Don’t let your past define you – a post from 2018

Dear FutureMe,

Today is May 28th, 2018, and it is wet, cold, and cloudy outside.

It will have been 14, 12, and 9 years ago respectively since you all passed away. We were left alone, abandoned, and hopeless. And when we thought we would have relatives or family to shoulder on, no one was there. No, instead we were told we were the reasons why they died, that we were the reasons our parents didn’t raise us well. I never forgot.

But here I am, after so many years, still alive and pushing forward. I’ve shed many tears, endured many hopeless nights, and anguished in so much pain. I thought about ending my life on more than a few occasions because the pain was too much.

And yet, here I am.

In the last decade, I’ve had friendships sour, learned new skills, got married, and took on mixed martial arts (and competed). I thought I had some good connections, made friends at work, and thought I was doing right by the company. Yet, I was still laid off.

And yet, here I am.

To FutureMe, life will suck. It will continue to beat you down, shove you into the corner, and wail at you till you break. But you won’t give in, just like in the gym, regardless of the pain, the blood, the broken bones. You need to see this through, no matter how much life throws at you.

You will cry, be sad, and feel alone. But you will come out of this. And you will try to be a better person for yourself and love the people you currently have in your life.

Remember, life will always suck. But stay happy, be strong, and fight forward. Enjoy the small moments, let it soak in.

And remember, most of all, be yourself. Be happy.

Failure is an option

“When doubt seeps in you got two roads you can take either road. You can go to the left or you can go to the right and believe me, they’ll tell you failure is not an option. That is ridiculous. Failure is always an option. Failure is the most readily available option at all times, but it’s a choice. You can choose to fail or you can choose to succeed. And if we can plant seeds and let him know, ‘Move your feet, keep your hands up, stay off the bottom.’ That is the road to victory, or self-doubt and negative talk, and that is the road to failure. But failure is always there, and it’s okay to recognize that. If I can leave you with anything today, in my long journey through this is, one, it’s okay. Two, it’s normal. And as athletes and especially as men, as male athletes we hate to admit weakness to ourselves, and when you’re dealing with something and you got some kind of a hiccup, yeah, first thing is acknowledge it.” – Chael Sonnen

One of my favorite quotes said by one of the best MMA fighters, and what he says is true. We do have an option to either fail or succeed.

What is failure?

Now, the argument could be made what is failure and what and success. I am of the opinion that failure and success is determined by our own objectives, goals and measures. By that I mean, what do we want for ourselves and not what others want? And are we willing to sacrifice what’s required to accomplish those goals?

For example, a long-term goal and dream of mine was to compete in mixed martial arts. It was a dream I long had dating back to high school where I watched my very first UFC fight, which featured Tito Ortiz against Ken Shamrock. I was mesmerized by it all–the fighting, the martial arts, the dedication and determination, and above all, the fearlessness conveyed by the fighters themselves. Because it really does take a certain kind of person to willingly jump in a cage and get knocked senseless.

Nevertheless, it was something I had to do. I felt it in my heart. But like most things, life hit and that dream was on hiatus. But fast forward to December 2012, I had an epiphany. If I were ever going to accomplish this dream, this goal, it was either now or never.

So I took the plunge. I trained day in, day out for years; sparred hundreds of hours and learning a variety of martial arts. When the day finally came that I would be fighting, I was both eagerly excited and frightened.

Why fear can be motivating

But that fear is what drove me. Fear can be a good thing. The fear of failing drove me to train hard, training anywhere from 18 to 24 hours per week on top of a full time job. I knew this is what it would take for me to achieve success.

I ended up winning that fight. But the win wasn’t what got me excited; it was the countless amount of hours training, sparring and weight cutting that showed me who I am. It made me realize I could do this. That if I could do this, everything else is possible.

Those looking to realize their dreams and goals

So for anyone who’s looking to set out new goals and are worried about failure, put every dedication into your goal. Create a game plan, track every step, and you’ll be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Because nothing is worse than doing nothing at all.


Dear Me: Self-reflection

Dear Me,

You’ve experienced many things in your life, you’ve endured things you hope no one else will have to, yet you’re here still. Yes, you are still here, breathing and soaking in the sun and the chilled breeze.

Remember those times growing up as a kid wondering, “Is this normal? Do all families go through this”? Remember those times when you thought you couldn’t amount to anything because, well, no one believed in you. All you were taught was to get good grades, but there was never a goal in it.

As you sit here, typing out this post, you reflect on your life and picture those dreadful days. “Did I think I would be here today”? Of course not, you didn’t have any reason to believe.

But here you are, standing strong and proud, weathering all that life has thrown at you. You were kicked on the ground constantly, begging for life to stop. But as the kicks came coming, somewhere deep down, you realized those kicks would never stop coming. So you decided in that moment – it’s time to take charge of my life.

You decided in that pivotal moment in your life that you – and only you – could make a difference in your life. That the only person who would care the most about you would be you. So you took the time to reflect and ask, “Who am I, where am I going, am I happy, what life do I want for myself, and what will my future kids and family see in me”?

In that reflection, you wrote everything down, both good and bad. You saw that you had many flaws, but also that you had many things to be proud of. But seeing everything on paper made you realize something – you had a choice. That you could right the ship, that you could be someone different, that you could make an impact on those world. That you didn’t have to be that scared kid growing up wondering, “Is this it”?

So stand tall, stand proud you told yourself. The future is unknown, but that is what makes it so beautiful. Make that future your own. Be happy and never stop pushing.

Life is like the stock market – erratic, unpredictable but worth the investment

blue and yellow graph on stock market monitor
Photo by on

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. – Charles R. Swindoll

For many of us, life is filled with challenges, consequences and at times, amazing experiences with fulfillment. However, most of the time we focus on just the negative side of things, completely foregoing what lies ahead – our future. Trust me, I do the same.

Why life is like the stock market

Ah, the stock market. For many, the stock market is a place where we can invest our earnings in the hopes it grows overtime, leading to our eventual retirement sipping margaritas by the beach.

Unfortunately, like many, the stock market is a place that can cause panic and fear. Markets up 5%…great! One day later…markets are down 5%. Panic!

Although it’s frightening and nerve-wracking as it happens, the reality is this. It is normal. The markets, by its nature, will move up and down throughout the course of days and weeks. However, thankfully over the long-term, the markets eventually trend higher. And if it doesn’t, well then, it’s time to invest my money elsewhere :).

But just like the stock market, where stock movements can swing rapidly and unexpectedly, life behaves the exact same way. One day, you’re working a dream job earning $100k; the next, you’ve been called into the office by your boss to be notified you’ve been let go. And this is after 10 years of service, too!

Was that the plan? Was it your plan? Of course not.

But like the stock market, the long-term is what matters

Just like in the stock market, eventually markets recover and trend upwards. Just like in life, there are good moments and then there are bad ones. Sometimes, horrible ones.

Personally, my life has felt just like the stock market. My upbringing was a rather harsh one, dealt with both grief and sadness. Honestly, I believed for many years this life wasn’t for me.

When I was just 16 years old, I lost my mother. In fact, I had to be in the same room with my father at the time (he didn’t speak english) to confirm with the doctors to pull the plug. My mother was officially brain dead, and being left on life support wasn’t the best course per the doctor. As a young teen, it was traumatizing to experience.

Then in less than 2 years afterwards, my dad passed away due to a car accident. I was devastated, to say the least. I even had to prepare the funeral obligations and work with lawyers myself. I was just 18 years old. And it hit dawned on me – I was an orphan.

Up until at this point in my life, I never envisioned a world where both parents would be gone. But when my dad passed, I had a sudden revelation. I needed to grow up – and fast.

Making your choices and living by them

Despite what happened in my and my family’s life, I knew I had to continue moving forward. After my dad passed away during my freshmen year at UMass, I made a decision. I would succeed in college, that I would make my decisions and live and die by them.

This is the same code I live by to this day. Is it challenging? Of course. Can it be tiring? All the time. But even with everything that has happened, I believe we can survive and move forward. It’s not easy. In fact, I had to seek therapy at times because of the dark places my mind races to.

But like the stock market, just know that these things will pass. But also that we should take the time to be sad, to cry, to vent and let out our grievances. It’s part of human nature.

Although I try my best to stay strong and determined, I have my weaknesses too. I have days where I need to vent and just lay in bed all day. But this is normal.

We will all get there. And requesting support and reaching out to friends and family is sometimes necessary and healthy. We can’t all do it alone.

Focus on the long term

Just like the stock market, the focus is on the long-term. Day to day, week to week, life will be erratic, crazy and rage-inducing. Trust me, it will.

But just like the stock market, we’ll progress, trend higher, and reach and attain new goals.

Stay happy, stay proud, stay strong. Best wishes!

Embracing the fighter mindset

Yarty CES Fight

Yarty CES Fight

“Martial arts is not about fighting; it’s about building character.” – Bo Bennett

Everyone gets into martial arts because they want to learn how to fight. I mean, it makes sense. We want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from being hurt, and what better way than to learn some martial arts.

However, martial arts is just so much more than that. It’s more than just fighting and self-defense. As Bo Bennett so eloquently put it, its about building confidence, self-esteem, character and perseverance.

Because learning martial arts and learning how to fight is a life-long endeavor, it’s not something anyone can pick up over a 2-hour seminar.

What it means to learn how to fight

Very few things in life will teach you to be “tough”, to be mentally strong and ready to take on challenges. Too often we get crammed with life’s obligations, and when it becomes too much, we turn off. We reach for the beers, the greasy pizza, and then kick back to watch some Netflix or game on our PC’s. It then becomes a vicious cycle that repeats itself, day after day, year after year. And then we wake up, at 60 years old, realizing we wasted our lives away.

With martial arts, especially ones where you have to spar such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, you learn to deal with your battles and problems head on. Literally…head on!

martial arts fighting

In these types of martial arts, there is no running away. Because if you quit, you’ve quit and will have to accept that reality. That’s why its so hard to stick with these activities because they challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally. Who wants to get beaten down week after week?

And that’s just the thing. You come back, day after day, week after week, year after year. You then realize that you’ve now embraced the fighter mindset. You now understand what it means to be a “fighter”, to deal with your problems head on rather than running away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s scary, it’s painful. No one wants to get hurt. But it will teach you more lessons than you could ever imagine.

My journey as a fighter and martial artist

Personally, learning how to fight and learning martial arts was one of the best decisions I made. It all began when I was younger where I would watch my favorite actors in Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan on the television screens, throwing spin kicks and tossing nun-chucks. I was so enamored in their skills, hoping that one day I too would be able to perform those moves.

But why was it important to me? Because growing up I was a victim of bullying, hazing and racial discrimination. As one of 10 Asian-Americans in my town, I was always in conflict with who I was and why people didn’t accept me. Finally, in high school I decided it was time to learn something, to be able to protect myself, and to take matters into my own hands.

fighter win

Fast forward nearly 10+ years later, I’ve competed in mixed martial arts (MMA), am currently a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (average time to black belt is 10 years), competed numerous times, and trained and sparred in a variety of arts. I’m also a martial arts personal trainer, something I truly enjoy not just because I love martial arts; but because I get to witness how it changes people’s confidence in themselves. I see myself in them.

To those ready to embrace the fighter mindset

So for those who are unsure of where they’re heading in life, to those who fear the unknown, to those who’ve been victims of bullying, I challenge you to learn martial arts. Not just martial arts, but learn to fight. Because through fighting, you’ll learn so much about yourself, what you’re capable of, and what you want out of your life.

Embrace the fighter mindset. You got this.

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