I pointed Jason at the wall sign of rules for his Morning Ritual, the things we do in the five minutes we spent every morning. First, remember, we hug. NO MATTER HOW STRESSFUL THE PREVIOUS NIGHT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
The things on the list are things like “check homework” “check spelling” “go over math” “explain anything parent doesn’t understand” and so forth. About ten different distinct steps from the book “How to Double Your Child’s Grades In School” by Eugene Schwartz.
I asked him: is that a WHAT, a WHY, or a HOW? He studied the list for a moment, and then said: “its all three.”
No, I said. There’s no EMOTION there. No “Why”. I’d say it is a HOW. In other words, the WHAT is to raise your grades to a B average. The WHY would be “so I can play football. So I can succeed in school. So I can learn HOW to succeed at anything and have the life I want. So that my parents will be proud of me” (remember the hug?)
The HOW is to spend five minutes every day doing the things on that list. Now…that said, each individual HOW can be focused on to create a mini-WHAT:
WHAT: Check Homework to be turned in.
WHY: to complete the “recipe” for the Five Minute Ritual>Which leads to academic success> which leads to life success if I learn the larger lessons.
HOW: Find my homework, bring it to the table, read through it, make corrections, put it back in my backpack, turn it in.
Can you see how each of these can also be broken down? WHAT: Find my homework…
Can you see how “Do Morning Ritual” can be part of that larger plan? And what is the ultimate level of that plan? IMO: “Be happy.” in the sense that all life is a search to avoid pain and gain pleasure, this makes sense. But to be happy LONG term, it is necessary that this not be “drugged out bliss” or “eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers while watching cartoons all day” happiness. It has to be in alignment with adult values and obligations, involve self-growth and community sharing, family connection and healthy disciplines. Without ANY of these, there is serious pain waiting down the road.
So: HAPPINESS<BALANCED SUCCESS<GROWTH AND CONTRIBUTION<DEFINED OUTCOMES AND FOCUSED ACTIONS< PROFESSIONAL SKILL< EDUCATION < GOOD GRADES< GOOD HABITS< MORNING RITUAL
From this model, any lack of success will either be a problem with the “What” (I didn’t have a clear outcome), the “Why” (I didn’t have sufficient motivation to overcome inertia) or the “How” (I couldn’t break the larger outcome into smaller and smaller bites until I had something I could do TODAY without being overwhelmed.)
This applies to ANYTHING. Working on my new script, I finished the first 126 page draft in a torrent of writing, 5-10 pages a day for a month. And…I got scared at the thought of the re-write. This PRECISE same thing happened to me when I wrote my first TWILIGHT ZONE episode, and my first OUTER LIMITS episode. Fantastic first draft, struggling with the re-write
Why? Because the “editor” part of me ain’t the “writer” part of me. They only know each other professionally. Hell, they don’t even wave to each other on the street.
So the editor says: EEK! I can’t do this!
And…he’s right. What I have to do is break the work down into small enough chunks that the editor can handle it…and WHILE he is handling it, what Stephen King calls “The Boys In The Basement” work and play, like elves that make shoes while you sleep.
So…All my “editor” has to do is read over the script, and just fix easy, simple things like spelling, while I notice what else needs to be done. Hey, I can even do this while watching television!
Then make a list I call “Bits and Questions” (spelled “!&?”) at the start of the manuscript. Just a list of shit to think about or do…eventually. NO RUSH.
Read though the whole script again and again. Print it and make corrections on the paper. Or…just do it on the computer. ONLY fix the easy stuff. And keep listing the things to be done in ‘!&?”
Every time I go over it, I can “feel” the overall pattern of the story getting stronger and stronger. It is like a geometrical figure: give me three points, and I can draw a circle. My unconscious mind starts sensing the overall arc of story, as well as the individual epicycles of each character arc. Its all balanced. I focus in, I pull out. Always RELAXED. Try to do too much on a single day, and I’ll freeze.
But the WHAT is “the best story possible”
The WHY is satisfaction, self-expression, money, career growth, contribution, fun.
The HOW is to move in, pull back out. Only pluck the “low hanging fruit” of the easiest ‘fixes” every day.
And if I do that? The “hard” problems are pushed back, but my unconscious mind is still chewing at it. And every day, a layer of ‘hard” problems becomes “easier” “Low hanging fruit”. The big problems become new “WHATS”, and THOSE get broken down day by day, nibbing away at them, never taking enough to choke and panic.
And at some point, ALWAYS, it gets to be fun. I notice that my !&? List is getting whittled down. That the things to “fix” get smaller and smaller. That problems that used to seem insurmountable are now complex but not terrifying. Its just…work. Focus. Discipline. Having fun.
If I can teach Jason this one thing: WHAT > WHY > HOW, and get him to pump up his emotions every morning, identify the 1-5 most important things to do every day, and evaluate whether or not he took care of business, I will have given my boy a huge chunk of what makes my life work. Then he can add tools like Lifewriting, and learn to intensify his Morning Ritual, or improve his ability to maintain flow state, or model, or whatever.
But he’ll be on his way. Heck: Good Lord willin’ and the river don’t rise…he already is.
(P.S.–if you want to see this process working LIVE to create a new story, watch me and T do a high-wire act creating a story in a month starting Saturday! WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM)