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  • Writer's pictureMarcus Kowal

A recap of 2023

Another year has come to an end and I really enjoy reflecting on the year that has been, both to see where I and we can improve, do better, and grow but even more so, to reminisce on the year that has been. I feel we often focus so much on what's to come that we forget to look at what has been and the memories we have formed, which is truly what life is all about; creating memories.

As per usual, goals, plans, and strategies went out the window by Q2 and everything was just a bloody battle from then onwards. I'm joking of course but as per usual, nothing goes exactly as planned, and new hurdles and challenges arise, and it's how we approach them and what we learn from them that matters.

Every year, I write goals in different categories of life and my fitness goals for 2023 soon changed drastically as I realized I needed a hip replacement. "Realized" is the wrong word perhaps, as I was diagnosed almost 3 years ago with having no cartilage left in my hip. However, the pain got so intense that sleeping became difficult. May 18th I got a new hip. Btw, if you or someone that you know needs a hip replacement, be sure to go with a doctor who performs the Direct Anterior Approach (DAA). That way, they won't cut your Glute off, which is the biggest muscle in the body. During the DAA, no muscles are cut, they just pull them to the side (sounds romantic, eh?). Still, it's a very intrusive surgery and recovery was a challenge. But although my fitness goals changed drastically, they all of a sudden became even more important. Being able to get back to playing with my kids became the number one priority. I also truly realized how important working out is for my mental space. When stress from life and work increases, movement is my outlet and since it was temporarily taken away from me, meditation became my rescue. Although I was already meditating daily, I reached a different level of depth with my meditation.

That goals can shift was very evident post-surgery. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that running a mile without stopping would be one of my goals, instead of a sub-six minute mile, I wouldn't have believed you. Another personal goal was to be able to run a half marathon before the end of the year, which I was able to do one day shy of 7 months post-surgery.

For our Martial Arts gym Systems Training Center, 2023 was the first year we could truly focus back on growth again after the Pandemic and although we grew tremendously, the challenge of too fast growth, albeit a good challenge, is still a challenge nonetheless. There are no good aspects of a pandemic but it did provide the opportunity to build back with the vision that we have, along with the experience we have gained over the years. A reset of sorts. The main challenge that I think we experienced, as most companies that survived I'm sure, is to train a new workforce, coming out of isolation, which often causes at least some levels of mental health effects. Challenges will always be there in some form, for all entrepreneurs and business owners but as long as we learn from them, it is ok! And we have some very exciting news to come this year with Systems that I can’t wait to share with you all!

However, the true challenge as an activist, business owner, and athlete in pursuit of physical and mental peak performance, is being a family man. My time with my kids at this age of their life is non-negotiable. However, family man means also being present as a husband and as any parent of young children knows, it is difficult, and thus, even more important, to find time to spend time with your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend. If parenting should teach us one thing, it is how important managing our time is, to make sure we maximize how we spend it. Some of my favourite moments of 2023 include getting to coach my children's AYSO soccer teams (I know, I know, it pains me to have to use that term instead of football), as challenging as it was. It's an absolute headache and takes up a good 4-5 hours a week but if the opportunity presents itself, I'd highly recommend any young parent to do it!

It was also both interesting and a great learning opportunity to get them to train them in a team setting. I already train them both in kickboxing but that is an individual sport. I recommend all parents to put their children both in team as well as individual sports, as both have their unique benefits. I consider myself very, very fortunate to be able to be so involved in their developmental kinesiology.

It felt great to start actively working with Liam's Life Foundation and to be able to focus back on our efforts to save thousands of lives. I'm excited to soon be able to share more news about it, as more and more statistics and science - as if we needed more - are starting to emerge, including from Utah, which was the first state to lower the legal BAC from .08 to .05.

Books of 2023:

  1. The Untethered Soul - One of the best books I've read. I'm glad I found Mickey Singer, love his view on life! Five stars!

  2. Never Finished - David Goggins, who I love, finally wrote his second book and although it was great, it's hard to live up to his first book, "Can't Hurt Me". It was cool to read about when he ran with us in Hermosa Beach though. 4 stars.

  3. Legacy - A great book on sustained success and leadership, diving into the notorious All Blacks team from New Zeeland. 4 stars

  4. Chop Wood, Carry Water - This was truly a great book for someone like myself, who has a short attention span and often seeks change and new challenges, which I think is a common challenge for many entrepreneurs. It certainly helps that the book speaks "my language", as it relates to martial arts. However, I think we can all improve by learning about the Bushido Code, whether we are martial artists or not. - 5 stars

  5. The Rise of Superman - Just like Mickey Singer, Steven Kotler is someone whose work I admire immensely. The focus on flow state and peak performance is something I'm personally very interested in. - 5 stars

  6. No Drama Discipline - As a father of two young children, I can't recommend this book enough. My wife Mishel recommended it to me and if you have children, I'd highly recommend it. - 5 stars

  7. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - I've read a lot of books by John Maxwell and if leadership is where you want to grow and improve, this is a great book. Maxwell writing is easy to follow along but more importantly, he writes from experience in a very honest way. - 5 stars

  8. The Way of the Superior Man - Although well-meant and bringing up some great points, it wasn't my type of book or at least, not really what I need. - 3.5 stars.

  9. The Will To Change - A compelling critique of traditional masculinity, advocating for a more emotionally authentic and loving approach to manhood in contemporary society. A great book for men who are potentially struggling with masculinity and how to express emotions. It was a really helpful book for me when working with men who struggle with empathy. - 4 stars

  10. Essentialism - Another very valuable book; the art of being able to focus on what's essential. On any given day, I have a jungle of to-dos and to be able to turn down the volume on what's of less importance is key. Highly recommend the book for any entrepreneur or busy manager! - 5 stars

  11. The Surrender Experience - Another great book by Michael Singer and yet another way of putting life into perspective and with an important message: learn to meditate! - 5 stars!

  12. 101 Essays that will change the way you think - This was a book I was recommended but I felt was perhaps not really my "type" of book but I was positively surprised! A great book for anyone trying to grow and become a better version of themselves! - 5 stars

  13. MBA in a book - I should have known this wasn't going to be great. There is no MBA in a book and when things sound too good to be true, they usually tend to be. Some very basic introductions to important areas of business but overall, a pretty average book. - 3 stars

  14. Marcus Aurelius meditations - This has been a book I've wanted to read for a very long time and I'm happy that I finally got a chance to read it. It's definitely not an easy read and I had to re-read more than one part of it for clarity but it's amazing how advanced the Greeks were when it came to our needs and growth. - 5 stars

  15. Life Stories & Memories - Last year I mentioned how great of a gift it had been to my dad. It is a great way to find out more about your parents and this year, I got a chance to read my mother's book. Such a great gift to find out more about our parents. I highly recommend it and here's a link to it! 5 stars

  16. The Secret - I have mixed emotions about books like this. On the one hand, I know how important the mental fortitude of being able to see something, almost the impossible, before anyone else can. However, the problem is, is that a lot of people who read this book or books like this start thinking "Great, I don't have to do anything, just think it! It's an ok book and it holds some truth. - 3 stars

  17. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind - a great book on understanding thoughts and emotions through the ancient wisdom of Tao Te Ching through Lao-Tzu. It breaks down the power of thought. - 4.5 stars

  18. Endure - As inspiring as Cameron himself is and the feats he's accomplished, to book didn't offer very much. Cameron is inspiring but there is little structure to what others can learn from his crazy adventures. - 3.5 stars

  19. How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be - One of the best books I've ever read on how to actually engineer change in your life if you want to improve in any area of your life. Katy Milkman is a professor under another of my favourite authors, Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit, so you know it's going to be good! - 5 stars

  20. Sapiens - A book I've been told to read for a long and it’s an astonishing overview of humanity and the evolution our specie and the molding of our societies, cultures and economic systems. - 4 ⭐️

  21. Range - This is a book that was life-changing. David Epstein challenges the notion that specialization is the key to success, arguing instead for the value of a broad range of experiences and skills. Drawing on research from psychology, education, and sports, Epstein demonstrates how individuals with diverse backgrounds often excel in problem-solving and innovation. The book emphasizes the importance of exploration, experimentation, and embracing failure as vital components of building expertise and thriving in today's fast-paced world. - 5 ⭐️ 

  22. Bone games: Extreme sports, Shamanism, Zen, and the search for transcendence - follows the spiritual journey of ultramarathon runners navigating the rugged terrain of the American Southwest, blending adventure with themes of endurance and self-discovery. 3 ⭐️ 

  23. Control your Mind and Master Your Emotions - provides practical techniques to gain control over thoughts and feelings, fostering emotional intelligence and resilience for a more fulfilling life. However, - 3.5 ⭐️ 

  24. The Art of Impossible - 5 ⭐️ I love Steve Kotler and his research on flow. This is one of my favourite books ever. It delves into the psychology and neuroscience behind peak performance, providing readers with practical tools and techniques to unlock their full potential and accomplish remarkable feats. Through a blend of research-based insights and real-world examples, the book inspires individuals to break through barriers and achieve their loftiest aspirations.

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