These are stories from the life of Steven Barnes, science fiction writer, martial arts expert, hypnotherapist, teacher, public speaker, father, and lover of life.

The Life You Save


I recently had a conversation with a guy who, in rapid-fire fashion, went through a litany of issues, problems.  Health issues were of a concern because they couldn’t afford better treatment.    Career options were limited because of financial squeeze, inability to travel due to lack of a car, difficulty financing educational opportunities.  This and that and the other were problems…and the cause was the same 80% of the time: lack of finances.


I said that he needed to make money a focus of his planning.  And…he insisted that money didn’t matter. That mattered was being with friends, helping people.  That everything was working out.


In a couple of years I’ll see him again.  And I’m betting right here and now that he’ll have the exact same story.  There will be opportunities. Lots of people are impressed with him. This or that friend is about to make a real breakthrough and bring them along. And by the way, they are having trouble making the rent, affording their medical bills, providing transportation.  Likely enough there will be friends and relatives in distress that he would like to help with their bills, or wish he could travel to be with them…but its too expensive.


And if I remind him again that maybe, just maybe, he should look at his attitudes about money, he’ll insist that money doesn’t matter to him.  What he cares about is self expression.  Helping people.


It’s painful to watch.  Seen people, good people, smart people, energetic people, run around in circles like this until they get old and tired and discouraged, looking out at the world, from aging eyes, wondering where they went wrong.


They helped people…why isn’t anyone helping them?  They visualized the life they wanted, why didn’t the Law of Attraction work for them?


And too often, they come to one of two conclusions:  They were never meant to have it.   Or, “people suck.”


How about another option: part of them never resolved their negative attitudes about money.  Money meant something ugly and negative to them.   They never aligned their child, parent, and grandparent aspects about money.


The child has the vision and energy and creativity.

The grandparent has the ultimate values.

The parent navigates the adult world…and in the adult world, NOTHING takes the place of money in the arenas in which money works.  Nothing.


Not friends or family or people you trade massages with.  Money is no more than the value you provide for you, and the degree to which others agree that it is valuable, and respond to your firm commitment to be rewarded for your excellence.  It is a symbol of trust between strangers.


If someone anchored pain to this: if you heard your parents arguing about money.  Saw a parent kill themselves working for a company that didn’t reward them.   IF you ever had a boss abuse or harass you.  If you are an artist, and the idea of studying sales and marketing is anathema to you.  If you believe that power and money corrupt.


If you have any beliefs that stop you from expressing and harnessing your creative energy and taking it into the world, finding the people who need what you and you alone can provide  and demanding what you are worth…aligning every step with your deepest spiritual values…


Someone damaged you.  And however true that might be, and how unfair it sounds, it is YOUR responsibility to heal it.  No one can reach into your heart and do it for you.


The “Ancient Child” approach is to imagine that you have an helpless infant, and there is no one to provide but you.  If you shuck off the responsibility of caring for that child on your friends or family, you are not an adult and shouldn’t have been having sex.  Pretty clear IMO.   In this case, you are not taking responsibility for your actions and emotions.  “They” will take care of you.  “They” will provide.


You are putting others in the “parent” position over you, insisting on remaining in the “child” position.  Until you stop, and ask where the wounds are, and commit to healing them, nothing will happen.


It starts with admitting that there is a problem. Then, you can focus on the actions that will heal.  Research the therapies or disciplines that will heal, the meditations or visualizations or whatever you need to ask where you got the negative beliefs and emotions, and whether you are willing to set yourself free.


It’s up to you, you know.  The “Morning Ritual” is a way of exploring this in just 30 minutes.  Seriously.  If you won’t give yourself that chance, you have no right to complain about anything related to money, or the adult world. And your child, your dreams, are in serious trouble.


Please.  If these words speak to you, just go to and get your free 7-day course.


The life you save may be your own.






It takes courage to care


Yesterday at one of Loscon’s room parties,  I met a guy whose attitude is that people suck, including himself.    He claimed to have no ambitions, not for love, or money, or even a healthy body.  His explanation is that people with no expectations can’t be disappointed.


That…is so sad. He has no sweetheart.  Works at no job that does more than “pay the bill”.  His body was…shapeless.   If he doesn’t find some balance or foundation within himself, doesn’t find a way to care about life, some courage to dream, he will in ten or fifteen years, when youth has fled, find himself one of the hollow-eyed legions  trudging through life without any purpose but avoiding pain.  One of the living dead.


In the middle of a crowd, there was nothing I could really do for him. And I hadn’t been invited to, so we were ships passing in the night.


But…what might I have suggested if he’d asked?


Well…he said that not caring meant he had no stress.  Stress isn’t the problem: STRAIN is the problem.   So he could breathe for sixty seconds every three hours, and start channeling that adrenaline into positive action.


He thinks he is worthless.  So…it is clear that he was not nurtured lovingly as a child. So the “Ancient Child” approach would be great.  Let the “Parent” nurture the “child”.  The feminine energy to nurture, the male energy to protect and drive.


He thinks that life is lived best without dreams.   This is raving, ravening, consuming terror.  The “Grandparent” knows that you cannot live a life so small that death will not notice you.   That part of you knows that love, and striving and dancing in the rain are the things that make existence sparkle.  Dare. Dream. Love.   Yes, you will cry at times.  Your heart will be broken.  But you will have LIVED.


Connect the child, parent, and grandparent. Balance the male and female aspects.  I honestly cannot think of anything that we are, or need to be, that is not healed in this process.


And if that all seems complicated?  Start with breathing, sixty seconds, every three hours.    That turns fear into energy.  And energy, focused, removes obstructions. That’s all you have to do, you know–remove the obstructions.


You were born perfect.





(the seven day emotional diet is available, free of charge, at

Seize every cubic inch of happiness


I have a friend who is an adopted Apache, raised more or less on the Rez.  Very sensitive to those issues.  He celebrates Thanksgiving.   I asked him about that, and he smiled.  “I take every opportunity I can get to be grateful.”




The M.A.G.I.C. formula is to be used EVERY day.   Every single day, as part of your Morning Ritual.  It is a lifesaver, because ANY major goal will force you through the “Dark Night of the Soul” to get to the next level.  This is where the weak and frightened turn back. And by turning back, they get caught in an endless pain loop, as I was for almost 17 years in pursuing my first black belt.


Believe me: you do NOT want to go through that.   Ugh.


If you have a “zero” in any category: Action, Gratitude, Intention, or Commitment, you will zero out overall.

Remember the proper syntax or action:

  1. Define your ultimate results/ultimate purpose.  Your WHAT
  2. Clarify WHY you want it.  When you look at this list of reasons, you should feel TURNED ON!
  3. NOW ask “HOW” you will do it today, this week.  This is the only time to look at “to do”


Any goals you’ve ever had that you gave up on, you didn’t have enough reasons to keep going.   Now, if you discovered that NO ONE has ever accomplished what you are attempting, or people who have actually accomplished it agree that your cause is hopeless, then maybe it is appropriate to quit.


But frankly…if you had enough reasons, even THAT wouldn’t stop you.   I admit that you don’t want to be insane about this, but a little insanity can be a useful thing.   In fact, if some of the voices in your head aren’t questioning your sanity, your goals may not be high enough.


The notion of aiming “too high” might well trigger fear.   And the antidote for fear is gratitude.  Thanksgiving.


I think my friend (a man of high and varied accomplishment) is a smart cookie.  He takes EVERY opportunity to be happy.  What a contrast with some folks, who seem to take every opportunity to be UNHAPPY.   If there is an endangered sea-slug in the Marianas trench, they are miserable.  If a scandal touches someone they’ve never met, whose life influences them not at all, they are unhappy.  If someone looks at them wrong, criticizes them or doesn’t support their world view, they are angry.


The Morning Ritual and Seven Day Emotional Diet create “pattern interrupts” in this misery parade.  Multiple times per day, you check in and DELIBERATELY make yourself happy by shifting your movement, your focus, and your spoken words.


Holidays are cultural pattern interrupts. Times to be happy, grateful, loving, kind.   For a few days a year, the average person smiles more, is more polite, and remembers the good times, even if those memories are bittersweet.


We need these breaks.  There are ALWAYS things to be unhappy about. And always things to be happy about.  While it is foolish to pretend there are not weeds in your garden, it is tragic not to keep 80% of your attention on the roses.


Today, pluck a rose.  And share it.


Happy Thanksgiving!



The “What” and “Why” of Tribe


Yesterday, Charles Johnson asked me what I meant by “find your tribe.”  The same question popped up on my thread this morning, so I’ll take that as a sign that I should talk about this a bit.


  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand human history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Find and support your tribe
  5. Win with integrity and compassion



Three (understand human history) is important because so many people want to believe that human beings, or our leaders, are some kinds of scum.  That’s fine, but that attitude leads to anger and depression, as well as externalizing the causes of their problems.


It is, in my opinion, the result of a lack of SELF love, since on some level we sense that we are connected to the people around us. The alternative is being Dr. Evil and saying “why am I surrounded by these Frickin’ idiots?”


There is, of course, a simple answer: because that was the best you could attract.   Needless to say, people in bad relationships, or with a bad relationship history, don’t want to take responsibility for it.  Lining up the “love yourself” with “love another person” leads most to either blaming the world for their bad choices (“there are no good men/women”) or plunging into depression and self-loathing (“this abuse is what I deserve.”


The doorway into this path is, therefore, self-love.   The healthy attitude is:   “This is all I believed I could have.  I must wake up.”  You then have earned your way into the company of others who take responsibility for their lives: “awakened adults.”  When those adults commit to protecting the children of the world, starting with their own “child self” they become members of what I would call my own “Tribe.”


Similar values, similar perceptual filters and priorities.   There are clusters of such people interested in martial arts and writing.  My tribe.


Other clusters concerned with issues around race and gender.  My tribe.  In fact, I could go so far as to say that my tribe is largely confined to those concerned with these issues, and their allies.  Philosophically, however, not politically. I couldn’t care less what some knot of politicized people has decided I’m supposed to think about issue X or Y.   What experts say about Z, unless what they say makes sense to me.


Humans are communal creatures. Most don’t do well in isolation.  As individuals, we are pretty small and weak.   As groups, sharing our knowledge and tool-using capaticity we are the planet’s alpha predators.


Making the right CHOICE of your tribe is essential.  “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” is a savagely realistic statement.    Want to know how much money you’ll make?  Add up the twenty people you spend the most time with, and divide by the number of people.  You’ll be right in the middle of the pack.


Want to increase your fitness, success, relationship stability and passion?  Upgrade the people you hang out with.   You will begin to absorb their values, perspectives and behaviors.


Remember Lonnie Athens’ theory of the path to creating a murderer?

  1. Subject them to brutalization or violent horrification.
  2. Let them rebel “I’m  mad as hell, and I won’t take it any more”
  3. Have them act out with increasing intensity and success.
  4. Have them find a tribe of similar people to reinforce their values.
  5. Let them internalize those values so that they become part of the “voices in their head.”



By the time you get to step #5, there is no known form of rehabilitation that will help them.  It would require an epiphany on the order of Saul on the Road to Damascus to save them. All we can do is protect society from them.



The trick is to interrupt that process BEFORE they reach #5.


Note that versions of this pattern can be seen in any number of immersive educational experiences, including education, social clubs, martial arts, or the military.  It is simply asking you to emotionalize your desired area of excellence, take actions, and find role models of success to associate with until you internalize their belief systems, mental syntax, and use of physiology.


Easy Peasy.


HOW can you earn your way into such a higher-order group?  Remember the secret of Mastery?  It is a verb, not a noun, a vector, not a position.    Get on the path.  Take daily actions.  Be sincerely interested in their efforts and accomplishments.  BE HONEST AND POSITIVE.


People of accomplishment need friends and tribe as much as you do. They will select that tribe from those on a similar path, because they need people who understand their obsession, their investment of time and energy and “self”.   If “focus over time” is the most important factor in skill, then accomplished people NEED to associate with others who are focused, who are  committed.  People who understand the price they’ve paid to be who and what they are.


Of course, they also need fans.   I remember when T and I were at a party at Prince’s house, and he was playing for us. He said “don’t look at me.  Just dance.  Dig the music.”  In other words, when people are looking at him, he becomes self-conscious.  He pops out of “flow” and is no longer one with the music.  To achieve the highest level, you have to release yourself.  As long as you are worrying what people think, how people will react, you CANNOT reach your highest level of performance.


(By the way…remember when I asked if you’d fight harder for your children than for yourself?    I anticipated, and was not disappointed, that one of the most common answers was that if you were fighting for your children your attention would be on destroying the threat.   If fighting for yourself, your attention is on what they might do to you, or what people might think of you afterward.   As the secret to excellence in anything is taking attention OFF yourself and onto the task, you have to learn to  do this thing, or remain at the lower levels of skill.


Your tribe needs to be either people who can reinforce these positive tendencies, or those who will support you emotionally in achieving them.  If you cannot find a tribe, you find one person to be with.  If you cannot find that, you must be aligned within your own heart.


That’s where it all starts. With YOU.  Stand alone against the world if you must, but frankly, I don’t believe a healthy human being has any more problem than a healthy chipmonk finding a partner.   If you are aligned, you can find a person who is aligned.  The two of you together can stand against the world together.  But they won’t have to: they will find tribe.



And all of THAT starts with your daily actions. Every day, EVERY SINGLE DAY is another opportunity to ask the most important questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?” Know who you are, and you know what you want.  Determining what it will take to achieve it is your next step, and you must take DAILY actions, so that the feedback loop is short and direct, not spread out over months or years.


“Who am I” is the determinant for your goals.

“What is true?” determines the nature and results of your actions.


Who I am is a being seeking awakening.  What is true is that I must solve the mundane puzzles of life to reach the point where my basic “life stuff” is all at the level of unconscious competence: “chop wood, carry water” so that the subtle voices have a safe place to make themselves clearer.


What is also true is that I need friends, family, mentors, mentees.  Tribe.  We’re simply stronger together, although we are born, live, and die alone.  Tribe makes the journey better.





Finding Your Tribe

I’m doing the next “Hotseat” story analysis next Thursday, November 30th, at 6pm PST.  More information to come.


Here’s the “Late Show” clip of Jordan Peele talking about “Get Out” and sneaking into T’s class. It is instructive to study his history, the road he took to this massive success. All the twists and turns and successes and failures and more than anything, the degree to which he was willing to dig into his own emotions to ask “what do I fear?” and give that to the world.

I don’t believe in talent.  Other than the “talent” of focusing on your goal longer and harder than anyone else, and committing to finding and speaking your truth.    You can run out of “clever.” But the truth will set you free.

download-7.jpgNote that Jordan and Colbert don’t quite “jazz”.  Colbert isn’t returning Jordan’s “serves” and they can’t get a comedic rhythm going.   It is CRITICAL to find family, friends, allies, people with whom you CAN get into that rhythm.    But first–find it within yourself.   Then broadcast to the world your true nature.  From the people who respond, select those with whom you can be yourself.


  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand humanity without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Find your tribe
  5. Win with integrity and compassion


Get that?    FIRST “know yourself”.   Love yourself.  This will get that little kid inside you to relax and be herself.   The next thing is to love at least one other person, which FORCES you out of your shell, forces you to listen and communicate.   You will run into walls and problems in that intimacy–that is the human condition.   And the next step will be to create some model asking “why?” why does this happen.


Here, it is simple: not everyone is on your wavelength. It’s o.k.  That’s just life.   But to be safe in the world, we need tribe. And that is your next step.  Find your tribe.  You don’t argue with the others, don’t put them down. Wish them well!  They are struggling just like you. They have  the same insecurities. Every one of them has the same goal: to be happy.  And every one of them is taking a different route to that goal, starting from a different point of origin, crossing different territory and moving at different speeds.  They will make different mistakes, and sometimes fall into errors from which they cannot recover.


That is just life.


Your task is to find YOUR rhythm.   Meditation, journaling, simple observation of your mind and emotions and the way you are with others is a massive advantage in this.   Then, if you can find just one other person to bond with, you are blessed.    You have someone to hold and love you, to watch your back. A shoulder to cry on when life beats you down.


And then…from a place of love, seek to understand life itself.   And when you have your position, speak it clearly, loudly, call to your tribe, the ones who can hear your song.


You don’t need the whole world to love you.  But you do need to be loved.





(we’re bringing T’s black horror class to the world  January 13th.    The cut-off point for the live audience will probably be 200 people–we don’t want to stress the webinar platform.  “THE SUNKEN PLACE” is a standing-room-only event at UCLA, and we expect to sell out.  If you’re interested in helping to make history, here’s your link:

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: