Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How important is the ability to focus to you? And how does Martial Arts Help?

"Always remember, your focus determines your reality."

I have been a student of the martial arts for as long as I can remember, honestly I have very few memories of my life before I started taking martial arts.  I was lucky enough to be able to get enrolled into an excellent martial arts school at a very young age, and with the support of my family and friends I stuck with it to this day, where I make a career out of helping people live better lives through the benefits of Martial Arts that I have enjoyed.  One of the character traits that was stressed in Martial Arts from the day I first stepped foot onto the mat to this day is focus.  I always learned that with focus and effort, anything we set our minds to can be accomplished.  As I grew up, I continued to train and studied people who were successful, not only in Martial Arts but in all areas of life.  One of the many things I found that was common with every successful person was the ability to focus on the right thing, and control their focus with laser like precision.

In my opinion there are two areas of focus that needs to be trained. First is the ability to develop and maintain focus, and the second is the ability to control and direct that focus.  The ability to develop and maintain focus is like the strength of a muscle, it can be trained and cultivated, and determines the level of concentration that can be mustered at will.  The ability to control and direct your focus is how you use this power of focus; intense focus in the wrong direction will of course do more harm than good. These two areas of developing focus are both important and must both be trained, they go hand in hand and must be cultivated in unison.

So the development of focus, the power of your concentration, ultimately comes down to the ability to keep a specific thought/intention/message/etc in the forefront of your mind, without being distracted or diverted away from that desired end result.  A basic example of this is if you are working on a project at work, you cannot keep checking your Facebook account to chat with people unrelated to the task at hand.  We all fall victim to this in our daily lives, and it is something that can be avoided by strengthening our ability to focus.  There are countless ways to develop focus, but for the purpose of this blog I will use Martial Arts for our examples because, well frankly, I am a Martial Artists and that is what I like to talk about :) While I will use examples from Martial Arts, it is not a far stretch of the mind to be able to relate these concepts to many other areas of life in order for everyone to benefit, whether training in Martial Arts or not.

In Martial Arts, well any good Martial Art anyways, the instructor will require their students to focus, and from the very first lesson they will begin to teach the student ways to improve and strengthen their focus.  These lessons are sometimes explicit and obvious, but many times they are subtle and the student does not even realize they are learning the secret on how to become a focus master!  There are physical techniques the students learn, such as punching and kicking, that require the student to focus in order to complete.  They have to hit a target, with the right angle and accuracy, and of course this takes physical and mental focus.  On the next level, the student has to focus in order to have the right timing and distance to execute a technique, often made even more difficult when being practiced on another participant in the class that moves and makes it their purpose to add difficulty to the proper execution out of their own self preservation.  All of this requires the student to concentrate their entire energy to accomplishing the task, and the degree of focus needed builds as the techniques grow more difficult with the student's advancement in skill and rank.  Aside from the physical techniques that require the student to develop and grow their focus, Martial Arts has many aspects of training that are less obvious but really allow the student to develop and discipline their ability to focus.  An example of this is standing at attention.  In traditional Martial Arts, when your senior or instructor talks to you, you stand at "attention."  This stance varies based on the specific system, but the concept is the same.  You stand still, with good posture and eyes focused on the instructor.  This stance allows you to focus on the instruction, and prepares the student to learn.  Standing at attention is an easy concept, but in application it is not always as easy as you may at first imagine.  After some time training though the student learns to be able to focus their bodies this way, and this discipline teaches them how to control their bodies in a way to focus on exactly what is important at that specific moment.

These are a couple basic examples, but when done over time and with increasing intensity, the effects are profound!  The next aspect of focus is the ability to control the power of the mind, to guide and direct the focus in the right direction.  The first thing to consider in the ability to control your focus, is being aware of it.  Many times in a Martial Arts class I am instructing, I asked the students if they focused, and many times their answer is yes, when in reality it was clear they were not.  Now I do not think it was the students intention to lie, but I feel that many people are truly not aware of where their focus is!  What I mean by this is that often people do not even realize when their minds wander.  The mind being flexible and able to think of things in many different ways and from different directions is a good thing, but it is important to be aware of these wanderings so that we can decide if it is beneficial or not, then decide if we should give any attention to the thoughts.  For example, the thought of "I am hungry, I have not eaten all day" may be a good thought to have, nourishing the body can help the mind work, but constantly thinking about last nights episode of Lost may not be as beneficial.  Taking an honest inventory of your thoughts and the direction your mind goes is the first step to guiding the focus of your mind toward success.

Once you have developed a powerful focus, and have an honest inventory of what your mind focuses on, you can begin to steer and guide your focus in the direction it needs to go, and this is when you can truly begin to experience amazing results.  Knowing what to focus on is the thing that sets apart individuals who excel past what those without this power of focus can even begin to imagine.  It is something that takes constant concentration, attention and effort.  You have to decide where you are going, then focus all of your efforts in that direction.  It is not an easy task, but we have seen time and time again with the Bruce Lees, Michael Jordans and Mark Cubans of the world that this type of disciplined focus yields unmatched results.

So, take the time to develop focus that has purpose and lasting power.  Focus is a muscle that has to be worked out and trained, it has to be practiced and maintained, then its strength has to be applied in the right direction to accomplish the specific tasks needed to reach the end goal you are striving toward.  Train Hard, Stay Focused and SUCCEED!!

HapKiDo Instructor

Friday, May 15, 2015

Are you a problem solver or a problem finder?

Do you know the difference between a problem solver and a problem finder?

It is all about mindset; do you think like an entrepreneur or an employee?  In this day and age the way you think plays such a HUGE role in the outcomes you experience.  The way you think about and overcome life's problems will determine the level of success you are capable of achieving.  Life will always have problems, things will always try to stand in your way, but the most successful people do not let problems stop them.  With just a slight adjustment in the way you set your mind each day you can go from someone who is controlled by your environment to a person who is in control of your environment.  Below I will outline 2 different types of mindsets, that of a problem finder and that of a problem solver.  The difference between these two things may not seem to be very profound at first, but I hope to convey the great impact this can have on your level of success!

Problem Finder:

A problem finder is someone who always sees how things are not working.  They are great at seeing things that could go wrong or could potentially not work, and they focus on these problems they found.  Problem finders always have a reason why they could not complete a certain task or assignment, and unfortunately most of the time it is something that they feel is outside of their control.  Problem finders typically feel like things are others responsibility, and will often not take action on an assignment until there are no more possible "problems" to be found.  Problem finders are very linear thinkers.  They have a mission, but when something gets in the way they stop and focus on the problem instead of a solution or way around the issue.

Problem Solver:

A problem solver is someone who is solution oriented.  Many times they work backwards in the sense that they have a desired outcome, then find a way to get there.  A problem solver understands that there will be problems, and is prepared to find a solution to problems as the arise. Being a problem solver means taking responsibility for achieving a specific result, which includes accepting responsibility for all of the problems that come up while on the way. 

Which one are you?

The main difference between a problem solver and problem finder is that problem solvers take initiative to find solutions after a problem arises and complete tasks, where as problem finders come across a problem and stop there.  The problem finder mindset is typical in the employee position.  They are given a task, then when a problem comes up they stop and bring the problem to their supervisor.  "I found a problem and cannot complete the task." 

A problem finder mindset is found in people with an entrepreneurial spirit.  They are on a mission to accomplish a specific task, and any problem that comes up is just a speed bump that they move past.  "This is the problem I ran into, this is how I overcame the problem and the job is done!" 

So whenever you are working on something and come across a problem, find a solution and move forward! Do not let problems stop you.  You will not always be able to find a solution to every problem by yourself, and asking for help is always ok, but own your problems.  Take a personal responsibility for solving problems and you will be shocked how much more productive you will be as an individual and as part of a team.  Don't go to people with problems, go to them with solutions.  Whether you are a member of a team on a project, or the owner of a business, thinking like a problem solver instead of a problem finder will allow you to excel and achieve more.  If instead of focusing on the problem you focus on finding a solution to the problem, you will be shocked at how often the solution is something you can do simply.  Doing this you will advance in your personal and profession life, and can reach the highest level of success that you know you deserve!

Cumming Georgia Karate

R.J. LoPresti
Owner, Choe's HapKiDo Martial Arts

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why our kids need to be taught to be leaders and entrepreneurs

https://www.facebook.com/choeshapkidocummingHey everyone!  I would like to write a little bit about leadership, and the importance of teaching kids how to be leaders, thinkers, and entrepreneurs.  The world needs leaders, positive thinkers, and people who find a problem and instead of trying to live with it try to find a solution.  It is an unfortunate truth that so many of today's youth are not leaders; they hope to float along with the current, and when things get difficult they give up.  With that being said, I want to talk about how important it is to educate our kids that this is not the way it has to be!  Especially in the world we live in now where we can share an idea with people across the world with the click of a button!  Unfortunately kids are not being educated on how to be a leader.  We desperately NEED leaders, we need to educate an generation of problem solvers, and I want to write some words to explain why.

So, what is a leader?  Leaders come in infinite different forms, with just as many different skills and abilities.  But there are a few things that, when taught, will allow different people with different skills to become leaders, and for the sake of the future we must find a way for kids to be taught this.  I could spend hours writing about what I think makes a leader, but that is not what I am hoping to express in this post.  My wish is that by the time you finish reading this you will be inspired to become a leader, and teach others to also be leaders, and by doing this we can create a cycle of leadership development that will grow exponentially.

I believe that a few of the key things we should strive to be teaching our youth in order for them to be the exceptional leaders we need are how to be compassionate, how to have an entrepreneurial mindset, and also how to be a good follower.  I think that if people learn these things then they will take the skills they naturally have and apply them to being a leader and work on changing the world for the better. 

The first point I'd like to discuss, which is especially important when first learning how to be a leader, is being a good follower.  Leading is not about just sitting back and telling people what to do or what needs to get done, it is about lifting people up and guiding them.  Leaders get in the trenches and work with the people who they are leading, and they are an active part of what is being done.  When you are a good follower this can be done easily, if you are not able to be a follower it is difficult to do this.  Another important thing to consider is that a leader knows that they may not be the best person to lead in every situation.  Knowing how to be a follower will allow the leader to be able to work with the people they are guiding, as well as allow them to let others take the lead when the time is right.  With this they will be able to seamlessly transition between many different roles in order to be as efficient and effective as possible.

I see many people, both leaders and not, who do not know how to be a follower.  It can be clearly seen with people on sports teams, or in the workplace.  Someone who may be exceptionally skilled in their field, but they are not coachable; they don't know how to follow!  This causes many problems, because no matter how skilled the individual is, life is a team sport.  Michael Jordan said "Talent wins games; but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." I think that this means that we have to be able to work together, which often times means being a follower.  Like it or not we are all in this together, so we need to be able to be both a follower and a leader so that all of the more than 7 billion people on earth can be a cohesive team.  So to develop into the best leader possible, learn how to be a follower first, that way when the time comes that you are called up to lead you are ready!

Having the entrepreneurial mindset is the second point that I think makes the exceptional type of leader that we are looking for.  There have been many book written, videos made, and seminars taught on having an entrepreneur mindset, there is tons of information out there on how to teach people the skills that make a successful entrepreneur, but unfortunately only a small percentage of people take advantage of this materials and utilize these invaluable skills!  I think a big misconception about having the entrepreneurial mindset is that many people think that this means that they quit their stable job, start a business and work crazy hours getting their business to flourish.  Although a lot of people who have the entrepreneurial mindset do this, it is not necessary to having the mindset.  Having the mindset of an entrepreneur means that when there is a problem, or when you see something in life that you know could be better, you don't just accept it.  An entrepreneur will take this problem and find a solution; they go outside of the norms, think outside of the box and find a solution.  They have a work ethic unmatched by people who have the mindset of the "old way" and don't quit.  Failure is a learning experience, a bump in the road not a dead end.  Why are they like this?  Because they have a magical trait called PASSION!  They want things to be better, they know they can be better, and they wont stop until they are the best they can be.  It is so important for our leaders to have this mindset engrained deep in their being.  Leadership without the entrepreneur mindset often just turns dreaming; wishing for something without the follow through to back it up. 

Another invaluable trait that we need to foster in our future leaders is compassion towards others.  This is something that is too often not taught when teaching people to succeed, we stress the importance of excelling at any cost and too often what happens is we do not cultivate compassion for our fellow beings.  It is my opinion that without having compassion any level of leadership is empty, because leadership that isn't driven by the objective of improving the greater good is a waste of time.  In order to develop the type of leaders we need for there to be a bright future ahead, compassion needs to be right up there with the other leadership traits that we instill in them.  Compassion means the desire to alleviate others' suffering.  Wouldn't you agree that with a generation of leaders who wish to help those in need we could make huge strides in the advancement of mankind?  I strongly feel that compassion should be at the core of any teaching, especially those taught to kids, but it is especially critical for leaders to learn compassion because they are going to be the ones who guide us to our future.  Leadership, like any skill, can be used in negative ways just as easily as it can be used positivity, and because of this it is necessary to educate leaders on the importance of compassion to guide their leadership skill in a positive direction.

Leadership of the future requires people who know how to be a good follower, who utilize an entrepreneurial mindset and are driven by compassion.  Schools don't teach these skills in common core curriculum, but I feel that we must be teaching these traits to our youth.  We have to start making leadership education an integrated part of our youth's upbringing, and the sooner people are taught these skills the better.  Kids are amazing with their ability to learn these traits; they come naturally to kids, and it is absolutely amazing what young leaders are able to do with proper leadership training.  It is one of the most inspirational and motivational experiences when I see kids who use leadership this way.  The difference they make is astounding.

I am a martial artist, and I feel that martial arts is a great way to instill all of these qualities in our young people.  In martial arts the students are trained and required to be good followers first.  They must excel in the art of following and being guided, while at the same time they are expected to lead their junior ranks along the martial path.  Martial arts also instills in its practitioners the entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to think quickly and make decisions in a split second.  Learning to have a fighters heart is learning to think like an entrepreneur.  There is a problem and you must solve it.  Along with learning self defense in martial arts, the students are also taught compassion.  They learn to use control in order to not hurt people needlessly, they learn to serve their community and to always be seeking an opportunity to help people.  All of these are reasons why martial artists are great leaders, and we should utilize this knowledge to bring this same level of leadership training into other activities.  Take a moment and imagine what it would be like if the next generation of doctors, lawyers, engineers, athletes, teachers and CEO's were leaders who made it their goal to lead the world in a positive direction.  Now take that mental imagine and imagine 5, 10, 15 generations from now.  What type of world will it be!?!