Glance Back and Leap Forward

Champ Dads going strong into 2020!

WOW! This year has gone by fast! Within a week, this site will have its first anniversary. Over that time, we have put up 64 posts and 7 different pages of content. Current day, all of the content has broken down into two categories: Personal Strategies and Parenting Strategies.

As we close out this year and look forward to 2020, we will be shifting focus from blogging to creating video content. The blogging will still happen but on a lesser scale.

We have a series coming out that will be a stockpile of short videos of things that all dads should know how to do. Topics will range all over the map, from how to tie a Windsor knot (tie) to how to shuck an oyster without hurting yourself. 

Once we get the above video series rolling, we will be putting together interviews with various Champion Dads and thought leaders in our local community.

Okay! After reviewing the stats this year, I present to you the top 10 least viewed pages. Yep…..the least viewed. Why the least viewed? Because this website took some time to gain a solid readership in its first year. Therefore, the odds are that many might have missed several posts while we were finding our way. So take a peek and view some posts that started it all.

  1. Be a good enough dad part I
  2. Agent of Change
  3. Influential Matters: The Tale of two Dads
  4. Three steps to morning freedom
  5. 5 Ways to increase laughter in your home
  6. A Perfect Mess
  7. Authenticity part I
  8. Traditions: The binding stories of our life
  9. Sacred Time: a pillar for mental wellness
  10. Break the mold: Inspire your Child’s authentic self to emerge

May you have a great and safe end to 2019. Please continue to join us in 2020 as we continue to gain traction and build out this wonderful Champion Dads community. If you have any comments or suggestions please reach out to us through our contact page.

Love, Peace, and Harmony,

Be well!

-MJ

Photo by Trent Szmolnik via Unsplash

Too Busy to Arouse Your Soul

When you look at your day, how many times do you think or discuss how busy you are? I hear it every day. Sometimes it is me, and sometimes it is others.

“I am so busy.” 

Or

“I have too much stuff to do.”

Or the worst of it:

“I never have any time for myself.”

What are we really saying here? There is a part of me that knows all too well what this really means. When my mind has clarity, I read it to mean this:

Being busy is a signal that you are doing the meaningless. The meaningless is hollow actions or actions that are mere distractions from a purpose.

When being busy hits my day where I feel overwhelmed, the voice in my heart whispers…“why are you wasting your time?” Or “Isn’t there something else more important you could be doing?”

These thoughts stink and are deeply frustrating…because I’m not too fond of The Meaningless Hollow.

There are two ways that I have found on how to handle these situations. The first one is a mere band-aid to silence the voice and the second one takes some deep work.

1. Focus squarely on the busy work as an artist painting a masterpiece. Take special care while wading in the drudgery. Think of a job well done. Think of the impact it may have on others. Overall, maintain integrity with the task. Get through it right and move on.

But when that one fails, as it inevitably does…

2. Find a quiet space outside with no distractions. Put away the phone. Sit or walk and allow your mind to unwind. While your mind jib jabs along, do not judge the output. Just let it run out…and it will (could take a while). From a settled state, ask:

“Why am I here?”

Or

“How can I give my life in a meaningful way?”

These questions, the Big Ones, no one, and nothing can provide the answer to you. It would be best if you discovered these on our own. This is called the Hero’s Journey.

If you practice this, over time, you can cultivate a life of actions where you will always feel like you are right where you need to be. You will never feel busy…but you may always look busy. It is the path to purpose.

Those lucky enough to find the answer to “Why” they are here are full of life, fully present, while giving themselves completely to the moment. They don’t complain of too busy. They do. They are in a joyous state. Their life is their masterpiece.

Let’s work to become one of the joyous heroes. Drop the distracted, busy life in search of fleeting happiness. Build character within to listen to your heart and game plan with your mind.

Or are you simply too busy?

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia via Unsplash

4 Silent Lies From Mother Culture

I was listening to an interview with Mark Brooks (author of The Second Mountain), and I was captivated by his take on today’s society. According to Mark, we live in a time of hyper-individualism. Our society suffers from a crisis of connection and a crisis of solidarity. I agree, as we all see it and all feel it. We have incredible technology to make connecting easier than it has ever been before. Yet, it has created just as many boundaries as it has brought us in touch with each other.

One idea that emerged from Mark’s speaking is this:

Happiness cannot be achieved alone or on an individual level. It can only happen with others and building/creating with others.

I would take this one step further. Happiness is just one of the six emotions that, like all emotions, is fleeting. Happiness is not a destination to achieve and is not sustainable. What is attainable? Joy and contentment.

When you center your life around building relationships, where the focus is not on yourself but serving your connections, joy, and contentment are found.

All of life is about relationships. Then the question becomes, how are you serving your relationships?

Mark also listed four common lies that cripple our ability to build a joyful life. These are silent lies that are carried out in our society. Hopefully, after reading the list below, you can pull these dysfunctional weeds from your life and get on to joy.

1. Career success leads to lasting fulfillment. I know this one on a very personal level and know-how sneaky this lie can be. Careers are an individual pursuit. Once hit, the targets move and ask for you to hit it again and again and again. You may find a smidge of happiness here and there, but ultimately you are just chasing the horizon. How do you change this lie? Begin to try to find all the ways your work helps others in their life. If you cannot locate the connection, perhaps it is time to reassess your situation.

2. I can make myself happy. I used to think this one was true. Perhaps many of you may think the same thing…but guess what? Whenever I try to prove it right, it ends up that there was somebody else there. Somebody I was relating to that fueled the happiness. Achievements in life are great but are completely hollow if you can’t share the victory. Think about this one in your own life…I bet the lasting joy was only found with others and not solely by yourself.

3. You are not a soul to be saved but a set of skills to be maximized. The first part of this one I would alter (based on my philosophical views) to read be cultivated. The second part is spot on. How often do we show up at work to be asked, “What were your numbers yesterday?” Or, “Just work smarter, not harder, to get more done.” There is no lasting fulfillment there…like number one above, it is pure B.S….garbage….a lie. The real question I would like to be asked each day (which I ask myself every night) “How many people did you help grow today?”

4. People who have achieved a lot more are smarter and are, therefore, more valuable. This is a villainous lie that I think we all feel and create a lot of self-shame around. This one has crushed me time and time again…mostly this lie has come about through my own little voice in my head. All those negative thoughts that crop up in your noggin stem from this lie. Guess what? I don’t care what you have achieved or not achieved: YOUR LIFE IS VALUABLE AND WORTHWHILE. Judge yourself on the relationships you keep, not your individual achievements. Relationships are eternal…achievements are fleeting at best.

As we wrap this post up, I want to leave you with one additional quote from Mark:

“Happiness is the expansion of self, whereas Joy is the breaking down barriers and becoming one with other things.”

Relationships are where contented life resides.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash.

Dreams, Creative Action and Surrender

I love watching the determination in my children’s eyes. My son is very physical in his pursuits. When we bought a basketball hoop, he spent hours working on his shot. He did not want to come in until he could consistently make a shot. That was all that he thought about. My daughter loves writing and drawing. I cannot make her move away from her drawing until it is just perfect and all colored in. Although, at times, inconvenient, their determination is really amazing. Kids figure out what they want, and they work at it until it is in their hands. Adults, well, we are a very different story.

Adults too often think themselves out of a goal...or they get complacent while enjoying life comfortably. How do I know this so well? I have seen it unfold over and over again in my life. Yep, me. I would set out a goal or a dream…think it through and see all of the obstacles and conclude that…things are good enough as is.

That is the poison of being comfortable. A goal is sacrificed, so we do not have to change or experience hardship.

Thankfully, my kids don’t have a sense of this yet. They are not worried about hardship. They are blind to the process, and it doesn’t phase them in the least. They see what they want and work like the dickens to make it a reality. It is beautiful to watch, and I miss having that be my default (I have to schedule focus time, believe it or not).

What I find so energizing to my children’s approach is that they surrender to the process. They set their mind and heart to something, and they march towards it. They are not thinking about the hardship involved, how many times they will fail, or how long it may take. Long story short…they don’t overthink it…they take action. All the while, they are at peace with the exploring, failing, learning, adjusting, and growing.

This is what surrendering to the process does: It brings the mind a measure of peace so it can get out of the way while we take action. It also allows the world to move in and fill in the gaps.

If you have a dream in your heart…

If you know, you can experience more…

If you know that you can create more…

Then it is time to start building the bridge to your dream. Stop thinking and over analyzing it…make a commitment and start marching.

That is how life works…the world only becomes magnetized when we take action. Life favors and responds to those who create out of their being.

Once you have set your sights and married yourself to the goal/dream, let go and surrender to the journey. Then put in the hard work. Remain open and flexible to what life gives you.

I liken this to a game of tetherball. Our intention is the ball. Our dream is the pole. Our commitment is the rope that ties the two together. This game cannot be won unless we hit that ball repeatedly. Life acts as our teammate or opposition moving the ball back and forth as it wraps around the pole (this is where we remain open and flexible). If your conviction and actions are strong enough, eventually, the ball and pole will meet.

What is your life are you tethered to? What dream is waiting to be dusted off and achieved?

Let’s mitigate overthinking and instead focus on taking creative action until we experience the dream.

Be well

MJ

Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Father’s Day Reflection

I saw this poem (below) a few weeks ago and it really rang true in my heart. It was anonymously penned and it epitomizes what a Champion Dad is.

I have often thought that if I took all the words out of my parenting, my children would still learn all that they need by what my wife and I show them. We (all of us) are always leading by example. Everything we do, they pick up…they are sponges to our ways.

At the end of the day remember: The pathway to your child’s heart/mind is built on their feelings of personal significance. Help them see and cultivate their inner hero.

So for this Father’s Day, I wish you a day of gratitude, love, and joyous reflection.

Be well

-MJ


“A careful man I want to be —

a little fellow follows me.

I do not dare to go astray,

for fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes.

Whatever he sees me do he tries.

Like me he says he’s going to be —

that little chap who follows me…

He knows that I am big and fine —

And believes in every word of mine.

The base in me he must not see —

that little chap who follows me…

But after all it’s easier,

that brighter road to climb,

With little hands behind me —

to push me all the time.

And I reckon I’m a better man

than what I used to be…

Because I have this lad at home

who thinks the world of me”

Boredom is a liar

My five-year-old son started using a word that is really offensive to my ears: Bored.

“Dad, I am bored.” Or “Daddy, this is boring.”

I know that he picked this up from school because we don’t use this word in our household. Sadly, he uses it in the correct context. So from that, I know he has a good understanding of what it means. Still, I wouldn’t say I like it. Good for his grammar but bad for his attitude.

Boredom is a word I have never had much use for. Yes, I have experienced it, but I have not allowed the experience to define me or become habitual. Being bored screams that we see the world as fixated. Boredom is a lot like sleepwalking. Sure, you are up and moving around, but you are not with it and miss the magic. Boredom is a signal that we have to get off our ass and look at things from a new perspective.

When I was in early high school, my best friend and I used to sit on his back porch and dream up ways that things have never been done before. We did this because we were bored of feeling bored. We would look at routine things and come at it from absolute ridiculous angles. An example I remember we came up with: I will eat this taco from the middle bottom. We would laugh ourselves sick deliberately doing things in an asinine way for amusement. What a great time we had even when we got covered with taco innards by being silly. On another day, we played backyard baseball, swinging the bats upside down. We learned a lot about how hard it was to hit the ball with the handle side of the bat…you know…just in case we had to do it in a game.

Boredom chokes the present moment. Boredom is a condition of the brain that states there is nothing new to see here. So how does one break the chokehold of boredom?

Creativity

Creativity is the exit sign to a life of boredom. Creativity opens a gateway of possibility for the mind.

The simplest way to go from boredom to creativity is to ask your mind (or child) a question. The brain is built to solve and will instantly jump on the opportunity to create.

The simplest questions work best. For task-related things, you may ask: What is another way I can do this? For situations where others are involved, you may ask: How can I make this person smile? Or, I wonder what this person is thinking (or feeling) at this moment?

The reason for this post comes down to this. Boredom is a terrible state of mind to be in. Every moment of the day contains magic in it if we remember to ask or look.

Think about this:

Your life is the first attempt. No one has ever had your attributes, challenges, and possibilities. You have never been done before….and neither has anyone else.

Life is always creating itself new. Things may seem the same or feel steady and fixated but don’t be fooled. The world, your life, is always in constant flux.

Creativity is the gateway to vitality and a life well-lived. If boredom is creeping in on you (or your child), it is time to ask better questions.

What can you create a little different today? Who can you connect with to break your static view of who they are? How can you approach today with renewed novelty that all things are not as our boredom has assumed?

Hmmm, I wonder how many different ways are there that I can drive into work?

Be Well

-MJ

Photo by Ricardo Annandale via Unsplash

Never Tip The King!

Lately, I have been reflecting on this site and what it really means to be a Champion Dad. I have read through all the posts I am contented to report that the messages are consistent with the original intent:

“This site was created for the dad who wants to be the best dad they can be.

This site is about becoming the Champion Dad your kids already believe you are.

This site is also about being the best person, relative, friend, employee, citizen, competitor…..well you get the idea…the best “it” you can be.

Moreover, this site focuses on life strategy.”

The above wording is directly from our About page. Today I would like to extend it a little further…add a little more zing to it…a little more attitude. So here we go:

This site is also about being a kick-ass dad! Ideas are presented to help the reader drop their self imposed shackles. There is no reason, NO REASON, that we can’t wake up each morning with unmitigated reverence and zest for life.

Listen, life can be a cruel taskmaster if you let it be. Nothing is ever easy. There are no handouts here, as it is all one lesson after another. If you fail to learn the lesson, it will continue to appear a little harder in another eventuality down the road. That is simply the way of it.

Yet, that is why we are here. That is why I am writing this…That is why you are reading this. We have victories waiting to be won. We have failures waiting to teach us. We have loving relationships to build. We have stories to share.

Embrace it all, accept it all…then move the mountains. Do the work and clear the path. The Champion Dad’s work is all internal. Sharpen your mind.

We can get control of ourselves. We can employ strategies to live healthy, strong, and joyful lives. We have the power and resiliency to build and practice the life we envision for ourselves. It is there waiting for us to focus on and make it a priority.

Life is a struggle, and nothing will ever take that away for good. Yet we can wake up and start new each day. Each day is our second chance to do a little better than before, love and accept others more broadly, and fight the good fight for our core values.

If you live your life with no motivation and wake up with no gas in the tank, that is truly troubling. Don’t waste another moment drowning in the backwater of your own life! Swim out of it! Find a way to get back into the current and then use it to advance you forward instead of beating you down. Get tough! Get inspired! Discover the novelty of life again. Get comfortable with the uncertainty that life brings you. Get comfortable that you might not know all the answers….get comfortable with the struggle. The magic of life lies in the heart of the struggle. Above all: keep working on it…get out there and kick some ass. Keep your chin up and progress forward.

Just get out there and be the best damn dad you can possibly be. Our children need it…the world needs it.

Be well my friends.

-MJ

Photo by Jeshoots.com via Unsplash

Strengthen Your Values & Meaning (3 smart but uncomfortable angles)

Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?

Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of….These men are cowards.

Nihilism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless.

Nihilism is a cop-out and a coward’s way of confronting their own existence. If you are reading a post like this, then most likely you are not a nihilist. However, I would like to put out there that avoiding the big questions and leading an undisciplined life equates to the same thing.

Champion Dads do not walk through life without a compass. We believe in something higher, something better, something within ourselves that is undefeatable. For some, religion is their North Star. For others, deep moral principles are their guidance. There is the highest value in both cases that directs everything in their life, which provides meaning.

And this is what Be A Champion Dad is all about: Working at becoming the best version of ourselves that is possible.

Champion Dads work to become mentally stronger, healthier, and content. Below are three uncomfortable (but smart) angles to think about to strengthen your moral compass and help identify more meaning in your life.

1. Seek out conflict in a healthy way. Your highest value really directs everything in your life. A sure-fire way to build and strengthen your values is to have a healthy amount of conflict. Conflict will allow you to reaffirm all you believe in, clean up the weak areas, and get stronger. By conflict, I mean seeking out and listening to opposing viewpoints. Listen not to win an argument but rather to understand. Good dialogue with conflict is just like working out. The more you do it, the stronger you get. This is hard if you are not in control of what triggers you. Keep an open mind. You will be surprised how much you will grow when you seek to understand an opposing viewpoint. One of the best teachers in life is confronting what you are not.

2. Listen to personal shame. I know this one sounds a little weird but hear me out. I am against shaming others, and I am against unnecessary personal shame. Yet, sometimes, personal shame happens all by itself, and in those moments, listen. Usually, what is happening is that your heart/mind is letting you know that you are not living up to your highest values. Listen, correct the situation, and move on. Everyone who holds high moral standards will feel some shame now and again. It’s ok, learn from it and forgive yourself. A little internal shame teaches us and provides a nudge back on the right track.

3. Take into account all of your limitations. Guess what? You cannot be anything you put your mind to. None of us can. It is also impossible to be everything to everyone. This is just not how we are designed. However, you can take stock of all of your limitations. This will help you understand where to grow and use the limitations to play to your strengths. I know my faults to a tee, and knowing this, I can avoid situations where they become a liability. Know yourself inside and out, and be honest in your assessment. This is how meaningful growth is done.

So there it is. Don’t be a nihilist or act like one. Go out there work hard, stand for something and kick some butt!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Jewel Mitchell via Unsplash

Balancing The Emotional Intellect

I think it is common to believe that we are solely autonomous and make most of our decisions logically. But if I was to state that this is not the case, that in fact, we are almost always guided emotionally…would you believe me?

I used to have a really hard time believing this, but it is true. So, it ends up; I didn’t want to believe it because I feel that I have a pretty good handle on things. I like the thought of being rational and poker-faced. Since I hold these thoughts in high regard, my logical mind creates stories to support this persona. But….emotions are the real driver. Emotions are subtle little ninjas that get the logical mind to justify just about anything it really wants while making you believe otherwise.

Please test it out…next time you are justifying doing something that isn’t logical (frivolous purchase, ridiculous vacation, having an extra drink, etc.), the brain’s logical part is working hard to build a story to get you to fulfill the emotional request.

I mean, think about it! Watch an ad or commercial…they only appeal to the emotional center of the brain. Advertisements, programs, and commercials are just planting emotional seeds for you to act on at a later date. So, KILL YOUR TV! Hahaha…I will save that post for another time.

(Wait, do you want to know how easily a person can influence you??? All they have to do is appeal to the emotional part of your brain and validate your self-image…yeah…it is that easy.)

Everything that you experience in your life passes through the emotional hemisphere of the brain first. It has to get through this area before it can even get to the logical hemisphere. To complicate matters, a person cannot be in both hemispheres at the same time. This is why we have cliches:

“Never make an important decision when emotional” or

“Count to 10 before saying something out of anger.”

So right now, I am really working on balancing these two out. It is very important to feel our emotions and process them. Don’t bottle them up, or they will figure out a way to escape (which usually results in a questionable behavior….watch your kids- they exemplify this as they figure the world out).

Also, it’s just as important to honor the logical part of the brain. Without learning how to get logical, we will remain emotionally unregulated (cue up a child’s temper tantrum). The remedy to help bridge over to the logical brain:

PAUSE

Pausing allows us to exit the brain’s emotional part and enter into the logical part of the brain. If you can do this and build a habit around pausing, you will become more regulated and controlled. This is a great habit to work with your children on. Who wouldn’t love well behaved, competent child with good critical thinking skills??? Wait…we first need to lead the way for them to follow.

What is a good test to determine whether or not you should build a habit of pause? Hmmm…..Have you ever been instantly triggered into anger from a comment some idiot (you’ve never met) has posted on Facebook or Twitter? Of course…we all have.

Feel and process the emotions so you can bring in the logical. You can’t control how you feel, but you can honor the emotions without immediately acting on them. Emotions are signposts in the mind; they pop up, we recognize and then act accordingly with the new information.

Balance the emotional triggers with a pause. This will lead to opening the gateway to logical control.

I mean…don’t we all want to be Jedi’s? I do.

Be well

-MJ

*Special thanks to Peggy Hoime and Jeanine Fitzgerald for the discussions around the power of pause. Great stuff that works!

Photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

Hey! Go Take a Hike!

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” Friedich Nietzsche

I have had a lot of stress lately (professional, personal, and health-related). Yet when I think about my current situation, it does not feel like a new thing. My daily struggles are a song that I have heard repeatedly throughout my 44 years on this earth. It is nothing new. If hardship has not externally come into my life, my ego does a great job creating mental baggage. I worry too much.

Mental baggage is heavy. For the most part, I cope with this stress quite well, but occasionally I get paralyzed by it. A common theme about mental paralysis that I have noticed is that I feel no control over the situation. It is hard to cope when my mind goes on strike and moves into a survival mode. Essentially, my coping gets lost because the stresses feel stronger than my personal will power.

It is very important to exercise some action measures even when we feel beaten down (whether externally or internally). Taking action is the first step in taking back control or the reigns and building momentum back to a wellness state.

This post is about the go-to environment that gets me unstuck every time…yes, every time. As I think back over the last twenty-five years, there is a common background to the remedy: getting out into nature.

Pure and simple: NATURE.

Long grueling bike rides, hitting golf balls, fishing a stream, or going for all-day hikes, I am outside breathing in nature. Being outside for long periods allows my mind to settle and sort through all the baggage. Nature clears away from the excessive thoughts that I have and helps me return to the center of my being.

Nature is a sensory experience. It is the balm of the soul and the calmer of thoughts.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountain, trees, people. I thought: this is what it is to be happy” -Sylvia Plath.

Instead of me just blathering on about my experiences, here are some proven scientific facts about getting out into nature and what it does for you and your children:

  • Children and adults who play regularly outside have stronger mental acuity, concentration, and feelings of self-worth.
  • Children and adults also have a drastic decline in anxiety, depression, and obesity. 
  • Children who spend a large amount of time in nature have far fewer behavioral issues.
  • Children develop more vital problem-solving skills, resiliency, confidence, and social skills.
  • The sounds of nature shift the nervous system into a relaxed state.
  • Those who live close to nature have reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and stress.
  • Nature is also associated with a reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death.
  • Spending time in nature (or outside) also drastically improves sleep duration and quality.

Take back control of your mental state by one of the easiest things you can do: Go outside and do something, anything. Now that spring is here, I will make up reasons to get out more and build back up my resiliency. 

“The mountains are calling and I must go” -John Muir

Be well

-MJ

*Resources used for the above bullet points came from: http://www.sciencedaily.com (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm), http://www.hyperbiotics.com (https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/5-ways-spending-time-in-nature-benefits-your-health-and-your-gut), and http://www.itsallkidsplay.ca – Jean Orem.

Photo by Westboundry Photography- Chris Gil via Unsplash

Rituals: An Invitation For Purpose and Connectivity

I leaned over and dumped the bucket of balls on the dew covered grass. The strong scent of the cut lawn wafted through my nostrils stirring feelings of summer. As I stretched out with my pitching wedge in hands I felt my father’s voice whisper:

“Don’t forget to put some weight on your heels”

I smile, as shivers run up my spine and down my arms. I have grown used to this sensation when graced by the other side. I whisper back loud enough for my ears to hear but not loud enough to disturb the other golfers:

“Thank you. Alright Jake, let’s see what we got today.”

I take a deep breath while noticing how wonderful the sun feels on my face. It’s time to get to work and dust off the winter rust on my golf game. I am grateful for this time with my father, this moment, and the life I have been given.

Some people find their higher power by going to church. Others find it through tilling their garden or through exercise. For me, I often connect with the divine through the drudgery of hitting golf balls or working a stream fishing. Yet, no matter what a person is doing to invoke this state of mind, they all have one thing in common: they are plugged into something greater than themselves.

The intro to this post recently happened. I found myself on a driving range experiencing a deep connection with the universe and with my father (who passed in 2017).

This is what ritual does for the individual. Ritual provides a passage from one state of mind to another and back again. It can provide glimpses of complete wholeness, contentment, and purpose.

Rituals are a symbolic action where we connect with our psyche or soul. A good ritual has meaning. Rituals carry the ability to suspend the intellect while allowing us to commune with a higher power.

The brief suspension of intellect is key for me because I am always thinking and figuring things out. If I don’t suspend my intellect and go with the flow, I will not find that deep connection. The intellect is like a person who asks why a joke is funny…as soon as you start to explain it, the joke is ruined.

In a world dominated by the intellect with quick knowledge/facts at our fingertips, I see a culture starving for the divine mystery. This mystery is our gateway to purpose and meaning.

What rituals do you have in life?

What are the things that you do that provide this deep connection?

How can you incorporate meaningful rituals for your kids or your family?

How do you connect with the divine?

Be well…I am off to the driving range…..

-MJ

Photo by Christoph Keil via Unsplash

Resiliency : 3 steps to build it

Lately, life has been punching me in the ribs. Every day, something else seems to be going wrong or happening to disrupt my plans. My wife and I joke about how life is turning into just one damn thing after another. But I smile and march forward anyway…to my contentment she is doing the same. 

We have developed resiliency in the fluctuations of life. We go forth, get hit, adjust, and move forward again (repeat, repeat, and repeat). I am proud of this. I love that we have developed this for our family. However, it didn’t happen all by itself…we have been working at it for some time now. Yes, to make a resiliency stick, we have to work at it.

However, this was not always the case with me. I remember the days where my mood reflected my present circumstance. My attitude would shift with the wind on whether life seemed favorable or unfavorable. Things would drag me down, and I generally had a hard time recovering. I used to figuratively wander in my life this way…drifting through good days and bad while not being in control of any of it. But things have changed. Below I have outlined just a few key concepts that have helped me roll with the punches. These are things that are time tested, and I use constantly.

Life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows (yes, Troll reference). Things are going to happen. Over the last few weeks, I have had several small inconveniences (car issues, work changes, plan changes, etc.), and I have had a couple of big issues (health scares, kids sick, house on the market) well. Yet, today I woke up excited to get going with my life. I am inspired and motivated to create the world I want to see out there. I wish you the same vigor!

If you feel that you are in a wandering phase right now, semi-lost, don’t fret. Below are three things I have put into play to take back control and build up my resiliency. Having a strong resiliency is critical to weather the storms of life! Bonus thought: When you model these behaviors, your kids will develop them as well.

1. Don’t take life too personallyWhat??? If you think that sounds crazy, I may guess that this one will give you the most freedom. We all have our goals for the day, but as soon as we step out that door, we come in contact with other people (things) that have their own agendas. Long story short: We can only control ourselves, and when we collide (interact) with others, stuff happens. When we learn to go with the flow, we give our living space to breathe and adjust.  Life is not out to get you.

2. No longer worry about outcomes. Another way to put this is to leave your expectations at the door. Expectations create anxiety and gear us to future thinking. Over investing in our expectations will lead us to habitual disappointment. Our job is to focus on doing the best that we can with what we have. The results will be as they may, but at least we can be content and proud that we did all that we could. This, like the one above, provides peace of mind. We can control the effort but not the final score.

3. Take time to allow yourself to feel good about things. As humans, we are geared to seek out the negative things so we can protect ourselves. It is really how we are wired. However, like all of our thoughts, negativity can become habitual and weigh us down. On the flip side of the coin, we can take a few minutes a day to feel good about things. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing either (ex. You just finished mowing the lawn…take a moment to relish in a job well done…feel it). Creating a habit of contented reflection enables our brain to seek out more of the good in things…momentum (neuroscience has my back on this).

To tie this one off, I will say that I still need constant reminders to do these things. However, every day I am getting better, stronger, and more resilient. It feels good to rebound and land on my feet.

Work to be adaptable, flexible, and RESILIENT! It is the best way to navigate the hectic life.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ryan Tang via Unsplash

Ask the Forbidden Questions…It’s Ok!

 

Several recent conversations inspired this post with various friends (those folks reading this will undoubtedly remember them). I will leave the edge in this post because it appears that life is pushing this one forward into the world…yes, serendipity feels to be at play here. So with that being said, I hope you keep an open mind if you feel that I am stepping on your toes….this post is a wake-up call to anyone living their life through a fear-based ideology. It is time to examine your fear and start to live your life through love instead….truth, love, and…God cannot be found through fear. Because…well…that is not how it works. These things can only be found by profoundly knowing what is in one’s own heart…not through what you are told to say, do, believe. (I should end the post here, but I will unpack it anyway, LOL!)

So what forbidden questions am I referring to? Hmmmm…let’s see:

Why am I really here? What really is my purpose? Is my purpose what my heart tells me or what my faith (or family, friends, society) tells me it should be?….. Does God exist? Why am I going or not going to church? Is dogma the way, or is it simply getting in the way? Does it matter if the good book is historically accurate? What if the good book is only stories?

Why are these the forbidden questions? Because when you ask them, you no longer conform to all the beliefs you have been told to believe. You become a rogue. You become independent. You become a person who has taken a step towards authenticity. You have begun the hero’s journey.

I believe everyone needs to take this journey. The hero’s journey is the ultimate journey in faith.

It is ok to question all of the stuff you believe. I have found the hardest beliefs to question are the ones that were force-fed to you by your family, community, religion.

I am not saying don’t go to church or don’t believe in your version of God. What I am putting forth is this: You should know why you personally do these things…Why they are true for you. If you do not have a pure and personal answer to this…If you do these things to get into heaven or to avoid hell…If you do these things because you were told to do them….then I may ask you how your personal fear based prison feel? It is time to pardon yourself and break free.

Obedience is not the pathway to God, enlightenment, or love. The pathway is through your heart…through your unique calling.

Ask forbidden questions. Find the truth in your heart. Drop the shackles of fear and live in love. Live boldly, having faith in the voice inside. Exemplify that wonderful calling in your heart.

Let me reassert: It is impossible to find love through fear. Love is only found through profound acceptance of the self, other people, or of the circumstance.

The divine is a personal experience. It happens to all of us in our own unique way. What works for some does not work for others. We are all different, and we are spoken to in our own way. Learn to listen to that voice in your heart. That is the path home.

Mindlessly doing dogma ritual does not work if you do not know in your heart why you are there. I know people who faithfully go to church every Sunday out of fear of condemnation. How sad…

Yet I also know others who go to church because it is pure inspiration for them. Their heart sings there….that is what it is meant to be!!!

The path of an authentic life is not one of conformity. The hero’s journey is made by developing an unbreakable relationship with the divine unmanifested in one’s heart. To listen and be courageous enough to follow your own bliss. It is the hero’s job to stand strong in their convictions and bring forth into this world what their heart needs to create. The hero does not worry about judgment or condemnation. We are deaf to the calls of fear and anger. We have a laser focus on what matters most: Love, Learning, Creation. We march on, not worried who follows while blissfully singing our own tune.

Have fun this Sunday doing what the hero does in every moment…every second of the day: Know and live your truth. 

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Shane Rounce via Unsplash

1 Thing Worth Owning…and Nothing Else

My wife and I are looking at houses with the hopes of moving. As such, we have been decluttering our house and organizing all of our stuff. Holy cow, what a process.

As I go through all of our things, each thing calls my name, wanting my attention. Some things remind me that I have unfinished business with them (a project not completed or a book not read). Others are just hanging out, hoping that someday they will be used…I mean, that is why we are saving it, right? Maybe someday…..someday…a future day that does not exist but bares weight on my mind.

It is a process for sure, getting rid of all of this unneeded stuff. This stuff that is getting tossed, sold, or donated is quickly forgotten once it is out of my sight. Which really shows how important, said item really was.

Out of this process, I have experienced much mental freedom. Strange isn’t it? I get rid of physical stuff, and the more peace of mind I have…I want to get rid of it all. I chuckle as I write this because it is true: I don’t want stuff. I know I (we) need some stuff to operate as a family, but there is no reason to hang on to excess…for a future hypothetical someday.

There is, however, one thing I want to own. There is one thing I choose to own that is far more important to me than any of my personal items, and that is relationships.

My relationships are the most important thing in my life. In fact, that is the only measuring stick I want to judge by. How strong are my bonds with others? When do they think of me? What are the thoughts they have? Have we developed a relationship that had left us both better than before we met? These are the questions that I would rather have taking up that mental real estate than say the nagging someday physical item.

Often we place importance on the material items over our relationships. These material items (smartphones, tablets, cars, books, insert any item) pull us away from those people that matter most. Owning the items really isn’t the issue, but our compulsive behavior around those items causes problems.

So in my mind’s eye, we should own our relationships. Tend to them, as they are the most important centerpieces of our life. When we are spending time with others, we should strive to be fully engaged. Work not to be possessed by our phones, mindless games, distant thoughts, or dare I say it…social media sites. Let’s be present, be aware, and be alive. There is nothing greater than having a real-time dialogue with a friend, family member, or for those daring… a stranger. Let us be here and now with our relationships.

When relationships become strained, or disagreements happen, this is the best time to own them fully. Own the responsibility to make amends, seek clarification, and bring the relationship back to, at minimum, neutral ground. We might feel right in an argument, but that does not mean that we can’t own the result. Feeling right is not a justification for allowing a person/relationship to suffer.

“You can always be right, or you can get along—choose one.” —Joshua Fields Millburn.

Naturally, we can only go so far here, yet the goal is to know that we have tended to the relationship as best we could regardless of who is right or wrong. It is ok to disagree (even healthy), but, to me, it is not ok to allow a disagreement to get in the way of what matters most…a healthy relationship.

In practice, deeper meaning with others will emerge. I have experienced that lasting contentment is found through my relationships but not through all of my material items. Tending to my relationships has helped me transform and grow as an individual. My physical stuff usually serves as a distraction and a source of mental friction.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

―C.G. Jung

As always, I have lots of work to do, but that is why I am here: to grow, to create, and to polish out all of the blemishes.

Toss the physical and mental garbage…you don’t need it. It will feel great once it is gone.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Scott Webb via Unsplash

The Wandering Mind

I have a problem. Perhaps we all have this problem…I don’t know, just guessing on that. I think too much. HA!-you say. How is that a problem? Let me tell you a story. This story happens all the time, wherever I am, doing whatever I do.

Yesterday I was at dinner with my family. My daughter was trying to tell me something…I don’t remember what it was because I wasn’t really paying attention. I responded with words like “oh, really” and “ok.” My dead-end responses were to get her back to eating and to get me back to my incessant thinking. You see…I was off in my mind trying to solve all of the problems of my life. Problems, mind you, that did not need to be thought at all at that moment. Here is the map of what my mind thought about:

…I hope the viewing of my house is going well…

…Oh, don’t forget to finish the laundry when I get home…

…will the viewers care if there is unfolded laundry near the dryer?…

…hmmm, will the Red Sox finally start winning…

…when can I get out and hit some golf balls…

…Crap! Don’t forget to email that manager when I get back to work on Monday…

This is only a sampling of what my mind thought about. As you can see, none of it was really solving anything. Also, none of it needed to be thought about during a nice night out with the family!

Perhaps you know what this is like. Perhaps you do this as well. Perhaps instead of thinking too much, you scroll through your preferred social media app on your phone.

Past and future thinking are one of my worst habits. It is one of the reasons why I deal with anxiety regularly. Too much of this line of thought draws me out of the present moment and puts my mind in worry or depressed state. I have brought this up in other posts, and now I have a new scientific study that would support this.

This study was done by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University. In this study, they used an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on the subject’s feelings, actions, and thoughts throughout their day. The end of the study revealed that people spend about 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are presently doing, which makes them unhappy.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities. This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present. Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged. Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to be here now. These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” –Killingsworth/Gilbert

Stopping the incessant thinking takes practice. There are a few things I practice that have provided temporary relief. Unfortunately, there is not a permanent solution to this issue. One must practice regularly to see results. Here are my top three:

1. Sit still for at least a half-hour every night. This allows the mind to unwind. Sitting still does not mean tuning into TV, internet, or phone. It means not doing anything for a half hour.

2. Meditate. Yep, I do this. Not as much as I like, but it provides relief. The goal in meditation is not to stop thoughts but to let them pass. Letting them pass can be hard because I am used to attaching to them…and thinking them out. Just let them go like clouds passing in the sky.

3. Pause and use all of my senses. This one can be tricky since I have to remember to do it. Yet, when I do remember, I pause what I am doing and engage my senses. What am I seeing, smelling, hearing, touching? The amazing thing about noting your senses is it draws you immediately to the present moment.

I may not be perfect keeping my mind in the present moment…but I am getting better. And that alone makes it worth the effort.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Dorota Dylka via Unsplash

Unplug: Be Your Own Compass

I have too much of everything. TOO MUCH…EVERYTHING!

I have too much to do, too much to remember, too much to worry about, too many responsibilities….need I go on? Yes, one more: too much external stimulus.

My life feels like Time Square in NY….Traffic racing around, the noise so loud I can’t hear myself think, and advertisements galore begging to pull my attention….just a paralyzing stream of garbage keeping me from what matters most.

Here is a little fact:

The average American view anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements in one day! This number has dramatically increased since the advent of the smartphone.

Everywhere you look, someone is trying to sell you something or make you feel something to consume more.

All of these messages stack up and wreak havoc on your brain. Don’t believe me? Here is another little stat for you:

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.

When I went through my depression, that number was 1 in 8 (the year 2000) in their lifetime. What a terrible trend and I attribute it to the constant stream of crap that we are exposed to, telling us who to be, what to buy, and how to feel. Screw that.

I believe humans were just not meant to consume so much stimulus and expect to function normally. Our brains can only think and process things at a particular rate, so it makes sense that most of us are beginning to experience serious mental fatigue and illness.

Yesterday, I was burning out…every time I tried to start something, I was interrupted and felt a wave of anxiety because my to-do list was too long. The heavy mental weight was crippling. So I stopped and wrote out my Why (Bliss/inner urge) in life. In front of me, now is the scrap of paper that I used, and it reads:

“I have a job to do here, and it is bigger than (but infiltrates) what I get paid for doing. This job should be at the core of every moment, every action I take up. Who can I help today become a better version of themselves? Who can I help move closer to love (infinite source of all things)? Cultivate the environments! Cultivate relationships!”

This is just a draft, but it provides me direction. I read it, and it suffices. It is hard to ascribe words to this feeling. However, when we have direction and know our goal, we can stay on point and tune out the noise.

How many know WHY they are here? There is an answer to this question! And we can discover it within (it cannot be given to you by another). When we follow this bliss, it is much easier to shrug off and turn down the noise of the world. The journey does not get easier, but there is peaceImagine the peace of mind as you take on the day. Following your bliss also has a great side-benefit: energy and passion.

Too many of us are lost in the Time Square of life…aimlessly wandering…hoping to make it through the day.

Please go out and find your Why and build your life around it. When you tease this out over time, you can take control of the wheel and pull yourself out of the traffic.

The only way I have found to do this truly is to unplug from the world. I go for a walk or get into nature. I need to remind myself constantly to listen to my heart and not what mother culture is pumping into me. My (Your) true voice is there waiting to be heard. This voice is unique to each of us. This authenticity is our reason to be here, our job. Turn off the noise and listen…

Our inner voice, our inner urge/bliss, is waiting. As we learn to tune into that frequency…turn it up. The world needs more of our authenticity instead of another distracted drone.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Danial Barbarics via Unsplash

Tricks to Becoming a Master Listener

“Are you even LISTENING TO ME??!!

Have you ever heard those words spoken to you? Chances are, if you are like me, you have probably heard them a lot. In my life, I generally hear this from my wife, and truth be told, she has been well within her right to do so.

The fact of the matter is, I have always had difficulty listening to others. It is not that I am not paying attention but has more to do because I get so excited to share that I jump in or cut someone off before they are done speaking.

I work at becoming a better listener. I try to remember all the simpleton advice, like maintaining eye contact the whole time or being patient and waiting for your turn. I have now realized that this advice is very shallow and generally meaningless if you lack interest with whom you are listening to. I now know this and am teasing it out in life:

Our relationships’ depth reflects and is in direct proportion of how deeply we can listen to the other person. Deeper listening = deeper connection.

But about a month, my listening ability changed forever. I was listening to an interview with Robert Greene (author The Laws of Human Nature), and he said something that struck me like a lightning bolt that I never thought of before. It was (paraphrasing here):

“Why is it that we are not a good listener? The root of it is that we are more interested in ourselves than we are of the other person. Some may deny, but the truth is we are more interested in our own thoughts, ideas, and things that we are certain about than about the other person, what they are saying, and what is going on inside of them.”

How true!!! He went on:

“That person we are talking to is more interesting than we think or imagine that they are. They are a book. Think of people in our life as characters in a movie. What motivates them? They are more interesting than we think! They have had traumas, family issues, successes…”

WOW! It sounds simple, but it is so spot on and practical. The trick here that is transforming how I approach conversations now is this:

When conversing, recognize that our initial assumptions about that person (or simplified story about them) are false or, at best incomplete. Fight the urge to put forward your ideas. Instead, be patient and ask yourself things like what are they feeling right now? Or, why do they think this? Be a seeker of their what and why.

Practicing these little thoughts will automatically make you a better listener.

Strong, connected relationships come down to the listening and emotion quality, not how much you have shared about your thoughts and ideas.

Quality of listening wins over quantity of exchanges.

As humans, we are a social animal, and how well we can work and listen to others will determine how far you can go in life.

A big reminder to wrap this one up: At first glance, we are not seeing the other person for who they are but are only seeing reflections of our own projections we have made about them. Don’t believe your stories about them. Fight the urge to interject and ask why. They will reveal their true self to you, the more deeply you listen. 

Be well

-MJ

.Photo by Kyle Smith via Unsplash

Champ Dads..The Marvel Way

While rummaging through my old book collection, I came across one of my most cherished books when I was a kid: How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way. 

As soon as I saw it, I was once again captivated by the possibilities contained within. I immediately searched for the page in the picture above (please take a moment to read it). This section spoke to me back then and spoke to me know. It has to do with how to draw a typical hero and how to draw a villain.

When I was younger (and even now), everyone wanted to root for and cheer for their favorite hero! However, when it comes to drawing a hero..well if you have drawn one, you have drawn them all. Yet, villains are a different story. Although we love to hate them, that is where all of the creative fun can be found. This conveyed to me a very important lesson to be learned:

-It is our unique imperfections that provide ALL of our opportunity for growth in life-

Let me unpack this a little bit (or should I say draw a complete picture). If we didn’t have all of our shortcomings, flaws, and weaknesses, we would not have a mountain to climb. Having our struggles to overcome paves the way to growth and accomplishment. There is no happy ending if there isn’t something to overcome. Tragedy leads to victory. Just watch any of the latest Marvel movies that have come out.

Returning to the book, Stan Lee points out (my words not his): perfection is boring, formulated, and easy. Yet flawed characters…YIPPEE…time to have some fun. Now, I am strictly speaking about drawing characters here. Since heroes generally have to look the same, writers provide them a flaw when storytelling, so they are relatable and likable (Superman…kryptonite..DC I know..forgive me). Flaws give us something to root for in another and something to work on within ourselves. With this being said, here is another habit I am personally working on:

-Learn to love and embrace your imperfections. They are what make you unique and wonderfully you. You can only change something that you have accepted. You will know when you have accepted it when there is no shame, guilt, or blame present- 

To finish out this post, I would like to use the Marvel theme, twist it a little, and apply it to Champion Dads:

Champion Dads are where all the fun is. We are not perfect. We come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, cultures, and backgrounds. We strive to be better every day for our family, friends, and society. While we might not ever be perfect, we exercise giving grace within and withoutWe do the best that we can with what we have got, and when all else fails..be goofy. We recognize that victory is not realizing a goal but rather found in how we cultivate and nourish the journey.

Be well

-MJ

Endless Distraction

I want to share a story today about something that, my guess, has happened to many of us. I was putting a puzzle together with my daughter and felt my phone’s vibration go off in my pocket. Instinctively, I reached down to see who needed me at that moment, only to find out that my phone was not there. My phone was upstairs on my bureau where I left it. This is what some refer to as the twitch.

This moment upset me. It had happened before, but I usually just shrugged it off. Not this time, though…had I become so programmed that I am mindlessly feeling and reaching for things that are not there?!!

That day I tried to figure out just how programmed I had become…how deep are the roots of this mindless habit? The following were my painful observations of my behavior.

*When I retrieved my phone from my bureau, I instantly checked it to see if I “missed” a text or a call. And every few minutes, impulsively pressed the home button to light up the screen.

*While driving, I felt the twitch again only to see my phone on my dashboard where I kept it.

*Standing in a long line at the store, I reached for the phone to pass the time.

*Three more times in the evening, I felt the urge to check and use the phone to review emails, texts, and run various games.

Needless to say, I was a bit disgusted by how strong the twitch’s calling was. I felt tremendous anxiety when I did not follow through on the urge.

I am now working to correct this terrible habit.

It has been almost a week since that fateful wake-up call, and I have had time to dig into how it has impaired my ability to be in the moment.

The twitch signifies a larger problem. It is not only about a phone but also the impulsive nature of needing constant input or distraction in one’s life. Look around and observe- the chances are that you will see people walking with their head down, lost in their glowing device. Or, perhaps they are in a line catching up on Facebook. Or, they are checking their phone quickly at a stoplight. Or, worst yet, reading their phone while they are spending time with their kids.

To me, the twitch is all the noise that sucks the magic out of the present moment. Why do we need to get lost in our device? Why do we need a constant distraction?

I remember the days when I did not have a phone. In my downtime (the line at the store, waiting room, sitting with nothing to do), I would think and allow my thoughts to sort themselves out. It was so beautiful to allow my brain a break where it could process out all that happened in the day. Anxiety was less. Happiness was more.

I guess that the rising levels of anxiety in adults and children are directly linked to constantly being distracted. The constant streaming of noise we are force-feeding our brains is impairing its ability to decompress and recharge.

Maybe it’s time to put the phone down for a while and take back control.

You’re not going to miss anything…In fact, you will be gaining….gaining back all the precious moments…the magical interaction real life has to offer…your kids laughter…a sunset…or just watching the day pass you by.

How awesome were the days where we had nothing to do but hang out and have a real conversation with…..hold on…just felt my phone…UGH!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Jens Johnson via Unsplash

3 Habits to Help Disable Depression

In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. To think about this 19 years later still provides chills down my spine…and not in a good way. You see, depression changes a person forever. Although I don’t suffer daily, I can always reach out and touch it. IT is there. Now, in many ways, it is like a caged tiger. I have learned skills and thought processes that have kept it in a safe place…But it is still there, pacing back and forth…Every once and a while, letting loose a guttural growl as to say “never forget.”

For me, I have never been successful at describing what depression is like to a person who has not gone through it. IT is hell. It is an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty (when I could feel emotion). Imagine a world without color, without vibrancy, while every little stress put you in a place of despondent despair. There is no exit sign or escape while the dread in your bones has one constant theme: It is over, it is over, it is over.

So that was what it was like for me. Yet, here I am! I came back, and my aim every day is to live life on my terms and help others do the same.

This post is for Champion Dads, who are currently in the despair. The following three things helped me immensely. They provided me a foothold to start to gain back a little normalcy and control in my daily life. Even current day, I use these three things to make sure I keep that cage strong. (Remember, these are things that worked for me. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist and am not providing advice…I am just sharing ideas).

1. Practice thinking in the present moment. A common occurrence was my head filled with future worries and past dwellings. My head would say things like:

Future- “I hope the rest of my life isn’t like this” or “How am I ever going to go on this way?”

Past- “I just want to go back to the way I was.”

Past and future thoughts have no place in reality. One is a reflection on what has long gone, while the other is an illusionary projection. Neither are real. When I caught myself dwelling back or worrying forward, I would replace the thought with “Mike, your only job right now is to experience all the sensations of the current moment.” An example of this playing out is as follows:

Imagine tying your shoes and worrying about all the crap you have to do today. “Stop, right now, focus on how perfect I can tie the shoes. What do the laces feel like? Let’s focus on how tight I need to tie them. How do the shoes feel on my feet?”

By repeatedly reminding ourselves to return to the present moment, we can ease the burden of overthinking.

2. Practice not judging everything you see. I owe my brother big for this line of thinking. It is hard, but good. On one of the worst days of my depression, we went for a walk, and I tried to explain how disconnected I was. Here is a snippet of that conversation:

Me: “Look at all these pink flowers. Before, I could feel how beautiful they were, and I would know how beautiful they were. Now I see them, but I feel no connection..it is like someone severed my cord to life.”

Brother: “Why does the flower need to be beautiful? Why can’t the flower be the flower?

BOOM!!! Things are not the judgments we place upon them. Allow things to be as they are. Things are neither good, bad, right, or wrong. When we can be in the present moment without incessant judgment, things can be just as they are. We don’t need to waste thought/energy on placing them in our made-up boxes of judgments. (Good practice with people too)

3. Be of service to others. On days where I could not effectively do #1 or #2, I would go out and help someone else. This way, I could stop the narcissistic behavior of ME ME ME thoughts. When we focus on helping others, we find ourselves naturally in a present moment state. Our focus shifts from ME to them. This step is magical to me, so I love my current career in adult learning.

So there they are…three ideas. I hope they help. They help me every day.

Let’s take small steps and build habits to bring forth a better tomorrow.

-MJ

Photo by Melissa Mjoen via Unsplash

You Are The Fire

THE GIFT OF FIRE- As told by Anthony De Mello
There’s this guy who invented fire. He takes the tools for making fire and goes up to the north, where there are some tribes shivering in the cold. He teaches them the art and the advantages of making fire. And the people become interested. They learn. And what do they know? Pretty soon they’re cooking, they’re using the fire for building. And before they had time to say thanks to the inventor, he had disappeared. He didn’t want any thanks; he just wanted people to benefit from his invention.
He goes to another tribe, and he attempts to interest them also in his new invention. But he ran into a snag there, see? The priests began to realize how popular the guy was becoming and how their own influence on the people was diminishing. So they decided to poison him. A suspicion arose among the people that it was the priests who had done it, so you know what the priests did?
They had a huge portrait made of the man. They put it on the main altar in the temple. They devised a liturgy by which the man would be honored, a ritual; and year after year, people came to pay homage to the great inventor and to the instruments for making fire. And the ritual was faithfully observed. But there was no fire. No fire. Ritual. Remembrance. Gratitude. Veneration. Yes. But no fire…
****
This story is my favorite from Anthony DeMello. Anthony was a Jesuit Priest who saw things as they are (not as prescribed by his own faith). I often remind myself of this story as I guide my children the best that I can. 
This story’s true purpose is not whether dogma is good or bad (that is lazy, shallow thinking). The message here is that the fire maker’s purpose was to show that everyone can do this fire making stuff! He helped people learn and awaken to their true fire making potential. 
And so it is with ALL OF US: We are the fire of the world. At our best, we help others awaken to their own potential. Today, I will work hard to bring my fire into the world. Today, I will be patient with my children and help them discover their own unique fire within. Today, I will listen better to their story and coach them where needed. Today, I will offer my hand to anyone who has forgotten that they, too, can spark a flame in this world.
You are the fire of life. Let’s go out there and fan the flames and help others awaken to their potential.
Be well.
-MJ
Photo by Ryan Wong via Unsplash

Agent of Change

The posts on this site often are meant to be a catalyst or an agent of change in the reader’s life. Every post on Be a Champion Dad got its start from ideas and actions that we, the writers, are learning and working on. 

Today I ask that you be an agent of change in your own life. Instead of going about your day waiting for something or someone to come by and inspire, I ask that you be the inspiration. Be the catalyst of change by taking one thing that you wish could be better and take a step in the direction to bring it forth.

“Create what you want to see in the world” –Jeanine Fitzgerald.

I am not talking about moving mountains but rather about making a small change today to build to a better tomorrow that you envision in your heart/mind. Some examples are as follows:

*Set a goal. Any change starts with a goal in mind. When you know your destination, you are more likely to take action and get there.

*Be happy. Happiness needs no reason. We are all responsible for our own happiness. However, so many people allow external circumstances or conditions to determine their mental state. The truth is everything starts from within and not the other way around. Happiness is a choice and does not rely on the external…unless you allow it to. Grab that steering wheel!

*Smile. This goes hand in hand with happiness. How many people do you see smiling as you navigate your day? Odds are not too many. Don’t be one of those people. Smiling is a great way to change your own mood and is a powerful way to help others open up and do the same. Smile- it may feel silly, but it does transform. Do it and observe. Your kids will mirror this behavior faster than anyone else!

*Develop a new relationship.  Success in life happens through your relationships. Often whom you know will shape future opportunities. Reach out to someone who you have never dealt with before and begin a conversation. Pick someone of interest or that you have admired from a distance. You will be amazed at the doorways that open when a new relationship is forged. This one is a little adventurous but will provide the most reward.

This post’s main point is to bring awareness to this powerful but easy truth: Life responds immediately to those who take aggressive action or stance. Now I don’t mean aggressive in a negative way, but simply boldly assertive. Life is always interactive. The more proactive one can be, the more life works to respond in kind. Success happens most to those who have chosen their outcome and drive towards it to shape their tomorrow. So have fun today and make a small change in your life. You just may be amazed where that new rabbit hole (change) will take you.

Be Well

-MJ

Photo by Mehuldave via Unsplash

Timeless Poetry

I would like to thank my wife for providing this gem to me over tens years ago. We were only dating and she was witnessing me (at work) getting crushed by a mountain of stress and obligations. When I received it, my perception of time slowed and it pulled me right out of that funk.

“The true magic in life is only found through our relationships”

The crazy thing is she wrote this before we had ever met. It just makes me think that all of us should focus on what is in our heart. Creating from the heart plants seeds that will grow and reveal themselves in the future (for people we never even knew existed).

I hope you find a measure of value as I did that fateful day. Be well.

-MJ


Do you find your life to be full of stress?

You look around and it’s all a mess?

You feel like you hardly have a moment to treasure,

Well wake up now! Life is all about the simple pleasures.

How often do you stop and look at the trees?

Feel the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze.

Take time to do this, these things can’t be measured

Life is all about taking time to love these simple pleasures.

Why give in to the world and yell and complain,

This means nothing in life, you have nothing to gain.

When you’re old on your death bed would you want to look back?

And realize you wasted your life traveling down the wrong track?

Just stop right here, just stop and think….

Mindlessly stare at this page, try not to blink.

How much time have you wasted on things that don’t matter?

You’ve screamed and yelled and you’ve gotten madder and madder.

Only you can change this, you have the power within,

So stop, and realize the simple pleasures life can bring.

Whether your twenty or fifty or on your very last breath.

Take the time to appreciate things that count before death.

Look up to the sky, on a blue cloudless day,

Close your eyes and enjoy what the birds have to say.

Cause it is moments like this which we should all treasure,

At the end of our time, a good life is filled with these simple pleasures.


Photo by Ben White via Unsplash

Beliefs are the Parables of the Mind

Don’t believe your beliefs.

What a statement, huh?! Everyone reveals their true nature through their past and their current actions. What drives people’s actions are the beliefs they hold onto about their life. But….Please don’t believe them.

Let’s build this from the floor up. Beliefs are those ideas you hold to be true in your mind and heart but cannot prove in the world. Beliefs are not facts. Beliefs are merely theories waiting to be proofed out. 

So what do I mean with don’t believe your beliefs? Simply this. Keep your mind open to the possibility that your beliefs might not be true. Keeping an open mind like this will allow for new data to come in to amend your beliefs and grow. I know this sounds really awful to many of you, especially if you are a fundamentalist (view my post on Authenticity).

Why is it so awful? (because it is going to make you think!)

Your beliefs are the security blanket of your mind. They are the assumptions about life that enable you to move forward. Beliefs fill the gaps in the mind to sleep at night, navigate our day, and not be paralyzed by fear of the unknown (like- why we are even on this earth?). So it becomes really awful that we would even question the beliefs that keep us sane….because essentially you are removing the mental security blanket with questions like: Is this true? Or can it be amended to a higher understanding?

(Besides awful, it can be really scary too. I once read a book (The Story of B) that removed a huge pillar of belief from my mind. I didn’t know who I was for a few days, but I knew I could never go back! Hooray for enlightenment…that’s the way of it)

Don’t believe your beliefs. They are just stories for guidance.

How will this help you? You will grow as a person. You will learn to adapt and amend when higher knowledge comes in. This is also a great way to model how to be a thinking person for your child. (Champion Dads cultivate authentic thinking children)

Those who keep a fixated belief system without questioning are stagnant, closed to life, and severely disables their own growth/enlightenment. Not only that, but they cripple their personal creative power in this world.

What I am not saying is to get rid of your beliefs. We all have them and are required to live and navigate a healthy life. Keep them but allow them to grow with you on your journey. In other words, hold onto them as long as they work or serve a purpose. Let them go when they are no longer useful.

Don’t believe your beliefs. They are just a tool to help you go about your day and build your life…always feel free to upgrade new tools when life is trying to teach you something.

Or to be EVEN MORE redundant, let’s sum this up to another way: Beliefs are merely the parables of the mind. It does not matter if they are “true” or not. What matters is that they help facilitate wonder, curiosity, and point the way when needed.

Don’t believe your beliefs but feel free to enjoy the story.

-MJ

Photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

Friday Wake Up Call

This site is about waking up, taking control, and building the family life you envision. To me, everyone is asleep (including myself.) We are all sleeping and are at different stages of waking up. This site is devoted to helping cultivate a waking mind. A mind that can think on its own and grow is a mind that can positively impact its surroundings (kids and anyone you come into contact with).

Let’s get one thing out there: Waking up is hard to do. For the most part, if you are like me (or the average Joe/Jane), you will wake up for a moment, experience enlightenment, and then fall back asleep. It’s a vicious cycle. Waking up is not an end result. You won’t wake up and be able to automatically sustain it…mainly because we are human.

Enlightenment in life is about the journey. Step one is this: understand the “why” in each moment while focusing on experiencing it to its fullest. God/Truth/Love/Peace…whatever you want to call “IT” can only be found in the present moment.

Waking up can be very uncomfortable because it means we must challenge our thoughts. I have noticed that the hardest thoughts to change are the ones that I have always believed and never questioned. These are the ideas that we learned growing up; the ideas “mother culture” spoon-fed us. These deeply rooted thoughts keep us in line and inhibit our ability to create a unique/authentic life. Examine these thoughts as they come up, shine a light on them, and if they add true value to your life, keep them. If they do not hold value, cast them aside, and create better thoughts to live by.

Our work is never finished. However, it is deeply satisfying once you have some momentum.

On a train in 2002, I wrote the following poem on a cover of a book:

 “I am just a plow in a field, planting seeds, planting seeds. The gorgeous flowers that will grow yet even weeds, even weeds.”

The mind is fertile soil. We can actively work at cultivating the soil to bring forth flowers or allow it to produce on its own accord. If we don’t choose the content, our mind will fill with the weeds “mother culture” decides to plant. Regardless of whether or not we are consciously tending the soil, it WILL produce. The mind is always at work.

So let’s go forward and start pulling all the weeds that we don’t want in their place plant flowers and ideas worth living by. Work the soil and actively create. This is the true journey of life: to bring forth that which your individual self has to offer and share it with the world.

Wake up!

-MJ

Authenticity

“You have to be odd to be number one” – Dr. Seuss

For a great deal of my life, I was always looking to fit into one group or another, and well, that never really worked out for me in the long run. My personality naturally calls for this, but my heart screams against it.
Now that I am older, I can see things much clearer and without an emotional attachment. So out of this, there is a pillar of thought in my heart and mind that rings very true:

Conformity is the enemy.

Conformity cripples the path to an authentic life.

The authentic life is the most significant path for anyone. It is the most challenging and happiest pursuit there is. There is simply nothing as beautiful as a person pursuing authenticity in everything that they do. It does not even matter what they are doing. There is unique craftsmanship involved only they can bring into this world. It radiates and shines and does not concern itself with who “likes and subscribes.” It marches on in its beautiful way.

Authenticity is always creating.
Conformity is always trying to fit in.

Authenticity = celebrates creation and uniqueness.
Conformity = fixed, established, and someone else’s vision.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fit in all over the place. I blend in across a myriad of groups. Also, I am not a “non-conformist.” My focus is just different. I am more concerned nowadays with fully expressing my uniqueness to the world (and you should too). If that fits, it fits, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t worry about it.
You see, authenticity is about attraction. Authenticity is the lighthouse that shines on whether or not anyone notices. While it shines, it is not concerned with anything other than shining the best that it can. As it shines, the right people will take notice and move into their life.
Conformity is the opposite. It is about trying to find their place in this world. This place is already established.
Create your place. Be authentic.
It took me 30+ years to figure this out. 30+!!! Hopefully, you get there faster than I. My main goal with this website to help Dad’s (anyone) pursue their authentic self. You have the greatness that no one else in the world has ever had (and never will!).
Pursuing the authentic self takes courage and perseverance. I work hard every day to tow this line. It’s challenging yet significant all at the same time.
Be authentic! It is far more important to push your uniqueness into the world than to worry about whether or not someone agrees or likes you.

Be Well

MJ

Who’s driving anyway?

The greatest delusion that we can maintain for ourselves is that personal freedom resides anywhere other than within. Personal freedom always rests in our hearts and mind. Sure, some external events and forces come in and shake up our life, but we have the choice of how you respond to those events. How are we going to show up? Who is the hero to the story we are telling yourself? (Or do we always find a villain?)
We might not have control over all that happens in life, but we do have control over how we respond to it. The key to personal freedom comes down to one-word responsibility. Are we taking responsibility, or do you deny it?
To answer that question, watch how you respond to the next unexpected event in your life. Is there resistance or acceptance? Freedom appears once we accept things right as they are.
Yes, we create the figurative shackles that bind you. We build all of our life (the good and the bad). Always creating, creating, and creating. We might not be aware that we are.
I am not suggesting that we can eliminate everything that you do not like. Nope, I am merely stating that we can use it, create around it, and transform it into the life we would like to live.
Own your life, accept it, and take on full responsibility. The shackles will drop. We may not control the traffic on life’s highway, but there is no reason we should not be in the driver’s seat.
As a dad (parent), it is best to model this behavior for your kids early and consistently. Not only will you be practicing a winning strategy for yourself, but you will be teaching an important lesson on how to approach the unpredictability of life’s journey.
Remember: Life does not happen to you. It happens through you. You create it and help it unfold. Be an active participant and help others do the same.

Love, Peace, and Harmony

MJ

Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist via Unsplash