Hello and good day!
When I was 4 years old, I wanted to take karate lessons. I saw the movie The Karate Kid and I felt destined to become the next Daniel LaRusso.
My dad owned a hotel in downtown San Diego when I was little, and we spent most of our free time hanging around near the hotel. One blocks up and one block over, around the corner from the hotel, there was a karate studio.
The sensei was a guy named Kenny Dreyton. I still remember him after all these years. He was an African-American man from Hell's Kitchen New York. He grew up in a really hard ghetto and karate was his way out.
In the back of his studio, he had a trophy room where he kept all the awards he'd won at international competitions. He was a highly accomplished practitioner.
At that time, downtown San Diego was a very gritty place. There were gangs and drug dealers and prostitutes and junkies all over the place.
My dad's hotel was part of the first wave of developments that led to what is now the Gaslamp Quarter, one of the swankiest and most upscale districts in all of San Diego.
Kenny's karate studio was just about the grittiest karate studio you could imagine. The students were mostly neighborhood kids, tough kids who lived in a tough neighborhood, and me. Our sensei was one of the toughest men you have ever seen. I still remember that dark brown hard wood floor where he made us do pushups on our knuckles.
Fifty pushups to start the class. Twenty pushups for not paying attention. Twenty pushups for going to the bathroom (you were supposed to go before class). We all had blisters and calluses on our knuckles from putting them down on that hard wood floor so often.
He used to open up the double doors at the entrance during sparring sessions so that people from the neighborhood could walk in and watch us fighting each other. His theory was that if we were accustomed to fighting in front of people, we wouldn't be scared to fight a bully in the school yard in front of a gathering crowd.
He wanted us to squat really low in our karate stance. He used to leave us there squatting for a long time and our thighs would burn and shake. Meanwhile, he'd come around with this hollow bamboo sword, waving it over our heads.
If we were squatting low enough, the bamboo sword would glide right over us. Get tired and come up out of your stance, and you'd get whacked in the head. I remember showing up to class early some days and he'd be in the studio alone with traditional Japanese music playing and incense burning.
He was practicing and his level of focus and intensity was magnificent. He didn't do fifty pushups on his knuckles, he did hundreds, like a machine.
As hard as he was, we all loved and admired him. We knew that what he demanded of us, he also demanded of himself.
He took us on field trips to watch him compete in tournaments and we witnessed firsthand our sensei taking gold metal after gold medal against a field full of black belts. We felt great pride that this man was our sensei.
Anyhow, I begged my parents to let me take karate when I was just four years old. And they let me. They enrolled me with Kenny Dreyton and he treated me just like everybody else.
He wasn't a babysitter. He was a karate teacher and he only knew one way to teach, the hard way. After a couple of weeks, Kenny told my dad that I was too little and there was not other students my size to do movements with.
I was heartbroken. I thought that I could do it. But I just couldn't.
Kenny told me to come back when I was six and I did. I woke my parents up on my sixth birthday and begged them to re-enroll me. They took me back and I did karate for the next eight years until I got my blackbelt at age fourteen.
My dad lost the hotel and had to declared personal bankruptcy since he had personally guaranteed loans for the bank. My parents were divorced when I was fourteen and my life went off the rails.
I ended up quitting karate. I don't know what happened to Kenny Dreyton. I know that the karate studio isn't there anymore. It was driven out by gentrification a while ago. The world's grittiest karate studio wouldn't fit in well with the current scene.
Now here is the point. Four-year-olds aren't babies. They can have goals and ambitions. They aren't quite strong enough or intellectually developed enough to pursue their ambitions, but they aren't helpless.
And they are especially adept at mimicry. I saw The Karate Kid and I wanted to be The Karate Kid.I have three sons, so I have seen three little boys go through this phase.
My dad was a real John Wayne kind of tough guy. An entrepreneur. A fighter. A poker playing riverboat gambler.
And that is what I wanted to be too. It was my great ambition to be as tough as my old man and I wanted to pursue it in real life.
My sons did the same thing when they were four. They mimicked me. They know I am a chocolate salesman and each of them tried to sell stuff to people whenever they got a chance.
And they were good! My kids have made $100 in an afternoon selling chocolate door to door when they were four years old.
I am going to run long on this email if I keep reminiscing, so I have to make my point.
First, give a four-year-old a chance to go for it. Not many parents would have enrolled their four-year-old, or their six-year-old for that matter, with Kenny Dreyton. But my parents did, and it made me a much better, stronger person.
Second, you better behave well around a four-year-old. They are watching and copying your every move and mannerism. If there is some little character flaw in them, they probably got it from you.
Does your four-year-old obsessively want to look at electronics? Could it be that you binge on electronics, and they have learned that behavior from you?
Does your four year old tell white lies? Could it be that they've heard you lie?
I'm not pointing a finger here. I'm giving you examples from my own life that I've had to address over the years. Here is the most important lesson that having four-year-olds has taught me.
Lessons are caught, not taught.
Your little one is more likely to do what you do, not what you say. And this is why so many parenting systems fail. You can't just follow steps in a book. You have to be pure---- yourself. You have to work on your heart first and foremost, and everything else flows from there.
Same with dieting systems. You have to fix yourself on the inside before you can have success. You have to get spiritually right before you can manifest results in the real world.
Anyhow, I am running out of space and steam for now.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!