Discipline is crap

You may have noticed I’ve been quiet the last few days.  Well, I’ve been at a creative retreat in Tennessee (“Greatest state in the land of the free…” who recognizes that song?) a project that is designed to change the world, with a group of wonderfully creative men and women.   I didn’t know any of them, at all, nor did I understand the underlying technology driving the project.    They reached out to me because of my past work and web presence, not because I did anything direct.


I’m being oblique about it, but it was fun, and educational, and an opportunity to share. And the way it came about is a perfect example of the “indirect action” notion that validates the M.A.G.I.C. formula (Magic=Action X Gratitude X Intention X Conviction) and specifically the notion that “action is in the foveal vision, reward comes in from the peripheral.”  In other words, that if you don’t take action, nothing happens. But that the goodies you want rarely seem to come as a direct result of what you do.  Its odd.


That means that you have to work with passion and focus every day, day after day, even through the long “Road of Trials” when it often seems you aren’t getting closer to your outcomes.   If you are following maps of excellence created by those who walked the path before you, and keep your eyes on the long-term outcome while finding intermediate goals you can “chunk down” to every day, you have just optimized your chance of getting results.   Nothing guarantees external success, but guaranteed failure is easy: do nothing.


Which means that in order to keep taking action even when you aren’t getting apparent results, you have to be INNER motivated.  That’s where the Morning Ritual comes in. Where the Ancient Child comes in.  Every morning, setting yourself up so that you’ve already won the day.




How do you keep yourself acting, moving, creating day after month after year after decade?  Because make no mistake: some outcome require that “ten thousand hours” of effort, and you can’t allow yourself to be stopped by temporary “failure.”  And because it really is possible that you’ll never reach the “external” goal, you MUST set your life up so that the effort itself is victory. So that you “win” no matter what happens.


This came out this weekend, when I was writing a story (in a day!) that was being illustrated by two wonderful, lovely  artists who had worked on BLACK PANTHER and STAR WARS, working so fast and superbly that if I hadn’t been internally focused it would have intimidated the hell out of me.  As it was, the feeling was…”hmmm.  Really good.   What do you think of this?”


Beautiful.  Must be something like playing jazz with a hot combo.  I was winning by being invited to the event.  Winning by being there.  Winning by looking at it in my rear-view window as I drove away.


If I worked hard and honestly, and had some useful conversations, and maybe helped someone…I win.


And as often happens, there was a point where someone pulled me aside and asked for a few moments of my personal time and advise.   We sat, and this fine young artist, spoke of external success and internal pain and emptiness, rage and anger, fear of being unworthy despite all the accomplishment.


She  had made mistakes, as have we all. And found it difficult to forgive herself.   And wanted to help others, deeply. The key, I said, was loving herself.   To connect everything she does to that sense of loving herself.  That the meaning of life is to be happy, and if she could be happy, and loving, then when she tries to help people she will hear what they are really asking: “how can I be happy  and loving?”  THAT’S what everyone really wants.


And all the wealth, fitness, martial skill, awards, accomplishment, lovers, travel, power, or anything else is only meaningful to the degree that these two things exist.  Freedom and safety to be loving and happy.


And that means that if she can feel it herself, she THEN has the ability to give it to others.  “Are you happy?” she asked me.


“Sure.  Bouncing off the walls all the time?  Nope.    Because I continue to challenge myself, and have flaws I’m still working on.   But I have to START with love.  START by finding the happiness within myself and pull it up so I can access it on demand.”


“Isn’t that selfish?”  She asked.


“You betcha.   Selfish isn’t a problem. The problem is a limited concept of self.   If your `self’ stops at your skin, it’s a problem.  But if you extend it to your love, your family, your community, or the whole world…it is an answer.”


Not as simple as that sounds: you also have to maintain a center.  I know people who give so much they don’t know who they are any more, and are vulnerable to the attitudes and values of whoever they happen to be around.  It would be funny if it weren’t so problematic.


The other thing is that people who accuse you of being selfish frequently say that as a means to get you to do something for them. A means to control.  In other words…they are selfish.


Ah, the irony can be massive.


The cure for every ill mentioned here is to start with loving yourself.   For those who are religious or spiritual, you might think that God made you, that if the universe is of His substance, then all He had to made you with was his own essence.  You are divine.


Or…if not, consider that you are made of the same stuff as the stars.   No more intrinsically important than any other part of the universe…but no less important, either.  If there is anything, anywhere, worthy of love, awe, respect…you are as well.


All of it connects.  And once you make that connection, all you have to do is align your long-term goals with your daily actions, and be sure those connect with your deepest values and needs.


At that point, discipline is irrelevant.  You will have hunger.  I am HUNGRY to get to work each day. To exercise. To hug my son. To tell Nicki I love her.  To hold Tananarive.


Because its all connected.  It always is, of course. But sometimes you have to remove the obstacles life puts in your way, or knots in your wiring.   This is important work, to be done daily.


Time for me to get to mine.






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