Freedom from Language

When I was in the Army, there were guys I knew who couldn’t say a single sentence without using an expletive. It was their natural way of speech. You’d be shocked if they didn’t throw an F-bomb into every thought they spoke. It made you wonder if they could ever turn it off. Would they go into an interview after getting out of the Army and be able to talk like a citizen of the world? Would they be able to go to a funeral and say something without offending everyone? I don’t really know.

I was raised in a very conservative family. We could say "poot" but we couldn’t say "fart". We used Muscogee Creek or Sac & Fox (Native American) words to talk about body parts or bathroom topics. It was like we had a secret code to bad words. I still say those words when I’m with family. My wife’s family was the same. They couldn’t say "butt". So my sister-in-law when she was a teenager once said at the dinner table, please pass the "butt—margarine". We all got a laugh at her gaff. But that’s how its like around us straight laced folks.

When I was in the Army, I picked up a few bad habits but they quickly went away when I got back home. It was easy for me because I knew where to draw the line. But many people don’t know where to draw the line. Its just a normal part of their vernacular.

Realistically, you don’t hear people of stature using foul words. A person giving a speech or a doctor or lawyer talking in professional settings doesn’t use those words. Nor should a college professor while teaching a class.

The shameful part of it is that those without a filter often are training their children to do the same. I saw a video of some toddler cursing out a store manager who was having words with her mom. And, of course, the mom didn’t stop her one bit. They were both as uncouth as ever.

I’ve said this often, but when I was in junior high, people got a giggle out of the class clown. They loved the bad boys because they were strong enough to go against societal norms. They wore clothes that were on the edge. They did things to intentionally make them different. They talked back to the teachers and swore a lot. In turn, they were popular. They got all the girls. They had their claim to fame.

Unfortunately, as I look back and think of where they are today, most didn’t make much of their lives. They didn’t end up going to college. They had failed marriages. They have tattoos that they now regret. They are rather unhealthy with obesity and a nicotine addiction.

Then there were the quiet people. The kids who had their noses in a book. The outcasts who were picked on. Those kids are now the lawyers, doctors, and professors. They are the ones with big homes and nice cars. They are the ones who have marriages that have lasted. The sacrifices they put in to their early years paid off in the long run. They are the ones who have social filters and can talk eloquently without the need for expletives.

Today’s society is filled with people who still honor the bad boys from junior high school. They still like the celebrities and rock stars who buck status quo. They still love the expletive strewn meme that is like the shock jock DJ on the FCC regulated airwaves. They love those people. But just wait. Their time will come. When you talk with them when they are 70 or 80, you’ll hear their regrets. You’ll know that they wanted something better for their lives.

In this day and age, its almost harder to be status quo. To be a quiet, unassuming person. To be a responsible citizen of a society. To be the good person who wants to help others. Those are now the anachronisms of another day and age. They said yes sir and yes ma’am. They held the door open for each other. They are the dinosaurs of yesterday.

I don’t need to be a rebel. I’m fine being the good guy.

Building Trust in People

I think back to when I was an Army Drill Instructor. We always followed the motto of "Lead by Example". There were times when we asked so much of soldiers that they failed. But failure is part of striving to want more out of yourself.

One time, one of my cohort Drill Instructors from another unit was kind enough to help us save face. This guy was a sit-up monster. He took the other drill sergeants aside and told us he was going to do sit-ups forever and make the troops do it too. So it wouldn’t looked like we would fail, he told us to just monitor the troops and "encourage" (smoke) them along the way. So that’s what we did. We watched as this guy counted out 300 sit-ups and he did it with them. I’m so glad he was kind enough to do that for us.

We used to wear maxi-pads in the brim of our Smokey Bear hats. Then sweat wouldn’t run down our faces. We would ScotchGuard our uniforms so the sweat wouldn’t show. We wanted the troops to think we were invincible; a model of perfection.

But we tend to do this in real life too. We tend to stray away from our weaknesses so people don’t see us fail. We only show pictures that show the best of us. We only talk about things we are experts in. We never want to seem stupid or weak.

What this does, especially in the social media world of Instagram and the like, is show a facade of who we aren’t. It shows us as wealthy, Ferrari owning, McMansion dwellers when we really drive a beaten down jalopy with no hubcaps and live in a double wide trailer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t play yourself to be someone you’re not.

In my yoga classes, I often do poses where I say "this is another one of my nemesis poses". For their sake, I think they need to have that pose in their lives, just like I do. But it also shows my honesty.

Many times, I demonstrate yoga poses since some people find it easier to see the shape or that a pose is possible. But I’m not doing the yoga class with them. Its their practice, not mine. But this also means I should be practicing on my own. I need to be able to have the strength and stamina to do classes like they do. I need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Post pictures that make you vulnerable. Show who you really are. Then people know you are truly authentic. People know you have feelings of sadness and regret. It makes people want to know you better. And they don’t think you are some unreal figment of perfection. It builds trust in who you are. It says that your brand is something real and attainable by everybody.

Nobody is perfect. Nor should we try to falsely show that we are perfect. Show the flaws. They say that rugs from Persia are made with a deliberate imperfection. Its the "Persian Flaw". Show people your weakness. Don’t put on your makeup every day. Don’t worry about what you wear. Wear a little bit of your heart on your sleeve. Let them empathize with you. Let them know your heart. Believe me, they will love you for it.

Act Like You’ve Been There Before

I had such admiration for athletes like Barry Sanders and Walter Payton (running backs for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears). They did such amazing things on the field. I’m talking about absolute miracles. But instead of beating their chests and spiking the ball, they just got back to business.

Imagine if someone, like a defensive end put in for a offensive 1 yard run into the end zone to win the game and actually scores for the first time in his life? I can see that person freaking out and totally going bezerk! Yeah, do that for sure!

But imagine someone else who rushes for 100+ yards per game all their career and touchdowns are commonplace for them. Then you cash the check and walk out the bank. No big deal. Its just normal for them.

Act Like You’ve Been There Before

Today, people need the pat on the back. They need the accolades. They can’t be a Cowboy Cerrone who knocks someone out and just calmly walks away like the natural born killer that he is. That’s the person I like to see.

We see this in all walks of life. Its the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Some people need the carrot and the stick. They need to have a reward dangling in front of them. And if they don’t get the reward, they get the punishment instead. They don’t have an inward focusing need to succeed. They always want the spotlight.

There are times when I did something myself. I pride myself on working on automobile brakes. Everything has to work right to make it work. I’ve ended up changing out calipers along with pads and rotors. Its like a big puzzle. Only, as a home mechanic, I often struggle just getting a bolt off. Or you get the pads on and you can’t get the caliper to open enough to fit on the rotor. So you have to do all you can to make it work. And its never the perfect temperature to do the work. So you end up sweating to death or feeling like your fingers are going to freeze off. Then, you bleed the air out, top off the fluid, do a test drive—no squeaks, no leaks! A job well done. But nobody is going to praise you. Your wife doesn’t really know what you just did or what you went through. She just wants to not die when she rolls up to an intersection. Normal status quo is that your brakes work. The only praise I get is knowing in myself that I did something important. Mechanics do this work every day. So why should I get praise? Its that I did it myself. Its that I’m self-sufficient. Its that I saved $300 in labor and only spent $30 in parts. That’s my intrinsic motivation. I don’t need a pat on the back. All I need is the feeling of success.

Act Like You’ve Been There Before

Yeah, I get sucked into social media too. I’m not perfect. Sometimes, I sit back and just think, yeah, this terrible video is something that won’t get any likes and I don’t care. I just know in myself that I’ve done something I’ve never done before. Maybe what I show will motivate one other person to try something new. That’s my only goal. I don’t need praise. I don’t need likes.

Act Like You’ve Been There Before

Comparing Yoga with Thai Yoga Massage

Yeah, they are different, but the learning process is the same.

I started going to yoga classes like many people do…with hot yoga. Oh my! As a teacher for years, hot yoga is something I love and despise. Its the fad, one that I fell for too. I think yoga beginners need to go to fundamentals classes too. They need to learn proper positions and how to breathe. Its not easy to teach those concepts in hot yoga, though I often do. But it honestly feels good to me and I love to sweat. I think the sweating is what people think is burning fat for them. That’s OK to believe. To me, if something seems like its working, then its working.

Actually, before hot yoga, I had many books on "stretching" or "yoga for runners" or whatever yoga "insert the name". I did the stretches. It was totally a "body" experience and had nothing to do with the mind. One day, I saw this info about Bikram. They had a 26 pose sequence that I downloaded in a mini-size, laminated, and put it in my wallet. My regular practice was pulling out my card and doing the sequence. I eventually went to a Bikram class and (kind-of) enjoyed it. I think I mostly liked wearing my short-shorts and sweating it out with lots of people in a cramped room also wearing short-shorts (or swim suits).

When I started going to a real yoga studio (i.e. not a gym), I started to learn more about the practice. Yeah, I was a little annoyed by the flowery alliterations sometimes. Some of it sounded like total fluff. I mean, I was raised as a wrestler and then joined the Army. Our alliterations were "tear his head off!" So to hear, "open your heart chakra" or "flower your anus" wasn’t something I connected with. But some of the stuff started to get through to me. I started to learn the importance of savasana. In fact, now I claim as a teacher that its the most important pose in class. It also is the true reason for yoga. I was still resistant to things. Even today, I’m still resistant to some things, and still am, despite being a yoga teacher. But I understand it more.

The bottom line is that you can never stop learning about yoga. You keep adding layers and layers of knowledge. And your experiences add up too. Every person you see and touch has an additive effect. Its like every year, I get another certificate or Ph.D. from my yoga (so to speak). At my front burners right now are Animal Yoga, Budokon Yoga, Steel Mace (yoga related), Aerial Yoga, and Acro Yoga. And, a favorite student of mine is now a Rocket Yoga teacher. So I’m learning from her new things from a different perspective. I’m always learning.

Yes, I mentioned Thai Yoga Massage. I knew when I started into this journey, that there was so much to learn. I was reading books on Thai Yoga Massage. I was getting lots of practice on people. But honestly, when I took the level I class and started practicing, I thought I was big man on campus. I worked through the sequence and thought I was perfecting it. Then I had my first mentoring session where I gave Thai to a senior instructor. Everything was off: my tempo, my pressure, my technique, my body positions, my transitions. Yes, I memorized a sequence, but perfecting my craft was still a long way away. Just like in Yoga. I memorized things, but putting into practice and affecting outcomes in people’s bodies was still far off.

I took anatomy for Thai and realized I knew nothing. I mean, I took a year of anatomy in college. I also took comparative zoological anatomy, gross human anatomy (dissections), and kinesiology (human body mechanics). But when it came to a true functional anatomy, I had so much to learn. I still do. Then you overlay neuromuscular aspects, trigger points, clinical assessments, modern tools for therapy, and overall energy systems, I realize that I’m still at the bottom step of the stair climb.

But this is where yoga and Thai yoga come together. Its a never ending process of learning. In yoga, they say if you say you are a guru, then you are not a yogi. Being humble to know there is so much out there to learn is the art of being a good teacher. Ego gets in the way of everything. Its why you can’t follow people. Bikram taught me that the founder is totally human and not someone to emulate. Its a disrespected practice to me now because it was based on a cult-like following of a person. As a Rocket Teacher, I greatly admire the founder, Larry Schultz. But I also know he was a man. He had lots of flaws and quirks. But I understand his intention and admire the practice.

I told one of the Thai yoga apprentices that I was going to Thailand to receive the Thai Yoga Massage experience. He said "just don’t adopt their bedside manner". I guess I’ll find out what that means. But I know there are flaws in the practice that need to be addressed. Much of this is ironed out in my more modern training system. In SE Asia, the focus isn’t as much on book knowledge of anatomy or trigger points. Its a 2,500 year tradition passed down through the generations based on energy. Those nuances can’t be lost today. But there is so much to add to the practice that is useful. I’m learning these layers of knowledge, just like I do with yoga.

Never stop learning. I say this often, but in the Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, Jackie makes an amazing statement. Jaden wanted to learn Kung Fu to kick someone’s ass. But Jackie points out that "kung fu is in everything. It’s in all of life. Its in how you put on your jacket. Its in how you treat other people". This is so true of many things, but especially yoga and Thai yoga massage. I’m finding similarities in all of it. It doesn’t make me a guru. But it helps me understand life and how I need to treat people.

Philosophy on Olympic Weightlifting

It was fun to hear Jon North on an old Barbell Shrugged podcast. He is the most phrenetic guy who I hate to love. I mean, you can’t help but like that guy. I followed his Weightlifting Talk podcast over the years and I still call myself a part of the Attitude Nation. He talks about his troubles in his writing about the Dark Orchestra. The guy really has a way with expression.

But sometimes, I feel like I’m being pulled into the darkness with him. He would often go on rants that, to me, were very ego-centric. Honestly, he is the most humble guy I know. He even admits that he has to do that brash, arrogant things to counter his dark, self-defeating thoughts. I understand all of that and love him for it. But its just hard to hear long rants on a regular basis. So I’d wander away from him and then get sucked right back into it again.

I could even tell the Barbell Shrugged hosts, Mike and Doug, were on their heels with some of the things Jon said. But they enjoy a free spirit more than most, so they took it in stride. What’s the funniest was the irony about Jon saying that we shouldn’t "Shrug" when we do the Olympic lifts. A shrug may happen, but cueing and coaching to shrug is wrong from his viewpoint. I think its all semantics and in the end it doesn’t matter much. But the irony was that he was dissuading a "shrug" on a "Barbell Shrugged" podcast.

Oh yeah…I’ve been writing this trying to remember why I am writing this.

On the philosophy of Olympic weightlifting. When I took my CrossFit level I training, my group trainer, Christmas Abbott, had some choice words to say when we were learning how to clean. We actually used wall balls (heavy weighted but soft on the outside). We worked on the set-up from the ground. We did the 1st pull to the knees. Then then 2nd pull to hip high, we were supposed to make contact with the ball in the finish. Otherwise, your hips weren’t coming forward and bringing yourself into full extension. The Triple Extension is where Jon North departs the discussion. Triple means, on your toes, knees straight, and hips completely forward or open. The point Christmas was making was getting your hips completely forward. So she’d actually yell at us saying "Hump the Ball, Hump the Ball". It was a very memorable time when you have this strong lady yelling right in your face while you are lifting.

Fast forward to a few years later when I was taking the CrossFit Weightlifting Trainers Seminar. Mind you, this was before I ran into Jon North and the California Strength crew. Mike Burgener is the key trainer for this seminar. But in Illinois, we had Fred Lowe, an accomplished Olympic lifter on the world stage. In the early day of Olympic weightlifting, it was a rule that your hip could not make contact with the bar. Bars would actually break, especially in Mexico and South America. But with newer technology and better equipment, you don’t see that happening anymore. The no hip contact rule was invalidated decades ago. But older lifters like Mike and Fred still abided by this idea. Bar path had to be vertical from ground to overhead. Triple extension and the sense of shrugging was necessary when you are trying to lift straight up. So, unlike Christmas Abbott, Fred would tell us in an Eastern European accent, "no sex with the bar". He said this over and over. He meant no contact with the hips to the bar. Hmmm?!

Along comes Jon North and his mentor, Donny Shankle. And still, if you watch California Strength videos or any pupils of legendary coaches like Gle,n Pendlay, bar contact is brutal!! You hear that rattle as the bar is pulled from the ground, the a loud double crash as the bar meets the hips and immediately into the shoulders. The path is totally not vertical either. It looks more like an S-curve. Burgener also says "when the elbows bend the power ends". I believed this for the longest time. That is, until Jon North. Bending the elbows to row the bar into your hip crease is essential in what Jon calls the "Catapult" method of lifting. Another legend, Don McCauley, was probably the originator of that name. It is so counter to the idea of triple extension lifting taught by CrossFit.

I think the worlds are slowly merging though. As Jon says, there really isn’t one correct style of lifting. He prefers catapult but understands variations from that. In CrossFit, if you are cycling a bar through from floor to overhead many times, hitting the bar to hips may not be helpful. And if the bar is light enough, then you can just move it in a more vertical path. But for heavy competition lifting, the catapult holds lots of merit. To each his or her own!