The Mind of A Warrior Part One

The mind of a warrior part one

The Mind of A Warrior Part One

Yes this is my desk.

I could lie and say my desk is normally more organized, but it almost always looks like this.

Constant Education and Self-Improvement

In the mind of a warrior part one the man focus will be education and self improvement. In many ways training the mind and developing the warrior mindset is all about education. We know that the cliche of “the more you know the more you have to learn” is true in many ways. As a result, every day needs to be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow the mind. I believe that seeking constant education and self-improvement is the path to the mind of a warrior.

The Mind of A Warrior: Education

I know that education is important and I was fortunate that my parents taught me that. My parents convinced me to go to college and get a degree (from this school). However, formal education is only one means of obtaining knowledge. Now that I am in a professional world I am turning to other means of education.

Formal Education

If you are reading this and you do not have a formal degree (vocational or from a university), then I would encourage you to find a way to get a degree. I firmly believe that the cost of higher education is outrageous, but that a four year degree is possible to obtain without spending 100K on a big state school or university. The experience of a formal education does set you up for the real world in some ways. However, many skills cannot be learned in a classroom or a book. Where formal education lacks, an informal education picks up the slack and fills the holes.

Informal Education

In my opinion, an informal education is what is learned outside of the classroom. The range of methods and topics outside of a classroom are almost unlimited and also overlapping in many cases. For example, I can read books in my spare time on philosophy as well as listen to a podcast on the subject while also taking a class on philosophy. In this way, I combine formal and informal education to learn the subject of philosophy. Books, podcasts, blogs, videos, and other mediums provide me the means to educate myself on any subject that I desire. In order to reinforce learning and truly master a subject I combine the informal education with a formal education.

the art of manliness
see https://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/11/28/100-books-every-man-read/ for the complete list

In the case of my job or profession I am learning while doing my job. However, I can also learn about my job as I perform it by attending seminars, reading professional magazine, or using other materials to learn in my free time. This method allows me to become more proficient at my profession quickly by incorporating lessons from informal education into my every day work.

However, I have found that there is never enough time in the day to read as much as I want or to listen to podcasts or take courses that would benefit me. I have had to become creative when it comes to making time for my own informal education.

Self-Improvement

Every day I read, write, listen, and speak as part of a daily self-improvement routine. I read for for at least five minutes a day. Usually I read just enough to get through about 10 pages of whatever book I am reading. In a month that’s a 300 page book. Some days I read more or less than others, but generally I have found that I always have time to read for about 5 minutes. I also write every day. Usually, I just write a page in my journal. At the minimum I just write down anything that pops into my head. I could write down what I have to do for the day or how I am feeling at that moment. My journal is informal and designed to take up little time.

Next, I listen to podcasts every day. I get up around 0400 every day so I can get into the garage gym by 0500. While I am getting ready and brewing my coffee I am listening to podcasts. Even once I get into the garage gym I usually listen to podcasts while I’m working out. Then, in the car on my 45 minute drive to and from work I listen to podcasts. On a typical work day I listen to roughly three hours of podcast audio. Finally, I use the Duo Lingo app on my phone to work on my Spanish. I usually do this early in the morning or during lunch.

The four techniques of reading, writing, listening, and speaking have allowed me to stay committed to self-improvement. I do not commit a lot of time to these things, but have found time to spend a few minutes here and there on each one with podcasts being my biggest time commitment due to the ease of consuming the medium. Between the reading, writing, and language practice I spend about 15 to 20 minutes a day on those three things. I feel that every person could easily make 15 to 20 minutes of time in their day to commit to informal education and self improvement.

Last, but Not Least

I encourage you to make daily improvement a part of your life. Little changes to your daily routine will pay big dividends down the road. In the same way that putting a dollar a day in savings will add up over time, so will daily education and self-improvement. For me, my focus is using discipline to develop and commit to a daily practice in order to sharpen the mind, body, and spirit. Having the mind of a warrior is a daily practice and it does not have to require a lot of effort to do. I hope you enjoyed the mind of a warrior part one. Please subscribe to the blog so you can receive part two next month.

Product Review of the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

I have been wanting to buy a smoker for about a year or so, but never got around to guying one. My in-laws bought me the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker for Christmas this year (best in-laws ever). I had the chance to use it for the first time this past weekend. I discovered that smoking anything can be complex or simple depending on what website you look at. I voted for the easiest recipe I could find for the brisket that I bought from Costco.

This photo was taken at 0430 right after I put the brisket in to smoke.

Features

The Masterbuilt 20071117 30″ Digital Electric Smoker is one of the simpler electric smokers that Masterbuilt offers. It is 30 inches tall and features a digital panel that controls temperature and time. In addition, the smoker has a wood chip loading system that allows the addition of chips without opening the door. Some of the fancier smokers that Masterbuilt offers, feature a meat thermometer, wireless remote, and glass door. The model I have is fairly simple, but has less of a learning curve. I found that the directions that came with the smoker were easy to understand and I would consider my first attempt a success. You can see those directions at the Masterbuilt website.

Description

The smoker has a simple and clean look and costs about $200.00 (it is currently on sale via Amazon here). I did find that the smoker does not come with a cover or chips, but these items can also be purchased on Amazon here and here. I used pecan chips and had good results, but there many different opinions on what chips to use. I also purchased a rub from Amazon here. When it was all said and done I spent about $40.00 on the supplies (cover, rub, and wood chips). The brisket itself I purchased from Costco for just under $50.00 (eight pounds at about $5.89 per pound).

This is what the brisket looked like out of the smoker before I let it rest.

Pros

1. The flavor of the meat was amazing.  I do not think that there is any way to realistically replicate the flavor that you get from a piece of meat by smoking it.

2. It’s hard to mess up. For a first attempt I felt like I did really well. However, I used the simplest recipe I could find. My personal opinion is that as long as you have a meat thermometer to check to internal temp of the meat you cannot mess it up. For brisket the almighty internet said that anything between 185 and 200 degrees meant the meat was ready.

3. Perfect for parties. I could easily cook food for 10 to 30 people with relatively minimal effort.

Cons

1. Using the smoker takes a lot of time to do. The eight pound brisket took me ten hours to cook. Depending on who you talk to the meat then needs to sit for 30 to 60 minutes either in the oven or wrapped in tin foil after you take it out of the smoker. This doesn’t include the effort of preparing the meat with a dry rub or marinade (I elected for just dry rub and no marinade). I also elected not to trim the fat off the brisket which I think was a good move but most recipes call for removing that.

2. You have to watch it over the time it takes to cook. I put more wood chips into the smoker via the wood chip insert every hour. I think I could have gotten away with doing this every 90 minutes, but the smoke flavor really was fantastic on the meat. I also added apple cider vinegar to the water basin in the smoker about every two hours.

3. Clean up. While I did cover the water basin and grease pan in the bottom of the smoker in tin foil there was still a lot of work to do to wipe down the inside of the smoker, wash the smoking racks, and properly dispose of the ashes from the wood chips.

Final Thoughts On the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

I will be doing much more smoking when the weather gets warmer, but this is not something I would do regularly. I just do not have the time that it takes to devote to cooking with the smoker. However, for special occasions and parties this thing is perfect. I am already planning on doing brisket again for my Dad’s birthday since he was one of the lucky ones that got to taste test my first brisket this past weekend and loved it. I’m excited to try cooking other things in the smoker such as pork shoulder, bacon, chicken, etc. The Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is an excellent starting point for me to get more serious with my BBQ.

The finished product of my first smoked brisket attempt. It was incredible.

The Body of A Warrior Part One

Body of A Warrior

Each month I will post an article on the body of a warrior. What does it mean to have a body of a warrior? I believe that the body needs constant maintenance in order to maintain and improve. Improving you body for performance or appearance requires discipline above all. Being consistent and putting in the work is essential to success. This first post will focus on some of the basics of my garage gym. I was an athlete in college (lacrosse) and then took up CrossFit after college to prepare for the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School. Since that time I have bounced between CrossFit and more traditional Strength and Conditioning methods. Now I write my own programs and workout at home.

The Garage Gym

The idea for my own gym came after my first son was born. Time is at a premium with kids and money gets tighter. I have many reasons for owning my own gym, but time and cost were major factors for me. I love training at home and I have found that getting after it in my own gym has been very rewarding.

Why I Own A Garage Gym

Being a warrior means training the mind, spirit, and body. To have a body of a warrior you have to physically challenge your body. For me, I have found that owning a garage gym is a worthwhile investment. A garage gym gives my schedule flexibility and makes my training more interesting to me.

Reason One

The obvious first answer to why I own a garage gym is so I can workout whenever I want. I live in the north east and we have had and will always will have nasty weather in the winter. Bad weather often results in businesses closing their doors. I really do not want my ability to workout to be dependent on someone else opening the doors to their business. Also, I have two sons, a wife, a full time job, a blog, and I’m working on my masters. There is only so much time in the day and walking out the front door to my garage to workout saves me a lot of time.

Reason Two

My second reason for owning my own garage gym is that I can train however I want without anyone looking at me weird or telling me what to do. I cannot lie to you my friend, I’m bougie. I do not like working out in the average gym. Mostly because they do not always have the things that I want like bumper plates, good barbells, kettle bells, etc. Also, I did CrossFit for a long time because I like the challenge of the program and the movements are fun.

However, I’m at the point in my life where I just want to write my own programs to keep myself healthy and relatively strong. I do not need to be a competitor in this stage of my life. Also, if I have specific goals in mind I can change my program to meet my goals. For example, I have the goal of completing a GoRuck Heavy event in September. As a result, I’ve changed my program to reflect that.

Reason Three

Lastly, having my garage gym saves me a lot of money. Yes, I could workout on base and not even buy a garage gym, but see the above paragraph. Even the base gym will close down in bad weather. In addition, the gyms on the Air Force Base are just not as good as the Camp Lejeune offerings.

Having my own gym saves me the cost of paying for a gym that I actually want to train at. Yes, there is more up front cost depending on what you purchase, but in the long run I could pay $100 to $200 a month for a CrossFit membership or membership to the tune of $1200 dollars a year or more. Or, I could just purchase my own gym, which is what I decided to do. The pieces that I bought for my garage gym should last me a really long time. Especially since my wife and I will be the primary people using the equipment.

Best Purchase Ever

Ultimately, I think that the garage gym allows me to pursue any athletic endeavor that I want. I can run long distances, lift heavy things, and move quickly. Having the garage gym allows me to train in any way that I desire to be a balanced athlete. However, if I were a person that was new to training I may hesitate to jump into working out by myself. A coach can be a very useful guide to help a person meet their goals. A good coach cannot be replaced, but I feel that I am knowledgeable enough about training and my body to know how I need to train to meet any fitness goal that I have. Admittedly, I have been more focused on my weight loss, which I will discuss in depth on next month’s Body of the Warrior Post.

This is my home gym! These pieces came from online stores as well as online yard sales.

Recommended Equipment

In closing I’m going to list some key pieces of equipment that I have in my gym that I feel are essential to my training in order of importance. The links lead to pieces that I have purchased from Amazon (free shipping with Prime which will save you a ton).

  1. Barbell (I want an Ohio bar, but I’m currently using a cheap bar like you would see in a regular gym)
  2. Plates (I prefer bumper plates because you can do Olympic lifts but steel plates will do for most lift)
  3. Kettle bells (I have a pair of 16KG and 24KG bells)
  4. Squat rack with pull up bar and platform (or rubber mats)
  5. Gymnastics rings

These five pieces of equipment could cost anywhere from $1000.00 or less to $2500.00 or more. It all depends on how and where you buy the equipment from. See the links below for what I have in my gym/recommendations.

Five Optional Pieces For Workout Variety

If you have the money to spend and you want to add more variety to your training see the list below for additional equipment that I have that I enjoy training with and a respective link.

  1. Dip belt
  2. Airdyne
  3. Steel Club
  4. Jump rope
  5. Sand bags

In my gym my wife and I have many items that we purchased off of yard sales. We have used Craigslist, Facebook yard sales, and other yard sale sites to acquire our equipment. Be patient if you are short on cash because someone out there will inevitably sell the item that you want. Eventually I’ll upgrade some of my items like my barbell and airdyne (or just buy a ski erg), but I’m pretty happy with the setup in my gym right now.

New Year Resolutions

My Resolutions

Normally, I have never been big on new year resolutions. However, over the past few years I have found that the months of January and February are good times to set goals for the year after the business of the holiday season has died down. Starting with Veteran’s day in November and finally ending with New Years Eve there is a lot going on. For this year I want to stick to the theme of this blog and focus on a single goal for the mind, body, and spirit. There is one additional goal I have outside of those three that I’ll discuss below.

Mind

For the mind I want to get a B or better in my masters classes this year. I started working on my masters in business administration through Liberty University around this time last year. I can take up to six courses a year. If I can take at least five with maybe one break I think that would be a good goal for next year.

Body

I have made the goal of completing a GoRuck Heavy this year. This past summer I did my first GoRuck event at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. It was the GoRuck Tough, a 12 hour event. It was definitely a beat down and this year I want to do their 24 hour Heavy event. I’ve already changed up my workout program at home to incorporate more heavy carries in my workouts to get my body ready for it. To go hard for 24 hours is a mental game, but I’ll do whatever I can to prepare physically.

Spirit

I want to commit to attending church at least twice a month. This is a huge challenge for my family since I have to be at work for drill weekend at least once a month and then the other weeks of the month can get busy pretty easily since we often travel to my parents or my in-laws house on the weekends. I feel that two times a month is a reasonable goal with Matthew and Michael (my sons who are both under three years old) it makes things tough to manage to get the whole group to go to church.

Giving

While most resolutions are about improving yourself I wanted to start a tradition of focusing on giving as a resolution. This year I want to use this blog to raise $1000.00 dollars for the Semper Fi fund. I think that $1000.00 is a reasonable amount to raise for the entire year. I could go bigger with this goal, but I’ve never really done any kind of fund raising before and I wanted to keep my goal achievable. If I meet this goal early I can adjust this goal, but I will be placing donation buttons on the various pages of this blog and also in my emails to readers to encourage giving to achieve this goal. In fact, if you are able please use the “Donate” button below to give to this cause. Any amount would be greatly appreciated.




Danner Men’s Bull Run 8-Inch Review

Danner Men’s Bull Run 8-Inch BRN Cristy Work Boot

Over the next several weeks I am going to review some of my favorite personal items that I think make a difference in my day to day life. While I know boots are not the best things for our feet (check out Foot Collective’s website for more information). I still believe that every person needs a solid pair of boots in their lives. I might be biased because of my military background, but there is a time and place for putting on your boots and going to work. Whether that be fun work or not so fun, quality boots are essential and the Danner Men’s Bull Run fit the bill perfectly.

Features

The Danner Men’s Bull Run are not terribly complex boots compared to other kinds of boots, but they are made simply and put together well. They feature unlined full-grain leather upper, Minimal break in time, lightweight construction, and a Vibram outsole that is also electrical shock resistant.

Description

The Danner Men’s Bull Run is designed for workers in warmer climates. However, I am a big fan of boots and these Danners are functional and handsome. I wanted a boot that looked good and also could be used for a variety of tasks like yard work, odd jobs, and even some light hiking if desired. My lovely wife purchased these boots for me from Amazon for Christmas. These boots are roughly $200.00 on Amazon depending on your shoe size and the vendor that has them in stock. I found that they fit pretty true to size for me.

Pros

  1. The boots look great: They are a beautiful dark brown and look just as good on your feet as they do in the photos.
  2. Short break in time: Boots generally have a break in time and these boots are no different. However, I was impressed at how short the break in time has been.
  3. Comfortable: Even out of the box prior to break in they were comfortable and have only improved since then. I anticipate that as time goes on these boots will age well.

Cons

      1. These boots are not waterproof: I have been using these boots in the snow and ice. Recently I have cleared snow from my sidewalks and driveway. They held up well but I do recommend spraying some sort of leather friendly water repellent on the boot since after a few hours of work the melted snow started to soak the upper of the boots a little bit. However, my feet did stay dry. Probably because it was really too cold for a lot of snow to melt.
      2. Hooks instead of eyelets for the boot laces. I prefer eyelets to the hooks for the laces, but the hooks do provide for a good fit each time you wear the boots, but I like the eyelets because I think it makes the boots faster and easier to put on.
      3. It is real leather. These boots will require maintenance. For example, the salt has to be cleaned off of these things (I used this YouTube video) and once you do that the leather will probably dry out. I also recommend getting some sort of leather food for these boots to keep them looking new and keep the leather healthy (see below for an example). Worth the extra time and cost in my opinion.

      Final Thoughts

      I’m not a construction worker, but I have worn many different kinds of boots. These are probably the most comfortable and fashionable boots that I have ever worn. Even though they are not waterproof and not designed for the cold they have held up well in sub freezing temperatures and the snow that we have experienced here in the north east. These boots are now my go to boot for everyday wear and any work tasks that I want to complete. If I could, I would wear these instead of my military boots.

Way of the Blade

How Did I Get Here?

Why start this blog? I am an active duty Marine that joined the Marines so that I could go all over the world and kill bad guys. Or at least that’s what I thought. In reality, I like many of my peers sit behind a desk in an administrative role with mind numbing responsibilities. I am not diminishing the importance of my work since I understand that being a ground supply officer is important to supporting those Marines that go and do the hard work. However, I struggle to justify the idea of “every Marine a rifleman” or “every Marine a warrior” when that is just plainly not true. Warriors go to war and do warrior things. In my Marine Corps career I can say with relative confidence that I can count on never being in a combat situation in which I will have to shoot back at the enemy. This frustrates me since that’s what I joined the Marines to do. Sadly, officers are promised no job in the Marines, unlike other branches, so here I am, a keyboard warrior.

All that being said I still firmly believe that I can draw inspiration and direction from the idea of the warrior and what it means to adopt a warrior mindset and a warrior’s way of life. That’s why I started this blog. I want to explore what it means for people like me to still maintain a warrior mentality even though I may never be called upon to be a warrior.

Where Am I Going?

The warrior has three parts in my mind. The warrior has the body, mind, and spirit. I think starting with those three parts is the best way to describe what a warrior is and what it truly means to have a warrior mentality and approach. Training those three things to be sharp and disciplined is key to success in life and in war. In short my goal for starting this blog is to define “the Way of the Blade” and what it means to have the mentality of a warrior.

The Journey Ahead

Come with me on this journey. I may be stuck in a climate controlled office, but I’m still a Marine and what I do makes a difference for my fellow Marines that are out there doing the dirty work our nation requires. Explore with me what it truly means to have the mindset of a warrior and to incorporate that mentality in our lives.