Target, Focus, Execute

McGu, SEAL Team Six Commander Dick Marcinko, and Fat Me

I met former SEAL Team Six Commander “Big” Dick Marcinko at a book signing in the late ’90s for his motivational business book Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior. He signed it, “Tom: Find your target, aim, and execute.” It sat on a shelf for years. I was 28.

By the time I’d turned 30, I had plunged into debt, become morbidly obese, and given up writing.
I had a decent idea for a P.I. series about a guy named Phil, a heroin addict vaguely based on the alcoholics in recovery by my literary heroes Lawrence Block and James Lee Burke. I might have gotten it published, if I’d tried. Phil was gonna hunt down someone’s daughter and follow her to New Orleans, get mixed up with a female cop, and find out the girl was running for good reason. Nothing new, but House of the Rising Sun might have gotten published, if I’d had the self-confidence to complete it. I’d gotten my first publication, “We’re All Guys Here,” in Blue Murder, a now defunct online mystery mag, after Pulphouse folded. Pulphouse was hot stuff at the time, and when Dean Wesley Smith accepted “Guys,” I was thrilled. And heartbroken when the zine closed before it made print. But I found it a new home… and then gave up. I was a fat nothing. What did I know? Hey, I sure like Everquest. I bet there’s a raid tonight…

When I turned 33, my “Jesus year,” as they call it, I had a sudden epiphany.
I wanted to lose weight.
I wanted to get out of debt.
I wanted to stop chasing unattainable, selfish and damaged women.
I have a lot of issues with my father, but he had died over 5 years ago. I had long ago internalized the belittlement and bullying and had taken to doing it to myself. Calling myself fat-ass. Berating my every failure. Every misstep, every procrastination. I was a complete failure, except for having a decent job.

My epiphany was realizing my self-flagellation was counterproductive.

I remembered what Big Dick said.

I became obsessed with one thing at a time. What made me most miserable? My weight. I went on Atkins, and 18 months later I’d lost 140lbs. I began walking 20 minutes every night, then 40, then an hour. Then I took martial arts and began lifting weights. I’d been beaten up by three wrestlers in high school, and my “tough guy” father never taught me how to fight. He expected it to be natural. So I learned to fight. I’m not that good, but I’ve taken punches from 6’4″ 260lb boxers, and returned the favor.

I did not write.

When that goal was in sight, I tackled my debt. I owned all sorts of junk I had bought for fleeting enjoyment, to distract from my self-loathing. Books I bought, but would never read. I still have shelves of those. I stopped buying books for five years, reading what I had. And I still have many, many more. I became the eBay master. I bought only food and necessities. I didn’t go on vacation. I stayed home on weekends.

I did not write.

Seeing myself beat a lifelong battle with lard and dig myself out of debt gave me the self confidence to seek a relationship. I hit the dating sites. But most importantly, I let friends know I was looking, and soon I was set up as the wingman for someone’s cousin, and ended up with the girl. We respected each other and didn’t hurt each other when we were upset. She is someone I love and deserve, a few years later I married her.

I did not write.

My job let me blog all day without any personal reward or appreciation. I could have written, but I was surrounded with negativity. I found another job where I was valued.

I began to write.

A friend told me about NaNoWriMo, and I wrote a 115,000 word novel in two months. It was crap, but it was liberating. I could write. It was just too big. So I wrote flash. I compressed stories into 700 words. Then 1000. Then 1500. Then 2500, 3500, 4500.

That 700 word story was “The Last Sacrament,” which was published in Shotgun Honey a few months ago. Before that, I worked on an even shorter piece, a bit of humor called “Punk Dad Manifesto.” It was rejected, so I tried elsewhere. A few days before my wedding, it was published in The Morning News. And they even paid for it.

What changed? My image of myself.
My image changed from a gullible, clumsy, pot-bellied kid who embarrassed his father to someone who could focus on a goal and chase it down like a vengeful water buffalo bent on goring the hunter who’d shot off its left butt cheek. I started small and focused on one thing at a time.

Big Dick had been right.

You don’t “Change your life.” That’s a monumental task. You focus on one duck at a time, and knock the little feathered bastards down. Eventually, you’ll find your life has changed. You’ve become a duck slaughterer. People will ask how you find the time. The motivation. The energy, to put the damn game controller down and DO IT.

Walk tall, and carry a Big Dick.

Target, focus, execute.

I’m not writing this to brag. A good friend of mine is plagued with similar self-doubt and feels the quicksand of many problems holding them back, so I wrote this on their blog. And it felt like something worth sharing. Another good friend repeated the adage that 99% of life is showing up. I mocked it at first, but when opportunity knocks, you’d best be answering.

Hey, there’s a writing contest. Join it.
Hey, there’s an open call (in my case it was the Munchmobile) … show up.
Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, like Red says.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

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