Lately, I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “returning to oneself,” or “returning to me.”  I believe the impetus for this was listening to “Barking to the Choir” by Father Greg Boyle.  He often writes about how gang members return him to himself.

This is what relationships are about, then, at least partly.  Us returning to ourselves, remembering who we are in God as He originally intended and created us.  We get into trouble and have conflict and dysfunction when we forget this.  When we forget ourselves, and become, at least temporarily, less than we truly are.

We can get caught up in momentary distresses and disruptions in our lives.  God lets it rain on the good and the evil, the book says, and we can expect to have troubles.  When we allow these troubles to consume and overwhelm us, we run the risk of forgetting ourselves.  (This is not to make light of or under-play real, present, and pervasive circumstances, chronic illnesses, etc)

The results of this are at best discomfiting and at worst disastrous.  When we forget ourselves we get angry, depressed, and mournful.  We fall out of relationship to one another and within ourselves.

During my first two years or so of coaching, I often forgot myself.  I thought that if I could bend the athletes to my way of thinking, to my way of seeing the world, then we would be successful.  This wasn’t about exerting a healthy influence, which we need to do when in positions of leadership.  It was more about command and control, thinking that being somewhat domineering would win they day.

I think mostly I was afraid.  Afraid of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, masking it with control, anger, and sarcasm.  Afraid that they would see me as a phony and an imposter.  Afraid that if they didn’t know I was “IN CHARGE!!”, then all sorts of hell would break loose.

Foolishness, really.  That’s not who God made me, or anyone else, to be.  I think I even knew it at the time.

Now, I let the athletes in more.  Give them some insights into what makes me tick, allow them to see around the corner to what really is.  Let down my guard a bit more, to SEE me.

I might have more on-the-mat success if I acted like an asshole to my athletes.  Or, if I kept a clinical distance from them, maybe we would win championship after championship.  I still struggle with that a bit, wonder and evaluate if the path we are on leads to places that are good and right and true.

What I am certain of is that when I open the crack for them to see me–to really see me–they let me in, too.  We bring one another back to ourselves.  People who were designed to be loving and be loved, to live in solidarity and kinship.

And we can work on the important things in life as well as the game.

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Posted in brains, Coaching, Fitness, Leadership, Life Coach, Martial Arts, mental health, neuroscience, st. michael-albertville, Uncategorized

rub, 2

So, I’ve been listening to the book “Barking at the Choir” by Father Greg Boyle.  If you don’t know much about him yet, look him up.

One of his homies relates the story of how he was abused and tortured as a kid.  From the age of 9, he wore three T-shirts to school.  The first two weren’t enough to cover up the blood soaking through, so he put on a third.  He did this up through much of his adult years, because even after the active abuse stopped, he was ashamed about his scars.

However, this gentleman says, “Now I welcome my wounds.  I run my fingers over my scars.  My wounds are my friends.  After all, how can I help others to heal if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”

I think that’s pretty interesting, and potentially spot-on.  To be honest, I am going to sit with this idea for a while, mull it over, and try not to interfere too much in the process of letting God speak to me about it.  Because it feels like there is something profound there, something simple as well, if I can just see around that corner.

I get that we have will more empathy the closer our experiences are to the experiences of others.  I get that sometimes we need to be in the same sacred spaces as others who have walked similar roads that we have.  I get it.

I also know that in order to love and serve others, I don’t have to have the exact, or sometimes even similar, experience that they do.  My scars don’t have to look like yours do in order for us to embrace one another and to share life together.

I’m just not sure about making friends with the wounds.  About rubbing them with–what?  Affection?  With love?  I’m not sure I am there yet.

But, I want to be.

So, I’m going to sit on this and in this for some time.  Not so much so that it stops me from living my life, or from being healthy.  I’m just going to give this idea room to grow, see where it takes me, if anywhere.


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Sometimes, I will catch myself rubbing an old scar, or scratching a new one, without fully realizing that I am doing so.  My understanding is that rubbing a wound serves to soothe and protect the wounded area from further damage.  When we get hurt, our hands instinctively go to the injured area, again to protect and soothe.

There are times when we will rub or scratch a scar that has faded as well.  We are just so used to rubbing that wound, we keep going to it from time to time.  Our brains haven’t quite let go of this habit we acquired as the wound healed.

I think our psychological wounds can be a bit like this.  When we get hurt, we turn our attention to the affected area, assessing the damage, protecting it from further damage, and then spending time with it as it heals.  This is natural and healthy.

We rub and scratch at these wounds as they heal.  Most of time, these scars fade as well.  If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to function.  I don’t know about you, but there are times when I will find myself picking at an old wound, one that I had perhaps thought was gone for good.

Something can trigger a memory or a feeling that was associated with the hurt.  Rub, scratch.  Sometimes I sit with the memory for a bit, turn it over in my head, and then dismiss it.  Sometimes I just have a thought like, “That’s weird.  Haven’t thought about that in a while.  Huh.” and then it’s done and gone.

Then there are occasions when an old wound will stick around for a while.  It’ll just pop up, presenting itself like it’s brand-new again.  Sights, sounds, smells, noise, even taste can come back and haunt me for a time.  So, there I’ll sit, rubbing away at something that doesn’t exist, or at least isn’t “supposed” to exist anymore.

Thankfully, these are rare for me.  And my circle of tight friends is small and healthy.  My wife is my number-one go to, and she is full of grace and patience.  I have two other tight friends to confide in, and a wonderful mother.  I have a healthy relationship with the Creator.  And, honestly, that’s enough for me.  More than enough.

Once again, this post didn’t end up like I imagined it would.  That’s fine.  Many of you can relate to this, and I hope and pray you have surrounded yourself only with people who have your best interests and your health in mind.


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So, sometimes, I miss “the good ol’ days.” Or at least, I think I do.

The way I grew up in martial arts is a bit different than how it is presented today.  My first training hall had three adornments: The South Korean Flag, The US Flag, and a giant sign that said, “House of Discipline.”  My instructor spoke better Korean than he did English, and he used to carry around a pail with gravel.  Master Park would punch and spear the gravel to toughen up his hands.  He could also do a lot of push ups on his index fingers (no joke).

We trained on a cement floor that was covered with pretty disgusting, thin carpet.  The only pads we used were on our hands and feet, and we were encouraged to wear a cup.  We didn’t ask questions of our Master, and we didn’t laugh in class or we got smacked or kicked out.  It was great.

My best friend at the time was a bit of a trouble maker, except during those classes.  Well, sometimes he tried to get me to laugh so he could see me get punished, but he only succeeded once.  It was amazing how he could turn on and off his behaviors before, during and after class.

At tournaments, we got trophies or medals for First, Second or Third.  Everyone else got the experience of losing.  Our tests for our next belt levels were two or three hours of non-stop work.  Everyone tested in front of our Grandmaster.  If you messed up during the test, you went home.

There are times when my nostalgia affects what I do.  Humans have pretty bad memories, even though we think otherwise.  While we usually get the general idea of past events fairly accurately, we forget much of the nuance.  If I think my students are not listening to me as I would like them to, I tell myself that if I could pound on them a little, or smack them with a broom handle in the shins (yay! good ol’ days!), they would come around.

Which they would, for a short while.  Probably right before their parents took them out of my school and sued me.

Things have changed in the last several decades.  We found out how dangerous smoking is.  We realized wearing seat belts is a good idea.  We reaffirmed that Rock ‘N’ Roll never dies!

We are discovering how our brains respond to pain, fear, and threats.  The thing is, our brains tend to learn better, and retain and use information more readily  when we are calm and in a good state of mind.   When our neural pathways are free and clear of the clutter of fear, anger, hunger, regret, we tend to learn more quickly and retain it.  (We also tend to store abuse and neglect, but that is a different posting)

It feels “good” to say to others that I trained on a cement floor, that we didn’t wear pads, and that our Masters took it to us.  However, I am certain that it was not as harsh as I remember, or I wouldn’t have stayed.  Except for the floor–that carpet-covered cement was nasty.


I am having a bit of difficulty finding a clean ending to this post.  I get that this is one thin  slice of one issue, and there is a lot more to it.  Maybe I will write more about it.

Or not.

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I have a love-“meh” relationship with driving.  When there is little traffic, or when I am able to drive with no particular place to go, it’s wonderful.  Commuting is often a different thing altogether.  I try to turn that into a game, to find the seams in the traffic and get to and through those at a good clip.

I tend to not do this as much when my wife, Christine, is in the car, although I think she secretly enjoys it.  When I get to 90 or so, she sighs and says, “OK, Patrick.”  Yes, I slow down.  Yes, we laugh, even though I drive her nuts.

When I was a teenager, my mother had a classic Fiat Spider convertible.  Because Mom is both generous and likes cars, she let me drive it fairly often.  Because I am her son, and share lots of her genes, my assumption is that Mom knew how I drove that car.

One of things that was most thrilling was to see how fast I could go over the posted speed limit on curves.  My goal was to get 30-40 miles per hour faster than was “safe.”   One memory I have is of going on an on-ramp, where the suggested speed was 35 mph.  I went 70.  That little car was so low to the ground, and the gears shifted to well that it was fairly easy to keep it right on the edge of crashing.

I used to drag race other vehicles as well.  Manual transmissions are great for this, because you get to manipulate to RPMs more so than in an automatic.  It’s just great fun.

When my brother went into the service, he handed me the keys to his 1976 Malibu Classic.  That car hauled!  Since the body was so big and the engine was so powerful, it really didn’t “feel” like you were going 110, 120.  Not that I did that…ahem.

In an automatic, when you punch the gas, there is a slight hesitation before the car begins to accelerate.  Punch it.  Pause.  Go!

This has been on my mind the last couple of weeks.  This season for me feels a bit like that.  The word I keep coming back to again and again is “acceleration.”  I am convicted this is true for the team I coach, and the school I run.  Likely, it’s true for my faith and my family, and my growth as a man of God.

I have been interested in the pause that happens before the acceleration begins.  What the significance of the pause is, what can be found while sitting in that time of quiet anticipation.

A time to either catch your breath or let it out before you go.  A time to pray for discernment and wisdom, faith and favor.  A time to take a look around at what is really going on, before that acceleration kicks in.  A time to make sure obstacles are really out of the way that need to be, and that we’re not missing any signs warning us of danger or destruction.

So, it’s been an interesting place for me to be.  It feels holy, at times disquieting, and pregnant with promise.  There is a visceral quality to it, that longing of almost and not quite yet.  I have a vague picture of what some of the end of this will look like, and look forward to learning the rest along the way.

And, it’s soon.  Very, very soon.  For me, and by virtue of relationship, those in my life who are on the ride with me, who don’t always mind the wind in their hair and can still have the presence of mind to quietly say, “Patrick” when I need to hear that.

We are made for times such as these.  It is time for the pedal to be pushed, for the acceleration to begin.



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Posted in Business, Coaching, Leadership, Life, Uncategorized


Recently I came across this poem by Guillame Apollinaire:

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

I can relate to this.  Likely a lot of you can as well.  This is one thing I want for my children, students, and athletes.   For us to be people in their lives who are able to nurture and challenge those in our care, and to bring them to situations that are daunting but doable.  For them to be people in our lives who respond to us, who walk with us, who will partner with us in their growth.

This is a worthy endeavor.  For them to come to the edge, despite being afraid.  For them to find out that when they get to the edge, and they are pushed in the right way, they will fly.

I’m interested in the transformation that happens in this poem that isn’t noted.  “They” say that they will fall, and “he” invites them to come to the edge again.  And they do.  In my imagination, something wonderful happened between those two points.

They grew in their trust of him.  He pushed and prodded, provided support for them, and  maybe sometimes cajoled them.  Their reticence turned into courage and determination, and they went to the edge.

It’s interesting that they didn’t jump.  They were pushed.  Didn’t think they were ready, were still holding back a little, unsure.  But he knew.  As we often do before our kids do, or our students or our athletes.  We think, “Yes, you’re ready.”  We have insight and wisdom they don’t yet posses.  So we push them over the edge.

And they fly, they soar, sometimes despite themselves.  And, it’s beautiful and breathtaking.



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Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Life, mental health, Uncategorized

soon, 1

Lately I have been thinking about a piece by Marianne Williamson.  I encountered this some twenty years ago, when I was still working in the public schools.  Most of you have read this, from “A Return to Love,” which says:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

We encounter people who seem intent on being thorns in our sides.  The closer we get to breakthrough, the more they seem to come against us.  One of the reasons they do this, I am convinced, is because the dark just cannot stand the light.  It rebels against it, because it hates it.

The dark within ourselves and within others tries to extinguish light.  Success, joy, peace, love–all of these are much harder to come to and sustain than is failure, anger, fear, discord, and hate.  These latter things are deeply rooted in the part of our brain that is the most primitive, and the easiest to access.  My faith speaks to a constant struggle between agents of darkness and light as well.

People who are in a place where they are deeply sad, abused, or are suffering in some other very real and very present way often want to bring others to the place where they currently reside.  Misery loves company in part because misery simply cannot understand a better way.  There are neurological, bio-chemical, and spiritual reasons for this.

And while we are still in the dark, we are being constantly invited to make the choice to move towards the light.

We get to make the choice to understand and use the gifts God has given us for a greater good.  We get to begin to step up.  Our “playing small does not serve the world.”  We get to let our light shine, so others may see it and be affected by it.

I don’t know if our presence “atomically liberates” others.  It’s much harder than that, especially for those who have been living with darkness for an extended period of time.  Often, the first reaction people have to us is to mistrust and show derision.  The dark hates the light.

And, we still have tremendous influence over others around us.  Our presence does affect others.  The way we think about ourselves provides a lens through which we see the world.

There are times when we do need to sit with in what appears to be darkness.  For example, we need to mourn, be sad, experience anger.  We will be frustrated, have set backs, and trip over obstacles and our own feet.  How we exist in those situations and how we come out on the other side of them is determined in large part on how we entered them in the first place.

This post turned out different than I originally had intended.  In some future posts, I will look more in depth about how our light frightens others, and what to do about it.  I think.  For now, I would challenge you to re-read the selection from Williamson, and see how it speaks to you.  I would love to know your thoughts.






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This summer, I spent a great deal of time watching videos and reading books and articles about coaching.  One particular website has struck a chord with me.  “What Drives Winning” features some of the most prominent collegiate, Olympic, and professional coaches in the country.

Jim Loehr is one of the coaches who speaks in What Drives Winning.  I had known about Loehr for a while, and had read some articles and books by him.  Loehr is a one of the preeminent sports psychologists in the world, and has worked with the world’s top athletes as well as Fortune 500 CEOs and Fortune 100 companies.

“Repurposing Sports” is one of the talks he gives.  I have watched it several times, and am incorporating it into my team’s practices this season, especially the part about “who will you become as a consequence of the chase.”  We have discussed it, written about it, and will keep coming back to it.

Take some time to watch the video.  It takes about 20 minutes, and is well worth it.





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Posted in Business, Coaching, Fitness, Leadership, Life, mental health, neuroscience, Uncategorized


I was having a conversation last night with a gentlemen for whom I have a great deal of respect.  He mentioned that I haven’t posted in a while, which of course is true.  I said some self-deprecating things and made a couple of excuses.  And, here we are.  And, here we go.  Back to posting again.  (Thank you, DP)

I have two Post-It notes placed on the window in my office.  I put them in a spot where, when I look out at the mats, these notes don’t quite obscure my view, but I notice them.  I make a decision to read them before and after I teach and coach.

The first note reads, “How does it feel to be coached by me?”  I stole this from a video series, “What Drives Winning.”  This is a brilliant series with collegiate, professional, and Olympic coaches who give talks and have roundtable discussions.  Look it up on You Tube–it is well worth it.

The other note reads, “Leave them better and happier.”  This is a paraphrase of something Mother Teresa wrote.  I love this quote.  My guess, however, is that a lot of people would have this (or a similar) reaction to it:  “If I make it my goal to leave them better and happier, I will cause them to be weaker and selfish.”

Since when does leaving people better and happier leave them weaker and more selfish?    It seems to me that many coaches believe that if they show kindness and compassion, their athletes will take advantage of them or will perform worse.

Neurologically, of course, this is bullshit.  Our brains and bodies are more apt to be receptive to learning and to retain that learning when we are in a “good place” mentally and emotionally.  Our brains are always looking for the simplest state of being.  They do not want to work very hard, and it simply will not compete agains itself.  The most primitive state our brains can be is in fear or survival mode.  When in those states, learning is hampered or doesn’t happen at all.

Anger overrides fear, and there is a place for it.  Because one of our primitive responses when scared is to freeze, sometimes we need to have anger “unfreeze” us into action.  That being said, repeated exposure to anger, to sarcasm, to belittling words and phrases, both conditions us to become numb to those words, and to shut down neurologically and consequently in performance.

And, it takes a lot more self-discipline to leave someone better and happier than it does to coach through fear, anger, and threats.  Those are easy–almost the easiest thing our brains can do.  Coming from a place of kindness and goodness is really hard to do on a consistent basis, until it becomes a habit.

The question, “How does it feel to be coached by me?” can be altered and applied to different aspects of our lives.  How does it feel to be married to me? How does it feel to be parented by me?  How does it feel to be my friend?  How does it feel to be “bossed” by me?

I hope it goes almost without question that if, after every encounter we have with others, we left them better and happier, we would change the world.  For those of you who just had a reaction that was similar to, “Yeah, right, dude,” I would sit for that a while.  Examine why you had that reaction, and do something about it.

So, how are you leaving people?

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Posted in Life, Life Coach, world taekwondo academy



I wasn’t much for Statistics class in Graduate School.  The professor was a kind gentleman from Korea, with a very strong accent and a stronger mind.  He was funny, approachable, and a terrible teacher.  For some reason, he related each of his statistical models to studies or correlations for Viagra.

This was in the late 1990’s, so maybe using the Viagra model was shiny and new for him. Or, maybe he forgot we were all graduate students and not sophomoric young men.  I believe my final grade for that class was a B (might have been a C).  Thankfully, he graded on a curve, because my actual final percent in that class was 37.  Really.

I liked looking at scatterplots, even though at the time the method to create scatterplots hurt my brain.  I could interpret data quite well.  Constructing data, especially from disparate pieces of Viagra, I mean information, was another story.

Lately, I have been thinking about how scatterplots look.  How at first glance they can appear to be chaotic and disconnected dots, with no relationship with the other dots on the graph.  As you likely know, as the scatterplot is studied and interpreted, the dots have relationship to one another and to some larger thing.

Thinking can be a lot like a scatterplot.  Not the actual physical and chemical process of thinking, but rather thinking in terms of a metaphysical and existential pursuit.  How we look at various aspects of our lives or the happenings in the world, and they might seem to have little or not connection to other aspects and happenings.

But, upon closer examination, they likely connect.  How what I choose to do today can be connected to and influenced by what you do today.  How the choices we make and beliefs we hold are closer in relationship to one another than we likely know.

It’s not as obvious as Viagra.  It’s not always on the surface and readily seen.  And, I would challenge us to keep looking for connections in seemingly random and disparate events and relationships.

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Posted in brains, Coaching, Life, mental health, neuroscience, Taekwondo, Uncategorized
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