Listen, Assess, Learn: Family Values, Fireplaces and Fine Bourbon

As I sit here with a glass of Wild Turkey 8 Year next to me, looking across my living room and out the front window at the snow on the mountain tops, I have time to reflect upon a few things that dig into my side.
Maybe it’s because it’s the afternoon and I’ve already hit my limit of “Which type of HGH should I be using to get jacked like you?” questions for the week…or maybe I’ve just seen one too many politicians talking about Family Values on TV lately. Either way, it has caught me at a time where I’m short on money and long on headaches and my only two options are:

  1. Dancing on the front porch to Footloose wearing nothing but bubble wrap and moccasins or...
  2. Getting it down on paper and sharing…hoping that one of the two would brighten someone’s day.

Between elitefts™, Facebook, my e-mail accounts, YouTube, and text messages…I field more than 100 questions a week, every single week. I really don’t mind because I only give out my personal phone number to good friends and I have several e-mail addresses that I keep just as private. All my friends at elitefts™ ask me training questions, give me advice, or offer a helping hand any time I need it so that is always a cool place to be. Facebook is just for fun and besides the occasional person that gets offended by one of my “humor” pictures…it normally makes for a great time! YouTube is GREAT for laughs, as there is always someone commenting about my rusty bars and plates or even offering me cold hard cash for my sweaty underwear.

It's My Job

The ones that bother me are the random questions that I get on message boards from people asking me about how they can get jacked, huge, strong, or ripped. Or if I can help them program a diet since “I’m into bodybuilding and know about that kind of thing.” See, even family and friends here ask me that sort of thing on a regular basis. My wife stopped asking me because she got tired of that “look” that I give her for the next 10 minutes after she asks me. For starters, if people ask me this sort of thing, then they should know that it is my job. Imagine me walking up to a police officer on the street and saying “Hey brah, would you mind guarding my house for a week while I’m gone on vacation for a month? I wanted to ask you first since I knew you were into that protect and serve thing and all.” So, if you ask me a question and I don’t give you the direct answer that you are soulfully searching for, it might just be because it is my job AND it is an insult to those who are actually paying me for that information.

On the other hand, it might just be because you asked a truly stupid question. How do you get “jacked, stacked, ripped, strong and sexy” like me? You do what I’ve done for the last 18 years…train your butt off, eat, sleep, sacrifice, and never stop learning. Not a month or a year or even a decade! Nothing came in a bottle, a tub, a jar, a piece of clothing, or even between the pages of any book. It came from more DOING than talking!

Election Year

Politics is hot right now as this is an “Election Year” in the U.S.A. and I’m torn if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Comedy-wise it is a GREAT thing. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is never lacking for material these days and this makes me think that there should be some type of major government election going on at this level non-stop…or at least every two years! On the other hand, if I hear one more person telling me about how their Family Values are superior to someone else, I may just split a seam in my 10-ply Kevlar deadlift suit! This person cheated on his wife. This person has eight wives. This person sent a picture of his Johnson to someone who didn’t have a problem with it until it could earn them some cash. This person has eight kids. This person has no kids. This person believes in choice, everyone can marry, legalization of drugs should be a state’s choice…and this person doesn’t. Please…no more!

At a time where everyone wants some form of superiority, the ability to judge others and to tell me what is right or wrong I’d really like to see a lot more DOING and a lot less TALKING. And that brings me to the Bourbon Brilliance I’m about to put in front of you.

Bourbon Brilliance

Get off of the internet. In fact, turn off your modem, your computer, your TV, your heat and even your electricity if at all possible. Unplug and light up! Start up the old fire place one evening a week and make LIFE a part of your life. The first night we moved into our new house we didn’t have a TV, telephone, a stove, microwave or even a bed. I TOLD my wife that she was going with me and I packed enough clothes for a night for all three of us while she was at work. For as long as I live, I won’t forget that first night, December 3, 2010, where we slept by the fire, two adults, one child, and a dog…on two small couches. We ate fire-cooked sausage and tons of bread…and loved every minute of it!

But what am I supposed to eat? I’m on a specific diet at the moment and…seriously? If you are on a serious diet then all of your meals were prepared days ago and all you have to do is defrost them and you are ready to go. Surely you can figure out a way to defrost your food over a fire. On the other hand, tons of food can be cooked over a fire as I’ve cooked a wide array of things over the last several weeks. Sausage (all different kinds), chicken breasts, chicken strips, whole chickens, pork chops, etc. But you need a dozen eggs? Fire will boil water! Put the eggs in a pan with some water and get to work! But you need carbs? Again, most carbs will cook in boiling water: rice, pasta, potatoes and buckwheat.

But it will take HOURS to make the fire, cook, clean, etc? You are exactly right! It takes planning and preparation. You need to make sure that you have a fire place or pit (easy to make with some concrete blocks) that is safe and in good working condition. Wood will be required and since you will be cooking , you will have to take all the food preparation necessary. If you know that Wednesday is Fire Night, then get everything ready during the days leading up to it. Gather some wood, starter fluid and sticks, meat, carbs, fruits and vegetables, drinks, fire safety kit (hey…we all love to get a little crazy with starter fluid), chairs and coats. Make it all part of the process of excitement! Dragging stray limbs from the woods is all part of active recovery, anyway! And HOURS of preparation is a good thing, get the whole family involved in the process. It won’t be perfect the first time, but you will learn how to make it better and better every week. Heck, it could take you HOURS just to cook if you have a small fire place. It could be 30 minutes for the meat, 30 minutes for the potatoes, 30 minutes for the pasta and by this time you are ready for some more meat. It doesn’t matter, as it will be time well spent with family.

No Excuses

But, it’s cold here! Sure it is. And even though it may be much warmer here in Cyprus than wherever you may possibly be, it’s cold to me! All that this means is that you will need to be wearing some warm clothes. Our small fire place doesn’t heat up our entire house. It doesn’t keep the bathroom warm. It doesn’t even get the entire living room warm. You know where it IS warm? Right in front of the fireplace. So, I suggest that you get the entire family some chairs and sit right in front of the fire. What do you do now? You talk. You listen. You tell jokes and laugh. You ask your kids how school went today and learn all the gossip that is going on. Guess what…when you aren’t zoned in on the latest episode of Jersey Shore, you actually have TONS of time to listen, TO REALLY LISTEN. It isn’t just the few minutes a day that you get to connect with your family about how their day went, it's hours and hours of quality family time and reflection.

But, my kids are busy in their rooms doing home work, using their computer, talking on the phone, and watching TV. A few weeks back I saw someone on Facebook complaining about children today and how they spent all their time playing computer games or with a phone attached to their ear. How they were eating junk food, sitting inside, and getting fat. “We weren’t like that back in MY Day.”

Why is that? Because kids go where the parents go! If you want your kids to go outside…GO OUTSIDE! I have a 4-year-old and if you are reading this then you probably already know that I’m his primary caregiver, so the chances are that whatever I’m doing, he is with me. In the summer it is hot here. I really don’t care where you live, unless you live ON the sun, then I’m pretty confident that you have a much milder summer than we do. And we have daily water and electricity cuts to boot…so there is no “we will just sit inside and watch TV in the air conditioning today” around here. We get up and GO! So set an example for your children. Turn off your TV, your cell phone, your internet connection, and take the lead in this great adventure. Let them see your excitement and if they don’t happily follow…what else are they going to do without the heat turned on, no telephone, no TV, no internet? They will get cold and hungry at some point! Save them a chair and some healthy vegetables!

But I’m squatting tomorrow? Great, since you won’t be sitting around all night watching TV or surfing Facebook, you will have plenty of time to cook as much food as you can possibly shove into your face AND get to bed extra early tonight. It actually works out perfect. While you are at it, go ahead and prepare all of your drinks, food, shakes, and gym bag for tomorrow and after the kids have gone to bed, sit down and look at your training program and progress over the last few weeks and months and make some adjustments on paper.

But I have a cold and my nose is running? This is great! Stay bundled up and get up close to that fire. Keep all of your tissues in a giant plastic bag because these are great to get the fire started…or late in the evening when the fire is dying down and you are out of lighter fluid. In fact…I call it recycling! We don’t throw away anything paper here, it is all saved up to keep the fireplace going!


So how does all of this relate to training? It teaches you so much that you should be putting into practice to have serious progress. Listen, Assess, Learn! Plan, prepare, be enthusiastic, learn and listen to those close to you, be responsible, and most importantly – GET RID OF ALL THE CRAP THAT YOU DON’T NEED! This could be distractions in your life or all of the stupid worthless exercises that you are doing in the gym. Or maybe, it could just be that you are spending all of your free time staying “connected” to the internet and listening to people that don’t know a doggone thing about what you are really trying to accomplish. They will convince you that you need that secret magic potion that is conveniently sealed in a bottle, jar, or tub that is going to get you jacked, ripped, huge and strong. They are wrong and they are lying to you. Stop taking advice from someone on the internet that doesn’t use their real name and whose face you can't even see. Do you really want to learn? Learn to listen to yourself! If you don’t have that luxury right now, get in your car and train with a different crew every single weekend until you exhaust every single valuable resource that they can possibly offer you. Listen and learn from that and if you haven’t learned to listen to yourself after a few years of that, you probably never will.

Family Values? Stop listening about family values from someone in a suit and tie with an eight figure income. People talk about "The Good Old Days" and "How It Used To Be." Our grandparents didn’t have central heat and air, or internet, or cable TV, or even TV for that matter! They didn’t drink light beer or eat pre-cut watermelon with an expiration date on the bag. They drank bourbon with an ice cube and peeled their fruit with a CASE pocket knife that they always had with them, for a snack. They walked to the store down the street and waved at people that they knew and called “friends.” They had a garden with tomatoes because it’s nice to put your own tomatoes on a bacon lettuce tomato sandwich in the summer. They went out and met people, talked to people, shook hands, learned and interacted. They taught us things that went beyond “Like or Dislike.” There was no “Right Click and Save Target As” they actually had to pay attention to what they were being told.

They BECAME Family…and THAT was Valued.

But maybe most of all they did it all, just to TEACH US about the importance of listening, assessing and learning. Somehow we got lost in the process. Get rid of all that crap that is holding you back, it’s time to fire it up. If not for you, for all those that come after you.

Now back to my Wild Turkey 8 Year…