Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Yes, it’s another Pokémon related post. (It’s not likely to be the last.)

Pikachu’s electrifying personality (source)

I have always had an unusually rational and explainable confidence (though it’s origin remains unknown): Just DO things. Now, I am not saying it came from Pokémon, but, I am not saying it did’t come from Pokémon. One thing is for sure; I have always stood out as someone a little different. Maybe it’s a bad case of cognitive dissonance or maybe it was my love for Pokémon. Who knows?!

One thing for sure though, having confidence in oneself, who you are and your abilities, can go a long way in life. It’s not for the benefit of other people, it’s for ourselves, and how we view ourselves internally.

In Pokémon, protaginist “Ash Ketchum” has an unusual characteristic; he never forces, or even encourages, his pokémon to evolve into their higher forms. In the most famous example, his pikachu was offered the chance to evolve into a Raichu early on, using an item called a “Thunder Stone.” Most trainers would jump at the chance, because isn’t the more evolved form stronger and, therefore, better? Well, Ash and, more importantly, Pikachu did not think so. (It should be considered, though, that this may have been a marketing-based plot decision, as Raichu isn’t as “cute” as Pikachu and might have hurt the series’ brand, considering Pikachu was, and still is, the face of the series.)

For whatever reason, Pikachu decided he did not want to change for the sake of others; he was comfortable with who he was. Later in the series it was the same case for Ash’s Bulbasaur. It was captured by other Bulbasaurs and taken to the secretive “evolution ceremony.” Ash’s Bulbasaur decided, despite all his peers evolving, not to evolve again; he, like Pikachu, was comfortable with who he was. As it turns out, they both developed into stronger versions of themselves internally, becoming strong leaders in their own rights, despite not evolving into more powerful creatures.

While at the time I did not think much of it, hindsight often allows us to see where we might have learned lessons that were not directly taught to us. In today’s world there is increased pressure to conform to the narrative of society or our peers. Similarly, society told Ash to evolve Pikachu and peers told Bulbasaur to evolve. In both cases they were confident and comfortable with who they were, which afforded them the self-assured mindset to become the best versions of themselves whether or not they later choose to evolve.

While you should always be the best version of yourself, that does not always mean the version other people want you to be. This DOES NOT mean you don’t ever have to change! It just means that how you view yourself is one of the most important aspects of personal happiness (or personal destruction): it will inform your confidence (or contribute to a lack thereof) and inspire (or deter) your ability to be comfortable with yourself, and therefore your ability to experience strong growth.

So long as who you choose to be, and how you see yourself, is not destructive, dangerous, or extremely disruptive to the health, safety, and well-being of others, then you should be who you want to be and you should let yourself be happy with it.

Of course, if you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, or in your thoughts and actions, then you always have the power to change into what you want. In other words, you can choose to “evolve,” as is common when most pokémon are ready to change; either because they want to for personal reasons, because they have decided it would be in the best interest of their team’s success. Regardless of the motivation, the change is a choice to take action.

So, whether you want to be something else, or you want to be what you are, if you view yourself in a positive light you will have a much fuller, happier life.

What are you waiting for? Channel the confidence of Pikachu today, and be the best version of yourself that you can; so that you too can electrify the world around you.

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This is the third part in a series titled Self-Defence is Not Just Physical.

Many interconnected factors contribute to a mental health breakdown. Defend yourself by taking action!
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Out of all the topics covered in this series, this is the one I have the most formal education in. While my experience isn’t enough for me to claim to be an “expert,” it does provide me with insight on the topic of mental health. What I can say for certain is that in the area of mental health there is often a lot of “noise;” there are good studies and there are bad studies, and then there is everything in between.

One thing I learned early in the Psychology field is that, what is considered acceptable in a study isn’t necessarily appropriate to apply directly to the general population or to inform understandings across multiple cultures. I also learned that there are massive divides running through the world of psychology, as various schools of thought and areas of focus often do not get a long.

“…[T]here are also deep uncertainties in the field itself. Psychiatrists have no blood tests or brain scans to diagnose mental disorders. They have to make judgments, based on interviews and checklists of symptoms.” (Benedict Carey, “What’s Wrong With a Child? Psychiatrists Often Disagree,” The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2006)

Ultimately, Psychology, while it is considered the science of the mind and behaviour, is not an exact science. The often referenced checklists of symptoms are typically based on the information provided in the much debated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

More often than not, these complications make finding good advice for mental health difficult, especially if you are in the “thick brown soup” (so called by Safi Bahcall on the Tim Ferris Show) that can be a mental health episode.

So let’s forget any formal training or education I’ve have had, but rather focus on the fact that I have personally dealt with mental health issues; in the form of Clinical Depression, from both nature (family genetics) and nurture (learned behaviors and crappy adolescence) components. Of which I feel I have mostly cured myself, with little help or support from the few close people I had in my life (which makes it even harder). So trust me when I say I understand, even if you get the impression that I am insensitive to your mental health plight.

Throughout my life I have also had friends and acquaintances who have experienced various states of a variety of mental health issues, such as Severe Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Manic and Clinical Depression, PTSD, and much more. I have been exposed to such individuals simply by virtue of not living a sheltered life, and by recognizing that, perhaps, the saying “birds of a feather flock together” has some truth to it. For those who had both decent genetics and stable upbringings with good role models, in my experience, these people often struggle to deal with those who have mental health issues; often due to prevalent social stigma causing those with mental health issues to perhaps be naturally drawn (pushed?) to each other. This, of course, results in a history of rather interesting, albeit difficult, personal relations.

Merely two paragraphs ago I mentioned that I often come off as insensitive to those who have mental health issues, but, really it’s about my understanding of a simple fact:

If you, with all of the mental burdens you are feeling, want to get better, there is only one person who can truly help you get better…

You!

It’s a harsh reality to accept, especially if you are struggling. Medication (which I took for a few years and it did help me) or counselling (which I also dabbled with) will do nothing for you if you don’t do the work to change how you think and how you live your life. (Outside intervention may even be re-enforcing the way you think and feel.)

Much like addicts, the story we like to tell ourselves is that no one understands. Even when we meet other people with similar problems, if not identical, we still like to say things like; “But you don’t really understand,” “My situation is worse,” “You can change, I can’t.” A topic by the way recently discussed by Doctor Drew on the Podcast The Fighter and the Kid, so don’t just take it from me, take it from an addictions expert.

While, yes, there are extreme cases, most of the time you are no different than that other person experiencing the same thing. The cause or specifics may be different, but the feeling is the same. There is a reason after all, those people experiencing the same mental health problems often have very similar brain scans. Because, fundamentally, in your brain it’s the same problem.

This means that once you can get over yourself, and realize you want to get better, you are likely already halfway down the path to a happier life. The next step is getting off the couch and doing something about it.

Medication

I figured starting here is a good place since its probably one of the more controversial topics. Generally I operate on the “bell curve” model for most things. Some people who have mental health issues serious enough to need help may need to be on medication indefinitely, lets say 5-10%, some people may never need medication, lets also say 5-10% and then everyone else falls into some kind of spectrum (dependent on many factors).

Let’s start with something very important first. For most people, the first thing you do in a mental health episode/crisis is to contact a doctor, whether they be a General Practitioner (GP) or a walk-in clinic. Therefore, it is likely that the first person you will interact with only understands mental health in a general sense. Furthermore, they may not be able to consider the larger context of your life or specifics of your particular situation.

In general most GP’s and the like only have one tool: Medication. In my opinion, pills are often over-prescribed and should rarely be the first course of action. It is, however, the easy route, even though it is really not the best place to start. A reminder though; some people do require medication, even if its only for a short time. But, in general, long term use is not advised in most cases (again, in my opinion).

The reason I say this is a simple one: Sometimes the factors causing a mental illness or episode are very much environmental factors, such as a horrible job, terrible home life, a death in the family, or lack of social skills. Doctors rarely have the time to truly dive into your life to figure out if it’s a non-biological factor that is causing your distress. You may not even know! People like to lie to themselves about the situation they are in, and it can take weeks or months for people to open up and be honest.

Questions you should ask yourself are; “Can a find a different job,” “am I able to change my living conditions,” or “is there a family history of this issue” (even an undiagnosed one). This should always be the place to start.

Often this means deep and difficult discussions with yourself, which may result in requiring serious, and also difficult, life changes. This is why medication is often the route people take. Because it’s easier.

For the record, I was on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for about two years, and for me it was a great help because I finally started to understand what people were talking about when they said “just be happy.” My mind literally had no frame of reference, internally, for this notion, and I simply couldn’t understand. This is why, in my case, where there is clearly a family history, it was hard for me. Being on medication really helped me gain the basic framework from which to start building the internal/external skills to cope and change how my mind worked. But I knew being on SSRIs long term wasn’t great, as they do have drawbacks; I was lucky they only made me feel fatigued and robotic. Weirdly enough, the latter helped me socially, as I was “more likable” because I was less emotional or reactive. People liked the toned down version, but for me it really wasn’t a long term option, so I slowly weened myself off SSRIs after about 2 years (which was it’s own struggle).

Anyway, it can’t be overstated that a doctor whose first response is to give medication, without proper follow ups and a significant look into your life and context, in my opinion, should not be a doctor anymore; they are just being lazy and dishonest. For me, the decision to go on medication was only after I had done everything else (from therapy to moving to another country). Even then, it was only after a serious manic depressive episode that it occur to me that there was actually something seriously wrong.

So, should you go on medication? Which type should you go on if you do? For how long? Should you go on something meant for short term relief or a long term regime?

These are all good questions that really need to be deeply considered, with yourself, your doctor, and any consulting mental health professionals you have access to.

I generally believe that if you have not done anything to improve your situation, then you should try other strategies first. If after several life adjustments things still haven’t changed, then medication, even for a short time to get you moving, may simply be what your brain needed to rest and heal.

A word of warning: To my knowledge they don’t really have a good way of knowing which medication and at what dose to give to start people on. It’s often guesswork based on feedback from the patient. The thing is most people give very dishonest feed back, for whatever reason. I remember going on one type of SSRI at 5mg, nothing changed. Then 10. Nothing changed. My doctor said “let’s do 20mg and if it doesn’t work we will try a different type.” I casually asked the pharmacist how to know if it works. They said “If it’s working you will know.” The pharmacist was correct! For me, that particular brand, at 20mg, was like a ray of sunshine in the darkness. It immediately kicked in. Later, when I was going off the meds, I was only on 10mg, and eventually none. If you are honest, you will know if it is working or not. Do not just say it is if there is no real change.

Therapy

This may be a better place to start once you have identified that there is an issue. Here’s the thing, therapy, if not covered by medical insurance, can be very expensive indeed. One thing that drives me nuts is when mental health professionals try to tell a person who is broke and already struggling that they can find a way to afford counselling sessions, at $100 dollars an hour, at least once a week, because “it’s worth it.” While it may very well be, it might also be more of a financial burden than the individual can handle.

The other thing is, just like doctors or any other professional, there is a reason there is always a “best in the field.” Many therapists, whether they are a psychiatrist, private therapist, or public therapist, will be better at their job than others. This means that the chances of finding someone who is effective, who you connect with, and who you can afford, is very difficult.

However, especially if you don’t have a support network, someone is better than no one. What I will say is, don’t just stick with the first person who could see you. If you don’t click, you don’t click.

I would also caution that, in most cases, if you have to see them for more than 6 months or a year, other than maintenance checkups, they may just be taking your money. A decent therapist can often give you want you need in far less sessions than you think. That is, of course, if they are decent and they are not trying to take advantage of you.

For some, several sessions may be required at regular intervals at the beginning to assess and build a framework, others may only need one. It really depends.

I would like to stand up for therapists, though, and say that, often the reason things haven’t gotten better for a person regularly seeing a therapist is that the person is using the therapist as a crutch and hasn’t actually done anything to improve their life outside of therapy.

Remember, the responsibility for getting better is on you, not the therapist. They can only guide and advise, they are not supposed to tell you what to do. Which means that if they keep saying the same thing to you for years, the fault is on you. I know, people don’t like to take responsibility, even in normal times let alone mental health situations, but, sorry, it’s the truth

There is a reason, after all, that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), still tends to be the most effective type of therapy for treating a variety of mental health issues. As the onus is on you to do the work, on a consistent, daily basis, and re-shape how you think about the world and yourself.

So, pick your therapist wisely, and remember that you need to want to get better, no matter who you talk to.

Support Network

They say having a strong support network helps. That is, if you have one. Some people are lucky enough to have a strong group of supportive friends they built from high-school, or have strong family support on all levels. Though to be honest, if you have severe mental health problems there’s a good chance you did not have a very strong support network from the start. If you do, than that’s awesome, you have a leg up and I am very happy for you.

In my case though, I had few, very consistent, people in my life who did offer support. The reality is for me, they did not have the skills, knowledge, or time to really help me in a more meaningful way. I suspect that for many this is a familiar experience. This is why, no matter how hard it seems, it may be on you, and you alone, to get help and get better. (Notice a theme?)

The reason it can be difficult to have a strong support network is because those in your life who have their shit together more than you often are too busy with their own lives. Or they don’t have the energy to deal with what, to them, seems like a difficult friend.

I can say that for me, someone who has always struggled to have strong connections with other people (partially due to mental illness, but also the fact I am a strong-willed person at the best of times), the majority of the people I thought were my friends essentially bailed on me because I was too difficult to deal with. You can look at this a few ways:

  1. You are just too much – This may not be a popular thing to say, but dealing with people suffering from mental illness is tough. Unless those around you really have their shit together and have the right temperament, you may actually be just too much for them to deal with at that time. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s an all too common scenario. It’s not that they don’t care, they just can’t make you a priority in their life. It’s okay, everyone has their own lives. These are the people you should forgive, as it is more an indication of their life than yours.
  2. They were not very good friends in the first place – To be honest, though I admit I am a difficult person, I would say that this is the category into which the majority of the “friends” I had before my major episode fall. I say this because the vast majority of people didn’t even try. They just saw I was being difficult and bailed on me outright. If this is the case, then be happy that they are out of your life. They clearly didn’t care enough to ask if everything was alright when the signs are clear as day that it is not. Don’t feel bad, just know that when things get better you will find new friends and you will be happier for it.
  3. It really is your fault because you aren’t even trying to get better – This applies to those people who have an active support network who are always trying to help, yet years later nothing is better. There is a point, whether you realize it or not, that eventually people will give up on you. I am sorry, but you may be just too much, in general, and you aren’t taking responsibility. Either you may need to seek different professional help, or realize that, if you don’t change, everyone in your life who matters will be gone. If you don’t want to change so that you can be happier, then there is nothing anyone else can do for you. It is ultimately on you. They tried, you didn’t. After a long enough timeline, don’t be surprised when people walk away.

The trick is to know which category you fall into. If you have an amazing support network from the past, or a new one you have discovered, whether it be a new friend, a support group for your mental illness, or a therapist, then that is awesome. But, if not, do you fall into one of the three scenarios mentioned above, or is there another one? The truth is you probably won’t actually know until later, when your mind has calmed down and you can think clearly. It may even be years later that you finally it out. But know, though, it is easier with a support network. So make building or finding one a priority in your first steps. You can get better without one if you really want to, yes, it is a lot harder, but it can be done.

In a country like Canada there is little reason why you should not be able to find something, as there are many government funded resources and groups you can access. Even if they are not for you, they can often start you on a path to healing, one way or another.

Conclusion

Mental health it can be a difficult topic to talk about objectively, as there is so much emotion and ego involved. One thing to remember is that you are not alone. In this world there is someone else who is feeling the same as you are. This is actually, in a weird way, good news, because when enough people have the same issue it means there are resources and solutions available. You just have to start looking.

The first step is identifying that there is a problem, and which problem there is. Once you do that, you will be able to find the path that allows you to get better, so you can live a happier, more productive life.

I have met people who have had all sorts of mental health issues, some, at times, were quite serious, but they managed to get it sorted out so they too could be happier and healthier. Others struggle with the same problem for years and years because, despite being given the same advice from everyone around them, choose to stay in the shitty mental state they claim to want to move on from.

The latter probably do want to get better, but they have found all sorts of reasons not to.

The choice is always yours. I know that if you are reading this you want it to get better. You want the pain to go away or at least lessen. And, yes, it is pain, just like breaking a leg or bumping your head, but this one is not so simple to fix; it will require hard work and change.

This post is not meant as a comprehensive mental health guide, it obviously can’t be. Rather, it is meant to offer a perspective in thinking about mental health.

This series has been about the fact that self-defence is not just physical, which means I wanted you to consider other areas of your life that could take a little bit of self-defence. Our lives have become ever more complicated; more so that our nervous systems are adapted for.

If you are able to take care of yourself physically but not mentally, and your whole world seems chaotic and painful, then what good is physical self-defence if you still are struggling to see the light?

The answers are all interconnected. Whether the concern is physical, mental, digital, or financial, they are all aspects of your life. You need to live a balanced life, and seek to better yourself a little bit every day. Build one and it can build the others.

So what are you waiting for? Make your life happier, healthier, and better today, even if only a little bit.

By: Jonathan Fader

This is the second of three sections expanding on the original piece titled, Self-defence is Not Just Physical.

Audio by Jonathan Fader with added content

In the modern world, being financially stable can be harder than ever, especially when the vast majority of people are living paycheque to paycheque. One of the biggest mistakes the average person makes is not thinking long term, but rather choosing instant gratification; getting something now and having nothing for later. A common belief is that our school systems do not spend enough (or any) time on financial literacy. Basic education should include simple things like how to put together a rudimentary budget, how to prepare your taxes, or how basic investing works.

While we often blame the rich for getting richer as the poor get poorer, one of the reason this trend continues is that either “the rich” understand how to make their money work for them, understand the financial system and how to protect their money, or they have the resources to hire the people who do.

For most of us though, it’s really a matter of understanding we are starting with less. So unless you happen to have the next “big idea” it’s going to be a long term thing. Work hard when you are younger and invest smart, then maybe you can retire in your 40’s or 50’s.

While I am no expert, I can certainly tell you the things that I have learned (mostly from screwing up and being broke). What I can say for certain is that part of personal self-defence is the ability to be ready, financially, to deal with the inevitable financial blows that life will throw at you. Even if that means you had solid enough financials to have a line of credit on hand in case of emergencies. Though having money in the bank is ideal, having financial buffers will save you from the deep hole that is financial ruin. So be smart, and include financial planning in your self-defence plans.

Don’t Spend Past Your Budget

As a martial arts instructor teaching a style that is not overly popular in my region, living on a tight budget is something I have become used to. However, as the world is increasingly difficult to survive in with less money, managing what little you have is key.

A question I often ask myself is, “how do people who make 4, 5 or 6 thousand dollars a month, after taxes, still manage to be broke (or at least say they are)?” It’s probably because they seek instant gratification and buy everything they can rather than preparing for the future. They seek experience and the “now” over anticipating the future. While that’s fine sometimes, do it too much and you may be on the path to financial disaster.

Of course, the less money you have the harder it can be to stick to your budget, because you may have to make important decisions on what to buy or which bills to pay (especially in with complications like Covid-19).

It’s at these times in life when budgeting comes in handy, or rather it would have had you done it. One of the hardest things for people to do, especially when they don’t have much money in the first place, is to include in their budget a “rainy day fund” and retirement savings. They may not seem important now, but they are! (I’ll come back to this.)

A basic budget should include necessities such as housing, food, and, in most cases, transportation. Anything beyond that, at least according “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” may in fact be a luxury. If you have the money to spend more, then have at it. But if you don’t, think, do you really need the newest iPhone?

Ok, so enough talk. In the absence of credit, a budget is simply the act of planning your finances so that money coming in can cover the costs of money going out. If you have no credit, or options similar to this, then a budget is a MUST. If you do not create and follow one, then you may find your self not eating.

Lets look at something simple.

Mike has $3,000 after taxes every three months.

  • Rent = $1,200
  • Food = $500
  • Transportation = $800

After the basics are covered Mike has $500 extra a month. Most people would spend that on eating out or “toys.” A smart planner would take some of that and put it away, even if it’s only a little. Lets say he puts $100 a month away into retirement savings and $100 into a emergency fund, that now leaves $300 for entertainment and toys.

What if Mike works hard and earns a raise? He now has $3,200 every three months. If Mike was already financially stable, why not put the extra money directly into savings or investments. If he was doing fine without it, then he will have a $200 boost in savings without noticing a change in his lifestyle.

While most people these days do not like to operate in a frugal mindset, in the long run planning investments and emergency funds into your budget is crucial; so that in the hard times you are not destitute. So be smart, start early and reap the later benefits of a well planned budget.

Invest Early and Consistently

Assuming you manage to put something away for investments and retirement, the earlier you do it, the better. Have you heard of something called “compound interest?” Essentially it’s interest on the interest. This is the key to long term savings and building your early retirement.

If I put $100 into my retirement savings, and it averages a 3% return annually, then after one year it’s $1236 (depending on the frequency interest is compounded). The next year I put in another $1200, which would also receive the 3%, but so would the original $1236, resulting in $2509 rather than just $2,472. Which basically means that first $36 in interest, which you didn’t invest from your pocket originally, is continuing to grow for you. The earlier you do this the more the interest stacks, and the longer you have the more you earn.

If you started saving for retirement in your 20s vs your 30s the difference in the end number can be quite staggering. The amount of money you would need to put in during your 30s, to get the same results you would have gotten if you started modestly in your 20s, is quite a lot more than you think (the math is out there). I say again; Start early, even if its only $50 per month.

The best way to start early is of course as a parent. Start saving for your child’s future, (and not just for school) in a trust and your child will have an amazing head start. of course don’t just give it to them when they turn 18, make them wait and ensure they have learned financial literacy and good spending habits early.

Another important consideration in favour of investing early, and consistently rather than lump sum, is the ability to average out your costs of purchases across lows and highs in the market. The idea of “buying low and selling high” really isn’t what you think. Even the worlds greatest investor Warren Buffet, doesn’t try to time the movements of the market; he does his research and plays the long game.

Even when the market crashes it can be an excellent time to buy, if you are planning for the long term, that is, if you are buying more conservative “blue chip” funds, rather than trying to play the actual stock market. Which is not advisable, unless you have lots of disposable income and really know what your are doing. For the record, most people I know who play the regular market with only a few thousand dollars (which they can’t really afford to lose) typically lose. So play the long game and be smart about it.

Remember, even if you had invested in Apple, Microsoft, or Amazon early on, only to sell a year later and make some money, it is nowhere near the amount you would have made if you had held on. Of course, there is also no way of knowing which companies will be the next big ones, so if you aren’t sure I suggest leaving it up to the experts.

Nowadays, due to online banking, you can manage your money on your own. That being said, buying the professionally managed funds, in the long run in most cases, is going to give you a higher return than simply guessing and playing the lows and highs. Why? Compound interest and people who know better than you.

So start early, be consistent, and don’t just gamble, play the long game.

Diversify

Unless you happen to get lucky with the next big stock, and cash out just in time for you to see the crash, it’s best to diversify. In reality, even the best investors can’t time the market and may lose billions in one big market swing or crash. Those who come out on top tend to do so because they play the long game and have diversified portfolios, they still have money working for them, somewhere, when a crash outright destroys others.

Diversifying basically means “do not put all your eggs in one basket.” Even if you are playing conservatively and sticking to large professionally managed funds, you should have your money spread out between a variety of categories. Though what percentage is split how is totally up to you. Maybe you have 50% of your money in funds tied to your country, 30% to precious metals, and the remaining 20% in highly volatile, high-risk-high-reward, stocks. Maybe you have a different break down, really it’s up to you and your money managers to decide based on your own comfort and goals. Diversifying will almost always give you more protection if one area does poorly, and can help you with that dollar-cost averaging in the long run, making you come out on top even if times are tough.

Remember, the Dotcom bubble of the ’90s, or the more recent Crypto currency bubble? People lost everything because they put everything into a single venture and lost it all. Consider that if you are hearing about it on the news chances are the people who made the real money are already out and you are just a sucker.

Of course, if you want to put 20% of your money into such risky endeavors, no one is stopping you. You may make a killing, but it is all about when to sell, and most people sell too late. But, if the rest of your money is tied up in safer funds, then at least that 20% loss wasn’t everything.

Be smart, diversify, and (you guessed it) play the long game.

Conclusion

I should remind you at this point that finances are not my expertise, and I, admittedly, I do not have much money. These ideas are based on the lessons I have learned the hard way. Wisdom that only now have I realized I should have known and acted on years ago. But, if you don’t have a lot of money the banks rarely give you the best advisors; you usually only have conversations with sales people at the lower level. If no one in your family or circle of those who you look up has a good grasp on financial literacy, you may find yourself drowning in debt.

The earlier you learn these skills the better. Remember, most “get rich schemes”are just that, schemes. They fail for almost everyone and result in large financial loses. So try not to get swept up in the hype.

Protect yourself and your finances through smart financial self-defence. This includes knowing enough to know when someone is feeding you bullshit. For if you simply give your money to someone to manage outright, and you don’t know enough to check, you could actually find yourself losing it all to the next big Ponzie scheme (read up on Bernie Madoff).

Become financially literate, learn enough to play the long game, and start early. If you do, you will be in better shape than the majority of the population.

Remember, self-defence is not just physical. What other skills might you need to properly defend yourself in the modern world?

Written by: Jonathan Fader

  Mental and digital attacks can be as harmful as physical ones. (©Photo: PIxabay)
Audio by Jonathan Fader with added content

Once upon a time, learning to defend yourself was a simple matter of fending off wolves and stopping physical violence from others. OK, not so simple, but still much more black and white than the kind of things we need to defend ourselves from in the 21st century. Where it was once only about the physical, now we need to consider many other factors.

Don’t get me wrong, physical self-defence is still very important, as it is so fundamental (and I have, after all, dedicated my life to teaching others to defend themselves from physical violence). Even though the physical aspect is what would be considered more my area of expertise, I am aware of, and often talk about, other aspects of life that require a kind of self-defence strategy (in addition to the knowledge and skill to deal with them).

I will be discussing three areas of interest that I think people often need help in understanding so that they can properly defend themselves. I will expand on each of these topics in subsequent posts.

These are;

  • Digital Self-defence
  • Financial Self-defence
  • Mental Health Self-defence

Digital Self-defence

Everything that was once pen and paper, to be found only in specific buildings now forgotten, called libraries, is now stored digitally on computers or in the cloud, accessible to anyone with enough skill or patience to trick the systems.

While we often think it’s mainly about having a strong password, many people still use Password01 or 123456 (terrible ideas!). Digital security is so much more complicated than that.

Do you know what a “phishing” scam is? They are very common, yet many people still fall prey to them. In fact, the famous “Hillary Clinton email hack” was traced to someone falling to such a scam (and should have known better); as case in which phishing changed the course of political history for all to see.

Or how about a “porting” scam, in which scammers transfer your phone number to another carrier so they can reset all of your passwords. So much for 2-step authentication.

It can be easy to fall prey to these if technology is not your thing. Best case scenario, you simply have to change a few passwords. Worse case scenario, you have your entire savings cleared out in seconds.

So have you done everything you need to do to preemptively protect your digital self?

Financial Self-defence

Did I mention you can have your savings wiped out if you fall prey to digital scams? That is to say, if you in fact have any savings in the first place.

More and more, especially in the younger generations, people are struggling to defend themselves financially. Either because they can’t manage to save any money or they are not sure what to do with what they have.

Investing can be scary, and preparing for your retirement is something that can be put off for a long time because you feel like you have forever until that day. However, the earlier you learn financial self-defence, and thus the earlier you save and invest, the better of you will be.

Yes, financial literacy is extremely lacking, and it is increasingly harder to manage things yourselves without, ironically, forking out loads of cash to pay an expert. The thing is, the more financially literate you are as soon as possible, the easier choices will be in the future. That is, unless you happen to start during a black swan event, like what’s been going on in the market recently. Then its just bad luck.

Either way, how financially prepared are you to deal with the inevitable ups and downs you will face throughout your life?

Mental Self-defence

This is a topic which I have discussed before, and for many it may in fact be the hardest thing to deal with. How you address it will also depend on where in the world you are when you read this; it may or may not be considered a culturally acceptable topic, or there may not be support readily available for mental health.
Additionally, mental health, realistically, is relatively new topic in its own right, and as a result there are many aspects we are still trying to figure out, which means finding meaningful and closer-to-correct answers can be difficult.

“Difficult” becoming “seemingly impossible” if you are in the middle of a specific mental health crisis. On this I will argue, like all self-defence, that, if you are able to, you are the one most responsible for regulating and rebuilding your mental health; even when you have strong support networks. If you don’t have a support network, then know that you are not alone in the world.

This topic is very sensitive and it is often connected to experiences related to physical self-defence. Or it may be connected to other considerations, such as genetics, family history, or particular non-violent events in your life. Either way, it is a complicated subject and requires a certain level of understanding and knowledge to truly delve into.

Yet day-to-day mental health and happiness may be more important than physical self-defence, assuming you are in a safe country. If you are somewhere that physical self-defence is still a big part of your daily life, then often your mind may be too preoccupied to even realize that you are suffering a mental health problem.

Just know, as with physical self-defence, there are training options for both preventative measures and coping mechanisms to deal with such issues.

Conclusions

One thing to remember, in this world that is increasingly more and more complicated, is the importance of understanding that everything is interconnected. Only focusing on one area of your self-defence really is only looking at one part of the picture. It can be hard to understand it all, but if you are oblivious to the workings of your life, your emotions, and the world around you, then it will be even more difficult to overcome hardships when you are blindsided by events that you could have done something to stop, had you been aware.

Remember, no matter what type of self-defence you are practicing, at the end of the day the only person who can really protect you, is you. Waiting for others to step up may often just mean disappointment, which means further conflict, both internally and externally, which means you may not feel like you have any power at all, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

So what are you going to do to improve your ability to defend yourself, physically, digitally, financially, or mentally?

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Cliche New Years Resolutions

These are all good goals, But are they objectively achievable and enjoyable in your life. If you really want them to be, they can be.

Another year has passed and its time for another cliche post about the new years and what to do. Cliches are annoying because they just remind us of things we know but often refuse to accept. Sometimes boring is boring because it works and though we love being creative as it makes us feel special we really should just stick to the cliche because then it would not only be easier but we might actually see more results.

As it is the end of the Christmas week, and moving into the new years its time for those cliche new years resolutions. So in the Cliche, Christmas and New Year spirit lets take a look at some cliches to help guide for the New Year.

The first cliche is to remind you of one of the UTKM Core Principles,

“We never stop learning and growing”

this means no matter what your goals, dreams or wishes for the new year are so long as you learn something and get value from the experience it was well worth it. So Empty your cup and start your journey.

It seems that the path to success is different for everyone. Yet one of the most consistent pieces of advice is to learn from your failures because it will only make you better. Refuse to learn and you might find things rarely go the way you want. And choosing not to do, for fear of failure is just as bad. So what are you waiting for? Have you made your new year’s resolution yet? Made your plans for life changes? Are you ready for personal growth?

If that wasn’t full of cliches hear is another one, though it is a valuable one so remember it well.

“Make realistic achievable and measurable goals”

Its a fairly straight forward one. If you make a new year’s resolution or set new goals and you rarely complete them its probably because they are unrealistic. A surefire way to fail is to set a goal that you cannot actually achieve. Either because it’s more than you can handle. You didn’t think it through completely or you were not being objectively realistic.

For example, if you are 200lbs overweight and you say you are going to lose it in 3 months then you have not just set an unreasonable goal but also an unhealthy one. A more realistic one might be to lose 100lbs per year for the next two years. A plan of action would include hiring a nutritionist and personal trainer to help you on your path. Or if the money is not there then the time to do the research on the internet is an alternative option. Though as we are social creatures it is often very important to know that sometimes we need that extra push from some external supportive source.

Easy so far? I hope so. Heres the last one,

“Make it enjoyable and make it a lifestyle”

If you hate every moment of your New Year’s transformation then it is not likely you will stick to it. If you don’t stick to it you will probably just make the same goal as next year. In relation to the previous point part of making something, a realistic goal is to ensure you can do it. Part of that is not torturing yourself over it.

For example if you know sugar is bad for you but you’ve had it most of your life, going cold turkey might be a miserable path to failure. Instead, curb your sweet tooth cravings with healthier alternatives like honey or maple syrup. This way you can still get your cravings but with a better alternative. Eventually, as you cut back your sugar intake you might find you can go days or even weeks without it.

My New Years Plans

So what am I planning for the new years? Nothing crazy or unrealistic. I Will be going at the end of April to some fairly intense training. So with the encouragement of my significant other, I will be doing an elimination diet with them to reset my system. I will also be getting back into a slightly more rigorous training regiment in order to prep for the training in April.

The goal is simply to get healthier and slightly back in shape so I can peak for the actual training without dying. So I have a realistic timeline to stick too, about 3 months.

The diet its self is meant as a re-set diet to curb any inflammation in my body. Starting with 2 weeks of a nordic Inspired diet, mostly fish and greens. Then 2 weeks, Keto and the 1-month paleo. Starting with the most restrictive diet and then moving towards the least restrictive. Often the hardest part of such diets is the social aspects. As I am doing it with my partner we can support each other and enjoy our meals together. This allows me to maintain the social aspect of eating without the strain of making two sets of food. It also helps us keep each other in check. The original plan we looked into is actually much longer but as we want it to stay enjoyable we figure the 2 months leading up to the training will be much more bearable.

The other thing with reset diets is despite the marking fads they are rarely meant to be long term. The last time I did a strict diet, was only about a month but I saw wonders as it completely reset my metabolism and has since then been fairly easy for me to control my weight and physique without to much work.

The other thing that makes this a reasonable goal is that it fits into my lifestyle already. It’s just a matter of being a bit more disciplined than normal. I usually work out or do martial arts every week, and I generally eat fairly well that combined with the timeline will make this a good experience indeed.

So thats my plan for the new years? What cliche resolution will you be making? Just remember, whatever it is. Learn from it, Make it objectively realistic and something that you will enjoy.

Happy Holidays and I wish you all the best in the New Year.

 

rise-and-rise-again.jpg

Find your inner athlete, become the Lion over time what was impossible will be possible with consistency and dedication. Your inner Athlete Awaits.

When I was growing up, I was not much of an athlete. I was put in pre-hockey, soccer, baseball and probably more than I cannot even remember. What I do remember, is I was never picked first and was always on the worst teams. It did not inspire me much to try harder or put in the effort. Eventually, I stopped doing anything athletic and started putting on a bit more weight than I should have as a kid in elementary (grade) school.

At some point between grade 8 or 9, I was getting tired of being picked on. I on my own, cut out most sugar from my diet and started hitting the gym. I lost a lot of weight and got in better shape than I was before. I even when I had the option in Grade 10 opted to take the fitness-based gym class rather than the regular one. Despite this, however, I was far from the athletic prowess of the naturally talented athletes in my high school.

Despite this and despite not coming from an overly athletic home I was always drawn to some level of physical activity. Pre-Army (IDF), I trained a lot to get ready. As things didn’t go the way I had hoped I ended up in the regular Infantry and lost much of my motivation to stay in more shape than I should have been often choosing sleep over physical activity when free time was available.

Once again I watched as the naturally physically gifted soldiers made the rigorous training look easy from a physical perspective while I struggled. I did, however, learn as a consequence that if you are not physically as capable and you are pushed to your limits more often you may find yourself developing a mental strength you never thought you had. This strength that only the best of the naturally talented individuals will also develop while most of them did not because it was never really that hard for them anyways.

Later out of the army, I finally really started my Martial arts Journey. While I had trained Krav Maga prior to the army, and a little in the army it was after when I started to train more seriously as well as adding BJJ and a variety of other styles into my training.

Again, I was never an athlete capable of keeping pace with the best. But I enjoyed it and kept training. While I did start teaching Krav Maga this was not due to my athletic prowess or skill but rather my ability to teach its self and my understanding of Krav Maga and a more modern holistic approach.

Fast forward to today. With 11 years of Krav Maga training, 7 years of teaching and 7 years of BJJ (Almost 8). I find my self being told by individuals who are just starting out how impressive I am athletically.

That voice in my head always tells me that no I am not an athlete as to me if you are not training full time and doing it professionally than I am not an athlete. Yet to the new people who I can often run circles around in their eyes they see an athlete.

It is now only in this past year that I am starting to consider my self an athlete (A casual one, but still). While Life has not gone the way I would have liked where I can focus all my efforts on training I in many cases am finally starting to possess the skills and ability that many consider athletic.

This past year for a few months I was fortunate to be able to train with individuals who I would consider at the higher levels of skill and in many cases during training, I was able to keep up or and excel past what they were doing. This was the first twinkle I had internally that maybe I might just be an athlete.

In BJJ, I find my self outpacing and often beating people who I used to struggle against and whereas I used to have trouble against younger, larger athletic white belts I now can quite handly beat, much to theirs and my own amazement.

While I am still no genetically gifted individual, I am starting to see that yes, I am finally finding my inner athlete.

The thing is it is no secret, and you too can do it. It simply takes time and consistency.

It’s not so much that I am more athletic than I ever was it is simply a matter of my body has learned how to operate more efficiently. My mind has a firm grasp on the skills that I have learned enough that I can finally adapt and modify as I need, rather than waiting for the answers to be given. and that the hours are really started to add up.

The 10,000-hour rule is something I have often talked about and it is quite a lot of time to put into a specific subject. The thing is that it is for mastery. If on any given thing you only put in 3000 hours you will still be far better than someone who has put in only a few hours.

I have also talked about consistency in training. It is simply a matter of never letting to much time go in between training sessions. While many of us would love to train full time, the reality is for must of us making a good enough living off of it is very difficult and in some cases unrealistic. BUT!, those hours do add up and if you never quit and always did some training one day you may realize you have developed your own inner athlete.

So you weren’t born a natural athlete?

That’s ok. Many coaches would prefer to have someone that is mediocre but puts in the time than have a natural athlete that is lazy. Because over time its the person with more practice that usually comes out on top.

If it takes a year, 5 years or 10 years. If you train enough, even if only once a week you too may find your self looking in the mirror and saying. “Hmm, I guess I am an athlete”

Find your inner athlete, keep training, have fun and you too will become that thing you always wanted to be.

And remember, at UTKM, our motto is Turning Lambs into Lions, so if you stick too it long enough you may find a Lion inside.

By: Jonathan Fader (UTKM Lead Instructor)

 

Know your self.jpg

Sometimes the answers we seek have already been learned but we are too proud, to scarred or too weak to accept the reality. Sun Tzu knew this thousand’s of years ago in ancient china. The full quote goes as such:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are two aspects of this quote, one the good strategy of studying your enemy is something I can talk about another time as I want to focus on knowing your self.

Fear is a powerful thing. It is a built-in biological mechanism designed to protect us from harm and death. Once upon a time, this was good when the threat was lions and tigers and bears, Oh My! But now in the modern world, we are still using these mechanisms designed to protect us from predators against things like homework, large social structure, modern workplaces, social media and generally far too much stimulus than we are really designed to handle.

What this means is that we often create fear where none need exist.

but did you die.jpgI often say when teaching the only real fail in self-defense or in general is death.

So you are worried about being judged, even if you are judged, did you die?

So you lost your match, but did you die?

So what, you failed your final exam, but did you die?

We often for one reason or another either from external pressure or internal ones activate the fear mechanism to not do something or to stress out when we dont need to. This is not good. If you are stressed due to a perceived fear then you will not be able to focus or perform as well as you can. Which means it might just actually all be in your head. This is what the knowing your self aspect of the quote means. If you are unable to control your emotions and fears in any given situation you will not be able to do the best that you can. If you take every “Failure” as a learning experience then you will ever grow stronger. But if you perceive every “Failure” as a near-death experience your body will treat it as such and you may just spiral into an unproductive fear loop that paralysis you and prevents you from the growth you know you are capable off.

Ask your self honestly, how well do you really know yourself. If you look deep and dont like things about yourself or your life then change it. If you learn what the issues are that are causing the fear it may even help you move forward. One thing is for certain is that if you only ever dwell in your fears than it won’t be better. For you and you alone have the power to change how you perceive things. Whether your fear something or not ask your self honestly, will fearing that thing or not fearing that thing cause you immediate death? If the answer is no, then guess what you have nothing to fear but fear its self.

So how well do you know your self? and what are you afraid of?

P.S. If you lived a full fruitful life, then death is not even something to fear for you will have left a lasting legacy behind you that hopefully caused the growth and development of the next generation of humanity.

Off to the World’s I go!

Posted: August 20, 2019 by Jonathan Fader in Competition, Mental Health
Tags: , , ,

No, I am not talking about competitive Krav Maga. An idea by the way I generally do not support. I am however talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This year will be the first year I compete at the World Master IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. BJJ is being more and more incorporated into the Krav Maga/Kapap world as we recognized that we must improve ourselves in all aspects of hand to hand combat skills. Training in some grappling outside of Krav is a requirement to be ranked at the upper levels of the UTKM system. Yes, it is that important.

I have written before about why I compete. For me, it keeps me motivated to train. Also, I can learn what I need to work on and grow through competitions.

Leading up to the worlds I have done a few other IBJJF and other competitions. One thing I learned is that I have not been performing at the level I know I can while I am competing. When I freeroll with my training partners I perform much better than when I compete. Over the last few months, I have been trying out different things in hopes of figuring this out. I got in the best shape of my life and trained more than I normally do by far and yet something still wasn’t right. After much thinking, I realized the problem was not physical. While in the past it might have been, that is not the issue now. No, my problem, like many others, is much more complicated.

The problem, you see, has been my mental state all along.

Knowing-is-half.jpg.jpgThe good news is, now that I have identified the main problem I have something to work with. However, knowing is half the battle.

The issue seems to be that when I am rolling with people for fun I am just trying to do the best Jiujitsu I can. I take risks, play around and I have fun. I am free

In competitions, however, I am trying so hard not to screw up. I overthink it and I end up not doing what I know I can do. After losses and wins, I always reflect deeply about my performance. I started to realize that while I certainly lose sometimes to opponents who are clearly more skilled than me, a lot of my losses are because I screw up on something that I shouldn’t have. Only to be thinking, why on earth did I do that.

Then, I realized that for some messed up reason whenever I am clearly winning I managed to lose. I must at some level self-sabotage. This is quite a sobering realization. Not only that I am failing to turn on the warrior mind I know I have but it is also quite possible that I am purposely screwing it up.

The funny thing is I know (FACT) in life or death situations I do just fine because body and mind go into automatic mode and I do what I need to do. In competition, however, as I know it to be a relatively safe environment, I have yet to learn to turn that part of my brain on and not overthink both consciously and subconsciously and end up losing not just the match but to my own worst enemy, myself.

Some solutions to this problem are:

  1. Train more – This is the obvious answer which is true for any style. Train so much that you no longer need to think your body just does. While I will never not train, the level I can train is usually dependent on many factors. On a slow week, I’ll get in 3-4 hours of training. On a crazy week, I will get closer to 10 hours of just BJJ. People often ask me how do I stay motivated. The truth is, I still struggle. Sometimes I train a lot, sometimes I dont. And I don’t feel good or bad about it either way. This then, I suppose, is a work in progress.
  2. Change my mindset – When I compete I should fight to do the best I can rather than worry about points. I know, it’s cliche, but as always cliches are often right no matter how annoying or unoriginal they are. While points do matter, trying to just not lose is nowhere near the same as trying to do the best you can. This is possibly the reason that many competitions now take a submission only approach. Rather than just trying to get points they encourage you to try for the submission no matter the risk. I often enjoy these tournaments, because I tend to do better. Hmm, I wonder why.
  3. Try to turn on my animal instinct – This one is both tricky and not. I have always been a slow starter. This means if my body isn’t totally on I am going to think more rather than just act. The solution for me at least is to start warming up well in advance of my start time. This why I am not going in cold. While some people can simply jump in and compete and win (Marcelo Garcia is notorious for waking up from a nap and winning) I do not think I am one of them.

Though my revolution about my problematic mindset may have come a little to close to the World Master, I will be going in knowing what I need to work on most. I even have several days in Vegas before I compete to contemplate and work on this.

If you are reading this and also struggle at competitions, then perhaps you have not figured out what your individual issue is. Do you train enough? Are you in shape? or is there some other deeper issues you are having trouble with. No matter the reason, if you would like to improve your performance in competition, then it is never too late to figure it out. Especially in the master’s divisions.

So keep training, and for those of you in Vegas, I hope to see you there.

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 2

 

Depression in nabulus.jpg

Depression near Nabulus

 

Fast forward to the middle to later part of my service. Stationed in Nabulus (Schem) on a mountaintop next to a Jewish Settlement overlooking numerous Arab villages. It was a particularly stressful time with little sleep, constant guard duty, pointless riot control that was like a stupid game of cat and mouse. At the same time, my best friend at the time and Spotter had been selected to go to sergeants school which means he would be gone. At the time I didn’t realize how having him, there was helping me to keep my sanity, but apparently, my commanders noticed a drastic change in my behavior after that.

Outside of the army, almost all the people whom I had moved to Israel with had either moved off the kibbutz where I was living or were people I disliked or vice versa. Nothing had gone to plan, and I felt isolated and alone with no support. I was spiraling into a deep depression and didn’t even know it at the time. Thankfully I rediscovered the album Kaleidoscope by Tiesto which had been released a little over a year previously. Though controversial from his fans as it branched away from his traditional style, it might have literally saved my life.

I found myself when not on guard duty, putting my headphones in and putting one or two of his songs on repeat. I could be seen pacing around our room or the base listening to it on repeat on what could probably look a zombie with earphones. At this time the album was the only things that brought me any Joy. One song often found itself on repeat. Here On this Earth feat. The Cary Brothers

“And the sun has fallen, and the backbeat’s telling truths
That you want to hear, and you want to hear again
And the closer that you get, with the force of all the weight
And it’s also clear, do you want to feel her

Want to feel her, want to feel her

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

And you take your time, because we’ve got all night
Saturday or nothing, we can do what we want
I’m a sucker for your game, it’s the way you tease
And it’s so unreal, when we touch the ceiling

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Make it so, it shakes your heart
Nice and slow, but can you let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
And you let it go, just let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
Can you let it go, let it go

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive
Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive”

Though the song talks about love, and a person existing giving the person meaning for me it was the chorus that helped me.

“For as long as you are, here on this earth, I feel Alive”

For me, I put myself in place of the lover and the protagonist and as long as I was here on Earth, I felt Alive. Just like the Warrior I had imagined myself before coming, I felt alive, and I was fighting for myself emotionally though at the time I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until much later after I returned from Israel and had a manic depressive episode that I even knew I had depression. But this song grounded me at what would be one of the darker times in my services.

Music. A powerful tool. Intuition says so, Science says so. So how are you going to use it? Early in my life, I used it to enhance my mood negatively. Later, I used it to motivate and drive me forward. Then I used it to stay alive and feel alive. The trick is not just finding music because it is trendy but finding music that not only speaks to you personally but music that can be used positively to enhance your mood. Don’t listen to music to enhance dark moods for this will only make you feel worse. Find music that inspires and motivates and keeps you feeling alive. Use it as a tool to help you with your mental challenges so that you can once again walk in peace.

Conclusion Note:

When I chose this topic to write about I had an entirely different idea in my head of what the final product would look like. But then I started writing. I began to listen to the songs I discuss, some of which I have not listened to in a long time. Not surprisingly to me, though slightly unexpected and certainly surprising to anyone who thinks they know me these songs brought back some relatively strong emotions as I re-lived these times in my life.

This just shows the power of music and its effect it has on emotion. Despite what people think even my self the robot is only human and is still subject to the same general biological rules as everyone else. I thought, am a warrior at heart, and accept my humanity, even if I think emotions cloud judgment far too often for far too many people. So if you have a hard time with emotional control find the tools and use them positively, music is just one of the few tools that can help.

*Originally published Nov 2nd, 2019

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 1

It’s actually because of Matisyahu and his music that helped convince me at the right time to drop everything, move to Israel and join the IDF. Specifically, two songs. Jerusalem and Warrior which also happen to be two of his earlier songs. But with all music, words alone cannot do them justice so here are the songs, assuming It doesn’t get pulled.

Jerusalem:

 

At one point I considered getting the lyric

“Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.”

tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse. I am glad the tattoo artist convinced Jerislam hebrew.jpgme out of it as it is a bit too religious for my liking now. Instead, I got the Hebrew word for life tattooed on me, to symbolize that I chose life, which I put in the center of my black and white star of David. It not only expressed my identity, as I am a proud Jew even if I have great disdain for religion but also that the universe demands unity of everything. Male and female, right and wrong, and good and evil.tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse.

However, the second verse of Jerusalem, in particular, spoke to me, which goes as follows:

“Rebuild the temple and the crown of glory
Years gone by, about sixty
Burn in the oven in this century
And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me
I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep
They come overseas, yes they’re trying to be free
Erase the demons out of our memory
Change your name and your identity
Afraid of the truth and our dark history
Why is everybody always chasing we
Cut off the roots of your family tree
Don’t you know that’s not the way to be”

It references the Holocaust and how history has attempted to destroy the Jews as a people, uproot us and destroy our lineage. Did I mention I am a proud Jew?

I decided to accept my identity of as a Jew not because I care about the Torah, not because I am religious, not because I like the holidays but because of history. In the end, it does not matter what I think, whether I accept myself as a cultural Jew, a religious Jew, or a genetic Jew. Those around will always see me as a Jew.

Hitler determined that if you had two grandparents that were Jewish, even if you weren’t a practicing Jew you would be considered a Jew and thus subject to the atrocities that were committed under his orders. This was even used in the construction of Israels Right to Return Laws.

Despite claims that there is no anti-Semitism in this world, it is a false narrative. Even when there are mass protests, like the misguided love trumps hate rallies, many of those who claim to operate in the name of love still hate Jews. For antisemitism is real and strong as ever. As such, no matter what I think those who would hate Jews will always see me as one no matter what I think.

This song, as well as the hate of others (irony), made me realize I must accept who I am and be proud of my heritage even if I don’t plan to continue the Jewish practices. This song helps me solidify who I am as a person. It helped me know who I am and accept it. It helped me understand the meaning of the Term Never Again when referring to the Jewish People in particular with that second verse and come 2008/2009 when I decided to move to Israel to join the IDF this was one of the reasons I convinced my self to go.

The second of Matisyahu’s two songs that helped me decide to go to Israel was Warrior

With this song, the line in the chorus,

“You’re a warrior, Fighting for your soul”

spoke to me.

For I am a warrior, fighting for my soul. Lost and unhappy and looking for a purpose.

For I am the Lion, The Wolf and the Fox, and I will fight for me because no one else will. Though I add the animal analogy as I write this, the three animals which I think embody UTKM, the rest was true at the time. I decided, yes I am a warrior. I don’t care if others look down at me, berate me, hate me, or deny my talents and potential. I will do it for me.

I even thought of my Grandfather who was a proud veteran of the Canadian Forces and a proud supporter of Israel. Outside of my Israeli Cousins, I would be the only of his children or grandchildren in North America closer to him that would continue the military tradition. I know he would have been proud of me, though unfortunately, he passed before my service, the memory of him and his dedication along with the song and what it means to be a warrior further pushed my decision to join the Military.

*Originally published Oct 26th 2019

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 3