Nothing that means something to me. Occasionally I have to shift my priorities and place something on the "back burner" to simmer while I address more immediate and pressing concerns...but I will never, ever give up on anything that I believe in or feel strongly about.
When I was about 9 or 10 years old my Mom and I moved to New Jersey from Wisconsin. None of the kids in my neighborhood or at school liked me, so I frequently got into fights. Most of those fights were with kids who were older, bigger, and stronger than I was so I didn't "win" too many of them. Sure, I could have walked away from many of those fights, but I didn't, and as a result I learned a very valuable lesson...You have to stand up for yourself. Back then, there was no one to stand up FOR me, so I had to stand alone and endure my persecutors without ever accepting defeat.
One memory still sticks out in my mind as if it had happened just yesterday. There was this one kid in my neighborhood who's father had taught him and his brother how to box at a very young age. The other kids were intimidated and knew to leave he and his brother alone. For some reason, on this particular day he chose to target me and, as usual, I refused to ignore him and back down. So with the entire neighborhood watching, he proceeded to beat me up and down the street as the entire neighborhood cheered him on. It must have been quite entertaining, at least initially, because I can still recall their cheers, but at some point their amusement was lost. They pleaded for me to simply "stay down" on the ground...but I couldn't. Blood poured from my nose, elbows and knees...and my eyes were watering so badly that I could barely see, but every ounce of my being refused to "give up" or "stay down" on the ground. Eventually, they all just walked away and left me standing there alone in the street. It seemed like a small victory at the time but it proved to me a pivotal point in my life that helped to shape me into the man I am today.
I don't mean to imply that anyone should resort to physical violence in an attempt to solve their problems. Quite to the contrary, I've learned that physical confrontation rarely "resolves" any issue and often it only complicates matters more. Good communication is the key to to effective conflict resolution. Nowadays I handle those situations much differently because of all I've learned since my youth, but I haven't lost that spark. No matter what, I will not EVER give up and that's the reason why I am who I am today and have been able to accomplish what I have under these conditions. The adversity of my youth prepared me for the even greater adversity I have faced in adulthood and I am grateful for them both.
"What does your soul say?"
I grew up in a Catholic home and attended both Catholic grade school and high school, although not by choice. Despite the heavy indoctrination throughout my parochial school years I never felt very "spiritual." Honestly, there were only two things that I took with me when I was finally asked not to return for my senior year: an affinity for Catholic school girls and the traditional inheritance of "Catholic's Guilt"...the second being partially based upon the first, my natural interest in my female classmates, but mostly it was based upon my wavering belief in church dogma. That strong sense of guilt plagued me throughout my youth. The religious teachings that I had been TOLD were true for so many years simply never rang true FOR ME. It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I began to break free from that sense of guilt and was able to begin exploring my own sense of spirituality, devoid of religion. All these years later, I can confidently proclaim that I am in touch with my true self and no longer feel any lingering sense of guilt. I am at peace with myself and my soul is safe because my life is focused on intentional, positive living.
"What would it take for you to treat yourself like your best client?"
The majority of my "clients" come to me because of my knowledge about health and fitness...but the problem is that I'm sometimes reluctant to follow my own best advice. Occasionally, I will attempt (and succeed) to convince myself that conventional wisdom does not apply to me, and I somehow don't need as much rest/recovery time as everyone else. Of course this is merely my own ego speaking. I do realize that, in spite of my unusually high level of conditioning, I still require adequate rest and occasionally even a few consecutive days off to fully recoup and recover. Lately, I've been much better about listening to my body and taking more rest whenever I "feel" like I need it. Now that I'm training solo I'm able to better address all my personal needs instead of attempting to cater to the group of men that I routinely trained each day. This recent solo experience has helped to remind me that I need to treat myself a little better sometimes. I can't always put the needs of others ahead of my own. That realization is precisely what I needed in order for me to treat myself like my best client...but now I need to figure out a way to maintain that attention on myself going forward. Consistency is always the key to longevity but this may prove to be a difficult habit for me to form..although it's obviously worth the effort.
"What gift are you not being responsible for?"
Leadership...not all the time but some of the time. There are many men that seek my counsel and guidance but sometimes I am reluctant to give it due to the great responsibility that comes along with it. That reluctance stems from my past and the knowledge that family members and friends of my codefendants still "blame" me for the crimes that were committed and the price each of us has had to pay as a result. Even without their condemnation my conscience weighs heavily due to the realization that I had the ability (even back then) to influence them all in a much more positive and productive manner. My "leadership" was reluctant and haphazard. I viewed them all as grown men who were capable of making their own decisions. However, to simply ignore the fact that I did have SOME influence over the decisions that ultimately lead us all to prison would be a lame attempt to deceive myself and shuck that responsibility.
Even today it is still difficult for me to accept my role as a leader because I fully understand the gravity that role carries within these confines. Prison is a fishbowl...one that I must swim in for the indefinite future..and whatever decisions I make as a leader impact the lives of the men around me, and therefore, they will not soon be forgotten. My "accountability" in this environment is much greater and my audience much less rational. Despite my reservations I now understand and accept the responsibility I have to try and positively influence as many men as possible, because if I do not, then I am leaving that role to be filled by someone who likely does not share my good intentions. Once in a while I simply need to be reminded "why" I've accepted this role....because it is much bigger than just me.
"What benefit is there in the present situation?"
No matter how dire the situation may initially appear, there is ALWAYS an opportunity waiting to be discovered. If you can remain confident and patient it will eventually become apparent. Just be careful not to allow your emotions to cloud your perception or rush you to judgment. Eventually you'll see the opportunity in every situation.
"What is the right action?"
The "right action" for me at this particular moment is to take a quick shower and a nap. It would be counterproductive for me to attempt to tackle any of the more difficult tasks that I had lined up for today while I'm in this depleted condition. Instead, I'll get cleaned up and rest for awhile and then get back to work once I'm fully recharged and back to operating at optimal levels, both mentally and physically. That's simply the wisest course of action for me right now and I'm grateful to have finally arrived at a point in my life where I realize the importance/value of rest. Sometimes I just need to slow down for a moment, in order to remain productive later and continue moving forward.