Kwanzaa

Happy Kwanzaa! For those that don’t know the origins of this holiday, Dr. Maulana Karenga created this seven day celebration back in the 1960s, as an alternative to the commercialized (and financially stressful) Christmas holiday. Before I go on, it’s important to note that every year trolls on social media feel the need to point out the faults of Karenga as a person. This post is in no way my endorsement of the man, this post is about the ideals of this holiday. Further, please be sure to ignore anyone who scoffs at Kwanzaa as a “made up holiday” because most holidays are made up. Kwanzaa created an opportunity for black families to celebrate with, and in honor of, their communities. Kwanzaa gifts have always been hand-made by the giver. I’m sharing the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) of Kwanzaa, with my own perception of each.

December 26th, Day 1: Umoja (Unity)-With each year, this day means something different to me. In this moment, I’m honoring the unity of lasting friendships. I’ve heard people say that former lovers shouldn’t be friends. Some say, “If we weren’t friends before we became lovers, why would we be friends after our affair ends.” I say, “The love we experienced during our time together should have created a bond deeper than friendship. If it didn’t maybe it wasn’t love.” Please celebrate unity any way that you see fit. Embrace your lovers, friends, family, neighbors, et al. Remember that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

December 27th, Day 2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination). This principle has always held special meaning for me. My first coach (my brother Johnny) taught me that motivation has to come from within. No one will ever care about your progress in this life as much as you should. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what his message meant to me. Take some time and find your inner motivation, drive, determination, and focus it in the direction that suits your goals. While motivation is important, discipline is always greater than motivation. Motivation helps you to write the plan, discipline keeps you on the path. Self-determination is not to suggest that you should forget about your community. I’m just suggesting that you honor your path before you help others, you know like positioning your oxygen mask first before helping the other people on the plane. Further your knowledge, strengthen your body, fortify your mind, and engage your spirit. #TreatYoSelf with determined strength in lieu of things and possessions.

The lyrics in this song could sum up this principle. “Life without knowledge is death in disguise.” – Talib Kweli

December 28th, Day 3: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)-Seize the opportunity to build/maintain your community. Gather up your family, friends, and neighbors to put your effort where your heart is. Have you ever said/thought, “I love this city/town/neighborhood?” If so, put in some collective work to show that you love it. When was the last time that you put on some gloves and picked up trash on your block? Have you ever referred to a place as a “bad neighborhood” despite it being a few blocks from your own? (Think Nob Hill’s proximity to the TenderLoin.) Make an effort to clean it up! No, don’t try to go all crime fighter and clean up the streets like a vigilante. Take some time and volunteer with organizations that already have systems in place. If all of this feels like too much to tackle in the remaining hours of the day, think bigger. Ujima can be embraced all year long.

December 29th, Day 4: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)-This principle should hold special meaning for any that have found themselves frustrated with big business and consumerism. Supporting your locally-owned/operated businesses within the community is an ideal way to celebrate this principle. I’ve noticed a lot of small businesses opening in the past year, especially here in Oakland. If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “I loved [insert community-based, locally-owned place] but they closed down.” Ask yourself, how often were you at their counter? How often did you tell friends about that place? It’s time that all small businesses thrive with our cooperative help.

December 30th, Day 5: Nia (Purpose)-Celebrate by insuring that our collective vocation is working towards building up our community. As always, think bigger and think beyond the day. Throughout the weeks, months, and all of the coming year challenge yourself to be a part of a collective that works with purpose to build (or re-build) the global community. If you’ve ever sat at your job and asked yourself, “WTF am I doing here? Is there a purpose to my work?”, make a change. Find a drive more significant than salary, what’s your intrinsic motivation? Whether it be your hustle, your job, or your career. Work with nia. Work with purpose.

December 31st, Day 6: Kuumba (Creativity)-I’m grateful that most of my friends embrace this principle throughout the year without a reminder. Since this is the last day of the year, let your creativity shine in any form you see fit. Release your self-limiting thoughts (stop saying, “I’m not very creative/artistic” and just create in your own way). Get out of your own way as you show the world your creativity. Dance, sing, exercise, eat, make art, make poetry, make love, and most importantly, pay it all forward. Take this day of creativity and find a way to gift your creative efforts to someone you love or someone you’ve never met. It’s pronounced Koo-oom-bah, let it live and thrive within and around your life.

January 1st, Day 7: Imani (Faith)-I see a strong example of faith on this day, every year. January 1st is a day that people (in my scope of experience) tend to be the most optimistic. I recognize imani in every proclamation of “this is going to be my year”. My challenge to you is to keep holding on to that optimism, not just today, but as the year progresses. Think about your words and proclamations to end the old year. Whenever I hear “fuck this year” or “sooo ready for this year to be over” all I hear is nothing worth honoring happened to you in the past year. Please don’t focus on all of the undesirable from the old year while talking about how good the new year will be. Otherwise, you’ll end up making the same jeer/cheer speech every year. Break the cycle and have some faith that there is good shit all around. Focus on these magic moments IN the moment and it will be easier to look back on the beautiful highlights of the old year. I know that everyone experienced the old year in a different way. Tragedies, evictions, crimes, unemployment, and general fuckery will happen. The concept of “good” or “bad” are a matter of perception. When I reflect on this past year, I don’t see it as a good or a bad year. I think about all of the growth and lessons and my perception chooses to label this past year as a chapter in my life. I learned a lot, made mistakes, grew in some ways and stayed the same in others. The year was not good or bad, it was just a passing of time. I will not vilify a calendar. When I think about the coming year, I have optimism/faith/imani that I will continue to learn and grow. Lessons and growth through experience are worth a bit of imani. Happy Kwanzaa!

#kwanzaa #motivation #NguzoSaba #imani #faith #nia #purpose #BlackStar #BlackPeople #Holiday #Christmas

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Striptease and Athletic Endurance Events

This is a post for anyone who watches a burlesque performances and thinks, “I can do that!” Well, it’s not as simple as just shaking a pelvis in the general direction of strangers. Besides, have you ever watched someone finish a Marathon and just flippantly claim, “I can do that!” Well, Burlesque and endurance events have more similarities than many might think.
 
I dance, therefore, I am an athlete. I am an athlete, yet I also dance. Whether I’m training for an event or rehearsing for a show, there are some similarities between the two worlds.

The Costume Is More Important Than You Think
 
On stage, your costume will help tell the story of your performance piece just as much as, in some cases more than, your choreography. You’ll spend time, money, and creative energy making sure that it fits right, looks great, and tells the story you want. As a burlesque performer, part of the fit is making sure that it comes off at just the right time and in just the right way. You don’t want to ruin the tease with a surprise reveal!

On the field, your costume will show your allegiance with its flags or color scheme. There will also be messages of love and support to/from your crew. Maybe a patch sewn in to remind you that you’re hoping to win this competition for a loved one who passed away or an injured teammate. You’ll spend time, money, and creative energy making sure that it fits right and keeps you warm/cool/dry when you need it most.

The Audience Is Your Fuel

On stage, making eye contact and flirting with the audience as you tease them into a frenzy is crucial to a burlesque performance. The louder they scream, the stronger your adrenaline will pump.

On the field, not every sport has an audience. As a distance runner, you’ll find yourself on mile 10 with no voice other than the one in your head or the voices in your headphones. But, even as a runner, hearing people cheer you on as you near the finish line will help you to sprint when you thought there was nothing left in the tank. If you’re the partner of someone who is an athlete, supporting them as their biggest cheerleader means more than you can ever know.

Rehearsing & Training

For the stage, even if it’s not a scheduled rehearsal time, you’ll find yourself listening to the music for your act in the car, on the train, at home, and anywhere there are speakers. You go over the steps and the reveal in your head only to constantly tweak and adjust the performance up until the moment you set foot on the stage.

Training for the field could mean weights, cardio, massages, nutrition, the list goes on. Your life has been consumed by this event for which you’ve committed. Even when you sit still, you salivate at the thought of crossing the start line.

Prep Time vs. Event Time

Prep time for a stage performance could take weeks or months. There’s costuming, choreography, and nerves to manage. Once the song begins on night of show, it’s all over in six minutes or less.

Prep time for an athletic event could take six-nine months of training. Once the start has been signaled, it will all be over in a few hours.

Food On Event Day

When taking the stage, no one wants to dance with that full feeling. I normally eat something light before a performance and have food backstage for afterwards. Some people have trouble eating the entire day before performing due to nerves.

When prepping for race/competition day, no one wants to compete in an athletic event with that grumbling belly feeling. But, you never want the wrong thing in your belly either. I once made the mistake of eating pasta for breakfast before a 10 mile run. I’ll spare you the gory details. I’ll just say, “never again.”

Exhaustion
 
On stage, thanks to adrenaline, I never feel tired during a performance. When I come off stage, I can barely speak. Sometimes I’m breathless, sometimes I’m shaking, and sometimes I’m crying.

Off the field, after the event. I’ve cried after crossing some finish lines. Shaking, breathless, tears of joy as I silently celebrate my accomplishment.

Mental Fuel: The Importance of a Mantra

One of the first homework assignments that I assign to clients is to create a training mantra. I’ve found that some people are unfamiliar with the word, so I wanted to share what a mantra is and why it’s important to have one for many aspects of life (not just fitness). A self-talk mantra can aid in fitness training, sexual kung fu, anger management, changing our relationship with food, or even breaking an addiction.

A mantra can act as a reminder to keep going. A short, rhythmic, and positive line of self-talk that encourages you to stay on the path to your goal. Goal setting is about knowing what you want. Discipline is about remembering what you want. A mantra should be your own. It’s fine to borrow someone else’s mantra. But, it’s important that your mantra be anchored to you and your path. Here’s a recipe for creating your own mantra.

Short Keep your mantra simple. Anything longer than a haiku becomes a recital and it will feel like you’re reciting an oath. While that may be fine for your evening recap in the bathroom mirror, it can become mentally taxing during an activity that requires more of your concentration.

Rhythmic Meghan Trainor’s songs are popular because they’re catchy. I’ve never downloaded a single track, but, I can sing along with the chorus because they’re all over the radio and played in every store/restaurant. Those simple rhymes // don’t require much of my mind // I repeat them in time // and say them line after line. Do the same when you create your mantra. Most people know the old anger management mantra: “Pins and needles // needles and pins // A happy me // is a happy me // that wins.” When I began anger management my mantra was rudimentary. “I don’t want this anger, I want love.” Over the years, it has evolved into something of a drinking toast. “Kiss your partners // kiss your friends // Make sweet love // and love again // No matter what trouble the world is in // as long as we love // love will win.” I’ll drink to that!

Positive The runner’s reading this post may have heard the old mantra, “the faster I run // the sooner I’m done.” While that may be true, “sooner I’m done” creates a negative association with an activity that is (or at least should be) making you feel better. Running isn’t for every body. But, if you’ve committed to embracing the activity, do it for the love of your body, mind, and spirit. Create a mantra that reinforces the positive association with your activity. This can also help when attempting to change your relationship with food. When I think about my comfort foods (usually filled with refined sugar) I think about desire. So, in changing my relationship with food and ridding my diet of refined sugars, I ask if I want that thing or if my body needs it for nourishment. I believe in eating what you want. I don’t believe that our wants should always go before our needs. So, if you want to drink Diet Coke, you’re an adult and you should do as you wish. Once you start drinking more Diet Coke than water, your kidneys will hate you. My self-talk reminds me to “give my body what it needs” and that mantra helps me to eat real food that will keep my body from breaking down.

How? 1.) Don’t put too much conscious thought into it. You’re not writing a keynote speech on neurological disorders. You’re not even writing a mantra. You should create your mantra. 2.) There’s no wrong way to do it. It may come to you from a song lyric. It’s your mantra, create it any way you choose. 3.) Make sure that your mantra ties into why you’re on this path to accomplish this goal. There’s no better reminder to keep going than to repeat to yourself why you took that first step in this direction.

Why? “Jet, I’m the shit. I am the bee’s knees. Why do I need to create a mantra? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I’m sure that you’re stellar at what you do. Nina Hartley and Peter North want to honor your skills in the bedroom with a lifetime achievement award at the next AVN convention. However, I’m sure there are times when you’ve felt tired and somehow found your “second wind” in order to keep going. While I’ve read several studies* regarding our brain determining our level of fatigue before our body, none of those articles have been in a scientific publication. That’s my disclaimer. A little bit of Anatomy & Physiology understanding will point out that our brain will stop us from physically harming ourselves. Therefore, it is good to train smart instead of hard. Let me be clear, don’t be the jack ass that pushes too hard, gets hurt and needs an ice pack on your junk after sex. Afterwards, don’t try to blame the Kama Sutra because you skimmed the pages. Don’t workout until you pass out and try to blame Crossfit Culture. Jebediah Crossfit didn’t make you over train. I read an article in the Hindustan Times entitled, “Thought Boost” about how mantras kept athletes going longer. I’ve had personal experience with self-talk mantras aiding in my sexual kung fu practice, staying calm in high anxiety situations, and even staying alert after a long day-creating my own second wind.

Sit down, stand up, move around, embrace the words that will keep you on your path. “I’m not creative.” That’s an excuse. “I tried to create a mantra, I just can’t.” That’s a bullshit excuse. “I’ll be fine without a mantra.” Perhaps you will. You could be good at what you do. There will come a time that you’ll want to step up from good to great. At that time, you’ll want to do things differently. A mantra will help you to honor your physical strength and guide your mental strength. Physical and mental strength are tightly intertwined. Anyone can do the thing, be the one to do it smarter, be the one to do it differently. #GetUp

*Studies are hard to believe when no references are cited. Don’t believe everything you read, do your own research through scientific sources or your own trial and error when it’s safe to do so.

Start Where You Are

My first dance with self-doubt happened when I had 11 years and my favorite rap group, the Fat Boys, had released their movie “Disorderlies” on VHS! I wanted to watch it. But, my brother’s room was the entire basement and he held control of the big screen TV and VCR. So, I had to ask for big brother’s permission. Staying true to the asshole big brother/jock stereotype, he wouldn’t allow me to watch the movie unless I did one push-up. Just one? No problem! I tried. I failed. Problem. I was convinced that this was an unreasonable request and that I’d never watch the movie. I struggled for what felt like an hour to do that one goddamned push-up. When I was done, he kept his word and we watched “Disorderlies” and it was ridiculous. He was sure to point out that the test wasn’t to prove to him that I could do the push-up. The test was to prove it to myself. I didn’t really know how to process that at such a young age. It wasn’t until I began to notice the direct correlation between people’s abilities and their use of positive language that I understood. Flash forward to a high school weight room with strong teenagers encouraging each other to lift more than the last set. All of the language was positive in that room. There was no “can’t” language spoken in that weight room. I learned to stop saying, “I can’t do [blank]!”, just because I was never given the building blocks or coaching techniques to do so. Instead, I learned to ask for help. Here’s my challenge to you. Don’t say that you can’t just so that you’ll have an excuse not to try. Here’s my challenge to you. Speak/Think about what you can do and use that positive momentum to build. “Yeah, but Jet, I haven’t been doing push-ups since I was 11!” So what, start today with no regrets of when you did/didn’t start. As long as ambition exists, don’t try to convince yourself that there’s no way something can be done. What would your average day feel like if you replaced every can’t with a can?

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

Ambition: A Fear of Mediocrity

Ambition is the fear of mediocrity. Ambition is the fear of being mediocre. You can apply this mantra to many aspects of your life. Fitness training: Did you put on your snazzy minimalist running shoes, moisture wicking shirt, and hustle to your favorite fitness class or training session just to put forth a mediocre effort? No. You didn’t. Don’t just show up, put in the work and reach your goals. Career path: Did you work over time and sacrifice your personal life to hate your job as it subtly sucks away your soul? The harder you work, the richer you’ll make the owners. You have to honor your gifts and talents by shunning the mediocre path for a path that ignites your fire inside. Educational efforts: Did you pay all of that tuition just for a class average curve or would you rather excel and learn something? Be afraid of the class average, embrace ambition and be a better student. Romantic efforts: Was there ever a time when you looked at your partner and thought of how lucky you were to have her/him in your life? Do you honor that lucky feeling with mediocre effort or do you express your love in ever-evolving ways? Steer clear of the mediocre love path. The path of ambitious love will help you to treat your partner the way THEY want to be treated instead of treating them the way YOU want to be treated.

You should be afraid of “good enough”, “getting by”, “just fine”, “alright”, and other synonyms for mediocrity. Step up and deliver more. I want to be clear. I’m not suggesting that you change your expectations of others. Don’t be that prick that expects above/beyond mediocre from other people after reading this post. When it comes to how we see others, tensions would ease up if we all chose to love more, judge less. That applies to how we feel about ourselves as well. Shunning mediocrity isn’t about judging ourselves harshly because any aspect of our lives is “normal” or status quo. That’s not what this post is about. I’m planting a seed that I hope to grow into a tree of stronger efforts from any and all who read this. What if good enough was no longer good enough? What if we tried harder by working smarter? What if we reduced the peripheral noise, static, drama, beeps, and buzzes from our lives in order to be better at the things we’re passionate about? Embrace your ambition. Step away from the crowd. Everyone has something that sparks their fire. Determine what that something is for you and burn, brighter.

Common sense disclaimer. Every corpse on Everest was once filled with ambition. Don’t be a dumbass. Use your ambition to improve the world, not to stroke your fucking ego. The pic you see of me sky diving was my own search for an adrenaline rush. I don’t (usually) take pics of my philanthropic efforts. Peace.

Placebo Training

By the time you read this, I will have just returned from the Dominican Republic. In order to allow time to adjust back to real life, this is a re-post for your enjoyment. This was originally posted on February 18, 2013. I’ve made some edits for modern times.

Sunday morning, I decided to run a 10K, two laps round Lake Merritt in Oakland. Normally, I just run once round. But, I had some demons to shake off, so I set my RunKeeper app for a 10K goal and I began the run after doing some push-ups. I felt the blood pumping before my stride began. It had been two weeks since my last run. So, around mile two, I still hadn’t hit my rhythm. I kept pushing through it, thoughts scattered, lacking focus, then I caught a glimpse of orange in my peripheral vision. “Oh, this dude wants to pass me”, I thought. “I need to run faster and this ‘running partner’ has been sent here to motivate me”, was my second thought. My final thought was to run faster, smile and say thank you to whatever cosmic running coach sent this running partner to challenge me.
Orange shirt ran with me, pushing me to run faster as his pace was equivalent to mine, for about a mile and a half. Realistically, he probably never even realized that he was my source of motivation. We never spoke, we never engaged. I imagined that he was there to light a fire under my heels. Around mile 4, his run was done and mine still had 2.2 before completion. So, even though, I turned and realized that he had stopped running altogether, I imagined an orange shirt challenging me to run stronger up to the very end. There are times when faux medicine cures symptoms when we are told that it will. There are times when we are sent the motivation that we need because we believe that the ego stroke of winning will help to shake off the demons. I call it placebo training and you can write your own prescription. What do you need to see, hear or connect with in order to get you to push beyond your perceived limitations? When you’re lifting weights alone, do you imagine someone you trust spotting/encouraging you? When you’re on a long ride, do you imagine that you’re in competition with the other cyclists on the hill? When you go for a run, do you try to catch up to the pair of shoes in front of you only to run faster and try to catch the next pair of shoes beyond that? What’s your placebo for challenging your body through the power of the mind?

That’s your challenge for the week. You’ve often heard me suggest that you create a training mantra. I still encourage that. (Think of a set of rhythmic, positive words that – when repeated – will help you conquer any obstacle, with your mind. Your body will soon follow.) This week, I want you all to practice your visualization techniques. See the person motivating you, make it real and break through your previous limitations. Set some new personal records. Motivation is all around us, it comes in all forms. It’s our perception that differentiates between obstacle and opportunity. Tap into the abundant motivation that the world has to offer and take flight. Giddyup!

Any of you that have trained with me, one-on-one, know that I don’t listen to excuses. There is always a way to reach your goals. Watch this 2m:30s video and remember, YES. YOU. CAN.