The 26 Best Self-Improvement Posts Ever

Need a place to find the best self-improvement blog posts ever? One big list of inspiring geniuses? Well, here it is… my list of the best self-improvement posts ever:

1. – How to be Creative – Originally published in 2004 by Hugh Macleod at the Gaping Void. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing some of the best advice ever given freely over the internet. If you have read it, read it again…

2. – How to Make Money From Your Blog – If I had a dollar for every person who started blogging after reading this post… well… I could quit my job. This post motivated untold numbers of people to start blogging for money. Some of them have quit their jobs and rose to internet fame, others are squeaking out a modest income, and others gave up. This post tells you in specific detail how to get a blog off the ground and turn it into a business. But beware, Steve is brutally honest in this post.

3. – Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System – This is a post you can put to use to improve you life immediately. In fact it is the beginning of a series of posts. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits lays out a productivity system that focuses on habits, action, structure, simplification, and goals. This post starts with 10 essential habits. At the end of the post you’ll see another post for the next entry in ZTD system. Or you could just click the link at the bottom and buy the eBook.

4. – How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour (Plus: A Favor) – Tim Ferris describes in detail how you can learn the basics of new language quickly through a method he calls deconstruction. This post is three years old now, but it is timeless.

5. – The Art of the Finish: How to Go From Busy to Accomplished – This post was written about three years ago on Scott H Young’s blog. It was written by Cal Newport who was a PhD student at MIT. He made the observation that many highly accomplished people did not have good productivity habits. What they did have is a common trait – they completed projects. They are compulsive finishers. That habit of finishing then unlocks opportunities and big scores. Cal gives us detail on completetion centric planning.

6. – 50 Things Everyone Should Know How To Do – Marc and Angel give us a comprehensive guide to self reliance and self-education. This huge list states a thing we should know how to do, tells us why we should know it, and then supplies us with the information to learn it. Man this must have taken Marc and Angel a long time to put together. Thanks, Marc and Angel!

7. – Do You Have Weirdo Syndrome? – I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt like a weirdo. Like I never quite fit in. I think about weird things, sometimes I wear the wrong clothes, and I have weird ideas. And when I try to fit in, I give up a part of myself and I still don’t fit in. Charlie Gilkey addresses this in a wonderful way – “You can’t be remarkable and fit in at the same time.”

8. – 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power – Luciano Passuello supplies us with a list of 120 things we can do starting today to help us think faster, improve memory, comprehend information better and unleash our brain’s full potential. Luciano also adds 35 more ideas from his readers.

9. – 279 Days to Overnight Success – This isn’t a blog post. It’s a 79 page pdf written by Chris Guillebeau about how he became a full-time writer and professional blogger in 279 days.

10. – 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job – This is by far one of the most visited blog posts ever written. Ever wonder why you should start a business? This advice isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you. If you are interested in working for yourself. This is a must read.

11. – How I Left the Rat Race (And You Can Too) – Glen Allsop is the real deal. If you want out of the rat race, listen the Glen, he’s done it, all before the age of 21. This post is really a series of posts that lead to another series of posts. If you’re serious about changing the way you live and the way you think about money, give these posts your attention as well – How I went from Nobody to Industry Expert and everything on ViperChill.com.

12. – The 99 Best Business Books: The Personal MBA Recommended Reading List – From the site: “MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work.” If you follow Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA program you can skip b-school and $150,000 loan; and get a world-class business education just by reading these books.

13. – Top 5 Ways to Build a Wonderful Life – I recall the day this post made the front page of Digg and Delicious. What a fantastic piece of writing. John Wesley wrote this back when he owned Pick the Brain. It’s short and simple and to the point.

14. – Fifty Success Habits – Craig Harper will tell you the hard core truth about self-improvement. It takes courage and work and sweat. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. This is one of his best posts, ever.

14. – Mark Twain’s Top 9 Tips for Living a Kick-Ass Life – Henrik Edberg publishes the Positivity Blog, and this is one of his best posts ever. Why? You’ll have to read it. He combines a series of quotes from the famous American writer Mark Twain, with 9 tips for living. Mark Twain was an odd duck and did things differently than others. That combined with his genius mind is what makes his advice so powerful. Mark Twain’s insight combined with Henrik’s commentary, gives us a real sense of what it takes to develop our potential.

15. – A Devious Trick to Handle Chronic Complainers – This is one of those simple pieces of advice I had known about years ago. It’s so simple it makes me laugh out loud. Complaining drives me nuts! Especially when there is nothing you can say or do to help the person complaining. They shoot down everything you suggest. No doubt, this piece of advice from Alexander Kjerulf AKA The Chief Happiness Officer, is golden.

16. – Relationships: 8 tips for finding the right thing to say in a difficult situation – The quality of our life is only as good as the quality of our relationships. Communication is key to creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Gretchen Rubin from the Happiness Project gives us 8 tips on communicating in difficult situations. It isn’t the easy situations that make or break us, but what we say and do when the situation is challenging.

17. – 106 Tips to Become a Master Connector – Donald Latumahina put together this list on his Life Optimizer blog. Donald summarized the best information he gleaned from the book Never Eat Alone and put them into 106 easily digestible tips. Relationship building is one of the critical components to success in business, success in life, and self-improvement. This is straight forward advice for the 21st century.

18. – How to Defrag Your Mind In 5 Easy Steps – I know one of my biggest problems is I have too much crap in my head competing for my attention – too many ideas. To move forward we’ve got to focus on the important stuff and follow through. Dragos Roua gives us a simple formula he uses to prioritize and move forward.

19. – How to Make Friends and Get a Social Life – To some people this stuff might seem obvious. But to many of us geeks with social anxiety we need this advice. Solid social skills are more important to happiness, financial success, and longevity than any other skill you can acquire. Chris at SucceedSocially.com offers critical advice for the shy, anxious, and awkward.

20. – Connect with Your Creative Writer – This one from Tina Su at Think Simple Now made the front page of Digg. She explains creativity and mental blocks, offers her 8 step plan to overcoming writers block, and finishes up by offering 13 tips to unlocking your creativity. Tina had a baby boy this year. Congrats Tina and good luck to you and your family.

21. – How to Travel Full-Time For Less Than $14,000 Per Year – No doubt travel is a key ingedients to self-improvement. Travel opens your eyes to opportunity, ideas, culture, diversity, and knowledge. This guest post by Nora Dunn on I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is a long, detailed, comprehensive guide to cheap travel.  She tells us how to save 80% on airfare, how to get free accommodations, how to work while travelling, and a host of other tips for cheap travel.

22. – 8 Destructive Thinking Patterns and How to Change Them – You know the cliche’ – I can be my own worst enemy? Steven Aitchison detail 8 ways your own thinking may be hurting you and others and how to change it. Steven has made several great posts about ending the negativity in our minds. Don’t forget to also check out 7 Irrational thoughts that disrupt your life and 10 Beliefs that could hold you back in life.

23. – 8 Harsh Truths that Will Improve Your Life – This is a guest post by Glen Allsop on Dumb Little Man that takes an original angle on the personal development subject. He takes a series of apparently negative truths about life, and draws lessons from them, positive lessons.

24. – The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up – Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? I’m not giving it away, but this post is right on, sometimes you have to quit. It’s the only was to improve. Johnathan at the Illuminated Mind does a lot of posts that seem to offer counterintuitive advice, and in each case the advice is good.

25. – Six Conversational Habits to Ditch Today – These six tips are obvious, but very few of us have mastered them. They are bad habit we all need to break if we want quality communication and quality relationships. My favorite is –  stop seeking attention by complaining. Thanks Sara!

26. – Seven Can’t Miss Ways to Kick-Start the Writing Habit – This is simple and actionable advice on writing. Part of the writing process is simply sitting down and writing something… anything… this post will leave you with no excuse not to start writing now. Don’t forget to check the reader tips too.

Do you have enough to read now? No? Okay then, I also want to share a few of my favorite self-improvement books:

The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success by Marcus Buckingham

Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning

Leadership the inner side of Greatness by Peter Koestenbaum

And a book on becoming a pro-blogger:

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

How to Buy Used and Discount Books Online

People always ask us the best way to buy used and discount books online, so I put together a how-to guide and published it on our new website booksmn.com.

We put together a 3000+ word guide that will show you with text and illustrations…

  • The best places to buy used books online
  • How to decide which seller to buy from
  • How to get the best price for the best service
  • How to get the best deal on shipping
  • How to minimize damage during shipping
  • How to ask questions before you purchase
  • Other hints and tips for getting a steal
  • What book conditions really mean

You can find the guide here: How to Buy Used and Discount Books Online. We hope you find it useful. Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Supply Side Home Economics

I’m tired of everyone telling us how to save money. What we need is people telling us how to make money.

Like a lot of people today, maybe your budget is tight. Maybe you read Money Magazine looking for a few tips to get ahead. Or maybe you read Get Rich Slowly (one of my favorite blogs). Most money sources have oodles of tips on how to save money and make your fixed budget go further.

Common Tips About Money:

  • Cutting coupons
  • Eat out less
  • Quit buying books and use the public library
  • Bring a bag lunch to work
  • Shop at the Salvation Army and the Goodwill
  • Buy in bulk at a warehouse club
  • Refinance your home
  • Send away for rebates
  • Get DVDs from Redbox
  • Use 0% credit card offers
  • Increase your insurance deductible
  • Keep your used car
  • Limit gift giving
  • Take advantage of matching 401k funds
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Stop Smoking
  • Avoid late payments
  • Replace light bulbs
  • Buy energy efficient appliances

I’m sure you’ve read dozens more. These are great ideas, but… they won’t solve most people’s money problems. They’re too minuscule. Too incremental. They’re a good start at getting your debt under control, or dealing with a lost job, but in the long run, they won’t get you were you want to be. They are temporary fixes to a lifetime issue.

We all want more money for one reason… It gives us freedom to pursue our goals, to travel, to grow, and to create the life of our dreams.

If you focus all your attention and energy on saving money, you aren’t focusing on the solution. You are focusing on the problem. The solution is creating wealth. To create wealth, you need income and you need to grow it. So if you’re focused on coupons and light bulbs you aren’t focused on the long term. You’re focused on a band-aid fix.

What is Supply Side Home Economics?

In 1997, Christine and I decided we would focus 80% of our money consciousness on the supply side. That means – we focused on creating more income for our family – the supply side of money. That doesn’t mean we don’t negotiate. We recently reduced our phone service by $30 per month. We also cut our cable and internet bill by almost $500 a year without compromising service. Focusing on Supply Side Home Economics means spending 80% of your energy on generating income.

Think about it…

If you make $50,000 per year and you spend $50,000 per year, you’re broke. But if you increase your income to $70,000 and you don’t change a thing, you’re solving your money problem. The bigger problem is… too many people spend everything they make no matter how much, but that’s another blog post…

How to start?

Look for opportunity everywhere. Instead of spending an afternoon chasing down a 50 cent discount on milk, work on a business. Sell stuff on craigslist. Sell stuff on ebay. Create new internet sites. Look for ways to help other people get what they want.

As noble as conservation and frugality is, it doesn’t create economic growth. Hunkering down and not spending will not get the economy out of this slump. Creating wealth will. Likewise, hunkering down will not get you or your family on the path to prosperity. Focusing on growth will.

With the technology available today, at near zero cost, there is no reason why you or anyone else can’t create $500 – $1000 in new income in your spare time.

How do you get there?

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do you have around the house you can sell?
  • What unique knowledge and life experience do you have?
  • How can you offer that knowledge and experience to others?
  • What value can you provide others?
  • How can you give them more value than you charge for your goods or services?
  • How can you help others sell their stuff?
  • How can you teach others your unique skills and knowledge?
  • How can you gain valuable specialized knowledge?
  • What makes you unique and how can you offer that to others?

Economic Fact:

When you create more wealth for yourself, it makes us all wealthier. It isn’t zero sum. The pie grows for everyone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. So help humanity by making yourself wealthier. Here’s a great place to start (don’t let the hyped up title throw you off, it’s great).

Are You a Past, Present, or Future Oriented Person?

This video is brilliant, thought provoking, and informative. The whiteboard illustrations alone are worth every minute.

In one section the presenter states the main purpose of schooling is to turn children from present minded hedonists into future oriented planners and organizers. That’s part of the truth, but there is a social sorting aspect of schooling that goes far beyond simply reprogramming our perception of time. It’s a way of creating winners and losers before the adult game of life even begins. Also, one can be a future oriented person without succeeding in school. True, schools force you to plan and organize for the future – next week’s assignment, final tests, prom, the pep fest, the football game, taking the right electives to secure a place in college, etc, but the institution strictly controls what you must plan to do. Many future oriented people have different plans than the paths offered in school…

Responsibility is the Price of Freedom

Do you ever question saving money? What if I got hit by a bus tomorrow and I haven’t traveled, haven’t started that new business, or denied myself simple pleasures?

During the depths of recession I asked Can You Live on 50% of your Income?

For many people, it isn’t a question of CAN you live on 50% of your income. The real question is… Do you WANT to live on 50% of your income? Are you willing to make the hard trade-offs? What might those trade-offs be?

  • Travel
  • The type of food you eat
  • The clothes you wear
  • The car you drive
  • Walking away from a mortgage and renting a room in a crime ridden neighborhood
  • Dropping out of school

Most Americans would be surprised how little you NEED to stay alive. Most Americans use the word NEED to describe the things they think they NEED to live the life they WANT to live. Most things people think they NEED are not NEEDS at all, but DESIRES.

On Get Rich Slowly, a 20 year old just asked Am I Being Foolish Saving So Much?. He saves 50% of his income, lives at home, and attends college. If he quit saving so much, he believes he could move out, start a business, or buy a new car. Why should he sacrifice those possibilities to save money he can’t touch until he’s 65? Good point, isn’t it? J.D. gives him a decent answer, and he gets close, but not quite there. Maybe J.D. didn’t want to get esoteric or political, but this is the answer…

Everything you choose to do has a cost. It’s called opportunity cost. Every minute you spend could have been spent doing something else. The opportunity cost of writing this blog post is nearly infinite. I could have spent this time reading to my kids, golfing, biking, or even robbing a bank. The same principle applies to money. Your money represents your time and your(or someone’s) past labor. When you choose to do something with your money you are indirectly spending “time”. When someone steals your money or property they are murdering a portion of your life.  No one tells you that in school, do they? When you save your money, you are saving a part of your life for use later. If your life is shorter than expected, saving is a bad deal. That’s why you need to decide for yourself what you want to do. No one should decide for you. Don’t  allow them to. It’s your life. You choose. It’s called freedom. But you’ll have to live with the cost of your choices. (Well, maybe not, you can get someone else to pay your costs if the right people get elected, but in any case, someone is going to incur the cost of your decisions.)

Who are we to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do with their time? Who are we to tell a kid he can’t drop out and be a musician, or an artist, or an entrepreneur? We don’t know the cost of staying IN school. We think we know the odds, but I’m not sure we do. Who are we to say you shouldn’t get married at 18 and have kids? How do we know that will lead to unhappiness? Maybe waiting will lead to unhappiness. I’m delighted I’ve been with Christine since we were 19.  It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There are things about our relationship that would be nearly impossible for a couple to build if they met at 35.

We can only make an educated guess about risks and possibilities based on what has happened in the past to other people. But that doesn’t mean you will get the same results as others. There are oddles of people who took all the safe bets and are miserable.

So what should our 20 year old writer do? Whatever he WANTS, but whatever choice he makes will have costs. Weigh them, decide, and accept responsibility for the decision. Responsibility is the price of freedom.

Edit 5-15-2010: I know this post was all over the place. But this is my point – Imagine if Steve Jobs had decided to stay in school and save his money instead of building a computer in his garage. What would have been the opportunity cost of his decision?

9 Year Old Helps Pay for Own Heart Surgery by Publishing eStory

Don’t you love stories about children who can face life threatening hardship with bravery, optimism, and cheerfulness? When their young minds comprehend not only the physical challenges facing them, but also the financial challenges, and seek out and find solutions?

Let me tell you about Malkolm.

I first heard about Malklom a couple of days ago when my wife (Christine) was reading the eBay power sellers board.

Christine said, “There’s this woman who sells DVDs on the eBay power selling board. She has a 9 year old son with a heart problem. His heart muscle is thickening and he needs surgery or he could die. His mom has insurance and it pays 80% but they are still going to have a difficult time paying the other 20%. Malkolm was worried about the cost of his surgery. He had written some award winning stories at school, so he asked his mom if he could sell one of them on eBay to help pay for the surgery. His mom was so overcome with emotion she had to fight back the tears. With encouragement from other eBay sellers, they decided to give it a go. Now he’s selling his story on eBay for $10. They sold over 100 in the first 12 hours.”

“Should we buy one?” Christine asked.

“Go for it! It’s only 10 bucks and you’re sure it’s legit, right?” I said.

“Yeah it’s legit. Lot’s of people know her on the power sellers board. She’s been there a long time and other sellers are helping” she said.

So we bought one. And I must say… It’s fantastic writing for a 9 year old. Here’s an excerpt:

I keep on striding down the road, and a nice little house steps into my view. There is a closed window, and a small candle glows inside. I hear a voice: “Goodnight, Katie.” A small voice replies: “Goodnight, mommy.”

I think to myself, “I think I’ll take a peek.” I jump toward the window, trying to get their attention. As soon as I smack against the window, I black out.

It’s the best 10 bucks we’ve ever spent.

You can read more about Malkolm here, he has a blog, and you can buy Malkolm’s story here.

His surgery date is March 24th 2010.

Last I heard he has sold over 250 copies.

How to Grow Your Business on a Small Budget

Have you ever heard, “You have to have money to make money?” I suppose it’s true. But you don’t have to have much. We started christinesbooks.net in 2003 with $500.00, haven’t incurred a single dollar of debt since, and grew it organically. How did we do it? Persistence, patience, and a lot of frugality.

In America today, patience isn’t a virtue. Getting things done now is, regardless of the risk. Unfortunately, that type of thinking has led us into the economic mess we face today.

Since the last post on our move from a home based business into a showroom/warehouse operation, we’ve made some changes.

Some things we needed to get off the ground.

  • Shelving in the warehouse
  • Equip and furnish the office
  • Get the internet operation running profitably
  • Build out the showroom.
  • Host weekend, discount liquidation sales

Warehouse shelving – $1000

Buy pallet racking – After checking some suppliers on Craigslist, we discovered the pallet racking would cost $1000s, would be too bulky, and wouldn’t be appropriate for our products (books, DVDs, CDs, and games).

Build shelves ourselves – I started down this path, but quickly discovered I didn’t have the time and the quality wasn’t high enough.

Contract someone to build custom shelves – After careful planning, we estimated this would cost us between $10-20K, and it didn’t make sense for a company our size

What we did:

I built some shelves from kits – about $300.

It took time, but we found a couple dozen commercial grade shelf units for $700 at a local private school. They decided to downsize their library.

Here’s what the warehouse looks like now:

Furnishing and equipping the offices -$570

  • Desks – Free from a out of business karate school
  • Office Chairs – Free – see above
  • Shelves – Free – see above
  • Computers – Free – We moved one from home, and I built the other from recycled parts.
  • Computer Monitor – $140
  • Powered Computer Cart – $250 – Scratch and Dent (Original price $2000)
  • Wireless Router – $70
  • Play area for the kids – $10 – Play Station, Older CRT TV, Coloring Books, Crayons

When we began, we discovered we could easily have spent tens of thousands of dollars equipping the warehouse and office, but we found a way to do it on less the 2K.

In upcoming posts we will talk about:

  • Getting the internet operation running profitably
  • Building out the showroom.
  • Hosting weekend, discount liquidation sales
  • Our new brand for the business

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I needed to prioritize some things in life – too much on the plate. But we plan to post more frequently in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for reading!

The Questions Science Can't Answer – Yet

Most nights after putting my 7 year old to bed, we have lengthy discussions about life and reality. While he spends most of his day repeating silly nonsense from Sponge Bob, at night, when the lights go out, he changes. He’s a night person, his brain shifts into high gear in the darkness and silence… just like both his parents.

Some of his questions:

  • Where did everything come from?
  • Why is there something instead of nothing?
  • Why did the Big Bang happen?
  • How long ago did the Big Bang happen?
  • If we went back in a time machine and watched the Big Bang, what would it look like?
  • If everything is expanding, what is it expanding into?
  • Is there more than one universe?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • What is reality?
  • Where was I before I was born?
  • What was before the Big Bang?

For some of these questions, science does have an answer, and for some, it does not.

We once thought the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around the Earth. Not that long ago many scientists adhered to the Steady State Theory that the universe had no beginning or end and was in a state of constant creation. And when I was a child science told us we were entering an ice age, while today they tell us the Earth is facing a catastrophic warming.

Sometimes the most important questions are the ones that offend the current culture.

In truth, we know little about reality, and the questions we do answer are likely to produce even more puzzling questions, but that’s no reason to quit asking questions and looking for evidence, and the closer we look the weirder reality appears to be.

I tell him, “Keep an open mind. The answers you read in books or are taught in school are what we think we know right now. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better explanation. Never quit asking questions and seeking answers.”

For more on the questions Science Can’t Answer Yet – check out Ten Questions Science Can’t Answer (Yet!): A Guide to Science’s Greatest Mysteries.

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.