What is Time Blocking, and Why You Should Use It.

I have been enjoying my Christmas holidays and now as I am preparing to get back into work, I am reflecting on the year that was and Looking toward the year ahead and how I am going to prepare for the following years. One habit that I have been implementing and trailing is one I learned in the book The One Thing, by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan, which I have covered previously (can be found here). This principle came up in a recent conversation with a friend of mine, so I thought it would be good to remind everyone of its importance.

The principle is one of blocking out time, what I mean by this, is already planning well in advance when you want to do something. It could be a block of time where you want to focus on something, or a holiday, or spend time with someone. This isn’t the main part, however, protecting that block is the main part here. Saying no to things that will interfere or disrupt the hour, day, week or month that you have blocked out.

“Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but there is when you block it. Time blocking is a very results-oriented wat of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done,” – Gary Keller.

Let’s say that you want to start learning the guitar, and you want to teach yourself. So, a success would be to learn a few songs. If this is your main focus for a few months, so three songs over 3 months sound fair. With time blocking you would set out a half an hour of practice per day. All up that is 45hours. Which really isn’t a lot, but it means that you have to really make those hours count. What happens though quite often is that people fail to protect their blocked-out time. Other things start to eat into their 30 minutes a day of practice. Which is one 48th of their total time for the day.   which is not even 3% of the day. Protecting shorter time frames like this is easy and is more of building the habit and discipline of practicing. The larger blocks can be more difficult to protect.

So, about those larger blocks, surely because they are usually singular and span a couple of days to a couple of weeks, that they are easier to protect. You would be correct if they only concerned you and they were totally under your control, however, most of the time the bigger blocks affect more than just you. Partners, kids, family, and friends can make a huge impact on the outcome of your block of time. This has been my friend’s problem. They had the Christmas holidays blocked out to work on their house for a portion of it after the main Christmas celebrations with family and friends, then spend the remainder doing nothing and having a bit of a winddown before being launched into a busy year of work ahead. They failed to block their time and committed to things they, not necessarily didn’t want to do but didn’t plan on doing. Their original hopes of a bit of relaxation didn’t eventuate.

“Take time off. Block out long weekends and long vacations, then take them. You’ll be more rested, more relaxed, and more productive afterward. Everything needs rest to function better, and you’re no different.” – Gary Keller.

A bit of care, planning and taking on the responsibility of protecting your time, is paramount if you want to use it productively. Time is one of those things that you will never be able to get back, my Dad always told me, “Time waits for no-one.”

Not usually about resolutions, but I might have to revisit this concept and start applying it more for this year to make it a habit. Test it out if you didn’t get what you want out of these Christmas holidays. You can apply it like the following:

  1. Block your time off first (vacations, long weekends, etc).
  2. Block out your time for productive parts of your day (hobbies, practicing something new, business activities, etc).
  3. Block out time for planning the next week or month.
  4. Now protect that time. Don’t commit to anything that may jeopardize your block, unless it is an emergency then it is not as important as the focus for that block of time.

I hope you all have a productive year, and let me know if you find this useful at all, I’m happy to answer any questions on how I go about blocking out my time or things I say for when I am pressured to eat into my blocked out time. (Tip: start saying “No.”)

Thanks for reading and subscribing, I’ll see you on the mats.

~Carlos

Role models and getting shit done.

Just do it. Why is it such a compelling statement/bit of advertising? Why do people look up to those who achieve greatness or those who just get shit done? Most likely it would be for that very reason. They get shit done. A lot of people, including myself, don’t start due to some reason or obstacle that they place in front of themselves. I know personally that I fear failure and can become anxious at the thought of what people may think or even expect of me. I have found that I often fall into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ category of people. Over analyzing and planning what I am going to do, or the possible outcomes, then not choosing any or completing anything. I have learnt only recently that to overcome this ‘paralysis’ or fear I must start doing. One of my biggest role models for this has been my girlfriend.

After house-sitting for a friend, who has an amazing veggie garden, she decided to go ahead and start her own. Buying plants, a raised garden bed, sourcing some free soil on facebook marketplace and putting it all together in a matter of days. The only help she asked for was for me to help her pick up the soil, the rest was all her. Yes, it’s only a garden bed, but I take a lot of inspiration from little things. It might be a mate, who after blowing out his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), planned a hiking trip in South America and a year later was back on the mountain skiing. It could be one of my best mates having a go at his dream, and even with setbacks still pursuing it. I don’t think a lot of people realize that they will always have the ability to dream and achieve. I know I still need reminding that not everything will happen right away. However, nothing will happen if I keep planning.

So, back to the question of why people look up to or draw inspiration from high achievers, like your Mark Cubans, or Will Smiths, or Gretta Van Riels. Personally, I look up to these type of people as they have characteristics and habits that I know I can and should pursue. Hard work ethic, Self-disciplined, Honest, knowledge seeking, the list goes on. Maybe, it might be for some that they look up to them, despite knowing that they will never truly put in the work for that level of success. Maybe, they understand the amount of hard work done and that is why they admire them? Maybe it’s like how the underdog is, more often than not, the crowd favorite, the dark horse, the once great champ that has fallen from the throne yet still aims to climb back to the top.

Muhammad Ali is a great example of this. Ali was stripped of his Heavyweight belt and slapped with a three-year ban during the prime of his career, for draft evasion during the Vietnam war. After having his boxing license reinstated, Ali would take 7 years to regain the Heavyweight belt, against heavy favorite George Foreman with an 8th-round knockout. This kind of fairy-tale story, that in effect mimics parts of life is something that most can get around. Knowing that there is hope, for when we do crash, or end up in a rut, that we can get out of it and build up again. So, for those of you out there, keep grinding, and keep drawing on other’s wins to produce your own.

See you on the mats!

-Carlos

If you are struggling with depression or find yourself in a rut, please actively seek help, there are a lot of organizations that can assist, like www.headspace.org.au, www.ruok.org.au, www.lifeline.org.au, www.beyondblue.org.au.

 

Jiu-jitsu blending into everyday life

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Having started training again these past couple of weeks, two significant knowledge bombs were dropped by My instructor Robbie Singh and the great Master Pedro Sauer, who came down to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Burwood for an AMA seminar. Both BJJ Philosophies that can be readily applied to life and all its aspects. I thought they should be shared with the wider community outside of Jiu-Jitsu.

The first being “What’s hard today, will become easier tomorrow” – Master Pedro Sauer. This really struck a chord with me and my partner as we were participating in some more advanced movements at the seminar. We were both having difficulty in performing some of the techniques being taught, but we were constantly reminded by Sauer of the above. Whatever we were finding difficult at the present moment, would become easier over time. Of course, this is something that should be applied to everything in life. When starting something new, Archery, Blacksmithing, BJJ, a new position at work, etc. it is always tough at first, only with practice and exposure to it will it become easier. I myself sometimes forget that I cannot be great at everything on the first try, I must learn to love the process of failing, failing and failing again until succeeding. I think this is a big part of life, I am only just starting the journey, like a lot of others. I have seen a lot of people come into class or start something new and give up or stop showing up due to them not succeeding right away. Now, naturally sometimes, giving up on a failing business or relationship is necessary. I know I have, there has been just too much risk or toxicity to continue. There is a balance, of not giving up, but knowing when to drop the effort. However, people sometimes confuse the pain that will eventuate in them growing as the toxic pain of, let’s say, a bad relationship.  Learning this balance is something that can be only gained through experience. I have given up on a lot of things that, had I pushed through the suffering, I would have grown. So, understand that slow improvements are better than none. Which, leads on to Robbie’s comment below.

“Small movements are necessary to get to the position you want to be in.”

When performing the super base of the headlock escape 2, you have to place your shoulder into the opponents back under the shoulder blade. Often you don’t get the position on the first try since the distance you have to cover can be either too big for one solid movement, or too uncomfortable for both yourself and your partner. Since you are in a position to take your time, the small movements are advised. Once again, applying the principle to life you can take your time in most things, sometimes it is important to jump at opportunities, however, it can be more beneficial to make micro improvements. You don’t become a blue belt in a day like you don’t become a millionaire overnight. Things take time and constant effort. Together I think that both of these can be used through life, knowing that things that are difficult today will become easier tomorrow with constant small improvements.

Thank you to both of the men above for their wisdom, I continue to love learning Jiu-jitsu not just for the physical aspects but equally the mental and philosophical sides too. Good to be back training again.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you on the mats.

-Carlos

Success Patterns Can Be Found in All Things

If some of you have been following me recently you will know that I have started up archery after getting a compound bow for my birthday. And with starting something new I will usually draw on other experiences and what I can relate it too. This characteristic is something all of us do, whether we consciously do it or not. When we find patterns we create our own models from these patterns, that could be found through exploration or from learning it from an outside source. Why do we look for patterns to add to our model? Well simply for survival, maybe we can cover that in another post. But, in this case, I’m about to talk about. It’s for the sake of becoming better at something new.

So, shooting a projectile with a string attached to a stick is something very new to me. I never made my own bow as a kid, nor have I shot a rifle or firearm before. Growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne the closest thing to a rifle I had was nerf guns. Not exactly high tech. So, I really don’t know what I’m doing, I have a small understanding of it. Pull the arrow back and let it go, but as green as you can get. So, I go in for my first lesson (down at Aim Archery Moorabbin), get taught the basics, finger placement, how to aim, the arc trajectory of a recurve bow (also known as tradition bow), anchor points, range safety, etc. If you do make the way down to the range George is a great teacher, spends his time with you and really gets you to improve over the session.

However, you won’t improve if you don’t listen and be the student. Here is one pattern that I have noticed in my performance when starting new things. If I am listening and really paying attention to what is being taught, then I will improve at a higher rate. For instance, when I was learning Spanish at university I never really paid attention, I would either be chatting with friends or on my phone. This is no way to learn something, if you want to perform and advance you have to be willing to learn. So, be open to criticism, correct your form, and try again. Someone else can’t learn it for you. When you are a good student, often the teacher will be more attentive to you, I saw this with a kid at high school, He would show interest and ask a lot of questions, he would often get a lot more attention from the teacher. Not because the teacher hated every other student, it’s just that they found the easiest mind to teach.

Anchor points are a big part of archery, especially if you want to get consistent results. Anchor points, are reference points that you use when at full draw for proper sight alignment. The most common points archer’s use and string touching the tip of the nose, the webbing between the thumb and pointer finger and a kisser button (a small loop on the string that meets the corner of the lip.) They allow you to pull the bow back, find your points, sight the target and release. Nevertheless, they will not work if you aren’t consistent with the placement of them. Which, is another pattern I have noticed for the relative success of the task or subject you are learning. Consistency will produce results, either good or bad. If you are consistently setting on your anchor points, your arrow will fly true, then it is only a matter of adjusting your sight. If your anchor points are changing constantly then you will get consistently poor results. Of course, the other part of consistency is to practice.

Often when shooting, I can sometimes throw myself off, either I get a bit too big headed after nailing the bull’s eye and punch (to stuff up) my next shot or I focus on the mistake of the previous shot and punch it again. My most recent lesson has produced a bit of wisdom from George, after two bad shots in a row, I was a bit annoyed with myself and expressed it with George, he told me, “You can only focus on the arrow you have nocked (arrow currently ready to shoot).” And this is something that carries into other disciplines, BJJ, you can only focus on the current technique or position and the escapes, sweeps, and submissions possible. Like in blacksmithing, for better results, focus on each hit, one at a time, each heat.

Just some thoughts and patterns I have noticed and experienced in multiple disciplines, that can be applied to all aspects of life, career, study, gym, martial arts, relationships, whatever else you can think of. If you want to learn quickly and get better results sooner, then try to find similarities between how you have succeeded in past pursuits and apply what you have learned there to your new career, hobby or passion. And a quote from the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

If you know the Way broadly, you will see it in everything.”

Cya on the mats!

Carlos

4 things to do while injured

Well, unfortunately, I have injured myself, after having gone through the year with minimal damage my luck has run out. That leaves me only doing upper body in the gym, mostly off the mats, and shooting my bow. So, with all this extra time that would otherwise be used on either gym or BJJ, I have decided to make a list of 5 things to do when limited by an injury. I am going to assume that you have already been to a specialist for your injury, this list is more about how you go about

  1. Work with what you got.

First and for most, do what you can. If you have a pulled hammy, focus on working on your upper body, if you have an injured rotator cuff, focus on leg exercises. When drilling or rolling, use only one hand or leg. However, do not push yourself to cause further injury. If doing something has the chance of severely affecting the injured area, I would suggest to not do it until once the area starts to get closer to 100%

  1. Do as much as you can to heal.

SEE A SPECIALIST FIRST… and do the exercises they give you. This is something that a lot of people don’t do. I didn’t when I was younger, I would be given exercises or treatments by the physiotherapist. However, I wouldn’t do them as I felt that the injury wasn’t getting better after one or two days of doing them. Now, I tend to do them as recommended by the physio, and upping the difficulty as the injury heals. For my current injury, a strained/pulled hamstring, I have been rolling out my quads, calves and IT Band (Iliotibial Band) to relieve the tension that each group is placing on the hamstring. When dealing with strain injuries one of the worst things you can do it stretch. As a strain is a slight tear of the muscle when you stretch the tear will worsen as it’s the weakest point in the muscle, a critical point of failure so to speak. Stretching when not injured however is a must to help prevent injury.

  1. Spend time on another hobby.

Try to look at the positive. If your injury limits you in one aspect of a hobby the work on another hobby. With my current situation, I have been shooting my bow more and getting in some good practice. I have been able to spend more time reading books and giving more time to this blog.

Your injury may leave you not being able to do any of your hobbies. So, my answer, pick up a new one, might be origami, could be learning a new language, whatever you think you will enjoy and will be challenged by.

  1. Learn a new life skill.

You got so much time on your hands, do something productive. Sounds boring I know but could learn more about finance, or how to cook, or maybe you could look into research about your injury and on how to treat and prevent it. Learn how to write code, how to bake, or maybe how to build a business.

 

A short post today, if you are currently injured and have taken something useful from this that’s awesome and I wish you a speedy recovery. Thanks for reading.

Cya on the mats.

Change and Growth

I have written about change before. Relating change and how often we fear it and how to combat the fear by coming up with our worst-case scenario and then deconstructing it. Fear-setting as described by Tim Ferris. I pretty much wanted to share with people something I had found to be useful. However, this post will be more personal as I will recount how I have been able to utilize change and take on the challenge of loving change.

Like I have said before change is inevitable, life is always constantly changing. You may hear news of a family member having their first child, you may hear an old acquaintance just passed away, you may have been fired from your job, your sister or brother may have just started playing gigs with their band. All of these things are changes, some the people have little to zero say in them, other times they have all the power in their hands to make the decision to change. However, in both cases, It is still up to the individual on how they perceive their current reality. Take for instance the person who just lost their job, they have multiple options on how they react and the ultimate decision they take. They could turn to the bottle and begin the downward spiral into depression, or they could use the lack of a job as a sign to look into other careers. Ultimately it is up to them what path they take. This in itself is the scariest part of change, knowing that no one else can make the choice for you, which is why often to avoid the decision people tend to walk the wrong path. Not because they chose it, but because they didn’t choose to take a different one.

In change, this is where we can find growth. Growth does not come from sitting idle, it comes from overcoming obstacles. Through my teen years, I did not understand this fully, I didn’t understand that being idle and sitting on the bus of life, so to speak, will not allow me to grow or where I want to be in life. The bus will take me to a destination that I may not necessarily like, to the wrong side of town that I will be more likely to drown in than to flourish. My dad often used this bus analogy to explain life, if you don’t like the bus your on, get off and get on the one you want, you may even have to go back to a previous destination to get to the one you do want to go to. Once I realized that a science degree was not for me, I got off that bus and worked for a bit, then I went back to school and have now arrived at a destination that I like a fair bit better.

I strongly believe that the times that we grow the most are in times of challenge and change. One, you can use those hurdles as an example that you can overcome the trials now before you, and two, that you can use them as stepping stones to take on more of life. Of course, you are not the only one overcoming things, and people before you have already overcome your current challenge. A big part of my growth has been seeking out people who have already walked the path I want to walk down and talking to, listening or reading about them, and see how I could incorporate the knowledge gained to my own experiences. If you find the task of choosing the first/next person you read about, my advice is: pick the two you want to read about the most, flip a coin, if you don’t like the outcome initially pick the other.

What do I do when my life changes and I don’t like the new situation I’m in? From my experience, it depends on the situation. When I was having tests done to see if they could find more tumors, the only thing I could control was my attitude toward everything. I would make my best effort to always smile while in hospital, always try to either make someone laugh or laugh at my circumstances. The key was making the situation a positive one. After all, I wouldn’t have a say in the results, the only thing I could have a say in was to go through with the precautionary surgery. In terms of not enjoying my new job initially, I once again took control of how I perceived the situation, I looked at the good things and found a way to make it enjoyable. So, overall, I would say, that no matter the situation you find yourself in. Find something in it to make it enjoyable or rewarding, focus on the small positives that you may find and amplify them. You can control the perspective you use to look at the world. My recommendation, choose the positive one.

Thanks for reading.

Cya on the mats.

~Carlos

5-takeaways: Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

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I know the title is a bit ‘extreme’ (sorry had to), however, the book lives up to the words on the front cover. The authors Willink and Babin are former US Navy SEALS that lead the most highly decorated task units in one of the most violent and deadliest battlefields in Iraq. A notable operator that served under them was Chris Kyle whose life story during and after the war was made into a movie, “American Sniper”. In Ramadi, Iraq Willink and Babin learned that a vital part of the success or failure on the battlefield was – at every level – leadership. Once they returned home they would go into SEAL leadership training as instructors, where they would further develop their ideas on leadership. With a lot of things learned and how leadership can bring about the success on the battlefield, the authors launched a company that specializes in teaching leadership principles to businesses and organizations. With a plethora of testing their principles in the business world and experience in the field, Willink and Babin have put together a great book that I have drawn a lot of knowledge from. Here are my takeaways from Extreme Ownership.

  1. Take Ownership and be Responsible.

I used to think that I took ownership, I realized while reading this book that I was terribly wrong. I would blame a lot of my aggression and the outcome of certain aspects of my environment on other people. When I started to own my mistakes and not blame others for things in my control I noticed a greater shift in my confidence and my ability to focus in on the task at hand. I wouldn’t let myself blame outside influences or other people for my situation. I used to blame my dad for my habitual procrastination, that inhibited my performance at school and university. Now looking back on it this was just a way for me to excuse my laziness. Willink recounts one operation that had gone pear-shaped, two elements were heavily engaged, however, not with the enemy but with each other.

“At that moment, it all became clear. In the chaos and confusion, somehow a rogue element of Iraqi soldiers had strayed outside the boundaries to which they had been confined and attempted to enter the building occupied by our SEAL sniper team.” – Jocko Willink

This situation is not uncommon during times of war, and fratricide is one of the worst things that can happen in war. Now, most people would say, “it’s clearly the Iraqi’s fault, they should’ve stayed in the boundary.” However, when Willink was putting a debrief together for his Commanding Officer(CO), Command Master Chief(CMC) and an investigating officer, even though many individuals made serious mistakes. What transpired during the debrief was as the leader of the operation, Willink took full responsibility for the outcome, as he puts it, he was the senior man and as the commander, he is ultimately responsible for every action that takes place on the battlefield.

In taking ownership and responsibility for the blue-on-blue, Willink actually increased the trust his CO and CMC had in him. I think a lot of people think the opposite will happen if they take ownership, that others will see them as failures or weak for owning up to a mistake. More often than not, trust is gained by speaking the truth and being responsible for yourself and your situation.

  1. Prioritize and Execute.

Babin describes a hairy situation he and his team found themselves in. An identified IED(improvised explosive device) threat that they had rigged to blow, out on an unsheltered rooftop, with a man down who had fallen 20-feet. Babin had to tackle multiple problems at once, if you have read my review on The One Thing, by Gary Keller then you would know that multitasking is a great way to decrease the chance of success. Babin knows that he has to keep calm and not become overwhelmed and risk failing at all the challenges in front of him. By focusing on the most important thing at one given time, he could effectively get his team out without casualties and calmly move through each obstacle.

“Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.” – Lief Babin

  1. Decentralized Command.

“Pushing the decision making down to the subordinate, frontline leaders within the task unit was critical to our success. This Decentralized Command structure allowed me, as commander, to maintain focus on the bigger picture: coordinate friendly assets and monitor enemy activity. Were I to get embroiled in the details of a tactical problem, there would be no one else to fill my role and manage the strategic mission.” – Jocko Willink

This is one of the most useful of the principles in business, as it means the more senior leaders can concentrate on the bigger picture elements or facets of the business while lower-level managers can deal with the more detailed things. I have found that I do things better when I am given a task and left to figure out how to take on the challenge. The manager trusts me enough to not hover over me and tell me what to do. On the flip side, however, if I had someone telling me how to take it on, I then find it hard to overcome a problem that both myself and my micromanager did not foresee as I am not thinking like them and would feel more obliged to ask them for help. If I am trusted to come up with a solution, then I know that I can take on the challenge and as long as I can explain my process to them I don’t need to bother them until the task is completed.

This principle can be hard for people to grasp, as I know in certain situations I have had to let others think and do for themselves. Being able to trust in others and let them come up with their own solutions and giving them tips when they ask for it is a massive part of how I have stopped myself trying to control the situation. When the subordinate or new student at BJJ is just starting out, I will be a bit more hands-on with them, since they haven’t got a clue to what they are doing, however, as they start to get the technique or move I back off and only give any input when needed, like if they forget a big step.

  1. Keep it Simple.

When things are simple they are easier to understand and convey, when things are simple they can change with fewer pieces to move, when things a simple they can be remembered even when in difficult or challenging situations, the list goes on. You can see, there are a few reasons to keep things simple. On the flip side, if you over complicate things, they are harder to grasp, and complexities can be misinterpreted, unless every nuance is perfect then failure is usually the outcome. For instance, one of the businesses that Babin and Willink worked with had just brought in a new bonus plan, where the workers in the warehouse would receive bonuses for how many of each unit they would assemble based on the complexity of the model. However, none of the workers knew how each unit was scored and could not understand why some weeks they would be paid more than other weeks.

After noting the complexity of the plan, the authors suggested that the manager and chief engineer simplify the plan so ‘the lowest common denominator’ could understand the process and would be able to work in more efficient manner. After creating a plan with only two parts to it, the employees were able to understand this new simplified plan, efficiency went up along with productivity and success.

“Simple: this principle isn’t limited to the battlefield. In the business world, and life, there are inherent complexities. It is critical to keep plans and communication simple. Following this rule is crucial to the success of any team in any combat, business or life.” – Jocko Willink

  1. Discipline Equals Freedom.

This has to be my favorite takeaway from this book. Three words can convey so much. I will acknowledge that it is a bit of a backwards statement. How in what world does discipline equal freedom. This would have to do with the fact that so many people relate discipline to being super strict on your diet or on workouts or the wooden spoon. So, discipline is anything but freedom. However, it is through discipline that freedom can be achieved.

If you are disciplined in what you eat, how you exercise, how you treat other, how you operate in business. For instance, in my line of work, I need to be disciplined in my methods, the mark that I setout has to be spot on, as a pre-cast panel will be fitted on my mark. If my mark is out, then the panel won’t fit and the construction will stall. Through being disciplined with my accuracy I know that the panel will fit and if questions are asked about my marks I know they are solid. It gives me the freedom to say in confidence that the panel sits there.

“But with our new, disciplined method, we could execute raids and complete our searches so quickly that we could now hit two and sometimes even three targets in a single night, all while keeping evidence separate and organized. Our freedom to operate and maneuver had increased substantially through disciplined procedures. Discipline equals freedom.” – Jocko Willink

Overall this book conveys principles and effective ways of leading in a way that you don’t often see, with the principle being used in combat and then translated to business. Not only can these principles be applied to business but life, anyone looking for a quick and easy read with lots of action but also lessons, or for anyone wanting to lead I highly recommend this book. Jocko Willink also has a podcast where he breaks down books on war and has other military vets on, for those who are not inclined to reading. This is one of my favorite passages from the book:

“Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning. I say “first alarm clock” because I have three… one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win – you pass the test.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

Link to Jocko Podcast: Here

Video of Discipline Equals Freedom: Here

Why the change?

I have recently changed the name of the site to carlosygoa.com since I felt that readnroll.blog limited me in what I could and could not post about, I am in no way shape or form moving away from what I have been doing. This is just an update about the change. I Hope that you all understand.

Thanks

Carlos

5-takeaways: The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi

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Miyamoto Musashi is regarded as the best Japanese swordsman/Samurai holding an undefeated record in his 61 duels. He not only was a wandering swordsman (ronin), but a writer and philosopher. He was the founder of the Niten-Ichi-Ryu-School, a style of swordsmanship where two swords are used. In his later years he wrote The Book of Five Rings, in which he “defends his thesis: a man who conquers himself is ready to take on the world, should the need arise.” (from the blurb on the back). The Book of Five Rings is considered alongside The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, as one of the few books that cover the laws combat and more than that cover the laws of life. Here are my 5 takeaways from this classic.

  1. Know not only your abilities and limitations, but those of others.

Knowing your limitations means you can also know your strengths. So, you know when to ask for help or speak up when you don’t know how to do something. Musashi relates carpentry to the way of the sword, “The foreman should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable. He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary.” However, this can be applied across life. When you ask for the help of others, or when you are in a leadership role, you can organize people into roles in which they will thrive. This can also work in going against someone else. They will be defiant in their beliefs and will hold strong in opposition to them, so to know their limitations or weaknesses that will allow you to come at them from a different angle.

  1. Have the ability to view both the details and the big picture, be able to switch between the two.

Being able to detach and look at the big picture enables you to take stock of what you have done, what you are currently doing, and what you have to do. Giving you the overall picture, not only that but letting you really think about what you are doing and how to make it easier to achieve your next task or overall goal.

“What is big is easy to perceive: what is small is difficult to perceive. In short, it is difficult for large numbers of men to change position so their movements can be easily predicted. An individual can easily change his mind, so his movements are difficult to predict.”

Look at big goals, they are easy to understand, but the smaller you go the harder you must think about how it pieces together with other goals and tasks. However, when you can focus on the task at hand you are able to complete it quickly, whereas the larger goals need to be done over a longer period of time.

  1. Winning or success requires constant small improvements.

Throughout the whole book, Miyamoto finishes a lot of his paragraphs with lines like this:

“You must learn this through repetitive practice.” Or “You must study this well.” Or “With detailed practice you should understand it.” or “You must train constantly.”

So, it’s fair to say that he believes in constant and detailed practice, it might be a technique or strategy, but he really harps on this point. To get the desired results, you must put in the constant hard work. “Men must polish their particular way.” This can be applied in all aspects of life, you want to be better at your job, or you want to build a successful stock portfolio, or you want to lose 10kgs. Constant small improvements will determine if you succeed in achieving your goal.

  1. Live life fully. Don’t hesitate.

“This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet drawn.” Miyamoto is talking about when in a swordfight you want to use everything you can at your disposal, however, life could be viewed as a swordfight. You could look at your potential as your weapon in life, and why wouldn’t you want to see yourself using your highest potential. Giving all you have to whatever task is in front of you.

Of course, not unlocking your potential or waiting for the opportune time is not good either. “Waiting is bad.” As above, you need to work on it constantly, “step by step walk the thousand-mile road.”

  1. Train your body, mind, and spirit.

Keep your mind sharp so you can perform in stressful environments, keep your body strong to be able to move how you want, and the spirit or heart must be able to push through the challenges you will face. Go to the gym, read books, study philosophy, write out your goals, listen to podcasts, meditate, whatever you have to do to improve yourself. Back to the constant improvement, just a little at a time.

“Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.”

Of course, if you lack training in one of these three, you will not be able to perform at a higher standard. You could be strong and have a large spirit or will, however, you could be bested by a person with a sharper mind. Conversely, if you are smart and strong you could be bested by a person with more will. It is like in jiu-jitsu, you want to have both strong defense and strong offense, if you lack in one, you will not be able to transition to your stronger aspect.

Hope you enjoyed my 5 takeaways from Miyamoto Musashi, like always I left a lot out, even though this book is less than 60 pages. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from this classic.

“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.

Learn through teaching?

One of my favorite parts about doing Jiu-jitsu is the fact that I am able to help people learn. Since I have moved up in the white belt world to a four stripe I am finding it easier to teach people that are just starting out. It brings me great joy when someone gets the technique, when the light bulb goes off and you can see it in their face when they understand it. It is addictive.

Part of the challenge that I enjoy is that everyone learns differently, everyone needs different methods of teaching. It makes me think about how to explain what to do, where do they want their weight to be, what they should do with their foot, how should they grip, why they do all the above. As my instructor Robbie says, you learn more through teaching. Teaching forces you to understand more of the material, to remember little details more accurately and how to apply it more effectively. When you know that you will be teaching someone you instinctively listen, watch, and focus more on the material that is being taught.

While teaching you can witness the other person’s own problem-solving at work, and you can firsthand experience how your knowledge goes when they try to complete the movement. When they struggle with a part of the technique and ask a question you must be able to recall the information and explain it to them in clear and concise manner, meaning that you must be ready for any question that may arise. So, knowing what to do and how to explain it well is a must.

Of course, there will be times when you don’t know the answer, this is when I feel I learn the most, I don’t try to come up with an explanation. I ask my instructor. Last week I ran into this very situation, my training partner had much shorter arms than mine and was struggling to get grips on my arm for a kimura. I had never been in that situation, so I asked for Robbie’s help. He explained that my partner had to get his shoulder deeper under my arm to be able to grip my wrist. I now understood that when faced in a similar situation, I would be able to use the new-found knowledge.

Being forced to understand the content and to teach it makes you grow, so don’t neglect teaching, you might not know as much as you think. A little quote from Phil Collins (cos why not)

“In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”

Thanks for reading.

See you on the mats.