What a fucking year!
This time last year I was going through a terrible Bankruptcy, had lost my house, my business and was barely able to survive. Also about this time last year, I went away by myself for a few days to think about how I fucked up. I thought about what I did wrong… and I realized there were a lot of things I did that were less than optimal. I took the time and consolidated what I had learned from my failures, and also what small successes I had as well. I did manage to win the North American Jiu Jitsu Championships at the end of Nov. 2016, so that did show me there was still some ability for me to comeback.
That made me think- What is my best quality? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was my ability to survive, and to make a comeback. I put my head down, layed low and just started putting in the basic work: eating better, training smarter, doing less things, but doing them better. I thought about what I could do to help people be healthier and fitter. I struggled most of my life with my weight. I failed gym class every year in High School. Once I started training in 1999 I realized I wasn’t starting from Zero, I was starting from -10. I was never athletic, have terrible genetics and was born with a curved spine (Kyphosis) and femoral anteversion (my feet pointed together. Top it off with the fact that I started my freshman year of college at 265 pounds and 40 percent body fat! This is definitely not the start of most professional athletes stories.
Once I started training in 1999 I knew I never wanted to be fat again. I never wanted to wear a size 44 jeans again. I wanted to see my toes past my belly. I didn’t want to be identified as the John, you know, the fat kid. Since then the road has been filled with a mix of successes and failures. I have always gone for it! If you want to do something, do it, and learn from the outcome. I have been constantly learning about training, nutrition, healing, martial arts, and what we are all capable of.
Over the course of 17 years I have learned more than I can ever commit to the written word. I went from an obese college student to a professional athlete in 4 years. I became a black belt in multiple martial arts. I have trained 1,000’s of athletes. I have owned and operated a number of businesses from a hardware store, to a making the first MMA cardio DVDs to owning one of the busiest gyms in NYC. Even thought I have done so much, and learned from all of it, 2017 has been the steepest learning curve for me.
If you told me at the beginning of 2016 that in 2017 I would once again become a professional MMA athlete I wouldn’t have believed it. If you told me I would fight in Bellator the worlds premier MMA organization I would have said you were fucking delusional. I would have told you I hadn’t fought in a decade, or been 155 pounds in that long. I had my shoulder replaced twice, and my doctor said I would never do a pullup again (even though I was doing muscle ups 2 years after). If you told me I would realize a life long dream of running a weekend training camp, I would have thought that hosting one would be highly unlikely, and to host FOUR successful training camps very far fetched to say the least.
So what have I learned from 2017? I learned that everything starts in your mind. Once I started to believe in myself again, everything started to fall into place. August 2016 was probably one of the lowest, most depressing points in my life. I thought about just dying. I felt the cold blade against my warm skin one day and thought it would be so easy to just stop. Just stop trying. Just stop failing and letting my family and friends down. As I slowly pressed the blade to my throat I thought. Fuck, I will be dead without any assistance soon enough. If you end your story now, that’s it. That is the end of the story. No chance for redemption. No more adventures I thought. I slowly put the blade down. Looked at myself in the mirror and said “I have 50 more years to write this story, lets make it EPIC”
As I look back at 2017 now I realize it was some ride. How many athletes can say that after 10 years they came back and performed at the highest level? How many can say they are still able to compete at the highest levels 17 years after starting their training. How many can say that when they started working out they couldn’t jump rope or do a sit-up or see their feet past their belly? Who can say that 17 years later they were 155 pounds and under 10 percent body fat? I learned a lot about myself in 2017. I made it through a grueling training camp alongside a bunch of 20-something year old athletes. Gave as good as I got. Competed in the biggest show around and was close to victory against a veteran over a decade my junior. I took a concept of a weekend training camp from the ether of my mind and brought it into reality. How fulfilling to take a shot, to make things happen, to bring what is only a thought to fruition in the real world. Yeah, I was afraid to fail. Fear was my Co-pilot on this journey. I didn’t want to fail again, to disappoint people. The real disappoint would have been to play it safe. To not go for it. What story would I tell if all I did this year was work a regular gig, punch the clock and pray for vacation?
So I learned that what I am best at is making a comeback. I am able to put any past failures to the side, put in the hard, painful work and make shit happen. I learned that there is so much fight in me. I learned that we can all be more than we imagined, do more than people say you can. I also learned that I don’t need all the “things” I thought I needed in 2016. Life is not a place you own, or your ego. Life is the stories you make, the connections you keep, the people you touch, the adventures you undertake.
2017 was pretty Bad Ass, but that means that I have to make even better stories in 2018! I would love to hear what you have learned in 2017. What did you accomplish? what did you leave undone? What did you learn about yourself. This is also the perfect time to think about how you can crush 2018, and what you will do to make it memorable. Email me and tell me what you have learned and what you wish to accomplish. If there is any way I can help let me know. The best is yet to come!