Trouble with the Left Hook

“Dad,” Dylan asks, “what are you doing?”

“Practicing my left hook.”

“It’s slow.”

“I know.”

“Is it supposed to be that slow?”

“No. I’m practicing to make it faster. Like Muhammad Ali’s hook.”


We’re at a shopping center waiting by a wooden bench for Cindy and Haley to return from a store filled with too many candles and lotions for my liking.

“Dylan, is this one faster?”

As he watches me throw a left hook a tulip blossoms, a marathon is started and completed, Styrofoam decomposes, a sea turtle breaches a shore, a senior citizen reaches for a door handle, a star exhausts its nuclear energy and dies, the line at the DMV moves forward, and baby back ribs are slow-roasted to fall-off the bone tenderness.

My son looks at me with round, full-blue eyes and a presumably empty belly and says, “I’m starving.”

For six months I’ve been participating in a boxing class for pugilists with progressive nervous system disorders. As I explained to my doctor, there’s no ring, no referee, and no fighting. We work on footwork, hand-eye coordination, boxing technique, and only punch things that can’t punch us back.

I hit the bag with a Tyson-esque right hook. It’s loud. Like the rumbling of Dylan’s empty belly. Like thunder before a storm.

However, my left hook is slow and powerless and calm like a soft Spring morning.

When I began boxing class, I couldn’t throw a left hook properly: pivot on the ball of your left foot, transfer your weight from your right side of your body to the left, rotate your left hip, and with your left elbow cocked at a 90 degree angle–punch. The punch simply had too many moving parts for my brain to compute and to throw it with accuracy, speed, and power. Every left hook looked like I was throwing it for the first time.

Stephen King always believed he’d become a famous author. However, as a teenager he was not seen as a good writer. He would send out story after story to publishers only to be rejected again and again. He would fix each rejection letter on a nail on his wall. When the nail could no longer hold the weight on rejection, he began using a railroad spike.

After his first book, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers, King tossed the manuscript in the trash. Thankfully, his wife fished it out and convinced him to not give up. Eventually, Carrie was accepted by a publisher, sold more than 4 million copies, and began the career of one of the best-selling authors in history.

Dr. Seuss, William Golding, James Baldwin, JK Rowling, Meg Cabot, Gertrude Stein, William Patterson, John Grisham, and Beatrix Potter endured multiple rejections from multiple publishers before becoming famous writers.

Prior to self-publishing Bedtime Stories for the Living, I submitted excerpts to over a dozen publishers. All of them rejected my writing. Though, I didn’t receive any blistering criticism like Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book) who was advised to “never write again” being rejected but judged as “not good enough” stung.

Yet I learned writing and fighting are exercises in perseverance. In endurance. Sentence after sentence, round after round, it takes guts and a dogged determination to write something meaningful or to battle an opponent–seen or unseen–until the final bell.

In life, we will face many opponents. We will, like a writer staring down a blank page, swell with doubt and resistance. We will feel small and weak before we begin. We will litter our sentences with, “I can’t… .” In these moments–when the odds are against us—think of the writer or the fighter who refused to quit. Who refused to exit the Word document. Who refused to throw in the towel. Who was determined to persevere. To face uncertainty head-on by trusting themselves. By believing in themselves.

Short-sighted publishers, diseases, hungry and judgmental 8-year-olds, or anything else standing across the ring from us is not the problem. We’re the problem. We’re our own opponent. We’re the biggest threat to ourselves. To our self-belief. To our relentless practice of personal achievement.

“Now throw some left hooks,” my boxing instructor commands.

“Just go slow. Pivot on your left foot, roll your hips, and fire the hook across your body.”

“Okay.” I assume an orthodox stance and hold my boxing gloves up to my chin. “But I’m not promising you anything.”

My left hooks, though slow, were technically sound.

“Nice. Have you been practicing?”

“A little.”

“Well, sometimes when the odds are against us, all we can do is keep practicing.”

Be well,’


The WOFO “Enjoy the Storm” are available through Custom Ink until June 3rd (click here). This t-shirt for troubled times will be a poly-fiber reminder to make the best of every situation.  

Life is uncomfortable. Your shirt doesn’t have to be.

These shirts are available for a limited-time only. The store closes on June 3rd!

Store Link:


I want to welcome everyone who recently subscribed to my blog through the Book Funnel promotion and received a free eBook version of Bedtime Stories for the Living. I hope you enjoy the book. And I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.

Through Book Funnel’s June promotions, I’ve teamed up with over 50 awesome authors to help promote our books. These books are nonfiction and range from self-improvement to memoirs. Please checkout the links below:

New Ideas and Different Perspectives:

Last Week’s Post: Return of The Get Up

I’m forced to constantly remind myself that falling–both literally and figuratively–is just a position, not a fate.


Quote of the Week:

If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at Thanks!


Bedtime Stories for the Living recently received not ONE…not TWO…but THREE highly coveted 5-Star ratings from Reader’s Favorite–a highly-respected literary website that reviews books from all over the world!!!

Readers’ Favorite Review by Emma Megan

Jay Armstrong, a high school English teacher, explains in “Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father’s Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams” how he was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease. This striking memoir contains wonderful love letters for each of Jay’s children, beautiful true stories, and precious life lessons and advice. It also contains what Jay never told his kids, what he felt like saying to them but failed as life got in the way. In “Bedtime Stories for the Living”, Jay talks about poetry and books, the importance of writing and its impact on his life, offering aspiring writers valuable writing tips. He also talks about the beauty and the challenges of life, of being a parent, and the difficulty of dealing with a rare disease.

You cannot read this breathtaking memoir and still be ungrateful for your health. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” by Jay Armstrong is the best motivational book I’ve ever read. Jay’s writing style is addictive, mainly because it’s nostalgic, vulnerable, and filled with wisdom and sorrow. In his uniqueness, Jay inspires and encourages not only his children but all his readers to figure out their dreams and to chase the one that brings them joy, to read poetry, and never to ignore their internal voice. He reminds them that they are responsible for how they adapt to change. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” is truly an empowering book as it speaks to the heart and the mind and delivers inspirational life lessons and unique stories. It’s undoubtedly a must-read.

I've been featured on eBookDaily

Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.

Here’s what I’m currently reading: Educated by Tara Westover

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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning authorDespite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at


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