Friends, this winter I wrote the book Improve: Grow As If Your Life Depends On It.
It's everything that I could fit into one book about what personal development actually is, and the fundamental actions that lead to progress in all areas of life. This is my first book that has nothing to do with martial arts, and I couldn't be more excited!
Below is the Introduction. I hope you enjoy this short read and choose to read the book in its entirety. Be well!
The passage of time is an odd experience. We live one continuous life, but there seem to be clear punctuations along the way. Our lives are demarcated by distinct phases, seasons, in which the world offers us a unique experience to use as fuel for our inner evolution. Sometimes these events are joyful, others are riddled with pain, but all of them ultimately serve the advancement of who we are, on the way to who we are meant to become.
One such period in my life was high school football. I loved it. On a team of 150 kids, I was the only one who enjoyed practices more than the games. I loved the work, and double sessions were my favorite two weeks of the year.
In a life of so much uncertainty, I found great certainty in effort. It was the one aspect of experience completely within my control. In any given play or practice, no matter what was going on at school or home, I could concentrate fully on the game. I learned to channel my will with purpose, developing tunnel vision and finding freedom from the insecurities of youth.
When we call forth our depths, we reach the beautiful cusp that stands at the crossroads of reality and potential, where all dreams are made manifest in the world. Pushing myself to my limits, I was knocking on the door of elusive potential. You know the feeling.
You are working out at the gym. Your muscles are on fire. The voice in your head is begging you to stop, playing mind games as it rationalizes all the reasons why this set or pose should end. This siren song strives to keep you in the status quo, running from pain in search of comfort. But something else speaks louder.
There is this pull, coming from deep within, that sees past the pain and listens past the voice as you cross the bridge between reality and potential. You push yourself beyond your normal experience, and in so doing, your normal experience is forever changed.
This is what football was for me. An opportunity to daily exceed my grasp. Before the playoff game of our sophomore year, we had a pregame huddle in the locker room. Our strength coach handed us all a poem, “The Man in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow, that he read aloud:
When you get what you want in your struggle for self And the world makes you king for a day Just go to the mirror and look at yourself And see what that man has to say. For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife Whose judgment upon you must pass The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life Is the one staring back from the glass. He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest For he’s with you, clear to the end And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test If the man in the glass is your friend. You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years And get pats on the back as you pass But your final reward will be heartache and tears If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
My soul was set on fire. I finally had the words to convey what I sought. I was fifteen. I had not yet read all the philosophers that would fill the empty shelves of my vocabulary. This was an articulation of the metaphysic I had always sought, before I knew what metaphysics were.
Football was the vehicle that brought me to know and love the man in the glass.
Union with that man or woman in the glass is what we all seek. We know it’s antithesis. When we live a life cheating our deepest desires, we suffer. External praise and accomplishment do not satisfy our deepest needs. The only praise that matters is our own. But we rarely feel such praise, because being our constant companion, we are painfully aware of how often we fall short of this ideal.
Our pain is the man in the glass starving, not just for acknowledgement, but actualization. The peace we seek is only found when we find union with him, live in harmony with him, and make him manifest in the world.
Continue your reading by getting your own copy of the book here.