Life has no inherent meaning. Werner Erhard said, “The only meaning in life is the meaning that we give it.” We’re right or make others wrong. We dominate or avoid domination. We win or make up for a failure to be, most likely from childhood. Time is also undefeated. So there’s that, too.
I choose who I’m going to be in any given moment. Getting that, I choose, making a difference is my authentic self-expression. Maybe, I leave the world a little greater than when I came into it. At least, I intend to do so.
Asked about his place in the Pantheon of NBA Greats like Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and Lebron James, the late Kobe Bryant said, “I really don’t care… I’ve moved on.” Life’s about what’s next, not what was. Still, I appreciate where I started, appreciate my zero.
Years ago in Sunday morning Aikido class, I taught technique to a beginner student. After watching me demonstrate, he said, “But you’re better than me.” I looked at him and said, “No, I’ve just been doing it longer than you. Everyone’s zero is different.”
The past is in the past. I move on. In the bigger picture, I acknowledge how much I’ve evolved from my zero. My zero was the 8-year-old who was scared as hell of Dad. I was never going to be good enough for him. I was never going to be enough — my life’s sentence.
That voice in my head said, You’ll never be good. Working in therapy with Lance, I got that was my Dad’s voice. Dad had inherited that voice from his father, who abused him far worse than Dad abused me. I thought that I had to be perfect to win Dad’s love and approval. Yet, nothing’s perfect. That’s the human design, too.
For many years of my 59 years on Planet Earth, I hated on myself. I was a master at that. I tried so rigorously to be perfect. Yes, I got stronger. I got smarter. Yet, stronger and smarter would never be strong or smart enough.
Then I met Mizukami Sensei, who taught me Aikido and what it is to be a good man. In her unconditional love, Mom granted permission to make Sensei the father I needed. Sensei didn’t want me to be like him. He created the space to invent my own greater-than versions. He said, “Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere.” I didn’t have be someone else. I didn’t have to prove anything. I could just be me. Sensei said, “Make it work.” I trained to make my life work, too.
Sensei said, “Take a glancing blow if you have to. You’re not going to get away scot free.” I leveraged his life lesson beyond the Dojo. Whether the raging 250-pound dude or life comes at me, I won’t always get away scot-free. Life is imperfect. Life is messy when I do what’s meaningful. Sensei taught me to do the meaningful. Amen.
Aikido Founder O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” Ishibashi Sensei said, “Apply the technique to yourself.” I overcome me. I get out of my own way. I just train.
I heal my childhood trauma and depression with my therapist Lance. I looked at my childhood fear of my Dad. Hell, that was frightening. The wise French Aikido Sensei said, “Enter the attack and die with honor.” I entered the danger, what I feared most. I was uncomfortable for what was meaningful. I ground it out. I put in the work.
Cheryl Hunter taught me the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi: There is beauty in our imperfection. She said, “Life is imperfectly perfect.” Cheryl said, “Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.” A profound life lesson. Every day, I practice kindness for others and for myself. Only mad love and respect for Cheryl.
In the bigger picture, I started hating on myself a lot less. I took my baby steps. My authentic expression emerged: Love and forgive thine own self. I love myself for who I am, and forgive me for who I’m not.
Life is meaningful. I teach and train in Aikido. I honor the late Mizukami Sensei’s enduring legacy passing on all that I got from him. I help students invent their greater-than versions. In satellite systems engineering, I pass on what I’ve gained over the years from my mentors Chuck Judge and Al Kim to the next generation of engineers, like Jonathan and Trevor. With my Editor Lisa Blacker on The Good Men Project, I write about life, legacy, love, and forgiveness. Perhaps, the world shines a little brighter in our authentic expression. My sincere hope.
I move on. I acknowledge how much I’ve grown from that frightened little 8-year-old boy. My life is my art. I’m proud of my life.
What’s next? The late Mizukami Sensei would say, “Did you learn anything new? Just train.” Always, mad love and respect for that. Yeah, I have a lot more to learn, a lot more to do. I just train. I have as much fun as I can, for as long as I can. I’m thankful. I’m grateful. Amen.
Create your meaningful life. Love and forgive thine own self, too. Just saying.
The Good Men Project gives people the insights, tools, and skills to survive, prosper and thrive in today’s changing world. A world that is changing faster than most people can keep up with that change. A world where jobs are changing, gender roles are changing, and stereotypes are being upended. A world that is growing more diverse and inclusive. A world where working towards equality will become a core competence. We’ve built a community of millions of people from around the globe who believe in this path forward. Thanks for joining The Good Men Project.
Support us on Patreon and we will support you and your writing! Tools to improve your writing and platform-building skills, a community to get you connected, and access to our editors and publisher. Your support will help us build a better, more inclusive world for all.
Photo credit: Shutterstock