Now, you think, "Wait a minute, your class is only 45 minutes long! Don't you think spending an entire day prepping for a 45-minute class is overkill?" And yes, it seems like overkill. When you start your day, you don't think much about my fitness class. You have other things to worry about. If you're truly committed, you MIGHT spend two hours prepping for class. But most of you probably spend no more than 15 to 30 minutes prepping for my class, and that time is probably spent on eating a light snack, drinking an energy beverage, or just simply getting your clothes ready for class.
For the entire day, I may eat no more than TWO (yes, TWO) things: a protein salad and oatmeal, and maybe I might have a banana or two. I take a multivitamin supplement and a chlorophyll supplement. I drink a juice that I made in my juicer that consists of beets, apples, red cabbage, and a couple of other veggies. Then I drink a cold brew coffee 3 hours before class. If I feel for some reason that my sugar is a bit low, I would have a quick sugary drink right before class. In addition, I do no other work outs before class. The goal is to get my body to direct as much energy to my cardiovascular system and my skeletal muscular system as possible, and when done right, my preparation would make my highly intense class seem ALMOST like a breeze.
Now again, you're wondering, "But your class is only 45 minutes! Why would you waste your entire day for just one 45-minute class?" Well, here's the answer: those 45 minutes may be the most important 45 minutes for YOU, or for someone else. I've been told that my classes are the highlights for the week for some people. My classes might be the only things some people look forward to each week, so I want those 45 minutes to be the BEST 45 minutes that such people could experience.
But you know what? Life works the same way. Preparation time is always significantly much longer than show time. Back in high school and college, I participated in theatre, and in college I was briefly a theatre major. A typical show would run no longer than 2 hours. But guess how long the prep times are for just ONE show? MONTHS! Plus, you spend almost EVERYDAY rehearsing for that show, that short, two-hour show, and you might have a small part to play. But no matter how small your part is, you're still spending almost everyday rehearsing with the rest of the cast.
But all that prep time would pay off during show time. The audience would get a great experience and nobody would ask for their money back due to a bad performance. Yes, preparation time was short, but the end results were well worth it.
Success in anything in life requires long preparation time. You might feel at times that you're spending way too long preparing for something, but really, the longer you spend on preparation, the better the impact would be during show time.
Whenever I'm asked to deliver a short talk in church, I would spend a week preparing for it. Every time I give a short talk, I would have people express how much my words meant to them. That short, 5-minute delivery may have had a life-long impact on one person. And when you think about it, one week of preparation doesn't compare to a life-time of positive changes.
Just recently, a regular ZUMBA participant experienced chronic foot pain that came on and off for years and years and years. No doctor was able to figured out what was wrong. Then when she came to me and described the pain and how it came on and off, I immediately thought that something she was eating triggered it, and that it could be wheat. So, on the next day, she reduced her wheat consumption. Then on the day after that, her foot pain went away. She only spent a few minutes talking with me about her problem, but it took me YEARS of study to come to my conclusion of food being a trigger for her foot issue (and it was just in ONE foot). That very short conversation we had would lead to a lifetime of relief from foot pain.
Show time is always short. Preparation is always long. But as long as you're prepping for the right thing, then your show performance would ALWAYS have a lasting impact on somebody.
My daughter has recently taken an interest in animation. She has an app on an iPad that allows her to draw pictures and animate them as if she was making a cartoon. She definitely has the potential in doing some serious work with this app, but her main problem is that she doesn't spend enough time on her work. So, when she would show me her end product, it would be good at first, but then as the show continues, things looked rushed and the overall story line (which I am BIG on) wouldn't make much sense. So, I'm teaching her that if you want to do good work, you need to spend TIME on it. All serious artists spend hours and hours (if not DAYS and WEEKS) on their art. She needs to significantly increase her prep time so that her show time would blow me away.
Before she showed me any of her art work, she would prep me by saying, "I worked really hard on this." But I would tell her that simply saying "I worked really hard on this" means nothing. I want to know how much time you spent on your work. If you spent only an hour doing your work and then you want to spend the rest of the day doing something else, then you didn't work hard on it at all. Yes, I'm tough on her and on my son, but only because I see potential in them, and the older they get, the more of a push they need to be the best at what they do.
If YOU want to be best at anything, then you need to prep, prep, prep, and prep some more. I just have a very lowly title of personal trainer. With that title, you don't expect me to know much about anything that doesn't deal with exercise. But if you've ever talked with me, you would know that I know quite a bit about the medical side of things. When I'm not teaching a fitness class, I'm studying my books. My goal is to be that go-to person in all things related to health. I even have a drug reference app on my phone so I could quickly look up any drug on the market and know almost anything I want to know about those drugs. Why do I, just a lowly personal trainer, need to know about drugs? Because I want to be that guy who knows everything that relates to health. Plus, if someone is having trouble losing weight, I could ask them what drugs they are taking and look it up on my phone app to see if slow weight loss is a side effect.
You could always perform without much (or any) preparation. But you could NEVER perform WELL without significant prep time. Meat cooked in a smoker tastes much better than meat cooked in a microwave. A tomato that ripens slowly tastes better than a tomato that has been forced to ripen as they do on commercial farms. A house built in a year is better than a house built in a day. When the prep time is there, the end product would leave a significant impact on your life.
Don't live your life rushed. Spend some quality time on something, because when you do, life would become richer for you.
"Condemned if you do, condemned if you don't" (in nicer words, of course), "It's Catch-22," "Isn't it ironic," and "No good deed goes unpunished" are all familiar phrases that express how life is full of risks. As the old saying goes, "There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes."
Living healthy comes with risks, just like living unhealthy comes with risks. Exercising could keep your body strong for a long time, but you could also get injured by it. Taking a multivitamin could promote good health, but it could also cause health issues. Drinking raw milk could take your allergies away, but there could be bacteria in it that could kill you. I think about the song Michael Jackson sang in "The Wiz" called, "You Can't Win." And with information being so abundant on the internet, you could find pros and cons in ANYTHING that you wish to do. Bottled water, once thought to be safer than tap water, is considered just as toxic by some sources. Drinking pure rain water, which you think would be the healthiest source of water, may be laden with chemicals in the air. The word "organic" doesn't necessarily mean that the food hasn't been sprayed. Man, you really can't win!
While pondering all of life's ironies, I realized that there is no way to go around risks. Life is full of risks, and if you want to live life, then you need to take risks. There is NOTHING that you do that is risk-free. Even if you bought an item from a television program, you may be able to get your money back if you're not satisfied with the item, but you'll still have to pay the cost of shipping and handling. So, did you truly get a refund? Once you punch in your credit card info, you've just tossed caution out the window.
In order to live life with boldness, you need to take risks. You need to accept that today's actions won't guarantee tomorrow's results. Going for your college degree won't guarantee you a job. Getting married to the person you thought was right for you won't guarantee that your spouse won't leave you. Raising children the "right way" won't guarantee that they won't fall by the wayside once they get older. Working hard on your job won't guarantee promotion. Driving the speed limit doesn't mean you won't get pulled over for something else. Eating right and exercising won't promise that you would improve your health, and in unique cases, doing these things might kill you.
There's a book in the Bible that's solely focused on life's ironies. The Book of Ecclesiastes was written by the third king of Israel, King Solomon, and in this book he writes about his observations of life. The one thing he notices about life, the one thing that truly distressed him, was that everything seemed so random. You could work hard to give your children an inheritance, but your children could squander that inheritance. You could work hard to get a job promotion, but some newbie with no experience could get hired in your job and take the position you wanted. It's like a person who won the lottery, just to get cancer and die soon afterward. And it's like a person who eats right and exercises who drops dead on a treadmill.
All these ironies could be depressing. And you know what? It is what it is. Life comes with risks, and as long as you want to live it, then you need to take risks. Staying put because you're scared to do anything would be just as risky as going out to do something. The only difference is that by doing something, you're more likely to accomplish something. Doing nothing usually results in nothing happening.
I think about the song written by Martina McBride called "Do It Anyway." Some of the lyrics are as follows: "You can spend your whole life building something from nothing. One storm can come and blow it all away. Build it anyway. You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach, and you know that it might never come your way. Dream it anyway." I love songs with a powerful message...and those songs are usually gospel or country (this song is country). This song shows that even though life makes no promises, keep moving forward as if something good would come out of your efforts.
While reviewing the best multivitamins to take, I came to the conclusion that ALL multivitamins work (some better than others), and that ALL multivitamins come with risks. In fact, ALL supplements (multivitamin, oil tablets, herbal capsules) are good and ALL supplements come with risks. Putting anything in your mouth comes with no guarantees. So, why stress over what is considered "safe" and "unsafe?" Just take the supplement anyway. You're condemned if you do, and you're condemned if you don't. Just take the risk that would more likely be in your favor and hope for the best.
Going back to Ecclesiastes, as depressing as the book could seem, the author does offer practical hope. Regardless of any risks that you have to take, just be sure to enjoy whatever it is that you do. "Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life." (Ecclesiastes 5:18 NLT) In other words, do what brings you joy and don't work so hard to change your situation.
When you think about it, having joy is one of the most important things you could accomplish in this life. Even if nothing comes from your ventures, well, at least you enjoyed doing them. When we were children, we simply had JOY in whatever we did without expecting anything more. I know that while I LOVED writing and drawing when I was a kid, I didn't expect to make a living from these activities. I just enjoyed the activities for what they were. As we become adults, we get so focused on doing stuff that counts, on chasing careers and promotions, on getting everything that our neighbors have. We focus on the bad situations that we're in and work tirelessly to change our situations. According to King Solomon, life is so random that nothing you do comes with any promises, but the best thing you could do is to accept whatever life you have and to focus on the things you enjoy.
The novel that you write may make you money or it may not. All the hard work you put into that garden might be destroyed by a hurricane. All the exercises that you do may help you lose weight or it may not. Don't do ANYTHING expecting some risk-free guarantee. Nothing in life comes without risk. But if you enjoy the activity, just do it and hope that something good would come from it.
The most joyous people are those who don't care about what the future holds for them. They are just focused on TODAY and doing the things they enjoy. If you enjoy good health, take those vitamins. If you enjoy having a strong body, do those exercises. If you enjoy speaking in different languages, then continue learning new languages. Do whatever you want to do because you enjoy it, and don't avoid it because it comes with risk. Just do it anyway, as McBride suggests in her song.
The more you're willing to risk, the more joy you could have in this life. Put aside your fear of germs, getting killed, getting hurt, getting sick, and all that. I do promise this one thing to you: if you're always scared to do something new, you WILL be depressed your entire life. You could live life to the fullest and die by 50 years old, or live the rest of your life in a nursing home because you've gotten so sick that you can't do anything for yourself.
One interesting thing that I've observed in children is that they tend to replicate the personality of one of their parents. Some kids physically resemble one of their parents and would even take on that parent's personality, and would even pursue the same career or business choices that the parent pursued.
But then you have children who are just completely different from their parents, having different values, different ideas, and different passions. If you were to compare that child to his or her parents, you would think that child didn't belong to those parents!
So, why is it that one child is almost an exact replica of the parents while the other child is not? It's because one child looks up to the parents, while the other child looks up to somebody else. This is not to say that one child loves the parents while the other doesn't, but that the parents are a source of inspiration to one child but not to the other.
Whoever is your source of inspiration would be the person you would most closely resemble in your personality, values, ideas, and life pursuits. But be careful about who inspires you, because your life could be a miserable one if the wrong people inspire you.
When I was involved in a network marketing company, I was surrounded by big-money-earners. My direct upline was a family that made over $200,000 a year, and to this day, they are probably close to millionaire status. I've attended the revival-like meetings where I've heard from guest speakers who made tons and tons of money, from people doing the business "very part-time" who made thousands a month, etc., etc. I'd be inspired to go out there and make money and have financial freedom like everybody else.
But...then I realized that all these people were promoting one thing that I really didn't value: money. The company was a nutrition-based company, and their products did work for me. But in the end, it wasn't about helping people get healthy: it was about making as much money as you can. Not only that, the values that were indirectly promoted was that the only way you could live a life of your dreams is by making lots and lots of money. The other message is that not having enough money makes you miserable while having money makes you happy.
One of the company's top-earners killed himself in a truck a few years ago. The founder of our company died from drug overdose. Then I hear of divorces happening in this company. So, it looks like money didn't really make you happy, but the pursuit of money was a recipe of disaster.
If I looked up to those top-earners, I would believe that the life I already had was inadequate, miserable, and unfulfilling. I look at my life now and it truly is a dream life. I don't have much money, which I have never been silent about. But having my kids home instead of in school, being able to go on road trips whenever I want, and having several paying gigs that would allow me to work whenever I want makes a dream life to me. I didn't need network marketing to achieve that.
Now, who inspired me so that I see my current life as a dream life? The number one person is Jesus. The other people who inspire me are those who live their lives with purpose, who live to serve the needs of others and who don't hold values to worldly possessions. The people who inspire me are the ones who have been married to one person over 50 years, who don't get caught up in fame and fortune, who homeschool their kids to instill deep values in them, and who don't live their lives trying to find happiness as if it were something hidden in the ocean somewhere.
Since the right people inspire me, I feel that I have a good life. I'm not stressed out and worried about money. I don't feel depraved of anything and I feel that I'm living with purpose. And I have such joy whenever I hear of my children saying that they want to use their skills to help the poor. Obviously, I'm their source of inspiration, so their pursuits in life would reflect my pursuits.
If you're living a miserable life where nothing is going your way, perhaps the wrong people inspire you. Who are the ones you look up to and what kind of values do they have? It's easy to look up to celebrities, because they seem to have it all. Do you believe that having it all would make your life better? If you were honest with yourself, you'd say no.
I seek to be an inspiration to my kids by the different skills I pursue. Just the other day, my son did his first REAL pull up. Why did he care to do a pull up? Because he saw his father doing it. My daughter has been seriously practicing her art. Why? Because she saw my art work and I push her to improve her skills. No, my kids won't like everything that I do, but the point is that their direction in life would be influenced because they look up to me as their inspiration. My son has spoken of being a truck driver, nothing that interests me. But what were his goals? To build greenhouses and sell them at affordable prices so that everybody can purchase them, and he could deliver these greenhouses to them. Yes...those goals reflect my values.
Another time, my son said, "We live an amazing life." He said that all on his own without any prompting from me. He could have been a child who complained about not having anything -- but through the teaching I give him and the examples I show him with my life, he finds that his life is not bad at all.
While I was in network marketing, my upline talked about the possibility of me making $10,000 a month and said, "Think about the kind of life you could provide for your kids." That made me think, "What's wrong with the life they have now?" His comment only revealed what were important in this life: money and possessions. No, he's not a bad person and he truly meant well. But I know that I didn't want people like him inspiring me. This is one reason why I'm not involved in network marketing: I don't want the wrong people inspiring me, otherwise I'd feel inadequate about the life I have now. (As an aside, I don't denounce network marketing at all. It's just not something I want to get involved with unless I truly, truly, TRULY see a vision for it that doesn't involve getting rich.)
Your life reflects the people you look up to. All of your hopes and dreams are simply extensions of the people you surround yourself with. If you weren't around those people, would you honestly say that you'd still pursue those passions of yours? If I didn't surround myself with the right people, I probably wouldn't appreciate the life I have now and I probably wouldn't pursue the things I pursue now.
You're not an island. You're a part of a continent. Other people do influence your decisions, even if you don't believe so. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it really for health issues or is it because you look up to the wrong people? Why do you want a six-pack? Why do you want to get a tan? Why do you want to color your hair? Why do you do what you do? If you dig deep enough, you'd see that other people have influenced your values -- and sometimes, those people were inspired by the wrong people.
One of the first steps to improving your life AND your perception of your life is to be inspired by the right people. Sometimes, your struggle with depression could be caused by those you hang around with. Sometimes, your drinking and drug problem could be caused by the people you cherish the most. Sometimes, you're not going forward in life because the people you admire are holding you back.
When the right people inspire you, your life may not necessary get better, but at least your perception of your life would improve. And really, getting more money or better health is not nearly as important as getting a better attitude about your life.
At church on Wednesday nights, I would sometimes do a particular game with the elementary-aged children that I call, "You Got To Be Ready." In this game, the kids would be in a semi-circle and I would hold a ball. The object of the game is to be ready to catch the ball, because if I pass the ball to you and you drop it, you'll be out of the game. That alone doesn't sound hard, but I would purposefully distract you and try to "psych you out" so that catching the ball would be hard. For example, I might be looking at you but I'll pass the ball to someone else. Or I might say something like, "Nice shoes," and if you look at your shoes, I'll pass the ball to you, which you'll most likely drop.
The game could be a stressful one, because you truly don't know when I'll pass the ball to you. Plus, if you're the type who is easily distracted, the game would be even harder for you. Some kids, needless to say, have a hard time with the game. But then you have the select few who are very good at it because they have good focus. The game solely teaches you to stay focus. Those with the best focus win, while those with focus issues fail almost immediately.
Here's the thing about focus: you can't medicate yourself to better focus, you can't breathe enough defused essential oils to sharpen your focus, and you can't eat your way to better focus. In order to have strong focus, you need to TRAIN yourself to focus. With my experience with kids, the best (and dare I say ONLY) way to strengthen their focus is to help them train for it.
Let's go back to that ball game. How does that game truly help you focus? Well, because there is only one thing in that game that you need to focus on: the ball. For the next few moments, nothing else in life is more important than that ball. Everybody in the game has a focal point, and if their eyes drift away from the focal point, that person would lose. As the person holding the ball, I purposefully look for the kids who seem distracted. If a kid's eyes shift just for a split second, I'll pass the ball to that kid -- and that kid usually drops the ball. It only takes a split second of distraction to keep you from winning.
While winning isn't everything, well, a game is simply pointless if there are no winners. So, the other way that game helps you to focus is by giving you a drive to win. In that game, the last person standing wins. Focusing on one point and having the drive to win will help sharpen your focus so that you could be successful in whatever goals you decide to pursue.
Going back to the children, one of the biggest reasons many of them have focus issues is because they don't have a drive to win. Yes, they have a focal point, but they just don't care enough to succeed. Whenever I had the children play soccer when I was a physical education teacher, the team who had no drive to win were usually (okay, were ALWAYS) the losers. But once I, Mr. Jones, decide to play soccer with them, all of the sudden, EVERYBODY had a drive to win. The team that I joined had a drive to win because I was on their team. The opposing team had a drive to win because they simply wanted to beat me. Whenever I get into the game, the competition gets real! But if I don't join the game, then only a few kids have a drive to win while the rest just didn't care.
When I gave my daughter a book challenge, she spent every day of the week reading a book. She had to read 10 books in seven days, and these books had 100 pages or slightly less. Instead of watching television, playing on her Kindle, or doing anything else, she spent a lot of time reading books -- because I promised her a reward if she completed the assignment. She wanted to win, just like a typical child.
I've talked so much about children, what about the adults? As a fitness trainer, I could tell who has the drive to improve themselves and who doesn't have that drive. Those who want to win (that is, accomplish their goals), are the ones slimming down, toning up, and clearing up health issues. But those with no drive to win are the ones who put in little effort into their health journeys. They are the ones who always have an excuse why they didn't exercise, or why they deserve a beer or ice cream, or why they shouldn't push themselves too hard, or why they can't do this, that, or the other. The ones who want to win would exercise if they have a broken foot -- they can't do everything that they want to, but they're still going to do something.
See, if you want to go forward, then you have to build up your focus muscles. You build these muscles by having a focal point in your life and having the drive to hit that mark. If you do everything passively, don't expect a prize. If you do everything with purpose, then you could learn another language, get a better education, grow a big garden, lose that weight, and cut out bad habits. In other words, you need to keep your eyes straight ahead and walk in one direction with purpose.
I think about a passage in the Bible that says, "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways." (Proverb 4:25-26). Pick a goal (focal point), look straight ahead, walk with purpose, and have the drive to hit the mark. If you have no focal point in your life, then you won't know where you ought to go, and if you don't know where to go, well, you'll just stay where you are. Ten and twenty years will come and go and you'd wonder why your life isn't going anywhere. But once you have a focal point and a drive to get there, time would fly by, and you'd look back and be proud of how much you have improved as a person.
I'm learning five languages at once: Spanish, German, Greek, Russian, and Hebrew. Spanish is easy because I've grown up around Spanish-speaking people. German is surprisingly easy because it's very similar to English. Greek is a bit tougher, but since I've studied one of the ancient forms of Greek in college, I could get by. Russian, believe it or not, is not all that hard. The one thing that makes learning these languages doable is knowing the sounds of each alphabet.
Hebrew, on the other hand, has been the hardest language for me to learn -- it's been so hard that I considered giving up on it. The alphabets look nothing like Latin alphabets, and the vowels are nearly absent. It's almost as if the alphabet is all consonants, and few of those consonants could make a vowel sound depending on how the letter is used. Imagine that the letter "V" could sometimes be pronounced as "O." All the letters are capitals, so there are no small forms of a letter. Few letters have two different forms depending on their location in a word. Plus, you read Hebrew from right to left, instead of left to right -- which is great for left-handed people.
So, you feel my pain yet? You could see why I almost gave up on learning this language. I saw, however, that my mistake was approaching this language the same way that I've approached the other languages. The Hebrew language is in a different family than Spanish, German, Russian, and Greek. Since Hebrew was so different than the other languages, it would make sense that I should approach this language differently. Then I started seeing certain patterns in this language that had actually encouraged me to keep learning it. I would not have seen these patterns had I not decided to look at this language through a different set of eyes.
You see, your problems in life are like different languages. Many problems are very similar and you could approach those problems the same way. But then you have unique problems, which are problems that you have to take a completely different approach to. Maybe many of your problems were money-related, but then you have that one problem that doesn't seem to go away with money. Maybe many of your problems were diet-related, but then you have that one problem that doesn't seem to go away no matter how many vitamins, herbs, oils, and drugs you consume.
In our society, it's very, very, VERY common to throw things at problems. Got back issues? Take this. Don't have enough energy? Take this. Your child can't focus in school? Give him this. You daughter has acne? Give her this. Have pain here? Do this. Have pain there? Do that? But what if you have a problem that doesn't go away no matter what you take or do? Instead of giving up, try approaching that problem differently. Maybe this unique problem requires a unique solution. Or in other words, whatever you've done to solve your other problems, don't do that same thing with this new problem.
If I were to have a compelling argument against using robots in the workplace, it would be that all robots approach situations according to how they were programmed. No matter how good you think your robot is, the robot is still limited to what it could do. Robots are not, and cannot, be designed to respond to unique situations. Unique situations are those that are unexpected and nobody is prepared for them. When unique situations arise, there is only one thing you could do to handle them: use an actual HUMAN. A HUMAN could make independent decisions, not robots. To make a completely autonomous robot would put humans on the same level as God.
In the same way, you are usually "programmed" to respond to all situations the same way. But all your problems cannot be solved this way. Sometimes, you have to take a completely different approach to solving your issues. You just need to be willing to accept that maybe, just maybe, you're going about your problems the wrong way. There is an answer, but you won't find it by doing the same things that you've done for your other problems.
I wanted to make money, yet be around my family -- and unfortunately, trying to accomplish this by finding a job had proven to be difficult. Almost every "job" that I had took significant amount of time from my family. Even when my wife was working, she was gone for many hours during the week. So, the kids got to see me very often, but wouldn't see her that often. I didn't want that, but I didn't want the kids to not see me either. There had to be a way for the kids to see their parents very consistently that doesn't require unemployment.
And yet...it actually took just that: unemployment. That is, both my wife and I had to stop looking for employment and start looking for alternative ways to make money. Of course, ZUMBA twice a week has supplied us with some income through donations -- not much, but every little bit counts. Then I started the Body Challenge, which supplies some income. Then I started teaching more CPR classes, and I had my food delivery gig -- and all of these minor things had actually supplied us with enough income to live comfortably on. My family and I are almost always together, even to the point where I need a break sometimes! Many would say that we truly live a dream life, but this life wouldn't have happened had we not approached our issues differently.
See, there are answers out there for you. The big problem you have is that you're using the same method to solve most of your problems. Sometimes, it's not about having good credit. Sometimes, it's not about finding a good-paying job. Sometimes, it's not about going to bed earlier. Sometimes, it's not about taking more vacations. Sometimes, it's not about going to yoga class, or seeing a chiropractor, or listening to more self-help tapes. Sometimes, you need to do something completely different to solve your problems.
If you ever paid attention to the tool section at Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or some smaller mom-and-pop shops, you'd notice that there are multiple tools. Some tools such as screw drivers and socket wrenches could fix many things. But every now and then, you need a plunger to fix a clogged toilet. There is no tool in the world that could fix everything. In the same way, there is no one solution that could fix all your problems.
If you have a tough situation, don't give up because you're not making any progress. Just go at your situation differently. When everybody tells you the same thing, then listen to a different opinion. Six doctors tell you the same thing. But the seventh doctor told you something completely different. Five car mechanics gave you the same solution. The sixth car mechanic told you something else. All your friends suggested doing one thing. But a complete stranger suggested something else. When everybody is going one way, consider going the other way -- that way may be the answer to your problems.
If you ever tried to break a bad habit, you'd notice that you can't simply "wean" yourself off that habit. You could wean yourself ON a new habit, but you can't wean yourself off it. With breaking a habit, it's all or nothing: either you quit altogether or you keep practicing that habit.
If you've been struggling with losing weight, then gaining it, and losing it again, then you know that the idea of "weaning" doesn't work. Having a "little bit of" this, that, and the other doesn't help you break the bad habit of drinking too much alcohol and eating too many doughnuts. For many of us, just having one is enough to set us back. You put in a lot of hard work into losing weight, but once you eat that one, tiny piece of candy, that was all it took to wreck everything.
True, lasting change sometimes take radical action. Sometimes, you just have to cut something out completely. Sometimes, you just have to burn that bridge. Sometimes, you just have to say "Enough is enough!"
Some of you might be familiar with a passage in the Bible about cutting off parts of your body if you're serious about getting to heaven. Jesus told his disciples that if your hand, foot, eye, etc., causes you to sin, then cut it off and toss it away, because it's better to get into heaven disabled than to go to hell with all your body parts. Obviously, cutting off a hand or foot is not going to keep you from doing bad things, but the point was that if someone was serious about heaven, they would make radical changes in their lives.
We are accustomed to making our cake and eating it, too. We don't like the idea of making any radical sacrifices. We want one thing, but we're not willing to make serious changes to get it. We want this body, go to this place, do this, that, and the other, but we don't want to make any radical changes.
If you wanted to spend more time with your children, would you be willing to leave your career for it?
If you wanted to lose weight, would you be willing to permanently abstain from alcohol?
If you want to have more peace in your life, would you be willing to get rid of certain people in your life?
Having goals come with sacrifices, and those sacrifices might be radical. If you haven't reached your goal yet, then your sacrifices haven't been radical enough. If you've been struggling with a certain addiction for years, then you haven't made a radical change. If after 20 years you're still going through the same ol' same ol', then it's time to make some radical changes.
Here's the good news about radical changes: they work! Making those changes aren't necessarily easy, but they work. The reason they work is because they would open your eyes to what you COULD be, where you COULD go, how life COULD be lived. You would finally see the other side of the picture and understand that you don't have to struggle with your problems any longer. You could finally be free to accomplish whatever you want to, but you FIRST must make that radical change.
Listen, I know what it's like to struggle with something for YEARS. This struggle keeps you in a prison and limits how you could live your life. The only thing that is really keeping you in this prison is...you. If you want to be free, then you need to make some radical changes in your life.
After you make some serious sacrifices, it would feel good at first, and then later you start regretting it. Don't turn back! Remember the feeling you had when you finally felt free, and remember how badly you felt when you were trapped in your prison. Do you want to feel badly again? Do you want to be slumped over your couch feeling sorry for yourself? Do you want to hit that bottle while listening to heart-break songs? Do you want to start snorting that coke and feel like dirt afterwards? Or do you want to feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders? If you want that feeling, then you know what you need to do -- and weaning yourself off is not the answer.
If you want to know what a radical change looks like, try having your doctor tell you that you have a 98-percent chance of getting brain cancer unless you start changing your life. After hearing those words, you'd go straight home and throw out all the foods that are typically considered unhealthy. You'd join a gym, buy health magazines, quit smoking, quit alcohol, and participate in some marathons. That's radical.
Try having your college advisor tell you that if you don't maintain a 3.7 GPA, you would lose your scholarship. You would have to start taking out loans to pay $50,000 a year for college. You'd stop going to all those college parties and spend most of your time in the library. That's radical.
Try having a police officer pull you over and tell you that if you get one more speeding ticket, your license would be suspended -- and you work as a delivery driver. No license, no job, no income. You'll be traveling 35 mph everywhere you drive and you'd avoid the highway so that you won't be tempted to speed. That's radical!
Making a radical change in itself isn't hard. The hard part is simply deciding to do it. If you're tired of being tired, if you're sick of being sick, and if you're disgusted with feeling disgusting, then it's time to make a radical change. Don't ease your way through. Don't wean yourself off. Don't try to take things slowly. Just do it! It's all or nothing. If you want freedom, then make a run for it and don't look back.
Recently, I've taken an interest in brain anatomy. My studies so far have confirmed what I've always believed: the brain could do extraordinary things once you challenge it. I've read stories about beating autism, learning disabilities, and sexual habits by challenging the brain to do something that it's not used to.
Of course, these stories are all "underground," meaning that you won't hear them from mainstream medical media. You would always hear of some new (and very expensive) treatment for conditions such as dementia, stroke, learning disabilities, schizophrenia, etc., or some new drug that could "possibly" (key word) work some kind of magic. But you rarely (if ever) hear about people who "cured" themselves by simply challenging their brain.
One time while teaching CPR to a chiropractor, we started talking about unnecessary medical treatments that people go through. When someone experiences pain, they immediately rush to get drugs or surgery, thinking that their problems would be fixed. Little do such people know is that doing either is really taking a chance on your body: the surgery may fix you or permanently damage you, and the drug may relieve your pain or give you seizures.
Both the chiropractor and I agreed that in general, people don't like to go through the necessary pain for natural healing. Instead of suffering with weight-training and intense brain exercises, they would much rather go to the doctors and receive a quick, yet uncertain, solution.
Let me tell you, when you challenge yourself, it is NOT pleasant and it is very discouraging. When you don't see results soon enough, you would quickly believe that the "natural route" is useless and would run to the conventional route. But when you always go the easy route, you would eventually find that life is no longer pleasant. Instead of getting better, you would get worse and worse until you'd be forced to consider alternative routes.
Right now, I am learning THREE languages all at once: German, Spanish, and Greek. Learning these languages has been fun, but when it's time to put my learning to work, then I get discouraged! But I know that I can't stop my journey, because I know that I have never challenged myself in this way before. Of course I will get frustrated! My brain is just so used to speaking English that any attempts to learn another language would seem like a challenge. Sometimes, I question why even bother learning another language when I really don't need to??? But if I truly want to make my brain do things that it has never done before, I will continue on this journey until I complete it.
Challenges aren't pleasant, but they are rewarding.When you're able to do things that you've never done before, it feels good! The process of getting to that point is discouraging, and this is where many of us fail. We start the process, but then we turn back when the road gets too tough. Then we start lying to ourselves, thinking that there really is no point to this journey, that we are wasting our time, and that there is no other solution.
In my Body Sculpt Challenge program, my number one focus is to push people to do something that they've never done before. Yes, these people have already had a healthy diet and exercised on a regular basis. But I take it a few steps further. People are solving their neck and back pain, dropping those extra 10 pounds, clearing up their skin, fixing their gut, and getting stronger and leaner. Many of us who eat healthy and exercise on our own could only achieve so much until we get uncomfortable with doing more. But once someone pushes you to do even more, that is when you truly see results that you haven't seen before. Or in other words, when you CHALLENGE yourself to do something that you've never done before, you would see results that would make you lost for words.
So, the question is how willing are you to take a challenge that you've never taken before? How serious are you about fixing a long-term problem? What is it that you truly want to accomplish in this life? Things that are worth pursuing will come with intense challenges that you would have to go through. What if some painful back exercises is what you need to permanently fix your back? What if spending MONTHS (or even years) training your brain is what you need to do to fix your brain after having a stroke? What if giving up certain foods for 6 weeks would eventually cure you of [insert disease here]? Are you passionate enough to go through the pain of the challenge?
The next time you say, "I wish I could," I want you to add, "But I can't because I don't want the challenge." When you say that to yourself a few times, hopefully it would motivate you to say, "You know what, I'm sick of wishing for it. Let me just go for it!" Remember that if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.
It's easy to pursue anything as long as it comes easily to you. But if your dreams come with suffering, then you'd much rather dream about something else. If you're not willing to suffer for your dreams, then they aren't dreams worth chasing.
Previously, I wrote an article about the meaning of passion. The word "passion" originally had nothing to do with what you're excited about. Passion dealt with suffering. If you've grown up in church, you may have heard of the term, "the passion of Christ." In fact, Mel Gibson made a movie many years ago about the suffering of Jesus called "The Passion." The movie had nothing to do with warm and fuzzy feelings. It had lots of violence and blood! Passion, in this case, meant "suffering."
So, if you are "passionate" about something, then you should be willing to suffer for it. Otherwise, it's not really passion: it's just an interest.
Many people want to lose weight, get in shape, and improve their health. But when they see that there is some suffering involved (ex: doing exercises and changing bad habits), then they quickly fall away. It's more comfortable to just live however way you want to than to change your life for the better. Losing weight in this case is not a passion, but an interest.
Many people want to stop going to the doctor. They want to stop taking so many medications. They want to stop being sick all the time. But when they see how much suffering they have to do to get better, then being sick doesn't seem so bad. Getting better in this case is not a passion, but an interest.
Many people want to achieve this, achieve that, go here, go there, be this, be that, etc., etc. But once they find out how much they have to suffer for it, then they start to change their minds. They decided that settling is much less painful than pursuing a dream.
When I was still a physical education teacher, I asked a group of high school students about their career goals. After they told me their dream careers, I asked them how would they feel if they couldn't work in those fields. Most of them didn't seem bothered if they couldn't go into their "dream field." But after prodding a little deeper, I started to find out what some of them were truly passionate about. One girl who wanted to be a dentist told me that it would devastate her if she couldn't practice her music anymore. But if she couldn't be a dentist, she didn't seem to care.
One boy wanted to go into the military. I asked what if he couldn't do it. He kept listing different things that he could do in the military and eventually said, "There has to be something that I could do in the military." Even if he couldn't be a soldier, he wanted to be something in the military. I think he found what he was willing to suffer for.
When you get lost thinking about what to do with your life, just ask yourself what you're willing to suffer for. Most likely, that would be one of your life's callings.
Having a flexible schedule when I could take off work any time I want to and spend as much time with the kids as possible is what I am willing to suffer for. Financially speaking, I had definitely suffered! I suffered through the humiliation of asking my mother and my church for money. I suffered through not being able to pay my bills and getting sued by one of my creditors. My relationship with my father was tensed for a time, because he co-signed for one of my student loans and I couldn't pay those loans. The creditors were stressing him out and he felt as if I betrayed him. I suffered through the humiliation of putting only a few dollars of gas in my car hoping that it would get us through another couple of days. I suffered through simply being stressed and depressed because the savings were nearly depleted.
Thank the good Lord that all of that is behind me. I could have changed all of that by finding a full-time job (or several part-time jobs), having my wife go to work full-time, and throwing my kids in public school. We could have had everything that everybody else had. But because time with family was absolutely important, I was willing to suffer for it EVEN at the expense of somebody else. If North Carolina were to say that I couldn't homeschool my children anymore, I'd drop everything and move to another state -- something I would dread doing, but I would do it for my children.
So, what are YOU willing to suffer for? It's easy to have interests. But if those interests were in jeopardy, would you simply let them go or would you fight for them to the point of suffering?
If you came to me asking how to permanently take away your neck pain, what would you hope that I say? Take a certain herb or an essential oil? Maybe acupuncture? Maybe a massage? You'd hope that I give an easy solution, something that's quick and simple to do. What if I told you that you had to do neck exercises that would be quite painful to start with, but would gradually improve your neck pain? Would you be willing to do it or would you eventually opt for surgery -- which is very easy to do?
You could tell where a person stands by what he or she is willing to suffer for. What you SAY is nowhere nearly as important as what you are willing to GO THROUGH. If you are willing to make big sacrifices in your life, make significant changes in your schedule, and start doing things very differently, then you would know what you'd be willing to suffer for. But if you could easily get distracted from a goal, then it's probably something that you won't suffer for and you should probably stop pursuing that goal.
On a sheet of paper, write out all the things that you believe are important to you (not including your family). Then ask yourself which of those things would you suffer for. Cross off EVERYTHING that you won't suffer for. One of two things would happen: 1) you'd cross off everything from that list or (the more likely option) 2) everything would be crossed off but one, two, or three things. Whatever those things are should be the things you need to direct your energy to.
So, if you have a goal that you're not willing to suffer for, does this mean that you shouldn't pursue it? No, but it means that you don't need to pursue it now. You could pursue it when it's convenient to do so. Since you're not willing to suffer for it, then it's simply an interest, not a passion. Your passions (what you're willing to suffer for) takes the highest priorities. Everything else that you're just interested in takes the lowest priorities.
I'm the type of person who likes to "switch it up." I don't like doing the same thing over and over again, because then I would just get bored with it. But having said that, I do see the benefits of doing the same stuff over and over again, even to the point of boredom. In fact, being a "creature of habit" would guarantee you success much more quickly than being a person who needs to "switch it up."
There are three exercises that I do at home, and I do NOTHING else: pull-ups, push ups, and one-legged squats (which truly works the muscles around your ankle and knee joints better than double-legged squats do). I don't switch up anything. And yes, it gets boring. But this is what I'm doing: I'm making exercise a part of me. I'm building up a strong habit by doing the same stuff over and over again. If I keep switching it up, then I'd eventually stop what I'm doing because I would get too easily bored.
Here's another reason why I keep doing the same stuff: because I want to get BETTER and BETTER at it. If I could only do 10 pull-ups now, then I want to do 15 pull-ups later. If I could only do 40 push ups now, then maybe I could do 50 the next time. The more I keep doing the same stuff, the better I would get at it and the STRONGER I would become.
But let's say that I could only do 5 push ups on my toes and then got bored with push ups. So, I switch to doing chest flies and I could do about 20 of them with 10-lbs weights. Then I get bored with that and started doing tricep chair dips, and then got bored with that and started doing something else. Eventually, I would want to return to doing push ups again, and guess how many push ups I would be able to do on my toes? At best, just five. How is that? Because every time I switch my routines, I am starting from scratch. Even if the routine is working the same muscles as push ups, the new routine will not work those muscles the same way that push ups would. Every routine you switch to would work the same muscles differently and at different intensity levels.
Now if your goal is to simply stay physically active, then switch up all you want. But if you have a SPECIFIC goal, then switching up would be your downfall. You need to keep doing what you're doing over and over until you get better and better at it. Some of you noticed that I have quite a big chest -- I mean, my chest is not bodybuilder-quality, but it's big enough for people to notice. I didn't get this chest by switching up my routines.
If you attend my ZUMBA classes, you may notice that the last leg track has several "tiers" in the song and the moves are all the same. The first tier is hard, but then we take a quick break. The second tier is harder, and we take another break. By the third or fourth tier, we're about done because our legs are smashed! This is what it feels to actually accomplish something: you do it over and over until you could FEEL the work. Why are the legs getting smashed? Because they're doing the same thing over and over until they are wearing out.
In fact, in my ZUMBA classes, the moves stay the same more or less. The music would change rather often, but the routine is pretty much the same. But one song could make the same routine harder than another song could. My method in my classes is to use the power of consistency and progression to help you get a good work out. If I kept switching up the moves every time you came to class, you would spend so much time trying to figure things out that you wouldn't even get a work out!
Goals are for people who are willing to keep a routine. If you are willing to do the same thing over and over again until you could FEEL the work, then you could obtain what you're looking for. But every time you "switch it up," then you would be starting from scratch. Always changing your routine is no better than quitting a project and starting on another project.
I've already mentioned that I'm learning several languages at once: Spanish, German, Greek, and recently I added Russian and Hebrew. Good gracious, what's wrong with me??? Of all these languages, Spanish is becoming a bit boring to me. But guess what? My Spanish is becoming better and better. When I listen to the words being spoken, I could quickly interpret what's being said. Whenever I listen to the Bible being read in Spanish, I could understand it more and more. Now, imagine if I got so bored with Spanish that I stopped learning it so I could learn Russian. What's going to happen to my Spanish? Yep, my Spanish would suffer and I'm going to forget stuff. If my goal was to simply keep my brain active, then it doesn't matter if I become fluent in a language or not. But my goal is to eventually speak a language, so switching up my routine is a no-no. I need to keep at it even if I get sick of it, and when I start getting sick of it, that is when I become better at it.
Instead of always changing your routine, do MORE with the routine that you have. If you're a dude and you want a big chest, do push ups. When the push ups become easy, then do MORE push ups. Do the push ups faster. Do the push ups slower. Put weight on your back when you do push ups, but keep doing push ups. Don't switch to chest press, chest flies, or anything else. Just stick with one routine and MAXIMIZE it. If you're going on a road trip and you keep changing your course, how long would it take you to get to your destination? Yes, a long time! Good answer!
Remember: if it worked one time, then it would work again. If the routine you've chosen has produced some results, then it would eventually produce more results. Stick with it and get better at it. Don't get distracted with all the latest...anything. Don't allow yourself to get so bored that you feel the need to change. Keep doing what works and do it better.
All information in this blog are for inspirational purposes only. Unless otherwise stated, all content is written and copyrighted by Aiyo A. Jones.