Friday, June 19, 2015


Talking about a workshop for next year and the host asked a great question: "What are you passionate about right now?"

Some background. Personal information. Feel free to skip it. Something very profound has shifted internally over the winter. Last year there was a lot of travel, a lot of teaching, and I was getting really burned out on people. Simply hating the whole world. Didn't want to talk or interact. Just wanted to find my cave in the desert and walk away from it. But I have obligations (mortgage and a wife I love dearly who really likes living in a house.)

And so, this year, even more traveling and teaching. But I'm not burning out. I'm loving it. I'm coming home rested and only slightly irritable (people in airports wandering aimlessly like zombies still make me irritable, but not nearly as much.) So something shifted, and I think the host nailed it.

Even before leaving the SO and the team and eventually Iraq, I was pretty heavily burned out. I was good enough at what I did that it took immense discipline to work to get better. I'd never realized how much fear (especially of failure or letting down the team) had motivated me. When the adrenal glands started to burn out, so did the motivation. I went to Iraq because I was looking for fear. Decided to go into business for myself, giving up financial security, because I was looking for fear. I feel like I want to define fear here, because I'm pretty sure I'm not using it in the normal sense. But I can't. It's just that I do best in conditions of danger + uncertainty. Those are the times when I feel like I am really me. The only times.

End of background for now.

Three things immediately popped to mind when asked about current passions: InFighting, Teaching Methodology and Power Dynamics. And there's an element of fear to each of them.

  • InFighting is the thing I love best about martial arts. It's not self-defense, because it's not about prevention or escape. It's about maximizing internal integration and your ability to play with complexity. It's a blast. The fear element? This knee injury could or should have been a career ender. We all have expiration dates, and those come up quicker the more you push the envelope. I want to play more with what I love-- and get the information out-- while I'm still capable of enjoying it. That's the current physical challenge. As well as rehab and reconditioning a body that I let stay too injured for too long.
  • Teaching Methodology. This is the intellectual challenge. SD is a unique skill with unique problems. The only good way (modeling with experienced people under real conditions) to translate these kind of skills from training to application is simply not available for civilians. So how well and how fast can it be taught? 
  • Power Dynamics. Started as something simple, trying to hammer out the good and bad power relationships in a martial arts or self-defense class. But it got a lot bigger, and a lot of what I'm seeing, on a societal level is pretty disturbing.
So, things are changing and it might be as simple as passion. And passion might be as simple as fear. It's all just adrenaline anyway, until you name it.


Charles James said...

I believe once you said you were an "Introvert." If so, like all introverts, you do have to have "Recharge Time." I don't know with your schedule if you get that or not but for me recharge means going solitary, i.e., like the "Fortress of Solitude" where you get away from other humans completely for a while. If you are not feeding the introversion in you then burn out could arrive a lot faster but I am not sure about that with you since I don't really know you outside your books and blogs, etc. Just mentioning it although as smart as you are I suspect you already know that anyway.

Josh K. said...

Good to hear! And can't wait.


ann said...

There's a sports medicine physical therapist named Kelly Starrett who's written a good (but rather goofily named) DIY manual: Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. I've found a number of his techniques quite useful for repairing some of the terrible things I've done to my body in my own pursuit of adrenaline, which is apparently accompanied by a lot of dopamine...

He has plenty of critics with legitimate arguments, as he says some things that conflict with the currently accepted pain model in western medicine and he has drunk of the Crossfit Kool-Aid, but I'm a pragmatist and grateful for anything that helps me move painlessly and well. You might check it out if you haven't already.

I've put your Infighting video on my list of things to check out. Is it only available on DVD? I'm sure we still have that technology around the house somewhere, but I hate collecting things in meatspace that aren't books and would rather just pay for a download. Also, more money to you and cut out the middleman.

Anonymous said...

I have recently come to realize - and maybe partially accept - that it's not just that I'm good in a crisis, but that I may be bad without one ... Every step I've ever taken to slow down and avoid the maelstrom has been the wrong one. The trick is in making sure that the crisis of one's own making is at least worth the wear and tear - that it helps someone or advances a worthy cause or, at minimum, makes for a good ride. Here's to fear, and challenge, struggle, risk. If it's the kind that doesn't involve losing a knee, that's cool, too.

As for power dynamics, I'm a bit of a living laboratory on that one. I look forward to hearing where you land with it.

Scott Park Phillips said...

Hmmm... so are you a worrier or a warrior?

I need a t-shirt that says this: "It's all just adrenaline, until you name it." Seems like a good slogan to have embossed over the judge in court rooms. Or perhaps in birthing centers.

I know I have the same gift/problem. But I don't think it can be separated from daily rituals. There are things that keep me sane and things that keep me insane. As if there is a potential for things to go toward totally undifferentiated chaos in moments of absolute stillness. "Beautiful music and delicious food, cause the traveler to stop. Words about the Dao are insipid and bland."--Laozi

Unknown said...

Power dynamics. I think you would get a lot of of Johnstone's "Impro" if you haven't read it. Don't be deceived by the fact that it's about acting, it taught me more about power than anything else I've read.