Hold Fast Iron

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Hold Fast Iron is dedicated to sharpening the lives of others.  

To Hell and Back

Beware of the wolf scratching at your door.  – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Despite what the world would like you to believe; good and evil are real; right and wrong are real; and personal choices do matter. Good choices lead to health, wealth and happiness. While poor choices destroy and leave you with nothing. Now, when I say good and evil I’m not talking about angels and demons battling for control of middle earth, though I personally believe in those types of things. What I’m talking about here are our personal weaknesses, or the “wolves” that chase each of us every day of our lives.  If not watched like a farmer with a rifle, these wolves will ambush us and devour us, leaving nothing but a pile of bones and some worthless scraps.

 

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t recognize the pack of wolves feeding on me until there was next to nothing left of who I was.  My lowest point came in the summer of 2006. I had just graduated from college; recently broke up with my high school sweet heart who I thought I’d marry, and was heavily addicted to alcohol, weed, pain killers, Copenhagen and bad choices.  To make it all worse, I was starring down the barrel at $60k in student loan debt. At the time I was probably 20lbs overweight, had cholesterol of over 350, and a dangerous mix of high blood sugar and high blood pressure. My doctor told me that I was in the 99th Percentile for heart attack and stroke, and that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, one of those events would likely occur before age 50.  I can remember calling my mom from a gas station that day and breaking down over the news. Not only was I still heartbroken and addicted to the party lifestyle, I had no plan for dealing with my debt, and my body was now falling apart.  I was only 22 years old.

A rational person would have stopped there, changed their habits and got healthy. Not me, I kept partying and eating like crap to mask my depression.  At the suggestion of a friend, I took up Muay Thai as a way to vent my aggression and thought it might also help to solve my health issues. It worked at first, but that is when I truly hit rock bottom.  I had been practicing Muay Thai for about three weeks and when I arrived one evening, the coaches told us that we would be sparring for the whole hour. As the newest fighter in the gym I was terrified. For some reason I could not handle this and completely cracked. My heart began to pound and the room began to spin.  My hands went cold so I ran from the ring to the bathroom in the back of the gym and locked myself in the stall.

Once in the stall I began to vomit. Over and over I heaved. Each convulsion brought a new, more intense feeling of panic and terror over me like waves smashing a surfer against the bottom of the ocean.  I gripped the rim of the toilet so hard I could have torn it from the wall.  Soaked in sweat I sat against the wall, thoughts racing through my head. “What is happening to me?” “Am I losing my mind?” I had played football my whole life, grew up with brothers and had been in a dozen or so fights growing up. Never once had I been nervous or felt a sense of panic. At that moment I knew something was really wrong.   My coach at the time came into the bathroom, helped me back to reality and then sent me home. He told the other fighters that I was sick, even though I knew no one bought that excuse. They knew I had a meltdown just as much as I did. They could see it on my face.  

I went home from the gym and acted like nothing had happened. In our house, deep conversation was not something that we engaged in, so I felt it best to hide the incident from everyone. Better that, then listen to the peanut gallery call me a pussy for having melted under the pressure.  That night I lied in bed, restless about what had happened at the gym. Feelings of nausea returned just thinking about it.  That night I asked God to show me a way out of my misery.  I prayed that I’d finally rid myself of the demons chasing me over my failed relationship. I also prayed for the strength to address my health and alcohol problems.  What had happened was a warning and I would have been a fool to ignore it.  

Ashamed, I let my membership expire and found a new gym to train at. I still had mild feelings of anxiety when sparring, but I never gave up. I told my new coach about my previous experience and we worked through it together. In fact, I credit him and Muay Thai for curing my panic issues. You see, when you’re in the ring you have to stay calm.  If not, you’ll gas out and wind up blowing snot bubbles on the canvas. This is probably the hardest skill to learn in any combat sport, and having a coach that can teach this Zen skill set makes all the difference. Kicking and punching are easy, but staying calm like a surgeon when someone is trying to rip your head off is incredibly difficult, but I digress. That is a subject for a totally different post.

Anyways, following my bathroom episode I could have ignored the wolves circling to finish me. A lot of people choose that path and wind up with multiple medical conditions, more debt than they can handle, divorced, or even worse, dead. However, with the support of my wonderful family, coaches and future wife, I was able to recognize my addictions and financial issues so that I could recover and fulfill the life I was meant to live. My wolves still follow me, but I now know what I must do to out-smart them so that they can’t sneak up on me again. 

Where am I today? I’m married with two beautiful sons, have a successful career, and have developed a personal mission to help others. I don’t share my story so that others will praise me for sticking with it or for changing the direction of my life.  In fact, most of my family and friends have never heard this story or know anything about the pain that I hid from everyone for so long.  Rather, I share my story because I truly believe that all of us have wolves that are chasing us. These wolves vary from person to person, but the struggle is always the same.  They never truly go away and even when they do, another one will usually pop up and takes its place. 

To conclude, I've summarized a couple of the things that I learned from all of this. I challenge you to reflect on them and ask yourself, “what wolves are chasing me?”  Life can be easy, but it is full of tough choices and wolves looking to steal everything from you.  

Things I learned from my personal wolves:

1) Choices do matter. I made the mistake of thinking that binge drinking, smoking weed and piling up student loans were the path to happiness…they’re were not. As they say in economics, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”  Partying for me was fun, but it came with a steep physical and mental price.  I lost my girlfriend, my health, my sanity and my money. Don’t get me wrong, I still drink, and on occasion, very heavily. The difference now is that it doesn’t rule my life.  I’ve learned to treat it like an enemy; engaging with her, but keeping a wary eye on her at all times.

2) Individuals are in control of their health, NOT their Doctors. Doctors are trained to diagnose problems and prescribe “solutions” to resolve them. They can’t force you to eat salad, workout for you, or manage your stress. This is similar to a mechanic, who can fix the leak in your radiator, but can’t force you to get regular fluid changes.  My Doctor told me he could prescribe me crazy pills for the meltdowns and statins for my cholesterol, but that was only going to mask my symptoms.  If I wanted to truly get healthy, I had to change my habits and put in the hard work.  Since 2006 I’ve dedicated everyday to living with purpose.  I work my ass off in the gym, eat extremely clean, and focus on my family.  I put partying in the rear-view mirror and only look back when a wedding rolls into town, or when the moon is full.  My wife prefers the wedding scenario… because she hates when I drink and howl.

Anyways, there have been a lot of other lessons along the way, but these always seem to stand out to me.  I doubt this story will change your life, but I hope in some small way, that it will inspire you to reflect on the habits, or “wolves” keeping you from realizing optimal health, financial success, or mental peace. Our culture celebrates mediocrity, immorality and self-abuse; so I dare you to live differently, and to lead a life Hold Fast to solid principles.

Focus…Work Hard…Hold Fast!

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Michael Di Croce is a graduate of Colorado State University and Co-Founder of Hold Fast the Iron.

7 LIFE CHANGES TO MAKE NOW

What you need to know...

  • Most of what you know has been taught to you by commercials and carefully planned advertisements in the form of bogus articles and fake research. 
  • The only way to really achieve great things in life is to unlearn all of the false ideas that seek to rob you of your health and hard earned money. 
  • The only person who can control what you achieve and how you impact the world is yourself. 

That said, here are 7 changes you should make in your life if your desire is to live a Hold Fast life.  However, it is important to remember that the path we lay out isn't for everyone. Some of the things we say may even offend you; we don't care. Our goal isn't to make everyone feel special or to validate poor choices.  Our goal is to tell what we know to be the truth in order to help others take a path in life that 99% of people avoid because it is hard.  

1.     Get rid of your excess baggage -  Look around your house, car and office and you are likely to be surrounded by a sea of possessions that have little or no use. These items likely cost you a large sum of hard earned money, yet they sit in a corner, drawer or closet, waiting to be discarded or donated to the local thrift store. You may not realize it, but all of this extra stuff is slowly sucking up valuable time that could have been dedicated to your training, your work, loved ones, or simply enjoying life. It is not always obvious, but  all of this extra stuff requires constant maintenance and continuously needs to be cleaned, organized and moved around in order to accommodate the constant inflow of new material crap entering your life. Most of this stuff is not necessary for living a happy life and is usually purchased simply to display some outward expression of success to reassure ourselves that we aren't failures or because there is some memory attached to them.  The second reason is a little more difficult for some, but we say let go of all of that shit.  Jesus himself used to preach that people should let go of their material things in order to find real happiness.   You don’t need to be radical (or maybe you should), but break free from this thinking and start ridding your life of excess things that are not adding real value to your life.

2.     Stop buying things you don't need - This goes with 1, but once you have eliminated all of the useless stuff in your life, don't go out and replace it with more useless stuff.  Not only does excess consumption rob you of money that could pay down debt or be invested for the future, it also robs you of valuable time that could be spent creating real value in your life. Ask yourself; how many days have you spent wandering around malls or shops simple looking at useless things? What could you have been doing with that time instead of wasting it like a shopping zombie? Focus on the essentials and living simply. Then watch how much time and money you create in your life. 

3.     Unplug from the matrix - This is pretty self explanatory, but don’t let your electronic devices rule your life. Reality is much more rewarding and the warm bodies that live on this side of the screen are much more enjoyable in real life.  Get your phone out of your pocket too. All of that electro-magnet frequency can’t be good for your T-levels if you know what I’m saying.  Would you stick your balls in a microwave? Probably not.

4.     Stop using credit cards - This one seems to piss a lot of people off for some reason, but it is the truth... Rewards programs are for suckers. Sorry, they just are. Everyone I say this to says they pay their balance off every month so it is okay, but most of those people are liars. Credit card companies offer you rewards as a way to get you to justify using credit instead of cash. What you don't understand is that that coveted airline ticket you are seeking will cost you multiple times what you would pay for it due to the interest you  are being charged on your balance. Rewards programs only serve to benefit the banks that issue them, not you. Cut up the card(s) and pay cash for everything. If you want to go on a trip, do what your grandparents did and save up and buy it with cash. 

5.     Start using your money for buying real freedom - The world wants your money. They want you to believe that you should trade your car in every three years for a new lease trapping you in car payments for life. Then the government will tell you to take out astronomical amounts of student debt so that they can collect a portion of your income through interest for 20 years, all the while smiling and saying they are helping you. Then when you think you couldn't possibly go deeper in debt, your banker will convince you to buy a house and enslave you to a mortgage for 30 years sucking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of your pocket. Oh, and let’s not forget the credit card company soaking you for 17% interest every month. 

This is true insanity and should not be considered normal. It is modern day indentured servitude, so instead of wasting money upgrading appliances and constantly buying things you don't need, use your money to give yourself a chance at a future of real freedom. Commit to paying off all debt and living debt free. Financial professionals will tell you this is a bad idea, but that is because the only person who benefits from living debt free is you.  It may take several years, but once you are free of your debt you will truly have the freedom to build the future you envision for yourself. The sooner you realize you are a slave to your banker and your possessions, the sooner you can begin to change the shape of your future. 

6.     Stop eating processed food and take high quality supplements - Look at almost all lifestyle related diseases (i.e., diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.) and the primary cause is almost always diet. Our food is poisoning us, yet very few people take the time to carefully select and prepare their meals. Instead, 99% of people would rather wait until they have immune system issues or a chronic condition before taking action. Then they will gladly accept the pharmacological cure that traditional medicine will prescribe them, along will all of the side effects and backwards logic associated with treating the symptoms instead of the cause. 

Only you can create wellness and prevent disease. As Mark Sisson and Mike Dolce always say; get back to nature and re-wild yourself by focusing on earth grown nutrients and natural foods. Eliminate anything that comes in box and eat as little wheat, corn, soy and commercial dairy as possible. It may sound boring, but eating primarily raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meat will do more for your health than any magic solution your doctor may prescribe you. 

7.     Train and live for longevity, not simply for the moment - There is nothing more dangerous than living for the present without considering how your choices will impact your future. In everything you do, from going home from a bar with someone you just met. To running up a huge credit card bill. Always keep a long term view in mind. Bulking up, partying your face off and loading your body up with crappy food may seem like good choices now, but when you hit your 30s and 40s you likely have joint problems, have kids with people you don't love, and be two paychecks away from bankruptcy. Always assess the value of your choices and take calculated risks. The consequences will be far more enjoyable. 

Focus...Work Hard...Hold Fast.