How was last week?

How was last week?  Did you manage to keep positive for seven days, without going into negativity for more than two minutes at a time?  Yes?  GREAT!   Celebrate!  You have done something wonderful.  Now let’s go for two in a row!


The “Life Hacks” system is based on the notion of tiny shifts that make big changes.    And that means 5 minutes a day, for just seven days.   We’ve talked about breaking the unresourceful breathing patterns by using 60 seconds of deep, diaphragmatic breathing every 3 hours, or whenever you feel stressed.   Fabulous stuff.


The next step is to begin to spend at least five minutes every morning on your “morning ritual”. This means that you move, focus attention, and chant incantations all at the same time.  I use Tai Chi, but walking, running, yoga, rebounding and other activities can work well too.   MOST PEOPLE WILL LEAVE OUT THE PHYSICAL COMPONENT, and this is a major mistake.   All three.  Your resistance is exactly what we are seeking to uncover and correct.


After you have these, you want to look at the CHILD-ADULT-ELDER complex.   Infinitely variable, you can use it for fear, motivation, healing, goal setting, increasing energy, discipline, spiritual growth, finding your soulmate…it is just amazing.  For instance, let’s look at how you can use it to motivate yourself to do the SEVEN DAY EMOTIONAL DIET.


The most important thing you can do is to set your watch for three hours and breathe for sixty seconds every time it goes off.   If you didn’t do it…why not?


Why wouldn’t you invest five minutes a day to see if I’m right, if you WOULD spend the time reading this?  Doesn’t that seem illogical to you?


Something is stopping you.


I asked a simple question of the ladies last week: WOULD YOU FIGHT HARDER FOR YOUR CHILD THAN FOR YOURSELF?


There were only two answers?  Either an emphatic “yes” or a statement that they already go all-out, and there would be no different.  No one has EVER suggested that they would fight harder for themselves than their child.  Not once.   So let’s just assume that no healthy human being would say such a thing.


Using the CHILD-ADULT-ELDER configuration, you would start by getting clear on what the ADULT wants to accomplish.  NOT the “to do” list–that’s HOW to accomplish your goals.


For instance: GOAL; to write a book a year.


TO-DO:   Write at least one sentence a day.


That will do it, for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere.  But if you can’t get yourself to do this tiny amount, there is an EMOTIONAL problem, not a problem with logistics or energy.  If you had the time to read this, you had the time to write a dozen sentences, my friend.


Don’t like.  “Do not think dishonestly”.   Musashi’s first principle.


Somehow, you couldn’t motivate yourself to do this tiny amount. That means that you have more PAIN associated with writing a sentence than PLEASURE associated with it.


Why?   Usually fear.   We’ll talk about what kinds of fears they might be another time.  Right now, let’s focus on the other side.  You don’t have to remove fear to take action.  You just have to have more reasons to DO IT.


If we accept that human beings, on average, will do more for their families/children than for themselves, we can use this.


How?  By visualizing that “child” self as we’ve discussed.  In your meditation/visualization, get her to tell you her dreams.  Harlan Ellison said that “success is bringing into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.”


You commit, as an adult, to creating a world where your “child” can play the games she desires.  Do that, and you can go down into the coal mine and get black lung disease, if your “child” is healthy and happy.  But do this right, and you can do a bad job temporarily to get to a position that more than protects your child, but actually provides expression.


Specifically, if you have to work at a bad job, but are writing at least one sentence a day, you are telling your “child” that you are respecting her dreams.  Moving toward them a step at a time.  The trick will be finding ways that writing that book ties into childhood dreams.


Remember that EVERYTHING we do is about moving away from pain, and toward pleasure.  Whatever those childhood dreams were, that’s what they represented.  And it is worth finding the adult equivilencies of those childhood dreams.


Ruler of the world?  Try president of a service organization that provides some personally relevant value to the world.


Playing major league ball?  Try playing on the company softball teacm, or coaching Little League.


Becoming a superhero?  Try creating superhero comics or stories. Or…being a “Big Brother”/”Big Sister” and see the awe in their eyes as you help them learn to navigate the world.


There’s a way.  If Jason has a dream, it is my job as Dad to show him how the mundane daily actions are steps toward that dream. Love, adventure, sports glory or financial success?  To the degree that I can make him believe that algebra, or history, or exercise, or courtesy, are a route to a goal that HE chooses, he has just learned how to motivate himself with pleasure: “learn to multiply this negative exponent, and I’ve learned how to discipline myself, and follow stupid rules.   If I can do that, I can keep my grades up. Do that and I can play on the team. Do that, and I can see how close to the NBA I can get, or maybe get a college scholarship out of the deal, so I can get a better job and find a semipro league to play in.”



That’s what I have to do for Jason. That’s what I have to do for myself, every morning: WHY does my goal relate to my emotional needs?   Ask my “little boy”.  Negotiate with him.   Maybe its just that if he gives me the creativity and energy to complete a stupid task, I’ll reward him by watching an episode of GOLGO-13.  He just LOVES watching Duke Togo cap some poor fool from two miles away with an impossible shot.  YEAH!!!


I hood my childhood enthusiasms to my adult need to navigate every day with passion and discipline.    And if I have a good day, I can have a great week.


That’s linking CHILD and ADULT for a mundane task.   Here’s a question for you: what would happen if you linked your “ELDER” into that?  Found a way to connect your task to your ultimate life values?  Can you see how you move to an entirely new level of motivation and potential excellence? Remember: mastery is a matter of focus over time. Sure, there are other aspects (modeling, feedback, etc.)  but focus over time is the single easiest metric to track.


This is how you get there, one day at a time!







P.S.– thank you for helping to make the launch for THE SUNKEN PLACE our best ever.  As we promised, the price has gone up fifty dollars to 298, where it will stay at least until December 1st.


BUT…Tananarive reported that at least one person had trouble accessing the website at WWW.REALBLACKHORROR.COM.  So…


I’m going to trust you on this.  If you tried to get on last night, and couldn’t, send me a personal email at steven@diamondhour and I’ll give you that 248 price TODAY ONLY.


Sound good?


Write with passion!




Would you fight harder to protect your “Child” than yourself?

(Note: I realize more every day that there are just a few basic things I learned from my wonderful teachers, that recur over and over.  Attempts to language things that cannot quite be put into words. The “Ancient Child” is one of those.  In a sense, the entire “Five Minute Life Hacks” system is just giving you different diagnostics for the integrity of the Child-Adult-Elder connection.   The following note deals with one of the moments I realized how critical this is.  I think it is pertinent to certain   discussions we are having at this time, as a culture.)

My tribe are the loving, open hearted conscious adult s human beings on this planet.  I don’t care about race, gender, religion, politics or nationality.  If you embrace the universality of humanity, you are my tribe.


100% of my interest is my tribe being safe.  I don’t care what you think about me, so my commitment is to speak the truth, not what is politically correct or emotionally “safe.”   I speak to the ladies and gentlemen who can hear me, and trust that my heart is breaking for all the pain I see. There is an answer.  Many will not want to hear me.   I speak to those who can, and will.




Once upon a time I had a neighbor whose daughter was close friends with Nicki.   This neighbor, call him “Bill”, had a problem with me, one I’m not sure of.  He was trying to push me into a fight.  Called the police on my dog, and then bragged about it, and actually got into a boxing stance and called me out.


Sheesh.  I tried to figure out  what to do.  We were friendly with his family (he mostly got pugnacious when drinking) and while I was at his house one day he mentioned his back was hurting.  Seeing a chance to make nice, I invited him to use my hot tub.   He gratefully accepted.


When he came over to the house an hour later he had an object wrapped in a towel.  It was a hand gun.   He asked me to hold it for him.  He said that he had it because of stress with his boss at work (!)  He then said that I reminded him of his boss…and his boss was “so ugly.”


Oh, my.   Well, THAT was fascinating.  I was in trouble.  I spoke to Swift Deer, who was teaching me Jiu Jitsu at the time, and said that I was stumped.  He was ramping himself up to attack me.   I was having real problems with this, despite all my training, because “I didn’t want to hurt (Nicki’s friend.  Call her Shannon) Shannon’s daddy.


Swift looked at me with pity.  “That’s what he’s counting on, Steve,” he said.  “That’s why he’s going to hurt you.”


I was stunned, and realized he was correct.  This, was serious.    I went home that night in a funk.  I was going to get hurt. Because I didn’t have my emotions behind me.




That night I was in a funk.   I thought for HOURS trying to work through this.  I was going to be hurt.  Why? Because I couldn’t hurt Shannon’s Dad.    Damn!


Then…something happened.  I asked a different question, opened a different door.  I thought:


“He’s trying to hurt NICKI’S Dad.”  And suddenly, something shifted inside me.  I felt something bare its teeth.   “He’s trying to make my daughter an orphan.” That led to: “He’s trying to make my wife a widow.”


And suddenly I had the clarity I sought.   I couldn’t do it for myself.  I COULD do it for my family.   Hell, yes.


Once you connect with that core survival place, all that remains is technique.




I have a friend and teacher who is an amazing martial arts instructor.  He told me a story but didn’t give me the right to use his name in connection with it, so I won’t.  Call him “Doctor Mack”


While Mack is a man of lethal skills, he is more than a teacher of physical techniques, he understands the “mind game” that makes it all work.  And he told me a story once.  He said he was sitting in his office and heard a gruff voice from out in his foyer:  “I wanna talk to the DOC!”


Ego-driven, male-posturing bullshit.   The kind of hierarchical behavior that gets people killed every damned day.


Mack looked at the door, and then at his desk.  He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a gun.  Placed it on his desk.   Imagined the visitor storming into his office, and imagined himself shooting the man right through the head.  Watched his brains splash against the wall and slide down in a mess.


Mack smiled.   Put the gun away.  Then went out to the foyer and had a pleasant conversation with the man, who, surprise surprise, had gentled right down.


The man left, Mack returned to his office, and got on with his day.


Perfect.  How might I apply this?


I imagined him attacking me, with my helpless daughter cowering behind me.  Pure “Daddy” circuitry.  For the first time in my life, I imagined that rabid wolf in my heart, the thing that thrives on martial arts and violent films and imagery, coming all the way out of its cave.


Imagined myself crippling him.  Stomping him.  Enjoying it.


Yes, it sure as hell did.


I luxuriated in that sense for a few minutes, then came out of my office, hugged my daughter, kissed my wife, and walked across the street.   Shannon’s mom opened the door.  “Hello,” I said.  “Is Bill at home?”   Yes, she said, he was in his office.  “May I see him?”


Yes, she said.  And I walked back. Bill was on his computer.   I asked him what he was doing, made polite inquiries into his life, and then after a few minutes said “well, I just wanted to say hello.”


He walked me to the front door, and we said goodbye.


A few weeks later in casual conversation with his wife, she said that after I left Bill turned to her, said “You know?  That Steve Barnes is really a nice guy.”




Do you understand what happened here?  The reason why the “Ancient Child” model of connecting the child, the adult, and the elder is so critical?  How you can use it for self-defense, success, creativity, love?


Does this make sense?


The entire “Five Minute Life Hack” system is just a way to give you hundreds of different “mini-hacks” to work on your mind, your career, your emotions, your sense of love or fear.   You start with a “daily ritual” of action and emotion, see where you stop yourself, and relate it to your child, your adult, or your elder selves.   One of the three, or some combination, ALWAYS has the answer you seek, if you go deep enough. Always.  NO exceptions.


This is why I spend an hour every day communicating about these things.  It isn’t just success, it is also life and death.


You are my tribe.  I want you to live.





Twitter went CRAZY about Tananarive and Jordan…

Hey, guys!   Last night Tananarive got avalanched with messages that director Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)   had name-checked her on the Stephen Colbert show.  We have a thirteen year old who needs to get to school by 8:20, which means we have to be up by 6:30, so we couldn’t stay up…


But recorded it and watched this morning.   Wow, was that fun!   Jordan talked about coming to Tananarive’s UCLA class the day she discussed “Get Out.” He called it a peak experience, and that the students asked brilliant questions.  I was so proud of my baby, and so happy for Jordan!

Ever had a moment you were THAT proud of your sweetie?


Why happy for Jordan?  He talked about writing the script for  FOUR YEARS.  How he put his heart and soul into it, committed to speaking his truth, no matter how transgressive. That takes COURAGE, friends.  He put his own fears around race, relationships, death, identity and more into that movie, refining and refining.


Do you get that he was taking Action, had emotional mastery over his fear (Faith and Gratitude) and had a clear intention: to make the very best movie he could, true to a reality he’d never seen expressed cinematically, written to the limits of his ability, using everything he was, everything he’d learned, every mentor and role model he could find?

Does that make sense?

Can you believe that he experienced all of the doubt and uncertainty that the rest of us feel, and kept going?


What creates a movie that can earn a QUARTER BILLION DOLLARS at the worldwide box office, shattering records and prejudices, creating conversations and shifting an industry?


He had the courage to tell the truth. He took action.   He had faith that there would be an audience eager to hear what he had to say. He leveraged every relationship he’d built up over years to get where he needed to go.


And now?  Now he is at a totally different level of his life, and looking for ways to bring others with him.


Can you see he completed a cycle of the Hero’s Journey with beauty and power?


I’m in awe!


Jordan is another example of M.A.G.I.C., of creating your own story, of dealing with fear, and of acting in alignment with a healed child and an awakened elder self.


And YOU can tap into that same stream of joy, by taking small actions aimed at aligning your days  with those dreams, values and actions.   The goal? Simple.


To be HAPPY.  Does that make sense?  Harlan Ellison said: “Success is bringing into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.”


I would add just one thing: you magnify things 10X if they are also in alignment with your deepest spiritual values.

Join me at 6pm Pacific today, Thursday November 16th,   and we’ll discuss some of the tools YOU can use to create YOUR dreams, as men and women like Jordan achieved theirs.


So proud of him. And want to be proud of you NEXT~





When does the “Golden Rule” go wrong?

I was on a thread noting the different rules men and women operate under.  That women will touch a man, and be familiar with him (note the waitresses in Hooters, or any Southern waitress calling you “honey” and touching your hand or shoulder) in ways that would be problematic for a man with a woman.  Heck, back in the day I had women who were really just acquaintances grab me and French-kiss me just for fun.


They KNEW they could get away with it.   They ASSUMED (and were correct) that the guys would get into it.  Wow!  A pretty girl wants to kiss me?  Cool!


The rules really are different, and that can be a problem.   While we are looking at pathological stalking and harassing behaviors, the roots will be found in the “gray zone” when people cultivate and  de-inhibit responses that can lead to real horror.


I remember in…was it “Waiting To Exhale”?  There was a scene where a guy goes to bed with a woman, raving about how great it was, while she is clearly totally unsatisfied.  “Bang!   Wow that was amazing” he raved.  While she’s sitting back obviously thinking “are you out of your mind?   Where’s the beef?


He was clueless.  Why?  BECAUSE HE ASSUMED IT FELT TO HER THE WAY IT DID TO HIM!   Simple.  It isn’t that he didn’t care. Are you kidding?  Men LOVE to feel that they drive beautiful  women crazy with passion. We glory in that notion.   If they do, we bond more tightly, and we’ll have long-term access to the goodies.


But I remember what a bisexual woman said to me about the relative complexity of male and female sexual response:  “men are like a balloon that you blow up until it explodes. Women are like a combination safe you’re trying to work without knowing the combination, in the dark, wearing gloves. Oh, and half the time?  They don’t know the combination  either.”


Never forgot that.


The problem is what might be called “the dark side of the Golden Rule.” The “Golden Rule” is probably the single most consistent principle of human behavior, and can be found in every culture or religion I’ve ever encountered.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a FABULOUS basic principle.  The best eleven words I can imagine, and a road out of childish, solipsistic “me first/me only” thinking.


When I mentioned that PART of  the ROOT (not the poisonous flowering) of some of this bad behavior is the assumption that “Men like this (being propositioned) so woman will too.”


I was asked why I thought this happened.


And my reply was:   “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”


Not fool proof, of course.  Fools are SO ingenious…


Anyone trying to teach the value of this principle knows the wise-ass who says “well, what if you’re a masochist? Yuck yuck yuckity yuck.”


Funny.   But if you look at that “joke” more carefully, you can see that there’s really a point.


The FIRST step in emotional development is simply being there. You are hungry, you are thirsty, you want to be held, you want to be changed.  Total selfishness.


The SECOND step in emotional development is:    “I am me.”  A baby stops merely reacting and starts developing the “I” self, differentiating herself from the environment.  But all the basic needs are still there.   Here, the baby learns to manipulate the people around her by smiling, crying, being “cute”.



The THIRD step in emotional development is beginning to realize that others have “inwardness”.   Are not just machines or objects here for your pleasure.  The “Golden Rule” is a ladder to this state.   You “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” until you realize that they ARE you.


The FOURTH step in emotional development might be called “Others are like me, but different”.  In other words, the basic essence is the same, but in every human being it manifests in the world differently.  Larry Niven says that his ideal reader is someone as smart as him, but needs different things explained.


The same, but different.  (This is a key “split” point for racism, of course.  If you say: “the same” then you might say: “if I behaved like those people, I’d have to be corrupt, evil, stupid, less than” etc. on a basic core level.   The opposing notion: “if I behaved like those people I’d have to have had a different history” defines one of the most basic political splits in America.  But I digress)


Men and women, as groups, have different experiences, different cultures, different reproductive strategies, different hormonal balances that affect values and actions. Different expectations of themselves and each other. Different tactics for accomplishing their desires.


Neither is superior or inferior morally or intellectually.  Each makes different errors in assuming that “the other” is or is not fully human, like them, or like them but “different”.



The “Golden Rule” is both a doorway to awakening, and another opportunity to get lost in the human maze.   The answer is to START by


  1. Loving yourself.


And then progress to:


  1. Love another person.


Maintaining a relationship with another person is a daily experiment in testing your theories of humanity, empathy, creativity.   Sex melts ego boundaries, sex plus love opens the door to Future-Pacing your existence. Tell me you haven’t had GREAT sex and not gazed at that person thinking:   “Is this my beginning? Is this the path of my life?  Will I be with him/her forever..?”


Understand that this sense of connection is what about 99.99% of people want, and they have to be painfully warped out of true to stop wanting it.


If you have ever experienced this state of connection, you’ll grasp why vanishingly few predators can experience the very thing human beings crave the most.   Even on the most basic level, they would have to have a relationship with another predator. Happens, but its those two against the world, rather than feeling that sense of connection that takes us further along the road to awakening.


Find tribe with other predators?  Sure. But that gets pretty clear, and relatively easy for society to protect itself against.  We wage wars against such “tribes”.


So few human predators find that partnership that it is reasonable to assume that  most are denied this core connection that, for all practical purposes, all of us crave.


NO AMOUNT OF EXTERNAL SUCCESS REPLACES THIS INTIMACY.  And you’ll realize that they aren’t just hurting others, they are also hurting themselves. My sympathy is for the victims, but if we don’t understand how people become predators, that there is no clear line of demarcation but rather steps taken one at a time until you are over the horizon into alien territory, you’ll never be able to recognize the precursive behaviors in others or yourself, and as a culture we won’t be able to prevent or catch the people who transgress and morph into monstrosity


Loving another person enough to be willing to say that their happiness is more important than your ego is HUGELY valuable in the process of maturation and healing


Because the “Golden Rule”, while it can be warped, is also one of the greatest tools we have.





(if you find this mode of thought valuable, its root can be found in the FREE “Seven Day Emotional Diet” course:

Taking Action

Staying with the notion of having a perfect week, we stay with the “A” in M.A.G.I.C., which is “action.” What are the actions you have to take this week to make a substantive positive change, and have a positive experience?


What are the “chunks” of those actions you have to take TODAY to move in that direction?


If you lack clarity, and can’t figure out what you need to do, you probably haven’t taken the steps of:


  1. Clearly deciding upon a goal
  2. Modeling the behavior and beliefs of others who have accomplished similar goals.


If you know what to do, and break it down into small actions that will get you there, what is the Minimum Effective Action that will keep you moving?


  1. In writing, that’s a sentence a day.
  2. In yoga, that might be a single pose
  3. In emotions, it might be no more than the “Five Minute Miracle” of sixty second breathing breaks.


See how it works?   Small actions (five minutes) which begin to de-inhibit the tendency to procrastinate or believe “there is nothing I can do.”


And what if you cannot do even five minutes? One line? One pose?   Then you have determined the real problem is NOT lack of time or resources. That is just the excuse your demons use to stop you.  The problem is fear. The problem MIGHT be a lack of clarity on “why you want to do it.”


That puts the ball back in your court: the answer then might be to work on your fear response, or come up with more reasons to do that basic five minutes.




Very simple.  Musashi’s first principle is: “Do Not Think Dishonestly”.   Without honesty, you have an inaccurate map of reality. You then become capable of “running east to see the sunset”–your ego has tricked you into wasting all the time and energy you could have used for transformation.



I am reminded of a friend who was a fabulous, sexy, funny, attractive person, who had never had a successful relationship.    When I asked him if he had specificity in what he wanted, he said absolutely.  He wanted someone sexy, funny, intelligent.  A relationship with passion, honesty and intimacy. On and on.


He’d tried.  He really had.   And was beginning to believe that relationships were impossible.   Was hanging around with other men and women who supported that notion.  Challenged my notion that relationships can work.


I pointed out one very simple fact: he had never requested a LASTING relationship.   He got everything he asked for…except he had neglected to mention “duration.”


Oops.  The expression on his face when he realized that he had screwed himself was priceless.   That was over ten years ago.  He changed his goal, and within eighteen months had a spanking new relationship that has lasted to this day.


Funny how that works.


He knew WHY he wanted a relationship, but didn’t have the WHAT right.   The correct WHAT demanded that he be a slightly different expression of himself, take different daily actions to be the kind of person who can attract and sustain a relationship, which then “radiated” a different message. NOW he begins to attract people on the same wavelength, with different intents.


I remember clearly when a friend told me that I was ready to get married.  “How do you know?” I asked.  “It’s like a cab with its light on,” she laughed.   “Men who are ready for serious relationships just broadcast on a different frequency. That means they’ll attract a different kind of woman, one who is also looking for a serious relationship.”


And not only was she right, but within about eighteen months I was married.  And have noticed the same thing in other men and women.  Not just about relationships, but about money and obesity and writing careers.


There are people pretending. And there are others who have decided.


The ones who have decided have more reasons to ACT than to NOT ACT.


And they know, because they are taking different actions, and getting different results.   It’s painfully simple.


Your actions are driven by your emotions which are responding to the clarity of your goal.


What you do tells the world who you are, and what is valuable to you, and whether you have the emotional permission to have it.



Every day can be a diagnostic.   Every step is another chance to ask “who am I?”  If you love the answer, keep walking.   If you don’t, change your gait, or change your path.





(get your free copy of the “Seven Day Mental Diet” at:

Politics, Philosophy, and UHC

One “Five Minute Life Hack” deals with the ability to avoid wasting time in pointless discussions.  One such tool is to grasp the difference between philosophy and politics.   The UHC discussion is one arena where this is a clear consideration. With the open admission that I have taken sides in this matter, here’s an exploration of the implications.



Remember my comment that politics is the way we mobilize philosophy?   A corollary is that if you don’t have clarity on those underlying philosophical positions, the political arguments are useless, a distraction, and often an attempt to wear you down so that you think there is no solution.    THE FIRST STEP TO FINDING A SOLUTION IS TO CLEARLY DEFINE THE PROBLEM.


It is in that spirit that I offer these thoughts:




The fact that so many  anti-UHC articles discounting the longer life spans mention “ethnicity” suggests that there is little overlap between those positions and the belief in human equality.  IF you believe in equality, you would look at the differential stats on life span and say: “there is something about the situation that is killing these people.  Countries with UHC get better results for their underclass, perhaps by creating a better situation.”


And if you CARE that the results are different, I think you start advocating for the system that produces greater health.  (The question “why” can still be answered. But just as noticing that washing your hands prevents surgical infections preceded the germ theory of disease, you don’t need to understand an effect to take advantage of it.  Better access to health care?  Better preventive medicine?  Lifestyle planning? Stress counseling?  A more caring society?  Something else?  Probably a combination)


If on the other hand you believe in “nature” over nurture, you hold positions that seem closer to the opponents. “Those” pesky “ethnics” who are dying earlier either just WANT to die, or are genetically predestined to.  Why, then, waste social and economic capital trying to change the basic nature of flawed human beings?  (by the way, it is kicking the can down the road to say: “well, its their society, broken families” and so forth.   Unless you believe the people are different, you MUST assume they have the same basic desires: to live, to see their children thrive.  If there is a behavior contrary to this, you either conclude that it is a result of a flaw in the people, or something different about the history and current situation.  I’ve seen a LOT of racism masked under this distraction, and it never holds up under further questioning)


Get that?  If its nurture, we can change the environment and make it better. With things like providing a safety net of  medical care to everyone.


If it is nature, maybe we can’t change it, but we have to try.


Or maybe its nature, but NOT  worth trying to change (especially if they are “the other”.   How many parents give up on their own children because “experts” say there is no hope?)


Or perhaps it is nurture, BUT WE DON’ T CARE.  Let their babies die.


O.K.  I take the position, very clearly, that the purpose of a health system is to preserve lives.  EVERYTHING else is secondary to that: wait times, methods, etc. etc.  They are means to an end. The end is to preserve lives.


THAT’S my position. So I look most carefully at that first metric: what system produces the greatest lifespan.   The lowest Infant mortality.


AFTER we establish that, then we look at standards like cost of delivery and self-reported satisfaction with quality of care or life.  They are less important in some ways, but more important in others.


All of this is philosophy: what is true?  What is the core desire of humanity? What is the purpose of medicine? What is the nature of the social contract?


Politics should be “how do we accomplish a goal we have decided upon?”  If different political systems or parties have different BASIC beliefs about the nature of humanity, that would produce the kinds of arguments we are having.  That could relate to race or ethnicity. Or it could relate to whether “Free Enterprise” or “Government” has greater morality.


It seems to me that most people, believe that there is no greater morality on either side, but that each has its role. That the conversation is “which things should be handled by which form of social organization?”  That seems a sane and honest conversation.   There are lots of different valid positions to take about that.  My thought is that government is better at dealing with and regulating NEEDS, while the free market is better at dealing with WANTS.


This is a very broad comment, and would need lots of refinement. But it is approximate, and useful in a rough way.


There is a group of people who simply believe something different about humanity.  They take the position that “government can’t do anything right.”   As I cannot parse that comment so that it makes any sense, I have to think that what it really means is “governments are less efficient and moral than free enterprise.”  That at least can be evaluated.


I don’t know how they come to the conclusion that the same human beings sort automatically into less or more moral based on whether they are operating for profit or for social organization, but that seems to be the position.  Well…as I said, while I might disagree, I can at least parse it.


But the fact that if you say: “each has its uses” they so often seem to hear:  “government should control everything!  You are a communist!” suggests to me that their reaction is emotional, not logical.




There is a very good conversation to be had about how to accomplish the dreams of humanity.  But we need enough agreement on what those dreams are, and what the nature of Man is, to move toward them.   Those who hear “each has its use. I believe X is best handled in the commons” as “Government should control everything!  Government is better than private industry!” strike me as people of strongly dualistic inclination, who take the position “Free enterprise is better at everything!  Government is less moral!”


And therefore are extending their own humanity: they assume those who disagree with them have taken the opposite point of view  (“Government is more moral!”).  It is entirely possible that they cannot really grasp the CONTRARY point of view (“each has its uses”), and therefore disbelieve that anyone else can either.  That’s possible.  I once had an intelligent, staunch Conservative express wonderment that I could actually hold two possibilities in my mind at the same time.  Is that a common issue, the inability or disbelief?   I suspect so.


Of course then, if they don’t believe your self-reported positions, they are saying you are lying, at the very least to yourself (“you are a secret communist.  You are lying about what you want.”)


Some might feel that the problem is a “creeping communism” (“you don’t understand where this path will lead”) which is   at least part of a conversation.  (“Lets discuss the history of collective action, and see what might be a reasonable limit to it. What produces the best effect?  The worst?  How much collectivism? What is the minimum or the maximum that is healthy?  Is there some objective measurement we can agree upon?” and so forth)


THAT is a conversation that respects both people, is honest, asks to look at history and the nature of human beings, looks at current social context, and then, after some agreements are reached, politics can enter to decide HOW to best implement the agreed upon goals and philosophies.


It’s a good discussion. But those who believe government is evil, or less moral, deserve only to speak to those who believe private industry is evil, or less moral. They are each others’ natural partners, and that conversation cannot be pleasant, reasoned, or rational.   I hope they enjoy each other.


Those who believe “each has its uses” can speak to others who believe the same.  Those who believe people are just people, can speak to others who believe the same.  Even if you disagree that THIS is a situation that should be handled by one form of organization rather than another, at least you aren’t having a political conversation that masks an underlying belief about race or the basic nature of human beings.


If you fail to resolve the underlying beliefs, or at least admit they are there, you simply shout at each other.  You don’t need to agree with each other.  But if we argue about the décor or menu at a restaurant we want to go to, rather than reveal that the restaurant owner is our “ex” and we just don’t want to go there, we will waste all the energy and time we might have invested in enjoying a meal at a different venue.


If you believe that “government is evil” and I believe it is no more evil than the human beings in the society we live in…and you agree but admit that you think that people are evil…and I ask why, then, you trust private industry…and it is because “they don’t have guns” we might not be able to agree, but at least we’re having the real conversation.


I’ll still choose to have my conversation with those with whom I have enough agreement for there to be a potential resolution…but I’ll know where you’re coming from, and can try to protect your interests, by finding a compromise that allows us to live together despite disagreement.


I THINK that is what politics is for.  Philosophy is “what is true?”  Politics is “how shall we organize to accomplish our aim?”


Different things.





(If you find this kind of thought appealing,  you would probably enjoy the free “Seven Day Mental Diet” course available at




Working on the outline…

I’m working on the outline of my new novel, TRAVELER.  Very carefully, I’m allowing a few trusted friends to look at what I’m doing to give feedback. Here are some of the things I am examining:

  1. Overall plot. Is it exciting, engaging, different?
  2. Characters. Are there at least three characters you’ve never seen before, or at least never seen in this combination?
  3. Thematics.  Can you “feel” the core thematic threads working through the different sequences?   Do they trigger an emotional reaction?   Are they reflected in the events rather than the dialogue or authorial voice?


If someone reads a short (10-20 page) outline of the novel and these (and selected other) tests are passed, I will begin to write.   I’ll use WRITER DUET to create a script first, as a script has character, dialogue, and plot but can be written far more rapidly than a novel. If it still works, then I’ll expand it out to a novel by filling in description.  In the process I’ll learn new things. New scenes will present themselves. The characters will have new notions.


Also…I’ve been asked to write three short stories for different anthologies. One is set in the Dream Park universe, to be written with Larry.   But the other two have philosophical or political bents.   I will find aspects of the world of TRAVELER, and write short stories around them. That will allow me to experiment with tone, refine my thinking on the extrapolative aspects, and create back-story that will make the novel even better.


So…out of this process I’ll get:

  1. Practice in refining the PROCESS of writing
  2. At least two short stories
  3. A script to market
  4. A fine strong novel


I’d call that a pretty decent return on investment, wouldn’t you?



Write with passion!


(oh…and it all starts with a commitment to write at least one sentence a day.  Every day. No matter what.  My average is probably 100X that…but what the heck!)

The Snowstorm that saved my life

Thirty years ago I was driving in central California and got caught in a freak snowstorm.  I could only see five feet in front of the car.  It was utterly terrifying, as I was driving on roads I didn’t know.  I could have died.


It saved my life.




The “Seven Day Emotional Diet” notion is about deliberately setting out to have the best week of your life.  The happiest, most successful week in alignment with both your childhood dreams and ultimate values.


“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” said Earl Nightingale.  Not “the accomplishment of” not “getting money” or whatever, but “progressive realization.”  That means that you are taking a step every day.


Twenty-five years ago, my first marriage died.  I was stuck in a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver Washington having lost my house (and inheritance), with no job, career in tatters, alone, broke, and desperate.


All I had was a television set, a bed, my dog, and a gun. Bad combination. Everything seemed to be misty, shrouded in pain and doubt.  I called one of my closest relatives, pleading for emotional help, and received an answer of “oh, you’re all right.  You’re always all right.”


I hung up the phone, staring at the receiver, feeling more alone and isolated than ever in my life. For the very first time, I understood how people could want to kill themselves.  I wasn’t going over the waterfall, but I could hear the rapids.


And I remember sitting quietly, going into meditation, asking my deepest wisdom what I should do.  I saw no answers. But…that didn’t mean that there were no answers, it meant that I couldn’t see them from where I was.


So…I remembered what it was like to be caught in a snowstorm, as I once was. And remembered that I couldn’t’ see where I was going…beyond the next five feet. But that if I could travel those five feet safely, I could see ANOTHER five feet. And another, and another.  And that eventually I got out of the storm, creeping forward at about five miles an hour.  And as long as I could keep creeping forward, my fear of freezing in the snow was held at bay.


So I made a commitment.  “Lord,” I said.  “I’m going to keep moving forward. I’m going to do the things which, if I can keep doing them, will get me out of this.  I can’t see beyond my next step, maybe two steps.  I’m going to leap out on faith. Please catch me. But if you can’t, and there are rocks down there…let me hit before I see them.”


So I started working on my next book.  I started running again.  And I began to heal my heart, figuring to give everything I had to trying to heal my family. And if I couldn’t’ do that…make myself a better man, so that I could find new love.


One step at a time.  Small steps.  Sometimes tiny.  BUT A STEP EVERY DAY.


It was terrifying. But I actually made a game out of it.  Looking for signs that I was heading in the right direction.  And that could be positive results…or life throwing more crap at me. Why?  Because ANY time you are moving from one level to the next, all the demons of hell will oppose you, especially if they live in your own heart.


One step. And then another. And another.  I began to enjoy the pain, because it was an obstacle I could fight through.   Every day another step. Another page.  Another lap. Another hour of meditation.  Another book read, gaining wisdom. Another martial arts class…


Just one more.  Just one more.   Was it true that if I was in great shape, if I had money, and if I loved and honored myself I would be happy?  Yes.  Was it true that THAT guy would never be lonely?  Yes.   Was it true that every day lived like that was “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal..?”


Yes, it was. And…I emerged from my funk.  I found love, broke through my physical barriers, and wrote a dynamite book. Putting the pain of my experience into the heart of my protagonist.


Came out the other side.  One step at a time.


And that was in one of the worst depressions of my entire life.   If I’d had the “Seven Day Emotional Diet” notion down, it would have been even easier.  That’s why I want you to use it.  If you don’t have your free copy, you can get it at: 


One step at a time, one moment at a time, one week at a time.


Its your life.  Own it!




I’d think the sky was falling, if…

NOTE: I have no solid answers here.  I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions, or if I am, if they are of value. But our children’s lives are at stake.   It feels to me that there is a pattern that recurs between individuals and societies, between different groups defined by race, gender, and politics.    Its not surprising if I’m not smart enough or have enough data at my fingers to back this up and nail it down.  But the first thing for me to ask it: does it make sense? Am I thinking something useful here?   THAT is the first step. Strategies and tactics will be emergent qualities of determining “what is true?” and “who are we, as human beings?”  It is in that spirit of inquiry that say the following.




I woke up this morning thinking “I’d bet not many of those mass shooters would be first-day viewers of  Wonder Woman  or  Black Panther.”  There was something about that thought that stayed with me, and drifted into speculations about  mass shootings, and the gun control debate, and how gridlocked it is.  I thought that instead of playing tug-of-war with a Gordian Knot, it might be useful to ask a different set of questions, to motivate a different discussion.


Here’s what I think my brain is playing with: for the sake of discussion, remove the politically motivated people, those who are part of an organization of some kind.  Maybe even those with a rational agenda at all (whether I agree with the agenda is a separate issue).


That rather than a broad political agenda like trying to change behavior (terrorism) it is a sense of shock or displacement. The world in general has changed or disappointed them in some massive way, or they have experienced a personal issue that breaks their connection to consensus reality (at least regarding the value of  human life, and whether others are as human and ‘real’ as they).


Of those, my morning thought was motivated by the  sense that a very large percentage are feeling shock on the basis of demographic change or gender role change. That fear or resistance to change in one or both of those areas will be found in an extremely disproportionate selection of these people. Now, one can BECOME political as a result of some racial or gender-based animus, of course. But so many of these people seem to have no political intent that it almost seems useful to look at the core disconnect before asking if there is a political component.


The greatest problem in relationships is failure to meet expectations.  The greatest personal stress is a gap between expectations and results. Some of the greatest fear is ego-death, the collapse of the sense of self, when under stress you discover that you are not who you thought you were.


Since 2000, it feels to me that there have been massive shifts in a few basic areas in America:  They include but are not confined to:

  1. Changing  demographics and interpretation of America’s racial history (racism)
  2. Shifting gender roles (misogyny)
  3. Shifting attitudes toward homosexuality (homophobia)
  4. America’s shifting role in the world (xenophobia)
  5. Pot legalization (!)
  6. Rise of Atheism (Challenging  core existential beliefs into question)


Imagine someone who is rigidly adherent to three or more arenas in which serious change is occurring.  How much damage could their egos take, how much change, before it feels like death itself?  Before the urge to strike out, or take the rest of the world with you, or punish the world for your pain might overwhelm common sense, fear of punishment or morality?


Everyone has a limit.   Some would collapse internally and suicide. But others will strike out and fight back…even against the innocent. Some of course, would just want to watch the world burn.  Burn it all down, start over.  Or collapse into chaos, which would be better than THIS, dammit.


What makes people self-destructive?  Violent and murderous?  I suggest that psychology is quantum sociology, sociology macro-psychology in some important ways.


That there are personal and social triggers, private and systemic triggers.  The PUNISHMENTS might be the same (I’m not suggesting that understanding requires tolerance.  Not in the slightest), but the potential PREVENTATIVES would be very very different.


The gun control debate is a part of this, but there is nothing I’m going to be able to say here that will break THAT logjam.  And yet I believe problems clearly defined can be solved.


LOGJAM: Both “Second Amendment” and “Gun Control” people believe their solution will make the country (or themselves and their families) safer.   Arguments make people rigid.  Under pressure, therefore, no answers will emerge.


ANSWER: Ask the next question.  If the “How” is jammed, the  “Why are we afraid?” might be lower-hanging fruit.     “Why do these people (mass shooters) take these actions?” is another.


Some will be professionals in nature, just doing a job to create a logically chosen effect. But I think most of them are not that.   Violence is motivated by anger, anger by fear.     SOME of that fear is non-negotiable: you cannot and should not attempt to put the “genies” of racial or genderic equality back in the bottle (and yes, there are other issues, but I think these are easy to look at, and important.)


So long as one believes in equality, these are pointing the way to a better future.


The “RPM” system of goal setting says: WHAT do you want, and WHY do you want it, before you ever ask HOW will you do it.   The guns are “How.”   If we’re logjammed there, we can back up and look at the other elements.   Agree, for instance, on the “WHY” and ask if there is something we can do there.


Is there?  I DON’T KNOW.  But if there is, the only way to do it is to agree that it can and should  be done.


And…if FEAR is a factor that triggers the shootings, and also freezes the discussion of “what to do about guns” then if we don’t admit that, none of our behaviors are addressing the cause, and some of them actually make things worse.


It’s a “what if?” I’m asking.   What if this is true? What if there is something going on here?  I don’t like the term “toxic masculinity” unless you also go for the Yin of “toxic femininity” to create a Tao of “Toxic humanity.”  I’ll discuss THAT.


And I won’t go for a discussion of Bad White People, unless we take the position that, given the same historical circumstances and social pressures, Black people would do the same.   That’s the position I’ve insisted on dealing with damage in the inner city and crime statistics.   It would be dishonorable  not to extend the same courtesy.


So folks…if you don’t like my refusal to condemn men across the board, better not get in my face unless you also want me to condemn whites across the board.  And if you do? Sorry, but you’ve excluded yourself from those I’ll discuss race with.


Yeah. Catch-22.


Bite me.




In about 2010,  I remember saying “Man, if I was a white heterosexual Conservative male Christian beer-drinking American, I’d feel like the sky was falling!”


Hah hah.  It never hit me how fucking serious that statement was.  That I was listing a series of positions which, to the fragile, might well seem under attack.    It didn’t hit me that our egos can only take so much before the world seems like a distorted fever dream.


If America is going through a massive change right now, then consider that almost anyone is in  ONE of those categories.  (And yes, there are other stressors.  But some of those are in my blind spots. I openly admit this).    What if we gave each of those stressors a value of 1-10?  There are seven factors.    What if we say that if you are feeling real stress for a total number of points of over 50, you are under MASSIVE stress, with danger of it becoming strain?


And if you don’t have mental health resources, healthy relationships, a sound self-image, faith in the future, or trust in your fellow man..?


Well, now you might have hooked up your WHAT and your WHY, and start reaching for the HOW.


There are countless people arguing about that “how.”  I see no value in adding my voice to a topic on which I have no expertise.  But this?  The reasons people do what they do?


Here, I just might be able to do some good.







Strike Like a Scorpion

For various reasons, I’ve said that LION’S BLOOD might well be the best book I’ll ever write. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be willing to invest that much of myself in a project again. That’s the old “more pain than pleasure” associated with an activity–you cannot do it. But…over the last couple of years I’ve noticed myself consciously thinking and lazily “researching” a restructuring and retelling and re-imagining my Emmy winning Outer Limits episode “A Stitch In Time.” Wondering what I would do with it now. Wondering what I’d have done with it if I’d had a free hand at the time. Knowing that that particular story is owned by the production company, but that there are thematic aspects no one controls but my own heart. And…I’m getting close. I have an eleven-page treatment for a story called “Traveler” which isn’t totally worked out yet, but is one of those “story Steve Barnes was born to write and was born writing” feels about it. Not ready to start writing it yet.


But working.  The “magic” happens when you are totally engaged in the work you CAN do.  Don’t worry about how the world responds, or which ideas you don’t have yet.  If there is a possibility that this idea would be wonderful, I have to orient myself to have the best possible chance to make that happen.


I have to work backwards from the idea: “what if this is the best book I’ve ever written?”


Scary thought. Hard to care that much.   I don’t want to get hurt.


But…if I’m not willing to be hurt, I’ll never feel joy.  You can’t get to “yes” if you are afraid to hear “no.”


So…let me apply the M.A.G.I.C. formula to this.  Remember?


Magic = Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction.


I want magic.


Action would be the daily behaviors I would need to take to optimize my chance to create a great book.   That means writing, dreaming, researching, testing, talking.   Coming up with HUNDREDS of creative notions, and knowing when and how to throw them away if they don’t fit.   Reading work that has the texture of the prose I believe would work best for a novel like this.   I’m thinking a combination of Ray Bradbury with more grit, and Chip Delaney without the overwhelming intellectual force.   That might do it.


Gratitude.  To access my creativity, to get beyond any wounds, scars, fears, resentments, fatigue or doubt I have to focus on my “wins” career-wise. I’ve had a ton of them. It is sometimes hard to remember, because I focus on what is missing, what can be improved, and sometimes forget the positives. It is the downside of being an achiever.  I can’t “turn off” the pretender voices, but I can ignore them if I keep my eyes on all the wonderful moments of my career.  I have so much to be grateful for: wonderful reviews and sales and awards and moments with writers I adore who praised my work or told me they believed in me.   So much.  I have to absolutely wash myself in those emotions, allow the little boy inside me to luxuriate in that positive emotion.  You done good, kid!   And the universe has been kind.   Because…if I can feel grateful for what has happened, it gets EASY to find faith in what is to come!


Intention.  This is my desired outcome.  And here…what I want is Legacy. I want to ask myself the question: if there was a book , a story I was born to write, what would it be?  It would be exciting, sexy, thoughtful, intense, action-packed, twisty, contemporary, futuristic, historical.  Would deal with big ideas and broad philosophical positions, with race and gender and identity, with concepts spiritual and mundane.  I have no interest in writing a book unless it has the potential to be the best thing I’ve ever done.  Why bother?


Conviction.  Faith. I have to believe that I CAN and SHOULD set my sights so high. That there really is potential for such a book in me.   That if I bring everything I have, leave NOTHING in the locker room, leave 100% of what I’ve got in the ring…then I can do this.   An all-out, ego-shattering, heart-breaking, gasping, clawing, glorious, bone-cracking head-busting effort. All-out sprint with every drop of heart and head and body I have, as if it is the last thing I’ll ever write.



Can you see how those four things: Action, Gratitude, Intention, and Conviction TOGETHER open the door to the best performance I’m capable of?  How “lucky” you become if you ask the universe for nothing but the opportunity to turn yourself inside-out giving everything you’ve got for a worthy goal? A goal that will destroy who you are, and open the door to what you might become?


THAT is a project worth investing in.    Eleven pages I have right now.   I am going over and over and over it, every day.    One day I will look at it, read it, and every twist and turn, every character, every extrapolation, every notion and emotion will build one upon the other in a cascade, and when I finish reading it I will be shaken.  DAMN, WHAT A RIDE!


Then I will recruit a very very select circle of readers.  People who I trust with the little boy in my heart, and have them read that outline.  They will be writers, experts in specific arenas, friends, family.  Trusted and needed.  I’m thinking possibly two different editors: one to work with me closely, another to take it to a publisher eventually.


And if it passes their smell tests….


I will write a script.  That will allow me to test all structure and character and plot without worrying about the poetry of the interstitial linguistics.   And if it works as a script (which takes much less time to write, word-count wise) then I’ll expand it to a novel.


And if it worked at the outline level, and the script level…it will work at the novel level.  It will be grueling, and terrifying, and exhilarating, and when I’m done I’ll know I did everything I could to bring everything I’ve got.


And if I did it right? The reader will never realize how hard I sweated and bled. It will all seem to flow effortlessly.  Art conceals craft.  You see the Rabbit disappear, not the thousands of hours the magician spent practicing his craft. You see the perfectly timed and focused punch, not the tens of thousands of repetitions that got the master there.


And the ignorant and self-deceiving will say: “ah, talent!”

And the wise will know that I was up early and up late and shivered with fear that I wasn’t good enough have never been good enough, but somehow took another step, another step, another step, another sentence every day…until one day I emerged back into the light, and all was well.


Why?  Because I had faith. How?  By having so much gratitude for what the little boy inside me has accomplished that he was willing to get back out there and give it another shot. Just one more.


Because he knows Daddy loves him no matter what.




I remember when Jason was going to his first Judo tournament.  So long ago.  I think he was seven.   “What if I lose?” he asked me.


I held him and said: “if you do your best.  If you fight fair and hard, and keep your cool no matter what happens…then win or lose, buddy, we’re going for ice cream.”


And he went away, and came back a few minutes later with a fierce little smile.   “I’ve decided,” he said, “that I’m gonna  be very still, but when the moment comes I’m gonna strike like a scorpion!”


He did. He tore the mat up. Kids never knew what hit them.


He had taken action: countless hours of practice.  He had Gratitude for his daddy’s support and for a recent promotion.   He had intention: to act with decisive clarity when the moment came.  And he had 100% Conviction that no matter what, his daddy loved him.




I’m gonna write TRAVELER.


I’m going to strike like a scorpion.







(I’m focusing on the SEVEN DAY MENTAL DIET and M.A.G.I.C. in these talks for a while. If I can communicate their power, I think I can help anyone.   Please join me today at 6pm for another dive into the cauldren!   6pm Pacific,