Weekly Review Wednesday - How Dark Souls Killed Me and Made Me Stronger (Preface)

I read the warnings. I heard the hype. I sensed the challenge. And without a moment's hesitation, I decided to pull the trigger on buying what had been (pretty much) universally ordained the "most difficult video game to date" all across the land of the internet.

What I'm talking about, of course, is Dark Souls. Or rather, the "Souls Series" in general.

And even if you're not an avid gamer like me who has enjoyed playing video games his whole life (enough to do three charity events revolving around them - shout outs to Mario Madness), I'm pretty sure you've heard of it before me telling you in this moment, right now, that we're both tenderly sharing together. And if you haven't? Well, boy. Do I have a story for you...

To be honest, I've wanted to write a review for a while now, which is the whole point of Wednesday's in general as I continue to draft out Book Two for "The Seven" series. Yet, this isn't going to be like normal reviews because the fact of the matter is: Dark Souls games are, without a doubt, some of the greatest video games out there today. There's simply no denying it. They are a masterpiece of the most colorful form.

IGN has said it. Kotaku has reiterated it. And just about everywhere else you look, you'll see nothing but the shiniest of stars surrounding a series where so much passion and effort has been poured into.

So, why would I need to praise it more...? Why is my "review" necessary...?

Because the world deserves to know WHAT Dark Souls IS. The world deserves to know that Dark Souls is MORE than a video game. Dark Souls, much like life itself, is a journey.

And this? What you're about to begin reading right now?

This is MY journey through Dark Souls. This is MY journey through a game that killed me more times than I've been caught closet rapping in my car at a red light. This is MY journey through a game that tested the durability of a controller being thrown down at the ground enough times to leave a crater. But most of all, this is MY journey through a game that taught me something outside of a screen - it's a game that enhanced my values of discipline and resilience. It's a game that taught me to never, ever give up in a time of my life I needed it most. And yes, as the title suggests, it's a game that made me a hell of a lot stronger too...

I want to walk you through my own individual journey in the hopes that you too, reader, will depart on your own individual journey of this incredible series as well someday. Or, perhaps, reengage and give it another go. And the best way to do that, is to start from the very beginning. Which, brings us to a rather long crossroads in my narration...

So, having prefaced all that... I guess I'll see you on the other side next week, folks. There will be a VIDEO and a STORY-LIKE summary (or in this case, chapter) of my journey each Wednesday for this series. Why? Because I want to add a little fun and flavor to this blog.

Praise the sun.

 

 

 

How-To Tuesday - Repeated Acts of Courage

I've been fortunate enough to learn an abundancy of things in my 28 years of life thus far. I've learned a lot of lessons. Formulas. Ways to be more creative or see things from a different angle. Ways to cope or deal with stress. Ways to communicate better or apply problem solving skills.

Indeed, I'm truly blessed to have been taught so many things from an array of incredible people over the years - things I will never, ever take for granted. Things I try to carry with me every single day I'm lucky enough to wake up.

There is one thing in particular, however, that I learned from someone that has undeniably stood out the most.

They say, "certain people enter your life for a reason". And I can think of no better example or rather, person, than my brother-in law. Thanks to him,  I was able to understand what REPEATED ACTS OF COURAGE are. And that's exactly what I want to share that with you all today. Because it applies to EVERYBODY.

...And I truly believe it can help everybody too.

To begin, I want to paint a brief picture for you. And while my artistic skills are absolutely abysmal (I can't even draw a stick figure properly. Ask me to. I dare you), I think just about every single person in the world has experienced what I'm about to write in some form or another. So, it will probably make it easier to envision.

Ahem...

. . .

You're walking around at school trying to find your next class. It's a new semester. Hope is abundant and you're rocking those new kicks you bought yesterday just to add a little extra 'glow'. You feel great. You look great. And man, anything is possible. You discover the location of your next class with plenty of time before the bell rings and slip inside. It's assigned seating and you map your way across the name plates to discover yours radiating in the back corner. As you sit down, you stare ahead at the empty desk next to you.

It's her. It's him. It's your crushes name. They've been assigned next to you.

It's a new year. A new semester. Anything is possible. Anything! You decide that this is fate. You decide that you were put in this spot for a reason - to finally talk to the person of your dreams and flex those new kicks underneath your seat. Your heart starts beating faster. You feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins, ready to surge. And then, your crush enters the room in dramatic movie-like slow motion.

They sit down quietly next to you. Now's your chance! Now's your move! Class doesn't even start for another five minutes! They're punctual like you! Your heart races further. You open your mouth to speak... And then...

Fear paralyzes you.

As the bell rings and the crush fades away, you silently kick yourself. Well, there's always tomorrow, right? But then, another day goes by. And another. And another. Until an entire semester you've sat next to a person you think the world of and didn't say a damn word.

But, hey... your shoes at least still look cool though. Right...?

. . .

If this sounds familiar, then you're not in solitude, trust me. How many times have you ever wished you said or did something? How many times have you let fear paralyze or control you? We're all guilty of it at one point of our life. No one is safe. No one is perfect.

And yet, as for me? I wasn't just guilty for it.

Hell, I was self-proclaimed famous for it.

I was in the purgatory of community college when I first learned what repeated acts of courage are. I wish so much, even to this day, that I had learned it sooner, but man... I'm just glad that I did. Because everything changed after that. Everything.

My older sister had met an amazing person that would eventually become my brother-in law. And from day one, him and I developed a very unique and special bond that beats stronger than ever today. I opened up to him one afternoon about a situation that highlights the picture I wrote about earlier - there was a beautiful girl in one of my classes that I sat next to and wanted to talk to. But I was too scared. And didn't know what to say.

When I vented and opened up to him about it, I honestly was expecting a "script" or "blueprint" of what to SAY. You see, my brother-in law was one of the most confident people I had ever met in my life and I was... well, an introvert. I was shy. I didn't take a lot of risks. And the thing I always wanted that I lacked in life was just that what my brother-in law had... courage.

I mean, I had a tattoo of a LION - a freakin' LION - on my right tricep at that point of my life. And I couldn't even talk to this girl?!

But, I digress...

What my brother-in law gave me from that fateful afternoon conversation, however, was NOT a script. It was NOT a blueprint. Instead, it was only four simple words.

"Repeated acts of courage."

It sounded so cryptic when he said it that I couldn't help but bite. And in a nutshell, my brother-in law told me this:

If you take the time to do at least ONE act of courage PER DAY, you will gather the momentum to do it the next day. And so on. But you have to keep doing it EVERY day. Or else you will lose that momentum. And momentum... is everything in life.

Pretty simple, right? And yeah, I guess in principle, it actually is. Yet, the word COURAGE itself suggests the slaying of fear. And fear? Not exactly the easiest thing to overcome. Like the last boss of a video game (I'm a bit of a geek, sorry) or the thing that keeps you wide awake at night... fear isn't something to be taken lightly.

But that doesn't mean it CAN'T be taken. That doesn't mean it CAN'T be broken. And here's how to do it... here's how to follow the advice that changed my entire life.

Here's HOW to perform Repeated Acts of Courage:

  1. IDENTIFY THE FEAR: This is the only easy part of the process, but it is nonetheless critical. What are you afraid of? What's the thing you didn't do today that you would like to do tomorrow? For me, at that moment in my life, my fear was making connections with strangers - namely, a girl that I had a crush on. Once you know your fear, you're locked in and ready to go. The rest, is up to you. And you alone.
  2. LOOK THROUGH THE FEAR: This doesn't mean ignoring the fear, but rather, looking to what it will feel like AFTER you've essentially conquered it. Imagine how much better you'll sleep tomorrow night knowing you did what you did. Imagine going to bed without a regret in the world. I can assure you, there is a reward for beating fear, every damn time. And the rewards grow bigger and bigger the higher the fear. For me, I thought about what it would feel like to have that girl know who I was. The only way I would have a chance is if I put myself out there and I knew that by doing that... I would be at least ONE step closer in the direction I needed to go for myself. And that was motivation enough.
  3. COMMIT MENTALLY: Promise yourself that you WILL do it. Promise yourself that you WILL go for it. We all wake up and have to sooner or later stare at our reflection in the mirror each morning. Don't let that person on the other side down. For me, I had been in that situation too many times before. I didn't want to let it happen again. And so, I committed mentally that I would talk to her the next day. And held myself accountable for that promise. Because there is no worse feeling in the world than breaking one - especially, to yourself.
  4. FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAYS: Spoiler alert, just because you made a commitment, doesn't mean the fear itself suddenly dries away. At least, on your FIRST series of repeated acts of courage, it won't. It gets easier and easier, believe me... but the first go is tough. And it's as real as it gets. So... Is your heart beating fast the moment before you do it? Good. Are your palms sweaty? Great. Now, don't think, and just DO IT. Fear doesn't actually paralyze you. It just feels that way in the moment. Fear itself is ALL mental. Count to three, take a deep breath - and on three, you MUST, MUST go! For me, I was nervous as all hell. But then, I remembered that promise I made to myself and how horrible would feel letting myself down another day. I turned around from my seat and said the words, "How are you doing today? I'm Kyle, by the way." It was NOT smooth. But, guess what? I didn't die. I didn't explode. And in that moment... I got a little bit braver and stronger. And so will you if you just feel the fear, and do it anyways.
  5. REFLECT AND DO IT AGAIN - BUT BIGGER: Congratulations! You just did something you didn't think you would ever do! And, look at that? It wasn't nearly as bad as you thought it would be, huh? I can't write what this feeling is like because it's something you just have to experience for yourself... but I will say that it is, without a doubt, one of the BEST emotions you can gain out of life. Having said that... this is the most important piece of the puzzle: it doesn't stop there. It begins there. Because whether you know it or not, what you just did was build momentum in your life. And the only way to keep momentum rolling... is to keep moving forward with it. Start from the beginning, knowing you're a little bit more courageous than before now. Then, find something else that you want to do tomorrow that you might be scared of...but here's the catch: take it a step beyond what you did today. "If you're not growing, you're decaying." And if you're not finding a new target, well... I'm afraid (terrible pun) you're setting a limitation on just how brave you can be in this world. And if you want to get what you want in this world and out of life, you're going to have to be brave.

The most beautiful thing about repeated acts of courage is that after a little while of doing it... it gets easier and easier. Plain and simple. It becomes a habit. Suddenly, the things you were once afraid of, you aren't afraid of at all! You just ave to keep going with it. It's repetition for a reason. I cannot stress that enough.

What happened to me? Well, I kept talking to that girl every class. It started with small talk. Then, to making her laugh for the first time. Then, it progressed to studying together.

I can't write a "happy ending" here because I later on found out that she had a boyfriend... and while the disappointment was real... the one thing I was ot disappointed in, was MYSELF.

That was a domino effect for me. And when I look back on all the friends I've made - all the people I have in my life right now because I learned to make connections with strangers - well... I'm just happy my brother-in law gave me that advice. It's something I carry with me every day, and maybe, just maybe... it's something you'll carry with you now too.

Thank you, brother.

-KL

 

Motivation Monday - The Sun Still Rises

I was twenty years old when I thought the sun wasn't going to rise the next day.

I'll never forget that feeling because it was a moment of my life that I had somehow managed to escape for years and years despite the circumstances. You see, I always had believed in positivity up until that point of my life. I also always had believed in the notion that things can and do have a way of getting better. And yet, as I sat down on the side of the street, having stealthily crept away from a small party with my friends, something inside of me snapped.

For the first time of my life, I didn't think the sun was going to rise the next morning. I didn't think there was "more".

My resilience had bled dry. The remainder of my faith had been pierced in the one last microscopic spot it was hiding. And as I opened my then 'flip' phone to stare at all my contacts wondering who to call, one in particular illuminated underneath that starless Irvine "bubble" evening.

Mom

Something certainly possessed me in that moment. And before I had any control to stop myself from doing it, my fingers had already itched and called her.

I knew she wouldn't pick up; you can't talk to people who aren't there anymore. ut all I wanted to do was hear her voice.

And, well, I did.

"You've reached the voicemail of Frances Lambky. Please leave a message after the beep. BEEP."

Her perfect British accent leapt through my ears like she was sitting aside from me on the street as if she were a ghost. And as I called another dozen or so times just to siphon the memory I had of her, the dam inside of me began to slowly chip and chip away.

I lost it in that moment. I openly admit that, now 8 years later in my life. That doesn't make it any easier though.

You see, reader, I actually thought that the more I called, something might happen. I thought she would answer. I thought that if I kept dialing, eventually, I'd be directed to the hotline up in heaven.

These were my actual thoughts. These were the thoughts of a young, stupid, twenty year old.

I remember my friend Richie eventually came outside and found me that evening. Embarrassed from the tattoo of tears I couldn't manage to wipe away in enough time, I just embraced my friend's support and went back inside forging a smile.

...Yet, as I walked back into a room filled with life, I knew I wasn't adding anything to it. Because the thought never escaped.

I still thought the sun wasn't going to rise the next morning. But, you know what?

It did. Because it always does.

...........................................................................................................................................................................................

My intention for each Monday on this website is to share something personal or heavy with the purpose of it helping someone reading it. Now, admittedly, I always seek to help when I write. It's why I do it, after all. It's why I chose to do it, even when there were plenty of other options in my life open to me.

Still, Monday's in particular are a day that I want to try and provide some help or motivation to you all. And I hope this post provides that for you. If it doesn't, then that just means I haven't done my job and I promise to try even harder, reader.

...........................................................................................................................................................................................

I think every human being, regardless of the level of their emotional or physical resilience, faces a moment like I shared above in their lives at some point or another. Maybe it's already happened. Maybe it's going to happen.

But sooner or later, we all face a moment where it doesn't feel like the sun is going to rise the next day.

It's a dark thought, really. The absence of hope. The absence of faith. The absence of, well... seemingly verything. But that's just it... 'seemingly' everything.

Because what may seem today, might not seem tomorrow.

Look, we deal with a LOT in life. Some of us might hate their career and feel trapped. Some of us might have lost something or someone and want it back. Some of us might have messed up and lie awake at night beating themselves up for the mistake. Some of us might be wondering how to afford food the rest of the week and still pay rent. Some of us might feel alone and wonder why nobody else is around them.

We ll struggle. We ll urt. But if we're willing to accept the fact that the sun still rises despite these conditions surrounding us, then we all get through 'it'.

And when we get through 'it' ('it' being life's many battles and tests), again, guess what? We become a little stronger. We become a little wiser. And when things inevitably grow dark again, we are able to see a light that previously wasn't there.

Think back to everything in your life that has ever crushed you. Even if it hurts to do (just as it damaged me this afternoon to write those first few paragraphs of the post), you eed to remember those moments in your life.

Because...

You got through them. It was you that made it out alive. And maybe thinking and reflecting about everything you had to overcome will aid you in getting through whatever is standing in front of you right now too.

I mean, think about it... what's different? What makes his articular challenge or problem at the here and now impossible? Absolutely nothing at all! If anything, with the right amount of flex of your mind and heart, it should actually be easier.

Yeah, you have scars... so do I! We all do! But the scars of our life aren't meant to punish us. They're meant to show the world how far we've come. And most importantly, how far we're willing to travel to get to where we NEED to be.

So, if you're in a dark place of your life right now... just remember that a kid on the side of a street calling his departed mother isn't in that dark place anymore. He saw the sun rise the next day. And so will you too...

...as long as you're willing to keep going and never, ever, ever give up.

You'll see it too, reader. I promise. And when you do see it, let's all take a picture together. Because while it's easy to remember the darker moments of life, it's a hell of a lot easier to remember the one's that shine the brightest.

Welcome to my Blog!

Friends, family, readers and all the rest of you beautiful, beautiful people... I want to warmly welcome you to the official blog of Kyle Lionheart!

"Hey, Kyle - why did you make a blog when you should be working on writing Book Two of The Seven Series?"

Well, random person that is definitely not me typing in the third person form: Part of my journey of trying to become a published author (meaning, getting The Seven Series on shelves one day in the hopefully near future) means, well... it's a journey. And while my attention, commitment and heart WILL be FOCUSED on writing the SECOND BOOK of the book series later this Fall, I've always believed in a little thing called balance.

And balance, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful thing.

Digging deeper though, the reality is, it will take several months of writing to get the next book of the series finished to the degree I want it to be for you all. And between that time, I don't want to "ghost" out on everybody that's patiently waiting. THAT'S the PRECISE reason I created this blog... it's a means to communicate with you all and keep delivering written content between the next project.

Writing is my one true passion in life and the reason I do it is to try and help spread positivity in a world where... let's face it, we need just about all we can get.

From this blog, my mission is to connect with you all on a much higher plane than most other blogs out there. I want to be able to give laughs, perspective, but most of all, hope that if you pursue your dream and keep moving forward (see my first post), amazing things CAN and DO happen.

You're the reason I write and wear my heart out on each page, reader. And I wouldn't have it any other way... because I've always believed that writing is meant to help people. And as for me?

Well...

I want to help as many people as possible. And while I don't know what the future holds, I do know that the journey itself is just beginning. And I couldn't be more excited.

For transparency purposes, here's a WEEKLY SCHEDULE of what to expect content wise on this page. I will be posting usually around 6pm PST EVERY weekday barring any unforeseen events:

  • Monday: Motivation Monday (Inspirational Stories)
  • Tuesday: "How-To" Tuesday's (Instruction/Tips)
  • Wednesday: "Weigh-In" Wednesday's (Reviews)
  • Thursday: Thursday's Toasts (Best People All Week)
  • Friday: Weekly Writing Wrap-Up (Updates on Book Two & Other Endeavors)

 

Always Be Moving Forward - 10.3.16

There really aren't a lot of directions you can move in life. You can move forward. You can move backwards. Or you can stand still wondering which way to go.

You don't need a compass. You don't need a map. You don't need to wait for the "fog" to "clear up" or the "stars to shine". Because at the end of the day, like it or hate it, those are your only two options in life. And I think it's critically important to always choose the right one.

I think it's critically important to always be moving forward in life.

Let me preface this by saying that I've gone in both directions. I've also stood still a hell of a lot longer than I would have liked to...

I wish, with everything inside of me, I could write this portraying myself as a 'role model' or an 'example'. But... I'm not going to lie to you, especially through writing. I've always written and spoken directly from the heart. And that's not stopping as long as I still have a heart.

So, here's what I am going to do... I'm going to tell you something.

This is for you. This is for the person that might not know what to do today. This is for the person who might not know what to do tomorrow either. This is for the person who keeps fighting and might go to sleep each night feeling like they aren't winning inside.

Well, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. And you're probably a lot further ahead than you realize.

I'm here to tell you that if you point yourself in the right direction, everything you still want to happen can and will come true without compromising your integrity in the process. It's just up to you to decide to do it...

..And then to never look back once you've made that decision...                                                                             

. . .

Here's a fun fact: It was incredibly difficult for me to write about myself in the first public book I released now nearly five months ago. Even further, it was difficult to make the committed decision to be a main character of "The Seven - Awakening" - especially when six more books are planned and on their way.

I can't even begin to express how many times I thought about changing the name of that character, Kyle Lionheart, before publishing. A simple sweep of a few key strokes would have locked my identity behind a wall.

Yet, I didn't do it. And it took me a while to get here, but today, five months later, I'm actually sort of glad I made that decision.

And that's because I know that I'm not a hero. But maybe, just maybe, I can help more and more people to become one.

What does this sharing of a past personal conflict have to do with direction? Well, honestly? Everything.

The funny thing about moving forward in life is that, if we're lucky (and in the moment it's often hard to recognize that fortune), we're pushed in that direction from the very beginning. We're told to go to school. We're told to go out and make friends. We're told to get a degree. We're told to find a good job.

...you see the pattern forming, right?

That's a hell of a lot of momentum of moving forward, at least through the most basic standards. Now, whether or not we choose to do all of those things above... is a completely separate subject. Yet, still, it can't be denied:

Moving forward in life is A LOT easier when you have a person pushing you.

But... then the word 'suddenly' happens...                                                                        

  . . .

What happens when the same person that was pushing you suddenly isn't there anymore? What happens when a loved one fades away or tragedy strikes and again, suddenly, the weight of everything behind you doesn't feel quite the way it used to anymore?

The simple answer is... you find a way to keep moving forward by being the one to push yourself. The reality and cold truth, however, is that we're all human. And when adversity reveals itself, it can affect even the strongest of people.

There are a few moments of my life that stand out for when I took a giant step backwards. Losing a parent is tough, but when you're 20 years old and spend six years pretending cancer isn't there, and then... it isn't there... but neither is your mom... well, I didn't know what direction to go in life. And unfortunately, for a while at least, I chose the wrong one.

I chose backwards.

What the hell is backwards in life? We can't change events. We can't change time. Yet, if I had to break it down, I'd say that backwards in life is becoming less than you were before. Backwards in life is not living up to your potential. Backwards in life is running away from fear. Backwards in life is giving up.

Backwards in life is taking steps away from the person you want to be. And believe me, as comfortable as those same steps might feel from having tread on them before... you're NEVER going to be the person you want to be looking behind you.

You have to find a way to look forward. And in the moments where it hurts the most to look forward, I hope you still do. Because you never know what can happen when sitting still in life. And above all, you never know what dreams can still come true, as cliché and corny as that may sound.

I've been playing red-light, green-light the last few years. And every now and then, something would happen that I would allow to CONTROL me. Which, is a bunch of crap if you ask me.

I shouldn't have let my first real heart break stop me from moving forward, yet there are months of my life that I did. I shouldn't have let making a mistake that so many other people have made stop me from moving forward, yet there are months of my life that I did. I shouldn't have let the fear of chasing the dream of wanting to be a writer stop me from moving forward in that direction, yet there are several YEARS that I did.

I'm not losing sleep over the above. I'm certainly not here to seeking sympathy from it either. I'm here to tell people that I'm not letting that stuff control me anymore. Nor am I going to let anything that happens today or tomorrow control me too.    

                                                                         . . .

Look, you might have the wind in your face right now. I don't know your story. I don't know how dark things might be or the difficulty you endure trying to get out of bed every morning. What I do know though is... if you find the courage to take even ONE tiny, miniscule step forward through adversity... then, guess what?

That still counts as moving forward.

And I can assure you - from the many scars I still wear today - and from being the "not hero" that I am - that those steps forward are ALWAYS worth it. Because once you make the decision to always be moving forward in life, everything becomes worth it.

"It's the journey, not the destination." And what's a journey if there aren't a few falls along the way? We've all messed up. We've all been there. None of us are alone.

...But don't let the falls stop you. Don't let where your life is now scare you from where you want it to be. It's okay to look back because we all hit a wall at some point or another in life.

Just make that the last time you ever look back. Because everything you want is forward. And everything you want to be is still possible.

If you want.