Fifty Five Things

So here I am. Double nickels. Fitty five. As always, my inner narcissist believing you all hang on my every word has decided to once again verbally assault you with my deep, often trivial, always personal brand of wisdom and lunacy (often the two are indistinguishable).Seriously, if I touch just one heart and soul with any of these the effort will be just as meaningless. But if you count yourself my friend you will read each and every one and opine on how you are a better, wiser and nobler person for having done so. The future of western civilization hinges upon you reading them. For god and country and for bacon. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “And aaaawaaaay we go!”

1. God is great. All the time. This is a repeat of a previous list but it bears repeating. You may not believe it because you refuse to see it but, much like gravity it’s true nonetheless.

2. Life is both fair and unfair. These are concepts we have to accept. We’re willing to accept the former when it blesses us but blame the latter when fate curses us with it. Often we are the architects of our own disaster and we claim the results are “unfair” without looking for what we contributed to the situation. When I was a teenager I read a great novel about a young boxer in Harlem. I’ve since forgotten the name of the novel and the author but one of the central tenets of the book was “No one promised you nothing”. Meaning whatever you want you have to actively pursue it because no one’s gonna give it to you. This message resonated with me at the tender young age of 15 and I’ve never forgotten it. Whenever I think life is “unfair” I remember “no one promised me nothing”. This is a lesson sorely missing in the youth of today. Now GET OFF MY LAWN!

3. People often blame God for the unfairness in their lives for the same reason I outlined above. Claiming God is unfair is the easiest way to abdicate any personal responsibility. These same people deny His existence until something goes wrong. Then they blame Him.

4. My favorite scents are vanilla and cooked bacon. Not together mind you.

5. When they were infants my grandsons smelled better than vanilla or cooked bacon. This lasted for a very short time before they began stinking up the joint like boys will do.

6. I’m simply amazed at my children’s parenting skills. They are much better parents at their age than I was at that age. Ironically I believe it was partially my parenting that made them the parents they are. It’s a happy mystery how that worked out.

7. I heard a line in a movie once that “true love is knowing the worst thing about a person and loving them anyways”. This is a biblical concept that was in a secular movie about death.

8. Often people have to do the things they dislike so that others can enjoy the things they like. Who decides who does which speaks volumes about how they feel toward the other.

9. I became allergic to dogs and cats about 5 years ago. This bothers me only because I love dogs. Cats not so much. Apparently I’m not allergic to chickens.

10. I have been working over seventy hours a week for the past ten years. For almost two of those ten years I worked eighty-four hours a week. That’s right, seven days a week. twelve hours a day. I’ve been asked how I’m able to keep up that pace. It’s simple really. No one’s gonna give it to me, I gotta go hustle for it. I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to my family. I believe it’s my responsibility to ensure they are taken care of and there are three ways to make more money; work smarter, harder or longer. Guaranteed to get you more money. Most people don’t want to do the things necessary and like to blame external forces for not getting more. As for me, it doesn’t look like I’ll be slowing down any time soon. Unless my Swiss bank accounts become so full no more money fits in them which is as unlikely to happen as my having a Swiss bank account to begin with. I count on God to keep giving me the strength to keep going and point me in the direction of His plan for my life.

11. One of my jobs is my true passion and keeping it alive helps me go to the one that keeps my family in a lifestyle I’m proud to support. I have another one that I’m enjoying as well and I’d like to give more time to it. That’s how I balance the long hours. Again, I’m all in and if you want to pursue your passion you have to be all in. It’s a cardinal rule.

12. I’ve been a martial artist my entire life but I have not hit anyone in anger since I was 20 years old. I’m pretty proud of that record. Not that I haven’t had to physically engage anyone. My physical engagements have been the result of self-defense and having to do so as a security professional in some capacity. I’m pretty proud of how I handled those as well.

13. I’ve been shot at twice. Not directly but as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve had a knife pulled on me twice and a gun pulled on me once. Three times I’ve been in the presence of a person getting a gun pulled on. I’ve been through two fires and a flooding at sea and I’ve been in true battle conditions on various occasions, also at sea. The physiological fear response from any of those cannot be artificially re-created and nothing comes close to the physiological fear response of being shot at. This is important for me to know as a self-defense instructor.

14. Probably about 90% of the crap we worry about will never occur. If you give it all to God you can stop worrying about 100% of it. I’m not saying this is easy but it’s true.

15. Growing up, as all kids do I wanted to be several things. I wonder if there’s a psychological profile that can be derived from the compilation of things you wanted to be when you grow up.

16. There are many foods that try to be like bacon. Bacon does not try to be like any other food. Bacon is its ownself. We should all try to be like that. But then we’d be trying to be like bacon, which defeats the purpose.

17. I’ve been saying the phrase “honor with others, integrity within myself” as part of an oath for the past 28 years. The “integrity within myself” part still ties my tongue on the word integrity. Kinda funny since I speak two languages that require you to roll your r’s and I can do it well. What’s funnier is if I say it in Spanish it doesn’t happen.

18. My favorite comic books as a kid were also my favorite TV shows. Batman (staring Adam West and Tarzan (starring Ron Ely). I also liked Archie. It was astounding to me that a freckle faced ginger would have two hotties like Betty and Veronica vying for his affection. When I became a teenager I found out that adolescence was nothing like it was depicted in an Archie comic book.

19. I owned the original first issue of the DC Tarzan of the Apes comic book. Bought it with my allowance ($2) along with a soda and a bag of Fritos at the drug store on the first floor of the apartment building I lived in Barrio Obrero, PR. That comic book is worth anywhere between $10 and $75 today.

20. It always mystifies me when I rub people the wrong way and they don’t like me. I get it. I’m not a million bucks, not everyone’s going to like me and I don’t lose any sleep over it but I don’t understand it. I mean look at me. I’m me. What’s not to like?

21. I’ve been accused of being arrogant from time to time. See item above.

22. I’ve lived with my wife longer than any other human being on the planet. In fact, I’ve lived with her more than twice as long as I lived with my mother. She’s like the polar opposite of me. Introvert She’s a very selective and discerning person so for the life of me I still don’t understand what she’s still doing here.

23. Item 22 was a shameless attempt at fishing for a compliment.

24. A lot of people like to say that “love is the answer”, or that “all you need is love” or even “love conquers all” or various other platitudes about love. They say religion is unnecessary and mostly responsible for the worst atrocities committed by mankind. While it’s true that some of the noblest actions have been inspired by love, so have some of the most evil. Much like religion it just depends on the actions of those imperfect human beings being motivated by either love or religion. Maybe we just all need to be Vulcans. Logic is the answer. Nanu-nanu.

25. In my world travels, the places in the world I’ve felt the most welcome are (in no particular order): Israel, Chile, Italy, Canada and the Philippines. I’ve felt degrees of being welcome in other countries but none with the warmth and complete acceptance of those five. My criteria for judging this is mine alone but if you get a chance I invite you to visit them. There are probably others equally as welcoming to which I’ve not been. Having met people from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Australia I’m pretty sure those will be added to the list, but I have not been. Yet.

26. I have 7 grandsons. From 7 weeks all the way to age 10. I never knew how much joy they could bring me. Even the ones I don’t get to see because of distance. I look at them and I’m astounded that I had anything to do with bringing those perfect precious creatures to this world. It is my dream to have them all in one place to take a group picture. My grandchildren are like a one family United Nations.

27. Gene Fowler wrote “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” He also wrote “The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.” Those are the most perfect two things on writing I’ve ever read. I’ve only finished one novel so I’m not an expert on finishing them but I’m pretty clear the process involves putting one word after the other until you can reach a logical point to put “The End”. I wrote this item because I’m currently stuck and have passed the deadline to publish this on my birthday.

28. You cannot overestimate the power of positive reinforcement on your children. I speak from personal experience having been exposed to it by one of my parents and the polar opposite from the other. The same is true for your spouse. So, whenever you feel the urge to say something to either you should analyze its potential impact before the words leave your mouth.

29. Nothing is ever final. Not even death. The times in my life when I thought “that’s it” it clearly was not it. For example when I had my first hip replaced I thought my martial arts competitive days were over. It saddened me because I hadn’t been able to compete in quite a few years for reasons over which I had no control. Turns out that was not true so I’ve thrown myself into competing at every tournament I can physically attend. Last year I set a goal to compete in every event of every tournament and achieving that goal is one of the things I’m extraordinarily proud of about myself. Got a cool jacket for it too! It took me 55 years to get a letterman jacket. I’m now in pursuit of a World Championship. I’ve come as close as 2nd. Seewhaddimean?

30. A friend of mine told me the other day how he did not believe in “talent”. There’s just interest in something followed by hard work and the grind to get good at that something. I kind of agree with that but I still cant play the piano.

31. Sometimes it’s better to be happy than right. Took me a long time to learn that little tidbit. It’s an especially hard lesson to learn when you think you’re right all of the time. It is freeing to consider other’s points of view even if you think they’re nuttier than squirrel crap.

32. Knowing myself as I do and knowing that I’m still worthy of the saving grace of Jesus Christ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to come to terms with. I get it. I’m thinking of it from the perspective of this imperfect and sinful human vessel. I hear other people who disregard Christ’s saving grace as unnecessary if they’re “good” people and are “kind” and “loving” and “do good things”. I’m wondering if they’re perfect in every other way. I’m not rolling those dice.

33. Time is the best factor in discovering who is important in your life. That and need.

34. In relationships there are no abusive men or women, just predators and prey. Someone has to tolerate the abuse in order for the abuser to manifest it. I know this is a hard one to wrap your head around but if you jet at the first sign of abusive behavior from a person you won’t wind up being abused to the point of being emotionally broken. The abuser firsts dips their toes in the water before they dive in. Usually in the form of verbal abuse. You stick around and it only gets ramped up from there. Knowing this gives you power over the outcome either way. The predator/prey dynamic is not limited to the animal kingdom. The lion knows what it can catch and kill. Or as we say in PR, the monkey knows what tree it can climb

35. Some people will not fight back under any circumstance and will go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Other’s will fight at the drop of a hat and almost invite confrontation. There are more of the former than the latter. Or as LTC Grossman labeled them, “sheep”. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. You have to know where you are on this scale. It’s critically important to know what it will take for you to fight back before you have to do it.

36. In the same vein, I pose this question to my students, “What do you think it will take for you to kill another human being?” And I stress the work “think”, because really it’s just theory. And I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about how far you will go when you’re defending yourself. That is the extreme of fighting back. You have to program the hard drive to act way before you have to and you have to go all out without regard for what you’re doing to your attacker. You may not think yourself capable of killing another person under any circumstance. It’s important to know that too.

37. The best way I have found to make a decision is to draw a line down the middle of a paper and start listing pros on one side and cons on the other. Every pro and con must be listed regardless of how trivial it may sound. When I first started doing this the longest column won. Now I assign point values to each one and the column with the highest point value wins. This method has proven infallible in most cases but every once in a while you have to factor in the “gut feeling”. For example my decision to come to Arizona when I did was based on that gut feeling. With the information at my disposal at the time, the smart and safe decision would have been to remain in PR. At least for a few more years. Once I made the move however almost every reason for staying on the island collapsed like a house of cards. It was like I stepped off the ship onto dry land right before it sank. I give God all the credit for that decision because I’m clearly not that smart.

38. Do not go into business with family. Ever. Don’t lend them money or cosign their loans. If you do, count on being taken advantage of, kiss the money goodbye and count on taking a hit on your credit report.

39. Trust your instincts. They will rarely fail you. The last 2 items speak directly to this.

40. Dance every day. For 5 seconds or 30 minutes or 3 hours. In private or public. Alone or with a partner. This was another item on one of my previous lists but I consider it important enough to repeat. Besides I’m running into writers block so I’m cheating a little.

41. You cannot make a judgment call on firearms unless you have fired one. Some anti-gun people have never fired one nor do they ever intend to do so. I personally know two former staunch anti-gun people who changed their whole tune after simply trying one out. It really is that simple folks. I have way more respect for you if you do try it and are still anti-gun even though you’re pretty much saying you want to put your safety in the hands of someone braver than you. And yes I’m saying that owning a firearm takes courage as opposed to the idiots who believe owning a firearm is a form of cowardice.

42. I often judge the quality of restaurants in my town by the quality of the onion rings they serve. If they don’t serve onion rings I use macaroni and cheese as the barometer. If they don’t serve either they are on the lower rungs of places where I’ll eat and will only go there if my wife wants to eat there. I would also use chicken fried steak, but I have yet to have bad chicken fried steak. This is why I’m not a big fan of Mexican food. My passion for onion rings, bacon, and mac n cheese and chicken fried steak proves that I don’t have a food snob bone in my body.

43. Where food is concerned there are three universal truths. If you can wrap it in bacon, bread it and deep fry it or melt cheese on it almost anything becomes edible. Can I get an amen?

44. I am a beer snob. This is a late development since I’ve never been much of a beer drinker. My poison of choice is bourbon. I drink two beers a week, but when I do they have to be top shelf. My friend Neal Jackson, who brews pure magic in his home micro-brewery is partially responsible for this persnickety snobbery.

45. I’m a staunch Republican. Not because of the politicians but because what the party is supposed to stand for. The politicians themselves, regardless of party affiliation, are incapable of following the ideology of limited government, low taxes, freedom of trade and free market principles. There’s too much self interest involved. I’m not a purist and can settle for the candidate who comes closest. At times I’ve had to hold my nose while I’m marking my ballot. Sad but that’s how important I feel my vote is.

46. One of the few areas where I have a libertarian bent is in the area of decriminalizing Marijuana. Not because I’m interested in smoking or ingesting it. I just think enforcing the law prohibiting it is not worth the damage it does to those who are forced to break the law in order to use it. Besides, have you ever been around a group of people stoned on ganja who wanted to fight?

47. In this country, constantly placing the blame on race for all the pitfalls you encounter is a copout and thinking your race is constantly subject to increased scrutiny is largely an inferiority complex. People have gotten a lot of traction in the last few years doing exactly that and everyone’s afraid to speak up and tell them to shut up. I’m a brown guy. I’m not afraid. Shut up. Victimhood is like an opiate and you’ll go to it increasingly even when your race is not a factor. Easier than personal responsibility isn’t it?

48. I wish I enjoyed cartoons and animation as much as I did when I was a child. The true joy of watching Deputy Dawg, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Screwy Squirrel, Popeye and all those other cartoons now deemed inappropriate faded way too quickly.

49. I’ve come to the conclusion that in society and in business the cream will always rise to the top regardless of which gaggle of morons are running government. They can make it a little harder for people to succeed but those with dogged determination will succeed nonetheless. Bill Gates started his business in a recession and so have many other successful entrepreneurs.

50. It’s true what Kenny Rogers sang in The Gambler, “You got to know when to hold, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

51. There are movies that will make me laugh out loud no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Movies like Blazing Saddles, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Return of the Pink Panther, Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother, My Cousin Vinny, Airplane, Monty Python and the Holy Grail come to mind. There are others but I just can think of them at the moment. Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first” routine still makes me laugh out loud. Sadly many of those movies probably could not be made today. We have lost our sense of humor as a society and are now just waiting to be offended.

52. There are other movies I can watch over and over and still enjoy them almost as much as the first time I saw them. At the top of the list are Casablanca and Enter the Dragon. Some honorable mentions are Rocky, Rocky Balboa, Joe vs the Volcano, Pulp Fiction, The Maltese Falcon and An Eye for an Eye.

53. Moments of pure unadulterated joy are almost impossible to create deliberately. Premeditation removes a bit of the impact so they almost always happen by accident. But you do have to pay attention because often their subtlety will pass you by if you let them. Your mood directly affects your ability to receive them.

54. Life is definitely too short to do a job you hate. Where you set the bar however may make all the difference in the world in how you view your job. Does it pay you a decent salary? Benefits? Allow sufficient time off to enjoy your personal life? Do your bosses treat you with respect? Is what you’re doing something worthwhile? These are pretty important factors when you may have to do a job in between finding out what your passion is or pursuing it once you find out. Not all jobs are about personal fulfillment. Companies are not started by entrepreneurs to ensure your life is personally fulfilled. That’s your responsibility. However, you can endure a job that lists the above factors while you find the one that fulfills you personally (or create that job by starting your own business). If none of those factors are ones you can settle for then certainly keep looking. There’s nothing wrong with changing jobs for a better opportunity or situation. However, if you’re constantly bouncing from job to job or being fired/laid off perhaps it’s more about you than it is the job. In the end you gotta work. Either to feed yourself or your family. Well, that’s the way it used to work. The climate nowadays is that the gubmint should support you. The gubmint meaning people more productive, talented or harder working than you. In which case you’re a leech and a drag on society.

55. Having said that, every move you make professionally should be geared to advance you closer to doing what you love to do for a living. How you decide what that is ask yourself if you would do it for free. If you’re not doing it, you should be taking steps to move toward it, no matter how small the step at least you keep moving forward. Take the step boldly or inch your way to it, but it is never too late to do what you love. Here’s the thing, it is God’s plan for you so He will also be in your corner. He will however want to see how badly you want it.