Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Mr. Miyagi Guide to Practice

Recently, the organization I work for hired a new videographer/storyteller. As soon as she started, I told her, “I want you to ask permission any time you do something on your own. In other words, you’re handcuffed to the team.”

At first, she didn’t understand this. But eventually, I explained the point of the exercise. She’s incredibly talented and has always worked on her own. So I wanted to teach her the importance of working with a team.

When I finished explaining this, she said, “Oh. So you’re going to Miyagi me?” Exactly.

Wax on, wax off
Remember that scene from The Karate Kid, in which Mr. Miyagi made Daniel-san wax his car? (What — you’ve never seen that movie?! Shame on you. Go watch it now. It’s a classic!)

The point of the exercise wasn’t to teach Daniel how to buff. It was to teach him the fundamentals of his craft.

So Daniel spends weeks doing this repetitive, boring task. Over and over again. Until finally he can’t take it anymore. He didn’t sign up for this. He wanted to learn Karate. He wanted to be awesome. And this felt like a waste of time.

But then Miyagi shows him what he’s been doing has been preparation for all the cool moves he’s going to learn. In fact, he’s already learned them — without realizing it.

Daniel learns an important lesson here. And so do we when we commit ourselves to the work, not just the fruit:

There is no awesome and mundane. There is only the work that must be done.

Want to learn guitar? Get a baby…
Our son was born four and a half weeks early. There were no medical complications (thank God), but he was pretty fussy when we brought him home from the hospital.

We quickly learned the best way to get him to take a nap was to play guitar and sing him a song. Now, this is our default reaction to his tears.

Have an uncontrollable, sobbing baby? How about a little early 90s pop punk? (Our boy prefers The Ataris… as he should.)

For over a year, I neglected playing the guitar. I told myself it was because I was a writer, not a musician. But secretly, I missed it. I felt bad for not taking it as seriously as I used to.

I told myself I’d pick it back up… some day. Little did I know, a crying baby would help me out.

Fast forward five months, and I’m back. My callouses have returned, and my voice is the strongest it’s ever been. Was I trying to get better? Of course not; I was trying to make a baby go to sleep.

Really, I was just going through the motions. Turns out, that’s all practice is.

What we learn from this
There are three lessons we learn from this Miyagi-style teaching:
Sometimes, practice doesn’t feel like practice.
You’re practicing even when you don’t realize it.
All of life is practice — even the boring parts (in fact, especially the boring parts).
So the question is: What are you practicing right now? Is it a legacy you’d be proud of?

Whatever you’re doing, don’t believe the lie that says you’re doing nothing. No, friend; you’re practicing something. It’s just a matter of how intentional you’re being.

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Do you have to blame anyone?

A boy was born to a couple after eleven years of marriage. They were a loving couple and the boy was the apple of their eyes.
When the boy was around two years old, one morning the husband saw a medicine bottle open.
He was late for work so he asked the wife to cap the bottle and keep it in the cupboard.
The mother, preoccupied in the kitchen, totally forgot the matter.
The boy saw the bottle and playfully went to the bottle and, fascinated with its color, drank it all. It happened to be a poisonous medicine meant for adults in small dosages. When the child collapsed, the mother hurried him to the hospital, where he died.
The mother was stunned. She was terrified how to face her husband.
When the distraught father came to the hospital and saw the dead child, he looked at his wife and uttered just four words.

What do you think were the four words?

The husband just said “I Love You Darling”

The husband’s totally unexpected reaction is proactive behavior.
The child is dead. He can never be brought back to life.
There is no point in finding fault with the mother. Besides, if only he has taken time to keep the bottle away, this will not have happened. No point in attaching blame.
She had also lost her only child. What she needed at that moment was consolation and sympathy from the husband. That is what he gave her.

Sometimes we spend time asking who is responsible or who to blame, whether in a relationship, in a job or with the people we know.
We miss out some warmth in human relationship in giving each other support. After all, shouldn’t forgiving someone we love be the easiest thing in the world to do?
Treasure what you have. Don’t multiply pain, anguish and suffering by holding on to forgiveness.
If everyone can look at life with this kind of perspective, there would be much fewer problems in the world.


Since the beginning of time every living thing has been genetically programmed to procreate in order to continue the species. In the animal kingdom, having sex is the method by which offspring are created and born, thus maintaining each species. This genetic programming includes the highest of the species… man.

You may have heard people refer to the “raging hormones of teens.” That’s because the hormones which genetically kick in during preteen and early teen years are the ones which create the sex drive for both girls and guys; and this causes very new, different, and strong feelings and emotions which you have never felt before.

The end result of all this is that the male of any animal species is programmed to go out and impregnate a female, and that applies to humans as well. At the same time, girls are programmed to be receptive of a mate in order to get pregnant and continue the species. The continuation of the human race, however, is also affected by the intellectual responsibilities of mankind, community morals, religious beliefs, and other factors. Consequently, instead of simply following their animal instincts, humans are separated from the animal kingdom by their high intellect; and they must use this intellect to restrain themselves and take responsibility for their actions rather than just going out and procreating all over the place.

Now this is especially tough on the guys, as that male sex drive is strongest between the ages of 17 and 21.

Girls, on the other hand, have the strongest sex drive during monthly ovulation, that time of the month when you WILL get pregnant if you have sex. This makes logical sense when viewed from the context of evolution. Ovulation is the most fertile phase for women, and increased interest in and responsiveness to sex during this time ensures greater probability of conception and procreation than at other times of your monthly cycle. This increase in sex drive has been attributed to increases in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and generally kicks in anywhere from a few days before ovulation until ovulation is over. So if you don’t want to get pregnant, beware of this heightened desire.

In spite of all this genetic programming, it is not an excuse to allow your animal instincts to overpower your intellect to the detriment of your life and future plans.


The Teenage Brain: Why It’s OK That Teens Just Want To Have Sex, Drive Fast And Act Crazy

Why do some teens drive fast, drink too much and obsess about their social lives? The traditional narrative has been that teens’ brains are a work in progress or “still under construction.” But that’s not the whole story. A recent National Geographic article explored the evolutionary logic of teenage thought, and why thrill-seeking and risk-taking may be beneficial.

In our teens and early 20s, our brains go through changes that make it harder to learn new things but make us better at what we already know. This transformation shows up as a significant but not insurmountable solidifying of brain structure, and while it’s happening teens experience mental and emotional instability. We know that socially this is “a delicate time in a young person’s life,” but it’s true on a neurological level as well. According to a paper published recently in Archives of General Psychiatry, patients with schizophrenia showed a larger loss of gray matter during the adolescent transformation than did healthy subjects.

During adolescence, we respond strongly to the neurotransmitter dopamine and the hormone oxytocin, which influence the brain’s reward systems and empathy, respectively. This helps explain teens’ ‘sensation-seeking,’ whether that comes in the form of daredevil stunts or social climbing. Dobbs notes that “Some brain-scan studies, in fact, suggest that our brains react to peer exclusion much as they respond to threats to physical health or food supply. At a neural level, in other words, we perceive social rejection as a threat to existence.” But insofar as a teen’s social skills determine much of his or her bearing in an adult community later on, social underperformance among prehistoric teens may really have been (almost) life or death.

“Although sensation seeking can lead to dangerous behaviors,” Dobbs says, “it can also generate positive ones: The urge to meet more people, for instance, can create a wider circle of friends, which generally makes us healthier, happier, safer, and more successful.”

This sort of evolution-via-delayed-gratification is far from unprecedented, showing up in the brain development of younger children as well. We know that human brains are relatively underdeveloped in their first years, compared with the brains of other large mammals. But this handicap, too, may have a straightforward evolutionary explanation: in a landmark 1981 paper, L. Godfrey and K.H. Jacobs theorized that if our extremely complex brains were any larger, our skulls wouldn’t fit through the birth canal.

Unfortunately, it’s much tougher to see the long term benefits of our small baby-brains and our emotional teenage-brains than it is to see helpless infants and reckless teens. As long as teenagers make mistakes, we’ll probably continue to think of them as “under construction,” even if we know it’s good for them.