There is a movie that changed my life. I’ve spoken of it before: ALL THAT JAZZ, the semi-autobiographical Bob Fosse movie starring Roy Scheider. In it, “Joe Gideon”, a brilliant choreographer and film director, is addicted to the high of sex, drugs, and musical theater. He is flirting with death (literally played by Jessica Lang) and is a man turned inside-out.
Let’s say that the model of human beings in Milton Erickson’s work, Abraham Maslow’s work and especially the six thousand year old Chakra system is correct. That is ABSOLUTELY my assumption–that 99% of people want to have healthy strong bodies, ethical sexual relationships, the money and power necessary to have reasonable control over their environment, to fall in love, raise families, understand the world around them, speak their truth, create goods and services their communities find of value, grow old with dignity and die at peace.
Yep, those are my assumptions, and some of them are more flexible than others (many people are genuinely deciding not to have children. I notice that many of those are teachers, or doting aunts and uncles. Same things in the modern world, IMO).
Gideon’s core challenge then is to evolve to spirit. He makes it at the end but screws up almost everything along the way.
- Survival. He compromises his survival by putting performance above being.
- Sex. An addiction, one which has destroyed his intimate relationships, replacing them with temporary, intense experiences. But his sexuality produced a daughter, who he loves…but not as much as he loves the spotlight.
- Power. He has power, but it is illusory. When he gets sick, his “partners” are immediately looking to replace him. He is a fabulous choreographer at war with his own body (smoking, drinking, drugs, lack of sleep, etc.)
- Emotion. Gideon is a man turned inside-out. He treats his private relationships (wife, daughter, girlfriend) as secondary and his occupation as primary. As a result, his heart is in the hands of people who don’t care about him at all, who would happily squeeze him dry, throw him away and replace him.
- Communication. He isn’t honest with himself. Does he want to live? Doesn’t he? Can he keep promises to himself? Can he understand his actual limits? Is he clear on what he really wants?
- Mind. On the other hand, he is an acknowledged genius. Probably the only part of his life that really works.
- Spirit. He drives himself partially with an awareness of death and life’s brief candle. But although he eventually embraces spirit (as must we all) he has reduced himself to meat for the pleasure of people who wouldn’t shed a tear for him. Their reaction would be: “what a stud. Who’s next?”
I saw that movie and realized that what killed him was a lack of balance. If he had force himself to focus on his family as much as his work, it simply wouldn’t have happened. And if he’d factored in his body as well…he wouldn’t have had the jagged, spectacular “sparking” ups and downs, but rather a gentle uphill spiral. His contemporaries would have outperformed him…at first. But two things would have happened (at least)
- He would have outlived them, and ultimately his work would have reached levels of maturity and insight they couldn’t match if lost in entertaining illusion.
- He would have achieved far more deep satisfaction, away from the roar of the crowd, in the bosom of a family that actually loves him
And I realized that as committed to success as I was, I could fall right into that same trap:
- That the road to success is hyper-excellence
- That hyper-excellence demands hyper-focus, OBSESSIVE focus.
- That obsession throws you out of balance
- That imbalance can easily destroy you with mania.
- And that that destruction both cuts short your excellence, and reduces the very joy you were seeking in the first place.
It was out of this grim realization that I had one of the ten greatest insights of my life:
Success requires obsession. Obsession creates imbalance. Imbalance destroys life, which derails success.
PROPOSED: The only thing it is safe to be obsessive about is balance itself.
Can this go off the rails as well? Sure. At the far edges of obsessive behavior, I can imagine someone paralyzed trying to match equal times and amounts of energy in different arenas, or figure out what amount of time in one arena is equal to that in another. For instance, an hour a day of exercise pretty much maxes out basic fitness potential for 99.9% of the human race. But an equal amount of mental excellence might require four hours.
The inability to match durations, intensities, arenas, and life interruptions (among other factors) could drive someone with OCD right up the wall.
But…given that, balance is still the safest thing to get obsessive about. The question is: how to implant?
JOE GIDEON’S THE MORNING RITUAL.
Pills, shower, music, eyedrops, headache powder, cigarette, game face, “showtime!”
All that matters is how it looks. How “it” feels is irrelevant. A man turned inside out.
This is his morning routine, the way he prepares himself for his day, because he has defined success as something separate from health and love and life. And that is the path to death and destruction.
What would have worked better (for instance)
Yoga (to repair the body and quiet the mind in preparation for action)
Shower is fine. A good way to wake up.
Music is beautiful.
Eyedrops and headache powders aren’t necessary like this unless you are destroying your life with alcohol and an inverted sleep schedule.
Cigarette? A young dancer might want them for appetite suppressant. But this has no positive contribution other than perhaps a little focus. Caffeine would work better with less damage.
Connecting with his most important task of the day: to complete (for instance) the “Fly Me” sequence.
Why? To provide guidance to his dancers, an experience for his audience and a return on investment to his bosses. To express himself deeply and fully to the limit of his ability. To make his ex-wife and daughter proud of him.
You pile on those POSITIVE reasons until you feel inspired. And if you haven’t destroyed your body and nervous system, you should be able to “stack up” enough reasons to fulfill your most important daily action that you feel awake, alive, juiced. You have nurtured your body, calmed your nerves, awakened your spirit, and are ready for the day.
No, you won’t be as “hyped” as that guy on benzedrine, sex, all-night benders and so forth…but you will be more connected to your being, capable of deeper art. And you will last longer. And even if you don’t, you will experience more genuine joy through expression of self, love of family, and feeling of connection to the world.
And the purpose of life? Joy. Pursued properly, you find it on every level of being. If you cannot…something has gone wrong.
What you see here is precisely the WRONG kind of “morning ritual”, one designed to produce short-term performance…and misery, and death.
What you want is long-term performance, joy, and the best life possible.
Design your “morning ritual” for THAT, and you win the game before it even begins.