Breaking Barriers

I am a marital artist. I have been on my journey more than 25 years. More than anything that means that I have chosen to live by a set of principles; commit to teaching and training; and to care for the people in my life. My journey has been both challenging and fulfilling to degrees which I could only have imagined at the beginning. It is my passion and makes me a better husband, father, professional, teacher, student, and all around person. It gives me a framework from which to draw on courage to push past difficulties, face adversity with confidence, and turn fear into strength. In other words, it is the foundation for how I break through the barriers presented in my life.

Breaking Barriers is also the name of a very special program I have been a part of for a number of years and it exemplifies so much of why I love martial arts and the people in it. A few years ago over lunch, a good friend and client, Pete Schoemann, was asking me about my martial arts school (which is usually the prelude to a long conversation).  Without hesitation I went into the passion I had for marital arts and the love I had for my school. He was interested in finding something that he could do with his two sons, both with Autism. I told him that I thought it was a perfect scenario to help in so many ways. Soon thereafter, Pete and his whole family had become an intricate part of DC Turnbull's Martial Arts.  As they progressed in their studies and training, his oldest daughter Katarina proposed that they could begin a program targeted specifically to people with “special needs” – and thus the Breaking Barriers program was formed.

In so many ways, martial arts is about breaking barriers, in this case it has deeper meaning to people that may have even more significant barriers in their day-to-day lives. The program began modestly with the Schoemanns and one other student. However, it didn’t take long for people to see and come to the program. With the outstanding support provided by instructors under Grand Master David Turnbull, today the program boasts more than 20 students, with a variety of special needs and all achieving amazing results. Some of the students have severe situations and some mild – all of them are taught to value themselves and others through the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit. They are also afforded a team of instructors and a program that sets the goals and pushes them to break through the unique barriers they may face. Parents and family members are quick to point out a number of benefits from self-confidence to behavior, better focus to communication skills.

Every time I am blessed with the opportunity to teach the Breaking Barriers class, I grow and learn more about life, people, and myself.  More importantly, I get to participate in helping someone break through and become more than they may have imagined. As an instructor, I have held boards for students, practiced forms, done push-ups, and celebrated achievements in many classes. For the times it’s been with the martial artists in Breaking Barriers, there is a unique sense of appreciation, wonder, and energy.

I would love to see more people benefit from this program and there is an event coming up that will help the program in its funding.  On April 9th, the Breaking Barrier students and their families are hosting a martial arts tournament at Seminole High School.  If you would be interested in sharing with someone that might benefit, perhaps be a sponsor or just attend, jump over to their website:

There are some universal ideas that we can all take from this program as well. Take some time to reflect on how you can engage with others to help break through a difficult situation or challenge.

  1. Recognize that everyone around you is facing challenges in their lives and will need help from someone…that could be you.

  2. Dream big and set achievable and measurable goals to get to your dream.

  3. Know that you will learn from everyone if you are humble in your instruction.

  4. When you instill confidence in someone, they can achieve anything.

Finally, let me introduce you to a few of the students as they share some of the barriers they have “broken” through – along with a few boards -  as part of their martial arts journey. These are some of my heroes.

Thanks for the shout out...a really good story

This week I begin a new and exciting adventure working with Adventist Health System. My friend and Dean of the UCF College of Business Dr. Paul Jarley wrote a cool blog regarding my time there and the importance of telling your story. I want to share his encouraging perspective as I start this new chapter in my story today.



Conquering Your Mountains

Conquering Your Mountains

When you face your mountain, climb it. More importantly, take time to build solid relationships around you so that when you arrive at the base of the mountain, you will have a team of people with you to help you get to the top.

Read More

The Difference is Discipline

Last night was what you would call a big night of football for our family.  Our University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights went into one of the most storied college football stadiums and knocked off Penn State, chalking up their first victory against a "Big 10" opponent. "Go Knights" and "Charge On" ( Closer to home, my son's high school football team won an equally impressive game...defeating the defending champs in their division 39-38. It is the high school game that really impressed me this weekend as it was the second week in a row that our team went into a game that they were out sized, had less pure athletes, and came out victorious.  Looking closer, the International Community School (ICS) Comets are a team that is only in its second year of playing, have just enough players to field a full team, and most seniors play both ways.

ICS Victory

The Comets hold a respectable 2-1 record at this point, and most would have predicted them 0-3 if they just stacked the teams up on paper.  Week One for the Comets was their loss and it was tough.  They faced a team with three running backs that should see college playing time and lost by 20 points. However, they should have lost by 50 points and they gave this team a scare by scoring first and hangining in with them throughout the game.  After the game I told the head coach that the boys changed that night, came together and achieved something in that game they may not realize or appreciate until later in life. They didn't quit and they saw the opportunities in front of them for the taking.

I was only partially correct because I think now that they did appreciate their victories that night and used them to pull off two impressive wins the past two weeks.  And the key to both of them was discipline.

The head coach has been a friend of mine for more than a decade and is a man of the highest integrity, driven by his deep spiritual beliefs and a strong work ethic. He loves the players and creates an environment of accountability for himself, his coaches and the players. He is humble and strong, passionate and yet he keeps his emotions in balance. This is discipline at the highest level and its is showing up in his players.

In both games discipline was the overriding key to victory. When things went badly for the opposing teams, three things happened: 1) the players got frustrated with one another and began taking it out on each other, 2) the coaches screamed and yelled at players singling people out and demeaning them, and 3) the trash talking on the field and penalties went to a new low. These three things caused a complete breakdown in the organization and they could no longer perform to their potential.

Juxtapose this to our ICS Comets.  When things went badly for them, three very different things happened. 1) the players would certainly express frustration, however, it was over and they immediately supported each other, 2) the coaches addressed the issue directly and without humiliating the player or harping on the mistake, and 3) they stayed focused on the objectives, not the other team or the things outside their control. Last night these traits culminated in an 80 yard winning touchdown drive with under 2:00 to play.

Now, this is high school football, so there were certainly emotional outbursts, poor decision-making and trash talking -- but my behavior is not what we are talking about here. Yet on the whole these young men and their coaches kept the tone and execution disciplined to the end.

The key thing about this team is they play for a higher calling...they play to become better men.  They are self aware of their strengths and shortcomings and they attack the game with a passion and enthusiasm that is infectious. All of this is part of the disciplined culture.

Here is where we can all take something away for ourselves. Discipline is a learned behavior in individuals, teams and organizations...the ICS Comets illustrate a few important lessons in developing a culture of discipline.

1. Have clear goals or objectives - Keep it simple and know where you want to go and how you should get there.

2. Analyze and adjust - Develop a plan that has the flexibility to change as the environment changes around you.

3. Demand accountability - Beginning with yourself, be sure that everyone has a clear idea of what they are accountable for, who they are accountable to, and how will they be help responsible for their roles.

4. Support the people - This is the balance point and a difference maker in fostering a culture of discipline or just another fear-based environment. People are emotional beings and will make mistakes, do something wrong, or just "hit the wall" and not perform. They need to know that failure is not fatal if they see it as a moment to teach them how to succeed.

The football season is young and I know we will have plenty of great Friday nights and some that will be painful in defeat. I am grateful for this team my son is playing for and look forward to seeing how he and these other boys take this experience and apply what they learn in life.

Transitions and New Beginnings

There are opportunities in our lives that are truly "once in a lifetime", and I am pursuing one of those with a new role at University of Central Florida (UCF) as the Executive Director of Business Communications in the College of Business (@ucfbusiness). I am also coming home to a place that has largely defined me and my career. It is with a heavy heart that I leave Consensus Communications (@consensuscomm), a place that I believe is the best public relations and political consulting firm in the country and where I have done some amazing work with the most amazing people for the past thirteen years.

What a blessing it's been to work with the best people, the best brands, and to work on projects that reshaped Florida's economy, educational system, transportation infrastructure, and healthcare, while serving as counsel to so many great business, civic, and community leaders. I am especially grateful to my business partners John Sowinski and Tre' Evers for inviting me in and giving me the opportunity to do this work.

Under the leadership of a new Dean (@pauljarley), the UCF College of Business is redefining its role, as well as pursuing a vision to reshape business education for the next generation. Dean Jarley has challenged us to take the reigns of this opportunity and build a culture that produces students that are 1) great communicators/collaborators, 2) risk takers and 3) leaders that know how to make great decisions using Big Data. In addition, we are moving the UCF College of Business into a more relevant role in our community as an economic development engine. Or as the Dean puts it, we are "building the perfect BEAST" -- more effectively linking Business with Engineering, Applied Sciences and Technology. I will also have the opportunity to expand my speaking, writing and teaching, especially as it relates to trust, culture and the integration of communications, digital & social media into business education and professional development.

Finally, it is with humble gratitude that I say "thank you" to an amazing roster of clients over the past decade and a half. I will miss them, but carry their experiences with me in everything I am set to do in my new role.