The Horizon is a Great Dream but a Lousy Yard-Stick

I’m a big fan of Dan Sullivan, world class consultant and business coach, especially his Gap and the Gain philosophy. It is well known amongst entrepreneurs, but it is also something that desperately needs to be known and understood by parents.

The Gap and the Gain concept is a self measurement tool. It ensures we as humans are constantly growing, thriving, and learning, instead of just staying stagnant. Additionally, it ensures we do it in a healthy way.

Dan refers to the Gap as how we see ourselves compared to our ideal future. Imagine, as an example, you are on a long journey. As you are walking you are keeping your eye on the horizon.

You know your destination is out there somewhere, but you’re not exactly sure where. You just keep your eye on the horizon and keep walking toward it. The problem is, as you walk toward the horizon, it keeps moving away from you. As many steps as you take toward it, it keeps adjusting just as many steps away from you.

This, unfortunately, is how many of us act on our journey of life, we continue to measure ourselves against the horizon, an ever-moving target with which we use to measure our self worth. The problem is, no matter how much we accomplish along the way, we might not ever seem content or fulfilled, because as we grow and expand our capabilities, it is never enough for our ever moving ideal of where we ought to be.

Alternatively, the Gain is where we occasionally glance back to compare.

Measuring backward against our previous self has a much different effect on our mind, body, and spirit. If we measure backward,  we’re comparing ourselves to where we started.  This often gives us a sense of momentum and keeps us moving forward. Looking only forward to the ever-moving horizon, can make us feel like we’ll never be enough. Seeing our accomplishments lets us grow more confident and grateful for how far we’ve come. Only looking forward ignores them.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t look to the horizon and keep enjoying our journey through life. It just means we don’t measure ourselves by it.

I think every entrepreneur and business owner needs to understand this, but even more so, every parent.

As parents and educators, we often hold our kids and students to the same horizon. Rather than looking where they are now, compared to where they were a year ago (the Gain), we often hold them to an impossible standard set by another sibling or friend (the Gap).  While another sibling might be better behaved or more academically inclined, if we use their example as a yard-stick to motive a child, by the time they improve to that level in any given area, the sibling we are using as a yard-stick will have also improved, creating an ever-moving horizon.

I myself went through this when I was young. My older brother was the hockey star of the family. Myself not being very athletically inclined, was always measured against his success. This left very big gaps in my confidence growing up, and led to a “why bother?” attitude when it came to being active. As a result, I became overweight and retreated into more video games, which further exacerbated my lack of fitness.

Luckily, I found martial arts, where I did not need to compare myself to others. Martial Arts, being a personal journey instead of a team sport, let me measure my own progress.

Each new belt I earned I could look back at where I started. Eventually, I attained a high level of fitness and proficiency, even competing internationally.

I wish more parents knew this. Often, I see kids get discouraged because parents are measuring them against an ever-moving ideal, and drawing little to no attention to their progress.

On the flip side of that, if parents went through this themselves when they were young, they will swing the pendulum with their kids and not encourage them to have any goals at all. This too is unfortunate. We need goals to keep growing, expanding and learning, much like we need a horizon to walk toward. We just need to make sure we look back to measure.

Perhaps this is why martial arts is such a good tool for building confidence in kids, because it lets them measure the Gain, not the Gap. Each new challenge is personal, and the student’s progress is not measured against anyone else, just themselves.

Action Step:

Make sure your child has a “success journal”. Help them write out their accomplishments in it as they achieve them, so they can also look back when they feel discouraged. Make sure this is NOT a scrapbook of things that would have happened anyway (first haircut, first tooth to fall out, etc). Put in only things they achieved through their efforts. You may want to even make one for yourself, as we all occasionally fall victim to measuring ourselves against the Gap instead of the Gain.


Sifu Atalick
Master Instructor
Niagara Kung Fu Academy

Sifu Atalick has owned and operated the Niagara Kung Fu Academy since 2005 and has been teaching Holistic Kung Fu for 20 years. Holistic Kung Fu as taught at NKFA helps kids and adults build self-discipline, confidence, and focus, helping them to achieve higher levels of success and fulfilment academically and in their careers. He is the author of “The Art of Holistic Kung Fu

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sifu holding a sword at the pond

Taking Your Heart With You

Zig Ziglar used to say that many people are stressed because they are always traveling. To clarify, I don’t mean specifically traveling, I mean mentally travelling. I agree. When they are at work they are thinking about their family… then later when they are with their family, they can’t be totally committed to being with them because mentally they are worried about work, and the work they didn’t get done while they were there because they were thinking about their family. When at work, they are mentally traveling home, when they are home, they are mentally traveling to work. Zig would say, “no wonder everyone is so exhausted, they’re always travelling.

I had my own realization about this while learning Martial Arts from Grand Master Philipman Chow.

It was over 15 years ago. Our club in Scarborough had been asked to put on a Kung Fu demonstration for Chinese New Year at a cultural centre in Toronto. Sifu asked me to demonstrate a couple forms for it and I enthusiastically agreed. This was my first public demonstration as part of Grand Master Chow’s school.

I was both nervous and excited. I had 2 months to prepare, and prepare I did. Outside of my regular learning time, I would practice my demo forms every chance I got. Our club in Scarborough was very small, so I had to practice outside all through December and January. I bundled up and did my best to be outside practicing outside in between lessons, drilling the forms again and again.

Although it was hard work, it didn’t feel too much like it because I was so excited to represent our school.

In late January the weekend of the much-anticipated event, we ended up having a horrible snow storm across Southern Ontario.

Normally I would have braved it simply by leaving for Toronto a couple hours early and driving super-slow, but this was exceptionally bad with lots of accidents all along the highway. I told Sifu, which much regret, that I wouldn’t be able to make it.

By the next week the weather was fine so I made the drive back up as usual. When I got there, Sifu gave me a certificate from the organizers, thanking me for my contribution to the demonstration. Sifu said, “Here, for you.”, handing me the certificate with my name on it.

“But Sifu,” I said, sadly, “I was stuck in Niagara, I didn’t make it to the event, remember?”.

What he said next, I will never forget.

He replied with, “yes, you didn’t come but your heart did.”

Sifu knew how hard I worked preparing for it, and he knew how excited I was to participate, even though the weather prevented it. He continued, “Some people came but their heart didn’t; you couldn’t make it but your heart did.”

After he said this, I gratefully accepted the certificate, and I still have it to this day. It reminds me that wherever I go, I need to take my heart with me. I don’t want to fall into that category of people that show up but don’t send their heart with them.

It’s been said the 90% of success is showing up, but when you show up, you must bring your heart with you. By heart, I think Sifu meant intent. While showing up you need to put intention into what you are doing.

You can show up in person and not bring your heart. You can show up in heart and not be present in person. Ideally, you show up in person with your full intent (heart).

In your day-to-day activity, like work or school, this means put your mind and thoughts on where you are; what you are doing.

In Kung Fu, you must put your mind into the repetitions you are training, not just repeat them mindlessly (and therefore heartlessly).

When you learn to do this in Kung Fu, it will reflect and carry over into everything you do. When you can be present more, and “travel” less, you will find you have a lot less stress and anxiety, and more happiness and fulfillment.

Sifu Atalick
Master Instructor
Niagara Kung Fu Academy

Sifu Atalick has owned and operated the Niagara Kung Fu Academy since 2005 and has been teaching Holistic Kung Fu for 20 years. Holistic Kung Fu as taught at NKFA helps kids and adults build self-discipline, confidence, and focus, helping them to achieve higher levels of success and fulfilment academically and in their careers. He is the author of “The Art of Holistic Kung Fu

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kung fu self image

Avoiding the Loser’s Limp

When I was about 12 years old, I was not a very active kid. Way too many video games, way too much TV. I was putting on extra weight after I broke my leg in a ski accident and spent early spring in a cast, after that laziness just compiled. This allowed me to ride the metaphorical “I can’t, my leg is recovering” scooter for much longer than was reasonable. I was in that sweet spot in between divorced parents, where no one put in the effort into arguing with a preteen know it all.
This was much further compiled when I was at the orthodontist one day getting fitted for some contraption or another. The orthodontist, while examining my face, mentioned that my jaw was set back too far, putting pressure on my wind pipe. This would make it slightly harder to breathe and make it very difficult for me to perform well at sports.
I was already terrible at sports. Not because of my wind pipe, but because I didn’t practice any and I wasn’t active. When I was registered for different sports when I was younger, I always did the bare minimum. I was under the impression you were just either athletically gifted, or you weren’t. I thought I was just in the latter category because I was small. My understanding at the time was practice had little to no effect on it.
When this orthodontist explained this wind pipe thing, it was gold. It was exactly what I needed. Now it was definitely not my fault that I was not athletic or active. It was “THE WIND PIPE”. I had the ultimate excuse to keep my butt on the couch. “The Wind Pipe”.

This is what Zig Ziglar used to call “The Loser’s Limp”

I eventually committed to martial arts training a few years later which changed everything, but before I did, I milked that excuse for all it was worth. Martial arts taught me that I get what I put in, and that you need to have an internal locus of control.
Having a Loser’s Limp, (an excuse as to why you lost that you come up with after the game is over) is having an external locus of control.
If you haven’t heard that term before, imagine it this way:
You’re in a race car, with a manual transmission, and instead of having the gear shift inside the car to your right, you modify it to take it out and put it somewhere else to be controlled by someone remotely, like your pit crew.
You ride in the car, steer, press the gas and the break, but they do the shifting for you. If you don’t win the race, who do you think you are going to blame? Probably the pit crew, because you’ve given control over to them. You can yell at them and it will make you feel better about losing.
If you put that control back in the car, and have an internal locus of control, you can’t blame them when you lose; You have to look at your own skill and behaviour and ask yourself what you can do to change and make a difference.
I can assure you that having a “compressed windpipe” or (whatever it technically was) only ever effected one thing: My attitude.
After I started martial arts training seriously, I never had any issues physically and athletically again. Quite the opposite actually. I started to out perform most of my friends and peers. This was because I was getting in better shape. I was getting in better shape because my attitude shifted. Because my attitude shifted, it changed my behaviour. Different behaviour yielded different results.
The orthodontist didn’t really know what he was doing at the time in this regard. I think many authoritative sources or “experts” don’t understand what they do to people psychologically when they throw such claims around haphazardly. It’s not like he took any x-rays at that point, he was just looking over my teeth, and maybe trying to sell my parents on some upgraded gear; I’ll never know.

Because he was the authority, I grabbed on to what he said, believed it, and let it dominate the next several years of my life.


Admittedly, this was ultimately my fault, not his. I am lucky enough to have eventually developed an internal locus of control about it. As a result I learned not to do it again.
There are many ways people do this. They don’t just accept a diagnosis, they really own it and become it. This happens to the point where it shifts their attitude and behaviour into accepting a lower standard for themselves. After shifting the behaviour, they will blame the diagnosis instead of accepting the possibility that their current results are because of the shift in behaviour, not because of whatever diagnosis they were assigned.
Parents do this with their kids as well. I once had a parent ask me to excuse their child from the reading we do in our leadership program, because they were not a strong reader. I asked them how we can develop their child into a strong reader. After a moment of thinking they got it. Yes, we should take some time to practice reading, coach them through it, and not take the challenge away from them.

Kids can take the word and opinion of parents and authority as gospel. We have to be very careful we don’t assign them shortcomings and move their locus of control outside of themselves.


Sifu Atalick
Master Instructor
Niagara Kung Fu Academy

Sifu Atalick has owned and operated the Niagara Kung Fu Academy since 2005 and has been teaching Holistic Kung Fu for 20 years. Holistic Kung Fu as taught at NKFA helps kids and adults build self-discipline, confidence, and focus, helping them to achieve higher levels of success and fulfilment academically and in their careers. He is the author of “Be Like Tea: The Art of Holistic Kung Fu

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Bre with kung fu swords and mental training

Watching Your Mental Diet

Bre with kung fu swords and mental training

…Mental diet is just as important as physical diet in martial arts or any kind of physical training

If you successfully committed to a new work out routine; as in, you picked a new activity, got the right clothes, set the alarm or reminder, showed up on time consistently, you would still only be half way there. The other part of taking on a new method of physical development is what you are putting int your body.

It would be lunacy to put the effort into a physical activity, like martial arts for example, while giving no thought to what you consume.

If you are exercising regularly but you are eating nothing but greasy, fried fast food, drinking nothing but coffee or soda, and regularly consuming too much alcohol, you would be wasting time. Your results are only as good as the fuel. You can’t put regular octane in a car that requires a high test grade of gasoline and expect the same performance.

This is pretty common knowledge, and I’m probably preaching to the choir.

Here is what I’m getting at though:

Most people don’t consider the same logic when it comes to their mental development.

Self cultivation is ultimately a process of developing one’s mind, body, and spirit. They are inseparable. Granted some pursuits may lean more toward one of the three. Realistically, working on one will inevitably result in improvement in the other. When you work on the body, the mind gains clarity. When you have results in either it positively affects the spirit.

So even if you are merely trying to lose a few pounds, mentality always plays a part. Mental attitude must improve alongside the physical training. Likewise, if you simultaneously improve your mental attitude, you will be more positive and resilient in your physical development.

Accepting this, we must also be aware of our mental diet. You wouldn’t start a physical training routine while stuffing fast food in your face. Why then, embark in any kind of training without being aware of the mental input?

We are mostly aware of what we are consuming physically. We must also be aware of what we are consuming mentally. This means we must pay attention to the media we take in regularly.

Even when we think we are not being affected, because we think we can ignore it; when certain messages are repeated again and again, they inevitably have an effect on us. Even on a subconscious level.

This can have an effect on how far we push ourselves, how we handle adversity, how much willpower we possess. Gradually, media has a strong influence through constant suggestion, and if we are watching the same media that the average person does, then we are more likely to get the same average results.

That may be fine for most people, that’s ok. It’s your call on what level of performance or achievement you want. If you want average results there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you want exceptional results you have to engage in exceptional behaviour. This means you have to get better input, advice, reminders, and guidance. That guidance shapes and reinforces your belief system of what is possible for you.

Think about what drives the source of information you are getting?

When you are watching the news for example, what does the news want from you?

The news wants to keep your attention so they can put advertisements in front of you. This lets them show off the number of eyeballs they have watching them. They can then show that number to companies so companies will advertise their products or services to you on that platform. The news has no financial interest in bringing you good news or bad news specifically. It just so happens that bad news tends to get people to watch longer. As a result, most news is depressing or fear invoking.

The news has no interest in keeping you mentally and physically strong, aware, or healthy. Physically and mentally strong people consume less products. They consume less fast food and take less pharmaceuticals (two of the biggest advertisers). They are therefore not the most ideal consumer for the advertiser.

It’s not a grand conspiracy theory that they want to keep you fat and dumb, it’s just in their obvious financial interests, so the information they most often present will be biased toward that result. It’s in your interest to pay less attention to it, and more attention to people who have an interest in your personal growth; People like coaches, mentors, teachers, and friends with common goals or values.

You don’t even need to know them personally. Most of them have content, books, audio programs you can access with great ease. You just need to decide what is best for your mental diet, and then consume it moderately.

The source of what you listen to, read, or watch, even in the background, will gradually have an effect on your belief system.  Your belief system will drive your activity, behaviour, and habits. If you don’t consciously choose what that source is, you will most likely default into what everyone else is watching or listening to. If you listen or watch what the average person listens to or watches, you are more likely to have the same average results.

Just like how you can’t outperform what you consume in your physical diet, you cannot outperform what you consume in your mental diet.

If you’re consuming the wrong messaging regularly; messages of fear, lack, scarcity, limitation, and anger, you are setting a ceiling for yourself that you are not likely to break through until you change the quality of your mental diet.


Sifu Atalick
Master Instructor
Holistic Kung Fu Online
Niagara Kung Fu Academy

Sifu Atalick has owned and operated the Niagara Kung Fu Academy since 2005 and has been teaching Holistic Kung Fu for 20 years. Holistic Kung Fu as taught at NKFA helps kids and adults build self-discipline, confidence, and focus, helping them to achieve higher levels of success and fulfilment academically and in their careers. He is the author of “Be Like Tea: The Art of Holistic Kung Fu

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Rob Atalick