Category Archives: Leadership

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned From MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

If your kids are like mine, and don’t care for team sports, MMA is an excellent alternative.

My son does MMA training 3 nights a week at the American School of Martial Arts in Savage MN. When he chose to take Karate, we visited several different schools, and he decided on MMA. He liked the school, the instructor, and the structure. He can quit any time he wishes. But he knows, if he quits, it’s final, and I am never taking him back (just a little lesson about the power of decision).

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned from MMA

Goal Setting – It started with learning a Kenpo technique called the Snapping Twain. He was determined to do it correctly. Then he began focusing on earning stripes for his belt, and later decided to earn his first belt. The goals he sets in MMA are not easy to achieve. They take months of focus and consistent practice. Now, without my prompting he sets financial goals and educational goals for himself, and I credit the things he’s learned in MMA training

Persistence – He’s been at this 18 months and still hasn’t earned his second belt. His first belt took 9 months. Some days he practices free grappling, which is Jiu Jitsu (the art of softness – no hitting or punching). He lost dozens of these matches, but improved with each loss. Previously, he avoided things that weren’t easy for him, now he accepts the challenge even if the odds are are against him. Why? He’s discovered that if he keeps trying, he will improve. Sometimes he sees improvement in an hour, other times it takes months. But with consistent effort, improvement happens. This is the same son that invented the word “Shandshowbo” when he was 4. It means keep trying even when it’s hard.

Confidence – There is no substitute for self-confidence. If you don’t believe in your ability to overcome obstacles, if fear of failure stops you, you will never reach your goals.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Confidence comes from deep inside, and it is reflected in your posture, the way you shake hands, if you look someone in the eye when they speak to you. The kids at ASMA are taught to stand up straight, look each other in the eye, shake hands, and speak clearly and confidently. In my experience, very few kids have the basic social skills that come with confidence. Confidence comes from knowing you have the mental and physical strength to deal with adversity and challenge. MMA training fosters that confidence.

Nutrition – Look at a group of today’s youth and you’ll see that few kids understand the foundation of good nutrition. MMA training stresses the importance of eating healthy natural foods and avoiding sugar, HFCS, and processed foods. Each day, the instructor requires my son to name 5 fruits and vegetables he has eaten that day. If he can’t, he does 25 push ups. This method has been so effective, in 18 months, my son has never had to do those push ups. By 6 years old, he developed an obsession with eating healthy foods. He nags us to feed him healthy food. Today, he frequently says things like, “I’m not eating candy for the next 60 days.” He does this with no prompting from me or the instructors. He does it because he wants to be healthy and test himself. That is radical self-discipline for a 7 year old.

Physical Fitness – Each training session starts with a 10-15 minute run, followed by a routine of stretches and calisthenics. After about a year, he could do over 100 squats and 50 push-ups in near perfect form. Many mornings he gets up early and works out for 20 minutes on his own. One morning I awoke at 6 AM to sounds coming from the living room. There was my son doing squats. Physical fitness isn’t a goal, it’s a habit, and MMA training ingrains the habit young.

Frustration Tolerance – Trying something difficult for the first time is frustrating, especially if you’re around other people who make it look easy. The same is the case for MMA training. Many times my son grapples with bigger more experienced kids, they end up on top of him, and it’s frustrating and difficult to get out from underneath them. I’ve seen the frustration on his face after a difficult situation. A situation when he fails repeatedly. But in time, I’ve seen him turn that frustration from fear and anger, into determination, and finally achievement.

Focused Attention – Your strength and ability at any task, is directly related to your ability to focus your attention on your goal and the task at hand. The power of focused attention is the most powerful thing you control. The importance of focus can’t be stressed enough. I don’t care what you’re doing, writing, painting, drawing, speaking, running, or swinging a golf club, focus is essential.

As many of you know, children, especially boys, struggle with focus and attention, some more than others. Some kids just “space off” a little, others are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and are prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs. Putting a child on mind altering drugs is a huge decision, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Alternative treatments are possible, and Martial Arts training can and has worked as an alternative therapy for ADD/ADHD. (Please do not stop any medication without consulting with your child’s physician.)

Many kids show typical ADD/ADHD symptoms because they aren’t getting enough exercise. Parents and schools tend to discipline a hyperactive child by making them sit still for long periods of time (timeout). For most hyper kids, this only produces more hyperactivity. Instead, have them run laps or do squats or push ups. Exercise helps kids focus.

Sportsmanship – Have you seen a kid throw a fit when they don’t win? Have you seen him mock his opponent when he does win? Have you seen a child look for a weaker opponent simply because he didn’t want to lose? Have you seen him refuse to try when he realized he would probably lose? These are all issues of sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is a basic social skill we all should master. We all compete at some level, and good sportsmanship reflects strong character.

Trying challenging things and failing builds sportsmanship, and MMA training challenges kids. No one is a superstar on day one. Everything is earned and all bullying is shunned.

Why MMA?

My son loves it and he doesn’t like team sports. Maybe that will change, but until it does, MMA provides all the physical and mental benefits of team sports.

We hear a constant refrain about the dangers facing our children today – Obesity, ADD/ADHD, Stranger Abduction, and Apathy. We also hear about the entitlementality – kids growing up believing they’re entitled to things that must be earned – things that cannot be bestowed from the outside – things that must be grown over time in your soul. To build a strong future we need to help young men and women build a strong character. Unfortunately, for the most part, character isn’t being learned or taught in our schools.

Building strong character begins at home, but a child needs input for many sources, sources that may not be available in every home. As parents we are limited to our own knowledge and perspectives, and for me and Christine, that isn’t enough. Our kids need role models, who can share knowledge and experience, we as parents do not have.

Can You Imagine What a Great Leader Might Say Right Now?

Great leaders show us tomorrow will be better than today because we control the future. Having a better tomorrow is a decision we get to make. We decide what happens next.

Great leaders face down our enemies and attack them relentlessly.

What enemies I am writing of?

The enemies of all mankind, fear and resentment.

Fear and resentment are the only things that stand between us and a better tomorrow. Sure our problems are complex, but we will overcome our obstacles only after we face our fears and let go of our resentments.

There is nothing more dangerous than a “leader” who uses fear and resentment to get what he wants. Great things happen when people act with passion, vision, and courage. Destruction happens when people act in fear and anger.

The first measure of great leadership is courage. However, having courage oneself isn’t enough. A leader, after all, is only one person. A leader can accomplish nothing without many people willing to act. So a great leader must have the ability to instill courage in others.

As you listen to leaders around the world speak about our current situation, do they have vision, passion, and do they inspire courageous action? There is a leadership vacuum just waiting to be filled, isn’t there? Who is going to step up?

Can you imagine what a great leader might say right now?

We are at a crossroad, one way is the path of fear the other is the path of courage. Which way will we go?

Conquering Fear


Photo by Alice Popkorn

Would you like to overcome anxiety?

The only antidote to fear is consistent, repetitive, courageous action.

The majority of people avoid public speaking. They fear it more than death.

  • Are you one of the people who are afraid of public speaking?
  • Would you like to overcome it?
  • Do your hands shake?
  • Can you feel your throat tighten?
  • Does your voice feel weak?
  • Can you feel your voice quiver?
  • Does your heart pound so hard you can hear it?

Yes to all? Me too.

I don’t get the chance to speak in public often, but when I do, I always get symptoms of fear. That’s why I accept every opportunity I have to speak in public.

Let me give you a quick anecdote.

Continue reading Conquering Fear

Delay Gratification – Now!

Thanks to Copyblogger, I found a great blog, the CEO Blog – Time Leadership written by Jim Estill CEO of Synnex Canada. Jim’s post on Copyblogger – Shorter is Better was tearing it up on Twitter a few days ago. Graywolf (Michael Gray) wrote, “ if you read only one post this day, this month or this year this is the post it should be Shorter is Better.”

Jim also has a lot to offer us on his own blog. The most credible blogs are written by those with proven success. If you are looking to improve and grow, listen to guys like Jim. His record stands on its own.

In a recent post Jim writes about how a failure to delay gratification has led to our economic situation. I couldn’t agree more.

Success will come to those who consistently give more than they take, who do more than expected, and who wait patiently for rewards.

The cries “I want mine and I want it now” are the cries of adult children who have yet to mature.

There are no get rich quick schemes. They are all lies.

But I’ve never seen someone fail who consistenly gives more than is expected.

21 Surefire Ways to Stay Motivated


Photo by Tomoyoshi

Have you set a goal (like a business plan or a weight loss regimen) in a burst of energy and excitement, only to find after a few weeks the excitement fades? Your progress slows, then stops, and you regress to where you started? Unfortunately, for many of us, this has become a habit. Regardless if the goal involves diet, exercise, money, education, relationships, business, or career, the pattern is the same, a peak of euphoria, optimism, and creativity, followed by a trough of fatigue, boredom, and loss of interest.

Quitting is a habit. The habit is reinforced by your emotional state which is always experiencing peaks and valleys.  The good news is, habits can be changed with persistence and effort.

I’ve gathered 21 tips (from mentors, books, and blogs) that will help you stay motivated to achieve your long term goals:
Continue reading 21 Surefire Ways to Stay Motivated

Your Opportunity to Shine

I sent out a twitter this afternoon that said…

Whip the fear of poverty by reaching a decision to get along with whatever wealth you can accumulate without worry – Napoleon Hill 1937

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is one of the greatest instruction manuals for handling the economic conditions we face as individuals. It was written in the throes of the second half of the Great Depression.

To move forward and create the future we want, we must re-frame our perceptions of our current situation from an outlook of fear and uncertainty, to one of opportunity and hope. As human beings, we can choose to view the journey ahead with anxiety or with excitement. It is a choice. (If you are sleeping on a park bench right now, I’m not talking about you. I understand you’ve given everything you have. I’m talking to those of us that still have something to give. I’m asking my readers to reach out to you.)

This is an opportunity to help our fellow man. This is an opportunity rebuild our world. This is a chance for renewal.

This is your opportunity to shine.

We are all in this together and we can’t escape it by throwing our brothers under the bus. That will only make it worse.

I know some of you will have to make difficult choices just to save your businesses, but when you do, remember to make them with the utmost ethics and integrity. Never make your decision in fear. Make the decision that is right for the largest number of people.

True security is found helping others. True freedom is found in the willingness to do it voluntarily.

Our current problems were created by ignorance, greed, selfishness, and shortsightedness. They will be solved with intelligence, generosity, selflessness, and long-term thinking.

Act with courage.

Leader Wanted – Please Apply Within

If we have a shortage of one thing in America… it is leadership.

I just heard our President on the radio this morning attempting to scare the shit out of us. That isn’t leadership.

A real leader would say:

I’m not going to lie to you. I believe in you and I know you can handle the truth.

We may have some tough times ahead. As a nation, we’ve over spent and we’ve accumulated too much debt. Housing prices grew too high, too fast. Huge numbers of Americans gambled and speculated and lost. There is very little we can or should do to prop up these assets. Their peak value was phony.

The good news is, if we take our lumps now, this will be relatively short. About 6-18 months. We are innovative and hard working and we will make it through this. Once we have cleaned the sludge from our economic engine, we will emerge stronger than ever before.

We are not wimps. We are not cowards. We will not run from this challenge. We will not pay off our sick mortgages with another toxic mortgage. We will not dump this on our children and our grandchildren. We will face the consequences of our actions because we have the courage and the integrity to accept responsibility for our own greed.

The government in partnership with big finance created this problem. Many of us made the absurd assumption that real estate prices could not fall and we were wrong. I’m am going to do everything I can to insure this never happens again. I’ve released a 25 point plan to prevent the government from creating another economic bubble.

The government doesn’t make this economy run, you do. The answer to this problem doesn’t lie here in Washington. We created the problem and it is pure hubris to believe we can fix it with more debt. Don’t look to us for the answer, looking to us got you in this mess.

You, the American people are the answer to this problem. Get out there and work hard, innovate, compete, and create. BUT DO NOT TRY TO GAME THE SYSTEM! Create real value for each other and you will be just fine.

You will make it through this because you are resilient and for the first time in many generations we are going to face the situation we created.

Developing the Vince Lombardi Habit of Winning

Do you know why so many ‘gifted’ children go on to produce mediocre results with their ‘gifts’? How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a talented guy, why can’t I achieve results like him? How did someone with such average intelligence, average looks, and average ability, become so successful?” 

Vince Lombardi, a man with average looks, average intelligence, and average athletic ability, became one of the most successful coaches in history, and his wisdom debunks many common beliefs about competition, giftedness, success, self-improvement, and personal growth.  

One of the most unassuming, average guys from my High School went on to make over $100 million dollars. Actually, today he’s pretty good looking guy, but back then there were dozens of people who were smarter, more charismatic, better looking, or better athletes. How did it happen? How is he different?

Another person from my High School is one of the smartest and best looking people I have ever known and has done little with her life but complain about how ‘stupid’ everyone is and she wonders why the ‘stupid’ people seem to be so much happier and wealthier than her. She talks about how it must be a conspiracy or blind luck. She says most people are too shallow to understand her intelligence. She has an IQ over 170 and can’t understand why people won’t simply pay her six figures for her brilliance. You can see the problem, but she is blind to it. Why? How did this happen to someone who was given a major advantage in life? I’ll explore that in this post.

Vince Lombardi’s formula for being #1 is simple and it doesn’t require high intelligence, good looks, or world-class talent. But remember, we often confuse simple with easy. Simple is not easy. For example, losing weight is simple, but it can be extraordinarily difficult. Ask any computer programmer who has developed a simple solution and he will testify that complex solutions are far easier to create than simple ones. Complexity is the sanctuary of the novice, and simplicity is the revelation of a genius. So when people tell you to keep it simple, they are asking you to think like a genius.

Read Vince Lombardi’s speech on what it takes to be #1, and you’ll see his formula. Winning is a habit. Winning attracts more winning and unfortunately so does losing.

So how do we develop the Vince Lombardi habit of winning?

Develop a Strong Head
To have a strong head you need to have a disciplined mind. Everything ever accomplished by a human being began as a thought. This isn’t magic. It’s an undeniable fact. Set your goals, focus your thoughts, visualize the outcome, document the details, and make it a habit, because good habits are the foundation of all accomplishment. But it does require much more than thought alone.

Develop a Big Heart
Immerse your focused, habitual, and obsessive thoughts with positive emotion. Mix your burning desires with faith, love, determination, gratitude, and persistence. This is what my son calls Sha-hand-show-bo. This is how you keep going even when you want to quit. This gives you the ability to reach down inside yourself, when you don’t think you have anything left to give, and find the energy to persist. Emotional stamina separates winners from quitters.

Learn to Love Competition
Another way to say this is… be courageous. In all endeavors, on your way to the top, there are people who will scoff at you, impugn you, and when they become threatened, they will try to stomp you out. Getting to the top means knocking someone else out of #1. Some people don’t want to hear this, but it’s true.

Many people are confused about competition. They think of those who will do anything to win. Lying, cheating, and stealing isn’t winning, it’s corruption. Winning is being the best not the worst, so don’t confuse being a winner with being a crook.

Some people say creativity is constructive and competition is destructive, but there is a flaw in this logic – if you create something new which disrupts and challenges the existing order, you are competing whether you like it or not. Creative new solutions must compete with existing paradigms for attention and resources much like web 2.0 is challenging the old media. Do not be fooled into thinking you can create something valuable for others without competing – you can’t. If you aren’t competing for someone’s dollars, you are at least competing for their time and attention.

Evolution occurs from the competitive selection of all things, which are in a state of constant change, recreating and reinventing themselves to become better than what came before them. Change is the new replacing the old. Competition is the means of determining which change is best. Competition is necessary to grow, so to avoid competition is to avoid growth.

Learn to Love Discipline
Self-discipline is critical to success, happiness, and personal freedom. How happy and free is the undisciplined irresponsible person? The answer seems obvious doesn’t it? There is no freedom without responsibility and there is no success without self-discipline.

Does that sound too black and white? Look at the areas where you need to grow. Be honest with yourself. Are they areas where you lack discipline?

How does this affect the ‘gifted and talented?’

Many of you fit into a group, which the education establishment has labeled ‘gifted.’ Labeling someone ‘gifted’ is dangerous because it breeds arrogance. An arrogance which hurts the ‘gifted’ and keeps them from reaching their potential.

I’ve spent decades around under-achieving ‘gifted’ individuals. These folks had two major traits that kept them from succeeding:

1. Without effort, thought, or training, they simply knew the answers to difficult problems. Many of their peers had to work hard, pay attention, and build academic discipline to solve problems. But for many gifted students, it was effortless.
2. When they didn’t understand something intuitively, learning it was easy, requiring only 1-3 iterations to achieve mastery, while their peers required 10+ iterations. Learning the same material required far less studying for the gifted learner.

Dr. Bertie Kingore makes similar observations in her essay about the differences between the high-achiever, the gifted learner, and the creative thinker.

So the danger is this…
Many ‘gifted’ kids don’t learn self-discipline because they don’t need to. Learning is too easy. I’ve seen the same thing happen to gifted athletes.

During a staff meeting at work, I asked a bunch of co-workers a question, which generated looks that seemed to question my sanity…

Is a straight A student really successful? Are they really getting a good education? If they never fail, what have they learned about themselves?

A few people seemed horrified that I was suggesting that an A student could be a failure.

But this is what I was getting at…
If a student pushed herself as hard as she could to achieve top grades, I’d say yes, she is on the road to success. However, if she is getting top grades with little effort, she is being cheated and set up for failure in the future because she doesn’t know her limits. She’s never pushed them. She hasn’t developed the self-discipline necessary to succeed at something difficult. So she develops a habit of doing just enough to get by, and later her peers blow past her in every measure of happiness and success. It’s the classic tortoise and the hare story.

Let me leave you with something I’ve discovered about what truly makes me happy. I spent years coasting, doing less than I was capable of, under the false belief that talking it easy would result in happiness. Coasting became a habit. But it never resulted in happiness. In my late twenties I discovered that pushing myself to my limits resulted in far more happiness than taking it easy (I know, I’m a slow learner). Today when I find myself falling into depression or self-destructive thinking, I know what the problem is… I’m coasting, I’m not pushing hard, and I’m not growing.

The universal Law of Growth states ‘that which is not growing is dying.’ So every time I start to slip, I know why. It’s because I have stopped growing and it is time to push myself hard to learn something new, to solve more problems, or to help other people.

And you know what…

It works every time.

(FYI – I’m a Green Bay Packers fan and I love Lombardi. Go Pack! Beat the Giants on Sunday! Let’s bring home lucky #13!)

Tell me what you think? I’d like to know.

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An Easy Way to be the Person Who Makes a Difference

A co-worker recently said something which made me realize how important little things can be. I told him this short story the day before Thanksgiving:

When I was in my teens, I did a little stint working for a snow removal company in Bloomington Minnesota. One Thanksgiving Eve we had a blizzard and the snow continued into Thanksgiving morning. A friend and I spent 14 hours shoveling snow that Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget it. I sold my Thanksgiving Day for $104.00. But at the time, I thought it was a great deal. I probably spent the money on Metallica records and Budweiser.

My co-worker said, “You might have missed dinner, but I bet some of the people whose sidewalks you shoveled gave you a little holiday cheer.”

I said, “When I left that morning, my mother wasn’t happy that I was going to miss Thanksgiving dinner, and she was concerned about what I was going to eat because all the stores and restaurants were closed. I was in a hurry and grabbed a bag of Christmas candy and I remember her saying that she was sure someone would share food with us. I haven’t thought about it in 20 years, but you know what? I remember I thought they would too, but no one offered us a thing, not even a cup of coffee. All I ate that day was that bag of Christmas candy, which I shared with the other guy. I saw people in their homes and they saw me too. Some people waited inside their cars for me to clear the snow and then hurried by us carrying food into the house. Not one person even said Happy Thanksgiving. I thought people would be happy and generous on Thanksgiving and I was surprised how cold they were.”

When I got home I mentioned the story to Christine, and she was surprised no one offered us anything. She said if someone were shoveling our steps on Thanksgiving Day, she’d invite them in and offer them something.

I think she’d do it. I would too. And I think you would too. But I have to ask… We say we would, but are we paying attention when the opportunity arises? Do we pay attention to the people who do things for us every day? People that do small things for us around the holidays?

These thoughts spurred another memory.

A year or two earlier, I worked at Bloomington Speedy Car Wash, the place where all the heavy metal burnouts worked. We worked there because we could smoke cigarettes on the job and wear our hair long. Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve were the two busiest days of the year. The cars lined up for blocks. When I started, I wanted to work those days, because I thought the customers would be happy and generous on the holidays. The exact opposite was true. The closer we were to a holiday, the cheaper and angrier customers became. Few people smiled, no one tipped, and hardly anyone said Merry Christmas. Christmas Eve was the worst.

Back then, I was jaded and pretty anti-social about mainstream society. But even I was surprised how self-centered people were around the holidays. It reinforced my belief that we live in a thoughtless, selfish, uncaring society. A belief that nobody really gives a shit about anybody else, even on Thanksgiving, so why should I? I’m sure you can imagine the consequences of such a belief.

I don’t hold the same sentiments today. I think most people do care about the people around them, but they just get caught up in their own plans, and if they stopped for a minute and paid attention to the people around them, they’d act differently, they’d be more generous and thoughtful.

You can be the one person who makes a difference.

So I hope this doesn’t sound too preachy, but I am going to ask you to do something.

This holiday season remember the people around you, smile, say Merry Christmas, give a little extra on the tip, tip people you don’t normally tip (The car wash gal, the cook, the Starbucks guy), leave a gift for the garbage man, the recycling guy, your kid’s teacher, drop a few bucks in the Salvation Army can, tip the postman, find a way to let people know you value them, be generous, and if you own a business, give out a holiday bonus.

Your actions can help change someone else’s worldview. That’s how the world will change, one person at a time, one interaction at time, and one act of kindness at a time.

As busy as we all are during the holidays, let’s take the time to be good to one another. It is the little things that change people. Imagine, if one person offered us a cup of coffee on Thanksgiving Day 1986, this would be a different story.

This year, be that person.