Ask Better Questions + Discreet Steps = Profit (Sort of)

I recently read two great articles that combined to reframe some of the morale and progress issues I’ve been having in (and out of) the gym lately.

The first article you should read is You Probably Know to Ask Yourself, “What Do I Want?” Here’s a Way Better Question by Mark Manson. Manson posits that asking what you want from life is an unhelpful question. It won’t get you anywhere. A better one is “What are you willing to struggle against?”.

“How do you choose to suffer?” Mason asks in a different way. He tells a great story about his dream of becoming a famous musician.

“I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.”

Here's a great example of me struggling with a difficult technique.
Here’s a great example of me struggling with a difficult technique.

In Krav Maga, are the bruises and long hours in the gym worth it to have the knowledge and skill to defend myself? To be in great shape? To build my confidence and feel powerful and capable? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. The end result is super important to me, but the learning process is the fun part. Improving or learning a new technique, struggling to get it, and then seeing it click into place… now that’s fun.

Even my worst nights at the gym aren’t enough to make me stop. The bruises, scrapes, long hours, and frustrations are the parts I’m willing to struggle through.

The second article you should go read is Here’s the Strategy Elite Athletes Follow to Perform at the Highest Level by Ryan Holiday. I’m not an elite athlete and the article isn’t even really about the best athletes in the world. It’s about the hard problems we want to work on but are too afraid to tackle.

You get out of [crappy positions] by addressing and eliminating each part of that position through small, deliberate action—not by trying (and failing) to push it away with superhuman strength.

One step at a time, my friend.

This reframing can relieve the anxiety of seeking overnight success in any pursuit. That business idea you wanted to launch. The book you wanted to write. The quilt you wanted to finish. Those might sound impossible when you start the work. The trick is to take it one task at a time.

Today, I will sit down and I will write a word. That will turn into a sentence, then a paragraph, then a page.

Success happens through small, purposeful steps. One tiny success after another.

How often do we assume that change is impossible because it’s too big?

All these issues are solvable. Each would collapse beneath the process. We’ve just wrongly assumed that it has to happen all at once, and we give up at the thought of it. We are A-to-Z thinkers, fretting about A, obsessing over Z, yet forgetting all about B through Y.

I have to trust that the process of tackling one issue at a time will get me where I want to go. Keep my eye on the goal, but recognize there are a million mini actions required before I get there.

Okay, so what does this all mean?

  1. You have to decide what matters to you enough to suffer through the unpleasant parts of the process.
  2. And then take it one problem and one small success at a time. Overnight successes are always backed by lots of small, discreet steps.

In other words show up, because the process is worth it, right?

Lessons I Didn’t Expect to Learn in my Level 2 Krav Maga Test

I gained more in my level 2 Krav Maga test beyond a feeling of accomplishment and graduating to the next level. Here are three more things I learned on October 17, 2015:

1. Focus on making your partner better and you’ll be better.

Before we started the test, my partner Jolyn said she wanted to set an intention for the day. I nodded to her. It’s something I’ve done in the past and I feel good about.

I immediately starting setting intentions like “excel through the whole day” or “don’t get any injuries”.

Jolyn surprised me though.

“My purpose for the day is to make you look your best. When I focus on the other person—in acting, improv, in life—everyone seems to benefit more than if I were to focus on myself.”

It completely threw me off and it resonated with me.

I took a silent moment to set the intention that I’d make Jolyn look the best she could and I think it helped. Throughout the day, I gave her encouragement or reminded her how she could make a technique cleaner. It gave me energy. She would adjust, something would click, and I’d feel a tiny spark of motivation. We were a team. I was her coach and she was mine.

I’ve had the supreme honor of working with a few people brand new to Krav Maga since my level 2 test and I think it’s made their first experience even better too.

Focus on the success of your partner and you’ll both benefit.

2. Flexibility Does Matter (Sometimes)

kacis-poor-hip-flexibilityIt’s funny to learn something technical in your test, but I did. In reviewing the video, I can see where Matt would yell at me to “shoot [my] hips higher.” I would push my hips as high as possible, but as I watch the footage it’s clear I have hip mobility issues.

They need to go higher than they currently do in order to be successful against a bigger, stronger assailant. It’s something I’ll focus on in the coming weeks.

Flexibility matters, especially in ground fighting.

3. The Way You Think Matters.

In the three weeks since my test, I’ve found myself taking three classes in a row without getting tired. My friends who are new to Krav Maga look at me like I’m crazy.

“You’re going to another class?”

Why yes. Yes, I am.

But when you do something for nearly eight hours, doing it for three or four feels like nothing. During my test, I could keep going at the six hour mark because I had to. So, why should it matter if I’m taking regular classes or testing?

Because it’s all in my head.

It’s made me realize that I have more power, more energy, and more strength than I think I do.

This is one of those life lesson moments. It goes beyond Krav Maga or martial arts.

We artificially limit ourselves, because we don’t think we can keep going or we’re not good enough, but we can and we are.

There’s almost always a little more energy, a little more strength you can ring out of a moment.

Think bigger and stronger and you’ll capable of more.

Ronda Rousey’s Advice for Women

I swear this is my last Ronda Rousey post.*

For any woman trying to break into a male-dominated career, I’d say the greatest thing you can do is always keep in mind that you always have the right to be there.

-Ronda Rousey, Reddit’s Ask Me Anything

*For at least another week or until she says something crazy awesome again. Whichever comes first.


How to Win Like Ronda Rousey

It seems like everyone watched the UFC 190 fight between Ronda Rousey and Bethe Correia, but I haven’t heard anyone talk about what they learned from the experience. We all know Ronda is a beast, but what makes her so much better than her competitors? Here’s what I learned from the fight:

☺️🙏#UFC190 #andSTILL

A photo posted by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

Ronda Rousey always fights with spirit.

In my mind, this is the tenet that matters the most to those training in self defense. She fights with the kind of energy and tenacity that is so rare. Every fight, she unleashes. She. Just. Doesn’t. Stop. I walked away from watching her 34 second fight against Correia thinking that’s how you get out of an altercation. You have to become so fierce, so hellbent on winning, that you do.

How to be like Ronda: If you’re attacked, feed the part of you that is determined to win. Unleash the fierceness inside of you. Be the person who wins, not the person who hesitates. Don’t have that? Train it in now.

Ronda is fast.

Faster than her opponents. She moves faster. She thinks faster. She always seems to be two moves ahead, because she’s thinking and moving.

How to be like Ronda: Be faster than the person you’re fighting. Train to throw combinations faster. Train to see attacks that are coming. Be prepared and know what to do when it happens.

She’s hyper-focused.

While her opponent might be dramatic in an effort to be intimidating, Ronda remains steadfastly cool and collected. Boos don’t disturb her. Cheers don’t distract her. Comments about her family only fuel the fire. She’s unshakable.

How to be like Ronda: Don’t get distracted by the drama. You’re there to do a job. Do what you have to do to stay safe and get out.

Ronda moves forward, never backward.

There’s one thing she does that no one else does quite like her. She moves in. When I think she should move out to collect herself, she does the opposite and keeps moving toward her opponent. She’s always pushing forward. She will take a hit if it gains her ground.

How to be like Ronda: Never stop pressing forward. Move in to meet your attacker. It’s surprising, intimidating, and can be more than a little scary.

She never hesitates. She never flinches.

Have you seen Ronda flinch? Yeah, me either. When she’s in the ring she doesn’t hesitate. Not once. Her movements are fluid, smooth, quick. Sometimes they’re dirty and brutal, but she never stops. If something doesn’t work, she adjusts and she keeps moving.

How to be like Ronda: Do not stop. Do not hesitate. Even if you get hit, keep moving.

These are characteristics I see in her and traits I hope to take away from watching her fight. What do you see?

Review: My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey

Every once in awhile I learn about someone who has been chronically underestimated. Ronda Rousey is one of those people. I’m embarrassed to admit I underestimated her biography. I’ve read a lot of crap bios in the past and I feared this would be the same.

I was wrong.

In her book, My Fight / Your Fight Rousey speaks fearlessly about losing her dad, the pressure to be an Olympic medalist, her battle with an eating disorder, and her sometimes estranged relationship with her mother and sisters. Even if you’re not into Mixed Martial Arts or Judo, this book should be on your reading list.

Every chapter starts with a short, direct lesson, almost all of which can be applied to life outside the fighting ring. Then she opens with a 1-2 paragraph overview of the learning. The rest of the chapter is devoted to telling a specific story from her experience that led to her learning the lesson. It’s compelling.

Ronda Rousey My Fight, Your Fight Rest BeatsAt times, the descriptions are so clear I can smell her car or the gym. I can feel the fabric or sense the heat of the sun. I get angry with her. I get excited with her.

I was really surprised to read her accounts of her fights. You get a glimpse into her thinking. A snapshot of her brain at the time. I love reading about her fights with great Judo or MMA competitors and then watching those fights online. She gives you a rare, inside look into her thoughts and feelings before and during the match and it makes for exceptional reading and watching.

She writes about an incredible fight against Edith Bosch at the 2007 World Judo Championships in Rio de Janeiro. Reading her side of the story and then watching the fight is one of the most captivating experiences I’ve had in a long time. I know nothing about Judo or the rules of the sport. In the fight, you see she’s just amped energy, itching to start. Because I’ve read Rousey’s account of her history with Bosch and you know what she’s thinking in the moment, I felt like I understood her in the fight.

You can watch the fight on YouTube, but I recommend you read the book first and then watch it:

What I took away from her biography is that she’s a strong, mentally tough athlete who doesn’t accept “no” or defeat. She’s a real competitor. Anyone can see that in the way she fights, but there’s also a softer side to her. Delicate. She’s still a woman with feelings.

There have been a few tough moments in my training recently. I took a hybrid of a Crossfit and Krav Maga class. It was tough. There were times when I was exhausted or I wanted to do less reps. Instead, I thought to myself: What would Ronda do? The answer is obvious. Keep going. Push harder. Be faster than last time. And so I did.

This was a stirring, visceral, inspiring read and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Buy My Fight / Your Fight on Amazon or from your local bookstore.

Note: If you follow the links in this post and purchase this book from Amazon, I will receive a small affiliate commission. No one paid me to write this review. I’m just excited to tell everyone about it.