A dream is just a dream, but a goal is a dream with a plan and a due date.  –Harvey Mackay

No matter what the arena: sports, relationships, health or occupation, there is always a point when we have to make a CHOICE about how far we want to go down the road to success.

No matter what the subject, “success” is defined by the achievement of your highest potential. When you find yourself in that moment of choice, remember, you can take the blue pill and keep getting the same results you’ve always gotten – or you can take the red pill and find out just how powerful your potential is.

When you take the red pill, you will be confronted over and over again with the powerful force of your own mind. It can either hold you back or propel you to the greatest heights imaginable. Observe any great athlete; what we see is a result. What we don’t see is the dedication, the hours, the sacrifice and the commitment that went into creating that greatness.

The mind gives up before the body does – if you LET IT. In martial arts training, the consistent practice of combat allows the muscles in the body to develop a foundation of reflexes that take over in moments of pressure. “You can only fight the way you practice” (famed duelist and undefeated samurai Miyomoto Musashi). When you fail, try again. When you fear, keep going. Train your mind for success like you would train your body for combat: with repetitive, directed thought and action in the direction you set your dreams.

One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people is very appropriate in this situation; “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ―Julia Child

Cooking is just like Kung fu. You’d never guess it by looking at me now, but I was stuck in a holding pattern defined by fear for years. Fear of failure or fear of success – they’re ultimately the same thing: limiting. By the time I was 21, I had started to get really, really tired of repeating the same patterns and always feeling like I was exactly where I had been at 16. I wasn’t willing to resign myself to a lifetime of inertia, bad relationships and always wishing things would get better – I knew something had to change!

Just like a lot of people I speak with, I was looking for an answer to a question. My question wasn’t “What is the Matrix,” it was “What am I supposed to do with my life?” The question had gotten so loud I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Once I took the red pill, I never looked back. You may have a different question, and your dreams may be very different than mine. Whatever they are, here’s the play by play of giving them their due.


1. Define what you want.

This is often the hardest part. Answer the following question: If you had 1 year to live, a million dollars and could leave something behind you that people would remember you for, what would you do, and what would it be? I know you can answer that question. How about this one:

Do you really need a million dollars to do that?

Of course not. We’re so trained to think about life as a succession of paying bills and following a prescribed path that the only way we can suspend reality enough to dream as big as we should is when money is no longer an issue.

Why does having only one year make a difference? Your mind will try to protect you from the big scary unknown of your awesomeness potential by telling you things like “It’s not a good time right now,” or “I just need to finish paying off my student loans before I take any big steps.”

Having one year puts it all into perspective. None of your excuses matter at all when measured against the days you have to spend living your life. Don’t let your brain do that to you! Punch fear in the FACE and go to step 2!

2. Set the big picture in writing.

You have to write your goals down. Then they’re real. I use a giant whiteboard and then photograph it so I can refer back to it whenever I feel like I’m wavering (you may have to ninja kick fear many times – it’s normal).

Begin with the big picture – the answers to your question above. You can use a journal, a chalkboard, a whiteboard like me, the side of a building – just write them down. Concretize them in your brain and inscribe them on your soul. You have a purpose in life – your mission is to fulfill it.

3. Strategize.

Break up the big picture into actionable steps that you can focus on in the immediate future. Becoming a martial arts master requires isolated training of different body parts, terrains, styles of combat and mental strategy. You don’t do all of those things in one day. Identify the elements that are necessary to accomplish your goals and set a schedule each of them.

One of the biggest excuse I used to have for not taking the necessary steps toward reaching my goals was “I have too many bills to pay to take the time to work on this.” When I decided to get serious about achieving them, I set up an accelerated bill payoff strategy that included stolen TP from Tim Hortons at one low point, but I made it through.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Yes, you will sometimes make some sacrifices.  And yes, when you get focused, your priorities might not makes sense to anyone but you. That’s just fine – all you have to do is remember how life was before you took that pill and remember the big picture.

4. Give your goals a time frame.

Perturbation, or mental agitation is one of the most important elements in goal-setting that I learned from my good friend  – the Achievement Mentor himself, Tina Hnatiuk.

When setting your goals, give yourself a specific time frame in which you’re going to complete them. It needs to be soon enough that you begin to feel the changes you’re making becoming real, and just long enough to give you time to take care of all of the details.

That pressure will push you to get after it on a Saturday or a Tuesday night instead of watching TV or surfing the internet – exactly the difference that it takes to get you there.

5. Choose your associates and friends with care.

Jim Rohn says it well, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Who we spend our time around greatly influences the direction we take and the attitudes we adopt. We rub off on other people. You have just as much power to influence how someone feels as they have on you.

Align yourself with your goals and it will quickly become clear that the people around you are either furthering your purpose or slowing it down. That might sound harsh, but the bottom line is that sometimes, you’ve gotta trim the fat and spend your energy where it matters most. Clearing some space in your life from anyone who holds you back makes room for the people who will help push you further toward success.

6. Don’t succumb to negative self-talk.

If you saw someone trying to beat their best time in a mile, you’d probably say things like “Go for it!” “Don’t give up!” or “You can do it!” You’d probably even encourage a complete stranger if you saw them putting in a serious effort. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we often have such a hard time applying the same thing to ourselves.

I hear people say things every day that ultimately holds them back from true success. “I’m bad at this.” “I suck at relationships.” “No one would ever listen to me.” We create our own reality. Get out of that self-defeatist mindset and don’t bring yourself down. Remember that your mind is learning the martial art of self-belief and be patient with it; have faith in yourself.

7. Fall down. Get up. Take a bow. Continue. Repeat.

Don’t let the bumps in the road derail you from your purpose. Accept them as part of it and keep going.

Lately I’ve had this personal goal of doing an unassisted handstand. It may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve become somewhat obsessed with it. To make it happen, I’ve been practicing up against a wall and working to build up the strength in my core, back and arms. I’ve fallen out of it multiple times in front of other people, scraped my elbows, jacked up my neck and fallen on my ass.

I could write a book about how many times I’ve fallen on my journey to becoming a Healthy Lifestyle Jedi. Allow me to simply say that the taste of success would never be as sweet without all of the battles I fought to get here. The real lesson isn’t that you will fall, or even that you will succeed (that’s a given). It’s that once you start setting them, your goals are never ending – and neither is your potential.

With Love From the Trench Kitchen,