On Raising Young Men

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21, 2015 by dougautenrieth

It’s Father’s Day. A little over two and a half years into this journey, my most important observation on raising a son is that the key ingredients to raising this future young man are love and affection. Other elements have to be in the mix, too, like solid routines to create habits, standards, boundaries, accountability for the simple basics he has shown me he can handle already, a good dose of humor, and he needs to see me consistently demonstrating love and respect for his mother. He needs all of these for reasons that are irrelevant to him right now, but will make all the difference for him… someday.

As a Marine Corps veteran and kung fu teacher, I’m often asked if he’s training yet. Everyone thinks my training – his training – is all about fighting techniques. That’s actually not my primary concern. Teaching a male to develop his sense of aggression is about as difficult as asking a regular sulfur match to ignite. Strike it once or twice and it’ll burn, no problem. So, no, the development of fighting skill or physical aggression are low on my priorities list.

The first order of business is teaching him by my own modeling how to be affectionate, respectful, and gentle. How can he truly understand aggression and violence if he doesn’t first understand love and kindness? To answer the question I’m often asked, “Is he training yet?” Yes, he’s training. Of course, he’s training. I know that a day of training we miss is a day we never get back. We play hard and he moves a lot. His motor skills and sense of balance are taking off and his muscles are developing, but at this stage and in our home none of it is about fighting technique. He tumbles and he gets up and dusts himself off. I’m there to pick him up if he needs it and to make sure he doesn’t do entirely too much damage in the interest of discovery.

But most importantly, the man-child experiences being loved 24/7. It’s about piggy back rides and lap time in papa’s chair to read our favorite books; those groggy first minutes of the day and those sleepy last ones before the covers go on; respectful communication with everyone we come into contact with; the gentle and respectful treatment of our animals. He knows I believe he is capable of anything and that I’m proud of him every step of the way.

If the need or desire ever arises for him to choose the warrior’s path, he’ll have all the resources he needs. The foundation will be in place. Once he understands love, he’ll have no problem understanding having something – or someone – worth protecting.

Happy Father’s Day. If you’re raising young men, don’t overthink it and for God’s sake, don’t think you need to induce suffering to “toughen them up.” Life will do plenty of that. Just love ‘em and then don’t hold them back when they get into the rough stuff. They’ll figure out everything else as they go.

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The Awake State

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2015 by dougautenrieth

I am often working with students in the kung fu school on the state of being Awake. This is an internal skill that develops over time while the student is working on developing the external physical skills of whatever style they may be practicing.

The Awake state is probably somewhere between serenity, rage, and terror. If you were to draw it as a Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles representing those emotional states, you would want to be in the center. (A young Charles Xavier describes this very well to an also young Eric Magnus Lehnsherr, AKA Magneto, in X-Men: First Class and here’s a clip from YouTube… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7aEn7p4yhg )   Other emotions could be added to the diagram like Acceptance (of what is,) Curiosity, Willingness, Compassion, etc., but I think the essential point is that too calm is too calm.

Too angry is too angry. Too fearful is too fearful. Even too compassionate is too compassionate. We do need some edge, especially in the fighting disciplines. But I think this concept applies to any task requiring effort, particularly during critical moments. Clutch situations require us to access everything we know, everything we feel, and sometimes even things that we don’t know intellectually or feel emotionally or physically. In these cases, access to our intuition may make the difference between success or failure, life or death.  The clutch moment requires us to be fully awake; fully human.

On human potential

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2015 by dougautenrieth

Today is Memorial Day. We remember those who have paid the ultimate price to secure our freedoms. One of the things I love about our system and the structure of rights and responsibilities it creates is the opportunity we are provided to grow into the best possible versions of ourselves. Not that it’s easy. Not that we are absolved of the need to work. In fact, quite the contrary. Today and every day, go out and live your life. Pursue your interests and your passions – not just to make money or to simply have fun, but because the drive to grow, achieve, and enjoy will provide you with the greatest crucible you could ever design. A few who have gone on before spent all of their potential to buy time for the many who remained and for all of us who came after them. If you’ve ever wanted to thank someone who has passed from this earth in your service, LIVE WELL. It is the greatest form of gratitude. If you’ve lost someone who was close to you, it is the best revenge. Live. Enjoy. Become. And today, remember.

Just train…

Posted in Discipline, Learning, Motivation, Training on June 28, 2011 by dougautenrieth

Ten years is a great equalizer. 

I find that students who are new to training in kung fu (read: people who are approaching something new and are unfamiliar with its process) are often caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are excited to learn and grow in this new activity. On another hand, they quickly discover that it is harder than it looks in one way or another and are unsure if they’ll be able to “get it.”  What they don’t realize is that everyone who has gotten anywhere in a challenging pursuit has faced this concern.  Discovering difficulty on the way to distinction is as common as discovering sand on the earth. Whether one looks in a desert or at the bottom of the sea, this is one sandy planet.  On the other hand, it’s a fairly lush planet overall, too. 

Advancement in kung fu (translation: developing any skill that comes from consistent hard work) comes not overnight, but rather over the course of months, weeks, and years. In fact a short term view in martial arts is a rather inadequate means of measuring time.  Now and then, a new student or someone visiting the school will ask the question, “How long does it take to make it to Black Belt?” The answer is always the same. “That depends on how much you’re willing to work.”  The first small changes seem to appear after a hundred days; the first significant changes after a thousand.

Some students start with more aptitude than others; some with less. Some have more patience; some less. Some have more flexibility; some less.  Some are stronger. Some are larger. Some have a longer reach. Some have a lower center of gravity.  Some have a compelling desire or a great need to learn to defend themselves while some have no idea why their parents have placed them in the class or why they are training in the first place.  But this only seems to matter most at the beginning.  Over time, these apparent differences become less problematic and more opportunistic.

Impatience can pay off as a beginner’s tool that drives a student to learn and look for more – and the rough edges will be worn off over time. The stiff body type will gain some flexibility and has the potential to become practically immoveable once it has developed true strength and not just inflexible muscle.  The so-called weaker or smaller individual will, by necessity, develop greater speed, attention to detail, and more accurate technique than his or her stronger and larger training partners.  And, the ones who seemed to struggle the most when learning something new also seem to be the ones who tend to keep what they learn because they value it so highly.  After a decade of training, they will all find that their own unique strengths and talents have been honed to much higher degrees than they originally thought possible and their weaker areas have been strengthened significantly.  They only need to wait and see. 

Decades will show greater changes than years and far more than mere months of training.  It may be best to consider that time is most accurately measured in kung fu over the course of lifetimes.  Just train.

“Have a plan and work your plan.”

Posted in Discipline, Motivation on June 14, 2011 by dougautenrieth

“Have a plan and work your plan.” I first heard those words from a manager at Merrill Lynch in 1996. Following that advice, I stayed in the investment services game for three years, beating the statistic that there is an 80% failure rate in the first two years. Continuing to follow that advice, I moved out of the financial services game after three years to pursue my life’s work as an executive coach and kung fu teacher. “My plan” was never to spend my life in the investment services industry, but it was a great place to learn, grow, and develop for a few years.

I’ve learned over time that there are many ways to plan for the use of our time and many ways to go about working the plan. Time blocking has always worked best for me. I block time for a category of activities like handling admin or making sales calls and then, during that time block, I only do those activities. At least that’s the plan.

But, how much time do I put in each block?  The answer: It depends. It depends on the overall needs of my business and, to a certain extent, on what I feel particularly inspired to do. There has to be an element of discipline involved or it’s just impulse power driving the ship. Putting at least a small chunk of time into the activities I’m not inspired to deal with keeps me moving in the right direction and connected to those projects I’d rather avoid completely.

Today’s time blocking model: I have my concept of an ideal day and I’m cycling through those blocks in 20 minute chunks. Here’s the list: Early Training, Writing, Garage/Clutter Clearing, Language (studying Mandarin), Admin, Coaching, Midday Training, Lunch/Nap, Sales Follow Up, Reading, Marketing, Teaching Kung Fu, and Family Time. That’s a lot of activities in the course of the day, but that’s what I need to stay in balance RIGHT NOW. It’s not a perfect 20-minute-per-activity cycle, but most of it can work pretty well on that plan. I could just as easily give an hour to this, 20 minutes to that, and two hours to another thing, but I just didn’t feel like being that crafty with the plan of the day today.

The important thing is to be in motion, knocking down high reward activities throughout the day rather than chasing down barking dogs. Barking dogs are what I call all the time stealers like constant email conversations, excessive video games, and surfing to the end of the internet and back. Have you noticed how many time thieves are disguised as technological advancements today? I’ll admit that I love them all. I just try to manage how much and how often I partake of the bits and bytes of techno-fun on my way to handling substantial activities in the world.

That’s it for this blog entry… My 20 minutes of writing time just expired. Go forth and do great things!

Injury

Posted in Life on January 18, 2011 by dougautenrieth

It is occurring to me that I’m handling the injury to my ankle (skydiving accident 1/16/2011) really well. No animosity or anger of any substance in response to the injury. Not a huge amount of fear about the outcome. I know it will heal and I know what to expect from surgery. Having been this way before on my hand (first surgery and very scary) and again on my knee, twice (also scary, but provided huge relief and a second chance at mobility) is fueling a positive outlook.  It is helpful for me to “know” what these things are like.

The thing that is also occurring to me is that there is much of life that we can only go through once or that we go through so seldom that we don’t generate enough tangible experience to have the sense that we “know” it will turn out to be ok in the long run.  Can I replace that sense of “not knowing” that results from having never been this way before (the entirety of this lifetime) with the sense of knowing it will turn out to be just fine? Can I live in the logic that as it is in the micro, so it is in the macro? If I can know that other injuries have turned out to yield great rewards, can I apply that feeling to a life that is often frustrating and disappointing in order to know that all of it will turn out perfectly well?

I think that’s possible. More training. Let’s give this a try.

Connect

Posted in Discipline, Life on December 28, 2010 by dougautenrieth

Question on Facebook:
How do you find peace when you are scared: do you have a mantra, prayer, process, technique? Please share…

My response:
Physically: connect to your breathing and focus on the sensation of air coming in and going out. Relax your body and release tension. Keep it simple. Mentally: connect with the present moment. The thing you fear is in the future and has not come to pass. Spiritually: connect with gratitude in the knowledge that everything that happens is ultimately the best possible thing that can happen for you whether you can perceive the benefit immediately or not.

The key word in all of this is “connect.”  Be still. And, know that you are whole.