If you were to do a quick search on YouTube for motivational speeches, you would find any number of videos discussing the importance of dedication, hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, and focus. All these traits are certainly crucial to achieving you goals, but are such qualities the ONLY factor in the success of your goals? I personally don't believe so. You can have all the drive and dedication in the world and still fall short of your goals without the necessary supporting roles along your journey.
In Part I of Staying the Course, I discussed the value of community in the pursuit of goals. Community often lends an invaluable hand in sticking to the chase. When we feel unmotivated or defeated, we can surround ourselves with our community to help us take that next step. Now, I don't mean to say you can't achieve your goals without community, because you certainly can, but finding your own tribe within your pursuit tends to make the journey that much more enjoyable and increases your chance of success by decreasing your chance of self-sabotaging your goals.
Whether or not you have found a healthy community or feel you don't have the need for community in your life, there is a supporting role that I believe is crucial in the ability to reach your goals and it comes in the form of knowledge. Whether you find that knowledge through instructors, mentors or coaches you must build the knowledge base necessary to find yourself on the other side of accomplishment. The unfortunate thing about this is when we seek out that coach we often do so with a sense of innocence believing that person to be the expert in the field, or at the very least more of an expert than us, so we do not seem to equip ourselves with the permission of questioning what we're told.
In 2009 I taught the massage therapy program at a local college and I remember sitting in on another instructor's class as I listened to a student ask a question about the modality being taught. I don't recall the question, but I do recall watching the instructor's face as she quickly fumbled through her mind for an answer that she clearly didn't have. Instead of saying "I don't know; let's look that up.", she made up an answer and the student nodded and took the answer for gold, and of course he would! Why would he suspect he was paying thousands upon thousands of dollars for an education just to be given false information? And now that student is somewhere out in the field today perpetuating the cycle of that false information he was given, unless he has had the opportunity since to question what he was told and learn the truth.
While it was a shame the instructor felt she had to make up an answer, I have empathy for her. Instructors, mentors, coaches and all people in an authoritative position over adults are constantly walking a fine line to maintain that authority. One slip and you might permanently lose that student's respect for you as a person of knowledge within your field. That is one of the many reasons for the no fraternization rule you see in colleges. Instructors have to maintain this almost otherworldly authority and knowledge which can be jeopardized if students are able to start relating to them as a peer with regular human problems.
Do you remember the first time as a child when you saw your teacher outside of the school building? I do! I saw my kindergarten teacher at the grocery store in regular street clothes and I vividly remember the shock I felt to discover that she didn't live and sleep at the school! And I admit, while it obviously didn't jeopardize her authority over me, it did remove a certain "magical" element about my teachers from then on.
We've all heard of similar situations where instructors are handing out false information. It can feel dangerous as an instructor to admit they don't know something about their field, which is why I encourage all people seeking knowledge to not be scared to fact check what you're being told. However, remain open minded to the possibility that there is more than one right answer as well! I was teaching someone how to wrap their hands once and overheard someone else scoffing at my technique explaining that he was taught a completely different way and I obviously had no idea what I was talking about. As I watched the "scoffer" wrap his hands I saw there wasn't anything wrong with what he was taught, and actually wasn't too different from what I taught except for a couple little details, so I commented on how he wrapped his hands and pointed out the benefits of both styles in the hope that I would be able to both maintain my authority as a coach to the student who was caught in the middle of differing styles and regain my authority as a coach to the student who questioned what I was showing. There is often more than one way to accomplish the same goal. Collect as many ways as possible! While you will probably find you have your favorite method, keep the others in your "tool box" so you have other options in case you find yourself in a situation one day where your preferred method doesn't apply. Frances Clark once said "There wouldn't be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one."
So don't be afraid to fact check and be open to the reality that there is probably more than one method that leads to the same result. Also, before choosing your mentor (or writing someone off as a fraud) keep in mind the concept of learning styles and understand that, just as there are various learning styles in the world, there are also various teaching styles. Someone once told me, "A really good teacher will know how to say the exact same thing in ten different ways in order to incorporate all the various learning styles in the room.", and I agree that this would indeed make a great teacher. However, I think that also is a skill that takes practice and just because someone might not know ten different methods doesn't mean they don't have wonderful information to share with the world. They will just have a smaller demographic of people who will be able to learn from them until they further develop their teaching skills because they will have to find students whose learning styles are in sync with their teaching style.
In my athletic journey, I have had to really search for the proper coach. I've had my fair share of bad luck with finding one beginning with my high school track coach who told me at the age of 13 that if running hurt my shins I needed to quit and find a sport that didn't involve running because there was nothing that could be done about my debilitating shin pain. I was 13 and he was the coach, so I listened to him and carried that "fact" with me into my adult life where until recently, I refused to run with the idea in my mind (despite firmly believing that we dictate our own possibles and impossibles) that I simply COULDN'T run because of what some "expert" in the field told me when I was a child.
My first boxing coach told me I was so bad that I should give up striking and just stick to grappling which I had seemed to take to much easier. Instead of embracing the teaching challenge, he just wrote me off.
My first muay thai coach laughed at me when he told me to kick the pad with 100% effort and all I could generate at that time for power was what he considered 25% of any professional fighter, at which point he also told me I should consider a different form of martial arts. Instead of embracing the reality that everyone's journey starts at a different point, he felt I should quit simply because my starting point was further back than the other students he had worked with in his coaching experience.
My first cross fit coach would roll his eyes in annoyance any time someone would ask for clarification on a technique he was showing because he was more of a visual learner (he would see something and then be able to do it) and so focused his instruction with an emphasis on visual learners and didn't seem comfortable with breaking down the movement in a step by step method that catered more to the auditory and kinesthetic learners in the room.
I also had a coach who basically felt I was too old to make much progress in the sport and perpetuated the false knowledge he must have been given in his life that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. He was happy to work with me, but he would quickly put down any hopes I would express of making it to a world level in boxing or kickboxing. He just didn't see the possibility in that and so was only willing to invest as much effort in helping me as he would invest in anyone with a "bucket list" wish to fight. While at the end of the day, you should really only care about what YOU think of yourself, having a coach behind you who believes in you definitely makes you feel more confident in your efforts and it can be very difficult to believe in yourself when "the expert" standing behind you has made it clear that he or she doesn't have faith in your ability to succeed.
And while it's far behind me now, I've also had my experience with the scam artist coaches as well. The sad reality is there are scammers in every industry; however, there seems to be a lot of fraudulent coaches out there. You can find any number of videos out there of coaches demonstrating nonsense techniques, of martial art systems that have their students flying across the room with the supposed use of chi, and flashy stunt work that would never apply in a real situation. While the martial arts is a beautiful culture, there does tend to a lot of bruised egos walking around seeking validation through false claims. I have heard of an unfortunate number of martial arts gyms that are run by false black belts or have under-qualified coaches running their classes in an effort to just monetize the program and drain students of their money in membership fees. While I have mentioned that not all false information is spread with ill-intent, it would be wise to remember that the world does have its scammers as well.
I spent YEARS learning from someone who turned out to have a very questionable reputation in the industry for being a scam artist, and in hindsight the writing was on the wall. The turn-over rate of students was extremely high, with few staying for more than a year. Additional coaches that were hired never stayed long. And the school always seemed to be defending its reputation in one way or another. Students at that gym were also HIGHLY discouraged from cross-training anywhere else under the pretense that it was disloyal. Any students who were caught cross training elsewhere were publicly shamed to the rest of the team and/or physically punished by the coach in sparring. After cutting ties with that gym, I later suspected the reason for not wanting his students cross-training elsewhere was because they might discover the falsehoods of what they were being taught. At the time, and with my limited understanding of how the martial arts world really worked, it didn't seem questionable that we weren't allowed to cross train elsewhere, but in hindsight I can see the wisdom in being wary of any instructor, mentor or coach in any field who discourages you from cross-training or cross-referencing what you're being taught. New information should be welcomed into any niche of an industry and where that is discouraged a red flag should be raised.
Don't be afraid to question credentials, or in the case of martial arts, the lineage of the instructors. Especially in the case of martial arts, we're a tribal culture where our team feels like family. Most schools are very proud of their lineage and are not offended by the opportunity to discuss where they came from. This will also give you the opportunity to discover the pool of knowledge that is available to you at the school in question. There is nothing wrong, for example, with a purple belt instructing at a school, but if that is the highest ranking belt in the entire school when other schools are run by numerous black belts, you have to question whether you are at the right school, not because what you're being taught isn't applicable of course, but because you're putting a learning cap on your journey if the highest level of knowledge is still two levels below the black belts of the surrounding schools. There are a plethora of great jiu jitsu schools in Colorado, for example, that are all run by black belts and the belts they have promoted beneath them, so there is no reason to cap your learning journey by choosing a school that doesn't have a black belt on its mats. Developing the knowledge to help you toward your goals, regardless of the industry those goals lie in, should be a task you prioritize in your life. Don't ever feel like you have to settle when it comes to knowledge.
A wonderful solution to all of the possible pitfalls in finding a proper coach is to go somewhere that has a network of knowledge that is built with a team of instructors with a solid history of knowledge behind them. When you have a network of information, not only will you decrease your chance of receiving under-qualified instruction, but you will also be able to learn numerous methods of reaching the same goal, find someone who has a teaching style that fits your learning style, and find someone who can support you by believing in your journey. The massage program at the college I taught for consisted of six instructors all with different areas of emphasis in their background, and they were overseen by a program manager that monitored the accuracy of the information they were delivering. While blunders still happened, obviously, the chance was much lower with a full network of instructors compared to a program that was taught entirely by one instructor.
Once you have the proper network of knowledge behind you, and you have found a community to thrive in, you can then revert to all those motivational speeches that discuss the important mental traits you need to have as an individual in order to achieve your goals. Keep an eye out for future posts about staying the course in your fitness journey specifically!
Coffee. Anyone who knows me on any level, whether personally, professionally or only through social media, knows how much I adore coffee. My favorite meet up with friends is over coffee. My favorite place to write is at a local coffee shop. My favorite activity to do alone is go to Barnes and Noble and, with coffee in hand, browse through the hundreds of books on the shelves. Coffee seems to facilitate creativity for me, creativity in my writing, creativity in my coaching, creativity in my podcast ideas, and general creativity in my day. Whether it's a hot summer morning or a chilly rainy afternoon, warm coffee is my drink of choice. As a dear friend accurately put it in describing her own connection with coffee, "Coffee is romantic to me."
With my immense adoration of the drink, you can imagine my surprise when a few nights ago a couple fellow coffee-loving friends expressed there is actually a time in their lives where they DON'T appreciate coffee.
We were sitting around discussing the topic of anxiety actually, because all three of us have experienced the uncomfortable emotion to one degree or another at some point in our lives. I have been collecting ideas from non-clinical friends of mine lately for an upcoming blog post I would like to write on coping with anxiety, so we were sharing our individual strategies for dealing with the uncomfortable emotion. As our conversation shifted to what aggravates our anxiety, one of my two friends mentioned he cannot have any caffeine when his anxiety is flowing in a high state, and my other friend laughed and agreed, while comically sharing her own disaster experiences of mixing caffeine and anxiety.
Listening to their accounts, I found myself staring at the two of them in confusion wondering who they were and how they had inhabited the bodies of my dear, coffee-loving friends, while quickly running through my mental list of exorcism options. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They proclaimed themselves coffee-lovers and yet were also claiming there was a time when coffee wasn't a welcomed, soothing experience in their lives. I couldn't relate at all! This was a concept that was completely outside of my paradigm.
I clearly had to defend the honor of my most favored drink, so I shared my own experience with mixing coffee and anxiety. For me, coffee is a soothing ritual. In fact, it is the most soothing of all my rituals. In the morning, making time to sit quietly sipping my coffee keeps me from feeling hurried and frantic about the start of my day. When I fail to make time to include that in my morning routine, I notice I will spend the rest of that day in a higher state of anxiety feeling rushed and scatter-brained. When I'm actively experiencing a high level of anxiety, coffee acts as a time out for me to sit with whatever is causing the anxiety and sort out my thoughts. Perhaps it is simply the act of quietly sipping a warm drink that I find soothing, because I also enjoy Valerian tea in the evenings, but either way, drinking coffee is a grounding strategy of mine, and one I couldn't imagine coping with anxiety without using.
Despite understanding that caffeine can make some people feel jittery, which would be a most unpleasant experience indeed in a high state of anxiety, I just couldn't seem to wrap my mind around NOT drinking coffee when my anxiety is high, which brings me to the actual point of this article. While I could write ballads about coffee all day long, that isn't what this article is about. This article is about empathy.
Psychology Today defines empathy as "the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective", commonly referred to as walking a mile in their shoes. However, this can be difficult to do if you are stuck within your own paradigm. It had never occurred to me that coffee could increase someone's anxiety. This made me realize that while I tend to pride my ability to have empathy for others, empathy is a constant practice. To truly practice empathy it seems, we must always be open to the idea that our paradigm might not match up with the paradigms of others. This simple realization made me wonder, how many problems in the world, both large and small, could be cured, or at least soothed, with just a touch of empathy? Since these thoughts on empathy were facilitated by a conversation about coffee, it is my intention while sipping my coffee every morning from now on, to consciously welcome empathy into my day in the hope that it will broaden my perspective and weaken the hard lines I have drawn around my paradigm throughout my life. What could we accomplish in the journey for world peace, if each of us started our day out with a daily practice of empathy?
Much love <3
When I first came home from Thailand at the beginning of this year I found myself in a place of limbo both personally and professionally. While I was letting the dust settle and trying to decide what my future would look like, I began driving for Lyft and Uber on the weekends to bring in some extra money (another post later on how that ended up being a wonderful blessing in disguise). If you're not familiar with Lyft and Uber, they are ride-share companies that have nearly replaced taxi cab services in some areas. Through an app on your smart phone that utilizes GPS for your location, with a simple tap of your screen you can request a pick up which will be sent to the closest driver to your location which, depending on your city, is often no more than five to ten minutes away.
While this is certainly no long-term career path for me, driving on the weekends has given me the opportunity to meet thousands of people. Since the duration of most ride requests is somewhere between ten and thirty minutes, small talk is about as deep as the conversation gets. Most drivers have second jobs, something the majority of passengers seem to know, so one of the first questions I get, aside from "How's your night going?", is "So do you do something else besides drive?" While I could get long-winded in my answer and list ALL the things I do aside from driving, I decided from the beginning that I would just stick to the most interesting and probably unique response options of "I'm a professional fighter", knowing this would easily lead to enough talk to fill the duration of the ride, something that as an introvert I was concerned about accomplishing in the beginning. After a few surprised exclamations from the passenger, the follow-up question they almost always ask is, "So what got you into that?!"
Since attending the TEDx Mile High 2016 event this past June and listening to fellow Easton Training Center member Scott Strode of Phoenix Multisport discuss the power of community in achieving his sobriety, the significance of community has been heavy in my thoughts. Aside from the string of events that led me to one day enter the ring, the catalyst to my fitness journey was a strong need for community. After graduating high school, between the years 2000 and 2009, I spent much of my free time sitting at a computer pursuing my dream of becoming a writer (and snacking absentmindedly while I did so). During these years I also gave birth to my two sons and, as a result of two pregnancies and a pretty sedentary lifestyle, I found myself overweight and out of shape. However, I didn't come from an athletic family, so while I didn't exactly know HOW I was going to change my circumstances, I knew I wanted to. So I went to my local weight lifting gym in April of 2009 and began blindly lifting weights and learning to despise what I called the "hamster wheel cardio machines".
By 2009, I was also in my fourth year of owning a rehabilitative massage business, was teaching the massage program at Heritage College, and was actively pursuing my degree in elementary education through online studies. While I adored both practicing and teaching massage and found a lot of personal satisfaction out of self-employment and continuing my education, I had effectively built a life that catered almost too well to my introverted nature. Fraternizing with students, clients or employees was against my personal and professional ethics, and building any bonds with my fellow peers in school wasn't possible since I had chosen online studies to better cater to my needs as a mother. I found myself beginning to feel pretty isolated, and the icing on the cake came in the dissolution of my marriage in February of 2009.
By October of 2009, I had accomplished very little progress in my fitness goals from blindly training myself without the proper education to do so, and found myself growing bored and lonely with a growing need for a sense of community. I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. Around that time I was having a conversation with a gym acquaintance about how inane I felt the cardio machines were and how I just couldn't talk myself into enjoying an hour of effort to go essentially no where. He gave me the name of a local martial arts gym and suggested I give kickboxing a try to accomplish my cardio needs. I didn't feel like kickboxing was really "my thing", but after looking up the gym I saw that they did have a youth program and thought my oldest son, who at that time was seven years old, could benefit from getting involved in something like that so we checked the gym out and soon after signed him up.
The gym ran their youth program at the same time as a separate adult program so while I was there watching my oldest son train, I would get glimpses of the adult program running in the other room as well. One of the things that impressed upon me immediately was the obvious friendships between the members of the fight team. The handful of members who were on this "elite" team seemed to do everything together, were looked up to by the rest of the gym, and were given top-notch treatment and attention from the coach, compared to the rest of the members who were lucky if he made the effort to even learn our names. I wanted to be a part of that "elite" group. In addition, there were two women in particular on this team that really stood out to me: the gym's prized MMA fighter Michelle Blalock and top grappler Shannon Sinn (then Culpepper). I had never seen any woman as athletically built as them. In fact, despite spending the last six months at a weight lifting gym, being built like that had never even crossed my mind as an option to work towards. After watching them train for a few week, my fitness goals became more defined. I wanted to be able to move with the ease and athletic grace they moved with, something that I struggled to accomplish with the combination of a lack of mind-body connection and my then out of shape body.
So in January of 2010, I decided to start training. Not because I wanted to be a professional fighter, or even because I had taken an interest in competing in grappling (which is what I would later spend the first year of my martial arts journey participating in). I started training because I had developed a particular set of fitness goals, and because I was immensely in need of a place where I felt like I belonged. I was searching for my own community.
Later in 2014, community became even more important in my life. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the end of 2014 found me in a pretty dark place personally and professionally and it was the community in my life that I felt saved me. After a change of gyms, the community and friendships I built among my teammates at Easton Training Center served as a lighthouse for me in troubled times. My community not only kept me training, it kept me hopeful for brighter days ahead. Hundreds of students fill the mats at the various Easton gyms throughout Colorado, and while I developed close ties with some of the members I trained with personally, it wasn't just those friendships that made me feel at home. It was those ties to the greater Easton community that made me feel connected as well because whether we knew each other personally or not, we were all a team and there is a lot of power in the word "team".
Just last week I was announcing an upcoming in-house tournament to my students at Easton Martial Arts Academy where I coach boxing and kickboxing. Our location is the newest of the Easton gyms and we are just beginning to grow our striking program so many of the students there have not yet been introduced to the greater Easton community that they belong to. We will have our first two students competing in the tournament and as I was asking that all our students show up to support them, I impressed upon them what a great feeling it is to show up and see the hundreds of other people who they will share the common bond of calling Easton their home. I will never forget the first time I saw a picture of the 2015 summer belt promotion full of smiling Easton members crowding onto the mat. I proudly thought, "Wow, I belong to that?" The picture was so powerful in fact that my oldest son, who wasn't even at that particular belt promotion, chose that picture to be the screen saver on his computer.
When discussing training with new students, I always suggest they bring a friend. Community made sticking to my fitness goals easier. We all have days where, no matter how much we love what we're pursing, we just don't feel like pursuing it. Even once I began competing professionally I would wake up some days with a groan in anticipation of the training schedule that awaited me. On these days there were two things that helped: 1) reminding myself that not training was giving my opponent the upper hand, but more influential was 2) if I don't go to training I wouldn't see my friends and I would feel like I missed out on something. In fact, when discussing how to stay the course on any fitness journey, the power of community is number one on my list above talks on dedication, proper nutrition, or various training regimens.
Community is important and plays a much bigger role in the success of achieving our goals than many of us might accredit to it. Community is what made me feel at home in a situation that normally would have triggered my social anxiety. Community is what made me feel a part of something greater in this world. Community is what reminded me that no matter how tough my life got, I was never alone. Community keeps me going. Not only do I feel it is a major factor in staying the course on a fitness journey, I believe it is crucial to a person's overall quality of life. Whether you choose to find YOUR sense of community through the martial arts as I did, or you find it in a chess club, a camping group, an improv group, or a book club, do yourself a favor and prioritize your innate need for community. Humans are tribal creatures. We NEED our tribe and it is our community that becomes that tribe.
Thank you to my own tribe: Easton Training Center.
We've all seen them - the hordes of people both young and old filling the local parks, smart phones in hand pointing at creatures that aren't really there. And if by some miracle (or a complete lack of awareness of your surroundings) you haven't noticed the people, I'm sure you've seen the memes flooding the various social media outlets almost as much as the parks are being flooded.
Pokemon Go: the latest craze to sweep through the population.
Pokemon Go is a new interactive game for smart phones that uses your GPS location to place Pokemon in areas near you so you can "catch" them. Cleverly combining the real world with this virtual world, a Pokemon will appear on your phone screen, and tapping on it activates the camera feature on your phone placing the real surroundings of the area you're standing in behind the digital Pokemon on your screen. In addition to catching Pokemon, the game also encourages users to find Pokestops and Pokegyms where they can collect items and "battle" their Pokemon against others.
However, despite the number of people who are obviously loving the game, as with anything there are plenty of critics as well. Now, I'm all for critics because I think they challenge our thoughts and force creative thinking on both sides of the coin. However, while I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I have never had any tolerance for criticism in the form of cruelty and bullying, and recent criticisms have me wondering: When did we start shaming adults for tapping into their creative and playful side?
If you do a quick internet search for self -help programs you will find any number of programs that focusing on helping adults tap into their playful side. You see, adults seem to have forgotten how to play... or perhaps they have just been shamed out of playing, and my question is, WHY? "Play" is important and, believe it or not, it supports us in our success because play involves the imagination, something that is crucial in creative thinking. If you have no imagination or imaginative skills, you will find it very difficult to think outside the box, and to be an innovator or a trail blazer in any industry, you must be able to think outside the box.
With that in mind, even though it may feel silly, going out and participating in this craze of catching imaginary creatures on your phone can actually help you toward your goals of success!
Even if you are one of those adults who is out of touch with their inner child and doesn't understand play anymore, I can easily think of plenty of other reasons why this game is great! Let's start with the kids. I believe all parents are familiar with the struggle of getting their kids to log off the video games to go outdoors and play. Just today I read a Facebook post from a friend of mine saying she missed HER version of childhood when all the neighborhood kids would jump on their bikes and ride around the neighborhood until well past dark, just playing and adventuring. Now we're lucky if our kids want to meet up with their friends in person rather than in the virtual world of online games and texting.
Being a mother of two boys, ages 14 and 9, I can relate with this struggle as well, despite the fact that both of them are actively involved in martial arts, parkour and skating. However, over the last year or two it seems like if they are not at their scheduled weekly practices, they are chained to their gaming devices indoors and getting them to go outside to play is a fight none of us particularly want to engage in. Part of this struggle also comes from them being five years apart in age. With one still in elementary school and the other entering high school this year, there are not many shared interests between the two boys.
Enter Pokemon Go.
Now both of the boys are out and about both together and individually with their friends roaming the neighborhood looking for Pokemon and laughing with their peers. It's as if parents and children have been served compromise on a silver platter. Score.
The game is also helping to bridge the technology gap between the generations of parent and child. Many adults don't understand the games their kids play and, let's face it even if they did, many of the games designed for the smart phone are not compatible for more than one person play so it's difficult to play the games together. However, Pokemon Go is so easy to play, kids can teach their parents within minutes and the entire family can go out to play together. Personally, I have enjoyed several Pokemon Go outings with my kids on evening walks and day long bike rides.
With the rapidly rising rate of obesity and diabetes in America, how can anyone not see the advantages to a game that promotes physical activity? Remember when the Nintendo Wii came out? Parents were thrilled and even participating themselves. Here was a gaming device that forced the player to physically engage with the game! Is this so different?
According to State of Obesity, the latest data suggests that the majority of Americans are either overweight or obese. 13.9% of high school students are obese, and another 16% are overweight. These are kids for goodness sake! Their adult lives and overall quality of life are going to suffer as a result. More than 115 million adults in America are either diabetic or prediabetic, and that's just the adults! The rate of diabetes in children has increased so much that Type II diabetes, which was once called "adult onset diabetes" because it typically didn't surface until adulthood, is now simply referred to as Type II diabetes once more because of the number of children being diagnosed with the disease. This is extremely sad because Type II diabetes is easily avoided with proper nutrition and physical activity!
So while many kids found a way around being physically active with the Nintendo Wii (they discovered you didn't have to actually stand up and could instead just sit where you wanted and simply wave your arm around to still make the game work), Pokemon Go is impossible to play without getting out and about. You have to be standing at a close distance in order to catch the Pokemon, activate the Pokestops or play at the Pokegyms.
Even the inclusion of the Pokestops and Pokegyms is brilliant in my opinion. Pokestops are areas where you can collect items that assist in playing the game such as extra Pokeballs to catch the Pokemon, and Pokegyms are areas where the player can battle against other Pokemon. Both are typically located at major parks and city landmarks. One of the local Pokestops in my neighborhood is at the Arvada Center for the Art and Humanities, a performing arts facility with a large open space in front that in recent years has been the home of many unique sculptures. However, since the placement of these sculptures I have personally never seen anyone actually visiting them until the introduction of Pokemon Go. Now adults and children alike are walking through this field of sculptures catching Pokemon and whether they were originally there for the art or not, you can be assured they are now being introduced to new forms of art. Another Pokestop is the Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, a local Arvada wildlife refuge that has protected native flora, fauna and wildlife ever since residential and commercial construction has increased in the area. Again, this is a place many locals aren't even aware of despite efforts by the Two Ponds Preservation Foundation to raise awareness. I personally think Pokemon Go has been great for introducing locals to the world they live in.
And just a quick note here, that if you are one of those people who believes Pokemon Go is a government conspiracy to control the masses or distract from other current events, let me tell you this. Media in general distracts the masses from current events and all media outlets whether they are supposed to be or not, are biased and will present the information they want to present in a way that serves their own agendas. After all, even this article is written from my biased perspective.
And the camera feature of the game that so many people think is a way for the government to spy on us and collect intel... IF that is what is really going on here, don't you think they would have already accomplished that agenda with all the permissions we already grant the various applications we use to access our camera feature and photos? Let's be real, the people who would be hired to collect intel for the government are probably a lot trickier about it than we think. If they want it done, I feel pretty safe saying it is already being done.
So what is all this criticism really about? Is it because we as adults are scared to play? Perhaps, but there is more to the story here I think because even children are being ridiculed for playing the game. One recent explosion I have heard is an outrage over the game "forcing" children to play in the streets, and while I am very sorry for any children that have gotten injured while playing the game, that is not a fault that can be placed on the game and is instead a displacement technique to avoid accepting responsibility for poor choices. When I was little and playing catch in my front yard, my parents taught me that if my ball rolled out into the middle of the street I was under no means allowed to simply run out in the middle of the street to go catch it. I was warned of the dangers of going into the street without looking both ways. If I chose to ignore my parents and ran out into the middle of the street anyhow and gotten hurt as a result, the ball or the manufacturers of the ball certainly never would have been blamed. After making sure I was alright, my parents would have promptly blamed me and used the situation as a means to reiterate the lesson on why I should never enter the street without looking both ways.
Another frustration I have heard is from home owners that children are entering their yards in pursuit of Pokemon without asking permission. Again, this is not an issue that needs to be blamed on the game! I think this is an issue that needs to be acknowledged by families and handled within the home on addressing manners. I can remember many a Halloween night trick-or-treating and getting scolded by my parents for walking across someone's lawn rather than taking the long way and walking up their driveway instead. Trespassing on other people's property is a matter of basic manners that needs to be addressed by parents. Instead of using Pokemon Go as a scapegoat to avoid basic parenting, I believe parents need to take responsibility for teaching manners and the neighbors who are just as guilty of blaming the game, need to take responsibility for approaching the parents. Sure it's easier to simply blame the game and probably less uncomfortable than approaching the parents of the offending child, but nothing is going to get resolved.
I once rode my bicycle across our neighbor's lawn because hey, it was quicker than spending the extra two seconds it would have taken me to ride around to our driveway and I was a seven year old kid with important things to do! Our neighbors approached my parents about it, who then approached me about it and as a result, I never rode my bike through anyone's lawn again. This is basic chain of command here.
And if you're an ADULT entering another person's property in search of Pokemon, well come on guy, you have no excuse. Just stop being an inconsiderate asshole. It's that simple. The same thing goes for those 16 years of age and older who are playing Pokemon Go while driving. We ALL know we aren't supposed to text and drive. Why would anyone think playing a game on our phones while driving is any more acceptable? It's not. If you're behind the wheel, drive. The game can and will wait.
Again though, traffic incidents that are occurring because people are playing Pokemon Go should not be blamed on the game. That should be blamed on the individual because the people who are playing Pokemon Go while driving are the same people who would play any game while driving and THAT is the root issue.
In reality, Pokemon Go is an innovative way to encourage physical activity, unite families, get kids outdoors being kids again, spark the imagination, and introduce people to the cities they live in. Any issues that are arising as a result of poor choices while playing the game shouldn't be blamed on the game, but instead should be blamed on the individual not practicing common sense or on the reality that all families could stand to focus on teaching manners inside the home a little more. If we want to get upset about something, there are plenty of real world issues that we could focus on instead of getting worked up over a game. Choose wisely where you invest your emotional energy.
Dreams. I adore them.
Breaking stereotypes. I crave it.
Setting goals and smashing right through them. YES PLEASE!!!
However, I think anyone who has ever chased a dream can tell you it's easy to get lost in the whirlwind of the journey, especially if you don't have the goals of your pursuit clearly defined. And anyone in the public light (which with social media nowadays is quite a large majority of us I think) can tell you it's even harder. And so enters the last two years of my life. After a major shift in my career in 2014, I found myself changing gyms, finding a new home for myself and my children, and redefining my life both personally and professionally. This was also occurring right after I had completed my professional debuts in kickboxing, followed by MMA, and finally boxing. I was recently signed with Invicta Fighting Championships and considering some of the biggest fight offers of my career at that point. It was a hectic time to be having so much occur in my personal life as well.
I think many that knew me personally at the time stood as silent witnesses to my turmoil, as I have never been shy about posting my life on social media for the world to see. I have always believed that if my struggles help even one person face the storm of their own struggles, it is worth putting my life out there publicly. However, the depth of my turmoil was deeper than I even shared with any but one or two of my closest friends. I was in a place where my career had really taken off. I was right where I needed to be with the public eye and with the promoters, two of the biggest factors in your success as a professional fighter, but I was missing the other two more important factors: the proper training, and a sense of community. After ending a very tumultuous relationship with the man who also happened to be my coach for the first five years of my career, I found myself without a team, without friends, and without that sense of community I had surrounded myself with at the time. It was an ugly split and great efforts were invested to slander my name and my values both personally and professionally. Fortunately, I found a new place to call home at Easton Training Center in Boulder, CO, but after only a couple months of training, I found myself despairingly questioning the last five years of my training as almost everything I had been taught had been quickly "debunked". I found myself slipping into a quiet depression as I would try to "fake it 'til you make it" in practice, and then leave wondering if anything I had been taught, or if any of the coaching "lineage" I had been sold for the last five years was true.
Now, anyone who has experienced such a thing knows that your career being at a major turning point for the better is no time to be having a personal breakdown. The fight offers were coming in and, especially considering the personal turmoil with my previous team, the stakes were getting high: the inevitable grudge match offers began. As the months went by it became more and more difficult to not get caught up in the "hype" of the industry. Since the day I began fighting, my approach and my goals within the industry were very different from the typical fighter. Did I want to make it to the UFC someday like every other fighter? Sure. But was it my end-all-be-all goal? Not really. My goal was to defy the odds, to show the world that no matter the number of people who told me it would be impossible for me to make a successful career out of fighting, I was the only person that could dictate whether that was a possibility for me or not with the right amount of work and dedication to my goals. If that meant I would find myself fighting for the UFC someday, great. If it didn't, that was perfectly alright with me too because my goal was plain and simple: Make it as far as I could while still honoring the boundaries around my goals to motivate and inspire others. For me that meant seeking fights I was never really meant to win to begin with, and from the very start of my career, all grudge match offers were denied, and trash talking was something I simply refused to get baited into. I didn't want any part in such things because it just didn't align with my natural personality or my goals to inspire and spread light in the world. My original coach warned me from the very beginning that this could affect my ability to go very far in the industry because "like it or not Maureen, this is an entertainment industry and the fans find the trash talking and the grudge matches highly entertaining". However, I didn't care. From day one, my goals were very clearly defined, and I found it easy to stick by them by using them as a decision making tool whenever offers were made. Does this offer fit my long term goals personally and professionally? Yes? Great. No? Then no thank you. (A question, by the way that I suggest people ask themselves in all areas of their life... If used, the method actually works very well!)
However, in the middle of the storm that had become the rest of my life, I lost sight of those clearly defined goals, and I quit using that method to help me make decisions. I found myself swept up in the waves of the industry and what all the whispers around me wanted. It became too loud in my world to hear my own soul speaking. I lost sight of who I was, what I was working for, what I wanted for my career, and what I wanted for my life as a result of my career.
THAT was where I failed myself and anyone who had begun following my career from the beginning. "Baby Face" wasn't the same "Baby Face" anymore. She was a darker version of herself: a confused, bitter, and angry version who was teetering on the edge of depression, panic and anxiety on a daily basis. Eventually, I accepted the grudge match. That grudge match ended poorly and just instigated the storm further. I found myself slipping further and further away from my true self and all of my original goals in the sport, and I began frantically grasping at every opportunity that came my way in an effort to redefine who I was in the industry. Suddenly I found myself as a mother, a professional fighter, a podcast host, a writer, a model, a coach, a personal manager, an event manager for Glory Kickboxing, one of the largest kickboxing organizations in the world, AND pursuing a degree in nutrition. It was too much. It was WAY too much. So on October 8, 2015 I found myself stepping onto the official scale to weigh in for yet another grudge match, on one of my own events that I was managing for Glory, overweight and not just a little overweight either. Due to events that were outside of my control, and despite doing everything within my control to prevent it, I was 7.8 pounds overweight, streamed live on the internet for the world to see. Despair. Humiliation. Devastation. Shame. Panic. Anxiety. Remorse. Pretty much every horrible feeling you can possibly imagine, enter it ALL right into that very moment when the official weight was heard over the loud speakers with cameras flashing and a full room of people watching with disappointment heavy in their eyes.
The following week I found myself on a plane to Thailand with my boyfriend at the time. I thought it was going to be the trip that saved my career, and quite honestly my life because things had gotten so dark for me in my heart. It was my time to get away from everything. To unplug. To train and live a healthy lifestyle while laying on a beach soul searching and re-centering myself in between training sessions. I was going to come back a "new me", or more accurately, the "old me", the ORIGINAL me. I knew the moment I stepped on that scale where I had gone wrong in my career and where I had betrayed my own dreams, and I was sure that trip to Thailand was going to help me quite literally push pause on what had become too fast paced of a life for me to hear what my heart desired.
Fast forward a few more weeks and anyone who has been following my career or the career of Chris Tramell in the last year will know just how that trip turned out. The trip took a devastating turn for the worst and I found myself resuscitating Chris after an unfortunate scooter accident, getting him to the hospital, and spending the following seven weeks in a state of high terror that if I left his side he would die, something I had been shown was very likely several times in those two months (a story that will be delved into in much more detail at a later time as it is a very long story worthy of an entire book).
Instead of finding myself on that trip, I lost what remaining bits of myself I recognized. I came home in January completely lost both personally and professionally. By February, for reasons I would rather leave unsaid at this time, my relationship with Chris had dissolved; I had retired from fighting, quit coaching, quit training, quit writing, quit working for Glory, quit recording my podcast, quit speaking to any of my friends, abandoned (still humiliated over missing weight and allowing the hecklers to get in my head) my pursuit of a degree in nutrition, canceled my social media pages, and tore down my website. I burned every bridge to every part of my life aside from motherhood. The only part of my identity that I still recognized and was able to shine in was my role as a mother, which left my only decision making question as: Does it involve spending time with my kids? Yes? Okay I'll do it. No? Absolutely not.
In the five months since then, I have found a fresh start to life (literally wiping the slate clean and starting over tends to do that). I've been able to reassess my goals, remember my original purposes for starting this entire journey, and decide, one role at a time, which bridges I would like to reconstruct. Teaching is in my soul. It is what resonates with me as a life purpose, so I began coaching on a substitute basis again a few months ago, and just this past month accepted a permanent position as the boxing coach at Easton Martial Arts Academy in Arvada, CO. I also began recording my podcast again pretty quickly as it allowed me the outlet to continue sharing my story with others in hopes it would help someone else out of a dark place too, and it helped to rebuild my community one trusted friend at a time starting with my co-host, Justin Suzuki.
From there I stuck to my decision to take a step away from the spotlight as a fighter and began teaching myself to fall in love with the martial arts again. After the turmoil of my career the last couple years, combined with the jumbled trauma from Thailand, the martial arts had become a dark place for me, a place I associated with either the betrayals of my past or the severe trauma of Thailand, and I had lost sight of that deep love I had once felt that kept me fueled through all the challenges of being a fighter. I ignored the many fight offers that came in and the queries about whether or not I was going to make a return. Although I have not made any announcements about it until now, I have also been dealing with unknown health issues since October that I believe are related to the severity of my last three weight cuts and, despite the fact that the ring and cage have admittedly been calling to me in the most sweetest of voices, I refuse to make any decisions regarding a potential come back until I have clear answers on that and know for certain that I can train, cut weight, and compete safely. At the end of the day, I am a mother, and I refuse to make my two young men sacrifice that by risking my health in an irresponsible manner. The bright side of this is I have quite literally fallen in love with training again just for the plain and simple act of eating and moving in a way that makes me feel healthy, combined with the joy and the challenge of learning new things.
After a loss many fighters say, "It's time to go back to the drawing board." Well, I've gone back to the drawing board of my entire life, and while I still have a lot I am figuring out, I have my core goals mapped out again so I can begin once more asking myself that guiding decision-making question. After a tumultuous two years, I feel like I am back on track now. I have made peace with my distant past; I have a plan to make peace with what happened in Thailand; I feel fulfilled and balanced in my family life once more; and training is once again something I enjoy. And so I find myself closing out the first blog post of my newly redesigned website that I hope embodies my life goals: Does this fulfill my three E's to EMPOWER, EDUCATE and ENTERTAIN while ALSO allowing me to feel fulfilled and balanced as a mother? If so, I'm welcoming it into my life with open arms and I hope you'll stick around for the journey.
Much love to those who have borne witness to my journey thus far, and a cyber-hug for those of you who at the moment are braving the waves of your own storm. Clear skies ARE ahead. I promise.
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.