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Thomas Clifford’s Martial Arts

Determining Your Destiny

Are You Determining Your Destiny?

Posted: April 08, 2019


Dear Friend, 


I trust this blog finds you well.

Are you living the life you designed? 

In a way, we all are.

The quality of our lives is the direct result of our decisions.

It is true that nature and nurture are powerful influences in our lives.

However, our attitude, beliefs, and conduct - and the conscious choices we make - determine the quality of our lives.

When you have a mentor in your life, who you trust, it is wise to avail yourself to the value of their influence.

While I would never “delegate my destiny” to anyone else’s decisions, I have been blessed with a handful of extraordinary mentors.

Their wisdom has saved me from a lot unnecessary pain, and served me incredibly well. 


Please enjoy the following true story, that almost wasn’t...


“Tommy, You Don't Believe You." -Paul Hadeler Sr. 

I got fired from my first full time job. 

I was 19 years old, but it still feels like yesterday. My life changed radically, virtually overnight. 

Hadeler Hardware was a bustling business for nearly 100 years. 

It thrived for 3 generations, served the local community, and provided a decent living for the family and their employees. 

Once upon a time, if you owned a house in or near Pearl River, you relied on the Hadeler's for nearly every phase of home improvement. 

If you were a local Contractor, you did a lot of business at that store. If they didn't have what you needed,  they would get it within a week. 

That was considered fast back then. 

I started working there in 1977. I was 8 years old. 

PJ Hadeler (Paul Jr.) was one of my best friends. He asked me if I would help him clean up the warehouse and basement at his family's store.

I had no idea that we were going to get paid. 

More to the point, I didn't realize that we were going to earn every penny. 

It was fantastic. Steady income. 

No more selling golf balls on the 9th hole of Blue Hill Golf Course. 

No more praying for snow, to avoid being broke in the winter. 

A real job. 

Martial Arts was always my true passion. 

Aside from some very informal instruction, and picking up a few kicks from books and movies, my training was stuck in neutral. 

That all changed when Master R. Prett, a high level Kung Fu instructor, began teaching in Rockland County in 1980. 

Martial Arts became more than my passion. It became an obsession. 

On the first day of training, Master Prett said that there was only one valid reason for studying with him. 

He said, "If you teach others everything you learn, this will be a worthwhile investment of time and effort. If you do not, we will have failed."

My time at the hardware store became a burden. 

Not only to me, but to Mr. Hadeler, my coworkers, and the customers. 

As a little kid, I thought that PJ and I would take over the business someday. It seemed like a good plan. 

Martial Arts, and my desire to become an instructor, quickly extinguished that goal. It was obvious. 

Paul Hadeler Sr., who co-owned the business with his father, George II, and his brother, George III, was who I considered my boss. 

He was PJ's dad, and became like a second father to me, as well. 

Paul would often banish me to the warehouse when the store wasn't busy. 

I loved the warehouse. 

He knew why, and was uncharacteristicly tolerant. 

Paul was a total workaholic, and had zero patience for anything other than the success of his family's business. 

But he knew when I closed the warehouse door behind me, it became a Dojo. 

One day, I was sent back there to move bags of concrete mix from one side of the wall to the other. 

It was Paul's way of putting me on a weight training program, which was okay with me. 

I decided to take the handle off of the broom, and practice a staff form - The Wind Devil Cudgel. 

The warehouse door suddenly opens up, and Paul yells out, "What the hell are you doing?", from around the corner. 

I quickly assembled the broom, and started sweeping. 

He sat on the stack of concrete mix, and then told me to have a seat. 

Paul put his hand on my shoulder, which always meant that he was about to say something serious. 

"Tommy, what do you really want to do with your life?", he asked. 

I immediately said, "teach Martial Arts and own a school."

He said, "I don't believe you. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that you don't believe you. So you're fired. Today is your last day."

I couldn't believe it. 

My heart sank.  

I held back my tears, and promised to never practice during work again. 

He said, "Don't make promises that you can't keep." 

That was in June of 1987.


What do you really want to do with your life?

I look forward to seeing you in class at the Dojo! 




Kyoshi Thomas Clifford 

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