Sometimes the Battle Picks You

The Taoist wisdom of my five year old son who is discovering and exploring opposites… “Papa, the opposite of forward – is backward… The opposite of fast is slow… The opposite of outside is inside…”

He said these things to me out of the blue as he and I drove to the urgent care facility tonight. We have severe colds we would normally just ride out. But we’re about to get courses of antibiotics. We’ll also be getting flu shots because even though that sauce is pretty weak this year, it’s better than nothing. And this year I’ll be looking for every edge I can find. Every. Single. Edge.

He can’t possibly understand how relevant those words are in our lives right now… Can he? He knows a few things but doesn’t understand their implications yet… Does he?

He knows his 11 month old baby sister Danika is his favorite little girl in the world. And he knows, because we’ve started talking about it, that he’s not going to be able to give her hugs for a while if he has anything that feels like a cold. He knows he’ll have to move a little slower with her before he jumps in close for a hug-n-a-smooch, just to be safe. Because we can’t risk an infection right now.

He knows Danika has a problem inside her tummy that’s going to have to be removed to the outside. He knows that it might look like she’s becoming tired or getting sicker before she gets better in a few months. Or maybe a year. He knows that’s almost how long his sister has been alive so far.

Maybe he gets it. Maybe more than we do?

He doesn’t understand chemo therapy. He might understand what a surgery is; he’s heard some stories about some of mine.

He has no idea what a Wilms Tumor is. Or what it’s like to have two of them – one growing from each kidney. And I’m not sure he has a concept for what cancer is, exactly. Or what Stage 5 means.

But he knows his baby sister has it. He knows we’re going to go backward in order to move forward for a while. We’re going to slow way down and think, move smoothly, before we can move faster again. He knows that in a couple of months, Danika is going to have a surgery so that the problem inside can be brought to the outside. And he knows we’ll keep working the puzzle until it’s really complete, which is going to be years after it’s started. He understands that we keep working the puzzle. He doesn’t really understand what five years feels like.

Then, again… He is five, after all. Maybe he does understand what it means to spend a lifetime working a puzzle.

It’s what we do here. Danika knows it, too. And she’s about to be immersed in these lessons fully.

Your first war, littlest one. Sometimes the battle picks you and avoiding it is not an option. Your soul will be made stronger in this fire. We’ll be with you every step of the way. And we’ll all be made stronger for it.

Today, we prepare. We attack at dawn. We fight… Here.

On Fear vs Love: Choose your motivations wisely

In the martial arts world:

I generally see people moving in one of two directions. They’re either moving toward something they want – or away from something they want to avoid. You could say they’re either motivated by fear or desire, depending on which direction they’re moving. Another word for desire – a stronger word that puts the motivation on a higher emotional plane – is love.

I’m not talking about base level motivation; that natural or automatic driver of behavior. I’m saying we have the ability to choose our motivations and decide for ourselves which to pay attention to. Fear is the easy one. Desire is also pretty easy and automatic. But to choose a course of action out of love will require you to look more closely at what’s really driving your behavior.

Are you training (in martial arts) to avoid getting beaten in some scenario (neighborhood/community/competition, etc.)? That’s training driven by fear, which is a perfectly fine motivator, but it won’t take you as far as you can possibly go. Why not? Because eventually you’re going to figure out that your self-defense needs have been met or that you’re done with competition or that you’ve moved to a better neighborhood and the active threat is gone. Then what? Training loses its appeal and you’re done. Then you stagnate. Then you atrophy. Then you slide backwards into old age and decline. Eventually, you wish you would have kept training, but you know how hard that road is and you probably won’t pick it back up again…

Are you training because you want to be stronger? That’s desire. That might work for a good long time. The desire to be stronger can work as a vacuum to pull you forward into your training for a good long time. Until you age beyond the time when your body is willing to add muscle tissue and in fact starts to lose muscle mass no matter how hard you train or how much protein you consume. Eventually, age gets us all and we go into some level of lesser overall strength. Your original desire won’t carry you through your training forever.

Now, to elevate this to the level of being motivated by love, you need to look at WHY you want to be stronger. Maybe it was that you value health and longevity and that high value can be channeled into loving yourself. Maybe you value health and longevity (and you do need to survive in order to have both of those) IN ORDER TO be present for and with your family for as long as possible. Ah… That’s love. Maybe you have such affection and compassion for other people that you want to be able to step in to defend others should the need arise. That’s love. Maintaining your training and your skillsets can do those things for you – for a lifetime. And it is very hard to do this functionally out of any other motivation other than love of something or someone. It might be love of yourself and that’s highly functional and valid. It might also be love of something or someone outside of you.

In the business world:

Now, to apply this idea to other pursuits, like career or business activities outside of the training hall, we need to, again, give thought to our motivations.

Are you pursuing career or business growth simply to avoid having to live under a bridge someday? That’s fear. And, it may come as a surprise, but a very high percentage of successful people are driven by this very specific fear. That fear does drive them to become materially and financially successful, but at what cost? What relationships do they lose sight of along the way? What higher values do they forget about to avoid living under that bridge? Only they can know…

What about pursuing financial growth and gains in order to be able to buy nice things; the house, the car, maybe horses (horses are expensive in more ways than one.) That’s desire. And that might take you pretty far… Until you realize that having all the pretty things hasn’t bought you a LIFE. This is a fairly common starting point. But it’s not a motivation that leads to a fulfilled life or a real sense of enjoyment.

To take it a step further into being motivated by love, consider having a look at WHY you wanted to be able to afford the nice things in the first place. Was it because you just like nice things? OK, maybe you could focus that appreciation into a sense of gratitude for excellent design and become a patron of the arts. That’s love. Was it because you think nice things will attract a certain kind of mate? Maybe you could focus on having clarity about the kind of person you would prefer to be spending your life with – and what kind of person you need to be in order to attract your perfect mate. That’s love. And once you do that, you’ll still be able to fulfill on your intention of strong financial growth while also recognizing that the money isn’t the most important thing to you. You may see that your love is actually not the money and that the money is just a tool that can be used to support someone or something else that you actually do love.

Give thought to what’s driving your behavior. Fear is effective in the short term and it can get you started. Desire will take you pretty far as well, but will eventually fade. Love, on the other hand, turns out to be more powerful and longer lasting. It’s much more constructive and truly sustainable in the long run. This is worth as much meditation and focus as it takes to find a loving motivation for whatever you’re doing, and it’s a strong personal choice to decide to stop running away from things in life and discover for yourself who and what you love and choose those sources to inspire your decisions.

I consider this a step in the direction of sustainable growth and working with all the tools available to us as human beings.