The wolf in your living room.

It’s no secret to those that know me, how much of an animal lover I am – particularly when it comes to dogs.  I’m often asked why I love dogs so much.  And I usually respond with some common, even cliche (yet true) reasons.  A dog epitomizes unconditional love and is always in a good mood.  A dog provides great companionship and even an excuse to exercise.  Still there is something else about sharing your life with a dog that is uniquely special, yet hard to articulate.

Recently, I wrote about the soothing and calming effect nature has on people.  There is something truly therapeutic about being close to nature.  In fact, I think, as advanced as our society is, we have lost our connection to nature.  I think a lot of the maladies that plaque society – stress, depression, crime, etc., is a direct result of mankind all but severing our ties with nature.  The more I ponder this, the more it becomes apparent to me what it is that is especially amazing about having a life shared with a dog.  They bring a little bit of nature into our all too domesticated lives.

A Walk in The Woods… a perfect way to start the New Year.

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The Tie that Binds

Well, it’s Tuesday and for most of us, that means going back to work.  I hope everyone had an amazing weekend.  My wife, Min, and our dog, Oreo enjoyed a long weekend upstate visiting my parents and brother.  On the train ride back to NYC, I reflected on the past few days, and what they meant to me.  What made this weekend truly special was spending time with my loved ones.  My wife and I are both very busy and often have conflicting schedules, so it was great to have my sweetheart by my side 24/7 several days in a row for a change.  My parents still live in the same home I grew up in, so visiting them is always nostalgic, bringing me back to the halcyon days of my childhood.  I find, too, the older I get, the more the relationship with my parents grows stronger.  As time passes, the more I cherish the connection I have with them and the importance of family.

So, for many, like myself, this weekend has been about time off, spent with people we care about.  At times, we rely on them, and other times we’re there for them.  As the train approached Grand Central, I had an epiphany of sorts.  The first realization was that it was time to go back to work… the vacation was over.  But, it also occurred to me why on this particular Monday, we all had off, and the true meaning of Labor Day… a day to pay tribute to the American workers.  So much of our nation’s strength, leadership and freedom come from them.  For, much like a family, each of us relies on others.  Labor Day is the time to acknowledge that we all do, in some shape or form, rely on the work of others.  As Americans we should all celebrate the contributions of our fellow citizens, for work,  like family, truly is the tie that binds us all.

Different interpretations of Be The Alpha…

Recently, we decided to ask our fans to share their thoughts and tell us what being an alpha means to them.  After posing this question, we received a plethora of responses, I’d like to share one such email, from a new fan, who discusses what be the alpha means to him and how it applies to his life.  The following is an excerpt from his email.

“… As for being the “Alpha”; well there are certain historical and societal versions of what an Alpha should or shouldn’t be – and seeing your profile pic (wolf), I’m sure there’s a direct correlation.  As a pack leader, the Alpha must have several attributes – Leadership, Fearlessness, Work Ethic, Adaptability, Respect (both ways though) and a love filled heart.  There’s a certain societal view of an Alpha including, Dominance, Intimidation, possibly even Ruthlessness in order to survive.  Those qualities have purpose (to a degree), just like the more noble ones.  But honestly, for me, an ‘Alpha’ isn’t a particular sex, nor does it have a distinct look.  A true Alpha is simply being who you are (all the time).  There’s tremedous courage in being comfortable with what you are about – knowing yourself, and loving yourself are the foundations.  Once one can truly do that in a humble way, they will personify all the intangibles an Alpha must endow… (Took me a long damn time to really understand and love myself)..  But it was worth the trek, and now loving (which directs everything) isn’t a selfish ordeal…”

We are so grateful to have like-minded fans.  We are so excited to see more and more people, from all walks of life, help us “spread the word”.  And we encourage people to share their inspirational stories with us and help inspire others.

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture… but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look…”

In the past, I have talked about a diverse group of people that I felt best exemplified our mantra, “An alpha walks with quiet confidence that commands respect.  He blazes his own path in life and created his own strong reality.”  People that fit this definition range from Special Forces soldiers, adventurists, to a young boy dealing with a neurological disorder.  While some alphas may be strong physically, what really connects them all is their strength of character.  These alphas tend to be calm and assertive.  Many of them have a quiet confidence and have what I often refer to as presence.  They usually make great leaders and often inspire others.  And, again, in other ways they may differ greatly.  However, there does seem to be a common thread connecting them all; for there is one trait that every alpha seems to possess… a great attitude.  Which brings me to today’s point.  There are many things in life we can’t control.  Sickness can strike anyone – even those who lead a healthy lifestyle, for instance.  Whether it’s the economy, stock prices, the weather or any other “bad cards we are dealt”, there are, without question, things we cannot control.

However, there is something that, no matter what, we can control.  In fact, the truly amazing thing is that we actually have a choice… everyday.  It’s true.  Every morning, we have a choice regarding the point of view we will embrace for the day.  We can’t change how others act or treat us.  We can’t change things that are, well, inevitable.  The only thing we can do is to play that one card we all have… ATTITUDE.  I truly believe life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And, so it goes for all of us, for we all are in charge, if you will, of our attitude.  Simply put, this means that whatever happens to you, it is your response, your reaction, that’s most important.

You can choose to complain about your bad luck.  You can lament your misfortune, be it physical or financial.  Or, like a true ALPHA, you can choose to focus on what you have… not what you have lost.  We all have this potential, but the alphas out there focus much of their energy on their attitude.  They are the ones who count their blessings and rejoice that they are alive.  When you despair, lose hope, and/or blame others… when you don’t even try to persevere, then you have made a choice to make life meaningless.  At the end of the day, how valuable is intellect, imagination, education, experience, talent, etc., if you begin your day with a negative attitude?  For an alpha, a positive attitude must be embraced everyday.  When you do this, the world around you, almost magically, changes as well.

I believe the ability to choose how things affect us is the ultimate art form.  There are many types of artists out there – brilliant painters, amazing sculptors, talented chefs who create culinary masterpieces.  But, I believe, the ultimate artistry to be our ability to paint the picture that is our life.  How we, by our own free will, choose to live and how we decide to view things.

To quote Henry Thoreau, “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of art…”.

“When life throws you curveballs hit them out of the park”

Throughout my life, I have admired people from all walks of life.  From athletes to soldiers, to teachers, all have helped motivate me in my life.  I think of these people as true alphas.  Speaking of inspirational people, I’d like to say a few words about someone I have come to know recently, who truly represents our philosophy of being the alpha… “An alpha walks with a quiet confidence that commands respect.  He blazes his own path in life and creates his own strong reality”.  We feel this quote represents our idea of what it means to be a true leader – a real alpha.  And, again, it is not about being the biggest, toughest, or most aggressive that makes one the alpha.  For it is their quiet confidence and ability to be both calm and assertive, simultaneously, that makes them an inspiration to others.

Another quality that an alpha must possess is a good attitude/strong will.  An alpha’s attitude is perhaps the quality that most defines him.  And, it is this positivity that emanates from him that others are drawn to.

Elliot Adler is a young boy, who, I believe, has these qualities.  As I reiterate the criteria, if you will, for being an alpha, it is clear that Elliot has them all.  However, what really sets him apart (and inspires me) the most is his attitude.  Elliot is 11 and suffers from a painful, debilitating nerve disease known as “Charcot Marie Tooth disease”.  I’m sure many people that share his condition have been told to “stay positive, kid” or something to that effect.  And, I bet some mentally tough people can do just that.  But it takes a very special person to not just “stay positive… be optimistic, etc.”, but to step up and do something about it.  Rather than wallow in self pity or even just “act positive”, Elliot has begun a campaign to bring awareness to his condition and inspired others.  To this end, he has made his own YouTube video,   Watching his video, one can’t help but to be impressed.  He is not just being calm, confident, and remaining an optimist, he is being proactive… taking the initiative.  What his video accomplishes is twofold: it brings awareness to this little known disease and his attitude inspires others.  In fact, his action inspired me too, for his words reminded me the importance of having a good attitude.

Bear Grylls – A true Alpha

Bear Grylls - A true Alpha

Bear Grylls, to me, epitomizes our mantra – Be The Alpha.

He is someone who not only enjoys adventurous pastimes, but provides inspiration to many.  There are a lot of hardcore adventurists out there, but what particularly impresses me about Bear, is not only his ability to accomplish the truly unbelievable… but that he does it when all the odds are stacked against him.

Bear was a member of the elite British Special Forces, SAS.  This, in itself, is impressive, especially when one considers that out of 180 applicants, he was one of the FOUR that made it.

In 1996 he suffered a horrific parachuting accident, breaking his back in 3 places.  Just to survive that, is miraculous.  He was so close to being paralyzed and it was doubtful whether he would ever walk again.  A lot of people would have given up mentally.  Bear fought his way to recovery.  Instead of merely hoping to walk again, he directed his efforts to his childhood dream… climbing the world’s highest mountain, Everest!  For Bear, life was all about pursuing your dreams.  And two years after his accident, he climbed to the peak of Mt. Everest.  He also entered the Guinness Book of World Records that day, as he was the youngest Brit, at the time, to climb Mt. Everest.  He was only 23.

Again, what really impresses is that, for Bear, it is not just about pushing limits, it’s about overcoming challenges and living your dreams.  This belief, coupled with his charisma and gift for public speaking, have led him to become a popular motivational speaker, author and T.V. host.  His love for the great outdoors, as well as his “true grit”, are now inspiring and simply “wowing”, millions through his T.V. programs in over 100 countries.

Not only are his exploits on Man vs. Wild impressive, his passion really shines through.  Whether he is huddling in a snow cave or subsisting on larvae, one can’t help but notice that he is truly having fun – just an eternal kid playing in the outdoors, and his enthusiasm is infectious.  He also seems to never lose sight of the majesty of Mother Nature around him – commenting on her beauty from time on time.

Bear also was able to parlay his celebrity status from the show into a way to raise money for causes most important to him.  These have included numerous charities for young people, especially abused, and/or neglected children.  And, reflecting his Special Forces origins, he is involved with charities for the armed services.

Bear Grylls is someone I look up to… a true Alpha.  He has a great outlook on life, simply stating, “Life is very simple… what we put in is what we get out”.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

The Grod brothers at a Ryokan

After college I moved back to my hometown in upstate New York.  I lived in a charming renovated cottage in the tranquil village of Rhinebeck.  I had a great job nearby, and, in my spare time, I enjoyed a plethora of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, snowshoeing, hiking/backpacking and camping.   My home was walking distance from a beautiful nature preserve.  My backyard was miles of fields… rolling hills all the way down to the banks of the Hudson River.  I truly enjoyed every aspect of my life.  I was, in a word… comfortable.  Being comfortable is a good thing, I suppose.  But I couldn’t help feeling like I needed a change… something to sort of “charge my batteries”, if you will.


My mother had long recommended living and working in New York City, declaring that “every young person should experience living in NYC – at least once in their lives”.  Being an avid outdoorsman, I didn’t think that city life would appeal to me.  But, then again, what I was really seeking was something new and exciting… something different and, most of all, totally out of my “comfort zone”.  After all, what I really was after was a new perspective.  As Henry Miller put it, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things”.  A move to the bustling city of New York would do just that!  However, there was one small problem… I was scared of such a “big” move.  Much like someone with a fear of heights deciding to go skydiving, I too, decided to conquer my fear.  During a moment of introspection, I decided fearing such a relatively small move was, to me, unacceptable.  So, I decided to face my fears.  Disgusted that such a small move could fill me with such dread/anxiety, I decided to raise the bar, so to speak.  I wouldn’t just move to New York City, I decided to go somewhere farther – to a city that I knew nothing about.  So, this “country boy” decided, for the first time, to move to the big city.  However, the “big city” I had chosen was to be… TOKYO, JAPAN!  I was able to secure a job and a month later I moved there.  One of my friends had asked, “What if Japan is terrible?  What if you hate living there?”  My answer was simple.  Even if Tokyo is a terrible place, it would still be amazing to be able to look around and say I am on the other side of the world – I’m in Japan!  That novelty never wore off and, over 1 ½ years after arriving, I was sad to leave Japan for it had become a part of me.  Surely I’d never forget the amazing experiences.  Summiting Mt. Fuji – climbing straight through the night, reaching the peak in time to see the “goraiko” or sunrise, visiting ancient temples where samurai once tread, sampling amazing cuisine and numerous other fantastic cultural experiences – are all memories that will be with me forever.  But, what really resonates, to this day, are the friendships I made during my stay.  As I readied myself for my return to the U.S., a thought occur to me… why not, once again, break out of my comfort zone and take the “long way home”?  I decided, since I was in this corner of the world, to, once again, break out of my comfort zone, to take a month or two to explore remote jungles, mountains and other more exotic/off the beaten track locales.  Well, my “month or two” turned into a 9-month expedition!  I set out to explore Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia, but we will leave that for another time.

I am so glad I faced my fears and decided to, not just step out of my comfort zone, but to burst out of it, bounding into the unknown.

Be The Alpha: Where Fashion meets Philosophy

NYC Submission Shootout

We are thrilled to have been approached for an interview by, a blog dedicated to MMA fans, amongst other things.  We discussed everything from how our brand got started, where we got our inspiration, to the professional athlete that we feel most embodies the true alpha spirit.  We are so grateful for this opportunity to talk more about our t-shirt company, Be The Alpha.  It was great to have a chance to not only talk about the products themselves, but was especially exciting to explain our message of what it means to truly Be The Alpha.  Although we cater to a wide spectrum of people, the MMA community (specifically BJJ/Grappling) remains our core audience.  Having said that, our target audience seems to be ever evolving.  Our market has expanded to include everyone from firefighters, marines, BJJ instructors and students alike, to an 11 year old boy bravely battling a rare bone disease.

Break out of your “comfort zone”…

Last week, we talked about what it means to “BE THE ALPHA” and how it comes easily to some people.  These people we referred to as “natural born alphas”.  We also began to focus on those who have the desire to steer their lives in another direction but are held back by fear and a reluctance to leave, what I refer to as one’s “comfort zone”.  I’d like to describe myself as an “alpha in progress”.

Over the years, I’ve made a concerted effort to break out of my “comfort zone” in many facets of my life.  For me, this was mostly focusing on fixing my weaknesses.  Doing this always meant putting myself in uncomfortable situations.  Growing up, I was very shy.  This shyness held me back in many ways.  When I went to college, although I began to open up socially, I still was too shy, too self-conscious to do any form of public speaking.  I signed up for many interesting classes only to drop them when we were informed that part of our grades would be based on an oral presentation.  Public speaking was my achilles heel and I avoided any and all situations that would put me “under the spotlight”.  When I joined the work force,  I decided my fear MUST be faced.  To that end, I joined an international public speaking club, Toastmasters.  In the beginning of each meeting, everyone, one by one, stood up and stated their names and the reason they joined.  Just doing this filled me with dread.  When the day came to give my first speech, my hands were trembling, and the index cards I held shook noticeably.  I felt like quitting, but I didn’t.  I kept at it until one day the nervousness was gone.  I could now speak in front of a group of people without anxiety!  I began challenging myself further and entering speech contests with other local Toastmasters chapters.  I slowly, but surely, began to feel more and more confident.  I decided to try out and compete in a competition comprising all of the northeast chapters.  I entered a humourous speech contest and would be competiting with people from three states.  Each time, I gave that speech to a new crowd, my confidence grew stronger.  Winning meant competing in progressively bigger and bigger venue.  And I made it all the way to the finals.

This was it, the final challenge!  I gave it my all and the crowd seemed to love it.  I was sure that I had, once again, won.  Well, I left that place with a huge smile on my face.  I had gone all the way to the finals and…. came in second.  Sure, winning would have been cool.  But it was the realization that I had not only “fixed” a weakness, but along the way, actually discovered a strength.

Today, I’m a gregarious and more extroverted person.  I owe a lot to Toastmasters.  I believe, today, that “being the alpha” is also about facing your fears.  And being the alpha means more to me than just bringing a weakness up to par, but rather making it a strength.

So, by continually breaking out of my comfort zone, I was able to rid myself of a crippling shyness and move on to bettering myself in other ways.  So, I crossed off another flaw from my list and added another strength.  My list is a long one, but everyday I strive to make that list of weaknessess smaller while continuing my journey… a quest to be the alpha.

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