Black Belts have bucket lists – here are a few items I checked off recently and how you can, too!

I just got back from one of the most amazing adventures of my life with some amazing people!

Three months ago, I told my beautiful and all around rockstar girlfriend I was taking her someplace…where she needed a passport and a bikini. It was November. Just to prove my point on how rockstar this girl actually is, I have to tell you that she played along. And not just a little bit! She even brought earplugs along so when we checked and the lady put our luggage check all the way to ___________ she wouldn’t hear. It was great!

She was surprised when I told her we were going to Cabo, Mexico a city at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

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The plan was to knock off four bucket list adventures in just one trip!

First, we got to to swim with whale sharks (no, they don’t eat people and no you shouldn’t be scared). It was a magical experience.

Imagine this – you board a small boat on a balmy, sunny day and it takes you out to where the whale sharks are feeding on plankton. From the surface they look quite small. Your guide tells you to swim and you swim – as fast as you can – towards these animals. As you approach, you make out the shape of a fish…A VERY large fish. The largest fish you’ve ever been close to! HOLY CRAP – one is coming right at you!

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Bucket list item. Bucket list: checked.

That same day, we also had the chance to take on a tamer creature:  puppies of the sea. Sea lions. (Why do all of these gentle creatures have such dangerous names?) We were allowed to play with them – and play they did! Dozens of these things swimming alongside of us as we played with them. They would bite our hands, let us tickle them, let us dive and swim next to them. This was even more magical than the whale sharks. I felt like a fish for a whole minute… until my goggles started leaking! Note to self: salt water burns…badly!

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Bucket list item: checked!

We also went scuba diving for the first time ever. It was epic.

This country has a weird way of ‘training’ you. You watch a movie for about 25 minutes that depicts people learning to take their regulator on and off in a nice pool of water with big smiles on their faces. I only learned to swim just last year and that was panic-inducing enough, let alone going 50 feet under water! Needless to say, I was excited about the pool trial.

Well, that never became a reality – at least not the way I pictured it! Their version of the ‘pool trial’ was to put a tank on my back that weighed SO much more than it looks like it does in the movies … and told me to ‘fall back’ into the ocean. Mind you, this was not some nice clear water that was four feet deep. Oh, no – I suppose I was too advanced for that because they took us a half-mile from the dock! And that’s where the ‘training’ began.

I’m good at doing what I am told, but this was a new experience for sure: I immediately sank and landed on the ocean floor. That and one minute of ‘here is how you take this off and share it with your partner if they need air’ was all I got for my ‘pool trial’.

Once my nerves calmed —  and they did, eventually — I looked around and realized that I was in an underwater world of pure beauty. The fish, the plants, the shark that swam by… It was magical.

It was interrupted every minute or so by Rachel squeezing my hand and pointing to her regulator to which I would look and give her two thumbs up. (I think she was worried about her air running out. )

What an adventure!

The fourth bucket list item was one that has been on the list for quite some time. :we bungee jumped!. I think I signed a waiver. Actually, I’m not sure. I AM sure that I got exactly zero training on how to bungee jump other than something to the effect of ‘when I say THREE you jump and don’t hesitate or the whole thing might get messed up!’ I’m not even sure what they mean by messed up. I didn’t ask.

I’m not sure if this was scare tactic to try to ensure that I didn’t hesitate, but it worked!

Rachel went first.

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I will be totally honest – I didn’t want to jump after I watched her. It just looked…well, too…scary. But of course I couldn’t let my girlfriend show me up even if it was in a death-defying stunt! She is so brave.

I’ve been skydiving before, but this was totally different. You were DIVING straight towards a stream surrounded by rocks! Radical even for a 4th degree black belt, in my book

These experiences taught me some very valuable lessons that I wanted to share with you.

  1. Have a bucket list. It is fun! At UpLevel Martial Arts, we believe in the value of #injoyment –which is our way of spelling enjoyment. It stands for enjoying each and every moment of our lives and making them an epic adventure. On our team of staff, we actually hold each other accountable to knocking off at least one item off of our list each year. It goes right on the yearly review. So I ask you, what item are YOU going to cross off this year?
  2. Going on this trip was possible because of #income. Are you investing in something that will provide income for you while you are enjoying your life? I coach all of my staff on our value of #income. To us, it means we are working to a point to where our passive income exceeds our current expenses – we call this financial freedom. At UpLevel Martial Arts, we are all working towards this. Not so we can sit on our hands and ‘retire’. Heck, most of us are in our 20’s and 30’s! We want to work because we love to, NOT because we have to. I am proud of the opportunities I provide for my team to make money in martial arts in this way.
  3. Educate while you vacate. On our team we also value #improvement which means that we NEVER STOP LEARNING. The real purpose of my trip was to improve my relationship with my girlfriend Rachel and to improve our communication, love, and passion. It was set up as a couples retreat. It was SO worth it. So how about you – how will you find a way to constantly improve, even when you are on vacation?

I wish you all the best life. Let’s keep unleashing and upleveling.

Sam Wegert – 4th degree black belt

P.S. I have a goal in 2017 to add several schools to our new brand – UpLevel Martial Arts. If you know of anyone who wants to work in a position where we change lives every day, move our bodies, and are a part of a great and growing culture and vibe, then please message me personally at 434.944.5918.

P.P.S. A special thank you to my tribe of healthy, wealthy, and generous men who choose to lead epic lives and their women who have inspired me on this journey and who made this trip possible. Shout out to Sam and Pat Cullinane who put so much work and love into making this a truly epic, black belt, bucket list adventure.

For a full picture of the amazing trip – check out the recap video we put together including some other ‘must do’s’ when you make it to Cabo.

 

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4 things martial arts could teach your family

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That is my good-looking family right there. A few years back but just as good looking today, right? 🙂

Practicing martial arts was an amazing choice for my family. What started as a hobby gave us invaluable gifts over the years. I want to share several of them with you here.

1.     There are only two things that you can do before you graduate high school that holds any weight on your resume. One is to become an Eagle Scout and the other is earn a black belt. Employers know that people who have earned these honors know how to work hard and treat others with respect.

2.     It brought us closer together. They say that the family that kicks together sticks together. It is true! Focusing on something and learning it as a family is one of the most effective ways to form close bonds. You are all facing common challenges together!

3.     We stayed active. Our country is pretty large. I don’t mean in square miles. I mean in our obesity level here in the United States. Here is the rule at UpLevel Martial arts – if you eat that day, then you must move and exercise that day. Martial arts kept my family active doing something we loved together.

4.     Confidence is key. As a young homeschooled boy, I remember being very shy. I cried my first karate class! But martial arts taught me that I was valuable and competent– that I can succeed through my own effort – not from being perfect but from trying my best. It also taught me that I can make good decisions, despite of the constant negative pressure out there. Whether pressure to do drugs, experiment with sex, or simply join in bullying another kid at school, I believe that the ability to stand up and say ‘no’ or simply recognize that our worth comes from inside — not what the ‘cool’ kids are doing or even the celebrities on TV – is essential for success and personal well-being. Martial arts encourages self-worth and embodying the confidence to do what is right.

5.     Self Defense is essential. I was put in headlocks as a kid and pushed around. Nothing even close to life threatening, but when I learned to walk around aware and alert I started to notice potential threats more easily. Then, as a martial artist, I developed the skills to defend myself if necessary. Sometimes the only skills needed are confidence and awareness. My brother Tim and I have been in self-defense situations twice and in each one I am grateful we had the training to step in and protect the innocent.

We hope you will come join our team at UpLevel Martial arts where we forge leaders for life.

To black belt and beyond.

Mr. Sam Wegert

4th Degree Black Belt

 

3 things I learned from my martial arts instructor…and what you should look for in one.

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I am going to assume that you are looking for a martial arts instructor. Should you be? Well, only you really know the answer to that question but I would highly recommend it and perhaps after this article you will be more inclined to invest in one. Having an instructor like I had growing up can change your life and for me it changed not only my life but thousands of others.  I’m only 25 so that number is going to grow. That is unless I get mugged in a dark alley sometime soon – again not likely to happen seeing that I DID have a martial arts instructor.

My instructor, Master David Clements, is a 5th degree black belt in American Freestyle Karate and is ranked in a million other styles (always good to exaggerate a little when talking about someone who changed your whole life). He was truly a godsend to me in so many ways; in many ways he probably doesn’t realize. This article is meant to help him realize that and also hopefully help you realize a little bit what you should look for in the people you allow to influence you or your kids.

Master Clements, as we called him, made a business decision to open a beautiful 6000 square foot studio in a town of 2000 people. It was a very optimistic decision.  To give you perspective, I now own a martial arts school that is 2500 square feet in a town of 2.5 million and growing. But I truly believe he was there to give me a future, and that God had a divine appointment for me when I walked in his door and my mom made me enroll even though I was scared out of my mind and literally cried my first class (give me some grace though – I was only 10).

My instructor taught me many things and I would like to share three of them with you right now.

  1. Do the right thing….always!                                        
  2. Family is important
  3. Relax.

 

Do the right thing.

This one sounds so simple but the truth is, it isn’t. It just isn’t. Our brain gets in our way and wants to rationalize this, and give you leeway in that. Look – it’s simple – there is a right, and there is a wrong. Stop ‘thinking about it’ and make the call that would be in line with character. Now, I’m not so blind to realize there aren’t some decisions that are more complicated than that, but most of the time we make it more complicated than it is worth.

Master Clements taught me this over and over again! It was drilled into who I was as his student.

One time he had a student who enrolled and then came back in that very day and asked for their money back. They knew there was a no refund policy but the right thing was to just go ahead and give them their money back. He did it even though he had the ‘legal’ backing to not go through with it.

He was always firm on doing the right thing by each person and for him that meant asking ‘what would be best for the other person?’ and not only himself.

 

Family is important

I had the opportunity to attend the funeral for my instructor’s mom. She was an amazing woman and the caretaker of the karate school I grew up in. She was the one responsible for calling me the day I played hookie from karate and scolded me gently and asked me when my next class was. I didn’t skip class again.

My instructor, Master Clements, had a thing about spending time with and committing to family. It isn’t something you see a lot of these days (how many of us even have family meals together anymore, I mean really?)

One of my friends has a tattoo that says ‘love is spelled t-i-m-e’. Master Clements knew this and was always there to make his family the most important. He didn’t mind driving either. If there was an event or a family member (and a lot of times his students became like adopted family to him) that was in need he was there. This taught me a lot about the importance of relationships in your life.

I’ve learned that relationships really matter – more than adventure, more than money. Think about it – the last time you had an epic adventure by yourself – the story afterwards was just never as cool or exciting as you would have hoped. And let’s be really real – making money is amazing but no one in their heart wants to be the richest man in the world and completely alone. Relationships are important. Um, really important. Invest in them.

Another mentor always told me – ‘Sam, anything you want is just a relationship away.’ I’ve found that to be pretty true in my life.

Mr. Clements taught me this and modeled it so well with his family. He was always there for his mom and even committed to support her later in life. He paid a monthly sum to support her until she passed on. In a day and age where most people are trying to ‘get rid’ of their parents this spoke a new language and gave me a new foundation on how to look at family.

 

Relax

Ok, for those of you who know me, this is definitely not the one I model the best. There are so many people who can relax better than I can. If I’m not sleeping (for the 5 hours average I seem to get each night) than I am busy – busy with something or someone. I like this but there is just that time when you need to tell your somewhat overbusy and perhaps slightly annoying self to slow down and relax.

Master Clements modeled this. He would kick back – throw his shoes up on the desk and actually have a real conversation with you. You know, one of those conversations that last longer than 2 minutes and ends with ‘I’ve got to go but good to talk with you’. (wow, I think I’m convicting myself here) For a 10 year old boy trying to find his way in the world and trying to be different this was the most important thing anyone could have done for me.

Studies show that children who simply have someone in their life they can talk to, who actually, truly cares, are much more likely to stay out of trouble and create a meaningful life. Translation – you can help create meaning in the world simply by caring and talking to someone. Yes – YOU. Even if you don’t know or have all the answers, or even if it’s been a very long time since you have been a teenager.

Share and care. Perhaps that is the message of this post. The real message is a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and ‘happy birthday’ to one of the people who inspired me to UpLevel my life in so many ways.

I am forever grateful.

Thank you sir.

Your student,

Sam Wegert

4th Degree Black Belt

 

 

Ahhh….the secret to life.

I am inspired by a couple of things this evening and I wish to share.

My first little revelation today came from when I saw a person walking into food lion in front of my Amherst Studio today. I immediately recognized the person as someone who had their family in our program several years ago and who I had the privilege of influencing. This person was in the exact same shape she had been in when I last saw her-defiantly no improvement there! She was smoking a cigarette-no improvement there. The more I thought about it the more it sunk in-this person probably hadn’t changed one BIT! What a tragedy! How is this possible?! Why doesn’t this person change and take control of their life and make it better?! Why?! Why?!?! Why?!?! This solidified in my mind that I want to learn and know what it would take to get people to change their lives right now!

What this experience also made me realize though was that there is no “secret” to life. So much of my life is spent trying to get to a certain point where I can relax and be happy. I think, “when I just round the next corner I can relax, when I just hire the next staff member, or just get the right girl, or just get through this transition than I will be able to take a breath and be happy, or if I was just in Colorado where everything is all pretty, or if I just had more free time or if I just had more money, more time etc”….the list goes on and on and on. This is a LIE! Complete and utter lies!

Maybe the “secret” to life is to realize that we are living it RIGHT the freak now! It is not in some magical place in the future. No, no, no-maybe I’ve had it all wrong. Life is about being present in the moment! Life is about taking a breath right now and soaking up all of the amazing things that are around me RIGHT NOW! There is no tomorrow! There is no yesterday! Use the future and past to have a more powerful experience in the NOW but don’t live in those places. Live right now, right here and for crying out loud – live it to the fullest! Give! Love! BE! Have fun! Smile! Daydream! Touch someone’s life! Be yourself! Own who you are right now-a person with amazing qualities and a beautiful work in progress! Own it!

This was really huge for me! Maybe the secret to life is this: there is no secret! Life is right now right here and it is slipping away one moment at a time. The words of someone famous who I can’t remember right now come to mind—ahh…Michael Landon: here it is.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.

Michael Landon

So the call to action is this! Snap out of your funk and begin to look into what is around us happening right now and ask some questions that will change your life.

What opportunities are in front of me right now?

What am I grateful for now?

What am I excited about right now?

What in this moment is beautiful if I really looked or even cared?

What do I have right now in this moment that I could share with someone? What would that be? Who would I share it with?

A lovely stroll

Running an ultra marathon is one of the hardest physical feats a person can accomplish. Imagine running for 24 hours or more without a break, over a terrain of sharp stones, sticks, stumps, fallen logs, streams, and mud all competing for the last bit of your energy. Imagine your entire body being slammed against the ground thousands of times while you use an extraordinary amount effort in a futile attempt to comfortably absorb the repeated shocks to your body. Ankles hurt, knees are in pain, hamstring muscles cramping, thighs are burning.  The big toe was throbbing until you slammed it into that rock earlier, and now you can’t feel it at all and you can’t help wonder if it is broken. You picture blisters appearing all over your feet.

What possesses people to do such a thing? Wasn’t the car invented so we didn’t have to torture ourselves in such a grueling manner?

Today I tasted what this experience must be like and what I am in for when I reach my long range goal of running an ultra marathon. A yearly event, the “Deep Hollow Half Marathon,” traverses Liberty Mountain in Lynchburg on trails that must have been made either for or by the devil himself. The name really doesn’t fit seeing that your trek begins by climbing straight up the side of a mountain. “Deep” and”Hollow” are not two words I would use to describe the path. The word “hollow”  means “valley,“ but for 13 miles, we ran up and down and all over a mountain but never anywhere in a valley! I’m convinced the name is part of the evil plan to entice people to actually run this course.  Who wouldn’t want to take a lovely stroll in a “deep hollow?”

Despite strong inclinations to skip the whole idea, I began this run that a friend had so wittingly talked me into. “It will be fun”, he said.  I can only conclude that some people have a seriously twisted view of fun.

During my race, I had the honor of running beside an ultra marathoner for several miles. And I quickly became his biggest fan. This guy runs 50 miles just for the heck of it! Gleaning knowledge from experts is one of my favorite pastimes, so I asked, “What do you know that could help me run better?”  His advice changed not only the way I run but my entire perspective on life.

His guidance was simple: save your energy: don’t fight the downhill and don’t waste your energy killing the uphill. You can “rock and roll” on your way down, but on your way up save energy by taking it slowly. In other words, “go with the flow.” Some of the best things in life are simple, and this counsel was one of those things!  

My obsession with making an application of everything to life didn’t fail me here. The other day I was stressing over something that was totally out of my control, demonstrating the opposite of “going with the flow”. How many times do we worry, fight, stress, or obsess over things that we cannot control even if we wanted to? How often do we hold ourselves back on the downhill, while wearing ourselves out fighting and pushing on the uphill?

This week, take command of what you can control, but not fight the rest.  In the words of the great tennis player Andre Agassi, “Control what you can control.”

He made this his mantra.  You and I should do the same.

God Bless!

Vacation Wonders!

This picture only begins to touch the breathtaking views and amazingness of the Colorado mountains that I witnessed recently while on vacation.

Last week I had the unique privilege of visiting Crested Butte, Colorado and mountain biking on world class trails over 12,000 feet in elevation! It was one of those experiences that gives you a fresh perspective on life!

On the way there, I also had the privilege of meeting a very nice lady in the airport. I assumed she was 60 to 65 years old by her young looks, her high energy, and the fact that she was texting on her phone. I mean really…how old could she be?  You can imagine my surprise when she told me that she was 75 years old! A bit too old for me…darn.

Wouldn’t we all like to be fit, young looking, full of passion and energy for life at the age of 75?! I know I would! So I asked her, “How do you look so good and have so much energy at 75 years old?” She responded right away, “Well, I drink beer”. Of course, I thought, how has this secret avoided me so long? But then she became serious and gave me the answer I was looking for: “I love life! I enjoy what I do every day! I still can’t wait to get up in the morning to work with the children in my practice. Stress is what kills people today.”

A 75 year old women who has this much passion and love for life?!?! It was right then and there I decided that I wanted to be like her when I grow up.

I couldn’t get the words out of my mind: “Stress is what kills people today!”

How true this is. How many of us are stressed out of our minds? How many of us can’t focus on what’s really important because little things keep getting in the way? Why is stress so prevalent in our fast-paced, push-button, “have-it-now” society and how can we deal with it?

Maybe the answer is the same as to why we feel so refreshed after a great vacation? Or why we feel as if everything comes back into balance and perspective after a walk by ourselves in the woods, spending an hour in silence, or doing something just for me.

Maybe what we are missing in our everyday routines is time for ourselves. Isn’t our life full of constant demands on our time, energy, love, and attention. We manage to keep our business, school, or home appointments, but have we scheduled and kept a consistent appointment with ourselves? When was the last time you took the time to love yourself, to remind yourself of what truly matters in life, or to do something that refreshes you at the deepest level? What works for you? Is it reading a book, having Bible time, taking a walk, getting a pedicure, or enjoying a meal at a nice restaurant?

The Good Book says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Doesn’t this assume that you must love yourself a lot before being able to love another fully?

My challenge for you this week is to drop your story as to why you can’t take time to love and de-stress yourself. I know you hear the excuses all the time…maybe even from your own mouth? “I have too much to do?” or “My life is just way to busy” or “My life is just about serving others” or “It would be too stressful for me to leave.”

But can you really love someone else fully, if you don’t love yourself? Can you really give to others if you are empty inside? Can you truly inspire others if you aren’t inspired? Can you truly help and serve others in outstanding ways when you are over-stressed?

For a higher quality of life, take time for yourself, and make this week great!